Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Regret being sociopathic?

From a reader:

I consider myself neurologically atypical if not also sociopathic. I don't have any official diagnosis so I'm not sure if my self-diagnosis is useful.

I wanted to ask about regret for being sociopathic. Much of the website posts and your book resonate with me rather deeply. I see myself in many many of the different posts and comments and stories.
I read the book (having been drawn to it primarily because I have considered myself atypical since my teen years) in only a matter of days and determined that I very strongly matched enough of the factors or variables that would classify me in the socio realm.

I struggle with something of a cognitive dissonance, though. And I'm not sure other identified sociopaths would agree I am in that realm based largely on this factor. I can't fit in anywhere since I behave in manners so out of place and abnormal to the folks at large (social, work, etc.)

But I want to. I see how others act and emote and engage and connect and I get angry at myself for not understanding how to do that and not being able to. I have definitely learned how to feign it, but I find that cuts a number of relationships short because the empathic (to use book language) types try to get me to open up and be vulnerable like they are and I think they see how shallow that pool of mine is or see something else that creates a sense of unease and they remain somewhat distance.

In a few instances I've invested a lot of time and energy into a specific person to get them to convince themselves that I am more and deeper and I feel things just like them. I have in essence made some very good pawns from it. The latest addition to my collection of people is someone who I've somehow managed to totally ...glamour. They are enamored to the point where I've had to detach time and energy from them. To the point where I think I've broken them or gone too far. They adore me, they love me, they want more of me, they dream of me, they masturbate to me. I am overwhelmed that I did this.

The latest ...conquest only happened after I underwent a lengthy period of loneliness / retrospection / self-revelation. I'm in my late 20s now and I identified my last couple of years with the "blue" period from your book, where you seem to have realized just how lonely life can be, for someone who has a rather difficult disconnect from a lot of other run-of-the-mill people.

This is getting long, but ...do you, in some ways or at certain times...regret being sociopathic? Do you have desires to be 'normal?' To not have to think about yourself in these ways? To not have to watch yourself carefully and present a persona all the time? To just...be able to relax and be "yourself" and not worry about being chased up the mountain by torches and pitchforks?

M.E.: I think I definitely do feel that way. It's not necessarily that I feel dysphoria so much as a sense of meaninglessness that can started creeping up on me in my late 20s and took firm hold of my early thirties. If everything is a game, then what's the point of playing? That sort of thing. And there is a lot of effort spent just maintaining a status quo. It just didn't seem that sustainable, at least not when you looked as lasting for decades. So I've tried to expand my mental and psychological horizons, so to speak, in terms of figuring out different ways to be. I don't ever expect to cease being sociopathic entirely, but I guess I am aiming to be more bilingual. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why not forgive?

I have written before about Bonds that Makes Us Free being a good book about self deception. It's also a good book about getting over and not succumbing to the feelings mistreatment that we regularly experience. I've been listening to the author's talk about forgiveness, which definitely comes from his religious perspective but also from a philosophical perspective. One of the main points is akin to the Maya Angelou quote, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” He talks about how evil wants a response, it wants to turn you dark inside, that's the whole point of evil. And I think this is true, at least of true evil and not just the sort of banal evil that we see of people just having lost their way in a deep moral confusion. Like I would say most of the Nazi force type people and the prejudice and hate that we see daily is banal evil, in which people honestly believe that their feelings of hate are justified in the moment, no matter how impossible that seems to more rational minds. In other words, I think that most people have to be sort of tricked into evil by being fed a distorted reality often enough and persuasively enough (e.g. X are our enemy, we need to defend ourselves against X).

So we have two types of evil (1) true evil for the sake of being evil (super rare, think Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars) and (2) evil that comes from confusion, a true "they know not what they do," at least not the full extent of what they do and definitely not in that moment because they've been led down a path of self-deception and confusion about the actual nature of reality (think Darth Vader). And true evil wants you to respond in an evil way because that is its goal is -- to twist your heart and mind towards dark things. And banal evil people don't really know what they're doing and the worst you could say about them is that they have allowed themselves to become pawns in something deeply dark and destructive. So how should you react in the face of evil? The argument is that it does no good to return evil for evil, as religious types like to say. Because for true evil, that's exactly the response they're trying to get from you. And for banal evil, those people are just clueless pawns who think they're somehow in the right, and you're not likely to convince them otherwise.

