Confessions of a Sociopath

6216824175_df6384f792_oLaw professor, Sunday school teacher, and self-described sociopath M.E. Thomas writes at Psychology Today:

I have never killed anyone, but I have certainly wanted to. I may have a disorder, but I am not crazy. In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race, people are attracted to my exceptionalism like moths to a flame. This is my story.

Once while visiting Washington, D.C., I used an escalator that was closed, and a Metro worker tried to shame me about it.

Him: “Didn’t you see the yellow gate?”

Me: “Yellow gate?”

Him: “I just put the gate up, and you were supposed to walk around it!”

Me: [Silence. My face was blank.]

Him: “That’s trespassing! It’s wrong to trespass! The escalator is closed, you broke the law!”

Me: [I stare at him silently.]

Him: [Visibly rattled by my lack of reaction] “Well, next time, you don’t trespass, okay?”

It was not okay. In explaining their horrible actions, people often say that they “just snapped.” I know that feeling. I stood there for a moment, letting my rage reach that decision-making part of my brain, and I suddenly became filled with a sense of calm purpose. I blinked my eyes and set my jaw. I started following him. Adrenaline started flowing; my mouth tasted metallic. I fought to keep my peripheral vision in focus, hyperaware of everything around me, trying to predict the movement of the crowd. I was hoping that he would walk into a deserted hallway where I would find him alone. I felt so sure of myself, so focused on this one thing I had to do. An image sprang to mind: my hands wrapped around his neck, my thumbs digging deep into his throat, his life slipping away under my unrelenting grasp. How right that would feel. But I know I had been caught in a megalomaniacal fantasy. And in the end it didn’t matter; I lost sight of him.

I Am a Sociopath

Remorse is alien to me. I have a penchant for deceit. I am generally free of entangling and irrational emotions. I am strategic and canny, intelligent and confident, but I also struggle to react appropriately to other people’s confusing and emotion-driven social cues.

I was not a victim of child abuse, and I am not a murderer or a criminal. I have never skulked behind prison walls; I prefer mine to be covered in ivy. I am an accomplished attorney and law professor, a well-respected young academic who regularly writes for law journals and advances legal theories. I donate 10 percent of my income to charity and teach Sunday school for the Mormon Church. I have a close circle of family and friends whom I love and who very much love me. Does this sound like you? Recent estimates say that one in every 25 people is a sociopath. But you’re not a serial killer, never imprisoned? Most of us aren’t. Only 20 percent of male and female prison inmates are sociopaths, although we are probably responsible for about half of all serious crimes committed. Nor are most sociopaths incarcerated. In fact, the silent majority of sociopaths live freely and anonymously, holding down jobs, getting married, having children. We are legion and diverse.

You would like me if you met me. I have the kind of smile that is common among television show characters and rare in real life, perfect in its sparkly teeth dimensions and ability to express pleasant invitation. I’m the sort of date you would love to take to your ex’s wedding—fun, exciting, the perfect office escort. And I’m just the right amount of successful so that your parents would be thrilled if you brought me home.

Read more here.

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  • doodahman

    Well, following that paradigm, it “makes sense” (right or wrong), to hunt you people down and stake you to the last man/woman. Since there is no empathy, and no moral right and wrong, there is just naked self interest. Regardless of whether you choose to commit heinous crimes or not, that’s a matter of happenstance, and that’s not good enough. At best you are a cancer and whatever good you might accidentally do is irrelevant. We have other people on earth, who do have empathy, who can do whatever good you do. We don’t need you. The naked self interest of non sociopaths would be to exterminate all sociopaths as moral defects, as crimes waiting to happen. But we won’t because we do have empathy and we do believe in a moral right and wrong. So despite your self righteous arrogance, you only exist in this society by virtue of the morality that you yourself reject. Should we adopt your world view, you are not long for this world.

    • InfvoCuernos

      I’ve always found it ironic that the one thing that makes sociopaths a detriment to society also protects them from that society.

      • Andrew

        Evil is inherently more powerful than good.

        • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

          they’re diferently powerful.

          In their difference though an average evil individual might seem more powerful than an average individual good

        • InfvoCuernos

          plus, who do you get to carry out the execution? another psychopath? Who kills that guy? Last one out, turn off the lights. If there was a medical test for psychopathy that would promise 100% accuracy, would we start gassing children to rid ourselves of this “cancer”? No.

    • Simon Valentine

      oh wow heeeyll no Deadpool is PIMP
      but yes
      YES!
      also! there is the resocialization approach! Starcraft Marine Style!

    • Reasor

      Calling another person a cancer and arguing for the disposability of his life from atop a moral high horse is like trying to cut your wrists with a Norelco electric shaver. You’re doing it wrong.

    • Calypso_1

      So essentially you are saying the mere presence of a minority of such individuals is enough for the majority to become that which they demonize.
      Perhaps the lack of reflection that Ted alluded to is more of a mirror for those that possess ‘true’ humanity to see themselves.

