Friday, May 31, 2013

Sociopaths = team players

So says the Psychology Today blog ("Despite Popular Opinion, Psychopaths Can Show They Care"):

The quintessential psychopath shows callous disregard for others, a complete lack of empathy, a glibness and superficial charm, and an impulsive and antisocial lifestyle. We would never, given this set of qualities, expect such individuals to make decisions that would benefit anyone but themselves. Their lack of empathy should make it nearly impossible for them to understand how other people are feeling. Yet, when you think about it, the ability of psychopaths to con and smooth talk their way into situations that allow them to take advantage of people requires some pretty sensitive people-reading skills. Perhaps behaving in psychopathic ways isn’t a matter of lack of ability to empathize, but is instead due to lack of proper incentive. If that’s the case, it should be possible to put the psychopath’s people-reading skills to good use.

Following this logic, psychologists Nathan Arbuckle and William Cunningham (2012) explored the possibility that, under the right circumstances, people high in psychopathy would willingly behave in ways that would benefit someone other than themselves. The people in this study were not hardened criminals, but were drawn from the somewhat ordinary psychology study population of college undergraduates. However, based on the notion that psychopathy isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of trait, Arbuckle and Cunningham reasoned that even college students can have at least some of the remorseless selfishness and glibness shown in clinical populations. In fact, the questionnaire measure they used to measure psychopathy seems capable of sniffing out the “everyday” psychopaths who stroll through college campuses.

They set up a game where "participants would either benefit themselves alone, or benefit themselves and the person for whom they were playing (team member vs. stranger)."

In the first study, the findings supported the hypothesis that people high in psychopathy would be more likely to take bets that would benefit their team rather than a group of strangers. However, the findings could suggest that the people high in psychopathy were simply trying to improve their own situation, and not necessarily that of the group’s. Therefore, in the second study, the setup was slightly different. Now the bets would benefit only the team, not oneself alone. With this slight tweaking of the experimental condition, the people high in psychopathy continued to make decisions that would benefit their team even when they, personally, didn't stand to benefit from their bets.

Along that same vein, my sister emailed my family this recent NY Times op-ed, "The Gift of Siblings." My brother said he cried at this paragraph:

My siblings have certainly seen me at my worst, and I’ve seen them at theirs. No one has bolted. It’s as if we signed some contract long ago, before we were even aware of what we were getting into, and over time gained the wisdom to see that we hadn’t been duped. We’d been graced: with a center of gravity; with an audience that never averts its gaze and doesn’t stint on applause. For each of us, a new home, a new relationship or a newborn was never quite real until the rest of us had been ushered in to the front row.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Benefiting from sociopaths

I have gotten a lot of pushback from a statement that I make in the book: "I believe that most people who interact with sociopaths are better off than they otherwise would be." I don't necessarily mean it in the sense that the sociopath has directly benefited the person in a specific way, although I don't think that's an entirely outrageous statement either. When I think of the percentages of people I have harmed (even unintentionally) with the number of people that I have benefited in some small way, from things as small as holding a door open for them (people love good manners) to getting them a job (I love it when people owe me favors even more than I like them repaying those favors), the scale tips drastically in the direction of positive -- maybe 99.9% of people I interact with benefit in some small way?

Yes, true, those that are harmed tend to be harmed in larger ways than the corresponding benefit of having someone open a door for you. But even the people who get harmed benefit from their interactions with a sociopath in a way. They have the choice of either wallowing in the role of a victim or of taking the opportunity to learn from the experience (and who better to teach you about yourself than a sociopath). It's a little bit like how surviving cancer can give someone a healthier outlook on life. Life is filled with challenges and suffering. We will never eliminate it, and there are a lot of unintended negative consequences when we try (see Taleb's Antifragile). Even when we do successfully eliminate bad things from our lives, we invent new reasons to be upset -- so-called "first world problems". When we overcome challenges, even when they come in the form of a sociopath, we come out stronger. If there was never any opposition to your worldview or no one around to exploit the sloppiest of your mental shortcuts or delusions about the way the world works, then your mind (and our society, think Rome) would atrophy the same way your muscles do when they're not used. Hitting the gym is hard and can even be painful, but the result is a stronger you.

A reader said something similar:

I just finished reading your book... And wow.  I'm not a sociopath - I have very definite negative feelings.  

Several years ago, I was "ruined" by someone I believe is a sociopath.  A lot of what you described in the book fits her quite well, though she's never had (to my knowledge, at least) a professional diagnosis.  Her manipulation and seduction of my (at the time) fiance wound up destroying my relationship with him shortly before we were supposed to get married.  Now...well, if I still knew how to get in touch with her, I might thank her for what she did.  She didn't do it out of the kindness of her heart, obviously, but I'm now in a much better and happier relationship with a new man, and while I've had difficulty trusting some people after that incident, my life is better than it had been before I met this sociopath.

It's hard being an empath, honestly.  I'm a bit on the cold side of people without sociopathic tendencies; I can analyze cost/benefit and act on that.  It's my preferred method of engaging with the world.  But emotions can come into play, especially guilt and poor self-image.  I live with a young woman who lets her emotions so fully control her actions that she has no life direction, no job, no ability to stay focused on any one thing for more than a couple months at a time (in the past year she's decided she wants to be a vet, a pediatrician, a pathologist, and now a specialist in herpetology so that she could work at zoos).  Her ability to feel emotions is damaging to her ultimate well-being.

It's terrifying for us, to think about sociopaths who are good at manipulating and enjoy manipulating, because we lie to ourselves and pretend that we don't manipulate others and others aren't actively manipulating us.  But that's not true.  I know how to manipulate my husband into doing what I want. I don't always, but I have that power.  And he knows how to manipulate me into doing what he wants.  He doesn't always choose to do so.  The difference is that in our viewpoint, sociopaths don't feel obligated to buy into and perpetuate that lie.  

Reading your book was a very uncomfortable thing for me because you were so honest.  But I learned a long time ago that the discomfort I'm feeling is because I learned to view the world in a slightly different way.  I can't just sit back and pretend that sociopaths are nameless, faceless people out in the world.  By putting your own voice out there, I was able to engage with you, the author of the book, and understand your unique self at least a little bit.  I received a wealth of understanding from reading this book, and now I need to take the time to ponder.

Reading your book was a terrific, frightening, wonderful experience.  I cannot think about sociopaths in the same way anymore.  So thank you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The upside of candor

There have been a lot of interesting consequences from writing the book. I'll try to schedule an AMA on reddit or a Q&A on this blog soon to talk about them. One of the more positive ones is the support I have gotten from most of my friends and family.

