The flaw in viewing sociopaths through normal eyes

Lovefraud recently received an e-mail from a young man, we’ll call him Kyle, who has just broken up with a woman whom he now believes is a sociopath. Based on the behavior he described, I’d say the guy is right. The woman cheated on him, and when confronted, either downplayed her behavior, said it was none of his business, or verbally attacked him. She had no interest in resolving problems. “Her solution to everything was to run, wait awhile, and then pile on affection as if nothing ever happened,” Kyle wrote.

Kyle has been researching sociopathy to try to grasp what is really going on with this woman. Here’s more of his e-mail, which I have reproduced with his permission:

First of all, I don’t believe criminal behavior, monetary fraud, substance abuse, or any other overt signs of social misconduct are primary symptoms of sociopathy. I suppose that’s the big question though… what is a primary sign? My theory is that the sociopath is incapable of developing personal values through the process of induction, meaning they are unable to look within themselves to gain a sense of self-esteem. This results their inability to experience empathy. After all, if one cannot generate a sense of self worth from their own reasoning how can they be expected to relate to others who do?

It seems in every case I have read about, the sociopath is an extravert. I think this is natural as the person must constantly be in contact with others because they find no satisfaction in themselves. Sociopaths also seem to be universally intelligent. (Perhaps these are the factors that differentiate a sociopath from a psychopath. Again, forgive my ignorance on the subject). What results is a charming individual who preys on other people to satisfy an endless hunger for temporary esteem. Because they cannot make sense of the internal values which should be generating this esteem, they simply try to get it from others, essentially reversing cause and effect.

In the end, this system never quite works, so they develop an incredible defense to avoid the fact that every close relationship falls apart. Every interaction is bounded by a series of rules/parameters. So long as the victim stays within these, things run smoothly. However, close human contact results in an emotional trade off that is impossible to control. Normally this is a tremendously good thing: trust, loyalty, and compassion are established. However, these all rely on a person’s sense of self worth, and the sociopath is not able to understand that. Sooner or later the relationship becomes too close and loses all stability. This is the point where the sociopath is “found out.”

In dealing with the woman, I felt a certain childlike quality to her emotions throughout our relationship. Though she was highly developed socially, in a lot of ways I almost felt like I was dealing with a puppy who just killed a small bird in the front yard. I think my mistake was in believing that I would be different. If I held my hand out she wouldn’t bite it. But I think this quality is misleading, as that naiveté is something the sociopath will avoid at all costs. They simply refuse to learn from their mistakes, or even acknowledge them in the first place. It seems to be a rare combination of a highly developed intellect and a poorly developed emotional response.

Perhaps at some point every sociopath learns to guard that core of insecurity at the deepest level and as such cannot even look at that, let alone analyze it and learn from it. In time, they develop an incredibly complex mechanism to guard this, adding another component with each deception. By early adulthood, these deceptions become so many that the cost is just too great to turn back, and it’s just so much easier to keep going that the thought never even crosses their mind.

These people are not normal

Kyle has correctly observed many traits of a sociopath: Criminality, fraud and substance abuse are not necessarily the prime indicators of this personality disorder. Sociopaths do not experience empathy. Sociopaths are extraverts. They are highly developed socially, but emotionally immature. They do not learn from mistakes.

However, his theories on why sociopaths are the way they are suffer from a fatal flaw: They are developed from the perspective of someone who is normal.

The hardest part of understanding what happened during our entanglements with sociopaths is coming to terms the extent to which these people are not normal.

Lovefraud readers have described sociopaths as not human. Aliens inhabiting human bodies. As cold as these descriptions may sound, they’re probably the easiest way to grasp what you are dealing with in a relationship with a sociopath.

So how different are they? Let’s take a look.

What sociopaths want

Normal people want love and harmonious relationships with others. Normal people want to feel competent in some form of endeavor. Normal people want to contribute to the world in some way.

Sociopaths want power, control and sex. Since they do not really value human relationships, they only want to win.

Kyle is correct in stating that sociopaths cannot look within themselves and develop personal values. He is incorrect in assuming that this causes the sociopath distress. Yes, these disordered people are empty inside, and they may be vaguely aware that they are missing something. But most sociopaths do not have issues with their self-esteem. If anything, they are grandiose, and their views of themselves are ridiculously inflated. They feel absolutely entitled to anything that they want, simply because they want it.

