Sunday, June 28, 2009

Death and fear

There was a recent death in my family, a close relative of mine. The family has been convening, making me wonder why there needs to be all of this effort over someone's death. I feel no grief, but then again i never felt emotionally close to this relative. It is making me wonder who I would grieve for, though, and I think there are only about 10 people for whom I would feel genuine loss at their deaths. And even with those people, as I have said and read before, the sadness seems to be more a feeling of personal loss than sadness for the deceased himself. Or is that how everyone feels? Sadness for their lack in your life. Which seems good enough, I guess, because it means that they had a significant role or impact in my life, unlike all these other relatives that I am interacting with now, for whom I feel nothing.

I have also been thinking a little about my own death. All my life I have felt todestrieb/thanatos, the death drive. Whenever I have been faced with death, I simply consider how bad it could be to die. Not bad at all, really. In fact there have always been very appealing things about death -- no more work, no more masks, complete and eternal rest. Plus my own spiritual beliefs acknowledge a life after death, an eternal existence of self, so death holds no fear for me. Maybe that is why I am so fearless in general -- isn't all fear just a derivative of the fear of death?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Prototypes and archetypes (part 2)

My response:
I'm sorry you've been having such a rough time. It's hard for me to know if he is a sociopath. It's always very hard and inaccurate to diagnose someone else third-person. There could be lots of ways to diagnose him. The most telling things in any diagnosis, though, are the things that a person says in reference to himself. For instance, his asking you whether you think it is possible that someone would not have a conscience, his saying that he does what he wants, or his saying he will fuck you over -- those are clear indicators of sociopathy because they show both his self-awareness and his acknowledgment of his irregularities. If he's not a sociopath, he is a completely self-absorbed asshole and you shouldn't be sorry at all if you hurt his feelings. If he is a sociopath...

Loving his mom and dog are not necessarily inconsistent with him being a sociopath. I love my mother more than anyone else in the world. I am also very sweet to her, always buying her things, giving her money, taking care of her, but I do not say things like "I love you," either. She's my mother. He's a source of unconditional love and acceptance for me, and is in many ways an extension of me, so it makes sense for me to maintain that relationship. Same with the dog for him, probably.

When I tell people I love them I really mean it in that moment. I told someone today that I loved them. What does it mean? It's a very childish, fickle infatuation. I also sometimes hate this person -- quite often, in fact. I feel like this person secretly judges me, and pretends to be all understanding without truly accepting me. I behave towards this person similarly to the way your boyfriend behaves toward you. On the one hand there are the moments of awe and affection that I feel for the person. On the other, there are the feelings of rejection, boredom, disinterest, selfishness, etc. that motivate other behaviors.

This guy seems particularly bad because he is so conflicted about himself. Although he may be unusually insightful and self-aware, he doesn't understand himself. He is probably both in awe of himself and fearful of himself. He seeks to control others because he does not feel like he has control over himself. He warns you that he will fuck you over not because he wants to, but because he fears/worries/knows that he will. His asserting that gives him the illusion of control over the situation when really he feels like he only has predictive power, not power to change outcomes. He says he does what he wants, but he's really just trying to own the fact that he does what his impulses direct him to do -- then play it off like it is all part of some master plan of his. His bravado in saying he "does what he wants" is his way of trying to pretend that he is making conscious, reasoned decisions in accord with his values and preferences instead of being a slave to impulses he neither understands nor can control.

I'm not surprised he is in his early 20s. Sociopaths are the absolute worst in their late teens and early 20s. They're the equivalent of teenagers with raging hormones. Late teens and early 20s start the sociopath's first real tastes of freedom and power, which they begin abusing like a kid on meth. Once it gets to a certain point of excess, and the first real, lasting damages to their lives occur, they will then withdraw for a period of introspection, which will last until they gain a certain level of understanding and self-acceptance. At least this has been my own experience and the experience of many sociopaths I have known. If he doesn't go through any of these phases, then he will stay as he is forever. But how could he? Really, it doesn't sound like his charmed life will stay that way for much longer.

He's not a bad person necessarily, but he certainly has the potential to be and has definitely been acting like one. Don't feel bad for allowing him to feel the consequences of his actions. He will not change for the better until he feels like he needs to. He will not feel like he needs to unless/until his current modus operandi ceases to function.

I don't know what's up with his impotence. It could be that power/control is what gets him off, or that he has come to associate sex with things that you would consider abnormal. If he wasn't gaming you, or not as much as the other girls, it could be that his difficulty stemmed from the lack of power and control he felt in the relationship. But that's just a guess.

You cannot change him. He will not even change himself if he thinks for even a second it will work out with you without him changing. It may be that you have already communicated this sufficiently to him, i.e. that things will not work out ever between you, at least not as they currently are. His avoidance of you could be him sulking or trying to get back at you for this, or it could be his tacit acknowledgment (albeit not fully conscious) that you mean what you say and that he can no longer game you. I'm sure you would prefer it to be the latter, so feel free to think that way -- it's at least plausible. In any case, do not be afraid of hurting his feelings. Even if you did hurt them, he deserved it a million times over.

Hope this helps.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Prototypes and archetypes (part 1)

A lot of heartbroken empaths have been seeking answers from me recently. Not to downplay anyone's personal tragedy, but they're all essentially the same story. So I am hoping that with this extra long, overly detailed explanation of love lost and my subsequent responses, heartbroken empaths can learn vicariously through others and we can start answering questions in bulk instead of one-by-one. Not like I am not flattered by the interest in my expert advice, it's just that I feel like it's getting to the point where I should be charging people. Actually... not a bad idea. Maybe I could set up some sort of hotline...
I recently discovered your website and have been reading your articles from beginning to end. I would really love if you would write back to me and give your opinion on things because I'm driving myself crazy with my thinking. Two years ago I started dating a guy (we're both in our young 20s), against all warnings from his friends that he will not ever treat me well or never stop talking to his ex-girlfriend (let's call her k). During our first date, K called him, I could hear her screaming on her end, but he just laughed at her and hung up the phone without saying anything. Later that night when I asked how he felt about her he said "i don't want to be with her, that girl would marry me in a second, i could have her if i wanted to any time i wanted" then he told me that i probably shouldn't get into a relationship with him because he will fuck me over. My naivety made me think, well he doesn't know me yet I'll be the one to change this, he just hasnt met the right girl, and up to this point in my life i have always been very sought after by men and had great relationships where i always seemed to be the one with the upperhand. But he pursued me and I pursued him so we started to date. For the first 3 months we had a fun time, he would spend the night almost every night, although he seemed to have troubles being able to be "intimate" with me, most times it just didnt work. He would get angry and punch the walls and say this has never happened to him before and that he loves to have sex, would do it morning noon and night with his exes, and that i'm the only girl he's ever had a problem with, and then roll over and ignore me for the rest of the night, usually while i would be crying.

