Monday, May 2, 2016

Fulfilling the measure of your creation?

I was recently at this pep talk directed partly at teenagers. The motivational speaker was talking about how everyone should always be theirselves, show up as themselves, make sure that no matter what else they do in life they be true to themselves and don't allow anything to come in the way of that. There was a noticeable discomfort from their teachers at this point. The teachers apparently didn't want the students to be themselves. In reaction, the speaker added a little caveat, "within the appropriate boundaries of the situation". And that makes sense, I guess, if you think about it. Being yourself at someone else's wedding might be a little bit more subdued than being yourself at your own, for instance.

But I do think it's safe to say that there is a lot of pressure on people to be something other than what they are. If society hasn't figured out a way yet to benefit pretty directly from what you have to offer, they're not so interested in you being yourself. Of course, we have scores of examples of geniuses, artistic and otherwise, whose true selves and true thoughts were rejected, whose social sphere pressured them to mightily conform, but they were such forces of nature that they never did. And we get to reap the benefit of that failure.

But we still love to preach the doctrine of conformity. When teenagers saying that they are going to be an artist and don't need college, or an entrepreneur and don't need college, etc., many will still attempt to interfere in that person's life in an attempt to dissuade them from pursuing their dreams/passion/drive.

Similarly, even from many people who seem a little more open-minded about sociopathic identifying individuals still an inherent, there is often a trailing "but" or "as long as they behave". Like the mixed messages given to children and young adults, the true message being preached is that society has no real desire to accommodate or adapt to you, you must accommodate or adapt to the majority or suffer consequences.

But I want you to think, you normal people, how toxic it is to your soul when someone, some situation, or some institution has denied you authentic self expression. How terrible is it to you to not be able to be yourself? Also, think about how pressure to conform unnaturally is likely what leads child sociopaths to develop in such grotesque ways.

Famous runner Eric Liddell (of Chariots of Fire fame) famously said "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure." Mormons have a similar concept, that every living thing is to fulfill the measure of its creation -- the lions are meant to predate as much as the lambs are to graze. How can it be that some people get to live an authentic and purposeful life filled with meaningful self expression, except sociopaths? Maybe for those proposing solutions to the so-called "sociopath problem," ask yourselves what you're really demanding of sociopaths and ask yourselves whether you would be fine with those terms if the roles were reversed.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Famous Narcissists: Ernest Hemingway?

From a NY Times article, referencing Ernest Hemingway's intermittent way of getting back to good writing in his bloated later years:

Yet Hemingway was not a healthy man during the latter phases in his life. He was drunk much of the time; he often began drinking at breakfast and his brother counted 17 Scotch-and-sodas in a day. His wives complained that he was sporadic about bathing. He was obsessed with his weight and recorded it on the wall of his house.

He could be lively and funny, the organizer of exciting adventures. But he could also be depressed, combative and demoralized. His ego overflowed. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who endured a psychological crisis at about the same time, observed that Hemingway “is quite as nervously broken down as I am, but it manifests itself in different ways. His inclination is toward megalomania and mine toward melancholy.”

Even as a young man Hemingway exaggerated his (already prodigious) exploits in order to establish his manliness. When he was older his prima donna proclivities could make him, as one visiting photographer put it, “crazy,” “drunk” and “berserk.”

He was a prisoner of his own celebrity. He’d become famous at 25 and by middle age he was often just playing at being Ernest Hemingway. The poet David Whyte has written that work “is a place you can lose yourself more easily perhaps than finding yourself … losing all sense of our own voice, our own contribution and conversation.” Hemingway seems to have lost track of his own authentic voice in the midst of the public persona he’d created.

His misogyny was also like a cancer that ate out his insides. He was an extremely sensitive man, who suffered much from the merest slights, but was also an extremely dominating, cruel and self-indulgent one, who judged his wives harshly, slapped them when angry and forced them to bear all the known forms of disloyalty.

By this time, much of his writing rang false. Reviewer after reviewer said he had destroyed his own talent. His former mentor Gertrude Stein said he was a coward.

I went to a presentation today by someone that appeared to be a narcissist. He was old, and his mannerisms both betrayed pomposity and a deep insecurity and concern for whether he was being perceived as some great scholar or intellect. He combined an odd amount of name dropping with an awkward obsequiousness to the people who invited him to speak, calling one of them by the wrong name at one point in a case of trying to hard to endear himself and fumbling in the effort. But narcissists don't irritate me anymore. And I don't want to say I feel sorry for them, because I feel like that's it's own form of both (my) pride and (their) offense. But sociopaths and narcissists are an interesting comparison because both live empty lives, but the sociopath tends to embrace his with a nihilistic glee while the narcissist is afraid of his, like to look the shadow in the eye would cause him to lose all hope for a happy life. Just ramblings. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Just a dick?

In what has become an impromptu series of "Sociopath, or just _____?" (e.g., sociopath, or just puberty? Sociopath, or just smart? Sociopath, or just depression? Etc., a reader wonders:

I'm well aware you get hundreds of emails from people who are desperate to become sociopaths, so they tell you how unfeeling they are and how they don't care about anybody. And after reading your blog for over a year a question began to fester in the back of my brain and I crave an answer. Why would people, at the slightest lack of empathy, jump to the conclusion that they are a sociopath? And the reason i bring this up is, i used to feel like them. At some point in my life i just decided, i love to hurt people, so i must be a sociopath. I now realize that i'm just a douche. I still enjoy seeing people crumble before me when i attack all of their insecurities at once, but I'm not a sociopath or a psychopath. But what i'm confused by is, why is it so hard for people to come to the realization that they are just dicks?


I think you may be confusing lack of empathy with sadism. Some people don't care about other people, but they have perfectly intact empathy. Other people know that they don't connect with people, and it looks (internally) and feels a lot more like what I would imagine autism would feel like. Their brain is not capable of processing empathy the most people's brains (apparently) do. They can pretend that those empathy and emotional connections things are going on, in fact, they can pretend so well that no one else suspects what's really going on.

Although there's certainly bound to be overlap between empathy-impaired people and dicks, a diminished capacity for empathy is different and doesn't necessarily lead to enjoying exploiting people, or even just taking a special pleasure in your own agenda at others expense. So which are you? 
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