Monday, February 22, 2010

Sociopaths and climate change

Here's an interesting review of Superfreakonomics:
The whole conceit behind “SuperFreakonomics” and, before that, “Freakonomics,” which sold some four million copies, is that a dispassionate, statistically minded thinker can find patterns and answers in the data that those who are emotionally invested in the material will have missed. (The subtitle of “Freakonomics,” published in 2005, is “A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.”) In this way, Levitt and Dubner claim to have solved the mystery of why crime, after soaring in the nineteen-eighties, dropped in the nineteen-nineties. (The explanation, they say, is the legalization of abortion, some eighteen years earlier.) They also have proved—at least to their own satisfaction—that names like Ansley and Philippa will be popular for girls in the coming decade, that reading to your kids doesn’t matter, and that drunks should be encouraged to drive rather than walk.
Their proposed climate-change solution:
“Once you eliminate the moralism and the angst, the task of reversing global warming boils down to a straightforward engineering problem,” Levitt and Dubner write. All we need to do is figure out a way to shoot huge quantities of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere on our own. This could be done, they say, by sending up an eighteen-mile-long hose: “For anyone who loves cheap and simple solutions, things don’t get much better."
A solution which causes this reviewer to seethe:
But what’s most troubling about “SuperFreakonomics” isn’t the authors’ many blunders; it’s the whole spirit of the enterprise. Though climate change is a grave problem, Levitt and Dubner treat it mainly as an opportunity to show how clever they are. Leaving aside the question of whether geoengineering, as it is known in scientific circles, is even possible—have you ever tried sending an eighteen-mile-long hose into the stratosphere?—their analysis is terrifyingly cavalier.
* * *
Though Levitt and Dubner . . . manage to anticipate [Al]Gore’s position. The two argue that his views are the ones that rest on magical thinking. “If you think like a cold-blooded economist instead of a warm-hearted humanist, Gore’s reasoning doesn’t track,” they write. “It’s not that we don’t know how to stop polluting the atmosphere. We don’t want to stop, or aren’t willing to pay the price.” Here the two have a point. By the end of [Gore's book] “Our Choice,” it may be clear that we possess the tools needed to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions, but the book has also shown—intentionally or not—that deploying them would require a lot from us. It would mean changing the way we eat, shop, manufacture, and get around, and, ultimately, how we see ourselves. It is the difficulty of imagining such changes that makes schemes like Levitt and Dubner’s at once so alluring and so dangerous.
"Alluring and dangerous"? Changing "how we see ourselves"? "terrifyingly cavalier"? When I first read this, I was surprised at how someone could react with such emotion to climate change -- and what a unique and interesting venue for taking the moral high ground! Kudos!

Full disclosure, I don't really believe the depth with which one feels emotions or the capacity for empathy actually improves logical analysis. I am actually a fan of dispassionate, statistically minded thinking. Maybe if we had more of that we would have nuclear power everywhere instead of pumping carbon into the air by burning gas and coal. But of course we wouldn't do that, because nuclear power is somehow wrong -- and not really the problem here! Stop distracting from the fact that big corporations killed the electric car! And people refuse to buy produce from local farmers! Demonize! Idealize! I do think we could stand to eat less meat and stop certain agricultural subsidies, but because it makes sense to me -- not because I think they are morally wrong. I guess this is just one of those moral outrage things I will never really get (see also Octomom).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pop science

A reader recently sent this article. I have no way of confirming whether this is an actual newspaper, but I decided to dedicate a post to it because I think it's important to remember that although I'm sure most of us surround ourselves with well-informed, well-educated, and reasonable people, there is still a contingent of crazies out there that not only are clueless, but are also incredibly insistent that the rest of us are deluding ourselves. This irritates my libertarian self (perhaps contradictorily? or hypocritically?) more than anything else -- the only thing this has to do with sociopathy is the subject matter of the article. Under the headline "psychopaths are hard to spot," we are treated to such gems as:
The issue of the psychopath in popular culture is, unfortunately, muddied by TV shows like "Dexter." He's no psychopath, he's just Old Testament, as in justifying taking a life for the greater good. Closer to the reality, only through adept use of satire and irony, is the film version of American Psycho.

True psychopathy has no moral, nothing to redeem taking a life. It's ugly, evil and dark because of the absence of anything resembling any positive human quality. The true psychopath is a destroyed human who can do nothing other than maliciously spread his or her destructive nature.
We are invited to "contact reporter Paul Walton at or call 250-729-4230." Just, you know, if you would like to hear some more of his pet theories.

Now I am sort of questioning publishing this. Who cares, right? It's obviously so stupid that no one would give this sort of thing credence, would they? Yeah, tell that to the next mob that has decided to target one of your personally defining characteristics.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ch-ch -changes

A reader informs me that aspies aren't the only ones getting reshuffled in the proposed new DSM.
Interestingly, the new DSM, or at least the draft presented online, (1) renames ASPD to "Antisocial/Psychopathic PD" and (2) completely removes NPD. Narcissists now have "a core personality impairment with prominent traits such as callousness, manipulativeness, histrionism and narcissism." Sociopaths on the other hand have "callousness, aggression, manipulativeness, hostility, deceitfulness, narcissism, irresponsibility, recklessness and impulsivity." It seems that under the new definitions sociopaths are just malicious, foolhardy narcissists with a diminished emotional repertoire. This is really a new perspective and one that might or might not be as absurd as it seems at first glance.

