According to a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, sociopaths make up 1% of the world's population. I guess that puts me in the 99th percentile. Again. I don't think people are surprised when they find out I'm a sociopath. I think they're surprised people like me even exist. But they shouldn't be. It's just another human abnormality like color blindness, dyslexia, or tone deafness. We walk among you unnoticed.
I wasn't surprised when I realized I was a sociopath. Like realizing you're gay or adopted, you may have always known it in your heart. You don't realize you're different until the differences become manifest. Sociopathy takes longer to notice than, say, a learning disability. Just like some people don't realize they're gay until puberty kicks in (or sometimes much later), sociopaths often don't realize what they are until suddenly someone hates them.
I always attributed my sense of being "different" to being smarter than everyone else. I didn't think I had some mental disorder. And for the most part, my "mental disorder" has been easy to live with. There's been no external struggle, no conflict I couldn't master--though sometimes I have find myself behind the curve in certain areas, having to play catch up. Normal people seem to follow an invisible path of personal development. Sometimes I would get confused if there was a fork in that path. I couldn't always predict normal social development enough to anticipate it.
For example: When I started school I quickly learned that it was important to be smart--to do well on tests, to get good grades. It wasn't until fifth grade when I realized (too late) that it's just as important to be well-liked. I missed the fork in the road. It took four years to undo the damage, but by high school I constructed a new, better social persona: I was into indie films and underground music, alternative sports and thrift store clothes. I didn't pander to the whims of the majority through mimicry; my uniqueness demanded respect. And it worked: people liked me, or at least liked the person they thought I was.
How would I describe my condition today? When people ask I have doubts about how best to explain it. It's easy to confuse causes for symptoms and vice versa, but for me sociopathy feels like an extreme form of compartmentalization. I can shut myself off or open myself up to emotions like fear or anger or anxiety or dread or joy just by flipping an internal switch. Or turning a dial, like a radio. All those things are out there, all the time being broadcast through our airwaves. All I have to do is tune into the right station. If I want to feel something--despair, anxiety, bliss, horror disgust--I just think about it. It's like seeing a glass half empty and then flipping the switch or turning the dial to look at it half full. I believe empaths sometimes have a similar sensation and label it an epiphany--a sudden shift in perspective. This happens to me many times a day.
Most people have to listen to whatever signal is being broadcast the strongest, both within themselves and in their social environments. I get to choose which signals to listen to. Sometimes it's nice to be able to choose who to mirror to or how to feel, but it can also be a burden. I have to constantly and actively monitor the airwaves. Most people pick up on social and moral cues because they automatically tune into other people's emotional stations, reading body language unconsciously and displaying appropriate emotional responses in a natural, instinctive way. Empaths are like cell phones in this way--they automatically seek out the strongest signal from the cell towers. Sociopaths, on the other hand, are like traditional radios. I can only hear the strongest signal if I happen to be on that station, or if I'm being extra vigilant about scanning. There's a lot of trial and error involved. Often the best I can do is realize I've missed an important cue, then shift and shuffle through my stations to recover. There can be some awkwardness, but I've gotten pretty good at masking my errors. I can cycle through possible emotional choices very quickly and come up with acceptable responses like a computer playing chess. I'll never be as fast as an empath, but I retain much more control this way. I have the ability to turn my feelings on a dime.
Frequently I won't bother trying to figure out which radio station everyone else is listening to, and instead will broadcast my own station powerfully enough to become dominant. I guess that's what some people call manipulation. When I'm with a group of people, I can control the conversation (assuming I can engage everyone) so that I'll know what they are all thinking. They're thinking about me and whatever it is I'm saying. I purposefully construct what I say to evoke a particular simultaneous reaction. So I'm broadcasting instead of listening. And I can do this as broadly as a drive-in movie theatre, with a large group of people, or as specific as an ipod trip. I can broadcast indefinitely, but I can only be certain of your attention for 20 minutes, 30 minutes tops. And I can't multitask. When I'm broadcasting I can't listen to any other stations. It gives me somewhat of an advantage, if you can call it that. And I use it somewhat frequently, especially at parties. I never feel bad about it, I don't think it is wrong. It's my way of coping. People are listening to whatever broadcast comes in strongest anyway, so why not make it mine? It's not like I think people are stupid or look down on them because of it. It's just that people seem willing to give up so much control over their lives and will listen to such drivel sometimes. I figure I can't be the worst thing that's happened to them.
Narcissists I hate. They are my mortal enemy. They are reckless and sloppy. They don't "pass" as normal to anyone but themselves. They don't get the right social or moral cues either, but it isn't because their radio is faulty, but because they're too busy listening to their own mix tape. Sociopaths don't reject the idea of the radio like they do. I don't believe that we are the same as empaths or better than them like narcissists do. I realize I am different, and I suspect that every sociopath, from the most psychotic serial killer to the most mild mannered office worker, feels isolated. Sociopaths sit in front of our radio all the time, listening like some listen to police scanners. We try to piece together the story. We try to understand what makes empaths do what they do, what makes them tick. We "pass." We walk among you. But we never feel like one of you. We can always tell the difference between sociopaths and empaths, even if you can't.
Most sociopaths want to hide their identity, but I don't want to hide forever. My life's goal is not to have to "pass." I want everyone to know who I am. I want to live in the light. Right now it's not safe, though. People don't like sociopaths. There are books and web pages devoted to detecting and avoiding sociopaths: don't talk to these people, don't be around them, don't let them ensnare you. I want people like me to know that they aren't alone. And I want everyone else to know who I'm a natural human variant. I want to come out of the closet, but not until I change the world to be a safer place for me.