Monday, August 26, 2013

Embracing your place on the sociopath spectrum

I think it's important to remember that most people think that sociopathic traits fall on a spectrum. There's nothing so totally different about a sociopath, it's more the suite of particular traits and the intensity of them that distinguishes them from the typical person. A reader tries to find his own place on the sociopathic spectrum:

I've just finished reading your book, and wanted to thank you for writing it. True honesty, combined with acute self-knowledge, is so rare in any autobiographical work that it's truly a gift when I come across a gem like this.

I suppose I should preface by saying that I'm not exactly sure if I'm a sociopath. I lack some of the characteristics you describe, such as sensation-seeking tendencies and fluid sexuality.

That being said, as I read your book I couldn't help but identify with so many parts of your story. You are basically me, cranked up to eleven. That is, I do seem to possess many of the traits you mention, just to a somewhat lesser degree than you do.

Power is the dominant lens through which I view social relations. I am sometimes scarily confident in my ideas, to the extent that people absorb the philosophies and biases I project almost by osmosis. Then I get sick of them because they've become intellectual carbon copies of "me". I have trouble believing in the concept of love or fixed identity since I have not had the experience of feeling them before - at least not in the sense most people seem to mean them.

Recently I had a dispute with a friend which ultimately ended the relationship. Typically enough, I held all the cards while she engaged in emotional outbursts, but despite the fact that I "won" in the end, I still felt disturbed because this was a relationship I wanted to keep, yet I could not see anything I would have done differently to salvage it.

Somehow, my friend had expected her emotional threats to have an impact on me that was different from what rationality and the balance of power would have suggested. This wasn't the first time something like this had happened, and it made me feel uncomfortable to realise I saw things in a way that was fundamentally different from other people, and that I could not seem to bridge that gap despite my best efforts to consider other strategic paths.

That's when I discovered your book.

I don't know if you realise what a gift you've given to people like me (us?). Reading it was like discovering an oasis in an alien desert. After months of searching for answers in literature, philosophy and even random internet forums and blogs, all of which seemed completely irrelevant to what I was going through, I found your Confessions to be a rare source of solace.

It's incredibly inspiring to read about someone older and more experienced than me, who seems to share the very traits I have, and who has nonetheless managed to create and (even more importantly) maintain a successful life and career.

I used to feel guilty about manipulating people, but more and more, I'm coming to understand its absolute necessity if I am to make my way in this world and achieve my goals. Your book has given me further assurance that this is not only necessary, but could in fact be seen as an ethical, charitable thing to do. If it makes empaths happy to be deceived in certain situations, where's the harm in that? Perhaps my real sin has been in being half-hearted about my schemes, instead of going full bore ahead and ensuring that I get away with them fully. Not just doing the minimum to get by (clumsily), but doing whatever is necessary for a graceful, virtuoso performance.

Thank you for casting light on an alternative system of ethics, a way of living life that works for people like me. I felt like I was reading a version of Seneca's "Letters" that was personally addressed to me.

I've never written to an author before, but you struck a chord with me.


  1. I think you mean, true-disonesty.

  2. I felt the same, when reading the book, but the constant reminder that she was being vague, to maintain this image we have of her, is what has kept me at a distance and a distrust. I personally am not done reading it, as much as i relate to it, i refuse to put her on a pedestal. Brilliant writer though.

    1. If she had labored to earn your trust by creating a feeling of intimacy and familiarity, then, that would be preferable?

      Personally, I'm more guarded around charming people. If a person's turned up the charm, they have set out to acquire something, and that makes them dangerous. I can respect distance and directness: those are qualities of respect for your audience.

      Cultivating familiarity through wit and body language, or trying to produce a directed emotional response in your audience is, without fail, one of the tells of insincerity and usually (not always, but usually) a precursor to manipulation. The irony is that people crave familiarity and attachment to others, even if they're being used, and so it's very simple to execute (in a lot of cases, like courtship, 'putting the moves' on someone to generate feelings of excitement and familiarity is expected). It always cracks me up when I hear talk about manipulation like it's something that happens only to other unfortunate people in very specific, abusive circumstances.

      Which brings me to my other point.

      >> I used to feel guilty about manipulating people, but more and more, I'm coming to understand its absolute necessity if I am to make my way in this world and achieve my goals.

      Ding ding ding. Western civilization has coped with the sheer vastness of its constituency by becoming a framework to allow for the ethical manipulation of its adherents via highly systematized rule and regulation of incentives. With any detailed study of law, finance, economics, or marketing (especially marketing), it's hard not to see the writing on the wall.

