Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why, When and How Psychology Should be Taught in High School - Part I

I recently found out that many people have wasted years of their lives with sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists.  The people that have gone through it and wasted years of their lives (relationship + healing) are all experts and can be very helpful. They help friends that are also emerging out of these abusive relationships.

Some great articles and blogs are out there to help someone through surviving one of these very detrimental situations. They are very helpful once the damage is done, but why couldn’t the damage be prevented completely?  Most of the women (and men can fall to this too) I talk to are intelligent, strong and have their act together (which of course is a great target for a sociopath).  How come they didn’t see it coming?  How could they be fooled for so long when they are so smart?  The goal of this blog is not to do the psychological analysis, there are already some great articles out there on this subject.  But as I was reading through these articles and talked to friends, my thought was,  these friends and I had no idea what a sociopath even is, unless we already dealt with one in the family or friend circle.  Most of us imagine a sociopath as some intelligent, stylish, worldly guy that then pounces on you at the end and kills you or something.  Sort of like Hannibal Lecter on the NBC series Hannibal. The character is suave, highly intelligent and worldly like Mads Mikkelsen, plays Chopin before he whips up a gourmet meal and he is an excellent conversationalist and great dresser.  A sociopath is supposed to be intriguing in this way, and is romanticized by Hollywood and literature.  This is our expectation of a sociopathic or psychopathic personality.   An every day Joe can’t be a sociopath, he’s just some pathetic guy that needs help.  A sociopath is more like the Governor from The Walking Dead, clever and there is is something you can’t refute about him.  Andrea fell for him.   But regular Joe, he’s authentic and nice. He needs help.  If he ramps up the 'adoration' early on and even wants to move in with you fast, it's because he truly admires you and your accomplishments.   We think that an average guy may be different, but they can't be a sociopath, they are too simple; a bit different, but nevertheless simple. Their simplicity automatically implies that they aren't sociopaths.  This too was my perception, and I believe that I’m fairly intelligent and a good judge of character.  Well, these perceptions and idolizations are not true.  And after talking to friends, I know I was not alone in this misperception of what these people are.  And yes, sociopaths, and the rest of these personality disorders affect both sexes.  So now as a mother, yes, I’ve learned my lesson, but what about my son, he must steer clear of these types of people.  And another added pain point of these misperceptions is that even your friends diminish what happened and how you've been hurt, because they too think that an abusive sociopath is some suave calculating guy not a seemingly every day guy  And surely, the poor little average guy is just lost and discovering himself.  The guy you claim is a sociopath is nothing like those sociopaths in books and TV.  But it's just part of the show sociopaths weave.

Why do so many people encounter such beings and continue in these hurtful relationships?  Because pieces don’t fit, and you waste years trying to figure out what is going on and how to make the pieces fit.  Then after you finally realize that you can’t take it anymore, you go through the ‘how could he” phase.  Because you still don’t know what you were dealing with.  Until you talk to a friend, who encountered the same thing, and realize that you were dealing with a sociopath (or narcissist, etc.)  Then EVERYTHING fits.  The beginning, middle and end and post end (no accountability or responsibility) all fit.  Everything finally makes sense   Knowledge is power.  I think if people knew the basic characteristics not the romanticized one of such beings, they would 'get it' faster or not even enter into the relationship.   Now maybe in the old days, because extended family were around, we would get warnings from our mom, dad and other relatives who would insist that  this person isn’t right: avoid at all costs. We may not listen, but that information would  be in the back of our minds and the time wasted with such a person would be shorter.  Because ultimately it’s easier to wake up to this type of subtle manipulative abuse when your whole family insists for years that it’s not right.   Your parents can usually differentiate between a fake show and reality that such a being provides.   The realization would come faster.

But if we know that these sociopathic, narcissistic personality disorder individuals can be average people who don’t seem exceptional in any way, these horrible relationships could be prevented.  My first exposure to narcissism was a beautiful painting of Narcisus, by Carravagio (1599):

"A vain and snobbish youth, he refused the fervent amorous advances of a multitude of young ladies, but was to finally meet a worthy match when he came across his own reflection in a pool. The boy fell madly and irrevocably in love with himself;

"And how he kisses the deceitful fount;
and how he thrusts his arms to catch the neck
that's pictured in the middle of the stream!" 

Narcissus stayed beside the stream gazing at his reflected paramour in vain, neglecting even to eat or drink. Upon his death, his body was transformed into a beautiful yellow flower, which still carries his name today.


I seriously thought narcissists were just full of themselves and vain. I thought sociopaths were suave and intriguing criminals.  Again, romanticized versions. After reading some basic articles, I now understand what they are, how they work and that they don’t need to be particularly smart, attractive or worldly.  I understand why they run from responsibility and how to, in a business like fashion deal with them legally.   I even understand the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath.  And this is why I believe that psychology needs to be taught in a relatable way to teens so this thinking becomes engrained in our minds when we evaluate potential partners. Preventive thinking is always preferred to post damage repair.  Having a basic understanding of these beings would allow us to read and interpret that well known 'writing on the wall.'  Having a practical understanding of these personalty types and their methods is as important as understanding that you don’t use a hairdryer while soaking in a tub because you will be electrocuted. 

If we understood basics about these personalty disorders, they would just have to destroy each others’ lives since we would all be informed and would avoid them.  Sociopaths would have to date sociopaths and other similar beings.  And that too is happening these days when they have been found out and have to jump to the next ship.  It is often another sociopath or narcissist  that will match up with them in the same short time that they need to match up before the truth is found out.

Understanding what a sociopath is also empowers the subject of such a being to take care of the ‘post mess’ because they will understand better what these sociopaths fear (yes, they do fear) and how to introduce accountability into the sociopaths life (again, not dealing with Mads Mikkelsen here).  The articles I've read help do that.  Since they don't feel and they don't understand accountability or decency, they need to be dealt with in other ways.  

How psychology is  taught to a teenager is important so that it’s relatable and they will process and remember the new knowledge. With the right knowledge they can,  distinguish between ‘someone who is into you’ vs. a sociopath.  As with anything, the right type of education will prevent years wasted and hurt that results from it.

Not your garden variety sociopath.   We're not even sure what he truly is, other than very entertaining and cultured, and at times he exhibits authentic empathy.

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  1. Some interesting FB pages on this:

  2. and