The media loosely throws around the word “sociopath.” Many people don’t understand what being a sociopath means. But, if recent studies are correct, 1 in 25 people are considered to be sociopathic. That tells us that most of us will meet several sociopaths in our lifetime. The goal is meet them, work with them, pray with them, but do not get into a relationship with them. Attempting to have a relationship with an emotionally unavailable person will ultimately be psychologically destructive.
Initially sociopaths draw people toward them with their charisma, confidence, excitement, and adoring affection. At first, life with a sociopath is intoxicating. Unfortunately, once the newness wears off, partners of sociopaths realize that they were merely in love with a fantasy.
Sociopaths are grandiose, need to be the center of attention, and are preoccupied with power and prestige. They are highly competitive, view their partners as possessions, and turn their emotions on and off like a water faucet.
Jodi Arias is the latest person in the media who exhibits characteristics of a sociopath. Arias is now on trial for the murder of Travis Alexander. She has lied, changing her story several times about what happened on the night Alexander died. Now that she has finally admitted murdering him, Arias justifies killing Alexander by saying she was a battered woman.
When Arias was initially brought in for questioning, she exemplified superficiality. She was concerned about how she looked; standing on her head to put color in her cheeks, leaning over to flip her hair back and forth, and requesting her purse so she could put makeup on her face. Her appearance was far more important to her than the crime in which she was being accused.
Sociopaths find it nearly impossible to take responsibility. They believe the rules are different for them than they are for others, and they shift their responsibility by blaming someone else. Arias justifies savagely murdering Alexander by claiming he attacked her first.
Arias’ behavior is incongruent. What she says, and what her body language shows, are two different things. For example, when she talks about Alexander, she often says what appears to be somewhat remorseful, but she says it with a wicked smile. Arias exhibits “borderline personality” characteristics; her relationship with Alexander was needy, she feared abandonment and she stalked him. Is it possible that she is displaying some examples of “splitting.” This is characteristic of a borderline person. This can take place when two people have a conversation or an experience and later, the sociopath adamantly refuses to believe that the conversation or incident ever took place. Arias’ extreme rage and jealously show that she is capable of blind rages. She often showed extreme jealously — slashing Alexander’s tires was jealously in full swing.
Sociopaths are arrogant and haughty. They believe they are smarter than others, even if they have less experience and education. Arias has gone toe-to-toe with the Prosecuting Attorney Juan Martinez. He said, “You alluded that you had problems with your memory. Is this a long-standing thing or something the happened recently?”
Arias said, “I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a problem.”
She went on to explain that her memory was affected by men screaming at her the way Martinez and Alexander had done. Her psychological defense mechanism is arrogance and grandiosity. She does this in order to cover up her unconscious feelings of shame.
Sociopaths are known for their callousness and they have no depth of emotion. They are unable to be empathetic or compassionate, unless it serves their own needs. They are out of touch with their own emotions and they lack the capacity to feel. Deceitful and manipulative, they do not experience remorse or guilt. For example, Arias appears to be totally oblivious to what Alexander may have been feeling as he lay dying and she is insensitive to Alexander’s family as she callously talks about his abusive behavior and their sex life.
Initially, these personality disordered people are fun to be with, intoxicating, drawing you in with wonderful promises. They talk a good talk, telling you just what you want to hear. The good news is that not all relationships with a sociopath end in death. But at the end of the relationship, you will be emotionally drained and psychologically devastated. If you find yourself in a toxic relationship with a person with these characteristics, know that you cannot change him/her and that you need to get out as quickly as possible.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Kristina Welker is a doctor of psychology, a licensed counselor, and a member of the Ahwatukee Behavioral Health Network. Reach her at (480) 893-6767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.