Friday, October 4, 2013

Flexing power

I thought this Hyperbole and a Half comic, "Menace," had hilarious parallels to the mind of a sociopath child (and even sociopath adults). My favorite insight on self-imposed limitations:

The dinosaur costume was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. The previous Halloween, which was the first Halloween I could actually remember, my parents had dressed me as a giant crayon, and the whole experience had been really uncomfortable for me.

But being a dinosaur felt natural.

And powerful. 

The feeling had been slowly intensifying ever since I put the costume on that morning, and, as I stood there in the middle of the classroom, staring off into the distance in an unresponsive power trance, it finally hit critical mass.

I had to find some way to use it. Any way. Immediately.

The other children screamed and fled. The teacher chased me, yelling at me to stop. But I couldn't stop.  I was a mindless juggernaut, a puppet for forces far greater than myself. I had completely lost control of my body. 

All I knew was that being a dinosaur felt very different from being a person, and I was doing things that I had never even dreamed of doing before.


Of course, I had always had the ability to do these things — even as a person — but I didn't know that. I'd just assumed that I was unable.  As a dinosaur, I didn't have any of those assumptions.  It felt like I could do whatever I wanted without fear of repercussions.

The repercussions were also exactly the same as they were before I became a dinosaur.

I just experienced them differently. 

On why in order to fully feel our power, we often feel the urge to destroy or wreak havoc:

The thing about being an unstoppable force is that you can really only enjoy the experience of being one when you have something to bash yourself against. You need to have things trying to stop you so that you can get a better sense of how fast you are going as you smash through them. And whenever I was inside the dinosaur costume, that is the only thing I wanted to do.

On losing the power of the dinosaur costume:

I was infuriated at the injustice of it all. I had become quite dependent on the costume, and it felt like part of my humanity was being forcibly and maliciously stripped away.  I cursed my piddling human powers and their uselessness in the situation. If only I could put on the costume . . .  just one more time.

23 comments:

  1. This post, makes it seem like the dinosaur "costume" or the "mask
    of a sociopath is more of a defense mechanism, to feel powerful or strong when you normally feel insecure or weak.

    If not, you wouldn't need the security of the costume.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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      Delete
  2. If a person feels that they have to control events exterior to them,
    they will always be fearful.
    There was a movie about a baseball player who suffered a mental
    breakdown (Jim Piersal) titled "Fear Strikes Out," and fear DOES
    strike out at other people, if a person feels impotent.
    The only solution is to give up the idea that exterior events MUST
    conform to your expections. If an explorer going down river on a raft
    insisted that every curve of the river conform to his set beliefs about
    how the river should be, he would never retain his sanity.
    He wouldn't experience the river in the present moment because of
    his prejudes about how the river should be. That's why it's not so much what's "out there" that bothers us, it's our imposed SCREEN
    about whats out there.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great story, M.E.

    I am gone for a while. Urgent business.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As a mother, I have observed the Halloween costume phenomenon. The urge to be scary seems to come as a response to losing omnipotence that comes in the early preschool years. The terrible twos end when the tantrum thrower learns that he will be put in his place. Rigid and judgmental families are often overly harsh in their need to punish a tantrum and so the oppositional behavior/dinosaur costume becomes harder to relinquish.

    All kids have tantrums. Most are do to frustration and overstimulation, not willful manipulation. The child needs to be shown that the tantrum doesn't produce desired results for the internal self control to develop that overrides the meltdown. Ironically it is the overpunishing of tantrums that has as much to do with their continuing as it is the abdication of a caretaker's authority. Everyone thinks you create a monster by "giving in" to toddler "demands". But this is only part of the story.

    The other part is the insecure parent who over punishes to prove his own authority. A tantrum that may've simply been a meltdown related to overstimulation is perceived as a battle of the wills. That parent feels the need to strip the child of the last remaining bits of dignity by "teaching them a lesson" and humiliating/shaming/isolating the child until the child behaves like a good little automaton. The good little automaton grows into the "false self" that is substituted for the child's experience of their own reality.