      Most people rely on their emotions to get them through the murky waters of 'getting what you want in life' as taught by your academic mentors, but for people who find that sort of thinking inadequate, the above sorts of revelations are only a short distance away.

    2. I consider her a brilliant person, but more in terms of how she's managing to earn a living off of fleecing misguided souls.

      Overall, I found the book to be redundant, confessional, and boring. About three Chapters in, I wasn't fascinated. I couldn't stand the woman, and I realized I'd the only I'd want to know this much about a stranger is if we'd slept together, the sex was great, and they were capable of advancing my social status.

      Otherwise, save it for myspa- I mean this, blog.

  3. I used to feel guilty about manipulating people, but more and more, I'm coming to understand its absolute necessity if I am to make my way in this world and achieve my goals. Your book has given me further assurance that this is not only necessary, but could in fact be seen as an ethical, charitable thing to do.

    This is interesting, since I can understand some of what s/he writes. E.g. strong aversion to emotional threats, even tears if they are directed my way. Almost like a game it feels. I also get bored with sheeple.

    I would never use scarily though, since in fact the boredom is related to that they stop to give me impulses that could make me slightly change my angle:

    I am sometimes scarily confident in my ideas, to the extent that people absorb the philosophies and biases I project almost by osmosis. Then I get sick of them because they've become intellectual carbon copies of "me".

    But what surfaced in the end is the most interesting for me.

    Manipulation. What exactly does it mean beyond everyday usage in the thicket of human interaction?

    "Ethics" of self-interest. I wonder why Ayn Rand does not surface more often here. I read and listened to the statement of an Ayn Rand manager, that it was actually the ultimate ethic to bomb the Arab world into surrender, ideally with atom bombs, since it after all was threatening "our way of life". How many Americans absorbed her "philosophy" almost with their mother milk?

    Can thought produce psychopath? Could there be a exta angle nature - nurture - thought?

    Personally I found ME's genesis the most interesting, since I am very interested in human experience and how it shapes people.

    1. Ayn Rand is the inbred redneck of the philosophical world. Please don't treat her like she has any legitimacy, it hurts my grey matter.

    2. Anonymous, I put philosopher into quotation marks, since I do not consider her a genuine philosopher. So far none of her followers have made me want to read her books. But yes, there is a trend to lift her into the realms of philosophy.

      There is even a chair on the study of Objectivity by now in Texas. Who were the earlier founders?

      It's holder wrote this:
      Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics

      Here is a review by Helen Cullyer

      I find it interesting Cullyer mentions Kant, I always struggled with his, as it felt, pretty egoistic definition of duty. Protestant ethics? Personally I cannot disentangle Ayn Rand from the Cold War. ...

    3. Hmmm, OK, so the apparent interests and tendencies I observed about a decade ago are showing fruits.

      The origin behind the Anthem Foundation lies no big surprise there in the Ayn Rand Institute I could have of course simply checked via the the whois databases. Like in mathematics often there are different ways.;)

      Yaron Brook, my earlier "friend, of course also sits on the board of directors.

      Welcome to the world of power players who often feel to be servants at the same time. How big was the grant to Tara Smith?

  4. I dislike Ayn Rand. I don't self-censor most of what I read, think, hear, though. I think one grows as a person when one exposes themselves to all philosophies for self-knowledge.

    I define myself by what I am not, as much as what I am.

    Oh-And I will talk about whatever I want. :)


    1. Maria, sometimes it feels I define myself more by what I am not then by what I am.;) Whatever it may be.

      “Je est un autre”, I is someone else. I guess this phrase as much of Rimbaud has never stopped to fascinate me, even as an adult.

      Two basic trends on the sociopath topic, one is to try to define oneself, one the other too fast.


  5. "I used to feel guilty" Not exactly text book sociopathy then.

    Once in a conversation I suggested to someone who has known me most of my life, that I was unfamiliar with guilt because I had never done anything wrong. I think the look on her face was a cross between surprise and disbelief. She actually looked liked she had had a bucket of water thrown over her, which just made me laugh out loud.

    1. "I used to feel guilty" Not exactly text book sociopathy then.

      That phrase jumped out at me too.

  6. There was an excellent film on Ayn Rand a few years back; I regret
    the actual title doesn't come to mind, but the actor Peter Fonda played
    her cockhold husband completely dominated by her. I think it might have
    been called "The Love of Ayn Rand" or something of that nature.
    Her problem was that she had a "God complex." Once you yelded to her,
    she demanded 100% loyality. If anyone qualifies as a sociopath it's her.
    By the end of film, we see that one guy did "get" to her once in her life.
    So tragic that she had to hide behind the facade of being a "superwoman."
    The best movie about love is "Wild Is The Wind" (1962) starring Anthony
    Quinn. The theme song of the movie should also be bisected very carefully.

