In our study of this personality, we’ve learned that sociopaths differ from psychopaths mostly in the degree of violence they’re willing to use to gain their ends. Sociopaths can actually function well in society, where psychopaths tend to find social interaction very unpleasand and difficult.
The other traits we’ve looked at include surface charm and a glib tongue; an over-inflated sense of self-worth; a need for constant stimulation, and pathological lying. Next is the sociopath’s unique ability to con and manipulate people and situations to gain his ends. He is a master at manuevering around people and situations to accomplish his goal, which is always involved with some kind of gain to himself. He may even seem to be trying to make things better for others. It’s a ruse. He’s really interested only in furthering his own gain.
He is never bothered by remorse or guilt for the pain he causes others. His attitude is completely without empathy for his victims. He he tends to see them as stupid, unworthy, and getting exactly what they deserve. He is disdainful of almost everyone else. There is no such thing as conscience.
He has what we in the mental health profession recognize as a shallow affect. His feelings don’t go very deep, in spite of his apparent charming exterior. The only emotions he may feel deeply include anger growing into rage if he is thwarted, and a deep disdain for other people. His superiority to others is unquestioned in his own mind. He doesn’t really feel any loyalty or commitment to anyone else, and he will leave relationships without any sense of loss when it suits his own interests to do so.
The sociopath lives a parasitic lifestyle. He expects other people to support his goals, financially and any other way they can. He expects to be boosted, given special privileges. Anyone in his life who has money is a mark for his attention. A refusal to give him what he wants results in his rage and desire to get revenge.
He has poor to none when it comes to behavioral controls. The unwritten rules for appropriate behavior in society don’t touch him. He expresses his negative emotions easily and sometimes physically, if he thinks he can get away with it. Irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse are characteristic. He demonstrates inadequate control of anger and temper, and he acts hastily, giving no thought to results of his behavior. When confronted, his lies are quick, easy, and believable. He can even work up tears if he needs to, in order to convince everyone that nothing was ever his own fault.
Don’t expect these folks to “get better” with counseling or confrontation. The only thing that can come close to working positive change in their lives is the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
2 thoughts on “What is a Sociopath, part 3”
I find these varying descriptions of sociopaths to be a little off. Source wise, they seem to come from either victims or “professionals” and both descriptions are problematic. From the victim standpoint, we see only a picture of negative affect and from the clinical end we see, well, what the sociopath wants and allows the professional to see (this is why therapy is ineffective).
These descriptions generate a one dimensional image of a person and can serve to do nothing more than stigmatize individuals based upon a broad and often misapplied set of stereotypes. Not all black people will rob you on the street corner. Not all Mexicans are landscapers. Not all sociopaths are abusers and manipulators who can’t distinguish right from wrong.
“He,” as you say, can only fix himself. Admittedly, there is no true fix…only a convergence of camouflage and outward affect that generalizes into everyday life. It’s a conscious choice not to manipulate others or throw them off third floor balconies (even and especially when it seems MOST appropriate to do so).
I think profiling is dangerous to people. If you dig deep enough, we all fit into some sort of neat little box, but the trouble is that we have a lot of those boxes and they overlap one another. This is what makes us individuals and no form of personality profiling can ever really paint a picture of who a person truly is.
Furthermore, at what point does profiling become stereotyping? It happens when specialized terms and parameters go from being solely applied to sets of behavior patterns to actually indexing indentifiable populations of human beings.
Just saying. No one likes to be pigeonholed.
Thanks for your comment, Jason. It deserves to be considered. I’m not sure which of these posts it was, maybe more than one, where I stated that not all sociopaths are criminal. Often, they learn to adapt to society. When they do, it is the people who live with them that see the dark side. In my work, those are the ones I see. The sociopath rarely, if ever, shows up in a therapist’s offce seeking help, because it’s everyone else who is messed up.
I agree that we need to be careful of stereotypes. And I also understand that we all have one or more traits that could “pigeonhole” us as sociopaths. Everyone lies, for instance. It is the degree, motivation, and chronicity of the lying that sets a person apart.