The pathological self-confidence of the sociopath

Pathologically self-centered individuals, such as sociopaths or narcissists, often project a level of self-confidence that is pathlogically tremendous. This can be a problem for others who, unlike the sociopath, will be prone to empathy and self-reflection, along with which come self-doubt and hence fluctuating, less dependable levels of confidence.

But the pathologically self-centered individual is often seemingly immune to self-doubt and can thus seem implacably, impressively confident. Why?

The answer is suprisingly simple: When your interest in others is principally, if not entirely, about what you can get, or take, from them; when you lack the capacity for, and/or inclination to, genuine, thoughtful self-reflection; and when the meaning, or purpose, of life is fundamentally reduced to the expectation, and pursuit, of continual gratification, you have a prescription not only for pathological self-centeredness, but its frequent concomitant—pathological self-confidence.

Think about it: for such an individual, it is mostly, and sometimes only, about what he wants. And if he knows what he wants, such an individual will feel entitled to it. And his sense of entitlement becomes self-validating—self-validating, that is, of whatever argument, rationalization, or manipulation brings him closer to his demand.

In other words, the pathologically self-centered individual has something very powerful in his favor—conviction. His is the conviction of his entitlement, of his right to have what he wants—whether it’s agreement, an apology, special attention, cooperation, sex, a favor, forgiveness, you name it.

And he wields his sense of conviction powerfully and persuasively—all the moreso if he’s also articulate and glib.

This explains how a sociopath can look you in the eye and blame you for something—even his victimization of you—and yet you struggle to fully disbelieve him. As I just noted, if he is intelligent and glib, he is in an even better position to erode your sense of reality. He can construct positions, however absurd and even confirming of his sociopathic orientation, that nevertheless have just enough superficial plausability to arrest your attention.

Once you’ve been disarmed, even slightly, his impregnably confident assertions, stemming from his pathological self-centeredness, can have a brainwashing influence.

You wonder if you’re not crazy? The “gaslighting effect” is in full throttle. It is disorienting, literally, to have someone present even a ridiculous proposition, demand, or accusation with unwavering confidence and certitude. And the disorienting effect is magnified exponentially when the assertion is simultaneously packaged in superficially intelligent, coherent, “rational”-sounding language. Confidence in one’s sense of reality can wane, and fail, under this combination assault.

This can explain why sometimes extremely intelligent, thoughtful and self-respecting individuals can actually be at greater risk of accepting and tolerating abuse. It can be a case of the exploiter’s pathologically inflated confidence overwhelming the more self-questioning, self-doubting individual’s reality.

(My use of “he” in this article was for convenience’s sake, and 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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Oxy: you are so correct in this post. I am very sorry for your losses and pain. And for everyone’s pain here. I do believe tho, it’s possible we would never have learned what we have w/o what we have been thru. I think one of the keys to actually living is being able to take our mistakes and sorrows-and allow them to make us become better people instead of bitter and vengeful. And…that is what I see on LF….people becoming better, well and overcoming evil by good. Very encouraging and uplifting. For what are we w/o character?….well, we would be p’s….that’s what.

you said it all. There is no way, no how, that I could have EVER understood what I understand today, without experiencing it first hand. There is no movie or book, no class or religion that encompasses the totality of this experience.

In it’s most basic form, the lesson I have learned it what it REALLY means to be human. So many questions I’ve had my whole life are now being answered: what is free will? do we really have a choice when every part of us is being influenced by genes and environment? What make people good or evil? What is sacrifice? How does stockholm syndrome happen?

If I had realized what I was experiencing during that time, I would not have been able to really experience it. (You may have heard of the effect of the observer.) The most profound part of it – the part that still boggles the mind – is the LIES. So much lying, for no reason, so irrational, so sick.

blueskies: “The stuttering was really weird though, never happend to me before”

I had that about ten years ago. Never happened to me before either. FREAKED me out. And then….it just went away. I am seeing now thru Oxy’s post that this is all caused by stress-PTSD. wow………I am so glad to finally understand this. Oxy…bless you for this info. LF is such a lifeboat.

sky: so painfully true.

Dear Blue, Sky and Twice,

I just lost a long post to you guys, but anyway, will try to remember what I said! LOL ROTFLMAO!!!

We are DIFFERENT, we get more of some things (alertness becomes HYPER) and less of other things (language skills) from the effects of the SUPER-stress. Because mine was so SUDDEN after the aircraft crash, it was more noticable to me. I know that LONG stress of high levels (but NOT sudden) can also have a profound effect as well, so I think I have had BOTH kinds, but didn’t realize what was happening until the SUDDEN one happened. Just the suddeness of it madeit much more noticable.

I am sort of I think like a child that learns differently now, I hate the term “learning disabled”–I think these kids learn DIFFERENTLY—actually could they be either biologically wired differently or could they also be suffering from stress induced language difficulties? I think that might be a good question to have answered.

I wish I had known what was happening before, I knew about grief process and I think knowing about it DID help, but the arrogance on MY part of thinking that by knowing it, I didn’t have to FEEL it,was the part that delayed me. Not the nowing it delaying me, but my own arrogance that I could “over come anything” LOL

Learning about WHAT caused my word finding difficulty reassures me that it is “normal” and while I WILL BE DIFFERENT than I was, it is OK. I can’t do my parlor trick of recalling 100 numbers in a row any more, and I can’t remember every conversation I ever had word for word, (this allowed the gaslighting to work) but at the same time, they gaslighted me before the “injury” because I just could not emotionally accept that my egg donor would LIE. I thought she was just making a “mistake” so I woujld “forgive” the “mistake” without realizing she was LYING.

I hav emade adjustments to my lack of short term memory, writing lists, etc. but am no longer TERRORIZED that I am “losing it” mentally. I am just DIFFERENT than I was. Not so “bad” as before, but definitely DIFFERENT. I also stutter sometimes when I am having trouble finding a word.

I am no longer able to work in my profession because of the word finding difficulties so I retired back when it was at its worst. And, I can accept that my professional capability is no longer adequate for such a high stress job, and one in which memory is paramount in importance….people’s lives would be on the line.

But my over all IQ is the same in spite of that, which is strange to me, but has been tested so I know I am right on that. My judgment is also returning and in some ways I am much more “clear sighted” in emotional areas than before.

My hyper-alertness and FEAR has calmed, and I am more accepting of my changes and less anxious about them. So I am DIFFERENT, but that’s OK.

It takes TIME and WORK to understand these changes, and knowing that they are “caused” by something and fit a “pattern” for PTSD helps me too.

I am “obscessed” about learning about this in a scientific way, and knowing what is going on helps me a bunch I think. My curosity about causes and effects has always been high and still is.

NC though has been the salvation of my sanity, that and the validation I have gotten here at LF in a low stress environment of like-minded people who “get it”—-I am glad that by sharing what I am finding out is also helping others as well.

Oxy: “NC though has been the salvation of my sanity, that and the validation I have gotten here at LF in a low stress environment of like-minded people who “get it—”-I am glad that by sharing what I am finding out is also helping others as well.”

That is the truth, Oxy! 🙂

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