Is Tony Soprano a sociopath?

[This post is by Donna Andersen from Lovefraud.com and the Lovefraud Blog. The goals of Lovefraud are to teach people how to know when love is a con and to wake them up to the danger of sociopaths. ‘Is Tony Soprano a sociopath?’ was first published at Lovefraud blog on June 10, 2007.]

Tonight, in the final episode of the HBO series The Sopranos, we find out what happens to Tony. Will he get whacked? Will he
escape? Will he go into the federal witness protection program?

As a prelude, last week’s episode, called The Blue
Comet
, showed Tony as a man alone, losing his family,
friends and even his psychiatrist. Early in the show, Tony’s shrink,
Dr. Jennifer Melfi, is at a dinner party with other mental health
professionals, including her own shrink, Dr. Elliot Kupfenberg. The
conversation turns to sociopaths:

Doctor #1: I Googled stuff on sociopathic personalities.
Apparently the talking cure actually helps them become better
criminals. It was fascinating. The study was by Yochelson and
Samenow.
Dr. Melfi: Studies are turned around every few years.
Doctor #1: This other—I think it was Robert Hare—suggested sociopaths
actually quite glibly engage on key issues, like mother, family …
Doctor #2: I seem to remember that from residency.
Dr. Melfi: Me too, and I’ve read Hare, but who’s a true sociopath?

As the scene continues, it is revealed that Dr. Melfi is treating
Tony Soprano. Dr. Elliot Kupfenberg points out that she may face
moral and even legal consequences for keeping him as a patient. Later
in the show—after reading the study—Dr. Melfi dumps Tony.

Reasonably accurate

The dialog among the psychiatrists was essentially correct,
although I’m sure Dr. Robert Hare was not happy about them using the
term ‘sociopath‘. He always uses ‘psychopath.’

Still, I’ve been to two of Dr. Hare’s seminars, and I’ve heard him
discuss the research about talk therapy and sociopaths (psychopaths).
However, I believe the research related to incarcerated men mandated
to attend group therapy sessions. What happens is they learn the buzz
words to manipulate their prison psychologists and parole officers.
This allows them to get out of jail faster, or, if they re-offend,
talk their way into reduced sentences.

Of course, many Lovefraud readers who have attended counseling
sessions with sociopaths can relate to how they con the therapists.
And the line about “sociopaths glibly engage on key issues like
mother, family,” well, we all know that one.

For me, the best part of this scene was seeing a reasonably
accurate discussion of the sociopathic personality in a mainstream TV
show.

Is he or isn’t he?

Still, is Tony Soprano a sociopath? My first response is no. As
those of us who have experienced sociopaths well know, they feel no
guilt or remorse. Nothing is their fault, and they do not believe
anything is wrong with them. So although it may be great television
for a mob boss to go into therapy—not because he was ordered by the
court, but because he felt the need—it is not going to happen with a
true sociopath.

But in an article Friday in the St. Petersburg Times, Dennis Lehane, a writer for the HBO series
The Wire (my personal favorite), says Tony Soprano is a
sophisticated sociopath who fools everyone. And Allen Rucker, author
of three officially sanctioned books about The Sopranos,
says, “We were all the therapist being sucked in by the psychopath.
One part of Tony has the sensibility of a poet and another part is
the predator—which is why we love him.”

So is he or isn’t he? The sociopathic personality encompasses a
range of behaviors, and Tony certainly has some of the traits. Or
maybe he’s taken the personality disorder to a whole new level.
Luckily, Tony is a TV character and we don’t really have to decide.

But the good news is that the media may finally be getting the
idea that sociopaths are not all deranged serial killers. They’ve
graduated to mob hit men. I guess that’s progress.

7 points to remember about dating and predators

[This post is by Donna Andersen from Lovefraud.com and the Lovefraud Blog. The goals of Lovefraud are to teach people how to know when love is a con and to wake them up to the danger of sociopaths.]

As human beings, we all want love and companionship in our lives. It’s a basic human need, right up there with the needs for food, water and shelter. When we are lacking an intimate relationship, most of us try to fill the empty space. That leads to dating.

Here is what you need to know about dating and predators.

1. Evil exists.
What the evil is called—psychopath, sociopath, antisocial personality disorder, narcissist—really doesn’t matter. There are evil people out there, and they can be found in all segments of society—rich, poor, male, female, all races, all religions, all communities. They look like everyone else, but they are predators.

2. If you are dating, you are a target.
As an unattached person, you’re probably feeling a bit lonely—that’s why you’re looking for dates. This is natural and understandable. What you need to realize is that predators specialize in targeting lonely people. They know exactly how to find this vulnerability and exploit it by seeming to take the loneliness away. They shower you with attention, flatter you and promise you a lifetime of happiness—exactly what you’re looking for.

3. Meeting people on the Internet is extremely dangerous.
Yes, there are normal people on dating sites. But there are also predators, and communicating via the computer you do not have the tools you need to spot them. Most of the true meaning of conversation comes from nonverbal cues—voice, facial expression and body language. None of that is available in an e-mail. So what do you do? You fill in the missing pieces with your imagination, and the person becomes what you want him or her to be. You fall in love with a fantasy. For more information, see Internet Threat and Online Seduction on Lovefraud.com.

4. Predators are often charming.
If you meet someone who is glib, charismatic and has a quick answer to every question, be aware that these traits may indicate excellent social skills—or a psychopath. Pay close attention to what is actually being said. Are there gaps or inconsistencies? Is the person evasive? Does the person change plans or break promises—and always has an excuse? If you’re nodding your head, proceed with caution. For more information, see Key Symptoms on Lovefraud.com.

5. Watch for the pity play.
According to Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, the best clue that you are dealing with a sociopath is an appeal to your sympathy. If you’re dealing with someone who tries to make you feel sorry for him or her, blaming other people or “the system” for his or her problems, consider it a warning that the person may be a sociopath. For more information, see The Pity Play on Lovefraud.com.

6. Predators are often great in bed.
Many people who were involved with sociopaths have told Lovefraud that the sex was amazing. Sociopaths are often skilled lovers for two reasons: First, with an excessive need for stimulation, they are hard-wired for sex. Second, they get a lot of practice, often with anyone who comes along. In reality, sociopaths want only two things: sex and power. They do not feel love.

7. Do not ignore red flags.
Maybe something seems wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. Perhaps there’s a nagging feeling in your gut. Pay attention. Do not let him or her explain away your doubts. Do not tell yourself he or she has gotten a raw deal and your love is the solution. To avoid becoming the victim of a predator, your instincts are your best defense.

How I specifically detect lies – by ‘a human lie detector’

[This guest post is by Eyes for Lies who has a rare ability to discern lies from the truth. After studying deception for several decades, scientists have tested more than 15,000 people and only identified 50 people who can discern lies from the truth with great accuracy. Eyes for Lies is one of these human lie detectors , or “wizards of deception detection”. (Wizards are at least 80% accurate, but no wizard is 100%.) In her blog she applies her skills to current high-profile cases. Her exceptional accuracy is there for all to see.]

How I specifically detect lies

At first, I thought that my decision-making process and determination of a who was lying was all subconscious, because I called a liar within seconds to minutes. But after looking back and forcing myself to think out loud for over a year now, I’ve realized that there are processes that I use to detect a liar that I can consciously recollect. The processes are not set in stone like A, B, C, but rather they are random and only drawn upon when needed.

Regardless, I still process a lot of information within seconds, and I have no explanation for how I do it. I suspect it is due to my innate ability.

Most of the time, it takes me less than three minutes to determine if someone is lying when they are asked direct questions. Sometimes I can spot a liar in 20-30 seconds. However, there are times when it can take up to 10 minutes or longer.

The reason for the delay in making a call is that some liars don’t lie right away, or worse, they are pathological. Pathological liars are the trickiest of people to read, because they are without emotion and without remorse. When someone doesn’t feel remorse, nor display any emotions, I lose 50% of my clues. Furthermore, if a pathological liar is highly intelligent, he won’t mess up his facts, which makes it almost impossible for anyone to catch his falsehoods. It is the pathological liars who are highly intelligent who most often get away with the worst crimes.

According to Dr. Maureen O’Sullivan, who studies lie detection wizards, “There are two categories of clues to a lie: thinking clues and emotional ones.” (Source: Wizards” can spot the signs of a liar, AP, Oct. 14, 2004). Continue reading