33 thoughts on “5 Things Sociopathic Parents Hide Behind

  • January 26, 2020 at 9:56 am

    This article describes a whole lot of people!!! Anyone can display these type behaviors from a child’s point of view. This type of writing out on the internet is precisely why young women are up on social media calling their mothers toxic, narcissistic and abusive. It facilitates a lack of respect for parenting and encourages people to abandon and reject parents who are actually doing their jobs. All parents have challenges and just because they don’t cater to everything a child wants or feels like they need doesn’t make them neglectful or for God sakes or sociopath! This is a redefinition of the term because someone doesn’t have the type of childhood they wanted?? Are you kidding me?? This is ridiculous. I am a practicing therapist with a PhD, and I had to overcome a lot as a kid to get where I am. This foolishness right here is all about whining and nothing about learning to cope and helping others do the same. It’s all about calling the parent horrible. If this isn’t blaming others, I don’t know what is.

    • January 26, 2020 at 10:24 am

      Exactly how does this article describe a whole lot of people? The NIMH has found that 1% of the population has sociopathy. Other studies have found up to 5%. Sociopaths are qualitatively different; they lack the ability to feel guilt, and this frees them up to live a certain way that can cause great harm to their children, who seldom see it. With this article, I am trying to help the scores of children who were raised by sociopaths understand what they’ve been harmed by and what they’ve been struggling with. That frees them up to heal themselves. This is not about blame, it’s about awareness and healing.

    • January 26, 2020 at 8:30 pm

      I am a living example of a total mess by a neglectful mother. This neglect was emotional an damaged me more than anyone could imagine!
      CEN is a real issue from real people, that never had their needs met. Not whining needs, but real basic needs as love and understanding a child while growing up. I am 54 and never married, because my mom did not have the ability to teach me how to feel! Yes, she is a narcissist, or a sociopath but also a victim of her past and upbringing. I know her but always felt she was not honest or realy caring to me. Jonice Webb opened my eyes and frankly, I hope you deal with your childhood too with her tools! This CEN thing is real!!

    • January 26, 2020 at 8:54 pm

      Nunya, the majority of what you are stating wasn’t even described in the article. It sounds like it’s coming from a more personal or subjective point of view. Read the books before dropping a bunch of misinterpreted comments.

    • January 26, 2020 at 10:06 pm

      A very clever nom de plume! Sadly this comment reminds of the types of things my mother said to me when once I tried to have a honest conversation with her. (That’s before I knew such a thing as sociopathic parents existed; now of course I know better than to try.) Besides the protests of innocence, hurt indignation and accusations of blaming her unjustly for everything, she then cut me out of her will. That was nearly 20 years ago. The thing that has absolutely never happened since is her being willing to have a free and sincere conversation. We are on speaking terms now only because I unceasingly tell her what a wonderful mother and grandmother she is. I just don’t want to give her any ammo. BTW I don’t think I’m back in the will but at least my conscience is clear.

    • January 27, 2020 at 1:07 am

      It’s quite horrifying to know that you are a therapist, Nunya, if you are unaware of the types of behaviours and personality types described in this article – it’s alarmingly ignorant. It certainly puts to question the quality and depth of your training to a considerably serious degree. It also seems like you have missed the point so much it’s as if your response is a form of defensive projection, so there are further questions about your suitability to practice in a therapeutic context.
      From a more informed perspective, it’s attitudes like yours which can perpetuate and compound enormous damage for those people who have lived with genuinely toxic parents and families. Many people from these backgrounds are only able to achieve any kind of mental wellness when they finally learn to identify the types of behaviours articles like these articulate and realise they aren’t crazy, but that their parents/ families were crazy-making. This is crucial for people genuinely needing to heal from these very real dynamics, and not, as Jonice points out, just some silly blame game.
      I feel quite disturbed at the thought that vulnerable people will be seeking professional help from you. And given what have written above you seem like the type of person who would not take this information on board, reflect on it and try to grow and learn, but instead double-down defensively on your position. I hope I’m wrong on that, for the sake of any people seeking healthy therapeutic support.

    • January 27, 2020 at 4:55 am

      You are a practising therapist? Thanks for the warning!

    • January 27, 2020 at 9:07 am

      Sounds like this article triggers you – possibly because it describes you yet you don’t have the self awareness to explore that possibility. Having A PhD does not mean you can invalidate others experiences. I’m glad you’re not my therapist.

