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Monday, June 30, 2014

The worst insult a sociopath can deliver

A couple weeks ago I spoke about the worst insult an Aspie could think of (to accuse me of having Asperger's), and before that I had talked about how a gay guy had accused me of being gay.

A few days ago I got a rare comment from a self-admitted sociopath, on the Do sociopaths love their children post:

You call us monsters john but you yourself sound like a narcissistic know it all, why else would you write about sociopaths unless you got a buzz of reading about other peoples sad stories lol? What can I say apart from most of the most us successful people including your own governments are sociopaths. They can cope with making decistions that hurt people were as your little mind would send you into a break down. well said about the kids, I protect mine and provide for them and reward there sucess they are my future blood which reflects on me, one last thing about us.... the stupid ones are easy to spot like the ones in some peoples stories, the smart ones arent and its normally to late if you ever find out because dont forget we will do anything to protect ourselves

This sociopath's comment is revealing on a number of different levels. First, like the Aspie and the gay guy, the first insult he hurled my way was to accuse me of something he is, i.e., a "narcissistic know-it-all." (All sociopaths are by definition narcissists.)

Then he suggests, illogically, that I wouldn't write about sociopaths unless I "got a buzz out of reading about other peoples [sic] sad stories." I'm not sure how getting a buzz out of sad stories would relate to wanting to alert others to sociopathic behavior patterns. In any case, it appears to be another case of projection.

Note the "lol" he puts at the end of his first sentence. I've written in the past about how one of the surest signs of narcissism is to laugh at one's own jokes. Punctuating your sentence with an "lol" is effectively doing the same.

The sociopath then goes on to claim that most successful people are sociopaths, which is ridiculous. Sociopaths are roughly 3% of the population, and far more than 3% of the population is successful. I certainly wouldn't argue that shamelessness and dishonesty and disloyalty and extreme confidence can't be useful attributes when climbing the corporate ladder or campaigning for public office. But not every successful person is a sociopath. And given that a high percentage of successful sociopaths go down in flames, even the sociopaths at the top don't necessarily remain there for long. (And there are plenty of sociopaths for whom success was always elusive: look in any prison.)

The sociopath then actually makes a good point: that sociopaths "can cope with making decisions [sic] that hurt people were as [whereas] your little mind would send you into a break down." It is true that sociopaths have more nerve than the rest of us, especially when it comes to actions that will harm others. (It's a lot easier when you simply don't care about others.) But his use of the phrase "little mind" is telling: it is a claim for nonsociopathic inferiority, and, thus, sociopathic superiority. This is how sociopaths view the world: divided into the strong and the weak, i.e., the guilt-free and those burdened by consciences.

He then agrees with the point of the original post, which is that sociopaths will often take good care of and be loyal to their own children, not because they feel the same kind of love for them that normal people do, but because they are extensions of themselves: "well said about the kids, I protect mine and provide for them and reward there [sic] sucess [sic] they are my future blood which reflects on me."

He then concludes, "one last thing about us.... the stupid ones are easy to spot like the ones in some peoples stories, the smart ones arent and its normally to late if you ever find out because dont forget we will do anything to protect ourselves." This is another perfect example of sociopathic thinking: he obviously categorizes himself as one of the smart ones, and assumes he's got everybody in his world fooled. (Sociopaths are forever assuming they're pulling the wool over people's eyes even when they're not.) My guess is that a lot of people who've dealt with him, even if they are unfamiliar with the concept of sociopathy, recognize him as a nasty, unpleasant character who can't really be trusted. Which is not to say he hasn't successfully hoodwinked many in the past.

Also note the "we will do anything to protect ourselves." Sociopaths see their every action, no matter how aggressive or vile, as defensive. They are never in the wrong: in their minds, they are only doing what they have to.

In any case, the main point of this post is that people's insults usually tell more about them than they do about the people they're insulting. Projection is far more common than most realize.

Although, now that I come to think of it, I do seem to accuse a lot of people of being sociopaths.

Luckily -- or unluckily -- I have neither the charm nor the nerve to be a true sociopath. In fact, I don't even have the confidence level of a garden variety narcissist. I will plead guilty, however, to being a know-it-all on certain subjects. LOL!!

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another good article about sociopaths, describing them to a tee! You are very good at explaining this personality disorder
to anyone and everyone.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Thank you very much. You also understand them perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Through doing my own "research," I'm still figuring them out, continuing to be somewhat intrigued by them. You understand them WAY BETTER than I do. When I read many of your articles, I have "light bulb moments".

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Thank you, you're very kind.

(I'm afraid I've done a little more involuntary fieldwork than you.)

Anonymous said...

