Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mathematical modeling of serial killer murders

Two separate readers sent me links here and here to the recent announcement of a mathematical model looking at the behavior of serial killers:

Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury analyzed the pattern of a serial killer, Ukrainian-born Andrei Chikatilo, and found that it correlated with their predicted pattern of neuronal firing in the brain.

In the 1990s, Chikatilo confessed to the murder of 56 people over 12 years. (He was executed in 1994.) When charted on a timeline, the murders seem to follow a pattern known in mathematical terms as a "Devil's staircase."

The intervals between the murders follow a power law, with the killer seemingly commiting murder when the neuronal excitation in his brain exceeds a certain threshold, the researchers hypothesize.

"We cannot expect that the killer commits murder right at the moment when neural excitation reaches a certain threshold," they write. "He needs time to plan and prepare his crime. So we assume that he commits murder after the neural excitation was over threshold for [a] certain period. ... Another assumption that we make is that a murder exercises a sedative effect on the killer, causing neural excitation to fall below the threshold."

In other words, a new murder would be more likely than the average murder rate immediately after a killing, and less likely than the average when time has passed, according to the analysis.

Isn't the world full of wonderful things?  I have always felt that there could be very simple, elegant explanations to everything -- even something as complicated as human behavior.  I can't wait until Google is able to model everyone's mind and mob mentality and then we can truly understand everything there is to know about human nature.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Same sex cheating

I am always sort of charmed to read textbook examples of sociopaths, particularly when they include personality traits that aren't actually really emphasized (or even included) in most textbooks, like ambiguous sexuality.  These descriptions are selections from a reader about her and her boyfriend (sorry for the choppy editing):

I'm uber reasonable, I like to travel a lot, I like to experience different cultures, most of my boyfriends have been foreign, they bring something different to the table and I value that, its interesting to see life from a different point of view and hear different perspectives. I am always right ;-) but there is not ever just one right answer and I like to have my world expanded by hearing other versions. I like that my bloke presents yet another perspective on life.

Re the sexuality thing, I'm pretty certain that he is "creeping on the down low." There have just been too many little incidences. Also he is always very good humoured every time I imply that he shags blokes. I'm quite sure that most men would be quite annoyed if it were not the case. 

I was chatting to a girl a few weeks ago who works with male sex workers, she said that something like 80% of these guys did not consider themselves to be gay, most have wives or girlfriends, many with established families, I found it really interesting how it seems that these guys are so able to completely separate parts of their lives so that one has absolutely no bearing on the other, quite an enviable skill. I'm very fortunate, have lived abroad, travelled a lot, good job blah blah blah, but there are things that I wish I had done. I wonder if a sociopath is more able to achieve all these goals without some of the constraints life often presents. (does that make sense?) (that's not to say that all these guys are sociopaths or that all sociopaths are shagging both sexes).

I do not want him to think that I am stupid and that I just don’t know what he is up to. Obviously I don’t know the fine details, who, where, when etc. but I know that in general he shags around and for some reason I feel the need to make sure that he knows that I know, and that I accept it as my choice, not that I’m some stupid blonde that he is managing to fool. It’s petty really on my part, I’m sure he knows that I’m not stupid (I hope!) but I just need that confirmation from him, which obviously he can’t give without admitting what he gets up to – it ain’t going to happen.

It’s like I have an internal conflict going on, I suppose it’s to do with society and how we are brought up to expect people to behave etc. Society tells me that relationships are supposed to be monogamous, open and honest. But I know in reality that is not how it works, I myself cheated on my long term boyfriend, 5 times in fact, and it was never anything to do with him. I really did love him, had I thought he would find out and get hurt I would never have done it, but I knew he wouldn’t and it was fun so I did it.  And so I have a conflict between what I think I am supposed to expect from him, what he delivers, and what I find I am able to accept in reality.

I accept it because I have done it and I’m not a sociopath, so I am in no position to tell him off for doing the same when he is ‘programmed’ to do so. I have also always known what he is like and allow him back in my life on that basis, I cannot therefore start complaining later on down the line. And at the end of the day I just like him being about, so I balance it and have the occasional spat at him. It will run its course.

As I mentioned, I caught him hitting on a guy, and obviously he has denied it since, at the time he had taken a lot of MDMA, coke and alcohol. I read on your blog that sociopaths often adopt a kind of code to live by. For my bloke being gay is a big no no culturally, so do you think that he maybe adopts a no gay code to live by day to day but that under the influence of a lot substances it slipped? I’m just looking for excuses here aren’t I, so I don’t have to face facts right? Which is weird because I have dated a couple of bisexual guys in the past, I guess it’s that not knowing thing. You get a lot of that dating a sociopath!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sociopath = Dream maker

I have said that I often find empaths to be unpredictably irrational, whether they're sticking screwdrivers into their lover's necks or placing the blame for the negative results of their own greed, fear, and short-sightedness on psychopaths.  A reader mentioned that her sociopathic boyfriend also gets frustrated about what empaths choose to get all worked up about:

My bloke has this great analogy which I think he applies to every aspect of his life - "this guy wants to sell his car for £500, this guy wants to buy a car for £1,000, so I buy the car for £500, this guy is happy, and I sell it for £1,000 and this guy is also happy, and I've made £500 so I'm happy, everyone is happy. So why do the two guys have to poke around and find out about each other, now they both feel that they have been cheated and now no one is happy." This makes me smile, you cannot argue against it really, its very true and in fact the way that pretty much all business is run and how the world keeps turning. The major flaw being human nature, and that people do poke around and do get hurt, life would be so much easier if we didn't. Some aspects of sociopathy seem quite idealistic really.

I actually think the current obsession with the 1% and greed illustrates this well.  Do people really feel like they are being ripped off?  Yes, some people are profiting off our society/economy more than others, but the truth is that everyone is made better.  Corporations are not evil.  They make everyone's lives better.  A rising tide will float all ships, and yet people can't help but be upset that some are floating higher than others.  

