Friday, July 26, 2013

Sociopaths feel empathy (sort of)

Recent research suggests that sociopaths can feel empathy (or at least their mirror neurons light up as if they are feeling empathy) when directed to put themselves in the shoes of someone else. From the BBC News:

Psychopaths do not lack empathy, rather they can switch it on at will, according to new research. Placed in a brain scanner, psychopathic criminals watched videos of one person hurting another and were asked to empathise with the individual in pain. Only when asked to imagine how the pain receiver felt did the area of the brain related to pain light up. Scientists, reporting in Brain, say their research explains how psychopaths can be both callous and charming. The team proposes that with the right training, it could be possible to help psychopaths activate their 'empathy switch', which could bring them a step closer to rehabilitation. Criminals with psychopathy characteristically show a reduced ability to empathise with others, including their victims. Evidence suggests they are also more likely to reoffend upon release than criminals without the psychiatric condition.

I always wonder at this logical jump -- that a lack of empathy is the primary reason why sociopaths reoffend as opposed to, say, fearlessness, overoptimism, etc.? Maybe, but I haven't seen actual research on the issue, only idle speculation. The LA Times reporter, Geoffrey Mohan, takes this flawed line of reasoning one step further and suggests that only automatic empathy will do the trick:

But there is a substantial gulf between automatic empathic responses and those that result from cognitive control. Because a psychopath likely cannot be "trained" to summon up empathy to counterbalance manipulative and violent behavior, therapies would have to focus on embedding the process where it belongs: in the largely unconscious emotional regulating centers of the brain.

I disagree. I think sociopaths can be trained. I think that is the biggest implication of this recent research. And I think other research has shown that conscientiousness is the trait most strongly correlated with successful sociopaths vs. unsuccessful sociopaths. And what is conscientiousness but the acquisition of good habits, i.e. training. Plus, my own experience suggests that sociopaths can be trained. Readers of the book will recognize Ann as my trainer. So, it's an odd assertion to make, that sociopaths can't be trained. But luckily the researchers seem to share my view:

"From a therapeutical point of view, the big implication of our study is it does not seem to be the case that they have broken empathy per se,” Keysers said. “That would suggest that what therapies need to do is not so much try to create empathy in them, but try to make empathy more automatic and potentially do so by making the social cues of others more salient, so they will always be drawn into this empathy mode that they can activate when they want to.”

Especially given what we know of cognitive empathy being something we can practice.

So do I think that this is major news and will change the way we view sociopaths? Maybe it will change the common (mis)conceptions regarding sociopathy, but it is completely in line with recent trends in sociopathy research. For instance, Joseph Newman has a similar theory that sociopathy is largely an attentional issue, and that when you direct their attention to emotions (apparently even to the emotions of others), they experience them in relatively "normal" ways. The researchers of this current study agree:

Theories of psychopathy’s origins center around deficits in instrumental learning and attention. Keyser’s conclusions merge with those hypotheses. Of particular note were scans that showed abnormal activation in the amygdala, an area of the paralimbic system associated with emotional learning. Psychopaths may lack clues to the salience of social stimuli, an attribute shared to a certain degree with autism spectrum disorder. 

[I have often wondered if sociopathy is an autism spectrum disorder]

Psychopaths therefore may not be able to develop more complex structures of rules and morals, said Keysers.

“They don’t have this tendency that we normally have to be drawn into what the other person is feeling, and you can rephrase that as an attentional deficit,” Keysers said. “They simply don’t attend to what is going on with other people, automatically.”

So no, I don't think this is so different from what has been the recent trend in how researchers have viewed sociopathic empathy, particularly when you consider that sociopaths have always been acknowledged to have cognitive empathy, just not emotive empathy. Research suggests that cognitive empathy can be enhanced by attention directing exercises such as perspective taking. I have consistently said that sociopaths are able to put themselves into the shoes of another and imagine what it might be like to be that person, which possibly explains why we're so good at manipulation. Also, I have even experienced this type of focused empathy accidentally.

