Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Being told you're a sociopath (part 2)


As I asked myself these things, another realization came to me.

I was born with severe astigmatism. We know now, that I hadn’t been able to see much of anything for the first years of my life. But back then, nothing was out of the ordinary. I thought I was perfectly normal and so did the people around me. It wasn’t until I started reading, writing, and watching TV. My parents noticed how I would sit right up to the screen, and burry my nose in the paper to read or write. Still, I was completely oblivious. My world was the blur that it had always been. Then, one day, my mom picked me up early from school and said we were going to the doctors. On the way, she asked me if I could see. I told her that of course I could. She stopped by a red octagonal sign and asked me to read what it said. I told her it didn’t have any words on it.

I got glasses a week later and I’ve been wearing them ever since.

The point was that I didn’t know what my mother meant when she asked me if I could see before I got to wear glasses and truly see the world for the first time. I didn’t think that the world could be anything other than what my eyes had always told me it was. Nothing could have suggested otherwise because I had no idea what the word “see” really meant.

Which is what I think happened with the word “sociopath.” How could I have connected the dots and seen such a thing in me if the word had no meaning for me? Only now, years later, do I look back and laugh at all the times I would get into social pitfalls and awkward situations because I had no clue what was wrong with the people around me. I see now it was me. I would focus, like you, on all those little moments when I had convinced myself I was normal. Back then it was the world that was different and full of crazies.  

Reading your book was like a revelation. That mask of normalcy you speak of, only now do I realize how hard, how draining it had been to keep up pretenses for so long! But because I had never really considered it a mask at all, having it fall now became this boulder crashing off my shoulders. Every smile, every forced emotion, was like I was trying to pick up that boulder and toss it back on me.

Granted, I’ve been slowly getting my game face back on. It’s been getting easier to regress into the comfortable routine I had so mindlessly gone through for years, but I know I can never be the same. Just like seeing the world through glasses for the first time, clear and definite, I have now seen behind the curtain of my own self-deception.

Whether an actual doctor will diagnose me as a sociopath I don’t think I will ever know. I have no intention of going to a therapist or talking to someone about this and, even if I am ever forced to, I’ll lie my way out of it with a clean bill of health.

The only person that will probably ever hear this story, or know what I have gone through for the last few months, is you. I had to tell someone, and you were the only one I knew I could tell. I don’t need confirmation from you about what I am, although your opinion would be much valued. Like I said in the first paragraph, just a reply would be nice so I know you are real and not just a book and a website.

It's interesting how similar this story is to my own story and others that I have heard. The first time I really thought about what the word sociopath meant, I was in my early twenties. I was doing a summer internship with someone who became a fast friend. It was very similar to the class about Evil -- she was very interested in theology and Mormonism, so I told her all of my opinions on morality and she told me I really should consider the likelihood that I was a sociopath. When I looked up what the word meant, I immediately recognized certain aspects about me, but there were other things that didn't seem to quite fit. I didn't really identify with the label right away, or at least I had my doubts. In the five years or so after that informal diagnosis and before my official diagnosis, however, I became better able to assess not just my own behavior, but to better understand the behavior and motivations of empaths. There were many things I shared in common with empaths, particularly superficial similarities. But I slowly started to realize that even though I often had similar behaviors to empaths, my motives were very sociopathic. And seeing things in that way was very similar to having my vision of myself and others suddenly coming into focus. 

Does anyone else have a similar story?


  1. LOL!

    In my 40s, addicted to killing annoying animals and dumped by a woman for being openly Machiavellian, I decided I needed to figure out "what I was". My concern was that if I kept down that track, I might get caught, punished and shamed forever.

    My self-deception was such that it took me weeks to figure out that I was a sociopath (and malignant narcissist to boot). Despite having the genes, early childhood abuse/neglect, and living a typically dysfunctional "high-functioning" psychopath life, I never figured it out.

    It is a bit like Madoff or Lance Armstrong or Joshua - when your moral code is that of a chimpanzee - "help the guys on our team, murder our competitors" - you think and feel you are good when you do acts that most people think of as evil.

    When you judge yourself by your results, as you become more evil, ruthless, vengeful, skilled and reckless - and produce bigger results - you know you are better than everyone else. Not only are you producing results, but you know that others, due to their emotions and moral compasses, can't do the things you do. You tell yourself, "I'm better than those weaklings, because I can do what it takes." If others express their worry or disgust at your actions, you know they have the wrong priorities (while you have the right ones).

    If I hadn't been acting like a serial killer and seen this exact video, it would have been nearly impossible for me to recognize my psychological patterns.

    Dr. James Fallon did me an incredible favor, because a typically judgmental and sensational presentation would have had me thinking, "I'm not like that." E.g. a typical presentation would say something like "sociopaths don't have morals or emotions" - but subjectively, that isn't true. Try messing with a sociopath's girlfriend. Even if he's cheating on her or treats her like dirt, he might kill or maim you. If his kid dies, he may even tell you, in a monotone voice, "I'm very sad." If you want an example of this sort of guy, watch this video.

    Advice for psychopaths: if you are reading this and you are young, take a long hard look at being a surgeon. Although doctors are in general quite empathetic, and the red tape of medicine seems impossible to tolerate, surgeons must be focused and unemotional (trivial for a psychopath). Surgeons can work part time and make plenty of money.

