Good questions and quandaries

I received this email that posts good quandaries and questions.  The author asked me to address them if I could.  On one hand that’s too big of a task, on the other that’s the purpose of this blog.  I posting the email because I think it raises very interesting and important questions.

Dear Pathwhisperer,

I just stumbled onto your blog and it raised a few issues I’d like to ask your opinions about.  Sorry if you’ve covered them before, I haven’t had time to go through all your archives.

Toxic parents / family members

Parents and older siblings that present a certain image publicly, but are absolutely malicious to a child or other member of the family.  Is this sociopathic behavior?  I often think of the mother in ‘A Boy Called It’, and from experiences where a parent, (usually the mother, but not always the case), chooses a child to be the emotional or physical punching bag when the problems in her life get overwhelming.

Is this a human case of wanting to have some amount of control or power by making someone else a victim so she feels better having someone under her?

You mentioned that sociopaths have a very underdeveloped emotional maturity level, does that mean they are ‘childlike’, in the sense that they fear abandonment or not having someone take care of them?

Interesting question.  I don’t know.  Some don’t seem to have enough emotions for abandonment to mean anything to them.  On the other hand they always seem to seek ‘mothering protection’.

Toxic parents will guilt trip, manipulate, and con a child, (even though a child is grown up), to stay with the parent.  As time passes, the toxic parent will revert to old patterns and habits.  Fear of the child leaving sometimes forces the parent to put on the ‘nice guy’ image to try to trick the child to stay.

Toxic parents may even resort to public humiliation in the form of telling everyone how bad the child is for leaving the parent to fend for herself, leading to society chastising the child, (peer pressure), into staying with the abuse.

I’m not sure if these parents were the result of abuse, environment, or was it always in them to be this way.

The toxic parents you refer to seem more emotionally needy (and corrupt) than sociopathic.  Sociopathic are toxic in other ways (and are always toxic, parenting is the great Achilles heel of the biological sociopath).


My friend is a teacher and she visited a juvenile detention center and always wondered why armed forces recruiters were always there.

Is it because recruiters believe that the best soldiers are socio / psychopaths?  They can kill ruthlessly and without regret?

There are some people that are like the kid with an ant and a magnifying glass.  He takes perverse pleasure in slowly killing his victim.  Does a sociopath / psychopath retain this, (is it fascination?  humor?  pleasure?), when he or she grows older and knows that in a military setting, he or she can ‘get away’ with such actions and may even be rewarded for them?


In school our teacher told us about spies and undercover agents that have absolutely no conscience.

Is it possible for sociopaths to have no emotion, but have steadfast beliefs about right and wrong?  (I guess ‘Dexter’ and Hannibal Lector would be fictional examples.)

It seems they sometimes stick rigidly to a code perhaps in an effort to give their emptiness meaning.

Would such people be seen as able to serve a ‘purpose’ by the government, (or others), like soldiers given the most ruthless jobs?

So are religious zealots such people?  They believe in their ways and faith to the point that they’d be willing to kill their own family and believe they did right?  Is that sociopathic, or is it the result of the way they were raised or their ‘reasoning’, justifying their actions with what they believe is right?

Since sociopaths can still have emotions, though stunted, can they still be devoted to another, (person, rather than beliefs).  Pardon, I keep thinking of fictional examples.  Spike and Druscilla in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.  Spike has absolutely no conscience or qualms about torture, manipulation, and murder.  In fact, he gets off on the games.  But he is utterly devoted and ‘in love’ with Druscilla, another sociopath.

Do sociopaths feel ‘love’ or ‘respect’ for each other?  Like they can ‘smell their own’ so they stick together?

Why do they stick together?  For love of the game?  Do they ever try to play each other as the ‘ultimate challenge’?

They do cluster or stick together.  But I believe the loyalty is only against the outside world (us).  In my experience they will lie and cheat each other depending on their own interest and their perception of where they fit on the food chain (this is a phrase they use themselves).  The concepts of love and respect are beyond them.

And the scariest question:  do we all have sociopathic tendencies?

A normal actor can play a sociopath but a socopathic actor cannot play a human of full depth.  They are not aliens, their emotions and drives are part of our repertoire and can come to the fore under certain stresses or developmental growth stages.