During this time he refused to stop talking to his ex, claiming she texts him it's not his fault, wouldn't take pictures of them down from in his room, but said they were just friends. (Some behavioral background on him is he has also complained of being depressed but when i suggested seeing a doctor or going on medicine he would say absolutely not, no way, he has a very pessimistic view of the world, he drinks almost every night, usually blacking out and often partaking in really stupid, reckless acts, like wrestling with his friends, but usually to the point of bloody cuts and black eyes, and he smokes weed every day. He can get set off by seemingly nothing and become irritable and mean for no reason, which he would usually take out on me since he said "well i take it out on you, i can't take it out on my boys", close friends of his would not tell you that he is a good person, i've often heard people say he has a way of finding their insecurities and then going after them, he can be downright cruel to his closest friends, but then flip a switch and be nice as can be. His friends do not have a high code of ethics and none of them have much of a relationship deeper than hanging out and partying or doing drugs. People are drawn to him because he is extremely charming and funny and at any given time the center of attention and life of the party. He doesn't have any ambitions in life, and has worked partime jobs but with little pride. He was the same with his school work, hardly ever studying or putting effort in, failed many classes and barely graduated within 5 years. Still his professors would often grant him extensions for papers.

He often says i just dont care about anything, i cant seem to make myself care about anything. He often talks about how important it is to have control in relationships and that things will always go his way) Sometimes at parties he would distance himself from me, but if i didn't pay enough attention to him he would become angry with me, if we were out with his friends and i would be laughing with them he would get moody and when we would get home later he would say "i dont feel special, you can laugh and have fun with anybody, so what's the point of being with me" He never gave me an outright compliment, probably called me beautiful 1 time in our whole relationship, and aside from 2 times he got me flowers when i got home from trips, and a birthday present, he did not do much for me, most meals i paid for because i volunteered and said i wanted to, which was true at the time. 3 months into our relationship he gave me a beautiful handmade present which in it said "i hope what we have, whatever it is, keeps on going". Less than one week later he said he wasn't feeling it and stopped talking to me. That night he had k spend the night and i ran into them together at a club he knew i would be at, he did not seem a bit faltered and kept on happily dancing with k while i left the bar. two weeks later he told me that i was really the one he wanted to be with and he had made a huge mistake, after some reluctance, and since it was the first time, i gave in because i still really wanted things to work with him. 2 months later the exact same thing happened, he just stopped returning my calls or texts, one night he asked to come over when he was drunk and tried to sleep with me, his reasonings were always "you want to do it, why deny yourself something you want to do, you want to sleep with me", we ended up getting into a fight. i kicked him out. During this particular break he started dating K again, but later claimed his facebook status only said "in a relationship" because she got on his account and changed it. I was told that he would say things to K like they were going to get married, but then lo and behold 3 weeks later he came back to me BEGGING me, all over me, absolutely relentless, telling me he could see himself marrying me and that i would make a great mom, etc. etc., and again i took him back.

We would often have fights over him ignoring me at parties, treating me poorly, flirting with girls, etc. When i would leave crying he would never console me, if i asked him to come talk to me he would say "no way, im partying with my friends", most times while i was crying he would laugh at me and tell me i was being crazy, and i found myself always doubting my own thoughts, thinking that i was in fact being irrational. He would later admit "no you're not the irrational one, you never do anything wrong" when we werent fighting. During one particular fight i asked him to leave my apartment and he refused i was so upset i threatened to call the police and he just laughed and called me crazy and said im just going to sleep right here on the couch.

There were many times he would lie to me i came to find out, and sometimes would deny things that i had proof of - in fact during one break he walked up to me with a hickey on his neck and when i told him he had a hickey he said "no i dont" completely serious, another time i saw a girl kiss him on the cheek and when i brought it up to him he laughed and said that absolutely did not happen, he was so convincing i actually doubted what i saw with my own eyes. When he was in his good moods we got along great, we laughed all the time and had a lot of fun together. He would often say that i was the perfect girl, and that he knew i was the one for him, i knew him better than anybody. This cycle of relationships went on for almost a year and a half, his sudden lack of interest, then the insatiable need to have me back. His friend even said that he was really upset about it and pleaded for his case, which means he was showing sadness towards him about it which i would expect a sociopath to do. When i would ask why he just wouldnt leave me alone he would say well im always going to treat you the same, when i see you i wanna kiss you, im going to do what i want.

He would not often tell me he loved me, usually while he was drunk. He would get irritable with me but tell me he didnt know why, that he doesnt want to be, but he cant control it, like i just set something off him that made him want to be mean to me. He would tell me that i cared more about the relationship than he did and that i could do so much better, but would never peacefully let me pursue that option.

At this point, i have lost my two closest friends due to my deep depression i suffered from because of my insecurities caused by him and that they no longer felt they could support me, my family hated him and i had to keep that i was seeing him a secret from them. After the last break, which was about 2 months long, at about a year and a half in, I decided to move because i was so severely depressed and could not seem to rid myself of the problem. One week before i left, i ran into him and told him i was moving, he cried and said he didnt realize how much i meant to him, that i made him breakdown and he couldnt handle it and the next week was full of "i know ill see you and well be together again" "we can get a cabin and live together later on" "this isnt temporary, blah blah blah" and i received a sober and heartfelt "i love you" everyday that week.

After I moved he pulled away after about 4 days, [but then visited], said how he knew i was the girl for him, and cried when getting on the plane. For the next week he was completely lovestruck with me, calling me his girlfriend and i heard from his friends back home that he had been talking about how much he loved me and how much fun he had. However one week later, the hesitation in calling me his girlfriend came, as well as "you're not moving back just for me right?" (which seems like an attempt to look out for my best interest?) but along with that also the assurance that things will be different and that he wouldnt hurt me again like he had in the past. When i moved back 3 weeks later things were great for the first couple days, and i remember him saying my favorite person is back, and how much fun he has with me and so on. However 1 week later he became irritable towards me and then at a party later that night when he was drunk and i asked him why he was acting mean towards me, he said he wasnt he was just acting like i was nothing, when i further said well you cant treat me like nothing, im your girlfriend, things really exploded. He told me that he was thinking all day how things didnt feel right with us, things have never felt right, he has never been in love with me, that i had to have known and that i should have expected it because he told me the first date we had he would fuck me over. he said that sometimes he did feel strongly towards me and wanted to be with me and when he said those things about loving me he meant them in the moment and other times he just absolutely didnt feel that way, that his feelings were never constant, and said i couldnt blame him because he told me not to come home just for him. He left me in the yard, dry heaving from crying so hard. When i came to talk to him the next day when he was sober, he tried to deny everything at first and say he was just drunk but eventually confirmed what he had said the night before. When i called crying later that night saying because i really needed a better explanation for why he would do that to me he said he didnt have one, he didnt know what to tell me, all the while holding conversations with his friends in the background, he said he was goign to go watch a basketball game, hed call me back, and then hung up on me. When he called me back an hour later, i said no forget it, i'm done and he just said "ok" and hung up. he did not call me until a week later when i received a call from him at 5 am because he just wanted me to know he graduated school - he just thought i'd like to know.

the next night when i saw him at a party he didnt say a word to me. A week later we met up because i needed to talk to him because i was really taking it hard and i didnt understand how things had transpired. he told me that he had never been attracted to me and that the whole time it was just that he thought it was what he wanted but something was missing, that he tried to make it work because he wanted to like me but we just never had the chemistry. i asked how he could treat me that way and he asked me if it was possible for someone to not have a conscious. but also said that he didnt think he was a bad person and he didnt really do anything wrong. He also said hes not sure if he'll ever be able to love someone (and in the past hes often said im never going to get married or if i did marry im going to get a divorce). He did not call me after that, and i could not understand the concept of someone needing to talk to you everyday for 2 months and then cut them out of their life like it meant nothing.

I saw him just yesterday after about a month and after i had been reading a lot about sociopaths and their behaviors. I kind of wanted to test him a bit, so i asked him a few things, like do you tell your mom you love her and he thought about it and said that he no he didnt but he writes it in birthday cards (he is very sweet to his mom though), and it somehow came up about how when his ex K was dating someone he made fun of him and she immediately dumped him the next day. i asked him if he purposefully knew when he was manipulating people or it just happened and he said that he doesnt manipulate people, theyre just happier when they do what he says, and then smiled and said but it is a fun game sometimes. He said that he knows hes hurt people but he also gives them some of the happiest moments of their life so it evens out. i began talking further with him, like why he does the things he does and how he acts, i said that i know him better and the reasons he does things more than anyone else, and he agreed with me, but then said i he knows he did me wrong and i have a biased opinion of him. He became irritable and told me that i make him feel badly about who he is and that he cant rationalize his actions when im around. he said that he could feel him sinking back into the place he was a month ago because i make him feel badly about who he is, that my goodness doesnt match with his badness. Then he said that he didn't like me and that i should leave. He texted me about 10 minutes later that he was sorry he went overboard its just that i make him feel badly about who is he and thats not something anyone enjoys, and then apologized for saying he didnt like me, that it was rude and he didnt mean it. However, he will not return my phone calls, and i am left feeling like i really hurt this person's feelings by making him feel badly about himself.

I'm just hoping you could shed light on this for me. There's things in his personality that dont match the characteristics i read about - he loves his dog more than anything on earth, he's very sweet and kind to his mother, and he could be incredibly loving and amazing towards me, and i have seen him do decent things for people. I've never seen him set out to destroy anyone i dont think, but rather he just has a complete disregard for others peoples feelings in order to obtain what he wants. Plus he did apologize for saying he didnt like me in his text and since he doesnt want to talk to me now it doesnt seem like that was said just to get something from me or manipulate me. I just wonder if i was really just simply an idiot because i wanted to believe he loved me so badly - for instance he would tell me i deserved better, or that i should move on - those are selfless actions to save me from trusting in him right, but i ignored them? It makes me sick to think that this entire relationship was just his inability to be attracted to me or have that chemistry with me, like it's because of me - with some other girl he'll have the right chemistry and things will be great with them, and that the whole past year was him forcing himself to try to be attracted to me. I mean that would explain his problems with intimacy.

For some reason it was almost a relief to chalk this all up to him being a sociopath, like it was easier to deal with him not loving me if it was because he just couldnt love anybody. But now i just dont know. And on top of that i now feel like i hurt his feelings and i didnt need to make him feel like a bad person and i feel incredibly annoying because he wont call me back and doesnt seem to care to have me in his life at all, when by all accounts i shouldn't care to ever see him again. I cant tell you how much i would appreciate your honest opinion and insight on the matter. i cant believe it was so long, i had just never written this down before and once i started i just couldnt stop writing. I really hope to hear from you soon. Thank you so much for your time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who do you love? (part 2)

A reader writes (my answers in bold):
So I am looking for your opinion again... It has been a couple of weeks since I posted the original question to you. He has been non-stop in begging me to take him back under any conditions. Stop smoking pot, stop drinking, no more lies, etc. Classic behavior to wrap me back in. Yeah, he probably figures that the longer you are with him, the harder it will be eventually to leave him. So as long as he can keep delaying...

Admitting to how stupid he was, swearing he just went off the deep end when his wife left him 2 years ago and suddenly these girls (many) were interested in him and he was living the "guy" dream. Ha, or the sociopath dream. Power = excitement, which is a primary motivator for sociopaths. Having people want you sexually = power.

Used the same flattery on all of them. When we got together he was in the relationship with the married woman, telling her how much he loved her. Swears it was all pillow talk, swears he only wants me. He could have meant this sincerely, at least when he said it.

Told him he lies, I don't believe anything, I don't trust him and that I think he is a sociopath. He swears he feels things, swears he feels horribly guilty, hates what he did to me, blah, blah, blah. He's been back on looking for his next target. Told him the only way I will even consider allowing him in my life is to go to a psychologist and be tested for APD with me giving the psychologist all of his history. He swears he is going to do it, is off and basically saying he is not going to screw this up. So.... Is this typical? Sociopaths can actually do rather well with clear cut instructions in personal relationships. I always tell my "loved ones," you have to tell me what to do, otherwise I won't know. If you tell me, I will do it. I know how to manipulate and control myself. Sure I may do horrible things, but let me make up for it by using my sociopath skills for good in the relationship.
I hear so much about how people with APD won't accept any responsibility, etc. so I don't know what to think of this. He may not go through with it and that will be the answer to my question. Right, I've heard that too. I mean, I am quick to justify my own actions and slow to think I did something wrong, sure. But that is partly because (1) I really do put a lot more thought into my actions than most people and so have readymade justifications at hand and (2) I have a different value system than most, I think different things are "wrong" and "right," and I'm not going to accept "responsibility" for things that other people think are "wrong" just because they say so.

I told him I have no restrictions, I owe him nothing, I can date, etc. but if he has any contact whatsoever with other women I am completely out until the stuff with the psychiatrist is resolved. What do you think? Could work. If it doesn't, what are you out?

99% of me wants to just have him disappear but it is very hard when someone is so adamant that they want you in your life and that they love you so much and want nothing more than to be the man you deserve and make you happy. Ha, yeah, we're charming.

Don't you get sick of us over emotional people?? lol Only when it turns into a hate fest.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm looking through you (part III)

Hey. I'm so glad that you responded. Last night we were out with friends and he got drunk and stoned like the night I described in my first email. He started acted very "sociopath-ish" again(i e in the cab he told me that he hated being in a taxi b/c he wasn't in control because he wasn't the one driving), things like that...

He tends to pick fights when he's had some drinks so we began arguing, He is relentless and seemingly never grows tired of it. When he gets like that it's as if he could talk AT me for hours. On the other hand, I'm emotionally drained after these encounters.

After some fighting, I eventually just came out and asked him if he thought he was capable of loving me. He actually got furious (which rarely happens). And a little choked up. And his response was "Aren't I giving you what I need? I try so hard to give you what I need. I give you everything I have." My response to that was that I knew that he tried (I feel like he REALLY does) but what if I wanted to be loved? He said that he had what it takes to love, that he was in the process of getting there, and that you have to "work" hard to get what you want sometimes. I almost started crying at that point b/c as an empath you know that you don't have to "try" to love someone, you just do. It just happens. I think he desperately wants to be loved, TO LOVE and to have all of it.

I am definitely going to watch the movie that you suggested. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about sociopathy. I have no idea what I want from him, and I'm constantly questioning what it is he gains from me (I think it's the companionship, and also the sex). Part of me is telling me just to walk away, but as I said earlier, I think he is just too interesting, and I really do care about him.

You can absolutely publish this or my previous email. I would just prefer that you dont use my name...initials work or something. I would be happy to help since you've already helped me a ton. Thank you so much for responding. I was really happy to see a response today from you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm looking through you (part II)

My response:
Ha, this sounds so much like the typical uber-empath, sociopath relationship. I have loads of friends like you. If this really is the situation (e.g., he is a sociopath), he might be very startled by and wary of your apparent willingness to accept him for who he is without judgment. It is possible, as you suggest, that he is a sociopath and knows that he is different in some way, but doesn't know that he is a sociopath, per se. He may be like many of my sociopath readers, questioning why he is the way he is, while actively avoiding being saddled with the term sociopath (for reasons that are probably obvious to you, particularly after reading The Sociopath Next Door). He may be particularly wary of you given that you "confronted" him about his behavior during a conversation in which you were attempting to break up with him. He probably reasonably interpreted this to be disapproval.

I wouldn't necessarily say that sociopaths do not have the ability to love, although theirs is not a typical form of love. I wrote about it here. It sounds like he is genuinely fond of you, if he put forth extra effort to win you back. It also sounds like he also respects you, if he has toned down the lying. He is probably charmed that you were cognizant enough to see through him, and intrigued that you appear to know who he is but are still interested in him. Everyone wants to be known and appreciated for who they really are -- sociopaths are no different. Sociopaths tend to take a lot of pride in their work, for good reason, so I am sure he would enjoy the thought of having an audience. On the other hand, you never know who you can trust. I live in daily fear of being outed. I enjoy writing the blog and am glad that it is helpful, but I frequently think that it will eventually be my doom, so I understand that sort of apprehension. And even if you were willing to listen without being judgmental, there is no guarantee that you would be able to handle the truth, wouldn't freak out and disclose everything. He may also have something else to hide. Sociopaths can do bad things. But if he did admit it to you, what would you do? Be a willing accomplice in his life, no matter how sick it turns out to be? Watch the film Let the Right One In for an example of that sort of dedication and to what it can lead.

The way you describe him, though, I can see why you are fascinated.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm looking through you (part I)

Question from a reader:
Hi there. Thanks for your blog. It's been extremely helpful and informative. I'm about 65% percent my boyfriend is a high functioning sociopath, or at least has tendencies. We've only been dating for about 3 months now. I began to catch him in lies after a couple weeks, things just didn't seem to add up with him. I consider myself a very empathetic and sensitive person, so I feel as if I caught on pretty quickly to all of it. I thought it was compulsive lying, or pathological lying so I went online and started reading about all the symptoms of sociopaths. I didn't really know anything about them before now. He's fits many of the characteristics, although he's not violent (that I know of). Extremely charming when he wants something, impulsive, manipulative, inability to tolerate boredom, ADD, behavior problems in school, difficulty with authority, narcissism, etc, etc.

We got drunk/stoned together a couple weeks ago and all his/these behaviors were completely exacerbated. It scared me and I tried to break up with him the next day. I basically confronted him, telling him that I thought he was dis genuine, wasn't sincere, I thought he was "acting" with me some of the time. I didn't come out and say I thought he was a sociopath but danced around it. He denied all of it. He's gone out of his way to win me back. Laying the charm on thick, being sweet, kind, etc. Sometimes I feel like it's just a game to him, and I'm playing along. Sometimes I do think he's genuine. We're still hanging out though. Is there anyway that he's not aware he's a sociopath? That he understands that he's different but doesn't quite know how or why?

He fascinates me. His reactions and behaviors are really interesting, and feel that he's so smart to be able to fool people around him, and just keep up with it all. Since I"ve confronted him, the lying has seemed to stop or be toned down. I think he's aware that I can see through him sometimes. I guess I really want him to admit it to me...and least some part of himself. I think he's comfortable with me, and wonder if he's ever told anyone. I doubt he has. I know that you don't know him, as everyone is different, but perhaps you can shed some light on the matter for me. I guess my question for you is: isn't it exhausting putting on this act in front of me (and the world))? I've given him plenty of opportunity to be somewhat honest with me without being judgmental. Wouldn't he just want to be truthful with me, I feel as if it would be a huge relief? He must be so lonely and telling someone might alleviate some of that. Part of me feels like he's very scared that I'll walk away if he tells me..which doesn't add up to me since I thought he wasn't supposed to care about anyone else? Maybe it's a pride thing and it will hurt his ego if I walk? Sociopaths don't have the ability to love, but it seems as if they have the ability to be fond of, or like someone at the least?!? Is that right? I guess I'm just confused and needed somewhere to vent. I can't talk to my friends about this. Noone understands what he's like unless you spend a significant amount of time with him. He is usually very kind to me and I really care about him but don't want to be naive, and/or a pawn if that's all it is to him. I understand that he will never feel the same as me, but will he feel anything toward me?

Again, thanks for all the information. Your blog has been the most real and NON scary site there is out there about sociopaths. I read the Sociopath Next Door and pretty much flipped. It seems rather exaggerated. Your site has been extremely helpful and insightful for me. Keep it up!


Monday, June 15, 2009

Sociopath friends

My friends who know I am a sociopath will sometimes question the friendship: why do you want to be my friend? What am i to you? Do you even care? The short answer is yes, I do. I enjoy your company, I like you enough to spend time with you. When you become my friend, you become a part of me, and as such I definitely care about your well-being.

I don't know whether that is normal friendship. I know that even empaths can have shallow friendships of convenience, but I wonder if there is something more. I wonder what else my friends are expecting from me when they ask me those questions -- what do they mean by "care about"? A reader writes about friendship:
You know, I've tried to talk to a few people about the way my mind works, but it's always failed miserably. One of the first people is the closest thing I have to a best friend. He didn't believe me, thinking I was confused or depressed. He thinks that the times I've helped is parents out with things have been out of the kindness of my heart, but it's always been a bribe. The truth is that I've been rewarding them for being an option when I need them, doing my best to promote that behavior in the future. And any time I've shared anything with said friend, it's always been so that I could have company doing whatever it was I was doing. I never really cared whether he had fun or not except that he was fun for me when he was having fun. He was having some major health problems for a while, and there was a possibility that he had an infectious disease and wasn't going to live much longer. My first thoughts upon hearing this were 1) could I have contracted the disease from him somehow? and 2) if he died, there would be nothing left tying me to this city or state. He didn't have the disease, and there's apparently no danger of him dying, but reflecting on my reaction to news about my "best friend"'s possible death left me feeling a bit like a monster.

My "best friend" before that wound up shooting himself in the head. I was actually on the phone with him the day before, while he was in the store picking out the gun. His death didn't affect me at all, and I couldn't bring myself to go to his funeral. Everybody else who knew him (he was very well-liked) was completely torn, and I couldn't see myself standing straight-faced among so many mourners. The only thoughts crossing my mind at the time were 1) what's next? and 2) why wasn't I affected like they were?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Update: Am I a Sociopath?

From our questioning reader (or reader in question):
I must admit, this week has been rather amazing so far. I haven't had much trouble with anxiety. My job hasn't stressed me. I feel just fine not caring, and it's amazing how naturally responses to tough questions come to me if I'm not putting specific effort into being honest. Even talking to women has been strangely easier. Almost too easy. I'm used to women staying away from me as if they get "bad vibes," but now I'm being told that I'm easy to open up to. One woman told me she felt like she could tell me anything, because I was so "honest." I definitely need more practice before I can get to the level where I want to be, but I can see it happening.

I'm not sure why or how, but I've started to think of life more like a game again. It's not a change I consciously strove for, and it's very subtle. But it's a pleasant change from the anxieties I've been facing. While I found myself laughing and joking around today, I stopped to think if I was actually happy or amused. Honestly, I didn't feel any different from when I was sitting in front of my computer coding. I was just joking with my boss to avoid concentrating on work, and it came so naturally. That's one thing I've always done, but I never really stopped to think about the smile and the laugh. They're not real. The jokes aren't real. They're just there to make HIM laugh. Even while I was realizing this, I just kept right on doing it.

It reminds me of when I was younger... sometimes, while I was crying, if I was alone, I would go look in the mirror and smile. I genuinely felt sad, but something made me want to see if I could smile. And I could... and then pick right back up crying again. After that, I had quite a preoccupation with making myself exhibit inappropriate emotions in private. Looking back, it makes me wonder if I was ever sad at all. Such a curiosity doesn't strike me as something a sad person would embrace in the midst of an emotional storm. Trying to figure out how much of what I think I felt was real, and how much was either extremely shallow or manufactured subconsciously, has been very confusing.

In my early to mid teens, this fascination took on a stranger twist. It's something I've actually never mentioned to anyone, because I can't imagine how anyone could understand it, considering my image as a kind, considerate, and highly intelligent person. When I was alone, if I had nothing to do, I would degrade into an almost feral state. I'd run and leap around the house, sometimes on all fours, growling, roaring, and making terrible and strange faces after leaping in front of a mirror, staring myself in the eye. I could never imagine myself even imitating this behavior in front of another human being. As soon as I sensed the presence of another person, my demeanor would immediately change. I've never been able to make sense of it. It stopped after I started the drugs. Bizarre, don't you think?

That's my update so far. We'll see how things play out.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Who do you love?

Question from a reader, my answers are in bold:
I broke up with my boyfriend a few days ago because after many lies I became suspicious and logged on to a few of his accounts and found out that he had also been cheating. This man told me he loved me within 3-4 weeks of meeting me. Has constantly told me how beautiful and sexy I was. Had a sex drive that was incredible. We could have sex several times a day and he would still masturbate. He could have orgasms one after the other up to 4 in a row. During all of this he was seeing another woman who he had started an affair with prior to me once a week at lunch. He wanted me to have his baby, wanted to move in with me. Said I could stay home with the child and not work. Everythink that I wanted he swore he wanted too. A little farm in the country, yes, organic food, yes. He knew my ex had pushed me to have an abortion so he was going to have his vasectomy reversed so that we could have a child together. This is a classic example of how sociopaths are so inherently flexible. They have the ability to become whatever they want. Whatever you want, if you strike their fancy. I mean, really, what are the chances of this man wanting a farm in the country, organic food, etc.? Clearly a sociopath.

All of this while lying constantly, texting other women on a regular basis, having a long term affair with another. He is a heavy pot smoker, heavy drinker. He believes he is very intelligent. The things that make me question whether he was a sociopath are that he was in the navy for 8 years. The military would be a good "legitimate" outlet for his destructive, thrill-seeking ways, and power-seeking behavior. He probably didn't mind taking orders from one person as long as he knew he could lord it over another larger group.
Married for 10 but she left him because of his constant lying, pot addiction and bursts of anger. She said it was like dealing with Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. He has a great job now that he has had for several years and seems to be fairly conscientious about it. He screws off a lot but he has a lot of responsiblity and seems to take it seriously when necessary. Yeah, high-functioning sociopaths do this. They have a concept of not defecating where they eat. They will keep certain things stable in their life and find outlets for their deviant behavior in ways that are less likely to backfire on them.
After breaking up with him he denied for several days even though I had written proof and then went from being angry and mean to begging me to give him another chance from one hour to the next. He swears that his D day for being the man that I deserved was when he was moving in (just a few after I caught him) but I assume it is all just more lies. I mean, what is a lie really? Sounds like he wants you in his life, just maybe not on terms that you would prefer. What do you want to hear from him? That he is dedicated to you in his way? Sounds like he is. That he can be dedicated to you in a way that normal people can? Sounds like he can't. What role does honesty have when you are asking him to be someone he is not or else you will take away something very valuable to him. Wouldn't we all "lie" to prevent that from happening? Even if just to ourselves? Did you ever lie to yourself in the relationship?

Does that sound like a Sociopath or is there something closely related that has more bearing? Sociopath, although you have given me just a handful of choice facts. Who knows what is really going on in his mind.

It really shouldn't matter but for some stupid reason if it is based on an actual condition maybe I don't have to feel like such an idiot for buying into what he was selling. Were you an idiot? Am I an idiot if I watch an inane blockbuster movie and get a few laughs? Maybe you were just enjoying yourself. At least the sex, right?

He made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world and swore I made him a better man but his actions were so the opposite. See, why would you go questioning the fact that you are the most beautiful woman in the world. Can't he think that and behave as he did? If he is a sociopath he can. Is his behavior really so inconsistent? I mean, polyamory is not for everyone, but it's not so out there. I'm just saying, does it matter more to you how he feels about you and how he treats you? Or what he does when you are not around? Does he have to be his "real" self all the time? And if he was, would you even like him still?

I am self diagnosing him but I thought I would look for a little feedback.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fearmongering called out

Reader D. Birdick shares a pretty charming book review of one of the more alarmist of pop sociopath "literature":
Hey, how goes it?

I came across this review of Martha Stout's book The Sociopath Next Door on Amazon that I thought you might find amusing and even a bit insightful:

Dark Mechanicus JSG "Black Ops Teep"
Welcome to my World!

Yep, many have called me a sociopath in my day. Only one of them, however, got to say something after that, and that was only because the gun jammed.

Ha! Ha! Kidding. Martha Stout has put together this slender little tome, packed with pop science and plenty of white desert-like margins, that sets out to let you know that:

1)Four percent of the population exhibits sociopathic qualities. For the mathematically challenged---that is, pretty much 96% of the population---that means 1 out of 25.

