Old time psychoanalysts connect a young child’s desire to share experiences with caregivers to the development of a healthy personality. The idea that any pleasure is better if we share it starts shortly after the first birthday. That is also the time language starts to develop. Words then become a way to share experiences. Healthy people use words to share their feelings, interests and desires. A little child who has just learned to walk will bring her toy over to dad to share it. She is delighted when he makes some comment about it. We take for granted that everyone has this desire to share and take mutual delight.
As I write this I am sharing with you truths I have found deeply meaningful, so you are getting a part of me when you read what I write. If you read the many posts I have written you can get to know me to a certain degree. But what if my writing was not a reflection of anything I personally care about. What if I wrote only to cause some sort of reaction in you? I am not capable of that kind of writing because it is only my desire to share what I think is interesting and compelling that at all motivates me to write. If nothing interesting happens to me I find I have nothing to share and nothing to write. For me the sharing is everything, I wouldn’t write without it. After reading a new book, I thought about sharing this week and realized that if I didn’t want to share, I wouldn’t communicate at all. I like teaching at the university because for me teaching is a form of sharing and I feel affection for the students.
It has been nearly 6 years since I said goodbye to a sociopath, but I am just now coming to grips with many aspects of the disorder. This week I understood on an emotional level this idea of sharing through verbal communication.
Regarding psychopaths, Elizabeth Howell wrote in The Dissociative Mind page 251:
Used instrumentally, words do not share the self or communicate with the other, but function as triggers to effect targeted behavior in another person. Even when the psychopath uses words imbued with a highly symbolic meaning, such as religious words or words evoking trust, he is not operating in the realm of symbolic thought (because his/her words are not functioning to symbolize any inner feelings). Thus psychopaths may appear or seem to be involved with symbols, as others are, but they are using their knowledge of others’(use of words) …and manipulating through them.”
Rather than for sharing, a sociopath uses words instrumentally or for effect. His or her words have no real relationship to anything on the inside… truly remarkable if you ask me; a reality that completely blows me away when I think about it even after all these years.
Howell further writes:
Unimpeded by any concern for the other or considerations of conscience, the psychopath uses language in a manner that can be highly effective in achieving the desired ends. And to the degree that instrumental behavior is effective it will be repeated.
As I consider what Howell wrote I am reminded of the card Gem’s father wrote to her for her 18th birthday (see last week’s blog). The card was purely instrumental, designed to have an effect on the reader.
Consider the profound implications of the instrumental use of language. You will likely come to two conclusions regarding what your sociopath says. First you always have to wonder what the sociopath is trying to achieve with his words because it ain’t sharing. Second you realize that no real communication is possible.
If you are stuck in life with a sociopath or are trying to decide if a continued relationship is possible please consider that every word that comes from the sociopath is instrumental. The sociopath has never shared herself with you. The sociopath has never really shared a pleasure with you. Even the sex was not about sharing. The sex was about the sociopath’s pleasure and his or her prowess as a lover.