Saturday, March 31, 2012

Theory of mind

A reader sent me a link to this Psychology Today blog post discussing how those in the dark triad (narcissists, Machiavellians, psychopaths) experience theory of mind.  The wikipedia definition of theory of mind is "the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from one's own."  It seems to overlap a little with cognitive empathy (which the article gets into a little).  The blog author further distinguishes between the social-perceptual component of theory of mind ("the ability to determine the mental states of others using immediately available non-verbal cues (e.g., eyes, face, hand gestures)") and the social-cognitive theory of mind ("involves the ability to reason about the mental state of others, and use that reasoning to predict or explain their behavior"), the former of which is tested by this "Mind in the Eyes" emotional recognition test (I scored 30).

The article itself is a little long and all over the place, but it makes some interesting points and some even more interesting conclusions.  One of which is that Machiavellians do more "mentalizing" than other people, "cognitively strategizing, scheming, and trying to infer the intentions of others," presumably to stay one step ahead.  Another seems suspect:

For most of our evolution, it payed to be cooperative and empathic. But during the course of our evolution, there were also selfish individuals who learned how to manipulate others to get what they wanted. They lacked empathy, perspective taking, and self-awareness (i.e., metacognition). Still, they had in tact lower-level perceptual theory of mind abilities that were good enough for them to manipulate others. In fact, their lower levels of empathy and higher levels of strategizing and spontaneous mentalizing worked to their advantage: whereas most people intuitively felt as though they were doing something wrong when they hurt others, these Machiavellian individuals didn't recieve [sic] the same emotional signals so they persevered toward their short-term selfish goals. In the process, they obtained more quantity of mates. Therefore, they remained in the human gene pool, along with their short-term mating orientation.

I can see that narcissists lack self-awareness, but what about Machiavellians and psychopaths?  I'm sort of underwhelmed by this guy's reasoning.  And he is a cognitive psychologist at NYU.  So credentials in the psychology world don't mean much?

But here's something else interesting I didn't know:

Andrew Whiten and Richard Byrne argue that primate intelligence stems from "Machiavellian Intelligence" -- the ability to manipulate and deceive others in the competition for scarce resources.


Friday, March 30, 2012

I feel your loss

Many readers have asked me how sociopaths respond to feelings of loss, either a break up, a death, etc. I discussed this once myself in the context of fungibility.  A sociopath reader agreed to share her own experiences regarding the loss of a partner.

He was the ultimate empath. Not blind to my sociopathy at all. Yet he embraced me and loved me unconditionally. It was an intense and giving sort of love, which suited my selfish love just fine. We were puzzle pieces.

One morning, I stopped hearing from him. No cheerful "Good morning, beautiful" text. One day turned to two days. On the third day (he didn't rise again), his brother sent out a mass message saying he was involved in a motor vehicle collision and was in critical, comatose condition. I expected to feel like I'd been sucker punched. Instead, I felt strangely the same. As devoid as I'd always been. I really thought it would work out and I'd get the sociopath's version of happily ever after, haha. We were planning on an extended vacation, just the two of us, for later that summer. After he passed, my sister, with whom he was on friendly terms, revealed to me that he had been planning on proposing that summer. She'd been sworn to secrecy.

Shit sucks. But you get over it. For those of us who have an emotional deficit, it's an easier and quicker process. I still miss his presence and unconditional acceptance, but I have no intentions of putting a halt to my life for a body that's six feet under. I'm currently dating a guy who displays distinct sociopathic traits and that has its own problems. I don't concern myself with what-ifs with the dead, unless it's the zombie apocalypse.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Emotional martyrdom

A reader sent me this article about emotional martyrs.  Martyrs of all types are perplexing to me.  I read the drivel on LoveFraud and wonder, why would anyone choose to see the world this way?  In which they are constantly being acted upon, never acting.  I always want to think that I control everything, even if that means that I am the reason why something has gone wrong.  It's very empowering and I surround myself by people who think like that as well because it rubs me the wrong way to have people blame me for their misfortunes.  In my mind, we all make choices and should all have to suffer the consequences.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the above referenced article suggests that there is a connection between martyrs and the conscience-less:

Martyrs are often attracted to difficult and abusive people. They have a compulsive need to change them, make these people good, and make them appreciate and respect them. They pick spouses who are brutal or intolerant, who lack a conscience, who deceive and manipulate them, and who resist the martyr’s efforts to reform them. It is interesting that they unconsciously choose to be around impossible people, and that their efforts to rehabilitate the latter are doomed to fail.

Do they really want to change us?  Or do they just like the abuse?  I'm inclined to think the latter.  My thoughts are that it's generally understood that people don't change so if people are around me, it must be because they like what I'm dishing out.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Amplifying pain

Today I had to do a painful dental procedure ("oh no!  your perfect smile!"  don't worry, it's still preternaturally perfect) that required that I be cognizant and in pain.  I knew it was going to be painful.  When it started, I focused on the pain, amazed at how painful it was.  I started focusing on the particular way the pain felt.  It was interesting to me.  I had never felt quite that way before.  I started thinking about the nature of pain, and in particular this pain, and I realized that I had been amplifying the pain in my mind.  I thought -- I should be minimizing this, not amplifying it.  So I started to try to do that instead.

My practioner had been trying to engage me in yes and no conversation (me grunting replies) and I had been too distracted.  I decided to become fully engaged in the conversation.  I focused on the sound of his voice and thought of the way he enunciated his fricatives.  I emphasized that hissing exhalation of noise in my mind until it became one, continuous rushing of air like the sound of waves crashing on a beach.  And the pain was the dull pull of the waves around my ankles -- pushing and receding and swirling the sand around my feet.

I was amazed at what a difference shifting my attention had made in my perception of the pain (my practitioner was amazed at my lack of pain as well).  I have a relative who is a physician and will frequently hypnotize his patients so I am aware that the perception of pain is largely mental.  I have even endured periods of intense pain without realizing it.  The oddest thing about the whole situation is that now, many hours later, the parts of my mouth that were treated during the initial period in which I was amplifying the pain are still quite tender.  The parts that were treated while I was ignoring the pain are not in the least.  It could be that the first parts of the procedure were actually more physically invasive, but they weren't.  It could be that my practioner started poorly and got better by the end.  Could it also be that my physical tissues remember the pain differently because I felt the pain differently while it was happening?

