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Our Governor the Sociopath

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For many amateur and professional psychologists, Rod Blagojevich’s diagnosis was a snap. I myself muttered it aloud as the indignant US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald related what he had overheard in those fateful wiretaps. A day or so later, in a New York Times op-ed piece, former TV talk show host and public intellectual Dick Cavett discussed our governor’s sociopathic personality as well.

What does this have to do with a health tip? Reasonable question. Illinois might have saved itself a lot of trouble if its citizens and legislators had responded to their gut instinct about Blago from the start. Remember, the FBI began its investigation after he had been in office only one year, yet we re-elected him. You might cross paths with a sociopath one day, so today’s tip is intended to save you a great deal of pain and grief in case of contact with one of these conscience-less specimens of ourselves.

In fact, the odds are good that at some point in your life, you’ll find yourself bedeviled by someone’s sociopathic personality. The American Psychological Association estimates the trait occurs in 4% of the population, or approximately one in 25 people. The cause is currently considered a be a 50-50 mix of genetics and environment.

If you become involved with a sociopath and fail to respond to the internal clues screaming for you to exit, expect to experience an emotional train wreck. Sociopaths are individuals virtually without conscience and emotion. They know what love is by definition, but simply can’t feel it. They endlessly lie and are deceitful with virtually no remorse, behave impulsively and cruelly for the thrill of the conquest, and have absolutely no self-insight, seeing nothing wrong with their actions. The late mystery writer Charles Willeford loved using sociopaths as villains. In the book Sideswipe , his character reflects on himself, “A psychopath doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. Me, I’m a sociopath. I know the difference between right and wrong. I just don’t give a damn.”

Woe betide if you’re the employee of a sociopathic boss. Expect endless humiliation at the workplace. Plan to work hard, get no credit, and be fired on a whim. Sociopathic boyfriend or husband? He’ll be compulsively unfaithful and lie through his teeth, and you’ll feel sick as you wonder how love can be so cruel. It ain’t love. The popular “from hell” genre movies from the 1980s (the tenant from hell in Pacific Heights, roommates from hell, nannies from hell) were all about sociopaths.

And now we’re the citizens of a state governed by a sociopath. An anonymous source has said that Blago was “blindsided” by the charges. Remember, this is a man who knew he was being looked at by the Feds and in fact urged them on. His total self-confidence likely deluded him into believing that his ability to manipulate others would protect him from being found out. That, folks, is a sociopath.

The very best book on the subject is The Sociopath Next Door, by psychologist Martha Stout. The most vital chapters teach you to recognize the sociopathic personality and protect yourself. A lot of pages describe sociopaths in different settings and, as you might imagine, it reads like a spooky mystery story.

So here’s my prediction for our governor, keeping in mind that in his heart of hearts, he believes he did nothing wrong except get caught. (Remember, by the way, our currently jailed former governor also believes he did nothing wrong and we’re still outraged by his remorselessness.) One way or another, Blago will exit the statehouse and go to trial. His perfectly sociopathic defense will be that he was under so much stress that he had to borrow some kind of medication, and that it impaired his judgment. Or, better yet, that his doctor prescribed a bunch of drugs and Blago suffered side effects.

Will Blago try to dump the whole mess on his doctor? Stay tuned…

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