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Thursday, June 2, 2016

A cliche of a sociopath

The NY Post ran an article last week, The downfall of NYC's hottest vegan, which illustrated perfectly how a sociopath can lead a naive, somewhat weak-minded person astray.

Sarma Melngailis is now charged with stealing two million dollars from her trendy restaurant, Pure Food and Wine. (She's the weak-minded one.) Evidently everything had been going fairly well for her until she got together with Anthony Strangis, a man with a long track record of deceit and criminality:

Strangis' life appears to be one big sociopathic cliche. For instance, he once impersonated a police officer. That's pretty much all you need to know right there: impersonation is a sociopathic specialty, and impersonating a cop takes a special kind of gall. Strangis also posed as a wealthy man in order to drum up funds for Melngailis' restaurant, another deception.

Strangis was a gambling "addict." Gambling, like sex, isn't physically addictive. But a sociopath has so few inhibitions and so little thought for the future that he "can't resist" their lures, and thus is far more likely to become "addicted" to sex or gambling.

Strangis was manipulative. He got Melngailis, a woman with an Ivy League degree, to act completely self-destructively. He, like all sociopaths, had a "reality distortion field" that caused her to buy into his ridiculous demands and see things from his point of view. It looks pathetic from the outside, but being in thrall to a Svengali is something that can only be experienced from the inside.

Strangis told his ex-wife he was a retired Navy SEAL. Sociopaths often claim to be either former Special Forces, or ex-CIA. These are pretty much the ultimate in badass jobs, so someone who's a pathological liar will often falsely claim them. Stolen glory is another sociopathic specialty.

(Strangis originally told his ex-wife that the bandages on his chest were from a war wound, when in fact he was just taping down his man boobs.)

Pointing the finger at Melngailis is another sociopathic touch. Strangis obviously has zero loyalty: after manipulating her into abetting his crimes, he then blamed her for them.

Strangis' life appears to be almost a parody of sociopathy. But in fact, if you look closely enough, every sociopath has led a life which is nothing but sociopathic cliches, since sociopaths never depart from character. They may pose as something they're not -- like kind, caring, or noble -- but even those acts are cliches of sociopathic subterfuges.

Melngailis is certainly not without blame; she knowingly went along with Strangis' schemes. So she deserves whatever jail time she's going to get.

But not as much as Strangis does.


hooter tooter said...

Reminds me of Jason Blaha, a youtuber, with his CIA background claims. Since he posts videos his claims are easy to document. See:

I'm only passingly familiar with him, but I know that he slandered someone a few years ago, who then sued him and while Jason maintained that he had some high powered lawyers working on his behalf, in the end he didn't even show up for court. Didn't seem to faze Jason 'though, so he may very well be on of your scociopaths.

John Craig said...

Hooter Tooter --
Yep, Blaha certainly sounds like another one.

Sociopaths never seem to claim to have been mechanics in the Army, or cooks, or computer operators. It's always Special Forces of some sort. And the CIA stuff is almost as common.

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced that when humanity, or some distinct branch of it, has evolved enough, sociopaths will be dealt with just as the Eskimos did: they'll be "pushed off the ice".

Sociopaths cannot be punished, in the true sense of the word. You can make their circumstances unpleasant, inflict pain on them, but it won't change anything. It's like punishing a cat. The cat does not associate pain, deprivation, etc, with the act it has committed. A dog does to a certain extent.

Putting them in jail does keep them out of circulation, and if you keep them long enough you get an old sociopath who is less likely to do certain things because he's too old, physically less agile, etc., but he is still the same old sociopath.

In the pioneer days, such people were sometimes lynched, and sometimes they just vanished. Back then, most adult men, and many of the women, could dig a six foot hole with a shovel. Today many of us can't even change a car tire.

Anonymous said...

in defense of the psychopaths, however, the "reality distortion field" is fun for the normal person who pays the bills...if the normal didn't like it, THEY WOULDN'T DO IT...the normal person says to the psychopath "I have never felt so alive" and "my life was worthless before I met you" and "I would do anything for you" the psychopath may be forgiven for assuming that "anything" stretches to include spending ALL THE MONEY and/or going to prison...

now I am not upholding either the victim or the psychopath as models of correct behavior here... rather I am making the point cops make when speaking frankly: "victims (almost) always are doing something wrong"

just like the vampire movie cliche, where the vampire has to be invited across the threshold, the victim DOES OVERLOOK GOOD PRACTICES and obvious clues and then invite the vampire in

John Craig said...

Anon --
You're right; they cannot be rehabilitated. one thing all of the people in that field agree on is that once a sociopath, always a sociopath. they can no more grow a conscience later in life than you or I could grow a third arm.

I've always thought that the appropriate penalty for sociopaths would be to be put on an island with nothing but other sociopaths. But, given that that's impossible, yes, there is something to be said for frontier justice.

John Craig said...

Anon (of 4:50AM) --
In this case you're absolutely right, Melngailis was complicit in her crime, and deserves her jail time. And those reactions you describe are typical reactions to a sociopath's electrifying and charming personality. But there are plenty of people who are relatively innocent victims of sociopaths, people the sociopath charmed and fleeced, people who were soft touches and simply gave money to the sociopath who preyed on them. Yes, they had to have been gullible to do this, but we're all gullible until we get to know our first sociopath.

Justin said...

Is being superstitious a common sociopath trait? The three I've known all were, but I don't recall ever seeing it on a list of traits.

John Craig said...

Justin --
Now that you mention it, I recall that one of the two sociopaths I knew best used to talk about not jinxing things, but he was the only one I knew who was, and I've never seen it listed on a list of their traits.

Justin said...

I think it should be added to such lists. It seems to derive from their lack of a clear or rational understanding of cause and effect relationships, and go hand in hand with their paranoia.

John Craig said...

Justin --
I agree with what you say about their lack of understanding of cause and effect, but I think their paranoia is separate. They tend to be paranoid -- and think that people are out to get them -- simply because eTHEY are always out to get others. Most people just assume that others are like them, so, in the same way that nice people will always ascribe the best of motives to others, sociopaths always assume the worst about others.

Justin said...

Ok yes, I agree with you about their paranoia being projection, I stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

I love all your posts on sociopathy and sociopaths. I think they're more informative and insightful than many a textbook description.

Several commenters have mentioned that you wrote a manuscript for a book on the subject. Would you be willing to share it with me? I have a personal interest, as I fell prey to a sociopath in a big way. No, not an ex-husband, thank goodness!


John Craig said...

D --
First, thank you very much. Second, please forgive me, but I don't know you, so I'd rather not. Thinking back, it has a lot of personal stuff I'd probably want to rewrite and update and possibly even make less personal. But I promise you, I've already excerpted what are probably the two best parts in this blog, and the stuff I have about sociopaths in the blog is both more timely and probably more entertaining than the manuscript. The two (fairly long) parts I've excerpted are, first, this one about how I was introduced to the subject:

And, the analysis of Bill Clinton's personality:

Anonymous said...

I do understand, no worries. I might become a regualr reader of your blog --- it's very refreshing and well-written --- and I'll probably be commenting on any bits about sociopaths, as I now feel quite, um, educated about them.

One of the most insightful, common-sense things you've observed is that people tend to assume that others think like them and are motivated by similar goals/values. Nothing I've come across yet has lifted the burden of embarrassment that I've felt over having been manipulated by a sociopath. It just did not occur to me that someone could be so thoroughly mercenary, opportunistic and lacking in basic human decency or sense of loyalty.

As far as this particular story is concerned, I imagine this woman was drawn into the guy's magnetic charm spell, crossed one line at some point (under said spell), and then he had her under his thumb (because she was now his co-conspirator, in a manner of speaking). Pure conjecture, I admit, but it's a tried-and-true method with sociopaths. (Probably how David Sweat and Rihard Matt got Joyce Mitchell to do what she did. It always starts small, but once a law is broken, they've got collateral).

My apologies for staying anonymous on here, but 'my' sociopath cyberstalks me on occasion.


John Craig said...

D --
Thanks for your understanding. Yes, nothing like a little "involuntary field work" to educate one about sociopathy.

And yes, sociopaths do take advantage of other people's goodwill and naiveté. And you understand how they get leverage perfectly; it's their stock in trade. And yes, Joyce Mitchell is probably a good example of that.

If you're going to comment here on a regular basis, you might consider using more than "D." It doesn't have to be your real name, obviously, in fact SHOULDN'T be your real name if you're being stalked, but I'll "recognize" you better with more than one initial. And the first time you use it, let me know it's "D." Thanks.