Even more interesting to me was thinking about all of these people in the world that focus on their pain.  Everyone knows someone like this.  No matter what happens to them, they always seem to be miserable.  My friend and I were just talking about a mutual acquaintance of ours who is this way.  He always complains that he has the worst job in the world.  He's a journalist.  Before that he was a solicitor.  Now he covers legal news, primarily by hanging out at the courthouse and watching legal proceedings or getting dirt from shady sources.  Does this sound like the worst job in the world?  He was so envious when I was funemployed that he quit his job and was still miserable.

I am infinitely fascinated by empaths (hyperbole), so I wonder -- is this why some empaths can be so miserable?  If anything, I am almost blissfully happy 90% of the time, whatever my circumstances happen to be at the moment.  Empaths seem to be complaining all the time.  Maybe I am doing a better job making good decisions than they are, but I think at least part of it has to do with my ability/choice to amplify happiness rather than pain.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Morality vs. rationality

I've mentioned Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, before.  He's probably best known for arguing that conservatives and liberals come from different moral universes in which they weigh values like fairness, harm, loyalty, authority, and purity differently and that difference explains their different opinions on moral and political issues.  He has a new book, "The Righteous Mind" in which he (according to this NY Times review) aims to expose some of the faulty reasoning employed on behalf of people's different moral beliefs.  Here are some selections of what I thought was most interesting/pertinent:

Haidt seems to delight in mischief. Drawing on ethnography, evolutionary theory and experimental psychology, he sets out to trash the modern faith in reason. In Haidt’s retelling, all the fools, foils and villains of intellectual history are recast as heroes. David Hume, the Scottish philosopher who notoriously said reason was fit only to be “the slave of the passions,” was largely correct. E. O. Wilson, the ecologist who was branded a fascist for stressing the biological origins of human behavior, has been vindicated by the study of moral emotions. Even Glaucon, the cynic in Plato’s “Republic” who told Socrates that people would behave ethically only if they thought they were being watched, was “the guy who got it right.”
***

We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided. The funniest and most painful illustrations are Haidt’s transcripts of interviews about bizarre scenarios. Is it wrong to have sex with a dead chicken? How about with your sister? Is it O.K. to defecate in a urinal? If your dog dies, why not eat it? Under interrogation, most subjects in psychology experiments agree these things are wrong. But none can explain why.

The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. Haidt shows, for example, how subjects relentlessly marshal arguments for the incest taboo, no matter how thoroughly an interrogator demolishes these arguments.

To explain this persistence, Haidt invokes an evolutionary hypothesis: We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others. Reason, in this view, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn. So if you want to change people’s minds, Haidt concludes, don’t appeal to their reason. Appeal to reason’s boss: the underlying moral intuitions whose conclusions reason defends.

That last part about not appealing to reason reminds me of this 30 Rock video in which one character opines: "Your father is being irrational and irrational behavior doesn't respond to rational arguments. It responds to fear."  It also reminds me of how I often approach topics on the blog, like appealing to people's sympathy to suggest that any anti-sociopathic beliefs are fascist and one step away from being Hitler-esque.  I'm just trying to say things in a way that people are more likely to understand.  But seriously, I use reason for my readers that prefer that, but sometimes I like to do a little gut check for the rest of you.  I think most of you like it, at least the ones that stick around.  You don't mind having your beliefs tweaked with a little bit.  If you end up not changing your mind, you feel like you come out of the haze stronger for it.  If you change your mind a bit, you feel like the experience has broadened your horizons.  It pays to have a sociopath around for this very purpose.  You're welcome.  Now return the favor and don't commit genocide against my people.

I also like this part of the article about how maladaptive traits can hurt society, which I consider a bit of a nod to taking care of dirty work:

Traits we evolved in a dispersed world, like tribalism and righteousness, have become dangerously maladaptive in an era of rapid globalization. A pure scientist would let us purge these traits from the gene pool by fighting and killing one another. But Haidt wants to spare us this fate. He seeks a world in which “fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means.” To achieve this goal, he asks us to understand and overcome our instincts. He appeals to a power capable of circumspection, reflection and reform.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Dirty work

A reader sent me this video of James Fallon, science-famous for having killer ancestors and violent genes.  My favorite part is where he basically says that sociopaths exist to do the dirty work for everyone else.




Here are paraphrases of what I consider to be the most interesting parts:

6:48  There's a societal receptivity to psychopathology, in fact one may say that there's psychopathology in all of us because we ask the so-called successful sociopaths or psychopaths to do the dirty work for us. Ok.  And not just the dirty work but the good work.  You don't want your neurosurgeon to be empathetic and caring emotionally when they're working on you.  You want them to be cold machines that don't care.  Same thing with an investor. . . . A society almost demands that we have psychopaths.  It's a very stable feature throughout society in history that these people are there.  And they pop up in a very malignant way sometimes but these traits seem to be very useful to society so we almost ask for it, or our genes and our behavior ask for it.

8:10 Many of them . . . have excellent memories.  And there's a genetics to this.  The people who have very good memories usually have two forms of a gene that allow you to have very good memories but they also make you very anxious to depressed.

12:40  The fundamental way that a psychopath is put together is like a three legged stool.  One of the legs is a high vulnerability genetic alleles (aggression, violence, lack of bonding), brain loss, and abuse.

14:00 Two areas of the brain that are damages are orbital cortex and the ventromedial cortex

15:30 Cold cognition (logic) in balance with hot cognition (emotions, ethics, morality, etc.) in a normal brain.

Here's another video of James Fallon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beating the market by trading like a sociopath (part 4)

My recent purchase of Scholastic stock illustrates these principles well.  Scholastic is a well-known children’s book publisher.  Because I have some exposure to the publishing industry through work, I understand how unlikely it is that any book will ever make it to the public domain.  I know that Scholastic has book fairs at schools, children begging their parents to buy them a whole stack of books and parents unable to deny children the simple pleasure of reading.   Parents are nostalgic and force their children to read the same books that they read as children.  Scholastic happens to publish the Harry Potter series in the U.S.—seven separate books all being sold to every young reader for the next century (my several siblings read Harry Potter to their grade school aged children every night together as a family).  Scholastic also publishes the crossover hit “The Hunger Games”, which was being made into a movie just at the time I decided to buy.  I looked on Yahoo Finance and learned that the last activity from an analyst was more than 5 years ago.  The stock was primed to go zeitgeisty with the movie being the trigger to give the stock the requisite buzz and “it” factor for the stupid money.