I was talking to my sister, who has just started reading my book. She and I have never been close. She is by far the most emotional member of my family and we never shared much in common. We talk on the phone maybe once or twice a year. She wanted to call to tell me that she felt like she was understanding some of our interactions and my past history better than she ever had before. It felt really good to be better understood by someone that I've known for most of my life but from whom I have always felt distanced. She did admit that she felt a little badly for the death of the baby opossum, but she also told me that she loved me and was proud of me. And perhaps the first time in our lives it meant something to me because I knew that it wasn't because I had tricked her into thinking I was something that I'm really not. She was actually seeing me and still seeing things she liked.

Along these same lines, my other sister sent me a link to this interview with memoirist and former alcoholic Mary Karr:

When you surrender, you get used to a certain level of candor—you know, the old thing, you’re only as sick as your secrets. You develop a confidence in truth-telling. Part of my drinking was so much about trying not to feel things, to not feel how I actually felt, and the terrible thing about being so hidden is if people tell you they love you. . . it kinda doesn’t sink in. You always think, if you’re hiding things, How could you know who I am? You don’t know who I am, so how could you love me? Saying who I am, and trying to be as candid as possible as part of practicing the principles, has permitted me to actually connect with people for the first time in my life. It’s ended lifelong exile.

They always say God is in the truth, and I’ve ended loneliness and been able to feel connected by saying who I am and how I feel. I’m sort of comfortable to the degree to which I’m an asshole. It’s not like I’m not an asshole—people know the ways I’m an asshole and it’s within the realm of acceptable asshole-ocity. 

I don't know if being more honest and open will improve my relationships in the long run, but that's the hope. It's probably a very ironic thing for me to say, but I don't really have any desire to let my disorder define me or my life. That doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge that I have issues and struggle with things that to a large extent have prevented me from having lasting stable relationships and work situations, but I've always been really open to trying new things.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Defining my disorder

This was an interesting NY Times op-ed ("Defining My Dyslexia") of someone's firsthand account of dealing with dyslexia and coming to see it as having both helped and hurt him in his life. I thought there were some interesting parallels:

Last month, at the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation Conference on Dyslexia and Talent, I watched several neurobiologists present evidence that the dyslexic brain, which processes information in a unique way, may impart particular strengths. Studies using cognitive testing and functional M.R.I.’s have demonstrated exceptional three-dimensional and spatial reasoning among dyslexic individuals, which may account for the many successful dyslexic engineers. Similar studies have shown increased creativity and big-picture thinking (or “gist-detection”) in dyslexics, which correlates with the surprising number of dyslexic entrepreneurs, novelists and filmmakers.

The conference’s organizers made a strong case that the successes of the attending dyslexic luminaries — who ranged from a Pulitzer-winning poet to a MacArthur grant-winning paleontologist to an entrepreneur who pays a dozen times my student loans in taxes every year — had been achieved “not despite, but because of dyslexia.”

It was an exciting idea. However, I worried that the argument might be taken too far. Some of the attendees opposed the idea that dyslexia is a diagnosis at all, arguing that to label it as such is to pathologize a normal variation of human intellect. One presenter asked the audience to repeat “Dyslexia is not a disability.”

On what role people with a disorder should have in helping to define that diagnosis:

At the heart of the conference was the assumption that a group of advocates could alter the definition of dyslexia and what it means to be dyslexic. That’s a bigger idea than it might seem. Ask yourself, “What role should those affected by a diagnosis have in defining that diagnosis?” Recently I posed this question to several doctors and therapists. With minor qualifications, each answered “none.” I wasn’t surprised. Traditionally, a diagnosis is something devised by distant experts and imposed on the patient. But I believe we must change our understanding of what role we should play in defining our own diagnoses.

Before I went to medical school, I thought a diagnosis was synonymous with a fact; criteria were met, or not. Sometimes this is so. Diabetes, for example, can be determined with a few laboratory tests. But other diagnoses, particularly those involving the mind, are more nebulous. Symptoms are contradictory, test results equivocal. Moreover, the definition of almost any diagnosis changes as science and society evolve.

Diagnostics might have more in common with law than science. Legislatures of disease exist in expert panels, practice guidelines and consensus papers. Some laws are unimpeachable, while others may be inaccurate or prejudiced. The same is true in medicine; consider the antiquated diagnosis of hysteria in women. Those affected by unjust diagnoses — like those affected by unjust laws — should protest and help redefine them.

I like that part, particularly "Diagnostics might have more in common with law than science. Some laws are unimpeachable, while others. . . inaccurate or prejudiced". He mentions as an example the role that people with autism have had in helping to change the common understanding of what that disorder means, particularly outside of clinical settings in which most disorders are studied. Once people started coming forward in droves as having autism, it helped spawn the neurodiversity movement and got people to challenge their false assumptions.

Some people might balk at  efforts to redefine disorders (particularly one as nefarious sounding as sociopathy) as not being all bad or even having positive effects on both the life of people with the disorder and the world around them. I don't see why, though. Wouldn't you want to think that people (even sociopaths) are not all bad? That they have special skills that could benefit society? That they might also have rewarding lives? I guess I just don't ever see the long term wisdom in further marginalizing already fringe  groups.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book responses (part 7)

From a reader:

I just started reading your book. It's got me envious of sociopaths. Your description of yourself and others of your ruthless ilk (that I've read so far) has me thinking you may actually be the healthiest and happiest -- or at least the least unhappy -- people around. As one who is subject to a host of conventional guilts and cares, I imagine a world where sociopathy is the norm and everyone is blithely, uncaringly, and honestly self-seeking, and I can only sigh at the vision. Perhaps the Golden Rule, that most pragmatic interpretation of self-interest, would actually be the guiding moral principle in that world.

Another reader:

I "managed" to get a copy of your book. Thank You. If you had chosen not to reveal yourself in such a manner, I may have never figured out what's so....."wrong"( I would call it right) with me. Many years have been spent trying to diagnose me, but seeing i wont be truthful to them, my motivation, as well as some incriminating experiences,I fail to see how they could diagnose me right. Your book opened my eyes. Like staring at myself, if things had gone differently. I am a disempathetic sociopath .If you were curious to know why i took time out of my day to thank you. In all honesty... I'm bored (people here cant keep up, intellectually).

