Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sociopaths in the news: branding humans

This is totally something I would think is a good idea:
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A Swaziland parliamentarian has apologized after calling for HIV-positive people to be branded on the buttocks to stop the spread of the virus ravaging the country.

Timothy Myeni drew widespread criticism after telling a parliamentarians' workshop in Swaziland that the move would enable people to check partners for a warning stamp before sex.

"I'm very sorry. If you need me to show a sign of how sorry I am, I'm ready," SAPA news agency quoted Myeni as telling a news conference in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Animals have a sense of morality?

According to one scientist at least:
Scientists studying animal behaviour believe they have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans.

Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality.

But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are "hard-wired" into the brains of all mammals and provide the "social glue" that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.

He has compiled evidence from around the world that shows how different species of animals appear to have an innate sense of fairness, display empathy and help other animals that are in distress.
I don't get what is so special about moral compasses if they are all relative to the particular culture one is raised in and do not necessarily include those perceived as outsiders:
"Just as in humans, the moral nuances of a particular culture or group will be different from another, but they are certainly there. Moral codes are species specific, so they can be difficult to compare with each other or with humans."
Looks like we sociopaths are more alone than we thought. But at least no one will ever be able to call us filthy animals anymore.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Your sociopath questions answered

From a reader's comment, my responses are in bold:
It's strange to me that sociopaths are supposedly not capable of empathy, not "love", but can you have affectionate feelings toward other people? Yes. Many sociopaths express love for family and other "favorites." Their "love" means whatever it means, maybe the love you have for a favorite pet, or a child, or a favorite band, or an old comfortable pair of jeans. And can you really tell if you do or don't? Can anyone? Can you Hate? Do you get angry? Is there a difference between anger and hate other than permanence? If there is a difference besides permanence, then i don't think I experience hate, just anger.

I have watched Dexter, and to me he hasn't fit the profile of what I have thought of as a sociopath, other than that he kills without remorse. But he only kills BAD people. I am not a killer, but when I hate someone I think if I COULD kill them without anyone ever knowing, and there were NO chance I would be caught, I would. And I wouldn't feel bad about it. But I can't be sure of that, cause I'm not going to try it. Do you think Dexter would feel bad if he killed only good people? Are sociopaths defined by their actions? Or how they feel about their actions?

Dexter also SEEMS to care about that stupid, annoying simpering girlfriend of his. I have read that sociopaths like to play with and torment people that they have relationships with, and man, not even being a sociopath, I would be tempted to squash HER. Maybe you are also a sociopath. He seems to care about her children, too. I think it is easier for sociopaths to be fond of children than adults. They have similar views of the world, in certain ways, and children seem so guileless compared to the typical hypocrite that is the adult empath. So.. you guys are confusing! Not really.

I also don't think Jeffrey dahmer was a sociopath.. He seemed to feel bad about what he did. I Do think our ex president was, and maybe ones before him. Not sure if you have to be drawn to "bad" things if you have no conscience? No, not necessarily. It is common misconception that just because you do not have a conscience, you would just indulge in every "bad" thing available to you. There are other motivating factors behind human decisions besides consciences. For instance, you claim to have a conscience, and yet you would readily kill "bad" people if you could be certain you would not be caught. Consciences are overrated and flawed anyway. Are you necessarily drawn to pulling the wings of flies and torturing puppies? Why that and not curiosity about other things? Or is there? Not torture and mayhem for all sociopaths, everyone has their own personal preferences. Imagine stroke victims or other brain damaged people who lose their inhibitions. They don't act crazy so much as act like an unfiltered, unadulterated version of themselves. Each sociopaths is still a unique individual, what sets us apart collectively from empaths is that we have different ways of interacting with the world. Ok, that's all. IF you can make out any coherent questions in that that you feel like answering... And then I have to try to determine whether you're BSing me! Oh, and what's this with COMRADERIE with other sociopaths? Having this blog... Dexter wanting a friend, companion, not wanting to be alone? I would think that sort of thing would be ant psychopathological. So what do I know? Human beings are social animals. Isolation drives us crazy. There is nothing about sociopathy that would prevent us from wanting human contact, to avoid loneliness, to be deeply understood and appreciated.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sexuality and sociopathy

Sociopathy is a personality disorder. We are unusually impressionable, very flexible with our sense of self, and with our defining characteristics. Because we don't have a rigid self-image or worldview, we don't observe social norms, we don't have a moral compass, and we have a fluid definition of right and wrong. We can also be shapeshifters, smooth-talking, and charming. We can become your ideal mate, in a way described here and here. We do not have an established default position on anything. This extends, at least in some degree, to our sexuality.

