After much blather, James says,
'There's something you should know about me… whenever I feel emotions, I never know if they are real because I don't stop thinking. I'm way too analytical for my own good, to the point where it's borderline sociopathic. Yes, I'm a sociopath. Not in the sense that I'd steal an old lady's life savings and think nothing of it, or torture little animals, but in the sense that I don't experience emotion like other people... 100% mind, 0% heart, the definition of a sociopath...'
Is that the definition of sociopath? Really? James has taken one sociopathic characteristic, the lack of in depth emotion, and turned it into the whole enchilada. Any reasonable definition of sociopathy would also at minimum include a flexible sense of self, the ability to charm when needed, the love of a well played mind game of one kind or another, a disregard for social norms on an emotional level, a greater than normal desire for stimulation, and of course a lack of conscience. These characteristics would then have to be demonstrated in a consistent manner across almost all aspects of one’s personal and professional lives before you could reasonably call that person a sociopath. James, out of ignorance or sheer psychological blindness, disregards all of this and calls himself a sociopath anyway.
This is a phenomenon I’ve observed coming from several types or groups of people saying they are sociopaths. One group of wannabes who might very well have other 'personality disorders' confuse their 'symptoms' for sociopathy. I call them the confused. For instance, a narcissist might confuse her grandiosity for the sociopath's calculated and laser like focus on self interest. Someone with Asperger's might confuse his lack of desire to interact with others for the sociopath's indifference to societal norms. A schizoid might confuse his social aloofness for the sociopath's lack of instinctive empathy. Another group of wannabes, especially those on the young side of 25 who are still trying to figure themselves out, might want to latch on to the sociopath label as a way of seeing themselves as hard or tough or whatever it is they think all sociopaths are. I call them the seekers. Some seekers might even believe that calling themselves sociopaths makes them 'cool' somehow. Seekers tend to have an unrealistic view of what the day to day life of an actual sociopath is like thanks to modern media. Another group of wannabes strap themselves with this label because they’re tired of feeling. I call them the desperate. They believe sociopaths feel absolutely nothing. The desperate wish to feel this nothingness as a means of escaping depression or anxiety or a creeping sense of failure perhaps.
That doesn’t exhaust the list, but I think I’ve made my point. If I had to guess, I’d say James falls into the seeker category. The tone of the rest of his email is maudlin, self pitying and overly dramatic to the point of tedium. What it does do is demonstrate how easy it is misapply the sociopath label.
Being a sociopath isn’t romantic or glamorous. I don’t have a conscience, so to speak. I can charm and be anything to anyone when necessary, I enjoy playing the occasional mind game with people, I've never cared about social norms, etc. So what? None of that means I go around acting like a movie villain. I’ve got friends, family, a job, a life. In many ways, I appear quite normal on the surface. I’m not plotting to take over the world or running an international crime syndicate or making lamp shades from human skin, and I don't make it a habit to eat the livers of census takers with fava beans and a nice Chianti. I make no effort to live up to any kind of sociopathic stereotype. I do what I must to enjoy the life I lead, plain and simple.
Put your thinking caps on boys and girls. Being a sociopath is more and less than you think. You don’t choose it, you are it. Why bother trying to be anything other than who you are?