Another reader:

Hey, you were on TV! That was one of the most pathetic performances I have ever seen. You're trying too hard, as narcissists typically do. A loser, maybe, but definitely not a sociopath like you claim. The best thing to do would be to shut down the blog and leave with your dignity, while you still have some respect. - Chet

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book responses (part 6)

From a reader:

I read your book (blew through it really) and it was interesting to say the least. Specifically when I find something written down by someone else that I had always felt. For example, you said "I feel I have no particular sexual identity. Even the term bisexual is misleading as it implies some sort of preference. I think equal opportunity is a more apt label in that I see no reason to discriminate."

I have said this to a friend of mine (almost verbatim) when trying to explain why I dislike sexual labels.

Sometimes, it becomes utterly exhausting to keep us this image of someone who gives a damn. Let it slip just a little and I have to deal with "What's wrong with you?" from all sides. It's comforting to realize that there are other people that think the way I do, though they may also have to keep everything under a tight guard. 

I would love to be able to explain why I liked the book so much, but I haven't figured out a way to do that and not out myself (without flat out lying about why I read it). So my goodreads review is kind of empty, but I wanted to offer at least this much feedback.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book responses (part 5)

From a "sympathetic neurotypical" reader:

Reading your book "Confessions of a Sociopath" has been a watershed experience for me. It confirms my hopeful suspicion that far from being evil, sociopaths are just different.  

Because you don't know me and likely don't get fired up because a self identified empath spews some version of "You're good enough, smart enough, and people like you" I will cut to the chase. 

I would like to meet you and converse with you at length, and not just for kicks. I am a writer who is fascinated by this topic and how the so called "dark triad" traits interact within the context of conservative/fundamentalist variations of religion.   

I have a theory: Sociopaths may well be society's salvation because they are the ultimate bullshit detectors. I am the granddaughter of a prominent evangelical leader who was the ultimate "cult of personality" figure. He was a supreme narcissist and all of us struggle someone with the sort of "drama of the gifted child" legacy that comes with being a "prop" in the grand myth surrounding the demigod of a Christian patriarchal family. Though I've ben divorced since 2008, I "escaped" this upbringing by marrying the scion of another Christian patriarchy at the age of 20. Suffice it to say I have learned quite a bit about the "complicated" morality of neurotypicals who consider themselves to be morally above reproach.

My entire life has been steeped in the judgments of good and evil that a family culture like this perpetuate, and I have known since I was about 10 that there was something "off" in a different way (different than sociopathic, I mean) about my clan. Specifically - the tendency to scapegoat anyone that questions the moral authority of the system." Questions from observers produce an annihilating rage and motivation to exterminate the one asking the questions after the veneers of patronizing "compassion for the unsaved" get stripped off. 

Why do I think you might want to talk to me? Because I have an intimate knowledge of the sort of individuals who want to exterminate "you and your kind." 

I am including a link to a column I wrote last year about the importance of not stigmatizing children who are put in the antisocial category (via MRI or by clinical diagnosis) to help you understand that I think our thinking on this topic is very compatible. 

But perhaps the most significant reason I want to advocate for the better understanding of sociopathic traits is the fact I am pretty sure someone dear to me is one. And I'll be damned if I let anyone scapegoat her. 

While the callous/unemotional side of your described experience does not ring a bell for me, I very much identify with your sensation seeking personality and your Machiavellian way of operating. It's interesting that you link the stronger connection between the right and left hemispheres with both sociopathy and ADD because I have a screaming case of the latter, which I consider to be an asset, not a disability, which is probably why I have no problem with your dispassionate way of viewing the world. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Book responses (part 4)

From a reader:

I have been following your blog for a while and I've found it fascinating, so naturally when I heard about your book I jumped at a change for a larger glimpse into your life. I preordered it as soon as I heard about it, and when it arrived on my kindle yesterday I spent the whole day lost in the rabbit hole I found myself in. Much of your book resonated very strongly with me, especially your description of ruining people and how often the potential for ruin is enough. I have always implicitly felt this but could never put a name to it. I always considered it a propensity to quit before the end, but when you consider the appreciation of potential as an end in itself, the subsequent ruination is just "busy work" and not worth my time. This is actually a great relief to me, because while I can tolerate moral ambiguity in myself, I absolutely cannot tolerate a weak mind that cannot follow through its projects to their end.

Although it is most likely too early to tell, I consider myself a sociopath, or at least highly sociopathic. As a child, I never really fit into social situations, neither with adults nor children. I always felt the
greatest contempt for what I viewed as adults trying to manipulate me with a sourceless moral code that I did not believe in. It shocked me when they expressed surprise that I would need a justification for morality. With children, I was exceedingly awkward, a trait that I mainly attribute to an upbringing by East Asian parents, but may also have been because I simply didn't care about the frivolities that others did and never made an attempt to pretend otherwise. However, that upbringing also protected me, as the cultural mandate on conformity effectively masked my deviant thoughts and behavior. However, occasionally my utilitarian value set still shone through, like when I kicked one of my best friends in the ribs to make him stop yelling at recess. Afterward, deciding on a whim that honesty was a value I should always observe, I freely admitted to having done so, absolutely enraging my teacher for my apparent stoicism and lack of regret. I suppose I should have shown more contrition, but the truth is I simply didn't care that my friend was injured. I got what I wanted, and there was no permanent damage done. Was I supposed to care further on such trivial, temporary effects?

Although you discussed a lack of emotional affect in mainly humorous terms (people taking your deadpanned threats as jokes), I have found a very practical use for it, pathological lying, A combination of Asian distaste for outward displays of emotion and my sociopathic inability to express emotion has given me the highly useful ability to lie in practically any situation, even to my closest friends, a skill that I hone and treasure. It's pathetically easy to lie to strangers who don't know anything about you and are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but lying to someone who intimately knows your mannerisms is absolutely beautiful. I have actually ruined someone's inherent trust in people; after talking to me for a few months she can no longer take peoples' statements at face value and always wonders if they are lying, even if said person has never had a history of lying. I'm not sure how an empath would react to something like that, but I personally find it hilarious.

Speaking of empaths, I have never had an "Ann" in my life. No empath has ever healed me or shown me how redeemable empaths are. Instead, I only have people who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge my inherent differences and strive to evoke in me the emotions that they believe me to have. My inability to feel emotions alien to me is only interpreted as further reason that I need this “therapy,” until I am completely overwhelmed and I disengage entirely. I have never met an empath I can deal with, and the people I identify with closest all share sociopathic traits with me. Often, interaction with me has brought those traits to the surface. I'm sure a normal person would watch in horror as I “corrupt” people, but I only feel pride in having so much influence, not just in peoples' actions, but their very philosophies on life.

