Hello my friends…
It’s so nice to be here, to discuss the subjects of narcissism and sociopathy.
I’d like to begin by asking each of you, one at a time, to tell us a little about me and what you hope to give me in our short time together?
Uh huh…hmmm…very interesting….
As we continue circling the room, if it’s alright with you, I’d like to hear a little less about you, and more about me?
Okay, now that we’re done with the introductions….
Let me formally begin by stating something fairly obvious: Narcissists and sociopaths are people you’ll want to avoid. Does this make sense? Are we in unanimity about this?
By the way, I want you to feel free during this presentation, at any point, to stretch my legs and get me a cup of coffee, to ensure my good circulation and alertness? (Incidentally, I like my coffee light with six sugars.)
My friends (and no, I’m not John McCain), I wonder whether any of you, right now, can look yourselves in the mirror and honestly say that you are completely attuned to me and, more important, humbled by the vast expertise I bring to this subject matter?
But I digress….we are here, after all, to discuss me, not narcissists and sociopaths. (Excuse, I meant that the other way around!)
The gentleman over there, yawning, who is texting as I speak? You must be a sociopath, sir; or, at a minimum, a deranged narcissist, to have the gall to enter my audience and so blatantly disrespect me!
I’d suggest, sir, that you think less about that text message and more about the insulting message you send me with your contemptuous behavior?
By the way, my friends, I point that man out over there not to single him out and shame him gratuitously, but rather to identify live, spontaneous examples of narcissism and sociopathy right before your eyes.
Remember, my friends, by some estimates upwards of 4% of the general population are sociopaths! I believe that estimate comes from Martha Stout who, for purposes of her book sales (The Sociopath Next Door) lobbied for 26% as the figure, but after a noisy fight deferred to her publisher’s attorneys.
By my math, this means that, conservatively, at least four of you in the audience are clinical sociopaths. Well, I believe I’ve exposed the first!
Sir, sit down…where are you going? You can’t leave!! Sit back down, sir!!
Excuse me? You’re outraged? Did you say you were “outraged?”
Did you hear that, folks?
Listen to me, you arrogant jerk! Sit back down!!
You’re lucky I didn’t call security on you already for disrupting my presentation with your text messaging!! Now you compound your rudeness by deigning to escape with the blithe impudence of a sociopath?
My friends…this is the narcissist’s (or in his case, more likely the sociopath’s) contempt on full, alarming display!
Let me tell you something, sir, if I wasn’t so consumed with who I am, I’d be more interested to know who you are, if only to use my clout to ensure that you are permanently banned from all continuing education seminars—not just mine—in perpetuity!
You scoff, sir?
There it is…right there, my friends. Again…notice the contempt! See it for yourselves.
Fine…let him leave. We’re better off without him.
Now where were we?
Oh yes…just a reminder…we will break for lunch at 12 and I’d like you back no later than by 12:10.
That should give you enough time to scarf something down, and prepare for the brilliant material to come this afternoon.
And by the way, in order to avoid the congestion of those of you trying to crash my dining-room table to lunch with me, I will draw, in advance of our lunch-break, five names from a hat to establish who my dining table-mates will be.
This will be a random drawing, and I must warn you that I am not open to bribes, although I will note that those of you who buy my books—especially many of them—in the next hour or so, in the hall right outside this conference room, can expect special consideration.
The narcissist and sociopath…
Who are these individuals, my friends?
The scary thing is that they are our friends, our family, our colleagues, our doctors, our lawyers, our stockbrokers, our mates, and most chilling, our mail-carriers.
What else do we know about them?
We know that individuals with these warped personalities tend to regard others as “objects.”
As a matter of fact, if you leave here with nothing else, with, let us say, just a single, critical concept, let it be this: I know what I’m talking about.
As I was saying, these deviant individuals treat others not like individuals, but like objects. Remember this, because the implication is paramount: when you view others as a something, instead of a someone, it becomes easier to treat that person as a thing, not a person.
Hey you! Over there! Yeah, you! What are you, deaf? Do me a favor and turn the thermostat down, over there by the door. Yeah, right over there, by the door. Knock it down at least several degrees. I’m hot. Extremely hot.
