Characteristics Of A Sociopath
The Psychopaths In Our Midst
Growing up I used to be the regular target of bullies, due to being a shy and nervous child. Yet despite my anger towards these bullies, well-intentioned others would inform me how deep down, these bullies only acted the way they did because they were hurt and/or misguided individuals. Enquiring further into this belief, I was told that like myself, everyone has a conscience, an internal guidance system which directs them through the hazy world of morality – the only difference was that the bullies were ignoring their conscience due to other internal drives, be it a sense of hurt, low self-esteem, etc.
Over the last 50 years, research within the fields of psychiatry and neurology have uncovered that this well-intentioned idea of everyone internally being good, was an erroneous belief. Whilst many have suspected it for generations, science has finally proven that there is a breed of people who are not inherently good, Sociopaths. As you’d probably gathered, sociopaths (also referred to as psychopaths) are individuals who’d for some reason lack a conscience. As such, they are freer to undertake behaviours which most of us wouldn’t even consider in our darkest dreams.
Yet what are these sociopaths like as people? Well first of, forget what Hollywood has told us. In the movies, the vast majority of sociopaths are weird, dysfunctional people who stand out as being cold, aloof and committed to kill. Once they have picked you out, they’d keep coming at you till you are dead (like 1971 Steven Spielberg movie ‘Duel’). In reality, sociopaths are a completely different kettle of fish.
So what are the characteristics of the real-life sociopathic personality? Well one major characteristic is the lack of emotion that these individuals are capable of feeling. As well as a lack of remorse, these individuals also lack emotions like fear, compassion, guilt, etc. Instead the sociopathic emotional world tends consist of emotions like fight or flight, sexual desire, hunger, the more base emotions which we feel. According to research, the only higher emotion which sociopaths seem capable of feeling at times is anger, usually a sudden and intense anger; which usually comes about when they feel cheated, hurt, etc. Though this emotion does tend to be short-lived.
Not surprisingly, due to their lack of emotions, sociopaths also seem to have high levels of boredom and as such, need constant stimulation to keep them amused. Driving along the motorway in an open top car whilst fun for most of us probably wouldn’t amuse the sociopath at all. Yet driving in a stolen car with drugs in the back would emotionally stimulate the sociopath.
Another characteristic of the sociopath is the ability to read others emotions, desires, needs, etc. and respond appropriately. This is not to say that they can feel the emotions of others like we can (empathy). Instead it is more the case that they can intellectually look at someone, observe his or her facial features, etc. and respond appropriately.
This characteristic has also given rise to another trait which almost all sociopaths seem to share and that is the ability to turn on the charm as and when needed. They are very good at charming others and as such, suckering them in to either do their work for them or use that person as a tool to get them what they want – than dump them afterwards. This trait can be seen as an extension of the previous characteristic, reading others. For once you have read another individual and uncovered his or her needs and desires, it becomes a lot easier to appear charismatic to that person by fulfilling those needs. If one has the need for reassurance, say reassuring things to him. If one has an issue with anger, intellectually channel their anger in a certain direction by saying things to get that person angry at what you want him to get angry at.
Due to their lack of emotions, sociopaths are also free from suffering from many of the mental health issues that plague the rest of us. You’d be hard to come by a sociopath who genuinely suffers from depression, has an anxiety disorder, lacks confidence or generally has poor self-esteem. Due to a lack of anxiety, etc. these people seem to ooze confidence and have a grandiose image of themselves, and lots of self-esteem to go with it.
Reading up to now, you may well think that being a sociopath whilst bad for those around you may be beneficial (if not an evolutionary advantage) to the individual, such as being immune to depression, being able to turn on the charm to get what they want, etc. Yet there are hindrances which these people face. One such is the high levels of boredom sociopaths often feel. It takes a lot for sociopaths to feel contented or stimulated emotionally, which is why they are restless people who always seeking some sort of thrill.
As a whole, sociopaths also seem unable to commit to things for long periods of time, be it a relationship or even goals or projects they have set for themselves. You’re unlikely to find a sociopath who has legitimately made it to black belt in a martial art, written a book, stuck around and raised a family, stayed in higher education and became a doctor, etc. Due to being unable to feel a deeper commitment to another or a goal they set themselves, these are people who when the going gets tough, pack their bags and move on.
Likewise, sociopaths seem to also find it very hard to hold down relationships with others. With friends, this is usually because once you know someone for a while, you begin to find out what a person is really like. As such when a sociopath is uncovered for what they really are, most people don’t really want to know that person anymore. The same can also be said for romantic relationships, upon which the majority of sociopaths seem to be serial cheaters, having several partners on the go. And if one partner never finds out about the others, the sociopath would probably dump her sooner or later and go on to seek the thrill of someone new. Loyalty isn’t something which they seem to have!
If you want to learn more about sociopaths and if you may have one in your life, then there are plenty of books on amazon which you can read on the subject.