Specifically in the case of sociopaths, I would even go so far as to say that most people who interact with most sociopaths are better off than they otherwise would be.  Sociopaths are the grease making the world go round.  We are fulfilling fantasies.  We are arbitrageurs.  We are sometimes the only ones listening to, caring about, and/or providing for your deepest wants and needs.  Of course everything comes at a price.  Is that what all the fuss is about? That the price is too high? Because that's an entirely different sort of complaint (really more like a whine).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Song: Use the force

This is probably the closest thing I have to a personal anthem.  I always listen to it when I want to turn up my go-go-super-sociopath.

I must believe
I can do anything
I can heal anyone
I must believe
I am the wind (yeah)
I am the sea
I am the wind
I am the sea
I am the sun
I can be anyone
Oh this world is mine (this world is mine)
For all of time (for all of time)
I can turn any stone
Call any place my home
I can do anything
I know I'm gonna get myself together (yeah)
Use the force
I know I'm gonna work it out
Use the force
I know I'm gonna get myself ahead (yeah)
Use the force
Use the force
I can go eagle high
Circling in the sky
Learn to live my life (no)
I don't need to strife
I must believe (I must believe. I must believe)
I'm a rocketman (I must believe. I must believe)
I'm a superstar (I must believe. I must believe)
I can be anyone
I can step beyond
All of my boundaries (boundaries)
It won't be hard for me
To feel what there must be
I know I'm gonna get myself together (yeah)
Use the force
I know I'm gonna work it out
Use the force
I know I'm gonna get myself ahead (yeah)
Use the force
Use the force
I can do it
I can do anything
Anything Anything

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to detect when someone is lying

Everybody has some ability to detect whether people are lying or not, though some of us are better at it than others. Psychologist Paul Ekman has developed a tool that he believes will improve that ability for everyone. Ekman is a leading authority on reading microexpressions (unconscious facial expressions that in a split second can reveal the owner's true thoughts) to detect lies. His work has been dramatized by the American Television show Lie to Me. I haven't had the time to use the microexpression training tool, but apparently it takes only an hour. It's available at

I think the ability to read microexpressions would be more useful against empaths than sociopaths. Why? Because sociopaths have a less rigid sense of self, they are able to actually believe their own lies much better than empaths are. For instance, I am able to compartmentalize quite well -- just like the protagonist in the movie Memento, I'm able to tell myself lies that I can actually believe. Once I believe a lie, any microexpressions seen on my face would seem to support the lie, not undercut it. Empaths, on the other hand, seem to need a stricter sense of identity. Although I'm sure they unconsciously lie to themselves all the time and microexpressions wouldn't be able to detect those lies, they seem much less able to consciously lie to themselves to the point of believing the truth. In those situations, the ability to read microexpressions would be a very useful tool against a lying empath.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Missing the big picture?

Once when I was quite young I went on a class trip to the sea as part of a lesson on marine life. We were pleasantly walking along the shore, ostensibly looking for sea shells or other signs of life, but most of my classmates were quickly bored and started kicking up sand or chasing each other. Used to doing my own thing, I kept at the sea shell collecting and had quite a handful of smaller shells. I was concentrating so hard I started to fall behind. My teachers urged me on -- "There will be more shells up ahead." Sure, I thought, but there are also a lot of good shells here that everyone is overlooking. It turned out, though, that the teachers had previously purchased some large shells from a shop and had scattered them in one particular area for the students to collect. They were easy to see and gather, even for the least observant or laziest child. By the time I got to that area, of course all the purchased shells had been taken.

A few years later I visited Brussels with a friend. I hadn't bothered doing research on the city ahead of time, figuring we would just join a bus tour or something line that. Group tours seemed more trouble than they were worth, though, so my friend and I grabbed a simple map and set out to see the sites. After hours of walking in a big circle and growing a little disappointed, we went to the last site on our map -- the market square. It was breathtakingly, awe-inspiringly beautiful. I had been doing my best to appreciate every bit of Brussels in the little churches and government buildings that we had visited, but it was so easy to fall in love with the charming city once we were in the town square, waffle in hand.

I like who I am. I like that I am methodical, relentless, efficient, able to capitalize on any situation, etc. I wasn't upset with myself at either the beach or Brussels because I'd done the best that I could with the information I had available. Still I often think about those experiences and wonder what other things I may be missing out on in life. Specific to my low-grade sociopathy, love? Human understanding? Emotional intimacy? Do I experience those things in their fullness? And if I in anyway chose this life, have I chosen the better part?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to be more charming

Under the headline "Top 10 Charming Gestures," this Ask Men article suggests:

We’ve all met them, haven’t we? People who just get along effortlessly with everyone -- those incredible individuals who seem to glide through life on a permanent high. These are the people we are all slightly jealous of because they are always doing something interesting or they always seem to have another amazing adventure to share. We can’t stay jealous, though, because they are just too damn likable. When other people discuss them, they always use that word: charming.

If you asked anyone what makes someone charming, the vast majority of people would have no idea. It would be some vague, intangible quality that doesn’t help us in developing that desirable characteristic. But help is at hand; part of our raison d’etre is to break these things down, so that you too can develop these life-enhancing social skills. Being charming is not as difficult as it may seem, and can be hugely rewarding: You get invited to more parties, you make more friends, you get more business opportunities, and important people are more likely to remember you. Above all, you have more fun. Sound good? Then get ready for these top 10 charming gestures.  

The article goes along to suggest some obvious and not so obvious tips, including the effective use of touch, believable flattery, accepting others' flattery graciously, including less social individuals into the conversation, using people's names, and always finding a way to turn conversations back to the other person.

Of course I credit a lot of my charm to a perfectly disarming smile.  I happen to have dimples (seen in some cultures "as a sign of attractiveness and veracity," according to wikipedia), which make me seem much more harmless than I really am.  The smile combined with a too-intense gaze is like coffee with cigarettes -- very complementary.  I do use people's names a lot, as the article suggests, but once it's clear that I can (or should) know their name, I refer to them by their title instead.  You can also do this if you have forgotten someone's name.  The Ryan Gosling character in the film Crazy, Stupid, Love did this to good effect ("fancy face," among others).  Other than that, I think the formula for charm is essentially  an utter confidence that makes you seem superior to others, but an accessibility and approving attitude that makes people feel comfortable in your presence.  Like all formulas, the devil is in finding the right ratio of one thing to the other.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Teaching self-control

This was an interesting NY Times article about learning self-control.  It's specifically directed at teaching children self-control, but I think it can apply equally (or maybe more so) to adults, including sociopathic adults.

Effective approaches for building self-control combine fun with progressively increasing challenges. Rather than force activities onto an unwilling child, take advantage of his or her individual tendencies. When children develop self-control through their own pursuit of happiness, no parental hovering is required. Find something that the child is crazy about but that requires active effort. Whether it’s compiling baseball statistics or making (but not passively watching) YouTube videos, passionate hobbies build mental staying power that can also be used for math homework.

Play allows children to practice skills that are useful in adult life. Young children build self-control through elaborate, imaginative games like pretending to be a doctor or a fireman. Preschool teachers can promote self-control with simple techniques — for example, handing a child a drawing of an ear to remind him that it’s his turn to listen. Frequent practice is crucial. Montessori preschool instruction, which has been shown to lead to strong academic achievement, incorporates self-control into daily activities.

Learning a second language strengthens mental flexibility, an aspect of self-control, because the languages interfere with each other and because children must determine which language the listener will understand. Bilingual children do well on tasks that require them to ignore conflicting cues, for example reporting that a word is printed in green ink even though it says “red.” Bilingual children are better at learning abstract rules and reversing previously learned rules, even before their first birthday. People who continue to speak both languages as adults show these benefits for a lifetime.

Aerobic exercise, which increases prefrontal cortex activity, is another way to build cognitive flexibility. Further benefits may come from Asian practices that require sustained attention and disciplined action, like martial arts, yoga and meditation. Though parents often worry that physical education takes time away from the classroom, an analysis of multiple studies instead found strong evidence that physical activity improved academic performance.

It was interesting reading that learning a second language (at least for children) can improve self-control.  I often credit my study of music for building my own self-control.  It helps my mind remain focused, allowing me to think linearly and remain on task rather than be distracted by every whim or impulse.  I also couldn't cheat or charm my way to musical proficiency -- I could only do it the hard way.

I think studying mathematics has also improved my self-control.  I agree that training your mind to learn different mechanisms of abstraction helps with directing one's concentration, which helps with self-control.

I swim regularly to keep my mind and body limber.  I also like the white noise.  It's calming, like I'm back in the womb.

Finally, I make everything I do into a game.  I really can't force myself to do anything.  If it weren't entertaining to me, I just would never do it.  But I can make things entertaining by incentivizing myself or trying to "win" at certain things.

With sociopaths (more than most people), what we actually end up doing is somewhat of a dice roll, but it's not something that is completely beyond our ability to influence.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Defining who is a monster

There's something that I liked about this comment on a somewhat recent post, but also a lot of it I wasn't sure if I understood.  Empaths, does this sound at all accurate as a depiction of how you feel, as a group?

There's a deep psychological reason why sociopaths repulse and scare. I may not be able to explain in sufficient detail right now, but it has to do with the fundamental cosmological view of the empath.

I'll try to explain:

1. Everything that happens, happens within the mind. There is no distinct difference between real and imagined experience; sensory input stimulates the brain, which creates conscious awareness; but imaginary stimulus can also stimulate (we all know this via the imagined realism of dreams).

2. We do not, nor can we ever, know that other human beings are conscious. Other human beings may be imaginary zombies.

3. Yet, logic dictates, other beings like ourselves must experience life similarly.

4. A solipsistic view of reality becomes feasible, despite an innate urge to imagine others exist.

5. Therefore, if our own experiences AND those of others cannot be known to be real, we can at best conclude such information to be irrelevant. What, then, is real?

6. Only the interrelationships BETWEEN conscious beings can be real.

7. Therefore: Empathy.

8. Because empathy is a human being's only solid grasp on reality, the creature incapable of empathy is a monster that threatens reality itself. This is a danger even for introspective sociopaths who realize the nature and meaninglessness of their own existence, because they may then decide life is not worth living and engage in destructive behaviors.

I hope this makes sense. I've tried to make sense of it for years, but it's hard to put into words. 

Monday, February 20, 2012


From a reader:

I wanted to send you a response to an excerpt you posted earlier with regard to amphetamine use and its impact on the sociopath mind. As I am sure you are aware, there are neurobiological variances in a sociopath brain when compared to controls. I've written an essay on this myself, focusing on what changes are present, the purpose of the altered areas of the brain, and how to handle forms of agnosia such as this, since I believe that there are huge misunderstandings about the "disorder," even among the psychiatric field.

As I was saying: there are differences, and the sociopath brain does indeed process amphetamines differently than others. When amphetamines were administered to sociopaths during an experiment, they released four times the amount of dopamine as non-sociopaths. To quote my website:

"Joshua Buckholtz, a graduate student in psychology, pronounced to the media that 'a hyper-reactive dopamine reward system may be the foundation for some of the most problematic behaviors associated with psychopathy.' Dopamine (DA) is a catecholamine neurotransmitter commonly associated with enjoyment. It is used in the prediction of success, motivation, and cognition, and released during positive experiences, such as intercourse. Researchers at the Vanderbilt University employed positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) to measure dopamine release and the brain’s reward system. They discovered that both were heightened among those driven by psychopathic personalities. Likewise, people with high levels of psychopathy had almost four times the amount of dopamine released to the amphetamines administered during a scientific test. The obvious conclusion is that psychopaths are driven to pursue reward, but not restrained by apprehension.  

"This information is important, because it provides statistically normal persons a fascinating insight into dealing with psychopaths. Rather than advising them against negative experiences, such as prison, they must encourage positive ones, like freedom. The psychopath is inherently selfish, and if he desires to do what is best for himself, he must stress the importance of setting goals, and avoiding a pattern of reckless indulgence, because it is easy for him to do so, given the absence of reticence or realistic hesitation."

I'm not sure if you have already discovered this information elsewhere, as I have not read all of your posts, but - just in case. Here you go.

(Diagnosed as a sociopath four months ago),

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What is a sociopath's weakness?

I think the young sociopath's biggest weakness is trusting in the power of logic and reasoning. In this post I talked about how high functioning sociopaths (more than empaths) realize that it is not the content so much as the context of a message or belief that is important. It hardly matters if you are speaking the most precious pieces of wisdom ever uttered, some people will just not care or not listen or will misinterpret what you say. People who realize the importance of context over content can go on to be great leaders. People who do not realize this go on to be great scapegoats -- often much later in history to be labeled martyrs.

Punishment comes to two types of people: those who deserve to be punished, and those who are punished to send a message to everyone else that the ruling party is powerful and should not be toyed with. The first can lead to the second as long as the punishment is well-publicized. The second sometimes coincides with the first, but not always. Sometimes people get stuck on the wrong/losing side of an issue by chance and they end up being made-an-example-of through no fault of their own. Examples could be well-meaning Nazis in pre-World War II Germany, American Confederates in the Civil War, etc. These type of people end up getting castigated not because what they did was "wrong," but as a signal to others that the winning party is strong and will not tolerate disobedience. Everyone should be worried about both scenarios happening to them, but the "innocent" should be especially worried about the latter.

I have always been something of a hothead -- always trying to overthrow little dictators as I encounter them. I loathe incompetence and obsess over efficiency, so I'd typically rather just oust those who offend my tender sensitivities than put up with them to any degree. Of course one need supporters to stage coupes. This is where I've sometimes succeeded, sometimes failed. Sometimes my charisma has been enough to gain a critical mass of followers, or in some cases the popularity of the leader was so low that his enemies quickly became my friends. When the incompetence has been less obvious, however, or the leader was popular, I've consistently failed and have even been vilified for my troubles.

Because of my love of efficiency, I've always wanted to be as direct as possible. I'd think that surely the people would understand if I just present the arguments and let them judge for themselves. But people are stupid and blind and doubt anything that contradicts what they "know" to be true (actually, conveniently, one of the reasons why sociopaths can remain undetected so well). It took me a long time to learn that indirect attacks often were much more effective than direct attacks. To this day, I am still more frightened by an angry mob than anything else. As Galileo learned, there are many victims of the inconvenient truths they espoused. And to the mob -- question the origin of your beliefs, lest you be a puppet to an unknown puppeteer.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why sociopaths seem more normal than normal

One of the reasons that the average person won't be able to identify a sociopath when she meets one is that sociopaths do a better job of acting normal than even neurotypical people do. Here's an illustration of what I mean: once I had a colleague review a resume I'd drafted using several different typefaces. The colleague, in an effort to make the document appear uniform, insisted that more space be put here, less there. I explained that the spacing was actually uniform, according to the program, and that the lack of uniformity was just the result of an optical illusion. She told me that it doesn't matter if the spacing is technically uniform, it doesn't matter if it is an optical illusion, the whole point of the endeavor is for the spacing to appear uniform, so if it doesn't appear uniform, we're not going to change the human perception of the document, we're just going to change the document.

Uber-empaths always feel like they need to be true to their feelings. If they feel something, it must be right. But sometimes these more emotional empaths have the equivalent of optical illusions -- maybe they are cranky and overly sensitive, maybe they are hormonal, maybe they are taking mood modifying drugs. Reality is different for everyone, but most empaths aren't daily confronted with that fact like sociopaths are. So empaths just go on their merry little way screaming in a coffee shop when their order is incorrect and generally being true to their feelings even if it makes them look like a crazy person.

Sociopaths, on the other hand, realize that emotions are at best shadows of truth and at worst complete fabrications. Sociopaths are not interested in being true to their feelings, but rather constantly projecting an image of normalcy. This ability to detach actual emotions felt with impressions conveyed is why some politicians and celebrities succeed and some don't. Nowadays everyone has an image consultant. The average person knows that. But does the average person realize to what extent the expression of emotions or convictions is being falsified in order to convey what the audience perceives?

Today I had an opportunity to do a little public speaking. By working with the uber-empath's predictable propensity to the emotional equivalent of optical illusions, I was successfully able to convey sincerity much better than if I had actually been feeling it. I think there may be a career in politics for me after all.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Song: Just hold me

A reader sent this to me "A song for the brokenhearted -- asking the right question, but not expecting the surprising answer."

"Just Hold Me"

Comfortable as I am,
I need your reassurance
Comfortable as you are,
You count the days
But if I wanted silence I would whisper
If I wanted loneliness I'd choose to go
If I liked rejection I'd audition
And if I didn't love you, you would know

And why can't you just hold me?
And how come it's so hard?
And do you like to see me broken?
And why do I still care?

You say you see the light now
at the end of this narrow hall
I wish it didn't matter
I wish I didn't give you all

Poor little misunderstood baby
No one likes a sad face
But I can't remember life without him
I think I did have good days
I'm sure I did have good days

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Like father, like daughter (part 3)

My response:

I'm actually amazed that you have intuited so well how best to deal with your daughter.  I always advise parents of sociopathic leaning children to stay extremely consistent, don't get emotional, don't be critical to the extent that they feel like you are rejecting them or will reject who they are, don't punish -- incentivize and make the child see what's in it for them.

I think that sociopaths (particularly young ones) actually feel happier and thrive better in a world of clearly defined boundaries and rules that are so consistently enforced, the child will just start to take them as a given.  I think having simple cause and effect rules/boundaries that have clear and predictable outcomes for acceptance/violation encourages the young sociopath to think of life as an interesting puzzle that can be gamed.  As long as the young sociopath believes that he or she can acquire some advantage through skillful planning and execution (and finds some measure of success, which I feel is almost a given), they will stay committed to the structure of the game you have set up.  It's why sociopaths can be ruthless businessmen fiercely defending the principles of capitalism.

The worst thing that parents can do is to be inconsistent.  It makes the child sociopath think that the game is rigged and it doesn't matter what he or she does, except to the extent that he or she can outcheat the cheater (the parent).  Other big mistakes are being emotional (it's insulting to the child and he or she will lose respect for you).  If you react emotionally and negatively to the child, the child will perceive it as a clear betrayal and one that will instantly dissipate any trust in the relationship.

This is a very important topic you have raised.  Would you allow me to publish this exchange?  I can redact out any information that you believe is too personal.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Like father, like daughter (part 2)


M.E.: I don't think a sociopath will necessarily be a bad parent.  Of course some sociopaths have no interest in children at all.  And some have no interest in careers, or animals, or art, or whatever else, but there is a great deal of variety.  I have little relatives that I love.  I definitely have failings when I am around them.  Sometimes I have the urge to choke them, but have never done it in anger.  If the parent associates with them enough to feel like they are an extension of themselves, there's no reason why a sociopath couldn't be a devoted and excellent parent.


Thank you for your insight.

Yes she does.

Her dad and I are meeting with a doctor next week to have her evaluated for ADD. Her dad says children that are medicated at an early age can better withstand the pressure to conform and can learn to regulate their behavior to a socially acceptable level, thus decreasing the need to self-medicate or act out in aggression or violence later. Her dad believes that our society does not recognize and respect that sociopaths are a vital evolutionary adaptation. Because of ignorance, fear, and the need to control, educators begin to ostracize and isolate these children, causing them to internalize a belief that they are flawed, preventing these children from discovering and valuing their uniqueness. Frustration and anger build, exacerbating or even causing behaviors typically associated with ASPD. We of course will only mention that her dad has ADD, not that he is a sociopath or that I have a borderline personality.

My daughter does not routinely exhibit aggression, but frustration. I actually envy her ability not to take on the emotions of others. She does not have a flat affect at all. She is outgoing and charming, but will turn it off if the desired response is not achieved. She lives in the moment and gages value by her satisfaction level. I got called from her Summer camp because a child accused my daughter of hitting her while in the bathroom and bruising her ribs. When asked what happened she, with her ribboned pigtails,freckles, and stoic stare said in a low voice, " I have no idea what you are talking about." It was a little chilling because I could tell she was guilty. So I insisted that the staff should monitor the bathrooms. They agreed. Problem solved.

She does have friends, though she speaks of them as if she owns them, and will discard them if they displease her.She enjoys life. She likes music and art and playing with her brother, if he follows her rules. She loves to cook. She is very task motivated when interested. She does not like rules, but if I am clear that she can do A if she does B, or we do not hit because someone might hit back, then she will listen, if I remain calm and am not critical.

I feel like many of her statements to me are insincere or what she thinks she is supposed to say to get her way or to control my reactions to her. I want her to trust that I am on her side and she does not have to pretend. I don't want to change her, only give her a chance to see she is perfect the way she is and she can accomplish her dreams and simply ignore anyone who cannot appreciate her. She has a natural confidence that I do not want destroyed. I don't want her to have to fight for a satisfying life the way her dad and I have done. I really need to get educated.

P.S. Sociopaths are lifesavers in emergencies. My ex and I witnessed a minivan overturn in an intersection. I instantly started shaking and crying envisioning someone suffering in pain or a child scared. I screamed to stop because we had to help. He said, "Damn! Stay in the car!" The van was surrounded by a crowd, looking at each other.

My ex walked up, calmly told the driver to turn off the engine and unlock the doors. He then opened the rear door, assessed injuries, helped 2 people out of the van, then walked back to our car. He was as calm as before it happened.  I was impressed...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Like father, like daughter (part 1)

From a reader:

I emailed a couple years ago when I was still playing the victim and trying to change my husband. I still struggle with both, but less often. We were married almost a decade and recently divorced. I will email later in detail about my ongoing process of acceptance and a determination to be a good parent. I believe my empathy for my ex and honesty about who I am is vital, if we are to be good parents. I will not allow my anger to endanger what is important to both of us. My faults were many and destructive. I would not surrender. He does not pretend to think like many other people. He went from a life of addiction and behaviors that harmed others to now, with many years clean and sober and a PhD in counseling. He acknowledges being a sociopath and for many years was on disability for that reason, until he got through grad school. Trust me, I was the perfect toy, a whole lotta fun... until he was no longer having fun. The perfect match. It took me years to catch on. I have recently been diagnosed as Borderline at middle age. He taught me about me, though the outcome was not what he expected. I will not tell him he helped me of course. He still gets angry and threatens my life and then denies it, but today I know I am not, as he used to say, "psychotic, delusional, and hearing things." I just hang up and do not engage. Next phone call is civil of course. He really was good. I also exhibit many of his traits, though I feel guilt and remorse. I really tried.

I have had people say he will abuse our children. I do not agree. I have seen fear in him one time, when our daughter was born and was not breathing. I knew to be scared because he never showed fear before or since. He cried twice, both times about the kids and their safety.

