Soulless   19 comments

I am an RN, and every two years, I need to renew my nursing license.  Part of that renewal process consists of attesting to the fact that I’ve completed 24 contact hours of appropriate nursing education in the past 24 months.  I tend to choose educational opportunities that contribute to my areas of personal interest, for for that reason, I signed up this past week for a three-hour seminar at Century College entitled, “Soulless: When Someone You Love Doesn’t Have a Conscience.”

The course description is this:

Nearly all of us have a loved one who just doesn’t get it. Our family member may be incapable of understanding his or her emotional impact on others. Whether it’s a parent, partner or child, a soulless family member may take an enormous toll on us. We may feel disoriented, duped, exploited, overburdened, and depressed from such experiences as we overly blame ourselves for the under-functioning of our clueless loved one. Even when our loved one is sober, law-abiding, and apparently well-functioning, we may be living in anguish with a soulless person.

This workshop uses case examples, small group discussion, video presentations, and lecture material to identify and heal the syndrome of living with a person who lacks a conscience. Knowing the warning signs, improving relational functioning in the soulless family member, and learning how to care for ourselves are the themes of this presentation. The psychological origins of psychopathy and the cultural contributions to it are presented. Material in the seminar is addressed to professional helpers but is instructive and empowering to concerned family members. Indeed, to love somebody without a conscience demands that we learn to love ourselves at a deeper level.

Objectives: 1. Learn how a health moral conscience is developed in stages, 2. Identify the warning signals for soulless behavior, 3. Describe the impact of psychopathy on family members and the role that psychopathy plays in families, 4. Understand the mind of a sociopath and the different world he or she lives in, 5. Examine the psychological, biological, and familial origins of psychopathy, 6. Describe specific strategies to improve relational functioning in a sociopath, 7. Develop a repertoire of survival skills and self-soothing resources in living with a soulless loved one.

I have someone like this in my life, although, no, I have never lived with him. And I’ll say upfront here that I don’t believe that he completely fits the diagnosis of a sociopath. He officially earned this diagnosis by the legal system when he was 18-years-old, but that was in 1965, and psychiatric medicine is more refined now than it was then. Even at that, psychiatric diagnoses are often very difficult to nail down with certainty just given all the variables that human beings possess.

We know a lot more about a variety of psychiatric syndromes now than in 1965, and with more knowledge at our disposal, I would say that his sociopathic leanings are more a result of untreated ADHD and a mild form of an autistic spectrum disorder, completely undiagnosed and untreated in his childhood and exacerbated by parents and a social support system that could not deal with it in any constructive way. That aside, there are times when he definitely displays some tendencies towards the self-absorbed, selfish behaviors of a sociopathic person, behaviors that hurt and abuse other people. His level of responsibility and remorse in these situations at times seems truly minimal.

I’ve known this friend for 38 years now, even though 800 miles has separated us for 32 of those 38 years. The advent of an email relationship four years ago has encouraged more frequent contact. I am always available to him now as an email correspondent. And I’ve tried to be a good friend! But particularly when he is under stress, as he is right now with the breakup of a relationship, my frequent and intense correspondence with him can get trying, especially when he just doesn’t “get it.” He doesn’t understand the cause-and-effect of his behavior. He doesn’t take personal responsibility for his circumstances. He’s into blaming and rationalizing. In short, he’s a tough person to have a relationship with!

I saw this course in the Century online catalog, said no, didn’t want to take the time off from work since it’s held on a Friday morning, then reconsidered. I’ve decided that learning more about this is part of taking care of myself. I turned in for a vacation day, turned in my registration and will be there in my seat at 9:00 on the morning of February 6.


19 responses to “Soulless

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  1. Are you talking about ASPD, psychopathy or sociopathy…there are different criteria for each. Have you followed Dr Robert Hare’s research?
    There is no treatment for psychopathy and I would be wary of any course that suggests there is.


  2. Jan, I’m not a clinician and I don’t diagnose mental illnesses. In the case of my friend, I’m making some observations based on what slightly-more-than-layperson knowledge I have. And I’m trying to help myself while maintaining a relationship with him. The course I’ve signed up for at Century College is about helping the friends, family, and significant others of a person with sociopathy understand the syndrome and find ways of taking care of themselves in the relationship. I didn’t get the impression at all that it was about treatment options. I’ll tell you more after I sit through it in February!

  3. I think the idea of the workshop you are going to attend is excellent, it certainly is what is needed.

    I just find the lack of distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy very confusing for anyone who hasn’t realised there is a difference and I’m not sure from the objectives of the workshop whether they are being treated as two separate things or the terms are being synonymously. Is this explained anywhere else in the literature?

