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The Gray Rock Method of Dealing With Psychopaths — 185 Comments

  1. The Danger Of Longterm Use Of This Method

    I recently discovered your work and must say I am quite impressed. Thank you for the thoughtful insights. I have been using what you call “the gray rock” method for most of my life. I was not consciously applying this method in as much as using it as fluidly as anyone does when they back on a bike–you just ride. While I agree that it is more of a tactic than a strategy, I unfortunately used it more liberally than I should have. Here is a brief synopsis:

    There is a large amount of psychopathy present in my family (my dad, a great deal in my mother and especially in her mother). I left home as a teenager and with the exception of the occasional call to psycho-granny, I went no contact for over 10 years. I was not aware of this at the time, but looking back all of the pretty girls I dated and fell in love with all had something in common, they all fell unusually high on the narc/spath spectrum. I suppose I missed the regular abuse from the family. These unhealthy attraction to empty narcs was in retrospect the first and perhaps most severe of the unintended consequence of using this method as a strategy rather than a temporary tactic.

    Continuing on, I used this method effectively for a few decades with much success (or so I thought) –I used to regularly speak with my grandmother by phone and she being a narc squared would always enjoy the slandering of her children and others mixed in with a passive aggressive put down or comment towards me to feed off of my reactions (her supply). I instinctively knew to avoid issues that really mattered, and so I used decoys to pretend that certain things really bothered me while minimizing my reactions to everything else. This method may have worked if at the time I was fully aware of her malignant psychopathy, and I properly it, but I did not.

    Eventually, my lack of appropriate emotional response (from her perspective) may have alerted her to the protection mechanism I was applying (it really is true, spaths lack insight and really don’t understand any values other than suppositions they make from others reactions –they are empty vessels). So, she turns up the volume, repeats the insults more often and more overtly. These benign issues became cancerous through the act of repetition itself as well as the extended duration I used Gray Rock. Eventually, I suffered a break and this had profound effects in my life.

    Key Takeaway,
    Use the gray rock method sparingly and only if absolutely necessary. Don’t use as a lifelong strategy –you might make the same mistake I made a rationalize that you can tame these unnameable spath beasts –you can’t. Certain animals should remain in the wild.

  2. as a small point of interest, and perhaps in line with what thearrival has recently posted, i was here over a year ago posting about my intention to use gray rock with my spath, which in my case was elective not required.

    as a result, i ended up getting sucked back in to a highly abusive relationship, from which i only escaped earlier this year. i lost a lot materially and aged about ten years physically, but i did gain a lot of perspective. i am now in full NC and have accepted that there is no negotiating with terrorists.

    i appreciate sites like this, because it took me a while to accept the reality of who–what–i was dealing with, but education has been absolutely key to both leaving and staying away. i learned a LOT about myself and my own inner demons through him, and i am now much better equipped to spot these freaks in the wild. and i’ve finally learned to have somewhat better boundaries. i don’t give out so much personal information so quickly, and when someone starts “lovebombing” me (usually starts with showering me with undue compliments), i walk away without looking back. NEVER AGAIN.

  3. oh – sorry for the double posting – to be clear i’m not blaming gray rock for my getting sucked back in. i was in unrequired contact with my ex-spath, and it led me to great vulnerability to manipulation. i still didn’t understand at that point what i was dealing with. the article on communication (http://180rule.com/pearly-art-communication/) here is spot on with why.

    for people who have no choice, e.g. shared custody or other legal obligations, gray rock is the only viable method i know, but i agree with thearrival; if you have any choice in the matter whatever, your safest route is full No Contact.

    In my case, I moved after being forced to a DV shelter, changed my phone number, and any email he may send me gets deleted (not sent to trash-deleted before i ever see it). He is highly untechnical, rarely uses email, and is usually homeless (the pity ploy that hooked me initially to try to “rescue” him) so I’m not particularly concerned he will forge a new email address to try to contact me. If he does, i’ll have to change it, but that becomes much more complicated for me than changing my phone number as it involved such an enormous number of updates i may not even catch them all, so i’m avoiding it for now.

    the only good thing that came out of going back to him, is, it helped resolve my cognitive dissonance, and the final vicious discard gave me the impetus to completely cut him out of my life.

