Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sociopath - pain = no empathy?

A reader asked this very interesting question:

I learned in a psych class that living things (or mammals, at least), thanks to the magic of mirror neurons, do not distinguish signs of distress in another creature from their own distress. You mention in your one post that you have a very detached stance to pain. What if what we think of as empathy is tied directly to the perception of pain? What if sociopathy is not primarily a lack of empathy, but a greatly altered perception of pain both in oneself and in others? Would it be possible that if an empath's normal neurological responses to pain were tampered with, they would experience less empathy? Could the reverse be true for sociopaths?

I always like these sorts of explanations that somehow tie together different, seemingly unrelated aspects of sociopathy together -- e.g. so insightfully perceptive (enough to be exceptionally manipulative) but lacking empathy?  It's really an odd disorder, with a suite of traits that so consistently present amongst sociopaths and yet seem so scattershot.

One of my favorite unifying theories from a psychologist named Joseph Newman is the idea that sociopathy is largely an attentional disorder, where the sociopath is getting all the right input but is just not paying attention to them in the same way that everyone else is, so they are meaningless to him.

[One of my own pet theories is that a lot of the sociopaths traits (charm, manipulation, lying, promiscuity, chameleonism, compartmentalization, mask wearing, lack of empathy, lack of strong gender, racial, social, sexual or other identity) is largely attributable to a very weak sense of self.  I believe that all personality disorders share a distorted/abnormal sense of self, that that is essentially what makes them a "personality" disorder, and not something else.]  

I also like the one the reader suggested above -- that to the extent sociopaths do not feel things like pain the same way empaths do, the mirror neuron cues are just falling on deaf ears.  But I wonder.  A lot of sociopaths have complained that they have in fact felt something akin to empathy in isolated incidents, particularly if they happen to be feeling something similar at the same moment and happen to recognize that same emotion in others.  This seems to me to be more attentional, but I don't know.

71 comments:

  1. 1st
    (all is good and well in the world)

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    1. It really is fine. Ty.

      Just moist. No windstorm.

      Delete
  2. I think you need to be a bit cautious with your weak sense of self theory on sociopaths.

    I agree, some do exhibit, ahem, flexible selves, more often than not having several different versions of people running simultaneously in the appropriate circle of people. However, this probably isn't a magic bullet. I imagine there are probably some sociopaths who have developed such a dominant, pervasive almost Alpha-Like version that is so effective and well understood that there isn't a need to be chameleon-like anymore.

    It doesn't mean they lose the ability to be flexible, or lack for guile, simply that they found a pair of shoes that fit well for most walks in life.

    A lot of people eventually adapt this way, in that they stop adapting. They settle. I have a feeling normal empathetic people probably do this a lot earlier than sociopaths, if the sociopath ever does.

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    1. AGREE.

      i think the reason sociopaths have a hard time keeping in line with gender/sexual/socioeconomical "norms" is because they've found what they feel to be a better version of what everyone else is doing. being ruled by logic (this is more efficient, this suits me better, this makes me more appealing, etc.) as opposed to an emotional pull to fit in to be part of something creates a much stronger sense of true self.

      i don't think that by being flexible with your personality around others takes away from your true self. you can always go back to being you as soon as the person you are chameleoning goes away.

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  3. I used be able to watch videos/view images of the goriest and most explicit nature: brain avulsions, total dismemberment, horrific murders. In fact, I craved viewing them. There was something in there that was fascinating to me. This was when I was much younger. As I got older, these pictures began to bother me. Not because I felt guilt or empathy, but because I had suffered accidents/injuries of my own, and they served to remind me of them. Now I avoid them, for the most part, because in each body I see the inevitability of my own mortality, and I always end up relating them to my own situation.

    The same holds true for emotional pain: just yesterday a girl related a story about a woman who's mother was killed by a distracted drive. I laughed when I heard the specifics; it sounded like such a glorious explosion of metal. Everyone else was horrified, and some were holding back tears, but I couldn't stop grinning--I had such fun recreating the scene in my mind. I couldn't empathize. But if another person's emotional pain reminds me of the few, and I mean 2-3, things left from childhood that are still painful to me, I am distracted and lost in my own pain. This gives the appearance of empathizing; it's not. I don't cry for the other person; I cry for myself.

    That erroneous conclusion ("They're crying while I'm crying; they must understand me!")is what, I think, leads empaths, especially those with emotional ties to the sociopath, to insist that they're "not that bad" or that "there's really deep feelings in there." Perhaps. But those deep feelings will always be self-centered. If a sociopath cries because you're breaking up with them, it's not because they've suddenly grown a heart to pine after you with. It's because they've lost control, because their plans have been ruined, and they're thinking about how the break-up will fuck things over.

