The Advantages of Being a Sociopath

In the first class of a graduate psychology course focused on clinical practice, the professor warned students to not take things personally and to try to ignore emotions like shame and guilt. He explained that therapists have a responsibility to separate themselves from the feelings patients direct towards them, known as transference. Negative transference can contribute greatly to burnout as therapists struggle to not internalize the emotions layered on them during counseling sessions.

A student asked about the benefit of ignoring social emotions. The professor replied that it allows one to observe a patient’s feelings instead of absorbing them.

The concept of not connecting with guilt and empathy, which most people learn early in life, was not new to the student. As someone with sociopathic tendencies, these feelings do not come as naturally compared to inherent emotions like joy and sadness. Dealing with this has posed challenges, but some atypical traits could also be beneficial.

In 1930, the American psychologist George E. Partridge suggested using the term “sociopathy” to refer to individuals exhibiting some antisocial tendencies. Current estimates indicate about 15 million Americans could reasonably be considered sociopathic. However, internet searches typically only portray serial killers and monsters. Though different as a child, the student assures they are neither.

Stealing in kindergarten started a pattern of worsening behavior through elementary school, including urges of violence and poor impulse control. By junior high, breaking into houses after school provided relaxation. As a teen, the student recognized similarities to the “sociopath” label but never felt like a monster and didn’t want to be destructive.

The rebelliousness was more of a compulsion from an indescribable suffocating apathy. The emotional learning disability of feeling differently but noticing the difference contributed to unique inner conflict anxiety, a stress believed to sometimes compel sociopathic behavior. Fortunately, a supportive system enabled learning coping skills. This allowed for self-awareness and evolution said to be impossible for sociopaths.

Why do mainstream views, media, and even college courses label so many irredeemable villains when there is nothing immoral about limited emotion? Billions are spent trying to elevate consciousness through meditation or prayer to achieve a default state of impartiality, which comes naturally. Actions, not feelings or lack thereof, define morality.

While counseling patients for thousands of clinical hours, the neutral baseline helped process complex emotions. Patients felt safe sharing deepest secrets without judgmental reflection. Negative transference did not affect the student like others because of their personality.

Family and friends also share freely, trusting advice and support will remain impartial. This transparency helps confront feelings of indecision, inferiority, shame or guilt through an insightful viewpoint absent societal constructs. Prosocial perspectives from others can also be adopted to better internalize empathy and compassion.

Research on sociopathy remains limited while resources detail harmful effects of shame and guilt on well-being. The student feels fortunate to be spared downsides of these social emotions. Society requires accountability, and “good” behavior benefits community, but it is possible to make good choices without guilt and shame. As someone not dependent on these constructs, a helpful perspective can be offered.

Like many conditions, sociopathy exists on a spectrum. For over fifty years, those on the less extreme end have lived in shadows while society labels based solely on outliers. But there are millions who prefer peaceful coexistence after accepting apathy and learning value. The hope is one day stepping into light.