By Stanley C Loewen
In the BBC series Sherlock Holmes, Holmes pronounces to Watson that he is a ‘I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high functioning sociopath, do your research’, and this fascinating self assessment is one that gets many viewers questioning what precisely a sociopath is.
Sherlock’s proclaiming himself a sociopath makes the term seem almost romantic and interesting rather than immediately disturbing when usually we would think of the traits of a sociopath as belonging to a villain, not a protagonist. Here we will look at what the term sociopath entails, whether it is indeed distinct from psychopathy, and whether Holmes was right to diagnose himself as one.
Qualities of a Sociopath
Someone who is described as a sociopath will have several traits that set them apart from those with no personality disorders. These traits include the following…
• Lack of empathy – Inability to feel sympathy for others or to understand the emotional consequences of their actions
• Cold, calculating nature – The ability and willingness to use others around them to personal gain
• Shallow emotions – Lack of real emotion in response to events, limited capacity to feel love
• Narcissism – A personality disorder in itself in which the individual feels strong love and admiration toward themselves (often a defense mechanism against deep seated low esteem)
• Grandiose self image – They might see themselves as someone who is superior to others and sometimes even experiences delusions. A sociopath might see themselves as a fitting ruler of a country or even the world, but might also have delusional beliefs such as seeing themselves as a God or having super powers
• Charm – While the sociopath is unable to fully understand the emotions of others, they are capable but rather highly adept at mimicking them and might appear to be charming and normal at first
• High IQ – Often sociopaths will exhibit a high IQ which they can use to manipulate and plan
• Manipulative – Sociopaths use their superficial charm and high IQ to manipulate others to get their ends, and their lack of empathy allows them to do this with no sense of guilt or remorse
• Secretive – Has little need for others and is highly secretive in their actions meaning
• Sexually deviant – The lack of remorse, guilt or emotional attachments means that the sociopath is happy to have affairs and to engage in questionable sexual activity without questioning their desires
• Sensitive to criticism – That said, like all narcissists, the sociopath will desire the approval of others and will be highly sensitive to criticisms. They often feel they deserve adulation and admiration of the world and might feel victimized
• Paranoid – Often their lack of understanding of emotion along with their incongruous self view means that they feel a lack of trust and paranoia
• Despotic/Authoritarian – Often the sociopath will see themselves as a necessary authority and will be in favor or totalitarian rule
• Lawfulness – Despite popular belief, a sociopath is not likely to be a problem to the law in later life, but rather will seek to find loopholes, to rise to a position of power, or to move to another area so that their behavior is tolerated
• Low tolerance for boredom – Sociopaths require constant stimulation and get quickly bored
• Impulsive behavior – A lack of regret and empathy means makes sociopaths more likely to make sudden rash decisions based on the current facts
• Compulsive lying – As part of their facade, and as a means to an end, sociopaths are compulsive liars and will rarely speak truthfully making them hard to pin down
• The MacDonald Triad – In childhood sociopaths will likely have demonstrated the ‘MacDonald Triad’ also known as the ‘Triad of Sociopathy’, traits that often are demonstrated in sociopaths from a young age. These include animal cruelty (pulling the wings off of flies etc, bed wetting, and pyromania (an obsession with fire setting)).
Sociopaths of course vary in their symptoms and might act differently in different cases. However their main trait is presenting themselves as having the same empathy feelings and emotions as others when in fact they lack this emotional capacity. They are thus cold and manipulative and rarely see any problem with their actions.
Profile of a Sociopath
A sociopath is likely to have been a ‘problem child’ and exhibited difficult behavior when younger. As they grow older they are likely to be highly successful which is a result of their willingness to get one over on their competition and colleagues, a desire and belief in success, and lack of risk aversion. Thus they are likely to be found in positions as stock brokers, as CEOs or even as politicians. Many despotic rulers such as Gaddafi could be described as sociopaths.
Alternatively a sociopath might be likely to live on the fringes of society having little interest in people. They could be seen as eccentric and will most likely be independently wealthy. In other words they will either conquer the system or avoid it entirely. They will of course have few close friends and are more likely to make contacts with those they can use, or those they see as equals and that they can admire. They will tend to be cold and manipulative in relationships and potentially emotionally abusive though this might not necessarily be purposefully vindictive.
In all cases though the psychopath will appear highly intelligent, charming and charismatic to talk to and it is only careful guardedness that can uncover their true motivations.
Read more here.
You cannot fix a sociopath. They do not have a conscience. They cannot grow a conscience. They’re not secretly insecure and tragic. They understand human nature and how to control it. They actively manipulate your own perception so that it becomes a point of pride/vanity to be “the one” who fixes them.
These things may feel good at first, even addictive. And that’s the point. Psychopaths know how to manufacture intense desperation and desire … But these toxic shortcuts to “love” are not actually love to the abuser. They are ways to ensure power over others.
Qualities that can be found in any genuine, healthy sort of love:
Find someone who can feel the same things as you, not someone who uses those qualities to exploit you.
Read more here.