    • January 27, 2020 at 2:44 pm

      I feel like this comment is from someone with whom this article struck a nerve — likely the part about using emotions to control others — rather than a therapist with a Ph.D. who actually took issue with the subject matter.

    • January 28, 2020 at 6:29 pm

      Wow, it is you who are wide of the mark. It seems you haven’t read her books or numerous online articles. You simply are ignorant but entitled because you are a therapist. I fear for the poor people who may become your victim, uh I mean client.
      Here is a case where freedom of speech is just painful to allow. We have to endure the whacko’s right to spew right along w/ the compassionate, well informed & very well meaning people that Jonice Webb certainly is.

    • February 2, 2020 at 5:50 pm

      Sounds like you may be a bit defensive for a reason. Perhaps you are not wanting to face the truth about your own parents and the reality of damage that they may have caused you.
      It is always fascinating to me to hear a therapist with advanced degrees still unable face their own wounds and do their own child of origin work.
      This does a disservice for those that hold people like you in high regard. I would have never wanted to admit my own upper class parents were sociopaths until I went through my emotional healing and was finally able to see the truth of who they really are. It is not right or wrong as they are just wounded children themselves. What does matter is the impact their actions, over and covert, had on me as a child. This is where the healing begins.
      I wish you all the best and one day when you are truly ready, you will likely see the truth of things if that is in fact the case.
      Thank you for sharing as it gave me an opportunity to see how I used to be so defensive. I am happy and free to have seen the truth about my upbringing.
      Much love and light,

    • February 16, 2020 at 3:32 pm

      Perhaps many young women are calling their parents toxic because they are.

      • February 16, 2020 at 4:13 pm

        Dear Luna, I shortened your comment because Nunya has already taken a great deal of feedback about her comment and I don’t want to overwhelm her with negative feedback. I’m sure she is dealing with enough. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts! Sorry about shortening it.

  • January 26, 2020 at 11:33 am

    I am currently reading your books. I believe they will be helpful even though i have half my Master’s degree in Indiv. and Family Counseling.
    My mother and absentee father fit this bill and at 72 yo I am still struggling
    I just want to finish my life and die with a sense of wholeness and peace.

    • January 26, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      Dear Brenda, you likely have many years to live, so I hope you’ll focus on the living part instead of the finishing part. It’s so important for you to reclaim your feelings and use them in your life. Please do focus on yourself and giving yourself what your parents could not.

  • January 26, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Thank you for the excellent article. I often wonder if I grew up with a sociopathic mother. Although, there are many example I could give, I’m choosing one:

    My brother when he was around 9 or 10 went to a roller skating party and fell, catching himself with his hands. He cried at the skating party about how much he hurt and my mother told him he was fine and to continue skating. As his wrists started to swell, he stopped skating and I had to remove his skates and put his shoes on him. My mother said to see how they feel in the morning. I helped my brother dress and get into bed ( I’m 5 years older than he). The next morning, my brother was crying because his wrists were very swollen and bruised and painful. My mother said they were just bruised, gave him aspirin and sent him to school.

    My brother never saw a doctor, never received medical care nor an X-Ray. When he was 30 and having trouble with his wrists on his job, they were both xrayed and he found out both wrists were malunion fractures, had arthritis and fibrosis tissue stabilizing the fractures. As the doctor described the type of fall associated with the type of break, my brother knew exactly when this occurred. When he told my mother about the findings, when he told her the doctors need to do surgery and re-break his wrists and pin and plate them, my mother’s response was how everyone thinks she is such a bad mother, if my brother’s wrists were so bad why wouldn’t my brother complain more. In short, she is somehow the victim and her poor judgement was the fault of my brother for not doing more to correct her judgement.

    Neither my brother nor I can accurately assess our physical or emotional pain levels accurately and we both feel as if something is wrong or missing from us. I believe this us the result of a sociopathic parent.

    • January 26, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      I am so sorry, Charlie, for you and your brother. I hope you will focus on yourself and giving yourself the attention you didn’t get as a child. What is missing can be recovered! All my best to you.