Again, this shows how the definitions (such as DSM) are completely misleading as to the depth of experience and as to the diversity of different wirings out there.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New blow to aspies: sociopathy under umbrella of neurodiversity

A reader provides even more info on the changing face of neurodiversity:
I have had the chance to interact with lots of researchers who aim to help autistic people deal with their affective problems (and the resulting social ones). I must say that many of them are now aware of the "neurodiversity" principle. I have even had the chance to discuss sociopathy as a potential condition to be placed under the umbrella of neurodiversity with a specialist, and the response I got was surprisingly encouraging. The discussion concluded, among other things, that sociopaths ought to be allowed to think however they wish, as long as they don't break laws and harm others, and that no one has the right to impose a particular method of thinking to anybody else. Of course, ideas that emerge in select institutions of higher education take decades to spread among the general public, so that will be something for the following generations to witness I guess.
Ah aspies, when it rains it pours. Don't worry, though. You can stand under my umbrella.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Asperger's = Autism?

Oh no, aspies! I just heard the bad news that "the man" is basically trying to kick your unique diagnosis to the curb and lump you amongst the (relatively more) unwashed masses (i.e., auties). I hope this doesn't jeopardize your social status amongst your neurodiversity cohorts! A reader flagged this New York Times op-ed for me:
Many people with milder symptoms of autism have, for the past 20 years or so, received a diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder. Some autistic adults call themselves “Aspies” to celebrate their talents and differences. And many parents have embraced the label because they have found it less stigmatizing, and so it has eased their sense of loss.

This may soon change, however. The American Psychiatric Association, with its release this week of proposed revisions to its authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is recommending that Asperger’s be dropped. If this revision is adopted, the condition will be folded into the category of “autism spectrum disorder,” which will no longer contain any categories for distinct subtypes of autism like Asperger’s and “pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified” (a category for children with some traits of autism but not enough to warrant a diagnosis).
Wow, there goes your social life, right? It's just like when your rich parents got divorced and you had to move to the wrong side of the tracks with your mom and shop at flea markets for your black leather jacket and army boots that were so ugly and ill-fitting, they distracted anyone from seeing the pain/shame inside. But don't worry, aspies, I am diagnosis blind when it comes to personality disorders. I accept all empathy-challenged types here. Small comfort, you say? Yeah, I know that you have traditionally considered yourself too good for sociopaths, but this may be as good of an offer as you are going to get now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sociopath forum

From a reader, this link to a sociopath forum that is just starting (for both socios and neurotypicals, apparently):

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sociopath song of the day: highway exit

As recommended by a reader, a band whose lyricist seems to be a member of a very (s)pecial fan club.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Seduction update

Success on all fronts, I am pleased to announce. Apparently I was just too "intoxicating," "charming," or "enchanting" to resist. Or in all fairness, maybe I am the one being seduced, who knows. I am also pleased to say that the post-seduction bliss is just that, although it has been making me think about something I read once, that sociopath targeting consists of three phases: (1) the assessment phase, (2) the manipulation phase and (3) the abandonment phase. Where is the enjoy the fruits of your labor phase? Why bother planting a seed of seduction, nurturing it over the period of several months (or even years), and then abandoning it immediately? Why would anybody think that is accurate? Maybe there are sociopaths out there who do that, but I have never understood the point. When I build/grow something, it is meant to last.

I actually encourage bonding from my targets once they are hooked. In the initial stages part of the fun of seduction for both sides is the uncertainty -- the excitement of not knowing what will happen next. Once someone is hopelessly smitten, however, instilling a sense of unease in your target will only create emotional outbursts and other anxiety-related bad behavior. I do not get pleasure from seeing people cry, so this type of result does not appeal to me at all. To avoid this (and as a happy successful seduction gift to them), I always root out their biggest insecurity with regards to the relationship and alleviate it. It helps them to settle in, like changing out of cocktail attire and into sleepwear. I feel that it encourages the nesting instinct in the target. Interestingly, as they feel more secure in the relationship, my power over them increases. I have always thought that was a slightly perverse result, one on which sloppier seducers might never completely exploit. But I guess that is always the trade off from allowing yourself to be tamed by another human -- it's great to get steady meals and shelter, but you also come to depend on your master.

