Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
An advertisement for a new student group called Swarthmore Sociopaths appeared on the Reserved Students Digest in the weeks before spring break. The post describes Swat Sociopaths as “an anonymous group for Swatties identifying as sociopaths, psychopaths, ASPD, whatever you feel like calling it, diagnosed or otherwise.”
The email address for the group’s creator, who is going by the pseudonym “Nicholas the Silent,” was included in the RSD post. He answered a few questions about the new group by email.
There won’t be any in-person meetings. Instead, the group will conduct meetings by email. “Nicholas” declined to state the sort of response the request had received so far.
What is the purpose of Swat Sociopaths?
The purpose of the group is just to provide some sort of mechanism for sociopaths to communicate with one another. Most sociopaths go through their lives without really knowing other sociopaths, we obviously can’t live our lives openly, so I’d like to allow sociopaths to talk to one another.
It’s not really a self-help group. We’re not trying to heal, we’re not trying to get better, we’d just like to meet other people who think like us.
What does it mean to be a sociopath?
Sociopaths often don’t recognize themselves as such, but at the same time, it’s unlikely that anyone else would. Sociopathy is a way of thinking. It is to be devoid of empathy, of conscience, and of remorse. Yes, this sounds scary to neurotypicals, but it’s not that bad. It’s just different. I don’t have empathy for people, but I fake it, I put on a mask, outwardly showing socially-appropriate emotions that I don’t necessarily feel, and this works for me. People act all the time, mine is just a bit clearer cut, and I’m also better at it than most. I have to be.
Sociopaths also tend to have poor impulse control. Most of what separates the low-functioning from the high-functioning is ability to manage impulses. I’ve had to teach myself impulse control. It isn’t natural, it doesn’t come easily. I still feel powerful impulses pushing me towards actions, but I step back and think about things rationally. I think about how that would affect my mask, how it might out me. What comes to others naturally I have to make a concerted effort to do. I rely on reason and rationality to hold myself back from my impulses, and it works. Outwardly, I am normal. In my own mind, I am strikingly different.
Will the group work to “treat” sociopathy in its members?
Different people see it differently, and I won’t speak for all sociopaths, but I don’t really see it as a disease that can, or should, be cured. It’s just a part of my personality, it’s just who I am.
There are low-functioning sociopaths, those who can be clearly identified as such from the outside, those who are violent, those who are destructive to themselves and others. Their problem isn’t that they are sociopaths, its that they don’t know how to handle it. Sociopaths who have made it to Swarthmore, however, are likely very high-functioning. You would never know that I am a sociopath by meeting me. You could know me for years and it would never cross your mind. This isn’t hypothetical, it’s actually true: no one knows that I am a sociopath.
I think how this group can help fellow sociopaths is by sharing mechanisms for handling everyday life. Some do it better than others. I don’t think professional help is the way to go. Anti-sociopath stigma exists even among psychotherapists. Going to CAPS would be a bad idea. There isn’t any cure, nor really any treatment mechanism, and that’s fine: I don’t want one. What we can do is help each other by sharing the ways that we have learned to fit in.
How did you come up with the idea for Swat Sociopaths?
I came up with the idea because I thought it would be useful for sociopaths to be able to speak to one another. I thought that I would like to meet other like-minded people, but there is absolutely no way to do that in general life. Thus, an anonymous forum of sorts seemed the best way to go about it.
Explain how anonymity functions in the group.
Anonymity is critical, and absolute. No member of the group knows who any other member is. We communicate only by email, there are no in-person meetings of any kind. Moreover, we all use assumed names, none of us use our real names. This is the only safe way for the group to operate. There is no way that we could verify, as it were, whether anyone who made contact with us is a sociopath, or that they can be trusted. Our identities can’t get out for our own safety. The social stigma against sociopaths is so great that none of us can afford to have that piece of our identity known, which is why it is so hard to knowingly meet other sociopaths. Anonymity is what allows this group to exist.