    • January 27, 2020 at 4:12 am

      I had a very similar situation.. though I know everyone’s experiences are different. I was “homeschooled” most my life – what that really meant was my biological mother didn’t care about our education. She had no care for anything. I could hardly read or write it until I was 23
      This one week being the bully she was, on top of being sociopathic she sent me off to a public school where I tested in at first grade level at 13 and had the emotional intelligence of like a 5 year old so I had no idea what I was doing in school or how to interact with people even, I was scared and started getting bullied. One day this kid pulled me off a desk by my legs onto a marble floor – I threw up and literally crawled to the bathroom to splash cold water on my face I was in so much pain I remember just laying on the floor for a long time and the room spinning.
      I told my Kathy (my biological mother) when she picked me up that I got really hurt at school she just chuckled and said “well you wanted to learn.”
      I remember hearing that and thinking ya that’s true this pain is worth it. She’s right. It’s ok I get to learn. I will get through this. (She pulled me out two weeks later after I finally made one friend – I realize now she didn’t like not being in complete control of me)
      She was obsessed with exercise and making me and my sister exercise and would make us do it until we were sick, when we got home that day she was trying to make me do sit ups. She had no emotion as I screamed and cried wanting to stop but she just kept telling me I was being a drama queen. I had no idea why she would make me do this when it hurt so bad. She isolated me and my sister a lot so I didn’t know any better.. I thought people just had to go through pain or were ignored all the time..
      Anyway…little did I know I had broken my tail bone when I hit the floor that day, I didn’t find this out until I was 22 and was at the doctors where they had let me know this was causing the majority of my back problems and causing a pinched nerve along my spine there is also a piece of my tail bone that has migrated and is sliding against my hip and causing a lot of pain and may require surgery and this now causes my legs to go numb sometimes.. when I explained to the doctor how I never was taken to the doctors for it, and what happened he was in shock and looked a little traumatized from just hearing it but when I told him I feel like I had blocked out all pain to that memory. I had no shock or surprise I just felt very angry that I didn’t realize sooner that she was fucked up and that she should of listened when I told her I was hurt..

      Pain is weird for me. I’m mostly covered in tattoos now and didnt move or really feel a thing while they were happening. It scared my first tattoo artist, it kinda scared me too I didn’t realize my body adapted to trauma by turning off pain.. I this feel the same way about emotional/mental pain.

      Anyway.. you’re not alone.. that’s mainly all I wanted to say but I guess I needed to get that all out..and it’s fucking scary realizing all the ways growing up with a sociopathic negatively effects the brain and bodies, our natural response becomes different because of the trauma and the lack of ability to feel/have emotions.

      • January 27, 2020 at 8:05 am

        Dear Lars, your story is a very painful one. I am so sorry you had to grow up that way. Have you read the book “Educated?” It is a true story of a woman who had childhood experiences similar to yours. She had the same spirit that you convey of yourself in this comment! I want to stress to you that our brains are extremely adaptable. You can change your own wiring by taking the steps to attend to and nurture yourself. I hope you will do all of the work required because you deserve it.

  • January 26, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    How about fixing it so I can actually SEE the supposed already-existing comments? All that I get is the ‘leave a reply’ bit, preceded by a ‘read the full entry’ bit which is just the previous page, complete with the ‘see comments’ bit that shows the leave comments bit again, and still doesn’t show ANY comments! 🙁

    • January 26, 2020 at 9:02 pm

      I’m sorry Sooty! Please try viewing it in a different browser.

    • January 28, 2020 at 4:25 am

      I have the same issue however have found that if I wait awhile (sometimes overnight) the website updates and all comments and responses are there. That’s my suggestion anyway. Frustrating I know but I hope that’s a solution for you.

      • January 28, 2020 at 7:57 am

        Thanks, Karen for offering that advice. It also can help to clear your browser’s cache.

  • January 26, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    Once again Dr Webb thank you. This article is so timely. I’m reminded yet again of my mother’s manipulations in a current family situation. Thanks to you and my counsellor I’m getting stronger and stronger generally and am not letting this situation take me down. It’s hard because as you mention one’s brain is hard wired due to the very early childhood experience of the sociopathic parent’s influence. Essentially the process of healing is rewiring in progress and that’s not easy. Anyway the further along I get the easier it does seem to be. I notice much sooner now, before I’m thoroughly sucked in and a complete wreck. So thanks once again!

    • January 26, 2020 at 9:45 pm

      I’m so glad you are protecting yourself Karen! Keep up the great work.

