Monday, July 29, 2013

The Two Faces of Evil - Identifying Sociopaths (Part Two of Four)

Broadly defined, a sociopath is a person without conscience - a person who does not experience guilt like most people. Sociopathy is a "non-correctable disfigurement of a person's character." In its extreme manifestation - it leads to psychopathic behavior, the subtext of my next book The Rainy Day Murders.

In my last post, I cited a statistic from Martha Stout's fascinating study, the sociopath next door (sic). She convincingly states that one in twenty-five people are sociopaths - that equates to four percent. Of that segment of the population, roughly twenty percent are behind bars. What of the other eighty percent? Where do they hide?

The answer is chilling - at home, at work, and at large! The successful achievers of this group might go into high finance, high government office, the board rooms of corporate America, and of course, the military. These are high-octane professions where conscience is not a part of the collective dialogue - failure is not an option - their game is not culpability - it is winning at all costs.

Most garden variety sociopaths do not play out their schemes on so vast a stage. At work, they harass and intimidate their co-workers with mean spirited mind games - people in positions of petty authority are known for this. At home, they extract their pound of flesh behind closed doors - usually secure in the knowledge that the fear and shame of their victims will insure their family secrets. Many sociopaths are known for their ability to charm and deceive people. How do we recognize these predators before they do us serious harm?

Here are ten traits to look for. If three or more seem to apply, watch yourself:
  • Sociopaths are narcissists who know the words but not the music of life.
  • Something is missing from their "genetic marbling." They suffer from attachment disorder.
  • They are easily bored and need continual external stimulation.
  • They are not comfortable in their own skin.
  • They are absolutely self-involved and high-strung.
  • They tend toward hypochondria and "pity plays."
  • They are not team players.
  • They show unremitting self-interest.
  • They use and abuse people with impunity.
  • They are manipulators.
Other than that, they look just like the rest of us. Why are sociopaths and psychopaths so often described as charming? Look for the answer in my next post. It may surprise you.