Unlike you, I have no religious code whatsoever, and my ethics can easily be described as questionable. My morals are based entirely on my aesthetic sense, but, given the nature of my aesthetics, it keeps me out of trouble anyway. What I find most beautiful is predatory grace, which requires, to put it simply, perception and ability. My aesthetics drive me to eschew denial and constantly strive to improve in all areas, which ironically gives me a relatively normal sociopathic life. It also gives me a relatively normal life by empath standards, as evidence of actions is usually ugly, giving me incentive to always cover my tracts. Violence, likewise, if used because I have lost control of the situation and can only resort to brute strength, is disgustingly ugly. Is this a strange code to live by? Clearly it is strange for empaths, but I have gotten the impression that my lifestyle is strange for sociopaths as well. Am I truly deviant or am I just calling the same motivations by a different name? I personally think my aesthetic sense is just a different name for the inborn instincts that everybody has (the will to live, which requires one to improve as to not get eviscerated), but given the reactions I have gotten from sharing my views, I may really be different.

Reading the reviews of your book on Amazon, I was surprised at the number of reviews that criticized the excessive length of the book. I was entirely engrossed from start to finish, but that may be because I responded personally to the material in a way that an empath simply wouldn't. In any case, you specifically described the book as a memoir, not an academic work, something that these reviews seem to have overlooked. I did notice that you left out any accounts of interactions with other sociopaths, even though you vaguely referenced them. Given how thoroughly you accounted your interactions, the story seems one sided. I would love to hear those, but even without those anecdotes, your book elucidated many concepts that I felt but couldn't put to words, and that deserves gratitude, as well as respect.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book responses (part 3)

From a reader:

I read your book on Kindle - you remind me of someone I love but haven't seen for ages. I am neither sociopathic nor normal.

Who is normal? I would list Buddha, Lincoln, Isaac Newton, Leonardo. Most would probably think of these luminaries as beyond normal. For me they represent 'true normal' - 'normal' in a non-statistical sense, a kind of normal having more to do with what is possible than with what is probable. "I shall urge that there is here [in the genius] no real departure from normality; […] but rather a fulfillment of the true norm of man." (FWH Myers) 'True normal' also has to do with self awareness, self mastery, and moral agency. Moral agency requires some degree of self mastery, which in its turn requires self awareness. "The differentia of genius lies in an increased control of subliminal mentation."(FWH Myers)

How close is ME to this true norm? She has a high degree of self awareness, a degree moreover not considered typical for sociopaths. The liar's paradox lurks here. That is, she may be faking it. But I don't think so. Be that as it may, the higher the degree of self awareness, the closer one is to this true norm. So, in my judgement, ME is going in the right direction, the direction of increasing consciousness.

Interestingly, she sees her sociopathy as the motivating force behind her quest for greater self awareness. Perhaps then it is by fulfilling her sociopathic tendencies that she will ultimately outgrow them.

What else? The ability to concentrate is crucial for the development of self awareness, self mastery. To be without guilt, remorse, empathy, depression, can be helpful in this arena. We see this insight expressed over and over again in popular fiction where the cold or emotionless character has greater powers of mind (e.g. of observation or deduction) than his fellows. So here ME has another advantage when it comes to developing greater awareness and therefore, I should stress, a greater range of moral choice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book responses (part 2)

From a reader:

I just finished reading your book and I wanted to say that I found it utterly fascinating. I am not a sociopath but I definitely displayed antisocial traits as a child. Perhaps if my childhood had been different I would have ended up different. I enjoyed reading your points of view on nature and nurture for antisocial children. But more than anything I appreciate the perspective you brought on the issue of sociopaths in society.  Before reading your book I never truly recognized  the unfair bias and often outright double standards (I have multiple aspies in my family) society places upon sociopaths. Being a member of the gay community I am well aware that it was not so long ago that I would have been considered a "monster" or "deviant". Maybe one day more people will see that there are good, highly functioning sociopaths out there just like there are violent and dangerous ones--as is the case for any variant of humans. 

I remember I took a psychology class in college, just for the hell of it, and on a test we were asked to write several paragraphs about what we believed to be the worst of the personality disorders. I thought it was silly because there is no unbendable mold for psychological disorders; they can be good, bad, or both. Most people in my class wrote that sociopaths were the worst kinds of people and I wrote that if I had to choose, I would list BPD as the worst. My teacher actually pulled me aside and asked me to further explain why I felt that way. I guess many others listed socios because of the link to violence and people with BPD are not typically known to be violent. The only reason I had was personal experience; I've known several sociopaths and remain friends with some of them, but everyone I've known that had BPD was just awful. Awful in a sense of massively annoying and using extreme emotions to manipulate--often resulting in hysterics and acts of self-harm. All of which I found extremely time-consuming and obnoxious. I'm sure there are BPDs out there that aren't bad--I just haven't met any yet. 

I've never talked at length with my socio friends about how they think or process things--I just know they are different and leave it at that. Thank you for providing insight I might otherwise have never been exposed to.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book responses

From a reader:

I graduated last week with a Masters in Counseling. I'm getting ready for my "post-corporate" career.

After doing nothing but reading and studying for national exams the last three months, I didn't think that I would ever want to read another book related to psychology again. However, I read a review of your book in the New York Post (below) and had to get this book. 

What I enjoyed about your book was your honesty. All good autobiographies show the darkness as well as the light (Steve Jobs autobiography is a great example). Thank you for being so candid. Your book was also incredibly well written and well researched. I could not put it down.

You also gave me insight into a disturbing situation that I experienced at work about 20 years ago. It always confused me, but now I fully know what happened - I was dealing with a sociopath!

Thank you for providing me this insight. 

Just a few comments as I am about to move into the mental health field as well as some personal observations of your book. But first, from an Empath's point of view, here is what I cannot stand about sociopaths.

I hate that you play games when we empaths are not playing games! (I acknowledge that all people play games).

Look I'm an empathic person, but I can be as competitive any anybody. But once the game is over, it's over! I want a real relationship, not games.

For sociopaths it never stops. And that's the problem, you think you are so F_____! smart, but the truth is sociopaths are cowards. You pick on people who are not even fighting with you. Deception has its place, in war, the board room and the court room but it's death in relationships. 

And the really perverse part is, you think that you are exerting your "power" and winning. But in truth you were destroying the person who wanted to show you trust which is the very thing that you need most. In the end you have a Pyrrhic victory, you won the battle, but lost the war in obtaining a true relationship.

Just my personal 2 cents (I know you don't care). Now I want to tell you what I found most interesting about your book (which you probably do care about).

