Psychopaths are notoriously difficult to understand. Their thought processes are 180 degrees the opposite of what you’d expect. The best way to understand a psychopath is to use a mental model. The Gray Rock Method is a mental model for understanding psychopaths and their motives when they victimize.
I met the psychopath the year I graduated high school. It took twenty-five years, for me to finally leave the psychopath I’d lived with since I was seventeen years old. I couldn’t get away from him before then because I didn’t understand what he was. I knew nothing about psychopaths. During those twenty-five years, there were few books on the subject of narcissism. The only one I’d read was People of the Lie, The Hope for Healing Human Evil, by Dr. Scott Peck. At age seventeen, I didn’t understand it. Twenty five years later, the third time I ran from the psychopath, I met a stranger in a sushi bar who explained that I was living with a malignant narcissist. He recommended Dr. Peck’s book and advised me, “be boring.”
With the advent of the internet, victims of psychopaths, feeling almost safe in their anonymity, had begun to come forward with their shameful stories. I read them in bits and pieces, putting them together like a puzzle, watching the patterns emerge. I had an epiphany. I grabbed a sticky pad and wrote the words:
REDUCE TO ABSTRACTS.
I pasted the note on the wall to remind me to find the abstract patterns whenever I felt confused about what a psychopath is and what they want. Reduce to abstracts means to pare down the patterns to the lowest common denominators.
In physics, you reduce natural phenomena to mathematical equations. Concepts like space, time, velocity, acceleration, growth rates and frequency, all can be represented in the most abstract of ways– numerically. When you find different phenomena that adhere to similar equations, you can say that they fit the same pattern. I find that it makes it easier to understand an unfamiliar concept if it fits the same pattern as one that I already know well. Mathematicians call them equations, Jesus called them parables. They are also known as mental models.
So, when the stranger in the sushi bar told me about being boring to get rid of a psychopath, I looked for a way to reduce the knowledge to an abstract. I went to the beach, where I like to do my thinking. It was a balmy summer afternoon, there were people walking everywhere. Still fresh from the trauma of betrayal, I looked at the beach goers and wondered which ones were psychopaths. Was there any way to determine by just looking at them? I noticed that some people drew my attention. Some looked back at me, others were very animated, engaged in conversation . Those people stood out. Others barely drew my attention, they were bland and average looking, often grouped with other bland people. I turned my gaze to the beach full of gray rocks and the analogy was formed: Be boring as a gray rock on a beach.
Gray Rock Grew Legs
As with a parable, a mental model is one of the most effective ways of teaching. In 2012, I wrote the article, The Gray Rock Method of Dealing with Psychopaths. Since then, the Gray Rock Method has grown legs. Bloggers write about it, Vloggers talk about it on YouTube. I heard it mentioned in a podcast about #MeToo. Gray Rocking has become the go-to advice for getting rid of unwanted attention from unbalanced persons.
With all the discussion, misconceptions have also arisen.
What Gray Rock is Not.
One misconception is that Gray Rock can cause dissociation if you practice it too much. That is a fallacy.
Gray Rock is not dissociation. It is the opposite. Dissociation is when you disconnect from reality so that you don’t have to face the truth of what you are experiencing. Gray Rock is finally seeing the truth despite the psychopath’s dramatic performance. The psychopath presents a McGuffin and you see through it. You know his real goal is to see the emotional expressions on your face. The psychopath’s goal is to remove you from reality so that he can insert his own reality. When you see this truth, your Gray Rock is an anchor to a rock solid perception of the truth. It reminds you that the manipulator is acting.
Gray Rock is Not a Superstition
Many people profess to Gray Rocking “without even knowing it”, in response to their abusers. If you don’t know it, it’s probably not Gray Rock. That’s submission, or it could be dissociation. It’s a response of appeasement where you walk on eggshells. You stop responding so as not to make the wrong move. I know because I did it for 25 years. Just because you see a pattern, doesn’t mean you understand it. When you see a pattern but you don’t understand the cause, that’s called a “superstition”. Psychopaths have long been the cause of many superstitions because they’ve never been understood, they defy common sense, yet, there is a pattern. So, they’ve been called monsters, vampires, soul-suckers, voodoo doctors, witches and demons. All fit the pattern, but none are understood.
For example, when I was with my ex-psychopath, I remember a conversation I had with my mother. I said, “Mom, you know I finally figured out how to make decisions that always turn out well. I just ask Psychopath what to do and I do the opposite. It’s amazing how consistently this works out well! It must be because Psychopath is the stupidest man on the planet.”
