Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quote: Real life

“Real life consists of the tensions produced by the incompatibility of opposites, each of which is needed”

 ― E.F. Schumacher

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Here's another word I hadn't heard before until recently: alexithymia. According to wikipedia, it is a decreased ability to identify, understand, and describe one's own emotions. It is supposed to be common (10%) with a high comorbidity.

Does this sound like anyone you know?

Nick Frye-Cox, a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, says people with alexithymia can describe their physiological responses to events, such as sweaty palms or faster heartbeats, but are unable to identify their emotions as sad, happy or angry. In addition, those with alexithymia have difficulty discerning the causes of their feelings or explaining variations in their emotions, he said.
“People with alexithymia are always weighing the costs and benefits, so they can easily enter and exit relationships. They don’t think others can meet their needs, nor do they try to meet the needs of others.”

This is going to blow your minds, but alexithymia has been linked to lack of empathy:

Because awareness of emotional states in the self is a prerequisite to recognizing such states in others, alexithymia (ALEX), difficulty in identifying and expressing one's own emotional states, should involve impairment in empathy. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we compared an ALEX group (n = 16) and a non-alexithymia (non-ALEX) group (n = 14) for their regional hemodynamic responses to the visual perception of pictures depicting human hands and feet in painful situations. Subjective pain ratings of the pictures and empathy-related psychological scores were also compared between the 2 groups. The ALEX group showed less cerebral activation in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), the dorsal pons, the cerebellum, and the left caudal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) within the pain matrix. The ALEX group showed greater activation in the right insula and inferior frontal gyrus. Furthermore, alexithymic participants scored lower on the pain ratings and on the scores related to mature empathy. In conclusion, the hypofunction in the DLPFC, brain stem, cerebellum, and ACC and the lower pain-rating and empathy-related scores in ALEX are related to cognitive impairments, particularly executive and regulatory aspects, of emotional processing and support the importance of self-awareness in empathy.

This is all sort of interesting and new to me. It's only been relatively recently that I've identified my emotions as being present, but difficult to identify, whether nervousness, love, or even just a general inability to give feelings that context that they need to become emotions. Consequently they aren't meaningful to me in the way that I imagine they are for others -- I don't feel the same way about them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guest post: Violent children

Treatment Or Help For Children Who Have Threatened Or Showed Violence

Violence and Children

We live in a culture that seems to becoming increasingly violent. Not only are adults violent, but children can also exhibit violent behavior. More often than not, violent behavior in children is not taken seriously. Parents, teachers and other adults are very quick to say that this type of behavior is a phase that the child is growing through and end it will end soon. However, violent behavior in children is something that should always be taken seriously.

What Causes Violent Behavior in Children?

There are a variety of things that can cause a child to become violent. Children who grow up in a home where violence is common are more likely to become violent. Other problems in the home, such as poverty and divorce, can trigger violent behavior in children. Furthermore, children who spend a lot of time watching violent television shows and playing violent video games are more likely to become violent.

What Are Some of the Warning Signs?

A child who is prone to violent behavior will usually exhibit warning signs. Some of those signs include irritability, intense anger and frequent loss of temper. Children who are prone to violent behavior may also get frustrated easily.

How Can Violent Behavior In Children Be Treated?

Again, violent behavior is something that needs to be stopped early. This behavior will only continue to get worse as a child gets older. Children who have had a history of violence should be seen by a mental health professional. The goal of professional treatment is to get child to control his or her anger and to teach him or her how to express it in a healthy way. Treatment will also teach a child how to accept responsibility for his or her own actions.

How Can Violent Behavior In Children Be Prevented?

One of the best things that can be done to prevent violent behavior in children is to reduce the child's exposure to violence. Children should not spend a lot of time watching violent movies and television shows. Parents also need to make sure that they avoid harshly punishing their children because that can also cause violent behavior. It is quite obvious that exposure to violence can cause a person to become violent.

*This is an informational article about violent behavior in children. If you want to get help for troubled teens, then you should read more articles on this website.*

Monday, February 25, 2013

Altruistic punishment

I had not heard of the phrase altruistic punishment (or had forgotten it), until I read this BBC article talking about why motorists hate cyclists for what they perceive to be cheating in the typical rules of the road, e.g. passing on the right, not waiting their turn, etc. Some motorists hate cyclists so much they would like to run them down. Why? Altruistic punishment:

Humans seem to have evolved one way of enforcing order onto potentially chaotic social arrangements. This is known as "altruistic punishment", a term used by Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter in a landmark paper published in 2002. An altruistic punishment is a punishment that costs you as an individual, but doesn't bring any direct benefit. As an example, imagine I'm at a football match and I see someone climb in without buying a ticket. I could sit and enjoy the game (at no cost to myself), or I could try to find security to have the guy thrown out (at the cost of missing some of the game). That would be altruistic punishment.

Altruistic punishment, Fehr and Gachter reasoned, might just be the spark that makes groups of unrelated strangers co-operate. 

The researchers set up a game in which players were incentivized to cheat in repeated rounds of the game, until...

A simple addition to the rules reversed this collapse of co-operation, and that was the introduction of altruistic punishment. Fehr and Gachter allowed players to fine other players credits, at a cost to themselves. This is true altruistic punishment because the groups change after each round, and the players are anonymous. There may have been no direct benefit to fining other players, but players fined often and they fined hard – and, as you'd expect, they chose to fine other players who hadn't chipped in on that round. The effect on cooperation was electric. With altruistic punishment, the average amount each player contributed rose and rose, instead of declining. The fine system allowed cooperation between groups of strangers who wouldn't meet again, overcoming the challenge of the free rider problem.

So this was interesting to read, because for the most part I don't participate in altruistic punishment. And by that I mean to say I don't think I do or ever have, but I'm reluctant to say something so certain without its having been on my radar for the entirety of my existence.

To give an example, on a recent trip my phone was stolen. I have tracking software installed on it and was able to track my phone going away into a sketchy part of the city where I was visiting until it stayed there. I sent some messages offering a "found" reward and sort of threatening police action, but really it was a longshot. The next morning I went to the store to buy a new phone. I asked the guy if I could transfer my extended warranty on the phone to the new phone and he said no, but he could label it as "stolen".

"What happens when it gets labeled as stolen? Do you somehow prevent them from using the phone?"

"No, but if they bring it and ask to have it repaired, we tell them it's stolen."

"Do you confiscate it?"

"No, usually they just walk out of the store with it immediately."

"Well, what's the point?"

"They wouldn't be able to use our services or benefit from the warrantee."

"Oh, well, then no. I want them to benefit from the warranty. I paid for that, someone should benefit from it. And good on them for managing to steal my phone."

Maybe the store owner thought that I was being particularly forgiving, and in a way I guess I was, but really it was just realizing that I had gotten beat at a game whose rules I of course had understood and accepted when I bought the expensive phone and traipsed around with it all over.

I suppose even if I had listed it as "stolen" it wouldn't have even been that altruistic because there didn't seem to be any additional cost to me in terms of time lost or whatever. But this makes me think it's even less likely that I would actually altruistically punish people. This doesn't mean that I don't hold grudges or keep score sometimes and try to punish people for benefits that accrue directly to me somehow (reputational or establishing a particular power dynamic). And I guess I might from time to time take on someone else's "cause" just for the sake of having an excuse to rabble-rouse -- but I don't really believe in the righteousness of the cause.

