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The Gray Rock Method is a Mental Model — 19 Comments

  1. hi Skylar;
    this is an excellent article and description of Grey Rock, what it is and what it is not. Thank you for posting! I have tried to explain it to my 12 year old daughter to help her deal with bullies at school. Whether these kids are really psychopaths in the making or not, they are motivated by the same drama addiction. Grey Rock can help her to distance herself emotionally from the situation, which has been a big challenge. I think I will read through this article with her to help her understand the concept more fully.

    One point. I have recently read the book The Psychopath Whisperer by Kent Kiehl. It is really excellent, it reads well even though it is presenting a lot of science. He works in prisons studying psychopaths. He was able to show how their brains are structurally and electrically different, using functional MRI and EEG. They have a deficit in emotional intelligence which explains their behavior. But what I realized when I read the book is that based on the actual definitions, a true psychopath has no impulse control. The people we have discussed on this site are very conniving and are able to hide what they are. The psychopath Dr. Kiehl discusses would not be able to do that. Perhaps there is a spectrum, as with all things. but maybe the kind of person who is capable of so much destruction based on their ability to blend in and hide what they are, is actually by definition, a sociopath. I suppose it is all semantics. but I have wondered about these things, not sure what to call these people. by the instrument used, a psychopath has to score 30 out of 40. my spaths score around 23-28. I have considered writing to Kiehl to ask what he thinks about these people who have so many psychopathic traits but have cognitive empathy such that they can mimic empaths and maintain the subterfuge about who they are for years, and can stay out of prison.

  2. Hi Mnav, It’s good to see you again.
    Your question brings up several topics that would make great articles.
    For one there is the question of children being psychopaths/narcissists. Since the narcissist is an emotionally arrested person, they have the emotions of a child – generally a very young child. And that explains the lack of impulse control.
    I think that child bullies are scapegoating to compensate for the feelings that their own parents slime them with. I find it very very sad. They don’t show empathy because they weren’t taught it. Hopefully it’s not too late for someone to help them, but I don’t recommend that your daughter be that person. Because once the bully has gotten a taste of a scapegoat, it’s like a budding alcoholic who has their first taste of booze and feels the wonderful release from their anxiety. They feel powerful and that’s an addictive feeling.

    I’ve read about Dr.Kielh, he uses functional MRI. The book sounds really interesting, but it may be limited by the population he studies, prisoners. As you said, what about people who don’t lose control? Or those who are so manipulative that they don’t get caught for decades, like Jerry Sandusky and all the pedophile priests?

    That topic is about labels, how we use them and how they affect our perspectives.

    In People of the Lie, on page 75, Dr. Peck described Sociopaths and Psychopaths as people without conscience. But he says that the people of the lie are different, these are people who find it unbearable to be less than perfect. Like Satan, they compare themselves to God and they can’t bear to not measure up. They scapegoat as a way to deal with this intolerable sensation. He calls these people the malignant narcissists.
    Their masks are the lies that keep them feeling good about themselves. They believe their own lies. He says that evil is not a lack of conscience but in fact it is the mental gymnastics the malignant narcissists perform so that they don’t have to feel their shame, guilt, conscience, or whatever discomfort. This causes them to scapegoat, to project their sinfulness/shame/imperfections on others.

    I know a malignant narcissist like this. In response to a question I posed, they said, “I’m going to tell the truth, Skylar! The truth I made up.” This person has epilepsy so they’ve had many MRIs and EKGs, but not any fMRIs that I know of. The person appears to me to have semantic aphasia, (they don’t know the meaning of words, though they speak fairly well). They have temporal lobe epilepsy, with damage to the left anterior temporal lobe and a very reduced hippocampus.

    Their psychologist indicated that they have a personality disorder but that it can’t be diagnosed as such because there appears to be an organic cause: the brain damage from epilepsy. According to the DSM, if you have an organic cause it’s not considered a mental illness.

    It appears that Dr. Kiehl is not describing or measuring changes in the different parts of the brain, rather he is describing how the parts work together. How the parts send info from one section to the other is what creates our perception of reality. In a sense we can choose and we can change how we perceive. That’s a human gift/curse. The malignant narcissist I described above once said, “I’m not going to be sad anymore, instead I’m going to be angry.” It is this willful refusal to suffer that Dr. Peck was talking about which defines the malignant narcissist. They change their perception of themselves and reality so that they can see themselves as perfect. That’s why Dr. Peck called his book, The People of the Lie. It’s a mental model too.

