Reply To: Hi – I'm a sociopath.

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Stargazer, I can’t agree with you more. When I was younger, I wore my heart on my sleeve. I trusted almost everyone and usually ended up the worse for this in one way or another (people do eventually let people down… it is the nature of being human).

Over the years I learned about myself. I learned that I was a strong introvert. I learned that blindly believing sob stories and “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” was hurting me. It was a very wise friend who told me to stop being so empathetic and trusting because it was making me constantly hurt and resentful. She was right. I discovered that friends who were “desperate” for something from me, quickly and easily found an alternative when I said “no”. They had been desperate for a quick fix (babysitting, lending money, proof reading documents), not in desperate and genuine need. They can do it themselves or pay for it themselves, they just would prefer to get it for free from someone.

So now I prefer not to be around people who see me for my free ride potential. I’m an introvert so NOT spending a lot of time with people in social situations is not a hardship. And Stargazer, you are right. The vast majority of people who ask for help they don’t need are NOT sociopaths.

There is a term called “moral hazard”. This refers to the human characteristic to take more of something if it is free BECAUSE it is free. I used to work for a company that gave out free pens. They were in a bowl and the public could help themselves. People would take handfuls of pens. They didn’t need that many pens; but the pens were free. These people wouldn’t have considered buying 10 pens…. they just took advantage of free stuff. Moral hazard is part of human nature, and it underpins lots of examples misuse of public office (like a politician using a travel allowance to go on holiday).

I think I see sociopaths on just an extreme end of the moral hazard continuum. When I am bored, I find something to do that I enjoy that does not hurt other people. When sociopaths are bored they find someone they can manipulate to enjoy the sense of power. As with all examples of moral hazard, they do this because they can. Whether they SHOULD is not factored into the equation. For neurotypical people, there is a limit to the extent we will indulge in moral hazard. We might take a handful of free pens we don’t need, but we stop at deliberately manipulating and hurting people. This is because we have been the victims of ruthless people and we know how it feels to be betrayed and used. This is why we feel empathy.

Empathy helps us to reign in our human tendency to moral hazard, but we still have to make a deliberate choice to not take more than our “fair share” (of anything: pens, attention, not doing chores) just because we can (which includes having someone around who is willing to do this for us). I believe that sociopaths are also able to choose not to indulge in moral hazard. They just find it harder because they don’t have empathy urging them to not do it.

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