Without Empathy

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Techniques of a Sociopath

Dr. Martha Stout, in her book 'The Sociopath Next Door', discusses the techniques of the sociopath - what she refers to as 'the tools of the trade'. The first technique she talks about is charm. Dr. Stout believes it is "a primary characteristic of sociopathy. The intense charm of people who have no conscience, a kind of inexplicable charisma, has been observed and commented on by countless victims, and by researchers who attempt to catalog the diagnostic signs of sociopathy. It is a potent characteristic". Dr. Robert Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak talk about the role of charm during the interview process in their latest book "Snakes in Suits - When Psychopaths Go To Work". According to the book, "one of the most effective skills psychopaths use to get the trust of people is their ability to charm them. Some psychopaths lay the charm on too thick, coming across as glib, superficial, and unconvincing. Hower, the truly talented ones have raised their ability to charm people to that of an art, priding themselves on their ability to present a fictional self to others that is convincing, taken at face value, and difficult to penetrate". One must always keep in mind that the charm, like manipulation, can be very subtle.

Seduction is another common technique of the sociopath. According to Dr. Stout "people without conscience have an uncanny sense of who will be vulnerable to a sexual overture". But seduction is not llimited to sexual relationships; sociopaths can and will seduce family, friends and colleagues with their acting skills. Sociopaths will seduce others for power, money, control and sex.

The pity play is next on the list of sociopathic techniques. It's okay to pity someone who has gone through difficult times, but if you find yourself feeling sorry for someone's sad story, make sure the story is true. The pity play should be a warning sign to all of us.

Projection and gaslighting are also on the list of common sociopathic techniques. Sociopaths refuse to be held accountable for their behavior and often assign their own behavior to their victims. For example, a sociopath could accuse a victim of stealing when it is the sociopath himself that steals. Gaslighting is a common practice of abusers who attempt to convince their victims they are defective for any reason such as making the victim more emotional, more needy or dependent. For example, if an abusive person says hurtful things and tries to convince you that you are mentally unstable and starts recommending that you get professional help, you might be in the presence of a gaslilghter.

According to Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak, psychopaths are always on the lookout for individuals to scam or swindle. The psychopathic approach includes three phases: the assessment phase, the manipulation phase and the abandonment phase. "Some psychopaths are opportunistic, aggressive predators who wil take advantage of almost anyone they meet, while others are more patient, waiting for the perfect, innocent victim to cross their path. In each case, the psychopath is constantly sizing up the potential usefulness of an individual as a source of money, power, sex or influence". The authors go on to say that some psychopaths enjoy a challenge while others prey on people who are vulnerable. This could include people who are lonely or people who need emotional support, elderly people or those who have been recently hurt or victimized. During the assessment phase, the psychopath is able to determine a potential victim's weak points and will use those weak points to seduce.

Once the psychopath has identified a victim, the manipulation phase begins. During the manipulation phase, a psychopath may create a persona or mask, specifically designed to 'work' for his or her target. A psychopath will lie to gain the trust of their victim. A psychopath's lack of empathy and guilt allows them to lie with ease - "they don't see the value of telling the truth unless it will help get them what they want".

In Chapter 4 of the book "Snakes in Suits", Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak write:

"As interaction with you proceeds, the psychopath carefully assesses your persona. Your persona gives the psychopath a picture of the traits and characteristics you value in yourself. Your persona may also reveal, to an astute observer, insecurities or weaknesses you wish to minimize or hide from view. As an ardent student of human behavior, the psychopath will then gently test the inner strengths and needs that are part of your private self and eventually build a personal relationship with you by communicating (through words and deeds) four important messages".

According to the book the four messages that the psychopath communicates are 1) I like who you are; 2) I am just like you; 3) Your secrets are safe with me; and 4) I am the perfect friend or lover or partner for you. That is why psychopaths so often feel like soulmates in a relationship - they project your own persona back to you in their 'assumed' personality.

Dr. Hare and Dr. Babiak sum up the differences between a real bond between two people who meet each other and have much in common and the psychopathic bond quite well:

"..the persona of the psychopath-the "personality" the person is bonding with-does not really exist. It was built on lies, carefully woven together to entrap you. It is a mask, one of many, custom-made by the psychopath to fit your particular psychological needs and expectations. It does not reflect the true personality--the psychopathic personality--that lies beneath. It is a convenient fabrication. Second, these relationships are not based on informed choice. The psychopath chooses you and then moves in. Outsiders, without the benefit of intimate converesation, may see what is really going on, but we tend to discount these observations, and may spend energy convincing our friends that this person is special. Third, because it is faked, it won't last like genuine relationships. While genuine relationships change over time--love may turn to hate, marriages end in divorce--the initial starting point was based on real data, as it was known at the time. People change over time, and sometimes grow apart. The psychopath, though, will not invest more than minimal energy in maintaining the relationship unless you can offer something really special, which is not usually the case. Hence, when the relationship ends, you may be left wondering what just happened. Fourth, the relationhip is one-sided because the psychopath has an ulterior--some would say "evil"--and, at the very least, selfish motive. The victimization goes far beyond trying to take advantage of someone on a date or during a simple business transaction. The victimization is predatory in nature; it often leads to severe financial, physical or emotional harm for the individual. Healthy, real relationships are built on mutual respect and trust; they are based on sharing honest thoughts and feelings. The mistaken belief that the psychopathic bond has any of these characteristics is the reason it is so successful".