Why don't I altruistically punish? Could have something to do with the origins of the impulse:

They dished out fines because they were mad as hell. Fehr and Gachter, like the good behavioural experimenters they are, made sure to measure exactly how mad that was, by asking players to rate their anger on a scale of one to seven in reaction to various scenarios. When players were confronted with a free-rider, almost everyone put themselves at the upper end of the anger scale. Fehr and Gachter describe these emotions as a “proximate mechanism”. This means that evolution has built into the human mind a hatred of free-riders and cheaters, which activates anger when we confront people acting like this – and it is this anger which prompts altruistic punishment. In this way, the emotion is evolution's way of getting us to overcome our short-term self-interest and encourage collective social life.

Of course because it is emotionally driven and not necessarily rational, it leads to such anti-social behaviors as advocating for violence against cyclists.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Don'ts" list for dealing with sociopaths

A reader asked for help in dealing with the domineering, allegedly sociopathic mother of his child, how to counteract her behavior, and how to keep his child out from under her dictatorial boot:
There are definitely things you can do to counteract her behavior, although there is a very real chance that you will just end up winning the battles but never the war. Maybe you're fine with that. The issue is that any counteraction measures would be very context specific -- sociopath specific -- and there are certain very effective counteraction measures I can suggest that you might not be good at or might not want to do because you're not that type of person (e.g. evil). It's tricky. I think the only general advice I can give is more about things to never do, because the only thing worse than not gaining ground is losing ground, non?

Things to never do:

1. Accusations. Sociopaths never respond well to accusations, it will always turn into a knockdown fight in which you will be bloodied much more than they ever will be.

2. Recriminations. (see accusations, above).

3. Emotions. Sociopaths generally don't want to hear about how what you feel if what you feel is negative towards them. If you are in anything remotely like a fight, accusation, or recrimination, do not under any circumstances get emotional. The limited exception, as another reader has pointed out, is when the sociopath is feeling wronged by you, is hurt, etc., in which you should show exactly the amount of normal empathy you would show an empath under those circumstances (more on that in another post).

4. Ultimatum or any other power plays. Sociopaths see ultimatums, artificial pressure (e.g. emotional pressure), power plays, etc. as being either threats or games. I don't think you will like the result of either approach.

5. Talk about being "right" or "wrong." Sociopaths don't really believe there is such thing as being right or wrong, there is only more or less powerful.

Don't worry about her hurting your child, she will probably want to alienate him/her from you more than she will want to have him/her trauma bond to you by her inflicting trauma on him. Your child is half her, so will probably grow up disrespecting you too, if you can't hold your own against your partner. If you want what is best for your child, you will get your crap together and become the type of person that demands respect by your very presence, your very being.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sociopath = pet monster?

A reader relates why she wants to win back her sociopath ex, and asks how:
Looking back I realize in the beginning he was so attentive and "caring" He swept me off my feet with a broom of charm. I don't quite understand him b/c he would go out of his way to help me and he was even trusted by his family mysteriously to take care of his nephew. He was like my soulmate at first, he showed total romance and after awhile we started fighting. My ex made a point to let me know my flaws when we parted ways. The very same flaws my father always nit picked at me for. How strange? Very. It seems like he was quite like my father, he had this way about him that made me feel loved, safe, warm, the same way I felt around my father as a kid. My ex was strangely kind. He admitted he felt nothing at times but he told me he loved me. When we broke up the first time he threw a childlike tantrum childishly accusing my friends of ruining his chances of getting me back. He wanted to fight my male friend who is diagnosed a sociopath, but they had no clue that they were both sociopath. Ah the beautiful irony! They never did fight though. But he swears he hates him still. (I don't doubt it). Why is dating a sociopath like having a pet monster? I need answers! I want him back a year later I find myself wanting more. He's quite addictive. I read in one of your post on sociopathic love that they can become your soulmate and I realize he did just that and with me still waters run deep applies. There are many sides of me I think I discovered through him. I just want him back what should I do?
My response:
Have you ever been to a zoo during feeding time? Some animals are very willing to eat out of a trough like any domesticated animal would, fattening up for the slaughter. Other animals have to be fed in a way that simulates how they would eat in the wild, whether through scavenging or hunting. Sociopaths are like that. They don't like to be spoonfed, so to speak. They would rather starve. This instinct possibly reflects an evolutionary wariness and fear of traps -- if the prey seems too easy, the sociopath will naturally believe that he is being set up; he will not even want to eat, the same way you may be wary of overaggressive salesmen or food that smells off. What does this mean for you? Take a lesson from the zookeepers and figure out how to simulate a plausible hunting/scavenging scenario (whichever your particular sociopath seems to prefer) in which you are the target. How did he first get you? Try to tap into that person you were, try to replicate the feeling of the hunt for him. How you go about doing that will be very context specific to your sociopath, but it is theoretically possible.

Pet predators are like this too, aren't they? Like snakes? I guess that would make sociopaths pet monsters.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Character (part 2)

The other reason for some sort of behavioral code is the idea of character. When I think of identity, I think of a mirror that reflects nothing back. When I think of personality, I think of the masks that I wear when I interact with people. Or maybe I think of the way my brain is wired, the things I think about when I'm not trying to think of anything in particular or anything at all. I have a limited degree of control over these things, if any at all.

The only self-descriptive word that I seem to identify with is the word character. To me, character is the sum of choices that I've made, about myself and what I choose to say and do from day to day. Maybe other sociopaths don't do that sort of math, but I do. Maybe it's because I have one friend who lives life beautifully, and I think, why not me too? I make a thousand choices every day, why not give them some sort of theme? Some sense of cohesion aesthetic appeal?

I thought this Atlantic article made some good points about the upside of living life with character:

It has been estimated that the average American tells 11 lies per week. Is this bad for us? Suppose we knew that a lie would never be detected, nor would we be punished. Suppose we had some means of ensuring that the lie would never cause us any physical or psychological harm through loss of sleep or the like. Suppose even that telling the lie would actually redound to our benefit, at least in the sense that it would secure us the pleasure, status, wealth, or power that those fudging the truth commonly seek. Under these circumstances, would it still make sense to tell the truth? Or would lying becoming the prudent course of action?

In his 2005 runaway philosophy best seller, On Bullshit, Princeton University's Harry Frankfurt distinguishes between lying and what he called "bullshit." Though liars do not tell the truth, they care about it, while the bullshitter does not even care about the truth and seeks merely to impress. Liars tell deliberate untruths, while bullshitters merely do not admit when they do not know something. This is a particularly pervasive form of untruth in my own orbits, medicine and academia, where people wish others to believe that we know more than we do. So instead of saying, "I don't know," we make things up, merely giving the appearance of knowledge while actually saying nothing.

Perhaps the most powerful moral argument for honesty has to do with what the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called "bad faith." Liars deceive others, but in a sense, liars also deceive themselves. When we lie we tend to distort our own view of reality, and the more often we lie, the more habitual this distortion becomes. Over time, the habit of lying divorces us further and further from reality, so we see less and less clearly the choices before us and what is at stake in them. Eventually, we may find ourselves unable to see what we are really doing and how it is affecting others and ourselves. We end up leading inauthentic and irresponsible lives.

