Monday, May 30, 2011

Asperger's as insanity defense

Hot on the heels of sending psychpaths to prison indefinitely on account of their diagnosis, a Philadelphia Inquirer article discusses letting Aspie's and Autie's off the hook on account of their diagnosis. Under the headline "Asperger's presents new challenges to court system," the story of James Lee Troutman, a 24-year-old man who confessed to raping and murdering his 9-year-old neighbor:
The so-called Asperger's defense is cropping up in legal cases nationally, as lawyers argue that people with the disorder may be incapable of completely understanding the ramifications of their actions or expressing remorse in a socially acceptable way.

Troutman's defense attorney, Craig Penglase, said his client told him he has Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, a development disorder that causes significant delays in language and cognitive development.
***
Asperger's may become a factor with Troutman, who faces first- and second-degree murder and related offenses. A first-degree murder conviction could potentially carry a death penalty.

The disorder alone doesn't meet the standards for an insanity defense, but it could be a "profound" mitigating factor, information presented in court that could result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence, Penglase said.

The biggest challenge likely will be showing a human side to a man accused of a most inhumane crime. Especially before jurors who may be unfamiliar with autism disorders.

"It's difficult to explain to anyone, anything that is not part of their daily life," Penglase said. "If you don't have it in your life it's incredibly hard to appreciate it."

Sell agreed that convincing the general public that people with Asperger's may have little or no control over their impulsive behaviors or reactions is a challenge.

"People are (thinking), 'My God this person has no sympathy. What a horrible monster,' " he said. "No, that is how people with Asperger's commonly are. It doesn't mean they don't understand or feel what they did was wrong."
***
At least 22 U.S. criminal cases since 2002 involved convictions that were avoided, in part, because of an Asperger's syndrome diagnosis, according to the Autism Society of America. The survey is being updated, Sell said.

Generally, the courts take the disability into consideration during the penalty phase of a trial, Sell said.

"I have a feeling we have a lot prisoners in the general population with Asperger's that have not been diagnosed and are doing time right now, and they're not getting the appropriate help or supports," he added. "And that is scary."
Really? That's the scary part? I thought the scary part was remorseless aspie's running around raping and killing children and we send them back into the community with a slap on the wrist. It reminds me of the Langston Hughes poem:

That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mirror image

A reader asks me about mirrors:
A blog follower of yours mentioned mirrors once. He/she said that they are fascinated by mirrors and treat them almost like it was another person; not themselves, but someone else they can converse with. (at least that's what I think they said) I only ask because I would have to agree with this particular sentiment. I too do not see myself when I look in a mirror, but something more like a friend who speaks for me, who wears my mask, who is my flack jacket whenever I need her. Do you ever feel this way? If this is getting too off-topic, no worries, I understand.
M.E.: Mirrors are funny. Sometimes if i am having an emotion, crying at some sappy movie, etc., and I am alone, I'll go to a mirror to study my reaction. It is endlessly fascinating to me to see my face reflect what appears to be true joy, to see a tear rolling down my cheek, or to see what my death stare looks like. Other times when i see myself in the mirror, i have the sensation of wanting to seduce myself, to be physically intimate with my reflection. (Interestingly, Sam Vaknin thinks narcissists are prone to molesting their family members for this reason: "The narcissist is auto-erotic. He is the preferred object of his own sexual attraction. His siblings and his children share his genetic material. Molesting or having intercourse with them is as close as the narcissist gets to having sex with himself.") I wonder if these things are really that abnormal, though. don't you think many people indulge in these mirror games?

Reader:
As for mirrors, I'm not sure how many people feel the same strange kinship to the people they see staring back. I guess it could be just a reflection without personality or interest for some people. But how many people openly recognize how they act in front of a mirror? I'd say a high level of self awareness is needed. I think I am very self aware and perhaps that is why i look in a mirror so often - I want to be sure the look on my face is appropriate for the occasion. I need to make sure my sad face is sad enough. The same with my concerned face. I've been told I suffer from eternal bitchface - even if things are sunkissed and roses in my mind, my face is often stuck in an eyebrow-arching evil queen from Snow White expression. Practicing my softer expressions takes constant practice if I want to seem interested or pleasant. And the little narcissist in me can't stand to constantly be seen with a sour expression on my face. I'm much prettier when I smile - even if I don't want to.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brangelina