  4. Guys I think the Gray Rock should be used SPARINGLY and ONLY in instances where you are FORCED to have contact with these people, like when you have children with an Spath and the court orders visitation so you have to have a face to face with SPATH from time to time….NC I think is the ONLY permanent and safe method to use with the psychopaths and Narcissists, but if you are forced into contact with these people then Gray Rock is the only alternative way to deal with them.

    They will TRY to provoke you and if you use Gray Rock they don’t get the response they want, and they may well up the ante when you don’t respond like they want and expect.

    As a behavioral observer, and student of behavior, in animals as well as in humans. When a person or an animal has done X behavior and received a “reward” of any kind…and then they don’t get the reward, they will INCREASE THE BEHAVIOR for a while, all the while thinking they can EVENTUALLY get a response.

    This is exhibited in “break up violence” when an abuser is dumped by his/her love interest and ups the violence, maybe even killing the victim.

    NC, no response, no contact, is the best way to go IF AT ALL POSSIBLE because they get “no reward” by not being able to speak to you, to say anything to you, or get ANY response. Even a “fark you!” is a response and therefore a reward to them.

    Patrick Carnes book and Gavin DeBecker’s books point this out in great detail and the whys and wherefores so we need to keep on reading, studying, and realize that THESE PEOPLE NEVER CHANGE…AND THE ONLY WAY WE CAN PROTECT OURSELVES IS GET AWAY FROM THEM.

    Recently a friend of our family who has 7 kids with the P and the 3 youngest are forced by the court to visit him (though the older of the 3 at 14 yrs old despises her sperm donor, the court still forces her to go) The older 4 kids recognize him for what he is.

    Recently he applied to the court for custody of the youngest 3, and his older kids testified against him, and the JUDGE called him a “jerk” which made his ex wife and her attorney almost choke! LOL His mother is apparently just like him as well.

    The two youngest are still “bought” by him with gifts and so on, and may eventually recognize him for what he is, or may not, who knows, they are still very young.

    • Truthfully going full NC, while being very hard emotionally (especially while reeling from the discard), felt wonderful when it was done. I finally felt like I had control over my own life again. He had been stalking me after the discard the first time I refused to take his call, but not picking up wasn’t enough for my own mental health. I had to absolutely block him on every level. He’s even blocked on facebook, which I rarely use anyway.

      I bumped into my exspath outside a store a couple of months later. I refused eye contact, turned and walked away across the street while he followed me, screaming about why wouldn’t I talk to him. It took everything I had to ignore him and the ridiculous accusations (lies) he was leveling at me, but I managed to do it. I’m pretty sure he was with his boss, too. No matter how he tries to smear me, he’s the one who looks like the nutcase now, as it should be.

      I thought I’d be really upset, but after talking to some people, I realized it was a huge triumph. And it showed me very directly how much it was driving him crazy. It was and is the most empowering, healing thing I could do for my post-spath recovery.

      I know two other people who have not gone full NC. Both are hurting. One has the option and can’t bring herself to do it, just like I was last year. She is in hell on earth, literally, in pain and depression. She knows who and what he is, but can’t let go. The other is in a situation where she simply can’t go NC due to legitimate legal and business circumstances. She is struggling, but not as much. I sent her the link to this article and she liked it. Hopefully it will help, but I don’t envy either of them.

      I guess we have to go through what we have to go through. I knew very well I needed to stay away from him, but the nature of the trauma bond is very difficult to resist. And there’s an article on this site somewhere that they like to play on our strengths as well as our weaknesses. My ego combined with denial to convince me I could “handle” his manipulations and remain intact. And in the face of all evidence to the contrary, I wanted to believe he could love me or did on some level.