Think about that statistic for a minute.Take an office with 25 people, and chances are Herbie the Courier Guy or Roald (you know, Roald, the guy with glasses and the shaky sweaty hands, the Quiet One. Roald. Sheesh) has invested in some XP-142 Night Vision goggles and a serrated knife, and, um, a GPS device that might lead him to your front door.

At 2 in the morning. Just so we're clear.

2) These sociopath guys, like the Wu-Tang Clan, ain't nothing to mess with. No sir. They can't love. They don't feel emotion. They're Republican. They're corporate chieftains. They ride in the Lear, the Limo, the Maybach. They invented War. They smear cats with napalm, then duct tape them to the underside of your car, right by the rear exhaust, with a tricked-out bic lighter just waiting for ignition.

Sorry, I made that last one up. But you get the general gist of the book.

"Sociopath Next Door" is simply not scholarly, and verges on dangerous. Sociopath is a pop-term, like psycho, like axe-murderer, like boogeyman, El Diablo, or Janet Reno, with about the same level of erudition & exactness. It's jarring to see the term used so callously. Isn't it dangerous to fling terms and profiles, particularly ones as crudely formed and ill-defined as this, in what is essentially piece of pulp pop-science?

"Sociopath" even tries to put together a home-made psycho alarm for the Gentle Reader, the better to ferret out whether weird Mr. Fishbein, the crazy coot who lies next door, lies awake on his bed at nights dressed only in a giant plastic baggy whispering to his AK-47 and plotting your demise. Guess what should set off alarm bells & unleash the hounds?

That's right: someone who asks for pity. For mercy. For clemency. A pity-junky, according to this book, is a ravening sociopath probably plotting to get you fired, pour acid on your car, and eat your firstborn child with some fava beans and a fine chianti.

"Sociopath" also spends some time talking about the supposed human superstition against killing: according to her, people really kill only when supervised by (you guessed it!) a drooling sociopath. The irony here: the author indicates one means by which men make their subjects kill is by de-humanizing the Other: using language to demonize, to turn the Outsider, the Pariah, the Unclean (usually some target ethnic or religious group), into an "It".

It's a fair point.. But skim her book, and simply replace sociopath with any ethnic epithet and take a look at how it reads. Avoid the devilish sociopaths. They don't feel. They're not human. They have cold blood. They're killers. Four percent of the planet is responsible for all the rape, the killing, the torture, and the endless popularity of David Hasselhoff.

Hasn't this book demonized sociopaths as brutally, as unfairly, as unjustly, as anything any Monster of History did with their fave victim class? Where's the Love for the American Psycho? Are we not also Human? Cut* us, do we not bleed? Cut us twice, do we not make you bleed more?

But what "Sociopath" edges away from is the really interesting question here: what if sociopathy is not a malady? What if it's evolution? What if the guy who doesn't get all weepy over "Beaches" is really Humanity New New Thing, the silver-suited astropath who will transcend this miserable mortal coil and help us defeat the Ichthyoid Nasties from Betelgeuse 14?

In the meantime, using the book's 'method' for spotting psychos is about as useful as playing spin the bottle. Intuition, instinct, and your own experience probably cuts the mustard, and you don't have to waste your money on this one-way ticket to Paranoia. Granted, instinct isn't perfect.

But it sure beats fretting over whether your trip next door to borrow the lawnmower should include a can of mace, a sawed-off 12 gauge, and kevlar body armor.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Am I a sociopath? (part 6)

My long response:
Sorry I haven't written back sooner. I have been thinking a lot about what you wrote, though. Your story has reminded me so much of my own, and you are hitting this self-recognition point right about the same age that I did. I didn't start hitting my first rough patches in life or in interactions with others until my late teens, early twenties. Like you, whenever I had problems, I would doubt myself, wonder whether maybe things needed to change, maybe I needed to see the world a little differently -- but stuff would calm down and I was pretty Burkean about things -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I really had a skewed view of the world, too. I was so self-deceived. I felt like I was two people: I was the person I pretended to be, and I was the person I feared I was. I would snap back and forth between the two like Jekyll and Hyde. When I was trying to be good, by playing by the rules, I would be Jekyll, when things weren't going my way or I felt that other people were "cheating," I turned into Hyde. It's funny, by avoiding who we are as sociopaths, by trying to ignore or avoid our natural tendencies to manipulate and wear masks, we become even more manipulative and masked. We try to be something we are not, try to convince others that we are something we are not, we think our "emotional" reactions to things are justified and act accordingly, when really they are just Jekyll-crazy claims that we take as if they came from honest-Hyde. Do you know what I mean? It's one thing to hear voices telling us to kill people and realize that it is a hallucination, a side effect of a malfunctioning brain. It is quite another thing to hear the voice and think it is god telling us what we need to do. When we pretend that we aren't sociopaths, we take information and perceptions we receive with our sociopath brain and interpret it under what we think are empath rules. What we end up with is a ticking time bomb of self-deception and totally misguided beliefs and irrational behavior -- we literally act like we are crazy.

As a concrete and personal example of what I'm talking about, although I was widely respected and accomplished as a teenager, I never had close friends through my teenage years. After a long period of time in isolation due to my studies, I realized how important human interaction was compared to academic or professional achievements . When I reentered society, I put a huge emphasis on personal relationships, particularly friendship and camaraderie, but in what I see now as a very sterile, selfish way. Because of my natural skills, it was very easy to make friends -- I could be whatever they wanted. Plus I seemed to have everything and, despite that, still wanted to be their friend. People were flattered, but mere months in the friendship I would tire of things being always about them. Their faults would bother me, I would be mean, they would react poorly, things would escalate to the point of me flipping a switch to a total remorseless, vengeance-minded sociopath. I would pour out the wrath, and the other person would never be the same. I felt bad whenever this happened. I tried to figure out what went wrong, but always through my same lenses of self-deception. Kind of like your experience: "I've always reached a point of terror and confusion, and then I'd force everything to the back of my mind and go on trying to be a normal person." I would always go back to the same way of doing things, the same way of thinking. But I was increasingly afraid of myself, what I could do to people -- what I did do to people. I felt out of control. I started warning friends to watch out for me. The pattern continued until I had my own personal version of scorched earth. I retreated from society again and really tried to figure out this time what was happening, who I was. This time I was truly open to any real possibility.

What I came up with at the time was that I was different, I was special. Or perhaps more accurately, I had special powers and abilities, and that made me different. I felt like the proverbial superhero myth, originated with tales of the gods. Like Superman, like Heracles, (like Harry Potter even?), like so many other people born with talents for writing, theatre, dance, music, I seemed normal at first, indistinguishable from anyone else, really. But I wasn't -- I had a gift. That's how I thought of it back then. Just as I would think it was a waste if Bach had never written a note, Dickens had never written a line, etc. etc., I knew I had a responsibility to magnify my talents. Maybe this sounds grandiose or narcissistic, but it helped me to accept myself at the time, helped me reform good habits of dealing with myself and others. And it is true. The world needs people like us. We fulfill a very special function -- we have been evolutionary selected over millenia. And we are rare. That makes us very powerful, and yes, very special. Hating sociopaths is like hating a wildfire. We may seem destructive, but we pave the way for growth and renewal by rebooting the land back to a more pure state.

I would write more, answer questions from your earlier emails, but not now. Soon. But keep me informed. I am very happy for you.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Am I a sociopath? (part 5)

Our questioning reader:
Hello again.

This will be the last message I send unless you see fit to send a reply. I've done a lot of thinking over the past couple days, and I do believe I'm a sociopath. While I often seek out the affection and acceptance of others, I never truly feel anything in return. If they reject me, and I feel hurt, it's only at being denied something I want. I do have a lot of the symptoms associated with aspergers syndrome; however, people with AS do seem to have a sense of right and wrong, along with affection for others. I'm quite indifferent to anything that happens to anyone other than myself, unless it happens to me. Even my family members mean very little to me, and I usually only contact them to alleviate boredom, maintain appearances, or get their help with something.

I think the bulk of my confusion was caused by my desire to be liked and accepted. I wanted to believe that I was a normal human being, not a beast who deserved to be treated poorly. These desires, along with the anxiety I felt, served not only as motivators for my self-deception, but also as a mechanism for denial. Surely, a sociopath wouldn't have such intense reactions to such things.

Reading your site, and quite a few others, has really started to opened my eyes. I'm beginning to see that Sociopaths aren't the heartless creatures portrayed by the media. We do have feelings, even if we aren't capable of genuine affection, empathy, guilt, or remorse. As such, having them doesn't necessarily preclude a person from being a sociopath, nor does being a sociopath mean that we must take pleasure in causing pain for others.

I think I'm starting to realize that it's okay to be what most would consider fake, because my desires and methods are what truly define me, and my masks are a part of that. Whether I've wanted to or not, for the past five years, I've been finding traits I admire in people and consciously adding them to my repertoire, albeit not as successfully as the type of sociopath you see in the movies. It's all I knew how to do. I think my failures are almost certainly due to a conflict between my natural inclinations toward manipulation and my fear of being a subhuman husk.

In the process, I feel I've also been denying myself the core of my potential: sheer tenacity.

Today, I allowed myself to put on masks which I didn't try to believe in myself. It felt so natural. It felt so liberating. It didn't leave me feeling drained like trying to mix assimilated personality traits with constant honesty and identity checks. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do before I can do this consistently and effectively, but it was such a relief to do it at all. It made me feel at peace.

I'd like to apologize for the confused emails I sent you before. This struggle to understand myself has been raging for several years now, on and off. I've always reached a point of terror and confusion, and then I'd force everything to the back of my mind and go on trying to be a normal person. This time, I've reached what I believe to be a conclusion, and it's largely due to what I've read on your site.

I no longer fear myself.
I don't feel so alone.
I no longer feel defective.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Am I a sociopath? (part 4)

Our questioning reader writes again:
I'm sorry for emailing you so much, but I've never had the opportunity to speak with someone about these things without the fear of being judged. It's been eating at me for about 5 years, ever since I started realizing that there was something wrong with my emotional and moral circuitry. It's been extremely confusing for me, and I'm not sure how to cope with it.

I'm sure it must sound quite crazy.

After reading information at WrongPlanet and on your Site... though I have many of the symptoms of Aspergers, I find myself identifying more readily with things I've read here.

There's a side of me that I've struggled to repress ever since I became aware of it. When I was younger, I used to take pleasure in causing pain to people who I felt had wronged me. Even offending my ego was enough to set me off. I won't get into the things I did, because that's really not important, but what is important was the general lack of remorse I felt. It was always their fault. Their deserved what happened to them. They should have expected it. That kind of thinking.

But I did feel emotions. I just felt whatever emotions I needed to feel at the time. If I needed someone to feel sorry for me, I'd get very sad and start crying. If I needed someone to take my side in something, I'd feel victimized. The feelings were very shallow, but they were there none-the-less.

I don't feel that any more. Ever since I became aware of it, I haven't been able to allow myself to feel much of anything. I suffer terrible social anxiety now, and I never used to. I feel like I have to watch everything I say or do, and it's debilitating. The worst part is I can see how easy it would be to fit in if I could just bring myself to actively put on a show instead of relying on passive defense techniques... but I just can't do it. I'm afraid that I'll lose a part of myself that I won't be able to get back. I'm afraid of being hollow.

I want so badly for this quest to understand myself to stop. To end. Without worrying that I'll completely lose myself. I look in the mirror, and I see someone who is capable of anything.

It's so confusing, and it leads me in so many different directions. It's inconsistent. It makes me feel insane, but only when I'm thinking about myself. I just don't understand why I can't understand my own identity.

Constantly watching myself is debilitating. It's making life very tough. Keeping myself honest is very tough. My natural inclination in any situation is just to say whatever I need to say, but I struggle to speak with absolute honesty. I struggle not to magically become whatever a person needs me to become just to get close to them. When I'm around other people, I almost can't function, because so much of my focus is spent gauging my reactions and scrutinizing my thoughts. Am I being honest? Should I really say this? I usually wind up at a loss for words, or being brutally honest about everything... which makes it hard to have a sense of humor until I can "figure out" someone else's sense of humor.

Again, I apologize for all of this. I'm just hoping you can help me to understand myself, or give me some advice. I honestly don't know what's wrong with me. I just know that something most definitely is, and I'm afraid to settle on anything--especially sociopathy.

Am I a sociopath? (part 3)

I'm going to publish the responses from our questioning reader in roughly the same time sequence that I received them and responded so you can get an idea of his thought process, which may be very familiar to a lot of you:
One other diagnosis I'm considering is Aspergers Syndrome. Everything I said in my last email is true, but I lack the ability to blend in socially that I've read most sociopaths have. I'm oblivious to non-verbal communication, and there are many quirks that set me apart from those you might consider normal. I may simply share the emotional detachment, and a few other traits, with sociopaths.

Honestly, I'm very confused. I would see a professional, but I have a problem with authority figures even though I find myself seeking some kind of validation. I'm not sure I could be honest with doctor, even if I tried--even if I thought I was being honest. As I said, looking into myself isn't something I'm very good at.

About being a sociopath... do you experience no emotions at all? This isn't how life feels to me. It feels to me like my emotions are filtered to the point of being beyond my comprehension, like an engine silently powering all of the logical mechanisms in my personality. To be honest with you, I didn't even recognize them until a phase of drug abuse cracked my ego. Coincidentally, it was the first time I realized I could be wrong and recognized that rationally, I wasn't the smartest person on the planet.

Anyway, that was several years ago, and I've come to recognize the existence of my emotions, but I can't embrace or express them because they're quite terrifying. They're very primitive... very simple and extremely powerful. To me, this doesn't really fit with what I've read about sociopaths. It seems like it may be a) an autism spectrum disorder or b) some kind of developmental disability. I find it hard to believe that a true sociopath could be made aware of his own feelings through drug abuse, though I suppose anything is possible. What's your take on this?

