Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quote: Hardened

“Young bodies are like tender plants, which grow and become hardened to whatever shape you've trained them.”

― Desiderius Erasmus

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Problems and (no?) solutions

A certain type of reader of this blog would find this comment to be incomprehensible, stupid, disingenuous, short-sighted, illogical, immoral, deceitful, offensive, over-simplifying, and dozens of other terrible things:

We do not always have a choice as to whom is part if our life. If a close relative or a co-worker is a sociopath, we may need to make room for them in our life. My point is that if there was better awareness and acceptance of sociopathy, there could be better harmony and less pain, destruction, awkwardness, hiding and running away for both sociopaths and empaths. 

Our society has learned to accept, even embrace most genetic, behavioral, physical and mental differences - people deformed by polio, people of different races, creed and religion, homosexuals, bisexual, transexual, people with down syndrome, autism, amputees, blind people, deaf people, etc. Are the sociopaths so different that they should never be accepted? Is our society too rigid to make allowance for them? 

The trouble is that sociopaths intentionally hurt people, whereas all of these other types don't, right? Or is it that those other types might intentionally hurt people, but they don't do it for sport? Or is it that those other types might intentionally hurt people, but sociopaths are so much more effective at it? Or is it that those other types might intentionally hurt people, but the types of hurts that sociopaths do are worse? Or is it because those other types are not categorically defined by their propensity to hurt people, but sociopaths are?

It's kind of convenient to say that sociopaths do terrible things and aren't at all treatable (where is the proof?). It basically allows society to wash its hands of this particular subset of people while providing a palatable scapegoat for all of the nastiness that normal people get up to but can't quite face in each other (or themselves). The tricky part is that a lot of us live in civilized cultures where for most people with psychological issues like this we try to treat them or accommodate them. But maybe you argue that sociopaths don't need to be accommodated because they thrive, you say. But what happens when you identify them and then take away their ability to thrive? If they are outted are they thriving? If they are imprisoned, are they thriving? Once you take away their ability to thrive, then do you treat them? Accommodate them? Never, because they don't deserve better? They don't seem like victims to me. If anything they are always victimizers. But what happens if one or more of them truly become victims? Collateral damage in the service of a greater cause?

Maybe even if they eventually become victim they still deserve what they get because they decide to be that way? They decided to be born with the genetic predisposition and decided to be raised in a particular way to cause them to be a sociopath? But they would chosen to be that way if they were given the choice over again? Would you choose to be who you are if given choice? How about they didn't choose to be the way they are, but they do choose to do the things they do? As much as we all "decide" to "do" the things that we do? So they should be punished just like an empath would for the same crimes? More harshly? Less harshly?

I'm being sincere. Let's hear people's best solutions, not just the first step, but all the steps that follow until we've reached some sort of equilibrium. (Or ignore the real issues and start the personal attacks, as some of you like to handle these types of posts, even though there is nothing at all personal about this post).

[Also, we all agree that there should still be leper colonies, right? Kind of their fault getting leprosy in the first place, and if any of you got leprosy you would voluntarily ship yourself off to some dungeon to rot so as not to risk infecting anyone else? I think that's how Jesus would us to handle it?]

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pseudo-science

Psychologists who study personality disorders frequently make unwarranted and unnecessary value judgments and other normative statements. In this article, Psychologist and "autism expert" Simon Baron-Cohen promotes his new book on empathy and makes what I believe are some unsupportable statements that betray a bias that is wholly inappropriate in a man professing to give an accurate, objective opinion on the role empathy plays in human interactions. Here are some illustrative quotes:
  • As a scientist I want to understand the factors causing people to treat others as if they are mere objects. So let's substitute the term "evil" with the term "empathy erosion".
  • Zero degrees of empathy means you have no awareness of how you come across to others, how to interact with others, or how to anticipate their feelings or reactions. It leaves you feeling mystified by why relationships don't work out, and it creates a deep-seated self-centredness.
  • People said to be "evil" or cruel are simply at one extreme of the empathy spectrum.
  • Zero degrees of empathy does not strike at random in the population. There are at least three well-defined routes to getting to this end-point: borderline, psychopathic, and borderline personality disorders. I group these as zero-negative because they have nothing positive to recommend them. They are unequivocally bad for the sufferer and for those around them.
  • Empathy itself is the most valuable resource in our world.
  • Empathy is like a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble. It is effective as a way of anticipating and resolving interpersonal problems, whether this is a marital conflict, an international conflict, a problem at work, difficulties in a friendship, political deadlocks, a family dispute, or a problem with the neighbour. Unlike the arms industry that costs trillions of dollars to maintain, or the prison service and legal system that cost millions of dollars to keep oiled, empathy is free. And, unlike religion, empathy cannot, by definition, oppress anyone.
Mixed amongst these statements, he cites two extreme examples to justify his conclusions: a BPD wantonly screaming at her kids and an ASPD who bottles a hapless barfly to death for looking at him funny. The odd thing is that although Baron-Cohen acknowledges that there is a spectrum of empathy, he firmly places both the BPD and the ASPD at absolute zero. Interestingly although he is an autism expert he does not mention the relative position of autistics on the scale, presumably because any stories of auties being violent would destroy the symmetry between his zero empathy = evil parallelism. Frankly, this type of hackjob excuse for science sickens me, particularly since I know that the natural consequence of something like this is the masses blindly following it as "truth," self-congratulating themselves while they embark on a modern inquisition ratting out the heretics that dare differ from them in any way. And this guy is worried about religion oppressing people? Doesn't he realize that his pseudo-science is its own religion with zealous adherents ready and waiting to oppress? The hubris of it all is simply astounding.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sociopath suicide?

