Saturday, November 30, 2013

Public shaming

I have mentioned before that I'm not a fan of the primitive and all too prevalent act of public shaming. I think it is a cheap shot, and an excuse to antagonize someone under some delusional guise of being pro-social? I'm not sure why people do it (why put forth the effort? why be the crusader at a cost to you and the target and a benefit to... anyone? do we really think the shamed person is going to change their behavior or retaliate in kind because they've always assumed they're in the right as well?). The thing about public shaming is that it's now so much more effective than it ever has been before, with the ability to reach tens of thousands and millions via social media whether you're shaming them for being gay or for wearing a tasteless Halloween costume. It's called leverage, and it's made shaming more effective than ever. Too effective? Or maybe the strength of the shaming mechanism will finally make people re-evaluate it as an appropriate behavior to engage in, or at least something that they are not only morally justified in doing but morally obligated to do?

The latest shamefest was an attempt by a producer of the television show The Bachelor to shame a fellow passenger for complaining to airplane personnel about delays on Thanksgiving. He accomplished the shaming of "Diane" in various increasingly antagonistic ways, narrated in real time on his Twitter account, chronicled here. The quick summary is that he kept sending or delivering her notes, sometimes accompanied by alcohol, at first under the guise of being nice but with the suggestion that perhaps if she was busy drinking alcohol, than she would shut her mouth. She sends him back a note saying that he was being inappropriate and to show compassion he responds:

He keeps antagonizing her, she eventually slaps him, then he gallantly refused to press charges, but gives her a note saying that he has been tweeting the whole thing "Look me up online. Read every tweet. Read every response. And maybe next time you'll be nice to people who are just trying to help."

Elan justified his behavior on his Tumblr account:

And it’s OUR job to tell every Diane to shut up. 

It’s OUR duty to put the Diane’s of the world in their place.

We need to REMIND them about the way of things.

We outnumber them. 

He's just a man on an important mission that not only justifies his behavior, it compels it.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Missing you

A lot of people ask me why a sociopath who has ended a relationship would still go through a great deal of effort to ensure that contact is never cut off completely.

When sociopaths are involved in any serious relationship, they become a special version of themselves just for that person. I think the sociopath's desire to check in is a desire to reconnect with that person that he once was, the same way that people might nostalgically flip through photo albums, even if the photos are only of themselves. Why to people go to a reunion? Is it really to catch up with old friends, or more to remember who they used to be?

And why can't we be multiple things to multiple people? I've been thinking recently whether I collect other people, or whether I allow myself to be collected. Even worthless junk can become priceless in the hands of the right collector.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


A reader asked me, "what's with the cruelty?" I responded:

A good question. Have you never felt the urge to destroy? You probably have, but didn't think of it that way. Let's say there is a piece of cake sitting out on a counter -- perfect little piece of cake. What do you feel like doing to that cake? Isn't that destruction?

If it were possible to both have our cake and eat it too, then things might have worked out differently between you and your socio. Because that isn't possible and because your socio chose one way and not the other, you perceive/experience cruelty. But what is the use of a perfect little piece of cake that just sits out there forever on the counter, never to be eaten?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Coming out to your family

With the holidays upon us, a story about being out with your family. From a reader:
You're going to love this. Dad's a US Army chaplain (former civilian pastor), Mum's in seminary getting her M.Div, and younger sister's, well, she's still an innocent high school student. That would make me a sociopath pastor's kid. Once everyone got over the initial shock of my nature, we had a good laugh about the irony. Parents are empaths by occupational hazard, whilst my kid sister is an empath by nature. They all know about it, and they don't necessarily dislike talking about it. I'll ask for their perspective on certain things, and they respond with wholehearted earnest. They just dislike hearing about my exploits and modus operandi, haha. Perhaps it's less dislike and more morbid curiosity due to our brains being wired so radically differently, because they always ask about the outcome. I guess you could say that they're my greatest cheerleaders. Just not when I'm lying to lie, manipulating others for my benefit, or pursuing sexual relationships since I'm not married, etc. That's why it's kind of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, haha. And I do things for them, like putting up a believably genuine front for Dad's congregation, people I have to impress at university, etc. The thing that bothers them most is the characteristic lack of conscience. No surprise there.

My own family is equal parts disbelief and acceptance about who I am. I guess that way they get the best of both worlds -- deniability, but also an easy excuse for my ill behavior that doesn't necessarily reflect poorly on them. My parents are religious too. Sometimes my mother asks me about the blog, says do I ever have the chance to share my religious beliefs with others. I tell her yes. They think I'm helping others, and I don't think that is wrong, necessarily. The older they get, the funnier they get. Like at a recent family reunion, they were talking about my cousin having a viral youtube clip. My mother started telling them about my blog and about how crazy "technology" is these days. I didn't realize what was going on until she yelled over to me, "What's the name of your blog again? Psycho something?" in front of my entire extended family.

I'm really grateful for my family. I think they have helped me more than anything else to feel like I am an integral part of the human race and that my choices define me more than anything else. Whether or not those things are actually true, I think it makes my life better to believe them (even compartmentalize-believe them) and act on them (for the most part).

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Little Prince

It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that most of what I learned about relationships in my younger years came from watching this movie.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The definitive sociopath test?

I was talking with a socio reader about the possibility of someone developing a foolproof method for identifying/diagnosing sociopaths (e.g. brain scans), and what that would mean in terms of our own sense of self and identity:

You know, I have given a lot of thought over the last year about whether this sociopath label really does fit or if I am trying to make it fit when it really doesn’t. As we both agree, in the end it doesn’t really matter anyway. The value of the exercise for me though, was conceptualizing my life experience in an entirely different but ultimately much more enlightening way. That is what matters.

I think the people that say that you and your readers are not sociopaths are right and wrong. They are right to the degree that people like us are indeed not like the prison/institutionalized population. Obviously. They are wrong to then surmise that the label has little to no direct link to what is referred to the suite of behaviors collectively referred to as sociopathy. Everyone assumes all sociopaths must look exactly like the ones in prison and if you don’t, the label can have zero relevance to you (or me). That assumption is based on a lack of research as well as a lack of independent thinking. I know. Even as I don’t wrap myself up with that label or identify all of myself with it, I nevertheless recognize it’s utility. I don’t have to say any of this to you. I’m preaching to the choir.

Bottom line for me anyway, is that I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that my brain looks normal. It really could be that those psychopaths whose brains look different are different in precisely those ways that gave rise to behaviors that landed them in prison to begin with. It might go back to the whole primary versus secondary psychopath distinction. The primaries may be the way they are because of their brains while the secondaries may be the way they are because of social/childhood issues. Maybe you and I would fall under the secondary category. Who knows? Although I do think it would be interesting to have more scientific research done on this, research involving an entirely non-institutionalized population of would be sociopaths. There would be many correlations between the two groups I’m sure (prison verses non-imprisoned), but I imagine there would also be some interesting and maybe even startling differences. While we’d share traits like a relative absence of conscience, low empathy, shallow emotions, an aptness for deception and manipulation, grandiose sense of self, etc, all the traits that set us apart from the psychological average, there might be some very important reasons why you and I aren’t in prison while the prototypical sociopaths are. Has there been any research done in this particular area?

