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Empty, bored chameleons

Like many of you, I am very grateful for a few friends who acted as sounding boards as I processed my experience with a sociopath. The best talks have been with my exercise partner who is also a former Federal agent. About 2 years ago on one of our walks we discussed what it must be like to be inside the skin of a sociopath. Both of us tried to imagine what their inner world is like.

On that walk we both connected with ourselves and each other in a way we hadn’t before. The connection happened as we reflected on what it must be like to live a life without love. I realized that my sense of myself as a continuous person over time is based on the people I love and the values I have a passion for. Everywhere I go I carry with me a sense of duty, love and connection to my children and other loved ones. My dearest ones are always inside me. The fulfilling of duty to them gives life purpose and direction.

According to Dr. Cleckley, the first psychiatrist to really study sociopaths, the disorder produces an incapacity for love that is “complete”. Furthermore Dr. Cleckley states in his book, The Mask of Sanity that even those who have an “incomplete manifestation” of the disorder completely lack the capacity for love.

Without love to give themselves a sense of feeling and purpose, sociopaths are prone to boredom. They have to keep filling their lives with excitement and also abuse substances to fill the gap.

Sociopaths live in the moment because they lack the loving human connections that give everyone else a sense of continuity of person and purpose.

Sociopaths also have no true self because instead of being based on loving connections, their sense of themselves is based on who they can dominate in the moment. If yesterday they had to assume a certain identity to get over on person A, today they may have to assume another identity to get over on person B. This assumption of identities is not a problem for them because the goal is not loving or meaningful connectedness. The goal is the pleasure of the get over. They will become what they must to accomplish that goal.

I’ve been struggling over whether or not to include a section on “identity” in my next book. I am trying not to get too psychologically technical. But it might be helpful for victims and family members to reflect on identity and understand why sociopaths lack a stable sense of self. I am interested in your thoughts about that.

Since some of you indicated you wanted me to tackle an explanation of “borderline personality”. I’ve been reading on the issue of identity. On page 213 of “Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism” psychoanalyst Dr. Otto Kernberg says the following:

The normal integrated self and its related integrated conceptions of others guarantee a sense of continuity throughout time and under varying circumstances. They also guarantee a sense of belonging to a network of human relations that makes life meaningful, and they guarantee the ordinary “self feeling” we take for granted…

He also says that absent loving connections:

… pathological subjective experiences of a painful and disturbing nature develop. Among these experiences predominates a sense of emptiness and futility of life, chronic restlessness and boredom..In typical cases, it is as if this emptiness were their basic modality of subjective experience from which they attempt to escape by engagement in many activities or in frantic social interactions, by the ingestion of drugs or alcohol or by attempts to obtain instinctual gratifications through sex, aggression, food or compulsive activities…

I hope you will spend what is left of summer reflecting on your own loving connections. As you contemplate the meaning of these connections and their importance to your sense of who you are, consider your own “self-feeling”. Realize that you have yourself to give yourself in intimacy to another either friend, family or lover, while the sociopath you know has nothing to give anyone.



175 Comments on "Empty, bored chameleons"

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  1. OxDrover says:

    I read a borrowed copy of the WWLPs book, maybe anyone who has a copy could put it on e bay and let people here know it is up, or amazon.com. Or mail it to Donna and let her re-sell it in the LF store.

  2. Rosa says:

    Tilly, your list is missing a few biggies.

    I am grateful for my God-given ability to express myself through art.
    I am grateful for the gift of laughter.
    I am grateful for my ability to LOVE & experience real emotions, and am not stuck in the empty shell of a S/P/N.

  3. Rosa says:

    Tilly:

    I am grateful for my big, strong, beautiful spirit, that has endured SO MUCH ADVERSITY, but still shines more brightly today than ever before.

    Damn it, Tilly. You forgot the most important ones!
    Why am I the one thinking of all of these???

  4. skylar says:

    Liz,
    there is only one way to get rid of the P. Be BORING. They can’t stand that. Be dull like a plain old gray rock. I learned this from a guy I met at a sushi bar. total stranger that I opened up to and told about my ex. He said, “Oh, thats a malignant narcissist.” I said, “a what?” Then he explained. Have nothing they want, especially emotions. Have no money, no fun, no compassion, no friends, no response. Eventually, they go away and you can resume your life.

    I was reading the post from “Biddy” on another page and she was everything a P could want. Totally responsive, totally into the drama, totally believing in the “love triangle” that her P was telling her existed with his exwife. She wanted to make him a better person. She was hooked by that challenge of achieving it through her compassionate nature and proving the exwife wrong. Proving the entire community wrong. They are experts at reading what it is you want/are. Then they dangle that carrot for you.

    I would never have escaped the lies if it weren’t for that compassionate stranger at the sushi bar. I had no idea that these vampires walked among us. When I finally believed, it was easy to understand. The congnitive dissonance disappeared when I looked at it this way: All the bad things he did were real and all the good he said and did were lies. Yes, plain and simple lies. When I looked at it that way, it made perfect, simple sense.

    If you are confused, or feel this doesn’t make sense because he has done so many nice things as well as bad things, just realize that the good things are lies and manipulation. Then it makes perfect, simple sense. Not confusing at all.

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