Things I would like to see explored further:

  • Is this sort of empathy different from mentalizing?
  • Can anyone empathize with things they haven't yet experienced or the experiences of others that are dissimilar to them (e.g. white people don't empathize with Trayvon Martin as much as African Americans do)?
  • What is the relationship between this attentional empathy and being moved (manipulated into feeling your own feelings in response to stimulus?)

So this is good news for sociopaths and our fight against the stigma, but knowing how much some people blindly hate sociopaths, my guess is that this is eventually going to be used to argue that sociopaths are just being lazy or opportunistic when they choose not to empathize.

As a side note,  apparently in the Netherlands psychopaths have access to the insanity defense? "Keysers and his team were given access to offenders who committed violent crimes, such as rape and murder, but who were found not responsible due to a psychopathy diagnosis." Sort of not surprising for the Dutch


  1. Can an empath train himself to be a non-empath?

    1. I imagine that is what military training tries to do. However soldiers can kill when they need to, but then have guilt or PTSD years later. So maybe we can be trained to temporarily overcome the conditioning of our early years, but we can't eradicate it?
      Would this then be like being able to accurately gauge other peoples'emotions and show an appropriate response without having to "feel" those same emotions?
      Is that the difference between empathising and metallising?
      So really, do I mean that either can learn to closely mimic, but not actually become, the other?

    2. soldiers are an interesting issue. During WWI there was an event when both sides decided much to the horror of the respective commands to celebrate X-mas.

      There were also studies it seem that a high percentage of soldiers did not do what they were meant to do (WWI). Which resulted in a focus on training after the event. So yes to Anonymous' comment above. Apparently it can be trained too.

      I stumbled across a thesis about a psychiatric clinic here in Germany between 1939-45. In 1940 (official start Sept. 39 /attack on Poland) there was steep rise in people diagnosed as psychopaths. 10 percent versus 5-6 in the following years if I remember correctly.

      I somehow doubt that they were diagnosed this way since they showed too much empathy, rather that this was something that was demanded. I could easily prove it. E.g. with Himmeler's statements that overcoming emotions when expected was the expression of some type of superior humanity.


      Seems I cannot comment via Firefox anymore. Although I could not figure out yet what it is about. How about testing the site for vulnerabilities.

      I checked if I could subscribe to the Forum. Testing if that worked there, but got a for me cryptic CSFR token message. Now Cross Site Request Forgery does not suggest anything good to me.

      If I were M.E. I would contact the white hats even as a self or other defined sociopath in this context. But there are also quite good tools our there. I have to figure out now what to do with Firefox. De-install and run a system check or not de-install that is the question. This follows on the heels of a not necessarily connected different oddity with Adobe Flash.

      The accidental empathy or Road Rage article was highly interesting. Why? Since I doubt that only very few would have responded that way. Also that you may have responded differently if you had a date or less time at that point.

    3. How big is the impact of morality - as a cultural phenomena - in empathizing?

      And following up on the statement about overcoming emotions as some kind of superior humanity, what is the underlying reason for this evolution (if I can call it so) - psychological, physical, etc?

    4. sure: the empath becomes a non-empath all the time. It's called narcissism.

    5. can you explain, Mach? why do you have to be a narcissist to have a switch on and off empathy? I am a narcissist when my empathy goes off??

      why cant you just be tired? I get tired from fixating on others. why is it normal to feel what others feel? that is crazy to live doing that. it does not make any sense. Me, I want to see myself clearly, not see and feel others. I do not want to lose me in another. I am female and tired of being expected to be feeling shit all the time. i want to choose the times i have empathy otherwise wtf ?

      i want to get close, right? and i have to mush on them so caretakingly, so syrupy, in order to do so? I am very supportive . i just do not understand why i am wrong if i do not do much more than relate to someone's emotions. I make nice gestures and smile when they smile. It comes easy to me. What more do the person want? Nobody has complained i am cold. They see me warm. It is only when they cross me i get cold. if i dont hide the chill, they are surprised the chill came from someone so warm. Then all of a sudden they are back pedaling. or not.

      ^^this is narcissism???

      once in a while i suck air out of a room. I am thinking me me have *i* done this situation. i compare me and the other person. and i KNOW it is ultimately about them because it is their situation not mine. THIS dynamic feels narcissistic, yes. But the other stuff?

