The Inner Triangle

The Inner Triangle, by Dr. Liane Leedom, helps you understand sociopaths, psychopaths, addicts and alcoholics

Even the best training in psychiatry did not help Liane Leedom, M.D., avoid a close encounter with a sociopath. The psychiatrist married one, and he is the father of her son.

Sociopathy has a strong genetic connection, and when Dr. Leedom realized that her husband was a sociopath, she also realized that her baby son could have inherited a predisposition to the character disorder. She was determined to prevent her son from turning into a full-blown sociopath.

Dr. Leedom studied the scientific literature on developmental psychology and wrote a book on her findings. If you have children with someone who you believe is a sociopath, Lovefraud strongly recommends that you read her book, called Just Like His Father? A Guide to Overcoming Your Child’s Genetic Connection to Antisocial Behavior, Addiction & ADHD.

The Inner Triangle

Dr. Leedom analyzed the criteria for antisocial personality disorder stated in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). She came to the conclusion that sociopaths have faulty development in three areas: ability to love, impulse control and moral reasoning.

“By definition, a sociopath is someone with impairment in all three of these abilities,” Dr. Leedom says. “Sociopaths are unable to love, have poor impulse control and exhibit immoral behavior.” Dr. Leedom calls these three areas the Inner Triangle.

Interestingly, she found that researchers in Great Britain, David Cooke and his colleagues, have developed a three-factor model of psychopathy. Dr. Leedom says the three factors in their model correspond to the three sides of the Inner Triangle.

Dr. Leedom believes the Inner Triangle also has implications for people with addiction, alcoholism and ADHD. There are genetic links between these disorders and sociopathy, she says.

Ability to love

The most important part of human character, Dr. Leedom believes, is the ability to love. The ability to love is the key to happiness, as well as psychological and physical wellbeing. When people develop their ability to love and fully enjoy relationships, she says, they are immunized against addiction and antisocial behavior.

According to Dr. Leedom, people with the ability to love do ALL of the following in relationships:

  1. Feel and enjoy affection toward special people.
  2. Show empathy toward those they love.
  3. Want to take care of those they love.
  4. At times sacrifice their own desires in order to care for others.

Sociopaths lack ability to love. Dr. Leedom says sociopaths may experience fleeting feelings of affection, but the joy they get from these feelings is far less than the joy they get from having power and control over others. Their inability to love is also called “emotional callousness” by scientists.

Sociopaths lack empathy. Empathy stops people from hurting others. This is because an empathetic person actually feels another person’s pain. Someone who is routinely emotionally and/or physically abusive toward others does not have empathy.

Dr. Leedom says sociopaths generally show no care-taking behavior, and rarely or never sacrifice their own needs for those of others. When they do show caring, she says, there is always a hidden agenda.

Impulse control

Dr. Leedom explains that an impulse is a thought to do something. Impulses come from our basic drives and emotions.

What exactly is a drive? According to Dr. Leedom, a drive is a powerful force within us that makes us want to do something. When people act according to their drives, they are rewarded with pleasure. Basic human drives are for nourishment, comfort, physical and emotional contact with other people, sex, social dominance, material possessions and entertainment.

Sociopaths characteristically have poor impulse control. This makes them aggressive and overly sexual. “Generally speaking, if a sociopath thinks of it, he or she does it,” Dr. Leedom says. “They exhibit little planning and forethought, and show a lack of consideration for consequences.”

Dr. Leedom points out that since sociopaths lack the ability to love, they are not motivated by a drive for affection. They are, however, very social. Why would someone with no real interest in affection or intimacy want to be social? Dr. Leedom says the answer is that sociopaths are motivated by a drive for dominance or power. To them, power equals pleasure.

“When a sociopath looks like he is enjoying a social interaction, it is because he is enjoying a feeling of power,” she says. “Think about a sociopath you know. Does he or she seem charming and affable while the center of attention? Does he or she tell stories and make people laugh? Sociopaths like attention, act charming and tell stories because these things make them feel powerful. Sociopaths become easily angered when their power drive is thwarted.”

Dr. Leedom explains that sociopaths are also motivated by the sex drive, and especially enjoy sex when it makes them feel powerful. The merger of the drives for power and sex, she says, leads some sociopaths to become rapists.

Moral reasoning

Moral reasoning, Dr. Leedom explains, involves three things: knowledge of the rules, belief that rules are important, and moral emotions that help guide behavior.

Sociopaths do know the rules, which is why the justice system holds them responsible for the crimes they commit. But if sociopaths know the rules, why do they break them? “In the minds of sociopaths, they are the kings and queens,” Dr. Leedom says. “Aren’t rulers entitled to do what they want? Sociopaths break rules because of their obsession with power.”

Although sociopaths can recite generally accepted rules of behavior, they do not believe in these rules the way the rest of us do. Belief is an emotional connection to ideas. Sociopaths only have emotional connections to, and only value, power and sex.

Finally, sociopaths lack the moral emotions, which are guilt and shame. Dr. Leedom explains that guilt develops during childhood as an extension of the fear response. As children, sociopaths are fearless and so do not develop guilt.

Shame is the feeling associated with being on the bottom rung of the social ladder. Since sociopaths are grandiose and NEVER see themselves as at the bottom, they do not experience shame.

Deficits in all sides of the Inner Triangle

Dr. Leedom believes that these three character developments—ability to love, impulse control and moral reasoning—all depend on each other to form the Inner Triangle. The ability to love motivates people to learn and observe moral values. Knowing moral values and exercising impulse control enables a person to show love and care for others.

It is possible for people to have deficiencies in parts of the Inner Triangle.

“There are people who are rather cold and generally lack the ability to love,” Dr. Leedom says. “However, these people have impulse control and moral reasoning and can be ‘good people.’

“There are also people who can love and have moral values, but are very impulsive,” she continues. “These people do impulsive things, then experience deep regret. These people try to change because they are disturbed by their own behavior.

“Lastly, there are people who did not grow up in an environment that allowed them to learn society’s rules. These people break rules out of ignorance and can improve with moral education.”

It is only the emotionally callous, impulsive person with no guilt, shame or moral values who is a true sociopath.

More information

For more information, read Dr. Leedom’s book:

Just Like His Father?

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