    I think what happens with a strong willed child is that their much stronger than normal will makes these humiliating interactions with a controlling parent far more frequent and far more devastating. The dominating parent may have this internal sense of "I really shouldn't be beating the crap out of my three year old but I can't let them 'win' ". So pretty severe psychological/physical abuse happens because the parent feels they must maintain the upper hand at all costs.

    The natural end to a tantrum comes when the child has spent the in the moment rage energy and accepts powerlessness. If the parent is loving and supportive at the point the child is forced to cry "uncle", then there's less need for a sociopathic personality structure to form.

    Sadly, for the strong willed child who has been vanquished by the dominating parent, the parent often does not have the emotional flexibility to switch gears and see their child as a confused and terrified toddler who thinks their attachment figures have transformed into monsters. Instead, they mask their own shame for beating the shit out of a baby by saying "see what you made me do!!!" The child is forced to carry the shame of the interaction to guarantee survival. Instead of receiving comfort for a traumatic sequence of events, the child is made to feel evil until the good little automaton reappears.

    How could a child not become very hard inside after repeated go-rounds of this cycle?

    The critical point of this interaction is what happens to the child after the trauma of forced submission: instead of comfort, they get shamed.

    Of course the dinosaur costume makes sense. If a child never has to feel powerless, they never have to feel shame. And so the will gets stronger and more oppositional until one day the caregiver loses "omnipotence" and the will of the child is no longer crushed. Shame is avoided by winning. And the formerly dominated strong willed child becomes a budding sociopath. Their "loved ones" have inadvertently weaponized their child into becoming a living expression of the principle "might makes right".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh

      Wht if the dominating psrent just never pays attention to the one having the tantrum. The tantrum doesnt exist for them, It's just like a white noise, there's no eye contact, no punishment, no aftermath, doesnt even say "it's my way or the highway", doesnt admit it was their way or the highway".

      Delete
    2. they learn they have no voice and learns approval only from positive attributes only and that healthy anger isnt exactly useful. Learns how to parent themself. Learns how to self soothe when angry or in distress.

      from wiki on childhood emotional neglect:

      children who suffer from child neglect may also suffer from anxiety or impulse-control disorders. Another result of child neglect is what people call “failure to thrive”. Infants who have deficits in growth and abnormal behaviors such as withdrawal, apathy and excessive sleep are failing to thrive, rather than developing to become “healthy” individuals (Barnett et al., p 86).

      Delete
    3. @ 7:27-
      What you describe is also abusive because it communicates that the emotions of the child mean nothing but it does not produce the same underlying motivations for destructive behavior. That moment when the tantrum ends and there is no more empowering rage to be spent is very devastating for the vulnerable child. If the attachment figure is not emotionally present to accept the child when they are powerless, abandonment happens. A different sort of wound occurs that is related to forever yearning for connection to an attachment figure even if it seems that the child has gone dead inside.

      The difference between what you describe and what I describe is that while direct shaming by a caregiver is deeply traumatic, it still indicates that the child exists and is important enough to be shamed. I think the antisocial personality is generated when the child decides that the only way to actively fight the pain of emotional disconnect with the caregiver is to reverse the power roles. The longing is not for contact. Instead the longing is to win.

      Delete


    4. and if the longing is for contact but you still long to win. . . it's all:


      oh please be my parent/take care of me, fuck you, you dont own me I hate ur fucking guts. Oh youre so dreamy when you're angry . fuck me angrily i'm a bad girl, fuck me angrily please but dont try to control me i'll cut ur fuckin dick off who the fuck do you think you are oh now you want to go home you fucking pussy who cant manage me

      Delete
    5. and now i'm going to sleep. let yourself out. and you BETTER be back to make my dinner you lazy shit.

      Pick up a vile of viagra on your way home.

      what, not interested anymore? But we're so good together

      Delete
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  6. As a child, I had a dream that I turned into a monster. I was very tall and powerful. My parents saw that I was a monster and so I knew I had to kill them or they would destroy me.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, I'm afraid to say that you are not a sociopath. Self-absorbed maybe but definitely not a sociopath.

    ReplyDelete
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