Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama: Narcissist?

Normally I wouldn't even bother discussing narcissists, given my deep disdain for them. But after reading this article asking whether President Obama has NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), I thought it was worth posting. Of course I don't condone the outing of anyone on the personality disorder spectrum, particularly those who are empathy challenged. I know Obama supporters will be offended by this analysis, but what I find more controversial is that the author suggests that we have mandatory personality disorder testing for politicians. What?! First step politicians, second step internment camps for all empathy-challenged. And just because some narcissistic politicians have done bad things doesn't mean a whole lot of them haven't done good. Let's hear it for Bill Clinton!

Interview with an Empath (part II)

Empath: There are things to appreciate about sociopaths, like my friend. His special areas of interest are mass mind control, individual manipulation, and "performance art." I cannot consciously allow myself to manipulate people the way he does, but there is something brilliant about it that I have to respect. And he often restrains himself from the most outrageous behavior if I request it.

.: Outrageous behavior?

: I used to be disgusted and horrified by some of his antics. He has moved beyond the base, largely. By base, I mean obsession with the writings of Sade, completely depraved porn, pointless cruelty, and the practice of shocking people just for the fun of it. Now he has aimed his sights on larger issues, issue at more of a societal than personal level.

: But he still is an artist, so to speak?

: So to speak. My friend will find things that really irk someone and touch upon their deepest insecurities and just nail them with it. He likes to claim he is breaking down their character structure so that they can be rebuilt without these insecurities. He will encourage women to prostitute themselves and then describe it for his amusement. He will deliberately taunt people he knows have been abused or hurt in some way--sometimes I think he does it just to observe and see what they will do.

: Interesting. Sounds sort of like Bunuel's Viridiana, which should be a sociopath favorite if it isn't already.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interview with an Empath (part I)

M.E.: You were the one who first outted me as a sociopath. Do you remember that?

: I don't specifically remember "outting" you, but it is very likely given my history with sociopaths.

: So you have outted other sociopaths as well?

: At least one, an old and dear friend. And maybe others. I don't know, people come to me a lot with crises of identity.

: How did you get to be so good at sniffing out sociopaths?

: I don't purposely seek out sociopaths, unless it is completely subliminal. Remember, you randomly got placed with me in the office at that internship. What I have been able to do is recognize that sociopaths are more numerous than most people assume. And I know a bit of what to look for, having been so close to one for so long. Although I suspect there is a lot of "diversity" among the "sociopath community." hehehe

: Ha, nice scare quotes.

: Also perhaps having been "out" to myself as queer since an early teenager, I am able to recognize and appreciate those who are outside the norm. I don't know.

.: So you think you being gay has somehow given you sociodar?

: I think it has given me an awareness of things outside the norm. My world view allows me to recognize the "good" or the "beautiful" everywhere.

: Even in the tiny black heart of a sociopath, apparently.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tyra Banks: Sociopath?

Should Tyra Banks be added to our closet sociopath wishlist? According to one observer, yes:
Why do I think Tyra has no empathy? Well, for example, she often does rating stunts on her talk show wherein she’ll dress up as somebody she’s not (homeless person, stripper, a man) and she’ll be utterly astounded at how this new character she’s portraying sees the world. I mean, the closest I’ve ever been to being homeless is being locked out of my apartment for a few hours, but if you asked me whether or not being homeless sucks, I would vote yes. I can imagine how degrading it must be to beg for food, how difficult it must be to live on the streets or even in shelters, and how heart-wrenching it must be to have your world turned upside down and live by a whole new set of rules.

But T. Banks? She can’t imagine it. When she pretended to be homeless for a day (seriously, a day), she was utterly astounded by the whole experience. In other words, until she actually experienced homelessness, it wasn’t real for her.
An (incorrect?) distinction between narcissism vs. sociopathy:
She’s not just a narcissist; Tyra Banks has absolutely no sense of empathy. Having no ability to empathize is what (many websites tell me) catapults someone from simple narcissism to sociopathy.
And the unexpectedly tolerant conclusion:
I’m not saying that Tyra’s going to go out and do something awful (other than her talk show, boom, rim shot!) to anybody. She’s not dangerous at all. In fact, what I am saying, is that all of the behavior that people chalk up to a variety of unflattering causes, well, it’s not Tyra’s fault.
Kudos to this friendly young man for his open-mindedness regarding sociopaths and their potential for good in this society.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sociopaths in the news

Okay, not really. There's no reason to think that Clay Aiken is a sociopath, but one day sociopaths will be coming out on the cover of People Magazine. I'm sure there are just as many closet sociopaths running around in politics, business, and science as there are closet gays in the entertainment business. In fact, I have my own closet sociopath dream team (some deceased):

1. Harry Truman -- the bomb, of course.
2. Marie Curie -- science is more important than people?
3. Alan Greenspan -- I know he seems to be the opposite, but saying things like "material success is . . . far more satisfying when it comes without exploiting others” is just his beard. If you were a closet sociopath, wouldn't you say those things too? Me thinks he doth protest too much.
4. Sandra Day O'Connor -- no one with a moral compass could truly "swing" the vote as she did.
5. Tom Cruise -- for so many reasons.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In which I clarify that I do not hate Aspies

So this post came across a little strongly against aspies. Maybe just a little. I was very careful not to advocate any sort of violence against aspies, but still...