  3. hi Skylar;
    sorry I was gone so long. my log in didn’t work a few years ago, like I’d been kicked off the site. now all of a sudden it is working. whatever my password was, my computer remembers it and now the site is recognizing it again. I don’t know what happened.

    my spath got cancer and died 2 years ago. I have completely re-imaged my life, and I’m getting the child the spath scapegoated into a better place mentally than he was before. I fear he could be permanently emotionally damaged though. but this event surely saved our lives. I couldn’t have survived much more of the drama the spath created.

    I would definitely recommend Kiehl’s book. I do think that he is looking at the far end of the spectrum. exactly, what about Sandusky? and Nassar? the way Kiehl tells it, his population definitely appear to have a sort of brain damage or disability, and they really don’t have choices, given the twisted way that their brain perceives the world. He talked about a therapy program that was reducing re-offenses. he was mainly worried about homicides. I’m concerned that teaching these people not to kill just trains them to do all the other horrible things that Kiehl doesn’t really look at, since they have to get their jollies somehow.

    I have a really hard time thinking of people who are so destructive, as human like I am. I just can’t perceive that anyone would intentionally harm another person and not feel guilt and then keep doing it, unless they were completely devoid of empathy and remorse, due to cognitive damage of some sort, something permanent. I just don’t think that people like this are able to be recovered. I think the idea that they could be is part of what they use to continue abusing people. I don’t think that they are cognitively like us at all, and that it is a mistake to project anything about the way we are emotionally onto them. it is not understanding this stark difference that allows us to be victimized by them. if we cannot understand that these people exist, in order to imagine it, then we remain vulnerable to their mind games. maybe I am a little Asperger and I see the world in very black and white terms, but my mother is a spath, and she revealed some things to me such that I think I understand a bit about how they think. they really don’t have shame. she thinks she has a right to make up her own rules, and has nothing but contempt for other people. I appears that these people have a code of silence, they recognize each other, and they hide what they are. and so I think that we are really in the dark about the scope of the problem. they mimic us and pretend to be whatever, and as long as we use our own selves as an instrument to measure their behavior, we are missing the big picture. I fear that the people we think are narcissists are just the ones who are really good at hiding the fact they are sociopaths. Kiehl thinks he understands psychopathy because he studies the ones who are so disordered they can’t keep themselves out of trouble. but I just don’t think it’s from abuse alone, I think there has to be a cognitive defect that is present from birth. there are a lot of people who have been badly abused but they don’t turn out to be narcissists or devoid of empathy. it’s just not an excuse for harmful behavior. I was raised by 2 narcissists and I am the complete opposite of them.

  4. Mnav,
    I’ve been gone for a few years too! Life gets crazy with spaths everywhere, it’s hard to keep up and do anything else.
    I can’t say I’m sorry for your loss… since you lost that long before he died, but I’m sorry for the trauma. There is never closure with spaths. It’s so good to know that you’re making your life better.

    There are many good authors on the subject of narcissism and psychopathy. Authors like Drs. Peck and Cleckley had amazing insight into the minds of the psychopaths. They do a great credit to their profession. But it seems like they’ve missed a few spots here and there. I think it’s because they were never traumatized by the psychos like we were. We have a special insight that others do not.

    Your example of the training Kiehl offers the prisoners reminds me of my ex-spath. He’s like the Tony Robbins for spaths. He takes loser drug addicts and, because he knows how their minds work, he inspires them to clean up their act and figure out a way to blend into society. He’s been successful with a few that I know of. Then, they become his minions. He can use them for his own ends. The reason is because they are still evil, and as you said, it has to come out somewhere.

    I do think the spaths are here for a reason. We have to look at the entirety of the human race, really zoom out, to see it. They are extreme, pathalogical examples of how the human mind works. By studying them, we are also studying ourselves. Scapegoating is ubiquitous. When Dr. Peck says that psychopaths and sociopaths in prison have no conscience but that the malignant narcissists that he diagnosed in his office are evil because they are suppressing their conscience, I think he is missing half the picture. All of them wear masks, all of them are projecting, all of them feel entitled, they are all suppressing their shame and envy. It appears differently in different people, in different settings because they’ve found different ways to deal with whatever pain they refuse to feel. An alcoholic looks different from a compulsive shopper or a compulsive worker. These are different coping mechanisms. With the personality disordered, human beings are their supply.

  5. I like your analogy to addictions, with humans as the supply for the personality disordered. They are very predatory. I think that people who don’t understand spaths don’t really understand their sexuality. they don’t approach it the same way as those with empathy. if a spath has a homosexual encounter, you can’t say they are a homosexual. They would use anything to gratify themselves. they are the center, and it has nothing to do with the object they choose. They choose the object based on their ability to be used. they also need the rush of doing something risky. therefore they may commit pedophilic acts, but are they really pedophiles? children are just easier to use and manipulate.

    I guess the spaths are a variant of human, but I think that empathy is a very human trait. and the less of it you have, the more reptilian you become. I have seen individuals become very narcissistic after a cognitive injury. it appears to me to be a more primitive state of the brain. the more you remove the oversight of the frontal lobes, the brain becomes closer to a primitive reptilian brain. One of the “tells” for these people is that reptilian stare. I have seen it in children who have not learned to mask it yet. So I am not sure this is really a “human” trait, but a throwback that comes out when there is a brain insult. However these people make very good soldiers, because in a military they are sanctioned to do things (kill) that they otherwise would not be allowed. They are faster to pull the trigger than those with empathy. Chosen to be the protectors of a people, they fill a niche that would allow them to have adaptive power to survive. As long as there is war and a need to fight to protect ourselves, this trait will be selected for and it will persist.

    I have thought a great deal about the concept of evil in relation to these people. It is easier to say that the ones who cannot control their impulses do not have a great deal of “free will” regarding their actions. But for the ones we are concerned about, the ones who hide what they are, I think you can say that they ARE evil. If they would hide, it means they know that what they are is not socially acceptable. They know that they should not act on their impulses. They know right from wrong. If they do wrong regardless, to get pleasure out of being cruel, that is the definition of evil.

  6. It’s not really an analogy, it’s a fact that people with a narcissistic personality are addicted to manipulating other people. The bottom line is that it’s an addiction, just like any other and that’s why it appears so strange, so compulsive. All compulsive disorders appear strange. They make no sense to the person who observes but doesn’t have the compulsion. Did you ever read this article I wrote about a comparative study of OCD and religious rituals? https://180rule.com/rituals-ocd-and-psychopathy/ OCD and rituals have the same outward behaviors.

    Rene Girard wrote that all religious rituals were attempts at controlling compulsive violence by recreating the violence in a controlled environment. He said rituals didn’t really work for controlling violence because it required constant re-enactments.

    There is a school of thought that the sociopaths make good soldiers. Historically that may be the case but there is more to the pathology – they have a need to betray. Killing may be enough for a while but even that “high” will wear off. When it does, if they survive the war, they turn on their masters, they can’t help themselves. They simply cannot be trusted.

    I don’t believe that psychopathy is born, I think people with tremendous willpower are more susceptible to it, but from my study of it, it appears to be a contamination, like a virus. If you observe what they do, how they feed off the victims that they terrorize, you can see that they are transferring their humiliated rage onto the scapegoat so that they don’t have to feel the rage, the victim shows it on their face. This is not the only scenario, it takes many forms. The victim then carries it with them and will turn around and scapegoat someone else. And so it continues. It’s emotional contagion. That’s why the myth of the vampire is so apt. The vampire bites a victim and the victim begins to transform into a vampire themselves. Then the vampire will keep coming back to feed as the victim allows it because they’ve become addicted to feeling of being fed on. If the victim survives, they become a vampire that feeds on and contaminates others. Now THAT is a good analogy. That’s why we call them emotional vampires. And it’s why Gray Rock works. If you don’t respond correctly, if you are immune to their disease, there is no point in biting you.

  7. that’s interesting you use the word contamination. my grandfather was some type of spath, and his daughter (my mother) also. my aunt, his other daughter, had completely disowned the family because of his abuse of her. at one point my mother was trying to have a relationship with my aunt, and my aunt flipped out and said “you are contaminated” before she never had anything to do with my mother again. I tried to call her once and she wouldn’t speak to me, even though she didn’t know me at all.

    now, my aunt was not a spath, but she was abused worse than my mother was. and my mother was terrible, but my brother and I have normal empathy. I still don’t think it’s entirely contagious. I think the science has indicated that callous unemotional traits appear to be present from very early on, and if a child with these traits is abused, they are more likely to remain this way in adulthood. like it’s a one two punch. my ex was abused by his mother. his mother is a piece of work. his grandfather was a Nazi and raped his daughters. so it certainly runs in families, whether it is genetic or learned or a bit of both.

