I was recently asked to comment on the sociopath’s “predatory stare,” and my first thought was to play it down somewhat. Not all sociopaths have this stare, or else it would be pretty easy to bust them for the “look.”
On the other hand there’s a form of the “predatory stare” that I want to remark on briefly in this short article that signals my return to the blog, again, on a more regular basis. It is really the “predatory stare,” but masked as the “romantic stare.”
Again, not all sociopaths deploy the “romantic stare,” let’s not kid ourselves. But some do. I’ve worked with many woman (and a few men) who can attest to it, and I’m sure many of you have had experience with it.
What is it? And what is its purpose?
It is an intense stare, a stare of very intense concentration the sociopath fixes on you, whose effect is at once unsettling and stimulating. It isn’t meant so much to be experienced as a “stare” as much as, well, an “experience.”
The sociopath wants you to experience him as experiencing you as the sole concern and interest in his universe. He is transmitting to you what he wants you to experience as his voracious interest in, and concentration on, you.
As I said, one is likely to experience this as both disconcerting and seductive. Why? Well, we are not used to experiencing ourselves as so totally captivating to another. So it’s a somewhat heady, exciting feeling to experience ourselves as engendering, seemingly, such a romantically hypnotic effect on another.
It is safe to say that the sociopath is in his grooming, seductive mode here. The imperturbability and fixity of his gaze is as if communicating, “I am totally into you. Totally. I can’t even take my eyes off you, that’s how totally into you I am.
“Even though what I’m doing, in truth, is a form of my manipulating and controlling you, yet I want you to experience this as a case of your controlling me!
“I want to you to experience me as so enthralled with you, with the magical effect your beauty, voice, face, style has on me, that it’s as if I literally can’t take my voracious, probing eyes off you!
“And so, as I gaze at you with this intense, almost unblinking, laser-like attentiveness, I want you to experience me as helpless to do otherwise. That’s how powerfully, helplessly attracted I want you to experience me as!”
I italicize “as if” because many sociopaths, as we know, are“as if” personalities—often acutely focused on creating the right “effects” to support the perceptions of themselves they’re seeking to establish.
Now this doesn’t mean you aren’t beautiful and don’t deserve to be looked at with genuine admiration, maybe even awe. But when that gaze is unbroken, sustained for too long, to the extent that you are feeling uncomfortable with, even if a bit excited by, its intense, probing scrutiny, take heed.
He may be staring into the face a very beautiful woman; you may be staring into the face of a sociopath.
(This article is copyrighted © 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 attitudes and behaviors discussed.)