A reader asks if sociopaths ever experience desires for suicide:

I'm going to cut right to the chase with this one.  I believe I might be a sociopath, but I am not sure if that is because I am one, or if I am just trying to search for the easiest explanation for my actions and who I am.  I'll try to give you as many details as I can to help give a full view on my life and why I believe I may be a sociopath as well as why I may not be (If I can remember some reasons I thought of before).  

First a little bit of basics:  I am a 20 year old Caucasian male, and a very logical thinker. 

My whole life for as long as I can remember I have been extremely gifted in lying.  I don't know when it actually started but I know that in kindergarten, I told the first lie that I got caught in by blaming another kid for knocking down a caterpillar in a cocoon in our classroom that we were observing.  I did not knock it down intentionally but I did blame the other boy intentionally.  I knew I could blame him because his mom was friends with mine, so if I told my mom he did it word would get back to the teacher and his mother.  I cannot recall how I got caught, but somehow they found out.  Anyways, ever since then I can recall being able to lie to anyone without it phasing me at all, even if I didn't have to.  

Another trait that I've noticed I have that seems to match a sociopath is a lack of empathy for others.  I have never in my life been able to feel bad for someone else that I know of, or feel proud of them.  I currently have a girlfriend who I love, but I don't know if I love her because of who she is or what she can provide me.  I try to think of the answer and I feel like it's all just a calculation, even though I know I would be hurt if she broke up with me.  I constantly am in arguments with my parents and don't really have anyone I would consider a friend like the definition.  The only time I really talk to a "friend" is if I need something, or I'm bored trying to pass the time.  I can steal from anyone, whether it be a neighbor, my parents, a friend, or a stranger and honestly feel no guilt or remorse, unless I am caught. 

I can also read people's emotions and what they want to hear and/or are looking for very easily. If someone comes to me seeking advice on a relationship, or even just self worth because they are having a hard time I can almost always make them feel better.  I'm not sure if I do this to keep them around, or because I care about them.  The flip side to this is if someone upsets me, I can find the exact way to inflict as much emotional pain on them as I feel necessary, without feeling remorse.  I've almost never apologized, and when I do I don't mean it and just do it because I have to to get something or to stop someone from nagging me.  

The last little bit about myself I'm going to include in this email is that I have a very explosive temper, to the point where I get violent.  I can go from cold to 100% hot and angry in a split second.  The other day I wanted to go get some cigarettes so I asked my mom if I could take the car to go say hi to my girlfriend and drop off some electrical tape for her mom (her mom didn't need it) and when she said she'd just bring me over, I flipped out and threw a ton of stuff, punched things, ended up punching our outside steel door so hard I left dents in it and cracked the frame around the top hinge.  I also have a substance problem, and will really do whatever I can to get drunk or high, except for stupid stuff like huffing gas or something i think might really damage or kill me.  

If you could please get back to me that would be great.  If you have any questions I'm open to answer anything.  Oh, and I forgot to mention the one reason I feel like I am not a sociopath!  I often contemplate suicide, not how but just the thought of offing myself but decide it'd be a bad idea because I don't want to do that to my girlfriend. I haven't ever really tried suicide, I just kind of pondered it because life seems meaningless really.  It gets tiresome interacting with people when I don't really feel an emotional attachment to them.  It's  like playing chess all day every day.  Thank you for taking the time to read this email, and I hope to hear from you soon.

There were a lot of traits that seemed sociopathic to me, but I was wondering particularly about the suicide thing. For me, I don't have a great love of life. In fact I have a bit of a death wish, but it's because life seems so pointless and tedious sometimes, not because I actively feel a lot of suffering. Does anyone else have any experience with sociopaths and suicide?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

On blogging

It is possible to see everything we write as a letter to ourselves, designed to convey to one portion of ourselves the lesson that another portion has already learned.

- Lawrence Block
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