A comment (http://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/the-psychopathic-personality-and-human-evolution-and-why-cant-women-recognize-psychopaths/#comment-1108) got me thinking on this topic. After thinking about it my answer is ‘not much.’
As I see it, my problem is similar to proving that giraffes live in every town square (assuming of course that they did). The question wouldn’t be one of proof but rather why couldn’t the majority of people see the giraffes — no “proof” would be sufficient. My task would be to work on what was stopping individuals from seeing those giraffes.
In the past people, who think they have never known a sociopath and don’t expect to during their lifetimes, have asked me to prove that a mutual acquaintance was a sociopath. And I have tried to do so. I wouldn’t bother again.
In this blog I’m trying to “infiltrate” the reader’s thought processes, to plant a seed that may lay dormant until the reader needs the problem-solving knowledge and thought processes that I am offering. My aim is to get readers thinking about sociopaths, to enable them to recognize the flavor of sociopathy and eventually to get them to develop the tools to recognize them. But there is no 4-step method to do it, no 1-2-3-understand technique.
In western society we basically believe everything understandable is understandable by everybody. This is not a bad thing, it has given us the scientific method for example. But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. It is narcissistic (which is another trait of western society, particularly anglo-saxon) to imagine that dry reason will take us into the depths of the human soul.
In a comment of mine (http://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/welcome/#comment-1110) I used the phrase “shiny arrogant faces” and described instant “OMG, that person’s a sociopath” recognitions. Later I was wondering how that would strike readers. Well if the reader already relied on flash insights in their life, that would encourage them to continue to do so. If they did not, I’m trying to tell them that they actually aren’t deaf, dumb and blind.
As a professionally trained non-professional actor (call me a hobbyist if you wish) I believe the power of the human mind is in the subconscious. In acting you understand your character’s motivations, you give him your soul and life experiences and then you get out of the way. What makes art art is the expression of truths that can’t be put in words.
Narcissists (those who overvalue the mind/words over the soul/emotions) generally think they are superior to the emotionally driven. However often they are seeking to simplify their world and avoid the complexities of the soul and human motivations. Thus they often insist that everyone else should be as deaf, dumb and blind as they are. I am trying to crack that somehow.
In a sense recognizing sociopaths is akin to blues aficionados stating who they consider to be blues singers and who merely singers of blues songs. There is nothing democratic or formula-istic about it. If one is not a blues fan one has no opinion of any import. In the end the lists will overlap but not to a hundred percent.
Some may object to this comparison on the grounds that it’s not scientific — and absolutely it’s not. Well if you want science go to brain structure and DNA. Recognizing sociopaths is a “soul task” — particularly if you wish to be able to sometimes recognize SAPs (socially adept psychopaths) who could never be caught by checklists and/or questionnaires.
The idea that checklists and delineated behaviors could identify sociopaths (particularly highly-intelligent passing or successful SAPs) is akin to asking for rules to know when another means the words, “I love you.” It’s not going to happen (and, as they say, if you have to ask you will never know). It’s also akin to the judgment-impaired asking for rules to recognize the trustworthy. Again, an impossibility. I do pay attention to behaviors and rough checklists but in the end I have to “feel it” to believe that someone is a sociopath. Actually there are many areas to pay attention to — any sign of arrested development, which covers anything from personality development, sense of humor, to small behaviors and physicality. But the “flavor of sociopathy” is essential (and I cannot define it) for we all have our child selves still within us and these selves will sometimes come forward. And finally, certain arrogances, a coldness belying humanity, certain weird eyes, etc.
I think it’s worth mentioning that many of the things I look for as signs of possible sociopathy, I actually often noticed throughout my life. But if I could go back and talk to my young adult self, my younger self would remain unconvinced. My younger self would say, ‘I see what you are talking about but why should I believe they mean what you say. I think they are just relatively minor traits but you say they are signs of a dichotomous form of humanity without a conscience. I just don’t see it.’