I believe the most profound statement that you made was on pg. 153 in your book:

"I believe that a lot of the sociopath's traits such as charm, manipulation, lying, promiscuity, chameleonism, mask wearing and lack of empathy are largely attributable to a very weak sense of self. I believe that all personality disorders share a distorted or abnormal sense of self". 

You nailed it! During my internship it was very clear that whether I was dealing with Narcissists, Borderlines, and other personality disorders that all of these people had no true sense of self. 

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Hamlet - Act 1, scene 3

Secondly, I find it very interesting that on pg. 65 where you said, "my father's emotional and moral hypocrisy taught me not to trust emotions or anything else that couldn't be backed up with hard, indisputable fact." The majority of my client's struggle with trust issues - divorce, sexual abuse, illness, etc. So often the underlying theme in our sessions is, "I want to trust, but I'm so afraid, Help me!".

Lastly, In Chapter 7 of your book you describe identifying yourself with the Tin Woodman in the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. "But as heartless as I am, I have wanted love, to feel connection, to feel like I belong to the world like anyone else. No one, it seems, can escape loneliness."

You quoted John Bowlby in your book. Of all the theorists that I studies in school, I was most impacted by his work. Yes, human beings can be untrustworthy, unkind, undependable and candidly, a pain in the ass! But they are worth it. In the end connection, love, kindness, goodness and gentleness is what makes life worth living.

My hope for you is that this "Tin Woman" finds her heart.

I also realize that you must be going through a difficult time right now as it appears that your identity has been outed and that you may expect some "unintended consequences" from publishing this book. 

Hang in there. The best thing for you is that people know that you are a sociopath. 

Your mask is your defense, but it's also your problem.

Someone can only have a relationship with you if you are honest about who you are. Your mask of secrecy is a hindrance and not a help in your life.

Best wishes and God's blessings to you in your journey.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Appendix (part 7)

I wanted to include this quote in the book chapter about Mormonism, regarding the Mormon church's doctrine re different types of people (including neurodiversity), but it was too late to add to the manuscript. From LDS President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

But while the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.

It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all its far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.

The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Book appendix (part 6)

Here's a section on information warfare that didn't fit anywhere in the book:

My dad’s need for control manifests itself in diverse ways.  We call one control game “information warfare.”  In this game, the goal is to try to disclose as little information as possible while not seeming to obviously evade the question.  For example:
Dad comes through the door in the middle of a workweek.

Me: “Hello?”
I look up to see who it is, “Why are you here?”
Dad: “I have to be here, I’m sorry.”
Me: “Why?”
Dad: “I’m not good.”
Me: “You’re not feeling good, or you have been bad?”
Me: “Well it’s good you’re here, we can get burritos for lunch.”
Dad: “I can’t do that but you can do that.”
Me: “You’re not making any sense.”
Dad: “Why?”

The game is played all the time.  Like soccer, most of it is just little trade offs until my dad finds the right time to strike and make a “goal”.  A goal in this game is for him to get the other person to make a false conclusion based on incomplete and/or false or misleading information that he has been feeding them.

Brother: “Dad, are we going to refinance that rental property?”
Brother: “Dad, I was talking to my realtor who says that if we refinance we might be able to get enough out for a down payment on another property.”
Brother: “Apparently the rates are the lowest they’ve been all year.”
Days later.
Brother: “Dad, I filled out some paperwork for the bank to refinance that rental property.”
“You did what?!”
“We talked about this, my realtor thought we could get some extra money out and lock in a very low rate.”
“Stupid, stupid, stupid.”  Three stupids in my dad’s lexicon is almost like an epithet—you are very seriously stupid.  “That property is in a limited liability partnership!  Banks won’t refinance a property that’s in a limited liability partnership!”

And that’s how you score a goal.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book appendix (part 5)

(cont. from interview with my mother):

Sometimes I feel guilty for it because I know I was gone, being on the stage and trying to figure out what would bring happiness in my life and I was gone way too much. I should have been home more and keeping tabs on things.  

I know you were always closed off, like affection.  You weren’t ever very affectionate, as far as hugging.  You were kind of closed off emotionally.  I don’t ever remember you crying.  Instead of you being sad, you usually chose to be angry.  That was your emotion of choice.  It seems like when you got angry, you would just get in someone’s face verbally and then you would try to get that person to have their own emotional explosion.  I remember you would try to push dad’s buttons and get him to get really mad.  It’s almost like you liked the emotional turmoil of anger and every now and then you would feed into that and make it happen.  Then things would calm down, until they would build up again.  But I don’t know. Dad was like that too.  But it seemed like you and he butted heads a lot.  I don't remember you ever being sad or hurt.  Even when you were in the hospital with the physical hurt, you weren’t crying or sad.  You know, like a normal person would do.  Especially girl.  You know teenage girls, they would cry over stuff, be hurt or have their feelings hurt.  I don’t remember you ever being like that.  So you were definitely not the typical teenage girl.  I think that’s why you didn’t have a lot of teenage girl friends. Most of your friends were boys, maybe because you related to them a lot more.  Boys aren’t very emotional, they’re more thinking.   

I think you have a little ADD.  It’s hard for you to focus on one thing at a time.  You have to be doing like 3 things at once, even in church you’ll be doing multiple things.  You can’t focus on one thing at a time, or at least not for very long.  But I also think you’re always just thinking about things and wondering about things, so something will catch your interest and you’ll want to explore that.  You’re kind of an explorer type of personality; you like to explore new and different things.

In the way that you did far more and went far more than any of the other kids, that was a little bit of a surprise because I don’t think it was anything normal. You were like super child, going out and doing things far beyond what was expected.

I don’t think you’re trying to corrupt people, but I think you like to do things for shock value—just throw things out there and see how they land, see how they would fly. So I think I was a little uncomfortable with your influence over your younger siblings. I think you’re influential. Sometimes I see the whole family bending to what you want to do and I think we have set you or accepted you in that role of figuring out what we want to do or how we are going to do it, and I think we enjoy that. And I don’t think you carry it too far either. I don’t think you’re too pushy about it. But you are definitely a natural born leader. I think that’s what makes you such a good teacher. I think you’re influential because you’re smart and determined and passionate about the things you want to do, and I think people tend to want to follow someone like that. I think the family follows you because we know you’re smart and efficient and you can figure out probably the best way of doing things and you have novel and fun ideas. You’re always full of ideas. And you’re always coming up with good ways of solving problems or making things happen smoothly.

I remember one time when I was super proud of you, singing this particular song I like. That was a proud moment because you were just up there saying I’m my own person, I don’t care what other people do to me, I’m going to live my life the way I want to.  And I was just proud of you for that.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that way.  I’m getting to be more and more that way, but I used to not be.  I used to be codependent, trying to manipulate people from the wings but never really voicing my opinion and saying what I wanted, what I needed.  I was always kind of in the shadows.  That’s why I liked the stage I think, because I could be somebody else, another person.  And I was good at it and people thought I was wonderful, so I think that’s why I kind of got addicted to the stage.  

I think the book is kind of cool.  I see it as another step in your healing and becoming more your own person.  Kind of dealing with all of the stuff that’s happened to you and figuring out who you really are.  I think the book is part of this process.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Book appendix (part 4)

From an interview with my mother:

It was hard for me when you were born.  Baby number three is always hard because when there’s two there’s one for each parent, but when there are three it’s hard.  And you came so close to Jim.  And Jim was taking his sweet time getting potty trained, so I had both of you in diapers for like a year.  And that was before the disposable diapers were popular and they were expensive so we had cloth diapers and I had to wash them and hang them out on the line because we didn’t have a dryer.  So it seemed like that was my whole life was taking care of babies, changing diapers, washing them, hanging them out.  I think that was the time I went a little nutso.  I remember I just started freaking out sometime and dad had to call grandpa and have him come over and talk me out of it.  I don’t know, just the stress and everything probably piled up.  In those days I wasn’t very good about keeping on an even keel.  I’d let thing build up and build up and then just start flipping out.  

We thought you were perfectly healthy, but you had thrush at birth and the thrush got worse, which made you not want to nurse.  I would try to calm you down by nursing you.  You would just be upset and there was nothing we could do to get you to stop crying.  You would cry until you were exhausted and then sleep for a while.  So that was a very trying time.  Finally, I don’t remember how old you were until we finally took you into the doctor, and they checked you out and said you had thrush.  You had a herniated navel too, probably because you were crying so violently.  That was sad, my poor baby.  I just remember the family get together at the beach when you were crying and everyone was trying to be the one to hold you and calm you down but nobody could do it so I just took you and went away with you walking around the whole park.  I would sometimes just leave you in a room to cry.  There was nothing else to do.  I put you on your stomach on the water bed because you seemed to like it.  So you would cry and fuss, the waterbed would rock you and you would finally go to sleep.  In some ways I think that made us bond more because I was very emotionally involved with you and protective of you, wanting to fix what was wrong and wanting you to be better, happier and healthy.  So I think I was maybe a little extra attached to you.  Dad would be the one who would say, “Just put her in a room and shut the door.”  Because we lived in that little dinky house, so there wasn’t anywhere where you could escape the noise.  I wonder what Jim and Scott thought of that.  I don’t remember focusing on them at all, I was just so wrapped up in you.  Poor Jim, because he was just a little guy.  He probably got ignored a lot when this screaming baby came along and kicked him out of mama’s world.  

I can’t remember hardly anything about your childhood. I remember you drowning as a child.  I can’t remember who noticed you back there but then when I saw you, it seemed like you had let go of the boat.  But I just remembered feeling totally frantic and I remembered just having this sick feeling and praying that you would be ok.  It seems like we had to go down the river a little to be able to pull over to the side of the river.  I can’t remember how they called to get people to come help.  I ran up the beach, sick with worry.  I guess you just kind of came to and started breathing.  You seemed to be pretty much ok.  I mean kind of out of it a little, but I was just happy you were conscious and breathing and back with us.  

I remember when you had your appendix problem.  I always thought that I was pretty good at reading my kids, knowing what was wrong with them, but you were super hard to read.  And we had never had anything serious happen with the kids before, so this was a first for us. I didn’t really know or think there was something that was seriously wrong because you weren’t even acting serious until you developed a fever.  But when we went in there and it had ruptured and you were so sick, I was mad at myself for not having taken you in sooner.  But you were really good at being closed off, showing a brave front and going off and doing your thing and you didn’t really care if you were sick or let little pains get in the way.  You were just off doing yourself.  So I guess your common sense with your health wasn’t that great.  Because I remember you went and even played in a tournament with your appendix either ruptured or about to rupture.  So that was crazy.  I can’t even comprehend someone being able to do that.  

I remember you hated the hospital and always tried to get dad to eat your food, which wasn’t very hard.  And I remember he had to finish your breakfast that morning so you would get out of there and wanted to get out so bad.  And then you had to be in a wheelchair for like 5 days after.  And I remember you being at school and seeing how the kids were fawning over you and I realized that you had a lot of friends and people that cared about you.  And you seemed to be in pretty good spirits about the whole thing.  It’s not like you were like, “I’m in a wheelchair and this sucks.”  I think you were kind of enjoying a new experience.  But I think you were happy to get better—get back to your fast paced life.  You wouldn’t have lasted in a wheelchair that long for sure.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book appendix (part 3)

From an interview with a friend:

I like talking to you because you are like a stockpile of knowledge with the capability to process important components of that knowledge and to assimilate them into an intelligent decision—the best decision.  Whereas I feel like I might fall on to decision that is fourth best, even though I have been exposed to the same data.  But I have forgotten that information in the meantime, and am unable to pull it forward when the time to make the decision arises.  And you even take into account my personal preferences.  I don’t know how, I guess because you know me now.  But something I find very humorous is that when I start explaining emotionally frustrating things to you, maybe about my marriage, and you’ll say “That’s because he __________” and I am always wondering why you have so much insight into my emotional life.  Insight that I didn’t have—like I am still hashing through the ideas emotionally and haven’t been able to reach any conclusion, but you have been able to reach a conclusion by just listening to me for a minute.  Sometimes I discount your conclusions, I will be honest.  At those times I generally conclude that you didn’t input the right information.  Other times I will be surprised at how spot on you are.  It seems like you know my husband better than I know him. I’m always surprised with your assessments of people, because you can kind of sum them up, taking this vast amount of data—a person—and you break it down into the important bits for that output.  You tell me, “well of course that is what happened because of these few things.”  

Also, you’re blatantly honest.  At first I was scared and there were moments in this house in which I was afraid that you would provoke fights in social situations. Then I started finding the humor in it.  Now sometimes I will use it to find out things I really want to know by just asking you, although I can still get angry at some of the things you say.  Overall, though, it is refreshing, and I have a much harder time getting offended at anything you say than I used to.  Even now telling you these things, it’s odd because I think now you will understand me so much better and when I come to you with another emotional problem you will say, “Oh, it’s because of this,” or “something something something” and I will feel ok.  

