Saturday, September 12, 2009

Emptythy


I wanted to touch on empathy. Sociopaths don't feel empathy in the common definition of the word. Though there are many definitions of the word, the most common use comes from the ability to feel others emotions in order to help the other person. It is associated with sympathy and compassion. In this definition of the word, sociopaths have no capacity for empathy, since their focus is on benefiting themselves. However, a sociopath does have the ability to understand what others are feeling to the extent that they can trigger people's emotions in order to manipulate them in ways impossible to others. They are able to simulate emotional states in order to manipulate people's empathy. This can be to gain sympathy, compassion, belief, or any other state of consciousness they want people to have towards them. This act is very similiar to empathy, only the goal is not to put oneself in another's shoes in order to help them, but to help the sociopath. The common belief that a sociopath can't understand other people is false. How else would they have the uncanny ability to charm others? The ones who don't are not likely to achieve all the goals they want. To the real sociopaths out there: find out what other people are in need of emotionally and satisfy that need. Some people need direction. Some people need self esteem. Some people need the confidence that you carry. Once you understand the people around you power is truly in your hands.

25 comments:

  1. The way i feel empathy is like this....if i think that particular bad situation could possiblely ever happen to me, then i can feel upset, if i don't think it could ever happen to me i tend to shrug it off. Empathy can be a selfish thing when i really think about it. But i am more than willing to help if i think that favour may be returned to me one day when i might need it :)

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  2. A sociopath without the ability to simulate another's emotional state is merely an autistic or a schizoid. Glad you said it, M.E.

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  3. My observations of a few friends who appear to be sociopaths is that they seem to have a form of reverse-empathy. While empaths enjoy others' pleasure and contributing to it, sociopaths appear to enjoy others' suffering--particularly when they are causing it. Even more they seem to enjoy causing pain while seeming to be helping.

    I wonder if this is partly because sociopaths want control, and suffering people are easier to control. Even easier to control are suffering people who believe they are being helped, as they will unwittingly cooperate with the "helper's" schemes.

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  4. I think this post is definitely on point. If I had to guess, I’d say that for normals, empathy is something that happens automatically. They have little control over it. Of course, I’m making yet another sweeping generalization. Empathy, like all psychological traits, is bound to be slightly different per individual. It’s just that in the case of someone like a sociopath, empathy isn’t instinctive and is just as easily turned off as it is turned on.

    See, this is why I like this blog. Most of the material written about people with this personality variant are written from the outsider point of view. These posts are written from the insider point of view and things always look slightly different when you're on the inside.

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  5. Empathy can be very meaningless at times... empathy is not always a full blown feeling....kindness however is completely different. Thats a selfless action. I wonder what m.e makes of kindness? I can't always empathise for people who continue to make the same foolish mistakes. I can only emapathise with people who have shit things happen to them just because life can be a bitch sometimes.

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  6. I think your speaking on sympathy tink. There's a difference.

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  7. I'm new to reading this blog, but find a lot of posts on point. I would only add here that a sociopath is gifted in identifying the opportunities of emotional exploitation because the contrast- the discrepancy- of how a normal person processes an experience versus a sociopath is so distinctly different to the observing sociopath that it really doesn't take that much emotional 'understanding' to identify someone's dominant emotional mechanics. I also find that many sociopaths, as natural mimics, are gifted in identifying patterns of behavior and thought and thusly aberrations in those established patterns. Emotional reactions and weaknesses are commonly found behind those aberrations.

    Pro social, 'normals' as you call them, are also hardwired to accept that everyone is like them. This makes them easy to exploit undetected, and more apt to empathize. In a way empathy is a tool for 'normals' to project their emotional process upon others to acquire the needed emotional investment or motivation in certain situations without really having to understand the true emotional mechanics of the other person. Empathy doesn't mean you understand the emotional process of someone else, it means you relate to a person through your own emotional processes. Why, it's rather narcissistic if you think about it.

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  8. Excellent points Sarah. Empathy, as it’s normally understood, is a lot like projection and is therefore a fundamentally ‘self centered’ experience. Tell that to the poor souls who comment on love fraud though.

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  9. I share the same laughter at the irony of the psych community on sociopaths. Its a wonder if they lack the ability to have intorspection since they never seem to be able to fix themselves.
    Ive always wondered if the coin is really on the reverse side. Is the reason sociopathy not being able to be cured and the therapist manipulated because the therapist is actually the one mentally ill?

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  10. Nope pager thats my own little take on empathy lol. Sarahs explaination was a lot more accurate and in depth though. I understood her completely. I just don't think empathy work's entirely on its own in order to be affective. Sympathy and kindness have to be present in order for anything effective to happen.
    Ok maybe im confusing you a bit here (lord knows im confusing myselfs...but hey its real early right now lol) Ok a homeless man on the street begging for loose change, i can empathasis with him in terms of that i really think it would suck to be in that position, but without a shred of sypmpathy or kindness no way am i going to stick my hand in my pocket and pull him out some coins.
    The lady who lives across the street loses husband to war, i can empathise how that might feel if that ever happened to me, but without sympathy or kindness which obviously leads to compassion, no way am i going to knock on her door with a card and a home made pie to offer my sincerest condolances.