Having said all of that, an exciting possibility that the naysayers brings up is that maybe we are so different that no one has thought of a label for us yet. Maybe we aren’t sociopaths at all. Maybe we represent undiscovered country, psychologically speaking. Who knows?
In any event, finding out your brain looks perfectly normal wouldn’t change a thing about your life experience up to this point, would it? It would be like a homosexual (I like using homosexuals as examples) discovering that his brain looks precisely like a heterosexual’s would. So what? Would that knowledge change him into a hetero? Would he suddenly start liking women? Would the results of this scan invalidate everything he’d been through his entire life? Would he have to force himself to like women because a brain scan indicates that his preference for men may have more to do with how he grew up and less to do with his genes and hormones? I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest that other than the religious fundies. I think it would be similar for you (and for me). Ditto for Hare’s checklist. I have already surmised that I wouldn’t score high enough on his list to justify labeling me as a Hare psychopath. I’m guesstimating that I’d get somewhere between a 22 and 26 tops and in the US, you have to score 30. What would it mean to have that guess proved right if the test was administered to by Hare himself? Not much.
I asked myself why I did the verbal diarrhea thing with this response. It’s because your email struck a chord. I spent so many years trying to be normal. I kept thinking that if I found my calling or found my true love (that was back at the beginning of my search phase, in my early twenties… my ex-wife quickly disabused me of that fantasy), found god, found spiritual enlightenment, I would then be full of all those emotions I lacked. I thought it was the absence of these things that created the absence, the vacancy, I saw within myself. That’s what movies and books and TV and my family and friends all told me in one way or the other. I was stupid and blind enough to believe them. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when the search began to look like the dead end it was, that I finally started giving up hope. During that winding down period I had my “wow, I have went about my search in an entirely self centered way” insight. You know the drill, seducing, manipulating, then abandoning once I discovered that the other person or persons didn’t have what I was looking for. I hadn’t thought of it that way at all up until that moment of insight. I suppose that in a very real sense, I discovered that I was a bit of an emotional vampire. A year or so later, I found your blog and for the first time, someone else had my experiences. Someone else knew what I had gone through because they had gone through life in a very similar way. Even down to the moment in your childhood when you knew something had changed and that you couldn’t go back! I’d never told any of my closest friends or family that, yet you’d been through it yourself! Finding out my brain looks normal wouldn’t alter any of that. Not one single bit. In fact and if anything, it would only deepen the mystery. If we can’t point to any specific neural distinctions, then what the hell created the differences? Why do I not understand guilt on an emotional level after all these years? Why are my emotions so superficial? Why don’t I have a stable sense of self? Etc.
Ok, I’ll stop now. You just got me thinking for a bit, that’s all. What would it mean to you to discover that per your brain scan or per Hare’s checklist, you can’t possibly be a socio/psychopath?

It's funny, how we're always going on about self-awareness and self-knowledge, trying to ferret out or at least understand any delusions. Sometimes I wonder if so much self-introspection can actually create delusions, though. I know how easy (sickly easy) it is for me to compartmentalize and have one part of me trick the other part. I've done it in the past and lived lies for years. Am I currently in the middle of a delusion? Is everything I think I know about who I am and what sort of world I live in completely delusional? Including being socio-leaning?

Sometimes I think to myself, if my life depended on it, would it be easier for me to prove that I am a sociopath, or that I am not. Interestingly, I think it is my "sociopathic" traits that would make either scenario seem about equally likely or unlikely. There does seem to be something to it all, though, something consistent between me and other people that find me at this site, although I'm not wedded to the term "sociopath." Sometimes it's creepy what I discover in common with those who email me. Whatever I am, there must be a lot of others like me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sociopath kryptonite

One my friends is kryponite. By that I mean she is totally immune to my charms. This is my favorite characteristic about her. I love being around someone for whom any mask I wear is completely ineffectual. There is no temptation or expectation that I be anything other than myself. Some of my other favorite people will sometimes become weak and require me to wear a mask -- the mask of understanding or compassion or humanity, when they feel they need it. With her, it's all completely unnecessary. She may wish that I was something other than what I am sometimes, but she knows nothing's going to change that.

I don't know what it is that makes her so immune. I do know that she is consummately reasonable. Are the two connected?

In Robert Greene's, "The Art of Seduction," he talks about different seduction targets, including the anti-seducer. He warns seducers, "Root out anti-seductive qualities in yourself, and recognize them in others." And warns against choosing an anti-seducer for a target: "There is no pleasure or profit in dealing with the anti-seducer." There may be no pleasure or profit for the seducer, but maybe there is a benefit to being the anti-seducer -- invulnerability.

Sometimes I envy my friend's kryptonite qualities. Unlike her, I can actually be seduced or manipulated relatively easy, if you know what buttons to push. This friend remains unflappable in all circumstances, but as you can imagine, she also lives a relatively lonely, arguably sad, and perhaps soulless life. Everyone wants to be seduced, probably even part of her. With risk comes reward, and with nothing ventured, nothing is earned. I wouldn't want to be incapable of being seduced/manipulated, like she is, because I think it can frequently be fun. But I still think that invulnerability would be a useful skill. Is it just a matter of being difficult to please?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

More on the appeal of blood lust

I've been thinking about the blood lust post and all the comments it generated. When I published the first blood lust post, I didn't feel like I had anything to say. I didn't really feel like I had any predilection for violence for the sake of violence. -- some violent impulses, maybe, but not necessarily for the sake of violence. But I was thinking about everyone's description of blood lust and how good it felt. I have been daydreaming about it since, just to sort of imagine myself in that position.

The other night I was walking along a bicycle path around a university. It wasn't my city, I was there for business. The anonymity of being in a different place at night was intoxicating. I was an unknown, at most a shadow to anyone out that late. I was following this girl, who looked like a student. It was dark, but she was smoking, so she was easy to follow, and she was going in the direction I needed to go anyway.

I started thinking about how vulnerable she was. I didn't think she noticed me behind her at first, so I walked a little faster so I was closer to her. I wanted her to slowly become aware of me. I wanted her to wonder who I was but not want to turn around and look, not want to betray the fear and apprehension she felt at having some unknown entity behind her. I could tell that she was starting to feel nervous by the way her pace sped up ever so slightly. I thought for a moment what it would be like to come up behind her, softly softly with a knife, poke around in the front of her neck until I felt some slight resistance indicating one of those fat veins, and pull it forward, just enough tension to sever the soft tissue.