I bought the stock, two days later the company updated their earnings estimate to account for a huge run up of sales for the Hunger Games books (a trilogy, so three books sold to every interested customer).  In two days I saw the stock go up 14% to a nine-year high, drawing the attention of not just hundreds of investment bloggers but the Wall Street Journal and other financial heavyweights.  In my opinion this lured in some of the so-called “smart money” and we still haven’t even plumbed the depths of the stupid money, which will reach its peak as the movie profits soar and people start worrying that they’re missing out on another “Harry Potter” boom.

This is my best attempt to describe what I believe is a unique vision.  Most of the time I don't even consciously think of these thinks, I just intuit and act upon them.  When I look at the world, the flaws or vulnerabilities in people and the social institutions that they’ve made jump out to me, as if they were highlighted for me and only me to see. I have such an uncannily accurate ability to gauge probabilities and to discover patterns in human behavior that I sometimes appear psychic.When ever you buy or sell a stock, I may very well be on the opposite side of that transaction.  I understand that might be a little little scary.  You should know that I intend to exploit that fear.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Beating the market by trading like a sociopath (part 3)

There's nothing special or sophisticated about my system.  It could be luck.  It's impossible to tell.  But if you're interested in what I've done to manage to beat the market so soundly, all of my stock picks have general brand name recognition among what traders call “stupid money.” Stupid money is a derogatory term for unsophisticated individual investors.  These investors frequently buy high and sell low, endlessly chasing stocks rather than profiting from them.  If you think of a stock trade as a zero sum game (someone wins and someone loses), playing against stupid money will be more profitable on average than playing against smart money.  I want to make sure my stocks are already on the radar of stupid money because the companies are household names—stocks like Google, Apple, Disney, and Amazon.  My thought is that for stocks like that, there is a much higher proportion of stupid money to smart money than for a more esoteric stock like United Technologies Corp.

I like to choose stocks that have been out of the news for a while.  Before I buy a stock, I look at Yahoo Finance to see if there have been recent upgrades or downgrades by analysts or any recent news about the stock or coverage from financial bloggers.  My ideal stock has not seen any movement from an analyst for at least 5 years and no real news for the past year.  I need that stock to seem new and fresh to stupid money (and even some smart money).  It’s the same technique as the marketers who peddle their wares as being “an ancient Japanese formula” or “what doctors don’t want you to know about . . . ginseng.”  There is a sensation of newness (it isn’t currently zeitgeisty) with all of the benefits of pedigree (it has an established history).

To hedge my risk, I choose stocks in a particular sector that I believe is stable while retaining enormous growth potential and then choose the best stock out of the bunch.  I choose these stocks because I know that when people get spooked, they will pull their money out of oil futures or other high-risk securities and dump them into my blue chips—stocks like Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Johnson & Johnson.

I also have to be intimately familiar and impressed with the business model, but in a way that most people are, or can quickly be made aware.  I have little relatives and frequently watch their movies.  Disney movies are always popular, but I tend to prefer Pixar.  Luckily I know that Disney owns Pixar and Disney has a nearly a century full of intellectual property in their stable.  I’ve seen my little relatives flip upon receiving a Minnie Mouse doll and know how powerful that brand is for youngsters, but so have millions of other parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents.  While they may not think immediately about exploiting their children’s joy, I do.  But I also know that when those parents are sitting down to pick some stocks and are thinking about Disney, they’ll remember that moment and buy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Beating the market by trading like a sociopath (part 2)


Predators tend to see in black and white.  Scientists have suggested that contrast against background may be more helpful for predators in detecting potential prey than color, helping them to focus on crucial spatial relationships rather than extraneous details.  I’m color-blind to mass hysteria.  My lack of empathy means I don’t get caught up in other people’s panic, particularly mass panic.  It gives me an incredibly unique perspective.  And in the financial world, being able to think opposite the pack is all you need.

Traders laud the “contrarian” mentality.  Warren Buffett famously said “Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.”  Easier said than done for the vast majority of stock traders.  And when I’m trading stocks, those are the people I am up against.  On every stock trade there is someone who wants to sell and someone who wants to buy, at least at a particular price.  Both tend to think the other is an idiot.  In simple terms, the person who is selling thinks that she is getting out just in time while the person buying thinks that they are about to make good money.

Because the actual transaction is faceless, I can’t practice my usual people-reading skills or manipulation, but I don’t need to.  I understand mass psychology.  And the truth is that the market doesn’t really reflect some magical perfect valuation of a stock under the efficient market hypothesis.  It reflects the mass consensus of how actual individual investors value the stock.  It is the sum total of everyone’s hopes and fears about what a company is capable of doing.  Preying on people’s hopes and fears is my m├ętier, even en masse.  To my colorblind eyes, I see these features more starkly than anything else.

Given a choice of hopes and fears, preying on people’s fears is the better bet by far.  Hope is too ethereal.  People are too unpredictable when acting on hope.  I’d rather rely on their fear, but even that is tricky.  When the market spooks, it can be as senselessly destructive and difficult to exploit as a stampede.  When I trade stocks the main thing I am focused on is not people’s fear of losing what they have, but fear of losing out—of having missed an opportunity to make millions.  I look for stocks that have the visceral pull of get-rich-quick schemes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beating the market by trading like a sociopath (part 1)


I love money.  It’s so impersonal.  In a world where winning is the best thing, money is frequently how I keep score.  I don’t like spending it, necessarily.  Money doesn’t matter to me in itself.  I only like it because other people care about it a lot (more than almost anything else in the world).  Because they care about it so much, they will fight hard for it—against me or anybody else.  It makes the game very fun.  And although it is never high stakes on my part, it almost always is with whomever I am playing against.  I play because it’s a game.  Others play because it’s their life.  People are frequently ruined.

