When I was in 4th grade my father told me something I never forgot: “Kid, you can get anywhere in life with a confident stride and a walkie-talkie.” He’s right, you know. Concerts, museums, theaters, private parties, athletic events – you name it, I’ve done it.
When you’re confident, people don’t ask a lot of questions. And when you’re a sociopath you aren’t afraid of getting caught. Add a walkie-talkie to the mix and you’ve got the cultural equivalent of an all-access-pass. Sociopaths know they can get away with just about anything and so they typically do.
But just because you could, doesn’t mean you should.
Boundaries play a huge role in the sociopath to enlightenment. When I was young, I didn’t have any boundaries. And because I am a sociopath, I didn’t have a sense of consequence.
Anything I wanted, I went for: sneaking, cheating, stealing, breaking, entering – it’s been quite the ride. And I’ve never been caught. But the problem with a lack of consequence is a lack of boundary. Everyone needs boundaries. Boundaries make people feel safe. Without them an individual is likely to keep reaching and reaching until something or someone forces them to stop.
All of us have seen the asshole kid. You know the one: screaming in the restaurant, throwing themselves on the floor, banging on the table – all the while the parents are doing little or nothing to prevent it. These kids get a bad rap: they are labeled the asshole when in reality it’s the parent who deserves the title.
Kids like this are literally standing on chairs and screaming to get their parents attention. They are bashing their heads into tables in a desperate attempt to get their caregivers to do one single thing: set. a. fucking. boundary.
As children, sociopaths are notoriously difficult to socialize; they aren’t taught the benefits of boundaries. Subsequently these kids become adults who need to police themselves (or risk getting caught). I don’t know about you, but this is extremely difficult for me. Setting my own boundaries means that I can’t always do the things that I want and am entirely capable of doing. It’s like having a superpower you aren’t allowed to use.
Every day I am faced with an opportunity: a stranger who doesn’t know I’m a liar, a purse left unattended, a credit card on the ground, a family member who has it coming, a husband who trusts me, a friend who wants to please me, a ticket-counter who is easily intimidated, an inattentive shop clerk, a friendly church-goer, a prick at the gym who makes a rude comment about my newborn child before running to the bathroom and leaving his protein shake on the counter.
For non-sociopaths, daily encounters like these aren’t seen as “opportunities.” Antisocial behavior might be something most people fantasize about from time to time, but it’s rarely something they actually consider. By and large, people do the right thing because they are inherently altruistic. And when they are tempted to walk on the dark side, their sense of guilt kicks in to keep things in place. But not me.
I don’t have the benefit of guilt helping me along. As a sociopath, every decision I make is mine. I don’t get to swing with a safety net beneath me. Unlike most people I understand that if I decide to steal something, I am not going to feel the least bit guilty about it. So I have to make the decision based on something else – something that serves as my philosophy.
For me this “something else” is self discipline. I might not be able to control my sociopaths diagnosis, but I won’t let that diagnosis control me. So I make the choice to play by the rules. I decide not to steal. I decide not to lie. I decide not to cheat – all on my own. Guilt doesn’t play a role.
I don’t always get it right. Some days are easier than others. Sometimes I mess up. On those days I remind myself that boundaries have benefits. Maintaining boundaries is what enables me to connect with other people. It’s what keeps me out of trouble, makes me a better mother, makes me a better friend. Boundaries are what enable me to live a life surrounded by love, balance and authenticity rather than darkness loneliness and pain.
Yes, I still make mistakes – but they too have boundaries. These days I refuse to engage in any behavior that is harmful to someone else. At this phase of my life, I refuse to be the cause of anyone’s pain – no matter what. And at the end of the day what the gym-prick doesn’t know about the rest of his protein shake won’t kill him. At least not in small doses.