Sociopathic Men

I have recently begun to study this phenomenon in detail, and its detrimental effects in family settings. So for instance if one member in the family is a sociopath, what emotional and physical toll does that take on the other members of the family? How do we counter the effects of that person and protect the children from developing similar behavioral patterns ( skills?) ?

Lets simply perform an inquiry into the nature and consequences of sociopathy.

I used to hold the belief that people diagnosed thus could be changed through love and empathy. The more I explore this disorder, the more I am begining to feel that perhaps like the Freudian Narcissists, Sociopaths have an entrenched characteriological deficit that may be resistant to any fundamental change. Such people may have the skills to understand their mistakes, remonstrate and express remorse, but they lack the inherent infrastructure that would allow them to feel that remorse. And since feelings are implicated, and are necessary for any characteological change to take effect, the lack of the feeling function makes it impossible for a person with Sociopathic character, to change.  Without feelings a person is automata, and automata is the word that describes sociopaths’ inner world pretty well.

What is a sociopath?  I mean these are not people who are marked by two heads, or a tail, or an extra pair or legs. They can be outwardly normal people, except that they arethat are devoid of empathy, compassion, love, morality, ethics and associated traits. Jung would say that in these people, the feeling function that regulates our attachments, and our emotional interaction with the world,  is missing to a large extent. These people have a very well developed thinking function. They are usually brilliant, and can impress others with their glibness, and superficial charm.

Here are some of the traits exhibited by a sociopath :

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning
  • They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
  • Grandiose Sense of Self
  • Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
  • A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
  • Incapacity for Love
  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    Rage – expressed or internalised – and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
  • Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
    Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
    Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

Other Related Qualities:

  1. Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
  2. Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
  3. Authoritarian
  4. Secretive
  5. Paranoid
  6. Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
  7. Conventional appearance
  8. Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
  9. Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
  10. Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
  11. Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
  12. Incapable of real human attachment to another
  13. Unable to feel remorse or guilt
  14. Extreme narcissism and grandiose
  15. May state readily that their goal is to rule the world

The above traits are based on the psychopathy checklists of H. Cleckley and R. Hare.)

NOTE: In the 1830’s this disorder was called “moral insanity.” By 1900 it was changed to “psychopathic personality.” More recently it has been termed “antisocial personality disorder” in the DSM-III and DSM-IV. Some critics have complained that, in the attempt to rely only on ‘objective’ criteria, the DSM has broadened the concept to include too many individuals. The APD category includes people who commit illegal, immoral or self-serving acts for a variety of reasons and are not necessarily psychopaths.

Courtest :

The psychoanalytic community have their own definitions. For reasons of brevity, I will not go into the details of how Freud, his successors, and even Jung definied this way of being in men (and women, though the problem assumes statistical significance only in the male population). However, a prominent characteristics is their schizoid defense. They seldom share themselves with others, and are usually stingy, with a need to adhere to routine. They are loathe to impart with anything that seems of value to them. This may even include innocuous things like faeces. Contrary to popular myth about their sexual prowess, sociopaths are usually sexually dysfunctional. They find it difficult to give up control and since consensual sex usually involves giving up control, their ability to give and receive in an intercourse is greatly impaired. For this reason, forced sex like rape, molest, is more likely.


As one can see, two heads, or a tail, or three or more limbs are not necessary to identify a sociopath. Charles Pragnell estimates that 3% of the male population are sociopaths and they inhabit all walks of life, from business and commerce where their ruthlessness can make them highly successful, in politics where their absence of empathy can enable them to be elective autocrats with a capacity for corruption and callousness, in organised crime often involving drug dealing, and in many other professions.

What Sociopaths are Like

According to Pragnell, Sociopaths are “extremely adept at ‘sailing close to the wind’ in avoiding lawbreaking or detection if they do break the law. Although the sociopath is extremely adept at evading detection for criminal behaviour, studies have shown that 47% have a significant arrest record and it is reasonably estimated that up to 25% of the prison population have sociopathic traits.”  However, it must be remembered that since they are charming, witty and intelligent, they are usually capable of evading arrests by changing their stories.