    I can definitely see how this emotional currency was going on in my marriage. he used to brag about how he was able to “motivate” people. he would use his manipulative powers for good or evil, depending on his mood and intention. there were so many who thought he was wonderful, because he would use this to encourage others, however his intent was to be worshipped, not necessarily to do good. he could always get a rise out of me, and he must have been addicted to it, because he kept playing the game up until he died. I was terrible at Grey Rock with him because he used my children to try to hurt me. I just had to pretend to not care if I could manage it, but if it was important enough, I couldn’t.

    my mother however, scores higher on the psychopathy checklist, but she appears to have a perceptual disability when it comes to other people’s emotions as well as her own. she cannot read others’ body language to know what they are feeling, and she displays inappropriate emotions because she is just faking it in order to get her way in arguments. in most situations she would just fly into a rage. she likes to use people for her purposes but she wouldn’t bother to stalk them. I think there has to be a spectrum of spath, depending on their ability to perceive others’ emotions and to have impulse control. maybe someday we can have a more detailed classification of these people.

  8. Mnav,
    I always thought that my ex was stupid. He played that card. He acted like he didn’t know he was being hurtful. One time he asked me, “Do you think I’m thoughtless?” He assumed I would say, “Yes, you’re always hurting my feelings with your hurtful words and actions!” But I was on to him by then. I knew he was hurting me on purpose. The things he did were things even the most obtuse person wouldn’t do. I just didn’t know WHY. Very few people would really fall into the category of being so emotionally stupid that they hurt your feelings over and over again. In fact I would say that nobody does. It’s an act.

    Supposedly the most emotionally mind-blind people are Autistics and even they will quickly apologize and make amends if you explain what they did wrong. If you know a smart psychopath, you might be surprised to learn how many of them play dumb. It’s the most common trick in the book for them. They do it in so many different iterations.

    My spath, in one of his tells, once described to me a street kid he knew. He said the kid sits on the sidewalk begging for money, drooling and acting developmentally disabled. But one day he saw him at a party and he was perfectly normal.

    I really didn’t even know what to say because the part that struck me the most was: What was my spath doing a party with street kids in attendance and when the heck did this happen?

    It’s all about the focus. Which part of the story do they want you to focus on and which parts are the tells.

  9. mine never acted “dumb”, he just said he didn’t remember the conflict and so then he wouldn’t apologize because he pretended it didn’t happen. I actually wondered if he had a split personality for some time, because it seemed like he had 2 personalities that didn’t know what the other was doing. I admire you for figuring your spath out before you got away. mine kept people in thrall with him, and I was for sure, until about 6 months after he moved out. then the veil suddenly came down and I could SEE what he’d been doing, and doing from the moment he met me. for a DECADE at that point. it’s just sickening, to know my entire marriage was a fraud. anyway, I couldn’t see it until he was no longer in my space on a daily basis, keeping up the confusion and fear to block me from imagining the truth. it is a truth that most cannot imagine, and it is their camouflage: the idea that they are just like you and me cognitively and emotionally. The most important thing for society is to somehow convince people that these people exist, and that they are so different from normal humans as to be a different species. Once we realize it is possible, we will be able to recognize their tells, and people can begin to protect themselves. Family courts especially need to be able to recognize this. so many children are endangered by the court system approaching divorce conflict from a neutral perspective.

  10. Mnav, in your defense, you only had 10 years to figure it out and I had 25 years. And yes, it was sickening to know the entire time was filled with only lies, about everything. Then I realized that my family of origin was also disordered and I felt even worse.

    You know, their masks are only as good as WE allow them to be. When we’re young, we have to be blind to our parents’ abuse because it’s the safest way, so we trauma bond. Then, when we’re adults, we use that as a coping mechanism whenever we meet dangerous people. But I don’t do that anymore, I just pretend to. It throws them off while I make my escape.

    Like you, I want to inform the world about these creatures, but I’ve come to recognize that many people already know and they just don’t care because they’re the same. Look at who we elected president. He made no secret of what he is and what he does. Yet nearly 50% of Americans thought he’d make the best possible president. Before the election I wondered how many people were really disordered. I thought that either there were a lot of them or else I was attracting them because they seemed to be everywhere. Well, the election gave me a statistic. The spaths cast their ballot and said they were happy being slimed. The ballots were counted and (unless the election was rigged!) the numbers were nearly half.

    So the issue is not to unveil how many of them exist, the issue is to unveil how their minds work and how we can derail them. That leads us to the institutions that enable psychopathic thinking. That’s where they’re being created.

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