Saturday, December 31, 2011

Female sociopaths

From LoveFraud:

There is actually very little research data available regarding sociopathy in non-criminals and in women. The little research that has been done reveals that sociopathy in women entails two or three main features that are similar to those found in men. Namely, female sociopaths lack empathy and enjoy manipulating and exploiting others. Violent and impulsive behavior is less common in sociopathic women. This fact may make them more dangerous, as they more easily blend in with the rest of society. 
A recent study of adolescent girls in detention performed by Crystal L. Schrum, M.A. and Randall T. Salekin, Ph.D. of the University of Alabama and reported in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, revealed the core qualities that best described young female sociopaths. The teens were callous and lacked empathy, had a grandiose sense of self worth and were conning and manipulative. They were also likely to engage in impersonal sexual relationships. Importantly, the researchers revealed that female sociopaths did not necessarily have “shallow emotions.” Again the lack of impulsivity and shallow emotions may make a female sociopath more difficult to spot.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Second opinion

From a reader:
I stumbled across your site while doing some research on my own personality.  I find it fascinating.  I am greatly envious of true sociopaths.  I believe I am on the opposite end of the scale.  A super empath if you will.  I am old now, but for as long as I can remember emotions have brought me nothing but pain.  Long before I ever heard the term sociopath or had any idea what it meant, I longed to be numb.  Life has worn me down to the point where I do not suffer to the extent I did at one time, however, even the vestiges of what I once felt are sufficient to make me miserable.
In my humble opinion most people are like sheep.  They have a deep need to conform, to "fit in".  They will go to great lengths to achieve their goals.   I also feel (there's that nasty four letter word") that they want to be told what to do, despite their vehement insistence to the contrary.   In my opinion socios are just like every other human being, only with the added luxury of doing whatever best benefits them with no emotional baggage.  You all seem highly intelligent, organized thinkers who are of great benefit to society if you so choose.  I think the one emotion you may be capable of is extreme annoyance due to the rampant stupidity with which you are faced each day.  Anyway, thanks for the site.  It is the one place on the web I can go and be assured of some reasonable discourse.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interpersonal


A reader describes a sociopath she dated, who has since become somewhat of a friend:
[On his sleeping around]: It’s like I have an internal conflict going on, I suppose it’s to do with society and how we are brought up to expect people to behave etc. Society tells me that relationships are supposed to be monogamous, open and honest. But I know in reality that is not how it works, I myself cheated on my long term boyfriend, 5 times in fact, and it was never anything to do with him, I really did love him, had I thought he would find out and get hurt I would never have done it, but I knew he wouldn’t and it was fun so I did it.  And so I have a conflict between what I think I am supposed to expect from him, what he delivers, and what I find I am able to accept in reality.
I accept it because I have done it and I’m not a sociopath, so I am in no position to tell him off for doing the same when he is ‘programmed’ to do so. I have also always known what he is like and allow him back in my life on that basis, I cannot therefore start complaining later on down the line. And at the end of the day I just like him being about, so I balance it and have the occasional spat at him. It will run its course. 
For some reason I do believe that he considers me a friend, I cannot see any other reason for him being around, but I also accept that I may be wrong. Maybe he is using me for something, but I cannot think what. I feel that I use him too, I think we all use each other to a certain extent, we spend time with people because it suits us to do so, they entertain us, listen to us, give us comfort etc. I like having him around, he makes me laugh, we get on well together, I know sociopaths tailor themselves to suit who they are with, but again I feel people do that in general, I do not have the same conversations with my father that I have with my friends, again I am different at work. I accept that it is his nature.
Oh it’s all just so frustrating. But it does interest me so much, I’d hate to lose him from my life, though I accept that may well happen one day if/when he gets bored.
I guess I want to know if he does consider me a friend, I don’t expect it to be unconditional, but that he sticks around because he likes to spend time with me.
Is there any chance of him ever opening up to me? I just feel it would make some conversations so much easier, but obviously it is not my place to ‘out’ him, I would never do that.
How do I make him realise that I have no intention of turning my back on him? Like I say, I need to lessen my dependence, but I don’t know how to do it without making him feel like I'm pushing him away.
Any advice would be most gratefully received, I’d also love to hear any observation you have on the situation, feel free to call me a dopey empath!

M.E.: I don't know if he'll ever open up to you.  He is probably so used to relying on his insight that if his instinct is to never tell you the whole truth, he will not second guess that.  (And honestly, I would trust his judgment of what you can handle more than yours, of course no offense intended).

In terms of what he gets out of your relationship, it seem to be companionship and an alleviation of boredom.  I think that sociopaths don't feel lonely so much as get scared that they'll be alone and not by choice, if that makes sense.  They're just worried in general about things that they can't control, and one of those things (at least to a certain extent) are interpersonal relationships.

If you really want to lessen your own reliance on him without tipping him off or hurting his ego, I would suggest acquiring more activities/things/projects/people that will just naturally push him more out of the picture.  As you get busier with your new life and new found interests, he'll look for another, less sucked-dry target.




Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No pain no gain

Quick question of the sociopaths--have any of you passed out because of pain or have passed out because you have otherwise pushed your physical limits too far? I was reading this New Yorker article that posited that competitive cycling is essentially dominated by either those who don't feel pain or welcome the physical manifestation of cycling pain over psychological or emotional pain and I became interested in the relative tolerances for pain of sociopaths and normal people. I took a quick poll of the normal people around me today with the question above, and I was surprised to find that no one had ever passed out, whereas I have passed out many times, in all sorts of situations. Maybe it is unrelated, just thought I would ask.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A prosthetic moral compass?

Like many sociopaths, I have my own way of organizing the world and coming up with shortcuts for good decisions. I like to use economics and the principles of efficiency. Most of the time my method tracks what the majority think is the moral thing to do. Why don't we kill? Because if it were really more efficient to take another person's life, the murderer should be able to pay enough money to the victim that he would consent to the murder. Along the same reasoning, murder of animals is fine because animals don't have the access to capital markets or earning potential to be able to buy their life, right? Wrong. Because otherwise that would also apply to slaves. See? It's complicated. Hard to keep track of things. But it's only a prosthetic moral compass, so what do you expect?

Here's an oft-asked question: If there were a cure for sociopathy, would I take it? Or do I really believe that sociopathy is just another way of navigating the world, an acceptable variance in human behavior? Would it be a betrayal to "my people" to accept a "solution" to a "problem" that they don't think needs solving? A significant portion of the deaf community feels that cochlear implants are an affront to legitimate deaf culture. What if there there were a cochlear implant for the heart? Wikianswers seems to think there's one coming:
In cases where brain damage is too severe to permit [normal therapy], new developments in technology in the next decades will bring implantable devices that may be able to be used in the brain, along with other means including synthetic replacement neurotransmitters, to carry nerve impulses along paths formerly silent and unused in the sociopath's brain.
I'm not one to get my information from wikianswers, and I haven't been able to find out what new technology this person was referring to, but it still is an interesting idea. Particularly if it stopped being evolutionarily advantageous to be a sociopath, I think I would seriously consider getting a mechanical device to "fix" my "broken" brain.

At the very least, I think it would be interesting to experience what others experience, even for a limited duration or in a limited capacity.  I was just reading in the NY Times about how John Elder Robison (Aspie and author of the memoir "Look Me in the Eye") underwent some experimental treatment that "had given him a temporary insight into other people he had not had previously".  If something like that were possible for people like me, I would almost certainly choose to do it.  I feel like that sort of insight can only be a good thing.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sociopaths = vampires?

