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Do psychopaths/sociopaths make choices?

Hopefully, many of you read this blog because you want to know how a trained psychiatrist deals with the issues you also face. I am not glad to be eternally tied to a psychopath, but since I am, you and I share the same challenges. We can reflect on these challenges together and we will all be better and stronger.

This week I received an email from one of my ex-husband’s family members, so I will put off the planned discussion of psychopathic anxiety to address the issues raised by the email. The email points to the trivializing of the sociopath’s/psychopath’s behavior that family members often do. This week give some thought as to how you will deal with others who trivialize a sociopath’s/psychopath’s behavior or perhaps your own tendency to “excuse” what he/she does.

In case you missed this, my ex-husband is in prison and is a sex offender. Regarding the events which led to the prison sentence, one of his blood relatives just wrote me, “but I don’t agree with all of his choices and in all fairness I do understand your disgust with ________’s actions.”

I want to ask all of you to consider this question: Do sociopaths/psychopaths make choices? If they do what does it mean when we say we “disagree” with their choices? What is the difference between disagreeing with their choices vs. being “disgusted” by them?

Last night at La Salsa, my favorite restaurant I made a choice. I chose to have fish tacos and some chips. I chose the fish tacos because I really like them. If I didn’t like fish tacos I wouldn’t choose them. I have to also confess, that I ate a small amount of ice cream when I got home, even though I am counting calories. I also really like ice cream.

My food choices were indeed choices, but notice that you learn about me from my choices. In regards to the ice cream, you learn that my impulse control regarding food is only fair in that I ate the ice cream even though I am making an effort to reduce the amount of fat I eat. If you have met me, you know that I am not particularly overweight so you probably wouldn’t hold my ice cream consumption against me.

What we learn from my eating behavior is that all choices reflect the chooser and his/her circumstances. I ate the fish tacos because I went to La Salsa. I ate the ice cream because it was in my freezer. If I hadn’t gone to La Salsa or had ice cream in the freezer, I would have eaten differently.

That gets me to sociopaths/psychopaths. These individuals do not just make “choices.” They, with malice and forethought set up situations where they will be able to gratify their deviant impulses. My former husband sought me out so he would have access to victims in addition to me. The choices he made started with his looking for his next victim on the internet. That victim turned out to be me. This situation is analogous to my eating the ice cream last night, because although I am trying to eat healthier, I did buy the ice cream and put it in the freezer myself. I would have eaten 250 less calories last night if I didn’t buy the ice cream in the first place.

It is clear that a person’s pattern of choices reflects that person’s drives and impulse control. Most sociopaths/psychopaths have a clear pattern of “choices” that show clearly what and who they really are. During psychiatry residency I was taught that the best predictor of what a person will do in the future is what that person has done in the past. This is because the past is a reflection of who that person is.
If choices are a reflection of our person and our drives are we without choice in the end? The beauty of it is that we do have choices because as humans we have some capacity to set up our environments and to modify our drives. If it was really necessary for me to avoid ice cream, I simply would stop buying it in the first place. I can also work on liking fruit or some other healthier alternative. As a human I can change what I like, what I want and ultimately what I do.

On the other hand, if you really understand the connection between what a sociopath/psychopath chooses and what he/she IS you will move from disagreeing with the choices to being disgusted by the person. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines disgust as:

1. to provoke to loathing, repugnance, or aversion : be offensive to
2. to cause (one) to lose an interest or intention

Notice that seeing the connection between choices, behavior and the nature of a psychopath, provokes loathing, repugnance, aversion and loss of interest in the person. I have stated before that I believe the people who are “fascinated” by psychopaths do not understand them. Understanding psychopaths breeds contempt not fascination.

The other difference between disagreeing with what a psychopath does and being disgusted, is that disagreeing is an intellectual exercise, while disgust is an emotion. If you are disgusted by psychopaths, that emotion means you comprehend WHAT THEY ARE with your entire being.

Can sociopaths/psychopaths get help or ever make different choices?