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  4. What you're describing is more along the lines of recognition empathy via projecting your own experiences instead of intuitive empathic reactions that can occur outside of projection your own related experiences. Simply put, with no reference point, general or exact, you can't appreciate or realize what the other person is going through since you lack an emotional connection or bond through some lack of emotional cognition that is common, if not staple, among sociopaths.

    It's a common problem of why a lot of people who lack "normal" levels of empathy don't know they lack it, because the very concept of being blind to what a person is feeling seems stupid when you know how to feel things too. Those blind spots you have that are so glaring are constantly overshadowed by common projections day in and day out, and thus the anomalies are just shrugged off and soon forgotten.

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    1. TNP, how long have you been aware of your sociopathy?

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    2. I'm not a sociopath.

      I'm a proto-psycho-anthropomorphized Nietzscheien uber-aspie cyborg terminator 3000 that has become self-aware.

      I'm coming for you, John Connor. And also you, Wendy, you ginger temptress fast food tycoon. Your empire will be mine, next, the world!

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    3. Fake Monica. Why is Monica amade a fake more than any other SW Regular?

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    4. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery...

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    5. Wonder how many Fake Monica's there are ? I haven't faked Monica in months. So there must be a few lol

      P.S My name is Monica, and I love black cock

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    6. I love ALL cock.

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    7. I love horse cock.

      Delete
    8. WHY stop at horse?

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    9. Yes, horse cock is JUST the appetizer.

      Delete
    10. However a horse cock in my ass fills me right up!

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    11. Dr Franklin Fomentile PhdApril 25, 2012 at 8:34 AM

      This is PERVERTED.

      Delete
  5. We tipped the canoe. I scraped my foot badly on sharp rock. Back at the room, I scrubbed it under faucet washing the insides of the sliced dermis. He looked at me said ahh, you have a high tolerance to pain...

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  6. fear=excitement for a socio

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  7. all is well in the land of good and plenty

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  8. supperhigh functioning apsie with an evil twist

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  9. Dr Franklin Fomentile PhdApril 25, 2012 at 5:12 AM

    [One of my own pet theories is that a lot of the sociopaths traits (charm, manipulation, lying, promiscuity, chameleonism, compartmentalization, mask wearing, lack of empathy, lack of strong gender, racial, social, sexual or other identity) is largely attributable to a very weak sense of self. I believe that all personality disorders share a distorted/abnormal sense of self, that that is essentially what makes them a "personality" disorder, and not something else.]

    I think this concept holds the genesis of personality disorders and lights the path toward the healing of them.

    __________________________________________________________

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    1. A poet and don't know itApril 25, 2012 at 5:43 AM

      Here I sit, all broken hearted, to take a shit...but only farted.

      Delete
    2. Dr Franklin Fomentile PhdApril 25, 2012 at 5:59 AM

      Just don't make fake Dr Franks he he

      Delete
  10. Empathy plays a huge roll in the how all the other defining traits play out in a sociopath. But empathy is not just about pain. It's about pleasure as well. If you lack the ability to experience a wide range of emotions, or say... you're not capable of identifying your own feelings; your ability to empathize will be effected by this.

    The person who experiences the widest range of emotions and can identify them, will likely able to empathize with the most people. So the polar opposite of said person, would probably not have a conscience. Would not be able to feel guilt, remorse, or compassion. Empathy is not something that happens whether you've experienced an emotion/feeling, or not. You can't identify with something you have not experienced yourself, on an emotional level, even if you're an empath. You may be able to intellectualize it, but you won't be able to emotionally relate because it has largely to do with emotional intelligence. So if it hasn't been learned or stored in the memory from your own experience, it won't matter if you're an empath. You won't relate.

    So the idea of sociopathy being an attentional disorder, appeals in a lot of ways, because we are talking about emotional learning, and memory when we speak of empathy. We are also talking about identifying with the self when we speak of our own emotions and feelings, so the lack of self appeals as well.

