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And, once recognized, wouldn’t it be great to know how to deal with one? In her book The Sociopath Next Door, clinical psychologist and former Harvard faculty member Martha Stout, Ph D, gives us a great roadmap for conceptualizing, understanding, and avoiding sociopaths. They use their victim’s goodness and capacity to trust against them. They are masterful at evoking pity and have incredible acting skills.
Wouldn’t it be nice to recognize a sociopath before they do their damage? Sociopaths can, because they are unhindered by guilt, manipulate their way to the top. They inspire a feeling of familiarity: “I just felt like I’d known her forever! Sociopaths are expert in identifying an easy mark – they can pick out the most trusting, decent person in the room.
In other words they will either conquer the system or avoid it entirely.
They will of course have few close friends and are more likely to make contacts with those they can use, or those they see as equals and that they can admire.
As they grow older they are likely to be highly successful which is a result of their willingness to get one over on their competition and colleagues, a desire and belief in success, and lack of risk aversion.
Alternatively a sociopath might be likely to live on the fringes of society having little interest in people.
They could be seen as eccentric and will most likely be independently wealthy.
But the defining characteristic of a sociopath is a person who has no conscience. An ability to move through life with complete disregard for their actions: no remorse, no capacity for shame, and no guilt. They have magnetism, an affinity for danger, spontaneity. They engage in gaslighting – making you doubt your perceptions of reality.
An inability – not a choice, but an inability – to care or even think about the feelings of anyone else. and only then, sometimes, to those who have learned to identify a sociopath. They are described as charming, with an almost animal-like charisma. They create distractions with social/professional roles: animal lover, humanitarian, benefactor.
But did you know that we cross paths with sociopaths on a regular basis — and often don’t even know it? In particular, I like his Pre-Incident Indicators (PINs), which reads like a menu of sociopathic characteristics: So now you have a lead on how to recognize a sociopath, and hopefully red flags will rise when you encounter one. It makes sense if you think about it – without human connection, what else is there?