    I think both conditions need to be addressed separately and I would love to see,more of these workshops worldwide for victims and professionals alike.

    I will look forward to hearing your comments after you have attended. I would also be interested in who the speakers are.

    I hope you get a lot out of the workshop.

    Could I just take the liberty of pointing you to a forum you may find some very useful information there.


  4. That sounds very interesting! Wish I could sign up. Maybe I should look into similar things that might be available in my area.

    You’ll have to let me know how it goes.

  5. I think that the basis for this 3-hour seminar is sound: offering coping strategies for the partner, family, and friends who care for someone who is sociopathic. It takes a lot out of those individuals who are involved in relationships with folks who are at a sub-optimal level of social functioning.

    Psychiatric diagnoses overlap a great deal. There are similarities between many of them. Many people fall into more than one diagnostic classsification. Sometimes the “splitting hairs” of what you call it isn’t the most important thing, especially when you’re addressing the issue of how the behaviors affect family members and friends. Patients may have different diagnoses, but if the behaviors are similar, the effects on the family and loved ones are very much the same. Again, this seminar isn’t geared towards patient diagnosis and treatment options; its focus is support of the family and loved ones.

    Jan and Lottie, I’ll no doubt be updating about this when the time comes!

  6. Sometimes the “splitting hairs” of what you call it isn’t the most important thing, especially when you’re addressing the issue of how the behaviors affect family members and friends.

    The impact of their behaviors on other people appear to be virtually indistinguishable. In fact, their own behaviors are more or less identical. I’m basing this on everything I’ve read over the years. I, too, have followed Robert Hare’s research and a variety of other sources as well.

    The terms “sociopath” and “psychopath” describe pretty much the same personality disorder—people who feel no emotional connections to others and have zero regard for the rules and regulations of society.

    Mental health professionals disagree about which term to use—which, unfortunately, only confuses the public.

    Love Fraud

    Anyone seeking help for the damage inflicted by a sociopath or a psychopath won’t likely care which label we slap on the abuser.

    If I’m in a car crash and have an injury requiring stitches, for example, I don’t much care if the injury was caused by glass or metal. The damage is the same even if we don’t know which of them caused it, therefore the treatment is the same, regardless. Just patch me up so I can try to get on my life.

    Sorry for rambling. Hope that made sense.

  7. Makes perfect sense to me, Lottie. If the damages inflicted on the family and loved ones are the same, then the interventions are going to be quite the same, regardless of the label of the abuser.

  8. Sorry to be redundant there. I realize that’s the point you were making too. I just felt like expanding on it. Hope you didn’t mind.

  9. Sorry to say I don’t agree that the label means nothing…in my case it certainly did. If the child we were dealing with had RAD aka in SOME cases pychopathy then there would be no point trying to look for hope for treatment as it is mainly genetic and untreatable whereas a sociopath has some hope of correction. So the objective of the course would be very different to one where there could be a positve outcome.

    A psychopath has no conscience but a sociopath has un under-devloped conscience. Going to a workshop to gain support would have more merit if there was information about available treatment as a way of dealing with the problem. There are many RAD therapists…don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying RAD therapy works but it’s straw to cling on to when you are offered it.

    Have either of you lived with either a sociopath or a psychopath? I have … I ived with a psychopath and would have attended any workshop in the hope that it would teach me how to find a realistic way of dealing with the condition because there is no hope of improvement with psychopathy but if he was a sociopath then the damage and long term prognosis could be very different.
    Metal ang glass …very good analogy! I would use an Xray to find the metal to make sure I got it all out…useless with glass.

    I aoplogise if I sound aggressive, it’s just so many years of being worn down from psychopathic behaviour and lack of professional knowledge to offer any help has left me raw. I would love to see support structures run by experts and by experts I mean people who have first hand knowledge not observers who don’t know what people like me really need.

    We can only hope that more people are aware of what it is really like and I do hope the workshop enlightens people like yourself who may have to deal with someone like me in the future.

  10. Well, Jan, I haven’t taken the course yet so of course I don’t know what the facilitator is going to say about any of this. I appreciate where you’re coming from. Yes, there is a difference in prognosis and outcome between a sociopath, a psychopath and other forms of psychoses and neuroses. I get that.

    I’m going to this seminar to gain further insight into the topic. I have not lived with a sociopath or a psychopath but have a close friend whose behavior affects me and our relationship.

    Lottie’s situation is different, and I’ll let her address this if she cares to. Lottie?

  11. Jan, I want to respond to this question before I address anything else in your comment:

    Have either of you lived with either a sociopath or a psychopath?