Thank you for your response. I'm glad you took the time to make one.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Am I a sociopath? (part 2)

My response:
From what I have seen, you sound like a sociopath to me, but don't be disheartened. I think you will find that as you continue to learn more about your condition and yourself, the world will begin to seem very right.

Self deception is a classic denial symptom. Denying the sociopathic aspect of yourself distorts how you see others and impairs your judgment. It is important that you realize that you are different from others -- this will help you to avoid hurting them. For instance, most people assume that everyone else is like them and project their own feelings and emotions on others, e.g. "I wouldn't be offended by that comment, so they shouldn't be, either." This is faulty thinking. What you think or feel has nothing to do with what most people think or feel. In fact, it is best to avoid all normative judgments in favor of descriptive ones. Normative judgments hide a million different biases and self deceptions that will lead you astray.

You are special. You are very smart, I am sure, but better than that, you think in a way that very few other people think. Your success at utilizing the intellect that you have likely lies in your ability to think outside of the box all the time. This is easy for you because you have never been inside the box -- you don't even know what it looks like. You can see things that no one else can because you have entirely different experiences coloring your clarity of vision -- their blindspots are where you excel and vice versa.

You seek answers. You seek logic and structure. You probably see behavior around you from neurotypicals that you cannot explain. The explanation for their behavior is the most complicated and difficult thing for a sociopath to understand, but in seeking those answers you will learn much about yourself as well. You will also learn that just because we can manipulate others does not mean we choose to do so. Just because we can exploit does not mean we choose to do so. Sometimes you find weaknesses that you do exploit, and sometimes you find flaws in society that you patch. Sociopathy includes both variants. Personal preference, upbringing, and life objectives can all influence why we choose to do what we do. What makes you a sociopath is not that you choose to do certain things, but that you are presented with an entirely different set of choices than a neurotypical person.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Am I a sociopath? (part 1)

So wonders a reader:

I think I might be a sociopath, but I'm not sure. I don't have a conscience per se, it's more like a logical guide for what is right and wrong. Nothing turns my stomach, no type of immoral behavior enrages me unless I'm on the receiving end. All of my responses, even my "emotional" responses, are calculated and performed.

I know I'm not the smartest person on the planet--VERY WELL, but I feel it. As far as my heart and soul are concerned, there is nobody smarter on this planet, even though the very mind in question knows that's not the case.

I use people when I can, so long as it doesn't hurt them in the process. I'm not sure if that's because I don't want to hurt people or because I'd like to believe I'm not manipulative. Generally speaking, I don't lie about anything except for my feelings.

But I don't go out of my way to hurt people. I actually go out of my way NOT to hurt people. Pretty much my entire life IS an act, and I don't really know who I am... but I'm definitely not normal, nor do I fit all of the negative aspects of the sociopath stereotype.

What does this sound like to you? I'm asking because as much as I'm able to make sense of the world around me, I cannot for the life of me make sense of myself. That is the one thing that my mind can't penetrate. I can state facts about what I do, what I don't do, my habits and tendencies, etc, but trying to form an opinion about myself is like walking through a minefield of self-deception and convenient stray thoughts.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reader responds: Talented Mr. Ripley

In response to our earlier exchange:
Thanks to your post, I was inspired to watch “The Talented Mr. Ripley” again. I was like him in so many ways, minus the serial killing. I was 20 years old when, like Tom, I realized that I appeared to be missing something other people around me seemed to have and take for granted: a firm belief in their sense of self. Unlike Tom Ripley, I didn’t lock in on one particular person who would embody everything I thought I could/should be (i.e. Dickie Greenleaf). I became your classic seeker. I looked for that missing self in a variety of places. My manhunt involved reading a slew of books about philosophy, religion and psychology as well as joining several groups, including the military. I was almost always loved and prized in these groups. I never had a problem getting people to open their homes and their hearts to me. You’d think that would be enough but it wasn’t because I knew. I knew that what the others loved wasn’t real. But I thought that surely some belief system, some moral philosophy, some religion, some group somewhere held the key that would unlock the vault that held the “real me”. It would take years of searching and struggle before I finally reached the place Tom Ripley did at the end of the movie when he realizes that his quest to be a “fake somebody” as opposed to a “real nobody” would never succeed. And like Tom, I was despondent about that. Then I got over it. My inability to fool myself about my self forever cuts me off from the rest of humanity’s common experience. So what. That doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy my life. Besides, without a rock hard sense of self for the brain to constantly recreate, project and defend, I’d be free to pursue my goals without the emotional baggage other people think of as normal.

And just as I’m coming to grips with all of this, I stumble upon your blog. If I believed in a magical universe, I’d call it destiny.

Enough rambling. Thank you for responding to my email. It was very well put. I think that your comments were spot on. And yes, you should definitely publish this exchange, especially your answer. Imagine if I’d gotten these answers when I was 20…

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sociopaths = flexible sense of self

In response to this post, the following question from a reader:
What's up Me. I'd really love to know where you get your information from regarding the sociopath's flexible sense of self. I haven't come across any other material on sociopathology that describes this undefined underlying personality structure you talk about. I'd like to do some more reading about it.

Thanks again for the blog. It's been most illuminating.
My response:
You answered your own question before I got the chance to respond. As you have probably seen in your own research, the concept of a sociopath having an extremely flexible sense of self is not entirely original to me, but you were probably unable to find it stated outright (at least I have not been able to find such a clear statement) in any of the scientific literature. That shouldn't be surprising, though. The literature on sociopaths is quite terrible and almost always fear-mongering. Psychologists studying sociopathy focus on the symptoms rather than the underlying causes.Tthere is some work being done mapping brains of sociopaths, and that has revealed that the brain of a sociopath does in fact work in ways different than an empath's brain. Still, though, scientists seem more concerned with defining the characteristics of a sociopath based anecdotally on what a sociopath is not, e.g. how a sociopath differs from an empath behaviorally, rather than studying the sociopath for what he is -- a different human variant. This is the common complaint of the neurodiversity movement: stop seeing our variations from normal human behavior as symptoms of a defect, and start acknowledging that we have a separate but equal system of thought and survival.

But back to your question. I got my information from piecing together seemingly disparate elements of the literature on sociopaths in a way that conformed with my own personal experience . Psychologists see traits like "inability to conform to social norms," "lack of conscience," "chameleon-esque," "masked," "charming," "undetectable," and "versatility" and think that it is a hodgepodge of unrelated characteristics. They understand the "what," but they don't understand the "how." As you mentioned in your most recent comment, I believe the "how," the origin of many of our observed behaviors, is that we don't have a rigid sense of self, a characteristic that I believe you correctly label as one of the sociopath's defining characteristics, and if I may add, perhaps the predominant defining characteristic.

I'm glad you enjoy the blog. I enjoy your comments. And do let us all know if you find anything written on the sociopath's flexible sense of self.
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