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 Guggenbühl-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.

45 comments:

  1. I like the discussion of Bangladesh, mostly. I've been learning Bengali for a few months. I'll have to be sure to learn "Please don't throw acid on my face."

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  2. Wow, the kind of scum that live in Islamic countries seems to be quite extreme. Probably they couldn't get over the fact that were ugly overbearing dipshits that no one wants to marry.

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  3. the after effects are still quite spectacular. can't help but wonder how it felt when they were splashed.

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  4. Obviously worst pain known to man, dah!

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  5. Two things wrong with that.

    1) I don't know how that pain feels so it doesn't help at all.

    2) Its an overstatement. There would exist worse pains.

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  6. Two things wrong with you.

    1. Pain is a sensation, you moronic sociopath wannabe, not an emotion.

    2. Your English is bloody awful.

    :P

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  7. I wont list them this time. I don't know how it feels because I've never felt the worst pain in the world, not because I don't feel pain. Also, I'm a Pure Math major I don't care about my English.

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  8. Also also. I do feel emotion and I'm not moronic nor a sociopath wannabe. I simply wondered the sensation they felt because it would have been so intensely painful emotionally and physically.

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  9. Kate...

    Anonymous is our English teacher on this blog always correcting someone!

    They should be blocked. No constructive input or output.

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  10. I've always wanted an English teacher with multiple personalities =)

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  11. I agree ME. The basic idea fits my father rather well. He told em once that he adopted his fundamentalist religion after waking up one night next to some random woman and realized just how empty he truly was. He got religion and he got it bad. It didn’t stop him from beating up on us, literally and psychologically of course. But hey, the good book told him that if he spared the rod, he’d spoil the child and that he was the “head of the household” and all that good shit. Anyway, some years back it dawned on me that he clung to his religion so tightly to keep from having to face the truth about himself.

    The rest of the idea though, that say Nazi Germany was chock full of “compensated psychopaths”, is indeed an overly broad generalization and can be explained by other, less palatable ways. They have a hard time acknowledging that they have an inner monster inside them, let alone just how close it always is to rising to the surface, don’t they? All it takes is the right set of circumstances and widespread consensus to dehumanize a certain population and PRESTO, you have a nation full of killers, along with murderous accomplices, co-conspirators and admirers.

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  12. D is for Daniel Birdick. Jeez.

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  13. D, do you think that your father’s “masking” his struggling with inner demons with religion (like the justification of beating you by not “sparing the rod”) contributed, as least in part, to your formation your thought process? Basically…do you think that your environment contributed to the way you think?

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  14. Happy 21st Postmodern!

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  15. Dr. Freud asked, "Basically…do you think that your environment contributed to the way you think?"

    Oh sure, of course it did. That kind of thing tends to have an impact on a person’s psychological development in one way or the other.

    I think that's true of everyone. The experiences that the totality of our childhood environment imparts to us (not just parenting, but our prenatal environment, our first schools, our extended family interactions, how we learn to navigate our peer group and so on) have a profound impact on who we later become.

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  16. To whoever asked Daniel that...it has to be the dumbest question I have ever read!

    To think that he actually answered you is irrelevant because you’re obviously incapable of understanding his reply…simply because you basically asked a fucking rhetorical question. You should’ve read what you were about to post, realized how dumb it sounds before deleting it.

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  17. Speaking of dumb, where's Jesse? I miss Jesse :'(

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  18. I don't think all compensating psychopaths can be as "dangerous" as we'd like to believe they are.

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  19. Reminds me of a movie called the "Gremlins" little cute fluffy animals, adored, very charming and likable.

    If these cute lil creatures were fed food after midnight they turned into these evil , selfish monsters. The continuous eating after midnight would only escalate the evil doings which they subjected throughout the town. When daylight came upon these ugly creatures turned back to their cute adorable likable selves.

    "Compensated Psychopaths" will always exist. As long as people exist Psychopaths will always find a way to be fed and grow. And when sunlight arrives they will be their cute adorable selves!

    Such a secretive world they live in. They must be exploding with tension day in and day out.

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  20. I just took a look at the acid washed girls. All I can say is behold the power of culture/tradition/religion. And Westerners should not be so quick to congratulate themselves for being “enlightened” and beyond this sort of thing. Au contraire. Again, with the right indoctrination, incentive and moral/religious justification, anyone is capable of anything. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to discover that the guys who had a little chemistry play time with those women were not psychopathic at all.

    Then they wonder why some of us literally laugh out loud when they preach about the supposed sanctity and superiority of the moral values of ordinary, average citizens.

    And btw Keysle, I agree that so called "compensated psychopaths" aren't all dangerous. Most of them probably aren't. They're all blind by definition though.

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  22. Wouldn't they be "morally rigid" since there is a deficiency in emotion?

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  24. Anon: If they perceive their inner emptiness as bad or evil even, then they might "overcompensate" by adopting a moral system that they can never bend or break. They have to genuinely believe they are on the side of right too. Without this sincere belief, the possibility that they are fooling themselves might open them back up to seeing the very thing they desperately wish to avoid seeing.

    Aerianne: You weren’t asking me, but what they hay. I think that morality is emotion based. Rationalization comes after the fact.

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  27. I treat morality like I treat any other system of axioms. That is, bound by Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems. To wit, no consistent moral system is capable of proving all facts about life. Even some intuitive "truths" will nevertheless be unprovable within the system. If the system is capable of proving all facts of life, then the consistency of the system itself is unprovable.

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  28. In response to your first comment Aerianne: of course and they have. I did a little research on this a while back. I think the latest science has to say on this is that the nearly universal sense of morality (the predilection to judge some things as right and some wrong) found in all cultures is biologically based and is expressed through emotion first. The specifics that comprise any particular morality are filled in by society/tradition/morality and so on. It would analogous to our innate feel for language. Most brains come standard equipped with a “language learning” hardware, so to speak, but the syntax, vocabulary, etc, of a particular language (software) is learned via culture/society/family.

