In her book “The Sociopath next door” Stout poses the following question, “Why do adults stop saying ‘quit it’ to the bullies?” She describes sociopaths as individuals having “no intervening sense of obligation based in attachment to others.” Is it possible the majority choose not to believe that some can behave in a remorseless manner?
That’s why people make excuses for egregious acts, blame the victim, and turn a blind eye to the situation. That is why for the most part, sociopaths, capable of “saint like niceness” when it suits their purposes get off scot-free, and why so few are in jail. They reside in Kohlberg’s first stage of moral development – in which their only concern is avoiding capture.
Sociopaths are emotionally hollow – individuals who feel that dominion over their peers is a form of triumph. They are no one (over the long haul) with whom you can feel affinity, for the primary reason they think nothing of putting you in harm’s way. Consummate actors and masters of manipulation, they are convincing in making other people believe their twisted side of the tale.
Stout explains this problem is compounded when the person in question holds a professional title, because we as a society assign “integrity to the role itself.” Sociopaths choose their profession precisely so they can behave with impunity under a robe of honor. “A cornered sociopath will adopt a posture of righteous indignation and anger in an attempt to scare off [the] accuser.”
The fact that some individuals with whom we’re surrounded are simply shameless is a difficult pill to swallow, particularly for those on the opposite end of the spectrum – those who live with overactive conscience. Whereas sociopaths eschew communal responsibility, those conscientious to a fault feel they are caretaker to people who should in fact be caring for themselves. They may then become enablers and succumb to the charms of conscienceless abusers.
To prevent the sociopath from running roughshod, try the following:
- Don’t assume that someone who turns on the charm has your best interests at heart – many times, they don’t. They may be merely using you as a pawn. As Stout explains, sociopaths are skilled at sensing decent people. Your well-being, persona, rights (and any negative impact they have on you) are of no consequence to them. Be sure to question their motives, ask for documentation (if needed) and proceed with caution.
- Give them a wide berth. Trying to get close to a person who views you as conquest is counterproductive. From Stout, “The unfortunate must live with the indelible memories of outright personal catastrophes that occurred when they fell victim to the charms of the shameless.”
- Take what they say with a grain of salt. As people who are continually trying to put themselves in the best possible light, you’ll find that sociopaths are defensively blameful of those who get their number. As con artists, they are trying to pull sheep’s clothing over their clawing exterior. Confrontation is what they fear, but what’s necessary to stop them in their tracks.