I know most of you don't think there is anything up with them, but I keep reading stuff like this, so I'll probably keep posting it until I get vindicated. In regards to a recent premiere arrival:
Needless to say, everyone lost their sh-t and [the interviewer doing the press line] had to step aside and wait for the crazy to calm before she could resume her interviews. I’ve seen this happen in person before. I’ve seen this go down, I’ve watched [Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's] reactions. It doesn’t faze them at all. People could be hurling themselves off of balconies and in between moving vehicles, those two behave as though they’ve seen it all before, so pedestrian, like it’s the natural order of things. And because they act like it’s a given, people keep responding to it like it’s a given. This is what I mean when I say they know exactly how to play it and work it to their advantage. You know in sport when coaches study tape, look at how a formation develops, analyse what was effective and not the last time around, what to tweak, what to move or modify? The Brange is so good at what they do, it’s like they take the same clinical approach to their brand. One day, in 50 years, when their time will have passed, I hope we get a book about it. They could teach the others so much.
I hope there will be a book, but I don't think it would happen unless it was Brad writing about Angelina after a messy break up in which he is blinded by his (narcissistic?) rage to lash out where he thinks it will hurt her the most. What Brad will fail to realize until it's too late is how masterfully she will take him down like she did with her father Jon Voight.

Actually, the Jon Voight example is a good cautionary tale for those people who feel like they want to "take down" a sociopath, as some of readers are eager to do. Back in 2002 Voight said Jolie had "serious mental problems," which at the time was almost credible. In fact, the producer of Tomb Raider sequel, which she was then filming, actually felt the need to address the accusation, explaining "I have an excellent team around her. If there was a problem, I would know it." She immediately cut off all contact with her father, claiming that the toxic relationship would be detrimental for her newly adopted son and asserting that her father's motives for wanting to "help" her were entirely dishonorable, he was an absentee father, a cheating husband, etc. Voight's claims, without anything else to substantiate them, ended up making him seem infinitely more crazy than she was, in much the same way that gaslighting works. The lesson to be learned is that claims that are already outlandish sounding, e.g. "X is a sociopath," are very hard to make credibly without the accuser seeming crazy (even when the accused someone as clearly off, e.g. Joey Buttafuoco).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Empathy and animals

This New York Times article was about empathy and animals, specifically about the emotional connections humans have (or imagine themselves to have) with their pets. It made an interesting point about how humans largely "empathize" with those creatures who most resemble them:
Researchers trace the roots of our animal love to our distinctly human capacity to infer the mental states of others, a talent that archaeological evidence suggests emerged anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Not only did the new cognitive tool enable our ancestors to engage in increasingly sophisticated social exchanges with one another, it also allowed them to anticipate and manipulate the activities of other species: to figure out where a prey animal might be headed, or how to lure a salt-licking reindeer by impregnating a tree stump with the right sort of human waste.

Before long, humans were committing wholesale acts of anthropomorphism, attributing human characteristics and motives to anything with a face, a voice, a trajectory — bears, bats, thunderstorms, the moon.

James Serpell, president of the International Society for Anthrozoology, has proposed that the willingness to anthropomorphize was critical to the domestication of wild animals and forming bonds with them. We were particularly drawn to those species that seemed responsive to our Dr. Dolittle overtures.

Whereas wild animals like wolves will avert their eyes when spotted, dogs and cats readily return our gaze, and with an apparent emotiveness that stimulates the wistful narrative in our head. Dogs add to their soulful stare a distinctive mobility of facial musculature. “Their facial features are flexible, and they can raise their lips into a smile,” Dr. Horowitz said. “The animals we seem to love the most are the ones that make expressions at us.”
The concept of empathy for me must be like the concept of global warming to some -- although many people believe that it exists, personal experience makes me (1) doubt that and (2) wonder whether even if it does exist to some extent, people are using it largely to promote their own personal agendas (see also war). Even if people are actually feeling empathy, does it really just mean that they are attributing their own characteristics to others? Not that that is a worthless thing, just that maybe my inability or unwillingness to assume that everyone else thinks and feels like I do ("empathize") is not necessarily the horrible thing that it is made out to be.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sociopaths on the internet

A sociopathic reader from Brasil:
The internet is powerful because it forces us to a much more subtle and interesting game over people. It's the game of words, no facial expressions, no voice altering, no changing the way you carry yourself, just pure words creating havoc among our friends. Now I am not calculating every single word, but when on public forums and stuff like that, datamining and hierarchies are so damn interesting. You get to a forum knowing who are the natural leaders of that forum (just like real life), then you create plans in your mind to become friends with those leaders and eventually take over their power (which is pretty hard, normally you can easily ascend to a position at his side).

It's just like we do in real life, but it's much more harmless and serves as great training for manipulation, internet people on obscure forums will rarely ever affect you outside the forum and reach you. Even if you commit a mistake on the manipulation and fuck it up, you can just abandon those targets and jump to others. There's a whole world to be manipulated, mimicked and explored. This can be interesting when we sociopaths are bored of the uninteresting people that are around us.

But let me warn you, prefer the games that train your body or mind, this way you will have fun and also become a more capable predator, with skills that can be used generically at everything.

I would like to see the others opinion about this...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Brains of killers

From a reader, here's a video of Professor Jim Fallon (previously discussed here) talking about some of the research he has done on the brains of killer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Feelings (part 3)

The reader responds (edited for length):
What I can say for sure is that I have changed. Yes, of course we are different people now than when we were young, thank the gods and the nine circles, but... The extent of how much my personality and my behavior has altered - and how different I am aware that I act while on the pills - will have to be my character witness. When I was young I was impulsive and brash, a bit clueless and devil-may-care. I was also very honest for a child, and a bit sensitive since I had self-esteem issues, which is part of what led to my depression. And I know I had a sense of guilt, because of a few admissions I can recall I made voluntarily. Not so much the case after [the emotional dissociation]. And I think that's another crucial point; when I take the pills (Metamina 5mg capsules, by the by) much of my hesitation to stop and to go back to "normal" is out of what I think is a sense that I am betraying someone or something.

And if that isn't guilt, then perhaps I never did know the feeling of it, or the definition. And isn't guilt really the crucial point, when it comes to the separation of the socios and psychos from the normals?
M.E.: I wanted to comment a little bit about what you said about guilt.

I don't really know what people mean by guilt. I find that particular diagnostic criteria difficult to pin down and I'm not entirely sure that sociopaths never feel a type of regret or cognitive dissonance that is essentially what people mean by guilt. By regret I mean wishing things had gone a different way or you had made a different choice (without necessarily assigning moralistic values to your choices). By cognitive dissonance, I mean that you do something that is not in harmony with your personal view of yourself.

Now I think that guilt definitely must have elements of regret and cognitive dissonance to it, but is it something more? Is there a third ingredient, perhaps in which you feel the hurt you caused another as if you had hurt yourself, or perhaps for the religious you feel like you are being cast further away from the divine? I think the emotion "guilt" is a lot more complicated than people acknowledge. I think when people say that sociopaths are "remorseless" or "don't feel guilt," at the very least they mean that sociopaths are able to do certain things that most people would consider morally wrong without seeing or feeling the "wrongness" of them. I don't know if that means that a sociopath is categorically incapable of feeling "guilt," but I guess it would depend on one's definition.

But self-knowledge is such a Sisyphean endeavor, don't you think? At least I have recently found it to be a cycle of self discovery and self doubt.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feelings (part 2)

My response:

Hm, this is a very interesting question and there are a lot of layers and complications to it because your question sort of gets to the meta issues of who we are and what does it mean to be a sentient being and have a sense of self.

Have you never taken mood altering or mind altering substances before? Never had fluctuations in hormones or felt the flood of adrenaline? Sometimes I have found myself suddenly "feeling" something and acting on it and later trying to justify why I felt that way (he made me angry, or that thing made me sad). When I started to become more self-aware and less self-deceptive, though, I started actually asking myself -- did he really make me mad? What about that thing is so sad? I started realizing that sometimes although I felt I was having an actual emotional response to something, it was more of an emotional hallucination. i talk about it here and here.

I realized that for the most part, what I really was sensing was some change in my brain chemistry -- more adrenaline, less seratonin, more dopamine, exhaustion, whatever it was -- and my mind was trying to make sense of these "feelings" by imbuing them with meaning, the same way that during a dream it may interpret the bang of a door from the outside world as a gunshot in the dream itself. After that realization, I started questioning every emotion I had and going through an additional mental process apart from the feeling process in which I tried to analyze whether it was an actual feeling, or just an emotional hallucination. If I concluded that it was an emotional hallucination, i.e. that there was no reason that I should feel particularly happy or sad, angry or grateful, then I would just ride it out and/or try to ignore it the same way that you might ignore a visual hallucination of a dragon just inside your peripheral vision.

Do you think that you are just messing with your brain chemistry and your brain is interpreting the new sensations as being certain "emotions"?

