Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bad but redeemable?

In the NY Times review of the book, Jon Ronson wrote that I simultaneously humanized and demonized myself. Some of my friends and family are a little upset that I didn't focus more on my "good" traits in the book, I think partly because it makes them look a like idiots for choosing to like me. Most people do not focus on their bad traits -- their every bad thought and motivation. Most people carefully craft a persona that they present to the world full of flattering photographs taken from the right angle and lighting and a résumé that shellacs over flaws and imperfections. I didn't want to whitewash myself or the traits of sociopathy. But I was also hoping to not convey that I thought that having the label "sociopath" meant I was all badass and there's nothing anyone can do about things. There actually are a lot of things people can do about it to make my life miserable and it's not too absurd to think that eventually all sociopaths really will be locked up or otherwise isolated from general society. But I was hoping to show that despite having some negative or potentially dangerous characteristics, there is still some hope for everyone, sociopaths and non. Because if someone as unlikeable as me can manage to be work and be loved in my own way, then it suggests there are ways to properly integrate sociopaths into society in pro-social ways.

Along those same lines, from a reader, Sarah:

From what I can tell, you're a clinical douchebag who deserves the Nobel Prize.  This kind of blows my mind, makes me slightly uncomfortable, and also boosts my faith in the survival of the human race.  Congrats.

I've just finished your book, and frankly, I'm not at all certain that "you" actually wrote that book or, if you did, whether any of it is factual or not.  But if it's a scam or fake, it's a great one, and if it's true -- if you actually do exist as an ethical, self-aware sociopath -- you've done all the "normal" and "abnormal" humans on the planet a great service by writing a memoir.

I'm an empath who has a visceral revulsion towards sociopaths, narcissists, and sadists (not that these are the same categories, but there are some similarities.)  I've had my personal run-ins (even been almost "ruined" by one), and I've witnessed well-paid sociopaths royally fucking up our economy and society.  So I wasn't inclined to like or respect you at all when I started reading the book.  

And there are certainly some things you describe that make me want to puke, or beat the shit out of you.  However, this desire to slap you across the face, which waxed and waned as I read, made me realize that even I have sociopathic traits, and that everybody else does, too.  No matter how guilt-ridden, emotional, and attuned to the feelings of other people we empaths are, everyone sometimes wants to exercise their power, take advantage of weakness, or feel in control of their environment.  My desire to hit you emerges solely from a wish to demonstrate that I am tougher, smarter, and more powerful than the Biggest Bitch in the Room.  If that's not a sociopathic impulse, I don't know what is.

So, speaking for the empaths (as I'm sure many have done before me), thanks for drumming up some self-reflection of the type I generally avoid.  I attend to myself carefully in many ways, and am quite aware of various weaknesses.  It's just that I usually frame my weaknesses as a surplus of love and squishiness, rather than a surplus of power-hunger or calculation.

Regarding that Nobel: if even a shit like you turns out to be not so much a shit as a regular human being who happens to function at the far end of a mysterious spectrum, then maybe we all have something pro-peace/pro-social to offer.  I absolutely love the suggestions you make for helping sociopathic kids, and I honestly believe they would not go amiss if applied to any young human who is different in some way.

Thanks, asshole.


  1. ....And Sarah and ME lived happily ever after.

  2. It does sound like hate-sex is inevitable.

  3. Most people carefully craft a persona that they present to the world full of flattering photographs taken from the right angle and lighting and a résumé that shellacs over flaws and imperfections.

    Very true. “Loved ones” reflect your idealized version of yourself back to you; “enemies” reflect the rest.

  4. "Most people do not focus on their bad traits"

    So true. People tend to only focus on the good things about themselves and others in life which is an ok additude because that's a solid way to keep up a good perspective in life. But i tend to focus solely on the negative things because these are the things that i personally feel i need to change. What am i insecure about, how often do i project on people etc etc. Really I should be the positive one since I'm inclined to change, and the 'positive' people are really the negative ones because they keep a blind eye on their problems and shirk on change.

    Thinking a little further I will be the negative one again and vice versa. It will continue to the point where you realize there are no good or bad things. Only progress.

  5. I want to ruin her just to complete what somebody started.

    M.E missed out the better traits of herself and I think that is good to admire. Egocentricity is hard to control and to release a book that makes you vulnerable to such attacks shows determination towards being more human than some of us could ever be. The lack of 'good' traits in the book, however, unless stated, can be damaging for the sociopath label. It also made me doubt if I was a sociopath for not having only bad traits. I now know that I was stupid to have thought that.