I was a little surprised how much pleasure I was getting from the little fantasy. I was surprised at how susceptible I was to the allure of violence, even though I had never really felt that way before.

It reminded me of the how I trained myself to be sexually attracted to the same sex. I was always open to it, always was attracted to certain people for their strength or for their unique worldview, was always an equal opportunity seducer when it came to gender. However, I wasn't really sexually attracted to members of my own sex -- not at first. But I realized that there was such pleasure to be had in expanding my horizons, so to speak, and certainly no point in making fine distinctions based on the equipment people were born with. So I started incorporating members of the same sex into my fantasies. At first I would do everything normal, would think of someone of the opposite sex, like I was accustomed to do, but just before I reached a climax in my auto-arousal, I would substitute someone of the same sex instead. As I got more used to that, I would try to replace the heterosexual companion earlier and earlier in the session, until finally I could have a completely same sex, successful experience. Now same sex attraction is second nature to me.

Similarly, I think I could really learn to love the sensation of blood lust. Or bestiality or pedophilia or any other fetish that people are into these days, really. The ease with which I can train my brain to find new things pleasurable is both empowering and disturbing. It's like molding putty when I'm doing it, but sometimes I worry about doing the undoable. You read about these people who start out small, with little indulgences, then slightly bigger indulgences, then more and more frequently until they really can't stop themselves from destroying themselves and others. To me, the pleasures I could get from blood lust in the moment would not be worth that risk, but now I can see the appeal.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sociopath quote: good and bad

When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.

-Lao Tzu

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Manipulation 104: words

This was an interesting video about how word choices are basically by their very nature manipulative:

I love the references to Barack Obama's political campaign phrases and Occupy Wall Street. I'm not saying it's bad to use words in a way that is clearly manipulative. When I was writing the book, some of the people involved in the publication were concerned that the book was going to be manipulative. I told them that the book was going to be manipulative no matter what as long as it involved word choice -- the question was only about degree of manipulation and which way it slanted. I have spoken before about loaded word choices from journalists, even so-called objective journalism is naturally manipulative in that it is trying to get you to actually read or watch the feature. And of course one of the most loaded and pejorative terms you can call someone is a sociopath. I guess that's because you are inhuman unless you empathize? (Except people with autism, asperger's, some limited types of brain damage, some mental handicaps, or other things that Simon Baron-Cohen does not deem to be one of the "evil" types of lack of empathy).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Criminal vs. Successful Sociopaths

This was an interesting interview in the NZ Listener with Devon Polaschek, an associate professor in the Victoria University School of Psychology about the differences between criminal and successful sociopaths:

The downside is that the [PCL-R] was developed exclusively for use with criminals, so can’t be used to look at psycho­pathy in any other setting. “You can’t get a high score unless you are involved in criminal acts, so it mixes the two things together: psycho­pathy and criminality. So that limits the availability of a really well-validated instrument for a wider population,” says Polaschek.

Also, the checklists capture people who lack some of the core characteristics of psychopathy and over-pathologise people who have an extensive history of impulsive criminal behaviour that isn’t just distinctive to psychopaths. “The research on non-offender psychopathy could not be said to be an extensive scientific one at the moment, because it just hasn’t been done. The central personality characteristics, while always antisocial – they always have a negative impact on other people – do not necessarily predispose people to criminal behaviour.”

The idea of a lack of guilt or remorse is real. “But again, that’s typical of high-risk criminals, too,” Polaschek says. “In the community, in terms of so-called successful psychopaths, we would assume their core personality characteristics would still be there, the ones like lack of guilt, narcissism and irresponsibility. But we would also assume they have better impulse control because they are not getting themselves in trouble with criminal law.
“If you view psychopathy as I do, as a bigger construct that includes some aspects that could be adaptive and even useful, then certainly there will be CEOs and MPs and lawyers. Also, someone recently did a paper on US presidents – Clinton came up quite high. That’s important, because Clinton was an incredibly competent man, and it does show you that the combination of characteristics doesn’t always include only bad things.

“There are some positive characteristics – stress immunity is one of them – that the broader view of psychopathy would say are not a bad thing in themselves; it’s the fact that they are combined with other things. It isn’t necessarily about harming other people but it enables you to put yourself into novel and challenging situations in a way that other people can’t. Clearly that can go well or it can go badly, but it’s not necessarily a bad characteristic because it depends how the person develops.”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thin line between Aspie and sociopath?

A lot of people who write me show signs of both, maybe not quite fitting either. For instance:

Thanks so much for your fabulous book, which has really helped me to understand myself. I know (partly because you specifically say so in the book) that many of your readers say this, but I see so much of you in me and me in you.

I've always known that I'm different, given my inability and disinclination to form deep emotional bonds and to make personal sacrifices for the sake of morality. I once thought that I might be have Aspergers Syndrome, as it's a common condition among geeks like me, but there are some characteristics of Aspies that I can't relate to at all, most notably their tendency to feel genuine remorse when they finally realise that they've hurt someone.

Until recently I didn't believe that I could be a sociopath because I was prone to worry and upset, and because I thought that I was terrible at playing the game. However, since being medicated for anxiety and depression I've become much less susceptible to distress, and your book has helped me to understand why I don't always win (as I previously assumed that sociopaths do) when playing the game - like you I crave stimulation, this unfortunately means that I have a tendency to throw away the game in favour of the momentary thrill of riling someone up.

Also like you, I struggle to react appropriately to other people's confusing social cues (the main reason I thought I was an Aspie), and must train myself to behave with "sensitivity". Although I'm almost your age I'm not as far along as you in that regard, but I'm making progress (I think about half the people I meet today find me charming, as opposed to about 10% when I was in high school), and your success gives me hope that I'll eventually develop into a convincing wolf in sheep's clothing, able to form long lasting relationships (like you, I'm not completely immune to loneliness) and to keep a job for more than a couple of years. However, I have no desire to become an empath, even if that were possible - over the last few years a series of setbacks destroyed my supreme confidence, feeling like I was just like everyone else was so horrible that I went to my doctor to get doped up.

I know that some people think that my life - directionless, meaningless, and solitary (like the fictional vampire you mention, I didn't seek out a lonely existence but I live one to the fullest) - must be terribly sad. I don't give a damn, in fact, one of the things that I really like about going to restaurants, movies, etc., alone is that it's defiant. I just love making others uncomfortable, watching them squirm as they decide whether to confront my violations of social norms - I feel empowered doing it, even though I know that, in the long run, making enemies erodes my power base. I'm not as big a risk taker as you though, my taunting of others is usually limited to staring at people (like you I have a predator stare, I used to think that my unusual eye contact habits meant I was an Aspie, but I can make normal eye contact, I just choose not to) and flaunting my high carbon footprint lifestyle (environmentalists are my favourite targets, partly because their ridiculous irrationality and hypocrisy invites it, partly because, like you, I find it infuriating when someone tries for force me to experience guilt or shame).