It's not that I dislike aspies. I actually really like them for their loyalty and all of their other good traits. If it seems like I'm down on aspies, it's only because I'm jealous of their superior social position. The truth is that if the aspies asked me to join their club, i would say yes in a heartbeat. I'm like Lindsay Lohan's character in Mean Girls and the aspies are the cool crowd. I'll talk trash and pretend I'm better, but if I got invited to one of their parties I would stay up all night deciding what to wear. (Ah, Molly Ringwald... interested in being a sociopath spokesperson?)

Sometimes I even claim to be an aspie myself. Who wouldn't? If for nothing else, for the aspie pride t-shirts! I mean, I have some of the signs: inability to pick up social cues, weak sense of empathy, inability to conform to social norms. All I would have to do is tone down the charm. If I can pass amongst the empaths, certainly I can keep a low profile amongst the remarkably unaware aspies. And who knows, maybe all sociopaths are aspies. Just like the movie Underworld, where all the vampires and werewolves are long lost cousins, socios and aspies can finally realize that we're really just two sides of the same coin. What do you say, aspies? Ready to become one big family?

I can't wait! We could have family reunions or conventions. It could be as popular as Comic-Con! In fact, let's have all the socios dress as vampires and the aspies as werewolves and go to Comic-Con next year! It's going to be so great. Say you will, little aspies. Say you will.

Speciation and the Sociopath

This interesting argument about how sociopathy is a natural adaptation makes the mistake of discussing the "related disorders" of autism and, in a previous generation, homosexuality. As discussed in a previous post, no one wants to be associated with sociopathy.

But society is lucky to have sociopathy around. Sociopaths and smokers are about the only people we can safely marginalize anymore. And we all know how strong the urge to witch-hunt is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Am I my Asperger brother's keeper?

Aspies and sociopaths have a unique relationship with one another. Asperger Syndrome is a personality disorder on the autism spectrum that is commonly described as or confused with high-functioning autism. Asperger syndrome is characterized by "a lack of empathy, little ability to form friendships, one-sided conversation, intense absorption in a special interest, and clumsy movements." It was originally labeled "autistic psychopathy." Aspies are very similar to sociopaths, with the most obvious exception being that sociopaths are socially charming and aspies are socially awkward. Despite the lack of empathy, one of the core traits of a sociopath, aspies are treated as totally legitimate in our society. Even though aspies seem to be sociopath eunuchs, their childishness and naivete is what makes them palatable to the rest of society.

This is a Cain and Abel scenario. In Steinbeck's East of Eden, the Cain characters are all smart, cunning, and effective. Cathy is the prototypical sociopath. The Abel characters are clueless. Their redeeming values are their guilelessness and ineffectiveness. They are the absence of bad, rather than the presence of good. The flighty Abel characters would be nothing without the hard-working Cain characters. And yet everyone always loves the Abel characters and hates the Cain characters. And the Lord had no regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast.

There is a lot of aspie pride. "Celebrate neuro diversity" "Why be normal?" There is also quite a bit of aspie hate for sociopaths. Aspies villainize sociopaths and don't even want them discussed in the same breath, even though there are clear links between autism and "bad sociopath" behavior. The disparate treatment of these two classifications of individuals have some wondering, why? And how are sociopaths supposed to react to this unequal treatment? Not at all to endorse this type of behavior, but I know how one famous sociopath reacted:

Cain said to his brother Abel, "let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Conversation with a Friend: "only 50% of criminals are psychopathic"

M.E.: One in 25 people are sociopaths, apparently. Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door is all about how to spot them, out them, and/or avoid them.

: Failure to conform to social norms, being deceitful and manipulating, being impulsive, being irritable or aggressive, being unconcerned about the safety of the self or anybody else, being consistently irresponsible, and being unconcerned and unremorseful for hurting or stealing. You need to have three of these to be sociopath. Okay, you do.

: Ha, which 3?

: Failure to conform, manipulating, unconcerned about safety of self.

: :( iz fine

: It is fine. Those are like the least offensive ones. I mean, are we worried you're going to be a bomber or something? Cause i mean, it seems like bombers are not necessarily sociopaths at all.

