Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sociopath son kills his sister

One day a thirteen year old boy wakes up having the urge to kill someone. He settles on killing his three year old half sister because she is the easiest prey. He had plans to also kill his mother (perhaps out or revenge for when she relapsed on a heroin addiction for a year and during which, according to him, she put her addiction ahead of him and his sister), but decided against it when he discovered how difficult killing turned out to be.

The mother of the sociopath son (he was too young to be diagnosed, but his examining psychologists said he would qualify if he had been 18 when they met with him) talks about what it is like to continue to love and interact with him, albeit while he is in prison.


In a NY Post article interview her, she details what had happened:

A prison rights activist, she keeps Ella’s memory alive while frequently visiting her now-24-year-old son in jail. He is serving a 40-year sentence (the maximum in Texas for a juvenile for murder) and will be eligible for parole in 2027.

“I have forgiven Paris for what he did, but it’s an ongoing process,” explains Lee. “If he was free [from captivity], I would be frightened of him.

“The fact that he is incarcerated gives me peace of mind, but I worry about his own safety.”
***
After his sentencing, an assessor told Lee she deserved to know that her son was a sociopath. Psychiatrists whom she hired when Paris was 15 agreed that, had he been 18 and old enough ​to qualify ​for the label, they would have diagnosed him as having anti-social personality disorder​ (sociopath​y​)​.​ He confessed to having had homicidal thoughts since the age of 8, often expressing them through violent and disturbing drawings.​
***
While Lee describes him as “manipulative” and “narcissistic,” she is quick to explain how her maternal instinct means she puts her love for her son above her anger.

“I sometimes have to say to myself [during visits]: ‘Okay, Charity, take a breath, you know how Paris is wired,’ ” she says. “But I am not going to be that parent who abandons their kid.”

She also talks about how since she had her third child she has wondered what she would do if her murderer son was allowed to meet the toddler (he's prohibited from having visitors under age 17 due to the nature of his crime).

Of course few sociopaths are murderers or ever feel a desire to kill like this. But having both sociopathy and for whatever reason a desire to kill or pretty bad rage and impulse control issues does seem like a danger.  Still I think it interesting that perhaps the person most victimized by this crime apart from the small child is an advocate prison rights. In visiting all of these bad places in my recent travels (more on the Gulags and Auschwitz later) and learning of the ways that everyone reacted regarding these -- prisoners, guards, government, passive people allowing it to happen, families of victims -- I find that I am across the board most impressed the most by people who didn't allow their circumstances to dictate how they behaved. I don't mean to say that I judge the rest, because who knows their circumstances, their heart, or how they were "wired" or shaped by early socialization. But if I were to aspire to a certain way of being, it would be to treat people consistently with the same amount of compassion regardless of who they are or what they've done. I have forgotten where I heard this, but I like it -- we treat people according to who we are, not according to who they are. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Coachella, Oregon in May, and Hawaii in June

For people who want to meet me, upcoming trips I have planned are Coachella first weekend, Central Oregon in May, and Hawaii in June. Let me know if you'd like to try to schedule a meet up.

Also, a little bit of advance warning, central Europe in August or September probably. I have to be in Southern Germany and Northern Italy, so those two places for sure, but I can try to schedule in other stops.

Thanks!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

How Psychopaths See the World

One thing that's been really interesting about meeting other sociopaths is seeing different iterations of essentially myself. I see people who have very different lives from me, very different professions, but their choices also make a lot of sense to me. I can't help thinking that I would have made those same choices they had made perhaps in a parallel universe, or if I had their early life experiences. I can also see much better that the traits represent themselves in spectrums. For instance, I think all sociopaths are impulsive, but some are more conscientious in general than others. I'm about middle of the road in terms of conscientiousness. Some sociopaths I have met have a much longer future outlook than I do, like up to 7 years. Mine of course is still around 3 years. Then there are also people who have a much shorter outlook, more like 6 months to 1 year. Not many sociopaths I have met (just one!) are as into seduction as I am as a form of power game. I was also a little surprised to hear that at least among the successful sociopaths I have met, my fearlessness levels are among the highest. This is not to say that the other sociopaths are fearful, just that they experience a small degree of fear in their lives more than I do (which I experience as almost nothing).

It's super fascinating to talk to these people. It's one of my favorite things in the world to do now, there's such a unique pleasure to it. The way we talk and skip from subject to subject, so fast and so nonstop with interesting things to say, has been common to all of the sociopaths I've met, although of course everyone's conversational content has varied. One new friend I met in Europe actually commented on this -- "You know that no one else talks like this, right?" She described it as having a "chaotic brain". She said that she is careful not to talk like this particularly in the professional realm in which establishing trust is very important for her. Because, as she explains, you have to be likeable and you can't be likeable if you sound like you're on a separate planet. I likewise assume that our unique conversational style reflects the non-linear way that appears to characterize our thinking, as well as the unusual way that our attention works. The imagery I've used to describe it to other people is that it's like in a Loony Toons cartoon where the characters are sneaking around at dark but when a spotlight falls on them they freeze, as if doing so would allow them to escape detection. Our attention is like that spotlight. Whatever it falls upon, we are super focused. Everything else is in a murky haze.