When I saw the family of Dylann Root's victims extend him forgiveness, I was really impressed -- not that it was necessarily a courageous or morally right thing to do (although I'm sure it was), but that it just showed a lot of wisdom. Predictably, somebody didn't like that reaction. In a NY Times op ed titled, Why I Can't Forgive Dylann Root, Roxane Gay says "I, for one, am done forgiving." Why? Basically because the problems have been going on so long and white people just want to pretend the problems don't exist and black people forgive to survive but that doesn't help either because the problems haven't gone away. But when has not-forgiving ever helped? Did not forgiving help with Germany post World War I? Is not forgiving helping with the sky high number of adult American men in prison? Could there be peace in Northern Ireland without forgiveness? In the former Yugoslavia? Does anyone think the Hutus and the Tutsis should have kept at it in Rwanda? Or that the French Revolution was particularly effective in its calls for blood to atone for the past sins of the aristocracy? Do we really need to annihilate our enemies? Or nurse lifelong distrust and hatred of each other?  

I do not mean to dismiss at all people's pain or to condone those that wrong others. But nor does forgiveness come even close to doing either of those things. Forgiveness still acknowledges the wrong and the hurt, in fact forgiveness is only implicated and imported in serious cases of wrong and hurt. And when you have been wronged, there are basically two choices: forgive or don't. So for people to say that they're done forgiving is frankly shockingly anti-social, even to someone like me.

I know that I am not a good person and not a reliable source for moral judgment. But if even someone like me could understand why it is absolutely vital that we forgive each other, than that suggests to me that (1) there's really something to this forgiveness thing and (2) that there's hope for everyone else to learn why too.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Who am I

This is a little bit of a change up, from a reader who doesn't identify as sociopath but is not sure if she is quite normal either:

First and foremost, I would like to congratulate you on writing a gripping, thought-provoking and well-informed book. I finished reading Confessions of a Sociopath just five minutes ago and was impressed so much so that I felt the need to contact you immediately. 

I am an eighteen year-old studying English Literature at university. A friend who studies psychology gave me her copy of your book upon her departure back to the U.S after a year of studying abroad on the premise of my own mental health disorder(s). Thus far, I am unsure if there is a 'name' to my disorder, but I wanted to e-mail you regarding how much your book has helped me come to terms with my condition (or lack thereof).

Currently, my diagnosis is rather linear in accordance with the NHS' apparent lack of effort and empathy (oh, the irony); I have depression and anxiety. The first I was diagnosed with at the age of 11, the second 16, but on the premise of years of evidence indicative of the condition. For a while I was somewhat satisfied with the diagnosis - it largely covered the traits that were evident to myself and my nearest and dearest. Then, it became apparent to me that there was much more to my mental health - things that I had not only concealed from my friends and family, but denied knowledge of despite their prevalence in my life. 

I do not intend to diagnose myself as a sociopath, if that is what this e-mail seems to be indicating - I don't believe I am one. I have regular anxiety attacks and feel love and pain, and I have a strong moral sense of right, wrong and guilt, leading me to confess my wrong-doings on a frequent basis to those closest to me. However I am a compulsive liar - I lie to everyone about a plethora of things (strangely enough rarely about what I have done wrong), and I am inherently violent. I exhibit manipulation that aligns with that of a sociopath, although it is rarely anything beyond nudging someone if they stand in my way. I do not take pleasure in manipulating people if it does not benefit me or will effect them in the long term - not only due to the consequences, but because my moral compass does not allow it. However I frequently feel the rush and thrill of lying to someone, and of twisting situations into my favor. I have a thirst for knowledge and intelligence, and thrive off of the expression of shock and submission when I know something - anything - that someone else does not.

It seems to me that I am an awkward, semi-functional hybrid between an empath and sociopath, sprinkled with emotional disorders and physical ones, to boot. As of late I have been questioning my identity and worth to society due to these issues, and above all else, your book helped me to realize that there is progression towards understanding and awareness of the potential good that lies dormant within even the most seemingly hopeless of cases - for that I thank you.

And, finally, thank you again for reminding me and the crippled structure that we call 'society' that mental health disorders, especially those prevalent from birth, exist, but are not something to fear.


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