8. Sociopaths: Conscience

Once one understands this point they will see the scariest bit of reality they could imagine.  Sociopaths have no conscience.  It simply does not exist.  Like a severed limb the place for a conscience in their psyche is simply not there.  True, no can see a conscience anyway so how does one know?  Which takes us right back to Jesus’ caution about not knowing until we see the results/fruit.  We won’t know until we examine the damage and mayhem in their path.

Without a conscience they feel no remorse or guilt.  They will try to imitate these feeling so they can somehow fit in, but deep inside their soul no such feelings ever arise.

Robert Hare illustrates this point by an experience he had with Nicole Kidman who had consulted him about a sociopath part she has accepted in the movie, “Malice.”

“I said, ‘Here’s a scene that you can use,’ ” Hare says. ” ‘You’re walking down a street and there’s an accident. A car has hit a child in the crosswalk. A crowd of people gather round. You walk up, the child’s lying on the ground and there’s blood running all over the place. You get a little blood on your shoes and you look down and say, “Oh shit.” You look over at the child, kind of interested, but you’re not repelled or horrified. You’re just interested. Then you look at the mother, and you’re really fascinated by the mother, who’s emoting, crying out, doing all these different things. After a few minutes you turn away and go back to your house. You go into the bathroom and practice mimicking the facial expressions of the mother.’ ” He then pauses and says, “That’s the psychopath: somebody who doesn’t understand what’s going on emotionally, but understands that something important has happened.”

It’s this lack of conscience that makes a Sociopath so dangerous.  Whereas a fairly emotionally balanced person will be inhibited to cause pain in others, the Sociopath embraces this as their greatest joy.  As sick as this may be, it happens in at least 4% of the people around us.

Ruben Thompson shares an experience he had in which a dearly loved man was presenting a slide show very dear to his heart.  The audience enjoyed his points but they also were deeply saddened by the fact that this man could not keep his thoughts ordered.  The feared suspicions were proving true, he was suffering by the onslaught of Alzheimer’s disease.  Most people in the crowd were in near tears and Ruben silently prayed HARD that God would just allow the kindest man on earth to finish with some dignity.

What shocked Ruben beyond belief was what he heard behind him while he prayed.  Was that snickering and laughter he heard.  True, sometimes the distinction between the sounds of happiness and sadness might be tricky to detect, but Reuben reluctantly turned to see how he might subtly console this situation when he was shocked to see someone smiling and holding back outright laughing at the situation.  It was a woman he had suspected for some time of being a sociopath.  Watching her actually “enjoy” witnessing this man’s struggle to regain his composure was too much for Reuben to accept, but it was none-the-less very true.  The evidence was right before him regardless of how much he did not want it to be so.  And this was in a church setting of people who supposedly cared for each other.  Sad but true.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

…                                                Matthew 7:15


People without conscience experience emotions very differently from you and me, and they do not experience love at all, or any other kind of positive attachment to their fellow human beings. This deficit, which is hard even to ponder, reduces life to an endless game of attempted domination over other people.

Martha Stout, “Sociopath Next Door,” p. 155


With no conscience there is no guilt.  A Sociopath is naturally compelled into a sense of self-righteousness.  It’s the conscience that that cautions us to so over-evaluate our sense of spiritual confidence it is preserving [Freud’s] idea of the superego, ever vigilant to remind us of our faults and short-comings.  Without this spiritual gauge, a Sociopath has no hindrance imagining their great, although misunderstood and unappreciated gifted nature.

The grandest display of such ridiculous fantasies of self-righteousness may be found in the Nuremberg Trials in post-World War 2 Germany.  Twenty-one men selected for trial in some of the foulest acts of evil in the history of humankind spent 10 months explaining their misunderstood models of faithful soldiers and servants of the third Reich.  Were they really so delusional?  Yet, the ongoing so called “Minor Nuremberg Trials” and later Adolf Eichmann himself testified the exact response; they were only following orders in a most faithful manner.  True, German culture places an extraordinary value on loyalty, but at the expense of 6 – 12 million people?  Reading their testimony one gains the impression they were expecting not only vindication but even commendations for their loyalty in the face of horrific reality.

