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Is this person a jerk, a narcissist or a sociopath?

I do my best to read all of the comments on lovefraud.com because I think they are a good barometer as to what people are thinking and questioning. One recent theme/question has been the issue of the realm of jerkdom. Just what is a jerk?

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines a jerk as an annoyingly stupid or foolish person b: an unlikable person ; especially one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded. But how would a psychologist approach answering this question?

Psychologists studying personality tend to fall into two categories, with members of the first category being far more numerous. The first category of psychologists is composed of trait psychologists. A trait psychologist is someone who studies personality by looking at traits. Traits are words, primarily adjectives that are used to describe people.

The dictionary says jerks are foolish, unlikeable, rude, cruel and small minded. We might take the process further and ask everyone reading this to list adjectives describing jerks. We would then find jerks and make our own determination as to whether or not the adjectives describe them.

This trait approach is similar to that used to identify sociopaths and narcissists. This process allows us to put people in a category. So with this approach, we could find traits that differentiate between jerks, narcissists an sociopaths. Most of us think of traits when we think about people and personality.

There is another way to look at people and personality that considers motives rather than traits. Although the fundamental motives of love, power and achievement exist in all people there are individual differences in the degree to which these motives rule a person.

A motive psychologist might say that a jerk is someone with too little love motivation and too much power motivation. But then that also describes a sociopath and a narcissist. Aren’t motives after all more basic than traits? If you are interacting with someone, aren’t you most interested in understanding that person’s motives as opposed to observing their traits?

Consider the following letter we received this week:

There are certain things about my daughter-in-law that I just don’t understand. I am not a psychologist so I don’t know for fact what is wrong with her.

She and my son had a rocky relationship before marriage. She was pulling him away from his best friend but was herself going to spend time with the guy after she dropped my son off at work. She played them off of each other until they just went their separate ways. It was always his best friends fault.

This is what truly hurts me….. after she married my son they lived with my husband and I. We worked long hours and came home to a mess. She and my son neither one worked but expected us to clean up after her. She would cook and I was to play maid. When this didn’t go over she belittled me. She asked to talk to me privately. There wasn’t one thing about me she liked. She told me that she was tired of fighting for my sons attention. They moved out to my relief. I took what she said to heart and didn’t contact my son for anything. I left it to him to contact me if he needed me. This hurt him even though I explained I didn’t want to come in between them.

They had a beautiful daughter and she uses her against us at every turn. We have gotten used to it and don’t let her get satisfaction from it any more. She has planted pills on the floor of my mother-in-law’s home to make it look like her home isn’t safe. She has done that scam twice. She has told my other daughter-in-law that she is only with my son because he puts up with things other men wouldn’t. She has admitted to sleeping with other men but made it out to my son that she was made to share a blanket. I am truly worried for my son and his daughter. She is such a good liar. Oh by the way she makes it out as if she is the only person capable of watching my granddaughter. At my grandma’s funeral she became angry with my son for not catching the baby before she put chalk in her mouth. but then she didn’t catch her stick a holly berry in her mouth and that was ok. She was too busy flirting with my son’s cousin who btw is working on his masters…

Am I a paranoid mother and grandmother that just needs to continue watching people she loves be hurt? Or is there maybe something to this behavior?

What do you think?



161 Comments on "Is this person a jerk, a narcissist or a sociopath?"

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  1. Wini says:

    PB: One of the best books out there that describes the EGO and all the ramifications to the EGO being out of control is Tolle’s book “A New Earth”. Incredible read, not only for the knowledge of understanding egos out of control and all the games being played, it’s also a great healing book for when you’ve had enough of all the nonsense out of control people can do to you life … he shows you how to go silent, be still … go into the “now”. When you get into the “now” there is no pain … just peace and serenity.

    I read this book last year while I was just learning the truth about my EX. I prayed to God to handle this for me … and asked him to give me a sign of what direction I should look for help. While I was praying, the TV was on in the background … and Oprah’s show came on. Of all people, it was Oprah that guided me. I turned the volume up and she was explaining Tolle’s book and that she was giving classes on her site for all that wanted to sign up (for free). So I did.