To tell the truth is to live authentically and responsibly, to really live. At times we may make honest mistakes, misperceiving what is really happening, failing to see things in appropriate context, or even operating unknowingly on deliberate untruths. Whenever possible, however, we should be honest with others and ourselves. When we are honest, we ground ourselves most completely in the world we actually inhabit, being as real as we can with others, and reducing as much as possible the distance between the way things seem to be and the way they really are. In the final analysis, honesty means avoiding illusion and unreality, instead keeping life as real as we possibly can.

Maybe it's because I grew up with a narcissist father that living a life of delusion does not appeal.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Character (part 1)

I have gotten a little bit of flack about the idea of a "sociopath code," that it is too Dexter-Hollywood, and that no real sociopath had a "code" that they live by. Ok, fair enough. The term "code" is maybe a little misleading in this context.

But there are a lot of reasons to have some sort of standard why you conduct yourself. Here's what a recent commenter had to say about the utility of having such a standard :

You said, "The only code that’s worth having or that I respect is becoming the best in whatever you decided to do." 

When you can't feel empathy for other people it makes it easy to manipulate and hurt them for whatever reason you see fit. I was taught my code by my grandfather, at an early age after many years of violent and manipulative behaviors. I knew the differences between right and wrong, I just didn't care because I never felt them. He taught me to use those abilities to protect the people who are close to me and that being able to do those things for my own immediate selfish reasons was the lazy way to react, and in the long run would not allow me to do what I wanted to do in the first place. 

It took several years before I understood what he meant. Not until after a few issues with the court system. It made me completely powerless; I could no longer do what I wanted. Afterward when I returned to school a friend of mine got into a fight. He had done something to provoke it and felt so bad about it that he couldn't defend himself, he just took the beating. A few days later they crossed paths in the hallway and my friend got sucker punched and didn't defend himself again, he couldn't he still felt bad. I stepped in for him and after slamming the guys head between and open locker and its door several times was promptly sent back to my 10x10.

The judge was impressed that I had thought about somebody else for a change instead of only myself and gave me no time. What he didn’t know was that I really was only thinking about myself he only saw the ‘good’ that I had done. In his eyes, I stood up to a bully for a friend who couldn’t defend himself. Personally I didn’t see it that way, he pissed ME off, disrespected MY friend and was going to take whatever punishment I gave him as a consequence. 

When I returned to school again, I had a different mindset, a code to base my behaviors on if you will. I still live my life based on that code to this day. I learned that appearing to be in the service of others who feel they cannot defend or stand up for themselves brings more long term opportunities for me. Who wants to sit in jail, where is the fun in that?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guest post: Narcissist good Samaritan

So here's a story of a sociopath being helpful and compassionate. I doubt empaths could pull this off.

I live in an "intentional household" owned by a religions/social organization.  One of the community's values is compassion and making the world a better place.

There's a longtime resident in the house who has a problem with hoarding, cleaning up after himself, etc. His personal mess has regularly spilled out of his room and into the public areas, causing serious problems.

Over the years, many in the community have expressed the desire to help the guy. Some people have even tried for a few hours to help - but to no lasting effect.

A few weeks ago, the house's residents put me in charge of the house. I didn't want the job; the residents picked me because they thought I'd be focused and effective. I didn't want the job (I'm lazy) but they all wanted me to do it, so I felt I should.

One of my first changes was to tell the hoarder that he and I would be working on his room, together, for 30 minutes a day. Of course, in addition helping, I was the boss, deciding what he should do, and keeping him on track. Every day, after working, we'd socialize - that was to reward him for working, and entirely deliberate on my part.

For the first week or so it was a disgusting task. The floor was covered in trash, some of which had been there for 10 years. We found a mummified rodent under a pile of garbage. An empath would have been very sad to be in the mess and realize this guy was living in it for years.

I found myself getting a little sad at times, but when working, my strategy was to stay 100% focused on the job, and try to avoid giving any attention to thoughts or feelings. E.g. if the job was picking up money, I'd focus on just picking up money (and not on the smell or the disgusting sight of the candy melted on to the furniture). I was reminded of this video

While working with the guy, I have attempted to avoid ever saying anything judgmental, despite being disgusted by the room, disgusted with his slovenliness, despising his bad habits, etc. I figured that shaming him would just slow us down.

At first he could barely work 30 minutes a day, but now he goes for more than an hour. His room is better than it has ever been. He's psyched that his living space is finally optimized so that he can do the things he wants to do easily. In a few weeks, he's gone from being depressed and neurotic to happy -  in the dead of winter, when many people around here are depressed due to lack of light.

My own reaction to this may surprise you.

At first, I wanted to fix things because his behavior was irritating me. Him doing things the way he's done them for years was going to cause me to look bad. So that needed to change - immediately. Having observed him, I knew it was going to take hands-on measures to fix things. I was pushy enough to insert myself right into his life, immediately. I didn't think of him as a person. If I did think of him, it was to despise him for being such a misfit.

That's consistent with me being narcissistic, low-empathy and results-focused.

Having worked with the guy for many hours, over a period of weeks, things are different.

Having spent time around him, in the middle of his mess, I've got insight into him. I understand his suffering and want to help him. I don't know where that desire comes from, but it is real. I don't despise him anymore. I'm proud that he's turned things around, and hope he can keep it together.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


From a reader:

I sometimes ponder the nature of the "masks" we're said to wear.  Each one of us would probably describe it differently.  You?  You say you "lie" to yourself until you believe it.  I find that funny.  I'd take the opposite track--that I'm able to get my way best when I find some essential emotional truth hidden deep in my core that matches the situation, and let it burst forth and control me for a period of time.  In that moment, there is no lie, there is no truth, there is only me as you see me.  Every facet is a truth when expressed, and a lie when not on display.  In other words, I don't think we're all that different from empaths.  I think, as in all things, it's the story that we tell ourselves.  There is no, "How could I do that?  I'm not THAT kind of person!"  Only an understanding that, without some sort of code or restrictions in place, we know we're really capable of anything.

So then where does that leave us?  I find I can assert and actually express an emotional "truth" or a persona for as long as I wish to maintain it, even when doing so becomes taxing and I really just don't want to.  It's even easier to do this when I pick a handful of roles or things to do--ways of taking up my time, and religiously apply myself to them.  In other words, I create an identity complete with hobbies, interests, and close friendships.  At first everything matters to me just because of its utility, but as time goes on, I find that distinction blurring, and I find myself almost able to actually care for them before I move on. The end result is kind of a constant high, that only occasionally gets pierced by annoyance and anger.  Is this what it feels like to be an empath?  Am I tricking myself into believing I'm of the herd?  Or is the constant assertion a legitimate transformation in the works?  I've never stuck with an identity long enough to know.  But I'm about to find out as I commit myself to a certain identity for an indefinite period of time.

We know that sociopathy can be learned.  But can empathy? Or will I just be  in "sleeper mode" for however long the upcoming period of my life lasts?  We shall see.

My response:

Do you think you're just becoming attached to the thing? Like when I buy something, let's say a particular pair of shoes that I like, I think of everyday that I wear them in terms of what I thought the initial bargain was going to be. If, when I bought them, I thought that I would get 100 days of wear out of them, then once I get to that 101st day, everything is surplus, and I'm extra pleased with the shoes because they have exceeded my initial expectations of their value. Is that what you feel? Or something different?