I have an incredibly green thumb for money.  I fully funded my retirement by the time I was 30 years old.  Since I started investing seriously in 2004, I have averaged a 9.5% return in the stock market—257% better than the average returns of the S&P 500 over the same period of 3.7%.  It’s sick how well I do trading stocks.  Beating the market this soundly and consistently is unheard of and many argue it is impossible (or due solely to luck).  In 2011, only 4 out of 5 mutual fund managers beat the market, and only a handful of individuals have managed to do so with any regularity. One Forbes article (“Why Smart People Fail to Beat the Market") put it this way “There are only two ways to beat the stock market in the long-term, net of expenses: one, trade on superior information; two, be lucky.” (Unfortunately, the efficient market hypothesis holds that all available information about a company’s future prospects are already widely known and reflected in the price of a stock,  so that just leaves one way to beat the market.  The one exception is so-called insider information, which is largely illegal to trade upon.).

But I am not trading on better knowledge.  I am a relatively unsophisticated investor.  Instead, I am trading on a special vision.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Disarming

I often tell my friends that I believe my smile to be preternaturally disarming.  It's distractingly perfect, but there is also a perfectly logical explanation for why it's there -- I am happy or pleased or charming or all three. It's effectiveness lies in its innocence, getting people to put their guard down and allowing me to have relatively free reign with them.  That is the point of any disarming.

I primarily practice psychological disarming, but I was sent this video by a reader.  Although it is directed at the physical disarming realm, I believe it is a good allegory for psychological disarming (distraction, plausible alternative explanation, timing, etc).



Reading the original comments on the YouTube page is also entertaining.  For instance:

"This is awful advice. Someone pointing a gun at you is either going to shoot you, or they are using it to rob you. If they are going to shoot you, they wont wait and stand around, they will shoot you as soon as they can. If they just want your stuff, hand over everything and be thankful that's all they wanted. This stuff could get someone killed."  

Just be thankful that's all they wanted?  This is sort of the advice I frequently give "victims" of sociopaths -- leave them alone.  I don't think I ever tell them to be "thankful that's all they wanted," though.  I find that sentiment to be rather depressing, or I should say indicative of a rather depressing existence.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cat puppetmasters?

Thanks to @wordsmithatplay for giving me a heads up about the recent article in The Atlantic, "How Your Cat is Making You Crazy."  The gist is that a previously thought (relatively) benign cat parasite that infects as much as 50% of the population might change the infected personality to be either more introverted and risk seeking in male infectees, or more outgoing and social in female infectees.  There are fascinating implications for both free agency (cat puppetmasters? so argues a tongue in cheek "cat manifesto" from the NY Times), zombies, and (perhaps?) whether sociopaths can be made, at least in part?  The story is fascinating and alarming in a very exciting way.  Under the byline "Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?":

  • Starting in the early 1990s, he began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. And if it was messing with his mind, he reasoned, it was probably doing the same to others.
  • The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.
  • “There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,” he says. “Nobody likes to feel like a puppet. Reviewers [of my scientific papers] may have been offended.”
  • What’s more, many experts think T. gondii may be far from the only microscopic puppeteer capable of pulling our strings. “My guess is that there are scads more examples of this going on in mammals, with parasites we’ve never even heard of,” says Sapolsky.
  • [Regarding his changed behavior]: he thought nothing of crossing the street in the middle of dense traffic, “and if cars honked at me, I didn’t jump out of the way.” He also made no effort to hide his scorn for the Communists who ruled Czechoslovakia for most of his early adulthood. “It was very risky to openly speak your mind at that time,” he says. “I was lucky I wasn’t imprisoned.” And during a research stint in eastern Turkey, when the strife-torn region frequently erupted in gunfire, he recalls being “very calm.” In contrast, he says, “my colleagues were terrified. I wondered what was wrong with myself.”
  • Flegr was especially surprised to learn, though, that the protozoan appeared to cause many sex-specific changes in personality. Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected wom

It's crazy how little we still know about human behavior and its roots.  But I guess some of our ignorance is intentional.  Who wants to admit that their identity is so ephemeral, vulnerable to a little cat parasite (just another reason that I am glad I have no fondness for animals).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mormon teen killer

A reader sent me this link to the recent sentencing of an 18 year old Mormon girl who as a 14 year old killed a nine year old neighbor.  At first I was a skeptic about her being a sociopath.  Maybe she is just a weird teenager who got caught up in the wrong crowd and started listening to Blood on the Dance Floor or something.  Ha.

But then I read the part about how she journaled about it:

During her two-day sentencing hearing, prosecutors referred repeatedly to an entry Bustamante wrote in her journal on Oct. 21, 2009 — the night of Elizabeth's death — in which she admitted to having just killed someone.

"I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead," Bustamante wrote in her diary, which was read in court by a handwriting expert. "I don't know how to feel atm. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the 'ohmygawd I can't do this' feeling, it's pretty enjoyable. I'm kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church now...lol."

Bustamante then left for a youth dance at a Mormon church her family attended while hundreds of volunteers began a two-day hunt for the dead girl. Although she initially lied to authorities about Elizabeth's whereabouts, Bustamante eventually confessed to police and led them to Elizabeth's leaf-covered shallow grave.

"I gotta go to church now"?  Hm.  I'm so curious to hear her opinion on religion.  And she's female.  Such an interesting story.  

Happy sabbath Christians!

Friday, March 16, 2012

1 in 10 Wallstreeters are psychopaths

According to Sherree DeCovny, a the former investment broker and got the figure from "researchers," including a Wall Street psychologist.  Selections from the Wall Street Journal:

  • They excel in any arena where aggressive behavior is rewarded and where grandiose levels of confidence can result in rousing applause.
  • It is often difficult to argue that these people are indeed sick until the day they have to exchange their Armani suit for an orange jumpsuit.
  • I only know one man who openly admits he's a psychopath. I called him to see what he thought of the numbers Ms. DeCovny reported. "First of all, it's not one out of 10," says Sam Antar. "It's probably eight out of 10." "The reality is, to succeed on Wall Street you've got to be a psychopath in one form or another," Mr. Antar says.
  • Mr. Antar now teaches law-enforcement organizations how to spot psychos. He thinks of himself as a psychopath in remission, but he admits he could snap back at any time, much like a relapsing alcoholic.
  • It may be part of the human condition to venerate psychos, mistaking their grandiosity for leadership.
  • If you work on Wall Street, chances are good you are not a psychopath, but chances are also good you report to one.





Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fictional sociopaths: anime

I don't know if it is because I don't watch anime that frequently or I have an odd view of japanese culture in general, but I am surprised at the number of anime series that people flag for my attention as including a sociopathic character or sociopathic themes.  I've already featured them here and here.  Could there some deeper explanation for the connection?  Repressed but ruthless Japanese culture?  I would just be guessing...

 From a reader:

I'm not sure exactly how interested you are in anime, but I thought I'd recommend Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It's a 12 episode anime which at first, due to the title and opening song, appears very much like some terrible fantasy anime made for eight year old girls, but probably by episode two you'll start to see why I would recommend it to you. The show is basically about how an alien creature named Kyubey, promises to grant one wish to teenage girls in exchange that they fight witches. Throughout the series you'll learn his real motivation, and what sort of emotionless, selfish lives these girls must learn to lead in order to protect themselves. Yet throughout all the times they're suffering, he's just smiling and cute and completely unaffected. Where he comes from, emotion is a mental disorder. 

Also looking this up, I came across the concept that Daleks are sociopaths. Ahaha maybe.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sociopath vs. sociopath (part 2)

My response:

This is a good question and a hard one to answer.  I'd say that it is definitely possible to recognize another sociopath in real life because I have done it once.  But it's also impossible to know whether or how many other sociopaths I have met in real life without being able to identify them.

The one time I recognized a sociopath in real life, the person was of my same general background, education, and was even in my same career, which helped immensely I am sure.  I think when you recognize each other, the thing that tips you off the most is watching them perform your same tricks.  This must be how conmen spot each other (or at least this is how it is always portrayed in film).  There was something somewhat unnerving about our subsequent interactions.  With both of us mirroring the other to a certain extent, it was almost the effect you get when two mirrors are facing -- an endless loop with no substance.  Still, I think we understood each other and got on well.

The only other sociopath I have met in person is someone whom I had been previously informed was a sociopath.  That interaction was in some ways more telling.  We come from very different backgrounds, are in different stages in life, and just generally live in two different worlds.  I don't think I would have been able to tell whether this person was a sociopath if I hadn't been made aware of the diagnosis ahead of time.  The more time I spent with this person, the more I saw similarities, but this person's tricks were a different set than mine -- surely a set more suited to their daily life than mine.  We still talk and get along well too, but I think we also can bore each other with our lack of substance and commonalities to discuss.  But also we must intrigue or attract the other, because we definitely still play games whenever either of us is in the mood.




Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sociopath vs. sociopath (part 1)

From a reader:


Forgive me if this is a question that has been asked and addressed before; I stumbled upon the site quite recently, and have not yet had a chance to look back through the archives in any great detail.

I am curious about the interaction between sociopaths. Not just in an online medium such as this site, but in real life, in day-to-day activities. I ask because I have reason to believe that I have recently, through a family member, become a target of a high-functioning sociopath, who makes a game of destroying people from the inside out.

I recognise in myself several tendencies that point towards sociopathy, though I am not particularly anxious to label myself as anything. I know what I am; I don't need words to describe it to be at peace with my own identity. Though I am curious about it at times, it is more like an exercise in thought than an existential crisis.

What I wonder about is how quickly sociopaths are able to recognise one another, to see through the facade of an otherwise "normal" human being. I was not at all surprised to find that this person was a sociopath - after meeting him a few times, I found myself interested in him - not sexually; he has displayed sexual interest in me, but I believe that this is more of a ploy for control, free of either emotion or desire, as are many of his actions - but on an intellectually stimulating level. We got on like the proverbial house on fire; I found his conversation very diverting and humourous, and we quite quickly alienated the other people we were talking to. I will admit to a complete lack of modesty in saying that I am quite often unable to meet and converse with someone who is on the same level as me in terms of intelligence, so I relish these chances when I get them.

Before our meeting, he had displayed interest in me through hearing about me from my family member, and I reciprocated that interest, purely because of the sheer amount of second-hand flattery I was receiving from him. I found it questionable, and was curious as to the reason behind it. To find out that he was a sociopath who had made it his goal to destroy my family member, and had possible intentions of transferring those attentions to me, either to hurt them further, or as a new target, was not surprising, but rather, confirmed some suspicions of mine. Even if the word 'sociopath' had not sprung to mind on meeting him, there was something in his behaviour that matched the hallmarks of a sociopath.

To reinstate, I would like to know how sociopaths react to one another, being as they are lone wolves rather than pack animals, if you will. If they are quickly able to identify a fellow sociopath; if they feel the need to force a confrontation upon meeting; if they are able to co-exist in harmony; if they are inclined to avoid other sociopaths. While sociopaths are vastly outnumbered by the general population, it would be ridiculous to assume that their paths would never cross.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Unfit for life

A reader sent me a link to this video.  Under the title "The Bermuda Triangle of the Pot Calling the Kettle Black," a very quirky gentleman criticizes a recent paper/presentation basically advocating again for eugenics with sociopaths as a target of those branches of humanity to force into extinction:


In October of 2009, at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas held at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, Dr. Julian Savulescu presented a paper entitled ‘Unfit for Life: Genetically Enhance Humanity or Face Extinction,’ which appears as a couple of videos on Vimeo (vimeo.com/7515623 and vimeo.com/7681585).

Dr. Savulescu is presently a philosophy professor at Oxford University and the Director of Oxford’s Centre for Neuroethics. In his paper Dr. Savulescu argues that we ought ‘to consider’ taking immediate steps to engineer better human beings, human beings who, in his words, are more “Fit,” that is, “wiser and less aggressive.” We ought to consider, he claims, genetically altering human beings in order to weed out those he categorizes as the Unfit, by which he means the psychopaths and terrorists among us, as well as the ‘freeriders, fanatics, criminals, sociopaths, and, finally, the anti-social types.’ He also argues that we humans ought to consider rethinking the idea of liberal democracy, as it facilitates the existence of the Unfit among us. 

Savulescu spends more time basing his conception of who should be considered ‘Fit’ by pointing out who should be considered Unfit—of which he provides countless examples. For instance, in his response to a question after his talk, he approvingly cites the infamous Marshmallow Experiment as an indicator of who should, and who should not be considered Fit. The Marshmallow Experiment was carried out in the US in 1972 by Walter Mischel at Stanford University. A group of four-year-olds were given a marshmallow and then promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Approximately 30% of the children could wait, while the other 70% could not. Mischel’s research team then followed the personality development of each child into adolescence and claimed to demonstrate that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted, more dependable and smarter, that is, socially “fitter,” especially according to their parents.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dopamine: treatment for sociopathy?

