Sociopathy: Explaining The Difference Between Empathetic and Sociopathic Motivation.

I have written a little on the subject of sociopaths not necessarily being malevolent people, and I wanted to delve into that subject.

You see, sociopaths lack empathy, which is a useful tool in navigating the emotional minefield of social interactions.
Empathy is not the ability to recognize the emotional lives of others (even sociopaths can rocognize emotion) but the ability to feel another's emotions. To be saddened by another's sorrow. To feel emboldened by another's triumphs. To be happy for another's happiness.
And perhaps it is inaccurate to call this an "ability", it is an involuntary reaction, and though some may attempt to supress their empathy when it becomes too exhausting, it is never extinguished, and they often feel guilty for even trying.
A sociopath does not sympathetically feel another's emotions.
I am not made happy by the happiness of others, or saddened by the sorrow of others, I am not inspired by others, or made passionate by another's passions.
I can rationalize why perhaps I should react to another's emotions, and in which way I should react, and to what degree, but to simply feel that way does not come naturally to me.
Now what often times gets lost in this conversation is what the difference between empathetic responses, and calculated responses really are.
Empathetic responses are almost universally considered "good" or "normal", and calculated responses considered suspicious, or insincere.
This is actually a very illogical way of judging such a situation, but since the majority of the population navigates social situations empathetically, the origin of such discomfort makes sense. People often fear that of which they can't understand.

A response is a result, whether the origin of that result be emotional or analytical I believe is erroneous. The result is what matters.
An empathetic person is prompted by emotions to react or respond in certain ways, and the evolution of those triggers is a very carefully crafted one.
For instance, the "natural love" experienced by mothers for their children is a very calculated evolutionary response to aid in the survival of genetic material. If a female simply gave birth to a child, and left it to go on to the next chance to reproduce, evolution would not have gone very far, since the product of those reproductions would have parished, severing the genetic line, and offering no chance for improvement.
So mothers are naturally very attached to their children, and very aware of present dangers, ailments, and needs.
So, by looking at the origin of emotion one sees that it is not free from the "cold logic" of calculation.
When an empathetic person sees a friend in need, they want to help, because they have an emotional need to help, when that need is satisfied they experience happiness, or contentment, which is the equivolent of an emotional reward system.
A sociopathic person does not possess the same reward system, because we don't experience an emotional urge to "make right" another's problems, there is no pay back for doing so.
That does not mean that a sociopath won't help others, or doesn't because we do. I find myself listening to other's problems, and counciling them to solutions quite often, and have done so my entire life.
I do so because it makes sense to do so. It establishes a sense of trust, and I am able to better understand the inner workings of those I care for, but most importantly, I despise emotional baggage, and by giving advice, or sorting out issues, I am able to reduce the level of baggage I am forced to live with. It smooths everything out. It is a result.
A sociopath is motivated by what is useful, everything is a means to an end, but we are aware of that process.
Emotionally motivated actions are also a means to an end, and are considered useful, but the process is often hidden to the one experiencing the emotions, and the utility of the emotion may have changed. For instance, a craving for something sweet that usually drives us to cookies, cakes, and other sugary things was originally to drive us towards fruits and sweet vegetables. With the advent and abundance of candy though, our cravings for sweets now turns us towards unhealthy options. This too could be the case for certain emotional responses.

So now that we have established that whether the motivation be emotional or calculated, we are each seeking a means to and end, let us explore morality.

Sociopaths are not necessarily immoral, but amoral.
Often times ignoring societal structures of "right" versus "wrong", and deciding the line for themselves.
This is the crucial juncture for sociopaths.
Being almost alarmingly independant of mind, coupled with the fact that we are not restrained by empathetic reward systems, or guilt, where we decide to draw that line (should we draw it at all) can be very self-serving.
Humans are by nature self-preserving creatures, which is also the trigger for altruistic actions, doing something for someone, even if you would rather not, because you know that you would feel guilty for it later.
Free from that guilt, self-preservation can take a somewhat ugly turn, but that turn is dictated by the persons temperment.
Even empathic people can become alarmingly self-serving.

I am amoral, and sociopathic, but I do have a code of ethics.
I try to treat other's with respect, and be at least somewhat considerate of their emotions. I will not intentionally take advantage of others, or toy with your emotions.
These things only muck up the order of things, and make the emotional minefield even more difficult to navigate.
Morality, when occuring naturally, is also a way of keeping life running smoothly, and is the result of hundred of thousands of triggers, all accumulating over billions of years.

Sociopaths are very different from the rest of the population, but what is universal is the need for results. Whether one achieves those results through emotional/empathetic channels, or through analytical/calculated channels is not indicative of "good" or "bad". There is no "wrong way", and conversely, no "right way" to go through life, as we all inevitably end the same way.
Sociopathy is a template, a structure without empathy or socially approved set of morals. That is all. Add to that a malevolent, or benevolent temperment and you watch it take it's course, but the structure of a sociopath is simply that, a structure.

If you have thoughts you wish to share, or questions you would like me to answer, please leave a comment.
I'm going to be explaing my understanding of sociopathy, as a sociopath, in the hopes that we can start a conversation that deals with it rationally.

No Hate Or Bashing Of Site Member In The Comments.

June 26th, 2013 at 01:23am