Monday, August 19, 2013

Sociopaths feel emotion

I have been surprised by how often I hear or read someone saying that sociopaths don't have emotions or can't form emotional bonds with other people. Most often it's people talking about how sociopaths are soulless monsters or must live lives completely devoid of any real meaningful relationships, but sometimes it's someone saying that he couldn't possibly be a sociopath because he feels emotions and love, etc. This is all fallacy. The three main diagnostic criterions actually have relatively little to say about emotions: Cleckley only mentions "general poverty in major affective reactions" and a poorly integrated sex life, Hare's PCL-R also lists shallow affect, and the DSM-V's ASPD only says that sociopaths tend to experience irritability and don't feel remorse. Nowhere does it say that sociopaths don't love. Nowhere does it say that sociopaths can't form emotional bonds. There is not a single historical example of a sociopath who is a completely emotionless, robot loner, so I don't know from where people are getting this image of the emotionless sociopath.

I thought about this popular misconception when I read this recent comment:

"How does a sociopath know when the missing emotions that make him supposedly so different, since he does not feel them, are feigned? In other words how does he learn to differentiate between feigned and real emotions?"

I am sociopathic, but have some emotion. These emotions are egocentric and only arise with events I am directly involved with, but they are still there. I feel joy and happiness at doing my favorite activities and I can (but may not always) feel anger or sadness when things do not go my way. Nonetheless, these are 'feelings' because they provide information that goes beyond the intellectual analysis of the situation at hand.

Because I have those feelings I can easily contrast those with situations where I do not or am faking them. If I am 'acting' in such a way to not betray myself, and my only contribution to that acting is my intellectual state, then I know that there is an absence of feeling there. If one tells me about how their friend died and they are in tears, I know that I must contribute with an appropriate response so that they 1) do not realize my status and 2) are not feeling any worse. Going through the motions because of this intellectual realization is far different than the automatic response given by most non-sociopaths. I think, by and large, we realize that we are not giving the same response as non-sociopaths because we realize that we have to craft the *entire* interaction with another person, not just the words.

But I don't think even this idea of faking emotions is so different than most people. Do you always mean it when you say "oh, I'm so sorry to hear that"?

Of course who knows whether sociopaths are feeling the same emotions that everyone else is, but I don't think anyone's emotional palette is completely identical to anyone else. Rather people's emotions are going to depend on their culture, their belief system, their education, the societal expectations placed on them, along with the vast natural and physical differences between people's brain and brain chemistry. This applies particularly to a complex emotion like love. I was actually just talking to a friend about how the only reason he can tell his wife loves him is that she very actively ensures that he is sexually satisfied (she's not a sociopath, but this "complaint" could very well be said about many sociopathic spouses). But whatever, right? Who is to say that this is a lesser or less desirable love than someone who would love to hold your hand in a hot air balloon?

31 comments:

  1. Most emotional reactions are just based on supposed
    needs or desires.
    When an infant experiences discomfort, the only way
    to signal this is through crying. Most of our cries
    were responded to, at least those pertaining to our
    physical survival. We may not have recieved the tactile
    nurturance we needed-like the orphan children in
    Romania-but we got enough care or we wouldn't be here.
    Trouble is, in our pampered Western societies, we
    carry our cries and complaints into adulthood. We
    still want pleasurable experiences and to avoid
    negative ones. We instinctully respond to painful
    experiences like we did when we were infants:
    crying and wining.
    Does it work? Maybe if you're attractive or have lots of money, or if you have power over someone
    through fear. Or if they "love" you. But generally
    most people are NOT responsive to the self pity of
    an adult.
    So what do you do? We live in a society were "loyality" is phrased. Even loyality to self destructive behavior patterns. If the baby's cries
    don't bring help quickly, the baby only cries louder
    and harder. Maybe that will bring help. If the adult
    is frustrated he bears down and redoubles his efforts at attention seeking. Maybe more self examination is called for. A negative event should
    should never be responded to with a negative reaction. You only get negativity x 2.
    Here are two true stories with two different outcomes:
    1) In Wisconson, a motorcycle gang member is sitting
    on a barstool enjoying his drink and conversing with
    his friends. A woman (An off-duty police officer)
    walks by him and gives him a pinch on his fanny. He
    responds with rage and severly berates her.
    She tells her boyfriend, who didn't see the incident. The boyfriend comes up to the motorcycle
    man and places his hand on his shoulder to get his
    attention. This is ill advised, because he touches
    his gang "colors." He tells him to step outside.The police woman is also there. When they square off,
    the motorcycle man pulls out a pistol and shoots the
    boyfriend. A bullet passes through the boyfriend's
    body and goes into the lady cop, killing both!
    At the trial the killer claimed self defense because
    after all, he was only minding his business at the
    bar, and the woman and her boyfriend were the
    aggressors. The boyfriend was very big and could have been reaching for his own gun. The motorcycle
    man testified in his own defense and made such a "cute" impression that he recieved the minimal
    sentence of 9 years.
    2) Here's the correct way to respond that avoids
    compounded tragety.:
    A teenage boy is standing on a street corner social-
    izing with friends. His name is Hugh Macavoy and he
    hopes to be a priest one day. Another young man
    approaches him. He draws out a pistol and levels it
    to his far head. "Who you laughing at man?" he asks,
    and kills him on the spot. His father's reaction?
    "I have no bitterness or hatred towards the person
    who did this."
    That is the apporate response. All the negative
    feeling in the world can't bring back his son.
    Should he spend the remainder of his life walling
    in hate and self pity because of an event he had no
    control over?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So your point is that the correct way to respond to any and all situations is to find the single most efficient response according to your arbitrary value system of emotional long term well-being and pursue it relentlessly?

      That's nice. If it works for you, thumbs up. But your canned sales pitch about why it's better not to be 'negative' in the face of extreme emotions could really use some improvement. Try reading the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic philosophy does a way better job of discussing being detached from things you have no control over. A story about a father feeling ambivalent about his son's murderer isn't very persuasive.

      One last thing. Anecdotal evidence is not The Truth(TM). Okay, so one person got himself nine years because he shot some people over an argument at a bar. That does very little to argue the merits of whether I should hate the person that murders my loved one or not.

      Negative reactions are fine, in my experience. Negative tantrums are stupid and the people that pursue them are children not worthy of respect. A sometime friend of mine throws a lot of glorified tantrums when things don't go his way and it always irritates the shit out of me. Not because he's being negative, but because he's being coarse and childish. It's fine to hate, or be angry, as long as you do it with discipline, class and directed actions rather than flailing about, putting on dramatic airs, and spouting obscenities like a twelve year old that just discovered how to curse. There's a difference between anguishing about like a child and taking directed actions in response to a situation. Your post indicates that throwing tantrums is all you know how to do and you're trying to rebel against your baser instincts.

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    2. I think that he intended to write the same thing you did: 'being detached from things you have no control over can be handy'. If so, I do agree that the first example wasn't relevant. Man did what he had to do while facing a bigger guy who would have kicked his ass, everything else was a mere coincidence.

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    3. you may not have any control but you can kill the guy who shot his son. check it out.... i found control :P

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    4. OK, so if I say my brother was killed by hanging him, so what? I had NO CONTROL OVER THE SITUATION, so why bother being sad? I might miss him a little, but other wise be wasting my time doing nothing but moping....

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  2. I've always thought that the mechanisms that underscore emotional disassociation resulting from trauma and what's popularized as the image of the 'frosty sociopath' are similar.

    Camus said it best in the Myth of Sisyphus. "A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger."

    When you take away the bread and circuses, what does the world look like? It's my experience that people who were raised in a very colorful, emotional, 'illusory' world can't understand how anyone can see things differently. Just the thought that someone could see things in a colder, more 'negative' fashion is enough to harsh most well-adjusted people's vibes.

    I use the word illusory to convey the nature of social and cultural constructs rather than to indicate truth/falsity. Peace, love, understanding, social success, family and friends, 'happy endings'... those are the stories that most people want to spend their lives acting out. The idea that some people might not desire or see the same value in those things genuinely upsets them and they label those people as 'wrong'. The kind of wrong doesn't matter, they're not in it to scientifically categorize it, they just want to label those people as something 'other' because it's personally upsetting to them and they want other well-adjusted individuals to know just how wrong the person in question is.

