Sunday, July 31, 2011


This was a fascinating Wired article conveying some of the most common criticisms of the proposed DSM-5: "To critics, the greatest liability of the DSM-5 process is precisely this disconnect between its ambition on one hand and the current state of the science on the other. On the authority of doctors and psychologists' dirty little secret:
The authority of any doctor depends on their ability to name a patient’s suffering. For patients to accept a diagnosis, they must believe that doctors know—in the same way that physicists know about gravity or biologists about mitosis—that their disease exists and that they have it. But this kind of certainty has eluded psychiatry, and every fight over nomenclature threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the profession by revealing its dirty secret: that for all their confident pronouncements, psychiatrists can’t rigorously differentiate illness from everyday suffering. This is why, as one psychiatrist wrote after the APA voted homosexuality out of the DSM, “there is a terrible sense of shame among psychiatrists, always wanting to show that our diagnoses are as good as the scientific ones used in real medicine.”
The solution and the problem that the solution created:
Since 1980, when the DSM-III was published, psychiatrists have tried to solve this problem by using what is called descriptive diagnosis: a checklist approach, whereby illnesses are defined wholly by the symptoms patients present. The main virtue of descriptive psychiatry is that it doesn’t rely on unprovable notions about the nature and causes of mental illness, as the Freudian theories behind all those “neuroses” had done. Two doctors who observe a patient carefully and consult the DSM’s criteria lists usually won’t disagree on the diagnosis—something that was embarrassingly common before 1980. But descriptive psychiatry also has a major problem: Its diagnoses are nothing more than groupings of symptoms. If, during a two-week period, you have five of the nine symptoms of depression listed in the DSM, then you have “major depression,” no matter your circumstances or your own perception of your troubles. “No one should be proud that we have a descriptive system,” Frances tells me. “The fact that we do only reveals our limitations.” Instead of curing the profession’s own malady, descriptive psychiatry has just covered it up.
What is at stake:
At stake in the fight between Frances and the APA is more than professional turf, more than careers and reputations, more than the $6.5 million in sales that the DSM averages each year. The book is the basis of psychiatrists’ authority to pronounce upon our mental health, to command health care dollars from insurance companies for treatment and from government agencies for research. It is as important to psychiatrists as the Constitution is to the US government or the Bible is to Christians. Outside the profession, too, the DSM rules, serving as the authoritative text for psychologists, social workers, and other mental health workers; it is invoked by lawyers in arguing over the culpability of criminal defendants and by parents seeking school services for their children. If, as Frances warns, the new volume is an “absolute disaster,” it could cause a seismic shift in the way mental health care is practiced in this country. It could cause the APA to lose its franchise on our psychic suffering, the naming rights to our pain.
The future:
Some mental health researchers are convinced that the DSM might soon be completely revolutionized or even rendered obsolete. In recent years, the National Institute of Mental Health has launched an effort to transform psychiatry into what its director, Thomas Insel, calls clinical neuroscience. This project will focus on observable ways that brain circuitry affects the functional aspects of mental illness—symptoms, such as anger or anxiety or disordered thinking, that figure in our current diagnoses. The institute says it’s “agnostic” on the subject of whether, or how, this process would create new definitions of illnesses, but it seems poised to abandon the reigning DSM approach. “Our resources are more likely to be invested in a program to transform diagnosis by 2020,” Insel says, “rather than modifying the current paradigm.”

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crime pays

A reader sent this link to an article of the 10 criminals who "made a killing" financially, just in case people were wondering whether crime does or does not pay. Interestingly the list includes basically only CEOs and drug dealers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Let's talk about S, baby (part 2)

My response:

If your friend has been outting himself to you as a sociopath then he has really done all of your work for you. Now you just continue the joke with him to see what else he says -- e.g. when he mentions something about sociopathy or if he exhibits some of the traits, you could make a small little observation or joke like "that's just the sociopathy talking."

I wouldn't tell him anything about what you know. He will be able to discern it eventually, but it is best for you and your own self interest to watch him for a little while knowing what you know but without him knowing what you know. You need to do your own method of datamining on him because as much as you read, there is still so much to learn, particularly about things specific to him.

After you are sure that you are committed to being supportive to him despite who he is, then you can start to be more explicit about things, still joking but painting them in a positive manner. For instance, maybe when he does something positive or particularly cunning or powerful you can say something like "go go super sociopath," or something similar to make it sound like his sociopathy is some sort of super power and not anything to be ashamed of.