Does this seem familiar? The plot of the Swedish film "Let the Right One In":
A fragile introverted boy, 12-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), is regularly bullied by his stronger classmates but never strikes back. His wish for a friend comes true when he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), also 12, who moves into the apartment next door with a man who is presumably her father. But coinciding with Eli's arrival is a series of disappearances and macabre murders—a man is found strung up in a tree, another frozen in the lake, a woman bitten in the neck.

Captivated by the gruesome stories and by Eli’s idiosyncrasies (she is only seen at night, and unaffected by the freezing cold), it doesn't take long before Oskar figures out that Eli is a vampire. Nevertheless, their friendship strengthens, and a subtle romance blossoms as the youngsters become inseparable. In spite of Oskar’s loyalty to her, Eli knows that she can only continue to live if she keeps on moving. But when Oskar faces his darkest hour, Eli returns to defend him the only way she can...

Based on the best-selling novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson weaves friendship, rejection and loyalty into a haunting and darkly atmospheric, yet poetic and unexpectedly tender tableau of adolescence.
The connections between sociopaths and vampires are obvious. Sociopaths are sometimes described as emotional vampires, and modern day vampire covens seem to be all about the psychopath. Some think that the vampire myth originates from vampires. It makes sense: life-sucking, preternaturally powerful, charming, seductive, dangerous... and somehow always falling in love with or befriending normal humans. Hard to know why that is, but I hope all the vampire love will spill over a little onto the sociopaths.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sociopaths don't understand sarcasm

I think this conversation with a friend is interesting because it illustrates how completely oblivious I am to sarcasm. I frequently get accused of blaming every trait of mine on being a sociopath, but I think this one is actually true because aspies and other empathy-challenged individuals also supposedly struggle with understanding sarcasm. Although I don't understand how one's ability to feel for another would lead to being able to correctly interpret hidden meanings behind words. Uh... actually, after having just typed that out, it does seem to make some sense.
Friend: I just read on facebook that [a mutual friend] is a sociopath.
M.E.: What?! Really?!
Friend: Or actually, he replied this way to a question regarding his most embarrassing moment: "None, because I'm a sociopath."
M.E.: Whoa! That's crazy. I never would guessed.
Friend: Ok, sorry I thought you would realize that he was kidding and would laugh at it. I keep forgetting that you don't understand sarcasm.
M.E.: ? How do you know he was kidding?
Friend: Well, think about it this way: only neuro-typical people would say they are a sociopath. Sociopaths wouldn't want to out themselves and they wouldn't risk even joking about it for fear of accidentally outing themselves.
M.E.: Hmm, well, you got my hopes up for nothing then.

Friday, December 23, 2011

DSM-5 vs. PCL-R

A reader comments about the differences between the proposed DSM-5 and the PCL-R:
As far as sociopathy goes, the DSM-IV diagnosis was woefully inadequate. It provided no real insight into the disorder and lacked strong empirical evidence; that is why scholars such as Robert Hare and Theodore Millon have said that sociopathy and antisocial personality disorder are two independent constructs and why Hare went further to create the psychopathy checklist. While the psychopathic checklist is a much more accurate diagnostic tool, it also lacks empirical evidence. For one, it looks at personality as a binary construct. You either you have it or not and if not. It says psychopaths are both quantitatively and qualitatively different from non-psychopaths. But personality is not that clean cut. Everyone has psychopathic traits to a greater or lesser degree. It also doesn’t take into account the heterogeneity within psychopathy. According to Hare for and individual to receive a diagnosis in psychopathy they would have to score relatively high on factor 1 and 2, but that is far from true. Some patients would score high on the disinhibited component others on the antagonistic component and while some score high on both. There is abundant evidence that the impulsive-antisocial (disinhibited-externalizing) and affective-interpersonal (boldness-meanness) components of psychopathy differ in terms of their neurobiological correlates and etiologic determinants according to the work group of the DSM 5. So as far as the DSM and sociopathy researchers go, yes, there has been a disagreement between the two and up until now I think the PCL-R was the most useful when comparing it to antisocial personality disorder, but in all honesty, the DSM 5 seems to have a stronger scientific and empirical basis to not only psychopathy but personality as a whole. 
The DSM 5 seems to have a stronger scientific and empirical basis to not only psychopathy but personality as a whole. In contrast to the PCL-R, the DSM 5 derived its criteria from scientific data not theory. In a contested article by Skeem and Cooke, "Is Criminal Behavior a Central Component of Psychopathy? Conceptual Directions for Resolving the Debate," the two colleagues posit that the field of forensic psychology has prematurely embraced Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) as the gold standard for psychopathy, due in large part to legal demands for a tool to predict violence. Yet the PCL-R's ability to predict violent recidivism owes in large part to its conflation of the supposed personality construct of psychopathy with past criminal behavior, they argue: 
“[T]he modern justice context has created a strong demand for identifying bad, dangerous people…. [The] link between the PCL and violence has supported a myth that emotionally detached psychopaths callously use violence to achieve control over and exploit others. As far as the PCL is concerned, this notion rests on virtually no empirical support…. [T]he process of understanding psychopathy must be separated from the enterprise of predicting violence.” 
Criminal behavior weighs heavily in the PCL's 20 items because the instrument emerged from research with prisoners. But using the PCL-R's consequent ability to predict violence to assert the theoretical validity of its underlying personality construct is a tautological, or circular, argument, claim Skeem and Cooke. Or, as John Ellard put it more directly back in 1998: 
"Why has this man done these terrible things? Because he is a psychopath. And how do you know that he is a psychopath? Because he has done these terrible things." 
All in all, the PCL- R tends to do a better job measuring criminality. Not psychopathy, which is a personality disorder and can’t be adequately recognized by a set of twenty criteria combined with an arbitrary diagnostic threshold. (That threshold being 30). 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Connect the dots