I had noticed a pattern but I attributed it to the only cause I could come up with, “My psychopath was stupid.” The truth of the matter was that this psychopath, like all psychopaths, spent enormous amounts of time sabotaging my life. Any decision I made had to turn out badly and he made sure of it, no matter how large or small the decision.
One day he asked me, “When you go shopping, do you like to drive north to the Co-op or do you prefer to go south to the other store?” He needed to know so he could position his cop friends on the road to pull me over and give me tickets. Of course this was beyond my imagination. So I came up with my own explanation and it was a resounding success! Just do the opposite of what Psychopath recommends – and don’t tell him. It’s a superstition because it has nothing to do with REALITY, yet it seems to work.
A superstition is magical thinking. It sometimes works but you don’t know why. If you don’t know that your psychopath is performing, you aren’t Gray Rocking because Gray Rock is about knowing what’s real. Psychopaths are People of the Lie. They lie all the time, even when they seem so real. Sometimes they might tell the truth but that’s only with the intent to deceive you about the fact that they are liars.
There Are No Safe Topics
Another misconception is that you can find boring topics to discuss with your psychopath. As you can see from the above example, even grocery shopping is fraught with dangers. Laundry topics risk that they will steal your socks leaving you with mismatched pairs. Taxes should be boring but the psychopath will learn too much about your finances. PLEASE don’t discuss car maintenance, it will only inspire the psychopath to sabotage your vehicle. That was my psychopath’s specialty. He would blame the auto mechanic so that I would never trust anyone else but him to fix my car. He also used this ploy on his airplane and helicopter pilot friends, to some very tragic ends. The only safe topics are things you really don’t care about: perhaps your favorite brand of toilet paper, and the proper way to floss.
Tell Them You’re Boring
Telling them that you’re boring is a short cut Gray Rock. It’s also useful for people like myself, who are terrible actors. Sometimes you run into a dangerous psychopath and you’re stuck and can’t get away. You’ve already played your cards by showing emotions and they want more. This happened to me when I was hospitalized for a long term illness. Most of the nurses were so kind, but one day a nurse who was noticeably evil appeared. She tried to enhance my pain instead of alleviating it. I noticed this too late, I hadn’t Gray Rocked her. I desperately tried appeasement, by being nice, that made things worse. Finally, I remembered my Gray Rock article where I wrote, “Tell them you’re boring.” So that’s what I did.
“I’m such a boring person with a boring life,” I stated flatly. She walked out. I never saw her again. My statement triggered the psychopaths’ knee-jerk reaction to avoid boring people.
There are some warnings about Gray Rock that should be taken seriously. It is not meant to be a long term method for living with a psychopath, It’s supposed to buy you time to get away. Because while you are Gray Rocking them, they still view you as potential supply. You could get thrown under the bus (figuratively or literally) when they need a sacrificial victim. If you are in their presence every day, they still see you and if you aren’t valuable to them, validating them, or serving a purpose, your days are numbered.
Secondly, Gray Rock is dangerous when you have children because they will likely become the next victims. The psychopath needs supply and will take it where they can get it. Children are easy sources of supply. Depending on their age, It’s difficult to teach a child to Gray Rock because they are not as grounded in reality. That’s normal for a child, that’s how they’re supposed to be. Explaining to them that mommy or daddy is just manipulating when they spank or when they take away their privileges is not healthy. Also, children don’t have good control of their emotions. Adults are supposed to help them control their emotions, they shouldn’t have to help the adult narcissist. The solution to this is “Selective Gray Rock”. This is analogous to what birds do when they have fledglings and they see a predator. They feign a broken wing to detract the predator’s attention from their babies. This must be done carefully and convincingly or else you are giving the predator a road map to what you value most, your children.
Gray Rock is a Mental Model.
The Gray Rock mental model is about understanding the psychopath’s world view. It has nothing to do with who you are. When you channel the Gray Rock or “become” the Gray Rock, it is only from the perspective of the psychopath, not your own. It is a fallacy to say that you will become a boring person if you pretend to be boring for the psychopath. The Gray Rock Method is a way to place boundaries on your emotions. If you think that having boundaries on access to your emotions is unhealthy, then you will always be a victim to psychopaths. They look for victims who crave drama as much as they do.