My other question is about how you remember being normal and having normal emotions before a certain time in your life. Might you be self-deceived about that or remembering incorrectly? Memory is such a fickle thing, and the way we remember things is frequently not the way they actually happened. particularly, our memory of things will be colored by our vision of reality and the truth about yourself. In the same way that the brain interprets certain stimulus in a dream in a way that it "makes sense," might you have been interpreting contemporary childhood events in a limited childish way that assumed that you were normal, had normal feelings, that your beliefs and feelings were objectively warranted by the situations you found yourself in, etc.. or is possible that your earlier memories are all colored by a distorted view of the world, the same way that someone suffering from paranoid delusions might interpret any small thing as "people out to get him"?

Best,
m.e.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Feelings (part 1)

From a reader:
I am a diagnosed sociopath, but I can recall emotion. And not just the pale, logical, calculated representation of it that it seems some sociopaths seem able to affect in their minds, but the actual, vibrant and unintentional feelings. And I know this because, against probability, I've experienced them again, very recently.

Recently, I managed to get myself recommended to a psychiatrist and analyzed as having relapsed into depression due to injury and stress. I was looking to get myself some study buddies, since I've done my medical research and happen to know that the people who can't be treated with regular serotonin boosters (I've tried SSRIs; they didn't do a thing to me) and who show my "symptoms" over here get time-released amphetamines instead.

I expected that I might not get much sleep the coming days. But not that this would be because of feelings of guilt or urgency or anxiety. I actually had a breakdown and cried, completely without control or intent, something I cannot recall the last time I ever did without faking it. I felt a lot of my old despair coming back, as well as regrets, impulses, the need to call certain people and talk or write something down...

I kept myself off the pills for a couple of weeks, then tried them again. The reaction was precisely the same. And this is when I (probably foolishly) told my psychiatrist. The only theory available to me is that I might be one of the few with MDD who responds to low-dose amphetamines instead, or possibly that I've something closer to ADD, but that my brain somehow "crashed" or "coped" back during my depression by "shutting off" my emotions. I was feeling too much like crap and killing myself, so I simply had to feel nothing at all instead.

I have been off the pills again for a few weeks. As I see it, there are drawbacks both to choosing to stay on the medication and perhaps get therapy, or to neglecting to take it. I know that when I am on the pills I feel more of certain things I want, including certain motivations, and a fear of what I am like without them, but also much self-loathing and that old depression coming back. But off them, I am more consistent, more capable. And I have learned to, if not take pride in, then at least find strength in being callous. It let me get myself back on track and helped with improving my social situation. It lets me put up with the problems I still have.

I would also be much obliged at any feedback or opinions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seduction 101: Angelina Jolie

I read celebrity gossip. I find that even people who don't keep up on it regularly would rather talk about it than the weather if we have to small talk. People love idle gossip, and if you don't have any common acquaintances, celebrities are the next best thing (including, of course, politicians, sports stars, royalists, and every other person of note). Reading celebrity gossip is social research on many levels.

I was reading this ridiculous account of an interview with Angelina Jolie that probably took longer to read than the actual interview, but the interviewer did have some interesting comments about her subject/experience that indicate either seduction or socio or both, for instance: "I can't decide if she was teasing or serious. She has a way of saying things that can seem half like she's f-cking with you and half like she means every word."

Another example of some very good technique:
It's intimidating. Not just the looks but the whole aura. More than once that day, afterwards, I heard several journalists referring to her as "regal". She is very still, spare with her movements, not warm, not mean, but not, like, obsequious in the least; nice, but not gushy no way, and somehow you feel you need to please her - it's not a command, it's not like she's Julia Roberts who straight up tells you you're there to serve her, but there's something natural about it, like it's been ordained, something you don't question.
The sparsity of movements and words are key, the lack of things for the mind to focus on means that it will imbue the movements and words with additional meaning. It invites the observer to speculate, to try to get in your head and figure you out, which is exactly where you want them:
And then somehow the conversation came back around to me dating Dustin Hoffman's son and I told them that I've been married for almost ten years, and I remember when I said that, her eyes narrowed, just a little, like she was surprised, then maybe not that impressed. This was the exact thought that crossed my mind at that moment, trying to decipher her expression: maybe she thinks I don't have good sex anymore.
Good luck trying to decipher that unfathomable expression. And finally:
As I was leaving, as we do, I said to them both - it was great to meet you. She made strong eye contact, dipped her head, lifted up her eyes, and said "yes you too". Pure sex. You just don't have a chance.
Sociopath maybe. Skilled seducer, definitely.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Part-time lover


From an aspie/socio(?) relationship story from a reader:

I met this girl I really quite liked although she was a bit odd. When she was around me she changed her disposition very noticably between her family and friends and when she was alone with me as well as expressing that she didn't particularly like her friends that much and wouldn't miss them when she left for university (which I had convinced her to do). I pointed out that I thought it was cute the way she changed so rapidly not realising what it meant, later that day when I was out with my friends playing some cards she sent me a message on facebook saying she didn't want to be in a relationship claiming she was afraid the commitment. When I got home I was really confused and I pressed her a lot for answers and finally I got them. She was afraid I had figured out that she was just acting, and she confessed a lot of herself to me (assuming she was not lying).

