I've worked out how I want to finish this series. (Check out last week's entry about minions being cognitively limited!) I'm going to write about the traits of sociopaths first of all. I've been collecting information on this and looking at various expert's lists, and trying to get it to the nitty-gritty. Then, I'm going to talk about how sociopaths operate, the techniques they use, and the behaviors that give them away. Finally, I'm going to discuss strategy for avoiding them and their minions
I wrote about sociopaths before here and the low levels to which one may sink without hesitation (scroll down to find "Accepting the Sociopaths Walk Among Us".)
Specifically, I mentioned the fundamentals of sociopathy as follows:
"People in general don't realize how MANY sociopaths exist in our society-- 1 in 25. That means out of every 100 people you meet, 4 of them have no empathy, no conscience, no ability to attach to others, and have no experience with guilt, remorse, or any other reason NOT to do bad things to other people or animals. There is NO softness in them. They are ice. They are evil
-- and they remain that way for the rest of their lives. You cannot cure evil because that which makes a person care enough not to cause harm does not exist in their brains. Most may even be born that way.
There are people who lose their tempers and strike out. There are people who make mistakes because they are overwhelmed. This is not the kind of abuse we're talking about [with sociopaths]. [People like this] have heart-rates that go down
when they abuse others. They get extra calm and calculated and the pleasure centers in their brains light up when they induce pain and suffering."
I also mentioned this:
"Beware of people who are charming.
Charm is a verb, not a trait. It requires ACTING ability. Always remember that. Why does anyone have to pretend to be something they aren't all the time? Why is image so important? Sociopaths are always shallow liars.
And if anyone you know seems to thrive on self-pity
, even as an able-bodied adult? Watch out. Sociopaths love to manipulate through a trait they don't possess-- your ability to feel sorry for others. "
Now we'll proceed to expand upon what I've already pointed out!
Traits Of A Sociopath Specified1. They lack empathy and are incapable of feeling remorse or guilt.
I've explained this one in detail above. The author of The Sociopath Next Door
describes them as ICE PEOPLE. Studies have shown that sociopaths lack "mirror neurons" in the frontal lobes of their brains, which is where most of our higher thought processes take place. Its literally a form of mental retardation in the conscience category. Humans are supposed to be both altruistic and competitive. We help one another survive, but push to get the best for ourselves to pass along the best genes. Sociopathy is what you get when that balancing act is destroyed by an inferior brain. And make no mistake-- sociopathic brains are obviously inferior
. Check it out:
<-- You'll note Jim is the sociopath. Subjects are facing right. Also, Jim is otherwise intellectually gifted. Most comparisons brain scans I've seen of sociopaths show much duller colors in the rear of the brain, not just the front. In fact, they tend to be duller all the way around in general. Jim is an exception even for a sociopath-- still, the lack of forebrain activity is quite clear, even so...
Too often, I've seen normal people completely stymied by the mere idea
of sociopathy. They may understand it theoretically, sort of, in fiction
-- but have difficulty grasping that someone they know
can be that bad. They refuse to believe anyone
can possibly be without softer feelings entirely
. This is where people attracted to "bad boys" or "wild girls" can get into big trouble, not realizing their fantasy of reforming a person with a damaged brain is impossible to realize.2. They are arrogant and operate from a sense of entitlement, cultivating personal self-serving fantasies and delusions of grandeur.
One reason a sociopath's charm can be so enticing to the normal-brained is the simple fact that to most people, power and confidence are attractive traits. "Sexy" and "cool" traits. It feels more safe rather than less (to most) because following someone who seems sure they know what they're doing helps most people to feel less unsure. Most people long for protection and security, and most hope that powerful people can bring it to them. Being around people who act and feel they deserve the best works much the same way: most hope the benefits will somehow touch them as well.
Apparently, one reason sociopaths are so confident and narcissistic goes right back to that whole retarded brain issue. Because they don't actually realize what personal pain feels like, they aren't afraid of incurring it-- when the very possibility causes real anguish in most normal people. The sociopath's lack of mirror neurons means that to them, they really ARE the center of the universe! Other people are not "REAL" to them in any sense. Others are tools and toys and targets-- nothing more.
Typically, sociopaths lack personal perspective and so explain their differences from other people in terms that can make them feel nearly messianic. They're convinced of their specialness, and often come up with elaborate fantasies about their true worth in the world. Many people fantasize about being more important or interesting or privileged than they really are-- that's the nature of fantasy. But few of us are deluded into believing that we're REALLY "all that and then some" without external "proofs." Not so for sociopaths, who need no such confirmation to convince themselves of their delusions.