    In response to your 2nd comment: as always, it all depends on what you mean by the words you use. What do you mean when you use the word moral?

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  30. Re Daniel's language comment: Sounds very Chomsky-like. While he is quite rabidly defended by his camp, there are some significant arguments against his "innate language" (or more correctly, "innate grammar") hypothesis. Primarily that it's pseudoscientific, but there have been a few good books arguing against him, as well. I used to take Chomsky basically as gospel, but the more I read the arguments against some of his theories, the less I could take his work as valid.

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  31. Speaking of language, my Bengali friend helped me out with this (in rough Roman orthography):

    "Doya kore amar mooke acid maro na"

    "Please don't throw acid on my face."

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  33. Heidegger, that theory did start with Chomsky and last I read, the evidence seemed to bear it out. It also makes sense on the face of it. You have to have the equipment to be able to pick up language before you can pick it up, no? Not to mention the universality of both language and morality. Having said that, I haven’t read up on that subject in a while now, so I don’t have a strong opinion on it one way or the other. I’ll leave it at ‘I could be wrong’ and call it a day.

    I have to go to Aerianne. Duty calls and all that good shit.

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  34. Happy B-day postmodern. No one, glad you missed me, even though the topic of idiots came up, then reminded you of me, glad to see Danny being part of the convos again, and I can't stay because I have no education whatsoever in this subject.

    The only thing I really have to say about any of this is that the article on the link was heartbreaking, and it's pretty pathetic that something so simple would cause somone to permanately damage a person. I can see now how this relates to sociopaths, but even I think this is a little extreme.

    Leaving the serious talk to you guys. Late XD.

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  35. Perhaps this concept of compensated sociopaths explains my mother's obsession with law and order. She was never a very religious person, though she sampled several denominations briefly. She had no innate sense of right and wrong, so I wouldn't call her moral. However, she was a complete fanatic about observing every rule and law, no matter how minor, as if each one carried the death penalty. It was beneficial to me, though, in that I was trained to be a "principled" sociopath from day one, so that I wouldn't misbehave and cause her to lose face. It's been a useful substitute for a moral compass.

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  36. I've seen Narcissists become morally rigid...most visibly TV evangelists and politicians. It's enmeshed in the projection of a 'false self'.

    But a flexible (situational) moral compass is one of the most reliable criteria one can observe in diagnosing or recognizing a sociopath.

    This article is ridiculously incorrect.

    but to Daniel

    There's already a whole cognitive vs behaviorist dialog going on and I'm not getting too far into that, but to expand on your comment above on the research that suggests that morality has a biological basis and is expressed thru emotion first...

    It's even deeper than that. It seems to be genetic...to the core. In fact, more likely tied/evolved within our cardio-vascular system than "brain". It's been observed in humans, animals and even plants.

    (Okay, not plants.) And although no self respecting scientist that I know (smirk) would characterize their research design of 'stimulus and response' as a measurement of morality, there are unexplained mirror responses to stimulus that suggest a 'programed' emotional reaction. Stimulus used: Snakes, fossils, unknown races, both poisonous plants and nutritional sustenance. All supposedly to control groups without previous exposure to the objects or the cohorts. But so far the only scalable emotion elicited is fear.

    The relationship between morality and fear. It's like gum on the bottom of the pseudo-philosopher's shoe. (After all, evolutionary psychology is, like, a whole 'nother discipline. And I hear it's really hard, and might not totally exist.)

    I guess my point is, these discussions of morality are often so earnestly highbrow. But all the answers seem to lie in our primitive selves- ancient and ignorant. What we fear is wrong. And what is wrong is wrong because it can hurt us. And what is 'wrong' was written/encoded a very long time ago- our programming is pretty much hard wired at this point.

    So why can't people categorize all the rest - gas chambers, acid baths and even acid washed jeans, as just...things people did. That other people have opinions about. Do you really think there's an end game to all this morality shit? You know, besides the fear and control.

    And if you say Enlightenment, there will be eye rollage.

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  37. The Milgram experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) was developed for that very reason.

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  38. I used to take Chomsky basically as gospel, but the more I read the arguments against some of his theories, the less I could take his work as valid.

    Something can be valid without being sound. So, what you've read may very well have been logical and valid, but bears little resemblance to reality. Of course, that's a prevailing issue with many abstract theorists.

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  39. Quite correct, no one. That's an important distinction. I, of all people, should have been more clear. I meant sound where I used valid. Though some of his work is less than totally valid, as well, if I recall correctly.

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  40. I've never been a huge fan of his work myself despite the rather large following among my peers. Though, I've yet to find any philosopher/theorist that I completely agree with, either; they either tend to revert back to the very circular logic that they so fervently attempt to avoid, or remain simply unprovable.

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  41. so true. i am an empath and the only atheist in my family. my brother is borderline sociopathic sometimes and has never swayed from his rigid approach to his religious (muslim) upbringing. my other brother is more unsure of his position (on religion) and is a more sensitive, compassionate person than the other brother. my father has all the empathetic depth of a shoe and is staunchly religiously and culturally ideological. anyone who subscribes staunchly to an ideology and cites the vast number of people also subscribing to it as validation is a classic compensated 'something'. you know, god serves a purpose and will always be around cos so will emotionally deficient people. god fills a hole for those who need to be told how to be human. lol. just meet an empath and they'll tell you all you need to know and without the need to involve that huge pile of fallacious and pernicious joke, religion. religion is classic displacement. god i could go on, i could write a lot of books in fact, but i can't be arsed.

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