“Would somebody please tell me why he did this?” is one of the most common questions victims of sociopaths have. Three weeks ago I introduced the idea that the Inner Triangle can help each of us understand the individual sociopath that infected our lives. The Inner Triangle is formed by three qualities that develop in concert during childhood. These three qualities are Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. Last week I discussed the concept of Ability to Love. Lack of Ability to Love defines those with sociopathy. No less important however, is the lack of Impulse Control, also universally found in people with this disorder.
What is Impulse Control?
I’m sure many of you noticed that sociopaths have a lot of energy. Their minds come up with many plans and ideas. This energy would be a good thing if the sociopath could direct it toward positive goals. Sadly, however, the abundant energy sociopaths have leads them to pursue goals that damage others. The reason is poor impulse control. Sociopaths are unable to control the many impulses that come from their basic drives and emotions.
This poor impulse control causes sociopaths to be vulnerable to addictions of all kinds. Once these addictions are established, they are particularly resistant to treatment. Many have noted that the impulses sociopaths have are especially destructive. For example, sociopaths are often sexually driven. They may also be greedily driven to obtain possessions. However, the impulse to have power over others is the central defining impulse of sociopathy. Sociopaths expend most of their energy trying to gratify impulses related to having power and influence over others.
The desire for power
The desire for power has been very difficult for researchers to study. The reason is that unlike our other desires, there is no feeling associated with it. Think about it—when you want food, you are hungry. When you want affection, you are lonely. When you want entertainment, you are bored. When you want sex you’re…. The point is, how do you know when you want power? Researchers have established that this motive is completely beyond our conscious awareness!
Victims high in empathy do not recognize sociopaths
One of the main reasons why victims high in empathy do not recognize sociopaths is that the desire for power is non-conscious. People high in empathy make use of their knowledge of their own emotions to interpret the emotions of others. Can you see then why people who rely on empathy in interactions with others completely miss sociopaths? An empathetic person correctly observes that sociopaths enjoy the company of others. He/she then self-references his/her own feelings of affection with regard to enjoying other people. The victim is fooled into interpreting power motivations as affection-related motivations.
Power motivated people are high in testosterone
The power motive is directly related to testosterone levels in both men and women. This is likely also responsible for the hypersexual behavior seen in sociopaths. The relationship between testosterone and the desire for power is so strong that testosterone predicts dominance behavior better than psychological tests.
Many studies have shown that sociopaths do have higher testosterone levels both during adolescence and adulthood. This higher testosterone of male sociopaths may also make them more attractive to women. Women unconsciously sense male characteristics that indicate high testosterone and are attracted to these qualities.
Medications that “help” sociopaths
Medications that reduce overall energy and block driven behavior reduce problematic behavior in sociopaths. The medications that do this are called antipsychotic medications. They are also used to treat schizophrenia. The most commonly used anti-psychotic for adolescent and adult sociopaths is Risperdal. In the past, we used Thorazine for this purpose.
You may also wonder if castration works. Eliminating testosterone through either surgical or chemical castration does help some. However, removing testosterone does not restore Ability to Love and so does not really treat the underlying disorder.
It is my hope that providing you with knowledge about this disorder will help you answer for yourself the “Why me?” question and will help you stop the self blame. We all can benefit from considering our own Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. The best thing for victims is to come out of this experience wiser and better.