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Too Good to Be True? Think twice…

by The Social Diary Columnist Elizabeth Bateman

The perfect date - so romantic and charming! The perfect job - so stimulating and challenging! The perfect investment - an exclusive offering in a trusted market yielding such high dividends!

Whenever you find yourself being drawn into something which seems to be so perfect that it almost takes your breath away - beware. Presenting a perfect situation which fits your dreams is the modus operandi of a sociopath / psychopath (the terms are used interchangeably). People who fit this profile have what is called, "antisocial personality disorder." What that means is the person has no conscience.

To most people, the terms sociopath or psychopath conjure up mental images of knife-wielding serial rapists or murderers. While it is true that some sociopaths do grab headlines with their grisly crimes, most have learned to blend in very well with society, living right under our collective noses as they wreak their havoc and destruction upon their unsuspecting victims. Those are the ones who don't make the headlines, but who are potentially much more dangerous.

How many people are we talking about? Experts estimate that at least 1% of the population in North America has this antisocial personality disorder. Based on the most current census figures, that means there are about 30,000 sociopaths throughout our metropolitan area, with 13,000 of them right here in the city of San Diego.

Think about it. There are approximately 30,000 people in the San Diego metropolitan area who are conducting their lives by their own set of rules, with no regard at all for the principles by which the other 99% of the population lives. Their only thought is, "What's in it for me?" In their minds, other people exist merely to satisfy their needs - whether it be for money, business connections, prestige, power or sex.

And who are these people? It would be convenient if they would go around looking like "bad guys," wearing black hats and sporting bad teeth, scraggly beards and long, dirty fingernails. We'd have nothing to worry about. All we'd have to do is say, "Hey look, there's a sociopath over there - run!"

However, most sociopaths have learned to blend very well into our society as business leaders, lawyers, politicians, doctors, judges, church leaders, and others who hold positions of prominence and trust in our communities. Most have gotten as far as they have because they are masters of disguise and manipulation. They are predators with a high level of success because most people do not even know they exist.

Their MO, as stated earlier, is finding a way to gain the trust of one whom they've marked as their victim. They have the uncanny ability to decipher the dreams and wishes of their victims and then to become whatever it is that the victim has been seeking. Thus, they can appear as the perfect mate, the perfect business partner or employer, the perfect agent to turn your investments into gold. The very good ones, the Academy Award winning ones, have a bag of tricks to use to continue manipulating and fooling you once the glow has worn off their initial offerings.

To help us figure out how to identify them, Dr. Robert Hare, PhD, a world renowned expert in this area, has come up with a list of personality traits which are commonly found in sociopaths. Here are some of them.

"A sociopath is a consummate liar. Their credentials are usually either fabricated or greatly exaggerated."
"They are very charming, persuasive and manipulative."
"They are very impulsive."

Now you might think - I've told a lie or two, I've been accused of being charming and manipulative and I am often impulsive. So what's the difference?

The difference is the sociopath will take each trait to the very extreme. If caught in their lies, a sociopath will try to deflect the blame to someone else. They never take responsibility for their actions. Another indicator is they never feel remorse or guilt.

It is not yet clear whether a sociopath is born or is made. Recent studies show that the brain of a sociopath differs from the norm, both in structure and in function. However, it's also possible that a person's environment may play an important role. Research has not yet come up with a definitive answer. What we do know, however, is that a sociopath doesn't follow the rules of society. They just don't get it.

Because they don't, millions of people are victimized by them. The damage can be catastrophic. Just look at some business cases in the news. Dr. Hare and other experts opine that one corporation in particular was run by a small group of sociopaths. One thing is fact. The economic damage alone from that corporation alone is in the billions of dollars, much coming from the losses suffered by the thousands of employees who lost their careers, life savings and homes because they put their trust in the hands of the wrong people. (editor's note - The entrusted people were tried, and convicted.)

I have become very interested in this topic because I have known firsthand a person who fits the profile of a sociopath. That person, as a father and businessman, nearly bankrupted his family spiritually, emotionally, and financially for two decades.

When I was a child, someone shined a light which helped to show me and my family the way out from the darkness of alcoholism. I know I am here for a reason. Now it's my turn to shine the light and show others whose lives are in darkness because of sociopaths that there is a way out!


* Elizabeth Bateman has her degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and 25 years experience as a marketing director for domestic and international design firms. Bateman and her daughters miraculously survived a 17-year ordeal of living and working with a sociopath. For this reason, she has given herself an honorary post-doctorate degree from the "School of Life."

Elizabeth is in the process of forming an organization whose mission is to provide an organizational structure, which will serve to provide a broad range of information and services to the millions who have been victimized by sociopaths. This organization is meant to dispel the fear associated with this group by providing information and raising the awareness of the general population of a condition which already exists. Until this new organization is operational, Bateman suggests that you research this topic online. Two websites recommended by Bateman are www.hare.org and www.lovefraud.com

You may reach her directly at embateman99@yahoo.com

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