I suppose it may be attachment, but it's still an attachment based upon the brain's basic potential to emote--to trigger the mechanisms that cause whatever combination of stimulation and narrative we call emotion. And those attachments or emotions allow me to forget for awhile, that ultimately these people, experiences, and things in my life could be discarded without care and I could find others to replace them. It allows me to indulge in the illusion that they matter to me in a way that I imagine non-socios enjoy and connect with their surroundings. But if it comes down to it, they can be discarded all the same. Hell, this life I'm assuming is one I've already discarded. Was this life objectively "better" or "more fulfilling" than any of the other lives I've lived so far or any of the lives I lived since I abandoned it the first time? No, just different. Our society prioritizes and rewards a certain level of consistency, and I found that the combination of stimulation and boundaries that came with this life allowed me to craft a believable narrative weaving together all of the lives I've lived so far, and even more importantly kept me from falling into the cliche bad habits of aggression, parasitism, and manipulation.

I honestly don't understand what the reader means. Anybody?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Power = respect

I sometimes see people asking in emails to me or in the comments section -- how do I get a sociopath to fear and/or respect me. The answer, I think, is that sociopaths aren't really such a different audience from normal people. Sociopaths will fear or respect you if you have power. Some people might disagree with this with arguments maybe about how sociopaths don't respect positions of authority. Yeah, not fake power. And maybe they don't cow before the powerful as much as your typical sheep will. But I think they do recognize power and take it into consideration.

It reminds me of my recent trip to the bush. We frequently stayed in tents in the middle of animal preserves. The guide told us to not be afraid of the animals, that the animals for the most part see the tents as a solid object and won't mess with them. I think that's basically how sociopaths see power arrangements. If something looks solid and sort of immovable to us, we'll probably just leave it alone and move onto something more obviously vulnerable.

Here's a video on acquiring power from Stanford Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Embracing hedonism

A reader sent me this interesting video of Daniel Kahneman, father of behaviorial economics, talking about happiness.

Particularly he talks about how when we think about happiness, there are two selves that we should consider that are basically in constant conflict: our experiencing self and our remembering self. Our remembering self is a storyteller. Our remembering self is typically dominant in our identity in a very history is written by the victors sort of way. Something could happen one way, but because out remembering self is the one that either chooses to retain that memory or let it slip away like so many millions of other moments that we will never think upon again, it basically has the last and only word on whether we will remember something as having happened. The remembering self is vulnerable to particular biases like the focusing effect, which allow it to distort experiences to fit the stories.

It's easy for me to see this distinction in my own self, but I feel like my remembering self doesn't have quite the sway over my experiencing self that it does with most people? Like my friend who is obsessed with making money -- that is a very remembering self thing to do, to suffer through a difficult job in order to have the satisfaction and achievement of making money. I have never been that way. I live day to day. I specifically chose a job that leads to my greatest day to day enjoyment. My attention is by far directed to what is actually happening in this moment, rather than what happened in the past or may happen in the future. I bet this is true of all people who tend to be more hedonistic than goal oriented. I honestly don't see my life in terms of milestones and achievements (at least not solely, like others I know). I can actually think back on my life of experiences, I think, and not allow my remembering self to re-write my history, but to see days upon days filled with pleasure and believe that is the main accomplishment of my life. Of course that's going to mean that I make different choices than remembering selves would, and am probably ultimately more happy because it's easier to change your current moment to one of happiness than it is to change your entire life and self-concept.

But it is interesting hearing about how other people view their life. It's given me more insight in how other people think. And if your remembering self is all that matters, then maybe it makes sense to go Memento style and just re-write your own history.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sociopaths = communication skills

I was joking with friends the other night about seduction. We each took turns describing how we would seduce the other, if we wanted. I was impressed with some of the good ideas. For instance (caveat -- not too soon into a relationship or it will ruin the effect), take the person to an event or location, or participate in an activity in which the target is no longer in his/her comfort zone -- culturally, socially, or even related to their sense of physical safety and well-being. With the proper preparation, your target will be forced to rely on you, and will have to trust you to help them navigate the situation successfully. After instilling this sense of unease and reliance in your target and after successful completion of the task, let things take a turn for the very physical. Their adrenaline and fight or flight senses should still be up from the challenge, so things will seem very exciting and intense to them.

As we continued talking, though, it was clear that I differed from most people in thinking that a broken heart is its own reward, whereas other people use seduction more as a means to an end -- a happy, successful, intimate relationship. One person wondered at what would be the point of keeping up a charade indefinitely. What point, indeed. Although I derive a good deal of pleasure from playing games, I know that there are certain things, certain life experiences or levels of trust, that games cannot provide. That doesn't mean that my hard-won skills are useless, though. I like to use the analogy of hitting a golf ball with a strong lateral wind. Your first inclination, before you notice the wind, is to hit the golf ball essentially straight. When you take the wind into consideration, though, you realize that to hit the target you seek, you have to skew the trajectory from the start. The same can be true of good communication. If you know that your listener/audience has certain prejudices or sensitivities, it is foolish to not take these into account. If you are trying to communicate to someone in that situation, you must imagine what your listener is hearing, rather than what you are actually saying. Keep tweaking your intended speech until you have accomplished your true goal in communication -- communicating a particular idea to a particular person, rather than just saying what you mean to say. Yes that is manipulation, but it is also just good communication.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tell me doctor (part (3)


High school was boringly uneventful. I saw myself forced to attend to my senior prom dance, because my mother wouldn’t let me off it. So, to please her, I gave in. By the time I got to college I was more than sure there was more to than just some temporary ‘bad attitude’. It had to be. It wasn’t a phase anymore. I had been like this my whole life, placing aside any plausible traumatic events, which I handled with gold star ease. Of course, not being able to ask anyone and having more important things to handle, it had to take the backseat.

Nowadays, little things have popped up and made me wonder about a term. A word. Little things like my inability to make eye contact with myself. In the mirror. Like anybody else. Of course, the ability itself is there. But the seeing “beyond” the mirror thing, which people talk about, that, that I can’t do. Why? Simply because I see nothing. So, I become frustrated. Not that it means much to me to see something, it doesn’t. My eyes work perfectly, regardless of the abuse I put them through, and are visually pleasant. This vacancy frustrates me because, when I make eye contact with others, I can read them. I can see them far more clearly than by just reading the regular signs (behavior, mannerism, tone of voice, word choices, etc.) And with myself, I see nothing.

There are also the concepts of Empathy, Sympathy and Conscience. Those are fun. For about five minutes.

Not too long ago, I decided to bluntly ask, “What’s the difference between Empathy and Sympathy?” Needless to say, it caught those in the room off guard.

The question came to mind, and out of my mouth, because they were watching some 48 hour TV program which collects money for a foundation. It builds specialized hospitals for disabled children who do not have the resources for whatever problems they carry. Those in the room, they were very— touched. Me, I intellectually sympathized with the whole ordeal but found the program nauseating. And the reactions to it, those, those I couldn’t bear with. They were uncalled for, really. At least from my perspective. I was, I guess, disgusted.

But after identifying and understanding where the repulsion came from, I knew it was because I did not understand what was going on, emotionally. I don’t get that sort of thing. I can’t. In fact, after people tried to, aftershock, explain what the difference between the words was, I was still in need for a more technical meaning. Technically. That’s how I understand things. I looked up the meaning and description of both. 

Dictionaries. Google. They understand me.

To this point, I still think both words to be the same. I sense them as false pity. But you can’t say that to people because they’ll get hurt. Insulted. Guarded. Betrayed. “False.” It triggers a lot for the average folk. I’ve noticed. I have also noticed that I don’t know what being sad truly feels like. Much less depressed. 