Sociopaths and narcissists may think of themselves as good, protecting parents but in reality they're not. It's true that they will protect their kids from outside harm, whilst simultaneously mistreating their kids at home. I met a mother whom I suspect had a Cluster B personality disorder and she would swear at her kids relentlessly, smoking weed right in front of them even though the three kids were younger than 10. I imagine she would have punched any outsider who would have treated them like she did, though. Narcissists will make very public displays of how much they love their friends/family, but then will be mean to them in private. I am suspicious of people who praise their family very publicly because I've only ever met narcissists who do that. People who genuinely love their family don't generally express it publicly.

As for the protectiveness, I've noticed that with narcissists too - they tend to have issues with boundaries, as if they think they own their friends, family and partner. I guess this explains why they feel they can take them for granted.

And, yes, narcissists do see themselves as being on the defensive when they're blatantly the abusers (this I attribute to psychological projection). When they're orchestrating protracted hate campaigns, they see themselves as warriors of a moral cause because their victim "deserves" it. They're doing their duty to society by warning everyone and anyone who will listen - even if they've never met their victim - what a terrible person he is. They will obsess over their vicitm too, monitoring his Facebook/Twitter activity and will be talking about him whenever possible. Even long after the victim has left the area and started afresh, the narcissist will still be smearing him. They're like cats who've just caught a mouse - they won't think of anything but the victim until he's been demolished. Then, I suspect they'll relish the thought of how they ruined him.

One trick they use is to send relentless insults and provocations to their victim over a drawn-out period until the victim finally snaps and says something rude in return. The victim's (understandable) response will be taken out of context, blown out of proportion, and spread around as "evidence" of what an amoral person he is. That's why it's so important never to respond to these abusers - especially not online where they can screengrab. "Block early, block often" is the only way, speaking as someone who was the target of someone like this five years ago.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
That's a great description of the Cluster B mother. She probably would have punched anyone else who would dare to act the way she did in front of her kids; hypocrisy always seems to be the defining trait of Cluster B.

The narcissistic behavior you're describing in the third and fourth paragraphs sounds as if it's verging onto sociopathic behavior. I've found that narcissists, wile hypocritical and selfish, usually don't have quite the same viciousness and eagerness to get into vendettas that sociopaths do. Sociopaths are forever brimming over with bitterness and hostility, whereas narcissists are usually brimming over with conceit.

I have noticed that behavior pattern, however. The two sociopaths I knew best would both try to elicit negative remarks about third parties from people, which they would then report back to those third parties. The sociopaths knew that the could count on the discretion of others to keep a "private" conversation private, but they themselves felt no such qualms. And both loved stirring up animosity between others.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to figure out whether this person (let's call him Jay) was a sociopath or just an extreme narcissist. He was gay, very flamboyant and fashion-conscious, frequently going off on "retail therapy" trips. Jay would sleep around with many men and insult them as soon as their backs were turned, like "ugh, he is not my man", then meeting with him again days later for another fuck. He seemed obsessed with his appearance, moaning about he wanted to be taller even though he was already slightly taller than average. He had around 400+ friends on Facebook and would change his profile picture once weekly, posting very flattering pictures of himself (a psychology study links high friend counts and changing profile pictures often with narcissism). Jay complained a lot about boredom and most of his FB statuses were about himself, never about any political issue. He is a musician, but dropped out of his university music course because it was "too academic", his interest being purely in the performance aspect. I met his mother twice and she was lovely - almost too nice, leaving me with the impression that she'd been too lax with him (his father was apparently horrible, though I never met him).

When talking to people he liked, or even people he didn't know very well, he was full of jokes and adventurous stories. He was naturally charming, but he did turn abusive towards me when I inadvertently upset one of his friends. My sincere apology meant nothing - he still used this as an excuse to start a hate campaign against me, spreading awful lies and accusing me of things I would never do (apparently, he disliked me long before I upset his friend, because I'm "annoying", so my mistake gave him the perfect ammunition to purge me from his social circle). I lost many friends over this and my reputation was ruined. I had to move to another part of the city to start afresh. I even deleted my old Facebook account and started a new one, keeping my guard up by only adding people I knew I could trust (my real friends didn't believe the lies, so I thankfully didn't lose everything). A mutual friend told me he was still spreading lies about me months after I'd moved away.

At the time, I had no idea about Cluster B. Then, for years I thought he was just a narcissist, but after reading your post, I'm wondering whether he was actually a sociopath. His dropping out of university because the lecturers focused on composers' lives would make sense - narcissists are rarely interested in knowledge for its own sake. If it isn't directly relevant to how they can make money or gain power, they don't want to know. It's why so many narcissist/sociopath types gravitate towards law, business or politics - the types of careers where you would have influence over others. Successful musicians also gain lots of respect and admiration. In contrast, science and engineering rarely attracts sociopaths or narcissists because it doesn't really give you any power over anyone else. I'm an engineer and I'm yet - God forbid - to meet a sociopath in the field.