      I’m not advising this, because he literally almost killed me, but going back this last time was a curative experience. My denial was shattered by it. I had to accept the truth, or die. Now I know he cannot love. He only wants to destroy, especially anyone who seems to have something he does not (any kind of success, self-respect, integrity). I have never met anyone who just rolled over boundaries like he did, or turn the truth on its tail, accusing me of everything he was doing, telling me I was selfish because I wouldn’t give in to his every demand. At times I thought he was completely insane. Noone could possibly lack so much insight or perspective. Now I know he was simply attempting to manipulate me through the 180 tactic, among other things, and that I fed him so much ammunition using “I” statements. What an eye-opener!

  5. Opi, congratulation on finally escaping from the spath. Be aware though, that cog-diss can come back after a certain amount of time. I’m recently going through some of it myself as a remember my life with my ex-spath. It seems impossible that someone who is so sick, would not want to change, yet that’s the ultimate truth.

    It really helps that I spent some time with his friend, (a slightly less dangerous spath) and studied him. Though that study I was able to reinforce the fact that spaths don’t change, though they do pretend to. It doesn’t even matter if you tell them that you know they are spaths. They don’t care. Nothing less than a brain transplant will do the trick.

    • thanks for the warning skylar. i’ve wondered if i might get some CD down the road. some news of him or running into someone he cheated with or whatever triggering it, or just a bad day. i found out recently he left the state, which was my fondest wish, and was surprised it actually brought up some pain. but when that happened i figured it was necessary removal of traces of the TB, so i just let myself feel it. i try to stay conscious of this stuff by staying on sites like yours because as i start feeling better, it’s easy to forget the emotional truths i learned.

      i also make it a habit to “target practice” on new spaths. now that i’m armed with knowledge, i’m finding many of them easy to spot and i do get a feeling of empowerment when i get that light going off in my head. not all of them are full-blown spaths, and i’m not kidding myself that i can spot them all, but a lot of behaviors i didn’t realize were part of the pattern, i can easily see now. walk away, do not feed the path! you are right, there is no “getting through” to them. my ex taught me that. not only do they not care, they aren’t capable of caring.

      hence my credo: NEVER AGAIN

  6. thearrival, I’m sorry you experienced that abuse at the hands of your family. In my opinion, abuse from the FOO is even more painful and damaging than abuse from a significant other. Furthermore, the cog-diss from our continued association with the spathy family members can create irreparable harm. We have to reconcile our own behavior with the truth about why we keep going back for more abuse. The truth is, everyone wishes they had a loving family and it’s tempting to keep going back to figure out how to get it.

    Oxdrover is right, gray rock is not meant to be a way of life. It’s not meant to make life with a spath bearable. It’s meant to make the spath go away without ever suspecting that you were on to their need for drama. Where people fail is when they use gray rock in a defiant way, refusing to react when a reaction is warranted.
    If you suddenly start using a stony face, the spath is going to be able to tell what you’re doing. They will just ramp up the drama until you scream, “uncle”.

    The actual application of gray rock can take many forms. Sometimes it means that you laugh when the spath has tripped you up. Other times it means that you act dumb, as if you didn’t notice that the all points bulletin on the news was for a description of a car that matches your spath’s car exactly. It can mean that you talk incessantly — about the weather or the different styles of flip flops that are available at walmart right now.

    Gray rock doesn’t work if the spath doesn’t have any options for escaping the boredom that you create. Remember, boredom provokes anxiety in a spath and they will do whatever they can to escape it. So if they don’t have an outlet, they will attack the source of their anxiety. That’s why it’s so dangerous to try to stay with a spath while gray rocking them at the same time.

    The most important part of the article is the explanation about how and why it works. Understanding the spath mindset is key.

  7. Thearrival, I’m sorry that you had bad experiences and I agree that using “Gray Rock” serves targets best in a legally required contact – co-parenting, for instance. Even in situations where the psychopath is a coworker or employer, there are several options available, including “Gray Rock.”

