I receive a lot of email from readers, and over the years many have asked some variation of the question: Do sociopaths know what they are? Do they realize that something is wrong with them?
The answer varies with the individual sociopath, because they aren’t all the same. Generally, though, I believe sociopaths know that they are different from the rest of the human race. However, most are not bothered by their difference. They view themselves as superior.
It’s easy to see where this attitude comes from. Because sociopathy is highly genetic, and is influenced by the early childhood environment, sociopaths never were anything but sociopaths. They never experienced a true empathetic connection with another human being. They did not develop a desire to love and be loved. Therefore, they do not know what they are missing.
Talking to sociopaths about love and empathy is like talking to someone who has been blind since birth about the color blue. They simply have no frame of reference.
Sociopaths have totally different motivations from the rest of us. As I explained a couple of weeks ago in Sociopathic deceit: Plan or second nature?, they are driven by the desire for power, control and winning. Because they become so good at manipulating others to get what they want, sociopaths perceive themselves as successful, and therefore superior.
When they are diagnosed
Here’s a key point: Sociopaths do not feel any distress due to their disorder. (It’s everyone around them, who have been deceived, manipulated, cheated on, stolen from, etc., who feel distress.) Therefore, sociopaths feel no motivation to change, and do not seek treatment on their own.
When a sociopath ends up in a therapist’s office, it is because he or she was forced to go there. The sociopath was dragged in by a parent or spouse, court-ordered for an evaluation, or was incarcerated and diagnosed by prison staff.
Therefore, sociopaths may be aware of their diagnosis. Again, this does not cause them distress. They either deny it, or figure out a way to use the information to their advantage.
Lovefraud published an article back in 2007 by Dr. Steve entitled, What does the psychopath ‘do’ with this diagnosis? The article makes the point that psychopaths (the term Dr. Steve uses) don’t see themselves as having a problem. One of the most interesting things about this article was that it drew comments from someone with the user name “Secret Monster.” He said was diagnosed as a sociopath and had been in therapy. His comments gave a good insight into how a person with this disorder thinks.
In their own words
Lovefraud has heard from other people who identified themselves sociopaths. I’ve posted a few of their emails. My objective wasn’t to give them a platform; it was to show Lovefraud readers how sociopaths look at the world and how they go about manipulating others. The more we understand what they’re about, the better we can protect ourselves.
Here are two of those stories:
About a month after the second letter posted, I received another email from the man who wrote it:
I was very disappointed to find that you didn’t permit commenting on my letter that you posted, I was really looking forward to the responses I would receive.
I decided to search my letter online and I quickly found that it spread to numerous sites. Some of the websites allowed readers to comment and this is what I mainly gathered from the comments. People found that I was arrogant and that I enjoyed “bragging” about my intellectual ability, mainly my IQ. People also made it clear that they feel sorry for me. Fuck them.
Many readers shared that they know me but they don’t so I assume that I represent a certain sociopathic person in their lives. An archetype of what they collectively despise.
I decided to read a couple of articles on your website which you had personally wrote and you don’t have to have an aptitude at discerning to realise that you hate me. And by “me” I mean sociopaths as a whole. You do love to quote our good friends Robert Hare and Martha Stout, who are both idiots I must add.
I’ve been reading up, hitting the books ya know?, and I’ve found that some researchers and psychologists have a theory that Sociopathy/Psychopathy is not a disorder but rather an evolutionary response. Humans were created to excel and we wouldn’t be that good at it if we felt bad about our achievements.
Some people are just so stupid. They cling to their moronic convictions and when confronted with contrary evidence they still hold on to their prior beliefs. It’s pathetic. They say things that are blatantly false such as how all sociopaths are criminals or that the good ol’ anti-sociopath people are smarter than the sociopaths. Of course there are some examples when this is true but on the most part we are smarter.
I understand that it is your hobby or maybe even job, but you do seem to dislike sociopaths. I could probably find the reason if I cared enough to read your bio that you probably have on the website but where’s the fun in that? You are extremely negative towards people who you say are “struggling” with this “disorder”. Seems quite hypocritical of you to go extremely anti-sociopath. You may not know it but you are breeding the next generation of sociopath haters. Of course we don’t really care but I’d appreciate it if your website was more about raising awareness and helping people get over traumas than going on the full attack.
Proof of my point
I’ve received similar letters from a few other people who claim to be sociopaths. They say I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m judgmental, I shouldn’t refer to sociopaths as if they are all monsters.
I look at these letters as typical sociopathic trivializing, blaming, manipulation—and proof of my point. Many sociopaths know exactly what they are and what they are doing. They know the difference between right and wrong. They know that they hurt people. But they are fine with their behavior and have no motivation to change.
So to answer the original question, yes, many sociopath know what they are, but they don’t think anything is wrong with them.