Empathy, or: Slightly Sociopathic

Yesterday in group therapy we had a new member who immediately gave off the “piece of shit” vibe. Not that he was mean or anything like that; he was a fast talker and admitted to caring little for other people. He lives in a three-quarter house which for those of you who don’t know is a sober living home with less restrictions than a half-way house. Residents keep jobs and are allowed to come and go as they please for the most part (there is a curfew and meetings people must attend).  Recently he discovered that a resident was doing drugs while living there but doesn’t want to tell the house leader because it’s not his problem. I can empathize with that but in a sober living home, someone doing drugs can really affect other people. Perhaps the reason I don’t like this person, though, is that he reminds me a lot of myself. By no means am I a fast talker but I do have more than a little difficulty connecting with other people emotionally.

My therapist tells me that sociopathy is more of a spectrum than the layman knows and I am probably on the lower end of that spectrum. Alcohol mediated that and made me hyper-emotional (and also at the same time more selfish, unsurprisingly). Now that I am sober my sense of superiority and my lack of care for other people is returning in full force. I try to make a conscious effort to be compassionate but if I’m not paying attention I easily slip into the pattern of classism, racism, and sexism.

I believe it takes a strong person to admit that they have these thoughts. We all do; anyone who says otherwise is simply a liar. What separates us from the animals is that we don’t have to act on these impulses. Perhaps that is one reason we hate overt racists so much: they have demonstrated that they have no self-control and are unable or unwilling to mediate their knee-jerk thoughts. In a word, we are all better than them. Or at least that’s my opinion and as I alluded to above I have a problem with thinking that about pretty much everyone. I feel justified for the most part. I am well read, athletic, and at the very least of above average intelligence. It doesn’t behoove us to think that we’re better than others though and I certainly would never make the mistake of saying it out loud in public.

I’m hoping that I can get this under control in the future because I fear it is driving me to disconnect with people.

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