Dr. Hare goes on to say that the psychopathic bond can take place very quickly, sometimes within hours. That means it could happen over coffee, drinks, in a business meeting or, as Dr. Hare mentions, on a cross-country airplane trip.

The abandonment phase begins when the psychopath decides that their victim is no longer useful. They abandon their vicim and move on to someone else. In the case of romantic relationshps, a psychopath will usually seal a relationship with their next target before abandoning their current victim. Abandonment can happen quickly and can occur without the current victim knowing that the psychopath was looking for someone new. There will be no apologies for the hurt and pain they cause because psychopaths do not appreciate these emotions.

What Dr. Hare and Babiak discuss in their most recent book is chiling and disturbing but the information should not be ignored. I believe it is human nature to want to avoid bad news or discount information that may be difficult to comprehend. Having to face the fact that their are millions of people in this country alone that exhibit the traits of a psychopath or sociopath is extremely hard to believe for most of us. We all want to believe in the goodness of others; we assume that everyone can feel empathy and guilt, compassion and real love. Unforturnately, what you see is not always what you get and appearances can be deceiving. To anyone who is interested in protecting themselves or others against the psychopathic bond, please read "Snakes in Suits - When Psychopaths Go To Work" by Dr Robert Hare Ph.D. and Dr. Paul Babiak, Ph.D. As the book states "The number of people with psychopathic personalities suggests that most of us will come across at least one psychopath during a typical day. However, the ability of clever psychopaths to hide their true nature makes it difficult to tell them from others one might meet on the street".

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Perfect Target

According to Dr. Martha Stout in her book 'The Sociopath Next Door', " a person who has no conscience can instantly recognize someone who is decent and trusting" and "the shameless know us much better than we know them". Sociopaths are predators who have the uncanny ability to spot kind and caring people, people who are vulnerable. And everyone has vulnerabilities. It could be a person living alone and not having anyone to talk to, it could be a person who cares - about family, friends, work or other people, it could be a person with integrity who is unwilling to compromise, it could be a person with a well developed sense of guilt. Sociopaths look for people who will assume more than their fair share of responsibility and guilt.

Anyone can be a target for a sociopath.

Some experts believe that soicopaths target individuals who have morals and integrity because the sociopath is amoral and lacks integrity. S/he will then enjoy trying to destroy the morals and integrity of his target so that they will not have them.

Once a sociopath identifies a potential target, s/he studies that person to determine how he or she can be manipulated and used, flattered and charmed. The sociopath will develop a sense of familiarity with his target.

Don't ever think you can not be conned. Even if you are educated about the sociopaths that live among us, you could still be taken in by a charming predator because they are so good at their game. They are lawyers, doctors, ministers, neighbors and friends. Sociopaths look normal and can even appear to behave normally. They learn to imitate the behavior of others to fit in.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Sociopath as Romantic Partner

Experts believe that all of us know at least one person that exhibits the behavior of a sociopath. They look very normal, they could be a friend, neighbor, family member or romantic partner.

Sociopaths can be very romantic, extremely charming and incredibly generous. They will shower their target with attention, flattery and gifts of all kinds - jewelry, clothes, flowers. A socipath will sweep you off your feet and treat you unlike anyone has ever treated you. He will typically seal the relationship very quickly, often before he discards his current victim.
Sociopaths have the ability to gain your affection very quickly and a relationship with a sociopath becomes intense very quickly.

Sociopaths are often very likeable, easy-going and relaxed. They are often delightful to be around and can make a dinner date enjoyable. They say all the right things and do all the right things to get what they think they want for the moment. It is not unusual for a sociopath to provide an endless about of support, running errands, organizing and encouraging you when you need it.

Sociopaths usually target women are who nurturing and very trusting, kind and caring. Often their targets are women who have morals since it is much easier for a socipath to 'con' a good person than another con artist. They only want to prey on women whom they can take and take from without the person expecting anything in return. They are social predators who target vulnerable women. Sociopaths can quickly determine a person's weak spots and vulnerabilities and will exploit them throughout the relationship. He will ascertain your likes, dislikes and passions and will declare admiration for the same subjects.

A romantic relationship is just another opportunity for a sociopath to find a trusting partner who buys into the lies. Everything about the relationship is a game. They can be extremely charming in a relationship while doing much damage behind the scenes by having countless affairs and lying about them. He will lie to his latest target while he is lying to his current victim. A sociopath will show his true self when he has his next target lined up and he knows that his current relationship is coming to an end.