Our children adore their daddy. They are with him 3 weekends a month and every time he gets time off work and holidays. Unless you can convince me otherwise, I believe he loves them fiercely. He has a great fear of their being mistreated at school. He was subjected to harsh punishment in elementary school. All he wanted to know was what he had done wrong. Our 5 yr old son seems to be an empath.  Our daughter is 7. Wow! Her dad and I can talk constructively about how to teach her. If she knows what is in it for her, she will adjust her own behavior. She is fearless and passionate and I love that about her. As long as I keep my word to her, she feels safe and trusts me. I do not believe that it is impossible for a sociopath to be a good loving parent. Will you tell what you know?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sociopath quotes: denounce

Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I am currently in the longest serious relationship that I have been in for approximately the past decade.  I used to not be good at any long term relationship.  Even family relationships would have blow ups and times of estrangement.  I got sick of the drama so I started learning little ways to keep the ship righted.  Now I resolve small issues before they become big issues and I ensure that I am always a net positive in their life.  I basically just channeled my efficiency obsessed self into it, and I am quite good at it now.

The things I have been thinking about recently is what is the proper role of manipulation in a relationship?  I have always said that everyone wants to be seduced (trademark pending?  I feel like that should be the sequel to "Everyone Poops").  With this current relationship, I performed the seduction perfectly.  To use a baseball analogy, it's been my no-hitter.  It was not easy and it was not always clear that it would turn out so well.  (I almost think that it was because I felt no expectations about the relationship being anything but a fun distraction.  I felt no performance pressure, so I performed nearly perfectly.)  I'd tell you about it, but like a baseball no-hitter, the story of a perfect seduction is actually sort of boring.

My question is, now that I have a relationship that seems like it could last and I am interested in exploring that option, do I keep seducing?  Or actually get real?  Well, that's sort of not the question anymore because I have already gotten at least a more real as the relationship has progressed.  I guess it's more like, stay real?  Or step back in and "fix," seduce, or manipulate when the situation warrants it?  Or I guess that's not really the question either, because framed that way the answer would of course be step back in.  I think the question is more like, when would the situation warrant it?  Should it be a most of the time thing?  Or only part of the time?

Things I think:

  • If people could be manipulated/seduced into being happy without knowing that is the source fo their happiness, they would typically choose that (ignorance is bliss, blue pill over the red pill, or everyone wants to be seduced).
  • Some people would feel betrayed if they ever did find out that they were being "managed."
  • People find things out eventually, or things have a way of being found out.
  • Small fixes sometimes just mask bigger problems that don't have such easy "fixes".  
  • I tend to respect people less in proportion to the amount that I manipulate them.  
  • Manipulation is turning down an opportunity to try to find a real mutual understanding on an issue.
  • Mutual understanding usually means the other person is getting better at pleasing me, i.e. reciprocating the seduction/maintenance.  
Other than that, I really don't know what to think.  And yes I realize how funny it is for me to be asking you for relationship advice for a change.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Mystery of Marie Jocelyne

I've been asked to feature a new documentary about a con woman, "The Mystery of Marie Jocelyne," reviewed at this Wall Street Journal blog.

The official blurb:

Since 2007, filmmakers Martha Shane and Dan Nuxoll have been chasing the enigmatic Marie Castaldo, convicted criminal, alleged con-artist, likely sociopath, and proprietor of scandal-plagued film festivals. Their suspense-filled documentary The Mystery of Marie Jocelyne will take the audience on a voyage of discovery from Africa to Paris to L.A. to Queens to Riker’s Island, and finally to the small apartment in London where they finally met Marie face to face. They are currently raising funds to complete production via the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. Check out their video, and help solve the mystery of Marie! 

Friday, February 10, 2012


From a reader:

  • Ruled by objectivity and rational thought rather than subjective emotion
  • Foundations are ever-shifting, ultimately only an illusion
  • Values order and logic, though the former is unattainable and the latter inconsistent
  • Understands the world only through its own experience
  • Believes that meaning is a human construct
  • May have a reflexive awareness of difference between itself and others, and thinks that it is better
  • Not only the natural world, but also people are objects to be studied and manipulated
  • Values the individual, the self, above all else

(Archaeology and Modernity, Julian Thomas, 2004, Routledge, p. 2-3

Sound familiar?

I’ve recently been considering the possible relationship between sociopathic personalities and the key components of Modernity/the modern mode of thought. It may be possible that we all are just children of our time. Any thoughts?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sociopaths in news: Anonymous

A reader sent me this article featuring Barrett Brown, one of the faces of anonymous. It's an interesting portrait of the man and the organization.  I saw some things that suggested sociopath to me, but it's so difficult to know what is really going on in someone else's head.  Under the teaser: "From a tiny Uptown apartment he's organizing a worldwide collective of hackers that brought down HBGary and helped overthrow the government of Tunisia."

Finally, there is the inscrutable topic itself. Anonymous is sometimes referred to in the mainstream media as a group or a collective—the Christian Science Monitor went with “a shadowy circle of activists”—but Anonymous, per se, doesn’t exist. It has no hierarchy, no leadership. So even though Bloomberg and others have called Brown a spokesman for the group (which, again, isn’t a group at all), Brown denies having any position within Anonymous. 

“Anonymous is a process more than it is a thing,” Brown tells Isikoff. “I can’t speak on behalf of Anonymous, because there’s no one who can authorize me to do that.”

When he explains Anonymous to a newbie, Brown relishes the inevitable confusion and will toggle between sincerity and irony to heighten it. Until you’ve spent some time with him, it’s hard to know what to believe. When you’ve gotten to know him better, it’s even harder. 

“You have to remember,” Brown says, reclining in the green lawn chair, one arm slung over its back, a cigarette dangling between his fingers, “we’re the Freemasons. Only, we’ve got a sense of humor. You have to wield power with a sense of humor. Otherwise you become the FBI.” Here Brown is half-kidding. 
Brown wrote the following in an essay titled “Anonymous, Australia, and the Inevitable Fall of the Nation-State”:

“Having taken a long interest in the subculture from which Anonymous is derived and the new communicative structures that make it possible, I am now certain that this phenomenon is among the most important and under-reported social developments to have occurred in decades, and that the development in question promises to threaten the institution of the nation-state and perhaps even someday replace it as the world’s most fundamental and relevant method of human organization.”
As Brown paces and recounts some of the highlights he’s amassed in just 29 years, it’s tempting to brand him as a fabulist. He’ll begin an anecdote with “I once had to jump out of a moving cab in Dar es Salaam.” But then he mentions that he went to Preston Hollow Elementary School with George W. Bush’s twin daughters. My mother taught the Bush twins at Preston Hollow. I tell him this, and he remembers my mother.

