The Myth of Introvert Sociopathy

The stereotype in real life and in Hollywood is that serial killers or those who go on shooting rampages are nearly always described as being “really quiet.”

I have repeatedly had people jokingly say things like “You’re gonna be a serial killer,” or “You act like a terrorist” simply on account of my habitual reserve in public.

This popular representation of destructive sociopathic/narcissistic personalities represents a critical misunderstanding.

An impassive mien is thought to be evidence of sociopathy, but the opposite is the case.

No sociopath would actually appear to be devoid of emotion.  Such persons are calculated enough to understand that they need to emote in the right ways to get what they want.
While a Subtle person’s personality is grounded, a sociopath is a social chameleon, changing effortlessly into whatever form suits their needs.
A sociopath sees the world only in terms of superficial appearances.  The meaning of any thing comes not from what it is, but what reaction it gets from others.  A classic trait of a sociopathic/narcissistic personality is that they don’t perceive other humans as people so much as bundles of socially flipped triggers that set various processes into motion.
For one who is Subtle, mass society is but a tool to further the well-being of the individual.
For a sociopath:  There is no such thing as an individual.  There is only society itself.

For most people, the social ghost is invisible.
For a sociopath, only the social ghost can be seen.

Introverts are known for being socially awkward in orthodox society.
Sociopaths on the other hand possess such mastery that they operate on a technical level.  Other human beings seem as contemptible simpletons to them.  Successful domination and manipulation are among their greatest pleasures in life:

I recall reading about a young man named Eric Harris who got in trouble for some sort of vandalism along with his friend Dylan Klebold.  Harris wrote a clearly calculated apology letter in a syrupy and exaggerated tone.   Submitting such a vehement apology when he felt no remorse at all was a game for him:
It was a way to attempt to reduce his punishment and better still, to be able to watch some dupe eat up his platitudes as if he had actually meant them.

Most readers will probably know that these two young men later became infamous for a school shooting.
It is not as well known, though, that they were not quiet, meek, and secluded.  Both boys were regular fixtures in their high school’s party scene and the local Goth clique was hardly the only group they hung out with.   Their rampage was not a protest but a massive attention-getting behavior.

Most sociopathic killers have been integrated respectable members of society with spouses, children, or a significant other.  I would surmise that such people are more likely to possess these tokens of social success than the average individual.   They know all the right steps, all the right things to say and do.  They’ve become good at working the system because they enjoy it.  I remember seeing articles in the news about a man who after years of wives dying under suspicious circumstances or outright disappearing was finally standing trial.  Everyone knew this guy did it, all that was lacking was some more substantial evidence.   Far from being an outcast, this guy seemed to have always had another girl standing in line whenever he offed the last one.

I must admit:
The Virginia Tech shooter gave me pause.  He had been known as an exceedingly quiet and closed individual.  I stopped and seriously asked myself as I had before:  “Am I serial killer material just as so many suggest?”
“Is my notion of separation from the larger society just a manifestation of narcissism?”

Yet when I examined the situation more closely, the pattern was clear.
While not overtly Loud, the Virginia Tech shooter had repeatedly striven for attention by writing sensationalistic, angsty, gratuitously violent stories and plays.  None of these efforts, apparently, succeeded in satisfactorily achieving his aims.  The shooting was the ultimate attention-getting behavior.  His performance even came with a playbill he distributed to all the news agencies.

If one sees the world in terms of social constructs:
Social recognition/publicity is the most precious of all things.
Then consider that one can labor long and hard through a lifetime for only a lottery ticket probability of becoming famous.
One can go out in a blaze of gory.  In one day, one can gain more notoriety than in an entire lifetime.
If one barely has any notion of a concrete identity and has difficulty conceiving of others as human beings, then social recognition is more important than life itself.  For one’s existence to be socially recognized then is life.
For a sociopathic personality a demise in a sudden outburst of violence is a perfectly rational thing to do.

Upon examination:
Not only is a Subtle person not the epitome of a sociopath/serial killer, but the polar opposite.

I would go as far as to say that a true introvert is an anti-sociopath.

Indeed most socially manipulative people, and especially sociopaths tailor their behavior to the highly social.  As such, their crafty approach frequently seems transparent to introverts.
For one to whom small talk is white noise, there must be actual content in a conversation.
A sociopath often malfunctions when faced with such expectations.  In their view there is no such thing as meaningful content in a conversation – only that which brings them closer to their aims.

Adolph Hitler could be exceedingly charming in a group situation with his energetic jesting.  He was particularly good at mimicking people’s voices and mannerisms, so much so that he could reduce an entire room to laughter.
He was, however, a cripple when it came to conversation on the personal level.  He was actually incapable of having a two way conversation.  He would insist on taking up all the airspace and do as much of the talking as he possibly could.
The same mindset that made him so successful at dominating groups, made him hopeless one-on-one.

Stalin could readily put on a merry personality and pleasant grin.  He was good at singing, dancing, and reciting poetry.  Women were irresistibly drawn to him.  Yet beneath this smiling facade was a mind ticking with calculation.
While Stalin’s case might seem less obvious than Hitler, he is still the type who would instantly raise red flags for a Subtle person.  Someone who walks into a room and knows how to instantly become the undisputed center of attention is always suspect.  One who can do so with such ease knows what they’re doing.  Such a person has an agenda and is not to be trusted.

In modern society, the more gregarious and socially dominant, the better.  A subtle person understands that these are warning signs.

Just as one who cannot hear well speaks loudly
One who does not have much to express, expresses most.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion.

The Myth of Introvert Sociopathy appears here by permission.

on 04/18/11 in featured, Society | No Comments | Read More

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