Waiter, There’s a Sociopath in My Soup

I’ve been thinking a lot about psychologist Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door. It’s useful on many levels, as it demystifies sociopathy and teaches you how to protect yourself from its many garden varieties. Sociopaths are more common and insidious than you’d think. Some are smart, some are not; their defining trait is an utter lack of conscience. But rereading this book during the Endless Unrest That Trump Wrought, I am most struck by Stout’s warnings about sociopathic leaders. Basically, her point is that most people are neither good nor bad so much as impressionable–reactive to larger social mores (lemmings, sure). So if you have a government or culture in which the dominant values are essentially sociopathic, you’re going to see sociopathic behavior embraced as the norm.

“In Western culture,” she writes. “Particularly North America, a lot of social rules are descriptors for sociopathy: a general acceptance of lying as long as you win, an attitude of ‘me first,’ an attitude that what it looks like is more important than what it is. This makes it much easier for a sociopath to be camouflaged in our culture.” Keeping in mind that she wrote this in 2009, it’s scary to see how prescient and lethal–literally–this proved to be. At the end of the day, it’s not Trump who scares me most. It’s the many many many who will thirst for his Kool Aid in the years to come.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy