Thursday, September 30, 2010

Female sociopaths and the "no hard feelings" approach

A sociopath reader describes how she breaks up with people so as not to turn them into vengeance seeking liabilities:
Once I got to college and had my fair share of boyfriends that I was less than serious about, I had a method to dumping them. I was in a particularly demanding academic department and I usually had 2 jobs and a couple of activities that I kept up with, so for as long as it took, I would always be busy and tired and have my mind on something else. I was always very apologetic about it. "I'm so sorry- I know you wanted me to go, but this is due tomorrow, and I've had to work 2 shifts today so I couldn't even look at it yet. I promise you'll have my full attention for 2 hours tomorrow night." I'd keep my promise, but fall asleep on his couch during our time together. I was very patient with this, as it could take weeks, but it was worth it. Ultimately, they would decide to break it off (because I wasn't much fun as a girlfriend), and they'd always feel really bad about it since I'd obviously been trying so hard to be as wonderful as I could be.

When they did it dry-eyed, I'd cry just a little (even pretending to cry makes me feel...beneath myself) and do the whole, "but I really like you" bit. They'd then take my hand, put they're arm around me, etc and explain that they liked me too, it just wasn't working out, blah blah. I'd act like I was being all strong and conciliatory, and accept with an "I understand, (*sniff* *sweet-innocent eyes*) can we still be friends?" Always a "yes".

If he cried when doing it, I would hold him and be the most wonderfully understanding person. "I get it. You are probably right. I just can't be a good girlfriend right now." "No- you are a good girlfriend, I just-" "It's okay. I'm right here- you don't have to be sad. If you want to see me, just walk the same two blocks you did today and yesterday. We can still be friends, right?"

Then, the most important step...
I'd tell one very big-mouthed person in our mutual friend group that I'm sad, but I understand and, like a good girl-friend, they'd always say something disparaging about the guy. I'd stop her, very seriously and tell her that he is a really good guy blah blah. Then, if someone came up to me and asked about it, I'd say the same stuff- giving the appearance of a stiff-upper lip and utter respect for the guy. That crap always gets back to them. If I ran into them, I gave them sweet, sad smiles and was as nice as could be. And now, years later, they are super nice to me and always act around me like the are trying to make up for something. No hard feelings. Just useful ones. :)
I think this shows an interesting adaptation of the female sociopath. The female needs to seem emotional (even better needy and weak!) to fit into society, so the female sociopath pretends to be these things in order to not stir the pot needlessly. A female sociopath in a relationship, unlike most male sociopaths in relationships, would also be physically less dominant than her partner. This might make her even more careful to avoid hard feelings, so as not to provoke a physical attack.

I think female sociopath adaptations are fascinating. I really wonder why there hasn't been more extensive research on them, apart from the obvious reasons that they aren't in prison (the psychological world's equivalent of deep pockets) and don't seem to suit the sociopath stereotypes (confirmation bias).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


A doctor believes that sociopaths might be discriminated against in a treatment setting.

The defiant or untrustworthy patient — the alleged sociopath — suffers a similar fate. Everyone “knows” that sociopaths are liars and manipulators, cannot be trusted and need to be treated with an iron fist. The fact that lying and manipulating exist on a continuum of severity and can at least have semiproductive uses (Congress, are you listening?) is obscured by moral outrage.
And so the doctor’s determination not to lose a contest of wills undermines the opportunity to have successful discussions about treatment. The patient instantly senses that the doctor distrusts and dislikes him, and this, coupled with the patient’s lack of respect toward authority figures, leads to a rapidly deteriorating situation, often ending in a discharge against medical advice — much to the team’s relief.

There was an interesting House, MD episode titled "Remorse" that highlighted this very issue, in which a doctor really does refuse to treat a patient properly after discovering the patient is a sociopath. The doctor on House instead becomes obsessed with outting the patient as a sociopath. Of course true sociopaths could hide that aspect of their personality from their doctors pretty convincingly in most situations. The tricky balance is being honest enough to get the right treatment for the right symptoms without revealing your identity or otherwise making people very angry at you.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New season of Dexter!

No spoilers, but I just wanted to acknowledge that Showtime's "Dexter" has done more to educate the general public on sociopathy than any other one source. It is such an accurate depiction of the inner monologue of a sociopath that I think there must be a sociopath on staff as a consultant or a writer. Interestingly, one of the writers at Love Fraud criticizes the character of Dexter for the very reasons that I think there must be an "inside man" who is aware of how a real sociopath thinks:
Speaking of actor Michael C. Hall, I wonder what your take is on Dexter, the great Showtime Series in which Hall plays a sociopathic serial killer working, by day, as a Miami crime-scene forensics analyst?

I love this series, which is coming into its third season. But as disturbing a character as Dexter is, I would not characterize him as a sociopath. This is just a fun diagnostic quibble. Ostensibly, Dexter grows up a budding, violent sociopath. His father (or father-figure) recognizes the dark, evil side over which, as a boy and adolescent, Dexter seems to have little, and diminishing, control. The father sees that Dexter is compulsively, inexorably inclined to sadistic violence.

His solution is to somehow train Dexter to direct his sociopathic, homicidal proclivities towards cruel, menacing, destructive individuals. Best, if someone’s got to be snuffed-out by Dexter, it be someone the world will be better without!

And so Dexter becomes skilled, over time, at identifying individuals the world won’t miss; individuals as dangerous and creepy as he.

Why, then, is Dexter not really a sociopath—and indeed, diagnostically speaking, not even necessarily plausible? Because, despite his violent, murderous compulsions, Dexter is, first of all, a fundamentally sincere person. He is also loyal–for instance to his sister and a girlfriend. And while Dexter struggles to “feel” warm feelings, indeed anything—a struggle, incidentally, that he embraces—he knows how to have the backs of others, even where his self-interest may be at risk.

In a word, Dexter strives, against his darkest, most sordid inclinations, for growth. This is precisely what makes him and the series so fascinating, and precisely what rules him out as sociopath.
One of the commenters on that site quickly points out what should be obvious to readers of this site:
I think a sociopath can show what appears to be loyalty to a girlfriend or someone else, and they can also take action to have someone’s back, even though it appears to put them at risk. Why do I think this? I think if the girlfriend or someone else is someone they view as someone they “own” or have power over, and who will repay their act of loyalty in kind, if the person is someone who has utility to them, they will take action to protect the person. And if that girlfriend or other person is being mistreated or in some sort of trouble from someone OTHER than the psychopath himself, then I think it is also a game to them, to oneup that other person who is causing the trouble–to win over them. Even when it appears they are putting themselves at risk out of altruisim or concern to save someone else, it is really just to see how they can manipulate the situation to save the person, and it is thrilling to them to put their ownselves at risk, then get away with it and get themselves out of the situation and win the game. But if it actually came down to the wire of the girlfriend or person whose back they are saving or themselves, at that point, if they’ve exhausted all other options, then they’d throw the person under the bus.
But again, if anyone knows or wants to find out who Dexter's "inside man" is, I would pay money to know. I would credit the insider's level of insight to the author of the original books, which I haven't read, but I hear they are not quite as good as the television series.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

No longer a "victim" of a sociopath

A reader and the author of a sociopath survival book, Dark Souls gives this opinion about healing:
I had an email from a woman who said I am thinking about going back to my sociopath ex. He is thinking about being open and honest. What do you think ?

I said I think the chances are he has been caught with his pants down and wants to keep the relationshp going in the hope that he might be able to have you for supply in the future. I get a reply back to say he has raped, buggered, and battered her. Why does she want to go back. Because it feeds into her victim mentality and she is not ready to heal.

To heal you have to stop being a victim. Its basically that we have to understand the sociopath, narcissist or psychopath, know what they do to manipulate us us then STOP trying to figure them out. Then we stop being a victim and Then we can heal. Learn why we would have such low self esteem to want to be with these people in the first place. work on that and then we can leave.
A reader mentioned reading it, so I asked for her opinion on the book:
One thing that drove me nuts were all of the typos. For the amount that she's charging that book shouldn't have a bunch of typos. I am a technical writer so maybe I am too picky.
She also kept talking about this douche who she calls Oliver over and over and she's all over the place with time references. She kept saying that she didn't want to sound like she's a victim but that's exactly what she sounded like to me. I also had an issue for her not ever once taking responsibilty for her actions. Nothing was her fault. I asked her why she didn't acknowledge responsibility for fucking a married man for five years, and what about what she did to his wife? NOPE, her excuse was that he said he had cancer. Another thing I disliked about her book was how she went on with this whole spiritual crap.
I think I found her book on an "anti-sociopath" site. I mean I don't like getting fucked over but Jesus tap dancing Christ, take some responsibility for your actions. Empaths want you guys to take responsibility so why won't they/we?
I honestly cannot remember how I found your site but it has been more helpful than anything. However, I am not like most empaths so I guess I'm in between. I think the book, "He's Just Not That into You" was more helpful than any of these empath pussies.
They want to crucify you guys without looking at themselves.
I think that if you are going to write one of these self-help books then you should be an expert or guru. I think I could write a better book than she did.
Anyway, if you did recommend it, the empaths would go apeshit and whine some more and it would give you sociopaths plenty of ammo.
So there ya go. Two sides...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Criticisms of PCL-R confirmed by recent study

The blows keep coming to the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist Revisited). As one forensic psychologist blogger reports:

In a result with potentially momentous implications for forensic practitioners, the researchers found that Factor 1 of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) does not predict violence. As you know, Factor 1 purports to measure the core constellation of a psychopathic personality (superficial charm, manipulativeness, lack of empathy, etc.). When introduced in court, evidence of psychopathy has an enormously prejudicial impact on criminal offenders.

But, the PCL-R's much-ballyhooed ability to predict certain types of violence owes only to the instrument's second factor, according to the metaanalysis by researchers Min Yang, Steve Wong, and Jeremy Coid. And that's no surprise. After all, Factor 2 measures the criminogenic factors (criminality, irresponsibility, impulsivity, history of delinquency, etc.) that even a fifth-grader knows are bad signs for a future of law-abiding citizenship.

In my experience, the Factor 1 items -- the ones purporting to measure an underlying personality profile -- are the ones more likely to be inflated by some evaluators. That's because many of these items are pretty subjective. Glib? Superficially charming? If you don't like a guy -- and/or he doesn't like you -- you are more likely to rate these negative items as present. That's one of my hypotheses for the large evaluator differences and partisan allegiance effects found with the PCL-R in forensic practice.

Cumulatively, the emerging PCL-R findings beg the question:

Why introduce the Psychopathy Checklist in court if other violence risk tools work just as well, without the implicitly prejudicial effect of labeling someone as a "psychopath"?
I wonder -- would there be any prejudicial effect of labeling someone a "psychopath" if psychologists finally stopped conflating psychopathy with violence/criminality?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Questioning the validity of the PCL-R

From the Drs. Skeem and Cooke article that got Dr. Robert Hare's panties all in a wad about the validity of his PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist Revisited):
“Without a history of violent or criminal behavior, even an individual with pronounced interpersonal and affective traits of psychopathy is unlikely to surpass the PCL–R’s threshold score for diagnosing psychopathy.”

“We specifically argue that the process of understanding and appropriately diagnosing psychopathy must be separated from the enterprise of predicting violence.”

“First, the PCL–R is a measure that imperfectly maps psychopathy, the domain of interest. Second, the PCL–R’s factor structure is not a conceptualization of, or explanation for, psychopathy and does not fully correspond to Cleckley’s (1941) conceptualization, on which it is purportedly based. Third, reification of the PCL–R forecloses on the possibility of iteratively using theory and empirical results to revise this tool (and others) to advance understanding of psychopathy.”

“’Thanks to Hare, we now understand that the great majority of psychopaths are not violent criminals and never will be. Hundreds of thousands of psychopaths live and work and prey among us’ (Hercz, 2001, ¶ 11). The two-factor model poorly identifies this “great majority of psychopaths” who escape contact with the legal system or simply express their psychopathic tendencies in a manner that does not conflict with the law.”

“Beyond past criminal behavior, adding such variables as gender, age, or substance abuse to the PCL–R might also improve prediction of violence. Such an improvement would not imply that these characteristics are central to psychopathy.”

“The pursuit of validly diagnosing a personality disorder is distinct from the enterprise of predicting violence.”
(Email me if you would like to read the article in its entirety.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The scheming sociopath myth

There seems to be a persistent belief that sociopaths are omnipotent scoundrels who are constantly taking advantage of mere mortals. Yes, sociopaths seem to naturally look for weaknesses and loopholes to exploit, but how is that any different from a day trader in the stock market playing off of whims of society, or a retailer, a corporate raider, or any other arbitrageur? Some of society's greatest achievements were made by someone who was trying to outplay the other guy, e.g. Christopher Columbus.

Plus it is quite rare to make a career completely out of exploiting others -- there simply are not enough opportunities to go around for all potential takers. And make no mistake, if there were more opportunities to go around, there would be more criminals. The prohibition against police entrapment exists because we believe that even your typical lay-abiding citizen will indulge in a unsavory scheme if presented with the right opportunity. Yes, you have your career criminals, "playmakers" who are not only looking for opportunities, but creating them: maybe con men, gypsies, golddiggers, or meth-addled petty thieves. The bulk of people committing an "exploitative" crime, however, are simply people who were presented with the right set of circumstances for their particular needs/wants/skills.

People who believe that there are ample, risk-free opportunities for sociopaths to live off of the weaknesses of others are the same delusional souls who respond to requests from Nigerian princes. The truth is that even for the bulk of sociopaths, when you factor in the risk of getting caught, crime simply does not pay.

I noticed a lot of responses in yesterday's post either scoffing at or supporting the idea of a successful sociopath. What a lot of people don't realize is that despite sociopaths being largely ruled by impulses (or perhaps because they are), they are incredibly sensitive to incentive structures and actively consider both actual costs and opportunity costs in their decisionmaking. I think "Gabriel" explained the situation very well in his comments:

I'm no world leader, but I do have a well-paying professional job in a Fortune 500 company rather than languishing in prison, so I guess you could say I am a successful sociopath. I'm as capable as anyone else of learning from mistakes. I certainly never learned empathy, but I'm intelligent enough to learn rules and learn that breaking them often has consequences that are unpleasant.

As to wanting to follow the rules, if following them benefits me sufficiently, then I'm fully capable of following them. If breaking them will bring consequences I don't like, then I don't break them. No empathy is involved, simply a logical examination of cause and effect.

I agree with your second paragraph, 2 said, that it's more likely dependent on intelligence. I have untoward impulses like any other sociopath, but I have the intelligence to foresee what the likely outcome would be, and decide whether it's worth it to me. I'm not ashamed to say that I usually make decisions based on what will benefit me the most, and acting impulsively and stupidly is rarely what will benefit me. Even I know that benefiting others in the short term is often what will benefit me most in the long term -- just like any normal person.
Having worked in major corporations for about 3 decades, I know that no matter how you choose to rise through the ranks, there have still got to be people higher who promote you, and they aren't going to do it unless you bring value -- to either themselves or the company. If all socios left nothing but a path of carnage and destruction along their career paths, do you think that's hidden from those with the power to move them upward?
Perhaps the best reason to want to avoid living off someone else, though, is the low quality of the people you could live off. Prostitutes, golddiggers, etc., they all have to "earn" it somehow, almost always by filling a role that nobody is willing to do for free, which makes them the underworld's equivalent of garbage men and tax collectors. If you want to be around quality people, you have to learn to check the manipulation and the gamesmanship and engage with those people on a higher level. If lower quality people don't demand the same from us, is it really our fault if we give them what they're looking for?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bad romance

I thought this was an interesting email from a reader regarding a recent relationship with a successful, powerbroker sociopath. There are a lot of stories about sociopaths wanting to scam or ruin the people they are in relationships with, but what about the sociopath who already seemingly has it all? What does s/he get out of the relationship? Could it be that a successful sociopath merely enjoys someone else's company? Or appreciates a fresh perspective, a companion who is "game" to try new things? And of course the question that has even less satisfactory answers, why would a "normal" person want to be with someone "abnormal" like that?
I am wondering if you can give me some insight. I've been involved with a man in a secretive relationship for two years. I'm married and so is he, although he strangely has a separate house in the same town. But pushing morality aside, here are the straight facts:

He is a highly successful and manipulative business magnate. He controls corporations, people, money, you name it. He has ruthlessly succeeded in business for two decades and while he no longer needs to work, he gets off on the associated drama. He loves the thrill of a fast take-over or money made quickly and effectively, regardless of what other corporation or career goes down in the process. He is the type of man you would never wish to cross in business or life. He's an eye for an eye kind of guy, and will do everything in his own power to see that 'justice' happens. Never with violence, but quietly and effectively.

He was married for almost ten years, but found he wasn't good at it. He has disowned his grown son. He is, however, loyal to a small group of friends he has known for many years. They have a roaring good time in business and life. Their unique views are similar.

But let's cut to the chase. He is the hottest, most passionate lover I have ever known. He is insanely erotic, but dominant at all times in the bedroom. Not S&M, but simply put, he is always in control. He holds intense eye contact during sex and is a deeply passionate kisser. But if not in the throws of passion, he is not remotely touchy-feely. He can be as cold as ice, but when he is hot, he's the hottest thing I've ever known - or will ever know.

I have struggled over the past couple of years to know whether he simply withholds emotion, because of the illicit nature of our relationship or because he is a true S or P (likely P in his case). At times I have felt that he loves me insanely, and at other times I question whether he knows how to play me to get what he wants.

Additional info... He admits to:

Lacking compassion
Not understanding people
Being awkward, despite his extreme charisma
Uncomfortable living with anyone
Self-serving financially

There are many more things, but for the sake of privacy, I won't publish them here. Suffice to say, he'd get a gold star on the Hare check-list.

When I steal affection from him that isn't in the heat of the moment, he sweetly goes along, but in short order, he must soon pull away. I actually don't mind. I understand what his boundaries are. He was gentle but clear when he admitted that emotional and physical intimacy make him awkward. And yet, this man who professes to be awkward around people pursued me relentlessly for many months before landing me in the sack. I gave him every reason why we would and should never be together, but every argument I presented was counteracted with the most artful and intriguing response. It was an escalating and erotic debate that pulled me across moral boundaries I'd not crossed before. I caved, and I am no push-over. And two years out, I find that I've accepted personality traits I would never have accepted in the past, and I feel deep love and acceptance for him.

Empaths see the world through rose-colored glasses. Not this guy. He's taught me lessons in life that no normal person could possibly teach. We are in an insanely unique relationship and our cerebral connection is extreme. We spend hours discussing everything imaginable, including his highly checkered past. We also share a mutual zest for life and I don't judge or seek to change him. For clear and obvious reasons, I should fear him, but I don't. Through him I find clarity. I don't ever enrage him. I've learned patience, control and understanding like never before. I love him unconditionally and I loathe to admit that my interaction with my antisocial has made me a better person.

Tell me something: Can a sociopath truly love another, in their own way? He has never been unkind or cruel to me. He is brutally honest about who and what he is, although I've never asked him directly if he is a psychopath. I think I'm afraid of the blunt response that might be forthcoming. He does admit to being antisocial.

I sometimes think that if he is a P or S that he's hit the pot of gold in the relationship world. I have accepted every unique, wonderful and dark thing about him. I just want to know what I'm dealing with. I'm not even sure I would run if he is a sociopath. I get so much out of the relationship, in terms of intelligent and shrewd conversation and hot sex, that I seem compelled to stay for my own selfish reasons.

Thanks for any advice/thoughts/analysis you may have. I figure it's best to get it straight from the horse's mouth.
The same reader wrote me this update:
We have since split up. It was a tricky break-up for me, but clean for him. He brought down the hatchet quickly, and I didn't have a moment to respond. It took a couple of months, but he finally made contact and we have departed on good terms.

When I wrote the original letter, I was pretty sure of what I was dealing with, and I've researched more since then, and hung around this board. I no longer question what he is, and sadly, I better understand his capacity to feel the same things that I feel. But I'd love to hear feedback, particularly now that it is definitively over. But the 'over' was done with class and style from both sides, despite the chilling and brutal silence before-hand.

And finally, please tell me, is it ever really done with a psychopath? I should wish and hope for that, but sadly, I miss the excitement. I miss the ride. I miss the wild and hot sex and I miss him. Maybe I'm just a sucker with my own issues and low boredom threshold, complete with the need for drama and entertainment, but I loved the bastard. Truly, I did. It would be easier to feel anger after his abrupt dismissal, but I don't and will never fault him for what he is. And for what he is, he's damn good at it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Compensated sociopaths?

A reader sent me this link about "compensated sociopaths," which includes excerpts from the book "The Emptied Soul," by Adolf Guggenb├╝hl-Craig.
Individuals approaching the psychopathic extreme are not totally wanting in morality, but they do sense a weakness, an awareness that something is missing, which frightens them. They also suspect that their love is not all it could or should be. In order to adapt they begin to compensate for these deficiencies by becoming morally rigid.

Since compensated psychopaths cannot depend upon eros, their egos work out a moral system which is fool-proof in any and every situation. The result, as paradoxical as it may seem, is usually a well-developed morality with an emphasis upon the ego's role but woefully lacking in love.

Compensated psychopaths have played significant parts in society and in history. The more psychopathic compensated psychopaths are - in other words the more they have to compensate - the more sinister they are. All the Nazi functionaries who administered the concentration camps and supervised the destruction of thousands and thousands of human beings; all of Stalin's subordinates who, during the time of the Soviet purges, directed the arrests and deaths of innumerable individuals; all of Mao's minions who so efficiently effected the disappearance of large portions of the Chinese population -certainly all of these people were compensated psychopaths.

I am reminded of Adolf Eichmann (the German Nazi official who as head of the Gestapo's Jewish section was chiefly responsible as the organizer of the "Final Solution"), a man who was relatively conscientious and dependable. Not a devilish moster, he was rather a classic example of a compensated psychopath whose conscientiousness was greater than that of most individuals. He loyally and admirably carried out the "duty," of exterminating his fellow humans, but his very dedication to "duty," expressing his own alienation in this world, vented so heinously his hate towards all human beings who were not like him. The commandant of a concentration camp wrote in his diary at the close of the war: "It is very sad that I can no longer fill my daily quotas in the gas chambers. I have neither enough staff nor enough supplies. Every night I go to bed with a nagging conscience, because I have been unable to do my duty." We can see how conscientious this man was. A classic, compensated psychopath, he had a strong, rigid, "moral" system but not the slightest sense of eros. The morality which sought to replace the missing eros turned into a farce becoming a caricature.

Compensated psychopaths are probably the most reliable supporters of a dictatorial regime, the emphasis being upon "compensated." A dictator would not function surrounded only with "pure" psychopaths -his regime would achieve nothing, eventually collapsing in utter chaos. A dictator's subordinates have to be conscientious and obedient -in a word, compensated psychopaths.
Some of this rings true to me, particularly the beginning. I am not sure about the conjecture regarding historical figures. I believe that mob mentality and the pressure to conform can be enough to convert an average, weak-willed citizen into a monster. I also think the degree of conformity amongst the masses in the regimes mentioned were too high to be filled entirely from the classes of "compensated psychopaths." Still, I can see how this might lead some to initiate moral crusades, whether as big as the Inquisition, or as small as Qur'an burning or throwing acid in someone's face.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sociopaths in literature: Parolles

Parolles is from Shakespeare's "All's well that ends well," a play arguably about what lengths people will go to to survive according to their own terms. When Parolles (whose name means "words") has been unmasked as a scoundrel, he displays both self-knowledge and a lack of remorse when he asserts, "Simply the thing I am/ Shall make me live. . . ./There’s place and means for every man alive" (All’s Well, IV.iii.333-349).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Meeting expectations, playing on biases

I have been corresponding with the transwoman sociopath. I asked her:

I wanted to ask how has your gender or perceived gender influenced the way you act or interact with the world as sociopath. Do you find yourself hiding behind your transgender identity like a shield? In other words, if authority or government types give you a hard time, you'll just scream discrimination? Sexual harassment? Gender discrimination? Do you find it easier to hide as a sociopath being out as transgendered? For instance, I don't like being around people that others think should be just like me (same race, gender, background, religion, etc.) because I feel like they are expecting certain things, are on the lookout for any sort of deviance for those expectations. If I am around people different from me, they just see me as an "other," a stereotype, like the old joke, white people can't tell black people apart, black people can't tell asians apart, asians can't tell latinos apart, etc. When people see you, is all they see "woman" or "transgendered"? Do you use that expectation to your advantage?

She responded:
I would suggest my gender comes mainly into play for its quirkiness. I'm a fairly odd person and when I meet/interact with someone I'll be almost entirely dominant in conversation and will twist their points and pressure them throughout to watch them squirm about a bit. It becomes especially noticeable when I make it seem as if they have been transphobic or in some way offensive to me because they try to work back through their statements apologizing for the wrongs present in each one.

I'm very direct, blunt, sarcastic and piercingly logical. My dominance stems mainly from the way I turn peoples concepts upon themselves and make people feel rather stupid in the mean time. I am definitely more cautious around transgendered people for the reasons you stated. I do enjoy spending time with trans people though, even if only to study them more so that I can feign a good trans experience that isn't necessarily tied into anything sociopathic in nature.

Being sociopathic is easily hidden when I mention the "horrible" childhood I grew up with though. How much pain and suffering I went through is a sure fire way of getting people to not question my aggressive verbal domination and obvious manipulative discussions. But thats mainly because I nestle myself nicely into small groups of empaths, mainly the local queer community who are more than happy to let me into their friend circle and forgive my wrongs because they stem from such unspeakable trauma. I keep making reference to my scapegoat story of my childhood, I find this works well in most situations because people assume it is the cause of my darker nature and dominance as well as my transgenderism.

What I wrote above is not always the case though. Occasionally when I meet a particularly empathetic empath I will meet with them in private and have long emotional discussions with them in essence "pouring my heart out" while they diligently listen and feel dreadfully sorry for me. I listen to their life's story and usually delve deeper and deeper into their empathic root if the have one. For example a lot of them were sexually abused or raped by family members when they were younger, each time I met them I'd ask more about it and I pretty much always get an answer eventually. From "who was it?", "do you still see them?" all the way to "describe it how you remember" and listening to them intricately recount the memories that hurt them so. It gives me ammunition as well as an enjoyable time watching them cry and talk about things they don't want to remember, It makes me look like the caring friend that will always be there for them and who they can trust with anything that hurts them. So when I break that trust it makes it all the more cutting.

I'd say that my methods and aims are fairly female in type. I work almost entirely in mental methods to achieve almost entirely mental aims. I find these relationships with people I would consider strong empaths to be my favorite. They usually last a longer period of time, they fulfill my thirst for knowledge, they play perfectly into my hand to toy with and they give the strongest reactions whilst showing the most hurt . . . and they almost always come back and let me do it again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Empath raised by a sociopath mother

From a reader:

I am writing to solicit a general opinion, perhaps begin a dialog. I seek information to help me become functional.

My biological mother is a sociopath, the "reputation preserving" kind, found a highly empathic "bulldozer"/dominant man, had three children with him (I am the eldest), and abused him into success past his desires or nature. Before gaining sufficient insight, I would say "my parents really should not have had kids"; simply put, these two would not "mate" in the wild and I have a host of mis-matched genes and medical issues to prove it.

My high empathy coupled with intelligence and a completely neglectful/abusive mother has left with me a "debillitatingly deep" understanding of humanity (and a psych degree didn't help either). "Sociopathic type" thinking (outside the box, seeking the cracks in the system) coupled with "empathic data" (I feel what they feel or at least know what they're feeling) means I know far far too much about another person, especially their own self-deception, especially the opinions they have of themselves or others that they might not even know themselves. I can easily "spot" lack-of-empathy types, as well as intelligent manipulative empaths. I do not have sufficient data to claim if I can "spot" a sociopath or not, but I would find the challenge interesting. Whatever else, to me, there is a sub-group of people that present excellent performances but, when considered fully (my empathy with body language analysis, etc.), there are "holes" in the performances. I perceive most people as at least 2 or 3 "layers"; I see through the masks.

While I have this "empathic wetware", I am inherently rational. I write to you because, unlike those on your site, I am "non functional". I have three degrees but no career or financial stability. I can make women feel instantly comfortable (too comfortable), counsel them to find other men but am incapable of attracting one myself; I have never had a girlfriend. The only time I can get laid is with sufficient booze to shut off my rational brain and seek out the nearest mountain troll.

I have developed "a program" that enables minimum social contact to prevent the madness of isolation until my father contracted cancer. I expended all my resources in an attempt to save him and keep myself on an even keel; my mother altered the will at the last minute
; she has won, I am broke with no good prospects for employment. This is a problem as previously I was "lucking out" from 3 major father-linked investments which provided the finances necessary to fuel my development.

Now I must survive in a different way, and am inherently rational, and whatever this "new way" is, I am still trying to figure out what that might be. Your site provides one possible way with some aspects, I think, to be emulated and used. Yet, when you feel another's hurt or pain, as they feel it, perhaps more so, this makes navigating the empathic world... difficult. The idea I use is that of shooting Bambi. In order for hunters to survive and kill furry woodland creatures to eat, is it not highly adaptive NOT to feel said creature's pain?

So.... do you have defenses against unwanted emotional stimuli that I might copy and use? Are there any questions I can answer about "empaths" and their ways? [I feel more deeply than they do, but I am not ruled by emotions; I choose rationality]. I have been to 53 countries and experience the full gamut of people's emotions as you describe as one of your goals, as a "sommelier". To me, human emotions are like wine - mostly the same broad stroaks but a whole range of possibility (see: 53 countries). A purely rational friend has dubbed me a "human to human dictionary". Those who are completely integrated (thoughts, feelings, behaviour) are like "cool glasses of water" as they can be taken at their word, they are relaxing. Everyone else presents some form of "red noise" or bullcrap to navigate through.

Whatever else, hopefully this email has been somewhat interesting.

"Martin McDonald"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Psychology Study Finds Only 23 Percent of Britons Are Normal

So reads the title of an article discussing a recent study.
Of 8391 individuals interviewed and their personality status assessed, only a minority (n = 1933, 23%) had no personality pathology.
As another blog opined about the 23% normal: "Maybe they are best known as 'saints', or '├ťbermenschen', or perhaps 'people who lie on questionnaires'."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sociopaths in the news: Snooki reading 48 Laws of Power

Self-awarness in literature

From James Merrill’s The Seraglio:
Lily…rehearsed the rules he obeyed at her age, in the same walled garden.