People have made me wonder about a lot of things I’ve never experienced. And about those things which I enjoy but others see as abnormal. Like solace. Peers often see the pleasure I take on being alone as “sad”. To me, that’s a repugnant thought. It’s not sad, it’s liberating. It lets me breathe. Relax. Not having to put up with human interactions, it’s a relief. But again, I must create relationships because it’s boring when you’re alone for too long. I don’t need people but I’ve always liked observing human interaction. Even when I partake.

I remember, when I was a kid, hiding out on our house’s rooftop. Under my bed. Anywhere. Anywhere to be out of reach. Sometimes I was found, sometimes I wasn’t. Either way, the ending to these episodes were always the same. Me, coming back to the family as if nothing had happen. Because, well, nothing had happen. Though I could tell my parents were angry. Mad at me for disappearing. I never acknowledged their frustration. I didn’t see why I should care. I still don’t. If they were worried, angry or scared, it was not my problem. As far as I was concerned, I could do as I pleased. I mean, I wasn’t hurting anybody, technically. So it was okay. Was it too much to ask just to be by myself? Nope. Not to me. Even if I was five. These “disappearing acts” were none of their business and so they remained.

Then comes my thoughts on Conscience. Which I thought were the same as everyone else’s. Apparently, and accordingly to a certain book, I was wrong. Making it to the point, what I think of Conscience is just a taught behavior. A mimic. Like table manners while growing up. Our parents, the surrounding responsible adults, teach us to differ between Right and Wrong, in the same way they were taught by their own. That’s how I see conscience. Thing is, that could also be considered as the superego. I guess that’s what I get for deconstructing every little thing. Deconstructionist. I should add that to my resume.

Another subject that leaves me at odds is Mortality. Others’ and my own. I don’t think I see it properly. Even my father’s death didn’t affect me as much as expected to. Me being on the verge of dying (under the knife, in various occasions), didn’t affect me. Family members dying, friends... nothing. At this point, and maybe it’s because of the many years as a patient that have me trained but, none of that affects me as I see with other people. I remember being the only one with dry eyes at my father’s funeral. It was, weird.

It is due to this lack of--whatever it is that makes people so emotionally invested, that my mother says she’s scared of me. She is afraid because of my “apathetic”, “tactless”, “unemotional”, “shameless” and “antisocial” behavior. Her words not mine. Of course, this is something I cannot help. Seeing death as just the end of a cycle. It happens and that’s that. I understand that people miss people. I mean, I miss my father’s company, now and then, but there’s nothing tragic about it. Not even if they were killed, or murdered.

Because of this, people tend to see me as cruel. Mean. Cold. That last might be true. But Cruel? That I only am when interested in being so. For example, something I should feel ashamed about, though I’m not, to enjoy psychological torment. It’s a real thrill. Most of the time, just to be perverse. For pure sadistic fun. I can’t help myself. As said, I should feel ashamed, but I’m not. Then again, I rarely am. And when I become aware that I should be, I flaunt my wrong doings. As you may have noticed.

Anyway, to finally put an end to this novel, my most recent realization. 
One day, not too long ago, while sitting about, thinking, it came to me like a car crashing on the back of my head. “I feel like a ghost.” The words merely mouthed but quite present.

I’ve always been aware of this inertia. This suspended animation. This separate life I’ve carried. But I’ve never been really able to verbalize it accurately. Until now. The best way I can put it, it’s like the entirety of your existence is parallel to those around you. Like watching life take place, observing it happen. Every single thing. But you’re behind a plastic sheet. A transparent, endless and inescapable curtain which allows you to be seen, to be superficially acknowledged by others, “the living”, but you never really partake in their lives. You exist. Sure. But you’re not quite with them. That’s what being what I am feels like. Whatever it is I may be.

Since I was a child I always danced around the thought of disappearing. One glorious day would come and I will take off, without a word to anyone, and disappear. For good. Never to be heard of, or from, again. My childhood fantasy. A dream. Some kids dream of being a princess, of adventures, of growing up and being like mommy and daddy. Me? I dreamed of isolation. Of finally being able to be absolutely free. To be myself without calculating every word, every movement, every thought. To be alone. What a dream.

So, do tell. Should I seek psychiatric help or, is it all manageable enough? Regardless of what the answer might be, I politely thank you for taking the time and reading this unnecessarily long email. Have a good one.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tell me doctor (part 2)


By the time my siblings were born and I started school, I had already developed addictive tendencies (an understatement for a full blown addiction) and a rage act. An act I would constantly submit my mother to, because of the disconnect, which I found tedious and unnecessary. Like her. And because of the habit. Addicts become angered and defensive when confronted, and that was me. A little too often. Screaming that I hated her, that she wasn't my mother, etc. Anything to hurt her and walk away. Disregarding consequences.

At this point, I was already showing signs of antisocial behavior. Sure, I liked to go out and play, with very few selected acquaintances. With friends. But I much preferred (and still do) staying indoors, by myself. Either playing on my own, drawing, or watching a movie.

Sometimes I think and wonder if I was born to either be in jail or in a mental hospital. I’ve always felt that way. I can tell you that I’d do just fine. Confined in a four by four, blank walled cell. With nothing to do and no one to talk to. I’ve always lived in my head so there wouldn’t be much change. I’ve never had a problem with pretense (it’s like a switch.) With dissociation and compartmentalization. I mastered them at a very young age, due to my one-too-many, objectifying, hospital stays (I see myself as a Subject rather than a Person) and, I often use them to my advantage. Not as a coping mechanism but as tools. Though I am more than sure any therapist would say differently. 

Also, I’ve never been too keen with showing affection, or having it offered to me. Hugs alone make me doubt my every move. If I am to give one, or am given one, I have to mentally prepare myself beforehand. No matter how spontaneous the act may seem, it’s always carefully calculated. Any sort of affectionate gesture is, to me. A kiss, a hug, a--whatever else. It’s rehearsed, in my head at least. And it has to be. Otherwise, it’s an uncomfortable, awkward moment, for my counterpart. For me it’s simply confusing. Same goes with compliments and love confessions. My usual response, “Um, OK.” Then, silence.

Ex. One of my mother's favorite tales. 
If someone, either in attempting to be polite or because they genuinely wanted to, kissed me on the cheek, I would immediately rub my face clean. Agitated. Obviously, I was seen as rude, though they would say "cute". Soon after many insults of this sort, from my part, my mother had to teach me to be polite. Such a concept. Like a pup being prepared for a dog show. I hated it. The idea of not only putting up with people but also having to pretend to like them. To be "nice" to them. It took me years to get used to it. Used to it, not like it.

As for the addiction, it wasn't a big deal. Not from where I was standing. My parents knew about it but never did anything to stop it. Suppose I can't blame them, being new to the whole parenting alone, it's no easy task. Or so I'm told. Specially with a sick kid. The expected over-protectiveness and all. Suffocating. And so, an opposing reaction. Sometimes.

I would hide, lie, act. Whatever had to be done to get what I "needed" (wanted*). Consciously. After many years, the summer before I started high school, I decided I was going to quit. Cold turkey. And I did. And I haven’t gone back to it since. Will power, another switch. Reason why I have little to no sympathy for addicts. Bit ironic, I know.

