It’s funny how our senses trick us into thinking we’re somewhere else entirely. Scientists claim that the sense of smell is the most powerful of the senses in terms of transporting us back to a fond or horrific memory. So much of our experience may be just the dull monotony of everyday life–the buzzzz of flies trying to drive us insane; the stench of bus (diesel) exhaust fumes; the droning of talking heads on TV; the tap-tap-tapping of the computer keys; the clatter of silverware and dishes being washed, and so on. Some people like living in big cities with the constant noise and confusion; big cities give me a whinging headache. I hate crowds to the point of claustrophobia; too much noise, too many people talking, too many cars, or? sets my nerves on edge. I prefer the soft, lilting breeze, the clean air of a country setting, the aloneness of living and being alone.
I’m not a hermit, although my pain issues at times place me in what feels like a hermitically (misspelled intentionally) sealed cage of my own making. I like people. Well, mostly. I have a tremendous sense of humor and I’m good one-on-one or in small groups; I like to talk and have a good time, to hear what others are saying, doing. I talk to strangers easily, though making friends takes quite a bit longer. I must be an introvert at heart because people also just wear me out. As the ‘crowd’ increases in size, I find it increasingly difficult to put on the face to meet the face you’ve put on for me. I’m honest and open-minded, but I can read people (not always, of course, seldom can I read the men in my life–but that’s another rabbit hole…) like an FBI profiler. I notice where the eyes go, what the focus is, the intonation of words, the way you hold your hands or move your body, even how you dress, whether you’re clean and well-groomed or you’re good enough but careless.
I notice, too, if you have ‘tells,’ mannerisms that reveal your true feelings about what’s being said. The ear pull, the rolled eyes, the scrunched-up mouth, all tell a story often at odds with your words and/or voice. And I have an instinct for people; that is, I can intuitively sense if a person is generally honest or deceitful, kind or a bully, an ordinary person (I hesitate to say a ‘normal’ person, for we know there’s no such thing as ‘normal’ humans) or a dangerous psychopath. I’m not infallible, but every time my instinct has warned me of someone’s ‘evil intent’ (oh, that sounds rather melodramatic and mid-Victorian, but you know what I mean, don’t you?) and I have argued reasonably that I should give him/her a chance, that s/he seems nice, or whatever…Every time my reason has argued against my instinct, I’ve been wrong.
You know how, when you meet someone for the 1st time, there’s an instant attraction or repulsion? This initial gut response would explain so-called love at first sight, for example. I have a tendency to be accepting of all people unless they show me that they don’t deserve my trust, my friendship. For the most part, people are as they seem, except for the sociopaths and psychopaths. These are pseudo-humans who wear masks, play parts, change like chameleons, to fit in with normal people. They appear to be different people to the rest of us. How many times do we see neighbors of a serial rapist/murderer declare disbelief and surprise that s/he is a monster disguised as a human? Jeffrey Dahmer seemed like a quiet but good guy to those he didn’t drug, murder, and commit atrocities on, trying to create his own private zombie lover. The handsome and brilliant Ted Bundy got away with his crimes by pretending to have a broken arm or something to gain sympathy from victims. He had a degree in psychology, he was well-spoken and charismatic, everyone liked him…
Appearances may confuse us, but our gut instinct is generally right–well, at least, MINE is. I don’t know about yours, if you haven’t listened to it lately or ever. Many people who should know better are so intent on having a warm body in their lives, fearing being alone more than anything else, they tolerate bad behavior–like emotional or physical abuse–because antisocial narcissists can commit all sorts of crimes and then turn around and cry and beg for forgiveness and bring you presents. So you believe them–until they do it again…and again…and again. People like this have no conscience and no empathy; they merely imitate normal feelings, normal behaviors just long enough to achieve their goals. When they successfully dominate someone else, their mask then falls and we see the lizard under the mask–that’s usually too late.
Experts continue to argue about the difference, if any, between a psychopath and a sociopath, and then throw in narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, even borderline personality disorder just to confuse the issue. That’s why lawyers find this angle infinitely fascinating and confusing and ultimately lucrative (to them). The personality disorders may be part of a socio- or psycho-pathic person, but their characteristics overlap enough that arguing over which diagnosis is apt is akin to the medieval arguments about how many angels could sit on the end of a pin.
Antisocial seems obvious–the person hates other people and acts out against authority figures by committing petty crimes like vandalism or theft. They may escalate to more serious crimes but this sort usually ends up in jail, as their innate stupidity or laziness does them in. Borderline personality seems the sympathy diagnosis to describe someone who has antisocial tendencies, is narcissistic, changeable in the extreme, and may also have psychopathy. BP patients earn our sympathy because they were victims of trauma in childhood and are so damaged as to need extensive psychological counseling and even drugs.Many bp’s usually hurt themselves more than others, and their manic change of personality so mimics that of someone suffering from bipolar disorder that even experts find it hard to determine a proper analysis. Both borderlines and bipolars can fall into antisocial behaviors, commit crimes, and so on, but few go so far as to hurt people the way sociopaths and psychopaths do. Most people with mental illness do not intentionally harm others.
With the sociopath vs the psychopath, some experts claim there’s no difference between them, while others argue ad nauseum about their differences. My research suggests that s’s and p’s may be 2 sides of the same crazy coin. Both are narcissistic and antisocial, but for my money, it breaks down this way: A sociopath is a self-centered narcissist with no conscience or empathy who believes that s/he is superior to others and that anything s/he does for his/her own pleasure or advancement is justified because s/he is special. These people are generally not rapists or murderers but they play hell with authorities and are the cause of many financial fiascoes. Good examples of a sociopath are used-car salesmen and politicians.
A psychopath, on the other hand, is the most evil and dangerous person on the planet, in my opinion. A psychopath has no conscience and no empathy, but this pathology is so far beyond the path of sociopaths as to be in a different orbit. A used-car salesman, for example, will happily sell you a rust-bucket that will break down on the interstate, putting your life (or wallet) in danger, but his main goal is strictly financial. The psycho, though, will pour kerosene on you and light a match. His main goal is your destruction. A psycho doesn’t have normal human feelings; they mimic things like love, sincerity, etc. The TV character Dexter is a good example of a psycho. The reason that character was so popular and successful is mainly due to his unique approach–he only killed other evil killers. And, completely at odds with what we know of psychos, Dexter actually develops a conscience–but he’s fiction, folks. …
If you’ve ever been a victim of a toxic narcissist, you have experienced a personal devastation on perhaps the lowest rung on the psychopathological ladder. You will survive physically, although you may suffer mentally, emotionally, and psychologically for some time, because the toxic narcissist is bent on destroying your character, your happiness, your sense of self. These are the people who pursue you and woo you, swear love, allegiance, loyalty, whatever, until you are no longer of use to them. Then, they hit you with such destructive slurs as will hurt you most: ‘I never loved you.’ ‘You are not worthy of my trust.’ ‘You’re just a stupid___.’ ‘Your ideas are so___.’ ‘You are ugly.’ These are the worst bullies because they diminish you as a person rather than trying to beat you up. And it all happens so quickly, you can’t understand what happened that changed you overnight. Run far and fast from these people or they will erase YOU.
© Copyright 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD