Sociopaths Going Backwards

Sociopaths rarely go forward with their lives with reliable, sustainable momentum; at best, they may zig-zag for a while with the good (and bad) luck of a gambler; or go sidways for a while, “seeming” to hold it together.

But eventually, the sociopath tends to go backwards. He is much like the person on a high-speed treadmill who, no mattter how hard he or she walks or runs, finds himself, sooner or later, drifting off the end of the machine.

His disordered lack of empathy, detachment from others, detachment from an emotional connection to the world that keeps the rest of us on fairly solid ground, giving us at least a chance to hit solid ground, and hit it running—the sociopath is missing this connection, and thus makes no consistent, sturdy contact with solid ground; his traction, ultimately, is tenuous and illusory.

The sociopath may “look” like he’s making progress (especially if progress is defined as his profiting, in some fashion, from his disrespect or abuse of others’ trust and vulnerability); in the end, however, his progress will be as superficial and unreliable as he is—finally, certainly in the vast majority of cases, he just makes messes of his own and others’ lives.

For this reason I don’t regard sociopaths—even so-called really sharp, predatory sociopaths—as generally very “smart” individuals. Most of them, as I’ve written elsewhere, and stress here again, are just “mess makers.”

Many end up in jail, and those who don’t, when they aren’t sowing havoc, are usually courting disaster and, at some point or other, almost always finding it.

Even the smoothest, most effectively calculating sociopaths, even allowing for those who are never apprehended–even these sociopaths lack the capacities that make for a life worth counting: the capacity, for instance, to love; give from the heart; sacrifice for others; and be counted-on in “crunch time” (which is to say, during times of real personal inconvenience).

The sociopathic individual doesn’t genuinely relish these experiences, although he may, as we know, mimic them superficially (and sometimes convincingly); but he doesn’t derive the pleasure to be experienced from a genuine investment in them.

His view of the world is not unlike the immature child’s who, on halloween night, approaching a bowl of candy left on a stoop, where the code of integrity is implicit (take one or two candy bars), instead grabs a fistful of candy, stuffing his pillow case with it.

The child then feels a bit giddy over his caper, heedless that, in the process of enriching himself, he has selfishly deprived other children of candy and, at the same time, violated the homeowner who risked trusting in his basic sense of fairness and respect.

It’s possible that this child on halloween may make his “grab” in a more impulsive, less calculating, fashion; or, he may have plotted his “grab,” and then executed it from house to house, even before putting his “costume” on at home, prior to hitting the streets.

In either case, take his mentality and now watch it never evolve, even as the boy grows into a man, and there you have it—an adult who thinks, and acts, like a sociopath”¦that is, a sociopath.

The forms of corruption and violation his personality can later express are many, but the underlying mentality is the sociopath’s. And it dooms him, in the end, to a troubled, troubling and unfulfilled life.

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2011 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is strictly for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors discussed.)

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112 Comments on "Sociopaths Going Backwards"

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To skylar and bluejay,

I learned pretty early on, as the single mother of 3 boys, that I needed to be in charge, that it was much easier to say yes rather than no, but a parent has to do the harder thing, not the easy one, that the more material things you give to a child the less they appreciate it, that I needed to be the parent not their friend, that it was their job to push the limits and mine was to set the limits.

I wasn’t a very good mom, but I was good enough; two turned out great; both went to college with one married and graduating with two degrees, the other went to grad school and just got sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar.

The other one had me troubled from the start. At about 5 or 6
I began to suspect abnormalities. Finally at 15 he exhibited signs of no remorse, no sense of right or wrong, no guilt when caught doing wrong, blaming others for his mistakes, no sense of responsibility towards work, school or home chores. I remembered learning about sociopaths during my rotation in psych nursing and took out my old textbook. Unfortunately the information I gleaned was mostly concerned with murderers, rapists and other violent criminals. He never showed anger, hostility cruelty or violence, so I put that on the back burner where it simmered for another 20 years.

When he moved away, finally, I was relieved and focused on the other two.

He re-entered my life 1 1/2 yrs ago and after doing all I could to help him get back on his feet, I realized it was a lost cause and revisited sociopaths a few months ago and found many characteristics applied to him.

I’m wondering now if I need to read more about narcicistic personalities because he has such grandiose opinions of himself and projects himself as being knowledgeable about any topic from art to xylophones. He still has no remorse or guilt for anything done wrong and feels entitled to take whatever he wants.

Anyway, I just had a “gut feeling” about him and learned that the gut is rarely wrong.

So he’s out of my life forever now. I may have to see him at family functions, but will always try to avoid him.

Dear Ines,

Psychopaths are also VERY NARCISSISTIC. Not all people who are somewhat Narcissistic are also psychopaths, but all psychopaths are Narcissistic to one extent or another….my psychopathic son is so Narcissistic it is unreal. He’s been in prison for 20+ years and still considers himself a SUCCESS in life. DUH!???? Yep. A success.

Okay, he is smarter than the average convict. And he is smarter than the average guard….but that does NOT make him a success in anyone’s eyes but his own. LOL

Learning about psychopaths will help you understand about your son, but you also need to focus on your own healing and letting go of the “son” who is just as dead and gone as if he was physically dead. That baby you gave birth to and loved is GONE….and the MAN who “got his organs” is NOT YOUR FRIEND….he is a stranger who just sees you as a cash cow.

There is probably NOTHING you could have done different to have changed what happened to him….what CHOICES HE MADE. The genetic part may tend to point them in “that direction” but they have choices….just like an alcoholic has a choice to drink or not, they have a choice to abuse or not. They just do not give a rip!

Glad you are here Ines, there are lots of mothers here who have sons just like ours so we are NOT alone. God bless.

you are really impressive. Your intellect and education overrode your feelings. That’s how I wish I could have been, but I lacked the education. I knew nothing about sociopaths. And when I read, “people of the lie” I was only 17 so I disregarded it because it talked about evil, and that was too much for me.

One thing that I’m really investigating right now is the difference between people who “get it” and those who just WON”T because it’s too painful. Any data or insights you have are appreciated.

I just wish to share this link with my friends here at LF:



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