Is a narcissist the same thing as a sociopath? A lot of people mistakenly think so, which is understandable considering that they share many of the same characteristics and that they’re both on the cluster B spectrum. (See video here)
What qualities do narcissists and sociopaths share?
Both narcissists and sociopaths can be very charming and charismatic. Each is known for being self-serving and manipulative, and they each tend to have no empathy. Both have personality disorders and value themselves above all others. Both are known to harm others and to negatively affect their own lives with their behaviors. Neither can step outside of their own heads enough to recognize or concern themselves with the needs of others, but each is fully focused on their own needs. It is also true that all sociopaths are narcissists. But not all narcissists are sociopaths.
How are narcissists and sociopaths different?
In most cases, sociopaths, who might be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, are a lot more dangerous than those who are purely narcissistic. That is unless you’re talking about a malignant narcissist, who might present very much like a sociopath, but their motivations are different.
Let’s talk about five ways this manifests differently between the two personality disorders.
1. A Narcissist is Motivated by Ego and a Sociopath is Motivated by Self-Interest
The narcissist’s destructive and manipulative behaviors are all about feeling important and superior and being the center of attention, and this is driven by their overinflated ego that needs constant stroking – aka, narcissistic supply. But a sociopath’s self-interest doesn’t require stroking in the same way – so the sociopath will be whomever they need to be in order to get their needs met.
So, what’s the difference?
Since sociopaths really don’t need to have their ego stroked, they can be more sneaky and strategic with their manipulation. They don’t need you to be impressed with them and will only seek out your approval if you have something they want. They have no actual personality.
A narcissist, on the other hand, needs your approval and your attention. And since they are ego-driven, they will be less calculated in their reactions and behavior. So the narcissist is more likely to demonstrate narcissistic rage and to react emotionally than a sociopath.
2. A Narcissist Wants to Be Adored and a Sociopath Could Care Less.
Narcissists need to be adored. They are very concerned with their own image and how other people perceive them. They are known to want power, success, and plenty of admiration and adoration from the people around them and while they’re often willing to work hard to get it, they’ll also exploit and torture people along the way without a second thought. Their motivation and focus are all about themselves and their own agenda (getting the praise and attention they need). Again, they’re driven by their ego, so that makes sense.
But a sociopath doesn’t care what anyone thinks of them, which makes them more dangerous. They will spend months or years planning and scheming against you if it serves them to do so. They are much more calculating and far less emotional overall.
3. A Narcissist Talks About Themselves And A Sociopath Talks About You
As you know, narcissists only want to talk about themselves and their interests. At least after the initial love-bombing or idealization phase of the relationship, where they’ll ask you all about yourself in order to store up ammunition to use against you later. But as the relationship goes on, they make it painfully clear that they have no interest in what you care about and will always turn the topic back to themselves. In fact, many survivors of relationships with narcissists literally almost forget how to talk about themselves because they grow so accustomed to being shut down this way.
But sociopaths are very interested in knowing about your interests and everything else about you. They will ask you about what you like and what strikes your fancy. They often masquerade as empaths – as in, they appear to really care about you. They know exactly what to say and how to hold themselves so it’s almost impossible to tell that they don’t genuinely care about you. But remember that they have no empathy. They have their own reasons for caring. If they want something from you later on, they will use anything to do with your interests as a manipulation tactic to get what they want. Sociopaths are often so smooth that you miss the fact that they’re manipulating you – at least at first.
For example, a sociopath asks you what your favorite band happens to be. If you say Fleetwood Mac, they will surprise you with a Fleetwood Mac CD. It is not from the goodness of their heart. They want something from you and are using this as a jumping-off point to get it from you.
4. Neither Care About The Rules, But For Different Reasons
You already know that a narcissist is not concerned about the rules due to the fact they are so self-absorbed that they are not even aware of the rules. Or, in many cases, they literally feel that they’re above the rules or deserve special exceptions to every rule.
