Drink the Kool-Aid
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ~Albert Einstein
These are the names that come to mind when someone hears the word “psychopath” or “sociopath.” But the truth is, most psychopaths/sociopaths aren’t serial killers. Most psychopaths/sociopaths don’t break the law at all. Most are so smart that they know how to destroy people’s lives and stay just inside the law. Most are non-violent (physically), but they are very much so psychologically and emotionally.
Now, for clarity, even the psychiatric industry can’t agree on the definitions for these two terms. Sometimes they’re used interchangeably. Sometimes experts say that psychopaths are worse monsters, others say sociopaths are. Some say they’re synonymous with Antisocial Personality Disorder. Some say all narcissists are psychopaths, but not all psychopaths are narcissists. Some say it’s the other way around. Some say they’re two totally different pathologies. Some say all three are.
Part of the problem is that experts have had very few psychopaths/sociopaths to study, and when they do study them, they are so masterfully manipulative and convincing, even to the experts, they can’t get a clear diagnosis.
So, for the purposes of this essay, and I think I’ve used the terms this way pretty regularly (without going back over every post I’ve written to ensure that statement), I’m going to take Dr. Robert Hare’s definition of Psychopathy (Author of Without Conscience), as he’s one of the leading experts on the disorder. Similarly, I’m going to use Dr. Martha Stout’s definition of a sociopath (Author of The Sociopath Next Door).
You can read up about both terms on your own, but basically, neither a psychopath, sociopath, or narcissist has the capacity for empathy. They are extremely charming. Both those things are across the board and agreed upon by every source I’ve ever found. Here is how I’ll use the terms:
Sociopath: Without conscience. 1 in 25 people do not have a conscience at all. That’s 4% of the population. They are likely born this way or something happens very young when that part of their brain is damaged and doesn’t develop. They are incapable of empathy. They are incapable of human emotion, except anger and frustration. They can mimic all emotions, including love and empathy. They destroy people for fun. No remorse. No shame. No guilt. No responsibility for their actions. There is no cure.
So, know 25 people? Statistically, one is not bound by conscience. One is a sociopath, and you’ll likely never guess who unless s/he picks you as their next target.
Psychopath: Has a limited conscience. Between 1% and 5% of people are psychopaths, according to Hare and other studies. Psychopaths seem to be created by a significant childhood trauma. They are incapable of empathy. They have genuine emotions, but they are very shallow and short lived. They do not feel guilt or remorse. They do not take responsibility for their actions. They are glib and/or superficially charming. They have a grandiose view of self-worth. Pathological liars to the point they believe their own lies at times. Cunning/manipulative. There is no cure.
Intelligent psychopaths, those with higher IQs, especially if they are also attractive, seem to be more along the lines of the Narcissist. From my extensive research, I believe that Narcissism is a type of Psychopathy, not the other way around. Even on Hare’s famous checklist, Factor 1 is even called “Aggressive Narcissism.”
Those psychopaths with lower intelligence seem to be more of the antisocial type, especially if they’re not attractive. They have a tendency to break the law and be petty criminals and stereotypical con artists.
Narcissist: Again, type of psychopath. Intelligent, charming, and very attractive. Many narcissists are sex-addicts (somatic). I’ve read that all sex-addicts are narcissists, but I haven’t done enough research on the two to have a firm opinion on that. Narcissism is a Cluster B Personality Disorder, and there are two kinds of Narcissists: somatic and cerebral. There is also what’s known as the malignant narcissist, supposedly an extreme form of Antisocial Personality Disorder with a tendency toward joyful cruelty and sadism. Narcissists, more or less, fit the description of a psychopath, factor 1. There supposedly is no cure, but in my research and in my personal experience, I’ve met people who claim to have been cured or who can cure narcissism.
I use these latter two terms more or less interchangeably, as they’re virtually synonymous, or I’ll use them together like psychopathic narcissist or narcissistic psychopath. But that’s rather redundant.
Dr. Marth Stout, in The Sociopath Next Door says this about narcissists:
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 as strongly as anyone else does, from guilt and 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, and 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. His 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 had somehow lost.
When I first read this description months ago, I cried. A lot. It was the kindest, most compassionate view of a narcissist I’ve seen, and I have so much compassion and love for the man. Even still. The description speaks of such an underlying confusion and inability to fix what’s broken because they just don’t know what to do. To them, nothing really exists outside themselves, not in any real way. They love, but they can’t empathize. I cried and cried. I wanted desperately to reach out when I first read this, and it took my entire support network to keep me from doing so.
But the ball was not in my court.
Anyway, I digress. Imagine that.
Dr. Stout’s description of the narcissistic individual is very kind and compassionate, and it differs from Dr. Hare’s description of the psychopath in that she insinuates that a narcissist cares and sees other people as more than just objects to be replaced. Most other (in fact all other) things I’ve researched on narcissists aren’t so generous. Again, because of their grandiose view of themselves, they rarely seek therapy unless forced to. So little is known in detail.
Most accounts of narcissists explain how they discard a person with as much ease as a used wallet, and with as much emotion.
Narcissists are created, usually by a profound trauma in childhood, like say the death of a close family member or severe emotional/physical/sexual abuse. They can also be created by overindulgence and special treatment of an only-child (usually) or by a narcissistic parent. At the time of the trauma, the self is rather split in two, one part hiding away and the second becoming the mask of sanity. Many narcissists are frozen at an emotional age, like for example 12, when the trauma happened. This, as well as severe sexual abuse, could explain the sex-addiction common with somatic narcissists. There is no cure for narcissism, at least that’s the general consensus, but it can be managed quite effectively with extensive therapy, starting with dealing with the initial trauma.
Can’t run forever.
Unfortunately, so many people think “psychopath” means serial killer or psychotic axe-murder, and it does. Those are types of psychopaths (although they’re likely more sociopaths), but by far most psychopaths aren’t killers. They don’t break the law.
But they are no less dangerous.
Let’s have a look at what people said about Ted Bundy, a serial killer, rapist, kidnapper, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered over 30 young women and girls during the 1970s (wikipedia). He was “regarded as handsome and charismatic by his young female victims, traits he exploited in winning their trust.” Unlike the image of a “homicidal maniac,” he was attractive, self-assured, politically ambitions, and successful with a wide variety of women (that he didn’t rape or kill). He worked a suicide hotline in the early 70’s, and coworker said that he was “kind, solicitous, and empathetic.” His aunt one time witnessed a dissociative state in which he “seemed to turn into another, unrecognizable person…He turned into a stranger.” A prison official witnessed something similar: “He did a metamorphosis, a body and facial change…almost a complete change of personality” (wikipedia).
I’ve seen this happen, and it’s both terrifying and confusing. A man I once thought I knew has several symptoms of a psychopathic personality; i. e., aggressive narcissism. I saw this change occur briefly during the first sexual assault and then permanently (for me at least) starting the next day and for the rest of that last week, through the second assault and the end of the relationship. It was seriously as if he was a different person. He even looked like a different person, as I’ve said often on the pages of this blog. When I described his behavior to his ex, she said, “that doesn’t sound like [hisname],” and I said, “I know, that’s what I’m trying to say. Something changed. This isn’t [hisname].”
He’d also go into a dissociative state for sex. In his own words, time and again, he told me he could only truly be himself during sex. And there was a visible difference from the man in the bedroom to who he’d be when we’d get out of bed. Visible. He told me that even right after a sexual encounter, he often couldn’t remember what happened during sex just moments before. He even said he was in “a different state.”
Let me be very clear again, I am not even remotely suggesting this man is a serial killer, not by any means. Not even a little bit. Please don’t read into this. Seriously. But, unfortunately, the only wide evidence we as a culture have of psychopathic tendencies are those of high profile court cases like Bundy’s. Like I said before, the grand majority of psychopaths aren’t criminals in the legal sense. They aren’t physically violent. My purpose in pointing out the way others saw Bundy is how an entire community–even family members, spouses, GFs, friends, and coworkers–can be fooled by the very convincing mask sociopaths/psychopaths/narcissists wear. Nothing more.
This is just about their skill at hiding their true selves. Nothing more.
Things aren’t black and white. There is a spectrum of psychopathic/sociopathic behavior, and Bundy is at the extreme end of it. There is a spectrum of sexual assault, and violent, forced stranger-rape, especially gang rape, is at the extreme end of it. It doesn’t mean “lesser” offenses aren’t perpetrated by psychopaths or aren’t considered sexual assault or rape. It’s a spectrum.
Now, the lets go down Hare’s psychopathic checklist:
- Glibness/superficial charm. Check.
- Grandiose sense of self-worth. Arrogance. Huge Check.
- Pathological lying. Check. (And in my experience, they lie masterfully with half-truths or deceive as well as tell outright lies and hide things.)
- Cunning/manipulative. Double and Triple Check.
- Lack of remorse or guilt. Check.
- Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric). Check.
- Callousness; lack of empathy. Huge. Fucking. Check.
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions. Check. (paraphrased from a likely psychopath’s OKC profile “I take responsibility very seriously, therefore I avoid it at all costs.”
No empathy, but the narcissist wants plenty for himself. And he gets plenty too. After all, (everyone say it with me) they are very, very convincing. A narcissist can really turn on the tears when it suits him. One has turned them on for me, and I sure fell for it.
Hook. Line. Sinker.
Plus, psychopaths and sociopaths are surrounded by conscious-bound, loving, empathic people who haven’t seen behind the mask yet. Even when they catch a glimpse, they won’t believe it. So, of course they get empathy.
Dr. Stout says the sociopath’s greatest weapon is sympathy. They are masters at appearing to be the victim, turning entire situations around for their own benefit and playing on the heart strings of those around them. She calls this the “pity play.”
The most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy…When we pity, we are, at least for the moment, defenseless, and like so many of the other essentially positive human characteristics that bind us together in groups–social and professional roles, sexual bonds, regard for the compassionate and the creative, respect for our leaders–our emotional vulnerability when we pity is used against us by those who have no conscience.
But where is the empathy for others?
Here’s a story: two months after a specific narcissist split from his ex, they carpooled with another friend to an ecstatic dance retreat. On the way there, he spoke about how wonderful his life and his new relationship was (a woman he’s still with) in happy, excited tones. His ex, still in great pain from the breakup, had to listen to how easily he had moved on, feeling cast aside, replaced. She went to sleep because she couldn’t bear the pain. Just checked out. (Boy, can I relate.)
Where was his empathy then?
That same weekend, at the retreat, she broke down wailing and crying in the dance hall, in agony over the split and how easily and callously she had been replaced. While her community surrounded her and comforted her, much as they are doing for him now, he went out for a walk in the woods to get some peace and quiet.
Where was his empathy then?
As I cried and cried and cried during that last sexual encounter, more recently known as the second assault, he didn’t stop. Afterward, I continued to cry and apologize, terrified of losing such a significant relationship. Wondering what happened to the man who had told me he was happier when I was around and loved me and adored me and was crazy about me and attached to me just one week earlier, but he just got off and rolled over and went to sleep. Not saying a word to me other than to scold me for being upset.
Where was his empathy then?
Or, one of my favorite examples, is when he was so upset because I said I had felt neglected the night before. He asked me to take into consideration his feelings before expressing mine, which I, of course, always did. I took great responsibility for my emotions and for his. He scolded me in a cold, rational rage for not just talking to my husband about it and leaving him on his ego-high from the auction. I apologized profusely, swearing I’d do whatever I could to make that weekend perfect. The next morning, he raped me, punishing me for my horrific slight. Later that week, in the final devalue/discard, hours before the second assault, he said that he didn’t want to take my fears into consideration before doing or saying something. Huh. The exact. same. fucking. thing. he. asked. of. me. just days earlier.
Where was his empathy then?
Classic narcissistic behavior, when it’s about him (and, let’s face it, it always is), he expects concessions and responsibility and compassion. When it’s his “loved” one who’s hurting, it’s not his problem. Not his responsibility. When I was hurting or scared, there was no empathy. No compassion. It wasn’t his responsibility. It wasn’t his problem. He couldn’t be bothered.
Go talk to your husband, he’d tell me, I’m going to play ultimate frisbee.
And there are so many more stories and examples of where those came from. So many more.
So, yes, believe the narcissist. Empathize with him. Drink the kool-aid. It’s yummy yummy yummy (much as he tells you you are), but it’s drugged, helps you remain in the dark with blinders on. Helps you live that dream just a little longer, and I don’t blame you. That drug-induced dream is quite euphoric. Unlike that I’ve ever known or will likely ever know again. Such a sweet, transcendent drug. Ah, yes. That connection was so gorgeous…
But the withdrawals are a bitch.
Anyway. The point is…when I use the word psychopath or sociopath on the pages of this blog, I’m not saying “serial killer.” I’m using the terms as defined above, mostly: lack of empathy and/or conscience, those very things that make us human, along with the rest of the checklist.
It’s not all that absurd, really.
If the Vibrams fit…
Related blog posts:
- A Crack in the Fragile Shell
- Authentic vs. False Self
- Emotional and Sexual Predators
- Emotional Vampires<;;/li>;;
- Love Bombing, Sex, and Flattery
- Celebrating Arrogance
- Insidious Lies
For some very *very* interesting reading, check out these blogs and posts by sociopaths & psychopaths as well as others who are close to them. You can see for yourself how they think and how very well they manipulate.
- Mask of Sanity
- Psychopathy Awareness
- Inside the Mind of a Psychopath
- Experience Project: I am a psychopath
- Love Fraud
- Narcissism Revisited– extensive writings on narcissism by a cerebral narcissist
- Psychopathy, the mask of sanity
Please remember that the definitions of these words vary from site to site, some use psychopath the way Stout used sociopath and sociopath he way hate uses psychopath. Forget about the label and look at the characteristics.
And…if you really, really can’t stand the use of the words psychopath, sociopath, or narcissist. Call them Darth Vaders or Dark Souls or Monsters or just “Players” or “Bad Boys.” A narcissist called by any other name does as much damage. Rape by any other name is still rape. Just learn to recognize these dangerous people (men and women) early so you can stay away from them and protect your hearts and your souls.
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~ by omgrey on August 10, 2012.
Posted in Lost in the Aether, Romance & Relationships, Trauma & Recovery
Tags: austin ecstatic dance, austin poly community, austin poly rapist, austin polyamory, austin sex positive, austin yoga studio, author, blame, broken heart, charles manson, compassion, emotional rape, empathy, fear, grief, guilt, healing, heartbroken, human emotion, incapable of empathy, jeffrey dahmer, jim jones, lies, love, manipulation, martha stout, misogyny, narcissism, narcissist, narcissistic personality disorder, non-monogamy, o.m. grey, olivia grey, open, open marriage, passion, pathological liar, pity play, polyamory, psychological rape, psychopath, psychopathy, psychopathy checklist, rape, rapist, relationship advice, relationships, responsibility, robert hare, romance, self esteem, sex addiciton, sexual assault, shame, shattered, social responsibility, sociopath, sociopath next door, sympathy, ted bundy, without conscience