Sociopathy and Psychopathy are nearly the same disorder, clinically speaking. The differences aren’t worth noting here except to say that it is generally accepted that Psychopathy is a genetic disorder, resulting due to parts of the brain not developing fully, while sociopathy results from an interruption in personality development by abuse or trauma, usually in childhood.
As I mentioned, both essentially have the same clinical diagnosis, Anti Social Personality Disorder (ASPD); They have no regard for others’ rights or feelings, lack empathy and remorse for wrongdoings, and have the need to exploit and manipulate others for personal gain. Here’s a brief description on WebMD.
I’m no psychologist, but like you, I’ve encountered these people throughout my life. As Court Appointed Special Advocate I came in contact with some of the most acute cases of this disorder… abusers who can justify their actions in their own minds to the extent that victimizing children is felt to be a right. And that those who attempt to uncover or punish their deeds are simply inferior and don’t understand that it is their right to do so, giving themselves permission to lie, cheat, steal and commit violence to defend their superior position in the human race.
And while both sociopaths and psychopaths often display identical patterns of behavior, there are subtle differences in their motivations. While both tend to see society as an all you can eat buffet of inferior servants, psychopaths often do so because of a hyper-inflated sense of superiority, usually accompanied by a higher intelligence and a predator like awareness of their surroundings, including a spooky understanding of the emotions and triggers of the people around them. This, it has been argued, is the result of ASPD’s effects on human empathy. That ASPD doesn’t precisely remove empathy as much as it weaponizes it. What truly vanishes is the sense of remorse.
Sociopaths, on the other hand, are not usually as intelligent as psychopaths (speaking in broad generalities). Their responses are the result of trauma, making their actions more fear or anger-based than a genuine sense of superiority. In fact, they usually struggle with severe feelings of personal inferiority and inadequacy. This makes them the perfect foot soldier for the psychopath (or the rare intelligent sociopath).
What does this have to do with anti-vaxxers and other antisocial behaviors (racism, violent political extremism, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, etc.) well, ASPD is a spectrum. And in that spectrum you have many high functioning individuals who recognized over the course of their lives that their behaviors and thoughts weren’t acceptable in society, so they accommodate society by depressing their baser instincts, possibly seeking out help and learning coping mechanisms to allow them to function in society. Most sociopaths and psychopaths actually function like this. you might be surprised how many successfully manage their entire lives looking like respectable members of society. some even rise as shining examples of an evolved society.
But sociopaths in particular are vulnerable to manipulation. The fear and insecurities that created their personality disorders, though possibly hidden from society, are always there, waiting to respond to stimulus. This is where psychopaths rule. They don’t need to find sociopaths. The sociopaths will find them. All the psychopath has to do is say the right words in the right way… “You are better than them. You deserve more. They are trying to steal from you. They are your enemy.”
And BOOM, an army of sociopaths will show up on the psychopath’s doorstep. They have simultaneously been fed emotional sustenance and poison they can spread. And they spread it, bringing other borderline ASPDs over to their side of the line they crossed. And when their number reaches a certain threshold (something like 15% of a population) they take on an air of legitimacy that encourages even more to abandon the coping mechanisms that allowed them to be functional members of society and unleashes their sociopathic behaviors on everyone else. Challenge even a single notion of their imaginary kingdom of superiority and you become an enemy of the “superior”.
How does any of this help you survive? Well, it is estimated that about 1% of the population are truly psychopaths. That means the remaining percentage of those committing acts that are harmful to society, are the sociopathic army, the hate mob, the anti-social rebels against that which is necessary for a safe and healthy society. And it means no matter how much information you are armed with, no matter how many facts you lavish on them, their fragile existence will refuse to accept it as anything but an attack on the superiority they were told they have.
Is it frustrating? yes, it’s epically frustrating. When the clearest evidence can’t convince someone they need to change course, it feels like an attack on you, on society itself. That’s because it is. That’s the idea. they don’t care about logic, reason, fairness, justice. they manufacture that court in their heads every day. So how do we survive it with such a large segment in the clutches of ASPD? Well, we rely on the system that was set up to ignore the insanity and deal with facts and reason. we rely on the laws put in place (no matter how often those laws are attacked and weakened). These people lose at everything. they feel victorious when they attack, but they simply shift targets when those attacks prove fruitless (or less effective than they imagined). eventually, the only thing they have left to attack are those who lied to them. they will resort to cannibalism to satiate their need to never be wrong. “It was the psychopath’s fault. We were lied to!”
Continue to tell the truth. set the facts straight at every opportunity. Support a legal system that is based on fact, logic, and reason, not on rhetoric. And when the opportunity comes to advance, even if it is an imperfect advancement, even if it is not what you personally thought the forces of reason and logic should do, support that too… because half a step forward is always better than 3 steps backward. The sociopaths and psychopaths believe they are perfect, infallible. Don’t fall into the same trap they did by fighting a solution because it seems imperfect. Society can win against this form of insanity, but it requires all of us to move forward…even if they are imperfect baby steps.