      I want to understand so i will relax into myself , not be afraid to be myself for fear they will go away. They don't, until i exhibit neediness i had not shown previously. Lately i am showing neediness and it is perfectly accceptable. in fact, it makes them come closer to me.

    6. edit:
      i DO want to see and sort of feel others. i have to work hard to get there sometimes. This is exhausting when i cannot see and feel myself all the time.

    7. No, but (s)he can learn to control the responses, with a lot of time and persistence. My own empathy is basically a burden at this point, as I lack the ability to filter and I get overwhelmed by people. But I know at least one empath pretty well who manages hers very very well, so it's possible. I feel basically as though I'm on the other end of the spectrum as a sociopath, but that for both it may be possible to find more balance somewhere closer to the middle (even if we can never be fully balanced).

    8. Yes, he can. In my case, it took a lot of "NZT-48" aka amphetamine sulphate (and I refer to "classic, standard" speed, not meth, in any case I don't need it nor really use it anymore), disregard for those pesky "limiting" emotions, lots of research, and putting it all into practice without giving any regards or acknowlegement to any feeling until it became extremely enjoyable (something to look forward to), and finally, until the novelty wore off and it became my second nature.
      It ain't easy, easily bordering on "impossible". But it is definitely possible. It just takes a lot of hard work, willpower, learning and practice. Once one gets past narcississm, one can easily disconnect from the ego, mold it to his will, essentially become impervious to any threats and emotional manipulation. All the while being able to manipulate and control others as easily as it is to breathe, be they sociopathic or not.
      The final result? A choice. A choice to feel, or not to feel. No control, no supression. With just a single thought, I can make myself feel sad, surprised, smile, or simply not to feel at all. Hell, I can even "mimic" if I should choose so. All without any "delay" or conscious effort.
      Simply put, my emotions "bypass" my conscious mind, they don't affect my thinking at all, even though I "feel" them. I made my emotions work for me, in my favor. I have found my "switch" (more like a "volume control"), and I can describe it as having three "modes", which I can mix however I see fit: sociopathic, empathic-sympathic, hybrid.
      You COULD say I am "socioempathic". All the advantages of being empathic and sociopathic! None of the drawbacks! The best of both worlds! And now, I am truly happy, for I am, at last, completely at peace with myself. I can (and do) cheat, manipulate, and do whatever the fuck I want, without a shred of remorse, guilt, shame or fear of consequences! And I also sometimes sincerely help people, without expecting or asking for anything in return, and we could even become best buds (that is, until they starts to drag me down, don't apply my advices, waste my time and interfere with my interests, or other "sociopathic" reasons, at which point I simply cut them off)! Let me state it once again: I am completely emotionally independent, yet by a single thought I can feel any "neurotypical" emotion. Cool, huh?
      Bow down to me, you puny insignificant peasants! For you are nothing but flies to me, I swat at thee, you shaal all become my peons! Muhahahahha! 3:)
      In all seriousness, though, I want to leave a message to all the goody two-shoes empaths, who might stumble across this head-shaking disbeliveable artistically articulated form of writing that is the piece of my mind: buckle up, son! Stand up, show some attitude, have some self-respect for God's sake! You think YOU have it hard? Hah! Been there, done that. And it sucks. Big time. I was once one of "you". Always advising, always giving, always sacrifing my psychological and physical wealth and health for the sake of others, in the dim but ultimately fruitless hope that they might "see the light", which of course, never happens - you just get discarded like some consumable thrown in the trash can, which frankly, you are, for letting it happen to you and ignoring your gut instincts. You reap what you sow, you get what you take. Ask for nothing, and you get thrown into trash. Ask for the world, and you rise beyond heavens. You can keep your "specialness", nobody cares, least of all me. And if you don't like blood? Well, I guess you better close the door then. It'll be hard to see you from the top, and you make a good source of laughs! Enjoy your "special holy morally right" life. Feel free to wait for the "reward", but remember: love can't buy you money ;-)

    9. I appreciate your personal experience here. I'll have to disagree with your current lifestyle decision, however. To me it seems like an empty life; one of self-deceit. Are you truly, with the entirety of your being, experiencing the vast array of emotions and feelings? Or are you experiencing your own self-forged, pseudo versions of emotions? Are you sort of living through excitement and pleasure, yet not joy (differentiating joy from pleasure) and perhaps other lesser, gloomy emotions? Experiences such as sadness and heartache aren't exclusively painful or maladaptive. I think there's something special to life when one isn't entirely self-absorbed; when one merges self and other (yet maintains the sense individuality) in a way that spawns a unison of growth, inevitably spreading positive advancements to others. If we all shut ourselves off, then we'd be merely mechanical beings agreeing to pacify one another.