The problem with psychopaths is that they are so grandiose that they never examine their own behavior, nor do they ever seek to modify their choices. The choices they make are a deep reflection of their pathology. That pathology includes a lack of desire to be anything other than what they are. But why don’t sociopaths/psychopaths desire to change? The answer is that they enjoy their choices too much. They also do not have insight enough to comprehend that their drives are deviant. They think everyone else is as they are, only weaker.

The other problem is that drives are triggered by the things that remind us of our pleasures. Since people trigger the sociopath’s/psychopath’s deviant drives for sex and power, in order to begin to be different they would have to stay away from other people. Since sociopaths/psychopaths don’t want to be alone, they can never take the steps required for change. They will therefore never be anything other than what they are- dangerous to everyone.



70 Comments on "Do psychopaths/sociopaths make choices?"

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  1. TrishNJ says:

    Dear Free,

    I love that you are on your spiritual path….and that you are finding “truth” in your existance….quoting the bible is a wonderful thing….I thing God brings the truth to you when you need it most.

    I want to say that I am not religious myself…I’m more spiritual. I have a difficult time with some of the going-on’s inside of religions! It’s not the religion as much as it is the hypocracy within…in saying that….I pray every day and when I am working doing massage I pray for the people I work on. And I know God is with me!

    When I was in the pit of my “hell” with the last P….I was going to church all the time…catholic…born again….I was looking for answers….and I was not finding them…I was trying to bring my P to church and I did one time….and I also brought him to this class I was taking which was enlightening….and he came one time…and I will never forget when the teacher of the class who was also a Dennis….went up to my Dennis and they happened to be the exact height….(this is a God given…this was a spiritual moment)….and my Dennis says to the other Dennis….am I out of integrity if I am not telling the whole story? (The course was all about integrity and your words…and the affects they create and how it comes back to you) The teacher Dennis look him deep in his eyes…and you had to see it….and he says “what do you think”…..and my Dennis took a step back and was taken a back…it was like he saw a ghost. He wanted to get out of there. What I believe happened there was that Dennis spoke to Dennis on a soul level…. He can never forget that. You are not being loving when you are out of integrity….and manipulating someones mind and holding back the truth is being out of integrity….and not answering questions when asked or avoiding…is being out of integrity…..

    The classes were the first “aid” to getting back my life….than I stoped the classes and I felt I needed more….and a guess the year earlier I was looking into Kabballah….the day I quit the classes just an hour later I get a call from a Kabballah teacher. His name was David. And he talked about Transformation….and that was it for me….I started reading….I don’t do well with groups and church and services….right now anyway…but I read on my own and a teacher would call me every once in a while. And I feel my eyes have been opened by some of my reading….alot of it I could not even grasp…so I don’t….I just take what I do get from it…..I like it because it enhances your life.

    The one thing I want to share with you which is that in the Kabballah they say there are 5 levels of the soul that the soul vibrates on in this world. The first being the lowest and the fifth being the highest. Maybe the p’s are at the first level. When the Kabballah talks about “satan” which is pronounced sah-tahn….they are not talking about an evil being….they are talking about a negitive, evil energy! THE SATAN.

    Kabballah is a study that enriches your study of the 5 Books of Moses or the Old Testiment. In the Kabballah there is alway concern about our lives and the “opponent” The opponent uses Satan. If you want to have real success in life…you must recognize that all good fortune comes from the Creator…God….and that you are the sole builder of your own success and happiness…in your growth you learn that your ego does not have the power to bring anything “great” to you…..True “greatness” comes from your spiritual growth and recognizing the opponent working to ruin our lives…ie control and diplaced anger…for instance…control devotes ourselve to false idols…that is why we don’t really like it….because it is going against God…..and anger conected to control is idolotry….so the meditation is ….anger is purged from my being and I bring peace and love and happiness to my life.

    So in saying that I urge all of us to purge the power games that were brought to our lives…recognize that it is distroying our happiness….let it go….let it go….let it go….until you are free and you are now feeling and existing in a peaceful place of happiness….

    I find it helps me….and I believe God brought Kabballah to me….for my healing…because it helps me….and I believe in this web-site as part of my healing too….because it is so incredibly informative…and open-minded people are here just telling each other about their lives and their pain and the way they heal!

    This is what I want to share…..and I am grateful I can.



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  2. inthebreach57 says:

    Dear Dr. Leedom,
    I am so glad I found your website through Aftermath-Surviving- Psychopathy. This website is so informational and healing. Truly a Godsend. I am amazed and disgusted at the amount of people on here that have been caught by P trolls. On the other hand I do not feel so alone and isolated in what my son and I am going through. I read your posts and others on here and become angry for these people because I feel we are all or have stood in the same shoes. People around me who refuse to recognize my husbands wickedness seem to have a common thread of being bought by him and a seeming sense of obligation/ loyalty to him. I keep asking myself how could they do this knowing what they have seen and heard from him. I ask what is missing in them to accept a P for a few coin. Maybe they think it is no big deal as long as they are not at his mercy but I know he will double back on them and collect his pound of flesh for a penny just as Shakespere wrote of Shylock (sorry for wrong spellings). I am torn between anger and pity for my loved ones and feel even bitter at times. Some moments I feel they will reap what they have sown and deserve it, then I feel bad and don’t wan’t to see the damage P will do to them. I am terribly torn and guilt ridden over these thoughts because the 4 people in my family who are ignoring the P’s wickedness are my two older daughters (his stepchildren), and my cousin and her husband. I have a large number of people in my family and they all get it except these 4. He has gotten them out of traffic tickets, bought cars, paid for divorces, vacations and various other expenses. They are sending the message that they don’t want to choose sides. I want them to. I want them to choose my little boys side- DEFEND THE DEFENSELESS, A CHILD. Please tell me Dr., in your experience why do people refuse to accept, believe and respond when the mask has been dropped on a P? What is wrong with these people that I love?
    My two daughters and the oldests boyfriend went to Phoenix this year for baseballs spring training games. I have two brothers who live there and my older brother didn’t bother to see the girls while they were there. They hadn’t seen their uncles in 7 years. I told them their uncle Lee was very busy and couldn’t see them. It was not the truth but I didn’t want to hurt them. He will not look upon them or be in the same room with them because of reprobate behavior and turning their backs on their little brother and me. My mother, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles speak of,”writing them off forever”, but I don’t want this because I know they will return to us emotionally battered and beaten down when the P is finished with them. He will separate them and create animosity between them eventually because that is what he has done in the past with them and anyone he can manipulate into fighting. I am at such a loss and because he can’t freely access my son any longer he has gone after my daughters. They are pawns at this point in our divorce and he is parading them all over the city in what I assume is an attempt to show his attorney peers, “see, how bad could I be if her daughters are spending time with me and have nothing to do with their mother and little brother”. The Forensic Therapist that did our Psych evaluations made it clear to me that my two older daughters do not count in this custody dispute. That was a burden lifted for me because I was wondering if he would try to use them in court. The therapist told me this without previous discussion on the subject so I can only guess that the P had revealed to the therapist during their interview that he had plans to use my daughters in court.



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  3. kat_o_nine_tales says:

    Birdie, I hope that jerk stays out of your life.



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  4. kat_o_nine_tales says:

    In the Breach, all I can say is, strive to become your own person, to always “look sane” in public, to be prepared to wait quite a while before people see him for who he truly is. And heck, if I were you I’d say that right to their faces.. hey, I’m on my son’s side, if you can’t be on his side too, then we just won’t talk anymore until this is cleared up.