She told me how she also was incapable of empathy and that she often fantasized about violently murdering people, and craving power. She told me that to fit in she just moulded herself to whatever she thought other people wanted, and she didn't want a boyfriend because she could not be herself around such a person and it would invade her personal time (I had noticed the inconsistency too, I suspect she has many reasons). So in this discussion I became intensely interested in her, because although I have asperger's I find other aspies terribly annoying, and this was someone who did not have empathy faculties that I actually liked and during the conversation she changed her mind and decided she actually did want to be in a relationship with me, I still don't know why. Did she enjoy the power she felt over me when I was being affectionate, did she want the power trip from when I was dumped again 2 days later?

Anyway a short time later, we watched some movies together. She was really affectionate physically and I noticed the incongruence with how she described herself, but why would anyone lie about that? I wanted her to be 'natural' around me but ignored the inconsistency, as the person she was projecting was seemed so perfect for me. Later on we were messing around and ended up having sex and when we finished after I went to clean up she told me her mother was coming home for lunch and that I should leave. When I got home I found another message that said "you pushed me too far, don't try to contact me again." It occurred to me she was lying about her mother and it was so odd that she never once said "let's not do this" or "no I don't want to have sex" she even got the condom out herself.

I am pretty convinced she was a sociopath at least to some extent, I suspect she lies pathologically and enjoyed breaking up with me repeatedly for the power. I feel like an idiot falling for it a second time knowing she was probably acting, but the person she projected was exactly what I wanted in a girlfriend. Looking into it later, if I was right about her being a sociopath, it could have ended a lot worse. So I guess I am lucky to have it end with only some personal resentment and another ex to add to the list of people who I have seen naked but don't talk to.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Socio song: Judas

Someone sent this to me. Is it really a socio song, and if so who or what is socio? The lyrics, Judas, Jesus, Gaga, or her fans?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Agendered non-empath

From Eli Dupree:

I discovered sociopathworld.com this morning, while investigating cultural stereotypes about female sociopaths. I think you and your readers might like to read this graphic short story that I wrote a few months ago.

I'm an agendered non-empath, among other things. (I'm not trying to reclaim the term "sociopath", so I don't use it for myself, but I think I'm what you would call a "sociopath".) People don't generally categorize me as female, either (they categorize me as male), so I'm not directly affected by any stereotypes about female sociopaths, but I'm really interested in both feminism and neurodiversity. I also have Asperger's (that's right, I'm an aspie AND a non-empath - I recognize that those are significantly different things, and I'm both of them.)

The biggest single stereotype about femaleness and sociopathy that I found on the Internet was "borderline personality disorder is the female equivalent of antisocial personality disorder". That's complete bullshit, obviously, but it kinda illustrates how people think about it - they expect female people to be more emotional and more empathetic than male people, so their model for "sociopathic man" is a cold, heartless person while their model for "sociopathic woman" is a "crazy", emotionally unstable person.

So, basically, mass culture doesn't even have the language to talk about actual female non-empaths, because the stereotype is that they don't exist. On the plus side, that means there's no particular stereotype threat for female non-empaths in particular. On the other hand, the way our culture coerces apparently-female people into displaying empathic behaviors probably hurts female non-empaths a lot. I don't think it's healthy for almost anybody to live with a false persona all the time. (There are probably people who are just as happy lying all the time as they would be if they were open to people, but just being a non-empath doesn't automatically make you like that, nor does any other specific neurological condition I know of.)

- Eli

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Autism rate closer to 2.6%

As reported by the NY Times, the finding of a 6 year study on the prevalence of autism done in a small town in South Korea found that the autism rates in the general population are closer to 2.6% than the previously supposed 1%. More interesting than the findings is the methodology and its implications for a similar study on sociopathy in the near future:
For the study, which is being published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from the Yale Child Study Center, George Washington University and other leading institutions sought to screen every child aged 7 to 12 in Ilsan, a community of 488,590, about the size of Staten Island.

By contrast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States and most other research groups measure autism prevalence by examining and verifying records of existing cases kept by health care and special education agencies. That approach may leave out many children whose parents and schools have never sought a diagnosis.

