Someone told me recently that since I talk about sociopaths all the time, I should define exactly what they are. True enough: just because sociopathy is one of my obsessions doesn't make it so for everyone else. So, a brief three paragraph primer (lifted partly from a December '08 post) for those unfamiliar with the syndrome:
Sociopaths are not capable of real love or affection, and are disloyal to everyone. They feel no guilt or shame. They are dishonest, glib, and instinctively skillful manipulators. They hate others and are destructive. They are also supremely self confident, completely uninhibited, impulsive, and arrogant in the extreme. This gives them tremendous nerve and an ability to withstand what normal people would consider stressful conditions. As a result they are often great performers. They like to be in control and they hate to lose. They can be very charming, and often have dynamic, even electrifying personalities. But the more you get to know them, the more you see their hypocrisy and their core dishonesty. And they frequently think they're fooling people even when they're not. If you spend enough time with them, they will always leave you feeling used and bitter.
When you hear about someone that "you either love him or you hate him," he's probably a sociopath. If you hear that "he'll stop at nothing" to get what he wants, he's probably one. They often develop reputations as "pathological liars." They're often very successful, although they will often also crash after what seems like strangely self-destructive behavior.
Think of the most dishonest, two-faced, selfish -- in short, the most despicable -- person you've ever met. He's probably a pretty good example of sociopathy.