How Could Anyone Do Such a Thing?

>> Sunday

When someone walks into a theater and kills complete strangers, or when someone rapes and kills one woman after another, or when anything horrible like that happens, one of the first questions that comes to mind is, "Who would do that?" How could anyone do something like that? It is literally inconceivable.

But do you know why it's inconceivable? Because you have too much human empathy to be able to even imagine doing something like that. Normal people rarely, if ever, do such things. But sociopaths do.

As I've learned about sociopaths and talked to people about this strange phenomenon, one of the things that comes up again and again in our conversations is the impossibility of imagining it. Normal people can't wrap their head around what it would be like to not feel any empathy for other human beings. Empathy for others is such a fundamental part of us, when we try to imagine what it would be like not to have it, the mind draws a blank.

For the sake of all our sanity, I want you to remember this.

When someone does a horrible and vicious act, all of us try to explain it to ourselves. That's the way the human brain works — we must explain events. The brain will not allow an event to remain unexplained, especially a memorable event.

But the way you explain this event becomes part of your worldview. It becomes something you believe. It affects you, it affects your mood, it affects your behavior. So it's a good idea to make sure you're careful about what conclusions you draw about it.

Is "mankind" just cruel? Is that why those specific people did those horrible things? Is it a "crazy world?" Or is there too much violence on television and videogames? Is that why it happened?

You must remember this: Sociopaths are a small percentage of the population. They have always been a percentage of the human race. There is no evidence to suggest that they are becoming a larger percentage of the population. And they have always had a tendency to do cruel things. Any recent tragedy is another example of a sociopath doing what sociopaths sometimes do.

That explanation is accurate and specific. It makes no thought-mistakes that will make your worldview unnecessarily pessimistic, so it will not lead to needless anxiety or disheartening conclusions. When you learn of bad events in the news, try to make sure you don't pick up any mind-viruses (thought-mistakes), and if you do, make sure you use the antivirus for your mind to get rid of them before they begin to affect your health, your attitude, and your relationships with others.

And do your best to help those around you avoid coming to counterproductive conclusions about bad events. Share with them the antivirus for your mind. And share with them information about sociopaths. Not enough people know everyday sociopaths exist, and very few people are familiar with their characteristics. If more people were aware of these things, some of the tragedies might be prevented.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of Viewfinder: How to Change the Way You Look at Things.

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