The Gray Rock Method is a Mental Model
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. Gray Rocking gives you clarity about the psychopath’s addiction to manipulation.
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. Reading them in books and blogs, I put them together like a puzzle, watching the patterns emerge. Then 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 when 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 are 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 know 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 materialized: 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 Rocking is Not.
One misconception is that Gray Rocking can cause dissociation if you practice it too much. That is a fallacy.
Gray Rocking 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 Rocking is finally seeing the truth despite the psychopath’s dramatic performance. The psychopath presents a MacGuffin 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 Rocking 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 Rocking. 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 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 Rocking 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 Rocking that should be taken seriously. It is not meant as 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’re in their presence every day, they still see you and if you’re not valuable to them, validating them, or serving a purpose, your days are numbered.
Secondly, Gray Rocking 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. 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. Do this 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’s 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 victims so that they can justify the murder of their real victims by blaming the victim. This is the 180 Rule, the blurring of boundaries and trading places 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 Rocking first sees through the projection and then refuses to accept responsibility for the psychopath’s shame. Next, Gray Rocking 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 the Gray Rock Method 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 Rocking when you see the incorrect statements they make about its dangers. We cannot assume why they make the statements, but we can decide to be wary. Gray Rocking is anathema to drama addicts. If everyone has boundaries, they don’t stand a chance of getting their fix..
In The 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. The 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 decide whom we can trust. They want to undermine our instincts, our core. And so we need to look for red flags which show a lack of consistency, a lack of integrity. In short, 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 Rocking 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’re 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
yes, the situation in DC is incredibly disheartening, re: the mentality of our country. I think most of those voters are just clueless, don’t know what they are looking at. for example my BIL loves the president. yet I can’t even talk to him about his brother or mother because of how badly they abused him: he gets triggered. he has normal empathy and is very traumatized, yet he is still blind to these people, he doesn’t understand how to spot them. he grasps what I have told him about his brother and mother and agrees it is the best explanation, but cannot generalize it. people cannot look at the personality characteristics and recognize what it implies about a person’s basic character.
I do think that the spath population could be as high as 10%. I wish that Dr. Kiehl would start looking at the spaths that can function in society without ending up in prison.
I think I am very glad that I didn’t figure it out until he was out of my house. I was terrified enough at that point, but if he was still there, I think I would have been paralyzed with fear, to understand how his mind was working. you are very brave. very resourceful. an unrecognized hero.
That is a very sweet thing to say. Yes, I remember how terrified I was to learn what he really was capable of. I left in the middle of the night with everything I could pack into my little car.
As for your BIL, you’d be surprised how many people who are themselves disordered, were also abused. Not all, but many.
I know one who was targeted by a sociopath. Under his guidance, she became worse, more abusive and cruel than before. After he discarded her, she was extremely traumatized. Later, she reverted back to being as abusive as she was with him. She was always that way, he just brought it out in her more.
But until the point where they decide to turn on you, they use the pity ploy to keep your sympathy and appear to have normal empathy. I fell for it with this woman. I thought she had seen the light when she got discarded. She certainly professed to. It was a play for my sympathy. We have to remember look for behavior that is inconsistent with the person you believe you know. The way they vote and the politics they profess can be a BIG red flag. Not that you have to cut off contact with everyone who votes differently from you but you should definitely maintain very firm boundaries on your emotions/pearls.
yeah, I should have run screaming when I found out he liked Bush. and how ironic, I would take Bush back in a heartbeat now.
and yes, I have seen that pity ploy in action, and the ploy of spiritual awakening. mine was so skillful. now I have to deal with his mother who is trustee of my kids’ inheritance, and she believed all of his lies. so now she won’t let my kids visit her because she hates me. when all I did was appropriately defend myself and my kids from his insanity. it’s like being in a cult, and who ever leaves the cult is shunned, even after the cult leader is gone. I know if I told her the truth all it would do is break her heart and make her hate me more.
My Psychopath pretended to be a liberal, guitar-playing hippie when we met. But we never discussed politics or religion. Then decades later, he began listening to “Hot-Talk” radio. By that time, I just didn’t even know what to think about him anymore. When Bush got elected I wanted to cry, both times. Now we find out that Bush wanted to cry when Trump got elected. Now the tables are turned and Bush knows how WE felt.
So there is justice in the universe. You just have to know how to look for it.
Hey all, it’s been a while!! I’m needing advice and will try to summarise.. So I’ve had what I think is a spathy encounter and have now ended it. Basically, a man that I know through my job has seemingly innocently offered to do some jobs for me……some garden work mainly. This has escalated and on Tuesday this week I had a light bulb moment after only 2 ‘dates’ if you can call them that.My question is ….I’m worried that I can’t do grey rocking face to face. Ive been very non dramatic/ not blaming him in my emails…….basically said it’s not right for me…. I need to retreat. What I’m not sure how to react is if he turns up at my door…….I have a feeling he will. How do I handle it?
Hi Strongawoman! It’s good to “see” you.
There are different ways to Gray Rock and you may have to find just the right type to fit your needs. Most people think you have to look brain dead to do it, but really, it’s usually about being polite and business like – professional, like you might treat a client.
In your case, a business personal may not work because you’ve become friends but you can be boring in other ways.
For example, if you’re worried about him showing up at your door, don’t answer it. If he sticks around and waits for you to open the door because you need to go out, then act surprised and tell him that you were taking a nap. Mention how tired you’ve been lately and how you fall asleep in the middle of the day, or right after work. Act really sleepy and absent minded when you’re around him.
If he’s outside your door waiting for you, tell him that you’re late because you fell asleep. Make it clear that you have no time to talk because you’re late.
Remember, the man in the sushi bar, who first told me to be boring, used the technique with a person he was living with. That must have been exceptionally difficult. Still, he never, ever suggested to her that he wanted to break up. In her mind, it was her idea.
Another suggestion – and this one worked for me personally – is to TELL the spath that you are a boring person with a boring life. They tend to believe almost anything you tell them. In my situation, the woman left me alone and I never saw her again, within 5 minutes of telling her that I was boring. Try dropping that comment at an opportune moment and see if it helps.
Hi Sky! Thank you so much…….that is very helpful! There’s been no contact since Wednesday but you know only too well what these ‘types’ are like; massive understatement!
I was worried for the first few evenings that he might be lurking outside…..the ex spath had done that, telling me later on that he had looked through the gap in my curtains. I know the hallmarks…..it just took me a few dates this time to recognise them. So, I suppose I’m getting better but I was still angry at myself for allowing him to manipulate me. Thanks again….I will wear my pearl pendant!
Another thing spaths have in common is that they like to deprive their victims of sleep. Just like infants, they can sleep soundly at the drop of a hat, but their supply must stay awake in case the infant needs them.
I know of one spath who would tell his victim, “You can sleep all you want when you’re dead.”
So I’m interested in how well this will work. By sleeping all the time, you might make the spath determined to wake you, but at the same time, by staying the course and continuing to act sleepy, you’ll be depriving him of supply. Hopefully, he’ll get bored soon and run away.
Yes I agree…..it’s a tricky manoeuvre this ignoring/sleeping thing. My ex, when he was first messaging me before we had even met, stayed “away’ at my request as I had just lost my beloved dog. Eventually, after several months and possibly several other rejections, he messaged me……that was it; the start of my nightmare.