Remember those games you used to play in primary school where the teacher would give you a bunch of clues and you had to guess what the person or thing was?  From a reader:
I'm wondering where I fall on the sociopathic spectrum, and what if anything I should do about it.
I was born into a troubled family - mother is was paranoid schizophrenic & father is narcissistc. Grandfather was a sociopath (he was sadistic, transgressive and super low-empathy). I spent most of my childhood (mildly) abused or neglected. I was a bedwetter. 
I tend to interpret peoples' actions the way a paranoid would, although I know rationally that I'm often wrong. 
I'm low-empathy. I have trouble reading the emotions of others. I often say things that bother people. Unless I'm paying a lot of attention, it is easy for me to offend people. When I offend people, I try to make amends (as a practical matter).
I tend to take things literally. I have a hard time with jokes. I speak bluntly. 
I'm generally quite honest, although when I want to lie, I take great delight in saying something that is literally true, but misleading.
In general, I'm bold. If I want stuff, I'll try to get it. I very much feel like my life is slipping away; there's no time to waste. I get bored easily.
As a kid, I didn't abuse mammals, but I was tough on slugs and snails. I took them apart, tortured them, etc. In my adult years, my job had me doing terrible things to mammals. They'd scream for a long time. I didn't like hearing the screams, it bugged me. If anything, they pissed me off with their screaming, because I had a job to do. Sometimes I'd get so pissed at them for screaming at me that I'd hurt them more. My sense is, I don't abuse animals for fun, but if I've got goals and to reach them I have to hurt stuff, I'll do it. If the things I'm hurting make my job difficult, I'll hurt them more after I get angry at them.
I've got something of a conscience, but not like most people. I do feel bad if I hurt people I love. I don't steal. But I do trespass, snoop, cheat on my taxes, smuggle contraband when it suits me, etc. I regularly do things that could get me arrested. 
If people cross a line, I consider extra-legal retribution essential. I've broken the law, repeatedly, to get revenge. It involved killing animals. I did it without remorse. I've gotten good at it.
I enjoy internet trolling, particularly by expressing un-PC thoughts. 
I'm sadistic. I really enjoy hurting my enemies. 
I've got ethnocentric/racist sensibilities. I think the world would be a better place if we got rid of people not in my racial group. If making that happen required me to volunteer, I'd do it happily. In this way, I'm altruistic. I'm not totally selfish. Then again, I don't love everyone in my racial group (or family, etc). If there were important enough goals, I'd think it reasonable to kill them for the cause.
If I could kill people and get away with it (or get approval, by being on a death squad), I'd jump to sign up. I'm kinda hoping we'll get a race war before I'm dead, so that I can hunt some humans.
I'm very manipulative and calculating. I lie. I do this even with the people closest to me. I kind of delight in doing it.
I transgress. When I do "bad" things, I don't have remorse. I do have fear of getting caught, and a deep hatred of authority figures. I know that if I was in the middle of a crime and a lone law enforcement officer caught me, I'd kill him in an instant if it meant the difference between getting away or being punished.
That said, there are some transgressions I feel are wrong, so I don't do them. If I do them, I feel guilty. Yet for someone who hates authority, when people disregard my wishes or authority, I feel they deserve the maximum punishment.
I get lonely. Rejection hurts and pisses me off. I want to be adored. When I've been rejected, I've thought of stalking, attacking or trespassing the person rejecting me. Or I think of re-seducing them, so that I can dump them to punish them.
My general sense is that I can't be a sociopath; I have something of a conscience. But then there's only about 5 people in the world I care about in non-abstract terms.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fictional sociopaths: Hurt Locker

A psychologist suggests a fictional depiction of a psychopath is the protagonist from the Hurt Locker:
Patrick Bateman in the film American Psycho inserts a chainsaw into a prostitute. Alex in A Clockwork Orange fantasizes about torture and slaughter while listening to music. 
But psychopaths can wreak havoc in workplaces without stabbing, or eating, their colleagues.
"It's a much more ordinary condition than those movies portray. They aren't more intelligent than the rest of us," Dr Polaschek said. 
She suggested another movie character for a different look at psychopaths: Sergeant First Class William James in The Hurt Locker. 
James joins a bomb disposal team in Iraq and quickly earns the distrust of his comrades through his lack of care. 
"He could well be a psychopath, but he doesn't do anything to hurt anybody. He's a bit of a cowboy and does a fearless kind of work tracking those improvised explosives, and he doesn't work well in a team."
The researcher goes on to opine:
Dr Polaschek said it was a complex disorder - there was no clear line dividing a common and commendable display of boldness from full-blown psychopathy. 
"But there probably isn't such a thing as a harmless psychopath. People who live for themselves and for the day will tend to blunder around, causing harm to people - because that's not how society works." 
I think this sign represents his character well (and the awkwardness of a sociopath trying to deal with someone's very emotional state, rather unsuccessfully):



Sergeant JT Sanborn: I'm ready to die, James.
Staff Sergeant William James: Well, you're not gonna die out here, bro.
Sergeant JT Sanborn: Another two inches, shrapnel zings by; slices my throat- I bleed out like a pig in the sand. Nobody'll give a shit. I mean my parents- they care- but they don't count, man. Who else? I don't even have a son.
Staff Sergeant William James: Well, you're gonna have plenty of time for that, amigo.
Sergeant JT Sanborn: Naw, man. I'm done. I want a son. I want a little boy, Will. I mean, how do you do it, you know? Take the risk?
Staff Sergeant William James: I don't know. I guess I don't think about it.
Sergeant JT Sanborn: But you realize every time you suit up, every time we go out, it's life or death. You roll the dice, and you deal with it. You recognize that don't you?
Staff Sergeant William James: Yea... Yea, I do. But I don't know why.
[sighs]
Staff Sergeant William James: I don't know, JT. You know why I'm the way I am?
Sergeant JT Sanborn: No, I don't.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Married to BPD (part 2)

My response:

I don't really know that much about BPD. I've never met anyone in person who is BPD, just the people who write in to me or comment on the blog. It seems to be a real thing, even if all we're really saying is that there are people similar enough to each other that it makes sense to give them all a similar label.

Still, I think that quite a few female sociopaths might get misdiagnosed BPD when sociopathy would fit better. I think that may be due to a gender bias of both the criterion and the people doing the diagnosing. I also think that because there is really not a diagnosis of "sociopath" right now, your only other option is ASPD and a lot of female sociopaths don't seem to rise to the level of aggression and acting out that ASPD requires, so they get shuttled into a BPD diagnosis.

If your wife is actually a sociopath and not BPD, I do think there are ways that she can love you. She is probably already attached to you, and as you become more of a fixture in her life she will become even more attached. If it helps you to avoid power struggles, you can just tell yourself that when she provokes you, she is doing so expecting to get a rise out of you. The sociopath in you should know that it would actually be a better tactic to avoid confrontation and wait around until a better moment to strike, on your terms not hers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Married to BPD (part 1)


From a reader:
I am intrigued by your honesty on your almost autobiographical perspective on sociopathy. You have quite an insightful blog that is helping me gain some different perspectives. I don't think all sociopaths are bad people, just as I don't believe all empaths are good people. 
Recently, I married a woman I knew for a relatively short amount of time (4 months and we've been married since May) out of impulse and I have come to the realization that she may be a Borderline. When it's good, it's great...but when it's bad, it's horrid. When we fight, I become just as bad as her, trying to one-up her or try to control her, as she tries with me. I have never had these sort of power struggles with anyone. But my emotions have been on a roller coaster ride for the past nine months . Never have I experienced such exhilarating pleasure and turmoil at the same time with one person.
I recently joined an online "BPD" support forum for Non's and have come to fine many "veteran Non's" who ended up with BPD's (often bitter) express a common opinion and that is that the BPD label is actually a farce, namely created by "recovered borderlines" and those with empathy towards females afflicted with sociopathy.
In my personal opinion about the Cluster B's...From what I've gathered thus far, I am starting to believe that BPD is in actuality a form sociopathy and Histrionics may just be an offshoot of Narcissism. Modern psychology likes to compartmentalize everything into "disorders" as to easier "label" an individual. I agree with doing away with such compartmental labels and placing diagnoses into degrees on a spectrum, such as high functioning, low functioning and everything in between.
I consider myself to be a low-level sociopath (anti-Narcisssistic). I do have some of the tendencies (I often switch between apathy and empathy...and certain things I cannot feel, but I consider myself to be an empath for the most part). But my philosophy that if you mess with me, I will go out of my way to make your life hell, reinforces my belief of my tendencies.
Thus, I would like your opinion on BPD? Do you think it's a solid label or is it a variant of sociopathy? Thus I think my wife has "BPD"...Sociopathy. But she intrigues me and although we have highs and lows, the relationship is nothing close to boring. I love her and would like to make this work. I just want to know something, am I merely an object to her, a possession? Or do you feel sociopaths are capable of love in their own way? There are many good qualities with the bad...or is that just part of an act?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sociopath = broken brain?

The question of nature vs. nurture for sociopaths is controversial. Arguing "nature" seems to give sociopaths a free pass--being "born with it" somehow makes them more pitiable and acceptable by society. Whereas arguing "nurture" suggests that sociopaths can one day reverse their condition through hard work and therapy, or recruit more of their kind by abusing children. Scientists think that sociopathy is a mixture of both nature and nurture, but the real mystery is whether the sociopath's brain is actually physically different from the empath's. I don't have anything more than anecdotal evidence regarding sociopaths specifically, but we know that the brain learns different things at different stages. If you miss the window to learn a particular skill or concept (e.g. empathy), you may never be able to "catch up" or "become normal."

One example of brains missing their learning windows is feral children. This article discusses the story of a 7 year-old girl who was found living in her own filth in a closet. The girl wore diapers, was nonverbal, and was unable to feed herself. Essentially she lived like a big toddler with minimal human contact. The girl had a "normal" brain, no sign of genetic mental retardation, but she behaved as if she were severely mentally handicapped. This girl will never be normal. When she was found, no one expected her to ever learn to speak. The best that could be hoped for is that she would become potty trained, learn how to feed herself, understand simple communication. Her brain had missed too many windows of opportunity--too many neural connections were never made.

Does the feral child story sound like this comment from a reader?
I stumbled across this site while trying to define my own personality traits. I certainly exhibit a fair number of the associated traits of a sociopath, so maybe I am one.

The thing is, I never used to exhibit these traits, in fact as a child i was very empathic - this changed when i went from a loving home to living with an abusive and largely uncaring stepfather, and a mother who just didn't want anything to jeapordise her relationship with said stepfather.

What happens when you systematically abuse an empath?

The answer is simple - they stop empathising and start lashing out once it gets too much. In my opinion, and i could be wrong on this, but the medical definitions don't take into account the complexities of the human soul, sociopathy is simply a natural instinct for survival and even revenge on those that destroyed part of their psyche. I never got justice for the wrongs that were done to me, my child brain at the time "toughened" itself to deal with the situation and went about exacting revenge in lieu of justice provided by those that should have been protecting me from such harm. The problem is, how do you stop?

Having been in such a psychological torment for the formative years of childhood, how do you become "normal" when you've never really known normality?

The moral superiority exhibited by sociopaths was once just that, they did once hold the moral high ground, they knew right from wrong and they knew wrong was being done to them and nothing was being done about it so they adapted their views of the world accordingly - it's difficult to feel empathy for anyone when no empathy is shown to you.

So in my view, and this is just my opinion, a sociopath is probably just a scared child in an adult body, trying to protect themselves from the harm that has been visited upon them by "normal" people. Once the walls go up, it's damn hard to bring them down again and each negative response just adds another brick to the wall - more proof that they are right to mistrust the world and treat it with contempt.

There may be genetic factors involved, differences to the brain even, but largely I think that society itself has created sociopaths and the reason they fear sociopaths is because of the skeleton in society's closet that sociopaths represent.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kicking against the pricks

I related to this recent comment from UKan in response to a question, "why did you say you must have been a little lost?"
Because violence became my obsession and it cost me years of my life. Everything seemed so right, so I couldn't understand why I kept going in and out of facilities. I felt like they were persecuting me. I didn't figure it out till my last year in prison. Even then I couldn't put the brakes on because I had been going down the hill so fast for so long. I'm still trying to hold the brakes. I've had a few incidents in a year span, but I think I've slowed down a bit. 
I know most people think it seems simple. If you keep getting arrested for violent deeds, it should be easy to see why you are getting jammed. In my mind everything was not only justified, but I projected myself on everyone. Consequently I thought they thought it was ok too, but they were just jamming me up because they wanted to keep me down. I don't know if you understand. Like I said I was lost. Delusional even.
When I studied music, we looked at the composition below. The text of the piece is from the New Testament. Jesus appears to Saul, the persecutor of Christians, saying "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."  What Jesus meant is that it was difficult for Saul to continue doing the same (self) destructive stuff over and over again.

I knew exactly what the angel meant.  I had done this so many times in my life, diving headlong into some hare-brained scheme or another, and repeating my mistakes over and over again like a moron.  I would provoke the people in my life until they erupted, then provoke them again until they erupted, then provoke them again until they erupted.  It was like I was a skipping record.  I finally hit a sort of rock bottom and straightened out quite a bit, but I'm still susceptible to getting stuck in these sorts of ruts.  I wish I knew what it was about me that made me so susceptible to this self-defeating behavior.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gene expression

I think there are many other factors that would affect the way someone with sociopathic genes/tendencies might behave or manifest themselves. I sometimes like to use the example of someone with Down Syndrome. I actually have relatives that have Down Syndrome -- one blood and the other adopted. It's interesting to see the blood relative. He does sort of look like the rest of his family, his siblings and his parents, but he also looks unmistakably like his adoptive sister who also has Down Syndrome. In fact, most people would probably say he looks more like his adoptive sister than his blood siblings -- unless the observer was intentionally trying to look past some of the more obvious Down's markers such as distinctive facial features, body shape, etc.

Down's is an interesting condition. Throw an extra chromosome in there, and it affects the way seemingly every other chromosome is expressed. It's almost as if you take the raw genetic material and put a very distinctive mask over it, a sort of interpretive gloss that takes what was lying beneath and distorts it -- minimizing or maximizing or otherwise twisting it to something else, like when the face of a plastic doll melts.

I sort of think that sociopathy is like this. My personality resembles my siblings' quite a bit.  It also resembles those of other sociopaths a good deal and in ways that are in some ways more poignant because of the relative rarity in the general populace. It's amazing to me how much I can share in common with strangers -- with people who are of different genders, ethnicities, races, nationalities, ages, etc. But I am not just like every other sociopath. From what I have seen of us we are all very different. But there is no mistaking a certain family resemblance.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A sociopathic story (part 2)

(cont.)
I am becoming better at my game. Two years ago, I went on a trip with a group of 6 people for four months. Two of the people there were married, and the woman was particularly easy to read. She had so many weak points that I simply couldn't help myself. I seduced her because I could, and I wanted to, and because it made me feel powerful. Her husband made it easy by verbally harassing her, or at least saying things that could very easily be reconstructed in her memory to seem that way.

Currently I completely possess the mind of another woman, but that happened nearly by accident. I would not have chosen her as a target because she is too wrapped up in the social web at the university that I go to, and now I can't get rid of her even though she bores me. I can't figure out how to break the relationship without having to rebuild an entire network of people at this school. I'm sure that I can figure out a way to do this, but I've never really had to. Change of location has always been my go to method for cutting off contact, but I can't leave here for another 2 years.

I suppose my greatest question is how do you prevent yourself from becoming bored? I need to explain that better. I'm never actually bored as I always have my mind and other people's minds to play with. What I mean is: how do you continue to do one job, or make it through a degree, or generally have any commitment that lasts longer than a year? Or is that just impossible for you?