But a sociopath does not care about the rules for the sake of manipulating situations for their purpose. If they can get away with breaking the rules (or even the laws), they’ll do so without remorse if it serves them.
5. Narcissists Are Mean But Sociopaths Have Plans To Take You Down
This is where you see how dangerous a sociopath is as opposed to a narcissist who is mostly dangerous for your mental health. Narcissists are bullies and braggarts. They can also mess with your head, especially if they see you as a threat to their ego or fear abandonment. And, of course, that’s when they’ll throw your most painful experiences and insecurities back in your face in order to hurt you if and when they feel the need to drag you down.
So, for example, if you tell a narcissist that you are insecure about your weight, they might later try to make you feel bad about yourself by suddenly beginning to point out people who are thinner than you and telling you how attractive those people are. And then, once you’re good and insecure, you might tell them it bothers you that they’re doing this. Instantly, the narcissist will freak out and attack you, swearing that you’re excessively jealous and controlling. They’ll say something like, “What, do you want me to close my eyes and not look at people? There are other people in the world. I’m not blind!”
In this case, the narcissist is out to take your self-esteem down a couple of notches so that you’ll feel like you can’t do any better than them. The idea is that you’re more likely to stick around and be their source of narcissistic supply if you don’t feel good enough about yourself.
So once again, the narcissist is driven by ego and the need for ongoing, reliable narcissistic supply.
Sociopaths, on the other hand, will do what they can to take you down (or out completely) if they see you are trying to get in the way of what they want, even if that means you just won’t give them your time and attention. And, regardless of who you are and what your relationship happens to be, you aren’t exempt from a sociopath’s manipulation and abuse.
In fact, even if you aren’t purposely causing them trouble, but they perceive you as a threat to them or their end goals in any way, they will strategically destroy you in any way they can, and without remorse. Sociopaths want to win and will do it at the expense of anyone.
After enduring narcissistic abuse from a parent, a friend, or an ex, chances are that you’ll be dealing with many unsettling emotions. You’ll be painfully aware that much of what you believed to be true about your life just…isn’t. And no matter where you’re at in your recovery, the best thing to do is to give yourself time and permission to feel what you need to feel as you will be going through three stages.
What are the stages of narcissistic abuse recovery?
The three stages of narcissistic abuse recovery involve feeling as you are the victim, then you will feel you are the survivor. The last stage is that you will feel as if you are ready to move on. Let’s now look into these stages in detail. Learn more about the DUO Method.
Stage 1 – The Victim (Discovery Phase)
This is the stage you are going through right after you break away from the narcissist, or when you first discover that you might be dealing with a narcissist. You will be thinking about how betrayed you were, and you’ll be extremely hurt and confused. You will also be very hurt that you were led on and you’ll be extremely angry. Angry with yourself for allowing yourself to be hurt, and you’ll be angry with your abuser. You’ll feel as if you had lost time by sticking around for the abuser as well. There is also fear, fear of the unknown. And the fear of you not knowing if you can overcome this. Read more about the Discovery Phase.
Stage 2 – Survivor (Understanding Phase)
You are now past the victim stage, and you will start thinking of yourself as a survivor. You’ll still be focused on learning about narcissists and narcissism, but this is the time when you are ready to get counseling or coaching. You’re also focused on learning more about self-care. You will be less angry but you will also be quite triggered by reminders. You have a desire to get back to your old self and to move forward. But at the same time, you will be struggling to release your abuser and you’ll be struggling to rebuild your life. Read more about the Understanding Phase.
Stage 3 – Moving on to Thriving (Overcoming Phase)
Even though you are ready to move forward with your life at this stage, you have the desire to connect with others. However, you still have many trust issues that are holding you back. The angry feelings you have towards your abuser might still be plaguing you, but you’re beginning to move forward. And you might still feel a little embarrassed about your past, and you don’t really feel like discussing it with random people. Still, you’ve joined a support group and/or you’re getting some coaching, so you’re feeling a little better each day. There is now a light at the end of the tunnel and you’re propelling toward it! Read more about the Overcoming Phase.
