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.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Am I a sociopath? (part 6)
My long response: