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  1. 1. Praise for"A fascinating, important book about what 1II.t! cgood and bad people bad, and how good pl ()III(themselves from those others."
  2. 2. thesociopath next doorThe RuthlessB R O ADWAY BO O KSVersus the Rest of UsMartha Stout Ph, .DN E W YO R K
  3. 3. �BROADWAYTHE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR. Copyright © 2005 byMartha Stout. All rights reserved. No part of this book may bereproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronicor mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by anyinformation storage and retrieval system, without writtenpermission from the publisher. For information, addressBroadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc.PRIN TED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICABROADWAY BOOKS and its logo, a letter B bisected on the diagonal.are trademarks of Random House, Inc.Book design by Ellen CiprianoISBN 0-7394-5674-1
  4. 4. For Steve Stout,my brother and the person I think offirstwhen I think ofstrength ofcharacter
  5. 5. The conscience ofa people is their power.-John Dryden
  6. 6. ONEcontentsAcknowledgments / xiAuthors Note / xiiiIntroduction: Imagine / 1The Seventh Sense / 19TWOTHRIce People: The Sociopaths / 36When Normal Conscience Sleeps / 52FOURFIVThe Nicest Person in the World / 70Why Conscience Is Partially Blind / 86SIXHow to Recognize the Remorseless / 103
  7. 7. SEVThe Etiology of Guiltlessness:What Causes Sociopathy? / 120EI G H TNINThe Sociopath Next Door / 140The Origins of Conscience / 164TENBernies Choice: Why ConscienceIs Better / 181ELEqr IGroundhog Day / 197TWELV EConscience in Its Purest Form:Science Votes for Morality / 209Notes / 219Index / 233r
  8. 8. acknowledgmentsMuch of the time, the absorbing task of writing a book feels less likeauthoring and more like channeling, through your fingers and a key­board, the lessons and inspiration of countless other people, wisefriends known over many years and teachers disguised as students,patients, and colleagues. I wish I could go back in time and thankthem all, and I take delight in this chance to thank the people whomost helped and supported me during the year I wrote The SociopathNext Door.For her commentary and utter indispensability, and her patience,I thank my friend and colleague Carol Kauffman, she of the legendarycreativity at solving problems, whose generosity never skipped a beat,even though she was in the middle of writing Pivot Points.Because none of this would have been possible without her mov­ing commitment to her mission, and for her having been always adeep well of grace, comprehension, and heart in a wide desert, Ithank my agent and treasured friend, Susan Lee Cohen.If I had attempted to design the worlds most superb editor, Icould not have done nearly so well as Kristine Puopolo at BroadwayBooks, and I thank her for her intelligence, her precision, and her ex­traordinary ability to be quietly right, always, without ever being in­trusive.I thank Diane Wemyss for her caring and her organizing, and forhaving suggested one of the events I write about, and ElizabethHaymaker for her charm across the miles.-XI
  9. 9. A C KN OWL E DG M E N T SI thank Steve Stout and Darcy Wakefield, for making me believein love again.Once again-and always-I thank my remarkable parents, EvaDeaton Stout and Adrian Phillip Stout, for showing me just howmuch love and light two people of surpassing conscience can bringto the world.And with awe, and more love than I could have imagined beforeI knew her, I would like to thank my daughter, Amanda, my firstreader and my most insightful one. She has taught me, among somany other things, that kindness and integrity come with the soul.xii
  10. 10. authors noteThe descriptions in The Sociopath Next Door do not identify individ­uals. At the very heart of psychotherapy is the precept of confiden­tiality, and as usual I have taken the most exacting measures topreserve the privacy of all real persons. All names are fictitious, andall other recognizable features have been changed. Some individualswho appear in the book willingly gave their consent to be anony­mously portrayed. In these cases, no information has been includedthat might in any way identify them.The story in the chapter entitled "Groundhog Day" is fiction.Otherwise, the people, events, and conversations presented here aretaken from my twenty-five-year practice of psychology. However, be­cause of my commitment to confidentiality, the people and circum­stances portrayed in these pages are composite in nature; that is tosay, each case represents a great many individuals whose character­istics and experiences have been adopted conceptually, carefullyaltered in their specifics, and combined to form an illustrative char­acter. Any resemblance of such a composite character to any actualperson is entirely coincidental.xiii
  11. 11. INTR ODUCTI ON. .ImagIneMinds differ still more than faces.-VoltaireImagine-if you can-not having a conscience, none at all, no feel­ings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting senseof concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even familymembers. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in yourwhole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoralaction you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibil­ity is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to acceptwithout question, like gullible fools. Now add to this strange fantasythe ability to conceal from other people that your psychological.makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply as­sumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding thefact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless. You are not heldback from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are neverconfronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water inyour veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal ex­perience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.
  12. 12. M ART H A ST O U TIn other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, andyour unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs ofconscience, is conveniently invisible to the world. You can do anythingat all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people,who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remainundiscovered.How will you live your life? What will you do with your huge andsecret advantage, and with the corresponding handicap of other peo­ple (conscience)? The answer will depend largely on just what yourdesires happen to be, because people are not all the same. Eventhe profoundly unscrupulous are not all the same. Some people­whether they have a conscience or not-favor the ease of inertia,while others are filled with dreams and wild ambitions. Some humanbeings are brilliant and talented, some are dull-witted, and most,conscience or not, are somewhere in between. There are violent peo­ple and nonviolent ones, individuals who are motivated by blood lustand those who have no such appetites.Maybe you are someone who craves money and power, andthough you have no vestige of conscience, you do have a magnificentIQ. You have the driving nature and the intellectual capacity to pur­sue tremendous wealth and influence, and you are in no way movedby the nagging voice of conscience that prevents other people fromdoing everything and anything they have to do to succeed. Youchoose business, politics, the law, banking, or international develop­ment, or any of a broad array of other power professions, and youpursue your career with a cold passion that tolerates none of theusual moral or legal incumbrances. When it is expedient, you doctorthe accounting and shred the evidence, you stab your employees andyour clients (or your constituency) in the back, marry for money, telllethal premeditated lies to people who trust you, attempt to ruincolleagues who are powerful or eloquent, and simply steamroll overgroups who are dependent and voiceless. And all of this you do with2
  13. 13. T H E S O C I O P A T H N E X T D O O Rthe exquisite freedom that results from having no conscience what­soever.You become unimaginably, unassailably, and maybe even globallysuccessful. Why not? With your big brain, and no conscience to reinin your schemes, you can do anything at all.Or no--let us say you are not quite such a person. You are am­bitious, yes, and in the name of success you are willing to do all man­ner of things that people with conscience would never consider, butyou are not an intellectually gifted individual. Your intelligence isabove average perhaps, and people think of you as smart, maybeeven very smart. But you know in your heart of hearts that you donot have the cognitive wherewithal, or the creativity, to reach thecareening heights of power you secretly dream about, and thismakes you resentful of the world at large, and envious of the peoplearound you.As this sort of person, you ensconce yourself in a niche, or maybea series of niches, in which you can have some amount of controlover small numbers of people. These situations satisfy a little of yourdesire for power, although you are chronically aggravated at not hav­ing more. It chafes to be so free of the ridiculous inner voice that in­hibits others from achieving great power, without having enoughtalent to pursue the ultimate successes yourself. Sometimes you fallinto sulky, rageful moods caused by a frustration that no one but youunderstands.But you do enjoy jobs that afford you a certain undersupervisedcontrol over a few individuals or small groups, preferably people andgroups who are relatively helpless or in some way vulnerable. You area teacher or a psychotherapist, a divorce lawyer or a high schoolcoach. Or maybe you are a consultant of some kind, a broker or agallery owner or a human services director. Or maybe you do nothave a paid position and are instead the president of your condo­minium association, or a volunteer hospital worker, or a parent.3
  14. 14. M ART H A ST O U TWhatever your job, you manipulate and bully the people who are un­der your thumb, as often and as outrageously as you can without get­ting fired or held accountable. You do this for its own sake, evenwhen it serves no purpose except to give you a thrill. Making peoplejump means you have power-or this is the way you see it-and bul­lying provides you with an adrenaline rush. It is fun.Maybe you cannot be the CEO of a multinational corporation,but you can frighten a few people, or cause them to scurry aroundlike chickens, or steal from them, or-maybe best of all-create sit­uations that cause them to feel bad about themselves. And this ispower, especially when the people you manipulate are superior toyou in some way. Most invigorating of all is to bring down peoplewho are smarter or more accomplished than you, or perhaps classier,more attractive or popular or morally admirable. This is not onlygood fun; it is existential vengeance. And without a conscience, it isamazingly easy to do. You quietly lie to the boss or to the bosss boss,cry some crocodile tears, or sabotage a coworkers project, or gas­light a patient (or a child), bait people with promises, or provide alittle misinformation that will never be traced back to you.Or now let us say you are a person who has a proclivity for vio­lence or for seeing violence done. You can simply murder yourcoworker, or have her murdered-or your boss, or your ex-spouse, oryour wealthy lovers spouse, or anyone else who bothers you. Youhave to be careful, because if you slip up, you may be caught andpunished by the system. But you will never be confronted by yourconscience, because you have no conscience. If you decide to kill,the only difficulties will be the external ones. Nothing inside of youwill ever protest.Provided you are not forcibly stopped, you can do anything at all.If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune,and you have a special talent for whipping up other peoples hatredand sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers ofunsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this4