On the subject of the hypocrisy of empaths, I found your discussion of East of Eden's Cathy (whose insight into the frailties of others leads her to conclude that people are gross hypocrites and wholly unworthy of her respect) absolutely fascinating. Unlike you, I've never had anyone teach me that empaths are "just like me" (I've never had any close relationships - my megomanical father and highly anxious mother were always cold to me, my relationship with my brother is very competitive, and I've never bothered to build close friendships or long lasting romantic relationships), all I see when I interact with other human beings is hypocrisy - they judge me for being inconsiderate, yet they don't consider my needs when push comes to shove (during my depressive episode most of my "friends" avoided me and my boss and colleagues pushed me out of my job). I haven't read East of Eden but I'm going to, I've been making an effort to read more fiction since I heard that Aspies are told to read fiction to learn (the very useful skill) cognitive empathy.

Anyway, you may or may not hear from me again - I've become an avid follower of your blog but I'm a lurker, like you I think that we learn much more when we just listen (or read, as the case may be). I think that you've achieved your goal of creating a community of like-minded individuals who have a lot to learn from one another - thanks again.

Sincerely (or as sincerely as a likely sociopath can write),

I have a personal interest in solving the mystery. A lot of my relatives seem to have one foot in both aspie and sociopath camp. Does anyone else fall along this border?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why/how delayed gratification?

This NY Times article (You're so Self-Controlling) discusses (and unfortunately confuses?) the difference between failure to delay gratification based on (1) a lack of self-control versus (2) a perception that the future reward is too uncertain to wait.

For instance, recent research recreated the classic marshmallow experiment done with children (the children could eat one marshmallow right away or could wait to get another one). Researchers wondered whether the choice to eat or wait was really the result of a lack of self-control, or whether the children were just unsure whether the second marshmallow would come in a timely manner. Performing a similar experiment, they found that children who believed the experimenter to be unreliable would wait only 3 minutes for the second marshmallow before giving up and giving in, whereas children who believed the experimenter to be reliable would wait as long as 10 minutes before giving up. So is it all about ascertaining the uncertainty of the future rewards? Because in the original marshmallow experiment, the researchers followed the children into young adulthood and found that the children who could wait longer tended to be more successful, which suggests that their ability to delay gratification can't just be the uncertainty of future rewards.

It's an interesting question for sociopathy because sociopaths are notoriously impulsive? Which has led some to believe that sociopaths can never plan ahead or stick to any particular plan. Taken to the extreme, this would suggest that most sociopaths wouldn't even be able to graduate grammar school, and yet some manage to become CEOs of major companies, political leaders, or hit other high levels of skill or achievement. Personally speaking, I have managed to perform very well at certain long term tasks, including excelling in school, at work, and managing to fully fund my retirement. How? Maybe the answer lies in what we mean by "impulsive" and what relationship impulsivity has with how we view will-power. From the NY Times article:

[T]he ability to delay gratification has traditionally been seen in large part as an issue of willpower: Do you have what it takes to wait it out, to choose a later — and, presumably, better — reward over an immediate, though not quite as good one? Can you forgo a brownie in service of the larger reward of losing weight, give up ready cash in favor of a later investment payoff? The immediate option is hot; you can taste it, smell it, feel it. The long-term choice is far cooler; it’s hard to picture it with quite as much color or power.

In psychological terms, the difference is typically seen as a dual-system trade-off: On one hand, you have the deliberative, reflective, cool system; on the other, the intuitive, reflexive, hot system. The less self-control you have, the further off and cooler the future becomes and the hotter the immediate present grows. Brownie? Yum.

But if a sociopath's rage tends to be cold-hearted rather than hot-headed, could it be that sociopaths also respond to different stimuli for impulse control than normal people do? Perhaps that they both manifest an unusual degree of impulsivity in some aspects of their life and amazing self-control in others? Maybe sociopaths feel cooler about things that often seem hot to other people. Or maybe it's because we can take future events and make them seem hotter? I feel like that is at least sometimes true of me, that I can imagine my future self vividly enough that I feel some of the pleasure of the delayed gratification in that moment that I'm delaying it. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Empath hypocrisy

I'm not saying all empaths are stupid and illogical, although some of them are. Similarly, there are some sociopaths that are stupid, horrible, evil, or whatever else. But let's focus on illogical empaths for a second. This is from a recent comment:

I'm an empath.
I believe that all humans are born with free will.
I believe that every human life is intrinsically valuable.
I believe that good and evil exist as absolutes, even if at times it is difficult to distinguish between them.
I believe that sociopaths are evil. 
If I could find an effective way to screen for you guys without too many false positives, then I would kill you as children. Of course, given that you are master manipulators I can already see you arguing your way out of a corner, convincing the other empaths that I am the evil one for suggesting the killing of children, suggesting that there is some error in my detection system. 
How many times do you have to burn your fingers before you realize that fire is hot? In love, you get back 100 times what you give. 
In war you fight to win.
I know I'm right. 

Now, I am not great at understanding sarcasm, so it's possible this was said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. But I have heard enough very similar statements from other people that I believe this person was being sincere. This person believes that every human life is intrinsically valuable but would kill sociopathic children? Really? Kill small children in a genocide? Just as long as the test wouldn't lead to "too many" innocent deaths due to "too many false positives"? Wow. Ok. An "empath" who seems not at all capable of understanding (must less empathizing with) someone sociopathic. Also, this person absolutely certain he is right. Good to know. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mistaken identities

I was visiting some friends over the weekend whom I hadn't seen in a while. I got picked up from the airport by one of them who had brought a health drink, saying, "I know that you only drink healthy things," when really I have a raging caffeine addiction and always have. After we fooled around a little, the same person remarked about how much gayer I seem and that I should just get over it and come out of the closet already. Later that evening when telling the story to another friend with her own self-interest in the subject, she argued that the fact that I could tell the happenings of the afternoon in such clinical detail indicated how not gay I seemed.

The next day I was at an invitation only party hosted by another friend. There was drama when someone uninvited showed up -- an ex of one of the guests. I asked if I should act as "enforcer," hockey style. My friend jokingly told me that I should and I nicely nicely showed the gentleman the door. When I came back, people were aghast that I had actually gone through with it, as if he were an innocent victim himself. I reminded the friend (who knows what I am) that I don't understand sarcasm, and you better be serious when you ask me to do something.

As I was taken back to the airport, I was talking to a different friend about my recent activities. She was amazed at how much I have been able to accomplish since I last saw her. In her words, I went from "fuck up" to "legitimate player." I shrugged at this because I didn't ever think I was ever so low as a "fuck up," nor am I successful enough now to be a "legitimate player."

