Lovefraud recently received the following letter from a reader:
“I am trying to understand what the sociopath is feeling. Do they feel love? Do they love? What hurts a sociopath? How can you communicate with a sociopath?”
The problem in dealing with a sociopath, or psychopath, is that they are fundamentally different from the rest of us. The extent of their difference is truly difficult to comprehend—until you’ve had a close encounter with one of them.
Let’s look at these questions individually.
Do they feel love?
The short answer is no. In order to feel love, a person must be able to feel empathy. Sociopaths do not feel empathy for other people.
Those of us who are capable of empathy may feel joy when a friend or relative has a baby, or want to help disaster victims by sending a donation, or cry at a poignant TV commercial. A sociopath does not have an emotional reaction to any of these scenarios. Whether due to genetic make-up, or a traumatic upbringing, or both, when it comes to feeling emotional connections to other people, sociopaths simply don’t get it.
They do, however, learn that by simulating an emotional reaction, or generating an emotional reaction in another person, they can get what they want. So they fake it. They mouth the words, “I love you.” For good measure, they plead, “I don’t want to lose you,” with tears running down their cheeks.
It is all an act.
A sociopath may be telling you that he or she loves you. What the sociopath really means is that he or she wants you like a hot new Lexus. You can do something for the sociopath—such as provide transportation. You can make the sociopath look good—providing a status symbol or the appearance of normalcy. The only reason a sociopath may be upset if you and the kids leave is because he or she doesn’t want to part with possessions.
What does a sociopath feel?
One of the key symptoms of a sociopath, or psychopath, is shallow emotion. In his book Without Conscience, Dr. Robert Hare writes,
“Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. While at time they appear cold and unemotional, they are prone to dramatic, shallow and short-lived displays of feeling.”
They can feel anger and rage, but it typically doesn’t last very long and has no depth. Many people are mystified by the way in which sociopaths can turn emotions on and off. For example, the Lovefraud reader who asked the questions in the beginning of this post also wrote about his ex-wife:
“We met with a court mediator during our divorce proceedings. After accusing me of the most horrible things you can imagine, once away from the mediator, she broke down and cried hysterically asking, “Why are you doing this to me?” Ten minutes later she was bubbly and acting for the judge.”
One expert, Dr. J. Reid Maloy, wrote that psychopaths often feel “contemptuous delight” when they have successfully deceived someone. He also notes that they frequently feel boredom—which then prompts them to aggressively find stimulation, such as someone new to manipulate.
What hurts a sociopath?
Sociopaths do not experience hurt feelings as the rest of us do. They may pretend to be hurt in order to manipulate you, but again, it is an act.
This is an important concept for anyone trying to break free of a sociopath to understand. If you are breaking off a relationship, there is no reason to be nice. You do not have to try to let the sociopath down slowly or gently. Just say, “It’s over,” and leave. Then maintain a strict policy of No Contact.
You cannot hurt a sociopath’s feelings. He or she doesn’t have any.
How can you communicate with a sociopath?
Understand that a sociopath looks at every interaction with another person as an opportunity for manipulation. Therefore, your best policy with a sociopath is No Contact.
If you must communicate with a sociopath, always be on mental red alert. As Dr. Liane Leedom writes, the cardinal sign of sociopathy is lying. Anything said to you may be a lie, or, at best, a twisting of the truth. Furthermore, anything you say to the sociopath, any information you provide, may be used against you.
Here are some tips for communicating with a sociopath:
1. Provide as little information as possible.
2. Document everything. Get communications in writing. If you are communicating verbally, have a witness.
3. Do not trust. Verify.
4. Be explicit and lay down the law. If the sociopath violates any terms, there must be consequences.
Implications of no empathy and no fear
Sociopaths do not feel empathy. As Dr. Liane Leedom and other experts have written, they also do not feel fear. Empathy and fear are the basic components of remorse and guilt—so sociopaths don’t feel those emotions, either.
What does all this mean? Sociopaths do not really care about people. They do not feel obliged to comply with society’s rules. They cannot be trusted to “do the right thing.” They have no morals.
That—in all its emptiness—is the true nature of a sociopath.