Sociopaths fail to fulfill their promises or commitment made with romantic partners. They usually have a string of broken relationships and/or failed marriages due to their inability to feel true love and sustain intimate relationships. They never really form emotional attachments and therefore lack any sense of obligation. It may appear that there is an attachment but it isn't real. According to Dr. Martha Stout in her book 'The Sociopath Next Door', sociopaths will marry but never for love. Their relationships allow them to appear normal. Sociopaths can "know the words but not the music". They learn to appear emotional and romantic by imitating others' behavior.

Sociopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others including wives, children, family and friends. They do not feel remorse, guilt or shame. They are not able to care about the pain and suffering experienced by others due to their complete lack of empathy which is a prerequisite for love. Sociopaths are always takers and never givers in spite of appearances and the illusion they create.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Sociopaths Who Live Among Us

I believe I am like most people - I have a natural tendency to trust the people I meet. I think that is human nature. We take for granted that the people we meet feel empathy and compassion,remorse and guilt when they hurt someone. We all feel happiness and joy or profound sadness. We feel fear and anxiety. We all have morals and a value system that we live by. I found out that I couldn't be more wrong.

I learned that there are millions of men and women who have no conscience and therefore can not feel things like empathy and compassion. They never feel guilt or remorse or shame. Sociopaths don't feel true happiness or real love. They're often referred to as 'empty souls'. Do you think you could spot one? It's highly unlikely because they look just like everyone else.

I learned that sociopaths come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. They are lawyers, doctors, ministers, policemen, firemen, CEO's, company executives and teachers. According to Dr. Martha Stout in her book "The Sociopath Next Door", some sociopaths use their professional role as a mask to hide their real personality. They can be very hard to spot because they don't look any different than anyone else. Sociopaths are often very charming, likeable, easy-going and fun to be around. They don't worry like normal people do. They can be intelligent, impressive and inspire confidence. Sociopaths have an overwhelming need to be admired and often portray themselves as kind, compassionate and caring people. Only their victims know the truth.

According to Dr. Robert Hare in his book "Without Conscience", the ability to feel empathy is tied to the ability to feel real love since empathy is a prerequisite for love. Thankfully, only a small number of sociopaths will ever commit a crime; the vast majority of them will show their lack of empathy by bleeding people of their possessions and savings, doing and taking what they want, neglecting the physical and emotional welfare of their families or engaging in an unending series of casual sexual relationships.(Hare p45).

Sociopaths do not have the ability to experience emotion and do not form real attachments to people and places. Without the ability to form real emotional attachments, sociopaths do not have any sense of obligation-no moral obligation or financial obligation. They view people as objects that can be exploited and manipulated. "A sociopath is someone who 'fails to conform to social norms'; or who is 'never monogamous' or who 'fails to honor financial obligations' for the straightforward reason that an obligation of any kind is something one feels toward beings, or toward a group of beings, who matter emotionally. And to a sociopath, we simply do not matter". (Dr. Stout p126)

I learned that sociopaths learn to imitate the behavior of others so they can appear to be normal. The appearance of normalcy is important to sociopaths and can result from their level of intelligence, their family background, their professional or social standing and their social skills.

Lying is second nature to sociopaths. In 'Without Conscience', Dr. Hare says that "lying, deceiving and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths. When caught in a lie or challenged by the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed - they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener". Sociopaths will lie and cheat to deceive for money, power, control and sex. They seldom stick around to have their lies exposed; instead, they move on to a new neighborhood or city. The lying and deception, the manipulation and conning are pervasive.

I learned that sociopaths are impulsive and don't spend much time considering the consequences of their actions. According to Dr. Hare "the psychopath carries out his evaluation of a situation - what he will get out of it and at what costs - without the usual anxieties, doubts and concerns about being humilitated, causing pain, sabotaging future plans..." These are the things that people of conscience struggle with when considering possible actions. Sociopaths know the rules but choose which ones to follow. "They have little resistance to temptation and their transgressions elicit no guilt" (Dr. Hare p76). Often times, sociopaths are protected from the consequences of their behavior by family members, friends and colleagues.

Socipaths are often glib when questioned about their behavior. They are famous for not answering the question asked them or they answer in a way to confuse the questioner. Their answers can often seem unresponsive to the question (Hare p139)

I learned from reading Dr. Stout's book 'The Sociopath Next Door', that those without conscience engage in certain techniques to 'keep us in line'. The techniques that Dr Stout talks about in her book are charm, risk-taking, gaslighting and seduction. Sociopaths can instantly recognize someone who is trusting and have the uncanny ability to determine a person's weak spots very quickly. Those weak spots will be exploited over and over and over again.

Millions of men, women and children are impacted daily by the sociopaths in their lives. Sociopaths can cause great pain, anxiety, terror and humiliation. They can make a good impression when needed and often portray their victims as the culprits.