Thursday, April 18, 2013
Q&As (part 2)
Do you think that sociopaths are born or created?
Most researchers think that there is both a genetic and environmental component to sociopathy. I think I received my genetic component from my father’s birth father, who abandoned his family, lost the family fortune on a vanity project, and had prominent facial scarring from all of the risky behavior he engaged in over the years. The environmental component was my unstable childhood home with an unpredictable and often-violent father and a sometimes hysterical mother.
You were raised Mormon, graduated from Brigham Young University, and teach Sunday school. How do you reconcile that with being a sociopath?
Being raised Mormon is probably the reason why I am not in prison. More than anything else, the church taught me that actions have consequences. I learned certain choices might look like they would make me happy but ultimately would leave me worse off. The Mormon church and its members were also a stabilizing force in my family life. When my parents weren’t around, we had our teachers, leaders, and friends’ parents to pick up the slack. I can honestly say my life has been better for being a church member, and so I remain.
You believe that sociopaths have a natural competitive advantage. Why?
Sociopaths have several skills that lend themselves to success in areas such as politics and business: charm, an ability to see and exploit weaknesses/flaws (which in politics is called “power-broking,” and in business, “arbitrage”), confidence, unflagging optimism, an ability to think outside the box and come up with original ideas, and a lack of squeamishness about doing what it takes to get ahead.
If you don’t have a sense of morality, or feel the emotions that most people do, how are you able to operate in the world without being detected?
I think everyone learns to lie about his or her emotions to a certain extent; I just take it a step farther. People ask, “How are you?” and you respond, “fine,” even though you had a fight with your spouse that morning, have a sick child, or any multitude of things that make it hard for you to feel fine about almost anything in your life. You could honestly answer the question, but you don’t because overt displays of strong emotion in ordinary social interactions are not accepted. Most of the time I don’t need to show any emotion at all, and I try to limit the times that I do by begging off attending funerals, weddings, etc. When I do show up to these functions, I try to mimic the other attendees. If I’m dealing with a person one-on-one, I just try to reflect their emotions; usually they’re distracted enough by their own overflowing emotions not to notice my lack of them.