None of them ever acknowledged any wrong doing, save Rudolf Hess (who ironically avoided hanging at these trials).  They each expressed shock that they were part of this trials and explained that they had only learned of these terrible accusations of the holocaust after they arrived at Nuremberg and saw the films, pictures and first hand witnesses of the atrocities.  They actually feigned surprise that so many could just “disappear” unnoticed.  Following their contrived logic one would deduce by their explanations that it was Hitler, Goebbels and Himler who single-handedly invaded Eastern Europe, overran the rest of Europe and concealed the holocaust in their spare time.  Rational considerations simply had no place in their fanciful interpretations and pitiful excuses.  That’s a precise, show piece example of the mind of a Sociopath.



Favorite Targets of a Sociopath

1) The Weak.  Here are the so-called “easy-pickins” of a group.  Just like predators in the wild sort their herd of prey for the sickly, weak and young, so do human predators sort a group for the least likely to retaliate and cause vengeful trouble.  It’s a quick ego boost for them, but to an experienced Sociopath it will not be enough.  What prize is a devalued person (so they reason)?  Village idiots are safe to harm and perhaps worthy candidates for “toady” relations work, but they need bigger game for the trophies.  The weak will actually perk up their appetite for more.

2) The Unsuspecting.  Of course.  Every time.  Why face victims head on when they risk accountability.  Gossip and slander are their best weapons.  Those of the choice tools of cowards, but are so effective.  One may shoot their salvos with no fear of retaliation, at least not immediate.  By the time the target is even aware the harm has been done.  In the early stage, they do not need to devastate and destroy; merely to plant the doubt.  The doubt will work like social gangrene to poison the esteem, reputation and trust.  What an ideal weapon when used in a group without a sense of discernment.

3) The Compassionate.  Where the real abomination abides, they seek to hurt the good.  That’s exactly why they targets churches – the place where lover, forgiveness and compassion are taught and honored.  Like a grand smorgasbord, a Sociopath could not dream of anything better suited to their plans.  The kindest, most caring people are the prime easiest targets.  Exactly why church leaders are called to a united strength to protect the fellowship entrusted to their care.  Paul’s warning is essential,

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard!”   (Acts 20:29-31)

Note the harshness of that military word “guard.”  Yes, Christian fellowship is just that precious and worthy of attention and protection.

4) One with Position or Title.  Now we’re talking about the prime object.  Anyone with a recognized title of authority will cause the adrenaline to rise in a Sociopath.  They need to work up to this level, but once reached there’s not much backing down except to plot revised attacks.  The lure for power propels them (see chapter five, “Sociopath: Control”) like a narcotic.  They cannot resist trying to undermine whatever authority they may have, like a moth to the flame.  They are hooked by the effort.


All this is not only possible, but happens every day because the Sociopath never gets feels any discouraging regret for their abusive manipulation.  In fact, they are diabolically energized by the encounters of destructive harm.  They enjoy it like an amusement ride.  Like victors in a great sporting event the thrill of victory spurns them on for more.  Overlook this to your harm, a Sociopath’s appetite for harm will never be satiated, only ramped up for more.

The victims are usually reluctant to report their loss.  Who publicizes their own defeats?  Like supporters of defeated political candidates the yard signs are removed and immediately discarded the morning after the loss.  So also the victims want to hide and cover their shameful loss.  How could they be so naïve?  So their crucial stories are stifled and lost.  If only more understood the suffering they have [barely] endured, perhaps the Sociopath could at least be slowed down.