  2. As I have so often said, the key to eliminating human misery is attention.
    One of the most realevant quotes comes from the play Death Of A Salesman.
    Willy Loman's wife sees his mental deterioration and tells her sons
    "Attention must be payed!" They can't grasp what she's saying, so the
    tragety ensues.
    There is great motivation in society for a diversion of attention.
    Do you know what would happen if sociopathy was eliminated? How many
    people that would put out of work? Cops, therapists, gun makers, jailers,
    "God" doesn't want us to have a utopian society now. The promise of
    "Heaven" is always down the road, something in the future. "Tomorrow"
    never comes.
    People believe in "us" and "them." If only "they" would change, everything would be better. There's no problem with "us", we never have to change. So, a small elite that influences populuar opinion, misdirects
    our attention using time honored methods as illustrated in Robert Caldini's book "Infulence" and the books written by the late Wilson Brian
    Key of "Subliminal Seduction" and "Media Sexploytation" fame.
    There's a ve$ted intrest in keeping the public dumbed down. Dumbed down
    people never know who's controling the puppet strings, like the audience
    of a rigged wrestling match.

  3. As heartening as it is to hear that such research could, potentially, lessen the stigma of being sociopathic, I'm inclined to be less optimistic about such rehabilitation (which is ultimately where most non-sociopaths want the conclusion of this discovery to be had) due to the fact that sociopathy is a syndrome of traits; empathy is just one factor. We can be very good at cognitive empathy and not so good at emotive empathy. Maybe it doesn't matter which a person uses. Maybe for rehabilitation purposes, any type of empathy to better understand the people around the sociopath is good enough.

    Regardless, sociopathy is still a syndrome. If the focus boils down to empathy, it leads to the false equivalency that empathic means socially responsible. There are plenty of sociopaths who are socially responsible and cannot exhibit emotive empathy. There are plenty of empaths who are socially irresponsible. In the absence of that false equivalency, does 'learning' empathy really encourage a 'recovering' sociopath to behave in a socially responsible manner? Wouldn't feelings of egocentrism, for instance, still motivate many sociopaths to seek self-serving and socially irresponsible actions even if they could empathize with those around her/him? The actions of a person are motivated by much more than simply empathy.

    Finally, wouldn't this 'training' just be another form of cognitive behavioral therapy? With CBT, the subject must be willing to undergo change. From what I've read, although in works written by non-sociopaths for the most part, and my own feeling state, I suspect that most sociopaths do not see a major failing of self due to being sociopathic. I hope that we all try to improve ourselves on a continual basis, but I know I don't think - 'Gee Wally, I really hate being sociopathic and I wish I weren't so'. So, I would think that there would be a major roadblock in any such 'rehabilitation' because many of us simply are fine with being sociopathic. Maybe we aren't fine with the potential legal troubles due to socially irresponsible actions (should we choose to do such) or the instability, for some, of our interpersonal relationships, but ultimately wouldn't rehab only work if we truly wanted to change? How would learning empathy differ from using incentive-based therapy in order to change our potentially destructive behaviors?

    1. I know it's been a while since you have written this but boy have you described how I think to the T. I just got diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (with borderline PD) and have been researching on it ever since. I am very easily the most empathetic person ever if I want to be - all for the sake of making myself seem understanding and popular. You are so right about us being self-centred driven and hence it wouldn't matter whether we want to "reactivate" or call up our empathetic feelings because we simply do not see the point. The reason why a lot of the serial killers and criminals are sociopath is not because they are just lack of empathy (that is certainly one of the reasons, but not the main one) - it is because they feel that they CAN and they are great with manipulating people. It is like a little game they play that they are finally in control of the weaker ones.

      But my point ultimately will be - sociopathic people have empathy and we have the switch to turn it on or off. It is more of whether we want it to present or not when we are executing our plans/goals. So this "training" won't really "improve" them. I would think a better approach is to explore the self-centred driven trait and to set boundaries for themselves and people who live with them.

  4. Wow... so all of a sudden, I'm like a vampire, and I can just turn my humanity on and off?? My brain chemistry is DIFFERENT, not wrong. Not feeling empathy for people is a gift. Why would I want to sulk over someone else's shitty situation? The charming part is easy since almost every person in this pathetic world are so easily pulled in by honeyed words and crocodile tears. You can't rehabilitate a psychopath because we will never admit to needing rehabilitation and if we are forced, then it just gives us a chance to sharpen our manipulative techniques on psychologists....the best practice ever. I like the fact that other people's drama has no effect on me, unless there is something for me to gain from faking sympathy, gaining their trust, blah blah blah and getting what I want.

    1. what about social responsibility? Frankly I dont give a good god damn about others (unless I can use them for my own gain) but are you not drawn to order safety and stability? Not caring about people is one thing but even a sociopath needs to draw the line between DIFFERENT and pointless misery. maybe thats just the logical side saying there is no point in killing another human being for sport and much better ways to get revenge than murder.
      But your right... people are just so easy to manipulate.

    2. I can feel others emotions and feelings all the time, I just don't give a shit. I use those feelings to get what I want out of them. It's at the point where it's become so easy that I dread having to pretend to care. I'm able to disassociate with an alarming ease.

    3. It's true, a psychopath cannot be changed. I have been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder at a young age and my parents forced me to go to different therapist to try and change me. The only thing they did was teach me how to act like a "normal person". You cannot just learn empathy after a certain age. Antisocial personality disorder is thought as a combination of genetics and environment. It is like saying you can turn a wolf into a sheep with a few lessons. The only thing you are doing is preparing a wolf to act like a sheep. Making it easier for it to hunt its prey. A therapist cannot change someone who does not want to change. All diagnosed psychopaths and sociopaths do not want help because they believe nothing is wrong with them. When I was diagnosed, I was not horrified or sad. I enjoyed the fact that I was different from all of the normal people. 1/100 people are psychopaths; why would I ever want to change? I enjoy not caring about anyone and I do not care if normal people are disgusted by that. I think they are just afraid of us. We can mimic everything they feel without the actual attachment. Why wouldn't a sheep be afraid of a wolf?

  5. I don't know why people on this site seem to focus on the "feeling others' negative emotions" part of empathy. Having empathy also means being able to feel others' positive emotions, and hey, that often means free pleasure, joy, excitement, and happiness. For me, since I tend to be surrounded by fairly fun-loving people who are doing all right in their lives, the tradeoff works pretty well.

    1. do you mooch off others' joy like i do? it isnt like i am stealing it. I am enjoying it. sometimes bec they are sharing it with me, i think i am lucky to have them. Because they are changing my mood ... if i like them that is. I want to be in their mood so we can enjoy happiness together and look lovingly at one another. Without them and their happiness I am lost in myself and lonely or lonesome, or idk. (I do not do so well by myself i have noticed.) Is what i do empathy?

    2. Emotional mooching is what a psychic vampire does.

      As a psycopath, not sociopath, I find absolutely no benefit in joy by association or vicarious living. People who are constantly happy (usually over dull, easy to obtain crap such as graduation or a free meal) have less respect from me. Being constantly happy is just as well existing out of reality. I avoid these people as much as possible. Either they are idiots or sadistic sociopaths. Usually the happy women are sadistic sociopaths and rush to get away from me, knowing I see the true monster in them as a female psycopath, a higher being than the sociopath. There is a difference, I am annoyed that this article jumps between the two as if it was the same thing. Annoyed...that's an emotion if anyone *cares*

    3. Ultimately it is just called "sharing."

  6. wasnt that picture used once before already? it's a great picture but now there's no new picture!

