Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How To Understand Antisocial Personality Rule-breakers

What thoughts go on inside the head of a person stuck in the Rule-breaker personality pattern, which in its severe form is known as the antisocial personality disorder?

Picture this young adolescent on a hot summer afternoon:
I aim the slingshot with precision and flick it. I watch the carefully selected stone arc perfectly, as if in slow motion, soaring through the air. Then the sound. Crash! The tinkling of glass from Mrs. Johnson’s garage window. I scurry away down the alley, chuckling and leaping. Oh, the ecstasy.
Later that afternoon Uncle Zack and I are on the sidewalk outside a convenience store. “Hey, Robbie,” he whispers. “Want to learn about the five-finger freebie?”
I nod, breathless.
“Okay. Here’s how it works. When we go into the store, go right to a display rack where there’s something you want. Pick up a different item and pretend you’re examining it carefully. While you’re doing that, grab the item you want with the other hand and slip it in your pocket. Replace the first item and find something real cheap to actually buy, and then take it to the counter.”
We enter the convenience store. I stroll over to the toy display. With one hand I pick up a miniature dinosaur and examine it carefully. With the other, I scoop up a yoyo and slip it into my pocket. I stroll over to the counter, select a package of gum, and hand it to the clerk. Buzzing with excitement, I smile appealingly as I pay for the gum.
It’s a snap.
Back in the car, Uncle Zack smiles triumphantly when I pull the yoyo out of my pocket. “Thatta boy, Robbie. That’s the five-finger freebie.”

Rule-breaker Self Compass

Rule-breakers are charming and sociable on the surface, but calculating underneath. Aggressively deceitful, you’re stuck on the Assertion compass point. You size up situations according to how you can personally profit by exploiting those around you. There is no sense of remorse.


You have learned to repress the Weakness compass point. You avoid empathy with other people’s pain and do not consider your own shortcomings. This lack of healthy weakness results in an undeveloped conscience. Likewise, you repress caring from the Love compass point. You mistrust others and shun feeling close to anyone, since loyalty and caring would inhibit your need to seduce and exploit.

The Rule-breaker pattern can be calculating, even cruel. This pattern shares with narcissists a sense of entitlement, but is more aggressive—streetwise, glib, and able to lie convincingly

The apostle Paul understood this pattern: “By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people” (Rom 16:18 NLT).

The Value of Healthy Guilt

To break the grip of the Rule-breaker pattern, it is vital that you learn to feel guilt as appropriate to the situation. Healthy guilt alerts you to the fact that you have exploited someone to your advantage. It tells you that you have used another person as a “thing” and dehumanized yourself in the process.

This helps you become aware when you are tempted to lie, shirk responsibility, or pull the wool over someone’s eyes. You stop and pray for God to help you see the situation from that person’s point of view. Empathize, letting yourself feel the discomfort of the potential consequences of your behavior.

Reversing roles with someone activates your social conscience. When you trade places with the dog you’re about to kick and anticipate the pain and fear you’ll inflict, you suddenly have the power not to kick the poor creature. There’s an inner shift—not to become a wimpy do-gooder, but to use your power constructively.

Buy a journal and write in it daily. Let your unconscious take you back in time. What are your memories of lying? Cheating? Do you recall feeling some remorse, tinged with excitement? How did the Rule-breaker pattern corrode your life, at the expense of healthy guilt? 

You can take comfort that many Biblical characters who came to be highly esteemed were originally Rule-breakers of some note. Jacob cheated his brother out of his birthright. Abraham lied to Pharoah about Sarah being his wife. Miriam hatched a plot against Moses, was struck with leprosy, but after she confessed wrongdoing, she was healed and restored.  

The spiritual grace Jesus Christ offers meets us all in our trespasses and empowers personality transformation. 

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