Plenty of my clients that become regulars, and/or have the tendency to become very personal and go for dates with social time, have 2 traits in common: They earn a lot of money (or else they couldn’t afford me as a steady date) and they have problems with establishing or keeping normal relationships, including sociopaths.
I have a nice little circle of nerdy guys, which could be pretty easily categorized as high functioning aspies (and I believe myself to have some autistic traits as well). But I have come to realize that borderline/bipolar/narcissistic and sociopaths share a lot of the same issues with the aspies, including the issue about cognitive attention in regard of experiencing empathy.
and I think you have found an important key there, which intersects all of the three categories of people mentioned above.
From my observations, I have made following theory about how two types of attention affect the ability to perform socially appropriate emotional responses:
1) First, external and perceptive attention, which is the ability to a) perceive, b) interpret and c) assess objective “states of facts”, according the socially desired standards of normalcy. It’s about appropriately perceiving, interpreting and assessing the social reality of complex values and meanings in specific situations.
2) Second,internal and emotional attention, which is the ability to intuitively and immediately a) trigger, b) experience and c) display emotional responses, and do so in an appropriate correspondence to the state of facts we objectively perceive.
This is also about to within ourselves experience the “right”, or the socially desirable, emotional responses for the specific situation, in accordance to what is defined as normal by culture and society.
Aspies have trouble with the first, performing external perceptive attention (and to make socially appropriate interpretations and assessments of objective states of facts), which is what hampers their attentive ability to perceive complex social meanings and values in specific situations.
This leads to an incapacity to perform the second ability of emotional attention, regarding triggering, experiencing and displaying the appropriate emotional responses. In other words, since their first perception of “what is going on” often is insufficient or faulty, their emotional responses also goes astray from what is socially considered as appropriate.
While sociopaths manage the first ability of performing external perceptive attention (and make objectively appropriate interpretations and assessments) they have lapses and gaps in the second ability of internal emotional attention, regarding triggering, experiencing and displaying the socially appropriate emotional responses. (Otherwise, I really don't believe that so called sociopaths "lack" emotions, are incapable of love or such, I just think that they have a problem to trigger and experience these emotions in appropriate correspondence to the situations of when it is socially expected of them.) Which I think in turn interacts with how they actually perform the first ability of perceptive attention, as their emotional experiences get uniquely different, and so give them a different pre-understanding for how to continuously perceive, interpret and assess their social reality. This might not show immediately, since they still can make a “good enough” interpretation and assessment of complex social values and meaning, and so pretty much function anyway, if they just learn to act and fake a bit at displaying the “appropriate” emotions, which they did not manage to trigger or experience in themselves.
The borderline/bipolar/narcissistic, I believe, have problems both with having a good external perceptive attention in situations - because their cognitive focus on the outside world gets distracted by their inner emotional turmoil. And they have problems performing internal emotional attention - because their emotions are like a malfunctioning gas-pedal, so they easily under-react or over-react, and so have difficulty appropriately tuning and regulating their emotional responses according to social standards. That is why you find callous narcissists and self-sacrificing martyrs at the same time here, or people that appear pretty much as hypocritical enigmas, like fighting for human rights on one hand (and believing in it) while neglecting their own children on the other hand (and not noticing it).
This is how I, as an escort, have theorized how these different types of persons seem to largely end up with about the same problems, regarding being alienated and (in the practical sense of social interaction) not being fully emotionally functional.
Because the problematic consequence of not being able to trigger and experience the appropriate emotional responses in accordance with social expectations, is that emotion is what motivates us to think and act intuitively. As I think a social researcher named Arlie Hochschild said “emotion is proto-state both to cognition and action” (although I’m not 100% sure that quite is exactly correct).
But what people most notice, is that empathy seem to be lacking in people with this kind of attentive disabilities. Even though the issue of empathy merely is one symptom (among many) of an underlying cause – which actually is about malfunctioning ability for external perceptive attention and internal emotional attention.