Sunday, November 23, 2014

An aspie's thoughts on sociopaths

A friendly Aspie named who knows actual sociopaths has been leaving interesting comments in old threads this week. On the post "Pretending to be Normal," Darien writes:

As an Aspie myself, I find this hilarious. (I cracked up at the "bla bla bla" bit.) It's so ironic that people pat us on the back all the time, and then talk about how sociopaths should all be thrown in the brig.

Aspies have empathy. It's just bit restricted. A) We often fail to realize when we need to be sensitive. B) Most of the time (thankfully) our empathy operates through a filter. (I suspect it's one of the reasons people come to me for help, even when I have no familiarity with the problem. I empathize, but I can detatch enough to look at the situation objectively, and help them to better contain/modify/utilize aspects of themselves and others, even those (such as jealousy) with which I am personally unable to relate.)
I like sociopaths. Not in an idealized way, but in the sense that I can relate to people who often can't relate. I know that it takes effort to learn those aspects of social interaction which seem silly or useless, and learn to mimic emotions and inflections and body language and the like. Learning to mimic empathy and normalcy can be fun. Testing out new techniques and tweaks, throwing in a new word here and there, to see how people internalize its connotations. Putting emphasis on this word instead of that one. I don't know quite how you guys do it, and of course everyone has their own system. But I like sociopaths because I understand the need to develop those systems, and study the things that don't come naturally. 

And it's true, people get creeped out when they hear how a sociopath operates. But they pat us Aspies on the back. There are a lot of differences, but we do a lot of the same things.

(As a side note, it is perfectly possible for someone to be both an Aspie and a sociopath. But it's very rare.)

So basically to sum it up, I love this post. It made my day.

From "Sociopaths: Pitiable?":

No one is worthy of pity. Pity is a ridiculous sentiment. It's not at all the same as caring. It's a way for people (obviously not socios because they don't need to do this) to make themselves feel better about not actually doing shit to help someone. People say "oh I'm so sorry," or hand a dollar to the homeless man, and say " I did good, I care," and then casually ignore the fact that they could be doing so much more, but aren't. I have no respect for pity and I've never experienced it. I care when I care, I empathize when I empathize; but if I don't, then I don't, and I'm not going to drop in a dollar just to make myself feel better.

That little rant over, I typically know when my socio is manipulating me, but he (usually, at least) is not untruthful even then, because he knows I know and I'm fine. Manipulation is in his nature, plus I'm sure it's mildly entertaining. I do feel badly for him sometimes, for instance, when he hasn't slept for days; but even when something's wrong I usually have to dig it out of him. 
That holds true for the other ones I know as well (for the most part.). So I'd say no, there's not much of a pity act, although our relationships are a bit atypical because I am aware of their personalities and how they function. 

Additionally, I don't find this blog to be manipulative. It's a place for people with a working understanding of one another to speak and discuss and be able to be open about nature and motives; and for non-sociopaths to maybe come and learn something. 

This is an old post and I'm no brilliant speaker. But I like to throw my opinion out there sometimes.


As a side note, as much as I have opposed the unadulterated Aspie promotion and villifying of sociopaths that frequently happens, I also frequently fall prey to aspie love. I find them to be frequently charming. Their insights are often priceless and although they are not generally known for having a good sense of humor, they are often hilarious. For what it's worth, I do feel a kinship with them and find them to be a welcome respite from the fake world in which we are both forced to pretend.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sociopathic statistician

From a reader:

It's rather unfortunate the average (mean, median, mode - take your pick) person has a misrepresentation of what a sociopath is. Shows like Dr. Phil portray sociopaths as these destructive manipulative people. What people don't understand is that anyone can be destructive and manipulative and so the idea they want to convey is that people who are willing to be this type of person is a sociopath.

My ex girlfriend recommended your book saying that the author constantly reminds her of me and a lot of the thoughts in the book closely resemble my thoughts. To me, the concept of sociopath is more like a six sense. My mind feels like it unconsciously works out many details of social situations and addresses why things work the way they do. In any given social situation, I know how a person is going to greet me and what they will say next; I know how they expect me to react etc. It's like a strong adaptive skill. 

It's like if my mind knows how to build classification/regression predictive models with high accuracy. I am unsure if it's because I observe a lot of data or if my mind is better at utilizing observed data, but everything seems second nature.

