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The “immunity mindset” and the sociopath

Imagine you can make yourself invisible (at will) and, thereby, effectively innoculate yourself against the consequences of your violating behaviors.

This playful scenario posits a power bordering on omnipotent. You can do what you want, when you want, to whom you want, secure in the knowledge that you can get away with it.

Your invisibility effectively liberates you from the normal rules and boundaries that regulate interpersonal conduct.

Now let’s be honest”¦with this power, how many of us would use it for our own amusement, and to our own advantage?

The true answer: most of us?

Remember, I said “let’s be honest.”

None of us, of course, so far as I know, possesses this power, thank goodness”¦and let me add that, while I suspect many of us would find some temptingly interesting ways to wield it, I am not suggesting that, endowed with such superpower, most of us would use it in cruel, hurtful ways.

As a matter of fact I think that, for many of us, possessing such a power would carry a burden. I imagine, for instance, a clash ensuing—a clash between opposing forces. That is, between a first force, call it our primitive thirst for self-gratification, and a second force (and the only force with the power to keep the first in check)—our conscience (our heeding of which enables us to sleep reasonably well at night).

So what am I getting at here?

Although I’m not suggesting that sociopaths operate with a belief in their literal invisibility, many of them, I am suggesting, operate with a metaphorically comparable mindset. I call it the immunity mindset.

The immunity mindset, as I’ve implied above, is a mentality characterized especially by the audacious belief and confidence that one can transgress others with, well, immunity.

It must be a heady feeling, indeed, to harbor the conviction that you can pull off sh*t most others would simply find too risky and, more importantly, too shameful to endeavor?

By way of example, imagine that you’re on a crowded subway and are seized with the lascivious impulse to grope an unsuspecting neighbor? The non-sociopath seized with such an impulse may consider it briefly, entertain and even enjoy the fantasy, but then retires it harmlessly.

He retires it for several reasons, chief among them his fear, first of all, of being caught, and just as deterrently, because he knows that the shame that would ensue from his action would supercede, probably greatly, the gratification to be enjoyed from his exploitive act.

Shame, we know, is a powerful deterrent against antisocial behavior. And so it follows that a lack of shame is a wonderful asset to carry into an exploitative endeavor.

Sociopaths, lacking and unencumbered by shame—specifically the anxiety, self-consciousness, negative self-judgement and nervousness that accompany shame—find themselves thus freely poised to engage in exploitative behaviors from which non-sociopaths will typically desist, and to do so, moreover, with the imperturbability of supremely composed individuals.

Their lack of shame, in other words, enables their composure.

In my subway example, the sociopath will grope his neighbor because, first of all, he wants to (and sociopaths, remember, do and take what they want); furthermore, because he lacks, as noted, the anticipatory shame that typically deters most of us from “acting-out” our violating impulses; and finally (and to the heart of this column), because he is as confident as if he were invisible that he will get away with his violation.

Let us imagine, for instance, that his victim whirls around and accuses the sociopath, publicly, of groping her. The non-sociopath would find such a public accusation mortifying. The sociopath, however, just as securely as though he’d been invisible, will calmly deny the charge, or else just as calmly finger the guy standing next to him as the guilty party.

He might say, with remarkable equanimity, “I don’t know what you’re talking about”¦you’ve got the wrong guy”¦.I wasn’t even standing here”¦so it couldn’t have been me. It was that guy.”

Now what kind of world is this in which the sociopath is living?

It is a world in which others are the ultimate objects with which to jerk around, toy, menace, and entertain himself: a world in which he, the sociopath, can imagine doing pretty much anything he wants to anyone, while enjoying, if not relishing, his perceived immunity from accountability.

This is another way of suggesting that many sociopaths aren’t just playing, in fantasy, the game of imagine if you were invisible, how would you exploit your power? Effectively, they are carrying this mentality, what I call the immunity mindset, into the real world.

It is a mindset steeped in a deep, grandiose sense of omnipotence; a mindset, I would add, that leaves the sociopath feeling empowered, and at liberty, to violate others sinisterly with his strange, striking, signature lack of worry, shame and constraint.