Rene Girard, in his book, The Scapegoat, describes how persecutors take control of the narrative to trade places with their victims. They claim to be the victims so that they can justify the murder of their actual victims by blaming the victim. This is the 180 Rule, the blurring of boundaries phenomenon. It’s human nature to scapegoat when we want to rid ourselves of guilt and shame. The psychopath, being full of bypassed shame, requires victims who will act chaotically, dramatically, out of control. This proves that they are guilty. Gray Rock first sees through the projection and then refuses to accept responsibility for the psychopath’s shame. Next, Gray Rock puts up a boundary on the psychopath’s attempt at emotional contagion. Even if we must witness the drama, we don’t acknowledge it as our own. We don’t react as if we own it.
The Gray Rock Method is a Tool for Clarity.
A person who practices Gray Rock without understanding it, is like someone who practices a religious ritual without understanding the meaning. For example, the Jewish Pharisees who criticized Jesus for healing the sick on the Sabbath. Through magical thinking or hypocrisy they believed that the value is in the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Then the hypocrites crucified him.
You’ll know that someone doesn’t understand Gray Rock when you see the erroneous statements they make about its dangers. We cannot assume why they make the statements, but we can decide to be wary. Gray Rock is anathema to drama addicts. If everyone has boundaries, they don’t stand a chance of getting their fix..
In People of the Lie, Dr. Peck describes malignant narcissists as willful people who cannot submit their will to anything or anyone. He says that they are so willful they won’t even submit to reality. They consider themselves above the truth. This is a tremendous revelation. We cannot Gray Rock without first understanding this. The psychopath’s determination to create his victim’s reality is the source of the victim’s cognitive dissonance. Victims know the truth but they can’t fathom how anyone could lie so convincingly, so they doubt themselves, repeatedly. Gray Rock is how we anchor ourselves to reality and reject the people of the lie. Attempting to co-exist with the psychopath long term is what causes dissociation whether you go Gray Rock or decide to succumb to their false reality.
To someone who has not experienced a psychopath, it’s not an experience that can easily be relayed with words. The psychopath will hide their evil under the 180 degree opposite mask of love and kindness. This is because they know that we rely on our instincts to determine whom we can trust. They want to undermine our instincts, our core. And so we must look for red flags which indicate a lack of consistency, a lack of integrity. In short, we must be alert for hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is when a person’s actions don’t match their words, they display behavior that’s incongruous with stated values. When we try to fit the opposing realities into our perception of the person, it causes cognitive dissonance. It just doesn’t fit, it makes no sense. The narcissist’s favorite place to hide is in these opposing realities. Confusion, chaos, disruption and dis-regulation is their agenda, but it begins by presenting the opposite: Certainty, order, assistance and guidance. Hypocrisy is a huge red flag.
Gray Rock is a tool for clarity when you first sense the emotional contagion of the disordered abuser. It’s a confusion you feel in your gut if you are alert. Don’t try to rationalize it or explain it away. At that moment, put up emotional boundaries, both inside yourself, and as a boring persona.
Once you have clarity, maintaining Gray Rock can still be difficult if the psychopath is a good actor and director. It’s like watching a horror movie, you know it’s not real, but it affects you anyway.
My ex- psychopath told me about an old girlfriend, Teri, who committed suicide. He said she stepped off a curb, right into traffic. I thought that was odd. She had been a parking enforcement officer – a meter maid – so she must have been aware of traffic and its consequences. On a separate occasion, he told me something else. He said that when they were dating, someone broke into her apartment one night while they slept. The intruder chased them both around the apartment, slashing at them with a pizza cutter. The cutting wheel had been welded so that it didn’t turn, creating a better slashing tool . Hmmmmmm…. Psychopath happened to be a welder…and if he was being chased by a slasher in the night, how could he see the welding on a pizza wheel? I strongly believe he had set up the entire episode to destabilize his girlfriend into panic anxiety. I also believe that she encountered another slasher out on the street and ran into traffic to escape him. Interestingly my ex-psychopath displayed an intense hatred of meter maids. He would rage because they were always giving him parking tickets. Perhaps that’s how she first became his target. It was the setup, then the fall.
There’s no doubt that psychopaths are a horror movie in real life. They can produce the most convoluted chaos you could never imagine. They employ props and minions to create your new reality until they get what they want from you. You have a much better chance of escaping them if you can Gray Rock them from the very beginning. Remember the Gray Rock mental model. They want your emotions. Stay calm and don’t feed the psychopaths.
Copyright © 2012-2018 Skylar