Inside The Mind Of A Sociopath: The Sociopath Next Door

(SNN) “I am sure that if the devil existed, he would want us to feel very sorry for him.” ― Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door

“Sociopathy is the inability to process emotional experience, including love and caring, except when such experience can be calculated as a coldly intellectual task.” ― Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door

“As a counterpoint to sociopathy, the condition of narcissism is particularly interesting and instructive. Narcissism is, in a metaphorical sense, one half of what sociopathy is. Even clinical narcissists are able to feel most emotions are strongly as anyone else does, from guilt to sadness to desperate love and passion. The half that is missing is the crucial ability to understand what other people are feeling. Narcissism is a failure not of conscience but of empathy, which is the capacity to perceive emotions in others and so react to them appropriately. The poor narcissist cannot see past his own nose, emotionally speaking, and as with the Pillsbury Doughboy, any input from the outside will spring back as if nothing had happened. Unlike sociopaths, narcissists often are in psychological pain, and may sometimes seek psychotherapy. When a narcissist looks for help, one of the underlying issues is usually that, unbeknownst to him, he is alienating his relationships on account of his lack of empathy with others, and is feeling confused, abandoned, and lonely. He misses the people he loves, and is ill-equipped to get them back. Sociopaths, in contrast, do not care about other people, and so do not miss them when they are alienated or gone, except as one might regret the absence of a useful appliance that one has somehow lost.” ― Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door


Book: The Sociopath Next Door

Other books that analyse the condition are:

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us“, Robert D. Hare, Guilford Press, 1999, ISBN 1572304510.  Professor Hare is one of the leading authorities on psychopaths.

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work“, Paul Babiak & Robert D. Hare, Regan Books, 2006, ISBN-10: 0060837721, ISBN-13: 978-0060837723.  The authors explore the infiltration into today’s corporations by psychopaths, or those with destructive personality characteristics that are invisible to many with whom they interact.

Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry“, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., McGraw-Hill, 2001, ISBN 0-07-138167-8.  Dr. Bernstein cleverly uses the vampire analogy to examine the condition.

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People“, George K Simon, Ph.D., A. J. Christopher & Co., 1996, ISBN: 096516960X.  Dr. Simon uses the term ‘Covert Aggression’ in his analysis.

In a book review on Psychopathy by Millon et al, the reviewer quotes: “. . . it was not until Cleckley wrote The Mask Of Sanity in 1941 that we came to realize that psychopathy is a personality disorder that wreaks havoc on personal and societal institutions.  As reported in chapter 8, Westman estimates that each sociopath costs society about $50,000 a year.”  The case of Robert Hendy-Freegard is one of the worst ones to emerge recently.


How To Spot A Sociopath

(Extracted from an article by Robert Matthews in the Sunday Telegraph Review, May 4th 1997)

While such personality disorders as psychopathy, paranoia and obsession/compulsion all have strictly defined criteria, psychiatrists are still struggling to decide precisely what constitutes a socialised psychopath.

One of the more obvious characteristics of socialised psychopaths is that they give the impression of talking “at” you.  Prof Jeremy Coid describes it as like being regarded as a cardboard cut-out.  “Even in a sexual relationship with them, you are still just an object for their personal gratification,” he says.

The following questionnaire is based on research and experiences of socialised psychopaths.  For each trait, decide if it applies to the person you suspect may be a socialised psychopath, fully (2 points), partially (1 point) or not at all (0 points).

  1. Do they have problems sustaining stable relationships, personally and in business?
  2. Do they frequently manipulate others to achieve selfish goals, with no consideration of the effects on those manipulated?
  3. Are they cavalier about the truth, and capable of telling lies to your face?
  4. Do they have an air of self-importance, regardless of their true standing in society?
  5. Have they no apparent sense of remorse, shame or guilt?
  6. Is their charm superficial, and capable of being switched on to suit immediate ends?
  7. Are they easily bored and demand constant stimulation?
  8. Are their displays of human emotion unconvincing?
  9. Do they enjoy taking risks, and acting on reckless impulse?
  10. Are they quick to blame others for their mistakes?
  11. As teenagers, did they resent authority, play truant and/or steal?
  12. Do they have no qualms about sponging off others?
  13. Are they quick to lose their temper?
  14. Are they sexually promiscuous?
  15. Do they have a belligerent, bullying manner?
  16. Are they unrealistic about their long-term aims?
  17. Do they lack any ability to empathise with others?
  18. Would you regard them as essentially irresponsible?

A score of 25 or above suggests strong psychopathic tendencies.  This does not mean the person is a potential mass-murderer: socialised psychopaths are not mad, nor do they have to resort to violence.  Even so, a close professional or emotional relationship with a socialised psychopath is likely to prove a damaging experience.

Recommended Books:

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work

Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People

The Mask Of Sanity

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