I write about certain matters as if I am on common ground with readers. Perhaps not. Perhaps we need to define the nature of the “sociopath.”
Such a person is not “mentally ill.” Being in such a state of existence merely allows them to view life from a different pedestal. But they are interesting to observe. Sociopaths are a minority among us, perhaps 2% of the population. I’ve heard more, and that the U.S. has a larger percentage due to our being a seeded colony, the mother country dumping its problems. (Australia should then exhibit the same tendency, no?)
They do not experience the same emotions as we do. They do not “fall in love” as we do, though they certainly experience sexual needs. From a young age, as they try to find their place in the world, they learn the art of imitation. As they are a small minority in our population, they need to fit in, and to do this, they must pretend that they are like us.
The common thought is that such people become killers, soldiers, criminals. But they enjoy running free, as we all do, and penalties are severe. Just like everyone, they hate jail.
They need to find a place where they can pursue their own joys in life, which are not like ours, and avoid punishment. Even better, they need a world where their unique traits are rewarded. The natural path for them is the business world. Their specialty is the game, the deal, constructing elaborate traps, and springing them. The springing of the trap is their ultimate pleasure. Business + sociopath = nirvana.
The latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, the excellent portrayal by Benedict Cumberbatch, describes himself as a “high-functioning” sociopath. We are seeing more and more acknowledgement of sociopaths in entertainment. But it is important to know that most are not “high functioning.” Like all of us, they come in gradations, most of them average. Most probably lack self-awareness, and merely survive.
The two most likely places to encounter them are in the market for love, and on the job.
In love, a sociopath will often engage in heavy courting, the object of which is a conquest perhaps, maybe access to money and property. They have families, but their relationship with their children is above my pay grade. The Bush and Kennedy families are case studies for advanced degrees, in my view.
On the job, the sociopath will build a nest, and protect it. S/he will see potential enemies, and engage in preventive war. Traps will be set. Sex might occur, later to be used as weapons to force compromise or allow advancement. Such people often work their way into positions of authority over others, and it is hard to fathom as there is no distinguishable talent there. But that is the nature of the game. It is part of the reason why there are so many incompetent bosses out there.
The further up one progresses in the business world, the more financial success encountered, and the more sociopaths. It truly is a world for predators.
I tend to think of them as adaptations. In our tribal past, I can see a need for the heartless killer who has command of others, who orders the village next door to be wiped out, a surprise attack at dawn, carnage. The reward: preservation of the gene pool.
I’ve read a few works on the subject, but not enough to be anything more than a sponge. I wonder about that faction within the Meyers-Briggs pop psychological grouping called the “ISTJ,” introverted, sensing without the ability for abstract thought, [tough minded], and able to command respect and organize the activities of others. Stalin was, I read, ISTJ. That is, however, highly oversimplified. (The popular book outlining all of this is “Please Understand Me.”)
Martha Stout of Harvard wrote “The Sociopath Next Door.“There is also Robert D. Hare, “Without Conscience.” Jon Ronson has “The Psychopath Test.” Those are just the ones I have read. There are many others.
Popular works of fiction like “No Country for Old Men” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” are about sociopaths. Oddly, Hannibal Lecter does not really fit the bill, nor does Charles Manson, a deer in the headlights. TV’s Dexter is a weak portrayal, as the man is devoted to his family and even falls in love, albeit with other killers.
In real life, Bernie Madoff is obviously one, and George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump certainly exhibit symptoms. George W. Bush tortured animals as a child. People like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs exhibit emotional shallowness coupled with highly developed business skills.
The only useful outcome of this knowledge is self-protection. Here’s are a few clues to watch out for:
- Intense courtship behavior, unrelenting and overwhelming attention, followed by indifference.
- Emotional shallowness, that is, the ability to imitate feelings, but not really very well. Something is missing.
- Setting and springing traps.
- Sexual appeal – for reasons unknown, male sociopaths often have a mating advantage over the rest of us. Life and people are complex. Women say they want a kind man, but are as often drawn to the cold and calculating ones. Male sociopaths often have a long list of sexual conquests.
- Invention of outrageous lies about their past.
- Cruelty to animals.
Other and better lists exist. Those are drawn from my own experiences.
Do have fun! Use protection.