I was amazed at how poorly all of my friends knew me. Perhaps they were projecting, misremembering, or making very inaccurate small talk, or maybe I used to be a different person around them.

I know this must happen to everyone -- to go back to a place you used to know and realize that you have since become someone different. But it still amazes me how much people will take every piece of information they learn about you, and somehow cram it to fit their own preconceived notions about you. People's knee jerk reaction is to cram a square peg into a round hole, for whatever reason.

Some of the readers here wonder how they weren't able to recognize the sociopaths in their lives for what they are. Part of it is the sociopath wearing masks, but mostly he doesn't have to try hard at all -- all of the work is being done for him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quote: Why I fight bullies and hate mobs

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom.

Clarence Darrow

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

James Fallon: The Psychopath Inside Q&A

Professor James Fallon has written an exciting new book combining his background in neuroscience with his personal experience having many characteristics (and the brain scan) of a psychopath. THE PSYCHOPATH INSIDE: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (Kindle version here) is part memoir and part scientific review of both the recent genetic and neuroscience research that has been done on psychopaths.

As a special offer to this blog's audience, Dr. Fallon has graciously offered to answer some of your questions. If you have a question for Dr. Fallon, please post it in the comments addressed to "Dr. Fallon:". I will collect your questions (or a representative sample) and send them to him. When I receive his answers, I will post them in a future blog post.

Here is an except from his book:

I was thinking about putting something up about the book and then asking my readers and twitter followers if they had any questions in particular that they would like to ask him. I could select a representative sample, if he would be willing to give his thoughts? 

One October day in 2005, as the last vestiges of an Indian summer moved across Southern California, I was inputting some last-minute changes into a paper I was planning to submit to the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. I had titled it “Neuroanatomical Background to Understanding the Brain of a Young Psychopath” and based it on a long series of analyses I had performed, on and off for a decade, of individual brain scans of psychopathic murderers. These are some of the baddest dudes you can imagine—they’d done some heinous things over the years, things that would make you cringe if I didn’t have to adhere to confidentiality agreements and could tell you about them. 

But their pasts weren’t the only things that separated them from the rest of us. As a neuroscientist well into the fourth decade of my career, I’d looked at a lot of brain scans over the years, and these had been different. The brains belonging to these killers shared a rare and alarming pattern of low brain function in certain parts of the frontal and temporal lobes—areas commonly associated with self-control and empathy. This makes sense for those with a history of inhuman violence, since the reduction of activity in these regions suggests a lack of a normal sense of moral reasoning and of the ability to inhibit their impulses. I explained this pattern in my paper, submitted it for publication, and turned my attention to the next project. 

At the same time I’d been studying the murderers’ scans, my lab had been conducting a separate study exploring which genes, if any, are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. As part of our research, my colleagues and I had run genetic tests and taken brain scans of several Alzheimer’s patients as well as several members of my family, who were serving as the normal, control group. 

On this same October day, I sat down to analyze my family’s scans and noticed that the last scan in the pile was strikingly odd. In fact it looked exactly like the most abnormal of the scans I had just been writing about, suggesting that the poor individual it belonged to was a psychopath— or at least shared an uncomfortable amount of traits with one. Not suspicious of any of my family members, I naturally assumed that their scans had somehow been mixed with the other pile on the table. I generally have a lot of research going on at one time, and even though I try to keep my work organized it was entirely possible for things to get mixed up. Unfortunately, since we were trying to keep the scans anonymous, we’d coded them to hide the names of the individuals they belonged to. To be sure I hadn’t mixed anything up, I asked our lab technician to break the blind code. 

When I found out who the scan belonged to, I had to believe there was a mistake. In a fit of pique, I asked the technician to check the scanner and all the notes from the other imaging and database technicians. 

But there had been no mistake. 

The scan was mine.

Reprinted from THE PSYCHOPATH INSIDE: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain by James Fallon with permission of Current, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) James Fallon, 2013.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A sociopath's love story (part 2)


Now comes commitment... At first, if the sociopath is truly interested in love, commitment should be a no-brainer. How can one expect to love another without the intention of staying with them? Like I mentioned before, a sociopath may have a reason for ending a relationship because of some flaw that they cannot get past. But this doesn't mean he/she should go into a relationship looking for flaws or expecting to find one. Rather the sociopath should begin the relationship with the intention of staying with that person. When some sort of failure presents itself, it is up to that person to decide whether or not it is something they can live with (or even embrace). Remember: flaws are what make us who we are, we all have them. It's just a matter of deciding "does this flaw affect me?" or "do I even care?" Recall what I said before about how a sociopath may come to the realization that they don't care about the power struggle anymore, so not caring about something is perfectly within their limits. So what happens when that time you have spent together with your significant other turns into weeks, months, years? The more time passes, the more the sociopath will become complacent and accepting of this new lifestyle. Now does complacence detract from the true feeling of love? Well for a sociopath who previously had other motivations for being with someone and would find any plausible excuse to leave, this is certainly a big change for them. They may realize that this is a much more pleasurable and worth-while life. Did the sociopath do this for their own self-interest? That's actually a hard one to answer being a sociopath myself. My idea is that at first the sociopath is simply interested in experiencing this feeling of love, something they should not be capable of, which (in my mind) would make one only want it more. This clearly points to self-interest as the motivating factor. However once they find themselves in a well-functioning relationship, things start to change. The sociopath may come to the realization that this new-found way of life is totally dependent on their partner and his/her happiness. This causes the sociopath to do uncharacteristic things that purely serve the interest of their partner. This makes their significant other happy, pleased, content, etc., which in turn translates to happiness for the sociopath. The sociopath achieves this happiness by a sense of knowing they affected another's emotions, which is something sociopaths are well known for doing, yet in a positive way. Is this self-interest?... maybe. Who doesn't like the feeling of helping someone else feel happy? Why do we (all humans) tend to band together in the wake of a disaster to donate enormous amounts of money and goods and services? We don't do it because we like giving away our crap, nor do we do it out of a sense of civic duty. We do it because we know we are making the lives of another better (no matter how marginal it may be). This makes us feel important because we made a difference, and it gives us a sense of self-worth. So we keep our partner happy so that we may be happy, simple enough. And to really know how to keep your partner happy and ultimately the relationship genuine, one must form an honest bond with the other. Mutual happiness is a good thing.

In the long term the goals and plans of both partners begin to seriously overlap. The sociopath must keep his/her goals grounded and realistic and make sure they don't jeopardize the relationship as a whole. He/she should keep in mind that the plans they make should benefit their partner whenever possible. This goes back to keeping your partner happy, but it does so much more. These shared plans whenever developed under the influence of a sociopath have the potential to be hugely beneficial to both partners. This is because the sociopath knows what to do to get ahead, and this means that not only will the sociopath profit but so will their partner as well as the relationship as a whole. Commitment is indeed very much within the realm of possibility for a sociopath given they understand what is required of them and what they may have to sacrifice.