    I am unable to identify with my emotions from the my past. I am able to store the memory of events very well, but not the memory of emotions. Because of this detachment I lack the ability to relate to other people's emotions, especially when they talk about their emotions related to past events in their lives. I can never understand how people can dwell on past emotional experiences, because I have no memory of my own. This hold true when talking about past struggles, or aggravation, but it also holds true for past pleasure, and joy. So people who dwell on the past (emotionally) annoy me to say the least, and it's frustrating to be around so many people who do that, when I don't and will never be able to. It's hard to tolerate the things we can't understand if emotional intelligence is what's needed to identify with it. The human brain does not like to leave any gasp in reason. So not every space can be filled by intellectualizing it. And if all you can do is intellectualize, those emotional gaps must be filled up with other things. Empty things.
    Like empty calories they burn up too easily, and provide little fuel to get by on.

    My two cents.

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    1. This relates to voices. The voice reflects one's range of emotions or lack thereof. Yesterday, I saw a man I have known for a long time. He has it all. He is a professional, gorgeous, but kind and humble as well as confident. I was noticing how his voice was naturally melodious. I have several other friends who are connected to their emotions. They have voices with a natural range of tones which fluctuate in a pleasing way. It is relaxing to listen to them talk. The sociopath I knew had a flat voice, as I said. However, in between the two are a whole range of possibilities.

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    2. You can mimic the voice of another...
      If you're really talented, you become capable of doing so all the time. You can't properly mimic someone, and have it pass as truth without emotional effect.

      The other night I posted a blog article on black and white thinking when it comes to sociopaths, in the forum. It states that sociopaths can usually blend in even better than most people. They are very gifted in the area of imitation.

      A flat tone will not go unnoticed, and will not blend. Someone who has not mastered the art of mimicking, will end up keeping their flat effect... like and aspie for example.

      I'll use karaoke for my example. I'm pretty gifted when it comes to imitating the artist I happen to be singing. I can imitate at least 6 or more, different vocal artists. But I'm not sure if I have a genuine singing voice of my own. If I were to sing something a capella, my voice would probably be comprised of several different artists, or which ever artist's voice I could imagine singing that particular song. But to hear me sing... you would be very impressed with my singing voice. It's just that you're not being wowed by my own voice. It s the voice of another...

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    3. ^Those "whole rage of possibilities" of mastering a voice with emotion that you speak of is impossible
      for the sociopath. Most sociopaths go to the "humor"
      aspect to reach this possibility but fails.

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    4. Raven
      Put some of your singing on.

      I am not sure that a sociopath can mimic the voice of someone with a full range of emotion for any length of time, if at all.
      I have studied handwriting analysis for my whole life. Writing reflects the person's thinking. A person could only fake so far to the trained eye. I think that a person who was sensitive to voices would detect the faking of a sociopath. Perhaps, the sociopath could mimic a voice with the full range of emotions for a short time, but I think that would be all.

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    5. Monica
      You contradicted your 9:27 post or you changed your mind? Whatever - your very tiring........

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    6. How did I contradict myself?

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    7. "^Those "whole rage of possibilities" of mastering a voice with emotion that you speak of is impossible"

      Where on earth are you getting that statement from? I never mentioned a "whole range of possibilities", of mastering a voice with emotions, where the sociopath is concerned. I simply was talking about mirroring someone.

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    8. I didn't say that. An Anon did lol

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    9. I know that Monica. That's why I put anon's quote in before answering.

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    10. I just now realized that they were quoting you, Monica. No wonder it didn't make any sense. Ha!

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    11. Yep, but I would LOVE to hear you sing Raven. Could you put some on.

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    12. hahaha! I've never recorded myself, Monica...
      It's not like I do it for a living. I just like to perform, drink, and laugh at people!

      I did go to a new place just recently that gives you the option of them recording your karaoke performance, but I didn't choose it. I just couldn't imagine why I would. Perhaps people are really that serious about their singing, so they want a CD to show off with. I just do it to have a good time.

      You are required to learn how to sing if you grow up with my father. You're also required to learn at least one instrument. It's an image thing. He liked to e able to show his family off at church. I was made to sing in the church choir even though I hated church.

      I am able to play piano, drums, and the violin as well. I'm sure that's something you wouldn't expect from me. I don't see any reason to share that part of myself here.

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    13. That is very cool, Raven. I am learning to sing, too. It gives me something to do with my erotic impulses.

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    14. Heh... masturbation does the trick for me.

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    15. For my birthday present, put a video of you playing an instrument on U Tube. You would be in the great tradition of David.

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    16. Is that your way of telling me to give you proof?

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    17. No, not proof at all. I would just love to hear. Don't be so suspicious, Girlfriend. Not everyone is a sociopath he he

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    18. I don't trust anyone. Sociopath or no sociopath.

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    19. I hear you, Raven.

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    20. Good link. I have the lack of pleasure one. i hope I get it back.It is a mother fucker.