  15. 15. T H E S O C I OPAT H N E X T D O ORfrom far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction.In fact, terrorism (done from a distance) is the ideal occupation fora person who is possessed of blood lust and no conscience, becauseif you do it just right, you may be able to make a whole nation jump.And if that is not power, what is?Or let us imagine the opposite extreme: You have no interest inpower. To the contrary, you are the sort of person who really does notwant much of anything. Your only real ambition is not to have to ex­ert yourself to get by. You do not want to work like everyone elsedoes. Without a conscience, you can nap or pursue your hobbies orwatch television or just hang out somewhere all day long. Living a biton the fringes, and with some handouts from relatives and friends,you can do this indefinitely. People may whisper to one another thatyou are an underachiever, or that you are depressed, a sad case, or,in contrast, if they get angry, they may grumble that you are lazy.When they get to know you better, and get really angry, they mayscream at you and call you a loser, a bum. But it will never occur tothem that you literally do not have a conscience, that in such a fun­damental way, your very mind is not the same as theirs.The panicked feeling of a guilty conscience never squeezes atyour heart or wakes you in the middle of the night. Despite yourlifestyle, you never feel irresponsible, neglectful, or so much as em­barrassed, although for the sake of appearances, sometimes you pre­tend that you do. For example, if you are a decent observer of peopleand what they react to, you may adopt a lifeless facial expression, sayhow ashamed of your life you are, and talk about how rotten youfeel. This you do only because it is more convenient to have peoplethink you are depressed than it is to have them shouting at you allthe time, or insisting that you get a: job.You notice that people who do have a conscience feel guilty whenthey harangue someone they believe to be "depressed" or "troubled."As a matter of fact, to your further advantage, they often feel obligedto take care of such a person. If, despite your relative poverty, you5
  16. 16. M A R T H A S T O UTcan manage to get yourself into a sexual relationship with someone,this person-who does not suspect what you are really like-may feelparticularly obligated. And since all you want is not to have to work,your financier does not have to be especially rich, just reliablyconscience-bound.I trust that imagining yourself as any of these people feels insaneto you, because such people are insane, dangerously so. Insane butreal-they even have a label. Many mental health professionals referto the condition of little or no conscience as "antisocial personalitydisorder," a noncorrectable disfigurement of character that is nowthought to be present in about 4 percent of the population-that isto say, one in twenty-five people. This condition of missing con­science is called by other names, too, most often "sociopathy," or thesomewhat more familiar term, psychopathy. Guiltlessness was in factthe first personality disorder to be recognized by psychiatry, andterms that have been used at times over the past century includemanie sans d€lire, psychopathic inferiority, moral insanity, and moral im­becility.According to the current bible of psychiatric labels, theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders N of theAmerican Psychiatric Association, the clinical diagnosis of "antiso­cial personality disorder" should be considered when an individualpossesses at least three of the following seven characteristics: (1)failure to conform to social norms; (2) deceitfulness, manipulative­ness; (3) impulsivity, failure to plan ahead; (4) irritability, aggres­siveness; (5) reckless disregard for the safety of self or others; (6)consistent irresponsibility; (7) lack of remorse after having hurt, mis­treated, or stolen from another person. The presence in an individ­ual of any three of these "symptoms," taken together, is enough tomake many psychiatrists suspect the disorder.Other researchers and clinicians, many of whom think the APAsdefinition describes simple "criminality" better than true "psychopa­thy" or "sociopathy," point to additional documented characteristics6
  17. 17. T HE S O C I OPAT H N E XT D O ORof sociopaths as a group. One of the more frequently observed ofthese traits is a glib and superficial charm that allows the true so­ciopath to seduce other people, figuratively or literally-a kind ofglow or charisma that, initially, can make the sociopath seem morecharming or more interesting than most of the normal peoplearound him. He or she is more spontaneous, or more intense, orsomehow more "complex," or sexier, or more entertaining thaneveryone else. Sometimes this "sociopathic charisma" is accompa­nied by a grandiose sense of self-worth that may be compelling atfirst, but upon closer inspection may seem odd or perhaps laughable.("Someday the world will realize how special I am," or "You knowthat after me, no other lover will do,")In addition, sociopaths have a greater than normal need for stim­ulation, which results in their taking frequent social, physical, finan­cial, or legal risks. Characteristically, they can charm others intoattempting dangerous ventures with them, and as a group they areknown for their pathological lying and conning, and their parasiticrelationships with "friends." Regardless of how educated or highlyplaced as adults, they may have a history of early behavior problems,sometimes including drug use or recorded juvenile delinquency, andalways including a failure to acknowledge responsibility for any prob­lems that occurred.And sociopaths are noted especially for their shallowness of emo­tion, the hollow and transient nature of any affectionate feelingsthey may claim to have, a certain breathtaking callousness. Theyhave no trace of empathy and no genuine interest in bonding emo­tionally with a mate. Once the surface charm is scraped off, theirmarriages are loveless, one-sided, and almost always short-term. If amarriage partner has any value to the sociopath, it is because thepartner is viewed as a possession, one that the sociopath may feel an­gry to lose, but never sad or accountable.All of these characteristics, along with the "symptoms" listed bythe American Psychiatric Association, are the behavioral manifesta-7
  18. 18. M ART H A STOUTtions of what is for most of us an unfathomable psychological con­dition, the absence of our essential seventh sense-conscience.Crazy, and frightening-and real, in about 4 percent of the pop­ulation.But what does 4 percent really mean to society? As points of ref­erence to problems we hear about more often, consider the follow­ing statistics: The prevalence rate for anorexic eating disorders isestimated at 3.43 percent, deemed to be nearly epidemic, and yetthis figure is a fraction lower than the rate for antisocial personality.The high-profile disorders classed as schizophrenia occur in onlyabout 1 percent of us-a mere quarter of the rate of antisocial per­sonality-and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saythat the rate of colon cancer in the United States, considered"alarmingly high," is about 40 per 100,000-one hundred timeslower than the rate of antisocial personality. Put more succinctly,there are more sociopaths among us than people who suffer from themuch-publicized disorder of anorexia, four times as many sociopathsas schizophrenics, and one hundred times as many sociopaths aspeople diagnosed with a known scourge such as colon cancer.As a therapist, I specialize in the treatment of psychologicaltrauma survivors. Over the last twenty-five years, my practice has in­cluded hundreds of adults who have been in psychological pain everyday of their lives on account of early childhood abuse or some otherhorrendous past experience. As I have detailed in case studies in TheMyth ofSanity, my trauma patients suffer from a host of torments,including chronic anxiety, incapacitating depression, and dissocia­tive mental states, and, feeling that their time on earth was unbear­able, many of them have come to me after recovering from attemptsto commit suicide. Some have been traumatized by natural andman-made disasters such as earthquakes and wars, but most of themhave been controlled and psychologically shattered by individualhuman perpetrators, often sociopaths-sometimes sociopathicstrangers, but more typically sociopathic parents, older relatives, or8
  19. 19. T H E S O C I O P AT H N E X T D O O Rsiblings. In helping my patients and their families cope with theharm done to their lives, and in studying their case histories, I havelearned thatthe damage caused by the sociopaths among us is deepand lasting, often tragically lethal, and startlingly common. Workingwith hundreds of survivors, I have become convinced that dealingopenly and directly with the facts about sociopathy is a matter of ur­gency for us all.About one in twenty-five individuals are sociopathic, meaning,essentially, that they do not have a conscience. It is not that thisgroup fails to grasp the difference between good and bad; it is thatthe distinction fails to limit their behavior. The intellectual differencebetween right and wrong does not bring on the emotional sirens andflashing blue lights, or the fear of God, that it does for the rest of us.Without the slightest blip of guilt or remorse, one in twenty-five peo­ple can do anything at all.The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a pro­found effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, eventhose of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individu­als who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bankaccounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peaceon earth. Yet surprisingly, many people know nothing about thisdisorder, or if they do, they think only in terms of violent psychopa­thy-murderers, serial killers, mass murderers-people who have con­spicuously broken the law many times over, and who, if caught, willbe imprisoned, maybe even put to death by our legal system. We arenot commonly aware of, nor do we usually identify, the larger num­ber of nonviolent sociopaths among us, people who often are notblatant lawbreakers, and against whom our formal legal system pro­vides little defense.Most of us would not imagine any correspondence between con­ceiving an ethnic genocide and, say, guiltlessly lying to ones bossabout a coworker. But the psychological correspondence is not onlythere; it is chilling. Simple and profound, the link is the absence of9
