Saturday, December 14, 2013

Liking people

From a Canadian reader about liking people, and what effect that might have on your behavior:

Good morning,

I believe myself in many ways to be a borderline sociopath living somewhere between the majority of the population and those rare outliers completely divorced from emotional reasoning (an oxymoron if there ever was one, and yet it seems pretty obvious that most people use emotion very frequently in decision making).  

I have a decision making process that is driven by factors such as responsibility, politeness, practicality and reason rather than difficult to qualify 'squishy' emotional considerations.  I am a good father and husband because that is what I am supposed to be, having allowed my life to go down that road, admittedly because of a lack of passion to take it in any alternate direction. 

But I know what sort of behavior is appropriate and correct, what sort would be frowned upon, and I take pains to conform to the former in the interest of living a simple life.  I don't take great satisfaction in social interaction, but I am quite accomplished at it should I choose to turn on the 'charm switch'.  As my dentist, with whom I am quite close, says, I may be a bit crazy, but I present very well so the minor oddities are overlooked.  Dentists are interesting people, working all day, every day with people that they are putting in discomfort.  An ideal career for a sociopath I would think, as one would not feel any reservation or guilt about all the drilling and poking and constant one-sided conversations to which the victim/patient cannot respond.  But I digress.

On your website you have covered a number of comparisons between sociopaths and other categorizations of  non-standard mental positions, i.e. narcissists, and you often touch on subtleties between behaviors and mental states that are sociopathic vs indicative of somewhere else on the psychedelic rainbow spectrum that is the human mental condition.  I haven't seen any mention of misanthropy however, and I often wonder about the applicability of that particular label to a sociopath.

Not liking humans in general could apply to sociopaths, and yet I think someone truly absent of a moral compass feels neither love nor hate for other forms of life, human or otherwise, but sees everyone as simply a tool to be used or discarded as needed for amusement or practical considerations.  But I do find that so much of human society disappoints me, and that everything would be better if only there were far fewer humans around mucking things up, packing into my subway car, leaving their shopping carts in my way, and fouling the oceans and air with stink.  Anyway, I'd be quite curious to learn of your stance toward humanity in general at some point.  Perhaps one's opinion of the value of human life has nothing to do with a sociopathic mental state, and I'm confusing issues.  Possibly misanthropy is itself an emotional response, and thus misanthropic thought is evidence counter to a sociopathic mindset.

I try to exercise thought problems such as this with my wife or best friend, but oddly enough they are both two of the most empathic people I have ever met in my life - they both refuse to even consider the trolley problem, for example.  Isn't it odd that someone who considers himself to have a very weak moral compass, and sees the practical value of being able to set aside one's emotions when making decisions, should be so close to two people that would feel guilty if they accidentally make someone feel sad?  I think I could spend days simply discussing guilt with someone, and the extent to which foresight of guilt factors into our decision making.  Oh, to have been able to hang out in a bar with Nietzsche, chatting over beers and perhaps throwing some darts. 

Anyway, I want to thank you for the book.  It was an interesting read, and I will be loaning it to all of my full-blown empathy-saturated friends.  I rather wish I knew you or someone like you personally, as you seem like a fascinating individual and I do feel that I have more in common with someone with your sort of mindset than with just about everyone in my social circle.  Of course, I'd have to manage to obtain some sort of insurance against you attempting to ruin me for sport, but sorting out that too would be an interesting challenge.  

Cheers!

My response:

I think that sociopaths aren't necessarily misanthropic, although if they are misanthropic, there's not a lot keeping them from being very much so and without any sorts of constraints of guilt. Maybe introverted sociopaths tend to be more misanthropic for the reasons you cite, i.e. the crowds and the stink?

I generally like people. They are nature's greatest creation. Even when they are behaving irrationally, I find them to be fascinating -- endlessly unpredictable. There are times when I am annoyed by them and times when I like them less, but I'm self-aware enough to realize that has more to do with my own shifting moods than them actively doing anything to drastically disappoint me. 

25 comments:

  1. Happy Adam Lanza day.

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  2. There is nothing wrong about being misanthropic.
    As long as you can still love your reflected humanity in others.
    Hating people to the point of disassociation has to be offset by the love for humanity in every individual.
    If any given individual does not reflect any humanity whatsoever, then ...

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  3. The masses of people are "asleep." This is why they do harmful
    things to themselves and others.
    The Good Book says: "Love thy neighbour AS thyself. There is NO
    distiction between yourself AND your neighbor. Whatever is
    GENERALLY GOOD for your neighbor is good for you.
    So why do people exploit? Because they can't comprehend that truth.
    Through a combination of "ego development", coupled with disinformation, they believe in difference.
    For example, Christ was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" He then recited the parable of "The Good Samaritan."
    Samaritans were "fake" Jews. "Jews" and "Samaritans" actually detested each other. It was considered "impure" for the groups to
    associate. The parable recounts the story of a Jewish traveler who
    was waylaid by a highway robber. The "good" Samaritan tends to the
    injured Jew, "binds up his wounds", and goes on his way.
    By helping the Jew, the Samaritan has broken dozens of ritualistic
    decrees, but places reciporical love above religious laws.
    Truth is, it's imposible to hurt another without hurting yourself.
    When people wake-up and see this, (Only with God's help) Utopian times truly can arrive on earth.