When I come to you with an emotional problem though, I don’t feel like you give empathy or emotional support.  Sometimes you will say, “that’s just because your husband's a retard, sorry.”  So maybe that is empathy.  Maybe it is refreshing to hear that it comes down to something that isn’t emotional—that my problems aren’t fundamentally an emotional issue, but something separate that can be intellectualized.  It takes out the sting in the hurt.  

I remember one time you were talking to me in the car and you said something like, “I don’t think I want to marry a guy who is as intelligent as me.”  And I asked you, “someone more like me.”  You said “no, not really.”  And I thought, oh ok, smarter than me then.  

I think you’re a better computer than I am.  If you had learned all of the stuff that I learned in college, I think you could do so much better with it than I can.  But that’s alright, I supposed I have other skills.  You’re like a data processor, but better because you can also process emotional inputs.  You can’t ask Google why my husband did something.  It’s like the best thing—kind of like a fun toy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book appendix (part 2)

From an interview with an in-law:

The first thing that I find unusual about you is that you’re very anxious to give us, your family, whatever we want.  I see this as a sign that you love us because from what I have heard about how you act around other people, that is not at all how you act, but rather trying to get what you want through manipulation or whatever.  That’s one of the things I would say to sum you up is that you are one of the most generous people I have met.  You’re always so willing to give time, money—anything. 

I think it’s funny, I’m more guarded around you because sometimes I throw out ideas or desires to you even if I don’t really want them.  But I’m more careful what I say around you because you’re likely to make it actually happen. You’re just big on having people do what they want to do, so I think that if I said I wanted to go to a certain place, you’d say “let’s do it.”  I would give my reasons why I wasn’t going to, and you’d give your reasons why it would be good and just push for it.  Or it’s funny, when I tell you things like “I like those slippers,” and you say, “you can have them.”  I never know what you mean by that, if it means “I don’t really like them” or if it means that you do like that thing, but if you hear someone say that they really like it, you want to give someone what they really like because you think it’s better for the economy of the family to give someone what they really like rather than have you keep something that you just kind of like.

But, at the end of vacation time spent with family when you get cranky. It’s almost as if you’re too tired to do it anymore. 

But I think it is the most humorous with the children, because you are equally as anxious to give them whatever they want.  Maybe even more anxious.  It’s very interesting to watch because no other normal adults I have met are willing to give children whatever they want.  And children are subject to so many whims.  But you take them all seriously.  “Do you want to play the piano?”  “Would you like to dance?”  And so the children love you so much.  And I think it’s ironic that you think that you won’t connect with your own children, should you have any, because that is a very strong connection to children.  However there are those moments when you say “That baby is driving me crazy,” and few other human beings say that as well.  “Man, Charlie is being so rotten right now.”  Or “So and so is so cute.”  Or when you ask my children “Which of your brothers do you like better?” 

With the older kids, sometimes you bother me because you’re trying to figure out if they’re like you so you ask them questions, leading questions, like “which person do you like more?”  And sometimes, like the other night, when you tried to trick Alan into thinking that Byron said he liked Charlie better, that is where I draw the line.  I intercede in those moments to tell him “No, he did not say that.” 

I thought it was interesting when you said that you have a hard time connecting with my children, because you said you don’t understand them?  I define them as being perfectly normal children.  You don’t understand them because they’re compassionate? Is that it?  Or is it because they’re more emotionally driven and they let their emotions dictate their behavior?  It’s more primal in children, it seems easy to understand to me. 

You’re very good at giving the children gifts.  They are very age appropriate.  Most people find that to be difficult.  I think parents are much better than grandparents, but in some ways you’re even better than parents because you remove the selfish component of gift giving. I think sometimes parents don’t want to give certain presents to children because they’re too loud, messy, take up too much space, or because they want something for their children rather than thinking what the children really want.  And grandparents probably just want what is easier to find. 

Maybe your ability has something to do with your ability to process what they enjoy.  Maybe it’s because you’re always keyed into making other people happy, so you’ve been even trying to make the little people happy and thinking in those moments, “what would make them happy right now?” So it’s easier for you to think—what gift would make them happy.

The children are always so excited to see you.  You are their favorite aunt or uncle. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book appendix (part 1)

The book is officially out in North America. To celebrate, I thought I would share some source material that I collected to write the book. This is from an email from the friend who first mentioned the word "sociopath" to me:

I remember when you first walked in the office we shared.  Weren't you wearing flipflops?  I was trying to counsel you on how to behave yourself around the office.    And you gave me my own Book of Mormon with highlighted passages!  We talked religion and ethics a lot at first.  Once I found out you had some attraction for the ladies, we started talking about our personal lives. 

So, as far as my arm-chair sociopath diagnosis goes, I remember the following things:
(1) I would exercise my charm on people around the office, including our boss.  (What was her name? I can't remember anymore.)  You would observe me do this and comment on it. Like, complimentary comments.  I thought about that and the way you watched me, as if you were analyzing the interactions.  It reminded me of the way another sociopath friend would analyze how I interacted with people and try to integrate it into his repertoire.  But you had charms of your own, of course.
(2) Your penchant for law and economics and how we would argue about the lack of humanity in the system.  I remember I told you the story of my first-year law school class and how our teacher asked how we might assign ownership of property besides "first-in-time."  People suggested things like first-in-merit, a lottery, etc.  I raised my hands and suggested "first-in-need."  Everyone stared at me and the prof didn't even write it on the board!  When I told you the story, you gave me a look like you couldn't imagine why an intelligent person like me would say something like that . . .
(3) Your attitude toward law school and your job was so . . . emotionally detached.  I don't know exactly how to explain this.  There are a lot of people who go to law school or take jobs as stepping stones to something else, not because they see inherent value or want to help people, etc.  But you were outside of that, even.  You achieved almost effortlessly and didn't seem the least bit anxious about your performance.  It didn't seem like your self esteem hinged on your success--it was easy for you, because you weren't scared the way most of us were.  I didn't see you in action in law school, of course, but you would talk about it and this struck me as interesting.  I was a little envious of your detachment.
(4) You took me to church with you.  And to some anti-sex education class afterward (at the church).  I could see that you had very little, if any, investment in any of what was really being taught.  You claimed to be a Mormon, but it seemed skin-deep to me.  Like you were playing a role you had been assigned and decided to go along with.  I remember thinking: "She doesn't believe any of this; her world-view comes from a completely different place and it's just easier to try to fit in."
(4) You would flirt with me,  a little, but I didn't get the impression that there was any actual feeling behind it, other than that you liked me, found me somewhat interesting and perhaps useful for bouncing ideas off, etc.  I could see myself being attracted to you, but sensed--at some level--that there was something different about you.  I flirted with you back, but not a lot. Just enough to intuit that I could get hurt if I actually let myself develop feelings for you.  (QUEUE FLASHING WARNING LIGHTS!)  My intuition prevented me somehow, even though you were highly attractive.
(5) It was the end of the summer before I finally said the word "sociopath" to you outloud.  You and I were hanging out together outside of work by this point.  I remember you were driving me around town.  It might have been the same day you took me to visit your family. In any case, we were walking outside somewhere and I remember you telling me a story about someone--someone who had been going through something difficult.  You said something like, "I don't know how to react in those types of situations.  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say or feel."  Now any empath could say something like, given a strange situation--a situation they had never experienced before.  But given all I knew about you and the situation you described (which I can no longer remember), it sort of hit me in a "lightbulb" moment.  I think I said to you, "M.E., have you ever considered that you might be a sociopath?"  I think I explained a little about what I meant, trying not to offend you.  You didn't seem offended at all, but just thoughtful for a minute or two.  I probably explained a little about my sociopath friend and my experience with him.  Maybe you remember more about this than I do.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Book coming out this week