  20. 20. M A R T H A ST O U Tthe inner mechanism that beats up on us, emotionally speaking,when we make a choice we view as immoral, unethical, neglectful, orselfish. Most of us feel mildly guilty if we eat the last piece of cakein the kitchen, let alone what we would feel if we intentionally andmethodically set about to hurt another person. Those who have noconscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homi­cidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers.The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division,arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender.What differentiates a sociopath who lives off the labors of othersfrom one who occasionally robs convenience stores, or from one whois a contemporary robber baron�or what makes the difference be­tween an ordinary bully and a sociopathic murderer-is nothingmore than social status, drive, intellect, blood lust, or simple oppor­tunity. What distinguishes all of these people from the rest of us isan utterly empty hole in the psyche, where there should be the mostevolved of all humanizing functions.For something like 96 percent of us, conscience is so fundamen­tal that we seldom even think about it. For the most part, it acts likea reflex. Unless temptation is extremely great (which, thankfully, ona day-to-day basis it usually is not), we by no means reflect on eachand every moral question that comes our way. We do not seriouslyask ourselves, Shall I give my child lunch money today, or not? ShallI steal my coworkers briefcase today, or not? Shall I walk out on myspouse today, or not? Conscience makes all of these decisions for us,so quietly, automatically, and continually that, in our most creativeflights of imagination, we would not be able to conjure the image ofan existence without conscience. And so, naturally, when someonemakes a truly conscienceless choice, all we can produce are explana­tions that come nowhere near the truth: She forgot to give lunchmoney to her child. That persons coworker must have misplaced herbriefcase. That persons spouse must have been impossible to livewith. Or we come up with labels that, provided we do not inspect too- 10 -
  21. 21. T H E S O C I O PAT H N E XT D O O Rclosely, almost explain another persons antisocial behavior: He is"eccentric, " or "artistic, " or "really competitive," or "lazy, " or "clue­less, " or "always such a rogue. "Except for the psychopathic monsters we sometimes see on tele­vision, whose actions are too horrific to explain away, consciencelesspeople are nearly always invisible to us. We are keenly interested inhow smart we are, and in the intelligence level of other people. Thesmallest child can tell the difference between a girl and a boy. Wefight wars over race. But as to what is possibly the single most mean­ingful characteristic that divides the human species-the presence orabsence of conscience-we remain effectively oblivious.Very few people, no matter how educated they are in other ways,know the meaning of the word sociopathic. Far less do they under­stand that, in all probability, the word could be properly applied to ahandful of people they actually know. And even after we havelearned the label for it, being devoid of conscience is impossible formost human beings to fantasize about. In fact, it is difficult to thinkof another experience that quite so eludes empathy. Total blindness,clinical depression, profound cognitive deficit, winning the lottery,and a thousand other extremes of human experience, even psy­chosis, are accessible to our imaginations. We have all been lost inthe dark. We have all been somewhat depressed. We have all felt stu­pid, at least once or twice. Most of us have made the mental list ofwhat we would do with a windfall fortune. And in our dreams atnight, our thoughts and our images are deranged.But not to care at all about the effects of our actions on society,on friends, on family, on our children? What on earth would that belike? What would we do with ourselves? Nothing in our lives, wakingor sleeping, informs us. The closest we come, perhaps, is the experi­ence of being in so much physical pain that our ability to reason oract is temporarily paralyzed. But even in pain there is guilt. Absoluteguiltlessness defies the imagination.Conscience is our omniscient taskmaster, setting the rules for our- 11 -
  22. 22. M A R T H A S T O U Tactions and meting out emotional punishments when we brea� therules. We never asked for conscience. It is just there, all the time, likeskin or lungs or heart. In a manner of speaking, we cannot even takecredit. And we cannot imagine what we would feel like without it.Guiltlessness is uniquely confusing as a medical concept, too.Quite unlike cancer, anorexia, schizophrenia, depression, or eventhe other "character disorders," such as narcissism, sociopathy wouldseem to have a moral aspect. Sociopaths are almost invariably seenas bad or diabolical, even by (or perhaps especially by) mental healthprofessionals, and the sentiment that these patients are somehowmorally offensive and scary comes across vividly in the literature.Robert Hare, a professor of psychology at the University ofBritish Columbia, has developed an inventory called the PsychopathyChecklist, now accepted as a standard diagnostic instrument for re­searchers and clinicians worldwide. Of his subjects, Hare, the dis­passionate scientist, writes, "Everyone, including the experts, can betaken in, manipulated, conned, and left bewildered by them. A goodpsychopath can play a concerto on anyones heartstrings. . . . Yourbest defense is to understand the nature of these human predators."And Hervey Cleckley, author of the 1941 classic text The Mask ofSanity, makes this complaint of the psychopath: "Beauty and ugli­ness, except in a very superficial sense, goodness, evil, love, horror,and humor have no actual meaning, no power to move him. "The argument can easily be made that "sociopathy" and "antiso­cial personality disorder" and "psychopathy" are misnomers, reflect­ing an unstable mix of ideas, and that the absence of consciencedoes not really make sense as a psychiatric category in the first place.In this regard, it is crucial to note that all of the other psychiatric di­agnoses (including narcissism) involve some amount of personal dis­tress or misery for the individuals who suffer from them. Sociopathystands alone as a "disease" that causes no dis-ease for the person whohas it, no subjective discomfort. Sociopaths are often quite satisfiedwith themselves and with their lives, and perhaps for this very reason- 12 -
  23. 23. T H E S O CIOPAT H N E XT D O O Rthere is no effective "treatment. " Typically, sociopaths enter therapyonly when they have been court-referred, or when there is some sec­ondary gain to be had from being a patient. Wanting to get better isseldom the true issue. All of this begs the question of whether theabsence of conscience is a psychiatric disorder or a legal designa­tion-or something else altogether.Singular in its ability to unnerve even seasoned professionals, theconcept of sociopathy comes perilously close to our notions of thesoul, of evil versus good, and this association makes the topic diffi­cult to think about clearly. And the unavoidable them-versus-us na­ture of the problem raises scientific, moral, and political issues thatboggle the mind. How does one scientifically study a phenomenonthat appears to be, in part, a moral one? Who should receive our pro­fessional help and support, the "patients" or the people who mustendure them? Since psychological research is generating ways to "di­agnose" sociopathy, whom should we test? Should anyone be testedfor such a thing in a free society? And if someone has been clearlyidentified as a sociopath, what, if anything, can society do with thatinformation? No other diagnosis raises such politically and profes­sionally incorrect questions, and sociopathy, with its known relation­ship to behaviors ranging from spouse battering and rape to serialmurder and warmongering, is in some sense the last and most fright­ening psychological frontier.Indeed, the most unnerving questions are seldom even whis­pered: Can we say for sure that sociopathy does not work for the in­dividual who has it? Is sociopathy a disorder at all, or is it functional?Just as unwelcome is the uncertainty on the flip side of that coin:Does conscience work for the individual, or group, who has it? Or isconscience, as more than one sociopath has implied, simply a psy­chological corral for the masses? Whether we speak them out loud ornot, doubts like these implicitly loom large on a planet where forthousands of years, and right up to the present moment, the mostuniversally famous names have always belonged to those who could- 13 -
  24. 24. M A R T H A ST O U Tmanage to be amoral on a large-enough scale. And in our present­day culture, using other people has become almost trendy, and un­conscionable business practices appear to yield unlimited wealth.On a personal level, most of us have examples from our own lives inwhich someone unscrupulous has won, and there are times whenhaving integrity begins to feel like merely playing the fool.Is it the case that cheaters never prosper, or is it true, after all,that nice guys finish last? Will the shameless minority really inheritthe earth?Such questions reflect a central concern of this book, a themethat occurred to me just after the catastrophes of September 1 1,200 I, propelled all people of conscience into anguish, and some intodespair. I am usually an optimistic person, but at that time, alongwith a number of other psychologists and students of human nature,I feared that my country and many others would fall into hate-filledconflicts and vengeful wars that would preoccupy us for many yearsto come. From nowhere, a line from a thirty-year-old apocalypticsong invaded my thoughts whenever I tried to relax or sleep: "Satan,laughing, spreads his wings. " The winged Satan in my minds eye,roaring with cynical laughter and rising from the wreckage, was nota terrorist, but a demonic manipulator who used the terrorists actsto ignite the kindling of hatred all over the globe.I became interested in my particular topic of sociopathy versusconscience during a phone conversation with a colleague of mine, agood man who is normally upbeat and full of encouragement butwho was at that moment stunned and demoralized along with therest of the world. We were discussing a mutual patient whose suici­dal symptoms had become alarmingly worse, apparently on accountof the disasters in the United States (and who has improved a greatdeal since then, I am relieved to report). My colleague was sayinghow guilty he felt because he was torn apart himself and might nothave the usual amount of emotional energy to give to the patient.This extraordinarily caring and responsible therapist, overwhelmed- 14 -