    Hence the sociopath's dual-image. Psychologically and socially, the labels don't match up because they were never meant to. In one set of circles it's used as a diagnosis to predicate treatment upon - in the other, it's a way of saying there's something wrong with the person and they aren't 'with the program'. So yeah, the representation of sociopaths is fallacious if you view 'the sociopath' purely from the clinical perspective, but really there are two different dialogues going on with different objectives and coming from different places.

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  3. How does a sociopath know when the missing emotions that make him supposedly so different, since he does not feel them, are feigned? In other words how does he learn to differentiate between feigned and real emotions?

    I don't feel like I'm missing emotions. It's more like I'm missing any kind of catch to grab any of those emotions and let them take root. It's like having a cup with a hole in the bottom.

    Everything is temporary and everything is fleeting. Therefore I'm constantly looking for something new and exciting to spark something in me besides the boring monotony people call 'business as usual'.

    When I feel something it's intense. It's amazing and it's more real to me than anything else around me. However as sudden as it comes is as sudden as it dissipates, and boredom is the only intense feeling that's left.

    Psychologists call this proto-emotions. It's the combination of this trait and impulsivity that makes psychopaths unpredictable and difficult to understand. This is the reason that spouses of sociopaths will commonly say something to the effect of:

    "His love for me was so intense. I felt like the only people in the world was him and me. Suddenly out of nowhere, he acted cold towards me. As if I didn't exist at all."

    To this person his feelings at the beginning had to be fake. After all, how can someone go from hot to cold so suddenly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You j6st described me.
      I thought that was a borderline thing .

      I could be accused of what the post said abt sex being the most loving thing .I thought that was a borderline thing too.

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    2. Same here. Sometimes the emotion is overwhelming and feels like the hand of God. A simple song or chord turns into a religious experience.
      The irritability mentioned in the original post is spot on as well. I don't avoid other people out of desire to be a loner, they just irritate the crap out of me very easily.

      Delete
  4. Do sociopaths laugh a lot?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do empaths? Do aspies? Do Canadians?

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    2. I'm a sociopath and I do laugh a lot. Humor and finding things funny is how I've gotten through a lot of bad things.

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  5. David, David, David..
    So very desperate for attention.
    Come play with us. Make yourself heard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You were totes waiting for someone named David to read this and get freaked out, right? Spooky.

      Delete
  6. They feel emotions only for themselves. When you care about others that's called empathy. And empathy does not cry out for bloodthirsty justice, but only to stop the sociopath from victimizing others. The author was clearly a sociopath himself make excuses for his rotten, selfish self because this is what sociopaths do.

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    Replies
    1. That is an interesting point, missy.
      I'm trying to find out more about sociopaths. I think my ex boyfriend is one.

      Have you known many sociopaths? How did you know and how did you deal with them?

      Your help and insight would be greatly appreciated.

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  7. For years I dated a man who claimed his brother was a sociopath. I had no reason to disbelieve him. The brother was first a drug dealer, then a cop in a corrupt agency, then the owner of a pretty cutthroat business, then involved in the family business. He has been married for years and has kids. He has had long-term business relationships, albeit rocky ones. This guy definitely feels emotion, and also fakes like he cares about things that he really doesn't.I laughed when I found out which professions his now-grown sons have gone into: one's a cop, the other an attorney.

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  8. Umm. I was wondering if anybody here could diagnose me. I don't know if its an empathy disorder or what but when I see people dying or being injured I don't feel anything. When I was ten I drew people dying and being horribly tortured but I saw nothing wrong with it. Whats wrong with me? When I see somebody at my schoo hurt or upset I sit there while everyone else is being nice and empathetic. I know I should feel something. But I don't.

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    Replies
    1. I can't diagnose you but I'm the same. It's like when my gran died; I was only young and went with my parents to her funeral. Everyone else was heart broken, but I felt nothing, except maybe boredom - I did make myself cry in order to not make my apathy so obvious, but I just weren't bothered, despite the fact she'd cherished me most of the time she was alive... It's like I feel nothing for anyone but myself, I don't actively seek to use and manipulate people who I know, but outsiders, I'm forever trying to get what I can out of them either through charm and being 'friends', or just talking them round to my way of thinking. I can honestly say I have never felt sorry for hurting people in the past either, sometimes I've actively seeked to do so in order to get revenge on them for something, or sometimes just because I'm bored.

