Today I’m pondering contrasts. One in particular is on my mind: What’s the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath? This isn’t normally a question one must address when judging presidential candidates, but — well, it’s 2016.

As you may know, I have been fixated on Orange Man for months. I stay up late into the night, watching YouTube videos of him inciting violence, reading expert analyses about why in God’s name anyone would support him, and watching endless debates and pundits.

By the way, people, speaking of contrasts: They are pundits, not pundints, OK? Even pundits sometimes toss an N into the word and call themselves pundints. It’s like “nuclear.” There’s no U. It’s not nuculure. (I’m looking at you, George Bush.)

But I digress – pronunciation is a less interesting obsession than the mental health of orange people.

My Sleaze Addiction

At any rate, I find myself researching the difference between dangerous personality disorders — in contrast to what I should be doing, which is getting ready for a call with a financial planner and preparing for a congregational care meeting tonight. Or going out for a walk to celebrate the contrast between winter and spring. Birdsong! Azaleas! Warm breezes! No, I’m sitting on my couch, wandering among psychology websites. 

So that my time isn’t completely misspent, I thought I would share some findings with you, in case you are also following the adventures of Orange Man.

(Happily, after his rant about penis size and his tweets comparing his sexy-model-wife with Ted Cruz’s regular-person-wife, I am less fixated on the guy. Too much sleaze. Instead I’ve become fascinated with online trash-talking Democrats, Hillary and Bernie supporters abusing one other with juvenile taunts and accusations. But that’s another post.)

Hot-Headed or Cold-Hearted?

It’s not clearcut, but my hunch is that Orange Man is a sociopath. The two disorders have a lot in common, and diagnosticians lump them together as “antisocial personality disorders.” But WebMD (the website my apparently twenty-year-old doctor pulls up whenever I ask her a question) says the following:

People with both disorders “have a poor inner sense of right and wrong. They also can’t seem to understand or share another person’s feelings.” But here’s a difference: “A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. If he lies to you so he can steal your money, he won’t feel any moral qualms, though he may pretend to . . . A sociopath typically has a conscience, but it’s weak. He may know that taking your money is wrong, and he might feel some guilt or remorse, but that won’t stop his behavior . . . a psychopath has less regard for others . . . he sees others as objects he can use for his own benefit.”

Hmmm. Orange Man doesn’t seem to have a conscience, but his mind is such a mysterious muddle to me, I’m not sure.

Muddled synapses in the Orange Brain

Muddled synapses in the Orange Brain

Did he feel bad when he backtracked from his wish to  “punish” troubled pregnant women? Or just make a political calculation?

I think this next excerpt is more telling, also from WebMD:

“It’s not easy to spot a psychopath. They can be intelligent, charming, and good at mimicking emotions. They may pretend to be interested in you, but in reality, they probably don’t care. Sociopaths are less able to play along. They make it plain that they’re not interested in anyone but themselves. They often blame others and have excuses for their behavior.

Some experts see sociopaths as ‘hot-headed.’ They act without thinking how others will be affected. Psychopaths are more ‘cold-hearted’ and calculating. They carefully plot their moves, and use aggression in a planned-out way to get what they want. If they’re after more money or status in the office, for example, they’ll make a plan to take out any barriers that stand in the way, even if it’s another person’s job or reputation.”

Alligator? Crocodile? Either way, you had better be careful!

Alligator? Crocodile? Either way, you had better be careful!

A Chilling Reality

An orange sociopath with traces of psychopath, maybe? He’s surely hot-headed and blames others for his behavior. (He actually said of Ted Cruz on national TV, “He started it!”) But — what if his hot-headed, reckless behavior is all a cold-hearted plan calculated to appeal to hot-headed and reckless voters? Or maybe he’s just a megalomaniac, which the dictionary defines as a “pathological egotist, someone with a psychological disorder with symptoms like delusions of grandeur and an obsession with power.”

You can decide for yourself. I am not being snarky here. It is clear that Donald J. Trump is not a well man. It’s chilling, once you look into it. Here are some characteristics of sociopaths, selected from R. Preston McAfee’s website:

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning — They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
  • Grandiose Sense of Self — Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
  • Pathological Lying — Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt — A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
  • Shallow Emotions — When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
  • Need for Stimulation  — Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy — Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature — Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability — Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility — Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

Thanks to WordPress for today’s writing prompt, contrast.

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