In recent years scientists have come to see autism as a spectrum of disorders that can include profound social disconnection and mental retardation, but also milder forms, like Asperger’s syndrome, that are pervasive and potentially disabling but that often go undiagnosed.

“From the get-go we had the feeling that we would find a higher prevalence than other studies because we were looking at an understudied population: children in regular schools.”
I wonder what would happen if a similar study for sociopathy was done on a small town. The autism study found larger than expected numbers among "the poor, among racial minorities and “potentially among girls.” Here's what they found amongst the hidden majority:
Among the children with autism spectrum disorder in regular schools, only 16 percent were intellectually disabled, more than two-thirds had a milder form of autism, and the ratio of boys to girls was unusually low: 2.5 to 1. In addition, 12 percent of these children had a superior I.Q. — a higher proportion than found in the general population.
Three guesses at where larger than expected numbers for sociopathy would come from and what unexpected traits they might find in a higher proportion to the general population. And would there be any opposition to testing children for sociopathy this way?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jesse James

I've thought that Jesse James might be a socio or narcissist candidate ever since the adultery scandal -- the fact that he charmed Bullock into marrying him in the first place (she apparently saw something that no one else did?), the criminal history, the recklessness, the self-centered self-assuredness, the blasé attitude about the harm he caused others, the subsequent painting himself as a victim of childhood troubles, the Nazi paraphernalia? He just didn't seem to have the same sense of right and wrong that most people have.

He apparently just came out with a memoir and is promoting it, including doing an interview with the Hunffington Post. He doesn't seem that broken up about anything. When asked if about how he feels about denying his children a loving stepmother and a stable home:
Do you feel guilt for what you've put your kids through?

Well, I feel guilt, I feel guilt that I decimated their lives and the marriage to Sandy and all that stuff but kids are surprisingly resilient. I've never tried to hide anything from them. I'm 100% devoted to them and they're happy and healthy and thriving. They're all getting straight A's in school, they're good, strong kids so I think despite what a f*ck up everybody thinks I am and a terrible person I must be doing something right because my kids are pretty awesome.
That plus some other comments in the interview and the other available information about him make me think that there may be something to him, or maybe I'm reading too much into things.

Monday, May 9, 2011

More on self-awareness

I was thinking about the post about self-awareness and how it didn't really convey all that I have been thinking about the topic. In those periods in which I don't feel sociopathic, it's not just that I don't think about it, I have also forgotten other small "details" about my life and history. For instance, when I see other socios say that they have this extensive criminal past I think, well I don't, conveniently forgetting some shady things I have done, like the elaborate shoplifting scheme I engaged in about every other day for a year in college. But it didn't really seem criminal to me at the time, you know? Or I surely didn't do it because it was criminal. I knew that I couldn't get caught and I took all the proper precautions, but I didn't do it for the thrill of doing something "bad," I just did it as a means to an ends (one of the ends being the pleasure in exploiting the particular weakness(es) that allowed me to do it successfully for so long). So although I don't feel "criminal," apparently I am willing to do criminal things if the right opportunity comes along. That is another aspect of what I mean about my lack of self-awareness -- a disconnect between who I was in the past (or can be under certain circumstances) and who I happen to be in this exact moment.

Sometimes when I read the comments and see people self-assuredly asserting some devilish trait or another I think, "how can they know themselves well enough to even say something like that?" I mean, I have moments of clarity about those types of things, but if I don't actively try to remember they slip away, like the guy from Memento. In that same vein, a reader sent me this:
The Sociopath Catchphrase List

"I don't feel emotions like you do."

"I don't get pleasure out of much except the misery of others."

"I never really understand why people do what they do."

"Analyzing people is interesting."

"I like to torture animals to see how they react."

"I love to manipulate those around me."

"I understand emotions in a purely intellectual sense."

"[insert relative] died and I---well, I didn't feel anything."*

"I don't care about people."

"I don't care about the opinions of others, they're just objects to me."

"People are toys."

"Life is just about amusement."

"[insert falsely complex Chess, vampiric, or 'monster'-related social metaphor]"

"People are pawns to be used by me."

"I exploit people."

"I don't need anyone."

"All I see in people is how useful they are."

"I'm a natural charmer."

"I am so intelligent that I manipulate others."

. . .

The list could go on forever. Here's a lovely question: Is sociopathy becoming a container to determine who you are or are people simply lacking identity so much that they'd like to assign themselves to any personality?

*=The pause is optional. Some drag it on for effect, others try to "psychopathically" get straight to the point.