But be careful before you make any commitments to him, because it sounds like you are the type to keep your commitments and you may think you know him and can stomach him right now, but I've had friends try before and fail and it is much worse than if they had not tried at all (see the recent post on rejection).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's talk about S, baby (part 1)

From a reader:

A young man who I consider to be a close friend of mine (as well as an occasional “lover,” if you will) began to - seemingly jokingly - assert that he was a sociopath. I laughed, gave an unserious “right” in response, and thought virtually nothing of the matter until I researched the topic earlier this week on no more than a trivial whim. My preliminary discoveries being what they were, my light-hearted curiosity quickly escalated to full-blown panic. Every piece of his character seemed to fit so perfectly, and every article, blog, and comment seemed to conclude with a “run for your life!” mentality. While alarmed and distressed, I am not a runner, and thankfully continued my investigation until it led me to your blog.

I’ll start with some background information on my friend. He is extremely intelligent, and thinks in ways that frequently cause my mind to ache or attempt to shut down completely. He can memorize entire conversations, scenes, large portions of books, and who knows what else. He is also extremely contradictory. He’ll act as the life of the party or show up at my door every day for a week, then retreat completely to his basement for days or weeks at a time, explaining that he is totally incapable of dealing with people and society. After knowing him for a few months, I toyed with ideas of bipolarity and even Asperger’s, as he mentioned once that he believed his father might suffer from the syndrome. But a year of further interaction and observation later, these explanations just don’t quite cut it. The following are characteristics he has displayed or openly explained to me:

  • He claims to hate humanity – or at least humanity as we are now, and will often toy with people, setting up mind games and manipulating people around him in order to observe their responses. He says he no longer believes in truth after witnessing the deceit that man is capable of for personal gain. He’s even said that he thinks we are all sociopaths to some degree. He can charm his way into or out of any situation. He is reckless. He drives too fast, laughs too loud, and eats without tasting. He has told me that he cannot feel and that he does not believe in empathy. He does not cry; he doesn’t get hurt; he doesn’t understand these reactions and emotions.
  • He’s asked me on numerous occasions what it feels like to cry. He’s seen me cry on several occasions due to pain he inflicted and admitted that he cannot comprehend why I feel the way I do. He says he cares for people, but not in the same way that everyone else does. He doesn’t miss people. He would not grieve were one of his family members to die.
  • He was ostracized in elementary and middle school. He didn’t know how to interact with other children and acted out constantly in school. He deliberately enraged teachers and other authority figures with tricks and mind games. In high school and college, he says he learned how to appropriately interact with others through observation, and engages in interpersonal play out of general interest and necessity.
  • He is fascinated by music and film, claiming that these mediums allow him to feel more “real” than real life. Sometimes he believes himself a "real" human; sometimes he does not.
  • He’s deeply hurt almost everyone who has been close to him for an extended period of time, and appears to feel no remorse, yet is noticeably distressed at the idea of being seen as a “monster.” When drunk, I have witnessed incredible bouts of rage aimed at the world, himself, and every mailbox in between. He tried to kill himself two years ago, but failed (whether miraculously or intentionally, I’m unsure).
So after all this, my question for you is what can I do? How do I confront him without it coming off as an attack or negative accusation? If he truly is a sociopath, I want him to know that I can accept it, can accept him, and that I will not think of him as a heartless monster; that I will try to understand him as best I can, and believe we both may have something to gain through mutual understanding, respect, and continued exploration.

But I’m afraid that he has observed so much deceit within humans that he simply will not believe me. He won’t trust it. I want him to know that he doesn’t need to play the games or wear the masks with me that he does with everyone else. That if he will communicate his thoughts to me, no matter how far from my own, I will accept them and offer what I can in return. Do you think this is possible?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


A reader writes:
I think I may possibly be a narcissist. I found your website, and it opened my eyes and has been more informative than you can imagine.
Even from when I was a child, I have had strong impulses to hurt people and animals. Its just random, there is no reason for it really, but I still find myself wanting to beat someones head in with a bat. And it scares me sometimes, because I'm pretty sure that isn't normal.
I would have strange outbursts of rage, and always play my parents against each other when trying to get the things I wanted. They took me to a therapist suspecting that I had anger issues, but all the therapist concluded was that I was extremely manipulative. When I found out what it meant, I felt empowered, or smug, as if I had something that I could easily use against my parents or other people to get what I wanted. Before that though, I had no idea I was being manipulative, it was just a natural thing, you know? Just part of who I was. It was just my natural way of being. After the therapist though, I had a name for it.
And I realize that I am still, I get a satisfaction out of playing with people's emotions and using them in whatever way suits me, even if it hurts them in the process. I just love it, and to me it is fun. I know its not right, but I need to do it.
I am a compulsive liar, I lie for no reason. I cant seem to stop, even if the lie has no effect on anything. I hate the world around me and am constantly disgusted with people, and consider myself apart from them. Better, and different in the fact that I am deeper than them and have a superior sense of understanding things, and that they will never understand anything I tell them.
However I have no criminal record whatsoever, and have no authority problems. Not that i dont want to, sometimes I want to compulsively kill people or hurt someone, but I realize that if I did that I would just be put in jail and my life as I know it would come to an end. I understand that I have to follow the rules just like everyone else, and so I do.
I believe I do have some empathy, though it seems to come and go. And my empathy is very limited. The only people I consider my equals are those I like and find 'worthy'.
I have read through a lot of the information on your site, on blogs, etc. But I just dont know what to think or consider myself. When I read stories, or personal experiences from sociopaths or narcissists I feel like its me speaking. It just fits. I'm scared to tell anyone, in that they may think I am making this up, and honestly I don't want a label anyways. All I want is to know who I am, and to have a reason or a name, or even people to talk to who understand me. I cannot tell you how good it feels to get this out, and to speak to someone who might for once listen, and I would be so grateful if you could even shed a sliver of light on my situation.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Larry David: sociopath?

From a recent interview with NY Daily News
Larry David couldn't grow a mohawk to save his life, but the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" creator says there was a moment in his youth when he identified with Robert De Niro's curiously coiffed psychopath Travis Bickle.

"I sat through 'Taxi Driver' and went, 'That's me. I'm Travis,'" David says in a revealing cover story in the new Rolling Stone. "I didn't feel like a murderous psychopath, but I did feel, at times, psychopathic."

Fortunately, David discovered comedy instead of firearms.
Is that an allusion to Anders Behring Breivik?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Joker

For those of you doing Comic Con this weekend in person or remotely, from the Huffington Post, a psychoanalysis of the Joker:
"In fact, particular patterns of behavior or personality traits -- what we call psychopathy -- are much more commonly seen in serial murderers," Pozios said.

Bender uses the example of the Joker, the most famous Batman villain, as a character who has incorrectly been called "psychotic" many times throughout Batman's 72-year history.

"Someone who is 'psychotic' is experiencing symptoms of psychosis, a mental disorder, which can include auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices; visual hallucinations, where they see objects that are not truly there; or have delusional thoughts, despite evidence to show that such beliefs are incorrect -- such as believing that one's movements are being tracked by deep space satellites -- or disorganized behavior," Bender said. "In the vast majority of depictions, the Joker is not experiencing such symptoms; rather, the Joker has shown symptoms of psychopathy."

Bender says psychopathy is a personality construct and not a diagnosis of a mental disorder.

"Psychopathy reflects interpersonal characteristics and behavior that are often rooted in a lack of empathy," Bender said. "In the comics, television shows, and films, the Joker is much more akin to a psychopath and is not psychotic."

Although some snarky fans might suggest that the Joker just be put on Prozac, Bender says that's the sort of incorrect assumption he's trying to fight just as passionately as the Caped Crusader combats crime.

"Psychopaths are not prescribed medications to treat their psychopathic personality traits," Bender said. "They would be prescribed medication if they had a mental disorder, such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, that causes clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning. In the vast majority off depictions, the Joker does not exhibit signs or symptoms of these or other mental disorders for which medication would be appropriate; therefore, we would not prescribe him any medication."
What about Batman? Isn't that why their feud is so much more entertaining to us than any of the other villains, is that Batman and Joker are really just two sides of the same coin?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Married to a sociopath (part 2)

I replied:

I think it's really interesting that him being able to see you to your core is a plus in your eyes. Do you think that is atypical for empaths? Don't they like to hide certain parts of them. Isn't that what I sometimes hear marriage self-help types preach? That there should be mystery in marriages? I have sometimes wondered whether that ended some of my relationships. I am always fine seeing people in all their imperfection, but sometimes I think the people I was with were not fine -- did not feel comfortable being laid bare like that.