My friend sent me this Atlantic Article about a study done on male prison psychopathic prisoners and their theory of mind, or ability to place themselves in another's shoes. What they found is that sociopaths can do that sort of perspective taking, and can do it very well, they just don't appear to do it automatically. They only engage in that mental exercise if something draws their attention to doing so:

They saw a picture of a human avatar in prison khakis, standing in a room, and facing either right or left. There were either two red dots on the wall in front of the avatar, or one dot in front of them and one dot behind them. Their job was to verify how many dots either they or the avatar could see.

Normally, people can accurately say how many dots the avatar sees, but they’re slower if there are dots behind the avatar. That’s because what they see (two dots) interferes with their ability to see through the avatar’s eyes (one dot). This is called egocentric interference. But they’re also slower to say how many dots they can see if that number differs from the avatar’s count. This shows how readily humans take other perspectives: Volunteers are automatically affected by the avatar’s perspective, even when it hurts their own performance. This is called altercentric interference.

Baskin-Sommers found that the psychopathic inmates showed the usual level of egocentric interference—that is, their own perspective was muscling in on the avatar’s. But they showed much less altercentric interference than the other inmates—the avatar’s perspective wasn’t messing with their own, as it would for most other people.

Of course, not all psychopaths are the same, and they vary considerably in their behavior. But Baskin-Sommers also found that the higher their score on the psychopathy assessment test, the less they were affected by what the avatar saw. And the less affected they were, the more assault charges they had on their record.
***
To her, the results show that psychopaths (or male ones, at least) do not automatically take the perspective of other people. What is involuntary to most people is a deliberate choice to them, something they can actively switch on if it helps them to achieve their goals, and ignore in other situations. That helps to explain why they behave so callously, cruelly, and even violently.

But Uta Frith, a psychologist at University College London, notes that there’s some controversy about the avatar task, which has been used in other studies. “What does it actually measure?” she says. It’s possible that the avatar is acting less as a person and more as an arrow—a visual cue that directs attention. Perhaps instead of perspective-taking, the task simply measures how spontaneously people shift their attention.


Baskin-Sommers argues that the task is about both attention and perspective-taking, and “for research on psychopathy, that is a good thing.” That’s because, as she and others have shown, psychopaths pay unusually close attention to things that are relevant to their goal, but largely ignore peripheral information. “It’s like they’re the worst multitaskers,” Baskin-Sommers says. “Everyone’s bad at multitasking but they’re really bad.” So, it’s possible that their lack of automatic perspective-taking is just another manifestation of this attentional difference. The two things are related.

When I think back on some of the sketch that I've gotten up to or some of the sociopaths I've met have gotten into, there's a similar thing going on. It's almost like I'm in a trance, so focused on accomplishing the one thing dominating my attention, like tracking that DC Metro worker to choke the life out of him or kicking my best friend out of my car in the middle of a strange city during an argument. It's only when she yelled at me "what is wrong with you?!" that I snapped out of it and started taking a broader, different perspective on the situation. Several of the sociopaths I have met have either been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD or have used the meds on the sly to improve their linear thought or better control their focus. To help mediate this unusual focus, I sleep inordinate amounts and when I need to concentrate on one thing for long periods and do not find myself naturally doing so, I force my brain to think linearly with baroque, minimalistic music, or impressionistic music, which share a common feature of constantly moving forward musically at whatever pace without much focus on cadence or structure.

So I find this study and its results to have a great deal of explanatory power and I would love to see this connection explored more.

Hilariously, the study was criticized by an autism researcher, not because the science behind it is poor, but because it seems to suggest a closer link to autism than the autism researcher was comfortable with:

“It is a bit worrying if [Baskin-Sommers and her colleagues] are proposing the very same underlying mechanism to explain callousness in psychopathy that we used previously to explain communication problems in autism, albeit based on a different test,” Frith says. “These are very different conditions, after all.”

But the distinction here, as pointed out by the researcher and as is apparent probably to all sociopaths who have had extensive interactions with people on the autism spectrum, is that autistic people are really bad at perspective taking, even with their attention directed at it full force. And with the sociopath... it's not as if he can't be bothered to do so, it's just that he doesn't always think to do so.

But what do sociopaths or those acquainted with think about the linear thought (chaos brain) or the multitasking? By the way, I can't have a television on in the background and still be able to focus on a conversation. I think I may have mentioned this before, but I also feel like I understand movies and television better with the subtitles on. I used to think it was bad hearing from years of drumming, but I've had my ears tested many times and they're always fine. There's more something about the ability to understand speech in the context of seeing it spoken on a screen that leaves my brain scrambling.
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