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Can They Be Treated?

Spaths Are Everywhere

by MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE

They refer to themselves as “spaths”. “Empaths” are those of us with empathy. Just a little something I learned while navigating the web for information about sociopaths. Seems they’re everywhere—significant others, neighbors, the men and women elected to represent our interests, those two House of Cards characters, Claire and Francis Underwood, about whom spath Obama’s tweeting. (I won’t spoil episode 11 of Season Two, but when you arrive, imagine Jill and spath Joe Biden in that WOW/OMG situation.)

Here’s the deal:  After I’d told an e-pal and reader about my experience with a personality-disordered man, she said she’d divorced hers and sent this, Sociopath World, a website about ………….. yes, sociopaths. Many of the essays are posted by spaths and many of the comments and questions are written by spaths.

I can’t say I’ve recovered completely from the psychic assault of lies, whiplash, and the deliberately confusing flowery language. In fact, any thoughts of him and how effortlessly he told me so many whoppers make me feel a skin-crawling creepiness. At least now when a glimpse of him invades, I see someone hollow, pathetic, predictable, boring. The last time I heard his voice was in a message he left on my cellphone:

You do not have my permission to use my name in any publication (pause) nor identifiable features (here, I laughed)… All along I felt something was wrong. All along I knew I wasn’t a good person. I couldn’t get off the train–it was moving too fast out of the station. I don’t know. All I know is that shame and guilt is being heaped on me and heaped on me and heaped on me and I’ve been in therapy since then and I’m trying my best to make amends by living as honestly and as good a life as I can.

Positioned in there were a couple of sobs—for histrionic effect. I was reminded of this when I saw a question on the website: Can a sociopath genuinely cry?

Here’s an answer:

I actually cry quite easily. But when I do, it’s not because I’m sad. When I cry it’s because I’m frustrated things aren’t going my way, or someone doesn’t understand me. Sometimes when people are overly nice to me when I feel irritated this sometimes makes me cry, sometimes someone could sit me down for a serious talk about me, with me. From what I’ve gathered, it’s probably because I feel trapped and no other way to express it.

And another:  “I will cry if it will get me what I want … it’s probably more fake tears than real tears. It’s gotten so instinctual, they seem real, but they aren’t.”

Tears that “seem real”—we’ve seen them from Obama, when he delivered a speech in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. Crying over the massacre of children here, but never there, no tears for children killed by US WMD. Wouldn’t an empath cry for all children?

I’ve written about my naïveté. That I used to ask, “How do they sleep at night, these politicians who make decisions to decimate a population? The same ones who stand in front of cameras and let slide a tear when it’s expedient. Yet refer to the deaths of families melted by drone warfare as collateral damage. I now know they sleep fine. They’re spaths. Not empaths. And, yes, I get that same skin-crawling creepy feeling when they speak, when they use language meant to confuse, mislead. Or when they say, “God bless America.”

Back to my personal experience: After receiving that voicemail, I corresponded with a woman I suspected was another of his victims. Her story mirrored mine and confirmed what I suspected—his predation continued, despite the therapy, despite his telling me he was living honestly.  When she confronted him about the way he treated her, he said, “This is what I’m working on in therapy.”

There’s a scene in American Horror Story, Season One, when Ben, the psychiatrist, tells his client, Tate, the psychopath,  “Therapy doesn’t work.”

“Then why do people do it?” Tate asks.

Ben says, “Because they don’t want to take any responsibility for their crappy lives, so they pay a therapist to listen to their bullshit and make it all feel… special, so they can blame their crazy mothers for everything that went wrong.”

In other words, spaths use therapy as an excuse, to remain unaccountable. It’s their default exemption when challenged. “This is what I’m working on in therapy.”

I’ve been searching the web to see if spaths can be treated. Most experts say no. Seems the majority of sociopaths don’t think they have a problem. They think everyone else does.

P.S. No grandbaby yet. He’s holed up in that womb.

Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com.