“Uncle Francis is It,” she announced proudly at last. “If he wants to play he has to be It.”

Francis shuts his eyes and counts to a hundred:

“Ready or not!” he shouted…With exaggerated stealth and flashing stern glances into the greenery he started across the lawn…Where were they? No sound of smothered laughter came to ease his confusion.

But only after coming upon the children building castles at the sea’s edge, oblivious to him, did Francis stare over the lulled water and understand. He was It. He tentatively said so the first time, then once more with an exquisite tremor of conviction: “I am It.”

The words carried with them wondrous notions of selflessness, of permanence. His father coughed behind him in the house. The children trembled against the sea. He knew the expression on his own face. The entire world was real.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sociopaths in the news: teen angst

I can't get over the idiocy of the kid that wanted to "become the world's most infamous sociopath." This kid is obviously unclear of what it means to be a sociopath. Last time I checked, most sociopaths weren't shouting their identity from the rooftops, pitching their rape/torture/murder plans to anyone who would listen, like some sort of bad vibes Ponzi schemer trying to get people to bite.

What I find really compelling is this story of teens mysteriously getting killed in Colombia after being put on a "Facebook hitlist." Get past the fact that it sounds like a summer B movie plot and that the hitlist was posted on Facebook, and I think you'll agree that there is some crazed teen on the loose, the likes of which we have not seen since three-guys-one-hammer.

The one guy sounds like he wears too much mascara, the other one like he was the victim of some serious physical/sexual/child abuse and keeps people's fingernails as souvenirs.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Female sociopath child, to teen, to adult

A reader writes in response to yesterday's post, providing the female perspective of growing up sociopath.

For me, the early shift from fitting in as a child, to completely lost socially was around ages 9 and 10. By the end of fifth grade, I had captured my peers’ new patterns a bit better. I had also made a couple of other P/S-like friends from the two grades above mine. Oddly, it was easier to mimic their mimic (a simplified copy of the neurotypical’s behavior that seemed to work for them) than it was to copy the highly complex behavior of those around me.

By 6th grade I realized I was different- that I thought about things differently. I just assumed it was because I was smarter. I think around this time is when my actions really differentiated themselves from my classmates enough to be noticed by others. It was then that my mother began to call me her little cyborg. I wasn’t a big crier, I didn’t get angry easily, and I didn’t get scared, though for her sake I faked great enthusiasm at positive things. I had been going for “Pollyanna”, but I guess, instead, I came across as “cyborg” to my too-intuitive, uber-empath, teacher of a mother. I also remember, after explaining how I came to my position on an issue in class (totally based on logic, not compassion), my teacher responded with a smile (almost in my defense) to the disgusted faces of the other students that I marched to the beat of a different drummer. I thought they all needed to think a little more and feel a little less. Also, in retrospect, I think I remember the first adult that I had noticed I gave the creeps to being an 8th grade teacher of mine. I protected my pets and squished the bugs that annoyed me if there was value in it, all while getting praise from most adults about being the sweetest girl they knew.

In high school, I was much more comfortable, as I’d developed better technique and defined the roles I wanted to play. I noticed some differences between myself and others. While they sometimes became angry or sad, which are passionate emotions, my negative emotions were more of aggravation and annoyance. Though I could become very aggravated or very annoyed, my reaction was just due to scaled up frustration, and not related to the intensity of the emotion it started from. I found that I get more satisfaction out of small pleasures than most others, while things that make people overwhelmingly happy give me roughly the same experience as those little things. Socially, I found that having many separate groups of friends was ideal for me. When I got bored of one group, I’d move on to another. I never played with the people in my 2 core groups, so I always had a place to go, socially, when I’d played a little too much with a group and needed to lay low for a while. I didn’t really need more depth of friendship than this situation provided, though I had two particularly close friends (stories for another day) outside of my groups. I didn’t really have a point where they figured things out or found me no longer appealing as a friend. However, I did find a major stumbling point that I didn’t even recognize until the end of high school: Relationships.