These are self-centred, narcissistic individuals, claims Pregnell, people who are impulsive, manipulative, and consistently untruthful. As sociopaths grow into adulthood they often engage in alcohol and drug abuse and this serves to exacerbate their behaviours and conduct towards others, and they can show extreme violence towards others when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, yet blame the drink or drugs for their actions. They tend to disregard laws. They also engage in violence towards their partner in a relationship and on occasions towards their childrenk. They use children as pawns because they now their offences will be difficult to detect and prosecute. In divorce wars, for example, they can make children their victims, knowing that the children have no voice in the process of law.

Jekyll and Hyde Personality

Sociopath tend to adopt an alter ego when with significant others, says Pregnell. They are extremely charming, of a calm and collected disposition, and very plausible and persuasive. They can have a group of close friends and even neighbours who consider them to be very friendly and a ‘good bloke’ and will be well thought of at the local pub or club. Such friends and associates find it difficult to believe that such a person could possibly be violent towards a partner or their children. However, the fact that sociopaths do not hform any emotional bonds, can easily throw light on their character. They tend to make their partners angry by their behaviors, and then blame them for their anger. This is referred in psychology circles as “crazy making” – a case of Projective Indentification where the partner ends up carrying the Sociopath’s internal anger.Their close relationshipships are always stressful, full of violence and rama.  This ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality is often referred to by professionals and by partners who have experienced the violence.

Pragnell further states that “in cases of partner violence or child abuse, this dual personality is often clearly apparent and the plausible, manipulative personality enables them to persuade gullible Court officials, lawyers and even Judges, that they are innocent of the abusive behaviours alleged by their children or the violence alleged by the former partner. The sociopath father can be extremely adept at ‘playing victim’ in court processes, accusing the mother of obsessive concerns for a sick child or of actually making the child ill (Fabricated and Induced Illness in Children), or of not ensuring that the child engages in a ‘meaningful’ relationship with the father, when in fact the child has protested loudly that s/he does not want any contact.”

Pragnell warns us that the use of Parental Alienation Syndrome has proved to be a highly effective tool for sociopaths to use in disputed court proceedings regarding the custody and contact with children, as they can so readily engage in deception and fabrication, distortion and embellishment of facts regarding events and actions.

Sociopaths are adept at attracting the sympathy of Court officials and lawyers and using them to gain what they see as their rights. Some sociopaths also appear to have infiltrated the Father’s Rights Groups in some countries, where they have been able to bring influence to further enable their domination and control over females. There are some father groups that are fighting for rights of fathers to have sex with their daughters.

Pregnell warns us that “the sociopath is an emotional shell, with no capacity to feel the pain of others and words only have meaning in so far as they persuade and manipulate others to the sociopath’s views. Feelings and emotions are non-existent but the sociopath is often able to cleverly mimic such emotions when needed and in ways which will deceive the observer into believing they are true emotions.”

The Making of a Sociopath

So what makes a Sociopath? Lack of emotions and empathy can only be attributed to the flawed mother-child relationship.

A child is born without the ability to feel, except inthe physical way. Emotional attachments, states of empathy, or any other kind of feelings are non existent in the womb. Life is only lived mechanistically on a physical level.

After birth, the relationship with the mother enables the activation of the feeling apparatus in a child. The more a child is attached to the mother, the deeper and more intense will be his or her capacity for emotional sensitivity and attunement with others and the environment.

The separation from the mother activates the thinking apparatus. Intelligence in children is a consequence of separation trauma. The more separated a child is from his or her mother, or the earlier the child is separated from the mother, the more will be his ability to think. Thinking is stimulated only when an independent existence is envisioned, when a conflict is sensed, when one is expected to take care of themselves for purposes of survival. It is a defense mechanism put forth by the psyche to ensure survival.

Normal development is a consequence of a balance between the two – the nearness of the mother, and a proper, timely separation from the mother. At one end of the continuum lie abnormal patterns of attachment, and the inability to separate, the inability to consider oneself as being separate from another, the fused and enmeshed relationships, the identification of ego with the Self, the inability to think. This is the absolute right brain thinking, the fatal dance of anima. On the other end of the continuum lies the inability to become attached, to never being able to experience the unity between self and other, the alienation between Self and the ego. The inability to feel. This is the complete absence of right brain, it is the left brain predominance. This is the destructive thanatos, the death dance of the animus.