I think my brain produces unusually high amounts of dopamine -- and I think I've recently learned how to trigger my brain into producing more, sort of like mental masturbation. Apparently some women can think themselves to orgasm -- imagine thinking your way to mental ecstasy.

As I've mentioned before, I experience supersensitivity, and it is quite easy for me to achieve ecstasy based on external stimulus, particularly while experiencing rich food, beautiful music or imagery. Sometimes people think I am on drugs, but it's all me. Recently, perhaps due to some lifestyle changes, it has been especially easy for me to achieve ecstasy with relatively little prompting. It was happening so frequently that I started experimenting. First I tried to simply prolong and increase the intensity of the ecstasy when it came. After I got better at doing that, I successfully tried inducing it myself. I found that it was easiest to achieve ecstasy by focusing on an external stimulus as before, like music, food, or sunlight. After a while I was able to do it by focusing on a single sound or visual image and just trip on it. Now I can do it pretty much just by concentrating.

Perhaps this ability is just one more side benefit of the large degree of control I have over my mind and emotions. Or maybe there is a stronger link. Autism has also been linked with excessive amounts of dopamine in the brain, and is specifically associated with the autistic's stereotypical behavior. Physicians have achieved modest success in minimizing these behaviors by giving patients dopamine inhibitors. If sociopathy is on the autism spectrum, along with with asperger syndrome, then sociopaths may also have elevated amounts of dopamine, but not high enough to hamper social functioning.

Excessive amounts of dopamine seem to adversely affect behavior on the autism spectrum, but so do insufficient amounts. Sociopaths with lower levels of dopamine would presumably be lower functioning than those with higher levels of dopamine, because higher levels of dopamine would allow the sociopath's need for excitement and stimulation to be fulfilled by lower risk behavior, whereas sociopaths with less dopamine have to engage in riskier, more antisocial behavior to get the same high. At least one study has confirmed this intuition, that "low levels of dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) are associated with undersocialized conduct disorder and psychopathy whereas high levels of the enzyme were associated with socialized conduct disorder and secondary sociopathy." If individuals with autism are able to improve symptoms by decreasing dopamine levels, maybe criminal sociopaths could be treated by increasing dopamine levels.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bystander effect

This is a follow up to the Yueyue video. I think that every culture is capable of horrible cruelties, in fact I think that the very institution of "culture" encourages it in ways (bystander effect) that make me sort of proud to be "anti-social."

 

And a lengthy explanation of why this is a result of some of our "pro-social" impulses:




Personally, I blame Burt Bacharach for all of this.  Instead of "walk on by" it should have been "stop to help."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Is sociopathy a real thing? (part 3)

From the reader:


On another subject, I totally agree with the conception of sociopathy being some sort of a nuance of character. There are smart people and dumb people, strong spirited and weak spirited, beautiful on the outside, ugly on the outside and so on. But it all happens on the inside and even if somebody is labeled as a sociopath or borderline or anything, you can only say that that's their way to deal with life. It's all about adapting to the environment with the brain and body that has been given to you. 

I also think that the primary attraction on your blog is not the fact that it's about "SOCIOPATHS", the whole ambiguous thing around it. It's because you manage to bring particularities that you notice within yourself together in a bundle and people relate to that. When you say, I noticed this very weird thing about myself and I think that this might be the cause, I am blind to actually notice it, but I perceived through other senses, That is great, I mean, it brings joy to see that someone somewhere is having the same sort of more uncommon struggle that you are having at that moment. And I notice people trying to not show their emotions around your comment section and be all cool and stuff because they want to belong there. They feel lonely and they want to belong. I don't know whether it's sociopathy that we're dealing with here, but it's certainly a thing that only a bunch of people relate to somehow. 

I know cause when I first started reading your blog I felt the same kind of lost and it helped me keep it all together. I knew those things about myself. I knew that I was noticing things and that I wasn't like everybody else and I wasn't crazy. If I actually took the time to explain, people would understand but after that I always felt too vulnerable and open and so I started keeping to myself. And it was the same kind of thing that you are bringing with your posts. That sense that somehow you don't belong around but you can shut up about it and be taken as normal and use whatever is making you different to your advantage to get things, Not some things that you always wanted or stuff because I get the sense that that kind of craving that other people have for "whatever" never occurred in us, but whatever floats your boat at a certain moment. That's just great. 

On a somewhat related note, dear reader, I have been reading an interesting New Yorker article about the television show Portlandia, where they discuss the phenomenon of the urban hipster and how people will go out of their way to play up small differences to distinguish themselves from others in what Freud termed the narcissism of small differences.  Sometimes I suspect the SociopathWorld community of this, myself included.  It's easy to lose perspective about how much we actually share in common with every other human on this planet in a race to make ourselves as distinct as possible from people and beliefs that we may not respect.  

But this isn't to say that there aren't real differences between people too.  I guess it's what makes the development of "standards" like the DSM-5 so controversial.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Is sociopathy a real thing? (part 2)

My response:

This is a very insightful question.  I think this is one of the issues that comes from basing the diagnosis of sociopathy primarily on behavior.  First of all, I agree.  I am not sure that sociopathy is even a "real thing".  I do think it's interesting that there seem to be people that are very similar to each other, but I think that is bound to happen in the spectrum of human personalities and behavior -- that you would be able to find people clumped together in any part of the spectrum.  Sociopathy may just be a particularly intriguing segment of personality traits because of the disparately large effect they seem to have on the lives of others and the unique motivations that drive their behavior.  Yes, I think that sociopaths brains may look different, but our brains are constantly adapting and are constantly being impacted by our experiences, thoughts, and decisions (caveat, there is some evidence that aspects of the brain you wouldn't expect to see changing in a lifetime are also statistically different in sociopaths than the general population).  There's just so much we don't know about sociopathy that I am hesitant to actually come to any conclusions myself about its nature.

Even assuming that sociopathy is a "real thing" (as much as anything can be real), I think that it is difficult to study and understand.  There's a chicken and the egg problem in terms of coming up with a diagnosis -- you need to identify sociopaths before you can make a list of their traits and you need a list of their traits to identify them.  To the extent that there is somewhat of a history of what constitutes a "sociopath," that helps, but there really is so much variation between even modern researchers in terms of their conception of the defining characteristic(s) of a sociopath.  On top of that, everyone seems to agree that environment plays a big role in any gene expression, and particularly a tendency to become a sociopath, with some researchers believing that certain subtypes are born while other types are made.