    I do not know if the following will make you feel any better, but it’s all true:

    My first husband was just like yours, except less powerful. In the beginning of our separation, he somehow “collected” just about all our friends and aquaintances. I used to feel so scared, so “ganged up on”. But over the next two years, he cheated, lied to, stole from, etc. every single one of em, slept with their wives, stole their identities, it was terrible. Pretty soon there were a small crowd of them that would show up at my door to show support, saying, “we should have listened”. They nicknamed themselves the “Don haters club”. It was all very frightening, humiliating and embarrassing, but I have to say, if you give these kind of people enough rope, they WILL hang themselves.



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  5. OxDrover says:

    Dear Inthebreach,

    I’m not answering for Dr. Leedom, but I agree with Kat’s statement “If you give these kinds of people enough rope, they WILL hang themselves.”

    My Ps had ganged up on me, and targeted my elderly mother as a victim of financial fraud, I tried and tried to convince her that they were con men, that I was NOT crazy and that they were after her money. They had convinced her, who had never taken a cent from her, that I was the one after her money while she was supporting them with gifts and loans and other funds.

    Eventually when I could do no more to convince my mother and one of my sons that the rest were up to no good, I just had to let the situation fester on its own, and in only a few months it became very apparent that I WAS RIGHT, and two of the Ps were arreste (my daughter in law and her boy friend) and went to jail, then prison. Sometimes it takes longer than that before they show their true colors, but don’t despair that they will show their colors.

    NO CONTACT (ignoring them as much as possible) not reacting to their insults and jibes, remaining “calm” on the outside even if you are really reeling inside, but giving the appearance of calm at least, will help you and disarm them. They love to see you rattled, and upset, appearing irrational and “crazy” (even though they are the ones tha tmade you that way!)

    Right now your daughters are not seeing things the way they really are, but THEY WILL because eventually all Ps mistreat their victims that they “woo” at the start. Just protect yourself and your son. The P will eventually be the UNDOING of himself.

    You are in a healing place here with some pretty smart “cookies” here to offer support and possibly advice if you need or want it. Right now the ONLY people in the world that are in need of your services are YOU and your SON, and so TAKE CARE OF THE TWO OF YOU, and let the rest go for now. You can’t take care of the world, but you can take care of yourself and your prescious son. Focus your strength and energies on that. They try to make us “crazy” with so many different things undermining our self confidence and strength, but focusing your strength on the most important things (yourself and your son) will help you win, and then they will be their own undoing. ((((hugs)))) and always prayers for your safety and healing. Oxy



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  6. kat_o_nine_tales says:

    James.. yeah the predictability. I should remember this. Right now they are all p/o’d at me for not drifting sadly away. I listed every single one of his online profiles as a warning to women in the area. I don’t see this is a real big threat to him if he is really “in love and getting married”, but he sees it as one. He is trying the old routine of “showing me sympathy while simultaneously pumping me for info”, while she is outraged because I guess she thinks I’m talking about her or something, which I never did or even would do.

    I wrote that his favorite targets are plain and/or overweight middle aged women, and on there yelling that she’s not plain, overweight or middle aged. Of course I wrote that about his usual victims, it didn’t have anything to do with her.. I don’t know what the heck she looks like.

    But I do get a little bit of a lol sometimes about the predictability. Especially with my 2nd husband. He is so predictable we can always tell what he’s going to do next. I have to be in his life because our son is living with him most of the time.

    Problem is he wants to take it too far, like picking out my boyfriends for me (or rather keeping veto power). He wants to make sure no other man will come near his son without his say-so. Just how exactly he thinks he has any control over this, I do not know.



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  7. SC says:

    We thought our pastor, **** **** was just narcissistic, but it turn out that it was just one the symptoms of being a sociopath. **** **** the former pastor at **** presbyterian church is a sociopath. **** **** was kicked out of **** Ministry due to a 10 year affair induced by manipulation. I would consider him a con artist. Pastor **** ****, like many other sociopaths are not concern with other people. **** **** has been exploiting people and using them for personal gain. His own daughter has been warning people in his church by hinting that he abused her growing up and beat her with a belt. **** **** has hurt many people in their 20 years of ministry. Very sad.



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