Most of us will lie somewhere in the middle, and our position on the continuum at any given time is a consequence of the situational complexity that pushes us in one direction or the other. But if the development has been optimal, without any major disruptions in mother-child relationship, if there has been no neglect and abuse in childhood, if the mother herself has not been narcissistic, psychotic or sociopathic, and if the mother-child bond in childhood and adolescence has been solid, we will develop a capacity for relationships, we will stay closer to the feeling side, the side that commands altruism, empathy, morality, ethics, compassion etc – all of these virtues being relational in nature.

Sociopaths are people who spend most of their lives in the left hemisphere of the brain – the destructive pole of excessive thinking. Such an orientation – when excessive – is the basis of evil in the society. Sociopaths have very limited ability to function with their right hemispheres. They rarely emote, nor do they experience empathy, and love. The gift of the left hemisphere is the thinking function, and in sociopaths, the thinking function is overdeveloped, it is all encompassing. Hence they are always in the process of employing their thinking  in the service of their relationships. Thinking is a function of separation. It strives to separate, severing unity, relationality, and hence feelings. When one is stripped of feelings, one is not being contained and limited by the bonds of love and caring that chain our extreme behaviors and make us human. These very bonds foster moral and ethical attitude towards life, and society. Devoid of feelings,  a thinking man is prone to become diabolical with daimonic functioning.

Sociopatic fathers and protection from the Law

The excerpt that follows is directly from Pregnell’s article:

Protective mothers and partners who have experienced domestic violence have frequently described the onset of such attacks. “I see it in his eyes”, they say. It is beyond hatred and is a ‘demonic stare’. “I know then that I’m in for a beating”. Violent attacks are often followed by pleas of forgiveness which have the appearance of remorse and regret, although the sociopath does not take responsibility for his conduct but blames anything or anyone he can. “It was the drink”, he says or even blames his victim for behaving in a particular way.

In early courtship, female partners have been persuaded by the charming person in the sociopath and only rarely have they seen the violent potential. However, they soon experienced the possessiveness and jealousy of the sociopath and unfounded accusations of infidelity.

The goal of the sociopath father is to attain complete domination and control over his female partner and his means are to create fear, isolation, and total dependency. He seeks to take total control over his victim and will use any means possible to do so. Critical and abusive words and actions are the most common means. Then he isolates his victim from her family and friends and uses financial controls to limit her movements and decrease her self esteem. He systematically destroys her feelings of self-worth, dignity, and security.

If his female victim threatens to leave him, he will often threaten to kill her and their children if she were to do so, and warns her that she will never be safe for the rest of her life. This gives him an immense hold over his female partner but eventually the situation becomes so intolerable, she finally escapes.

But the suffering of the protective mother is far from ended. There then begins the harassment and continuing interference in her life, using the children as a means to do so.

It is unfortunate that the Family Law, which altruistically sought to give reasonable fathers a continuing and an active part in their children’s lives, has been a gift for the sociopath to continue to exert domination and control over his former partner and children. Although the sociopath may not have had a ‘meaningful relationship’ with his children in their past lives together and does not honestly want one in the future, he insists on this as his right under law as it provides him with the opportunity to continue to abuse his former partner and the children.

This usually involves avoiding payment of child support or paying inadequate amounts at infrequent intervals. Then he plays petty games at contact arrangements, such as returning the children late or in a dishevelled state. He abuses his former partner in phone calls and makes continuing unreasonable demands for more time with the children, although when the children are with him for staying contact, they are left with his new partner and he spends little time with them. He uses the Courts and its officials to enforce his rights if his former partner refuses to comply with the contact arrangements as a consequence of his behaviours. This has resulted in some protective mothers losing custody of their children and even being imprisoned and the children being placed with the sociopath father, to endure unwitnessed further abuse.

It has also led to the deaths of several hundred children, killed by their sociopath fathers, and many mothers and other relatives have also been killed. In 2005 inNew South Wales, one ofAustralia’s six States, 117 children suffered unnatural deaths at the hands of their parents and 74 intimate partners were killed. On occasions the sociopath father has taken his own life with those of his former partner and children.

It is to be hoped that society and Courts are able to more easily identify such sociopaths in the future and thereby provide the necessary protections for children and their mothers.