To be clear, I make no claims to the title of sociopath, as I think that is probably quite meaningless in its current state, but there are certain qualities which I share with sociopaths, enough for me to find the concept fascinating. I think I share all of the qualities on the checklist except trouble with the law and violence towards animals (I never understood the draw, my feeling on this is very neutral. I see no reason to either hurt or not hurt animals)

In any case, I will continue to read your blog whether I hear from you or not. Just thought that I would introduce myself.
M.E.: I don't really fight the boredom, I just go from one thing to the next. My attention span has historically been 3-5 years. By the second or third year of anything I am always looking for my next move. Luckily I have managed to stay in a relatively related field, although vastly different types of jobs within that field. My problem isn't even so much boredom, as an inability to make myself do anything that I don't want to do. It's a good thing that I am motivated in part by prestige and money, which I naturally equate with power.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A sociopathic story (part 1)

From a reader who identifies with sociopathy:
I was home schooled in a very religious household (my father was a senior pastor at a church in our town), and was never the centre of attention in any group of friends, and even after I eventually went to a public high school, I always preferred to remain on the outside. People in general never really interested me in a long term way, and my ability to maintain friendships has always been held back by the fact that as soon as someone is no longer nearby, I find it much easier to move on to a new friend than to try to maintain any form of long distance communication. There really is no reward in that for me. I suppose that all of that is to say that I never really thought much about the differences that I noticed between myself and others.

When I was about 13, one of my best friends father died. It was a chainsaw accident, the blade kicked back while he was cutting brush and cut most of the way through his neck. His wife was the one who found him. It was the first major outpouring of grief that I had ever had to witness, and I think it was the first time that I realized that I would have to put on a show to avoid being though of as heartless. I wasn't very good at it, but I used the oldest excuse: I'm in shock, I'll process my emotions later.

Shortly thereafter, I took a trip to Africa and watched people live the worst life possible and felt no sympathy for them. I could only feel disdain for them. I saw it as their fault that they could not pick themselves up, that they wasted what little they had on worthless shit like cell phones. I attributed these feelings to the antimalarial drug I was taking, mefloquine, which has been known to have unpredictable psychological effects.

At this point, of course, none of this seemed odd to me. It occurred to me that everyone must be doing something like this. After all, people always talk about everyone wearing masks. Maybe I am not so different?

Near the end of high school, I began to notice some other oddities about myself. Before then, I had never thought of myself as a manipulative person. As I thought about my interactions with people, however, I realized that, while I never was popular, I couldn't remember any time where I had a conversation or argument where I had not gotten what I wanted. People always had a favourable impression of me. It wasn't that I was trying to manipulate people specifically, it was just that I would decide what I wanted to happen, start talking to them, and it would happen. More recently (I am now 23), I have taken to more conscious exercise of this skill, making a game out of attempting to elicit certain responses from the people around me.

I also began having episodes which I would describe as "rage breaks" in an otherwise completely calm persona. It didn't take much, but it took a very specific type of incident, and I would lose control for short bursts of time. Minor incidents usually involved someone's assertion that they were more important or more powerful than I was. More major incidents were usually stemmed from a similar cause but involved physical aggression towards me as well. My responses in those times ranged from insults to throwing someone through a door.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The morality of libertarians

This will be interesting and relevant to many of you. A reader sent me this article about recent research performed on the moral leanings of libertarians, "Understanding Libertarian Morality: The psychological roots of an individualist ideology." As described by Reason:
When it comes to morality, libertarians are often typecast as immoral calculating rationalists who also have a somewhat unseemly hedonistic bent. Now new social science research shows that libertarians are quite moral, just not in the same way that conservatives and liberals are.
***
[T]he study found that libertarians show (1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, (2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and (3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.

In his earlier work, Haidt surveyed the attitudes of conservatives and liberals using what he calls the Moral Foundations Questionnaire which measures how much a person relies on each of five different moral foundations: Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. Typically, conservatives scored lower than liberals on the Harm and Fairness scales and much higher on Ingroup, Authority, and Purity scales. In this case, libertarians scored low on all five surveyed moral dimensions. “Libertarians share with liberals a distaste for the morality of Ingroup, Authority, and Purity characteristic of social conservatives, particularly those on the religious right,” notes the study. Libertarians scored slightly below conservatives on Harm and slightly above on Fairness. This suggests that libertarians “are therefore likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.”

The Schwartz Value scale measures the degree to which participants regard 10 values as guiding principles for their lives. Libertarians put higher value on Hedonism, Self-Direction, and Stimulation than either liberals or conservatives and they put less value than either on Benevolence, Conformity, Security, and Tradition. Like liberals, libertarians put less value on Power, but like conservatives they value Universalism less. Universalism is defined as “understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection of the welfare of all people and nature.” All three put high value on Achievement. Taking these results into account, Haidt concludes that “libertarians appear to live in a world where traditional moral concerns (e.g., respect for authority, personal sanctity) are not assigned much importance.”
***
“Libertarians may fear that the moral concerns typically endorsed by liberals or conservatives are claims that can be used to trample upon individual rights—libertarians’ sacred value.
***
“Libertarians are high in Openness to Experience and seem to enjoy effortful and thoughtful cognitive tasks. In combination with low levels of emotional reactivity, the highly rational nature of libertarians may lead them to a logical, rather than emotional, system of morality.”
Probably the most interesting part of this article, though, was the discussion of the Empathizer-Systematizer scale:

The scale measures the tendency to empathize, defined as "the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts, and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion," and to systemize, or "the drive to analyze the variables in a system, and to derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of the system." Libertarians are the only group that scored higher on systemizing than on empathizing—and they scored a lot higher. The authors go on to suggest that systemizing is “characteristic of the male brain, with very extreme scores indicating autism.” They then add, “We might say that liberals have the most ‘feminine’ cognitive style, and libertarians the most ‘masculine.’”
Yes, tendency to systematize instead of empathize is something that libertarians, sociopaths, and autistics have in common.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rod Blagojevich

There's been a lot of discussion about whether former Illinois Governor Blagojevich is a sociopath. People assert that he must be crazy to attempt to sell former United States Senator and President Elect Obama's senate seat to the highest bidder when he knew that he was being monitored for possible corruption. According to one pundit:

He described what would now be called a “sociopath,” a modern-day term for the older “psychopath.” It’s a complex, hard-to-treat ailment, and “anti-social” is the key phrase here.

Among the prominent traits of one so afflicted is the absence of any sense of guilt or shame. Empathy is unknown. The truth may be told, but only when it serves the often bizarre purposes of the teller. Never for its own sake.
The governor’s astonishing dare — Go ahead and tap my phones — brings to mind the much more normal Gary Hart’s “Follow me.” (They did.) It is explained by the sociopath’s absolute conviction that he is somehow immune from being caught.

This appears to be connected to the sociopath’s trait of confusing his lies with reality. Unable to distinguish between the two, he proceeds on his brazen way, willing, like Richard Widmark in “Kiss of Death,” to push a wheel-chaired old lady down a flight of stairs to gain his purposes.

Gaylin reminds us that sociopaths are not always obvious misfits, as evidenced by their being found, for example, running major institutions. Often they have the acting skills of award-winning thespians, can exhibit great charm (though not in this case) and can fool even experts.
I disagree that a sociopath would never tell the truth for the truth's sake. I think a sociopath would tell the truth whenever it wasn't worth it to attempt a lie. And I don't believe that the majority of sociopaths are out committing violent crimes like pushing wheel chair-bound old women down the stairs. Sociopaths are unique, interesting, and scary enough without embellishing.

People hear or read about extremes of sociopathic behavior and assume it's true of all sociopaths. This is as ridiculous as saying black people sink in water, all Catholic priests are molesters, homeless people are addicts, lawyers are liars, doctors have god complexes, teachers "teach" because they can't "do," pharmacists couldn't get into medical school, women and Asians are terrible drivers, politicians are corrupt, danseurs are gay, Muslims are terrorists, etc. Members of those groups may or not be more likely to show those traits than nonmembers, but that doesn't mean that the definition of lawyer should include "liar," the definition of Muslim should include "terrorist," etc. Likewise, sociopaths may be over-represented in prisons, but that doesn't mean the definition of sociopath should include "criminal."