During one of appointments, my then pediatrician warned my parents to be really careful with me. He told them that I was really smart, perhaps too smart for my own good, as they say, and that I knew how to handle people. That I would know exactly what, when, how to do whatever I had to do, to get my way. That they shouldn’t take on my “disability” as an excuse to let me get away with murder. That if not careful, I would use them. Manipulate them. That for their sake, it was better off if they kept me intellectually stimulated. Busy. I suppose that’s how I became an artist. Art. We all have our ways to feel connected.

I'm not sure what I did to make the Doc so concerned for my parents but, to date, it remains true. Sometimes, when extremely frustrated, I have outbursts. Small, raw moments when people get glimpses of what I call the “inner me”. Though rare, I hate it when it happens. Not because I’m shy, or coy, as people usually perceive me to be (I keep to myself). But because it means I was distracted. A spontaneous and small loss of self-control. Like with those childhood pets. Loss of self-control. Extremely irritating to me. My thought process is, “I know better. I can do better. I am better than that.”

Somewhat compulsive, I admit it. Borderline scary, I admit that too. But being as experienced as I am, as good as I am with controlling myself. Even those small impulses. Those primal urges. This, this is like a slap on the hand. Undermining. If I’m as good as I’ve come to be with this sort of thing, the average reactions shouldn’t be a problem. But I am aware that I have been caught in the middle of the confusion when trying to find an appropriate expression, reaction, reply. When I don’t know what people want from me and I have this odd, blank expressionless face. However, there had been times when the absolute opposite happens. With my siblings, it’s happened, "People should be thankful I don't manipulate them as much as I could!" To which they usually agree. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, or bad. If anything, these small moments of off-guarded behavior show me that, yeah, maybe, somehow, in some way, they know that something is off. Not right. Not properly.

My siblings. If I believed in love, I'd love them. Thing is, I'm not sure if I’ve ever felt love. Or loved. Even with my father. I felt understood, accepted. Not loved. I don't even know what that feels like. And the picture I have of what the L-word is supposed to be, it seems too Disney-like to be real. Of course, that could be expected from an atheist, which I've been my whole life (never wrote to Santa.) Nevertheless, I am curious. I don't think my idea of love is the same as the “real thing.” If it does exist.

In fact, I don't think I love. Sure, I care enough. Appropriately enough to make a mental note of X subject. I tend to be more, territorial. Protective. But that's not love. As far as I see it, that's animal instinct. It's primal. It's selfish, and sometimes childish. Like a wolf with its cubs. Or food. It's always been that way and I don't think it has any possibilities of changing. At least, I hope it doesn't. Because I wouldn’t know what to do with sentimentalists and the uselessness that comes with them.

Anyway, growing up, I was never interested in relationships. In puppy love. In crushes. I’ve always liked being alone so, I didn’t see the supposed need to have any of that. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it, right? And sure, don’t get me wrong, there has been attraction towards some individuals but, never something I couldn’t live without. That much’s still the same. But I must admit that there have been moments when, out of boredom or frustration given isolation, I wished I was in a relationship. Like my peers. Then I think about it again and shake off the idea as a whole, because if unnecessary, absurd.

And maybe that’s part of what’s brought me to write this letter. Curiosity first and then, a small need to know if maybe there is a logic explanation to my ways. Please, do not misinterpret that as a need for “meaning”. A “purpose”. I find both myths ridiculous.

At the age of twelve my father died, and I’ve been alone ever since. Well, in a sense. I’ve always been alone. We are all in our own. Respectively. At least I see it that way. We create relationships with constant shared moments but, in the end, we’re on our own. Some like it, some don’t. I, I remain indifferent.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tell me doctor (part 1)

From a reader:

I was born close to twenty-five years ago to a nice, inexperienced, young couple. I am told I was an average baby, behaviorally speaking. Except, before I was six months of age, I was diagnosed with a congenital cardiovascular condition. This placed me on the operating table in a nothing less than immediate timing. (Hereby why I suspect any attachment disorder and aspd just about equally.) My mother tends to repeat the tale of the aftermath, which obviously made an impression on her. How as they visited me, while in intensive care, my infant self, awake, turned away from them and did not give into any gestures of affection.

In my early years, I noticed, and this from personal memory, that I had no real connection to my parents. Or anyone, for that matter. Sure, they were my parents but, I was still in some separate, parallel existence. Needless to say, I never spoke of this perception to them, or anyone else. In fact, this poor excuse of a letter might be the first time I let anyone on my little dark "secret". I don't mind it though. If anything, it's like lazily tossing a pillow.

As a child, I saw the people around me, especially and most specifically adults, play make-believe in a continuum, inescapable game. I saw it all as hypocritical and obnoxious nonsense. Then, the predicted reactions came along, "Why should I play along?" et cetera. By the time I was in kindergarten, I'd already decided to keep the peace. To play along. With my immediate group, at least. My family.

Family. There goes an interesting concept on its own.

Unknown to her, I've never had a relationship with my mother. If anyone were to ask her, I'm sure she'd say the exact opposite. Which is fine by me. It keeps the peace, as said. With my father, it was a whole different story. If I could ever call anyone a "friend", for whatever I might consider a friend to be, if I was ever "close" to anyone at all, it was him.

Somehow, and this I can't explain, I think he saw me for what I was. Whatever that may be. Therefore, and because he was my father and acted the role to the letter, I could be myself with him. There would be no overreaction. No questioning. Regardless of what I did, this without passing judgement simply because of our ties, he accepted me. I'm not sure if he understood me, thoroughly, though there was a certain willingness for that too, but there was acceptance. In addition to this objectiveness from his part. I could sense it, at arm's length, now and then. Not overly abrasive nor cold. Simply, objective.

That distant relationship was the best thing I could possibly ask for, if I had ask for anything at all. Though I knew, somehow, it was abnormal. Which, again, was fine with me.

One thing that has recently made wonder about this father and offspring companionship is the memory of those odd bits from my already unorthodox childhood. I remember being cruel to some of our house pets. In both occasions, my father was present.

I cannot say what made me do it, nor why didn't he just stop me, or applied some sort of punishment for my behavior. He did not. He didn't stop me from shoving toilet paper down that puppy's throat, or from beating my 'favorite' cat while in bed. Both actions were spontaneous. I never planned on being cruel. I never even thought about doing anything of the sort. But I did it. Out of nowhere came those two-inch, discorporated fists of mine. And I say Discorporated due to the lack of proper wording to what happened. 

Without trying to sound textbook, I can sincerely tell you that I felt nothing. That is precisely why I remember things clearly. Maybe too clear for my taste. 

My father did not say "stop" or "this is wrong". He simply watched and, before things escalated, with some twisted humor (I took it as such anyway), he'd say something like, "Poor cat." Then, I'd stop and try to figure out why was the cat "poor"? It wasn't necessarily a question but, my job was to understand why he'd say something like that. Why should I feel bad for the cat? I saw it as a lesson. I couldn't say if that's what he attempted to do, I never asked, but that's what I got from it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sociopaths recognizing each other and manipulation

A reader asks whether sociopaths can recognize each other, and what's the deal with sociopath charm and knowing the right thing to say, etc.:
I think sociopaths can recognize each other. I imagine it's like con artists stumbling across each other -- there are so many shared tricks, that it's easy to see part of yourself in the other person. But not all sociopaths are the same, so that wouldn't be universally true, and I think some sociopaths are more open about manipulation, etc. than others. So it depends. But I have found other sociopaths by doing a delicate dance of disclosure and eliciting information before sharing my own. But there could be others that I have just never known about, so it is hard to say what percentage of sociopaths I am successfully able to detect.

