Is it possible that the sociopath is, in a sense, the missing link? Who is he? He is human but, in another sense, not quite human. Much like the Neandarthals, who were humans but not quite homo sapiens, and whom you’d have had a hard time differentiating from homo sapiens in a crowd, the sociopath may mix in seamlessly with the more fully developed human race.
Meaning, like the Neandarthal race of humans, he isn’t noticeably different, at least not by appearances, from his fellow homo sapiens. And yet he is different…he is missing something.
There is something primitive and underdeveloped in him. This is a very crude analogy, admittedly. Neandarthals weren’t more sociopath than their fully human counterparts, at least so far as I know.
And sociopaths are fullfledged homo-sapiens; we must give them that. And yet they hearken back, developmentally, to something more primitive, which isn’t to say, either, that the proto-human species were necessarily more sociopathic than ours.
At the same time, I don’t believe evolution would look kindly on a “species” of sociopaths. Not that evolution will look kindly, in the end, on the human race, which may destroy itself eventually, with or without the contributions of its minority sociopathic population.
But a species of sociopaths, by itself, would destroy itself, sabotage itself, in probably less time than many of the proto-human species died out. A species of sociopathic homo sapiens just would not last for tens of thousands, or millions of years.
It would be a cut-throat species and in its particular limitations—its particular interpersonal psychopathology—it would fail to adapt (at this stage of modern civilization) to the demands required of a long-existing species.
This would be an exploitative, impulsive, greedy, unempathic species; an “emotionally unintelligent,” “emotionally blind,” “emotionally uninsightful” species…all characteristics which surely would seal its shorter-term doom?
The sociopath is not a contributor, a builder; or what he builds he will destroy eventually, in any case. The sociopath is a “now” creature; not a patient investor.
If he’s a problem-solver, he’s trying to solve the problem of how to benefit, how to aggrandize, himself; he is not trying to solve problems that advance others, that invest in causes that don’t directly benefit himself.
The sociopath just isn’t a cooperative, collaborative member of society. He is a “solo” operator, out for himself. This is true whether he’s a more calculating, or more impulsive, type of sociopath. His aims, regardless, are fundamentally self-serving and gratification-driven.
His comforts, his satiation, carry (for him) so much importance, so much primacy, that even if they must come at others’ expense, this is just how it is. That’s the way the cookie crumples.
“To get what I want, what I need, which is preeminent, may come at your cost and, if that’s the case, well, that’s just too bad. That’s life.”
For the sociopath, his gain can come at your cost, and this is okay with him. He just isn’t troubled, like a nonsociopathic is troubled, to gain from your pain. It is his peculiar equanimity, in response to the distress he knows he’s caused you (and sees you in), that speaks to the essence of his sociopathy.
And so one might wonder, is the sociopath, in a metaphorical sense, a kind of missing link? Or maybe, just missing?
(This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is not to suggest that females are not capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)