The reader:
i guess for me, having an addictive personality, i happen to love the intensity that is involved in the constant mind games he can play with me...this is absolute intrigue and mystery...the other aspect i love is that i tend to have a pretty strong personality, a high pressure career that i thrive on and like most modern women, have many balls in the air...I have always been the one in control in relationships. i then tend to resent the shit out of these men that i can husband on the other hand is completely in control and fuck the feminists....this is as it should be...he is dominant sexually, emotionally and pretty much in all aspects of our relationship...i am not exactly a doormat but ultimately, if his logic is sound, i can see his perspective. if it's not sound, and mine is, he will come around to my point of view..slowly, but he will...especially when it comes to how we raise our kids..but he won't admit it for months later,..he is my drug and i love being exposed to him...that to me is what true intimacy is..what a dichotomy...the one person i feel truly intimate with is not capable of feeling true intimacy back...dysfunctional? sure...but it works for us...he knows me and it keeps me on my toes..there is no getting complacent with him...i know if he needs my attention, i damn well better give it to him...i'm sure even my peers would find this shocking but wtf...if you can find a way to get some happiness out of this fucked up world and it just so happens to be a sociopath, i say go for it...there is a reason empaths are attracted to these men or women is that they can make you feel alive...i would rather feel alive and a bit exposed and vulnerable than safe and semi-comatose, which is rampant and what i had with my ex-husband...give me a little emotional danger and you'll have my heart forever...

feel free to publish this..just as an aside, my husband did an interview on aftermath radio talking about his sociopathy...worth a listen...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Married to a sociopath (part 1)

A reader writes:

I've been following your blog on and off for a few years.. my husband contacted you sometime back..there is no question he is a sociopath and i am an a recovering alcoholic/addict which by the way is a perfect match for a socio as we have been trained to try and accept others as they are, have our own share of darks secrets and take ownership of our behavior in a given situation to a fault...often letting others off the hook...i have known my husband a long time..we were together when we were really young..we were using drugs pretty heavily and things didn't work out...we went our separate ways and reconnected years later when we had each got through our share of struggles ..but had come out on the other side.....anyway...i love him..he loves me as much as any socio can love...he shares his isms with me i understand the risks involved in loving a no fucking eyes are wide open here...he is no angel but neither am i...since we reconnected we each left our spouses and have created what on the outside must look like the average family....but only we know the real deal...we are not normal...i can feel that i live with a cardboard cutout of the man i love,,he is here but not ..i can easily forget that he is not normal and cannot connect with me the way id like him to...he can be "gone" for days at a time..with no conception that i'm trying to reach him, communicate with him etc..i get pissed, shut down and then we blow up until we get things resolved...or not...he's not going to what is a girl to do? i have spent the better part of the day thinking about what to do...if anything...heres what ive come up with...I married a mirage of a man i love...well, sometimes that is..i knew that when we married...somehow i expect this to not be the case here is my may seem cheesy and cliche but here it is...

while he is unreachable at times, demanding and controlling at others..and needy at yet other times...i am his...he is mine..he is able to be there and is there for me in ways i need him to be...that other men cannot come close to being...when it really fucking counts, he's there...he sees me to my core is there no one who can do to me what he does...good and my feelings get hurt, so i get lonely....the good outweighs the bad and if i accepted who he was before we got married, why do i expect he will be someone different now? he makes huge efforts in our relationship that go against his very nature...i can learn to remember who he is and be ok with what he is able to give me...and he gives a lot...he is as wonderful as he is difficult...and im good with that..he has let me into his head as much as i think any socio is is really on me to work with who he is...expecting no more no less..just him in his glorious imperfection.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Levi Aron, sociopath?

His ex-wife thinks so. There is something about his stilted confession that has me thinking . . . aspie?
My name is Levi Aron… On Monday evening around 5:30 I went to my dentist, Dr. Sorcher, to make a payment for visit for exam routine.

A boy approached me on where the Judaica book store was. He was still there when went out from the dentist’s office. He asked me for a ride to the Judaica book store. While on the way he changed his mind and wasn’t sure where he wanted to go.

So I asked if he wanted to go for the ride — wedding in Monsey — since I didn’t think I was going to stay for the whole thing since my back was hurting. He said ok.

Due to traffic, I got back around 11:30 p.m. … so I brought him to my house thinking I’d bring him to his house the next day. He watched TV then fell asleep in the front room. I went to the middle room to sleep. That next morning, he was still sleeping when I was ready to leave.

So I woke him and told him I’ll bring him to his house… when I saw the flyers I panicked and was afraid. When I got home he was still there so I made him a tuna sandwich….