    I most certainly have. I was married one for 14 years and basically live in hiding to this day. I have spent many years researching the topic, uncountable hours in therapy with professionals who have been able to help me gain a better understanding of the psychopath, what actually happened, and how to cope with the aftermath.

    While I understand and relate to how wearing the psychopath’s behavior is (“wearing” is an understatement, really) and your frustration over the lack of professional knowledge on the subject, I think you are jumping to a lot of conclusions here.

    On reading the course description in Bonnie’s post, I don’t get the impression that it’s about diagnosing any of the disorders in questions. Nor do I get the impression that the purpose is to dupe people into believing that it is possible to have a happy, healthy, functional relationship with a psychopath or a sociopath. I do not see the two terms being used interchangeably, although it does appear that both will be discussed under their appropriate headings. I’m guessing this is why they are mentioned separately in the list of objectives.

    As Bonnie has stated at least twice, she doesn’t know exactly how each objective will be addressed by the facilitator. The only way to find that out is to go.

    Now this:

    Metal ang glass …very good analogy! I would use an Xray to find the metal to make sure I got it all out…useless with glass.

    Doesn’t matter. So what if you use different tools to detect glass than you do to detect metal. In the end, the laceration will need to be cleaned and stitched no matter what caused it. That’s the point you seem to be missing.

    I have been diagnosed with and treated for PTSD which was directly related to more than a decade of abuse at the hands of a psychopath. Does the treatment for PTSD change based on the diagnosis of the person who caused it? No, it does not. And I believe that’s the main focus here: coping with and managing the effects and the damage regardless of the cause.

    Bonnie simply posted about a course she was interested in taking in order to keep her nursing license current. She then shared why she thought it might interesting. I, too, expressed an interest, not only in the course, but in what my friend is doing. Your response has been completely disproportionate and uncalled for, as far as I’m concerned.

  12. I want to rephrase something. I said:

    And I believe that’s the main focus here: coping with and managing the effects and the damage regardless of the cause.

    I should have said, And I believe that’s the main focus here: coping with and managing the effects and the damage whether it was caused by a sociopath or psychopath. I’m guessing that’s why they chose the generic term: “soulless”.

    I’d also like add (and I think this is key) that, like it or not, there are people who love and care about sociopaths and psychopaths. They may be family members or just close friends. But the love for them doesn’t switch off just because the person is found to be disordered. This is a reality that, despite all our anger and pain, needs to be addressed, and I think that’s the focus of the course.

  13. Lottie: Thank you for sharing your experience here. I know that you have been down this very painful path, and its negative effects continue to influence your life. Perhaps your experiences with a psychopathic ex-spouse will be of help to someone else who is going through those same issues.

    Jan: You obviously have had your share of frustrations, too, the details of which I’m not aware. I’m not a mental health professional and there is no way that a 3-hour continuing education seminar would allow me to work in such a highly complex area, influencing patients and their families. I’m attending this seminar out of my own personal interest and will see what benefit I derive from it. I wish you the best.

  14. Bonnie: Thanks for the opportunity. I hope some good can come of it someday too.

    Jan: I apologize for sounding so harsh. Apart from a few emails, it’s been nearly three years since I had any contact with my ex-husband and it’s still a very sensitive and emotional subject for me. Just goes to show how deep the damage runs. I’m sure you can probably relate. I am truly sorry for your pain, and I wish you well.

    Also, Bonnie, I’m sorry for getting carried away on your blog. Perhaps my response was disproportionate as well. My pain and frustration certainly don’t excuse my bad manners, though. I’m really very sorry.

  15. You’re a good person, Lottie, and I’m glad you’re my friend. Your burden will get lighter, the path a little smoother. It’s gonna happen! ((hugs))

  16. Thank you, Bonnie. ((hugs))

  17. I would like to respond to you Lottie but have to go to work now, I am looking after an elderely man with dementia so can’t be late. I do understand your frustration and would like to share a little of mine so please don’t apologise.

    I think it’s healthy to let it out and debate the subject, especially if we can help educate others and offer support.

    As I mentioned before [link that doesn’t open and can’t be reviewed by blog owner] will give you information and the background to my psychopath. Unfortunately none of the members of that forum have any love for the person causing them so much damage, that died long ago.

    As for the metal and glass…I wouldn’t stitch up a wound that still had pieces of metal in it.

    No doubt we will understand each other when we talk more calmly about our experiences. We are both raw.


  18. Jan: I forwarded your comment to Lottie that has an email address on it. This is a discussion between the two of you and is beyond the scope of my post about my intent to attend a 3-hour nursing continuing education course in February.

    Best wishes.

  19. Sorry to hog your blog. I hope you enjoy the seminar.

    Best regards

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