Christians are taught by our Lord Jesus to resist active revenge (e.g. Matthew 6:38-48) and rightly so.  However, our response is not dull passivity, but as Paul enhances the lesson,

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The shared experiences brings wisdom to leaders and victims as well.  Their exposing brings thing to light and the testimony becomes a light itself to caution others along the way.  Please don’t give up and hide away.  Others around you may be just as susceptible to the predators roaming about.  Follow Paul’s counsel and expose the frauds for who they really are.

The Sociopath feels absolutely no responsibility for the hurt in someone else, even if they are the culprits of the harm.  Despite their efforts to masquerade compassion watch for the cracks in that mask.  Psychologically, there is nothing in their psyche to register the regret.  They simply do not process any guilt whatsoever.  Feeling the pain of another person is pure futility.  What does it benefit them how someone else is poorly coping and failing at life?  It’s somehow their own fault, so rationalizes their sick mind.

So, why wouldn’t a Sociopath change and lead a normal, productive life?  Wouldn’t that bring a greater sense of fulfillment?  Can’t they grasp a life of personal fulfillment?  The answer is sadly and shockingly, “no.”  They cannot comprehend what a balanced individual considers a noble life.  They do not believe anything is wrong with them or their behavior.  Their mind runs 24/7 building the rationalized mental cushions to justify their actions.  They refuse counseling because there is nothing to emotional mend or heal.  Time with a counselor is mere folly or at best a competitive sporting match.  “Just try to prove me defective” is their mantra when it comes to anyone trying to help them.  Morgan Scott Peck considered counseling sociopaths (what he labels “evil”) as a thoroughly lost cause with no hope of a productive resolution (In People of the Lie).  As Martha Stout counsels, the best strategy is to block them out and move away (“The Sociopath Next Door”).



Blaming their Victims

A most bewildering and horrifying behavior of a typical Sociopath is to always blame their victims for their fate, which incidentally the Sociopath themself caused.  Although the following case is extreme it ably illustrates how far they will go with this game of blaming someone else, particularly the traumatized victim.

Ariel Castro kidnapped three girls, holding them captive from 2002 – 2013.  At his trial he responded for his actions to defend himself from the accusations (our legal system provides this chance for sociopaths to take one last shot at the families of their victims – can’t we find a way to block such accommodation of evil?).  Castro rambled on, as sociopaths normally do when given the spotlight, trying to dissociate himself from his crimes.  Following are just a few of his comments revealing the twisted reasoning going on inside the mind of such demented people.

“Most of the sex that went on in that house, probably all of it, was consensual,” Castro said. “These allegations about being forceful on them — that is totally wrong. Because there was times where they’d even ask me for sex –many times. And I learned that these girls were not virgins. From their testimony to me, they had multiple partners before me, all three of them.”

“I am not a violent person. I simply kept them there without being able to leave.”

When asked about his sons charges that he beat his wife, his answer was,

“…the situation would escalate until the point where she would put her hands on me and that’s how I reacted, by putting my hands on her.”

Castro would have us believe his innocence and perhaps even agree with his story that he himself is somehow the victim to be pitied.  When he tricked Amanda Berry into his van it was her fault for so easily falling for his ploy, be as he stated he does not blame her.  Is he trying to impress us with his ability to “forgive” her?

The ultimate “blaming the victim” is done by Joseph Goebbels during World War 2.  When his diaries were discovered and studied plenty of shocking and bewildering information was exposed.  The most bizarre came in his entries about initiating the holocaust (December 13, 1941).  He wants to do it for the mothers of Germany whose sons have suffered abuse caused by the Jews.  Goebbels would have us believe he didn’t want to do it, but the cry of righteous justice demanded it.  Reading his rationalizing delusions one wonders if he was not expecting a “Nobel Peace Prize” for his efforts.  What pitiful reasoning, but that’s exactly what sociopaths do to cover their despicable behavior.

My own first experience with severe, criminal sociopathy was during a ministry in Iowa.  One of my parishioners asked me to visit her grandson in prison for a foiled robbery attempt in which several people were “accidentally” (emphasis on the quotation marks!) killed.

