I’ve got a great book to recommend and it’s not about infidelity per se — it’s about sociopaths — Jon Ronson’s “The Pyschopath Test.” (I put it up in the Amazon box in the right-hand corner, check it out!). If not the most informative book I’ve read on personality disorders, it’s absolutely the most entertaining. Which is not to say Ronson makes light of the freaks. His WTF candor about trying to understand what makes their little empathy-deficient brains tick, totally underscores how perplexing and terrifying they indeed are.
Ronson skips along on a survey course of sociopaths (aka psychopaths). He interviews them in prisons and madhouses, interviews the scientists that study them, and then he wanders into the belly of the beast itself — Wall Street. The most chilling interview in the book, I thought, was with the former CEO of the Sunbeam corporation. Robert Hare, the pioneer researcher on sociopathy, is a prominent character in the book and discusses how thinks sociopaths are particularly drawn to finance.
I found the book actually very enlightening on the subject of infidelity, even though that particular “lack of empathy” feature isn’t showcased. But the peculiar mindfucks of the disordered may be familiar to you — they sure were leaping off the page for me. Here’s an excerpt about how sociopaths process “sadness” and distress. Tell me if you can relate! Ronson is talking with Robert (Bob) Hare about “shallow affect” (one of the checklist items on his list). Ronson is asking Hare if the CEO isn’t really a sociopath because he grieved when his dog died.
“Oh that’s quite common,” said Bob.
“Really?” I said, brightening.
“Dogs are a possession,” Bob explained. “Dogs — if you have the right dog — are extremely loyal. They’re like a slave, right? They do everything you want them to. So yeah, he cried his eyes out when his dog died. Would he cry his eyes out if his cat died?”
I narrowed my eyes. “I don’t think he has a cat,” I said, nodding slowly.
“He’d probably cry his eyes out if he got a dent in his car,” said Bob. “If he had a Ferrari or a Porsche — and he probably does — and someone scratched it and kicked it, he’d probably go out of his mind and want to kill the guy. So yeah, the psychopath might cry when his dog dies and you think that’s misplaced because he doesn’t cry when his daughter dies.”
I was having an a-hah moment reading this, because as I write here, it solidifies my opinion that we are of USE to serial cheaters, and the crocodile tears at the marriage ending are because they are losing a good possession — a loyal servant. Good suckers are hard to find, and it’s so much work grooming another one. The whole disconnect at grieving the wrong things — the thingness and not the person-ness — resonated with me.
If you’ve already read it — I’m curious what you think. Comment and let me know!