Forgive me, but I feel the need for a bit of a rant.
A few weeks ago the publication Psychology Today published an article called ‘Confessions of a Sociopath’. It was a adaption of a work published by Random House of the same name, by M.E Thomas.
First the disclaimers – I don’t know the person who wrote this. She could be the devil incarnate for all I know. I’m only responding to what the article made me think and feel.
The article, to paraphrase, went something like this:
‘I’m a sociopath… I’m very, very smart…you would like me if you met me because…I’m very, very smart…I did really well at school and university, then at work because…I’m very, very smart…I’m a master manipulator.. because.. I’m very, very smart…I’m the scariest person you could know without being violent because…I’m very, very smart…I feel nothing for anyone but myself but I have amazing powers of persuasion and, damnit .. charisma because.. I’m very, very smart…’.
And so forth, peppered with stories to illustrate this rather repetitive theme.
Well, that’s the way it read to me. Fascinating. Read more like a narcissist wanting to boast, and also wanting to be seen as the scariest person in the room. Scariest and smartest. Perhaps because of a fear the person held that they were actually neither of those things.
For a start, I’d argue you aren’t a very good manipulator if you tell people you are, because.. hello…why would they trust you after that?
Or is she just telling us, her special, confessional, anonymous friends???
Who knows, maybe this ‘person’ doesn’t actually exist and is just a fictional example of a pathology. But even beyond that possibility there is a more disturbing element to it. Why would someone wanting to boast and get attention (which she clearly wants because make no mistake, the whole article has the tone of one boastful comment after another, dressed up as confession) think the title of sociopath is such an appealing one? Why has such a character become the poster child or success, glamor and aspiration? What does that say about our society these days?
And how we glamorize evil? Now, the author does comment that there are plenty of stupid, violent sociopaths around, but the overall theme of the work is how her cleverness is the cornerstone of her successful sociopathology. Perhaps fictional characters like Hannibal Lecter, Red John and so forth have made us think there is a causal connection between brilliance and evil.
Of course there is no reason someone evil can’t be smart (I’m sure some evil people are, though I doubt they are writing articles about it in psychology magazines). But it doesn’t follow they necessarily are. I tend to agree with Hannah Arendt’s concept of the ‘banality of evil’. I think it is a more accurate description of evil for the most part.
It disturbs me that we are seeing being a sociopath as being something aspirational in some way. It does make me think of that comic quote from years ago that said:
‘Yeh, though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil…because I’m the meanest sonofabitch here…’.
Do we think that if we are the evil one we are safe from harm in some way? Or has our modern world raised the meme of the brilliant sociopath to such a level that people now want to claim to be one, like it is a badge of superiority?
As I said, perhaps the author is a sociopath. Perhaps she is as brilliant as she says. Though if so I wonder why she needs to tell us. There was nothing new in the article from what I could see. It basically just attributed the current stereotype to her own actions. So what drives that? What makes us want to be that person, if indeed any of us do?
And what does that say?