Many people go on to what could be called stage 4 after this – the “Evolution” phase. This is where they level up their life and begin to become a better version of themselves.
Have you heard of a spiritual narcissist, or maybe a religious narcissist? This is the type of narcissist who will act as if they are extremely religious or spiritual. They can be of any faith or any spiritual belief. And they are the ones who twist spirituality and religion around and don’t exactly give either a good name. Some people call this religious abuse.
The official definition of religious abuse is as follows: Religious abuse is abuse administered under the guise of religion, including harassment or humiliation, which may result in psychological trauma. Religious abuse may also include misuse of religion for selfish, secular, or ideological ends such as the abuse of a clerical position.
5 warning signs of a spiritual narcissist
1. They Claim to Have Conversations with God
Just like any other narcissist, spiritual ones brag about their social connections. The difference between a typical narcissist and a spiritual one is that the religious type will literally claim that God speaks to them. For instance, if a narcissist gets a promotion, they’ll say that God (or their Higher Power or the Universe) chose them for it or that God spoke to them about it personally. Or, if you have a big decision to make, they’ll claim that God told them you should do (whatever it is they want you to do).
2. They Judge You On God’s Behalf
A spiritual narcissist will judge you harshly, and they’ll use their religious rules or text to show you that you’re wrong in some way or to feel justified in their judgmental stance. And often, they will say that God told them to do it – or that they are God’s agent on earth, sent here to keep you from going to hell…or some version of that. They may also claim that God (or their version of that) is punishing or challenging you for your bad choices or behavior.
3. They Talk About Love But Never Show It
Spiritual narcissists will preach love to you and anyone else, but they never show it – at least not without an ulterior motive. They also say that they have nothing but love, empathy, and compassion for anyone – but their actions make it clear that this is a delusion they hope you’ll believe. They will claim to love everyone, yet they are very judgemental and cruel anyway. In other words, they are hypocrites. They also are the type to throw toxic positivity statements at you when you are going through a hard time, such as “it could always be worse” or “maybe if you weren’t so negative, this wouldn’t have happened” or “just get over it already.”
4. They Talk But Don’t Listen
Spiritual narcissists and typical ones always talk but are never the type to listen to you or anyone. They truly like to hear the sound of their own voice. They are the only ones who believe that what they have to say is important and whatever you have to say is not. When they talk, they expect you to hear and mentally record every word. But when you talk, they’re openly not listening to you, or they’re pretending to listen but are only using your words to file away for later manipulation.
5. They Never Own Up To Their Mistakes
The fact that spiritual narcissists never own up to their mistakes is a big red flag. Don’t get me wrong here. No one likes to talk about their mistakes, of course. After all, admiring your mistakes can be embarrassing – but it makes you human as well. The difference is that you accept responsibility for your mistakes. Spiritual narcissists don’t. Any narcissist does not.
Another thing is those spiritual narcissists are into the dogma of either religion or spirituality and do not have anything with the true meaning behind it.
How do you deal with a spiritual or religious narcissist?
In the video, you’ll also learn about how depression can be a side-effect of the CPTSD you get after experiencing a toxic relationship with a narcissist and dealing with the gaslighting, repeating discards, narcissistic rage, and other manipulation tactics used by religious narcissists.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
When you are dealing with a narcissist, you might find yourself feeling powerless. Thanks to their various manipulation and gaslighting tactics, you might also question your own sanity and doubt your own reality. But what if you have something on a narcissist, such as catching them in a lie? What if you make it known that you know? What if you question them or push them?
Specifically, that means that narcissists who face injury to their egos will go into a state of rage. They may not show that they’re visibly angry, especially if they’re a covert narcissist. However, covert or otherwise, they will feel vengeful – and if their first response (rage) doesn’t get the kind of reaction they want or expect, chances are that they’ll go into the “poor me” thing – also known as narcissistic injury, or the victim role.
Types of Behaviors You Can Expect from a Narcissist Who Feels Threatened
Here are 5 common things that narcissists do when they feel threatened.
1. They’ll Put Your Job On The Line
Your average narcissist would actually go as far as calling your boss and telling them a lie about something you have done. For instance, they could tell your boss that you have been saying defamatory things about them. There is no proof but they can always become quite creative and make something tangible up. They may also call your workplace over and over again and become a nuisance, which many survivors report has caused them to lose jobs or to at least be reprimanded.
2. Get Involved With Your Relationship
If the narcissist isn’t your partner, they might take it upon themselves to tell your partner that you have been cheating on them, and in some cases, they might even create fake “evidence” of this fictional affair. They could get extremely creative with making it appear believable which can easily cause a breakup to happen. And if the narcissist IS your partner, they may cause drama or trouble in your friendships and other relationships in order to further isolate and control you. The more people they push away from you, the better they feel they can control you.
3. Ruin Your Reputation
Narcissists that feel threatened would do a great job of ruining your reputation. They could spread rumors that are defamatory and can do this online and offline. Some narcissists have been known to create sockpuppet accounts to leave you a lot of bad reviews on your business Google or Facebook page. They hope that any potential future business will fizzle out if they see any bad reviews on your pages. Alternatively, they might tell all of your friends and family members lies and exaggerated stories about you, or they might publicly smear you on social media. We call this the smear campaign.
4. They Will Isolate You From Supportive Friends and Family
As I mentioned earlier, narcissists want to isolate their victims in order to maintain control over you. This is why they tend to push anyone who might be supportive of you away. Threatened narcissists will find a way to contact your friends and family and convince them to turn their backs on you. It may or may not work, depending on whether they trust you or what the narcissist tells them. If they believe the narcissist over you, then that shows that they did not have true faith in you as it was – and like I always say, they weren’t really your people to begin with.
5. They Will Destroy Your Favorite Things
Narcissists don’t pay attention to what interests you (unless it benefits them to do so), but they sure are paying attention to what you value. When they feel threatened, they might target those things you cherish most and ruin them. This could mean they could destroy a painting you love, or vandalize your car, or anything that is dear to you.
Threatening a narcissist is almost never a helpful act. Rather than threaten them, your best bet is to use the gray rock method to manage your emotions when they’re around. If you need help and guidance as far as how to stop a narcissist in their tracks, you’ve got to start by taking away the one thing they really want and need: narcissistic supply – as in your emotional reactions to their behavior. If you want to get revenge on a narcissist the best thing you can do is to ignore them and live your life well WITHOUT them, despite their efforts to be the center of your world.
Watch My Scapegoat/Scapegoating Video – When I was about 12 or 13, I went shopping with my mother, a friend of hers, and my younger brother. As we entered the store, my mother and her friend splintered off and went to do their shopping while my brother and I went in the other direction to look at toys and games.
At one point, I noticed my brother shoving a hand-held video game in his pocket. I asked what he was doing and he informed me that he was taking the game and had done similar things before. He said he never got caught. Well, as misguided as this was, he convinced me that it was safe. And I’m ashamed to admit that I took a couple of cassette tape singles and shoved them into my purse.
Before long, we noticed a man following us through the store. It creeped us out, but in our cluelessness, we didn’t connect the fact that we had just put merchandise out of sight with the intention to avoid paying for it. The guy wasn’t wearing a uniform, after all.
Eventually, we met up with my mother and her friend and went through the checkout lane. My brother and I looked at each other as we passed through, feeling a weird kind of vindication when the checkout lady didn’t seem to notice us.