The original diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM), released in 1952, listed homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance. The connection between the two was subsequently removed due to protests from the gay community that homosexuality was being equated with sociopathy. Many have commented since that sociopaths seem to have no particular sexual identity, that even the term bisexual is misleading as it implies some sort of a preference, albeit a shared one, and that "equal opportunity" is a more apt label. In fact, the sociopath seems to be the bonobo of the human world -- frequent, casual, utilitarian sex. As one person reasoned, "such an individual, in their quest for dominance and power would not feel the need to discriminate according to gender."

We see fictional examples of the sociopathic "bisexual" with the talented Mr. Ripley, Joker from Batman (depending on who writes him), and real life examples with Leopold and Loeb and others listed here. If I had to speculate about current celebrities, I would also include Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, and Lindsay Lohan, although narcissism could apply equally well for some of those.

I was thinking about all of this while reading an article on Sir Laurence Olivier's sexual predilections. Although married three times, he apparently also had many male interests, one of whom explained it as follows:
"He's like a blank page and he'll be whatever you want him to be. He'll wait for you to give him a cue, and then he'll try to be that sort of person."
Maybe larry wasn't a sociopath, maybe he was, but he shared with sociopaths the common characteristic of a weak sense of self, and he illustrates well how that might play out with one's sexual identity. In any case, the lesson learned here is not only does being a sociopath potentially make you a great thespian, it also gives new meaning to the old consolation, "there are plenty more fish in the sea."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Reader feedback

On an anti-socio site:
I previously posted a site that I’ve been watching that may help all of us quit swimmin in River De-Nile.


I am paraphrasing a new exact post of a self proclaimed S-
” As a N. I also memorize other peoples emotions , its the easiest way to seem human. Because I have No idea how to feel them myself. I’d be easy to spot….. Normal people may sense or feel the presence of evil.. It permeates from the P.”

Caution: For what its worth, someone also posted: “Warning this site is dangerous, Do NOT BLOG just read & leave!! IT IS A VIEW INTO THE MIND OF EVIL.”
Maybe a joke (?) but I tend to agree with the no posting. No winning in a war of words with a P. Crazy trumps ANYTHING we got!

When you guys have time to check into it- lots of info to sift thru- let me know what you think. I said before its good to ‘Know Thy Enemy”. THis may be benefical.
Ah, Sabrina, I am so glad that you found the site to be helpful. But "know they enemy"? Naw, let's be friends, shall we?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sociopaths and poker

In the general public's mind the difference between a good sociopath and a bad sociopath is not who they are, but how they channel who they are -- e.g., what they do and accomplish. For instance, what is the difference between the fictional character Dexter and a typical serial killer? Dexter only kills other serial killers, people whom the public would consider "guilty" or "deserving" of dexter's treatment, perhaps in a brutal nod to an ancient eye-for-an-eye mentality, whereas most other serial killers target the "innocent." Even more clear cut than Dexter is when empaths color sociopaths' actions with something like a uniform, a badge, or political authority and reward the sociopath with medals and honors. Some empaths feel that a death is a death, but not the majority of them. High-functioning sociopaths understand these vagaries of the empathic mind and capitalize off of them by using their skills in more socially acceptable ways: politics, theatre, law enforcement... and poker?