4 responses to “Sociopathic Men”

  1. I would just like to add my opinion about the lawyer and how she may have been influenced by the sociopath. I believe when their energy entwines with their victims energy it puts us in sort of a dazed and confused mode that alters our judgements…. that has been my experience at least. Maybe that sounds a little wishy washy but after getting away from the sociopath the fog is beginning to lift and I can see and think more clearly.

  2. Madhu, this is a good summary of the many descriptions out there and what I find particularly interesting is the section on the making of a sociopath.

    I would say that it is very difficult to characterise someone as a sociopath whilst still engaging in relationship with them. It is only after a person decides to disengage – and of course through the disengaging still remains in relationship – that the person can see the other as a sociopath.

    So the sociopath, as you suggest, has an ability to permeate the boundaries of the other and make inroads into their ways of perceiving, thinking and feeling. This is the true threat of the sociopath and even as a person’s intellect comes to identify and ‘label’ another as a sociopath, their heart and feeling may still be struggling against and with this. Thanks for writing and good to see you back.


    1. Karin,

      Yes you raise a very interesting point. I should have elaborated on what prompted the blog. As you know most blogs are prompted by experiences and instances that are happening around me in my life, that force me to think of a particular problem.

      Sociopaths are horribly seductive – not in just sexual sort of ways. They are adept at drawing people to themselves. This is the little lost child syndrome, which to some extent is genuine because they have been adandoned by their mothers in their childhood, and are enacting in a way that may help provide a corrective balance. But what is interesting about the sociopaths in particular is that they deliberately use their charm to attract and exploit others who may be beneficial to them. So the other person doesn’t even realize he or she is being used. The emotional hook – which of course is superficial, like a fly trap – is very potent, and will often compel a person to behave out of character. For example a sociaopathic man who is divorcing his wife may say to her “I still love you from the bottom of my heart”” just to extract a more favorable financial settlement. Most of us would abhor using such an expression for the person who we are trying to get away from, but to a sociopath this would seem natural – to use his charm and cunning to achieve his own ends…

      The autobiographical aspect of this post is that I recently came across a case where a 50 year old man somehow charmed his attorney, a very famous attorney is Fresno, a respectable woman of 65 or so, to do something illegal on his behalf. The attorney had been representing the sociopath on child support issues ie on financial aspects only, specifically not on child custody and visitation. However, the sociopath, and his attorney turned up the doorsteps of the other party – the mother of their children – and tried to abduct their children by coercing him to sit in the man’s car. Fortunately the child understood he would be abducted, he refused and slammed the door shut on the man and the attorney, and a tragedy was averted.

      This was clear violation of all boundaries, especially since the attorney was not even representing him on custody and visitation issues. Like I said the attorney is a very well known professional in Fresno. She could not NOT have known that what she was doing was illegal and boundary violation. Attorneys don’t turn up at the other parties home unannounced and violate their personal space. However, caught in the web of the man’s charm, she identified with him, and put her license at stake. This was a PERFECT case of sociopathic manipulation. I think in her mind, there existed a bond between her and her sociopathic client and she acting out of that conviction. However, contrary to her belief, I am sure that for the sociopath, she was just a guinea pig to be used to achieve his own ends. He probably kept her seduced so that he can use her for his own end.

      This is an EXCELLENT case study, the character of a psychopathic behavior. An EXCELLENT example at how vulenerable people are to sociopath’s manupulative ways. Such is the persuasive and seductive power of a sociopath. They intrigue me, as do the people who fall for their charms. What is that exists in the in-between that allows this boundary violation ? I have been wondering about what it was in the old lawyer – I consider 65 old – that made her vulerable to such dysfunctional behavior. Why did she become a willing victim of his manipulation? If I had to guess I bet that her relationship with her children may have been lacking, and so he appealed to her mother instinct. He may have sensed that she was lonely, and needed a “son” that she could protect. And he used that information to his benefit!!!

      Obviously the answers lie in the lawyer’s childhood as well….perhaps that will be material for another post in the future…


      1. I wrote a response but it got deleted so here goes again….

        thanks for the case study which is fascinating. I believe we all have ‘the right sociopath for us’ – the ones who know how to push our buttons and get a response. It’s hugely illuminating to work out what the buttons are, what pushes them, and where it all started – our own childhoods – but dangerous learning….

        Also we all have the power to manipulate others, though as you say for most the normal spectrum is not that of the sociopath.

        Very thought-provoking stuff.


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