Arrangements were and I was finally able to meet with the grandson, who I discovered was the one accused of actually pulling the trigger that killed one of the people.  Our meeting was in a secured room with the grandson handcuffed and an armed guard nearby (My appreciation for Iowa Corrections Officials continues to this day).

During our conversation, I tried to lead him to a point of his relationship with God through all of this.  It seemed especially appropriate for a man anxious about the death penalty, that a face to face meeting with God may well be coming in his not too distant future.

But again and again, the compulsive conversation came back to the fault of the “victims.”  It was not his fault, they are the ones to blame.

  • Why didn’t they listen to what they were told to do?
  • What was wrong with them?

And the spookiest statement,

  • Why did that woman make me kill her?
The reasoning of this man was trying to coerce me to believe that he was innocent and to be pitied.  He had so rationalized everything in his mind to justify his actions.  He believed his own ramblings of righteousness.  By the way, he committed his crime with a shotgun.  He was still adamant that it was an “innocent” killing (yeah, kinda strange reasoning there — ???).  That’s how it works with sociopaths.

Dr. Mark Levy is a recognized forensic psychiatrist in California often consulted by media services.  At the Ariel Levy post-trial enquiries (August 2, 2013), he concisely described the bizarre mind of sociopaths,

“They see the world through their own eyes and have an exploitive view toward interpersonal behavior”

The Ariel Castro case may be considered too extreme to apply to sociopathy as experienced in our churches and other social organizations, but his case along with other such insidious examples hold significant insights for two reasons,

1) They demonstrate just how far sociopaths can go when restraints have been neglected.  Castro is just one example of how far they can take their evil behavior.  This is where they are focused when no intervention comes into play.  Adolf Hitler is the model of what they can do when no one impedes their perilous plans – almost take over the world!  That’s a sociopath’s greatest and fondest fantasy.

2) The life of a sociopath is so compulsively hidden/disguised, that case studies can seldom come to light until they exceed the boundaries of the law and are caught, exposed to the scrutiny of the media and public at large.  Until then, all the deceptions will distract the real workings of their corrupted mind.

Even the recent book, “Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight,” by M. E. Thomas, is being received with due suspicion.  The distortions of a conscience-less mind simply do not hold true to such exposure.  The tendency for exaggeration and general “spin” inhibit its trustworthiness.

Thus the extreme cases present the valuable insights of the sociopathic mind.  Only the cross examinations and objective analyses provide the accurate dark secrets.