So what does this all mean? If a sociopath finds themselves in a relationship that meets the criteria I have laid out, does that mean they have achieved love? First of all I don't consider myself to be an expert on love or relationships by any means, this is just my way of thinking. But what if there is some truth to what I have said? Is this really love, or is it something mechanically similar or even equivalent? Well according to Robert Sternberg's Triangular theory of love, if the individuals involved in an interpersonal relationship exhibit three components: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment simultaneously then it is described as "Consummate love." This is also known as the complete form of love, an ideal relationship, the "perfect couple." Whether this is genuine love or just a carbon copy remains up for debate. But what's the point of debating when both people are perfectly happy being a couple? What should also be noted is that consummate love is not permanent, and can easily degenerate into one of the lesser "forms of love." My belief though, is that a sociopath will realize this ideal type of love as highly preferential. Consequently, the sociopath will use all of his/her abilities to preserve this status. So it stands to reason that a relationship involving a sociopath will be more adept at facing and overcoming otherwise daunting hardships that always tend to pop up in any relationship. 

I will reference Maslow's hieracrchy of needs in which self-actualization is at the peak. A typical definition of self-actualization according to Maslow is “the full realization of one's potential and one's true self.” If a sociopath realizes what he/she is and understands all of the benefits and consequences associated with sociopathy, then they can be recognized as having achieved self-actualization. Maslow maintains that those who have reached self-actualization are capable of love. My personal conclusion: Love is attainable for any sociopath, myself included. All it takes is a little willpower and some self-sacrifice, something that is within a sociopath's capacity. All we have to remember is "give a little, get a lot."

Monday, November 11, 2013

A sociopath's love story (part 1)

I thought this was an interesting story from the comments:

Introduction: What follows was originally a response I posted on a forum where the topic of interest was "What do sociopaths seek in relationships? The need to control to keep someone around is for some purpose...what is that."

I came up with this reply to another response I read that was written by a woman who is in a relationship with a sociopath. She was irrate with some of the other posts that people put on the forum suggesting that sociopaths "are the definition of evil" and that "the world would be a much better place if they would all eat a bullet." This was her post:

"You say these things as if a sociopath has any control over his/her mental illness. No one chooses this and it is a very hard life to live. My fiancee is a sociopath and I came here looking for some answers and possibly support but I found an ******* like you. YOU are what is wrong with the world. He hates himself everyday he wakes up and wishes he could be normal. He can't and I found a great person despite his mental deficiencies. I learn to live with them and love the man he is."

Now that is a story that actually makes me feel warm inside. No seriously, not kidding. I for one identify myself as a sociopath and have done research on whether such a person as a "good sociopath" exists, and some of the articles I've read and evidence I've found suggest that infact, yes they do. I struggled for a little while once I suspected myself of being a sociopath, and I won't bore you with the middle details, but now I embrace it. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt and make no attempt to harm an undeserving individual. But if for whatever reason my trust is broken with that person or group of people, I make it my mission to undermine them whenever possible. Surprisingly this occurs fairly infrequently, as I also tend to be a forgiving person (odd, I know) if the infraction isn't that severe.

The capacity to love is also something I question. Most websites will have you believe that sociopaths are incapable of love. I tend to disagree; I think there is a gray area. A "normal" human may experience love in a way that emphasizes intimacy and passion (i.e romantic love) , with commitment on the back-burner. A sociopath with a high intellect is constantly striving to better themselves, yearning for my power and knowledge in whatever way they can achieve it, usually at the expense of others. But what happens when that individual grows bored or tired of the ongoing power struggle that exists in our world. No matter what that person accomplishes, there will always be someone that is richer, smarter, sexier, has a more beautiful wife, essentially more powerful than they are. An intelligent, rational thinker may come to the conclusion that it's just not worth it anymore and my explore other ways to live their life. So what about this "love" concept? Am I not allowed to experience it simply because I have been labeled a sociopath? To us, practically anything is possible so why not love? In the past we have probably been involved in relationships purely for the sex, money, status, or connections. First off, who doesn't like sex? Sex is great! But what else would a sociopath striving to experience love seek out?

Intimacy might be the toughest part to achieve considering that attachment is not something usually associated with sociopaths. Over time, the desire to experience love with another individual may cause one's attachment boundaries to fall, or at the very least weaken. And when a sociopath admits to him/herself that they actually feel some sort of attachment towards another, more barriers will begin to fall (usually consciously) in the interest of exploring this new feeling of attachment. Keep in mind that at any time during this process, the sociopath can detach themselves at will if they feel that there is a significant fault in their partner. Just remember that while true perfection can never be achieved, we always try to strive for it.

Passion may come a bit easier for us. It drives our sexual attraction towards one another. Like I said before, sex is great, something that I believe any human being would echo. If we think of passion and sex as a game then as a sociopath, one would want to win that game. In the real world, this translates to us putting forth enough effort in the interest of capturing the sexual attraction of our desired interest. If successful, a mutual attraction will be achieved and both parties will experience all the wonders of sex. If the sex starts to get boring, a sociopath may simply decide that the relationship isn't worth it anymore and walk out. But if it was good in the first place, why can't it stay that way? I will go back to my analogy of it being a game. If someone employs the same strategy every time (say in a game of chess), then the other player will start to notice and play accordingly. This will eventually get boring since one party will always know what the other is going to do, so they can essentially always "win the game" if they desire. Who likes to win without a challenge? It's just not that satisfying. This goes for sociopaths and non-sociopaths alike. So what do we do? We change up our strategy, we invent new ways of playing, or play a new, more exciting game entirely. "Gotta keep the sex interesting" is something I'm sure you've heard of before. A sociopath will realize this and do whatever they can to keep it interesting. If their partner is too conservative or traditional, then this will probably be a breaking point. Who likes boring sex that is, in all honesty, just a routine and plain no fun? What is the point of staying with someone if they are not willing to evolve with you? Passion is important for both individuals in the relationship.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Call me sociopath?

A reader wonders if he is a sociopath:

First of all great blog. I really like that you don't talk about sociopathy, but through it. I find it similar to reading for example Nietzsche - nothing new, but if I find it HERE people must see it differently, it's funny how blind they are.

Moving to main part of this email I feel, that I will screw English terribly ;) If you want to publish it feel free to fix anything that sounds really bad.