    1. "The passion of Ayn Rand", could it have been that? I may have heard about that one or at least about this biographical aspect. Not sure if I would be interested in seeing the story on the screen though.

      "Wild is the Wind" is a remake of the Italian movie "Furia". Interesting choice. I love Anna Magnani, great actress just as Anthony Quinn.

      Hmmm? This film could have inspired a novel by a German author I don't like too much: Symbolism around the horses. I'll look into the song. Simone, Bowie?

      Interesting. This too.

  7. There was much that I see in myself as teacher there was a time when spanking was permitted I enjoyed it to the fullest even though I told my students how the school forced me to be a disciplinarian. Actually many of my students mothers requested that I spank their kids as unbelievable as it sounds one female teacher my lover at the time requested to be there and witness the seen, I justified it by saying that I needed a witness afterwards we made out passionately whilst the lad remained in a adjacent room shrieking and holding his buttock. My favorite part was watching the mouth pop open, although the look of sheer terror on their faces was also enjoyable. Unfortunately those days are long. So yes I see alot of those traits even in breaking the law I was still caning even after the cane was banned by justifying that I had own laws. If any reasonable person doubts the authenticity of the story thinking that I am writing smut... Be assured that I have no reason to lie.

  8. The song is by Nina Simone

    1. I realized pretty quick that I know both Bowie's and Simone's version, which apparently have no big impact on me.

      The verson that made me slightly understand what you may have in mind is the original Johnny Mathis version. The song was written by Dimitry Tiomkin.

      In any case, I get the idea that the song may have been quite important for the impact of the larger plot. It's slightly longing theme.

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  10. I think that was my favorite part. Because every time he hurt me, I had an excuse to hurt him back, sometimes even worse. I loved it.

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  12. "I used to feel guilty about manipulating people"

    If you felt guilty about manipulating people, how could you be a sociopath?

  13. I have now become fascinated by the "terms' created to encase one into a category. I am older and wiser in my age and analyzing my friends and family always struck me as some left over remnant of a past life ;).
    Anyway, my best friend has many behaioral symptoms of my daughters best friends the only clear distinction I have found is one has histrionic behavior and the other a clear sociopath. They both have impulsive, abusive, klepto, symptoms with mood like disorders. But if you are close to these types you start to understand how they work, how they interact and what the distinct differences are to each.
    My best friend is a text book histrionic BPD right down to the 'mother' issues. My daughters best friend, Donna is much more in the category and is very much like what is expressed by those that are 'confessed' sociopaths. She has manipulated my daughter into everything she wants her to believe to the point of taking blame for...a, b, or c pick anything and this girl will shed crocodile tears while throwing her supposed loyal friend my daughter under the bus. Her relationship with her BF's are beyond anything I have witnessed. Almost borders on narcisstic behavior but lack of any guilt, remorse and love for her friends, family or boyfriends. These victims end up mamed for life, dismantled, destroyed by someone who walks into a room with charisma, intelligence and a bubbly personality only to charm and adore you with every inch of her self. Meanwhile your brand new necklace made it into Donna's purse and at anytime she may have been caught my daughter the one loyal like a cult victim is always there to take the blame. She hates to be hugged but gives the impression of being loving, she has no empathy, thinks nothing of destroying and toying with lives only to leave them in remnants while parents are bewildered by how their seamingly well-adjusted child turned into some mush and mortar still crying her name after Donna seamlessly moved onto the next victim. And it is clearly from boredom and the result of that victim having nothing left for our friend Donna to take from them. She is clever, can outwit most and has her parents convinced this was a 'adolescent phase' of impulsivity and kleptomania thrown in with a lil manic/depressive episode. But I know and she knows I know and while she moves about manipulating everyone in her path, my daughter, her parents, her friends, room mates she is beyond fascinated with me to know how I get her on some level and accept her for who she is. I have asked her to respect my boundaries for the sake of my daughter but never asked her to stop hanging with my daughter because they are over 21. I try to equip my daughter but she is immune to the charm, sweetness and fake vulnerability Donna displays. She is quite the conundrum but as I learn I realize if you do not educate, adapt and learn from BPD's sociopaths in society you can't get far because they will always be someone's fiancee, grandchild, CEO or boss. No escaping them but being equipped with the tools to deal with them helps us to acknowledge when we are becoming their next victim.


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