The sociopath’s “loyalty” deficiency

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2012 by Steve Becker, LCSW.  The use of male gender pronouns is strictly for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.) 

“Loyalty” and “the sociopath” are incompatible terms. We’ve discussed many traits of the exploitive personality, but let’s not minimize a very vital one: deficient loyalty. Clearly,  deficient loyalty is a sociopathic characteristic.

A deficiency of loyalty can be disguised very well by clever, self-serving rationalizations. But you will not find the case of a true sociopath about whom you will ever be able to say: he (or she) was really, through and through, truly loyal.

Loyal? What does “loyal” mean? It’s actually pretty simple to define: when you are loyal, you “have the backs” of those who’ve “had your back.”

You “have their backs” because you want to “have their backs.” You are glad, if not grateful, for the chance to “have the backs” of those who’ve had yours. This is loyalty. It’s application feels good, and it feels consonant with the loyal individual’s “value system.”

Now, in some cases “loyalty” can lead to corruption. For instance, look at law enforcement: cops, corrections officers, will often “have each others’ backs”—they will often “go down” protecting their own even in scandals where, intellectually, they are well aware that laws were broken (by colleagues and friends), and the public’s trust violated. But they “have each others’ backs,” sometimes stubbornly and illegally. Their loyalty to each other may, in a rather complex way, sometimes contravenes other “values” they may have, such as ethical ones.

In a person of conscience, this may produce  real conflict and stress. In someone with a weaker conscience, this may not be the case.

In some cases, the “whistle-blower,” who might “look” more honest and courageous than his seemingly more ethically-challenged colleagues, might  be more sociopathic than his “corrupt” counterparts who, in snubbing authority and the law, maintain “the backs” of those who had his (or hers).

I am not judging this phenomenon in any way at all, just pointing out its sometimes complexity.

So “loyalty”—its demonstrations (and abdications)—can encompass serious moral complexity.

This is a case where, of course, not all evidence of disloyalty is a hot red flag of sociopathy, but “disloyalty” is absolutely a feature of the sociopathic personality.

And this is especially true: when “loyalty” becomes inconvenient, now we have something to evaluate. When it’s “inconvenient” to be loyal, watch the disloyal individual (and sociopaths) shed their capacity to “seem” loyal with a variety of disturbing rationalizations, and sometimes without even the need to explain. Watch them, in any case, emerge in their truer colors.

If there is a single quality, in fact—a single, true trait—whose presence alone virtually “rules out” sociopathy, it is arguably “loyalty.”

You simply cannot be “loyal” to those in your life who have been loyal to you—that is, be truly loyal to them even when it’s no longer expedient to be so—and be truly sociopathic.

As I said, true loyalty and true sociopathy are simply incompatible concepts, and will never describe the same individual.

202 Comments on "The sociopath’s “loyalty” deficiency"

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  1. spathinator says:


    I’ve heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don’t really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you to a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    There was a time when you let me know
    What’s really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    Maybe there’s a God above
    But all I’ve ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
    It’s not a cry you can hear at night
    It’s not somebody who has seen the light
    It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    You say I took the name in vain
    I don’t even know the name
    But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
    There’s a blaze of light in every word
    It doesn’t matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    I did my best, it wasn’t much
    I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
    I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
    And even though it all went wrong
    I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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  2. ErinBrock says:

    The expectant mother seems to be the expectant monster. She left her teenage kids to move to the tropics with spath. Neither have a j-o-b…..well, of course if you don’t consider pot traffiking a job…..they bought land and talk openly about the greenhouses they will grow in. **Cough *cough
    Her kids hate him, he’s been inappropriate with all of them…..and they all left.
    So….my heart is not breaking for her either.
    It’s a case of spath meets spath……wiat for the showdown.
    It just burns my soul that another child will be a pawn for them both.
    The upside is…..she’s in her mid 40’s…..so maybe, just maybe higher powers will see fit to end this before it can be destroyed by both of them.

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  3. ErinBrock says:

    Oh…..and shall I mention they met in Mid Feb. on the internet, Married, got rid of her kids, preggers and relocated out of state in all of what…..now 9 months.
    Hmmmmm can you say rush rush rush……
    The crash, crash, crash will hit…..we already know this!
    Just waiting on the reality show awards……

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  4. Ox Drover says:

    Frequently, EB two psychopaths will “hook up” and the loser claims “foul! I’m a victim” —so I foresee this in the case with your kidlets’ new sibling. Having two people high in P traits for parents and growing up in the middle of the battle. At least your kids got ONE good parent!

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