That said, I'm not refusing to accept Governor Blagojevich as a fellow sociopath. It's just that I wish people wouldn't always assume that whenever someone does something "bad," it must be because they're a sociopath (or vice versa).
The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary: men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
-- Joseph Conrad

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Guest song: MakeDamnSure

"You are everything I want, cause you are everything I'm not"
"We lie together, just not too close"
"I just want to break you down so badly, in the worst way"
"I'm gonna make damn sure you never leave; no you won't ever get too far from me"

This sorta is how I feel about women I've been in love with; I don't want to get too close to them, because I want to 'break them down so badly' Ya know? It's that feeling of control that I love.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nothing

I rarely wake up to an alarm. Consequently, my dreams become increasingly more lucid as I become more conscious. I've noticed that when I'm busy and not sleeping as much as my body wants, my subconscious in these last minutes of sleep will incorporate problem solving into my dreams. It's as if it knows that I want to get up and working on things, so it tries to trick me into sleeping more by giving me the illusion of "solving" things in my dreams. It works. I have honestly thought to myself, no need to get up quite yet because I am getting so much done already.

Sometimes the dreams could be classified as anxiety dreams. One time I dreamed that I was trying to escape from a hospital in which they were performing tests on me. A lot of the time, though, they are innocuous--I am performing research or coming up with theories or solutions for my work. Sometimes I am just managing my day filled with errands, trying to deal with them in the most efficient manner possible.

The problems, like all dream problems, are unending. It can feel rewarding to engage in these little games my subconscious sets up for me, but there is never a complete resolution. Just as I feel that I am getting close to success, some new snafu develops. Again, it's as if my subconscious realizes that if I resolve something completely, the natural consequence would be for me to just wake up. When I do finally wake up, I am relieved that all those problems and snafus have magically disappeared, as if they never existed, because of course they never did.

I've mentioned before that I have a death wish. Some people wondered what I meant. I don't mean it in a brooding, morose way. I don't daily yearn for death to end the torment of my life. My life isn't tormented. I don't really yearn for anything. That's sort of the problem. Sometimes I feel like my life is like these pseudo lucid dreams I have in the morning in which I go from one project or scheme to another--one seduction becomes the next, one career move becomes the next, one plan to "ruin" someone becomes the next. Everything is enjoyable, in fact my day-to-day activities are all either very self-indulgent and pleasurable or richly rewarding. By design, there is very little tedium in my life--except for life itself. My wish for death then is more a wish that this existence was something that I could wake up from. (I know, right? Total Inception rip off.)

I have a vague sensation of a nothingness about life. I don't think it's accurate to call it emptiness. Empty suggests that there is some vacancy, some volume that is left unfilled. I have used the word abyss before, but that is similarly inaccurate. It's not quite boredom, as it is lack of meaning or real fulfillment. Sometimes I think it is a symptom of what I am, but I've read enough literature to think that it is actually a quite common sensation. It's probably why so many people answer the question, "What's wrong?" with "Nothing."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chicken and egg

More research on the difference between sociopath, this time it's a lower number of connections from the prefontal cortex and amygdala. From Scientific American:

The study’s most important finding centered on impairments in the link between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (a control node for regulating emotion, threats, decision-making and social behavior) and the amygdala, a locus of emotional processing. . . . In theory, the faulty interaction between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex could fail to provide the proper negative emotional cue that robbing a bank or a ripping off a friend is just not kosher. Further tests are needed to confirm the implications of this breakdown in communication in the brain’s internal social network.

This finding, though, could also extend work by Newman that indicates that psychopathy may result from what he calls an “attention bottleneck.” Psychopaths may focus fixedly on one goal and ignore all other social cues, perhaps even signals sent over the prefrontal-to-amygdala pathway.
Good friend Hare warns:

Hare cautions that identifying what’s different in the brains of psychopaths isn’t the same thing as figuring out the cause of psychopathy. The weakened connections seen in the Wisconsin study could be a by-product of some other environmental or genetic factor commonly found among psychopaths.

“We have a chicken and an egg, in a sense,” he says. “There’s a tendency, certainly among people in the criminal justice system, to take any of these deficits and say, ‘Wow, we have a psychopath who has all these behavioral problems, and now we have this brain anomaly or dysfunction that seems to match, therefore one caused the other.’”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sara smile

From a reader:
My name is Sara. I have been weird and not so normal all my life. When I was little my dad was physically abusive if we did the wrong things but I quickly adapted to this so while my siblings got beaten I was spared because I always knew what to say or do. I learned at a young age that no one else but me could give me the answers that I needed or help me if I needed something. Me and only me was my way of life.

I used to manipulate my siblings into being my slaves and do chores for me. I'd lie a lot but as soon as I discovered that you lose credibility and future opportunities to manipulate I stopped.

I tortured cats, chicks, and dogs. I once left a cat insides box for a week feeding it only sporadically because the stupid cat wouldn't stay put and I hate when small little things don't do as I say.

I am now 24 yrs old and very manipulative. Ex. I use sex or sexual attraction to play with men.. They don't have feelings anyway. I once cheated on my fiancé by sleeping with a stranger at 8pm, then sleeping with a state trooper at 10pm then going home and kissing my fiancé good night as if nothing ever happened.

I'm doing the same thing again.. I tell my husband "I will never hurt you" and in my mind I'm making plans to meet with this other man.

I've thought about doing bad things and the only thing that stops me is jail. Honestly who wants to be trapped? Just do what you can get away with...after all being an innocent cute girl works better on people.

I have a BA in psychology and I fucking love my Job at a psychiatric hospital. I can finally feel at home.

Thoughts?? Would you post this? Oh and I somehow enjoy it when people talk about me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Senseless violence

Usually I don't share things like this, but I am in love with the senseless violence. And the staring.



One thing I noticed recently is that when I get stressed or annoyed, it actually helps to imagine small acts of violence, like sneaking up behind people and slitting their throat. I know everyone else must do this as well. Isn't that odd? That we can find violence so comforting? I wonder what in our evolutionary development prompted that little quirk.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Do sociopaths know they are sociopaths?

This is a question I have been getting a lot recently. The short answer is yes, sociopaths are generally aware that they are sociopaths. This is one of the differences between sociopaths and narcissists. Sociopaths know they are different from other people, but can force themselves to think and act like a neurotypical person. Narcissists think they think and feel the same as other people (just better) and are consequently less able to alter their behavior, even if it would be in their best interest (compare, narcissists, who really struggle with this).

The longer answer is that it may take a while for sociopaths to learn that everyone else is not like them. Most young children have sociopathic-esque tendencies: self-centeredness, lack of empathy, lack of consideration for others, dominant primal emotions, etc. It may not be immediately obvious to sociopathic youngsters when and if their peers have progressed past these "limitations" on their way to emotional maturity.

Meanwhile, the sociopath is undergoing his own changes. The sociopath is gaining a greater understanding of self. High functioning sociopaths learn that not only can they manipulate others, they can also manipulate themselves. This self manipulation can perform the same function as self control.