  25. 25. T H E S O C I O P AT H N E X T D O O Rby events, like everyone else, believed he was being remiss. In themiddle of judging himself, he stopped, sighed, and said to me in aweary voice highly uncharacteristic of him, "You know, sometimes Iwonder, Why have a conscience? It just puts you on the losing team. "I was very much taken aback by his question, mostly becausecynicism was so unlike this mans usual hale and hearty frame ofmind. After a moment, I replied with another question. I said, "Sotell me, Bernie. If you had a choice, I mean really, literally had achoice in the matter-which you dont, of course-would youchoose to have a conscience like you do, or would you prefer to besociopathic, and capable of . . . well, anything at all?"He considered this and said, "Youre right" (although I had notmeant to imply telepathy). Td choose to have a conscience. ""Why?" I pressed him.There was a pause and then a long, drawn-out "Well . . . " Finally,he said, "You know, Martha, I dont know why. I just know Id chooseconscience."And maybe I was thinking too wishfully, but it seemed to me thatafter he made this statement, there was a subtle change in Berniesvoice. He sounded slightly less defeated, and we started to talkabout what one of our professional organizations planned to do forthe people in New York and Washington.After that conversation, and for a very long time, I remained in­trigued by my colleagues question, "Why have a conscience?" and byhis preference to be conscience-bound rather than conscience-free,and by the fact that he did not know why he would make this choice.A moralist or a theologian might well have answered, "Because itsright, " or "Because I want to be a good person." But my friend thepsychologist could not give a psychological answer.I feel strongly that we need to know the psychological reason.Especially now, in a world that seems ready to self-destruct withglobal business scams, terrorism, and wars of hatred, we need tohear why, in a psychological sense, being a person of conscience is- 15 -
  26. 26. M A RT H A ST OUTpreferable to being a person unfettered by guilt or remorse. In part,this book is my answer, as a psychologist, to that question, "Whyhave a conscience?" To get to the reasons, I first discuss people whoare without conscience, the sociopaths-how they behave, how theyfeel-so that we can look more meaningfully into the value, for theother 96 percent of us, of possessing a trait that can be aggravating,painful, and-yes, it is true-limiting. What follows is a psycholo­gists celebration of the still small voice, and of the great majority ofhuman beings who find themselves graced with a conscience. It is abook for those of us who cannot imagine any other way to live.The book is also my attempt to warn good people about "the so­ciopath next door, " and to help them cope. As a psychologist and asa person, I have seen far too many lives nearly obliterated by thechoices and acts of a conscienceless few. These few are both dan­gerous and remarkably difficult to identify. Even when they are notphysically violent-and especially when they are familiar and close tous-they are all too capable of mangling individual lives, and of mak­ing human society as a whole an unsafe place to be. To my mind, thisdominance over the rest of us by people who have no conscience atall constitutes an especially widespread and appalling example ofwhat novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald referred to as "the tyranny of theweak. " And I believe that all people of conscience should learn whatthe everyday behavior of these people looks like, so they can recog­nize and deal effectively with the morally weak and the ruthless.Where conscience is concerned, we seem to be a species of ex­tremes. We have only to turn on our televisions to see this bewilder­ing dichotomy, to encounter images of people on their hands andknees rescuing a puppy from a drainage pipe, followed by reports ofother human beings slaughtering women and children and stackingthe corpses. And in our ordinary daily lives, though perhaps not sodramatically, we see the contrasts just as plentifully. In the morning,someone cheerfully goes out of her way to hand us the ten-dollar bill- 16 -
  27. 27. T H E S O C I O P AT H N E X T D O O Rthat we dropped, and in the afternoon, another person, gnnnmg,goes out of his way to cut us off in traffic.Given the radically contradictory behavior we witness every day,we must talk openly about both extremes of human personality andbehavior. To create a better world, we need to understand the natureof people who routinely act against the common good, and who doso with emotional impunity. Only by seeking to discover the natureof ruthlessness can we find the many ways people can triumph overit, and only by recognizing the dark can we make a genuine affirma­tion of the light.It is my hope that this book will play some part in limiting the so­ciopaths destructive impact on our lives. As individuals, people ofconscience can learn to recognize "the sociopath next door," andwith that knowledge work to defeat his entirely self-interested aims.At the very least, they can protect themselves and their loved onesfrom his shameless maneuverings.- 17 -
  28. 28. the seventh sense�.��/C.. Virtue is not the absence ofvices or tb€avoidance ofmoral dangers;virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell.-G. K. ChestertonThis morning, Joe, a thirty-year-old attorney, is running five min­utes late for an extremely important meeting that, with or with­out him, will start promptly at eight oclock. He needs to keep up agood impression with the more senior members of his firm, whichmeans just about everybody, and he would like to have the first wordwith these wealthy clients, whose concerns include Joes buddingspecialty of estate planning. He has been preparing his agenda fordays because he feels there is a lot at stake, and he very much wantsto be in the conference room at the start of the meeting.Unfortunately, the furnace in Joes town house suddenly stoppedmaking heat in the middle of the night. Freezing and pacing, afraidthe pipes would burst, he had to wait for the emergency repairmanfrom the fuel company before he could leave for work this morning.When the man showed up, Joe let him in and then, desperate to getto the meeting, abandoned him in the toWn house to fix the furnace,hoping the fellow would prove reasonably honest. At last, Joe was- 19 -
  29. 29. M A R T H A S T O U Table to race to his Audi and set off for the office, but with onlytwenty-five minutes left to make a thirty-minute drive. He resolvedto bend the rules a little and make up the time.Now Joe is speeding along a familiar route to work, clenching histeeth and swearing under his breath at the slow drivers, at all the driv­ers really. He reinterprets a couple of red lights, passes a line of traf­fic by using the breakdown lane, and clings frantically to the hopethat he can somehow make it to the office by 8:00. When he hitsthree green lights in a row, he thinks that he may just succeed. Withhis right hand, he reaches over to touch the overnight bag in the pas­sengers seat, to reassure himself that he remembered to bring it. Inaddition to everything else, he has to catch a 10: 15 plane to NewYork this morning, a trip for the firm, and there will certainly not betime after the meeting to go back home for his things. His hand con­tacts the cushiony leather of the bag-it is there and packed.And at this very moment, Joe remembers. He forgot to feedReebok. Reebok is Joes three-year-old blond Labrador retriever, sonamed because, before he got too busy at the firm, Joe used to takeearly-morn:ing runs with his enthusiastic new pet. When work tookover and the morning routine changed, Joe fenced in the small back­yard and installed a doggy door in the basement, allowing the dogsolo access to the outside. At this point, runs together in the parkare weekends only. But exercise or not, Reebok consumes severalpounds of Science Diet every week, along with a huge assortment of leftover human food and at least one full box of jumbo bone treats.The young dogs appetite is stupendous, and he seems to live quitehappily for two pleasures alone-his time with Joe, and his food.Joe got Reebok as a puppy, because when Joe was a boy, his fa­ther would not let him have a pet, and he had vowed to himself thatwhen he was grown up and successful, he would have a dog, a bigone. At first, Reebok had been not very different from the Audi, an­other acquisition, a marker of Joes independence and material pros­perity. But soon Joe had fallen in love with the animal himself. How- 20 -
  30. 30. T H E S O C I O P AT H N E X T D O O R, could he not? Reebok adored Joe unconditionally, and from puppy­hood had followed him around the house as if Joe were the center of. . all that was good in the universe. As his puppy grew to doghood, Joerealized that this creature had as distinct and individual a personal­ity as any human being, and that his liquid brown eyes contained atleast as much soul. Now, whenever Joe looks into those eyes, Reebokwrinkles his soft beige brow into several folded-carpet furrows andstares back. In this way, the sweet, ungainly dog appears preternatu­rally thoughtful, as if he can read Joes mind and is concerned.Sometimes when there is a business trip, like today, Joe is gonefrom home for a day and a half, or even a little longer, and each timehe comes back, Reebok greets him at the door with bounding joyand instantaneous forgiveness. Before he takes one of these trips,Joe always leaves large mixing bowls full of food and water forReebok to consume in his absence, which Reebok does easily. Butthis time, between the furnace problem and his panic about the 8:00meeting, Joe forgot. The dog has no food and maybe even no water,and no way to get any until tomorrow evening, when Joe returnsfrom his trip.Maybe I can call someone to help out, Joe thinks desperately.But no. He is between girlfriends at present, and so no one has a keyto his house.The impossibility of his situation begins to dawn on him, and hegrips the steering wheel even harder. He absolutely must make this _meeting, and he can be there on time if he just keeps going. Butwhat about Reebok? He will not starve to death in a day and a half,Joe knows, but he will be miserable-and the water-how long doesit take an animal to die of dehydration? Joe has no idea. Still drivingas fast as the traffic will bear, he tries to think about his options. Theavailable choices tumble over one another in a rush. He can attendthe 8:00 meeting and then go home and feed the dog, but that willmake him miss his 10: 15 flight, and the trip is even more importantthan the meeting. He can go to the meeting and leave in the middle.- 21 -
  31. 31. M A R T H,A S T O U TNo, that would be seen as offensive. He can try to get a later flight,but th�n he will be very late forhis appointment in New York, may ,even miss it entirely, which could cost him his job. He can ignore thedog until tomorrow. He can turn around now, miss the 8:00 meetingat the firm, take care of the dog, and still make it to the airport f�rhis 10:15 flight.Like a man in pain, Joe moans loudly and slumps in his seat. Just a few blocks from work, he pulls the car into a spot marked CON­STRUCTION ONLY, dials the office on his cell phone, and tells a secre- ,tary to inform those at the morning meeting that he will not be rattending. He turns the car around and goes home to feed Reebok."" JWhat Is Conscience?Amazingly, from a certain point of view, the human being we are ,calling Joe decides to be absent from an important meeting withsome wealthy clients, an event he has spent several days planning (;,for, and where his personal interests quite clearly reside. At first, he :;:does everything he can to get to the meeting on time, risking all the I, iposSessions in his town house to a repairman he has never met be-,fore, and his own physical safety in his car. And then, at the very lastminute, he turns around and goes home to feed a dog, a guileless, , "wordless creature who could not even so much as reprove Joe for ig- .noring him. Joe sacrifices a high-stakes desire of his own in favor ofan action that no one will witness (except maybe the repairman), a choice that will not enrich him by even one penny. What could pos�,sibly cause a young, ambitious lawyer to do such a thing? :" ! "Most readers will smile a little when Joe turns his car around. We:�,�;fffeel pleased with him for going back to feed his dog. But why a�e we " , ,pleased? Is Joe acting out of conscience? Is this what we mean whenwe make an approving remark about someones behavior, such as,"His consci�nce stopped him"?-, - 22