    • Jack M

      sounds like some one wants to commit genocide or ethnic cleansing

  • wcarver

    The hard core sociopaths are not in jail – just the sociopathic and stupid ones. The most blatant, dangerous sociopaths are the ones controlling banks and their Wall Street ilk. They are more than comfortable wallowing in their loot, regardless of the antisocial pathways in which it was gained,…. A few tales to illustrate…..

    .. 50 people died due to cost cutting measures in safety equipment……… [[ let my overpaid lawyers handle it ...and give me the bill ..... oh, and call Benny over at the Post tell him to put a positive spin on this nonsense.]]

    ======================

    ..Closing the plant resulted in 2500 jobs lost in a small community as well as the failure of many of the support businesses. …..[[and your point is ??? .... Do I look like the frigging mayor??]]

    ======================
    22 people committed suicide as a direct result of the loss of their retirement, their their job and their health insurance. when the company went bankrupt ……..[[ What? They don't have loony farms nearby??... things are tough all over and sh*t happens - get over it. ]]

    • Matt Staggs

      Hey Carver, have you read Jon Ronson’s “The Psychopath Test”? He comes to many of the same conclusions that you do. We discussed it during an episode of the podcast. I’m a huge Ronson fan. It was a big treat for me.

  • Tripp

    Mike seems to be like you’re also a sociopath (= hehehe

  • Ted Heistman

    sounds more like a straight narccisist with a sense of theatrics, IMO

    • Calypso_1

      How do you come by that assessment?
      As presented the Dark Triad is well manifested & Narcicism isn’t even primary.

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        The writer isn’t “presenting with” shit. They are writing an essay. I mean, are Sean Penn and Robert Di Nero psychopaths because they have convincingly played them in the movies? I could write a first person account of why I think I am a psychopath and it wouldn’t prove anything. This person is no Richard Kuklinski. “I never killed anybody but I wanted to”? Please. That makes one a human being not a psychopath.

        • Calypso_1

          i could tell you what you are presenting w/now but you’ve made it clear that it is too onerous.

          PS to your edit:
          What would constitute proof?
          And what distinction do you make in the validity of your own opinion & that of idea that the entire “essay” is to be compared to acting.

          • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

            I make unqualified assertions constantly. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything. But all I can say is I am starting to realize there is a reason I have gotten though so many fucked up situations unscathed, you know, since I have been grown.

            I can read people.

          • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

            another thing is that some of these traits could be sex linked. Female psychopaths are rare, but not female narcissists.

  • mannyfurious

    I’m slightly skeptical of this essay. I’ve come across a number of sociopaths in my lifetime, both professionally and personally, and I’m considering whether part of being a sociopath means being unable to understand you’re a sociopath. I think a psychopath can know they are psychopathic and probably more often than not do know as much. But I’ve seen a connection between a lack of empathy and a lack of self-awareness in sociopaths. Sort of like the lack of empathy stems from being unable to understand what it is about themselves that makes them worthy of empathy and therefore what it is about others that make them worthy as well.

    I’m not saying I’m right or anything. It’s just an idea I’ve been tossing around for a while now.

    • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

      That lack of self awareness thing is interesting. That’s the idea behind vampires having no reflection, actually.

  • BuzzCoastin

    > I… teach Sunday school for the Mormon Church

    this statement explains everything for me

  • yhnukas

    wow, thanks for showing this to me. I must say he though, he gives almost no credit to his parents for messing him up, but maybe that is common among big egos.

    I am also surprised he was never stomped to death by someone with the inability to put up with his shit. He never addresses the people who could smell his bullshit and would have no part of him. Also, I don’t believe a true sociopath would care enough about the rest of us to share themselves with us.

    • Calypso_1

      ~’don’t believe…would care enough… to share’

      Has nothing to do with caring.
      What is the utility &/or is the audience a good source of supply.
      Besides, coming out is fashionable.

    • http://twitter.com/RayButlers Ray Butlers

      most people are normal, polite, reasonable, and able to avoid or extract themselves from a conflict with minimal effort. See “The Comedy” for an illustration of this phenom.

  • The Well Dressed Man

    Despite the front of not caring about what others think or feel, the entire essay seems to be about what others think or feel. Has the author expressed any other motivation except to feel superior to others? While the immaculate, well-spoken, put together ones put on a good show, more often than not, they’re pulling one over on themselves. Just because we don’t call them out on their one-upmanship doesn’t mean we don’t notice. Those beady little eyes usually give them away in the end. We all knew who these guys were in high school, and can still pick them out at every social function.

  • http://twitter.com/RayButlers Ray Butlers

    people often say that they “just snapped.” I know that feeling

    The choice of words says it all. He takes no ownership of his behavior and its consequences (deliberately trespassing). He placed himself in a situation in which he rationalized his resentment. That’s pure narcissist.