Self-esteem and sociopaths

Kyle speculates that sociopaths must be in constant contact with other people because they are trying to borrow self-esteem from others. This is not the case. Sociopaths view people as pawns to be manipulated into giving them what they want. Every social encounter is a potential feeding opportunity, a chance to convince someone to provide something.

Many people, of course, eventually catch on that they are being used, and stop serving as supply to the sociopaths. Sociopaths are aware of this—they’ve experienced it many times. So they are constantly on the lookout for new targets. When one victim is depleted, he or she must be replaced with another.

This leads to the answer to Kyle’s question, which is, “what is a primary sign of sociopathy?” Dr. Leedom has said lying. Steve Becker has said exploitative behavior. Put them together and you can say deceitful exploitation is central to the disorder.

Insecurity and sociopaths

Kyle suggests that sociopaths are insecure and build defense mechanisms to protect themselves from being hurt. By the time they’re adults, these defense mechanisms are so elaborate and complex that sociopaths can’t return to their authentic selves.

Again, he’s trying to interpret the sociopath based on how normal people may cope with personal issues. This is a mistake.

Wikipedia defines insecurity as, “a feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by perceiving oneself to be unloved, inadequate or worthless.” Sociopaths probably should see themselves as unloved, inadequate or worthless, but they don’t. They may seem to be exhibiting insecurity, but in reality it’s one of two things:

  • Frustration that they’re not getting what they want.
  • Manipulation tactics to get what they want.

Sociopaths have no feelings, so there are no feelings to hurt. They can certainly pretend to be hurt, but it is a ruse designed to guilt others into giving them what they want.

Genetic roots

So if sociopaths are not trying to protect their deeply felt insecurities, where does this disorder come from? In most cases, the temperamental traits that lead to sociopathy are genetic. That usually means one of the parents is a sociopath, and sociopaths are notoriously bad parents. If a child is born with the traits, bad parenting can make them develop the full disorder.

But even if a child with the traits gets good parenting, the disorder can develop. Parents who have a child at risk of developing sociopathy need to take extra steps to help the child overcome his or her predisposition, but the parents may not realize it. And in some cases, even the best parenting is not enough to overcome negative genetics.

It is also possible for a mostly normal child who has extremely an extremely bad growth experience—such as being moved from foster home to foster home as a baby—can develop the disorder.

Accept and avoid

Please understand that I am not picking on Kyle. He’s obviously given a lot of thought to his experience with a sociopathic woman, and is trying to understand what happened. He has a reasonably good handle on normal behavior and normal motivations.

His letter simply provided me with an opportunity to illustrate that what we know and understand about normal human behavior simply does not apply to sociopaths. Thank you, Kyle, for allowing me to quote you.

In the end, we may not be able to truly comprehend sociopaths. The way they go through life is just too foreign to our natures. We must simply accept that they are very, very different from us, learn to recognize the symptoms, and if we see them, run for the hills.

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469 Comments on "The flaw in viewing sociopaths through normal eyes"

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What a connundrum. Yes I cling to my P so as not to excite him and return to the chase.

I know in some whay what I am doing may not be healthy, I have just not seen the affects yet.

Oxy, I will hold tightly to your words. Even at your most honest and forward I know it is with love and concern that you lend your advice and fair warning.
I think right now I am going to play the P’s game until our settlement is filed.
Pray for my strength as I face his manipulations to convince me to sleep with him.
At least he has agreed to longer enter my home…I will meet him at the door or at his car; no where to get trapped.

PS I used to FEAR for my sons emotional and physical safety, but he is wonderful to our son and my son’s eyes light up when he sees his dad. I think right now I am safe because the other woman is there and he has to perform for her. Hopefully, if ever she is gone, he will not want to see our son.
Not sure I am his only reason for seeing our son as he has continued to see him regardless of my interaction.

I know what I have to do, it’s just a matter of time. I appreciate the guidance and suport I receive here.
What I must hold tigh to now is, “the more you hear the more you believe and make excuses for them”
Stop talking ! Stop Listening!