13 Rules for Dealing with Sociopaths in Every Day Life

“The Sociopath Next Door”, by Martha Stout


  1. Accept the Bitter Truth that there are people with no conscience and that they look just like everyone else.
  2. Trust your Instincts. If someone seems needlessly cruel, cold, or controlling listen to your intuition!
  3. Follow the Rule of Threes . . . 3 strikes and you’re out!
  4. Question Authority. According to a study discussed in this book, 6 out of 10 of us will blindly obey to the bitter end someone whom we perceive to be a figure of authority in our midst. “I was only following orders” was a disturbing rationalization not too long ago, and the most charismatic sociopaths climb highest in society.
  5. Suspect Flattery. Sociopaths use others, especially kind people, as their pawns. Beware phrases like, “You’re so right!” and “We’re so much alike!” as these sorts of attempts to “bond” are also common tools to the sociopath.
  6. Do not Mistake Fear for Respect. Especially when dealing with a sociopath in a position of authority, their presence or the trappings of their position can intimidate or even awe us. These feelings are not the same as respecting an individual or an office.
  7. Do not Join the Game. Do not vote for, marry, give your money, your time, or your sympathy to someone you suspect is a sociopath. Do not respond, maintain contact, attempt to “beat” them or reason with them. Do not make the mistake, as I have, of applying normal rules of courtesy to such individuals. You won’t hurt their feelings by being curt as they don’t actually experience emotion, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble by not allowing them access to you. In other words, do not rise to the bait they will, inevitably, dangle before you.
  8. Refuse Contact and Communication. Mental healthcare professionals rarely recommend this recourse. This is the notable exception.
  9. Question your Tendency to Pity too Easily. Those of us with conscience suffer from a handicap the remorseless will never know… self-doubt. We must fight our natural urge to forgive and forget in such instances though.
  10. Do not Attempt to Redeem the Unredeemable. There is no cure for sociopathy and very little legal recourse for other than gross fracturing of laws. Sad as it may be, difficult as it is to accept… there is nothing positive we can do for or with sociopaths.
  11. Never Agree, for any reason to help a Sociopath Conceal their True Character. While it is extremely difficult to detect, it is next to impossible to convince others that a well placed, highly functioning sociopath is, in fact, a sociopath. We may not be able to “out” them, but we certainly don’t have to “keep their secrets” or otherwise condone their behavior. Ignoring or keeping such behavior “Just between us” is again, not an option.
  12. Defend your Psyche. Do not believe that ALL humans are as selfish as the sociopath you have encountered. They may even attempt to convince you that “humanity is just a destructive virus” or “all human beings are basically greedy, self-centered and worthless.” 4% of our population may have no conscience, but the other 96% DO.
  13. Living Well is the Best Revenge. According to the accumulated evidence, sociopathy is ultimately… a self-destructive condition whether it ends with a whimper or the proverbial bang. It may at times seem a small comfort, but in the end we are better off staying within our own code of ethics, following our blessed conscience, and simply continuing with our lives perhaps a bit wiser.



The Only Warning — Pity

“When deciding whom to trust,” Dr. Stout advises, “bear in mind that the combination of consistently bad or egregiously inadequate behavior with frequent plays for your pity is as close to a warning mark on a conscienceless person’s forehead as you will ever be given.” While still a graduate student, Stout once had the opportunity to interview a confirmed sociopath. “What is important to you in your life?” She asked, “What do you want more than anything else?” “Oh, that’s easy,” came the reply, “What I like better than anything else is when people feel sorry for me.” “I was astonished, and more than a little put off.” Stout’s words echoed my own feelings, “I would have liked him better if he had said, “staying out of jail” or even “getting money.” Appeals to our conscience, direct or indirect, are the number one tool of the remorseless.

Being aware and informed makes us “fore-warned and fore-armed”, and in most cases we will be able to cut the sociopaths that we encounter out of our lives. As with most things in life though, these simple rules are easier said than done. It is difficult to not respond in kind when we meet with antagonism or verbal abuse, for example. It is virtually automatic for most people to trust those in authority, and No One questions their own perceptions like a truly good person… the most glaring evidence of possession of a conscience. Rule # 1 may actually be the most difficult of all the rules in dealing with a sociopath. Officials can be voted out or dismissed from office. Bosses and co-workers can be endured or a new job found. Even those we believed to be good friends can be cast out of our lives, mourned for the people we believed them to be, and eventually forgotten. But what do we do if the sociopath is our spouse, a family member, beloved of someone close to us, or worst of all… our own child? Accepting Truth can be a bitter pill indeed.

The first rule involves the bitter pill of accepting that some people
literally have no conscience. These people do not often look like Charles Manson or a Ferengi bartender. They look like us.”

“At present, sociopathy is ‘incurable’; furthermore, sociopaths almost never wish to be ‘cured.’ In fact, it is likely that, building on the neurobiological configuration of sociopathy, certain cultures, notably our Western one, actively encourage antisocial behaviors, including violence, murder, and warmongering. These facts are difficult for most people to accept. They are offensive, nonegalitarian, and frightening.”




How do Sociopaths Get Away with It?

“The Sociopath Next Door,” Martha Stout

1) Charm

The primary characteristic of sociopaths

They devote MUCH time to soothing those around them, who they perceive as underlings.  Always playing the charade, cultivating the efforts of the show to portray themselves as good and perhaps underappreciated.