: At first I was a little excited about the book because I thought it would get the word out that sociopaths are an unrecognized minority with special needs. But I guess people just want to hate the differences.

: No, it's more like hunt them down and kill them. But I mean, clearly sociopaths must feel love, have families, etc., if there are so many of them. Do sociopaths self-identify? Do they know they can't/dont love? I dont think so. Crucial to her argument is showing what an unhappy state of mind sociopathy is. It's not some Nietzschean imperviousness to the sheep morality of the masses, but rather a stunted, empty, unfeeling disconnection from the human community, a life with a void at its center.

Stout expertly conveys the tedium of sociopathic lives to the point of creating a cautious sense of pity. Sociopaths, after all, live lives devoted to calculations designed to accumulate and manipulate to no conclusive end. For all their possible achievements and grand machinations, without the capacity for any kind of existentially grounded sense of happiness, it's all squirming on the hook of their broken selves. Cautious pity, I repeat, because Stout claims that, in interviews with sociopaths, they cite people's capacity for compassion, especially hard luck tales of childhood abuse, as one of the most useful ways to keep someone embedded in their web.

They are "clinically unsalvageable"? Hmph, you know I love sociopaths.

.: I know you do.

: Only 50% of violent criminals are psychopathic.

.: Yeah, only.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sociopaths in the news

Flies: Just like us?

"Researchers have found that flies are hard to swat because they are able to calculate an escape route within milliseconds of spotting a threat."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sociopaths speak out

Sociopaths describing how it feels to be them:
The main reason sociopaths don't usually seek help from their fellow human beings is that they can't trust, rather than that they like being as they are. Plus, they can often sense exactly what sort of a response any call for help on their part is most likely to elicit from professionals and lay folk alike. Sociopaths are not breezing along in paradise. It isn't all a game. It's a truly miserable existence. And it can be made better. It may not be "curable" yet, but it most certainly isn't as hopeless as so many people say. There is therefore nothing to be gained and much to be lost when therapists and lay folk try to ostracize sociopaths from the human race entirely! Sensationalism and superstition will only prevent progress.
Another quote from Wikianswers, along a similar vein:
Sociopaths, though born that way, are people too. To avoid an entire group of people is absurd. That's like saying, "Since these people have dark skin, everyone should completely avert themselves from them." I am a moderate sociopath, and though part of me doesn't want to change, another does. Many times it is really entertaining to see how stupid people can be, especially when they're so gullible as to believe every word that mellifluously flows from my lips. Yes, I am parasitic, but even so, there are some people I would like to stop hurting. I can't find any websites that can provide a way to help my sociopathy. Maybe people like you should stop your self-victimisation and start trying to actually help people like me!
And another, in response to a list of sociopathic traits:
umm... i kindof am one... just so y'all know, it's not so much fun being one either. i read that sentance up there, "Incapable of real human attachment to another." i don't even know what that is, i see it, i approximate it... it's like being outside a door looking through a dirty window and watching re-runs of people i've seen in love or with children or with friends, and scratching, sometimes banging at the glass to get in and... nothing. i'm fond of people in every sense of the word, their little quirks and habits, the way they see life, except if they went away it wouldn't bother me much other than finding someone else to be fond of. i don't have friends, i only date military men because they're ok with only having a girlfriend for a couple months and i tell them in advance i won't wait for them... i don't know what else to do to limit the damage i inflict on others just as a result of them knowing me, short of moving to the mountains... but i still move between 2-5 times a year :( it's kindof hard walking around knowing i'll never have what i see making other people so happy and running when i can tell someone is getting close just because i don't want to hurt them more later down the road... i'd like it alot to settle down, i WANT to be able to feel more with people, but it's hard to miss what you never had. i want what i THINK it would feel like... it'd be easy to give in and let someone stay because i'm so lonely... but hey, i've written enough, just know i try to be a responsible little sociopath, i won't ever get married or have kids, i practice safe sex, i won't stay in one city for long... everything you all take for granted i will never let myself have just because i WANT to take it for granted. being like this won't go away so hopefully i can limit the amount of hate thrown my way by limiting my interaction with people, i don't know what else to do. and you all might not belive this, but i am sorry, hopefully i can speak for the other people who have damaged your lives.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Conversation with a brother

Brother: I'm starting to realize that I have a talent for getting inside peoples' heads and figuring out what is going on in there. It kind of scares people

: Yeah, some people are private, or get creeped out by their transparency.

: Yeah. I kind of like that. I think that you and I don't have a set default so we can associate with and understand almost everyone's motives.

.: Yeah, true, we don't have a set default. It's kind of a super power.