  6. Interesting about enemies reflecting the rest, Daniel. However, you left out people's projections which have nothing to do with you.

    May I have offered something to the inimitable Daniel Birdick?

    1. very important point you make here, Monica.

    2. if people have their delusions/projections/illusions about you, and you are aware of this, but dont let on about the` way you k n o w you are, is that very very bad?

      I told someone they were a giver and they looked at me like they were masking their inner voice of "the fuck i am".

      They had stopped saying "i love you"s, claiming that if it means`that they feel good when they are with me, then that is not the real kind of love they want to have/express. Their idealized version of love is when they will put the`other's needs ahead of their own. I see this happening anyway, but not enough to warrant "you are a giver" compliment :0. why did i do that?

      so now i see why my "giver" comment made this person feel uncomfortable.. it is my feeling, not his. He feels false. tbh, i do not think he is such a giver. I feel good with him, so i feel like i got a gift and he is always there emotionally. This is giving emotionally, very important to me. so what if it is my projection of him? so fucking what?? He has his little wrong projections of me, and i do not say "but i lie to you:i am a liar" same as he masked his inner dialog with my comp;liment

      this person essentially tells me that loving for emotional sake inside -how that person makes you feel- is selfish. I do not see why this feeling is selfish loving if it then creates the behaviour of a giver (unselfish).

      I did not say all this to them. ?What i said was that ii thought one thing was emotional, and the other was behavioural so chill he fuck out. Clearly the person has issues.

      Next day, i hear "I love you" Really, i dont give a fuck whether he is wacking off to the fact he feels a hard on for himself that i show love. I could give a fuck what he "ffffeeeeels" whether it is phony to himself or not. I just want him to be clear on that if i smell a betrayal, like this shift in approach with me, that i notice it and i will call him out on it because` i like my relationships open and healthy, not hiding and feeling like 2 phonies.

      I will be honest though. He is not such a giver. He tries and i was rewarding him with fake-ish compliment. Is that very bad? I was trying to be encouraging, but now i think i did something wrong. Now I think this person is bound to hurt me, and i do not feel comfortable. Now i feel like he is not to be trusted and i will not say i love yous to him ever again.

      II do not know why i did this thing..this praise. I was feeling the person needed to know he was appreciated because i fear he will stray if he does not feel it, and i think it is nice to put someone's nice qualities on the table. But i do not want to do that again because i was working at something. He is too self aware and hating on himself to see that my appreciation is valid, and i think it scares him. so i will not do this thing again.

      How do you get around someone's narcissism? If thet are trying.

  7. Interesting.


  8. Are sociopaths all bad? The one that I have to deal with I doubt is all bad. His narc side is what challenges me most.

    So he broke up with the recent girlfriend. Recently she introduced herself to me in the presence of her boyfriend, my pal at a graduation. We were speaking for the first time and she told me that she's heard a lot about me. I was surprised. While we saw each other from time to time in the past her boyfriend, my pal did not introduced us. In our chat she told me that her boyfriend talked a lot about himself and he talked lot about me too. She felt unimportant to him because he didn't not talk much about her and she was sure her boyfriend, my pal did not tell me about her. That was indeed true. The girlfriend also told me that my pal really appreciates me a lot. I was shock to hear that bit.

    I was shocked because my pal does not talk about me either. He always talked about himself and his plans. At times he might tell me that he appreciates certain things that I gave to him or did for him. However, he never said that he appreciated me.

    I would like some bright minds on here to unravel the mystery of why my pal told his girlfriend so much about me, to the point where she thought I am the boyfriend's best friend. Yet he never expressed how he felt about me. I found it odd too that the time he invited me to church his girlfriend was there and he did not say a word about her being there. He did not cease the opportunity to introduced us that day. He did not mentioned her name to me at all. He spent all the time with me as if she did not exist. When all along the girlfriend was watching my pal and I after church as we meet and greet people. She confessed feeling unimportant to him. Admittedly, although he is a disordered character I try as much as possible to treat him like a person. I have my own hell with him at times but I do admire his good traits be it fake or not. I don't always know the difference between his fake and real self. I however, watch myself around him. He wont physically hurt me but he will use my kindness to his benefit.

    M.E. Give a few basic examples to this:
    "There actually are a lot of things people can do about it to make my life miserable."

    For me the article above was an interesting read.