After the sociopath acquires greater self knowledge and self mastery, he may still be unaware that he is different. Instead, he may assume that other humans have just completed their own similar transformation. When the sociopath learns that he is the only one like him, it can be disappointing. It can be exhilarating too, but it will always be lonely. Not like most sociopaths mind (at least most of the time).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Beauty

I have always sought out beauty. I grew up in a superficial culture in a superficial family, absorbing its standards of visible aesthetic appeal as a matter of heritage. As I learned more about the world, I began to understand that there is a beauty beyond those things skin deep. I learned to appreciate the beauty of the way things worked--the complexity of life. I was a voracious reader, initially deriving pleasure from the general narrative or the descriptions of new places or adventures. At one point in my late teens, however, I learned to appreciate that books also portrayed the inner worlds of people whose minds, though not often like mine, were like people I knew or would meet. When I learned that, people became very beautiful to me as well, not just their bodies or their wit.

I was so captivated by beauty during this time period. I still am, but back then it I was very overt about it. At one point I had three explicit goals in life: to notice everything, to appreciate the beauty in everything, and to be the perfect friend (this was, of course, before I was self-aware). All three reflected my burgeoning fascination with all things living and beautiful--my constantly awakening senses and awareness to the world around me. It was as if I had lived in two dimensions all my life ("me" and "not me") and now I was suddenly aware of the infinite complexity of the world. I was giddy, drunk on each new discovery.

With beauty on my mind, it's no surprise I chose to study music at university. One thing that I loved about studying music is that every day I could relate to other musicians in (seemingly) every way--a frequency that I had never experienced before and never have since. One story sticks out in my mind. I was in a jazz related class and the professor was talking about voicing particular chords, i.e. which notes of the chord go where in the range of the instrument and in which order to each other. The professor started waxing on about a particular pianist who had the most beautiful, organic voicings--voicings that could take a typical chord progression and make it sound utterly novel due solely to effective voicing choices. The professor was going on about this pianist for several minutes and what made the voicings so special without using the name of the pianist. He could have been talking about any of a million people--Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington being the typical favorite examples of this particular professor, but for some reason I just knew that he was talking about Carole King. It was a weird intuition, we were in a jazz class (Carole King is a folk musician), the professor was quite old, and Carole King is not even really known for being a pianist, but I was right.

There were many instances like this where I felt completely in sync with fellow musicians. Every day I connected with my fellow musicians in ways that I often miss, now that music has taken a back seat to other pursuits. Studying music was a blissful respite from the real world, from having to pretend all the time. (Musicians are perverse anyway, as is music, which consists primarily of setting up expectations and then playing with people's expectations--very manipulative, very teleological).

I think this obsession with beauty heavily influenced the way my value system evolved. It's hard to imagine what I would be like if I hadn't gone through that obsessive phase. For better or for worse, I think that the pursuit of beauty and study of music shielded me from certain harsh truths about myself that I wouldn't have to confront until graduate school, when I finally realized to what extent I was different from my peers. I still use beauty and music as a daily escape from humanity.*

(Carole King has beautiful vocal phrasing, as well as the aforementioned idiosyncratic piano voicing.)

*Although humans are the origin of a lot that I find beautiful, they don't have a monopoly on it. Also truth and beauty have a certain transcendent quality to them that never really smacks of being something inherently human to me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thriving sociopaths at work

From a reader:
I'm a reader and I have been reading your blog for a couple of months. Since you seem to be very welcoming to readers, I decided to pitch this idea that came to me. I'm not sure I'm a psychopath, but I have a few traits I relate to, and it certainly affects the way I accomplish my job. I was curious to know how other sociopaths get by, so I made up this post.

We could cite a few individuals who achieved success in life: an accomplished career; a respected image; a strong family; security in wealth; a prestigious opinion.

Sociopaths have traits that set them apart from neurotypicals, like greater ease in face of prolonged stress, the backbone to make tough decisions, a keen eye for detail, a skeptical stance that freshens his/her view on others and a sincerity that can materialize changes around him/her.

Not all sociopathic traits work well for society's greater good. An utmost sense of individuality could be argued to fuel capitalism's invisible hand with providential effects, but so could fraud and corruption peak at catastrophic levels. The same individuals who were hired to promote change in big companies ended up achieving sole success at the expense of the system in the end line. Albeit personal success is a common goal for sociopaths and neurotypicals alike, legitimacy through the system can be a great way for a sociopath to trail his destiny.

Some job descriptions list sociopathic traits as valuable. Robert Hare advocates the use of the sociopathic courage in the police force and firefighting. It is common among them to suffer from PTSD, depression and anxiety after consecutive years under stress. Sociopaths, on the other hand, would suffer much less, maintaining good levels performances under such conditions.

Charm, sociability and appeal are listed traits for hosts, salesmen, lawyers and spokespersons. Are these career examples far fetched? Are there other legitimate careers that society looks high upon which sociopaths would inevitably succeed?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Same language

From a reader:
For 32 years I've been on a search to quantify my difference from others. I've been in therapy for ADD since I was 4 and on methylphinedate aka ritalin. I've developed a way of speaking and acting that I thought was unique. A bumbling, fresh-out-of-school therapist, by total accident, showed me who and why I was. You see, in my search for knowledge of myself, I actually ended up outing myself to him, even though at that point I didn't even realize there was something to "out".

I had always been diagnosed Schizoid Personality Disorder, with a laundry list of other diagnoses from a laundry list of other doctors. The problem was that I never really fit with some of the defining identifiers in any given diagnoses. The lack witted therapist made mention of how some of the things I described had an antisocial ring to them. He was right. It was almost as if I had memorized the bulletpoints and were reciting them back word for word.

This was all unintentional. However, I believe it to be the best of accidents. After having struck a chord with his comment, I immediately came home and went straight to my computer to absorb information on the topic. I came across your site after wading through clinical information, which is useful, and personal propaganda sites, which are not so much except to reinforce they socio/empath difference; the after effects of the storm.

I want to thank you. I've always felt alone, truly. As well as different. I always fought with my nature to try and fit in, and it worked, sometimes, for a while. I realize now that being able to even fool myself is an indicator as to how powerful and intrinsic my sociopathy is to my nature. Since reading your site practically cover to cover, I feel powerful, less alone. My vision is clear. With my new perspective I've been re-living past situations and interactions in my mind and I can see exactly where each game piece was and why. Finding a place and a group that I belong to, that I fit into, has been one of the driving forces in my life. I think the lack of this feeling played a part in making me a sociopath. Now that I know, what I am, I can stop fighting myself.

I have joined the forum. I will join in and make comments on the topics to come. I am glad that you are able to afford the type of treatment that I cannot, and that I have access to that vicariously through the forum. I am also fooling around with the idea of writing a book and would greatly appreciate your collaboration in this. You see, even though I'm american and I gather you live across the pond, we speak the same language. Not just the vernacular, or the verbiage, but the context, the imagery. We use the same simile's and idiom's. This was the major point of connection for me, sure the other things fit nicely, but reading you is like reading me, like you are in my brain. It was predictable, fascinating, and intensely comfortable. For these reasons I think we would work well together on this project.

Thanks,
Odie

Ps. Sociopathic Songs of the Day. Fall-out Boy's "Sugar We're Going Down" and "Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying" if you'd like a break down of lines into 'path Id be happy to oblige, but I don't really think you of all people will need me to do that.For 32 years I've been on a search to quantify my difference from others. I've been in therapy for ADD since I was 4 and on methylphinedate aka ritalin. I've developed a way of speaking and acting that I thought was unique. A bumbling, fresh-out-of-school therapist, by total accident, showed me who and why I was. You see, in my search for knowledge of myself, I actually ended up outing myself to him, even though at that point I didn't even realize there was something to "out".