I was still in a panic … and afraid to bring him home. That is when approximately I went for a towel to smother him in the side room. He fought back a little bit until eventually he stopped breathing.

Afterwards I panicked because I didn’t know what to do with the body.… carried parts to the back room placing parts between the freezer and the refrigerator …

… went to clean up a little then took a second shower. I panicked and .. Then putting the parts in a suitcase. Then carrying suitcase to the car …placing in backseat on floor behind passenger side.

… drove around approximately around 20 minutes before placing it in the dumpster on 20th street just before 4th Avenue. Then went home to clean and organize.

I understand this may be wrong and I’m sorry for the hurt that I have caused.
He just doesn't seem with it enough to be a sociopath, even a low functioning one. My second guess is slow (as his wife suggested, see link above), sort of Steinbeckian murderously slow perhaps.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quintessential sociopath traits

I've been thinking recently about the diagnostic criterion for sociopathy/psychopathy/ASPD (to the extent that they overlap and/or are largely conflated with each other).

The dominant diagnostic tools are Cleckley's checklist, Hare's PCL-R, and the DSM-IVs criterion for ASPD. None of these diagnostic tools require all traits to be manifested in a patient in order to be labeled a sociopath. All of the diagnostic tools are based on the observable traits of those who have been diagnosed as sociopaths, which, apart from being rather circular, introduces the risk of biases that might skew which traits get included or not included -- biases of the researchers, of a particular context (e.g. prison), of cultural differences, or of possible comorbidity with other disorders. And of course, not every sociopath will look the same because even if they had the same "sociopath genes" (if such exist), those genes would still manifest themselves differently based on environment, intelligence, gender, age, education, other factors of their upbringing, etc.

With all of that said, I'm curious what people people think are the quintessential sociopathic traits. I thought we could pool our collective opinions, as a straw poll. With that in mind, I'm going to include Cleckley's checklist, Hare's PCL-R, and the DSM-IV list of traits. Could everyone who wants to participate choose 5 traits that you think are the most common, predominant, or defining traits of a sociopath? If you think that a trait is necessary to a diagnosis, could you put an asterisk by that particular trait? Finally, if you believe that there is an essential trait that is not included in any of the diagnostic criterion listed below, feel free to include them, indicated with a hashtag (#). I wonder if we'll do a better job coming to a consensus than others have.

1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
3. Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms. Considerable poise, calmness and verbal facility.
4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
5. Untruthfulness and insincerity.
6. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior.
8. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.
9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.
10. General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
11. Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.
12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.
13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking. Vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks for facile entertainment.
14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way, unless it be for destructive purposes or a sham.

· glib and superficial charm
· grandiose estimation of self
· need for stimulation
· pathological lying
· conning and manipulative
· lack of remorse or guilt
· shallow affect
· callousness and lack of empathy
· parasitic lifestyle
· poor behavioral control
· sexual promiscuity
· early behavior problems
· lack of realistic long-term goals
· impulsivity
· irresponsibility
· juvenile delinquency
· failure to accept responsibility for own actions
· revocation of conditional release
· many short-term marital relationships
· criminal versatility

- failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
- deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
- impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
- irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
- reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
- consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
- lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Literature: "Mygale" and "In the Woods"

I just finished reading "Mygale," by Thierry Jonquet. It's a quick and entertaining French noir novella that strongly features re-education in a gritty and thought provoking way. I would include a few passages, but I lost my copy somewhere along the journey. But this is how one reviewer described it:
"(T)his short novel embraces sexual horror with relish; it feels at times like being pulled on a leash through a Bosch painting with the Marquis de Sade leering from the wings." - Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian
I've just started "In the Woods," by Tana French. It was recommended by someone very interested in sociopathy is, but I am still not sure if it is because there is an explicit sociopath connection or if it is just because the style is very deliciously frank and ambiguous about certain moral issues. Here's an example:
What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies and concealment and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely, spending hours and days stupor-deep in lies, and then turn back to her holding out the lover's ultimate Möbius strip: But I only did it because I love you so much.

I have a pretty knack for imagery, especially the cheap, facile kind. Don't let me fool you into seeing us as a bunch of parfit gentil knights galloping off in doublets after Lady Truth on her white palfrey. What we do is crude, crass and nasty. A girl gives her boyfriend an alibi for the evening when we suspect him of robbing a north-side Centra and stabbing the clerk. I flirt with her at first, telling her I can see why he would want to stay home when he's got her; she is peroxided and greasy, with the flat, stunted features of generations of malnutrition, and privately I am thinking that if I were her boyfriend I would be relieved to trade her even for a hairy cellmate named Razor. Then I tell her we've found marked bills from the till in his classy white tracksuit bottoms, and he's claiming that she went out that evening and gave them to him when she got back.