“I was the poet laureate of Preston Hollow!” he says. 
Later that night, I call my mother, who taught him art. “Do you remember a kid named Barrett Brown from Preston Hollow?”

“Barrett Brown? Oh, my God,” she says, instantly recalling an elementary student she taught more than 20 years ago. “I don’t remember them all. But I remember him. Yes, he was the poet laureate. I don’t have it anymore, but I kept that poem for years.”

Having now had several corroborative conversations like the one with my mother, I am forced to conclude that most of what Brown says is accurate—if not believable. 

I also like this part (it reminds me of my own shockingly flat learning curve, as manifest by things like my inability to figure out how to mail a package):

He wears the same outfit every day. He owns a dozen identical blue pin-striped oxford shirts. He wears only boots because he hasn’t bothered to learn to tie shoelaces properly. (When Nikki Loehr told me that being Brown’s girlfriend can be exhausting because she must work to keep him on track, citing as one example of Brown’s ADD-powered absent-mindedness his inability to “tie his own shoes,” I thought she was kidding. She wasn’t.)

It was hard to pick representative selections from the article that would lead me to armchair diagnose him with even a semblance of accuracy (even for armchair diagnosis).  He does seem like an interesting guy, though, and I think it is helpful sometimes for people to realize that not everyone thinks like them.  That some people do things just because.  Or for their vanity.  Or because they need much more stimulation than a normal life would provide.  And that they will do whatever it takes.  The caption to the photo of him reads, "'He demanded that this story mention he outgrew his Ayn Rand phase when he was 17. He said, 'If you don’t put that in there, I will personally DDoS the f--- out of you.'"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The divided brain

From a reader:

This may or may not be of interest to you, but it did make me think of you so I thought I'd send it:

It is a new perspective by psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist on the significance of the anatomical division of the brain (i.e. left vs right hemisphere). He does not make reference to sociopathic behaviour but it would be difficult not to make some associations.

It struck a chord with me as I have always found the existence of sociopaths profoundly disembodied, ie living in their heads, in a concrete, abstract, explicit, decontextualised and heavily simplified world.

You might find it interesting.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lying fluently

I was going out for cheeseburgers with my friend the other day.  There was no parking, so I told her to park in the garage for a nearby mega-music shop.  I thought the chances of getting towed were quite low, but I also thought we might as well walk through the shop and have "witnesses" should there be a problem.  It was a slow night in the shop, though, and so we got immediately accosted by a salesclerk.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes, do you stock Shure microphones?"  I was half hoping that he wouldn't know, and would just send us downstairs to where the DJ stuff was (and the exit).

"Sure, I'll take you down.  What are you looking for?"

"SM-57s,"  I responded, choosing what I consider the rarer model that he would be less likely to know about.

"Oh, are you doing some recording or something?"

"No, sound reinforcement."

"Oh, ok.  Well, here they are."

"How many do you have in stock?"

"How many do you need?"

"I don't know, maybe 5 or more?  It's for my brother, I told him I would swing by and check to see if you had them in your inventory."

"Well, we should have at least 5, maybe as many as a dozen."

"How much are they?"


"Do you do any sort of bulk discount?"

"Only for orders of several dozen or more."

"Not even like a 10% something?

"Sorry man, no."

"Ok, thanks.  I'll let him know.  Thanks for your help."

My friend asked as we left, "What was that?  Do you really need microphones."

"No," I replied, "I was just making sure they would remember us if it came to complaining about a tow charge, and it was on our way out anyway."

"It's unsettling to see how fluently you lie.  I mean, I thought I knew from the start that it was a lie, but then you kept adding these odd details and follow-up questions that normal people wouldn't think to include in a lie and I started to wonder myself.  You did that same thing on our trip a couple years ago with those city rats -- you made up an entire life history on the spot without a single hesitation.  It makes me wonder how I would ever be able to tell if you were lying to me."

"Yeah, I know.  I say it with just the right earnestness and sincerity.  It's sometimes hard for me to tell when I'm lying too."

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I have a hard time understanding verbal speech.  I can't pay attention to conversations with the television on -- my friends hate me for it.  Even if I'm really concentrating, I can only understand 90-95% of what is said when I am watching television or a film.  In fact, most of the time I don't bother going to the cinema, but wait until a movie is on DVD to watch it with the subtitles.

I noticed it when I was a teen.  I assumed that I had hearing loss due to playing in rock bands and attending loud clubs.  I started religiously wearing earplugs, hoping (as a musician) to guard what remained of my hearing.  When I stopped studying music and went to graduate school, I had to sit at the very front of every class, or I couldn't "hear" what the professor was saying.

Concerned that I might need hearing aids, I had my hearing tested several times.  Each time, my hearing was completely normal.  I was concerned that I was just gaming the hearing test.  When I was little I also had my hearing tested.  I learned to anticipate "tones" by watching the face of the person giving the test -- looking for "tells," microexpressions or other evidence that I should be raising my hand.  (Sociopaths must be difficult to diagnose for certain things because of this.)  At my last hearing test, several years ago, I insisted that I face away from the examiner who was already in another, darkened room separated by glass.  I passed with absolutely normal hearing.  Still I doubted the results, wondering if my acute sense of timing was causing me to hear tones in what I knew would otherwise be an uncomfortably long silence.

The puzzle was that I did not have a hard time hearing in general.  I took several acoustics and sound recording classes at university and had an exceptional "ear" across the sound spectrum.  It was just speech that I had a hard time deciphering.  Not language.  My reading comprehension has always been off the charts.  Verbal language.