The New Yorker published an article recently on the psychology and strategies of poker, "What Would Jesus bet?":
Poker played poorly is purely a gambler's game. Losers tend to think that they didn't get the cards, and not that they were beaten by someone who played better than they did. They return to the table and wait for big hands and lose more. Accomplished players strive to diminish the effects of luck. From the pattern of their opponents' bets and behaviors, they work like detectives to determine their cards. They play opportune hands deceptively, and feckless ones, too, and shed unpromising ones before the cards cause them too much harm. They know that some hands that seem auspicious are not, and that others are stronger than they appear.
As Chris "Jesus" Ferguson says, "you might get lucky and beat me, but you'll never outplay me."

I had recommended that our friend Chris study decisionmaking and game theory, skills that dominate poker strategy:
A player using optimal strategy assumes that his opponents know he is doing so--in other words, that his strategy has been found out. He can announce, for example, that a third of his bets will be bluffs, and then construct the game in such a way that his opponent still can't tell whether it is better to fold or call. If two players have each put fifty dollars into the pot, and the optimal-strategy player is bluffing, and two-thirds of the time he will lose, because the optimal-stratgy player is betting a hand that is strong enough to win. The opponent now has no means of knowing when it is better to call than to fold. This is described as making the opponent "indifferent." He might as well flip a coin. "Now it's a mind game," Ferguson said.
Apart from highlighting how sociopaths might be particularly well-suited to playing poker, I think the connection of game theory to poker strategy is interesting because in game theory, all outcomes for all possible choices are known, but there is still room for gamesmanship. I think this highlights my particular approach to my sociopathy, as illustrated in a favorite quote:
The art of life is to show your hand. There is no diplomacy like candor. You may lose by it now and then, but it will be a loss well gained if you do. Nothing is so boring as having to keep up a deception.
-- E. V. Lucas
And that is why I have the urge to out myself as a sociopath -- nothing is so boring as a deception that you must constantly keep up and from which the game can be played just as well without.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not Chris Brown, another one

I have been corresponding with one reader who (atypically) does not want to remain anonymous. The first i heard from Chris was this comment on a post:
I was diagnosed with ASPD (sociopathy) although I think it's more likely I have NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). I've hurt a lot of people, but never intentionally (as with a plan), and always it's been due to feelings of powerlessness, fear or being taken advantage of. My emotional core is more comprised of feelings of inadequacy than of maliciousness. In fact, I care a lot about other people and do a lot of good things for my community. I also feel remorse and empathy. But at the same time I think in very selfish ways sometimes and have hurt a lot of people.
When I read the comment, I was struck with what an accurate and sympathetic description of a narcissist it was, or at least the narcissists I know well. Chris later emailed me about how he had been diagnosed as a sociopath after he punched his then girlfriend in a violent outburst, for which he served a year in jail. To read about his experience, check out I replied:
Interesting blog. I particularly thought this post was interesting. Even before I read that post, though, I didn't think you were a sociopath. Before I read your self-assessment of NPD, I actually thought that maybe you might be on the autism spectrum, particularly because of your lack of conforming to social norms in odd ways, e.g. making eye contact with strangers and picking your nose. Those with sociopathy and NPD also have difficulties with social norms, but usually the big stuff, if that makes any sense -- stealing, lying, cheating. They (sociopaths at least) may also have difficulty with the smaller social norms at first because they don't have a natural instinct for them, but they are usually able to overcome those difficulties and be very adept socially, some say charming. I would look into asperger's and autism in addition to your research on personality disorders. The type of bursts of anger/rage you describe seem to be more typical of the sometimes violent symptoms of autism. I wrote about it here.

Unfortunately for you, if you were on the autism spectrum and the condition manifested itself as violence, I don't think there are very good treatments for it. If the violence is truly an uncontrollable impulse, then it seems like the only options available to you would be to condition the subconscious to react differently, perhaps via shock therapy? I assume you are already being treated for the basic anger management stuff, without much progress.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Losing a sociopath (part II)

My response (cont.)
Empaths look at the amount of hurt caused by loss and say, "This is what this meant to me, this is how much I valued that thing and now I am grieving in equal amounts." Empaths examine their own grief that way, and they also take cues from others about how much something meant to them: "He seems to be handling this well, he must not have cared very much." But sociopaths experience grief in a much different way; it's like comparing apples to oranges. You will never know how much your sociopath cared about you or your relationship because you have absolutely no context for the amount. It would be like me telling you that he cared for you 10 martian kroners worth, or 10 billion solar pesos. There is no reference point for you to understand, no known exchange rate. And I think that is what you are really asking, right? Not does he feel sad, because I am sure if you were together with him for a year you would know that yes he does feel sad. What you are really asking is how sad does he feel, how does he feel sadness, and what makes him sad, and particularly whether he is sad about the prospect of your leaving him?

