Did you know that sociopaths make up 4% of the United States population?
That is one in every 25 people. I recently read the book The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D. which has stuck with me ever since. So, I decided to share some with all of you.
When thinking about a person with sociopathology or psychopathology, also known as an individual with Anti-Social Personality Disorder, most of us imagine a serial killer in a Lifetime movie. The reality is they are all around us. They hide in plain sight. They are the CEO’s, that one parent in the PTA, that not-so-nice next door neighbor, they are people like you and me – except without any ability to feel guilt. That is not to say that there are not ALSO anti-social criminals, particularly when considering some of the more gruesome and despicable crimes that the conscience-bound find unfathomable. However, the reality is, there is a higher percentage of sociopaths in positions of power than there are in prisons.
The first few sentences in the introduction of Dr. Stouts, The Sociopath Next Door give a pretty clear picture of what constitutes a sociopath,
“Imagine-if you can- not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse not matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken”
Just the thought of that send chills down my spine, especially when you add the fact that they often use the feelings of others as a tool to manipulate and control. These individuals thrive on being the controller of expansive mind games using those around them as the unknowing pawns.
“But they are SO NICE!!”
Sociopaths often have an alluring charm about them that pulls you in and makes it easier for you to dismiss and forgive even their most sadistic behaviors.
So, how do we know who to trust?
The long and short of it is, you don’t know for sure. However, the good thing is 96% of the United States population is conscience-bound and generally have good intentions. Some exceptions are those individuals who are suffering from psychotic delusion, extreme rage, inescapable deprivation, drugs, or a destructive authority figure.
In reference to the shameless, Stout explains:
“…the best clue is, of all things, the pity play. The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.”
Who do YOU know?
It is safe to say that just about everyone has come in contact with SOMEONE with Anti-Social Personality Disorder in their life. Thinking back, I can point out 2 people who I have encountered that may have had this disorder. It’s a scary thought.
The lesson takeaway
Knowing all these things, it is easy to become overly concerned with the 4%, rather than recognize and embrace the 96%. My advice when entering new relationships: expect kindness, but allow others to build your trust. Be leery of those who are quick to appeal to your sympathies and you will be less likely to fall prey to the destruction left behind by the anti-social personalities.
Stout, M., Ph.D. (2006) The Sociopath Next Door. New York, NY: Random House.