Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ghost of a Soul (Part Four of Four)

Charles Manson
The integration of mind, body, and soul is the business of growing up human. Our notions of right and wrong become established as our conscience develops in childhood. The Golden Rule of  "Do unto others - as you would have done unto you" travels well across many religions and cultures around the globe. This may be the guiding principle that grounds us to society and binds us to other people.

Dr. Martha Stout, Ph D, a clinical psychologist and faculty member in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has convincing data to support her belief that ninety-six percent of the population has a conscience and some attachment to other humans. Fully four percent of the population are not inhibited or encumbered by conscience and suffer from attachment disorder - the inability to relate to people in meaningful and lasting ways. These people go through the motions of life without fully participating in it. It is as if they are absent from their own lives.

Their emptiness gnaws away at them from the inside. Unexposed, it is fed by a need to dominate and control others to meet their egocentric ends. Life becomes a power play where "winning" means everything. Dr. Stout makes the keen observation that "If all you had ever felt toward another person were the cold wish to 'win,' how would you understand the meaning of love, of friendship, of caring?"

Ted Bundy
Sociopaths are preoccupied with themselves. Their narcissism is compounded by their lack of feeling for other people. Their social detachment can range from callous indifference to protracted dehumanization. They may play on our pity when the occasion calls for it, but their game is not getting our sympathy, it is drawing us into their web of influence to accomplish their own ends. 

Being master manipulators, when they have their prey in their clutches, the demon in them is aroused and all Hell breaks loose where they play out their God or Satan fantasies of omnipotence.
Dr. Stout's book, the sociopath next door (sic), suggests ways people - young women in particular - should deal with the sociopathic personality. I have adapted them below to reduce her list of thirteen to ten.
  1. Accept that some people literally have no conscience. It's not your fault!
  2. Don't let preconceived notions of people's roles (doctors, teachers, clergy, policemen, family, etc) interfere with your instincts. Listen to your inner voice. If something doesn't seem right or feel right about a person, don't ignore it.
  3. A series of broken promises, neglected responsibilities, or misunderstandings are warning signs. Strike three and you're out!
  4. Question authority! (related to #1) Blind obedience is dangerous. Dr. Stanley Milgram from Yale University conducted the famous "Authority Compliance" study in 1961-1962. He discovered that "at least six out of ten people will blindly obey to the bitter end an official looking authority in their midst." In this case, a "researcher" in a white lab coat clutching a clipboard.
  5. Suspect over-exaggerated flattery or concern for others called "counterfeit charm." It often signals an "intent to manipulate."
  6. Don't play their game. Avoid contact or communication with them and document everything.
  7. Question their appeals for pity, and curtail your need to be polite or to speak with everyone. 
  8. Don't try to save them. Their behavior is not your fault, unless you enable them.
  9. Never be a party to a sociopath's deceptions or help him/her conceal their true nature. If you do, from that moment on, you are ensnared in their web.
  10. Defend your personhood and your mental health. People who seek to diminish you have an infinite capacity to inflict harm and damage at your expense. Get some help!
John Wayne Gacy