But more than just that, what you want is meaning. You want an explanation for everything that happened in the relationship, everything he said, everything you did together. I understand this about empaths -- it is not so much what happens to them but how/why that matters. Take hypothetical situation: an empath starts out with $100 in the morning, gives $50 to a homeless guy, and then gets mugged for the other $50. Or they lose the other $50 in a storm drain. They feel good about the $50 to the homeless guy and feel bad about the other $50. That is very strange to the sociopath, because both are arguably just a loss of $50. But here is the weirdest part! Empaths would rather have lost the other $50 in a storm drain than have been mugged for it. Why?! As a sociopath I see the justification for giving the homeless man the money -- you are transferring wealth to someone who will value the money more than you. But the same applies to the mugging! The money goes to someone who probably needs/values it more. The only arguably bad outcome is losing the $50 in the storm drain, which empaths feel fine about. But that's because to the empaths it is not the fact that $50 was lost in these various ways, but how it happened.

Similarly, because you are an empath, you will concoct a huge story for the relationship, an explanation for everything you were, everything that happened. You will rehash every memory, relive every conversation, even reread past correspondence searching for "answers." You will try to find meaning in this story that you piece together of what "really happened." You will look for motives, you will question everything you thought you knew about him and the relationship, and it will be very very painful. Your sociopath will not do any of this. He only knows that the relationship failed. He will only see the result, perhaps the most immediate cause. He will not suffer this rehashing pain, but it is not because he cared any more or less. He just cared differently, and he is emotionally evolutionarily advanced enough to not indulge in an elaborate investigation and revisionist history. He will grieve, and he will move on. And there is no reason at all to fault him for that. In fact, when you look at things this way, is he really the one that is causing you so much pain? You are devastated because the relationship failed and you are suffering loss. But you are in pain because you are a reactionary empath and you are making things worse by reliving and rethinking every tiny detail. You are overreacting and focusing on things that don't matter, like the whys and hows while he is focused on the true measure of success, failure, loss -- the what. I think if you are honest with yourself, you will see that your pain/disease is more autoimmune than viral. So no, I don't think he gets what "he has done" to you. I bet he doesn't attribute any of your self-inflicted pain to himself, and for good reason.

With all of this said, I realize that pain is pain no matter what the cause, and you are an empath so you probably can't be expected to do better than you're doing, and I understand that sociopaths are very difficult to deal with and that you have probably suffered a lot of frustration over the past year with him. I hope that you are able to quickly find peace and wish you all the best in your time of grief.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Losing a sociopath (part I)

From a reader:
HI I'm getting out or a least trying to get out of a relationship with a sociopath. I'm devastated and in so much pain. doing some research i found out your bog that i find very interesting.
My question today is, do you feel pain? are sociopaths understand the pain that inflict on the people the say they love? because reading you and looking for information, i would have to think that he of course doesn't love me or care about me. Does a sociopath cares about anything? does he ever feel sad?
I'm so in love with this guy but it has been a year long painful relationship i cant do this to myself anymore. Do you think he gets what he has done to me?
My response:
We feel pain, but over different types of things, which doesn't necessarily guarantee that your sociopath is currently feeling pain. But he said he loved you, and if you feel like he had no reason to lie, he was probably telling the truth -- whatever "love" might mean to him. This is all assuming he is a sociopath, which unless he has admitted to being a sociopath, he very well may not be.