Why Manipulators Minimise
Character-impaired folks often minimise the seriousness of their misbehavior. Some professionals once thought they did this because they felt so bad. They assumed their conscience bothered them so much they had to trivialise what they’d done to live with themselves. But the primary reasons folks with character disturbances minimise are more troubling than that. First, they don’t want you to see them for the flawed characters they are. Second, they want to convince you their actions were not what you perceived. And if you buy into their narrative, they succeed in manipulating you.
There’s an art to convincing others that something you did wasn’t really so bad or harmful. And a really skilled manipulator might actually admit part of what they did (usually, not the most serious part) just to appear like they accept responsibility. But conceding a point or two doesn’t equate with taking full ownership of one’s wrongdoing. It’s merely part of the game of impression management. Moreover, it’s how already conscience-impaired folks perpetuate their character flaws. You can’t take the task of changing your ways seriously and minimize the gravity of your actions at the same time. And tricking someone into thinking you’re not so bad a character is not the same as really working to be a better person.
The Harm Done
Disturbed characters lie and lie often. And when they minimise they deceive themselves as well as others about their character deficiencies and behavior problems. So you know that when someone continues to trivialize matters, they’re not going to take seriously the problems they need to correct. That’s the harm done by all the behaviors I call manipulation tactics. Engaging in these behaviors obstructs the internalization of healthy values and standards of conduct. It’s the way disturbed characters fight the very process of learning and accepting responsibility. Minimising is just one way to obstruct the process of healthy socialization. Still, it’s a significant way. As long as a person trivialises the seriousness of their conduct, they can’t possibly embrace the need to change that conduct.
Disturbed characters tend to manipulate, avoid responsibility, and put undue stress on others. But neurotics tend to stress themselves with an excessive sense of responsibility. They take things very seriously. Seasoned manipulators are good at exploiting this difference.
Read more here.
by Adelyn Birch
SIGNS OF A LACK OF EMPATHY
- Indifference to the suffering of others
- Sexism and womanizing
- Believes they’re always right
- Refusal to acknowledge that you have justification to be upset about something they did
- Expects you to accommodate his schedule, without regard for yours
- Neglecting or ignoring you if you’re sick
- Doesn’t comfort you when you need it
- Lies to get what they want
- Justifies their lies
- When they apologize, they don’t act like they mean it. You do not see genuine remorse, understanding about why what they did hurt you, or purposeful, deliberate efforts on their part to repair the damage they may have done
- Inability to imagine how their words and actions may affect you
- Cheats, and then blames it on you
- Needs space (more than a day or two) and doesn’t care that it hurts you
- Isn’t interested in finding ways to soothe your worries
- Ogles or flirts with others in front of you, and then accuses you of being smothering
- Becomes angry when you cry or get emotional
- Makes you feel out of control emotionally
- There is drama and intensity, and when you look beneath it you find a lack of genuine emotional intimacy
- Tells you you’re too needy or too emotional
- Doesn’t ask you how your day was or how your doctor’s appointment went
- Forgets your birthday or other important occasions
- Looks down on people for what he sees as their bad decisions, without taking into account how their life circumstances may differ from his
- Expects instant forgiveness
- Censors and restricts your emotions
- Invalidates your thoughts, feelings, ideas and concerns
Read more here.
By Dr Jane and Tim McGregor
Often, the person targeted by the sociopath is an empath. Empaths are ordinary people who are highly perceptive and insightful and belong to the 40% of human beings who sense when something’s not right, who respond to their gut instinct. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, the empath is the boy who mentions the unmentionable: that there are no clothes.
In the 1990s, researchers suggested that there was a positive relationship between empathy and emotional intelligence. Since then, that term has been used interchangeably with emotional literacy.
What this means in practice is that empaths have the ability to understand their own emotions, to listen to other people and empathise with their emotions, to express emotions productively and to handle their emotions in such a way as to improve their personal power.
People are often attracted to empaths because of their compassionate nature. A particular attribute is that they are sensitive to the emotional distress of others. Conversely, they have trouble comprehending a closed mind and lack of compassion in others.
Very highly empathic people can find themselves helping others at the expense of their own needs, which can lead them to withdraw from the world at times.
For individuals with this tendency, the psychopath/sociopath can manipulate and take advantage of the person by eliciting pity and/or guilt from them.
It is odd. Most of us enjoy watching films and reading books about heroes who refuse to go along with the crowd, which suggests there is something admirable about people who make a bold stand.
But in real life, watching someone raise their head above the parapet often makes the rest of us feel queasy. Most – the 60% majority – prefer the easy life. It was interesting to discover, when doing the research for this book, how often people see empaths in problematical terms.
Empaths use their ability to emphasize and to boost theirs and others’ well being and safety. Problems arise for empaths, however, when there are apaths in the vicinity. Empaths can be brought down, distressed and forced into the position of the lone fighter by the inaction of more apathetic types round them.
Often empaths are targeted by sociopaths because they pose the greatest threat. The empath is usually the first to detect that something is not right and express what s/he senses.
As a consequence, the empath is both the sociopath’s number one foe and a source of attraction; the empath’s responses and actions provide excellent entertainment for sociopaths, who use and abuse people for sport.