The book comes out in North America tomorrow, May 14th (other places soon). This week is going to be book related posts.

First, where to order the book:


Second, where to read more about the book to decide if you want to buy or if it is not yet in your market:

Psychology Today excerpt.

Boston Globe book review.

NY Post.

Later this week, I'm going to try to schedule a Q&A on reddit. I'll post a link with times when I have that set. Also later this week, some "source material" for the book.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sociopaths on television: Hannibal

One of my friends told me I needed to start watching NBC's Hannibal. He was right. It's great and it's very topical. The main character, Will Graham, is played by the same guy who played a raging aspie in in the movie "Adam" and he says in the pilot episode that he is closer to the "autism and asperger's" side of "the spectrum" than the "sociopaths and narcissists" side. He is also apparently what we would call here an "uber-empath," one who is so empathetic that he can even feel for the killers that he helps the FBI to track. He gets inside the killer's heads in order to predict who they are or their next movement. Unfortunately (spoiler alert!), after having to kill a man in the field who was trying to harm someone else, he acknowledges that he felt a certain thrill in ending a man's life.

The adequately creepy but fortunately not over-the-top Hannibal is played by a Dane (wearing 1970s suits and sports coats even though the setting is contemporary), not surprising casting choice for anyone who has seen Riget or is otherwise a fan of Lars von Trier. Hannibal is also an FBI consultant and quickly becomes something of a sounding board for the protagonist.

Hannibal and will have a conversation his feelings about killing.

Hannibal: It wasn't the act of killing Hobb's that got you down, was it? Did you really feel so bad because killing felt so good?

Will: I liked killing Hobbs.

Hannibal: Killing must feel good to God too. He does it all the time. And are we not created in his image?

Will: It depends on who you ask.

Hannibal: God's terrific. He dropped a church roof on 34 of his worshippers last wednesday in Texas while they sang a hymn.

Will: Did God feel good about that?

Hannibal: He felt powerful.

Overall the show is not too overblown. Not all of the murderers are just flatly labeled sociopaths (as if that alone should explain their evil impulses), although so far all of the sociopaths are murderers (actually, this is not clear yet, there are a couple of characters that could turn out to be more sociopathic than they initially appear). This show has a lot of potential, particularly if they introduce a character who is a sociopath and not a murderer -- there's a lot of ripe ground there and a great chance to really explore the mindsets of different personality types.

On a side note, watching the show makes me wonder what would have happened if I had pursued working for the FBI. I had applied once. I took the tests and passed, even the personality/psychological  test (and people fail this one all of the time, I knew a guy who failed this particular portion). All I had to do was schedule a physical fitness exam to move on (no problem since I actually can do pull-ups, thank you swimming for my upper body strength). I never did, though. One of my friends insisted that I should never work for the government, that the things I get away with in my current field might risk a prison sentence in the government sector. I didn't know if that was really a reasonable concern, but the logic was compelling enough for me to move on to something else.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


From a sociopath reader:

First of all let me start by saying I am a sociopath. I have been diagnosed but I kept it to myself because people will act differently if they know. There doesn't seem to be any benefits of being diagnosed with exception of the availability of so-called "help". Something which is useless.

I'm smart, very smart. I've been IQ tested by 4 different tests and I've averaged at 167. I breeze through my studies. Although this seems fun I find it rather frustrating. I enjoy puzzles. They interest me. When I say puzzles I don't mean Sunday crosswords and sudoku, I mean people puzzles. For example, if someone is upset then I find it fun to search for the reason why they are upset. Average puzzles are facile.

I want to know what your take on sociopathic connection and attachment to other people is.
I know this girl. We go to college together. She's not that smart but what draws me to her is that she is very similar to me. She's attractive and has a kind of free personality. For the past couple of years we have had what she describes as a "love-hate relationship". We've never dated but we have hooked up. We've fought a lot but I always win as I'm much more intelligent than her. 

I am very attached to her and I *feel* very close to her. I don't like her per se but I think there's a connection. As much as I like her ("like" denoting attachment), whenever we talk meaningfully I find that I never disclose real personal information such as my non-existent emotions.
She interests me.

She is different. She is the only person who I can't easily read. Everybody else is so easy to discern yet I find her puzzling nature very enlightening. While I spend my life searching for distractions, she serves as the best one. I am intrigued by her. 

I believe she has Histrionic Personality Disorder, based on 4 years of evidence to support this. Especially the attention-seeking and dramatic emotions. She is constantly changing which I think is intriguing. Usually I can discern people fairly well but with her it's different.

I feel very protective over her and if anyone (I'm an exception to this, hypocritically) hurts her then I will lose it. I rarely get angry and so I will calmly deal with it. 

I'm just wondering what you think of this. Maybe I should try to act more 'not-sociopathic' around her although she kind of likes that I'm different. She knows that something is up with me but she just doesn't realise what I am capable of or exactly what I am. I would never physically hurt her by the way.

My response:

I think people are the most interesting distraction too. It's like that short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." Would you be sad if she rejected you? Said she hated you? Told everyone your secrets or otherwise exposed you to the world? And if she would and could do those things, is that part of the reason why you find her engaging? I think your answers lie less in an examination of her character or even the nature of your relationship and more in exploring what exactly you get from her now and what you might hope to get from her in the future.
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