Manipulation is a lot about reading the other people for their reactions in a trial and error sort of way. Imagine the best "yes men." They pretty much just throw out a lot of opinions, see which one their target seems to latch onto, and then reemphasize that particular one. Most people are expecting to see some things and not others, so you just watch for those signs in their face. If it seems like you are getting off, you'll see a look of confusion or disgust, after which you quickly backpedal and go the opposite way. Otherwise you'll see signs of apathy or approval. I imagine it is a lot like a blind man feeling his way through an unfamiliar room. I do the same thing in interviews or first dates, and I think everyone does it to a certain extent. We sort of give vague answers to feel people out and avoid committing on anything until the other person commits first.

Hmm, what are some of my favorite manipulation movies/books? Housesitter, Dangerous Liaisons, Being John Malkovich... also The Art of Seduction and The 48 Laws of Power are very good resources. I do categorize people, but don't really have standard lines the same way pick up artists or con artists seem to have. So I guess it is more intuitive, and by that I mean there is an excessive amount of data mining going on in a seemingly innocent conversation. Or if I'm feeling lazy, or am in a group, I put on a show for everyone, tell some charming story, or engage the group in the story of someone else there -- trying to be a curator of the interesting, the cultural, the entertaining. Actually I was just talking with a friend who knows what I am and she said she sometimes wishes she could be me in group settings -- always entertaining, charming, intoxicating. My gut tells me it can be taught, and those resources I mention above are starting points. The real thing keeping most people from being charming, I think, is that they are unwilling to devote their entire energy and attention to someone else. They remain afraid that they are not coming off well, or self conscious, or whatever else it is that keeps people from diving into a role, so they never can be as affective as someone who can keep the focus entirely on the other person. I don't know to what extent that can be learned...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Guest song: Valley of the Dolls

In the Valley of the Dolls we sleep, we sleep.
Got a hole inside of me, of me.
Gone with a boy, hard to destroy with love, oh.
Built with a heart broken from the start, and now I die slow.

In the Valley of the Dolls we sleep.
Got a hole inside of me.
Living with identities, that do not belong to me.
In my life I got this far, now I'm ready for my last hurrah.
Dying like a shooting star.
In the Valley (x3)

Pick a personality for free.
When you feel like nobody, body.
Gone with a boy, hard to destroy with love, oh.
Built with a heart broken from the start, and now I die slow.

In the Valley of the Dolls we sleep.
Got a hole inside of me.
Living with identities, that do not belong to me.
In my life I got this far, now I'm ready for my last hurrah.
Dying like a shooting star.
In the Valley (x3)

Back to zero, here we go again, again.
Racin' down into oblivion.
Back to zero, here we go.
I can feel it comin' to the end, the end.

In the Valley of the Dolls we sleep.
Got a hole inside of me.
Living with identities, that do not belong to me.
In my life I got this far, now I'm ready for my last hurrah.
Dying like a shooting star.
In the Valley (x3)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Murderous children

This is an interesting article about the parents of one of the victims of the Columbine school massacre meeting with the parents of one of the shooters:
Approximately ten years and four months after Eric Harris murdered their child, Linda and Tom drove into Denver to greet his parents. The Harries declined to comment on the meeting. These are Linda’s impressions.
* * *
Wayne [Harris] was mystified by his son. Wayne and Kathy accepted that Eric was a psychopath. Where that came from, they didn’t know. But he fooled them, utterly.

He’d also fooled a slew of professionals. Wayne and Kathy clearly felt misled by the psychologist they sent him to. The doctor had brushed off Eric’s trademark duster as “only a coat.” He saw Eric’s problems as rather routine. At least that’s the impression he gave Wayne and Kathy.

They shared that perception with the Mausers. Other than the van break-in, Eric had never been in serious trouble, they said. He and Dylan were arrested in January 1998 and charged with three felonies. They eventually entered a juvenile diversion program, which involved close monitoring and various forms of restitution.

Eric rarely seemed angry, his parents said. There was one odd incident where he slammed his fist into a brick wall and scraped his knuckles. That was startling, but kids do weird things. It seemed like an aberration, not a pattern to be worried about.

Wayne and Kathy knew Eric had a Web site, but that didn’t seem odd. They never went online to look at it. “I found them kind of incurious,” Linda said.

From time to time, she wondered whether the Harrises were lying, or exaggerating. Her instincts said no. They did not strike her as calculating or devious; maybe a bit hapless. And Wayne was somewhat inscrutable. Honest, but not revealing. Linda believed them, but wondered whether the couple second-guessed themselves enough. “Honestly, if it were me this happened to, I think I’d still be questioning myself,” Linda said. “They did not seem to doubt themselves.”
But doubting oneself is only useful if there was another, better option available to you at the time given the information you had.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winning streaks and outsourcing

I taught myself to feel anxiety about certain tasks for my continued health and welfare. I taught myself to be sensitive and careful about certain select things. And now it is sometimes hard to turn it off.

This is not a design flaw. If I had made anxiety easy to turn off, I would turn it off whenever it was inconvenient to me to feel that way.

I'll give you an example of why it might be good or necessary to not have control. I have never been a gearhead. So I have a friend who makes all of my choices of what to buy in those particular areas. Sometimes I question his judgment, think maybe I might like something else. I was telling another friend about this and he said, "so why don't you just buy what you want then?" But that's the thing. I have outsourced the decisionmaking to my gearhead friend. If I second guessed all of his recommendations, then really I have not outsourced anything to him. I have just decided to get his opinion about things. But that's not what I want. I want to not have to decide.

Similar with the anxiety. I used to not care at all. I used to do the craziest things. Then I didn't like the consequences, so at least in certain areas of my life I set my brain to thinking more about particular important tasks. At first I made it a game. Can I do this simple but important task better than anyone else? Then the game became about consistency -- can I achieve this level of superior skill for the longest streak ever seen?

It was such a successful tactic that I kept adding tasks to care about. It's funny, in my mind and in my life I must have hundreds if not thousands of these little games going on by now. All simultaneous. All keeping my life together. And they are sort of important, that's why I singled them out once upon a time to care about. But now when something goes wrong, the feeling of loss or letdown I feel is out of all proportion to the relative significance of the small skirmish lost. Because it's not just the one mistake, it's the end of a winning streak.

