Heartless Characters can be largely born the way they are. That is, the most disturbed among us have an innately impaired capacity to care. But folks lacking in empathy also tend to think in certain ways. And those ways of thinking lead them to form problematic attitudes and patterns of behavior. Moreover, engaging in those patterns both engenders and reinforces heartlessness.
Sociopaths have a profound lack of empathy for the feelings of others.
They lack the internal feedback system by which normal people monitor themselves. (Most people call this “conscience,” which is probably as useful a term as any.) Sociopaths do not have this and don’t feel bad about abusing other people. It’s not that they feel bad and ignore it—they don’t feel it at all.
Sociopaths understand that they are different from normal people and learn to mimic normal behavior. This mimicry has a purpose: It gets the sociopath what he or she wants.
The sociopath hides his or her difference. After letting it show a time or two—and probably being punished by a parent as a result—the sociopath covers up the truth and keeps it covered. But the reason for hiding it is not embarrassment (the sociopath doesn’t feel embarrassment), but because it hinders him from getting what he want.
Since sociopaths have no empathy for others, making use of normal people feels just fine to them. Likewise, they feel no remorse.
Empathy, as viewed by the sociopath, is a weakness, and he considers himself superior because he isn’t burdened by it.
Because they lack an internal feedback system, sociopaths are excellent liars. For example, they can often pass lie detector tests, since those tests register the effects of our internal feedback system, which they don’t have.
A sociopath is likely to maintain a group of people who believe wholeheartedly that he is a good, kind, honest person. He’ll work in calculated ways to create and maintain that opinion in them.
Do psychopaths ever experience empathy or compassion? Are they ever inclined to help someone in need—without an ulterior motive? Are there psychopaths who do more good in the world than your average apath or bleeding heart empath?
Real empaths feel too much. Real narcissists don’t seem to feel anything, or at least not in regard to others’ feelings. Showing your vulnerable side to a narcissist in an attempt to explain how his or her behavior might be hurtful will just invite more abuse.
Whereas the narcissist doesn’t connect well or much with others, the empath connects too much. The empath literally feels what someone else feels, whether it’s strong emotion or physical pain.
What our gut tells us a manipulator is like, challenges everything we’ve been taught to believe about human nature. We’ve been inundated with a psychology that has us seeing everybody, at least to some degree, as afraid, insecure or “hung-up.” So, while our gut tells us we’re dealing with a ruthless conniver, our head tells us they must be really frightened or wounded “underneath.” What’s more, most of us generally hate to think of ourselves as callous and insensitive people. We hesitate to make harsh or seemingly negative judgments about others. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t really harbor the malevolent intentions we suspect. We’re more apt to doubt and blame ourselves for daring to believe what our gut tells us about our manipulator’s character.
“When it comes to nature vs nurture I’ll say this: A psychopath is born, a sociopath is created.”
It is well established by scientists that psychopaths are born without the capacity for empathy. The parts of the brain and certain connections that are responsible for giving us a conscience are different in psychopaths. Upbringing and childhood experiences will affect other aspects of an individual’s personality but they do not cause this disorder. A psychopath can come from a loving family and have had a good childhood. Ted Bundy is an example. For the rest of us, it’s very important to understand how they function and to know that they will not change, no matter how kind and tolerant we are towards them. If anything, they will take advantage of a well meaning person. They regard compassion as weakness. Many of us compensate for our feelings of inferiority in different ways. Psychopaths and narcissists are different. They genuinely believe that they are superior and entitled to special treatment.