Inside his head, Sherlock is an ordinary man. He’s slow, hopeful, and confused. He cries. He feels panic, sadness, love, determination, and despair. He wants things he can’t have. He tries to accomplish things he isn’t sure he can. Inside his head, he isn’t trying to impress anyone. He’s only given orders, told things as if they’re obvious, pushed around, slapped, mocked, and abandoned. He is ordinary the way other ordinary people are.
You could say this is his deepest self, but I think there are probably more levels down to go. This is just functional self, the self that he knows very well. It’s just under the surface. It’s the self he is inside his head all the time, the one who gets it wrong at first, who is constantly being interrogated and lectured to by his more rational sides, his knowledgable and unemotional sides. This inner Sherlock is not a sociopath or a genius. This is the Sherlock who is a product of his fiercely loving mother and easy-going and affectionate father. This is the Sherlock who falls in love.
Sometimes I imagine there’s a conversation the whole story is building up to. From the very start Sherlock announces that he’s a sociopath. He hides behind that label all the time, and John believes it. John loves Sherlock so much that he has accepted Sherlock as he is, as a creature with shallow affect, no empathy, and a need for constant external stimulation to stave off the inevitable boredom that comes from a world without the colour of emotional meaning. John has accepted these things as an unfortunate but integral part of him. But John is wrong about Sherlock.
So I try to imagine that conversation. It would be nice to think that, at some point, maybe as a kind of subtextual climax, Sherlock would tell John the truth. That he’s a fake.
A statement like that rings a bad bell for John, I would imagine. Not this again. But no: he’s not a fake genius. The cases aren’t fake. The reasoning certainly isn’t. But he’s not a sociopath. His affect is anything but shallow. He feels everything, and it hurts.
Sorry to disappoint you, John. Not extraordinary after all. Just ordinary, like everyone else.
He loves you, John. You keep him right, but his love for you skews his perspective. You keep him right, and you break him at the same time.