It’s Hard Not Being a Sociopath; And: My Fixation on What People Think of Me

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In thinking about my reach, if you will, into the world outside my brain there is a lot that consumes me. This is pretty natural with OCD, as every thought has to have meaning—and I must obsess over that meaning. I explore my own thoughts often, because quite frankly most of my life is lived inside my own brain. I’m going to combine two subjects here that could possibly be separate articles1, but I feel they’re best served together. They both relate to who I am in the outside world.

I am reading a book on sociopaths, most specifically about sociopaths people encounter in everyday life. How common this mental disorder is, and how it affects so many people. I’m not quite happy with the direction of the book, as it seems to come from a place of anger and hostility rather than something more studious and objective. That kind of book really doesn’t make me feel good—because I do encounter sociopaths. I know quite a bit about them anecdotally, which is enough for me to expound on the concept as it relates to me.

I have a conscience. I am not a sociopath. The crux of diagnosing someone as a sociopath is a few short yes/no characteristic questions2 that really boils down to—does this person have a conscience? Having a conscience, in part, entails self-awareness. Knowing how you are affecting others, and making decisions based on that. I can do that. In fact I believe it to be a massive burden as compared to those without a conscience. Because I constantly have to take into consideration those around me and how they feel.

In fact, it should come as no surprise that someone like myself with OCD, is in fact obsessed with how others around me feel. Where I get in trouble, or at least where things get murky is the concept of whether or not I am taking into account the way others feel for selfish reasons. Is my only goal that I feel that I am not offending anyone, as confrontation is something that I shirk wildly from? This, in fact, is where others—I would venture to say others who at the time are misinformed and simplistic thinking—have labeled me as something close to a sociopath. I don’t know if the word specifically has ever been used, but other words have that essentially come down to my selfishness.

I do admit that I am very, very driven to get what I want. However, that which I want comes from a way of thinking that may not be tied to OCD, but has roots in a world of my creation—that involves others—that I think is right. That is to say, my conscience expands into wanting those around me to be as safe and comfortable in a way I feel is best. That is not exactly the most virtuous way of thinking, but it is not sociopathic thinking.

I have a very small circle of people close to me, and I want it that way. I tried the other way—didn’t do well with it. I don’t quite like most people, as I find them careless. OCD has a symptom of extreme carefulness. But with this small circle of people, I want badly to have everything be ok with them and with me. “Being ok” is an obsession. A very big obsession of mine. I want there to be no problems, especially in the way people think of me.

If I have even an inkling of a sense that someone may feel any type of negative thought toward me, what I’ve done, how I am acting—I turn into a completely different person. By no means evil—I become obsessed with fixing things. A mere glance at me with an odd look, the mere change in intonation of speech—I go to the worst case scenario. I think of all the things I know I may have done wrong, the library in my head that catalogs all my wrongs and rights gets a full and through researching.

I cannot have people displeased at me. I will admit to essentially politicking—not lying—to simmer that which may not even be close to a boil3. My world becomes extremely complex here, as I suppose does the worlds of those around me. Why am I on the defensive and/or the offensive? Does being on either (or both) become the cause of a problem that I am trying to solve—one that may not have existed? Yeah, often it does.

But that is obsession. And truly, at its root, for what I feel is the good—not having a conflict. A conflict involves multiple people, and I wish neither to have one. But the costs I will spend to make sure one does not exist often backfires.

Thus there is nothing sociopathic to see here—quite the opposite. But that is the burden. Because without a conscience, I would be well far ahead in the aforementioned drive to get what I want. However, I would be alone in that. And I’m a pretty smart person—I would probably succeed. That is to say, I would ironically make a good sociopath! (If “good” is the right term to use here at all.)

With this burden I’ll also admit to thinking- sometimes I wish I could live in an alternate world where I was a sociopath. Things would be easier for sure.

But I don’t. And I won’t. I will continue to obsessively care, knowing the obsessive part often backfires. It is, in the end, the only way I know how to live.


1 Does this absolve me of my presenting an article every other day? No, that would screw up the rhythm!  [BACK]

2 Another thing I really dislike in the world of psychology: diagnosis based on simplistic questions and/or observations. I find the world—my world, at least, to be excessively complex and would hate to be categorized based off the simple. But we’ll let it ride for the sake of this article.  [BACK]

3 Oh, don’t do this. It often actually brings things to a boil.  [BACK]