They spend nearly all their time and energy priming the “audience.”

The compulsion to hide their real self in order to manipulate others for their greedy secret goals.

“When a sociopath identifies someone as a good game piece, she studies that person.  She makes it her business to know how that person can be manipulated and used, and , to this end, just how her chosen pawn can be flattered and charmed.  In addition, she knows how to promote a sense of familiarity or intimacy by claiming that she and her victim are similar in some way” (page 90).

They are constantly pulling people onto their side, but not for the cause of justice, but for selfish purposes of covering their poor inner nature and to disguise their bigger game plans.

Melodrama is virtually the modus operandi

“Someone who is unfettered by conscience can easily make us feel that our lives are tediously rule-bound and lackluster” (page 89).

2) Our own insecurity

  1. a) Does anyone else see what is really going on?

We doubt our own intuition.

Others have been so snickered by the smooth persuading game that they will not want to believe you.  Otherwise they are into their own insecurities of also believing disbelieved.

  1. b) Confrontation takes significant energy to go against the flow.

It is easier to be tricked and go along with the charade.  That’s why we tolerate insults and oversights, why the good worker will allow oversight of annual raises.  Stepping up to expose imposters is simply too hard for our lazy souls.

Assertiveness is easily seen as selfish arrogance.

  1. c) Not willing to risk counterattack

Yes, it is all about bullying techniques!

Note sociopaths will turn the status quo against you quickly.

“What sociopaths envy, and may seek to destroy as part of the game, is usually something in the character structure of a person with conscience, and strong characters are often specially targeted by sociopaths.”

Martha Stout, “The Sociopath Next Door,” page 51


“I saw a werewolf drinking a pina collada at Trader Vic’s.   His hair was perfect.”

— Warren Zevon



Eight Sociopathic Symptoms

1) Fails to conform to social norms

2) Aggressive

3) Reckless

4) Impulsive

5) Fails to honor financial obligations

6) Inconsistent work

7) Never monogamous

8) Lacks remorse

This study is compiled from 3,226 pairs of male twins located through a register of people who had served during the Vietnam War.  The eight listed symptoms were found to be significantly heritable and in descending order.


Sociopath Hypochondria

Having never made much of a mark on the world, the majority are on a downward life course, and by late middle age will be burned out completely.  They can rob and torment us tem­porarily, yes, but they are, in effect, failed lives.

From a psychologist’s point of view, even the ones in prestigious positions, even the ones with famous names are failed lives. For most of us, happiness comes through the ability to love, to conduct our lives according to our higher values (most of the time), and to feel reasonably contented within ourselves. Sociopaths cannot love, by definition they do not have higher values, and they almost never feel comfortable in their own skins. They are loveless, amoral, and chronically bored, even the few who become rich and powerful.

And they are uncomfortable in their skins for more reasons than boredom. The absolute self-involvement of sociopathy creates an individual consciousness that is aware of every little ache and twitch in the body, every passing sensation in the head and chest, and ears that orient with acute personalized concern to every radio and television report about everything from bedbugs to ricin.  Because his concerns and awareness are geared exclusively toward himself, the person without a conscience sometimes lives in a torment of hypochondriacal reactions that would make even the most fretful anxiety neurotic appear rational. Getting a paper cut is a major event, and a cold sore is the beginning of the end.

Perhaps the most famous historical example of the sociopath’s obsession with his body is Adolf Hitler, who was a lifelong hypochondriac with an overpowering fear of developing cancer. In an attempt to keep cancer at bay, and to cure a long list of other imag­inary health problems, he swallowed “remedies” formulated specially by his favorite personal physician, Dr. Theodore Morell. Many of these tablets contained hallucinogenic toxins.  In this way, Hitler gradually poisoned himself into actual illness.  Most likely on account of this, a tremor (a real one) in his right hand became conspicuous, and by mid-1944, he was disallowing photographs.

Martha Stout, “The Sociopath Next Door,” p. 189f.





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