I do it so convincingly, with such delicate crosshatching of discomfort and compassion at her man's betrayal, that finally her faith in four shared years disintegrates like a sand castle and through tears and snot, while her man sits with my partner in the next interview room saying nothing except "Fuck off, I was home with Jackie," she tells me everything from the time he left the house to the details of his sexual shortcomings. Then I pat her gently on the shoulder and give her a tissue and a cup of tea, and a statement sheet.

This is my job, and you don't go into it--or, if you do, you don't last-without some natural affinity for its priorities and demands. What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this-two things: I crave truth. And I lie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I'm back from vacation. I thought once of the cleverest lines of seduction I heard while traveling came from a street food stall vendor who asked me where one of my companions was from. I answered in the native language and got the following response, "there are lots of beautiful people there." I thought it was such a clever hidden compliment and that companion was beyond pleased.

I was also surprised at how little effort was put into trying to get me and my companions to do certain things. One brazen man, in a particular seedy part of the city, just walked up to us with his hand extended while he was crossing the street opposite us. What did he think the chances of us giving him money were?

I noticed that my empath travel companions responded almost equally well to vinegar as they did honey, but only at first. They quickly started feeling emotionally manipulated and then shut down almost completely against the natives, even going so far as to argue over small perceived slights in service and to count their change rudely in front of store owners, while I was handing my money over in both hands with a small bow of respect. Just for kicks, I guess. Or because I usually think that to be openly hostile is a tactic best reserved for a more narrow set of circumstances.

I'll write about the books I've been reading tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Confronting Your Friend When He/She is Dating a Sociopath

I'll be back from vacation by next post, in the meantime this guest post from Criminal Justice Degrees Guide:

Sometimes it can be hard to talk to your friend about a serious problem they are unaware of—especially if it is negatively affecting them. However, if you really care about his/her well-being, you must be willing to face an uncomfortable situation, such as confronting a friend or talking to him/her about the troublesome issue. If your friend is dating a sociopath, there are certain ways to make them aware of it. Here are some steps to follow both before and after you confront your friend about his/her new (or old) boyfriend or girlfriend, who is exhibiting symptoms of antisocial personality disorder.
First Things First: Get Your Facts Straight
Make sure your friend's significant other actually exhibits symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. The worst thing you can do is confront your friend about a problem that doesn’t really exist. You may want to look at a comprehensive reference such as The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders. According to the fourth edition of the manual, there a four main symptoms that point to antisocial personality disorder including (but not limited to): "a pervasive pattern or disregard for or violation of the rights of others, evidence of conduct disorder, and occurrence of antisocial behavior (not in exclusive schizophrenic episodes)." Furthermore, the person must be at least 18 years of age. Try looking at examples and other characteristics which help prove someone is in fact a sociopath.
Gentle Confrontation
After you are certain your friend is dating a sociopath, try to bring up something he does in your presence. Do it right after it happens! For example, if he/she is behaving in a reckless manner, which seems abnormal, take your friend aside shortly after. Ask him/her if she found that behavior awkward or unusual. Don't be accusatory of his or her significant other from the beginning. Just ask how his/her boyfriend or girlfriend's actions made your friend feel.
Provide the Material to Get Your Friend Thinking
Once you have your friend thinking about the situation, send an article or YOUTUBE video of a person acting similar to the sociopath he/she is dating. This will get him or her thinking about the situation. You could send an email, and say "this reminds me of (insert sociopath's name here)". Try to make it light and funny, but still eye-opening and educational for your friend. This post could be an example.
Serious Confrontation
If your friend isn't getting a clue, try confronting him/her more seriously. Say that you have their wellbeing at heart, and you are concerned about his/her relationship. Don't immediately say you are dating a sociopath. Try to highlight examples of unusual behavior or symptoms your friend's boyfriend or girlfriend displays. Explain how this behavior could be damaging to your friend's happiness or well-being. Also add, you will be there for them no matter what, but you want them to think about the situation seriously.
Don't Cut Them Off
Your friend is likely to be defensive during the confrontation. After all, taking a blow at someone's boyfriend or girlfriend can mean attacking both people in the relationship. Give your friend another chance. Try to text them or call them regularly to show you are there for them, no matter what. You may not be able to change their behavior, but always be willing to lend advice or help!
Author Bio:

Nancy Farrell is a freelance writer and blogger. She regularly contributes to the criminal justice degrees, which discusses about child abuse, human rights, divorce, and crime related articles. Questions or comments can be sent to:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Seduction: Sarah Chase

I'm still on vacation. In the meantime, this video from a reader: "Sarah Chase does a cunning visual job toying with our seduction to power, control, money and pleasure."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Anatomy of a murderer

This was an interesting interview with Bill James, author of the new book, "Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence." It had the following gems:

  • Crimes stories are universally interesting. They reveal a side of people that we'd not otherwise talk about. Crime stories show us the part of people's lives they try to keep hidden.
  • In a lot of true crime stories, you will see that someone testifies for the defendant and talks about what a good person they are, and that this person could never commit the crime in question. I would like to think of myself as someone who would never commit a crime. I'm sure a lot of people would. But I don't think that's a good argument for anything. If I was on a jury, the claim that the accused was "too good a person" to commit the crime would not be an argument I would buy. Rabbis commit crimes. Ministers. Priests commit terrible crimes. Now, are they committing these crimes because they're not really good people and they're just pretending to be good, or are they truly good people who simply fail to deal with certain situations? I think the latter is more often the case.
  • in general, it's reductive to think of evil as something foreign and separate from the rest of us. Evil is part of everyone. We all have the capacity to commit evil acts.
  • It is not as if we walk through one doorway and decide that murder is acceptable. You have to walk through many doorways. The first doorway leads to a party, where people are doing drugs and having fun. The second doorway leads to more partying. It's a long, long series of doorways, until you end up in a room where a terrible thing happens. So the question is, "How many doorways away are you?" It's not a question about a person's capacity to commit a murder. It's a question of how many doorways we keep between ourselves and that situation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


As sort of a follow-up from the last post, I thought this article about finding jobs suitable for people with autism/asperger's (and the correspondingly more productive societal role) had some interesting implications for the usefulness of sociopaths in any given culture. A man talks about how he founded a company that specializes in finding specialties for auties, prompted by his own autistic son:
“If others could appreciate his skills and respect his special personality in a meaningful and productive job, then we could go to the grave with a good conscience.”
The idea for Specialisterne came to Sonne after he got involved with an autism support organization and met scores of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (A.S.D.). There are large variations within this spectrum: it includes people who are significantly challenged as well as some who, on the surface, seem perfectly average and are often very intelligent. People with A.S.D. have problems imagining other people’s feelings and grasping social contexts; they struggle or may be unable to read social cues like facial expressions or sarcasm. They usually have narrowly defined interests, engage in repetitive behaviors, and are resistant to changes in routine. And they are highly sensitive to stress and vulnerable to depression.
“I think that everyone has resources that society can benefit from under the right circumstances,” explains Sonne. However, among those with high-functioning autism, he notes, it is easier to make this case. Sonne saw that Lars, at age 7, had an unusual aptitude for copying details from books by memory. Having spent years working in the field of information technology, he knew that the strengths that often come with A.S.D. — such as a talent for intense focus and concentration, an ability to recognize patterns, spot minute deviances and recall details, and a perseverance for repetitive tasks — could be advantages in jobs where consistency and accuracy are paramount. Software testing and data conversion and management were obvious examples.
Sonne calls it the “dandelion philosophy.” Depending on your point of view, a dandelion is either a valuable herb — a source of iron and vitamin A, with many medicinal qualities — or a weed that invades your garden. “A weed is a beautiful plant in an unwanted place,” he says. “An herb is the same plant where it is wanted. Who decides if something is a weed or an herb? Society does.”
Most parents of children with autism or asperger's do not like the lack of empathy comparisons between their children and sociopaths. I wonder if Sonne is really so willing to stand by his statement that everyone has resources that society can benefit from, including sociopaths. Maybe there should be a similar employment placement service for sociopaths...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Learning disabled?

A reader writes:
I wonder if the way the brain is organized plays a role in defining the personality? Isn't it possible that someone who struggles to read, or has some other learning challenges, also organizes and processes emotions and social cues differently?

The current approach to evaluating personality types seems like not much more than a game of battleship where you ignore misses to make sense of the hits. We assume that with enough therapy, or desire, personality is something we can change, without taking into account how we learn and navigate reality. That's a bit like having the body type of a sprinter and training for long distance running. Maybe we just are what we are?

According to this link, when the right brain becomes overstimulated, individuals become "anxious, pessimistic, and tense".