  32. 32. T H E S O C I O PAT H N E X T D O O RWhat is this invisible, inescapable, frustratingly incorruptiblepart of us we call -"conscience," anyway?The question is a complicated one, even as it pertains to the sim­ple vignette about Joe and Reebok, because, surprisingly, there are anumber of motivations other than conscience that, separately or to­gether, might cause Joe-might cause any ofus-to make an appar­entry self-sacrificing choice. For example, perhaps Joe simply cannotstomach the thought of returning from his New York trip to find aLabrador retriever dehydrated and dead on his kitchen floor. Notknowing how long a dog can survive withoutwater, he is unwilling totake the risk, but his aversion to the horrifying scenario is noyxactlyconscience. It is something more like !:.�yulsion or fear. . .. I> _Or maybe Joe is motivated by what the neighbors will think ifthey hear Reebok howling in hunger, or, worse, ifthey learn the doghas died, alone and trapped, while Joe was on a business trip. Howwill he ever explain himself to his friends and acquaintances? Thisworry is not reallyJoes conscience, either, but rather his anticipationofserious embarrassment and social rejection. Ifthis is whyJoe goesback home to feed his dog, he is hardly the first human being tomake a decision based on the dread ofwhat others will think ofhim,rather than on what he might do if he were sure his actions wouldremain a complete secret. The opinions of other people keep us allin line, arguably better than anything else.Or maybe this is all a matter ofthe wayJoe sees himself. PerhapsJoe does notwant to view himself, in his own minds eye, as the kindof wretch who would commit animal abuse, and his self-image as adecent person is crucial enough to him that, when he has no otheralternative, he will forgo an important meeting in the service of pre­serving that image. This is an especially plausible explanation forJoes behavior. The preservation of self-image is a motivator of somenotoriety. In literature and often i� histori�al accounts of human ac­tion, dedication to ones own self-re�.!cL is referred to as "honor."Lives"Eave been forfeited, �ars ha�� been fought over "honor." It is- 23 -
  33. 33. M A R T H A S T O U Tan ancient conce1l1. And in the modern field of psyc,hology, how weview <;>urselves translates to"the newer concept oC"self-esteem," asubject about which mote psychology books haye.been written thanperhaps any other si�gle topic. I.Maybe Joe is willingto relinquish a fewcareer points today in or­der to feel okaywhen he looks at himself in the mirror tomorrow, inorder to remain "honorable" in his own eyes. This would be laudableand very human-but it is not conscience.The intriguing truth of the matter is that much of what we dothat looks like conscience is motivated by some other thing alto­gether-fear, social pressure, pride, even simple habit. And whereJoe is concerned, a number of readers will stronglyfavor an expla­nation other than conscience because some of his behaviors are al­ready questionable. He routinely leaves his young dog alone formany hours at a time, sometimes for nearly two days. This verymorning, though he is skipping his meeting and going home to feedthe dog, he still intends to make that 10: 15 flight and be gone untilthe following evening. Reebok will have no one to be with, andnowhere to go except a small fenced-in backyard.. Consigning a dogto such a situation is not verynice-it reflects, at best, a certain lackof empathy on Joes part for the animals social needs..Still, truth to tell, being nice would not necessarilybe conscience;either. For brief periods, any reasonably clever sociopath can actwith saintlike niceness for his own manipulative purposes. And peo­ple who do possess conscience are often unkind despite themselves,.out of ignorance or, as in Joes case perhaps, inadequate empathy, orjust run-of-the-mill psychological deniaL " " I I -/;.Nice behavior, prudent action, thoughts about how other people..., ��..... . " .will react to us, honorable conduct in the interest of our self-regard-like conscience, all of these have a positive effect on theworld at least most ofthe time, and any or all ofthem might get the. . ;dog fed sq,ql�times, but none can be defined as the individuals con- science. This IS because conscience is not a behavior at all.,.!lot some-24 -
  34. 34. T H E S O C I O P AT H N E X T D O O Rthing that we do or even something that we think or mull over... Conscience is somethin� tha�.��.f::!:1In other words, conscience isneiTher-f)ehavlora] n�r cognitive. Consclence exists primarily in therealm of "affect," better known as.emotion.., .- To clarify this distinction, let us take another look at Joe. He isnot always nice to his dog, but does he have a conscience? What ev­idencel would cause, say, a psychologist to decide that, when Joepassed up his meeting and wenthome to rescue Reebok, he was act­ing out of conscience rather than because of what other peoplewould think, or to preserve his own self-image, or maybe from thenoteworthy financial consideration that, three years before, he hadpaid twelve hundred dollars for a purebred Labrador puppy guaran­teed against hip dysplasia and heart disease?As a psychologist, 1 am persuaded most by a feature ofthe storywe have not even addressed untilnow-the fact that Joe feels affec­tion for Reebok. He i� �motio1aJly_attadJ�d -t�-his .dog. R�eb�k fol�.-, -"- -- .- "--lows Joe around the house, and Joe likes it. Joe gazes into Reebokseyes. Reebok has changed Joe from a trophy pet owner to a smittenpet owner. And on account of this attachment, 1 believe that whenJoe gave up his morning plan and went home to take care ofhis dog,he maypossibly have been acting out ofconscience. Ifwe could giveJoe a truth serum and ask him what was going on inside him at themoment he decided to turn the car around, and he were to say some­thing like, "I just couldnt stand it that Reebok was going to be therehungry and thirsty all that time," then 1 would be reasonably con­vinced that Joe was conscience-driven in this situation.1 would be basing myevaluation ofJoe on the psychology ofcon­science itself. Psychologically speaking, conscience is a sense of ob--- ----- --_... ---- -- -- ...----- --.-�----ligation ultimately based in an emotional attachment to anotherlivi�{cre-atur(;·(�it�� but ��t al��y;-a h���n being), or to a g;�up.-C;f h�ma�-b�i�gs, or even in some cases to humaniti �s a-whole.,.c·���ci��;e do�s �ot �xi;tw"ithC;ut an �;;�ti��al bondtCi,someone orsomething, and in thiswayconscience is closely allied with"the spec-- 25 _.
  35. 35. M A RT HA S T O U Ttrum of emotions we call "love." This,alliance is what gives true con­science its resilience and its astonishing authority" over those whohave it, and probably also its confusing and frustrating quality.Conscience can motivate us to make seemingly irrational andeven self-destructive decisions, from the trivial to the heroic, from "missing an 8:00 meeting to remaining silent under torture for thelove of ones country. It can drive us in this way only because its fuelis none other than our strongest affections. And witnessing or hear�ing about an act of.conscience, even one as ordinary as feeding adog, pleases us, because any conscience-bound choice reminds us ofthe sweet ties that hind. A story about conscience is a �tory about the connectedness of living things, and in unconscious recognition,we smile at the true nature of the tale. We understand how excruci­ating Joes feelings are as he struggles with his conscience, and wesmile at Joe and Reebok-because we always smile at lovers.The History of ConscienceNot everyone has a conscience, this intervening sense of obligationbased in our emotional attachments to others. Some people willnever experience the exquisite angst that results from letting othersdown, or hurting them, or depriving them, or even killing them. Ifthe first five senses are the physical ones-sight, hearing, tou�h,smell, taste-and the "sixth sense" is how we refer to our intuition,then conscience can be numbered seventh at best. It devel<:>.ped latepin the evolution of our specie;and is still far from universal.T�-m�� m�tters�urki�r:i� the clay-to-day course ofoiir lives,we are usually unable to tell the difference between those who pos­sess ,conscience and those who do not. Could an ambitious younglawyer conceivably have a seventh sense? Yes, conceivably. Could amother ,of several young children have a seve�th sense? Of courseshe could. Could a ptiest, charged with the spirituahvelfare ofan en-- 26 -
  36. 36. T H E S O C I O PAT H N E X T D O O Rtire community, be conscience-bound? Let us hope so. Could thepowerful political leader of a whole nation of people have a con­science? Certainly.Or, contrastingly, could any of these people be utterly withoutconscience? The answer is once again, unnervingly, yes.. The anonymity of "evil" and its maddening refusal to attach itselfreliably to any particular societal role, racial group, or physical typehas always plagued theologians and, more recently, scientists.Throughout human history, we have tried mightily to pin down"good" and "evil," and to find some way to account for those in ourmidst who would seem,to be inhabited by tne latter. In the fourthcentury, the Christian scholar Saint Jerome introduced the Greekword synderesis to describe the innate God-given ability to sense thedifference between good and evil. He interpreted Ezekiels biblical.vision offourlivingcreatures emerging from a cloud "with brightnessround about it, and fire flashing forth continually." Each creaturehad the body of a man, but each had four different faces. The facein front was human, the face on the right was that of a lion, the leftface was that of an ox, and the face in back was an eagles. InJeromes interpretation of Ezekiels dream, the human face repre­sented the rational part of man, the lion reflected the emotions, theox symbolized the appetites, and the lofty eagle was "that spark ofconscience which was not quenched even in the heart of Cain . . .that makes us, too, feel our sinfulness when we are overcome by evilDesire or unbridled Spirit. . , . And yet in some men we see this con­science overthrown and displaced; they have no sense of guilt orshame for their sins."Jeromes illustrious contemporary, Augustine of Hippo, agreedwith Jerome concerningthe nature ofconscience. Augustine assuredhis followers that "men see the moral rules written in the book oflight which is called Truth from which all laws are copied."But a conspicuous problem remained. Since the Truth-the ab­solute knowledge ofgood and evil-is given by God to all human be-- 27 --
  37. 37. M A R T H A S T O U Tings, why are all human beings not good? Why do we "see this con­science overthrown and displaced" in some people? And this ques­tion remained at the center of the theological discussion aboutconscience for many centuries. Despite the sticky wicket, the alter­native suggestion-the proposal that only some people had con­science-was impossible to make, because it would have meant thatby withholding the Truth from a few of His servants, God Himselfhad created evil in the world and had distributed it, in seeming ran­domness, among all the types and enterprises of humanity.A solution to,the theological dilemma over conscience seemed tocome in the thirteenth century, when Thomas Aquinas proposed aroundabout distinction between synderesis, Saint Jeromes infallibleGod-given knowledge ofright and wrong, and conscientia, which wascomprised of mistake-prone human reason as it struggled to reachdecisions about behavior. To make its choices.concerning which ac­tions to take, Reason was supplied with perfect information fromGod, but Reason itself was rather weak. In this system, fallible hu­man decision making, not a lack ofconscience, is to blame forwrongdecisions and actions. Doing wrong is simply making a mistake. Incontrast, according to Aquinas, "Synderesis cannot err; it providesprinciples which do not vary, just as the laws that govern the physi­cal universe do not vary."To apply this view to our contemporary example-when Joe re­members that his dog is without food and water, God-given innatesynderesis (conscience) immediately informs .him that the absoluteright action is to return home and take care of the dog. Conscientia,a mental debate about howto behave, then takes this Truth into con­sideration. The fact thatJoe does not tum the car around instanta- neously but, instead, spends a few minutes deliberating is the resultof the natural weakness of human reason. That Joe does make theright decision in the end means, in Aquinass scheme, that Joes .moral virtues are, through strengthened Reason, developing in theright direction. Had Joe decided to let the dog go hungry and thirsty, ,- 28 -o j
  38. 38. T H E S O C I O PAT H N E X T D O O Rhis thereby weakened Reason would have been directing his moralvirtues to Hell, theologically speaking.Getting down to theologys brass tacks, according to the earlychurch fathers, (1) the rules of morality are absolute; (2) all peopleinnately lmow the absolute Truth; and (3) bad behavior is the resultoffaultythinking, rather than a lack ofsynderesis, or conscience, andsince we all have a conscience, if only human reason were perfect,there would be no bad behavior. And indeed, these are the three be­liefs labout conscience that have been held by much of the worldthroughout most of modem history. Their influence on the way wethink about ourselves and other people, even today, is inestimable.The third belief is especially hard to let go of. Nearly a millenniumafter Aquinas made his pronouncement about synderesis, whensomeone consistently behaves in ways we find unconscionable, we.call on an updated version ofthe "weak Reason" paradigm. We spec­ulate that the offender has been deprived, or that his mind is dis­turbed, or that his early background makes him do it. We remainextremely reluctant to propose the more straightforward explanationthat either God or nature simply failed to provide him with a con­science.For several hundred years, discussions about conscience tendedto center around the relationship between human reason and di­vinely given moral knowledge. A few corollary debates were added,.most recentlythe one overproportionalism, a divine loophole whereinReason asks us to do something "bad" in order to bring about some-thing else that is "good"-a "just war," for example.But at the beginning of the twentieth century, conscience itselfunderwent a fundamental transformation, due to. the growing ac­ceptance in Europe and the United States of the theories of physi­cian/scientist (and atheist) Sigmund Freud. Freud proposed that inthe normal course of development, young childrens minds acquiredan internalized authority figure, called a superego, that would in timereplace the actual external authority-the actual external authority- 29 -
  39. 39. M A R T H A S T O U Tbeing not God but ones.own human parents. With his "discovery" ofthe superego, Freud effectivelywrested conscience out ofthe hands . of God and placed it in the anxious clutches of the all-too-humanfamily. This change of address for conscience required some datlnt- .ing shifts in our centuries-old worldview. Suddenly, our moral guideshad feet of clay, and absolute Truth began to submit to,the uncer­tainties of cultural relativism., " .Freuds new structural model of the mind did not involve a hu-man part, a lion part, an ox part, and an eagle. Tripartite instead, hisvision was ofthe superego, the ego, and the id. The id was composedof all the sexual and unthinking aggressive instincts we are bornwith, alongwiththe biological appetites. As such, the id was often inconflict with the demands of a civilized society. In t�ntrast, the egowas the rational, aware part of the mind. It could think logically,make plans, and remember, and because the ego was equipped inthese ways, it could interact.directlywith society and, to varying de-.grees, get things done for the more primitive id. The superego grewout of the ego as the child incorporated the external rules of his orher parents and of society. The superego eventually became a free- .standing force in the developing mind, unilaterally judging and di­recting the childs behaviors and thoughts. It was the commanding,guilt-brandishing inner voice that said no, even when nobody wasaround.The basic concept of superego makes common sense to us. We often observe children internalizing and even enforcing their par­ents rules. (Mother frowns and says, to her four-year-old daughter;�No shouting in the car." A fewminutes later, the same four-year-oldpoints imperiously at her noisy two-year-old sister and shouts, "Noshouting in the carl") And most ofus, as adults, have heard our ownsuperego. Some ofus hear it quite often,in fact. It is the voice in ourheads that says to us, Idiot! Whyd you do that? or You know, ify(!)udont finish this report t<;might, youll be sorry, or Youd better getyour cholesterol checked. And in the story of Joe and Reebok, Joes30 -
  40. 40. T H E S O C I O PAT H N E X T D O O Rdecision to miss his meeting could easily have been made by hissuperego. For purposes ofillustration, let us speculate that Joes pet­; withholding father used to say to him when he was four, "No, littlei Joey, we cant get a dog. A dog is a tremendous responsibility. Whenyou have a dog, you always have to interrupt what youre doing andtake care of it." Joes adult decision to turn his car around could wellhave been directed by his superego, which insisted that he fulfill thisvery dictum.In a more abstruse manner, Freud himselfmight have wonderedwhether Joes superego had caused Joe to set up his whole morning,unconsciouslyofcourse-being in too much ofa hurry, forgetting toput out the dog food-such that his fathers rule could be "proved,"and Joe "punished" for getting a pet. For in Freudian theory, thesuperego is not just a voice; it is an operator, a-subtle and complexmanipulator. li prover ofpoints. It pros�cutes, j�dges�a�dc-��ries-outsentences, and it does all this quite outsicle of our conscious aware­ness. While the superego, in the best case, can help the individualget along in society, it can also become the most overbearing andperhaps the most destructive part of his personality. According topsychoanalysts, an especially harsh superego, hammering away in�side someones head, can create a lifelong depression, or even propelits poor victim into suicide.And so Freud introduced the world to the decidedly secular no­tion that conscience II?:igh� n�ed to be repaired in some people, andthat through psychoanalysis, one �ight��t�aliy repair it.-.In addition-more shocki�gstill�F;;;d �nJli1S1�li��e�s linkedthe final establishment of the superego to the childs resolution ofthe Oedipus complex. The Oedipus complex, sometimes called theElectra complex in girls, is formed when the young child begins torealize, between the ages of three and five, that he or she will nevercompletely possess the parent of the opposite sex. In prosaic terms,boys must accept that they will not marry their mothers, and girlsmust accept that theywill not marry their fathers. Oedipal struggles,- 31 -
  41. 41. I .M A R T H A S T O U Tand the resulting feelings of competition, fear, and resentmenttoward the parent ofthe same sex, are so pbwerful and dangerous to:;;the childs family relationships, according to Freud, that they must .be thoroughly "repressed" or kept from awareness, and this "repres.- )sian" is made possible by adrastic strengthening ofthe young super- ;;,. Iego. From this point on, should any sexual feelings arise toward theparent of the opposite sex, or any rivalrous feelings toward the par"ent of the same sex, these feelings will be vanquished by thedreaded, ruthless w.eapon of the newly fortified superego-immedi­ate, unbearable guilt. In this way, the superego gains its autonomyand its crowning advantage inside the mind of the child. It is a se�vere taskmaster.installed to serve our need to remain a part of the .gtoUp.Whatever else one may think of such theorizing, credit must begiven to Freud for understanding that our moral sense was not aone-size-fits�all hermetic code, but was instead dynamic, and intti-. cately tied up with essential family and societal bonds. With his writ� ,ings on the superego, Freud imparted to an awakening scientific"worldthat our usual respect for law and order was not simplyim- "posed on us from the outside. We obey the rules, we honor the virtues, primarily from an internal need that begins in infancy alldearly childhood to preserve and remain embraced by our familiesand the larger human society in which we live. :Conscience Versus SuperegoWhether or not one believes that superego is an intrapsYchkschemer, or that it is, to use Freuds words, "the heir to the Oedipuscomplex," superego itselfmust be acknowledged as a rich and useflill .concept. As an inner voice acquired through our significant chi,l�­hood relationships, commenting on our shortcomings and railing ,- 32 -
  42. 42. T H E S O C I O PATH N E X T D O O Ragainst our transgressions, superego is a feature of subjective expe­rience that most people recognize easily. "Dont do that." "Youshouldnt feel that way." "Be careful; youll hurtyourself." "Be nice toyour sister." "Clean up that mess you made." "You cant afford to buythat." "Well, that wasnt yery smart, was it?" "Youve just got to dealwith it." "Stop wasting time." Superego yammers at us inside ourminds everydayofour lives. And some peoples superegos are rathermore insulting than others.Still, superego is not the same thing as conscience. It may feellike conscience subjectively, and may be one small part ofwhat con­science is, but superego by itself is not conscience. This is becauseFreud, as he tonceptualized the superego, threw out the baby withthe bathwater, in a manner ofspeaking. In ejecting moral absolutismfrom psychological thought, he counted out something else too.Quite simply, Freud counted out love, and all of the emotions re­lated to love. Though he often stated that children love their parentsin addition to fearing them, the superego he Wf?te about Yas en�j:�rely fe�r-b���_d. In his view, just as ;e fear our parents stem criti­cisms when we are children, so do we fear the excoriating voice ofsuperego later on. And fear is all. There is no place in the Freudiansuperego for the conscience-building effects�o� 1()1.e• . C??lp���ion,tenderness, or any ofthe mo�_.po.�itiye (eel�!!�:__ ._ . kd �����ien:�e, �s-.;� h�ve seen in Joe and Reebok, is an inter­vening sense of obligation based in our emotional attachments toothers-all aspects of our emotional attachments-including mostespecially love, compassion, and tenderness. In fact, the seventhsense, in those individuals Tho po���ss jt, is primarily)loy�- angcompass�on-based. .!Ie have progressed, .over the centuries, fromfaith in a God-directed synderesis, to a belief in a punitive parentalsuperego, to an understanding that conscience is deeply and affect­ingly anchored in our ability to care about one another. This secondprogression-from a judge in the head to a mandate of the heart-- 33 -