      I'm not a sociopath though, I know this because of my anxiety and the fact I don't really need to be around people, in fact I'd sooner not be most of the time. I'm also not violent - sociopath's are usually quite violent people from what I've read, I actually avoid physical violence because I'm only slight in build and know that I'm not physically very strong - it's more mental manipulation and pretending I feel things that I've noticed I'm particularly good at.

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    2. u both seem sociopath to me..U don't feel sad when people die or when u see suffer,u don't feel remorse when u hurt someones feelings,u faking emotions,these are clearly sociopath symptoms. ..And sociopaths are not always violent,they can be, but not all sociopaths are..Many sociopaths are just lack of empathy and emotions and don't give a shit about anybody but themselves and they would betray people for their own benefits and won't feel remorse..They good liars,good manipulators and good at faking feelings that's why it's so hard to recognize them but u both seem to have sociopath tendencies..

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    3. Well, I am not a medical doctor, which is obviously what you two that described your symptoms need, but one of you did just ask a panel of anonymous strangers to diagnose you, so what the hell. I'll take a stab at it. After all, I did just read a Wikipedia page on ASPD for research purposes. Let's see, as the response before me indicated, both of you clearly have some if not many of the hallmark bells and whistles of a Sociopath. Of course, you also sound like a couple of textbook, late stage alchoholics to me except you didn't mention any type of substance abuse. The truth is that you could have one or more of any number of personality disorders, or a wide range of mental or emotional disorders. Do you sound like Sociopaths? Absolutely, but so do I until my second cup of coffee in the morning. The fact that you are on this site to learn about yourselves rather than some else says a little about you. Tell me this, when you see someone else yawning, do you ever feel the need to yawn yourselves? There can be a great deal of understanding gained from a true answer to that question because this involuntary response know as echokinesis, is an emotional expression of empathy. It sounds to me like both of you should make an appointment with a Psychiatrist or Psychotherapist as soon as possible. The idea of getting a medical diagnosis, and a psychiatric one at that is not only laughable, but ludicrous! The one common denominator that Sociopaths tend to exhibit that both of you seem to lack is that they are usually extremely intelligent. They have to be to conceal their true identity. But like I said, I am no Doctor. That's what you should be asking for.

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  9. I'm not a sociopath, but I go through phases where I become detached from my emotions and lash out at people in order to make them abandon me, it takes losing someone I'd normally care about to "wake my emotions up"... It's almost like I have to destroy myself in order to get my normal emotions back and empathy again.

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  10. Can someone diagnose me? I normally feel blank. no emotion, the only one i can really tap into is my anger. It washes over me and I cant help but lash out every now and then. But it hasn't caused any issues for me in my social life. I'm very easy to get along with i surround myself with allot of people, and i blend in well. I generally do not have any interests in the people i surround myself with or what they want. people always seem in my way. I read into sociopaths and i wonder if i am one. but im not quite sure.

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  11. okay i would like to know if people either professionals or the general public/non professionals would class the following as a sociopath person , i have repeatedly been called a psychopath/sociopath by those close to me and work colleagues which at first i found very strange, of course i presumed they were joking and considering i had no knowledge of what a sociopath was i did not care , now recently i read an article by a neuroscience phd professor and i was intrigued by the similarities , i rarely feel real emotions now i don't know why again i don't care i get on with my life i can be charing when it suits me, i am very intelligent, i know i am far superior to my peers and youngers, and in general i am disgusted by people i hate them a lot but i get on with strangers and i'm pretty awesome at parties to ?wheres ythe logic behind that? but i do not crave attention i am anti social i would prefer not to be around people unless they are doing something for me or they have something i want, and im not really an aggressive person unless the situation is directly involving me? now i'm not saying i'm a sociopath , i couldn't care less whether i am or not but i am curious saying that my uncle is a psychiatrist and he has mentioned that i am sociopathic i don't fit every single trait down to the T but i just wanted to know what other people think so fire away guys

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    Replies
    1. Not EVERYONE with the same disorder is going to be exactly the same. Even if you're not 'down to a T' you could still be one. I have Aspergers yet there are some Aspie traits I don't really have. And if you don't care then why are you even writing this? Intellectual curiosity? Now I'm not a doctor but you do sound like a narcissist to me.