I personally don't feel like most of my behavior is all of that shocking or antisocial, particularly when compared to certain populations like the prison population.  It's interesting that you say that [Eastern Europe] has a calloused population.  I've visited other places that have an overall low baseline level of empathy and prosocial behavior (the Netherlands, Israel, Egypt, Vietnam, among others).  I don't know what sociopaths would look like in those cultures.  My guess is not necessarily any worse than the general population, just like uranium pollution may be difficult to detect in an environment with a high baseline level of radioactivity.

One thing is for certain, sociopaths do not have a monopoly on calloused behavior.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is sociopathy a real thing? (part 1)

From a reader:

I have been thinking about your blog lately though I haven't been there that often in the last year. Listen, about me, I am not so sure I am sociopath. I have tendencies but they are because of the fact that I am from [Eastern Europe] and it's a pretty harsh environment around here socially. Actually I was thinking at some point that I am on the other side of the spectrum - borderline - but I not so sure about that either. Maybe I just fucked up emotionally and stuff, you know? 

What I wanted to tell you in this mail was about [Eastern Europe]. Around here, a lot if not most of the people, act as if they are sociopaths. I mean, the things that you and around your blog are signs of empathy and normality, don't show very much around here. A couple of weeks ago I had to give directions to a girl from America while walking on the street. She showed me some directions she got from another guy and I had to give her a whole new path to follow to reach her destination. I remember telling her after she showed me her directions "I am not sure that this is actually a thing *raised eyebrow*". You know? I mean, around here people aren't at all compassionate because of the environment and the general bad conditions. Though people do show emotions and are compassionate to one another, but only within their groups, never to random people. You can always expect to be cheated somehow around here. Anyway, there's a BIG antisocial vibe all around the country. And I am asking myself, what's the difference between petty criminals like I see here, blunted emotions that people have and an actual sociopath. You know? Because around here, stealing from public funds and cheating people out of their money is a present thing going on, not some "maybe" like in a civilized country. 

I mean, if you take Hare's checklist and go around the street here and rate people, you would get a lot of sociopaths. Though none of them can actually be labeled as one, none or too few. 

So, is your blog just that? Just a place where some people that cheat and lie can exhibit their actions? I mean, anything is possible given the right circumstances, you know? What makes a sociopath special? Everybody can lie and steal and cheat, what is behind that? What is behind the antisocial behavior? What's the sociopath's "soul" like? I would very much like to understand that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Anti-sociopath insurance (part 2)

My response:

Good question.  My first idea while reading your email was to neutralize his power over you.  In interpersonal relationships, information is only powerful if/when someone has it and the other person doesn't know or doesn't want it disclosed.  Someone sent me this clip recently from the Stephen Colbert show.  The gist was that the guest was a "person of interest" in the United States' war on terror.  Although not charged with anything concrete, the POI was asked to remain in touch with the FBI.  In part in compliance but more in protest, the POI began sending the FBI many emails a day with photos and other information about his daily activities, including pictures of his meals and toilet breaks.  At the end of the clip, the POI advocates a "market approach" to combatting government overreaching for information.  Specifically he argues that information is only valuable to intelligence agencies if they are the only ones who know that information or if the party that is the subject of that information does not know that they have the information or does not want it disclosed.  By making his information not only available to the FBI, but publicly available on his website, he has robbed that information of any value.

Similarly, a lot of people have tried to identify me from the blog.  I know that it is basically inevitable that I will be outted in some way, so I have plans to sort of out myself -- or a glass closet.  By outting myself in a way that I am comfortable with, I hope to remove the temptation for others to out me.

Other than that, ways of getting one up on him are probably context specific and situational.  Just being aware of opportunities will help out a lot.  But it's good you're doing this.  He's much less likely to keep you in the toy box if he sees you as a playmate rather than a toy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Anti-sociopath insurance? (part 1)

From a reader:


Been reading the blog for a bit now, really great to find somewhere like that. I've just been fucked over by a so-called friend and need some advice on what to do next. You and the rest of the regular posters seem to be a good source of ideas, so maybe you can suggest some things.

This guy was a friend for a couple of years, took a while to build trust and eventually became like a mentor, best buddy and confidante. I realised he was different, but I guess I thought I was special and he and I identified very strongly with each other.

Short while ago it would seem he decided I belonged in a different category. He seduced me ( or I let him, whatever) and we had a brief fuck-buddy arrangement. It was fun in places but unsatisfactory in others, I realised he was just playing me like all the others and shut off the emotional response. He's still working to the old script, thinking I'm madly into him and eating my heart out, which is kind of fun.

Over time I've realised that he's manipulated me into situations where he could record us having sex, or conversations about very personal stuff. He probably has a whole folder on me, as I know he does on other girls he's been with. I'm not embarrassed about that, and if he went public with any of it I would happily paste him into a thin smear on LoveFraud.com as well as destroying him professionally. He's nearing the top of his game at work and needs to be very careful.

What I'm most angry about is him boxing me up with his toys. I don't care what he does to anyone else, and would be happy to play with him on an equal footing and not expose him or get in his way. But now I know he feels the need to have some insurance, maybe for future control? I need to have something similar on him. I don't have much time, and I don't have access to his house or stuff, so that limits what I can do.

I'm new to this, very late realising what I'm capable of, but very comfortable now I know. What I'm missing is the decades of practice and applied logic that he (and you) have. I've always worked on instinct, and this is the first time it's left me vulnerable. I don't want to start a war or anything, I'm just not going to allow him all the power here.

Any thoughts?





Sunday, March 4, 2012

How sociopaths are made?

I've been reading Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and thinking about how and why I became a high functioning sociopath. Psychologists and scientists believe sociopthy is some combination of genes and environment, which makes sense, particularly in light of recent research suggesting that not only do genes matter, but that the body's varying expression of the genes appears in response to environmental or other factors. As Dr. Goleman says:
If a gene never expresses the proteins that could direct the body's functioning in a given way, then we may as well not possess that gene at all.
If there were some triggering event or environmental force that triggered my sociopathy, I think it was just as likely something that happened to me as a baby than something within my conscious memory. For instance, when I was an infant I had a particularly bad case of colic, a poorly understood condition affecting infants whose main symptom is "frequent, inconsolable crying." According to my parents, I cried incessantly, and according to my medical records I had to go to the doctor for a ruptured navel due to excessive crying. I'm sure my parents did as well as they could, but it no doubt must have been difficult to tolerate such a child, much less nurture it.