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    21. Raven, I also mimic when I sing. It is some of the best singing when mimicking. I can do many imitations, too. I don't have success with my own voice. My voice was pointed out to me at a lesson once. I had a bit of a freak out. I hated it, or I hated to hear it, or I didn't accept it, or I thought it was foreign. Idk. Basically, I just think I had never heard it. When you see the deaf person with the ear phones, hearing their voice for the first time ..that is what it felt/looked like.. naked, scared, shaking, anxious. I cried.

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    22. Wow. I can't imagine reacting that way to anything, no matter how foreign. Is that the only time you've done that?

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    23. Huh.

      I was NOT shaking. But I cried. I was not anxious, i was sad. I thought it was ugly and I did feel a bit naked.

      Is that shame? I think it felt something like that.

      Delete
  11. I would just like to say that reading this blog is so utterly satisfying...nice to know there are others that are stone cold on the inside and full of deceit on the outside...welcome home kaadedid :)

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  12. I'm still not always sure why empathy is such a good thing.

    "I'm in {insert emotional} pain! I sure hope someone can empathize with me, even though for them to truly be able to do that it means they must have experienced similar emotional pain and I'm hoping that my current experience dredges up those painful memories for them again, after they've probably paid for years of therapy to get over it, just so I don't have to hurt so much all by myself."

    Empaths are assholes. Just saying.

    And just so we're clear. I can be an asshole. This may or may not have anything to do with my occasional empathic abilities though.

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    1. I have never seen a person so into her head as you, Haven.

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    2. True Haven. You can be an asshole. Your statement makes that abundantly clear. You actually sound like you're throwing a tantrum.

      Just saying.

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    3. Sometimes tantrums are fun. But I've actually been quite clear headed all day. Well, up until now, when I'm actually quite drunk. No, I've thought a lot about empathy and the people that think it's the necessary requirement for humanity. it's not. Often empathy is boils down to a whole lot of selfishness.

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    4. You need to fucking get away from that dead ass shrink and begin to feel. Do you want to die--dead?

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    5. Haven: Humanity Expert

      I'll remember that.

      Anyway... who said anything today about it being a necessary requirement?

      Delete
  13. i'm not a sociopath, but i think our basic way of thinking is the same in that:
    emotions have evolved as shortcuts to conscious decisions. the conscious brain can't deal with the totality of the information that goes into it; you don't have to know what's going on at the machine code level to write a computer program.
    i think i am more aware of the raw data input and less aware of the emotional shortcut. i'm consciously aware of body language etc and of all the pros weighed up against the cons to make a decision.
    this also links with aspies, who would be more extreme in this respect and also have other traits.

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. i was going to write this sooner but got sidetracked.... i was impressed with the quality of the posts here. some great stuff.

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  16. Here's an eye opener. Mind over matter. Everything else is just immaterial

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  18. It’s amazing the number of sociopaths out there. Word is spreading that our very own Pastor Victor Kim is a sociopath. Although I don’t have a direct relationship with him, a number of people told me that he is subtile pathological liar. He doesn’t lie with no purpose. He creates an aura of trust and tries to influence you with his take on the situation. Because he is in a position of trust and counsel, people would be influence by him. I know joyce, his daughter is infamous for being a huge story teller. Everyone over look these lies because he is the pastor’s daughter. But it is becoming apparent after victor kim’s ouster from remnant church and AMI that it runs in the family.

    Our pastor Victor Kim of Remnant church was recently caught in Adultery. He was in an 10 year affair. This is one extramarital relationship we know about. There is a hint that he may be involve with other women. Pastor Victor Kim is very well respected in the Asian church community. It is said in these articles online that Victor’s wife and family were not too upset about this 10 year affair. 10 years!!!! They forgave him after a couple of days. That is amazing. They wanted him back as senior pastor of remnant church. Victor Kim a founding member of Acts Ministry International, also known as AMI. Due to his cheating ways, he was kicked out of AMI and Remnant Church. He disappears and disconnect contact with everyone other than his family. In addition to the affair, pastor Victor Kim and Eunice Kim has been discover taking church property and selling it for cheap to his family members. Victor and Eunice Kim sold the church property in exchange for a Mini cooper as a gilft. Very disappointing. I along with a few of my friends plan to leave remnant church soon. We don’t want to be a part of a church that was built by a sociopath.

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  19. Have you read the victor Kim book a biblical theology of prophetic worship. Even though victor Kim is a sociopath, he is an amazing scholar and writer.

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