And I've seen a sociopath use the "bait" technique too - they say something derogatory about someone else, encouraging you to join in, then report it back to that person whilst leaving out what they said. I've fallen for that one twice (although, in my defence, what I did say was extremely tame compared to what the sociopath said) so I'm now much more careful about talking about others behind their backs, even if it's arguably fair comment. Once bitten, twice shy.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Interesting case study, thanks. I'm as confused as you are -- those Cluster B's can be hard to tell apart sometimes. My initial inclination is to say Jay was just a nasty narcissist -- but then again, "a nasty narcissist" is actually a fairly accurate description of a sociopath. So I don't know. His nastiness seemed to be limited to a sort of catty bitchiness, which falls a little short of sociopathy. And while changing one's picture on FB corresponds to narcissism (that was interesting, thank you for that), the feel I've gotten from your description is also of someone who was tremendously insecure, and sociopaths often think they're perfect just the way they are. Yet at the same time, narcissists aren't usually that bitchy. So I just don't know.

Yes, that rings true about scientists and engineers. Their "nerdy" reputation, when you think about it, is the opposite of sociopathy.

Anonymous said...

John,

I suspect that Gethin's gay friend is a sociopath, believing that the man's overall behavior (e.g., his charming personality and his other undesirable traits - red flags), leads me to tag him as one. I could be wrong (in my assessment) but I'd steer clear of someone like him - he strikes me as shallow and unstable.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You could well be right. The vindictiveness with which he went after Gethin was beyond what most narcissists would do. No question he's shallow and unstable.

I think Gethin had already made up his mind to steer clear of this guy, even moving to another pat of town to get away from him.

Anonymous said...

John,

That was my post (about the gay friend being a sociopath) - I thought that I'd signed it (as I age, my memory isn't as sharp as it used to be, easily forgetting things - like where I put my car keys and/or cell phone). The man's treatment of people (including Gethin) was awful.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I sort of figured that was you.. forgetting something like that is certainly no big deal; the problem with getting older is that whenever we're absent-minded, or get an injury, we attribute it to old age rather than just ordinary happenstance, and so get depressed about it. I had the same thing happen last week. I had three things to do on thursday, and totally foot about two of them. And I had the same reaction: boy am I getting senile. But, I forgot plenty of stuff when I was younger too.

Anonymous said...

A lot of the literature on narcissists seems to class them into three types:

Small "n" narcissist-Maybe a celebrity or someone born into wealth/status. They're full of themselves and can be very insenitive, but they aren't malicious and are capable of kindness and changing for the better. Some NPD traits but probably not enough to get them diagnosed.

Critical/depressive narcisisist- Unlike the above,this person loathes themselves and just about everyone else. They are exceptionally cynical and pessimistic. They don't care if they hurt others but are not often sadistic. Pretty much a classic NPD. (Sounds like the gay man described is one of these).

Almost Psychopath- Actively sadistic, enjoys ruining/hurting others. Pychiatrists call ths a "malignant narcisist". The verdict is still out on what seperates this from a true sociopath.

I can think of a number of specific people who would fit neatly into these boxes, but there's still a great deal of overlap and a lot depends on whether the behaviors are learned or if the person has some kind of brain defect that makes them unable to empathize.

John Craig said...

Anon --
That's a great analysis. It's true, there seem to be gradations of narcissist, ranging all the way from relatively benign to the near-sociopaths, as you describe them. Whenever someone uses the term "malignant narcissist" I always hear "sociopath." (What is a sociopath BUT a malignant narcissist?) The same goes for "antisocial personality," which is basically just another synonym.

I"ve always been a little unclear on narcissists who "loathe" themselves. Whenever I met someone who fits that mold, or is described that way, they always strike me as pretty pleased with themselves. The main clue that they don't like what they are (even as they seem to be pleased with themselves) is that they despise anyone else who is like them. But yes, you're right, your description does sound exactly like the gay man that Gethin described.

I was thrown for a loop the other day when I looked up narcissism on Wikipedia and they said that narcissists were thought to be 1% of the population. That really doesn't sound right. I think if you include the small "n" contingent you described, they're closer to 15 or even 20% of the population.

Anyway, thanks, that was a great comment.

GeneticPsycho . said...

Narcissists and psychopaths don't get along at all. For the psychopath, calling you a narcissist means you are the worst kind of person. Psychopaths have highly narcissistic traits as a rule, but they can mask them better than someone with NPD.

P.S. I really love your blog.

John Craig said...

GeneticPsycho --
Thank you very much.

I agree with you, and would add that generally sociopaths hate each other as well. They tend to be pretty good at seeing through (basically, recognizing) each other, and almost always hate what they see.

And yes, sociopaths are more skilled at subterfuge than your average narcissist, who wears his ego on his sleeve, and isn't clever enough to pose as humble/noble/caring etc.