  7. Psychopathy (or whatever you choose to call it) is an adaptive response to an environment in which an individual is brought up, based on genetic factors.
    Some are born predisposed more towards being the "warrior/hunter" behavior and some are less so.
    It is an armor most of us are born with and it grows thicker and more impenetrable over time.
    The only weapon that can breach it and find the vulnerable cracks in it is the truth.
    Learn to use that weapon proficiently and you will discover that you can destroy your opponents easily.
    Master that weapon and you will understand how to take off your own armor without hurting yourself.

  8. I certainly appreciate how this information could contribute to image management and minimizing stigma if one's psychopathy were to be made public knowledge. That is delightful. I do think, however, that time and time again, both in your posts and in the comments, this capability has been described right here, so it isn't particularly shocking.

  9. I can really relate to this post. I often put myself in another persons shoes to understand what they are thinking and feeling. Even though I know what and how the other person I feeling, I don't feel their emotions myself unless I consciously make an effort to. This is really useful when I get it right but when I get it wrong people think I'm insensitive and cruel ( which doesn't bother me in itself but inconvenient when you need the person).
    Normally, I only feel shallow emotions, which rarely impact my decision making process, and which I ignore when they get in the way.

  10. What about autonomy-based morality?

    I don't need to know how someone feels to know they have the right to be an autonomous agent and to respect that right. Even if a person were unable to feel any physical or emotional pain they still have the right to make their own decisions about their body and property so I would refrain from violating their rights.

    The ability to turn empathy on and off at will would be a handy asset that would make it easier for people to practice mutual respect for autonomy, which in any rational meaningful sense IS morality. If another person loves being in pain then it is their subjectively-defined preference and I have no right to force them to live otherwise. People have every right to define what they like and do not like in what ever manner they please and act accordingly so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.

    I fit none of the criteria for sociopathy and never have and have always had a very keen interest in topics like politics, morality, ethics. Yet I've rationally surmised that my brain works similarly. I have morality but I don't think of it the way most people do. It's all about autonomy and promoting my own through mutual respect for the autonomy of others. The only reason I generally care about people's pain and pleasure is that it's a rational assumption unless told otherwise that this will coincide with what the person likes or dislikes.

    1. Furthermore why would one want it to be automatic except for people like friends, family, people they are close to? Love, compassion, conscience, empathy I have these things in spades for people I consider deserving.

      As to the question of if you need a similar experience. No. Just exercise sociological imagination. I do empathize with the problems of total strangers sometimes but that's because I'm thinking about doing something either with human rights law or with sociological research so using empathy/sociological imagination helps understand these situations and figure out good solutions.

    2. And another thing I wasn't born this way, maybe born with the potential and predisposition to become this way that just so happened to mix with the right chain of events experiences and learning and that which I chose to think about (or instinctively occured to me to think about, in the end the difference between intinct and reason is an illusion, a social convention perhaps one that correlates strongly with certain chemical patterns but a mere convention nonetheless, reason is just a complex of instincts conflicting with each other and being resolved which its resolution itself must be due to instinct).

  11. This is kind of how I feel; like a sociopath that has no interest in hurting other people. I have no real empathy for people, yet I like when the people around me are happy... I like being liked, I like being accepted by my peers, I like making money and participating in the world. For my own selfish reasons perhaps, but no one needs to know my motives or thought processes.

  12. I noticed a sociopath go "ouch" when watching something rather disturbing on Youtube. I paid attention to his facial expression. I could tell there was an emotion. Does it mean he's no sociopath?

  13. I believe I have just learned I am a sociopath. At age 16. "This is kind of how I feel; like a sociopath that has no interest in hurting other people. I have no real empathy for people, yet I like when the people around me are happy... I like being liked, I like being accepted by my peers, I like making money and participating in the world. For my own selfish reasons perhaps, but no one needs to know my motives or thought processes." These are my exact feelings. I'm awfully glad to know others feel the same.

  14. As a sociopath (So I believe) I have found that my greatest relief of emotions is through comedy and internal jokes. I've fallen in love with the fact that I no longer try to comprehend and understand things and instead just laugh them off. God it is a strange life.

  15. I'm not sure if its possible for every sociopath to learn how to empathize but I did. Though, I am more of an extreme case, and I certainly don't think it's the same as a regular person empathizing.

    I think its the sociopaths ability to be cold and intelligent that allows him to put himself inside another persons shoes, but it's not like I care because it just is there and I feel it and I can understand it. It's hard to explain because it is like a switch that you turn off and on but you don't know its there until someone tells you its there.

    For me its harder to explain because it was the way that I grew up that allowed me to "empathize," put myself in other shoes. Only as I grew older it seem now that my personality changed and now I kind-off have a type of pure empathy. I cant control it any more, the switch. Thinking back on it now, I think what happened was that my sociopathic ability to be coldly intelligent and what allowed me to see others in there own shoes and understand how they people think and somehow became ingrained into my brain. It's weird for me because I used to be able to have an objective view on everything but this "empathy" somehow became an automatic reaction and literally became uncontrollable.

    I begin to empathize with everything even when I didn't what to it would just happen. Over time it became a stumbling block because I can no longer think. I still know that I'm a sociopath and I still "meet all the requirements, its just that ability to understand people has become automatic and in my case it not a good thing. I've literally become another person. I am not a organized, smart, analytical, calculated, and disciplined as before.

    As I said above, I think a empathetic sociopath has more to do with his ability to understand people than to actually naturally feel emotional empathy. Now, when a sociopath understands that emotion, it is kind-off like a regular person empathizing, but I think there two different things. In my case it a bad thing, because it has taken over and my mind, which is usually very sharp, and now is bombarded with empathetic emotions and feelings. I would described it as trying to make a decision that would impact some else in perhaps a negative way and even though I don't care about such things, all-of-the-sudden my mind go to how that person feels and what about his situation. And I don't care but my mind won't let it go, and the only way to get that "worry" out of my mind is to give in and "do the right thing," according to my brain.

    Now, some people would say that I am just normal but that is not so. I wasn't always like this and from time to time, depending on the situation I don't have this "empathy," and I can function as I used to do before.

    I'm wondering if anyone else has had this happen to then. I would be most intrigued to hear there story and see how they are dealing with this problem.

  16. Why would anyone allow themselves to be "trained" to empathise? Empathy is an unpleasant feeling, nobody who chooses when it happens is going to allow themselves to be "trained" to feel it automatically. It's illogical, and there is no motivation.

  17. People thinks it's bad not to be able empathise with others its a matter of taste, we don't all have the same sence of humour normal brains laugh at people getting hurt all the time, it's actually when we connect the most I don't natural empathise with people but enjoy fitting in and having the upper hand

  18. Normal seems pathological to me, and I probably don't qualify as a sociopath. I might be able to pass for a psychopath, but I have more empathy than normal. My empathy can be bad for some beings.

  19. Interesting because my father and brother have autism and my symptoms confuse me. I can be very, very, deliberately kind and feel empathy, but I also lie through my teeth (almost Walter mitty like) and manipulate and I have trouble 'connecting' I've always felt as if my emotions were learned but they do feel real despite that. This research implies that perhaps mindfulness might help sociopaths, although getting them to do it would be hard. And getting them to then not use it as a manipulation tool would be harder still ha ha. I've always thought I might have autistic leanings, but they are very much like sociopathic ones in some ways. I also have attention deficit issues, bit can hyper focus. I think these issues are linked and are all anxiety spectrum disorders.

    I wonder if treating sociopathic tendency with methods that improve attention spans would help, or indeed methods that help autism.

  20. It is pretty interesting that there is little difference between a sociopath and one whi has MASTERED mindfulness/zen thought(null)/buddist enlightenment/etc (all these practice being in the moment and having masterful control over one's experience, though its hard to put the concept into words exactly as its not control per se). To the point people seeking such things are quite....touched(envious? Admiring? Feeling?) that sociopaths achieve his state at such a young age without having soecifically sought it out.

    From personal observation sociopaths seem to be (humans) that have already attained a mastery of self at a very early age, accepted reality for what it is (instead of the highly delusional/distorted perception most "normal" people have). From examaning the diet and life experiences it seems their environment directly caused these "buddist enlightenment traits" to be developed as a survival response to the complex circumstances and experiences they were subjected to be others. Additionally their mirror neurons appear to be exceptional (above average) so they are capable of much more profound understanding via mindfulness or simple observation/mimic/empathy/mirroring/whatever you want to call the same thing.