As we walked out the doors of the store, we both felt kind of excited to think we’d gotten away with it. We were almost to the car when the man who had been following us through the store came up and grabbed us by the shoulders. My mother freaked out and rushed over to us and was horrified to find out that he was taking us in for stealing.
After several hours of hell and a signed promise to never return to this store, they released us to my mother and we rode home in silence. As we arrived home, my mother asked us for the story. Why had we done this?
I tried to explain that my brother had suggested it and I’m pretty sure he even agreed to the truth – but my mother couldn’t stand the idea that it could’ve been his idea.
He was the youngest one, and the golden child at that. I, the scapegoat, must have been the problem, she decided, and after a brief admonishment to never listen to me or my evil ideas again, she sent my brother to his room. I, on the other hand, was severely physically punished and emotionally battered to the point that still to this day, when I’m walking through a store, I feel the need to keep my hands visible at all times.
The Scapegoat: Why and How the Narcissist Scapegoats You
Today, we’re going to discuss scapegoating and exactly why and how it happens. Plus, what you can do if you’re the scapegoat to start the healing process. So, let’s get started.
What is a “scapegoat?”
Also known as the black sheep, the scapegoat is the person in the toxic family structure who always gets blamed for everything that goes wrong for everyone, a member of a family or group. The black sheep is usually considered the outcast, the “bad kid” or a straight-up disgrace to the family. A scapegoat may have the following traits:
Empathic, strong-willed, internalizing blame easily, emotionally reactive, highly sensitive, protective or overprotective of friends, strangers, etc. They’re often the caregiver of the family and they’re likely to question everything – including authority (which adds to their pain in the family) and of course they seem to be different or to stick out from the rest of the family in some way.
What is the toxic family structure?
Generally, the Toxic Family Structure includes the Narcissist (or the toxic person the family revolves around), Enabler (often the other parent who may willingly or unwillingly support the narcissist), Golden Child (the child who gets all the positive attention and who often lives with extreme pressure from both the parents who want them to succeed or be perfect as well as the siblings who feel jealous or slighted by this attention that is so opposite of the attention they get), Scapegoat (the problem child/the one everyone blames for everything) and Lost Child (the invisible one who doesn’t get in much trouble or who is largely ignored due to attention to the golden child and the direct abuse of the scapegoat). There are other possibilities of course – the peacemaker, the comedian, and so on. But this is the basic structure we’re going to work with for today.
What is scapegoating?
Scapegoating is when someone chooses a person or a group of people and casts blame on them for any and everything. Then, they treat that person or group unfairly or punish them unfairly for all of these perceived slights. This can be done by individual people or groups of people.
The term scapegoating is mentioned in the bible as well as in other ancient texts in which ancient tribal societies would choose an actual goat to represent the tribe’s collective sins. They’d sacrifice it in one way or another, and then the tribe’s collective sins would be forgiven and they’d essentially have a clean slate.
There are a couple of things to consider here. In some families, the role of scapegoat seems to sort of rotate between everyone who isn’t the narcissist or toxic, controlling person in the mix.
For example, I know of one toxic mother who has two sons. At any given moment, one of the sons is in her “good graces,” while the other is being scapegoated. The issue is that each son does time in both roles. The family jokes that “she can’t be friends with both of them at the same time,” but in reality, they’re minimizing her toxicity and the level of dysfunction in their midst.
Of course, both of these boys grew up to be men who had a ton of self-doubt and who each married controlling women who could potentially be labeled as narcissists.
But the “rotating scapegoat” role is far less damaging than the role of the permanent scapegoat, in which one single person is the ongoing target for the toxic person in the family. It is this person who is blamed for everything that goes wrong, and it is this person whose accomplishments are ignored and minimized. This person is never good enough (and KNOWS this based on how he or she is treated) and nothing they do is considered “real” or “enough.”