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  11. Tink, I agree with you on some level but kinda think you came about your idea the wrong way. And I think it's adorable that you believe that emotional empathy is the same thing as an intellectual epiphany, or more clearly, an ability to see things from different perspectives. I'm not being condescending. I think it's adorable because in your own way your trying to make empathy more dignified (or what an intellectual would consider dignified).

    I think the reactive part of empathy is all based on intent. There are a lot of emphaths who would give money to the homeless man because it alleviates misplaced guilt about his situation or even they are so engrossed in the emotional state of BEING that homeless person that they are giving that change to themselves by proxy. Either way, from the outside it all looks the same and neither one of those scenarios has anything to do with kindness. Well, I guess the end result is kindness, but the intent isn't selfless - not purely. Which I"m fine with.

    There is intent behind all actions. Trying to discern an empaths intent is a bloody mess. All over the map. You think it's simple for them, because it's simple for you: you see a homeless man. Perspective: being homeless sucks. check. His need = money. I have money. If I give him money he will be back tomorrow.

    Now whether you have a preference on where this homeless man is, that is what drives your behavior. Unlike an empath, you know that no matter what you give him, he will still be homeless. The $1.35 you've got in your pocket isn't going to be the X factor that brings this guy around. So maybe this isn't your street and you don't mind him being here. In fact, better this street than yours. And just like that...this homeless man got $1.35 closer to being able to afford that fifth of gin he looks forward to every evening.

    My point is - thought is linear...usually. Easy to map. Empaths have a spectrum of emotions, nuanced and changing. You can't map it. And one is not better or 'more kind'. At least not intrinsically.

    One of the biggest differences in the value system of an empath and a sociopath is the large value an empath puts on intent compared to the large value a sociopath puts on contribution. What bugs me is to an some empaths someone's intent can disqualify their contribution - even if the contribution is useful. But a sociopath would never disqualify an action as unproductive or 'bad' based solely on the intent behind it. Have you ever experienced someone who tried to insult you or injure you in some way and it was completely ineffective? It's mostly puzzling, isn't it? At least at first. "Why would they think this would bother me?" You are either bothered by it or you aren't. Intent is separate. If injury is a fixed intent of theirs, well...you can't have that. They might wise up and actually hurt you one day. But if the way they lash out at you, doesn't effect you...well, that's a good thing isn't it?

    I don't mind being around people who can't hurt me. In fact, they are my favorite type of person.

    Anyway this is a long round about explanation that explains why psychiatrist consider sociopaths 'untreatable' as well. They study behavior, but think disease/deviance is defined by intent. Why you do what you do is the key to changing who you are. Well, you can't reform a sociopath by appealing to his empathy, that well is dry. Changing his intent to be less self-serving is...well, just not gonna happen. But behavior can be reformed. Changing a sociopath's behavior lies in manipulating his perspective, redefining what a criminal sociopath sees as a reward and what he sees as punishment is the key to a behavior change.

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  13. Peter,

    Would you say that emotion can be divided into rational emotion, and irrational emotion?

    Dr Whom

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  15. Emotions and thoughts are both thoughts.

    I think it's clear that empathy is the evolved trait and sociopathy is the more animalistic, base trait. (Not to assign value to either.) Higher emotional depth is what separates humans from the majority of species on this planet. Empathy helps our species live harmoniously in society. But sociopathy also has its advantages. I certainly don't think these claims of sociopathy being "more evolved" than empathy make any sense.

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  16. ({o}) said...

    (i) I think it's clear that empathy is the evolved trait and sociopathy is the more animalistic, base trait.(/i)

    That would mean that as our species evolved it developed a more sophisticated emotional system at the expense of what you call the 'base trait'. But that's not how our evolution went. Or any evolution. Evolution avoids one singular development and encourages diversification. The progression of evolution is measured in a diverse species, not one particular trait.

    Sometimes I wonder if we are inhibiting any further evolution of our species by trying to create a monotone human species with all the drugs we take to mainstream everyone's brain/biology.

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  18. Does that mean there's no chance for you Peter? Too bad, I'm sure your children would really have been something "special."

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  19. I certainly don't think these claims of sociopathy being "more evolved" than empathy make any sense.

    Ok, who’s making the claim that sociopathy is ‘more evolved’ ({o})? I know I didn’t. In one of my comments on another thread, I explicitly stated that I think the truly ‘universal advantage’ is for people to act on the traits they actually have and don’t have. In so much of the literature out there, you hear people pitying the poor soul who doesn’t have a conscience, as if having one is the superior or so called ‘more evolved’ trait in every circumstance. I said that some sociopaths emotionally react against that by claiming superiority for their consciencelessness. But neither state is superior in and of itself. The environment determines fitness, and in certain environments, being without a conscience might be advantageous, while in other environments, the exact opposite might be true. In any event, it doesn’t matter, because you can only act out the characteristics you were born with, or in other words, you can only make the best or worse of the cards nature dealt you.

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  21. Looks like someone's gearing up to run for student council VP. Knock 'em dead Pan!

    (haha, get it? dead...pan. My love of puns will be the ruin of me)

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  22. http://sociopath-community.com/posts/56f37620bc23c9d14613ac09

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