My friend's niece learned to read when she was just one year old from (shockingly) those "your baby can read" DVDs.  Someone opined that the niece might be hyperlexic, characterized by an extraordinary facility with written language, frequently paired with a difficulty in understanding verbal speech.  Hyperlexia is associated with the autism spectrum (as with other language issues), with some experts believing that all hyperlexics are autistic.  I don't think I'm hyperlexic.  I show no real signs.  I do think, however, that my inability to decode verbal speech has less to do with my ears and more to do with my brain.  Brain wiring?  Attentional problems?  Whatever it is, it seems to not affect music cognition, but that's another thing shared with the autism spectrum.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Overdiagnosing Asperger's

Two recent NY Times pieces discuss the overdiagnosis of Asperger's.

This op ed is written by someone who was mistakenly diagnosed with Asperger's as a teenager by his psychologist mother who (surprise!) specialized in Asperger's.  He eventually outgrew his social awkwardness, but wonders if he would have if he had been diagnosed younger, or would he have withdrawn even more in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy:

I wonder: If I had been born five years later and given the diagnosis at the more impressionable age of 12, what would have happened? I might never have tried to write about social interaction, having been told that I was hard-wired to find social interaction baffling.

The authors of the next edition of the diagnostic manual, the D.S.M.-5, are considering a narrower definition of the autism spectrum. This may reverse the drastic increase in Asperger diagnoses that has taken place over the last 10 to 15 years. Many prominent psychologists have reacted to this news with dismay. They protest that children and teenagers on the mild side of the autism spectrum will be denied the services they need if they’re unable to meet the new, more exclusive criteria.

But my experience can’t be unique. Under the rules in place today, any nerd, any withdrawn, bookish kid, can have Asperger syndrome.

The definition should be narrowed. I don’t want a kid with mild autism to go untreated. But I don’t want a school psychologist to give a clumsy, lonely teenager a description of his mind that isn’t true.

Under the headline: "Asperger's History of Over Diagnosis,"we get a shout out as the only people who might not eventually be labeled as being a bit of an Aspie:

For better or worse, though, Asperger syndrome has become a part of our cultural landscape. Comments about a person’s having “a touch of Asperger’s” seem to be part of everyday conversations. Even an episode of “South Park” last year was devoted to Asperger syndrome. We can only hope that better physiological markers distinguishing between the autism-spectrum disorders and pure social disabilities can stem this tide of ever more pathologizing.

But, as Martha Denckla, a pediatric neurologist at Johns Hopkins University, has lamented, the only Americans in the future who will perhaps not be labeled as having a touch of Asperger syndrome will be politicians and lobbyists. Members of the political establishment may have other kinds of psychopathology; but, unlike the rest of us, they at least cannot be thought of as Aspies.

Of course we can all be glad that we will never be diagnosed as having Asperger's (which doesn't mean that I won't sometimes throw out that I am also a little bit Aspie to get sympathy and leeway). I guess we can also be happy that people seem so reluctant to diagnosis anyone who isn't a murderer a sociopath (and categorically exclude children).  In my mind, though, I don't see anything wrong with labeling people a little bit Aspie or a little bit sociopathic, unless it's an issue of prescribing medication or other radically different treatment.  But if there are no meds and there is no treatment, then what is wrong with slapping a label on someone as long as it helps others understand them (and helps them understand themselves) better?

Thursday, February 2, 2012


A posting at recently featured this blog saying things like: "As everyone agrees, the word for getting rid of a whole subspecies is not 'cure'. I’m not quite sure what the right word might be, but it’s probably somewhere between extermination and genocide."

But specifically about this site:

I do not know the name of the person behind “Sociopath World”; doubtless that’s by design.  He or she (actually, screw it; I’m gonna go with he) refers to himself merely as “The Sociopath” on his contact page, as “M.E.” on Twitter, and as when he hands out his address (which makes me doubt that the “M.E.” Twitter handle is an actual set of initials).  No matter.  This is either a subtle and very labor-intensive hoax, or it’s your one-stop-shopping center for the interested empath (they call us “Empaths”, apparently, which I find both more precise and less condescending than the “neurotypical” label the Autistic Spectrum types seem to prefer).  The most popular posts end up on the FAQ list: Do Sociopaths Love?  Are Sociopaths Self-Aware? Am I a Sociopath? Can Sociopaths be “Good”? There are helpful how-to pointers:  How to break up with a sociopath, for example (the illustration to the right was taken from that particular entry; at least we know that sociopaths have a sense of humor). 

There are pop-culture observations: whether the new Twenty-first-century Sherlock really is a sociopath in the world of fiction, whether Lady Gaga is in real life, the potential infiltration of sociopaths into Occupy Wall Street drum circles. There’s a forum, rife with trolls and assholes and deleted posts; but there’s also legitimate debate there.  And surprisingly, it also seems to function as a kind of support group for people in emotional distress. 

You can even, I shit you not, order a Sociopath World t-shirt. 

So. ME is out there, fighting the good fight. He’s getting noticed (at least, his blog gets shitloads more comments than mine, not that that’s a high bar to clear in the wide webby world). He’s showing up on the occasional psych blogroll. So now, I’m going to sit back and see if the neurodiversity community is willing to pick up the torch.  If he is trying to kickstart the Vampire Rights League, though, I think he’s fighting an uphill battle.

Reading the comment section, there is a remarkable absence of people arguing that Aspies and Auties should not be lumped in with filthy, no-good sociopaths.  Instead we get things like: "When I first ran into I thought that’s what it was, evil trying to represent itself as less than totally harmful or at least as something not to be so rightly feared. I’m less sure, now, and we should probably all spend some time reading there."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Children's primer

I saw this the other day and was reminded of the Lovefraud types.  I especially like how it could be read by a six year old.

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