Sociopaths must spend their entire lives watching others and learning to imitate behaviors that they are unable to engage in naturally.
So often during this recovery process, I have been told by others—those who have been targeted by sociopaths and those who have not—that it does not matter why the sociopath did what he did. Focus on you, they said. Figure out why you were vulnerable and what kind of behavior patterns you need to change. It does not matter why the sociopath lied to/cheated on/manipulated you, they said. Focus on YOU! Although they meant well, their words did not help me.
It is absolutely important and necessary to be introspective and learn everything we can about ourselves as we try to crawl our way out of the darkness. However, that kind of self-discovery can and should wait. Before that (and along with it), it is necessary to make sense out of what has happened to us so that we can build a foundation for healing. And for many of us, immediately after we realize we have been deceived and betrayed, the burning thought in our minds is…WHY??? Why did the sociopaths lie so much? Why did they work so hard to convince us that they loved us, only to discard us so callously? Why did they spend so much time with us, if they never, ever cared for us? Why did they keep things going with us as they pursued other “relationships”? Why did they suddenly turn into completely different people? Why do they make us feel like we are going crazy? And the list goes on and on…
We can find the answers to these WHY questions by understanding how, exactly, sociopaths operate. By “understanding,” I do not mean that we can or should emotionally understand their behavior or excuse it in ANY way. I mean that we can and should intellectually understand their behavior because, by doing so, we find new wisdom and we take back our power! Below, I summarize the main concepts I learned about the sociopathic mind from various experts in the field:
Sociopathy lies on a spectrum
Sociopaths are not easily identified. In fact, it can be exceptionally difficult to determine if someone is a sociopath. Even professionals are easily fooled, and many counselors have a poor understanding of personality disorders in general. In addition, some people exhibit more sociopathic traits than others, which is why sociopathy lies on a spectrum. Some sociopathic people are very obviously egotistical, for example; others are much more covert in their narcissism. That is just one example of the differences. Perhaps this is why several terms have been used to describe people who exhibit abnormal personality traits, including sociopath, psychopath, and narcissist. To further add to the confusion, psychologists, therapists, and researchers do not agree on which terms should be used or how they should be defined. Despite this controversy, the fact remains that a person who exhibits any number of sociopathic traits is toxic and should be avoided.
Sociopaths lack a conscience
Sociopaths know the intellectual difference between right and wrong. They understand society’s expectations. They understand what moral behavior is supposed to look like. They even understand that actions have consequences. The problem is, they do not care. They do not feel remorse or guilt. They have no inner compass to guide them, and so they do exactly what they want at any given moment. This lack of conscience means that it does not matter to them if they trample on the rights, feelings, or safety of others. It means that they have no limits and are therefore capable of anything; it is a recipe for endless cruelty and depravity.
Sociopaths feel a limited range of human emotions
Sociopaths are plagued by emotional abnormalities, making them empty shells. They experience “shallow” feelings, which means that virtually all of their emotions are fleeting, if they have them at all. They seem to feel rage and envy in full force, which fuels aggressive behavior in many of them. However, any rages they display are surprisingly short-lived.
Because of this defect, sociopaths are unable to truly connect with other people. They are unable to have true empathy for others, they are incapable of compassion, and they do not suffer, because they cannot relate to emotional pain. They live a life devoid of true pleasure, unable to enjoy a sunset or the company of an animal or another person. They only get temporary, meaningless thrills out of things like sex or food or deceiving and manipulating others. Most ominously, this emotional deficiency means that they are unable to love. It also means that they must spend their entire lives watching others and learning to imitate behaviors that they are unable to engage in naturally; in this way, they become demented chameleons.
Their emptiness also makes them chronically bored. The boredom is almost painful for them, and they will do anything to alleviate it. This contributes to their tendency to act impulsively and recklessly; for instance, it is very common for psychopaths to become addicted to alcohol, sex, and drugs. And ultimately, they will do anything and everything to get rid of their boredom because, having no conscience and no empathy, they do not care who gets hurt in the process.
Sociopaths view everything in life—including relationships—as games to be won
Sociopaths have an insatiable need to win. This desire to win is so strong that they sometimes will take themselves down in the process of becoming the “winner.” Because they are unable to build real relationships, they view their interactions with others as games. Other people are simply pawns to be played. And because they have no conscience, they make up their own unethical, ever-changing rules for those “games.” They use tactics like mirroring, deception, projection, gaslighting, pity plays, and other forms of emotional and physical abuse to idealize, manipulate, confuse, and intimidate others, all in the name of “winning.”