Nothing about this is inherently manipulative or evil like what people tend to think. Because of this, I've kept many many many thoughts to myself which has made me lose confidence. 

I agree completely about the predictive models. Maybe you would like this small discussion about it. But what do you mean by losing confidence?


What I meant by losing confidence (and I realize I was vague) is because of a general idea but I'll use the word sociopath as an example.

I am a doctoral candidate in applied statistics. In the years I have contributed to academia, I have built up a good reputation in the department. This is through hard work and my unique contributions over the years. Let's pretend that one day they all woke up with the idea that I am a sociopath. Their definitions of sociopath may vary, but I can imagine it would irreversibly damage my collective reputation around the department. I am still the same person as I ever was, but what their idea of a sociopath is, I would say the average faculty member would have a negative effect on my reputation. I'm missing information on whether or not I'd still be able to complete my degree, but being a person who focuses on patterns a lot (especially how people interact with objects and people around them), I'd be able to detect these little changes. I've already seen what happens to average people in similar situations and expect it to be similar if this were the case with mine.

This idea is more general. If I was in a conversation with a random person not in academia (even people in academia would fit this) and told them I am a doctoral candidate in statistics, they would be under the impression that I am a glorified average calculator and pie chart maker. This similar idea applies everywhere, people believing wrong ideas and it's not hard to convince someone that a wrong idea is a right idea. I read /r/statistics and many partially wrong answers get upvoted and praised (and even some completely wrong answers also fit this) and no one bothers to correct the wrong information. I can speculate why this happens so often; with examples of social media where, things that are commonly shared people will inadvertently believe it's true. An example of a picture that was shared at least a hundred thousand times of what appears to be a guy making his dog drink vodka from the bottle. One quick google search and the very top result states that the picture was misleading and not true. However, collectively the online social environment probably ruined this guy's life.

So when I meant that I had lost some confidence, it was in the ability for a large amount of people to independently analyze an idea. I may be slightly biased since from the moment I wake up, my brain never stops thinking to the point where I'd say my best hobby and skill is being able to think things carefully. I realize many people don't have similar interests, but it feels like we are collectively moving away from intelligence and there isn't significant effort to get that point across. Which normally I wouldn't mind anything how another person is, but if the average is collectively driving down everyone, it just feels like a lost cause.

But there are more thoughts of mine; I'm not sure how much of the above I stated I completely agree with. I generally see how the other person responds to get some insight on that.

Friday, November 21, 2014

17 Books for People Who Hate People

Beyond the obvious appeal to ego and desire to self-promote, I thought this BuzzFeed reading list was possibly the most fitting reading list I have seen targeted to this particular audience. 

Btw, the BuzzFeed staff must be filled with... Borderlines? Sociopaths? Car salesmen? How are they so able to discern and fill people's secret points of vanity and predicting likes/dislikes that people aren't even aware of themselves? However they acquired it, they have an impressive skillset.

I feel like the thing that drives a lot of people's willingness to share something widely like these, and consequently the key to virality, is the feeling that they have really been seen or known for who they are as a person in a way that they don't regularly encounter. "I'm an introvert!" "I'm a brony!" "I'm Blanche from the Golden Girls!" And it's a great way to share ourselves with the world in a way that doesn't seem explicitly egocentric, because this thing we're sharing is of general interest enough that even the people in our circle that don't care to know these personal facts about us may see something of themselves or a loved one in what we shared. Because as personal as these things feel to us, there are also obviously other people who feel the exact same way (at least, presumably, the author). Every listicle ("You know you're from a small town if . . . ") or online quiz gives us a label and a sense of belonging. It's funny, when I was first doing book publicity, everybody from the publishing house was almost entirely focused on there being as big an initial splash as possible -- thought it was absolutely essential to get random members of the television watching, radio listening, magazine reading public to buy and read the book and gawk at it. Which was fine, and if that is what it took to get the book published and out there, great. But I actually wrote it (and continue to write this) for my real target audience of anyone who thinks this way too. Or someone intimate enough with the members (or the traits) of that target audience to want to dip their toe into this mental world. And if people's continuing emails, tweets, instagrams, etc., regarding how they feel about the book/blog are any indication that the target audience is actually being reached, that's something that I'm pretty satisfied about. Everyone is selling something in this world, maybe. But if I could do even half as well as BuzzFeed at providing people some measure of self-understanding, including the understanding that they may be part of a larger group of people with very similar experiences and worldviews, I'd feel like I had accomplished something worthwhile.

Because these websites and their editors have gotten pretty precise. I am really almost daily impressed. At first when they were targeting the general population I thought, old hat. Now, though, they are targeting the craziest little niches and really speaking to them in a way that is almost preternaturally omniscient. Anthropologists will have such rich primary sources to draw from when they study this culture. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dark matter

Some minor health issues have had me thinking recently about diagnoses of exclusion. There are certain things that we can never prove, we can only prove that they must exist because there is an observable effect with no other explanation. Certain stomach viruses are diagnoses of exclusion, so is love and religion/god. Along those same lines, a reader asked, " is it possible for a sociopath to be self aware when there is no self construct?" I responded:
Your question is interesting and implicates what it means to know anything about oneself. Whenever I write things that would be considered autobiographical about myself, I always wonder -- is this the truth? Is this what actually happened? I'm sure everyone feels this way to a certain extent, but I wonder if my weak sense of self combined with my ability to hyper-compartmentalize makes me even more susceptible to those effects. I often question the objective veracity of my reality -- I acquired that habit a decade or so after I went on a self-deception binge that ended very poorly. If I'm not careful, I am just as likely to hide certain things from myself as I am to hide them from outsiders, like Hyde hiding things from Jeckyl, or more modernly Tyler Durden and the Narrator. This may be why it is commonly said that sociopaths are not aware enough to even wonder whether they are sociopaths (although clearly the oft heard suggestion that "if you think you might be a sociopath, you aren't one" is an exaggeration).

It is true what you said about the difficulties of being self-aware without a self construct. A lot of it is indirect observation, I think, like how we know that there exists dark matter in the universe not because we can see or measure it directly, but because we can see its effects so we presume it to be there. I guess that is how society knows that there are psychopaths among them as well -- we typically stay hidden, albeit in plain sight, but you can certainly see our effects.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Recovering sociopath

From a reader:

My sociopathy is certainly not mild. I understand the unquenchable thirst for sex. There were times when I'd have sex with three different women in 12 hours, on a weekday for no reason other than I could. Women who knew and hated each other--just for the kicks. I understand the admiration and obedience they offer when given the powerful combination of multiple orgasms and sweet nothings whispered in their ear. Invest 20 minutes writing a heartfelt poem and they'll cut you a key to their house. Walk in and explain how much you've missed them any time you're feeling horny and understimulated. Neither ditsy college girls nor educated, successful women are safe from the skills born from our predatory instincts. Such things feed our equally unquenchable egos; perpetual lust, with clever justification via logic, science, and the nature of humanity. It's just how we are built, we say. Now shut up and let me control you.

Such behavior lost me the woman of my dreams... someone who not only loved me true, but knew and accepted me on the deepest level for exactly what I was, and sacrificed much just to make me fit into her life. Ironically, yesterday was the 4th anniversary of the last time we spoke. I've not had sex in years, and I won't. I'm waiting for her to come home.

If she was so accepting, then why did she leave? Why were my tendencies not acceptable as a lover? Because sociopathy is a way of thinking, not acting. We are blessed to choose exactly who and what we are. It makes me sad to see so many I identify with using silver tongues to live in self-enabled denial--believing that "right" and "wrong" are just words with meanings that vary as opinions do. What an ugly truth to see it is an empath's world, and we are the outliers for a reason. Regardless of neurobiology, everyone should wake up with the intent to make the world we share just a little bit better. Sleeping around benefits none but oneself, and is far from being healthy. If anything, those born with poor impulse control would benefit more from practices of restraint and humility. It's human, even if we don't feel human at times.

In the end, we are people first and sociopaths a distant second. She taught me that. As a former kleptomaniac, pyromaniac, pathological liar, sexual prowler, and selfish exploiter with a closet full of masks and memories, I can say that my life is now infinitely better. People love me now, even if I don't quite know what that means. I don't need to understand love to understand it's important to be on either end.

I'm still a sociopath and live a stimulating life that suits me well. I simply chose to be a good person, too. As it turns out, both are possible. 

Your long-time, silent reader,

Telos, 23

P.S.: Thank you, M.E. Never found myself until after I found you.
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