Dear Banana,

They are UNABLE TO LOVE–so your X CANNOT by definition “love” your son, they “own” people, but do NOT “love” them.

He may feel “pride” in having a “son” that this makes him more of a “man” but he does NOT care about your son as aperson in his own right, only as a possession.

He also feels you are a possession and that he just needs to keep on until he gets you under his control again!

The choices are yours, sweetie, and the consequences too. I am glad you were not offended by me boinking you on the head with the skillet. LOL I would never want to hurt you in any way.

Keep coming here and keep on reading as often as you can. and above all KEEP SAFE!!! (((HUGS)))) and my prayers.

Emotional extortion. I think that is a good term for what they do.

I was re-reading some old advice ie: not talking about self just our son.
How do I handle continued questioning from my P about my whereabouts, goings-on ie: whether I am dating…(which I am not). It just gets my feathers ruffled and I hate answering period because he will always think I am lying…how do you change the subject? If my answer is “it’s none of your business (he gave that up by leaving me) then he will assume I AM doing what ever it is he is questioning and will become jealous and controlling…

OMG. I see it. I am allowing HIM to controll me through fear. He inately knows that I don’t want the anger and conflict so he is controlling me by using Mr. Nice guy.

At some point I need to buck up “put on my big girl panties” and face the music as awful as it may be. And I am going to research the sedona method.

My fears are also based on my need to be like or regarded and respected. He will never respect me, and just because he is nice doesn’t mean he likes me.
I hope I can learn to love myself enough to allow him to hate me and still be proud of myself enough to not give a damn about his pity plays, guilt trips, and vindications.


You have turned the corner! You are getting it girlfriend!!!

First off, he does not like you or love you or respect you, you are his PROPERTY.

He will NEVER like, love or respect anyone.

You are right, he is CONTROLLING you through emotional extortion. He is playing with you the way a cat plays with a mouse and lets it run a bit then catches it again, then lets it go, then catches it again….always confident, like the cat that in the end, it will eat the mouse. The mouse struggles to get free to avoid being eaten, but the cat plays with it and enjoys the GAME. As long as you play the Ps game, he is HAVING FUN at your expense, and in the end, he will EAT YOU ALIVE!!!

Congratulations, keep on thinking and using your BRAIN and GOOD SENSE not your emotions or your fears of him.

YOU can do it.

How to respond? DON’T talk to him, about it. I do suggest that you let someone else transfer the baby for visitation, and not see him or talk or listen to him. Handle arrangements by EMAIL only, and don’t respond to any threats, but if he makes threats on E mail, KEEP COPIES FOR EVIDENCE OF HARASSMENT.

Back to what I said before, you are not FREE of him until you stop letting him set the rules and control you—he is in essence saying “talk to me, listen to me or I will throw a tantrum” so you are talking to him, listening to him, etc. so he won’t throw a tangrum. HE IS IN CONTROL until YOU take control of yourself back from him.

I would do it WITHOUT HARSH WORDS, but just COOL calm and collected.

“John, we are getting divorced, and I feel lit is best that we have as little contact as possible.” THEN DO IT! I predict as you do that he will “turn up” the harassment, anger, threats etc. hoping you will respond to him in ANY way, even a fight, but you must stay strong and not respond. Make him communicate at all with e mail and then you have a record of his THREATS if he makes any.

He can only control you as LONG AS YOU ALLOW IT. When you are ready to take control of your own life and emotions, you will and can do it. (((hugs))))

Psychiatry is not a science it is a manual of behavior for insurance $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ purposes
like a witch hunt. to label folks and feed them drugs to fuel the pharm .industrial complex$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

I think I have been around the corner, but my fears end up trumping my intellect and wisdom.
Like something I recently read; it’s often easier to ignore our intuition because to follow it would mean doing the WORK to fix the situation instead of enduring the pain, which at the time is less hurtfull than facing the truth, but in the end the pain from enduring is exponential.

Banana, the kind stranger I met at the sushi bar told me, “Be Boring.” and it is the only thing that worked in 25 years.
Whenever you see him, put on a blank look, dead eyes and monotone voice. Answer, “it’s fine.” to everything. Look depressed. Compose yourself by imagining a grey rock. so plain, that you would never notice it. Then become that grey rock. N’s need constant emotion, drama and excitement. They get bored easily and boredom is torture to them. They run from it.

