Monday, October 31, 2011

Regret vs. remorse

I have actually forgotten where I got this from, but I thought it was an interesting etymological explanation of what I have always intuited about regret vs. remorse.
I always think of connotation - REMORSE "1325–75; Middle English < Middle French remors < Medieval Latin remorsus, equivalent to Latin remord ( ere ) to bite again, vex, nag ( re- re- + mordere to bite) + -tus suffix of v. action, with dt > s; see mordant" Defined as a "deep and painful regret for wrongdoing; compunction." Remorse seems to follow a morally wrong decision. REGRET "1300–50; Middle English regretten (v.) < Middle French regreter, Old French, equivalent to re- re- + -greter, perhaps < Germanic ( compare greet2 )" Defined as alternatively "a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc" or "a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc." It is interesting that regret's second definition denotes a relationship with remorse but I have always thought that regret follows a decision that can be morally wrong but might just be a function of maturity. We have remorse for something that is unequivocally wrong and we feel regret for something that could be wrong but might just be stupid.

For me, regret means either feeling bad about something I get caught at OR a missed opportunity. Remorse is more connected to morality and is when I feel bad because I know what I have done is wrong (according to my conscience and internal compass).
I agree particularly with the last paragraph--that regret is wishing things could have gone differently, and remorse seems to be associated with a sense of guilt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Emotional appendixes

Here is an interesting podcast on happiness economics. Starting at the 40:30 mark, there is an even more interesting discussion of evolutionary psychology. Professor Epstein explains the Darwinian insight that emotions are not insulated from evolutionary pressures. Nature does not trust the really important human behaviors to reasoning, but rather reinforces them with emotions. The prime example of this is procreation and raising children. There is a physical incentive to have sex, but the incentive to stick around and make sure that the offspring actually survive to reach the age of reproduction is emotional. Parents feel a "natural love" for their children. This natural love leads them to enjoy benefits to their children as they would enjoy benefits to themselves. That's why providing for one's children is not just a chore that we do rationally to propagate the species, but also one that we get emotional rewards from.

What does this mean for the sociopath? Well, sociopaths are not as much subject to the whims of "nature" and genetic/emotional programming as the majority of the human population. This is good because sociopaths have more freedom of thought and action. But it's bad because genetic/emotional programming was put there for a reason. Part of this reason has to do with our hunter-gatherer past, and is less important now -- sort of an emotional appendix or tail. Think about how inappropriate and disruptive our fight/flight instincts are in everyday life. On the other hand, some emotional programming is essential for our society to continue functioning as usual.

Sociopaths may be ahead of the curve when it comes to outdated emotional responses (the appendixes of the emotional spectrum), but behind the curve when it comes to good, rational, self-benefiting decisions that are reinforced in neurotypical people with emotions. Wouldn't it be nice to have rational decisions reinforced by emotion? If for no other reason, for the increase in utility and pleasure that emotional reinforcement would provide. There are obvious examples of the body rewarding necessary behavior with physical pleasure or the absence of pain: sex, eating, drinking, urinating, etc. For the empaths they also get emotional pleasure from things like cooperating, providing, and altruism. I feel a lot of satisfaction from doing things well, so I usually like to cooperate and be a contributing member of society. But wouldn't it be great if you also got intense emotional pleasure from it? If you could add pleasure to that equation, why wouldn't you?

For those of you who are interested, here is a little bit more information about evolutionary psychology and emotions from one of the comments regarding the podcast. The author of the comment is discussing the Robert Wright's book, The Moral Animal.
He is using Darwins life to describe some of the findings around sexual selection, kin selection and individual "striving" if you will (that is my words not Wrights). In one chapter he is talking about How Darwin and his wife reacted to the loss of children. He had one die soon after birth or maybe stillborn and another when (s)he was 8-10 yrs old. Well they reacted quite differently to both situations and were much more distraught in the second case. Why? It could be explained by the changes in their own lives at the time, where Darwin was in his work, the age of his wife etc etc. When you look at it simply as return on investment into genetic material passing to the future it begins to make sense. Someone you had invested more money ,time and effort into and was closer to reproductive age would be harder to lose than one lost right out of the gate. Similarly its been found that ,generally, once they are past the age of reproduction there is a dropoff in the "grief factor" following a death. This does not make us cold hearted computers driven by a DNA chip it is what makes us human. This behavior is noted in other species of animals as well. Our primate relatives "favor" the child they have invested the most in as well, and the one that has the better chance of passing on the genes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Narcissists = unpredictable

I thought this comment from UKan from a while ago was interesting, worth its own post:
I get in constant conflicts with narcisssists in real life. Around when I first came here I asked as a anonymous about a situation I had with someone and what kind of person they were. It was some guy who was pathologically lying to make himself look like some rockstar. This type of person is what my father is, and what almost every enemy I have ever had is. At the time I was ignorant of psychological terms. I knew the outline like I know many others, but I call them something else.

I don't like narcissists because they are costly in my business. They refuse to quit, because it's not about business for them. It's all about how they look and what their appearance is. They lie not to get out of trouble, con someone, or play games with people. They pathologically lie about who they are so that they add color to their drab life. So that they add worth to their pointless existence. Like my business partner with his fake rolex watch, or his car that 'looks like a bmw'. Or this guy who sat down next to me on my couch at the club and started giving me lip about how much of a big shot he was not knowing who I was. I can name them all day long. I despise their weakness. It disgusts me because even though nobody else can see it, I can. I can see the weakness and self loathing in every action they do. They constantly need validation and that's the main give away. They also for some reason always envy me while at the same time trying to be me which is even more ridiculous because to everyone else they spew nothing but hatred for me.
***
As far as victims are concerned, well they are easy. I'm drawn to them like a bee to honey. I'm always looking for a weakness. If that's all you display then the rest is a fucking cake walk.
One thing I hated about growing up with a narcissistic father is that he was very hard to predict because he didn't always act rationally (i.e., in his own best interest). Empaths can be this way too, if they get very emotional about things.

But I guess sociopaths would also seem unpredictable to a lot of people too. Maybe it's just because I'm used to my own mind that I find myself to be relatively straightforward. Plus, I like to think that I can be reasoned with, almost without exception. I have no problems setting hard feelings aside, for instance by allying with a former enemy, if I find it beneficial to do so in a particular situation. Or maybe I choose to destroy them completely in their hour of need because I'm tired of dealing with them? Either way, I like to think that most of my decisions are based on catering to my own self-interest, with a sprinkling of impulsive acts aimed at violence, swift retribution, or some other compulsion.

I don't know. I guess I don't think sociopaths are much better about this, but at least we seem more consistent than those ruled by their emotions.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Not for the feint of heart

Recently I've been itching for a fight. I've been so focused on a project for work, really overcommitted, and just generally not scheduling in enough M.E. time for "special interests". As if on cue, a long term work entanglement seemed to be coming to a head.

I had not been seeing eye to eye with this person (CW) for a while (CW is neither directly over or under me, not even directly affiliated with my employer, but we worked on a project together). CW had been a consistent source of both fun and frustration over the period that we were working together. I ended up terminating the working arrangement, though, due to some irreconcilable differences and my desire to finally move the project forward. By now CW most certainly hates my guts and thinks I am evil. She is actually very perceptive about a lot of things about me that most people are blind to, but interpreted the signals in a paranoid/unrealistic way (conspiracy theories) instead of the normal/banal truth (two-faced and manipulative). Despite being let go from the project, this person still had some materials that I needed to finish up.

Back to now, this person had finally agreed to schedule a meeting with me to discuss the impasse. I did my homework before the meeting. I talked to someone else who was on the project and got her on my side (basically by making her afraid of this person, suggesting that this person is erratic, owned a gun, delusional, etc.).

CW came for our schedule meeting and sat down. We exchanged greetings and I waited for her to begin. When she didn't, I said something with slightly condescending overtones that I knew would set her off (she hates that I think I am better than she is). I wanted her to attack me, and she did. Put on the spot like she was, she started spouting out reasons why I was a terrible person and she would never give me the project materials. I started taking notes, which further infuriated her. CW's accusations boiled down to me being completely unethical, would abuse the project materials for my own nefarious (not really) ends, under-compensated her, and was attempting to pass off her work as my own. She left in a huff, saying something about expecting to have a formal complaint filed.

I couldn't have been happier! Armed as I was with these accusations, I shot off an email to my superior, something to the extent of, "I didn't want to have to bother you with this, but I have just received some very serious accusations of which I thought you should be aware." I gave her a quick, straight rundown of the facts leading up to that day. I then painted the accusations in the worst light I could. Finally, I took umbrage--the righteous anger of the innocent and put upon: "I have put up with her atrocious behavior before due to her exigent personal circumstances, but I refuse to be responsible for somehow trying to excuse this completely unwarranted and personally offensive affront on my character." So now of course I am the victim of these outrageous accusations. In fencing, we call that a "feint," one of the most effective moves when timed correctly, and I couldn't have timed it better. I slow played the hell out of that issue, giving in here, fighting back there, until finally the time was exactly right, she lunged in for what she thought would hurt me most, leaving herself completely unguarded.

For various reasons (including potential legal liability for the organization if I was found to have misbehaved), my superior will support me. The accusations are so ridiculous and unfounded that no one would take them seriously. Furthermore, in insisting that these accusations be resolved, I will accomplish my real goal which is to get those project materials back. Almost a year of having to deal with this person and finally my patience will pay off, with the added consequence of seeing her professional life effectively destroyed as she continues to try to sling mud at me and ends up being the only one tarnished.

In my defense (and in case any of the interested parties read this now or later), I am actually innocent of wrongdoing in this situation, but I also know that true guilt and innocence don't matter as much as playing your cards well.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seeing is (not) believing

A reader discusses how she didn't really believe that her friend was a sociopath:
Obviously at that time I had no idea about those boundaries and actually at the time I didn't even take seriously about J being diagnosed as ASPD. So I really had no idea who I was dealing with. I thought falsely that time, since I didn't know much about sociopathy, that it was just an excuse for people acting like dicks and to murder people. I thought that they had weak impulse control because they weren't strong enough to control themselves and other people enabled them too much. Even when she tried to explain to me seriously I just kinda blew it off in disbelief.

Even in reading sociopathworld I felt disbelief mostly because I saw the comments and I thought a lot of those people were idiots and also narcissists and were not really sociopaths. Now months after the fact I know better that sociopathy is very real and most likely has to do with genetics and of course, environment. I still though believe a lot of the comments are from people that are confused about their identity or are narcissists.

I don't know if you have ever revealed to any of your friends that you were diagnosed with ASPD or if they even know that you own sociopathworld, but if you ever did reveal your diagnosis what was their response? If the sociopath was very talented at wearing their masks I think most people would react just like me in disbelief and blow it off.

Also on the topic of masks, do you ever get weary of wearing all these various masks? And out of all the masks which one do you prefer to wear the most?

I think the mask J wears the most is the one where she is the cute and charming flirt. This mask comes with a sweet mouth full of compliments that she dispenses freely. She is easy to talk to and a bit of a tease, smiles easily and laughs even when she is secretly annoyed on the inside. The combination of her coming off as already cute and pretty with an amiable personality makes a deadly combination and lets her catch her prey so effortlessly. Men and women alike fall under her spell so easily and lulled into a sense of security not even realizing that they might possibly be taken advantage of. It's fascinating like watching a siren playing with her hair and singing while leading men to their impending doom. Even for you, I can almost see your blog as like an army or cult and you are the head priest.

Oh, one last thing do you ever feel like you can't trust charming people the most? Before I met J I was already suspicious of people who were charming. It confuses me how easily people can be befuddled or lose any kind of rationality once they meet someone who is BSing hard to their face and acting friendly. To me those are always the ones to look out for cause they want something from you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anarchy

This is a hilarious description from Slate of how a drum circle threatens to derail the whole Occupy Wall Street movement, specifically one or two crazy people that I would like to think are sociopaths messing with the hippies. Apparently no one can stand the constant noise of the drum circle and so leaders of the movement have been trying to consult with "leaders" of the drum circle to get them to limit the amount of time that they play:
Unfortunately there is one individual who is NOT a drummer but who claims to speak for the drummers who has been a deeply disruptive force, attacking the drumming rep during the GA and derailing his proposal, and disrupting the community board meeting, as well as the OWS community relations meeting. She has also created strife and divisions within the POC caucus, calling many members who are not 'on her side' "Uncle Tom", "the 1%", "Barbie" "not Palestinian enough" "Wall Street politicians" "not black enough" "sell-outs", etc. People have been documenting her disruptions, and her campaign of misinformation, and instigations. She also has a documented history online of defamatory, divisive and disruptive behavior within the LGBT (esp. transgender) communities. Her disruptions have made it hard to have constructive conversations and productive resolutions to conflicts in a variety of forums in the past several days.
Sound like anyone we know? But it does warn of what happens with a group of leaderless protester/followers with any defined concrete commonality:
Friends, mediation with the drummers has been called off. It has gone on for more than 2 weeks and it has reached a dead end. … We need to take this seriously, and be clear that if we can’t deal with conflict and self-organizing then we are facing eviction very soon (this week), and the allies that helped turn out mass numbers at the last one will not be around this time, nor will the press be supportive.
Is it true that sociopathy thrives in anarchy?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Managing mental illness

This is an interesting NY Times article about managing Schizoaffective disorder that questions the typical advice of taking it easy. Particularly, it suggests that people with that particular disorder do better when they have a very busy, demanding job or otherwise keep busy with obligations:

She travels a lot to conferences, and when she is back in California she keeps her schedule as full as possible. Her mind runs on high, and without fuel — without work — it seems to want to feed on itself. Her elbows usually tingle when that is about to happen, she said, and she will often play number games in her head. If she needs to, she will make a quick phone call.
I remember being happiest in my childhood during the school year. Once the summer came around, it was very easy for me to get cripplingly bored and generally dissatisfied with life. When I was a teenager, I would actually have symptoms of depression in the summer--feelings of malaise and general mental unrest that would always quickly disappear once school started again. During the school years I had every hour of my life scheduled because I liked it that way. One time I got appendicitis and went for 10 days with it perforated without seeking medical attention--I just had so many things I was caught up with. Right now I am in a similar situation of possibly overdoing it. I'm sleep deprived and may be developing an ulcer, but at least my mind isn't eating itself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guest song: Wandering star

This song's lyrics have always made me think of someone who has been hurt by a socio, possibly by discovering his true nature.
It leaves her untrusting, but still yearning for closeness.

"Please could you stay awhile to share my grief
For its such a lovely day
To have to always feel this way
And the time that I will suffer less
Is when I never have to wake"

"Those who have seen the needles eye, now tread
Like a husk, from which all that was, now has fled
And the masks, that the monsters wear
To feed, upon their prey"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Top page Google

I mentioned a while ago that if the site got to the first page of google search results for the word "sociopath" then we should celebrate with a question and answer session. I noticed a couple days ago that I was trending around 7th-9th ranked on the first page, but it's not consistent and by the time you read this, it may already be back to page two. Regardless, I thought it would be fun to memorialize this joyous occasion because life is fleeting.

I never reply in comments, but for the next 16-24 hours or so, I will try to reply in a timely manner to anything people want to ask me. I should be reasonably available, but have to bathe, eat, and do a few other things, so be patient if I don't seem to be around--I will get around to responding.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Facebook stalker

As a public service announcement for people who use this site and have an online trail of personal details, this article discusses a new site that shows what it is like to be the victim of a violent Facebook stalker. Under the title Anti-Social Media: "'Take This Lollipop' Is Your Facebook Profile Through A Psychopath's Eyes":

After allowing the site access to your profile, users click on a blue lollipop which thrusts them into the familiar mise en scene of a horror movie. The camera floats languidly down a dank hallway to the static-punctured strains of a 1950s song about candy shops. In a room at the end of the hall, there’s a man in a sooty undershirt hunched over a computer. He looks like a malnourished Daniel Craig, and he doesn’t seem happy at all. As the mystery man’s dirty fingernails pound against the keys, it becomes clear what’s on the screen: a Facebook profile. Not just any profile, though; it’s the viewer’s very own.

The interactivity is seamless; the stalker’s reflection is clearly visible, glaring off the pictures on the screen. As the creepy erstwhile James Bond scrolls along, becoming increasingly agitated with what he sees, users will recognize their old status updates and messages from friends. The next reveal arrives with shrieking keyboard stabs--the stalker has found the user’s location and is now looking at driving instructions. Slowly he reaches up and starts caressing the profile picture displayed onscreen. As the soundtrack swells ever higher, he turns his head to face the viewer and a fiendish smile spreads across his face.

The stalker is suddenly inside a car, racing down the road. Hyper jump cuts show his tortured screams behind the wheel before cutting back to his intensely focused driving face. The project was directed by Jason Zada out of production company Tool of North America.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tracking psychopath's language patterns online

The following is going to sound absurd to some of you, and very promising to others. Cornell professor Jeff Hancock University of Critish Columbia professors Michael T. Woodworth and Stephen Porter have come up with a text analysis system that they believe may be able to pick out sociopaths in something as short as a 140 character "tweet." As reported by the NY Daily news:

A New York professor who studied the tell-tale speech patterns of psycho killers is broadening his research to see if tweets, texts and emails reveal similar tendencies.

That could help detectives identify murder suspects through their social media and online postings - and develop strategies for grilling them in the interrogation room.

"I do think some of these tools will be used by law enforcement," Cornell's Jeffrey Hancock said at a briefing Monday about his research.

The core of the study involves interviews with 56 convicted killers in a maximum security Canadian prison - including 18 who were certified psychopaths.

Hancock and co-author Michael Woodworth of the University of British Columbia used linguistics analysis to parse the transcripts. They noticed several trends. The psychopaths used the past tense more often than the others, suggesting a higher degree of detachment from the crime - a hallmark of the disorder. They also peppered their speech with verbal stumbles like "uh" and "um," showing it was difficult for them to talk about an emotional event. The researchers knew that psychopaths often view their killings as a means to an end - not an emotional reaction - and that was borne out in their language. They used cause-and-effect words like "so" and "because" more often than non-psychopaths - and focused on material needs instead of social needs like love and family. "Psychopaths talked a lot about what they ate that day [of the murder]," Hancock said. "They talked about money more often."

As a followup, the profs are now having student volunteers submit their online communications and fill out a survey that measures their psychopathic tendencies. They hope the exercise will determine if the language patterns used in social media can show whether a person is a psychopath. That could be a valuable tool for investigators because much of language is unconscious - and less likely to be manipulated by psychopaths, who can be incredibly cunning. "You can spend two or three hours with a psychopath and come out of there feeling like you've been hypnotized," he said. "It's definitely time for a glass of wine and a shower."
Or from the Daily News:

Psychopaths also used more subordinating conjunctions like ‘because’ which is explained by their interest in cause and effect.

The report says: ‘This pattern suggested that psychopaths were more likely to view the crime as the logical outcome of a plan (something that 'had' to be done to achieve a goal)’.
Uh, that reminds me of last night when I spent so much money on dinner because I was starving and I was wearing coveralls, since I was worried about the blood.

18 certified psychopaths? Even if you took large language samples from each of these prisoners (emphasis on prisoner), I imagine that it would be very difficult to show that these similarities were actually correlated to the isolated variable "psychopath." Law of large numbers, anyone? Also, the language was taken from having people describe their crimes. Luckily I don't ever talk about mine on Twitter so I should be fine...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Perspective

People don't understand how powerful their minds are. Our world is exactly as we want to see it, as we have trained ourselves or allowed ourselves to see it. And yet, it is very difficult for most people to be open minded. It reminds me of the story of one of the very earliest films from the Lumière brothers. From Wikipedia:

L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (translated from French into English as The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station) is an 1895 French short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by Auguste and Louis Lumière.

This 50-second silent film shows the entry of a train pulled by a steam locomotive into a train station in the French coastal town of La Ciotat. Like most of the early Lumière films, L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat consists of a single, unedited view illustrating an aspect of everyday life. There is no apparent intentional camera movement, and the film consist of one continuous real-time shot.

The film is associated with an urban legend well-known in the world of cinema. The story goes that when the film was first shown, the audience was so overwhelmed by the moving image of a life-sized train coming directly at them that people screamed and ran to the back of the room. Hellmuth Karasek in the German magazine Der Spiegel wrote that the film "had a particularly lasting impact; yes, it caused fear, terror, even panic." However, some have doubted the veracity of this incident such as film scholar and historian Martin Loiperdinger in his essay, "Lumiere's Arrival of the Train: Cinema's Founding Myth". Whether or not it actually happened, the film undoubtedly astonished people in the audience who were unaccustomed to the amazingly realistic illusions created by moving pictures. The Lumière brothers clearly knew that the effect would be dramatic if they placed the camera on the platform very close to the arriving train.
What does this have to do with sociopathy? A lot maybe, or not a lot, but sociopaths seem unusually skilled at geting out of their own perspectives and see things from different angles. They also seem better than most at holding multiple perspectives at the same time. Has anyone noticed this? Sociopaths may have their own perspectives, perhaps one in which they are the best in the world and a more realistic perspective that allows them to function in real life aware of their potential weaknesses, and be able to live in both at once. I actually think the ability to shift perspectives is what makes them such skillful manipulators--they can see the perspectives of the people they regularly associate with and into their head to predict their every thought and movement. Sociopaths understand better than most that perception is everything.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dealing with my Sociopath: Yes UKan, Yes UKan, yes UKan!

From UKan's wife:

My husband asked me to write my thoughts on how it is I put up with him as a sociopath, so after some thought I've decided to indulge him. I don't typically like to let him into this many of my thoughts, but I think it'll be an interesting post to the many on this site who've long been wondering about him. And I think it's a good thing to be open about, even if vicariously.

To start with a bit about myself, I am a rational personality type, so my underlying motive for my life is to understand things. In my past I have always dated people I was curious about. Curiosity is my idea of interest, or caring, if you will. Every man I dated was bizarre to say the least, and I will not choose here to go into that further.
My husband is no exception to strangeness, not because like some idiots on here think that he's complicated and so full of dimension, but because he is so simple. The tedious thing about exes is that though they all vary dramatically socially, and often think they're different, they tend to be simple, and the same fundamentally. Like Asians, they start to all look alike.
Just kidding.

But seriously, most people are too simple once you discover their issues of particularity. In some cases I'd try to help them grow up but their inherent blindness to themselves and their own simplicity is even more tedious. They're inherent undesire to change and fears of coping all begin to look alike, no matter how variable.

With my husband, his natural complexity is not in how he doesn't deal with some glaring issue, but in elusiveness and nonchalance about his glaring issues. It consistantly amuses me how he deflects others from who he is, and pulls their own glaring issues to a forefront. I don't get bored of my husband because he never ceases to amuse me with his naturalness and fundamental-ness. He has impulses and he follows them. No fronts.

I call him a Demon because it has a natural symbolic picture of who he is. He tries to convince me that he isn't, or tries to convince himself sometimes that he's human, but he just isn't. Everything for him all falls back onto a few inherent humanistic desires like sex, territoriality, amusement, procreation, vanity or pride etc. His lack of any social rounding amuses me and never ceases to feed my curiosity not because he's trying to be complicated, but because he's so fundamentally simple.
I hate when people try to add fluff to who they are; meaning, or reasoning to something that breaks down so simply. My husband just comes out as simple, and I don't tire of it.

I suppose that's a bit of a contradiction; not being bored of my husband because he's simple, but that's how I am.

So to advise the silly people who come on here with ideals about their sociopath being so complex, stop projecting your "Complications" on something so inherently uncomplicated and you'll begin to understand that just because you like to sugar coat things with your emotions, that doesn't mean the rest of the world does.

A sociopath is not a sensitive man with deep poetic complexities, but an animal seeking amusement. You are expendable, as you have the specialness of an ant. Unless you can see him for what he is, or get him to show you what he is.
My success with my husband is not that I idolically look up to him with blind batting lashes, but that I see that he's just an animal, and that I cope with the shallowness of reality, and can demand no more from him than he's capable of. I am satisfied by the reality of our relationship, and ask for no delusions. Though sometimes they feel nice, I'd rather have the cold reality.

Bad things happen for good reasons.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guest post: Explaining the Villain

From a reader:

Often he's presented as male, antisocial, perhaps depressed and more than likely suffered some sort of childhood abuse. He has no faith in humanity or the decency of the ordinary individual. His only interest is in himself, in satisfying his own needs and maintaining his own well-being.

If you look at human instinct, you'll see our animal and rational sides.

Our animal instincts are all linked to self-preservation. The need to eat, sleep, fuck and our emotions: empathy, sympathy, sadness, fear, kindness. In society we raise ourselves to believe that emotions are good, that personal needs are questionable and only suitable to be satisfied if it poses no threat to the community around us.

Then you've got our rational half. Our self-awareness, our ability to check the logic of our own actions and moderate our instincts.

We pretend, with our apparent intelligence, that we can overcome our animal instincts, that they're unnecessary and ought to be shut down because of a strong fear that we might lose control.

If one person is too different, if they're apt to lose control or have ideas that present a threat to the majority, we will cast them out in order to protect the stability of our herd. This is the beginning of our villain. He will be made to feel defective, different and discriminated against from the beginning. Made to feel he or she is inherently wrong for things they have no control over.

The defective unit will be cast out and left to fend for himself. Once out, our young one will be welcomed back in. The invitation, however, is conditional. The person must surrender what it is about them that makes them different. People will say that its an optional trait, that this thing can be discarded, that if the person was normal there would be no problem.

Our outcast is naturally resentful and his difference may well be something that cannot be changed.

After being outside for long enough, our alien will have learned to appreciate his position. He is out of the forest and can see the trees. He can see the herd for what it is, the faults, the failures, the bureacracy and its inability to perform a logic check its own reasoning. Depending on how badly he's been treated, he will often attempt to help the individuals in the herd and free them from their ignorance. Enlighten them as to their position. They will retaliate and be scared, refuse to believe the ideas of the outcast because he's been flagged as dangerous.

After this failure, our alien will naturally be angry, he'll take the herd as prey and treat them as an enemy. He will be treated as a second class citizen, still subject to all the same rules and regulations as normal herd members but without a voice. It won't be recognised that he can provide anything of discernable value to the community. His ideas, however enlightened they might be in reality, are null and void and out of that same fear of a loss of stability, can't even be looked at in case it damages society.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sociopaths in the news

A seven-year-old boy broke into the Alice Springs Reptile Center in central Australia by jumping the fence, and then proceeded to feed both live and dead animals to a crocodile:
The footage shows the barefoot boy, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, climbing over the zoo's fence on Wednesday morning, evading sensor alarms possibly because of his size. He is seen throwing live lizards into the crocodile's enclosure, bashing others to death with a rock, and smashing a turtle the size of a dinner plate on a concrete pathway.

According to Mr Neindorf, the boy is mainly "blank-faced." He added: "We're horrified that anyone can do this, and saddened by the age of the child."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Edward Cullen = sociopath?

Apparently, Debra Merskin, associate professor for the school of journalism and communication at the University of Oregon, as claimed that the vampire protagonist from the teenage vampire series Twilight, is a sociopath. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Writing in a recent issue of the Journal of Communication Inquiry, Merskin argues that Edward has all the hallmarks of a "compensated psychopath".

Unlike full-blown psychopaths, compensated psychopaths have learnt to conceal their limited emotional repertoire and "pass" as normal. "While he is incapable of feeling compassion, or remorse, there is an awareness that the full-blown psychopath doesn't have - that these feelings do exist in the world but he is somehow lacking," Merskin explains via email.
Edward, she says, ticks all the boxes.He's psychologically immature; although born in 1901, Edward is fated never to develop beyond the age of 17.

He's socially withdrawn, living far out of town, and he's controlling. He frequently belittles Bella, saying she's emotionally unobservant, she's absurd and, most patronisingly, "You've got a bit of a temper, don't you?"

Edward's inability to love is the crucible for the romantic tension throughout Twilight. "I don't know how to be close to you. I don't know if I can," he says to Bella. And, perhaps most tellingly, Edward admits: "I'm not used to feeling so human. Is it always like this?"

Merskin says these types aren't new in literature and cinema. Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Wall Street's Gordon Gekko are all examples of compensated psychopaths.

But unlike Edward, none of these fictional characters was presented as boyfriend material. This, Merskin says, makes Edward novel. It also makes him concerning- especially given that its target audience is young women and adolescent girls.
I don't know. I'm not convinced. I like vampire stories typically because they echo some themes from my own life, not surprising if you believe (as I do) that the vampire myth originates from sociopaths. I'm no expert on the Twilight series, but to the extent that Edward acts like a vampire I'm not surprised people would think he is sociopathic. However, I thought the whole point of the series was that Edward does not act like a vampire? A chaste defanged vampire?

Friday, October 14, 2011

S + BPD: Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb

People often remark in the comments sections that sociopaths and borderlines seem made for each other. This is what I was thinking as I read the Wikipedia account of Lady Caroline Lamb, spurned-lover come stalker of Lord Byron:



She had spurned the attention of the poet on their first meeting, subsequently giving Byron what became his lasting epitaph when she described him as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." His response was to pursue her passionately.

Lady Caroline and Lord Byron publicly decried each other as they privately pledged their love over the following months. Byron referred to Lamb by the hypocorism "Caro", which she adopted as her public nickname.[10] After Byron broke things off, her husband took the disgraced and desolate Lady Caroline to Ireland. The distance did not cool Lady Caroline's interest in the poet; she and Byron corresponded constantly during her exile. When Lady Caroline returned to London in 1813; however, Byron made it clear he had no intention of re-starting their relationship. This spurred what could be characterized as the first recorded case of celebrity stalking as she made increasingly public attempts to reunite with her former lover.

Lady Caroline's obsession with Byron would define much of her later life and as well as influence both her and Byron's works. They would write poems in the style of each other, about each other, and even embed overt messages to one another in their verse. After a thwarted visit to Byron's home, Lady Caroline wrote "Remember Me!" into the flyleaf of one of Byron's books. He responded with the hate poem; "Remember thee! Remember thee!; Till Lethe quench life’s burning stream; Remorse and shame shall cling to thee, And haunt thee like a feverish dream! Remember thee! Ay, doubt it not. Thy husband too shall think of thee! By neither shalt thou be forgot, Thou false to him, thou fiend to me!"
***
In 1819, Lamb put her ability to mimic Byron to use in the narrative poem "A New Canto." Years before, Lamb had impersonated Byron in a letter to his publishers in order to have them send her a portrait of Byron. It worked; the tone and substance of her request fooled them into sending the painting.
***
Lamb's struggle with mental instability became more pronounced in her last years, complicated by her abuse of alcohol and laudanum. By 1827, she was under the care of a full-time physician as her body, which had always been frail, began to shut down.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Twitchy

I have what some people might think looks like a facial tick. Have you ever seen a musician playing a solo who is so into the music that his or her face expresses it acutely, in what could be described as twitching? The face is contorted in something that looks a little like pain, or perhaps pleasure, and there always seems to be something sexual about it. What is this phenomenon?

I know some people think a lot of these musicians' expressions are fake or at least exaggerated, but being a musician myself I have noticed myself making these faces while playing or even while listening to someone else play. There is something about that particular moment --an overwhelming sensory stimulation. It's not like I don't have control over it, because I could just tune out of the experience and put my straight face right back on. But if I allow myself to be caught up in the moment, the face is part of the experience.

I didn't always do this as a musician and I haven't always done this as a human. It took about 8 years to get to the level of musicianship where it started, and then maybe another 4-8 to reach its present level. Similarly, I didn't start doing the twitching thing until about 6-8 years after I became self-aware, and another few years after that to reach its present level. I'd like to think they're related. I'd like to think that just as I became a better, more nuanced, more appreciative musician with better taste and a deeper level of pleasure in certain musical choices, that I have similarly become a better human.

Have I acquired more of a taste for humanity? I think I have, at least for the human existence. The faces I make do draw odd looks from strangers, though.

Interestingly, I think the adjective versions of words like "choice" and "select" highlight what is best about that existence.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dexter = whipped

This NY Magazine article discusses the transformation of the fictional character Dexter, from cold-blooded killer to soccer dad:

Dexter returns for its sixth season on Sunday, and with it comes the requisite gore deftly contrasted with the brutal sunshine of Miami. Some things never change! But some things really, really do. Like Dexter. Over the course of the series, he's gone from stone-cold sociopath to slightly-less-cold lovable vigilante. Whatever moral ambiguity the show used to embrace — is it okay to ... root for a murderer? — is gone, replaced with a strange certainty (definitely root for this murderer!) that takes a lot of the creepiness away from the show. How did Miami Metro's favorite blood-splatter analyst go from his pas de deux with the Ice Truck Killer in season one to trying to get his son into a prestigious nursery school in season six? By following this plan to go from scary serial killer to soft suburban dad in these seven easy steps!
People ask me whether I think Dexter is an accurate portrayal of a sociopath. I say that in the first season, maybe second, it was so eerily accurate on some of his internal dialogue that I thought there must be someone on the writing staff or a consultant who was a sociopath themselves. Now I still watch it and it is entertaining and makes me want to live in Miami, but not so much accurate.

By the way, how to achieve your own predatory stare? Practice a half smile in front of a mirror, then while maintaining the smile, add a sneer gradually until you get just the right mix of sinister masked by friendly.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Calculated authenticity

I thought this NY Times article about the changing definition of "authentic," as the "it" value amongst those trendsetters and powerbrokers that command the most of our collective attention.
“I THINK what people see in me is that I’m a real person,” Representative Michele Bachmann told ABC News, after her victory in Iowa last month. “I’m authentic.”

Discussing his new daytime television show, Anderson Cooper told The Vancouver Sun that “in everything I’ve done, I’ve always tried to just be authentic and real.”

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in July that “if you fear what people think about you, then you are not being authentic.”
***
“What you can’t do is be told by a social media guru to act authentic and still be authentic,” said Jeff Pooley, an associate professor of media and communication at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. He said authenticity today is more accurately described as “calculated authenticity” — a k a stage management.

“The best way to sell yourself is to not appear to be selling yourself,” Professor Pooley said. Politicians do it. Celebrities do it. And you, reader, do it every time you tap out a status update on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.
Where has authenticity led Andereson Cooper? Spray tanning with Snooki. But it is interesting that a skill that sociopaths have long been cultivating, the art of calculated authenticity ("you mean the world to me"), has become a necessary survival skill in a world of social media.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sociopathy and Self-Defense

From a reader:

Last night I was reading through one of your old blog posts about love. You had an exchange with an empath which began with her raising a valid question on the nature of sociopathy. She asked if perhaps a sociopath's inability to make human connections was like an aquired defense mechanism stemming from rejection and social isolation in his youth. From the moment I became aware that I was a sociopath several months ago this is exactly what I believed. I was always shy in grade school and high school, although around my close friends and adults I was very charming. Adults often commented on the fact that I carried myself very well for someone my age. However, I could never translate that persona when talking to girls and failed miserably at every connection I tried to make. I thus spent all of my youth in the fantasy world instead of the real one when it came to dating.
I've had minor mental health problems my whole life such as severe anxiety and poor impulse control. I used to have panic attacks when I was 17. I also had a bad habit of talking to myself. Sometimes I would spend what seemed like hours talking to myself in the middle of the night. Whenever I would take a minute to reflect on the reality of what I was doing it would make me feel insane but I'd still keep doing it because it made me feel better. The point is that I was always lonely. In a nutshell, I think the emotions I had were hurting me more than they were helping me. Afterall, what good is it have love inside you if the feeling is never reciprocated by those to whom it's directed at? It created too much negative emotional baggage which prevented me from pursuing certain activities with the proper amount of confidence.
During the winter of this year I could tell my mental health was deteriorating exponentially. After suffering post traumatic stress earlier this year over something which shall remain nameless, I realized I was no longer feeling emotion. At first it was a very liberating feeling, all my past regrets and emotional worries weren't bothering me at all. I felt so good it was like I had gone through some sort of spiritual transformation. I immediately became fearless and after a couple days approached a pretty woman with confidence and had a nice conversation with her. However, after a few weeks I noticed little things here and there that began to disturb me...All of which led me to a psychiatrist and ultimately, your site. My psychiatrist didn't label me sociopathic even though I tried to hint at it in as many ways as possible. I couldn't bring myself to simply come out and tell him that I no longer had feelings for anyone. I was afraid of the ramifications that might ensue.
Which brings me back to my original point. I see sociopathy in my case serving as a self defense mechanism, shielding me from the emotional traps that caused me so much pain in the past. When I analyze the evolution of myself over the course of the years it seems that nature found a way to make me stronger therefore allowing me to accomplish more than would otherwise be possible. I'm going to do some research but I'm curious if there are books on evolutionary psychology which support this idea. It certainly seems plausible.
M.E.: I think the readers will tend to think that you're not a sociopath, just sociopathic. Certain psychologists think that there is a spectrum of sociopathic traits and that normal people can express high levels of sociopathic traits, particularly at certain times in their lives.

Apart from that, though, I wonder if there is a functional difference between people like you who are very sociopathic (at least for now), and people who are sociopaths. I'm sure there are, at least in the same way that a second language will never be the same to you as your first language, even if you choose never to speak your first again. I'm curious to see if you ever snap out of it, though.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Non-reactionary

I found this Men's Journal feature on Robert Downey Jr. to actually be interesting and relevant to anyone who struggles with fighting their own internal demons while actively waging war on external ones. In discussing his martial arts training and how it has influenced his life philosophy:
  • "You want to feed the good dog, because the shadow side of any of us is going to pop up at some point.”
  • “Wing Chun is all about guarding your center line,” Downey tells me, talking about the place where touchy-ouchy martial art meets philosophy of life. “Don’t fight force with force; use two hands at the same time; concentrate on your own thing; and after you have that dialed in, effect the balance, look for openings, look for arms to be crossed.
It's interesting to think about that, not fighting force--focusing on doing your own thing and just waiting for the right opportunity. People tend to be surprised with the minimalist, non-reactionary way in which I frequently respond when they're trying to pick a fight with me. I learned to do it first out of necessity because I would often be in altercations where the odds were stacked against me and it was no use fighting force with force. I've since grown to really love it as a tactic even in situations in which I have the upper hand. Now I use it as my default approach, as long as I'm able to hesitate long enough in my initial impulse to immediately lash out in retaliation. I guess that's maturation.

In any case, it's an infinitely better result than reacting like this guy:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sociopath quote: force and cunning

"The only means to gain one's ends with people are force and cunning. Love also, they say, but that is to wait for sunshine, and life needs every moment."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Benign neglect: Rizzoli and Isles

In response to the Fringe and Breaking Bad post, a reader mentioned the character Dr. Maura Isles from the television show "Rizzoli and Isles" as someone to watch out for. In the episode "I'm Your Boogie Man," the (Asperger's? Autism? Sociopath?) sometimes odd acting Isles questions a serial killer's statement that she is not afraid of him because she is just like him:


Rizzoli: You okay? Come on, Maura, talk to me. He's a freak. He gets to everybody.
Isles: I didn't -- I did a lot of research into his background; his childhood. Maybe he's not wrong.
Rizzoli: What are you talking about?
Isles: Maybe I am a little bit like him.
Rizzoli: You are nothing like him.
Isles: I don't -- I don't know, Jane. I was a weird kid.
Rizzoli: Were you killing small animals?
Isles: [laughs] No, but I dissected a lot of frogs.
Rizzoli: That's different.
Isles: I just started to think about things that I never really thought about before.
Rizzoli: Here it comes. There are bodies buried in your basement.
Isles: I spent a lot of time alone. I was adopted, my father was a professor and my mother she -- she came from a wealthy family and was an only child. I just realized something when I was reading about Hoyt. It just never occurred to be before. There was a lot of benign neglect. It's not that they didn't love me. It's just that I didn't ask for much. I don't think I really knew how, and the less that I would ask for the less time that they have for me. They were just very, very involved in their own lives and into each other. They sent me to boarding school when I was ten. I actually think that I sent away for the brochure myself. [smiles with Jane] They were delighted. I was really lost.
Rizzoli: Come here. [takes Maura's hand] No matter what happened to you, you are nothing like that monster, okay? You're a little anti-social maybe, goofy, but that's not the same thing.
Isles: [crying] Thank you.

This was interesting, this idea of benign neglect. I think it's easy to write a character like this off as being a relatively harmless Aspie, but do negative environmental factors like this trigger autism or Asperger's? Even if she is Aspie, or even just an introvert, apparently the way she was raised has led her to become an antisocial, relatively unfeeling and unempathetic brand of humanity, which really isn't that different from her foil the serial killer.

Can benign neglect trigger sociopathic behaviors? Maybe. Or probably.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Faith

Religious people sometimes get on this site and tell us that we're all going to burn in hell. I don't know what religion these people belong to, but I imagine that they have some pretty common judeo christian beliefs that God created man. Even if you accept the belief that God does not actually create evil, he certainly creates the ingredients, possibly even sets the ball in motion. At least I think that is a relatively common belief among those religiously inclined in those ways. You may say that God doesn't want man to lie down with man as he would woman, but you can't deny that God seems to have made certain people especially prone to wanting to do just that. Similarly, the sociopath. Born different, although not necessarily to murder indiscriminately. To those religious people, were the sociopaths born to live a wretched life and burn in hell?

It's odd because I think some sociopaths are actually more inclined to religion than the general population. We're so used to taking things on "faith," e.g. the legitimacy of other people's personhood, the existence of an emotional palette different than our own, etc. It's sort of like the colorblind people who have to take our word for it that orange exists the way it does (or does it? who is to say that our perception of that particular segment of the electromagnetic spectrum is any more or less correct than theirs?). These things I take on faith not really as truths but as things that seem plausible enough that I cannot deny their existence (I cannot reject the null hypothesis for you statisticians out there). Because I am so used to accepting the existence of things that I can neither feel nor see myself, it's not at all a jump for me to indulge in religious beliefs. And I do indulge -- maybe because they are a form of hedging my bets, maybe because I was raised to be religious and many of my familiar and other relationship ties are based on religion, or maybe because these beliefs actually do help fill the void of meaning that I otherwise would feel in my life.

But accepting the possibility of a God as I do, why do I not agree with my religious brothers that I am destined to go to hell. How do I reconcile any religious beliefs with who I am? Honestly, although part of me feels dark, a big part of me thinks that I am more Godlike than most people, particularly the God of Abraham and Moses. It's easy for me to think that I was a ruler before this life and will be in the life to come, which is I guess the real reason that these religious types get on here saying I'm going to hell, because I'm pretty sure that's blasphemy in their eyes.

Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos savas gratis,
salve me, fons pietatis.

King of tremendous majesty,
who freely saves those worthy ones,
save me, source of mercy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amanda Knox

Freed! Does this strike anyone else as a miscarriage of justice? I have not followed the case at all, I have only seen photographs of her. I am not sure if she killed this particular victim, or even is she has killed already, but I get the distinct impression that she is very capable of killing.

I guess that is the true price of fame--having your every facial expression documented. I could not myself survive that sort of scrutiny, kudos to her for managing to pull it off somehow.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fringe: Parallel universe serial killers

On the most recent episode of Fringe, there was an interesting analysis of how a serial killer develops from a genetic predisposition to a full blown mass murderer. Spoiler alert, but Fringe is a television series that (I believe) sees itself as a modern X-Files, exploring "fringe" science with a team of genius scientists and pragmatic law men and women. One of the major story arcs is the existence of a parallel universe (oddly just one) that resembles our own in many ways, including having most of the same cast of characters. In the episode "One Night in October," this concept of parallel universes is exploited quite nicely where in the one universe a man has killed at least 40 victims, on the other side he is a professor of abnormal psychology with a specialty in serial killers. The professor version of the man later confesses that he has always struggled with an urge to kill, but that there had been an early intervening force in his life that guided him to a different path. The killer version of the man had no such intervention. As one blogger puts it:


It turns out that was it not for a single choice, made one night in October, [Professor] would likely have ended up in the same situation as the serial killer. Naturally, he escapes to try and explain things to his bad guy self; there’s a choice to be made, and he’s living proof that his urges can be controlled. That while we are who we are and our natures are innate, it’s possible for decisions to accumulate and snowball into drastic differences.

“One Night in October” had a lot to say about some big questions about identity, which makes sense for a show like Fringe to take on. . . . No one is dictated exclusively by nature or nurture, but by a combination of things they can and can’t control. It’s what we do with the information we have that defines us.
Apart from some very trite stereotypes for serial killers and human development in general, I think it was an interesting exploration of some of these questions. Also, professor version says this:
"I don't think that we can underestimate the role that empathy plays in the structuring of the self, or the lack thereof"
I wasn't aware that there was a connection between lack of empathy and sense of self, but it made me curious. There are a couple of articles I found that I will read. I'll do a post on them if they seem promising.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sociopaths in literature: Byron's "Lara"

From Byron's "Lara":
He stood a stranger in this breathing world,
An erring spirit from another hurled;
A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped
By choice the perils he by chance escaped;
. . .
Too high for common selfishness, he could
At times resign his own for others' good,
But not in pity, not because he ought,
But in some strange perversity of thought,
That sway'd him onward with a secret pride
To do what few or none would do beside;
And this same impulse would, in tempting time,
Mislead his spirit equally to crime;
So much he soar'd beyond, or sunk beneath
The men with whom he felt condemn'd to breathe,
And long'd by good or ill to separate
Himself from all who shared his mortal state;
. . .
'Tis true, with other men their path he walk'd,
And like the rest in seeming did and talk'd,
Nor outraged Reason's rules by flaw nor start,
His madness was not of the head, but heart;
. . .
He had (if 'twere not nature's boon) an art
Of fixing memory on another's heart:
It was not love, perchance — nor hate — nor aught
That words can image to express the thought;
But they who saw him did not see in vain,
And once beheld, would ask of him again:
And those to whom he spake remember'd well,
And on the words, however light, would dwell.
None knew nor how, nor why, but he entwined
Himself perforce around the hearer's mind;
There he was stamp'd, in liking, or in hate,
If greeted once; however brief the date
That friendship, pity, or aversion knew,
Still there within the inmost thought he grew.
You could not penetrate his soul, but found
Despite your wonder, to your own he wound.
His presence haunted still; and from the breast
He forced an all-unwilling interest;
Vain was the struggle in that mental net,
His spirit seem'd to dare you to forget!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Song: The Lion and the Wolf



The lion's outside of your door
The wolf's in your bed
The lion's claws are sharpened for war
The wolf's teeth are red

And what a monstrous sight he makes,
Mocking man's best friend
When both the wolf and lion crave
The same thing in the end

The lion's outside of your door
The wolf's in your bed

The wolf, he howls
The lion does roar
The wolf lets him in
The lion runs in through the door
The real fun begins
As they both rush upon you and
Rip open your flesh
The lion eats his fill and then
The wolf cleans up the mess

The lion's outside of your door
The wolf's in your bed
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