    However since it was by unconscious response/choice(usually) rather than "conscious" a sociopath might not have aqquired the complete "enlightenment package" and only obtained the parts they needed to cope with their experiences and what they were subjected to. so a not quite yet completed package but quite the leg up on other people that are actually seeking such a state, if they opt to complete the package (not everyone wants enlightenment, and to have it 'forced' on you is quite unpleasent experience, the experience of ego death/melting of self is a rather extreme experience that can be quite world shattering for someone unprepared/not seeking it/not possessing the personality traits to handle it or not 'meant' to experience it.) they turn into any other mindful being and often at a vastly younger age than most, you wont be able to tell them apart because there is no difference, but you could examine their past experiences to draw such a conclusion(but that would be a malacious act against an individual anyway).

    I am just going to say that comparing autism spectrum to sociopathy is probably not off as they are both generic broad sweeping terms for someone who is (possibly fundamentally) 'different' from the average human. Since humans love their categorization but fail to actually find definition in such broad terms (autistic/scoiopath amounts to "you are different from us, and we don't know why; but we find it unacceptable and want you to change to be like us, even if being like us is fundamentally wrong to nature).

    You will likely find that such terms simply don't exist in more diverse cultures where mindfulness is celebrated or a highly sought state, etc. (cultures where buddism was the major religion at one time for instance. india as well most likely, any collectivist culture, etc, where the words come back down to "you are different from us.").

    Maybe this was a but of a rant though but it is still an interesting perspective to look at it from no?

    1. As an intellectual type sociopath I see your perspectives as very interesting and agree on every word, I hope more people get to read your thoughts on this.

  21. Because so much of the difficulties empaths run into are caused from issues of co-dependency (people pleasing, lack of self-love, seeking/expecting affirmation and returned gratitude), here's a great video that benefited me

  22. Wow so many like minded posts. ^_^ Finally found some more looney toons (in the eyes of proper society). Ah so training a Psychopath, this may be very difficult seeing as being a psychopath means you have lost interest in following the ways of general society in exchange for baser pleasure mostly consisting in the agony of, what we sociopaths would refer to as the sheepies of society (the masses if you will). As I see it though you get three main types of sociopaths:

    1. referenced to by me as the wolf (Psychopaths), they pray on the weak and gain pleasure in other's pain. Most likely only driven by egotistical beliefs or urges. They follow their own rules and take pleasure in the "hunt" (More than likely violent). The goals limited to causing pain to others, so to feed the darkness within them now unleashed and in control. (General Serial Killers, etc.)

    2. the sheep-hound has been trained since a young age to abide by the rules of society - self preservation most likely the main attribute for them. They will however be inclined to protect their folk. Somewhat limited with regards to the need to greatly excel, more so than a psychopath they are not intent to harm anyone on purpose, but will sooner or later fail someone. (Maybe firemen, school teachers, your every day heroes that just seem a bit odd)

    3. the sheep-herder are masterful leaders able to charm and manipulate sheep to their will and are driven by glorious ambition to achieve the vision of their ultimate unyielding plans. Of the three sociopaths this one is the most dangerous, they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals and will cause great suffering in their wake. It is however possible that they may have goals to uplift society, however this will all depend on baser training received and choices made. (Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, Napoleon, Sun Tzu [If you disagree just remember they all killed masses without remorse], etc.)

    And there is my point of view. ^-^

  23. the key is the capacity for disassociation. socipaths and psychopaths are conditioned very early on in life to disconnect themselves from otherwise "normal" human emotions. what complicates this is are environmental imperatives to compartmentalize the emotions in order to survive physically/psychologically/psychically. the so-called "high-functioning" psychosociopaths simply have the ability to contain their rage for a longer time and more effectively than the so-called "low-functioning" psychosociopaths. the key difference between them is low and high impulse control; their affective disconnect remains the same. i will guarantee you that the general population has many more socio-psychopaths than previously thought. the research has been dominated by stupid men with an inability to imagine life outside their tiny little boxes. the truth is much, much more complex.


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