    Anyway, Tolle’s classes are still on her site. Just type in Oprah.com in your search engine. Enter her site. Give yourself a “handle” and a “password”. Go into her spiritual site and look for E. Tolle. All 10 chapter discussion with a live audience are on line for free for everyone to listen to. Oprah knows how everyone’s souls need healing … so she has a lot to offer on her site. You can download all 10 chapters of Tolle’s live talks with audiences from around the Globe.

    I love listening to this man.

    Peace.



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  2. OxDrover says:

    Sorry for jumping to conclusions about the situation, Henry, my bad! I automatically ASSUMED (wrongly as it was) that the daughter was sucking off the mom by still living at home.

    I don’t have any problem with parents and adult children lving together for whatever reasons, but it in my opinion, should not be because the kids are too lazy to work and are DEPENDENT on mom or dad. My sons and I are more “roommates” than anything else. But I know so many “kids” that should be adults that live on mom or dad’s teat. (that is the correct spelling of “TIT” LOL)

    I liked the way PB said she had shown her son that allowances and “household chores” are not connected. Even when my kids were little (6 or 7) they had regular chores as PART OF FAMILY OBLIGATIONS, just “what you do” not what you are paid to do. We divided “chores” to the person’s level of ability age and so on, but each had their chores.

    I found out too if you left home and said “Kids, clean the house” you came home and nothing was done, but if you said, “John clean the kitchen” and “fred clean the bathrooms” then it got DONE. So each person had his SPECIFIC responsibility that they were responsible for. These changed as the grew, but by the time they were in high school they could keep a good house and knew how to do it. I called it LIFE SKILLS. I think every child need to be taught lifte skills.

    Just as a child learned to farm by working on dad’s farm, etc. and developed the skills he or she needed to function in society, kids today need to learn to wash a load of clothes, sew up a button or a hem, put gas in the car, check the oil, change a flat tire, cook a meal, grocery shop, plan a balanced meal, clean out a refrigerator, clean a bathroom, mow the lawn, trim a hedge. Open a checking account and keep it balanced. etc. Unfortunately, many kids have all these things done for them by the parents and/or they are “paid” or bribed to do these things and grow up with a feeling of entitlement for someone else to be their “maid.” So at age 30, 40, etc. they are still mooching off of mom and/or dad.

    When my son was married his step daughter wouldn’t go to school (so dropped out to stay home and do nothing) her mom let her do nothing. She didn’t help with house work at all, or the care of her disabled brother (cause they didn’t like each other) didn’t mow the yard or anything else. At age 24 when she was finally thrust out in to the world alone because of her mother’s arrest, she had NO LIFE SKILLS at all. That and being a histrionic personality disorder with a big spriinkling of dependent personality disorder, she is totally unprepared for life in any way. Doesn’t want to hold a job, wants someone else to take care of her needs. She is totally crippled at survival in a functional way at all and has no chance for independence. I’m not sure how well she would have functioned if she’d had a mother that taught her survival skills in modern society, but she sure had NO chance as it is. This girl has a horrible life ahead of her, and though she is irritating as heck to me if I’m around her, I REALLY do feel sorry for this girl. She will couch surf her way through life and use sexual favors to rent the space from less and less desirable people until God alone knows what will happen to this girl/woman.

    In the meantime, I am not willing to throw my “pearls” before her because she has no appreciation of a life of independence or freedom from buying space on someone’s couch with sexual favors. I can look around and see MANY young adults just like my son’s x-step daughter. She is a human being, who is LOST to any chance of a life. She is human drift wood, cast aside like a worthless piece of garbage upon a sea of life to drift and eventually disentergrate. I can’t save or help her, and she doesn’t know how to save herself. It is really sad.



