Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Irresponsibility is supposed to be a sociopathic trait. I often wonder why, or what it means. I feel like I am fairly responsible. I excelled in life, I paid my debts, I fully funded my retirement by the time I was 30. Looking at just those things, I seem exceptionally responsible.

The other day I saw a college-aged kid with his parents. He had opened a rear car door, only to have a ceramic vase fall out and shatter on the ground. The kid just laughed about it. His father was very angry and started yelling, but the kid started yelling back that it wasn't his fault, that the vase must have have shifted while they were driving. The mom corrected him, "yes it is your fault, but you broke it accidentally," but the kid refused to take any of the blame. "No one is at fault here, there is no fault."

I found this to be such an interesting perspective -- no one is at fault? From where I was standing, I could see that the car door had a window -- the son could have easily seen that the vase was leaning up against the door if he had taken the time to see. He boy knew or should have known that there were risks, that he behaved recklessly. To me, the boy clearly seemed to be at fault, just as his mother said.

Maybe he wasn't morally in the wrong for the vase, whatever that would have meant, but clearly he was the cause of the destruction of the case and could have easily prevented it by being more cautious, or securing the vase when it was first loaded, or arranging other transportation for the vase, or wrapping the vase up, or packing it in a box, or any number of different options that he could have chosen that would have protected it from being destroyed.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered -- why would the boy even want to believe that no one was at fault? When something goes wrong in my life, I always try to look for something I did wrong because that means that there is something I could do better next time to potentially avoid the negative event. Taking responsibility for yourself, for your actions, equates to taking control -- you determine your destiny, you choose what happens in your life. Being irresponsible makes you a victim. You don't make things happen, they happen to you, all you can do is hope and pray to be spared true calamity.

I just don't see why, given that sociopaths are primarily motivated by power, that sociopaths would be irresponsible like this boy with the vase. It doesn't make sense to me. Maybe when they include irresponsible in the diagnostic criteria it is because sociopaths tend to blame others as a sympathy play? Maybe because most sociopaths that are studied are incarcerated and every prisoner thinks they are innocent of whatever crime they supposedly committed? Maybe because sociopaths don't see anything morally wrong in what they do? Or we try to work the system, which sometimes includes parasitic behavior? But lack of responsibility is sort of a weird phrase to encapsulate all of that. Because we are very aware of the consequences of our actions, it's what helps us to play the games we play as well as we play them.


  1. maybe because sociopaths don't see anything morally wrong in what they do?

    BINGO! We have a winner!!!

    I have come to suspect this is the core of it. If you don’t beat yourself up for breaking one of society’s moral rules, just like e’rbody else, then something must be wrong with you. You are not "taking responsibility". As if emotional self flagellation equals responsibility.

    To me, responsibility means being able to respond to whatever life throws at you. That means “being at cause” in your life rather than “at effect”, so to speak. And all that means is, if you don’t like what you are experiencing in your life, rather look outside yourself to lay blame, you reverse engineer the sucker to figure out how you created it to begin with, then change your thoughts and actions (and thus your emotions) to create something more to your liking. That, to me, is responsibility.

  2. You are not yet 30 years old. What ARE you talking about?

  3. Anon:"You are not yet 30 years old. What ARE you talking about?"

    I, too, had this idea in my head. M.E., are you playing pretend? ;)

  4. Chances are the vase had nothing to do with the boy. If it did, or any object, then he might have noticed its vulnerable position in the first place. So bringing the situation to his attention was a good thing. Otherwise his parents would have been a disservice to him. But not to blame just to make aware


  5. The word responsibility is too general. The word means different things to different people and is essentially a judgement call. This means there is no real wrong or right, just the wrong or right that we as individuals have come to know it through the people that have taught us about responsibility as well as the ideas that we have developed for ouselves.

  6. I agree with Grace. We don't really know the full situation here. I find it odd that the parents had to find "fault" in a completely inoccuous, morally inconsequential situation. Admittedly, he did seem to be a bit defensive when his parents wanted to assign blame.

    I understand this defensiveness. I grew up in a household where blame, pointing fingers, fault-finding, etc. was a constant.

    It took me many years to learn how to accept constructive criticism without become overly defensive and angry. The way this poor kid reacted would have been me at his age. You defend to save your life. Accepting fault in a dysfunctional family reveals a weakness that is later manipulated against you.

    As far as socio's & responsibility, isn't there a post on this site about how socio's don't plan for the future well? They are very "in the moment" sort of people? This reasonably can lead to a short-sightedness when it comes to being responsible about certain things such as paying bills, preventing problematic situations.

    I think M.E. is an exception in this regard.

  7. A line must be drawn in any situation where "fault" becomes irrelevant/nonexistent. If it isn't, the intricacies of cause and effect quickly spiral out of the realm of what's conceivable. Who's really at fault? The kid for opening the door, or whoever put the vase in such a precarious position to begin with? Would it really have been easier for the kid to KNOW to check the vase's position prior to opening the door than it would have been to fix the vase in a SECURE position before turning the fucking car on?

    The kid's right. There is no single measurable "fault." Things could've been done better, by multiple parties, but as far as "being in the wrong" goes, being "at fault," the kid's in the clear as far as I'm concerned. Was he meant to guess that the vase was supposed to have shuffled around in the car any more than the person who put it in a position where it COULD shuffle?

    Pointing fingers at that point is just idiotic. But yeah, the kid could definitely learn from the situation

  8. Oh my God, I sound like Zoe. Please forgive me. I've been drinking.

  9. I think the sociopath's "lack of responsibility" comes from their impulsiveness and lack of fear and worry about other's health. To many people things I do seem irresponsible and stupid because they think I'll get hurt or that I'll hurt someone else when i do it because i simply don't care either way if someone gets hurt. Some people would call that irresponsibility.

  10. At any second billions of bits of information are running you. Decisions are made before consciousness makes them. So the conscious mind is not at fault, no one is. Its not a fault thing. Fault connotes blame. And no one is to blame. Using this analogy, no one ever did anything. We are only here to be responsible for our memories. You cannot be half responsible or 80 percent responsible for this to work. You have to be 100% responsible. And what does it mean to be totally responsible? It means you are free.


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