My freshman year of high school I saw a few different guys, but nothing was serious. Toward the end of that year I heard someone saying disparaging things about another girl who had seen a few guys (actually fewer than me) that year, though she wasn’t nearly as discreet. It occurred to me that boyfriends are part of being a teenager and one would look good in my real-person portfolio. Also, it could be fun! I assumed that whatever we ended up doing (sneaking out, making out, etc), I wouldn’t want to have broadcast on the small town gossip network (for the sake of my mother’s reputation), so I chose someone from the next town over whose family was well-known in the area. This way, he would need to keep things to himself to protect them as well. He was good looking and liked me (I was good-looking, too). Being with him was fun in the beginning, but after a while he became very controlling and violent. I kind of liked that. To the people around me, I was suddenly a victim and weak and someone to be protected. That was…helpful. He certainly wasn’t “hurting my feelings,” and I didn’t mind the physical damage, but after a while the controlling rules he wanted me to follow did get annoying. I didn’t want to be one to hop boyfriends and I didn’t want to leave an angry guy behind me with any ammunition against me, so I formed a plan and waited. The next time that he was really angry at me for whatever and drove off mad (we’d been dating about a year and a half at this point), I waited a couple of hours, then called him (because I could fake cry over the phone, but not as convincingly in person). I explained that I was no longer good for him if I made him so sad and angry all the time and that I loved him too much to keep him in a relationship that hurt him. No problem. Ten days later I was dating the next guy, who I ended up being with for another year and a half. His dad was a preacher, so he was safe, socially. This is where I got stuck. The previous relationship had been a bit of a beard, some fun, and a learning experience, but for the most part I hadn’t worried about what he felt or needed except for how that would affect me: happy boyfriend = a nicer day for me. Of course that means that I tried to make him as happy as possible to make my life easy, but who cares about the motives? I was still a nicer girlfriend than most out there because of it. With Guy 2, though, it was different. Maybe it was because of all those teenage hormones, but my brain formed connections in a way that I don’t think it had before or since. I wanted that guy to be happy. I experienced great pleasure when I could make him happy. We were in a real relationship, and I was missing some key skills for the situation. I was still me- I definitely used stories of Guy 1’s violence as a way of making Guy 2 feel close to me, but I found after a while that I really didn’t need to guide his actions to fit my desires. I was perfectly happy changing myself to be whatever it seemed like he wanted. In the end, it seems that there was a disconnect between what he said he wanted and what he did want and what he said he felt and what he did feel (stupid, crazy, elusive, and evidently important emotions so often get in the way) . I didn’t have the tools with which to intuit when he was lying. I usually read intent very well in people- this helps me manipulate them. I can also see very clearly why they might do something, even considering their emotions, because I’ve been a student of this since fifth grade, but when someone lies with no intent- no real reason or goal behind it- I’m lost. So if I ask, “Is it okay if I do this?” or “Are you okay?” and the response is “Yes”, when the answer was “No”, the only purpose behind it being to make me happy or to not bother me with petty feelings that he may find embarrassing, I don’t even know there is a problem. After we broke up, we dated again a couple of times, and later on, I was able to detect this type of lie with more accuracy, but when I could get to “I know something is wrong- what did I do or say?”, he couldn’t manage to tell me what it was that I had done or said, so there was no opportunity to learn and fix it for the future. Damn hormones affecting neuro-connections. When I think of this guy, still, I get an obnoxious jolt of those emotions that are a little strong for a person who doesn’t generally experience them. Ick. I like thinking I'm above all that.

In my late teens, I dropped a lot of friends because I had moved away and no longer had to worry about how I made my mother look. I still did this and that, activity-wise, to keep up my person cred, but soon I made a wonderful discovery- in one of my activities, there were two other P/S-like girls who wanted to play. There are some major benefits to having friends like this. Their feelings aren’t hurt if I ditch them for something else more valuable that day- they would’ve done the same thing. They are easy to be with because I don’t have to look at everything I do and say through the lens of some other animal. They are less work, because I don’t have to worry about scaring them off with something I do or say. Of course, for the first few years of our friendship, someone was pretty much always playing someone else. Both for the game and for the prize. There were, naturally, guys involved…empaths…poor things… But after musical boyfriends, we all got married and it was lovely. Outside friends were always shocked that we never got angry with one another at the crazy tactics we’d use, but for us, it was all fair-game. The other two probably don’t know what they are in name, but we recognized each other and occasionally would refer to the “us”/”them” distinction.

As an adult, I don’t really want to spend my effort on real people that I don’t have to (other than co-workers, family, etc), but that behavior isn’t very human, so the girls and I are now each others’ people cred. :) I have one best friend (one of the two from high school). I’m devoted to my family, active in my community, and a well-liked leader in my workplace. I’ve found that telling people who notice something (I have no idea what they notice, but on rare occasions, a person will give me one of those what-are-you looks), apologizing and telling them that I’m a very driven type-A person seems to “explain me”. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband, who I love like my mother and grandparents. He communicates his needs and reactions clearly since I’ve explained that reading these is a weakness of mine and I easily conform to fit him.

It was only about a year ago that my husband and I were discussing some of the classic philosophical thought experiments that he looked at me and said, “So you are a sociopath.” I smiled and said, “Oh, yeah. That’s me.” And we had a laugh. It’s become a little joke between us (and now my best friend) because he points out sociopath-ish things that I do, but I’ve made a point of referring to it as an inside joke to outside company, so they know not to share. I am cautious about hints that I may be what I am getting out to the wrong person, but for right now I feel relatively safe because I have my go-to explanations for things (Type A, I’m thick-skinned because I had to be at some earlier point, I don’t understand peoples’ drama because I don’t have that kind of craziness in my life, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah) I do worry slightly about the potential for a genetic test to identify a predisposition to P/S behavior , which may be possible based on an article you shared recently, but I expect some time before anything like that happens and if anyone can get around a serious’s us, right? I can’t help but think, in a world with real witches, those burned in Salem would still have been innocents, as the true offenders would have magic-ed their way out of the situation.

Of course, I don’t even know for sure that I am a P/S since I’ve never been diagnosed, but I am pretty confident that I fall somewhere on the spectrum. :)
Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies


Comments are unmoderated. Blog owner is not responsible for third party content. By leaving comments on the blog, commenters give license to the blog owner to reprint attributed comments in any form.