: Yeah. We are like super heroes. You and i have the same powers but use them decidedly differently.

: How so?

: You use them to punish and hurt. Right now, I'm using mine to save a girl's life. So to speak.

: Sometimes people need punishment to keep them straight. Save a girl's life?

: It's a complicated story involving someone dying of cancer, and the girl in question not feeling that she will be able to live life any more after that person is gone. She came to me because I knew what was going on in her head and she wanted some advice. I don't say it to brag. I'm not proud, it's only the truth.

: Yeah, I understand. So what happened?

: Nothing yet. I have to write back to her. How is that for a difference between you and me? You aren't a bad influence. ou helped me realize an ability I never knew I had and I'm using it to help people. Of course if you look at it the other way, I could crush her and probably make her kill herself.

.: Ha, that's a good way of phrasing it

: No good

: Yeah, you could crush her, but won’t. Most of the time I make the "right" choice too :)

: Good. Me too. But sometimes it is fun to be bad ;)

: Seriously, right? I try to do it in moderation. And only when it isn't too horrible. There are certain wickednesses in my life that are so deliciously dehumanizing that i still lick my lips just thinking about them.

: I think I should do my work now.

: Yeah, work is good. Idle hands are the devil's tools.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are you one of us?

I stumbled upon this a while ago, and then the other day. "Are you one of them?" the caption reads. The article purports to present a test of sociopathy. Both times i "failed" the test (I had forgotten the answer after the first time). I guess that makes me not a sociopath. r at least not a sociopath who has been stupid enough to be incarcerated.

It got me thinking, though. I am
sort of lonely. I would like to talk a little with my peers. It'd be good if there was some real way to test if people I know are also sociopaths, like Bladerunner's Voight-Kampff machine. It's tricky though, because sociopaths are so good at remaining undetected, even to other sociopaths. And you'd want the test to be very good at excluding false positives and negatives. You'd have to sneak up on them in a way that deprives them of other cues about how to act, like sneaking up on a baby you suspect is deaf and clapping to see if he reacts.

A possible test might be something that offends all sides of the moral spectrum, like the Freakonomics argument that the crime drop in the 1990's was due to Roe v. Wade because all the babies that would have grown up to be criminals had been aborted. Because there's so much moral static regarding that proposition, and because it offends absolutely everyone with any sort of moral compass, the sociopath can't make out any one particular signal. A better analogy might something like two very loud noise sources that are directly opposed. So by the time both noises reach the sociopath, they've canceled each other out and the sociopath hears nothing.

How would you expect the sociopath to react in such a situation? When I first read the Roe v. Wade argument in Freakonomics, I cried. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever read. The reasoning was so familiar to me. I recognized the pattern of my own brain's reasoning. I felt like I belonged. So if I'm any indication of how sociopaths would react, elation, joy, feeling of belonging--these are the sorts of things you would be looking for.

Who cares about "them." Are you one of "us"?

Sociopaths in the news

On Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela: "He's a psychopath, in my opinion."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Best ways to break it to someone you're a sociopath

A friend asked me today, "who else do you talk with so freely about being a sociopath?" As I started giving names I was surprised at how few there were: immediate family, select friends, only one person I'd dated (with mixed results), and a few other sociopaths I've met. All in all, the numbers are in the very low double digits. The rule seems to be not to tell a person I'm a sociopath unless there is some benefit to telling, and definitely not to tell a person if it would cause some some otherwise avoidable harm. Some of my very close friends don't know at all because it would disturb them, or because they wouldn't believe it.

The sociopath's ability to stay hidden, even to close friends and relatives, worries empaths. If you look at some of the more sensational literature regarding sociopaths, or even some of the tamer literature , you'll see the oft-invoked warning that sociopaths are all around us whether we realize it or not. Statistically, everyone should know at least one sociopath, although they probably would not be able to specifically identify who that person is.

Sociopaths stay hidden to avoid being the target of witch hunts. Some sociophobes have advocated isolating sociopaths on an island, like a leper colony or internment camp. Others have suggested that sociopaths simply be killed. Already in Great Britain authorities are giving sociopath criminals indefinite prison sentences just because they're sociopaths. The discriminatory actions and hate speech are frightening. “Passing” as normal is a very important survival skill for sociopaths, and most of us keep a low profile by necessity--and usually with success.

So that's why I don't tell everyone I meet that I'm a sociopath. But the thing I've been wondering about recently is, in case I do decide to tell someone, particularly someone I'm dating, *how* to tell someone you're a sociopath.

  1. I have a weak sense of empathy.
  2. I don't have a moral compass.
  3. I have difficulty conforming to social norms.
  4. My brain works differently.
  5. Shh, don't tell anyone, but i'm a sociopath.
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