Today’s Lesson: Dealing with a Sociopath


Good morning, Class. You know how some people look better in photographs than they do in person, and how some people look better in person than they do in pictures? Relationships can be like that, too. For example, sometimes the most attractive, seemingly personable and charming folks when you first meet them – later become downright ugly when you get to know their personalities, and often we learn to realize that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Until lately, I never realized how naïve I am about people. It’s easy to get sucked in by a beautiful face, kind smile, and personable demeanor.

While some fake personalities are easy to spot because the owners don’t have enough savoir faire to cover up what they are doing, others are more cunning and subtle. Later, of course, looking back, you realize there were clues and cues you missed, because smooth talkers learn how to read a person and give them what they want in the relationship, so that later you will be vulnerable enough to give them what THEY want, without question. Of course, this has never happened to me.

Afterwards, we also feel somewhat foolish and simple, and wonder how smart folks like us can be controlled by people who are unable to feel any remorse for their actions. The sociopathic personality is an excellent example of this – sociopaths are not capable of feeling remorse. They are missing a vital piece of their mental anatomy: empathy for others.

It is amazing how many people in the world are sociopaths. Not all sociopaths are dangerous people who kill other people, rob banks, etc. In fact, very few sociopaths end up in jail, because they are too smart to end up there. It is only the stupid sociopaths, those without sufficient mental capacity to know how to evade the law, who usually go to prison or jail. And they are legion. If you think about it, probably a fourth of the people you know have a little sociopath in them, of varying degrees. They are the people who lack the ability to feel the pain and sorrow of others, and who really understand what it is like to be hurt. Their main purpose in life is to obtain gratification for themselves. If you are hurt in the process? Collateral damage. No biggie. We are all human, they say. And we all have to go after what we want. When they lie, they feel no need to do anything but make sure they cover their lies and remember the ones they told.

This is where most sociopaths that end up in prison fail, most often. It takes a super intellect to carefully cover your lies. In fact, even better, the intelligent ones will psyche themselves out enough to believe the lie, themselves, in order to be more convincing. I knew a man like this once. He spun a beautiful web of lies, and did so, so well, that if our relationship had been a movie, he would have won an Oscar. Oh, and I also remember this: one of my “remembered” cues was something he said: “I would have made a wonderful actor. You have no idea.” Another clue was this: after he found out how good I was at remembering conversations verbatim (a holdover from when I was a news reporter). He remarked, “Oh, you have instant recall! That’s quite a talent you have there.” And when he said it, he got this worried look on his face. But sooner or later they all mess up: they tell you more than one thing that doesn’t jive with what they told you before. Here’s an excellent example: suppose someone tells you their father died in 1980, but later shows you a picture taken of his father in the 1990s? You might wonder at the discrepancy. And, if later, they tell you, say, that their ex-wife’s name was Anna and then later called her “Marie?”

I think you get the picture. The above was purely hypothetical, you know. This has never happened to me.

Ok, class. So if we now understand how often we run into these sociopathic personalities, how can we protect ourselves from them, especially if we are unable to realize we have been duped until later?
Good question. Shows you have your thinking cap on.

Hang on a second and I’ll go to the Internet hidden behind the podium while pretending to think your question over.

Ah. Found something:
“True enough, psychopaths are sometimes skillful in pretending a love for women or simulating parental devotion to their children. What part of this is not pure (and perhaps in an important sense unconscious) simulation has always impressed this observer as that other type of pseudolove sometimes seen in very self-centered people who are not psychopaths, which consists in concern for the other person only (or primarily) insofar as he enhances or seems to enhance the self. Even this latter imitation of adult affectivity has been seldom seen in the full-blown psychopath, although it is seen frequently in those called here partial psychopaths. In nonpsychopaths a familiar example is that of the parent who lavishes money and attention on a child chiefly to bask in the child’s success and consciously or unconsciously to feel what an important person he is because of the child’s triumphs. Although it is true that with ordinary people such motives are seldom, if ever, unmixed, and usually some object love and some self-love are integrated into such attitudes, in even the partial psychopath anything that could honestly be called object love approaches the imperceptible.”

Discussion of Psychopathy Traits, from The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, 5th ed.

No answers? I searched and searched, and found no answers. The truth is, you can’t spot a sociopath until it is too late. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Here are some general guidelines I find useful:

  • Never give or loan money to anyone you don’t know well, for many years, to be reliable.
  • Do not be led into living with or marrying a person until you have known them for a long time. Years, if possible, or at least more than a year or two.
  • If a person you are dating doesn’t “check out,” or if you are unable to find anything about them on the Internet that jives with what they tell you, then cut all ties. Run like Hell.
  •  Look at relationships as job interviews. Put your relationship to several tests, to find out how the person deals with disappointment, how they argue and fight with you over differences of opinion, and how they treat other people in their lives. Examine their sincerity, trustworthiness and honesty.
  • Think with your head, not your heart

Of course, nothing like this has ever happened to me.

OK, Class dismissed!

2 thoughts on “Today’s Lesson: Dealing with a Sociopath

  1. They are con artists – pure and simple. It takes a cunning woman to ferret one out and not get caught in his web until it is too late and the damage is done. Of course nothing like this has ever happened to you . . .

    The hardest lessons are the ones remembered the longest. I have a couple I’ll remember forever.

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