    1. Wilton

      It sounds like he tries to put you both to feeel insecure . Emphasizing another as competition for him makes him feel she feels possessive of him. This makes him feel like a king.

  9. I'd argue that a defining component of institutional "sanity" is a story-driven bond with what a person perceives to be their own positive traits and a continual neglect of their flaws as long as they themselves aren't dramatically inconvenienced by them. This focal trick serves as a basis of confidence, decision-making, and ability to navigate social situations without being subservient.

    Saying the average persona is 'carefully' crafted is giving too much credit to people. Most of the time a person's projected appearance is sloppy and cobbled together with logical inconsistencies, emotional appetites, and social gaffes over time to create a coherent front, like the ocean wearing down a rock to something resembling a smooth pebble. Empathetic bonds in a social setting are, I think, a defining factor of what makes this process piecemeal rather than intentional, as they tend to be a driving motivation more than any sense of craftsmanship and are remarkably fickle and prone to outside influence.

    >But I was also hoping to not convey that I thought that having the label "sociopath" meant I was all badass and there's nothing anyone can do about things.

    What really happened here wasn't that you were interpreted as a badass, I think. Your capacities made people uncomfortable and, for some, jealous. The threats that seem obvious from a flat-affect perspective are entirely invisible to people who reason from an emotional standpoint and are subservient to their symbolic and emotional needs.

    In a recent show I was watching, for example, the over-emotional sleuth and the ice cold killer faced off, and the sleuth got a gun on him. And then the sleuth inexplicably starts yapping about emotional things instead of pulling the trigger. I was left frustrated, placing myself in the sleuth's shoes and thinking 'pull the goddamn trigger while you have control or this is going to turn around on you.' And sure enough, it does. This script appears often in a lot of the media I read and watch, and it frustrates me every single time.

    My point is, even in high-danger situations, most people are literally incapable of seeing things the way that I assume you laid out in your book (I haven't read it but have seen enough feedback to have a fair idea). Therefore, their response is to shoot the messenger for such disturbing revelations, rather than seriously consider that it might have been there all along. "How can a group of people be so horrible" is much easier to reconcile than "Is my perception of all situations of conflict I've ever witnessed or participated in, incorrect?"

    The insights that flat-affect bargaining and, by extension, the sociopathy phenomenon offer into perception, identity, and the human condition aren't something that people are ready to accept because it shines a light on a side of what it means to be human that most would happily keep in the dark.

  10. What the hell are you rambling about?

    1. I wasn't addressing you, I was addressing M.E., but since you seemed so affronted enjoy the translation.

      I said,
      Look, people are stupid and self-centered, giving them credit for being clever when their projected personas are primarily accidental is way too generous.

      Then I said,
      As far as being a badass, I think people mostly are ready to label sociopaths whatever they want as a prelude to demeaning and isolating them for bringing uncomfortable insights to the table.

      Don't expect any mercy from people looking to get angles on how to make your story fit in their cozy little worlds. They'll crucify you and then say you did it to yourself by writing the book if it makes them feel better about the experience.

    2. Are you Milton?

    3. I was talking to Milton. :)

      Your post was fine. Sorry!

    4. No worries. Its detachment and position made it seem pointed at me. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I was accused of opacity. :)

    5. Also, fuck that Milton guy sideways with a rake. I completely share your objection now that I've bothered to read it entirely. I skipped it after the first two sentences.

      Condescending twat, wrapped up in the psychodrama of his 'mentally ill' friend who he feels inferior to socially and takes gratuitous stabs at whenever the opportunity arises. Probably also attracted to his friend's girl and feels inferior about that because his friend could get the girl he was unable to. Inferiority tends to work like that.

      'Bright minds unravel the mystery', heh. You kidding me?

      Here's an insight for you. Leading with a hook like 'are sociopaths all bad' makes your motives transparent, kid. You make a series of back-handed, loaded value judgments about how you're so morally superior to be kind and supportive to a self-centered sociopath and then have to wonder why he's emotionally unavailable to you because you feel entitled to know your worth for all your 'sacrifices' that you 'know he'll take advantage of'.

      Nobody's impressed, piss off.

  11. This sums it up for me, from the aforementioned Times review-

    " There’s only so many ways someone can say she doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. Sociopaths are all surface, and so at times is this book. By the end you feel like the partner of a sociopath. You’ve had quite the memorable roller coaster ride, but now you’re sick of the chilliness and the self-absorption, and you want out."

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