Dr. Goleman says that although the brain doesn't reach maturity until 20, the biggest growth spurt is in the first 24 months of life. He also cites a study regarding the importance of the very beginning of a mammal's existence in brain programming:
[A]t least for mice, a vital way that parenting can change the very chemistry of a youngster's genes. [A] singular window in development [is] the first twelve hours after a rodent's birth--during which a crucial methyl process occurs. How much a mother rat licks and grooms her pups during this window actually determines how brain chemicals that respond to stress will be made in that pup's brain for the rest of its life.

The more nurturing the mother, the more quick-witted, confident, and fearless the pup will become; the less nurturing she is, the slower to learn and more overwhelmed by threats the pup will be.

The human equivalents of licking and grooming seem to be empathy, attunement, and touch. If [this research] translates to humans . . . then how our parents treated us has left its genetic imprint over and above the set of DNA they passed down to us. And how we treat our children will, in turn, set levels of activity in their genes. (pp. 152-54)
The book is not all that helpful for sociopaths, and has a low opinion of us generally, so I wouldn't recommend taking the time to read it. But maybe I'll post some other sociopath-specific information I find.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fan mail (part 3)

From a reader:

How refreshing and incredibly relieving it is to see someone whose brain works in a similar fashion to mine. While a world in which I didn't have to remember to blink and frown when someone is crying would be ideal, it is enough to know that there are others who are out there calculation, analyzing, and interesting every day of their lives. If you're ever in [my area], it would be my pleasure to shake your hand and discuss the general world. You do a great service by presenting a thoughtful and accurate public face for sociopaths.




Friday, March 2, 2012

Letter from a sociopath

From a reader:

I just stumbled upon your blog this morning between tea and eggs while I was doing preliminary research for a critique of the movie "The Talented Mr. Ripley".  My paper is focused on sociopathic behavior.  What I discovered, and what initially stymied my interest, were my own sociopathic tendencies.  Now I am (recently) 20 years old and studying film and gender at a liberal arts school in the United States.  I have never been too interested in much psychology or psychoanalysis for fear of self-diagnosis, but as a marijuana-addled young adult I am constantly questioning my identity. I come form a Gypsy background, and, to put it simply, have always felt like a social parasite.  Not for no reason, I partook in my share of moral offenses and such, but the explanation for these immoral impulses and the lack of empathy that accompanied was always my upbringing.  My mother and father were both deal seekers, often stealing what they couldn't afford or what they deemed they deserved.  But I was always perplexed about the sort of satisfaction me and my two younger brothers received from "sabotaging" public places or simply taking things that weren't ours.  Why were we different?  Were we different?  Could it all be summed up to our Gypsy mother who raised us alone for 10 years?

Although these questions were always on the back burner, they didn't affect my immediate life too much (except when my best friend found out I took his Ipod about a year ago; or my ex-girlfriend discovered the constant lies I invented to cover up inconsequential things; or the time I was arrested for shop-lifting at Target after two weeks of ripping off Health Food stores up and down the East Coast).  Nonetheless, I am very adept at observing the world around me and fitting in as best I can, "getting in" as best I can even as a constant outside observer.  I mean I observe everything, from the way people hold their hands in class when asking a question, to the way my friends adjust their pants so as to fit "conventionally" over their Ralph Lauren boxers.  I am a quick study too, often emulating the desirable traits around me and excelling at them faster, or more attractively, than the person I got it from!  Throughout the stages of my life, I have always had one close, very close, male friend who is a little more "popular", or maybe a better word "adept", at "life" or the particular goals with which I am interested in achieving.  We are constantly around each other, and I am constantly taking silent notes on how to be.  How I should go about achieving my life.  Sometimes I feel like goals aren't even mine and I construct them to more emulate a lifestyle that I desire.  I am always single, they always have long-term girlfriends (mind you I am athletic and do have a lot of sex, but I see too many flaws in every woman, too many turn-offs for me to even consider more sophisticated approaches like a date.)

I am rambling because the preverbal lightbulb literally went "click!" today as I scoured your site.  I feel very vulnerable right now, but also excited to (possibly) belong to an esoteric group of individuals.  I am not asking for any sort of response or advice, although both would be wonderful, I just have  a couple qualms and reservations that accompany a brand new way of thinking about life for me.  

a. as of right now (and more or less 3 years back)  I have been smoking pot on a daily basis.  I know that sociopathy is a complicated neurological phenomena, but from what I understand the orbitofrontal cortex is a key player in terms of what it controls.  The OC is also the focal point for a lot of neurological research structured around cannabinoid transmission.  This interests and concerns me.  If the use of marijuana exacerbates sociopathic tendencies, what are the immediate (and more longitudinal) consequences of smoking weed for someone like me?

b.  I have two younger brothers (age 15 and 18) who also smoke a lot of pot, but started earlier than me (I started at the age of 16, them 13, 14 or maybe 15).  They have their own lives and, I think, sociopathic tendencies as well, but ultimately they look up to me for guidance as they always have in a pseudo-hostile world and I want to give them the information they need to make valuable life decisions NOW before they pass a certain point of no return (if there is one).

I know this sounds like an overdue confession more suitably aimed a psychologist's way, but... meh.

 M.E.: I have no idea about pot.  I never have been into any sort of mind altering substance, mainly because I am a complete control freak and I don't have any inhibitions I would like to give up.  But maybe there are other people who would know better.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sociopath porn (part 2)

These type of things fascinate me, they may be disturbing to others.  This time, burn victims.  And the New York Times article about the project.

I actually like reminders of how fragile my existence is.  My existence is fragile because society is fragile. When I acknowledge my own mortality, it's just another way of recognizing how rife society is with weakness -- weaknesses that are just calling out for someone like me to exploit them.  I see hope in that.  Pleasure, even.  Interestingly, I think that this is also the sort of message the painter of the above linked burn-victim series is trying to convey.  
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