Jesus Christ, yeah, you! That’s right…get up…out of your seat…then walk over to the wall, and jack the thermostat down. Get it, Einstein?
We know, by the way, that the narcissist will have little genuine interest in your experience while being pretty much entirely consumed in his…and his comfort.
What, people? You’re cold? That’s ridiculous. How can you be cold? You must be hallucinating! Because it’s hot in here! Nobody in their right minds could be cold when it’s so obviously, intolerably hot and stuffy in here.
I’m invalidating your experience?
Sweetheart, what hypersensitivity drugs are you on? I’m merely stating an undeniable fact.
What? Don’t call you sweetheart?
Jesus, is this a feminist convention, or a continuing education seminar?
By the way, nobody touch the thermostat now that that cretin over there finally figured out how to adjust it.
I’m just kidding, calling you a cretin. God, you’re a hypersensitive crowd.
But seriously, if anyone so much as dares mess with the thermostat, you’re asking to see a side of me I’d prefer not to reveal.
My friends, sociopaths are fascinating creatures.
My god, have you ever had someone lie to your face, someone who makes an art form of lying convincingly, regardless of his patent guilt, for whom the very act of lying audaciously is a form of entertainment, satisfaction?
What I’m saying, my friends, is that, for the sociopath, the payoff is often the getting away with something; it is often the thrill of the game; the thrill of perpetrating fraud against others!
Come again? My doctorate? Are you questioning my credentials?
Read my lips and look into my eyes, and tell me if I’m lying: My doctorate is legitimate.
How dare you insinuate otherwise!
As the blurb on the seminar brochure says, I graduated at the top of my class from the College of America in 1985, with a Ph.D., MD., and JD. That makes me a psychologist, medical doctor, and lawyer—in other words, someone you don’t wanna mess with.
Now let me go a step further, as I look every single one of you in the eye from my podium: Not only are my doctorates legitimate, but so is everything in my biography.
That’s right, I dare any one of you to disprove a single assertion in my biography, including my claims to have studied closely with Carl Rogers, Gordon Allport, and Louis Pasteur.
Sure, I’m smiling. I’m smiling from the enviable position of a man who knows that he’s betrayed (excuse me, I meant conveyed) his integrity.
That was a Fraudian slip, people. Excuse me, I meant Freudian…that was a wholly innocent mistake. Don’t even go there.
Grandiosity…grandiosity. Let me look at my notes on grandiosity.
The narcissist and sociopath often have serious grandiosity issues….hmmm.
Speaking of grandiosity, I routinely like to humble the clinicians I supervise by sharing the story of how Rogers—that’s right, Carl Rogers—once told me, “Len, you’re my favorite. You’re my favorite student. My most brilliant student. You will carry my work forward.”
Yes, this story tends to curb my students’ grandiosity.
You’re all shaking your heads…in appropriate awe, no doubt?
My friends, for the narcissist, even more than the sociopath, his grandiosity is a defense. The narcissist requires, like an addict, the experience and perception of himself as special, as above others.
Unless the narcissist is catered to, and treated as a sort of celebrity, he feels depressed, worthless, which typically takes the form of his anger and rage.
You two!! Knock it off!! How dare you whisper to each other while I’m speaking!!
Do I need to remind you people that I don’t have to be here. Don’t you get that? I don’t have to be here, people. You do; I don’t.
Last warning; this is my last warning. You people really are testing my patience.
Where was I, before your latest rude disturbance?
Anyway, I’ll tell you an interesting, and perhaps even edifying, story.
Once upon a time there was a married couple. And the wife periodically confronted the husband, “You know what? You’re a goddamned psychopath. That’s what you are. You put on a good front for the public. But make no mistake, you’re a masquerader. I know your deal. You’re a psychopath. And I’m gonna let people know. I’m no longer going to suffer your abuse in silence.”
And the husband laughed with great contempt, because he had great contempt for his wife. And he appreciated neither her scathing tone, boldness, nor, of course, her threat.
And the very next day the wife went missing. And was never to be found.
And the husband told each of his subsequent wives, of whom there were successively three, that they could never measure up to the first, his missing wife.