  43. 43. M A R T H A S T O U T, involves less cynicism about human nature, more hope for us as agroup, and also more personal responsibility and, at times, more per­sonal pain.As an illustration, imagine that under some impossibly bizarreset of circumstances, one night you take temporary leave ot yoursenses, sneak over to the house of an especially likable neighbor,and, for no particular reason, murder her cat. Just before daybreak,you recover your senses and realize what you haye done. What doyou feel? What is the specific nature ofyour guiltyreaction? Unseenbehind your living room curtain, you watch your neighbor come butto her front step and discover the cat. She falls to her knees. Shescoops up her lifeless pet in her arms. She weeps for a verylongtime."What is the first thing that happens to you? Does a voice insideyour head sci:eam, Thou shalt not kill! Youll go to jail forthis!-thusreminding you ofthe consequences to yourself? Or, instead, do youfeel instantly sick that you have murdered an animal and �ade yourneighbor cry in grief? , In those first moments of watching your stricken neighbor, which reaction is more likely to befall you? It is atelling question. The answer will probably determine what course ofaction you will take, and also whetheryou are influenced onlybythestrident voice ofyour superego, or by a genuine conscience.The same kind of question applies to our old friend Joe. Does hedecide to sacrifice his meeting beca�se of the unconscious fear in­stilled in him in childhood by his fathers opinions about dogs, Ordoes he make the sacrifice because he feels awful when he thinks,about Reeboks predicament? What directs his choice? Is it puresuperego, or is it fully formed conscience? If it is conscience, theI)Joes decision to be absent from a scheduled meeting atwork is a mi­norillustration ofthe fact that, ironically; conscience does not alwaysfollow the rules. It places people (and sometimes animals) above�cbdes of conduct and institutional expectations. Fortified with :pb�tent emotions, conscience is a glue that holds us together, and it is.stickier than it is just. It cherishes humanistic ideals more tl?an laws," - 34 -
  44. 44. T H E S O C I O P AT H N E X T D O O Rand if push comes to shove, conscience may even go to prison., Superego would never do that.A strict superego berates us, saying, Youre being naughty, orYoure inadequate. A strong conscience insists, You must take careofhim [or her or it or them], no matter what.Fear-based superego stays behind its dark curtain, accusing usand wringing its hands. Conscience propels us outward in the direc­tion ofother people, toward conscious action both,minor and great.Attachment-based conscience causes the teenage motherto buythelittle jar of creamed peas instead of her favorite fingernail polish., Conscience-protects the privil��es of intimacy, makes ,friends keeptheir promises, prevents the angered spouse from striking back. It in­duces the exhausted doctor to pick up the phone for his frightenedpatient at three in the morning. It blows whistles against institutionswhen lives are endangered. It takes to the streets to protest a war.Conscience is what makes the human rights worker risk her very life.When it is combined with surpassing moral courage, it is MotherTeresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi.In small and large ways, genuine conscience changes the world.Rooted in emotional connectedness, it teaches peate and opposes .hatred and saves children. It keeps marriages together and cleans uprivers and feeds dogs and gives gentle replies. It makes individual, lives better and increases human dignity overall. It is real and com­pelling, and it would make us crawl out of our skin ifwe devastatedour neighbor.The problem, as we are about to see, is that not everybody has it.In fact, 4 percent of all people do not have it. Let us turn now to adiscussion of such a person-someone who simply has no con­science-and see what he looks like to us./ .-- 35I "
  45. 45. I.lce people : the sociop athsConscience is the window ofour spirit, evil is the curtain.-Doug HortonWhen Skip was growing up, his familyhad a vacation cottage bya small lake in the hills ofVirginia, where they went for a partof each summer. Theyvacationed there from the time Skip was eightyears old until he went away to high school in Massachusetts. Skiplooked forward to his summers in Virginia. There was not a lot to dothere, but the one activity he had invente,d was so much fun that itmade up for the general lack of excitement. In fact, sometimes bac�:at grade school in the winter, escaping into his own thoughts wh:Ucrsome stupid teacher went on and on about something, he would g�ta picture of himself playing his game by the warm Virginia lake, �,1<l .he would chuckle out loud. ;�,,ISkip was brilliant and handsome, even as a child. "Brillia�f apd .handsome," his parents and his parents friends and even his teach! ·ers would remark over and over. And so they could not unders�nC;l,why his grades were so mediocre, or why, when the time came, �eseemed to have so little interest in going out on dates. Whattheydid,- 36 -
  46. 46. T H E S O C I O P AT H N E X T D O O Rnot know was that from the age of eleven, Skip had been out withplenty ofgirls, but not quite in the way his parents and teachers wereimagining. There was always someone, usually an older girl, who waswilling to succumb to Skips flattery and his charming smile. Oftenthe girl would sneak him into her room, but sometimes he and a girlwould simply find a secluded spot ·on a playground or under thebleachers at the softball field. As for his grades, he really was ex­tremely smart-he could have made straight A-plusses-but get­ting Cs was completely effortless, and so that was what he did.Occasionally, he would even get a E, which amused him, since hene,:,er studied. The teachers liked him, seemed to,be almost as vul­nerable to his smiles and his compliments as the girls were, andeveryone assumed that young Skipper would end up at a good highschool and then a decent co�lege, despite his grades.His parents had a great deal of money, were "megarkh," as theother kids put it. On several occasions when he was about twelve,Skip sat at the antique rolltop desk his parents had bought for hisbedroom, trying to calculate how much money he would get whenthey died. He based his calculations on some financial records hehad stolen from his fathers study. The records were confusing andincomplete, but even though he could not arrive at an exact figure,Skip could see clearly that someday he would be quite rich. .Still, Skip had a problem. He was bored most of the time. Theam�sements he pursued, even the girls, eve� fooling the teachers,even thinking about his money, did not keep him energized forlonger than half an hour or so. The family wealth held the mostpromise as an entertainment, but it was not under his control yet­he was still a child. No, the only real relieffrom boredom was the funhe could have in Virginia. Vacations Were a very good time. That firstsummer, when he was eight, he had simply stabbed the bullfrogswith a scissors, for want of another method. He had discovered thathe could take a net from the fishing shed and capture the frogs eas­ily from the mud banks of the lake. He would hold them down on- 37 -
  47. 47. M A RT H A S T O U Ttheir backs, stab their bulging stomachs, and then tum them backover to watch their stupid jelly eyes go dead as they bled out. Thenhe would hurlthe corpses as far out into the lake as he could, yellingat the dead frogs as they flew, "Too bad for you, you little fuck-facefroggy!"There were so many frogs in that lake. He could spend hours ata time killing them, and still it looked as ifthere were hundreds andhundreds of them left for tomorrow. But by the end of that firstsummer, Skip had decided that he could do better. He was tired ofstabbing the frogs. It would pe so great to blow them up, to havesomething that would make the fat little squirmers explode, andtoward this end he had a really good plan. He knew plenty of olderboys back home, and one in particular he knewtook a familytrip toSouth Carolina during spring break every April. Skip had heard thatfireworks were for sale and easy to get in South Carolina. With a lit­tle bribe from Skip, his friend Tim would buy him some fireworksthere and smuggle them home in the bottom of his suitcase. Timwould be scared to do it, but with a pep talk from Skip, and enoughmoney, he would. Next summer, Skip would have not scissors butfireworks!Finding cash around the house was no problem, and the planworked like a chaJ;tn. That April, he came up with two hundred dol­lars for a fireworks varietypack called "Star-Spangled Banner," whichhe had seen in a gun magazine, and another one hundred dollars tosweeten the deal for Tim. And when Skip finally got his hands on thepackage, it was a beautiful thing. He had chosen "Star-SpangledBanner" because it contained the largest number ofdevices smallenough to fit, or almost fit, into the mouth of a bullfrog. There wasa supply of tiny Roman candles; and some "Lady Fingers," whichwere slim little red firecrackers; and a bunch of one-inch shells called"Wizards"; and his favorite, some two-inch shells in a box labeled"Mortal Destruction," which had a skull and crossbones blazoned onthe front.- 38 -
  48. 48. T H E S O C I O PAT H N E X T D O O RThat summer, he shoved the devices, one by one, into themouths ofthe captured frogs, ignited them, and threwthe frogs highinto the air over the lake. Or sometimes he would put the ignitedfrog down, run off, and watch from a distance as the animal ex­ploded on the ground. The displays were. magnificent-blood, goo,lights, sometimes a big noise and those colorful flowerlike shapes. Sowonderful were the results that soon he began to crave an audiencefor his genius. One afternoon, he enticed his six-year-old sister,Claire, down to the lake, let her help him capture one of the frogs,and then before her eyes, made an airborne explosion of it. Clairescreamed hysterically and ran as fast as her legs would carryher backto the house.The familys stately "cottage" sat about half a mile from the lake,beyond a serene stand ofhundred-foot hemlocks. This was not so faraway that Skips parents had not heard explosive noises, and theyimagined that Skipper must be setting off fireworks by the lake. Butthey had long since realized that he was not the sort of child whocould be controlled, and that they needed to choose their battlesvery carefully. The fireworks issue was not one they chose to dealwith, not even when six-year-old Claire came running in to tell hermother that Skipper was blowing up frogs. Skips mother turned upthe record player in the library as loud as it would go, and Clairetried to hide her cat, Emily.Super SkipSkip is soCiopathic. He has no conscience-no intervening sense of .. obligation based in emotional attachments to others-and his laterlife, which we will get to in a moment, provides an instructive exam­ple ofwhat an intelligent adult without a conscience can look like.Just as it is difficult to imagine how we would feel if we had noconscience at all, so it is very hard to use ones imagination to con-- 39, .
