There can be different perspectives of the sociopath (and other seriously exploitive personalities). These perspectives can offer different experiences of these disturbed individuals. At the same time each perspective offers, I suggest by definition, both a somewhat advantageous and yet limited view of the sociopath.
Living with a sociopath, or finding oneself involved deeply in a “committed” relationship with a sociopath, will offer an incomparably intimate experience of the horrors that sociopaths can inflict on their partners.
Clearly no one, and that includes the so-called “experts” on sociopathy (clinicians and researchers, for instance) will be able to appreciate the impact of the sociopath, on this level, like the partner who has lived with, or been closely involved with, one.
This close, personal relationship confers upon the partner of the sociopath a certain knowledge of sociopathy and, I stress, a certain intimate experience of the sociopath that no clinician or “expert” can possibly approximate; thus, the sociopath’s partner’s experience is surely a unique one, qualifying him or her, from this particular intimate vantage point, as really the ultimate “expert” on sociopathy.
Now thankfully I’ve never lived with a sociopath, a fact which also happens to limit my experience with sociopathic personalities—specifically, in this case, the experience of having lived with one, and had my life razed by one.
In this sense my, or anyone’s, clinical experience of sociopathic individuals—just like one’s clinical experience of any individual—is limited by the structure of the clinical relationship. It is a relationship with boundaries provided inherently, so that the clinician or researcher (unlike the sociopath’s partner) is for the most part protected emotionally and physically from the sociopath’s most damaging, hurtful, violating behaviors.
On one hand, the protection to which I refer—again, a protection that’s inherent in the clinical setting—clearly limits the clinician’s capacity to fully experience the sociopath; on the other hand, the very structure of the clinical setting may enhance the clinician’s ability to apprehend aspects of sociopaths that may elude the sociopath’s partner, because he or she—the clinician— again unlike the sociopath’s partner, in operating within a structure of safety and protection, can observe and study the sociopath more freely and through a much wider lens.
The clinican is afforded the chance to observe and study sociopaths’ attitudes, their interactions, their styles, their variations, their differences. And, of course, not just one of these individuals, but many.
And so the clinician’s experience with sociopaths, while less rich and informative in some important ways than the partner’s experience of the sociopath, in other ways yields him or her different, additional opportunities to grasp how sociopathically-oriented individuals think and act.
And yet over and over again, I note it when a Lovefraud member points out, “But what do YOU know? Or what does HE know? You (or HE) never lived with a sociopath!”
And my response, whenever I read these comments, is to agree with them wholeheartedly. They are entirely valid comments and speak a truth that all so-called “experts” on sociopathy should heed well: those who have lived with the sociopath possess a certain knowledge and experience of the sociopath that is not only unique (as I’ve suggested), but non-attainable to a clinician in any sort of safe, protective clinical setting.
In this sense, or certainly in many respects, the clinician has much more to learn from the sociopath’s partner than the other way around.
(This article is copyrighted (c) 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of the male gender pronouns is strictly for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the attitudes and behaviors discussed.)