Friday, February 5, 2010

House: Remorse

Thanks to a reader for flagging this for me, a recent episode of "House" features a sociopath. Worth watching, although (spoiler alert) I think the ending is a little too neatly packaged and happy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On empaths controlling/manipulating sociopaths (part 3)

A reader writes (cont.):
That's essentially it in a nutshell. There are hundreds of subtleties that aren't worthy of discussion, but this is the basics of it. Of course, step 3 is the most important. It is the "bread and butter" of the beautiful process. I have made real hard gains off of this manipulation, and not just the pleasure of knowing I have his bidding at my fingertips. I have made cold hard cash - more so than he made off of me. Believe it or not, we empaths can and do get serious pleasure out of manipulation - we just aren't as controlled by the desire as you are. This is why I know, ultimately, empaths are more powerful than sociopaths - so long as they have the capacity to become aware of what they're dealing with.

On a fairly separate note, I have developed and fine-tuned the ability to point out sociopaths upon observing some of their behavior. I don't know if you too are capable of this, but I can see clearly just from videos that L Ron Hubbard, Rod Blagojevich (especially obvious), and many others are sociopaths. I came to the realization that Charlie Sheen was one even before I was aware of his spousal and drinking issues and his proclivity towards child porn. Here's a fun fact you might not know: I can tell Angelina Jolie is one.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On empaths controlling/manipulating sociopaths (part 2)

A reader writes (cont.):
The method is quite simple. In fact, it employs many of the same methods that sociopaths use to manipulate empaths. The first key is to realize an essential fact: everything - and I mean absolutely every single thing - the sociopath says is suspect (particularly things of any significance regarding the future). (This is why I remain skeptical about your true nature, and extremely so of your supposed intentions regarding your site.) What do I mean by this? In short, I mean: I always figured his words were very likely total bullshit. I always had my guard up. I stopped believing in the authenticity of everything that came out of his mouth, of all his actions, of all his feigned emotions. I maintained the artificial pretense (sound familiar?) that I felt authenticity out of him and out of his supposed intentions. This actually required much less acting than I initially thought it would, because more than anything it simply required a "freeing up" of my typical emotional responses (which wasn't all that hard to do). I would have to feign an air of nervousness in his presence every now and then, because I knew this satisfied him and made him feel in control.

Step 2: I engaged in subtle, subtle, subtle forms of flattery. You sociopaths are more prone to flattery than you would like to believe (and no - he is not a narcissist...not worth my time explaining how I know, but I am quite certain). In fact when I came across a blog post on your site (I haven't read that many) where you stated that one way to control a sociopath might be through flattery, I literally laughed out loud.

Step 3 (the last step): I acted and planned constantly with the awareness that what he craves most is control and power. This awareness allowed me to devise situations that would appear to him as if they would lead to more power/control for him in his life (especially toward his peers), when in fact I engineered them to end up in him sacrificing something to me. You may notice that this is basically the same thing you do to empaths in relationships with them: you create a pretense of situations that will lead to more emotional security, fulfillment, sympathy, etc. because this is precisely what many empaths crave, whereas I create the pretense of situations leading to more power/control because this is what sociopaths crave.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On empaths controlling/manipulating sociopaths (part 1)

A reader writes:
Hello, m.e.,

I've been reading about sociopathy for many years now but only recently came across your site. I am an empath. In fact, I am perhaps a bit "more" empathetic than most empaths would be.

I believe I have developed a method for controlling, even manipulating, sociopaths: that is, beating them at their own game. I will not post my entire story yet because 1) I remain, and probably always will remain, unconvinced that you are a sociopath until I can observe you in person (this is my skeptical nature) and 2) I'm not sure that you would be interested in hearing many of the details. You'll have to respond to let me know.

The story, in brief: about six years ago I discovered the sociopathic nature of a male friend very close to me. In short, he briefly successfully conned me out of hundreds of dollars (not that serious, but unpleasant) to fund an affair (he had another long term girlfriend then) I had no idea he was having. Even though he was able to guilt me into not accusing him of failing to repay me, I quickly became very suspicious. I began to notice an almost inhuman detachment in his facial expressions. When he smiled, I would often notice that the smile was emotionally vacant. This may sound strange, but the smile felt subtly slower to me. I am very adept at picking up facial cues and intuitively knowing what people around me are thinking, how they're feeling - even what their true intentions are. It is nearly at the level of a psychic ability (though I am a strict materialist and do not believe in that). My Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ (the same as Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, and supposedly/theoretically Jesus Christ) and is often attributed an uncanny ability to see straight through to what people are thinking/feeling.

Back to the story, I began researching sociopathy and similar disorders online. I was completely certain that what I had on my hands was a full blown sociopath - and certainly one of the more impulse controlling varieties (a college grad and actually quite motivated and hard working). At this point, I became really excited. I could not wait to see what I could do to him - in short, to see if I could actually beat him at his own game. (This statement may give you the impression that I might be a sociopath. I am not. I sometimes cry during those infomercials about feeding African children and so forth. I could not list the number of times I've cried on someone else's behalf.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Haruhi Suzumiya: textbook sociopath

A reader recommended this "popular Japanese book/manga/anime starring a high-school aged girl named Haruhi Suzumiya who is a textbook sociopath." I watched it and liked it. There were a few things that are just eerily accurate for a sociopath in the character of Haruhi Suzumiya.
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