He’d probably never get over her loss, he’d tell them, with watering eyes.
His undiminished love for her, his first wife, probably was, he’d admit tearfully, holding him back. But he couldn’t help that, of course. His missing wife, after all, was the love of his life, and so maybe he was, he’d suggest, simply too scarred to ever get over it.
And his seeming vulnerability and seeming raw, emotional honesty made it much harder for his later wives to hold him accountable.
Why do I tell you this story, my friends?
Is it my story?
Not really. I know where my wife went…I’m convinced she returned to her family somewhere in eastern Mississippi where, I believe, she assumed a new identity and hence as if just dropped off the face of the earth.
Oh no, my wife is alive and well somewhere…she just doesn’t want anyone from her past to know about it.
I know exactly what you’re thinking, my friends: She, not I, is the psychopath?
You are a good crowd, very shrewd…yes you are.
And her successful disappearance proves just that, does it not? That she, not I, is the psychopath!
After all, only a psychopath, my friends, can just up one day, abandon her family, disappear permanently, and unconscionably leave a cloud of suspicion hanging over her betrayed husband!
Forgive me my tears….I’m a very emotional man who, as you can see, has very deep feelings about this, still.
God, I miss her…that woman.
And every day I tell my kids, who are still young, “Don’t worry…she won’t be coming home…” Excuse me, that was another Fraudian slip…I meant to say I tell them, “Don’t worry, children…someday, when mama’s ready, she’ll reach out…and announce herself again…meanwhile, you must ignore those scurrilous, persistent rumors that have hounded me all your lives, rumors of my…uh…‘involvement’ in your mother’s disappearance?”
I don’t mean to spin off on this, my friends, but you understand, don’t you, that that student intern with whom I took up just prior to my wife’s disappearance…you do realize that the timing of that was, of course, entirely coincidental?
It’s a funny thing, my friends, how in this cynical age we live in, nobody believes in coincidence anymore. How sad…how jaded…how tragic.
Where was I?
Sociopaths…yes, sociopaths are eternally intriguing personalities, my friends.
My friends, we are nearing time for a bathroom break. That is because, naturally, I have to go to the bathroom.
Before we break, and please be ready to resume promptly in no later than 40 seconds, I want to say something about the legendary psychopathy clinician Hervey Cleckley. Cleckley, you know, wrote the classic on psychopaths called “The Mask Of Sanity.”
If you haven’t yet read it, although it now costs about $850 for a used copy, you’re an idiot.
Anyway, I should tell you I was supervised by Dr. Cleckley himself as part of my externship right out of the University of Alabama. I sought Dr. Cleckley out myself, on my own initiative, and let me just say that after we spoke privately in his home office for exactly half an hour, he said, and I quote, “Young man, you are clearly a gifted young clinician. I was unprepared to take on another disciple, but I must say, now that I’ve met you, I wouldn’t think of missing the opportunity. By the way, have you read all six editions of my book?”
I answered, “No, Dr. Cleckley, just the five,” impressing him that I wouldn’t fall for his trick question (the sixth edition wouldn’t appear for some years later, until after his death).
As an aside, you might be interested to know that Dr. Cleckley referenced me frequently in his lectures to other psychiatrists and psychologists, referring to me as “my protégé Len.”
You! Over there! Stand up!
My friends, here you have Exhibit A, standing naked before you, of insecurity, compensation, and envy!!
Your laughter, young man, is obviously a compensation…a compensation for the shame you undoubtedly feel at lacking the ability to grasp—to even begin to grasp—the profundity of my clinical wisdom and the intimidating gravity of my experience. This is all transparently obvious, young man. You are a fool.
I’ll tell you what, my friends. Let’s end this lecture, for the present, right here. It seems as good a moment as any. Besides the call of my bladder, I’m feeling some hunger pangs of surprising intensity and tenacity.
It is now 10:55; let’s reconvene no later than 11:05.
Remember, my books are displayed in the hall outside the room. My assistant Connie will be happy to assist your purchases.
Finally, it’s possible that, if we manage to cover the afternoon material efficiently enough and….if you should happen to clear the table of my books for sale, I may consider ending the seminar a little early?
Enjoy your lunch.
(This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)