I'd like to ask, what would you consider me to be. I tried tests – I always score full points on “lack of feelings and machiavelism” scale while having average score on aggression. On PCL-R I get about 17.
Where to start...
Maybe with what I'm not. I don't like killing animals and never did. Ants, some frogs etc, but not mammals. I don't commit crimes on daily basis and I'm not impulsive. I cheat in any way available and I find it enjoyable, but I didn't steal for fun or anything like it. When I had to fight few times in my life I just turned off anything but anger, so I could aim for eyes and veins, but I it was always a choice and I could stop at any point. I also wouldn’t say I’m fearless, I know that emotion pretty well. That will be it about being normal.

I’m narcissist, but I work on it. It’s like drug and I don’t like anything to control me. I guess you know that nice feeling, when people say how they think, that they know you really well, when they only know mask – or even better feeling, when they tell you, how they can see through your mask and describe another mask as “real you” ;) But the drug part is the only thing that I fight with. I feel better, I don’t think about “difficulty level” when I choose goals and so on.

I play with people. I see them like they were sets of algorithms. I read “Influence” by Cialdini when I was 8-10 year old and I never stopped learning psychology from that point(I’m 21 now). I always could easily imagine how to break someone or how to help him evolve and I find both ways enjoyable – what I care about is how good am I with it. And I am pretty good ;).

I don’t think there is any “real me” behind all that games.

I never felt remorse. I also didn’t feel love, attachment or friendship and I don’t think I fully believe these are real things like people describe them. I know it on cognitive level, that they exist but I just feel like it was some fake. I know happiness, anger, some lust, sorrow(and I think it’s nice),fear/anxiety and flow. Actually, I heard few times that people find it hard to imagine me in any other mood then happy.
I’m also pretty smart. I like math, physics or philosophy and can understand them as well as I can remember lots of biological stuff. At the moment I study three full courses and it’s just fine. I even prefer when I have more to do and I find time pressure fun.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Song: She's Always a Woman

Even before I had ever heard the word sociopath applied to me, I always sort of identified with this song and it does seem to accurately portray the ups and downs with being with a female sociopath.

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Friday, November 8, 2013


People sometimes ask me what does it mean when sociopaths say they datamine. Basically they are collecting information about you in an effort to predict your future behavior and what might please or displease you. In this way, they are not much different than Google, Facebook, Orkut, or the other programs that kids are into these days. This was a good description of how these programs work, from Mind Hacks:

The Economist has an excellent article that discusses the increasingly diverse ways in which information from your social network – drawn from services like Facebook, or from telephone calls or payment patterns – are being used to obtain personal information about you.

This is not information which you have explicitly stated or included, but which can be found out or ‘mined’ from your patterns of behaviour and your connections to other people.

And from the Economist article mentioned, the fascinating way in which phone companies target trend-setting customers:

Telecoms operators naturally prize mobile-phone subscribers who spend a lot, but some thriftier customers, it turns out, are actually more valuable. Known as “influencers”, these subscribers frequently persuade their friends, family and colleagues to follow them when they switch to a rival operator. The trick, then, is to identify such trendsetting subscribers and keep them on board with special discounts and promotions. People at the top of the office or social pecking order often receive quick callbacks, do not worry about calling other people late at night and tend to get more calls at times when social events are most often organised, such as Friday afternoons. Influential customers also reveal their clout by making long calls, while the calls they receive are generally short.
Similarly, sociopaths watch your behavior to figure out who you are. It can be something as small as the way you grip a steering wheel when you drive or whether you break prolonged eye contact and when. The sociopath collects all of this information about you and mentally references it to the thousands of other people he has collected information from, coming up with a rough sketch of who you are. As marketers have known for centuries, people that like certain things will probably like other similar things.

It's not hard to collect this information, the sociopath is paying attention to these little behavioral responses anyway to make sure that he is remaining undetected. And it's hard not to notice certain very common human behavioral patterns, once you've been made aware of them.

After the sociopath has collected all of this information, he can use it in various ways. He can use it to better construct his own masks to stay hidden. He can use it to anticipate your every need and desire. Or he can use it to get into your mind and plant yet another type of mine. That's the mining that you really should be worried about, and the only way that the sociopath can set traps in your mind is if you have weaknesses or needs that you refuse to address yourself.

Apart from that, datamining of any type is relatively harmless. It's basically just catering to your expectations.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How a psychopath is made

As a follow-up to its stories on Colonel Russell Williams, The Globe and Mail investigates "How a Psychopath is Made." There are the usual suspects trotted out to give their two cents, and these interesting insights into how sociopaths grow from child to adult.
The theory is that neglect, abuse and early trauma somehow desensitize children to the feelings of others, says Dr. Kiehl, but it still has not been proven. Not all psychopaths had horrible childhoods. Some come from stable families. Millions of children are abused he says, but don't become psychopaths.

In one of her studies, Dr. Gao found that children who lived apart from their parents in the first three years of life were more likely to have psychopathic personalities. This suggests that failure to bond may play a role, she says. She also found that adults who reported they were neglected by their mothers when they were children were also more likely to have difficulty with empathy, and other psychopathic traits.

But every child showing signs of callousness and fearlessness isn't a psychopath in the making – although it certainly increases the odds. It is rare for people to become callous and unfeeling as adults if they began life as caring, empathetic children, says Paul Frick, a psychologist at the University of New Orleans, who studies anti-social behaviour and develops therapies for anti-social children. These troubled kids learn to conform quickly, often even fooling researchers by posing as model citizens until the end of the day, when, denied a reward, they become nasty intimidators even with adults.

But one study that followed 12-year-olds with these traits into adulthood found that only about 20 per cent met the measurement for psychopathy. Genes may lay the foundation, but environment builds upon it. A fearless child with callous traits who lives in a stable, supportive home with a parents that can afford to send him skiing as an outlet for his risk-taking has better outcomes than one raised in a poor family where the parents have few resources.

In the past, it was argued that psychopaths could not be treated – therapy sessions appeared to have no impact on their recidivism rates, and they often emerged having learned new skills about human nature that made them better manipulators. Some new research, however, has shown progress in teaching empathy to young children, as well as the benefits of very intense therapy for adult criminals.
It's interesting thinking what might trigger sociopath genes in an otherwise relatively normal child. Yes, abuse or severe neglect, but they are neither necessary nor sufficient. I've already talked about some of the banal details of my childhood that may have triggered a predisposition to sociopathic traits, including possibly a particularly serious case of colic. Perhaps the colic interfered with normal maternal bonding, perhaps I sensed a more urgent need to compete for resources than normal people, but I understand how these explanations might fail to be convincing.

People always think there are going to be graphic, horror stories from my childhood, but there just aren't. I can imagine how frustrating that might be to those looking for an easy explanation, but disturbed or disordered people often have surprisingly normal backgrounds. For instance, when asked to discuss his own past, Col. Williams, perhaps anticipating the disappointment that his answers might elicit, responded almost apologetically, “it will be very boring.”

