I was at Barnes and Noble with some friends after the Taste of the Lehigh Valley event Sunday (side note: NOM), and I came across a book called The Sociopath Next Door. I picked it up and my companions laughed at me. It seemed like a natural choice for me to gravitate toward, as I tend to be a little on the paranoid side.
I got it out of the library yesterday, and I read the entire 218-page book in one sitting. It was compelling! I’m a sucker for a good non-fiction book, and this one was good. And I learned some things.
I knew sociopaths were, by definition, people without consciences. What I didn’t fully understand was what “conscience” really means. Conscience is more than just knowing right from wrong and choosing to do the right thing. You can be without a conscience and still choose to do the right thing to avoid punishment or retribution. Conscience stems from a feeling of obligation to other human beings, people that you care about. Sociopaths just straight-up don’t feel any kind of regard for other humans.
Can you imagine? That must be awful!
Normal people enjoy spending time with others, and enjoy planning to spend time with others, and enjoy thinking about time they’ve spent with others. This is what occupies our minds.
Because sociopaths take no pleasure in interacting with other humans, unless they get something (namely, a feeling of power) out of the interaction, they are super bored, all the time. They’re frequently promiscuous, risk-taking, and substance-abusing, just to try to fill their lives with some kind of amusement. And one in 25 people feels this way! That seems like a shocking figure, but now that I’ve read the criteria, I can think of at least one person I’ve met who fits the description.
I’m the polar opposite of a sociopath, if that’s even possible. They never feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment, because they legitimately do not care one bit about other people or what other people think. I care way, way too much. (This cartoon pretty much sums it up.) But I’d rather care too much than to be some kind of soulless creature.