It's sort of laughable, that I have made myself like this -- chosen the choices I have led which have, when compounded with hundreds of similar choices, made me care a lot about certain little things. I should maybe rethink the plan. But I also now better understand why most people are the way they are -- why nature or God has chosen to reinforce our important decisions like mating with emotions like love. We have to give ourselves some sort of system to rely on when our minds might be distracted -- some way to make sure that important things don't slip your mind or through the cracks. And my system does that too, and probably just as well or better than emotional reinforcement. But my system takes an incredible mental toll. And when my mind gets taxed just slightly above what I have expected it, I can push myself into mind sickness. So that's why I might have to reconsider my system. Or maybe I should just to outsource more.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Manifesto of a non-monster

This is from a self-identified sociopath reader wanting to correct some of the misconceptions of sociopaths:

I am a sociopath.
I am drawn to power, yes, because it fills the void.
I do not inwardly comply with society's social rules, laws or ideas of right and wrong. I do not live by any other human being's moral code, I have created my own that suits me to perfection. I comply with society outwardly only when it is useful; my 'mask'.
I believe that all sociopaths cannot be thrown into a simple category, each sociopath is an individual. I believe there are different levels of sociopathy, and that it can be cultivated and developed to help or hinder both other people in the sociopath's life and the sociopath. The right recipe is excellent, the wrong recipe is a disaster. 
That said, I believe many 'normal' people label every vagrant that displeases or harms them a sociopath. Is sociopathy more common than we thought in the past? Yes. Is it that common? No. 
This gives the average person the impression that every sociopath is a ruthless monster with no good intention or remotely safe and healthy motive whatsoever.
Am I selfish? Yes. I want what I want, and will not deny myself what I want unless it goes against the code I have created for myself.
Am I dishonest? If I feel that I must lie--that it is necessary--then I will. I lie to keep up the mask for my own survival and enjoyment. 
Do I have dark impulses, thoughts and desires? Absolutely. Do I give in to them? Only when it doesn't go against the code I've created.
Do I have the desire to 'destroy' an innocent person just for the fun of it? I love to destroy someone, it is a fun game to play and I love games, but I would never seek to destroy or harm someone unless they were an enemy of mine or someone I did not respect.
Am I addicted to drugs, alcohol or promiscuous sex? I do not respect an addict because I view addiction as weakness, which I detest. I have no addiction.
Am I cold or frigid in bed? I enjoy sex. It is an expression of freedom, where I can enjoy my body and get closer to someone I respect. I am open and responsive in the bedroom. However, I am incredibly picky until I have chosen the one I wish to sleep with, which is the reason I have been in the same relationship for 5 years now. I have chosen.
Do I cheat on my significant other? I have been entirely faithful, from the first day to now. I do not lie to him or steal from him either because I respect him. He knows that I am a sociopath. 
Do I steal? Absolutely not. Unless I was hurting badly for money, I would not steal because if I were caught the reputation I have worked to create and uphold would be obliterated or tarnished.
And I have never harmed an animal, I'm vegetarian in fact. I despise anyone who harms an innocent and defenseless animal. It is the humans that disgust me; animals are driven by instinct.  Man has reason, and still continues in his repugnant ways. 

Not every monster is a sociopath, not every sociopath is a monster.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dating other sociopaths

From a reader asking if it is a good idea for sociopaths to date other sociopaths:

My reasons for thinking we're a perfect match:

1)   Point: We need a challenge; everyone else is just too easy to win over. 

      Personal experience: When friends ask me how I do it, I shrug and say something banal because it is useless to try to explain. I feel that “game” is a skill that is fine-tuned throughout life, and even a lifetime of practice will not be of desired effect unless one already possesses an uncanny knack for reading body language, understanding weaknesses and individual needs, deciphering subliminal clues people unknowingly give off, and minimal emotional involvement. The ease at which I get what I want can actually be frustrating. I usually lose interest right after I acquire my target's complete attention and/or whatever I need from him. As I slowly let it go (so as not to burn bridges just in case I ever need that bridge again), I usually get some sort of a love confession. It’s a nice ego boost, but it honestly annoys me. Maybe it annoys me because it reminds me that I am incapable of feeling anything back. More likely, it’s because I have to waste my energy trying to let him down easy. Yet even more likely, it's probably because it reinforces the fact that I'm failing in my search for another of equal mindset. 

      Rationale: Dating another sociopath would be much more invigorating, as it would be a constant challenge for one another’s attention. As stated in Robert Greene’s “The Art of Seduction”, the most successful couples are those in which both people have mastered seduction. Without this, we get bored. We need a game, and an incompetent opponent is no fun after the first round. 

2)   Point: Save the emotional acts.

      Personal experience: I do manipulate, but I do recognize that if I want to remain in respectable societal standing, I have to play towards the emotions of the people I deal with. In my past relationships, I have had to fake what I am not feeling (i.e. pretend to comfort the guy when he’s upset, force myself to do the whole stare-into-each-other’s-eyes thing, convince him that I feel the same way, etc.) I’m not sure if there are other socios out there that feel this, but strong expressions of love and sadness are the two emotions I feel the most phony mimicking. I can literally feel the insincerity seeping out of my pores. Near the end of relationships my tolerance for such acts fizzles out, and I am accused of not caring…and since I generally don’t, he ends up hurt. While I have never felt sorrow or regret from this, I also do not want to leave a trail of broken hearts behind me. It’s essentially damaging my reputation and whatever connections I might need to make in the future. 

      Rationale: Tending to a lover’s emotions is tiresome and an enormous waste of time. Dating a sociopath would eliminate this rollercoaster of ridiculous emotional performances, and we would be able to live in drama-free harmony. Paradoxically, it would actually be a more honest relationship. 

3)   Point: We are attracted to those who are both book-smart and street-smart.

      Personal experience: I am attracted to intellect and power, and I assume that most other socios are as well. I’d rather marry an ugly but manipulative and successful genius than a sexy-as-hell but dumb-as-a-rock superstar. I saw that you mentioned the 48 Laws of Power. I cannot discuss this book with anyone I know. They lack the ability to see the rules as one entity from which we must derive certain principles, based on what our situation and goals are. I consider craftiness along with the ability to gauge situations and handle them with appropriate tact to be my definition of "street-smart". Lacking this quality is a complete turn-off for me. Being book-smart is also essential for my attraction to another; if I feel that I am capable of getting better grades on a factually-based exam than someone, I can't take them seriously. In my dealings with dating, I have come across only one person who has mastered both areas. I have insincerely told several people throughout my life that I "love" them (usually out of obligated reciprocation); I'm unsure of what my take on love is, but I can honestly say that what I feel for that one person is closer to love than what I've felt for anyone else.

      Rationale: There are plenty of book-smart people out there. There are also plenty of street-smart people. To have both is rare- and those who have both have an edge over everybody else. Most socios are able to recognize this potential for success, for they possess it within themselves. Naturally, we are attracted to excellence. Therefore, we are attracted to other sociopaths.

4)   Point: Being a "chameleon" can only be understood by others like us.

      Personal experience: I change my persona depending on what I need and who I am around. My groups of friends are eclectic and from all walks of life. In the past, when the guy I'm with at the time has met a group of friends who views me differently than he does, disaster ensued. "Who are you?", "You didn't tell me you used to do such-and-such things",  "I talked to so-and-so...I don't even know you", and so on. I am forced to purposely avoid letting my significant other meet certain people or hear certain things, in an attempt to maintain his view of who I am to him.

     Rationale: Who we date is usually a frequent escort. That being said, it is difficult for someone who isn't a social chameleon to get along with more than one group of your friends- or anyone who sees you in a different light than your lover does. Dating another sociopath means that he/she will easily fit into your eclectic groups of acquaintances. He/she will understand the necessity of mimicking and will be able to recognize when it is being done. He/she will also be able to mimick, which eliminates the "why do your friends hate me?" mediation and the "what was that all about?" explanations. He/she will understand that the "you" that you are pretending to be is just an act.

      I could probably continue, but I'll wait for some feedback first. Please do note that I am presenting this from theories I've derived from my own experiences. Also note that I am not referring to full-blown psychopaths, sadists, or those that might only date to extort things from/harm the other. Rather, I am referencing "mild" sociopaths like myself, who understand self-interest and are frustrated with dating simpletons.

Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies


Comments are unmoderated. Blog owner is not responsible for third party content. By leaving comments on the blog, commenters give license to the blog owner to reprint attributed comments in any form.