  • January 28, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Sadly I’ve been dealing with this and my son also. It’s been a nightmare.
    I’m posting this in Facebook. With the one exception I think referring to she most of the time isn’t accurate It would be better stated as the parent or She/He.
    Appreciate the well written article.

    • January 28, 2020 at 12:05 pm

      Hi Anna, I’m sorry you and your son are going through a nightmare. I tried to keep the “hes” and “shes” equal in the article because sociopaths can be either gender.

  • February 18, 2020 at 5:24 am

    Thank you for this article. As another middle aged woman who discovered information about NPD as well as covert and malignant NPD/sociopathy a couple of years ago, this resonates with me. Few therapists are aware of the severe problems caused by having parents who fit this description. I do feel quite annoyed with the psychology profession for not educating the public about this sooner. Most people are still in the dark and, as pathological narcissism is often a multi generational problem, this is worrying. Dr Abdul Saad has a good video on the childhood origins of narcissism. I thought there would be a backlash when this information started to come out and take my hat off to all the brave therapists, psychologists and others who are not backing down in the face of this. Unfortunately, some people will grab on to the “everyone’s good and bad/no-one’s perfect/stop victim playing” messages to avoid confronting the truth about their own family. More education is needed so people can differentiate between bad but “normal” behaviour and pathological narcissism or sociopathy.

  • February 25, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    I just read this section of your book over the weekend and it spoke to me deeply. I’m dealing with the fallout of my mother’s suicide, and trying to understand what led her to do that, and my sister’s role in it. My sister is eight years older than me, and has been the driving force in my family for as long as I can remember. She’s always been the authority, everyone trusts what she says is true. Our parents were neglectful in many ways, so it’s not difficult to understand how she got that role in the family.
    Only in the last few years have I begun to realize that a lot of the hurtful things she said to me growing up were lies, or at least very gross exaggerations. She always framed these hurtful things as “the hard truth” that I needed to hear so I could be a better person and if I reacted negatively she accused me of being either too sensitive, or unable to accept criticism. She’s extremely controlling, even she will admit that, but only within the context of “helping people”. Somehow all her relationships are with broken people who need fixing … although I’ve begun to wonder if she breaks people so they need help.
    The last few years she took total control of our mother, who always struggled with depression, under the guise of helping her, but the more control she took, the more depressed our mother became, until she took her own life. It’s difficult to come to terms with what happened since everyone sees my sister as a saint, and the fact that my reality was constantly questioned when growing up. It’s hard to trust myself. It all seems so extreme, I have to keep reminding myself that these things actually happened and that I’m not crazy. Anyway, I’ll read more of your book this coming weekend and talk to my therapist about it. Thanks for giving me language and framing to being understanding things (hopefully).

  • March 26, 2020 at 5:26 am

    Like Ben I’ve seen a family member die due to this stuff, in my case my father. He wouldn’t like it spoken of, so I won’t explain further except to say on his behalf that it was not suicide; he fought bravely to live and honorably so to the very end. As for me, a profound peace which I concluded decades later was Jesus’s personal intervention in the moment , prevented me from completing my suicide at the age of 11 and convinced me that I would again be unsuccessful should I make further attempts. The rest of my life has been punctuated with the things you’d expect in a column such as this. Nuff said..
    At the end of his life when I had been called in as his full time personal caregiver ( re; cancer) my mother was making a scary nightmare of the situation for the two of us and I knew I wasn’t handling the situation as adroitly as was needed. It happened at one point that I , seeking advice, had located the philosophy/religion section of a large book store my father had taken me to, only a litteral minute before we had to leave. It was 6 feet tall and 30 feet long, crammed tight with books. Seeing no other option, I simply prayed out loud, “Holy Spirit, please help me, to find what I need. I can’t do this, there’s no time.”, proceeded along the section toward the exit where my father was momentarily delayed and had my eye caught by a bright yellow book binding near the floor. I snatched it up as my purchase and read the title; ” People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil – – (by the auther of) The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck M.D. The contents very lucidly described my mother and life with her.
    My question is, does Mr. Peck address the exact same thing as this page, ie; psychopathology, or something more loosely related? ( The prognosis in the book was grim. )

  • March 26, 2020 at 5:40 am

    To the moderator: maybe you could replace of word psychopathology with sociopathology for me if need be? I’m not sure which one applies. Don’t know how to edit a posted post.