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mob mentality: Halloween costume version

Apparently someone dressed up as a Boston Marathon bombing victim for Halloween so deserves to die or at the very least be cast from the warm arms of humanity, is the latest story. Here's one person's (saner?) reaction to the torch and pitchfork approach:

Alicia Lynch received death threats almost immediately. She had people circulating her home address and promising to send her a “special delivery”; digging up compromising pictures of her; threatening her parents. She of course had her job contacted and within 48 hours was fired, despite the fact that she’d worn the costume to her office. She apologized over and over again on Twitter and begged for the abuse to stop, but it didn’t. Some tweeted about the need to keep “bullying” her, others to “make sure she fries”. It was unimaginable venom, unforgivable hatred, and unconscionable vengeance all directed at somebody who wore a stupid fucking Halloween costume. It happened quickly and mercilessly. This poor, dumb girl never knew what hit her.

Jesus Christ.
There are those among us who believe they’re owed satisfaction at the slightest hint of an offense — even if that offense is only taken on behalf of others — and that see no irony in responding with disproportionately despicable actions to actions they see as despicable. The ferocious mob, confident in its moral authority and secure in its numbers and relative anonymity, will not be denied and cannot be stopped. Its wrath is meant not only as punishment for this insult but as a warning to others who might consider one day making a joke it doesn’t approve of; wearing an outfit it doesn’t like; doing a supposedly hurtful thing that can only be dealt with through hurt administered on a vast and crushing scale.

Maybe the most telling and singularly unsettling reaction fired in Alicia Lynch’s direction came toward the end of the feeding frenzy and was offered as a show of “mercy.”

“As a Bostonian, I forgive you. I am glad that you have not killed yourself, and I seriously hope you learned your lesson.” — @TheTwidster

Oh, I’m sure she has learned her lesson. As have we all. But here’s the thing, pal: It wasn’t your lesson to teach. And it was never your forgiveness to offer. You’re not special. You’re just one more asshole who jumped on the outrage bandwagon rather than shrugging off the behavior of a nobody you’ve never met and never will and getting on with your fucking life.

I wonder, why is it that sociopaths are immune to moral outrage? Perhaps because we don't believe that our emotional reactions equate to TRUTH/GOD'S CALL TO VENGEANCE (remember when people were so worked up at the idea of miscegenation or desegregation? Is it because we think way fewer things are moral issues than most people (Tasteless Halloween costumes? Is this a breach of morality, or just thoughtless? Even if it was a moral issue, do we call up your average murderer and threaten to kill them? What makes her the special target of people's vigilanteism and public shaming?) Certainly sociopaths have much less invested in social norms than the average person. And isn't this what this boils down to? Someone has violated a social norm, so they no longer deserve to live? Empaths -- you are scary mothers when you get all emotionally riled up about something. But I guess they had it coming, right? 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Introverts = oppressed?

I saw this originally posted here, original here, and was a little surprised that it is so popular? The accept-me-as-I-am introvert movement has gotten pretty big, and I think it's great that people are realizing that just because someone appears to be pretty antisocial does not mean that they think less of other people or wish them ill. Unless, they do? Because the below illustration and accompanying text sort of makes it seem like introverts could do without most people. Not only does the illustration include a lot of specious claims and outrageous generalizations, there is also a lot of stereotyping of other types of people.

But here are some of the more bizarre claims of this particular introvert:

  • "introverted people make their own energy and, rather than taking it from others, give it on social contact." They make it? How? By eating? Glucose rich foods? And it's odd, apparently extroverts do not make their own energy? They're essentially parasites?
  • "they tend to see extroverts as obnoxious predators" Ok, yes, non-introverts are not just parasites but predators.
  • "interaction . . . is expensive and they don't want to spend it on something annoying (read: wasteful)" I guess most people are not worth the introvert's time...
  • There's also a list at the end of how exactly to approve of the introvert while not wasting their time. Good to know.

I see this all of the time -- people preaching for tolerance for one group (their group?) while simultaneously putting down another. I think that's what a lot of people assume that I am doing by promoting greater awareness and acceptance of sociopaths, but I don't think sociopaths are better than other people. First of all, there is no legitimate criteria with which anyone could make such a statement (although it seems like most people would disagree with this statement -- I often hear people's assessment that sociopaths are human garbage and should be disposed of). Second of all, how could I possibly determine the worth of a human being whom I will never come to know fully (I don't even know myself fully). I

'm aware that this is apparently a very rare characteristic to have -- not judging people's worth. It's so foreign a concept to some of you that you will not believe me when I say it is true about me. Why? Because you do this, you assume everyone else must too? This assumption to me is a testament of the prevalence among the empath community of an implicit (or explicit?) valuation and hierarchy of the worth of individual humans. Is this why it's so easy to convince the masses that certain people are scum and not worthy of empathy or common decency?)

So everyone hug an introvert (also realize that you are energy sucking predators). 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Good intentions not good enough

The other day I was with a group of my relatives. One of the children is a quirky guy, probably could be diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum but his parents seem to worry about stigmatizing him with any sort of label. Another adult relative grabbed him in sort of a roughhousing way and the child screamed bloody murder. We were in a crowded place and everyone turned to look at what could possibly cause such a reaction. There should be nothing unusual about a child who does not like to be grabbed by surprise, but I guess a lot of children like it? So people do it and basically expect all children to like it; if they don't they're often labeled "too sensitive" or some other label that shifts the blame on them for their reaction, rather than it staying on the perpetrator where it belongs. Watching this scene, I couldn't help but think about how much I distrust good intentions (I write about it here, the tendency to self-deceive about good intentions here, and the inherent paternalism or one-size-fits-all hubristic approach of many good-intentioned behaviors here).

I'm not saying that the guy who grabbed the child was "wrong", largely because I don't care about the moral rightness or wrongness of such actions (even if morality plays a part in some decisions, I believe that most things in life have no moral implications at all). What I am saying is that the last thing in the world that my little relative wanted to have happen was to be grabbed in that way. The adult of course apologized, but I've also seen people in similar situations defend their position, as if trying to convince the victim that they should toughen up, or that the treatment is good for them (see above re paternalism and hubris), or often the perpetrators seem to honestly believe that the victim actually does like that treatment, but is just being intentionally difficult as a form of politicking or emotional manipulation. Whatever the reason, the violators in these situations (the persons who impose their own will on another person, ignoring the that person's autonomy and volition) often excuse their own behavior or believe that they are not responsible for the consequences of their own actions because that is not what they intended. And that is the most dangerous thing about them.

I really like this quote from C.S. Lewis from his essay anthology "God in the Dock" (1948):

My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be 'cured' against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

This is a major reason why I am libertarian -- people are bad enough about this without giving them the authority and power of the state to use. 
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