    Skylar pointed out that FOO abuse causes the greatest damage and I absolutely agree that family dysfunction creates a morass of emotional and behavioral issues that typically go, unchecked, through a person’s lifetime until such time as they hit rock bottom, on every level, or they continue pretending a acting out the role(s) that was assigned to them, early on.

    For my purposes, going full NO Contact is has been the only way that I have successfully rescued myself from remaining in very toxic and unhealthy relationships, and also from entering into potentially new and abusive situations. To do this with any measure of success, I chose to engage in strong counseling therapy with a trauma specialist. I am still learning, still rewiring my thinking, and paying very close attention to MY behaviors in relationship to others’ behaviors. For instance, I began to be aware of my aggression tendencies when I was faced with a potentially threatening or fearful situation. The aggression was a cover for fear, and I’ve been paying VERY close attention to this for the past 2 years. My FOO taught me that, if I appeared tough and aggressive, people MIGHT not approach me to harm me. Of course, this was a false perception and only caused me mountains of issues as my lifetime progressed with me carrying all of the childhood and adult baggage that I had accumulated over the years.

    “Gray Rock” works very well for me because I use it as a management technique for myself, rather than to manage spaths or toxic individuals. By that, I mean that I have learned to keep my mouth shut, play my cards close to my proverbial vest, and give NOTHING of myself away (like, personal history) unless (and, until) a person has EARNED my trust. Even then, I still am very private, now, whereas I used to believe that presenting myself as an open book was the “right thing to do.” I had never understood or accepted that “bad people” actually exist outside of prison walls, walk amongst us, and typically NEVER experience legal consequences for their actions.

    We can never truly know what goes on inside the head of a spath – we can’t. We can only surmise and hypothesize. We ***know*** that they do not have a conscience, remorse, or empathy, but we cannot really know WHY. Genetic? Sure, that plays a factor. Learned? Most definitely. Both? You bet. But………I cannot change or “help” these people. Nobody can. They can’t even help themselves. They know that their actions are inappropriate, at the very least, but they do not have the capacity to care. So………I don’t worry so much about THEM as I do about my own behaviors, tells, and responses to their games and ploys. I’m learning as I go, and the more I learn, the more confidence I’m building. If that makes any sense…. 🙂

    • With regard to “Gray Rock” and going “No Contact,” without a doubt, NC is the best possible option – the further away from the manipulations and crazy-making behaviors I got, the better able I was to actually separate my emotions from the matters at hand, so to speak. This didn’t mean that I didn’t “feel” any emotions. I certainly did! But, the difference was that I did not apply MY emotions to a factual situation. I could process how I felt in a private and healthy manner instead of becoming unglued and melting down over someone else’s disorders.

      Separating the feelings from the facts takes practice, and this is how “Gray Rock” works without being something that the spath can actually USE. I’m not making myself boring or ignoring them as a result of my anger and frustration, anymore. I’m just accessing my empathy and compassion and turning them down to just about NIL so that the interaction is simply a matter of course without any emotional involvement from me. Some folks have attempted “Gray Rock” as a means to PUNISH the spath or as a passive means to display their anger, and this is where they ran into trouble. I’ve done the same thing, myself. THEN, I realized that “Gray Rock” is not about punishing or “getting back” at a spath. It’s simply a management tool for required interactions.

      NC is absolutely the best and healthiest way of coping with a spath. They do not care what harm they’ve caused, and the more they’re reminded about it, the more entertainment it is for them to watch people taking an emotional plunge down the rabbit hole. For them, the reaction to seeing a target reduced to tears or screaming fits is almost the same as experiencing a physical 0rgasm. Literally. They crave power, and seeing (hearing, or reading) results of their efforts to ruin is the closest thing that they will ever feel to being “okay.” To harm and know the results of that harm is an absolute rush.

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