Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Too Many Sociopaths. Maybe We Should Focus on the Victims, More.

Time and time again, I point out that certain people are sociopaths or sociopathic. Hell, I have been calling Sarah Palin Sociopathic Succubus for months because she, to my cynical mind, is a perfect example of one. (And the fact I was once much too deeply involved with a woman who is a Borderline Psychopath might have something to do with my fine-tuned radar, but honestly, that caused me to do my homework, so that is only an indirect cause.) But a thought occurred to me today, while doing a little reading to prepare for a basically refresher post here on what makes someone a sociopath or a psychopath. Instead of doing that, I should look at the thing from a different angle, and instead focus on the victims, more.

What is is about people that makes them prey to sociopaths? Firstly, since sociopaths basically do not stand out from the crowd, the same way as a someone with some neurological tick, the pool of potential victims (and at this level, that means all the rest of us) have no ability to spot them and peg them as such, even face to face. We instead have to get to know them much better, and hopefully put together enough of a case file against having any more contact with these people, before they really screw us over.

But that is at the most general level. Let us go just a little bit deeper. And some people tend to be more guarded and un trusting than others. And some people believe that most other people are basically decent, and because of that, they are more trusting, and therefore an easier mark for a sociopath. That is bad. That is a really, really bad way to look at the world and the people in it. That is bad because the person who for all intents and purposes looks at you with the same detached lack of empathy as a hawk looks at his next meal, scurrying around on the ground below, is not going to look all that different from the truly kind and decent person. Thinking you can tell the difference based on superficial data is dangerous as the sociopath is the master of superficial appearances.

"Psychopaths play on the fact that most of us are trusting and forgiving people," adds Seto. The warning signs are always there; it's just difficult to see them because once we trust someone, the friendship becomes a blinder. "

And that quote brings in the next level. Actually normal, meaning relatively emotionally rounded and grounded people do have this built in sympathy and empathy factor. People might brush off some of the earlier tells they are dealing with a sociopath because not only do they start off with the belief that people are basically decent, but once they think they know someone better, they might start making excuses for them. Everyone has bad days. Everyone has baggage, Everyone has history, and family issues. Yes all that is true, but if you are dealing with someone who is a world class and habitual manipulator, any tendency to be that forgiving makes it that much easier for the sociopath to screw a person badly.

Now we are getting to the deeper part, and I will have to make reference to the school of Psychology known as Rational Emotive Therapy. I am not going to go that deep into the theory of it, but a key element of the theory is that people's mental discomfort is often due to repeating and maintaining bad, as in wrong thoughts. It is a simple idea, but the more you think about it, the more it seems just to be true. Anyway, I am going to now show some examples of bad, meaning wrong thoughts that make victims easier prey for sociopaths. In fact, I could lump many individual examples of this as (for lack of a better word) the "People like me," delusion.

I'm a dog person. Dog people are nice people. Jane is a dog person too. She must be nice.

I'm a Christian. Christians are nice people. Jane is a Christian too. She must be nice.

I'm a Libertarian. Libertarians are good people. Jane is a Libertarian too. She must be good people.

I could go on forever making such examples, but I hope the flawed logic is clear enough already. I set the examples up as four part constructions. In each of them, the only part of the reasoning string that is true is the first part (unless the person doing the reasoning is so demented they don't know that they really are dog people, or christian, or libertarian.)

And it is thinking like that that makes us vulnerable to the sociopaths of the world. And it is not that generally people are running through life like some reckless nut speeding on a motorcycle with out a helmet. The sort of thinking I have highlighted here are just normal human thought processes. But that is how the sociopath gets over, initially. They are betting on people to follow the usual pattern.

So what advice do I have for people? As far as things to truly avoid, I specifically say people who do engage in the "People like me," delusion really need to stop that shit. Cold. Now. Don't make excuses. Just stop doing that shit.

And beyond that, don't assume people are decent folk. Don't assume people are honest or caring. You don't have to be as distrustful a cynic as I am, but beware of anyone who is trying to sell you something, particularly when they are selling themselves. Ask yourself what does this person want from me? And don't trust them until they have proven grounds for such. And even then, be miserly until you really think you know the generally true nature of a person.

And if we are talking not about people in your real life, but in politics? Assume you are being played. I mean, what profession is more perfectly suited for glib, shallow, manipulative people?

Ya, being a pastor. But the point is don't put too much stock in a pretty package and a sales pitch. I mean, you do know what the politician wants from you -- control over your life. The question is are there sufficient grounds to trust that the politician will do an honest enough job of the job they are running for, or whether they want control just because that is what they like . . . having control?


Blogger Unknown said...

Hmmm... just like Obama maybe...

10:43 PM  

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