So, does an anxious and pessimistic individual have an anxious and pessimistic personality, or just an excessively active right hemisphere? I wonder if sociopathic personalities are right brained individuals, and for this reason are more impulsive and prone to risk taking than their left brained brethren? Or do they have their own unique hardwiring?

The brain is like a computer. Everything depends on its ability to input, process, store, and retrieve information. Understanding that hardwiring might allow us to develop new approaches to learning and to even "change".

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Women who love sociopaths

In response to the previous post about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Slate article about his wife and other women who love socipaths:
Why have Catherine Greig, the girlfriend of mobster Whitey Bulger, and Anne Sinclair, the wife of accused rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, stood by their men? I’m going to play amateur psychiatrist and declare both men appear to be sociopaths. There’s not much doubt with Bulger, who is allegedly behind at least 19 murders and even by the standards of professional criminals was considered to be particularly vicious. Granted, Strauss-Kahn, until his recent indictment on rape charges, was a highly successful international bureaucrat possibly on his way to becoming president of France. Yet his wife surely knew about his obsessive, compulsive philandering. Did she never hear word that the Great Seducer sometimes forced himself on the unwilling? She certainly now knows that the night he spent in the Sofitel he propositioned two female employees, who rebuffed him, before his encounter with the maid. If the press leaks are accurate, his defense against the rape charge may be that the sexual encounter with the woman who came to clean his room was consensual. Yet it is Sinclair’s money which is making his defense possible. Given the costs of his luxurious house arrest, his security, his lawyers, his investigators, she could be sinking $1 million a month into trying to clear a husband whose treatment of women is pathological. Sinclair, who has brains, beauty, ambition, and money, stepped aside from her successful career as a journalist to help Strauss-Kahn’s rise. I imagine, now that she is in her 60s, she loathes the idea of a future as an aging single woman, left off the guest list for the best parties. But at what point do you stop defending the indefensible?
What does that even mean? Is there some objective definition of what qualifies behavior as "indefensible"? I mean, if they're into their wayward partners, that's their choice, right?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dominque Strauss-Kahn

I actually don't know if I can speak for him, but his accuser has some very tell-tale sociopath signs. From the New York Times under the headline, "Strauss-Kahn Accuser’s Call Alarmed Prosecutors," the story starts with a phone call made to her boyfriend in immigration jail 28 hours after the assault:
‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing."

It was another ground-shifting revelation in a continuing series of troubling statements, fabrications and associations that unraveled the case and upended prosecutors’ view of the woman. Once, in the hours after she said she was attacked on May 14, she’d been a “very pious, devout Muslim woman, shattered by this experience,” the official said — a seemingly ideal witness.

Little by little, her credibility as a witness crumbled — she had lied about her immigration, about being gang raped in Guinea, about her experiences in her homeland and about her finances, according to two law enforcement officials. She had been linked to people suspected of crimes. She changed her account of what she did immediately after the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Sit-downs with prosecutors became tense, even angry. Initially composed, she later collapsed in tears and got down on the floor during questioning. She became unavailable to investigators from the district attorney’s office for days at a time.

Now the phone call raised yet another problem: it seemed as if she hoped to profit from whatever occurred in Suite 2806.
In the beginning, her relationship with prosecutors was strong. Her account seemed solid. Over time, the well-placed official said, they discovered that she was capable of telling multiple, inconsistent versions of what appeared to be important episodes in her life.
Her immigration history was a focus. At first, she told them what she told immigration officials seven years ago in her accounts of how she fled Guinea and her application for asylum on Dec. 30, 2004. She described soldiers destroying the home where she lived with her husband, and said they were both beaten because of their opposition to the regime. She said her husband died in jail.

But then, in a subsequent interview with Manhattan prosecutors, she said the story was false, one she had been urged to tell by a man who gave it to her on a cassette recording to memorize. She had listened to the recording repeatedly.

The housekeeper also told investigators that she had been gang raped in Guinea. She cried and became “markedly distraught when recounting the incident,” according to a letter to the defense from prosecutors released Friday. But she later admitted that that, too, was a lie, once again one she had told to help her application for asylum. She said she was indeed raped in Guinea, but not in the way she had described.
Apparently she was lying for her asylum application, and of course not everyone who lies on an asylum application is a sociopath, but that combined with her fluency of lying, her ability and willingness to exploit a powerful wealthy man and in a rather cunning way all suggest that she is somewhere on the spectrum.
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