In a psych class our teacher told us about a test where people were told to press a button that would electrocute someone they couldn’t see.  It was only an actor, but with each press of the button the actor would scream louder and louder and beg for the person to stop pressing hte button.  The administrator told the tester to keep going.  The scary part was, very few people stood up and refused to continue.

Do human beings give in to sociopathic / psychopathic behavior because it is already in them and someone else, (usually an authority figure), gives them the ‘okay’ to allow that behavior to arise?

See comments below regarding the Milgram experiment and related issues.

Gertrude Baniszewski comes to mind when she ‘encouraged’ her children and neighborhood children to torture Sylvia Likens.

I’m not familiar with that story but I did a post earlier on Lori Drew who in a Myspace hoax committed the murder by suicide, imo, of a neighbor teen.  Apparently just for the hell of it, like tearing the wings off a fly.

History is full of examples of cruel mob mentality.

You also mentioned that sociopaths survived the best during harsh times because they had no empathy or sympathy for others.

Do sociopathic tendencies aid in the need for survival?

Or are sociopathic tendencies taught?

This is a fictional example, but there are a pair of twins in this series called, ‘The Black Lagoon’.  They were sold into sex slavery and did snuff films.  When a child was beaten to death their captors laughed, so the twins started to laugh.  They ‘learned’ that killing others was ‘right’ because their captors enjoyed it, so they ‘learned’ to enjoy it.  It was the most disturbing part of the series.  But I can’t help the question, did they ‘learn’ it?  Or was it always a ‘part’ of them?

Children are undeveloped morally that’s why sociopaths like to use them as child soldiers.  Sociopaths are morally undeveloped as part of the across-the-board arrested development.

I guess the only gleaming hope I see, are the people in the experiment I mentioned above, who took a stand right away and refused to be a part of what they believed was wrong.

And also, I think you mentioned a woman asking you if she was a sociopath.  Was the person asking for help?  Did she see something wrong with herself and want to change?

The woman you refer to didn’t mention sociopathy, she just said that she had never felt guilty in her life and wondered if there was something wrong with her.  My sense was that she knew she was the way she was born to be, though I don’t think she thought she was a sociopath.  Unfortunately she entered the orbit of a master level psychopath.  I’m sure he told her but I don’t know what term he used (I would simply love to know what sociopaths call themselves).  He seemed to think he was in a Mutant-X movie.

Thanks for any input or information.



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2 thoughts on “Good questions and quandaries

  1. Hey I just stumbled upon this site. I think unfortunately most normal people can hurt someone they don’t know if authority tells them too. Natural morality doesn’t extend to people we classify as “other”. Once someone has been “othered” in our minds, they’re not really a person. That’s why we can have wars, genocide, facist governments etc. That’s normal, not sociopathic. Sociopathic is when a person can do horrible things to someone they *should* love, like their mother, wife, a next door neighbor child. The people in the Stanley Milgrim obedience experiment who could hurt another person because the authority told them to, often felt guilty about it, but just felt there was nothing they could do. It a bad feature of human nature, and I try to remind myself of it all the time so i never do anything like that, but it’s normal, it’s different than sociopathy I think. It would be sociopathy if the person went along with the authority in the experiment without any hesitation, any symptoms of guilt. We watched the experiment in my psych class and there was one man in the experiment who looked very agitated, and then asked Milgrim “if anything happens to him, you’ll take the blame?” Milgrim said yes, and the man went on with the rest of the experiment withoutany signs of agitation, I found that chilling and thought to myself, that guy might be a sociopath.


    • I don’t really disagree with you on any of your points, my point is that sociopaths are very often at the core of evil and corrupt enterprises and events, wind in the sails of evil. Think Ayn Rand, a sociopath who has misled millions of simpleton non-sociopaths (there’s a million dollar question — what percentage of Randeroids are themselves sociopathic?). The Nazi holocaust machine actually had problems finding those capable of carrying out its orders, thus becoming a sociopath selection device.

      There is no doubt that we are essentially herd animals, but my reaction to this, aside from being aware of it and fighting it in ourselves, is that we need to make sure that sociopaths are not allowed to do the herding. I’ve read studies on Hindu/Muslim violence in India, for example, and it is clear that active sociopathic minds often guide the enraged killing mobs.


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