The Scapegoat Gets All the Blame
When the golden child does something wrong, the toxic parent finds a way to blame it on the scapegoat. Why do they do this? Well, on a subconscious level, the “broken” scapegoat allows the rest of the family to feel like they’re well-adjusted and emotionally balanced. The family can tell everyone about this scapegoat and how terrible they are, and people will feel sorry for them – and in some cases, even praise them for putting up with such a problem child.
The toxic parent can tell the world, and herself, how perfect she is in her parental role, and anything that makes her unhappy or makes her feel bad about herself can be blamed on the scapegoated child.
Of course, chances are that the toxic parent doesn’t recognize this consciously. She isn’t actively thinking that she’s trying to use the scapegoat in this way, most of the time – and yet, she still actively bullies and targets the scapegoated child over the course of years and even decades in many cases.
Sadly, this can often lead to the other siblings following suit and victimizing the scapegoated child well into adulthood and even after the toxic parent dies. It becomes their “truth” – and they often unintentionally see the scapegoat as the bad kid or the one who just refused to be happy.
This means that the toxic parent keeps her proverbial nose clean because anything that goes wrong or is perceived as a failure for her is blamed on the scapegoat.
How is the scapegoat affected psychologically?
It depends on a couple of factors. First, the other parent. If the “enabler” parent does not join in on the blame game and putting down of the scapegoat, they may end up actively supporting or even validating the scapegoat at times. Or, if the scapegoat receives external validation from a grandparent, teacher, or other trusted adult, they may manage to recognize what is happening eventually and work on healing.
In my case, a girl scout leader and a bunch of my teachers validated me and I was able to recognize eventually what was happening. In the long run, this made my healing easier. Of course, the other side of the coin is the child who believes everything the toxic people say about him or her and sort of takes it into themselves and almost becomes exactly what the toxic parent claimed they were.
This often means that they never take credit when they succeed or something good happens (they think – it must be a mistake/luck/a fluke!)
And then when something bad happens, they assume it’s because they’re bad/broken/not good enough – or that they caused it in some way.
I personally can also relate to this side of that coin because even though part of me thought it was wrong, the other part of me believed at least the part about not being good enough or capable of being a “real person.”
And in both cases, most people who are scapegoated as children become really good at building walls and keeping people at a distance. They may also develop what they call a “thick skin,” meaning that they don’t take things personally (or at least they don’t end up being rattled by rude comments or disrespectful treatment in the same way as a healthier person might be).
They almost always feel like they don’t belong or like they’re not an important part of the family – and this often follows them into adulthood. They might be focused on achieving big things in order to prove their critical, toxic parent wrong – or they may just totally give up and fall into the role she cast for them. Alternatively, they might set very low standards for themselves in order to reduce the pressure they felt growing up – they may struggle to set and accomplish goals at all. In all cases, there are serious emotional and psychological issues at play for a scapegoat.
Scapegoated? Here’s the Silver Lining.
There is one possible positive to all of this, and that is that the scapegoated one is the child who is the most likely one to recognize that there’s a problem in the family, and is also more likely to get help to overcome it and possibly to break the cycle of abuse in her his or her own family as an adult. In fact, of all of the roles in the toxic family, the scapegoat is most likely to have a chance to eventually develop and maintain healthier relationships overall.
So, that’s something, I guess. But when this healing isn’t realized early enough, it also opens the scapegoat up for toxic relationships with narcissists as they navigate adulthood, because they sort of just take what they can get, if that makes sense. We can talk more about that in a future video.
If you are a scapegoat or a former scapegoat, the first step to healing is to recognize the issue and to recognize that it wasn’t your fault- that you weren’t the total trainwreck your toxic parent claimed you were, and that you are worthy of love and respect just like everyone else. Once you get this logically, you’ll be able to separate the emotional and psychological garbage you’ve been fed and the facts so you can begin to heal.
Ultimately, I want you to know that you ARE good enough, that you ARE a real person, and that you DO deserve good things in life. Look at me. I mean it. Don’t forget.