Thankyou for your response, i never thought out of all the lessons i would learn growing up this would be one of them, i beleive the reason why i was more zeroed in on the strange behavior was bc of my dads. I had never seen him feel so guilty all the time, or ever be so confused about a situation, it was like he was a different person. Iv’e known alot of ’crazy’ women he dated but none of them had an effect on his behavior like she did. I never knew a woman could be an abuser because i always thought of abuse as physical but the verbal abuse she used was just as painful, like calling my own dog dumb all the time, i knw tht might sound silly or miniscule but she knew how much tht dog meant to me, and i could never accuse her ofbeing mean or harsh towards her bc she did it in a ’playful’ way. That dog is also very important to my dad he was always giving her attention. sam(sociopath) despised the attention he gave my dog or me bc she was gradually trying to isolate him from all that he loved and it worked within 6 months . . . soon his bestfriend dan was no longer in the pic, i barely had conversasions with him, when that is very unusual for me and him. My dog ended up in her kennel most of the time, and even family was shut down for a summer visit. She told him that she didnt like meeting new ppl tht was the reason. You knw that she was living in my dads house the whole time HIS HOUSE and mine its my entitlement. My dad worked very hard for this house after comming out of financial problems he finally owned his own home. But she came in with her two kids and moved in burning all of her old stuff from the place she oncee stayed at. That gave my dad the feeling of obligation to keep her in the house. She would say things like ’You knw i burned all my stuff for u” My dad even warned her about doing tht he told her moving in with him was too fast and if it didnt work out she’d have nothing left to come back to but then she would say; ’it doesnt matter we were meant to be together’ there were numerous times i heard her call my dad perfect then turn around and tell him what a piece of crap he is. She would always bring him down with smart comments that r stup bc she doesnt even have a highschool edu. her lack of responsibility for taking care of her kids was horrific she expected my father to take full responsibilty of them and when he declined or began to protest she would tell him he’s not being a good dad or husband or things like that. . . . when he isn’t even the father! she got mail sent to our house in her first name and my dads last name basically saying they were married when tht wasnt true. now this is all within five months and she has him under full control. one week they would be all lovey dovey then the nxt it was a fight. he always felt like the one responsible for the situation, additionally i forgot to add her x husband has full custody over the kids and from what ive seen is still frightened of her. She disrespects her parents teribly and has no respect for anybody unless shes getting something in return. I realize now why i was the num one peron she hated and tried to fram for her mistakes, and was jealous of, and tried to get rid of and take me out of the ’fam’ pic i am the biggest influence in my fathers life and she knew it. She knew if i wanted to i could have her out of my fathers life. but i cant beleive i actually wanted them to be togethjr bc at times i never had seen my dad so happy but the greatness of her charm verses tht of her disrespect and turn off was a control weapon, my dad was dependent emotionally on her. Finally i stood up and realized i had to stop it, finally after a jeapordizing incedent happened to long to explain i stood up looked her straight in the eye and told her everything she was afraid my father would hear me speak the truth bc then the blindfold was taken off him and he saw the lies beneath the fake smile she gave. my influence was the remedy and i have never seen her more hurt. the incedents and problems she caused i have listed are nothing compared to the ones it would take too long to write. Then my dad packed all her stuff up and gave her a 3 day eviction notice. It was over we were freed and i felt great peace its been 24 hours since this happened and my dad and i are happy to b freed he’s still depressed bot it. . . but itll pass an dbetter than being under her control. ha when people found out about the braek up they were estatic i could instantly see light come back into everyones eyes like an expression of being reunited with a love one they were happy to see my father back from a coma. i’ll never forget her, and i plan on using these red flags as a reference for when i begin to date guys. I’m happy god’s grace was shown once again on us and i knw it will continue to shine. i also will never forget the moonlight shining on th gravel with cardboard boxes stacked in the driveway her wary father comming to help her pack her stuff away in the truck, him then shaking my fathers hand and saying: ’ im sorry this happened she really is crazy’ i think that was the best thing to say to end the worst. when your own father calls you crazy you must really be fucked up. lol

Glad to find this article!
Did Kyle date my ex-gf? lol

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