  49. 49. M A R T H A S T O U Tstruct an accurate picture of such a person. Amoral and uncaring,does he end up isolated on the edges of society? Does he constantlythreaten and snarl and quite possibly drool, devoid as he is ofsuch afundamental human characteristic? One might easily imagine thatSkip·grew up to be a killer. In the end, perhaps he murdered his par­ents for their money. Maybe he wound up dead himself, or in thebowels of a maximum-security prison. Sounds likely, but nothing ofthe kind actually happened. Skip is still alive, he.has never killed any­one, not directly at least, and-so far-he has not seen the inside ofany prison. To the contrary, though he has not yet inherited his par­ents mOney, he has become successful and richer than a king. Andifyou met him now, encountered him as a stranger in a restaurant oron the street, he would look like any other well-groomed middle­aged fellow in a pricey business suit.How could this possibly be? Did he have a recovery? Did he getbetter? No. In truth, he got worse. He became Super Skip.With passing, ifnot stellar, grades, his charm, and his familys in­fluence, Skip did indeed get into that good boarding school inMassachusetts, and his family breathed a sigh of relief, both for hisacceptance by the school and for his relative absence from theirlives. His teachers still found him charismatic, but his mother andsi�ter had learned that he was manipulative and spooky. Claire wouldsometimes speak of "Skippers weird eyes," and her mother wouldgive her a defeated look that said, I dont want to talk about it. Mosteveryone else saw only a handsome young face.When college came around, Skip was accepted into his fathersalma mater (and his grandfathers before that), where he becamelegendary as a party boy and a ladies man. Graduatingwith his cus­tomary C average, he entered an MBA program at a less prestigiousinstitution, because he had figured out that the business world wasa place where he might master the game easily and amuse himselfusing his natural skills. His grades got no better, but his lifelong abil--40
  50. 50. T H E S O C I O PA T H N E X T D O O R, tty to charm people and get them to do what he wanted becamemore refined.When he was twenty-six, he joined the Arika Corporation, acompany that made blasting, drilling, and loading equipment formetal-ore mines. He had intense blue eyes and a stunning smile atall the right moments, and to his new employers he seemed almostmagically talented at motivating sales representatives and influenc­ing contacts. For his part, Skip had discovered that manipulating ed­ucated adults was no harder than it had been to convince his youngfriend Tim to buy fireworks in South Carolina, and of course lying,in increasingly elegant ways, came as easily as breathing. Even bet­ter, chronically bored Skip relished the pressures of fast-track risktaking and was more than willing to take the big chances that no oneelse would. Before his third anniversary at the company, he had goneafter the copper in Chile and the gold in South Africa, eventuallymaking Arika into the worlds third-largest vendor of both shaft andopen-pit mining equipment. Arikas founder, whom Skip privatelyviewed as a fool, was so enchanted with Skip that he gave him a newFerrari GTB as a "corporate gift."; When he was thirty, skip married Juliette, the lovely, soft-spokentwenty-three-year-old daughter of a celebrated billionaire who hadmade his fortune in oil exploration. Skip made sure that juliettes fa­ther saw him as the brilliant, ambitious son he had never had. Skipsaw his billionaire father-in-law as what he was, a ticket tojust abouteverything. And, quite accurately, he saw his new wife, Juliette, as asweet, repressed gentlewoman who would thoroughly accept herrole as wife and social coordinator, and who would pretend not toknow that Skips life remained just as devoid of personal responsibil­ity and full of random sexual encounters as it had ever been. She.would be attractive and respectable on his arm, and she would keephet: mouth shut.A week before the wedding, Skips mother, already feeling closer- 41 -
  51. 51. M A RT H A S T O U Tto Juliette than to Skip, wearily inquired of her son, "This mar­riage . . . Do you really need to do this to her life?" Skip started toignore her, as he usually did. But then he was apparently struck by ,something funny, and he replied to her protest with �n ear-to-eargrin. "We both know shell never know what hit her," he said. SkipSmother looked confused for a moment, and then she shuddered.Married, socially ensconced, and bringing in close to $80 milliona yearforArika, Skip was made president ofits international divisionand a member of the board before his thirty-sixth birthday. By thistime, he and Juliette had two little girls, completing his public dis­guise as a family man. His contributions to the business came witha certain price, but nothing that could not be handled i� a cost­efficient manner. Employees sometimes complained that he was "in­suIting" or "vicious," and Arika was sued when a secretaryclaimed hehad broken her arm while trying to force her to sit in his lap. Thecase was settled .out ofcourt with fiftythousand dollars and a gag or­der forthe secretary. Fiftythousand dollars was nothing to the com­pany, relatively speaking. He was "Super Skip," and his employerunderstood that he was well worth the upkeep.Ofthe incident, Skip later remarked privately, "Shes insane. Shebroke her own arm. She struggled with me, the stupid bitch. Whythe hell did she put up such a fight?"After the secretary, there were additional charges of sexual II).is­conduct, but Skip was so valuable to the organizationthat each timea problem came up, Arika simply disbursed another check to make. sure it went away. The other board members began to refer to hiplas their "company prima donna." As the years passed, he receivedgrants of more than 1 million shares, making him the second-largestindividual shareholder, afterArikas founder. And in 2001, at the ageof fifty-one, Skip took over as chief executive.More recently, some of his problems have become slightly lessmanageable, but with his usual arrogance, Skip is confident he willland on his feet-perhaps a little too confident. In 2003, he was ac-- 42 -. I
  52. 52. T H E S O C I O PA T H N E X T D O O Rcused of fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He de­nied the charge, of course, and at present the decision ofthe SEC ispending.Playing the GameNo, Skip was not consigned to the edges of society, he does notdrool, and he is not (yet) in prison. In fact, he is rich and, in manycircles, respected-or at least feared, which masquerades brilliantlyas respect. So what-is wrong with this picture? Or perhaps the ques-, tion should be: What is the worst part ofthis picture, the central flawin Skips life that makes him into a tragedy despite his success, andinto the maker oftragedies for so many others? It is this: Skip has noemotional attachments to other people, none at all. He is cold as ice.His mother is there to be ignored, or sometimes baited. His sis­ter is there to be tormented. Other women are sexual plunder andnothing more. He has been waiting since childhood for his father todo only one thing-to die and leave his moneyto Skip. His employ­ees are there to be manipulated and used, as his friends have alwaysbeen. His wife and even his children are meant for the eyes of theworld. They are camouflage. Skip is intellectually gifted, and he isfabulous at the gamesmanship of business. But by far his most im­pressive talent is his ability to conceal from nearlyeveryone th,e trueemptiness ofhis heart-and to command the passive silence ofthosefew who do know.Most of us are irrationally influenced by appearance, andSkipper has always looked good, He knows just how to smile. He ischarming, and we can readily imagine him showering flattery on theboss who gave him the Ferrari, meanwhile thinking himlhe fool, andunderneath it all being incapable ofgratitude toward anyone. He liesartfully and constantly, with absolutely no sense:; of guilt that mightgive him away in body language or facial expression. He uses sexu-,- 43
  53. 53. M A R T H A S T O U Tality as manipulation and hides his emotional vacancy behind vari­ous respectable roles--corporate superstar, son-in-law, husband, fa­ther-which are nearly impenetrable disguises.And ifthe charm andthe sexualityandthe role playing somehowfail, Skip uses fear, a sure winner. His iciness is fundamentally scary.Robert Hare writes, "Many people find it difficult to deal with theintense, emotionless, or predatory stare ofthe psychopath," and forsome of the more sensitive people in his life, Skips intense blue eye�,the ones his sister sees as "weird," may well be those of the dispas­sionate hunter gazing at his psychological prey. If so, the result willprobably be silence.For even ifyou know about him, knowwhat his heart is like, andhave caught on to his modus operandi, how will you call him out?Whom canyoupossiblytell, andwhatwillyou say? "Hes a liar"? "Hescrazy"? "He raped me in his office"? "Hes got spooky eyes"? "Heused to kill frogs"? But this is a leader of the community, in anArmani suit. This is Juliettes beloved husband, andthe father oftwo:This man is the CEO of the Arika Corporation, for goodness sake!Justwhat are you accusing him of, andwhat proofdo you have? Whois going to sound crazier--chief executive Skip, or his accuser? Al).dsealing his invulnerability, there are those who need Skip to bearound for one reason or another, including people who are wealthyand powerful. Are they going to care what you say?In his unassailability, and in many other ways, Skip is an exem­plary sociopath. He has, in the words of the American Psychiatric,Association, "a greater than normal need for stimulation," and so h,e.------.--often takes big risks, and he guiltlessly charms others into takiq.gthem, too. He has a history of undocumented childhood "behavi(;irproblems," obscured by his parents social privilege. He is deceitfuJand manipulative. He can be impulsively aggr�e with "a recklessdisregard for the safety of others," as he was with the employe�whose arm he br�ke, and with the other women whose stories willnever be heard. Perhaps the only classic "symptom" Skip does not- 44 -,
  54. 54. T H E S O C I O PAT H N E X T D O O R_exhibit is substance abuse. The dosest he ever comes to that is one-�..---,---.,. -.-. .--"�--�-too m:any scotches after dinner. Otherwise, the picture is complete.He is not genuinely interested in bonding with anyone, he is consis­ tently irresponsible, and he has no remorse.Arid so how does all of thi� t�rn iri liis mind? What makes himtick? What exactly does Skip want?Most ofus have other people to motivate us and to populate ourdesires. People drive our wishes and our dreams. People who live. with us, people who are far away, beloved people who have died, ag­gravating people who will not leave, places made sentimental bywhom we knew there, even our pets-these fill our hearts and ourthoughts. Even the most introverted among us is defined by her re­lationships, and preoccupied with reactions to and feelings about,antipathies and affections for, other people. Emotional intrigue, ro­mance, nurturing, rejection, and reunion comprise nearly all of ourliterature and s�ng. We are overwhelmingly relational creatures, andthis is true all the way back to our primate ancestors. Jane Goodallsays the chimpanzees she observed in Gombe "have a rich repertoireof behaviours that serve to maintain or restore social harmony. . . .The embracing, kissing, patting and holding of hands that serve asgreetings after separation . . . The long, peaceful sessions of relaxedsocial grooming. The sharing of food·; The concern for the sick orwounded." And so without our primordial attachments to others,what would we be?Evidently, we would be the players ofa game, one that resembleda giant chess match, with our fellow human beings as the rooks, theknights, and the pawns. For this is the essence of sociopathic be­havior,and desire. The only,thing Skip really wants--the only thing, ,left-li�-t�"viD.; -.. . .._- .. _ - ._- , .. - -- . .......,- - .-.. . .. -",. _ . .. ,Skip does pot spend any time searching for someone to love. Hecanl),ot love. He does not worry about friends or family memberswho may be sick or in trouble, because he cannot worry about otherpeople. He cares nothing for others, and so he cannot enjoy telling,I ....4$