Which leads us to our next sociopathic trait...3. They are prone to bragging, especially about how they outwit others, seeing everything as a game or contest in which they must win. Conversely, they may also routinely attempt to illicit pity.
Sociopaths do often give themselves away by advertising to others their own high opinions of themselves and their corresponding low opinions of others, whom they see as deserving of anything they get. They show how callous they are routinely, whether they're ranting and raving or by making quiet, smirking jokes at others' expense. The more intelligent sociopaths may be more selective with whom they share these thoughts, but few can resist gloating when they win yet again.
Notorious for being poor winners, they are also very poor losers, who will stop at nothing to have revenge against anyone who dared to beat them at anything. If they have another opportunity, their "opponent" can be assured the deck will be stacked and the sociopath will cheat by any means possible to ensure victory the next time!
Once more we see how society has played along and actively encouraged this type of malicious competitive behavior in our culture. We venerate 'winners' and denigrate 'losers'-- rarely asking how fair the process of creating these categories of people comes about. Consistent winners are often cheaters, but cheating has become so commonplace we don't seem to blink much of an eye these days about it. Many people have been persuaded that its not so bad to cheat, lured by the empty promises and flagrant examples of the sociopaths that thrive around us.
Yet there tends to be a contradictory element to their self-reports, because sociopaths, while insisting they are next to any god you could name, still make a habit of pointing out how you, their listener, should feel sorry for them. They will make a play for your pity-- and you'll know you're being played when you're asked for money, a place to live, another chance, etc. etc. There are people who face pitiable circumstances of course, and are deserving of help, yet a closer look into a sociopath's world will reveal that all is not as it appears. The braggart sociopath who seems utterly secure in their own superiority will nonetheless insist they deserve more than they have, and further that YOU owe it to them!4. They are habitually irresponsible, engage in self-destructive behavior, and give in to dangerous impulses for thrills.
(Again with the warning to steer clear of the crazy "bad boys" and "wild girls" who typically have reputations for this kind of behavior!)
We all neglect our duties sometimes, forget to be as safe as we could be, or take a chance every now and again. However, for most of us, these instances in our lives are generally pretty remarkable and anomalous. Few of us would neglect to feed an animal or child to the point they starved to death, for instance-- though a sociopath might, and more than once. Though there are plenty of adrenaline junkie thrill-seekers who climb cliffs, race cars, and jump from planes, most take precautions for their safety and keep their thrill-seeking to socially acceptable activities that appeal to such types. However, a sociopath might drive crazy during rush hour traffic, run up debts on credit cards they have no intention of paying, and try drugs that are well-known to cause extensive damage even short-term.
Though some sociopaths are quiet and lazy, certainly, many have a long history of pulling wild stunts, getting into trouble, and taking stupid chances-- and not just with themselves! They don't hesitate to spend other people's money, cause them suffering, or put their lives into danger.
Once more, we can see where the wild daring behavior of over-confidence can be heady stuff to people starved for drama and excitement (more on this below!) Until it touches another person's life in a destructive way, it can feel like crazy fun to many. There is an attraction for many young people towards the type of thrill-seeking that involves criminality and feels rebellious but is actually both much more and much less than advertised.
its known that a faulty brain structure explains much of this. Sociopaths have little appreciation for limits and consequences. Their deficient frontal lobes prevent them from having either INSIGHT or FORESIGHT. Lacking basic understanding for how reality works means they suffer from a distinct lack of fear
. While most people's heart rates go up when engaging in risky behavior (because of that whole "oh my gawd I could die or be seriously hurt" thing) the sociopath's is known to get extra low and steady under the same circumstances. Its as if the stimulation causes them to focus in a whole new way, which encourages approaching risk, rather than to run away from it like a normal human being.
There are several sociologists who believe it is this very willingness to run headlong into danger that keeps these guys around and breeding. Sociopaths are the PERFECT SOLDIERS. They kill ruthlessly and without any PTSD afterwards! In smaller hunter-gatherer societies, sociopaths falter and often end up dying young. Many so-called "primitive" cultures are adamant that people born into their tribes who show what many of them refer to as an "illness of evil" must be destroyed before they cause harm to the tribe. Not even kidding!