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Mentalist

From a reader:
Here's yet another little "you're a psychopath" TV diagnosis that I thought would amuse you:

This time it's from The Mentalist. I think there's this sense out there that anybody who is confident, self assured, willing to break the rules to get what they want and not lose any sleep over it must sure be a psychopath. Or maybe a "heroic psychopath". Whatever the hell that means. Why does the character have to be a psychopath though? Do people believe that anyone who doesn’t meekly bow before social convention must be a psychopath by default? Does the viewing audience that comprises dumb America really buy that? I probably just answered my own question...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Psychopath myths

From Scientific American, author of the book "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology," Scott Lilienfeld, discusses some myths and misconceptions about psychopaths. Some of the highlights:
  • Few disorders are as misunderstood as is psychopathic personality.
  • Research also suggests that a sizable number of psychopaths may be walking among us in everyday life. Some investigators have even speculated that “successful psychopaths”—those who attain prominent positions in society—may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.
  • Psychopathy seems to be present in both Western and non-Western cultures, including those that have had minimal exposure to media portrayals of the condition.
Here are the myths:
  1. All psychopaths are violent. Research by psychologists such as Randall T. Salekin, now at the University of Alabama, indicates that psychopathy is a risk factor for future physical and sexual violence. Moreover, at least some serial killers—for example, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Rader, the infamous “BTK” (Bind, Torture, Kill) murderer—have manifested numerous psychopathic traits, including superficial charm and a profound absence of guilt and empathy. Nevertheless, most psychopaths are not violent, and most violent people are not psychopaths. . . . Regrettably, the current (fourth, revised) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), published in 2000, only reinforces the confusion between psychopathy and violence. It describes a condition termed antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which is characterized by a longstanding history of criminal and often physically aggressive behavior, referring to it as synonymous with psychopathy. Yet research demonstrates that measures of psychopathy and ASPD overlap only moderately.
  2. All psychopaths are psychotic. In contrast to people with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, who often lose contact with reality, psychopaths are almost always rational.
  3. Psychopathy is untreatable. . . . Although psychopaths are often unmotivated to seek treatment, research by psychologist Jennifer Skeem of the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues suggests that psychopaths may benefit as much as nonpsychopaths from psychological treatment. Even if the core personality traits of psychopaths are exceedingly difficult to change, their criminal behaviors may prove more amenable to treatment.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The six fingered man

Society requires conformity. It enforces this conformity from early childhood. Anyone who falls outside the norm is snuffed out and beat down. Thus humans are trained to be able to sniff out weakness, imperfections, and harmful elements from society and eliminate them. But how do we distinguish between harmful imperfections and beneficial evolutionary mutations?

Society seems certain that particular differences are bad, e.g. autism and personality disorders. As the autistics and aspies argue effectively, wouldn't a world filled with auties function just as well if not better than a world of neurotypicals? People argue whether "special accomodations" are warranted for certain disabilities, but "special" is defined based on individual perspective. As one autie argued, if you were blind you might think that street lamps are an unnecessarily expensive "special accomodation" for the sighted.

When confronted with difference, the neurotypical automatically thinks flaw and/or threat. While double jointed, webbed flipper feet might be fine on Michael Phelps, as a general rule parents want "normal" children. But what is so good about "normal" anyway? Take for instance their precious empathy. As Adam Smith pointed out in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, humans can "feel for each other," but those feelings may be inaccurate or incomplete, and in any case emotions shouldn't be relied on to make decisions. As summarized by wikipedia:
If we sympathize with the feelings of another we judge that their feelings are just, and if we do not sympathize we judge that their feelings are unjust.

[Smith acknowledges that] it is not possible to sympathize with bodily states or "appetites which take their origin in the body."

Passions which "take their origins from a particular turn or habit of the imagination" are "little sympathized with". These include love.

In response to expressions of anger, hatred, or resentment, it is likely that the impartial spectator will not feel anger in sympathy with the offended but instead anger toward the offended for expressing such an aversive.

Of grief and joy, Smith notes that small joys and great grief are assured to be returned with sympathy from the impartial spectator, but not other degrees of these emotions. Great joy is likely to be met with envy, so modesty is prudent for someone who has come upon great fortune or else suffer the consequences of envy and disapprobation.

Smith makes clear that we should take very good care to not act on the passions of anger, hatred, resentment, for purely social reasons, and instead imagine what the impartial spectator would deem appropriate, and base our action solely on a cold calculation.
And Smith's observations regarding conformity:
Each "class" of things has a "peculiar conformation which is approved of" and the beauty of each member of a class is determined by the extent to which it has the most "usual" manifestation of that "conformation": "Thus, in the human form, the beauty of each feature lies in a certain middle, equally removed from a variety of other forms that are ugly."
If being social means to hate difference and to hate the different, then I am proud to be antisocial.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Young love (part 3)

(cont.)
Four months later, after she learned that I was going through a hard time, we began to speak again. She seemed more firm in her resolve that we would never be together again, and insisted that she was over me...while insisting that I move in with her, calling me sweetie, saying I love you all the time, sending me poems about how much she missed holding me, talking about raising kids together. Eventually we got into an argument because she would randomly be angry at me and never explain why. In the end, she told me that there wasn't even a good reason. She just felt that way. And she would lash out. Having pep talked myself into the idea that I was worth more, I gave her an ultimatum to treat me right, or leave. Later, I apologized, figuring our fight could be fixed that way. She blocked me on facebook and replied to my message and forwarded her response to my father, saying that she never wanted to see or hear from me ever again.

She also posted a facebook status that I was stalking her when I wasn't. She called me disturbing and pathetic, claiming that she didn't want to lose sleep at night worrying about what I might do to her friends.

We haven't spoken since.

I'm angry. I'm hurt that I got treated like his and that she didn't get what she deserved. Why wasn't she hurt? I'm still not over her. I can try to repress my feelings for long periods of time...and then I burst, like I can't keep it under control. I just miss her so much sometimes. I beg and plead with whatever I feel like I can with a god I don't even believe in to have her come back to me, or to at least let me fall out of love. I'm kind of nervous to even go back to college next year because of the fact that I see the Northeast as her "territory."

I'm trying to work on it in therapy and it's not as effective as I'd like. My therapist thinks she was borderline with a nice, thick and heavy coating of narcissism. I've never ever been attracted to a girl, which was something that made the relationship so weird. I wasn't even attracted to her at all, but she seemed to complement me so perfectly at times, that I dismissed this HUGE detail. I think that this just further suits the profile. In fact, I like guys-a lot. Given the fact I had PTSD, it seems like I was a prime candidate for further victimization.

My question is this: Do you think that she is a sociopath, or not? What do you think about her and the relationship?
M.E.: I actually think that there is a decent chance that she is a sociopath, although your therapist's theory is interesting as well. A lot of sociopaths have a parent who is a narcissist. She sounds very changeable, which is also associated with other personality disorders, but for whatever reason I am not getting a borderline vibe from her. She seems in control of what she does, but not really aware of what exactly she is doing (or at least all of the ramifications of what she is doing). I think that behavior is consistent with a young sociopath, but then again I am not familiar with young borderlines. If you imagine that she is just playing at love, experimenting with what love means to her and other people, reveling in the power and control and intense feelings she is having, that could be consistent with a young sociopath, or a lot of other things of course.
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