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    2. I appreciate you sharing your views, i have spent countless hours researching trying to find myself and where i fit in, now i don't really understand what a narcissist is? i have read a few forums on this website that suggest people just want to be labeled as a sociopath but i for one am not to keen on people knowing if i am a sociopath, you seem to know a lot about it, i only question myself is because i see people full of emotion bursting with it and i am a lot of the time empty even in traumatic events like the death of a person close to you i do not cry i do not feel sad i get angry of course only if the situation directly involves me i have no compassion i have no sympathy, but i do have jealousy but I'm not jealous of people for example in my mind people are objects of my ambition or pleasure.. so if i am involved with that person they belong to me i am always in control my life doesn't work without it, i do not wish to bore you with a life story I just want to know if I'm a sociopath or not any advice my friend?

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    3. I was going to say that you sound like a classic Narcissist personality to me, but that is already been taken. Still, I will second that. The only thing that puzzles me is how open you are about it. Is it the anonymity that makes you feel at ease enough to draw back your dark and shallow curtain for others to see you for what you are?
      Does it infuriate you when someone superior to you sees through your shallow disguise? I noticed that you believe yourself to be intellectually superior to your peer group. Also, these are people you are not particularly attached to? This tells me that either you're not as superior as you think you are, or you purposely surround yourself with those that may not be sharp enough to catch you. You don't know what you are!? How refreshing:-) You are a minnow darling, in an Ocean of sharks. Get yourself a Doctor...and fast.

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  12. To love, you need conscience, that is a sense of obligation born from emotionnal connectedness to other beings. Love is a complex feeling born from a lot of positive emotions. An empath, when he lived with someone else positive emotions, those emotions will be encarved in their memories. It becomes their shared story. They will remember those feelings, it never dies.
    And next time they see each other they will add more positive feelings. And positive feelings are like having constant arousal, like when you take ecstacy.
    People love each other means they have shared positiv;e feelings and want to protect each other because each are part of themselves physically
    Having a sense of connectedness, and giving some pennies to poor people because you WANT PEOPLE TO FEEL LESS PAIN is also love.

    Love is born from conscience. Love is the power to CREATE ORDER AND HARMONY.

    If you prefer violence, chaos, hurting people, yourself above everything else (that is, never ever put aside your personal goal in order to protect or help somebody), then you can't love.
    If you don't have a conscience, you can't love and create lasting emotionnal bonds.

    You need long lasting feelings and deeply encarved positive emotion to feel love and affection.

    ReplyDelete
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  14. It seems to me that the labelling of 'Sociopath' stems from an emotional response not a logical one. The labelling itself prevents people from realizing the obvious: that we can easily learn to control our emotions if we think first and feel second. However fear prevents some people from this simple realisation because they feel first and think second. It seems obvious when we remember that our thoughts are merely instinctual perceptions; thus a type of feeling. Our thinking spans back to the same instincts with which our abstract emotions are based upon; our survival instincts.

    The way the world seems to work is that the strong rule the weak because of their lack of emotion; the weak create labels in conformance with their emotion that attempt to belittle the strong; in both a justifier for their own weakness and perpetrator through the illusions of logic structures that mean to enslave others with this emotional illusion. 'Socio-paths' often see the world outside of this emotional bubble and thus see the emotionally driven mental noise for what it is. Bullshit.

    We are merely instinctual animals and so often are our instincts used against us through illusions of fear and emotional based 'facts' that the very bases for society is literally fucked by human emotion.

    Think about how many wars are started out of fear and anger and remember there seem to be mechanisms in place to prevent us from this realisation.
    The mechanisms are our emotions. We are ether slaves to them, or we enslave through them. Those who chose not to feel them are harder to control and thus are feared by those who need 'certianty' to illuminate fear through logic structures that hold the illusion of fact. If we had this realisation to begin with we would less susceptible to thought control. We are the product of human nature perpetuated down through generations, it's cause and effect that strong rule the weak yet the emotions get in the way of the truth every time.

    If we saw ourselves outside of our condition we'd see our stupidity for what it is. Money and law are both mentally perpetuated illusions through fear and our survival instincts; yet it's illegal to create 'false' currency. This is all an instinctual game and it works best if people don't come to this realisation. But if we were actually taught this in schools to begin with the world world be a better place; yet religion is still the thesis for emotional control. And their losing control like sand slipping through their fingers.

    ReplyDelete

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