What defines a sociopath personality?
Antisocial personality disorder, also known as sociopathic personality is defined as a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others and inability or unwillingness to conform to what are considered to be the norms of society.
The disorder involves a history of chronic antisocial behavior that begins before the age of 15 and continues into adulthood. The disorder is manifested by a pattern of irresponsible and antisocial behavior as indicated by academic failure, poor job performance, illegal activities, recklessness, and impulsive behavior. Symptoms may include dysphoria, an inability to tolerate boredom, feeling victimized, and a diminished capacity for intimacy.
It's been said, "If they apologize, then they don't really mean it. A sociopath does not feel remorse so you can't get them to be sorry."
One has to have a conscience to "own up to" one's actions and theirdestructiveness, or else the confrontation will be perceived as anattack. This doesn't mean that sociopaths should not be confronted,only that until a way is found to change the way they learn, it won'thave the desired effect.
Sociopaths are the way they are because, from birth onward, the brainof a sociopath stores learning information in a random, chaotic wayinstead of in the usual designated places in the cerebral cortex. Partof this involves lack of crucial neurotransmitters, but as of yet noone knows whether this lack is caused BY the brain abnormality or is the cause OF it. It's probably the former.
Since their information -- including emotional information -- isscattered all over both brain hemispheres, it takes too long for thebrain to retrieve and process information, and the entire process ofsocialization becomes so ponderous that ultimately it fails. (See thebook "Without Conscience" by Robert Hare, PhD.)
Since the entire cerebral cortex of a sociopath is almost never ata normal level of alertness (their waking brain waves resemble thewaves of a normal person in a light sleep, alpha waves), this may bethe crucial deficiency that cripples the developing child's ability todevelop many aspects of the human mind. As the child grows, some of thebasic mental and emotional skills the rest of the world takes so forgranted never develop, and crucial among these is the thing calledconscience. That one never develops at all.
Some people may envy the apparent calm of a sociopath, but theirexistence is misery. They cannot connect with other human beings, andas babies they are so uncomfortable being held that they fight towriggle free of all but the most basic necessary contact. Theirheartbroken parents often blame themselves or the child, never knowingthat what is really wrong with the child is in his or her brain.
Under the almost somnolent calm sociopaths project is a constantsense of restlessness and lack of fulfillment that is nothing other than thebasic need all people have to receive stimulation and support fromothers. But a sociopath has no way of receiving this even if it'soffered. The endless frustration of this, and a discomfort that theyare utterly incapable of articulating or even really understanding, is the source of much of their chronic anger and aggression.
Plus, since they grow up in constant conflict with authority, theyare most often bitterly angry and sometimes violent adults, brittle andcombatative under a thin veneer of charm. Offered friendship, theyappear to respond, but quickly discover that they can get nothing fromit; they see the obvious pleasure of other people in such contact witheach other, and they often seek to "even it up" by stealing what theycan -- material goods, or even human lives. They are constantly toldhow "bad" they are, and by adulthood, most of them believe it. Andbehave accordingly.
Sociopaths rarely feel true happiness. If they do, it is usually inthe condition that some kind of intervention -- such as one of thesmall number of medications made for other conditions that may alsohelp somewhat with theirs -- has taken place, and it will be fleeting.For all their frantic racing around, they are really very dead inside,and this is tragic beyond description. Imagine spending your entirelife trying to get your brain to wake up! And failing. Thousands oftimes.
There are stories of people diagnosed as sociopaths who did improveto some degree, with the most ceaseless and diligent help. But sincethe vast majority of this huge body of people (there are more thanthree hundred million sociopaths on Earth) cannot get that kind ofattention, they turn to abusing those they envy, and often to crime. Itis certainly vengeance: "If I can't have any of this, why should you?"This is the real reason sociopaths lash out at strong and kind people.No matter what they say, they know that inside, they are always emptyand damaged beyond repair.
Only in neuroscience is there hope for these incomplete people. Thekey lies in awakening the brain, which is risky because sociopaths aremuch more prone to seizures than the rest of the population, and that-- an uncontrolled blast of electrical discharge spreading through thebrain and causing violent convulsions -- is likely to be the firstresponse from brain pathways that, after years or even decades ofsilence, are suddenly flooded with impulses. But if the devices ofneurosurgeons can be tweaked to avoid this shock, and all else relatedto this idea is workable, it's feasible that small electronic devicesplanted in the brain (these already exist, but are not yet being usedfor mental illness) could open up a closed connection.
That leaves us with the problem of whether a lifetime of scatteredinformation can ever be set into order. Probably the best that could behoped for would be a kind of retraining -- like what is now done withstroke survivors and head injury patients -- that would be bothintensive and compensatory.
One of the things that would be necessary would be to try to socializethe person whose congenital birth defect made such a thing completelyimpossible before. Whatever intervention is used, be it drugs orcomputer chips or what have you, it would probably -- I'd say certainly-- be excruciating for the patient at first. With no knowledge of howto cope with the emotions the rest of the world has been dealing withall their lives, the recovering sociopath would be rendered asvulnerable as a baby. Which makes sense, because some of the most basicaspects of the human mind would be developing from the primordialstasis in which they had remained since birth!
A person thus treated would never be fully normal, but the humanbrain is amazing in the way it adapts and continues to develop allthrough life. And given the utterly joyless and meaningless existence asociopath leads, any improvement is better than none.
The matter of missing neurotransmitters in a sociopath is, ofcourse, another problem. Would "waking up" the cerebral cortexeventually stimulate production of these? Or would they have to besynthesized? Only time will tell.
Just as science understands that epilepsy is not demonic possession,that people with dissociative conditions are not harboring ghosts ordevils in their bodies, and that depression is not a "deadly sin," itwould and will be able to prove that sociopathy happens for a reasonand that it can be dealt with. Sociopaths do very bad things. Butbranding them all "pure evil" isn't going to help anyone. It's justmore hate.
I have commented elsewhere that the human brain is the greatest newfrontier in many ways. (Although I certainly have no lack of interestin space.) Sociopaths, along with other "hopeless cases" like peoplewith Alzheimer's disease, Down's syndrome, Asperger's, ADD, ADHD,autism, and the schizophrenias, along with more common disorders suchas depression and addiction, and so on, are a mystery, but scientistshave a way of hammering away at mysteries until they unravel them, and,be assured, they are well on their way to the core of this one.
That will be fine by me.