I've mentioned this before, but in love relationships, if sociopaths are truly committed/invested in the relationship (i.e. not just seducing, ruining, or gaming), they are very childlike. They love seflishly like a child, they can by petty like a child, they are emotionally superficial like a child, they are self-centered like a child. They are very focused on having their own needs met, and they are quick to forget you. What do people always say when children's parents die? That it is sad, but luckily they are young and they'll get over it quickly. Sociopaths can be extremely disappointed at the end of a relationship for lots of reasons -- feelings of failure, loneliness, and loss (not necessarily upset at losing you or your love, but losing at least whatever happiness you brought him, whatever role you filled). They are also easily assuaged, quick to move on.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I am in love with a sociopath

So begins molly young, writing for about Showtime's television show Dexter, a sympathetic portrayal of a sociopath/pseudo-vigilante. The portrayal of Dexter is so sympathetic, in fact, that Young thinks that he is a little too good to be sociopath true:
Dexter makes for a fine host and protagonist: he’s charming and intelligent, with the striking good looks of a handsomely-built monkey. In voiceover narration, he attempts to explain his murderous actions to the viewer, insisting that he is an empty shell of a person. "I love Halloween,” he indulges. “The one time of year when everyone wears a mask, not just me.” The voiceover device allows Dexter to explain his bloody motivations with illuminating introspection. The sociopath, it turns out, is humble and has regrets. He is self-searching and self-questioning. He is, in other words, a really unconvincing sociopath.

Here’s the thing: as viewers, we have to believe that Dexter is an aberration––a man totally unlike us––in order to accept his dubious activities. And yet the very qualities that would designate him a sociopath would surely alienate him as a protagonist. The solution? A character who acts in thoroughly lovable ways while telling us that it’s all pretence. If Humbert Humbert's narration was all about providing a beguiling justification of his misdeeds, Dexter's is about convincing us that he’s bad and empty inside, despite evidence that he's really a mensch.
In typical empath fashion, she continues by suggesting that Dexter is really just a caricature of Joe Anybody:
Plus, we want to like Dexter. He’s a caricature of how most of us feel ourselves to be: outsiders some of the time, morally correct most of the time, doing the best we can with the cards we were dealt. Dexter explains that he fakes his likeability in the voiceovers, but the explanations themselves––with their introspection and self-deprecating tone –– don't jibe with the hollow killer he claims to be.
This is some interesting faulty reasoning -- this man can't be a sociopath because I love him. And yet there are literally millions of people who love sociopaths. Sociopaths are in a lot of ways very easy to love, at least at first. What Young is demonstrating in her article is the folly of many an individual ensnared in the sociopath's charms -- he can't possibly be a sociopath, can he? He can and he is. In this way, Dexter is one of the most accurate, un-caricatured media portrayals of a sociopath.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Desperately seeking sociopath

More from reader "R":
I realized part of my bitter disappointment was that [the man i was dating] was only a narcissist [not a sociopath]. I am a person that is highly sensitive and I do think that I have an almost debilitating capacity to understand and at times feel what other feel. Is seems that just because you are emotional does not necessarily make you good. It has however after a lot of time of introspection made me realize that I can understand people's motives pretty easily. I'm distressed because they are usually, well... So I oscillate between thinking I 'm a crazy narcissist or I'm doomed to be lonely, because I'm afraid I'm on to something. Anyway, I think I was trying to find a sociopath, 1) for relief from having to feel all the time and 2) so I could objectively share information. What do you think?
My response:
I think your reasons for seeking out a sociopath make perfect sense. From what you are describing, you sound like what I call an "uber-empath," someone who is on the opposite extreme of the empathy spectrum as the sociopath. Like many extremes, sociopaths and uber-empaths actually seem to get along quite well. I have had many friends and relationships with uber empaths. In this post I say the following with an uber-empath friend:

Uber-empaths and sociopaths actually make okay friends because the empath is constantly emoting all the time, like kryptonite killing off lesser things, but the sociopaths are unfazed, immune. And sociopaths rarely get to show off to people who really appreciate them, but uber-empaths can understand and appreciate.
So I think there can be a healthy, symbiotic relationship between the two.
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