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  3. pb says:

    I don’t know…I suppose I’ve been a bit of a hard nut with regards to parenting, but I’ve always been firm and loving – not rigid and cold.
    I used to walk my son and my bike to his daycare; the long side of 14 blocks, every day. We kicked a milk carton all the way; laughing and chasing each other. He didn’t know it was a long walk until people started saying so in front of him. Kids grow, and at the very least adapt, if you let them.
    I worry about people under 30. “Human drift wood” is sadly perfect.
    My son did get his GED (high school equivalent) completed while in jail last summer. I’m proud of him for doing that. It beats sitting there doing nothing.



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  4. muldoon says:

    Not sure where I should write this….the evil one has emailed my daughter, she has answered him without my knowledge..she has refused to see him saying she feels let down..none of it was down to me, didn’t even know she emailed him back till after.
    Still riding a tidal wave of emotion on this…highs and diabolical lows, but they have gotten easier and I do not think of it all day long, which surprises me when I think about it. seen a picture earlier of happier times and for a moment I felt pang of love, longing and I missed him. I know this is not right and pulled another file so to speak(great strategy I got on here for negative thought)
    He has also been in contact with my brother asking for work, my brother did not respond to his text, Both my brother and I were astounded at his audacity to even consider it…another day passes. I have to prove my earnings over the past three months to the court t assess whether I can be legal aided for the divorce to be done, I will get it but I am awaiting proof of social security benefits before I can go any further.



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  5. Wini says:

    Muldoon: It’s time you let your daughter read this site. Let her do her own research … then tell her when she is ready to discuss the issues, you will be there for her.

    Peace to both of you as you heal through this horrific existence.



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  6. OxDrover says:

    Yes, PB, I do know a great deal about the pain of the child you loved and enjoyed haivng fun and laughs with. My P son was such a delight as a little kid! So bright and funny and talented and smart. A child any one should enjoy being around. then came the about faces, and he became a night mare to himself and everyone in the world. Started at that age trying to convince me I was an “abusive” and “mean” parent to him….never quite managed to do that, thank goodness, but I sure did hate to see him blow it all away. All his potential and end up in prison….yea, a GED. What a waste of someone who could have been the next great intellectual shooting star…a loss to himself, and to society.

    I kept up that malignant hope that he would turn around and “see the light” but I had to realize he CAN’T SEE THE LIGHT, that he is “blind”—it is impossible for him. He has eyes but he will not see, he has ears but he will not hear. There is none so blind as those who choose not to see and none so deaf as those who will not hear.

    Today has been a bad day for me, I ran into my mother in a store in town and she grabbed at my arm, trying to pull her pity plays…I’m going to bed.



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  7. pb says:

    Oxy,
    UNDERSTOOD!
    I’d go to bed too if I ran into my mom today!
    🙂



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  8. Kathleen Hawk says:

    muldoon, you’re daughter showed good judgment.

    Maybe her courage to say no to him made you feel guilty or something like that, wondering if he was being hurt. He’s not (even if he sounds like it). If anything, he’s frustrated and irritated.

    It sounds like he’s trying to worm his way back in. That’s all that’s going on. And you can probably expect more of it. Oh happy days.

    Until very recently, stress or anxiety brought up all kinds of positive memories of my ex, along with feelings of grief and abandonment. For a long time, he seemed to hold the position of “my strength,” no matter how well I knew that he was an incompetent weasel, whose main life skill was exploiting me.

    I think that the most powerful thing we can do for one another is to remind ourselves of how strong, kind, brave and competent we are. That’s why they were attracted to us, and that’s why they tried to break us, in order keep us confused and immobilized while they took everything they could from us.

    So I’m reminding you. And if you doubt that you’re such a wonderful person, look at your wonderful daughter.

    Obviously you did a lot right in raising her.

    Hard as this is, you sound like you’re doing everything right. Caring about the right things. Taking the right steps. Holding on to the long view, while you’re reclaiming your life.

    Strong, kind, brave and competent. I hope you’re proud of yourself. You should be.



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