The world of the empath is not for the faint-hearted. In the context we are discussing, empaths often find themselves up against not only the sociopath but often a flock of apaths as well. Apaths are afforded pole position in the sociopath’s intrigues.
But this prime spot comes at a price for, in what we call the “sociopathic transaction”, the apath – makes an unspoken Faustian pact with the sociopath, then passively or otherwise participates in the cruel sport.
- Read more here.
By Dr Raj Persaud and Helinä Häkkänen-Nyholm
In one of the largest studies of its kind ever published, US psychologists have found a particular aspect of personality in men and women, predicts what the researchers refer to as ‘hypersexuality’.
The ‘hypersexual’ have more sexual partners than the rest of the population, fantasise more about others than their current partner, and tend to favour more sex without love. They take greater pleasure in casual sex with different partners, and don’t need attachment to enjoy lovemaking.
Hypersexuality was found strongly linked with a particular aspect of personality.
Another especially intriguing aspect of this research, conducted on 482 people aged 17-56 years old, was that this personality feature applied equally to both men and women, in predicting hypersexuality.
Psychologists are beginning to concur that it’s this unique element of character which most powerfully predicts higher numbers of different sexual partners, as well as impulsive one night stands, and a gamut of risky sexual behaviours.
This character trait is psychopathy.
Psychopaths are linked in the popular imagination with criminals and sex offenders, but psychologists Rebecca Kastner and Martin Sellbom from the University of Alabama, who conducted this study, entitled, ‘Hypersexuality in college students: The role of psychopathy’, emphasise they were studying features of psychopathy which are more common in the general population than may be realised.
Psychologists believe everyone falls somewhere along the spectrum of psychopathy, and have more or less of these traits. It would seem the more aspects of psychopathy are reflected in a person’s character, the more they embrace ‘hypersexuality’.
The psychopathic personality is characterised by a callous and manipulative approach to others, lack of remorse, plus deceit all covered up by superﬁcial charm. Not a particularly alluring package at first glance, so psychologists have been probing deeper inside the psychopath’s mind, unlocking the secret of their success in the bedroom.
Rebecca Kastner and Martin Sellbom found from their study, just published in the academic journal Personality and Individual Differences, that it’s the ‘Fearless-Dominance’ aspect of psychopathy, combined with the ‘Impulsive-Antisocial’ element, which actually explains why psychopaths dominate the medal tables in the sexual Olympics.
Fearlessness and dominance means psychopaths appear charming, grandiose, risk-taking with little regard for consequences, combined with absence of anxiety. They don’t anticipate and aren’t bothered by performance failure – which is a consideration that appears to put the rest of us off being too hypersexual. These factors can also be positively associated with a hard work ethic, even heroism, confidence and achievement; all characteristics that women value in a male partner.
Kastner and Sellbom also contend it’s the relative immunity from stress and fearlessness of psychopaths, which explains why they are less inhibited than the rest of us. As a result, they seek thrilling, dangerous, and otherwise anxiety provoking sexual situations.
Psychologists argue its the ‘impulsive-antisocial’ element of their character which ensures they use others ruthlessly for their own gain. This exploitative social style helps generate the higher number of sex partners and short-term mating. Impulsivity means as well they act on possible reward (i.e., sex) without considering the consequences. They also disregard social norms and standards (e.g., one shall not be promiscuous, break the law, etc.).
One theory is that male and female psychopaths end up hypersexual through different routes via contrasts in personality – it’s the antisocial aspect in men, but instead the impulsive thrill seeking in women.
Psychologist David Kosson and colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, found in their research that of more psychopathic individuals, 58% report using flattery, 40% argument and 40% exploitation of an intoxicated person, to achieve sex. These figures from this study, entitled ‘Psychopathy-Related Traits Predict Self-Reported Sexual Aggression Among College Men’, and published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, were about twice higher than in the non-psychopathic.
Luna Muñoz and colleagues from the University of Central Lancashire researched sexually coercive tactics after being turned down by a partner, including sexual arousal and touching; emotional manipulation; exploiting by intoxication; and physical force. The study entitled, ‘Sexually Coercive Tactics Used by University Students: A Clear Role for Primary Psychopathy’, and published in the Journal of Personality Disorders, found men and women rated high on psychopathy were more likely to be sexually coercive …
Research has found psychopaths are also more interested in violent, coercive, and sadistic sex.
- Read more here
A gay sociopath I know put on great displays of jealousy if his target ever so much as mentioned another man. It was all hypocritical nonsense manufactured to flatter his target. The sociopath was seeing, hitting on and sleeping with other men all the way through, but knew that he would seem passionate if he put on a show of emotion, in the process convincing his target that he was his soulmate. If the sociopath feels any jealousy, it is that triggered by the potential loss of a possession and not a partner. Everything in his life is a performance, and he is the star.
For more on sociopaths and jealousy, read here.
“What, in the end, is Rose arguing? That motherhood is wrongly sentimentalised or that she feels excluded by mothers who do not experience ambivalence in their role? That mothers should be heard? Of course we urgently need a revision of cultural — and, concomitantly, political — priorities, but such changes will never be implemented if we continue insisting on the same modalities in which meaning is externalised and love sacrificed to status.”