P.S. I'd appreciate it you published this. Perhaps some of the newer tikes would realize that they're not telling us anything new. Hell, maybe they'd come up with some new phrases. I've yet to see a chemistry-related metaphor for emotional apathy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Trans

Continuing the theme of fun parallels, this New York Times article about Chaz Bono and the transgendered:
The two men compared today’s cultural blind spot regarding transgender people to attitudes about homosexuality during World War II, when homosexuals in the armed forces were considered psychiatrically abnormal and were court-martialed and dishonorably discharged. Until 1999, gender identity disorder was also classified as a mental disorder. Though it is now considered a medical issue, the “disorder” stigma is difficult for any marginalized group to shake.

“The notion of trans is incomprehensible to most people,” Mr. Bailey said. “It is so foreign.”
***
History mostly demonstrates the violence of embracing either pole of moral certainty. The black and white of gender identification has always pushed an infinitude of differences into the margins.
The oddest quote to me is when Cher says, " “If I woke up tomorrow in the body of a man, I couldn’t get to the surgeon fast enough.” If I woke up in a different body of any gender, I don't think I would mind at all. I think it would be fun and exciting, particularly at first. I mean, the limitations of gender and body can be annoying, but if you have to have them at all, it might be fun to mix it up.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Forgetting to be self-aware

I say I'm self-aware, but really I am not, or not unusually self-aware. I'm a lot more self-aware than I used to be, but I think I am probably about average for self-awareness, which may be slightly above average for the personality disordered?

Self-awareness is a tricky thing, though. You have moments of it, you don't live in it. It's like everything else, I guess. For instance, I am not particularly aware during the day that I am wearing clothing unless I see myself in the mirror perhaps, or start experiencing discomfort because of a lack or excess of clothes. We get used to things and let them fade out of our awareness. Little things like a haircut or shaving or not shaving remind us of what the wind feels like to blow through hair or across bare skin.

There are times when I am not aware of my sociopathy, manic and oblivious periods punctuated by abrupt periods of re-acquaintance, maybe a fit of rage, a shiver-inducing temptation, or some interpersonal problem. But for the most part, I'm aware of it to the extent that I am aware of my underwear or body odor -- I notice it only when there's a problem.

That's what is so weird about writing this blog and trying to write regularly. I'm currently in a happy place, professional success, no personal drama, plenty of alone time, a daily routine of variety and stimulation that I find deeply engaging and pleasurable. At times like these, I don't really feel that much like a sociopath. In fact, before the blog I often would just forget about it completely in times like these, only to be jerked out of my blissful oblivion by some crisis or another sometimes a year or more later. I wonder if it was better to be like I was before, forgetting periodically. If I can forget, why don't I?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hollywood = sociopath enabler

There are some fun parallels between sociopaths and Hollywood. First of all, Hollywood movies make grossly unrealistic expectations seem plausible, which enables a sociopath's behavior like little else. Little girls and boys dream of a certain type of love, a certain type of life. Nothing will ever come close to this illusion, with the possible exception of another illusion. Sociopaths are the masters of catering to individual fantasies, and since sociopaths and Hollywood are the only people who can scratch this particular itch, in order to keep living in this fantasy world many people are forced to choose between watching romantic comedy matinees before going home to feed their 20 cats or be satiated by their sociopath bad habit.

I don't think the parallels between sociopaths and Hollywood stop there, though. In fact, the more you understand the way that Hollywood manipulates you to want certain things and consequently accept certain crazy things as normal, the more insight you will have in how a sociopath achieves the same. For instance, this article talks about how Hollywood makes outrageous stalker behavior seem normal and even desirable in an intense lover, from the quintessential "The Graduate" to the lesser known "Revenge of the Nerds":
At the end of Revenge of the Nerds, Lewis Skolnick finally wins over Betty Childs, which is absolutely astonishing when you consider that he engineered a midnight break-in of her sorority house, which involved he and his buddies scaring the shit of a bunch of co-eds, stealing their underwear and planting hidden cameras around their house, and later actually raped Betty inside of the moon room while pretending to be her disguised boyfriend. I mean… what? How did this dude not end up being hauled away in handcuffs as the credits rolled? How unrealistic was it that he took off his mask in the moon room and Betty didn’t freak out and begin screaming for help?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Socio crack

A reader writes:
You dont know what addiction to a sociopath is...He is my crack and i cant put the pipe down.

After being used, discarded, depressed, and all cried out, i met different normal men who wanted a relationship with me. I tried. I am decent looking so meeting men and keeping them interested has not been the problem. I am sorry if that sounds a little off but i am being truthful. The problem is that i cant and wont let go of him. Now, he is back in my life. I told him that i only wanted to be friends...Well, we seem to be seeing eachother quite often, "as friends". We all know where that is going although i am trying to convince myself that i wont get romantically involved again with him because i dont want to get used and discarded again. However, he is like an old pair of jeans that i cant get rid of. He just is the icing on my cake. I feel at home with him. I know he is wrong for me and not the right influence for my two little girls. I am a professional woman with a masters degree and i cannot get this man out of my system. I guess what i want to know is that , could be anyway that he could care about me or its all a game always? When we are out "as friends", he shows his claim on me and wont let another man step up to me. Is this for my benefit or could there be jealousy?

Is there anyway a sociopath could care about a love interest? What can i do to keep his interest so he doesnt get bored again?
M.E.: Having an addiction to him is a different problem than getting him hooked on you. You won't be able to get him hooked on you as long as you have an addiction to him, and you probably won't care to get him addicted to you once you don't have an addiction on him.

I recommend that you read the Art of Seduction and the 48 Laws of Power. You'll see why you are an addict and to what exactly you're addicted. It's not because he is anything great, he is nothing great, but he is good enough at manipulation and deception to fool you initially into thinking that you are getting something that you want. Right now he has accomplished the ultimate success in making you believe that all you want, more than anything else in the world, is him. But it's not true. even when you write this there are certain things that you know that you won't stand for, certain things that if you knew for sure you would break up with him, but you are willing to fool yourself and he is willing to help you do so just enough that you never ever will face the truth. You need to disassociate things that you feel about him with what he actually is. Maybe write down a list of what he is and how he makes you feel -- be very careful about that distinction. Realize that how he makes you feel is manipulation and all that is left is what he is.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Test

Someone sent me this test called the Pierley/Redford Dissociative Affect Diagnostic. It was quick, fun to take, eerily accurate for me, and gives you a small insight into what it must be like to be crazy. Beyond that, I have no idea what the test is testing or what it is about.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Killer Inside Me

I recently watched The Killer Inside Me. Casey Affleck plays a sheriff's deputy psychopathic killer with a "sickness" that seeks to break free. It's not the best portrayal of a psychopath I have seen, in fact it's a little hackneyed. I wonder if the book was any better in this regard, according to Stanley Kubrick "Probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered." There are a couple interesting reasons to watch the film, though.

The movie has a somewhat unique brand of indiscriminate killings. The method and mode of the killings appear unfathomable, presumably because there is some self-delusion or insanity going on in the mind of the killer, but it's never made explicit. He convinces himself that he needs to kill these people, that it is the only thing to do and the facts support his conclusions to a certain extent but not quite. The audience is left thinking, "I can sort of see why he did that, but it also seems like a mistake."

This is unlike either most horror films where the killings are unapologetically senseless or crime dramas where the killings are unapologetically telelogical. The resulting depictions of killing are all the more disturbing because of this aspect -- you wonder whether he isn't jumping to conclusions, doing something that he may regret when he finds out the real facts. It reminds me of the same horrific self-justifications in Boxing Helena that leads the protagonist to perform amputations on the object of his obsession. People who think rationally, people who have not killed or maimed for pleasure watch these types of movies and squirm because they can't quite convince themselves that this could never happen to them. They know of their own powers of self-deception and think, there but for the grace of God go I.

The other fun aspect of the film's indiscriminate killings is seeing how the victims each respond. In one scene our killer is explaining the deaths of two people to a friend of his. The friend volunteers that the victims must have had it coming, to which the killer replies, "No one has it coming. That's why no one can see it coming." Indeed, because the killings are relatively unprovoked and unwarranted, none of his victims do see it coming and they all react to the killings in different ways. One moment they are self-assured, even making small demands of the killer, "not now," "get dressed," "where's the money," etc. In just a few moments they are being killed and staring up at him with not just surprise, but real disbelief. For a second you can see them wonder, "how could this possibly be happening?" as if they just saw a law of physics being violated. It makes you realize how entitled we all feel, how everyone believes that they have certain rights that will never be violated, could never be violated, chief among them being the right to life. Yet here is an individual who routinely violates those rights, with no repercussions. Some of the killings are done in such odd ways that the audience also feels disbelief, "Can you really die that way?" and you realize that the world holds many more dangers than you ever dared admit to yourself.

Best quote by the creepy Bill Pullman: "A weed is a plant out of place. I find a hollyhock in my cornfield, and it's a weed. I find it in my yard, and it's a flower. You're in my yard."



Boxing Helena:

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