(My use of “he” in this, and other posts, is not to suggest that females are not capable of the behaviors described. This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)


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480 Comments on "The “immunity mindset” and the sociopath"

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James says “Sorry but some of this I disagree with. To “forget” about it might or would allow someone to be victimized yet again. Also to “forget” about it and then go on with our life might and would allow yet another victim to be abused. Only through education to the public do we have a chance to make a different. Forgetting about it can be dangerous because that’s exactly what they want so they can move around more freely extracting yet more supply from unknown and uneducated people.”
Don’t think for a minute that I forget about what a sociopath can and will do. I tell it like I know it is to others who need to know. But I WILL NOT let the fact that a sociopath TRIED to destroy MY life and my children’s lives overtake my day-to-day emotional health. He is just not on my radar while we pursue a health, happiness, and a good life! Hope you can do the same!

Justabouthealed says “There is a difference between a jerk and a psychopath” but I think every jerk I’ve ever known was an SP- someone who “lies, cheats, and steals”. This is a very simple diagnosis. When in doubt, just judge them by that!

Tilly, Go girl!!! You are on the right track to moving on and beyond and toward YOUR best life! Blessings!!!

Kathy

Re your post on 15 June.

It really helped to clarify further the whole ‘anger’ issue for me. Your post to me yesterday suggested that I had not dealt /do not deal with anger in the most constructive way – I wasn’t sure at first but I have now given it alot of thought and realise that, in the past, I thought I had when actually I hadn’t. This is because, I do all the pillow bashing etc and feel better but then feel ‘guilty’ for allowing the anger – it’s just ‘anger management’ NOT ‘anger-addressing’. This is my remit now – to try to ‘address’ the anger properly so I can get past it and move on to the real healing work. Any pointers from ANYONE would be most welcome.

Tilly – re your unsent letter to the S. I have written thousands of these in the past 14 months and shredded them in an effort to deal with my outrage. All I can say, that mostly, they worked and helped me get on with my day. I write fewer and fewer of these now – maybe once a month for a good cleanse! Whatever helps you through, I say – to get you to the next stage of reclaiming your life and sanity. And not to diminish it, you did make me laugh too! Go Tilly!

Tilly

Just reading back through this blog noted the P in your life is a racist and is dating an Indian girl. Same here – the disgusting racism display by the S I was involved with and that of his disgusting family – do not intend to acknowlege the actual things they said. He’s now ‘victimising’ a black girl – I couldn’t believe it when I heard he was seeing someone who isn’t a ‘WASP’ (white anglo-saxon protestant). It just shows that they don’t discriminate where the ‘supply’ is concerned……. he obviously has found yet another ‘patsy’ to con and abuse – I would love to get hold of her an tell her in advance of the nightmare that is on her horizon just was a ‘creep’ this guy is. My only hope is that she’s a bigger SP than him and takes him for the ride of his miserable life! Now that would be sweet.

All love.

Escapee:
Thankyou for commenting on this as it was huge for me to have this insight too in regards to the racism. And the other bonus is that I am POSITIVE this pretty young Indian girl is only with him for money. And Yes it IS VERY SWEET for me to see it!! I am so glad that will never see her again to silently “thank her from the bottom of my heart”.lol!

I changed a few words of this letter (that I mostly copied off Oxy) and emailed it to a few Psychopaths in my life. Admittedly, they weren’t the ones I wanted to hurt the most, but at least I had a glimmer of gloating. Thankyou guys for being there…it is sooo important to me!

Rosa:
I bumped into that psychopath I told you about above, at the shops a few days ago. His left ear was all disfigured from the car accident. He showed me his ear and then asked me out. I said, “oh diddems..ugly ear! no thanks!” And walked off.( God is sending me the odd one or two to keep my sense of humour alive as I’m a gonner without it.).

Tilly

You and Rosa make me roar!

Morning everybody, Was cruising the archives and came upon this. While I was reading I thought of Casey Anthony. She’s back in the news again. There is talk that her defence might be to accuse one of the volunteers that searched, early on for Caley. Way back last winter it ocurred to me that “we” will never hear the truth from Casey. NEVER. No matter what evidence there is to prove she’s guilty, she will never give up her game. She has the POWER, and will keep it, no matter what. She is stupidly banking on the fact, that the public wants to believe her! I personally hope she frys!!!

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