dear m.e. thomas:
i just wanted to write this to you to express gratitude. until reading an excerpt from your book, i had always had the vague sense that there was something different about me. perhaps it was always wishful thinking, or some kind of desire to be special. who knows? i've never been fully examined by a psychologist or any other kind of -ist, for that matter. so, after all these years of wondering and suspecting, i came across your writing.
now, all i have is relief. can sociopaths feel relief? i don't know. i have no better explanation for it than that. i am relieved at having read your writing. the feeling of relief was so palpable that it brought tears to my eyes.
i am 30 years old, and i've felt this way to one degree or another for most of my life. i think it started when i was younger, and had to learn to read people to gauge their responses to my words and actions. it wasn't until later that i learned that empathy is usually what people use to do those things. i've always had the burning curiosity, and the desire to experiment. i truly enjoy experimenting, and over the years it has gotten me into minor troubles, but thankfully i learned early on that i can't just do things for the sake of my own desire.
i can relate to many things you write about. i especially relate to the desire to hurt others who have seemingly slighted me. the only reason i don't act upon my urges is the knowledge of reprisal. i don't necessarily fear consequence; i simply acknowledge it as being more inconvenient than some short-lived gratification. as a matter of fact, the inconvenience of consequences is the only thing that holds me back from my desires. the wants themselves run the gamut of importance... sleeping with a woman who isn't my wife is not ethically or socially objectionable to me. overall, the impact on the world because of 'cheating' is incredibly minimal. the risk-analysis of temporary physical enjoyment Vs long-term stability is more effective in decision making than any kind of ethics. refusing to slow down at an intersection, when i have the right-of-way and someone pulls out in front of me, is not ethically or socially objectionable to me. however, going to jail and being locked in a cage seems especially repugnant- not to mention the hassle of repairing my vehicle.
i think things that don't seem to be commonly thought. i've gone to the point of isolating myself from society because i know i'm different. the quality of the difference has always been irrelevant, but now i have more to think about. i constantly want to test and experiment with the 'norm'. i want to change things, both for the better and for the worse, and i want to observe the reaction. i WANT to do so much. the gross inconvenience of consequence is the only thing stopping me. guilt and shame are non-existent. the only thing i truly feel with any kind of passion is a certain amount of hatefulness towards that which i can't control. the barrier between my wants and satisfaction is maddening. obviously i can cope with that; you'll not see me in jail any time soon.
please realize that these are merely statements of fact. i would no more act upon them than i would t-bone the car that pulls out in front of me, or fuck a woman simply because i can.
thank you for your writing, and for being straightforward in your words. if you wish to reply, please do. if not, i won't really be that upset, will i?
I still get a lot of emails from people that suggest that they don't really understand the sociopathic decisionmaking process. Is it because they make Decision X a particular way, let's say by using empathy, so they expect that anyone without empathy would not be able to reach Decision X? I find that religious people can be this way -- assume that atheists must do bad things because atheists have no reason to be good? Likewise, do some people believe that sociopaths only choose bad? And if so, what consequences, if any, do they suffer? I feel like there are people who fall into either extreme: believe sociopaths magically get away with things (i.e. won't suffer any consequences) or think that sociopaths will eventually suffer for every choice they make (i.e. karma's a bitch). The reality is that sociopaths probably get caught a little less often than other people because they're better liars and manipulators, but even the best laid Ponzi scheme will eventually collapse. Not all sociopaths are intelligent and sociopaths as a group tend to fail to learn from their experiences (possibly because punishments don't affect them as much as normal people?) but sociopaths are also sensitive to consequences in the form of incentives. So yes, sociopaths are capable of and often do take into consideration consequences (e.g. the reader's comment "thankfully i learned early on that i can't just do things for the sake of my own desire"). And maybe this explains why sociopaths can often function very well for a stretch of time, but willpower has its limits for everyone and sociopaths don't have great judgment, which maybe explains how sociopaths can also self destruct in huge ways.
Or am I wrong? Are sociopaths always scheming ne'er-do-wells? And if so, do they always get what they have coming to them or get away with everything?