    • Calypso_1

      Or the fact that she didn’t follow through w/ snapping could be seen as total ownership.

  • ReverendCecilBDeReel

    Sociopathy isn’t bad. Mormonism is…

  • http://generaldepravity.blogspot.com/ dragline

    For something that lacks feeling it sure likes to emote.

    • Calypso_1

      Lack of feeling, though possible in some individuals, is largely a myth. It is an alteration of feelings. Some clinically diagnosed persons even experience extreme emotions.

      • http://generaldepravity.blogspot.com/ dragline

        I don’t much buy it, either. I think that like the concept of “evil,” people want to ascribe supernatural attributes to things they can’t understand, find repulsive, or ideas they can’t fully articulate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nicholas-Wilson/1842933361 Nicholas Wilson

    If you understood the defining point of sociopathic tendencies, which is the inability to distinguish right from wrong, you could conclude the writer obviously can. Not caring about doing right or wrong, just makes you an asshole.

    • Calypso_1

      It depends largely on the degree of intellect and motivation. ‘Right’ & ‘Wrong’ can clearly be distinguished. It is not going to stem from or be refreshed from the same emotive foundations of norms. There is a great deal of utilitarianism, relativity & self-centeredness. Ethics as arrived at by logical processes can be taught. The question to ask is can the sociopath act in a way where their motivations & self-interest are in balance w/ the environment. This has far more to do with deficits of executive function & perception of risk than it does any emotional alterations.
      Depending on the individual, emotional reward from manipulation & other’s pain can also be redirected.
      Not caring can also mean that you are immensely damaged,often at an age that the mind cannot cope. There are parts of the psyche that can die in a damaged child as surely as suicide. We don’t blame a person when they have a neuropathy and can no longer feel a limb properly. People also suffer strokes & completely lose empathy.
      Fundamentally, this is still a condition that is poorly, understood, defined & treated.
      Also as fundamental is that society is choosing to define ‘human’ based largely on a few attributes or the lack of them & in this process has created a modern scape goat in which we can hide & absolve characteristics that exist in each & every one of us.

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        You have empathy for psychopaths. Why not? Can’t hurt I guess. As long as you always keep in mid what they are like and they they probably won’t reciprocate, but then if you were seeking it to be reciprocated it would be less truly empathic.

        I look at them as forces of nature. Parts of them are blanked out and these parts are indwelt by forces of nature, usually destructive forces. But forces that have a role to play in the World

        • Calypso_1

          I see us all as forces in the world. I do not attribute a singular spark of divinity within the human that is absent in other aspects of existence. The reciprocity I expect from forces is within the bounds of their properties & operations of feedback insofar as we are able to observe & discover them. If I toss a ball up, I have full expectation that it will come down. Obviously one can not claim as great a degree of insight into complex systems. Collectively our species is learning more about such systems and how to interact with them. Think of how many otherwise destructive forces can also be harnessed in other capacities.
          I am wondering though – empathy & expectations of return, perhaps more in line w/compassion?
          And empathy with those whose emotions are altered: Would one also have to be altered to ‘feel’ what they feel?
          So you might also ask, am I empathetic to this state, sympathetic, compassionate, understanding or of shared cognition?

  • Noah_Nine

    Sociopathetic…

  • William

    I find this interesting, as I am a highly empathic person (an empath, really, which is a variant of psychopath — I find myself pretty insufferable, but everybody seems to love me… A LOT.) That’s no complaint. I’m a good listener, people find my presence comforting, and a lot of my life is spent helping others. But I’m also a bit sloppy, and my high IQ is mainly compensation for overwhelming emotional imbalances (I’m very good at not putting those off on other people, though.) I really only ever have a sense of shame when it comes to causing others harm, and I tend to punish myself a lot for things that most people think in themselves to be excusable behavior. I’ve met sociopaths before (one or two of them actual killers) — they seemed briefly fascinated by me or otherwise completely oblivious. Still, some have exhibited weirdly protective behavior towards me, and others have made fun of the fact that I like things like sex and good music and “retarded” stuff like that. Sociopaths to me always struck me as individualistic and not at all of a cloth. I don’t even know if I like the word — it’s mainly bandied about as a pejorative; besides, I tend to distrust the field of psychiatry when it comes to classifying people. Anyway, when I’m in the presence of someone who lacks a normal emotional range and seems to have the most awkward time in what seem to me to be “matter-of-course” social interactions, I tend to get the sense of them as other, and only possibly a threat. I usually feel inclined to help them along. A true sociopath is someone who has absolutely no qualms about killing, but usually doesn’t because it’s not expedient to do so. A lot of them are very necessary to running a healthy society. I know I’m basing this more on anecdotal life experience and less on statistically accurate sampling, but I hope this adds some illumination to the discussion…