  • March 29, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    I don’t know whether or not my mum was afraid of high emotions in our home or not. I will refrain from labelling her as she has now passed away and I don’t think labels are helpful. I remember the first time she stayed out overnight. I was 12 and was pacing the floor all night. We didn’t have mobiles back then and we didn’t have a house phone. I was worried that something had happened to her and worried about me and my little sister at the same time. When the key went in the lock I ran to her and burst into tears. I was angry and relieved and just wanted to hold her and I wanted to be comforted by her. She seemed truly confused as to why I would be upset. When she snapped “what the bloody hell are you crying for?” I said I was worried and I didn’t know when she was coming home. She snapped “well I’m bloody home now so get to bed” She really couldn’t understand why I was upset. Maybe she felt guilty and couldn’t stand the feeling. I remember crying myself to sleep. When I met my first boyfriend, something didn’t feel right. I said to mum that I didn’t want to see him again. She came right up to my face and snarled “if you make that boy leave, I will never speak to you again” I was afraid of her and her threat so I stayed. I don’t know why she wanted me to stay with someone I wasn’t happy with. In all fairness, at 13 I didn’t need a boyfriend anyway. She soon invited him to live with us and said one day “I want a grandchild and I don’t want to have to wait for it!” I had my son when I was 14. She emigrated when I was 16. These are only tiny snapshots. I don’t know why mum was distant but I’m guessing her own unhealed wounds played a part. I have people pleased for about 45 years. Always feel guilty over the most innocent things. I once felt immense guilt for not leaving feedback to someone on ebay. The inner turmoil is draining. I do hope that if there’s any afterlife, that mum is totally free from pain now. I’m still in therapy and hope that when I’ve resolved my issues, I will be at peace.

  • March 29, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    Dear Dr.Webb,

    I apologize for accessing this article nearly two months after you posted. However, the initial comment response is so important to discuss that I post this, however late.

    While I understand that we ALL develop, and can maintain personal biases , which modify our responses to particular individuals, and those biases are triggered i ways not completely conscious to ourselves, A further word on Psychiatrists and Psychologists does seem worth adding to the conversation.

    I HAVE found a psychiatrist or two (fortunately long ago) whose quite automatic bias in an interview quickly overaroused them to become accusatory – to a level beyond belief.
    They were employed by government agencies, one military, another in the penal system. This niche very likely caused them to believe that they could avoid personal development safely, and retai their unwarranted biases.

    As humans, we share with all other organisms necessary heuristic response, and this is what occurred, you will agree, in the quite knee-jerk-like rejection occurring in the relevant comment.

    You may agree that such a combatively aroused comment does mean that , with the sensitive interaction with which you are well-equipped, that the “PhD therapist” commenter is themselves, closer to a breakthrough than an individual who merely rejects in passing the symptomatology you’ve worked on for so long.

    While we cannot be sure that the commenter merely “drove by and took a shot”, never to return, the derision and cold presumption is really exactly demonstrative of how clear sociopathy can suddenly easily ignite individuals profoundly hurt by simple CEN or , further along the spectrum, off-the-cuff sociopathy, become more likely to respond violently TO such offensive individuals.

    As a child and adolescent, and unfortunately even in adulthood, i DID respond to the coldly sociopathic-type derisive outburst when it occurred in person, sometimes in response to the EXACT words used by the commenter.

    Since CEN sufferers DO experience emotional isolation so extreme, that they MAY believe there is NO other self-protective response available to them it is WELL worth your while, should you have additional time, to really parse/analyze the derision so blatant in that comment, and please support those CEN sufferers who might really violently respond – as many of us , although highly vulnerable to that kind of response ABOVE ALL , , feel no other option when it is leveled at us.

    This is an issue, although someone lie the commenter may feel safely insulated wherever they are at such vile derisive commentary, exhibiting it in person.

    That commenter’s words, in fact, once caused me to pound such individuals’ heads into curbs, break both my and their bones , and result in tragic outcomes. That they play with such fire is more dangerous to themselves and to our society than may be apparent to most, who have done so without such response.

    I seek still a loving society, , rare in this human-hubris-dominated world,
    and your work is more vastly important than you may believe, as are ALL those commenters with the courage to protest such an inherently antisocial individual and culture.

    Again, culture is the unquestioned passage of such modeling as occurs through CEN, and that presentation CERTAINLY needs change.
    Thank you, from all my, and every other’s being!


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