Our own, civilized societies, however, over the last few thousand years of steady warfare culture, have cultivated and venerated sociopathy (in conquerors, warriors, and ruthless leaders) because of their usefulness under the worse of circumstances. As sociopathy is partially inherited, over time this has led to ever higher numbers within our populations. We worship sociopaths today rather than putting them to death as in our collective tribal past.
Worse yet, in the last few decades, modern life, so fast-paced and anonymous, tends to make 'catching' sociopaths ever more difficult, as they have a much larger pool in which to play without being discovered, outed, and imprisoned or killed for their crimes. Reputations are easily faked, whereas it used to be that most people knew those who lived around them very well over a long period of time and so sociopaths couldn't operate so easily without their true nature being discovered. Communities used to mutually protect one another from such rogues, but we've lost that protection and social psychologists (and recent history) have discovered that we can be turned against one another far too easily at the behest of a sociopath. Genocides all have a sociopathic leader at the helm who have been handed power by legions of willing minions.5. They feed off of interpersonal melodramas and thrive on crisis.
Most people have felt alerted to and energized by a drama erupting around them, but for most of us, this is more a call to arms and extremely distressing if its personally connected to us or someone we love. Its may be fun to discuss events at a distance as gossip for many-- but most of us find that unrelenting drama is more than draining, its intrinsically painful. Crisis may have some exciting elements-- later
, after its passed and you're telling a story about it and you know that ultimately you survived! During a crisis, however, few of us find much to enjoy.
For some of us empaths (me certainly) nearly all personal drama is painful from the get go. It means something is going WRONG somewhere and someone is getting hurt. There is no joy nor excitement to be found there. I literally feel physical pain in my solar plexus during interpersonal dramas that involve me, lose my appetite completely (I've lost up to 13 lbs in a week this way) and get so anxious I can't sleep or settle down to do anything, finding myself obsessing about events falling apart around me against my will. Until things blow over, I become a complete mess, compulsively questioning everything about the people involved and myself-- and I know I'm hardly alone.
Nearly the opposite is true for sociopaths, who, though incapable of true joy, nonetheless find much satisfaction in watching disastrous social interactions and dirty political events play out. They enjoy it even more so when they were the cause of it!
Being incapable of truly understanding the rich highs and lows that for most of us constitutes normal existence, sociopaths feel compelled to stir up trouble as a way of feeling as if they MATTER in some way in the lives of others. Upsetting the peace and setting groups of people into a frenzy pleases the sociopath because it is yet more evidence of their power in the world.
This is a dead giveaway for female sociopaths who may slip under the radar due to often having less physical ways of acting out. They love to set friends against one another, turn a group of tightly knit females into a bunch of paranoid bitches, and encourage others to either turn on the ones they love and/or admire, or to believe that they've been betrayed themselves. Then they sit back and enjoy the show. I know from grim personal experience that just 2 or 3 female sociopaths can completely rule a middle or high school and create a house of horrors for their trapped targets. Most of them hone their ugly verbal craft at an early age, figuring out what works and what doesn't. Even if their technique gets more subtle over time, the essential foundation is laid long before adulthood.6. They have a history of short-lived relationships, unless they involve obvious exploitation or are obligatory (co-workers and family-of-origin.)
Few people who have a choice tend to stick around a sociopath for very long. Eventually, they out themselves to most as being very destructive and dangerous people to know. However, its just as likely the sociopath in their life discarded them when they were done and moved on to fresher prey. The exceptions to this rule make sense. When a sociopath finds someone they can exploit (typically for sex or money) they may stick around or make it nearly impossible for their prey to escape easily. People trapped into relationships due to family ties or through work or who live next to a sociopath are in a similar bind, although they may escape the worst of the sociopath's notice part of the time if they're lucky.
I think many of us have come upon sociopaths and figured out they were no good and managed to get away. We fairly congratulate ourselves for our escape, not realizing that it would not have been so easy had we possessed something the sociopath was determined to have. Those who have been pulled into an abusive relationship are often astonished at how it all happened when they look back upon things. Sociopaths can be relentless in not giving up what they want for ANY reason.
Unfortunately, this means most don't fully comprehend the terrible position exploited prey or targets are in. Since we got away we assume others should have been able to and end up blaming the victim, which plays into a sociopath's agenda perfectly.
Get to know how sociopaths operate, and beware of anyone displaying these traits. It will save you or someone you love in the future.