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  4. Wow, does that sound like me. I'm very responsible and productive but my baseline response to everything is that I don't care. And I really don't. When someone dies I have to think about what the proper response is, when I hear someone got sick or struck with a tragedy my response is nothing other than 'better you than me'. I am an atheist with no belief in any higher morality. When I was young [I am almost 50] I used to solve problems with alcohol and violence. I am in a profession [litigating attorney] that rewards me for being harder and meaner than everyone else, and I work alone--have for decades--and far and away prefer it to the company of others.

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  5. I don’t think a person’s guilt level is a good predictor of his or her mis/philanthropy level. If that was the case, the most philanthropist person was the one who was always feeling guilty.
    I think physically no one should ever harm someone else, and verbally we should feel free to say what we want to (I think arguments are fun, and sometimes productive). If someone likes to play guilt trip on others to get ahead, it’s their own issue. ( I might be guilty of that too)

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  6. I read somewhere that if you want to increase your effectiveness, the best way to do it is to increase your self esteem. And to increase self esteem the easy is to begin to like as many things as possible (people, places, situations, things).

    Some people think there are too many humans. I don't think we'd feel the same way if we all knew how to get along, because then we have the whole world at our fingertips.

    Some people think of humans as a slave race. If that's the case, wouldn't you want to treat your slaves well? Friendship and hierarchy cannot exist simultaneously.

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    Replies
    1. I like that carlos murphy. Thats a nice easy way to do it. There is no pressure on the self.

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  7. Love my 'emotional intelligence', and intuition. It's 99% right on target.

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  8. Any readers in the UK may be interested to see M.E. make an appearance on Channel 4's 'Psychopath Night' watch it here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/psychopath-night/4od. You don't learn anything new about her but still it was an unexpected pleasure to hear from her on a programme that was crawling with the 'big names' from the psychopath world: Kevin Dutton, Jim Fallon and Mr Checklist himself Robert Hare.

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  9. my SO is misanthropic. only attaches well to his family. has few friends. content to be alone -- always puttering away on a new project. he does enjoy his inner circles. and always in leadership roles at work. he is kinda work addicted.
    god he's so delicious. ;)

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  10. I learned of this blog on UK TV last night. Some statements were read out that evidently come from the book by "M E". This comment is directed at her and the author of the comment above.

    If one favours evolutionary biology (as I do), Nature finds a Gaussian distribution of human attributes to be successful. One might as well divide the population into numbered percentiles as give them names like “Sociopath” and “Empath”, but, however you do the division, endless fun can be had saying “my group is better / smarter / more misunderstood than yours”.

    And, of course, the great unwashed are always stinking out he planet – look at Hogarth's London engravings and Blake's poetry (18th Cent). Yup: humans are just as nasty as Jonathan Swift said – or even nastier – and Nature doesn't give a damn. All that matters is fitness to survive and pass on genes, and wherever we think we stand on the distribution, there is someone at the mirror image point, as strong as we are weak in whatever it is.

    Our Canadian friend is a lot more use to the planet than a member of the super rich, for me, because he doesn't boast about gambling with other peoples' money – but Nature is deaf to my rating.

    “M E “ makes a self – pitying remark about being cattle trucked to the Gulag. As a white European, whose best pal's father evaded Katyn, I find that pretentious, but it makes no difference to Nature what anyone thinks. Society works exactly because it's made up of various types, and it's still going after many years.

    Whoever or whatever you all call yourselves, I have only one demand, and it's non – negotiable: you follow the actual rules (laws, customs) that you expect me to keep to. What you do inside your head does not interest me. But if you break these rules, I have an argument with you, and if the Law industry cannot get victims justice, revenge is what happens.

    I don't think "M E " will need that Siberian long coat. And to our Canadian friend, why is the only alternative to you to be "empathy saturated"? Examine the "compassion" of the Buddha sometime, and note how non - interventionist it is, and quite free of sentimentality.

    But, both of you are model citizens, on the outside, at least. So what's the problem?

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  11. Great point. Live and let live!

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  12. Personally, I look at humanity from a logical point of view. As a whole we are too many, and personally I would be for extreme measures to fix the overcrowding, however I realize the rest of the world doesn't think this way.

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    Replies
    1. I'll assume you're talking about killing off a large percentage of the population.

      Some questions, for interest's sake: Would you be willing to be one of the ones to be killed? If the answer is no, how would you go about persuading the authorities to keep you alive if you were chosen to die? What would be your criteria for deciding who lives and who dies?

      Delete
    2. Jamie, I think the anon above is posting under the wrong thread. bc what he is saying is relevant to today's topic (15th) but not this one (yesterday). Just guessing.

      Delete

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