    1. The videos are helpful, thanks. And thanks ME for helping sociopaths, and others with personality disorders, find some answers and better ways to function in the world.

    2. @anonymous 302- interesting perspective. The one thing I find difficult to believe is that you didn't arrive at the conclusion you had sociopathic tendencies sooner. You reference your own "Machiavellian" behaviors and then piece together that you are indeed sociopathic within a few weeks. Yet in the mid forties antisocial behavior typical lessens. My question for you is: why are you just coming to this conclusion now?
      I see that James Fallon was the one who gave you your ah-hah moment- but it strikes me as odd that you wouldn't have had that sense that something was definitely "up" given that you seem intelligent. I can appreciate that you might've tuned out anything you perceived as moralistic, and that is why you would avoid a specific label for your behavior- but it surprises me that you didn't have more environmental blowback for your sociopathic patterns.
      The only blowback you mention was the girlfriend dumping you. Surely there must've been other more important losses, given your age... or maybe not?
      Very curious why that incident in particular initiated a process of self examination that typically begins much earlier for sociopathic individuals.

    3. Machiavellianempath - It took Dr. Fallon into his 60s to figure himself out. Like me, he knew he was different, but despite being told he was psychopathic (by experts), he ignored it.

      I attribute my insight to zen practice; it changes the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex.

      This is from Cleckley:

      ...Yet in a very important sense, in the sense of realistic evaluation, the psychopath lacks insight more consistently than some schizophrenic patients. He has absolutely no capacity to see himself as others see him. It is perhaps more accurate to say that he has no ability to know how others feel when they see him or to experience subjectively anything comparable about the situation. All of the values, all of the major affect concerning his status, are unappreciated by him.

      This is almost astonishing in view of the psychopath's perfect orientation, his ability and willingness to reason or to go through the forms of reasoning, and his perfect freedom from delusions and other signs of an ordinary psychosis.

      ...Occasionally, however, he will perfunctorily admit himself to blame for everything and analyze his case from what seems to be almost a psychiatric viewpoint, but we can see that his conclusions have little actual significance for him. Some of these patients mentioned spoke fluently of the psychopathic personality, quoted the literature, and suggested this diagnosis for themselves. Soon this apparent insight was seen to be not merely imperfect but a consistent and thorough artifact. Perhaps it was less a voluntary deception than a simulation in which the simulator himself fails to realize his lack of emotional grasp or that he is simulating or what he is simulating. The patient seems to have little or no ability to feel the significance of his situation, to experience the real emotions of regret or shame or determination to improve, or to realize that this is lacking. His clever statements have been hardly more than verbal reflexes; even his facial expressions are without the underlying content they imply. This is not insight but an excellent mimicry of insight. No sincere intention can spring from his conclusions because no affective conviction is there to move him.

      Such a deficiency of insight is harder to comprehend than the schizophrenic's deficiency, for it exists in the full presence of what are often assumed to be the qualities by which insight is gained. Yet the psychopath shows not only a deficiency but apparently a total absence of self-appraisal as a real and moving experience. Here is the spectacle of a person who uses all the words that would be used by someone who understands, and who could define all the words but who still is blind to the meaning. Such a clinical picture is more baffling to me than any of the symptoms of schizophrenia, on which attempts have been made to throw some light by psychopathologic theories. Here we have a patient who fulfills all the ordinary theoretical criteria of a "sound mind," and yet with this apparently sound mind is more incomprehensible than the psychotic patient.

      This is almost astonishing in view of the psychopath's perfect orientation, his ability and willingness to reason or to go through the forms of reasoning, and his perfect freedom from delusions and other signs of an ordinary psychosis.

    4. I'm curious- do you have a religious background? The reason I ask is that most children raised in religious households tend to experience a lot of shaming when they act in ways that contradict the accepted value system. While the religion may be helpful in the sense that it keeps chaos from criminal activities at bay, it can be very detrimental to the process of developing an authentic sense of self apart from that value system.

      I have a theory that this sort of internal conflict can cause a sort of mental block/denial that prevents basic pattern recognition that would allow the budding sociopath to self identify in a more timely manner because of the attendant shame such identification brings.

      When I say religious- it doesn't have to be any denomination- it can be any family that derives its primary self identification with being identified with a certain set of virtues. Whether those virtues be transcendent or scientific or superficial or random it doesn't really matter- what matters is that a child is programmed to deny who he is from the very beginning in order to survive within such a system.

      As a writer who is working on a project on the origins of psychopathology I very much appreciate any insight you might care to share.

    5. Annon 302, can you please post the URL address for the first link again. It won't open up. The second video is very informative. Will watch the rest at another time.

    6. Machiavellianempath: I didn't get a religious upbringing.

      Lance and Madoff both have shame-based consciences - they'll feel shame about some things (hurting guys on the team) and not about others (cheating to win).

      Take a disagreeable artist - he doesn't feel shame about being an asshole (e.g. making irreligious art like "Piss Christ") because that's ego-syntonic. But if he got caught torturing his neighbor's cat to death, he'd feel ashamed. Or a wife-beating pornographer - no shame about making (disgusting) porn, but ashamed if caught beating his wife.

      When you've got a shame-based conscience, you don't tend to have guilt at all. The way of thinking/feeling about things is looked at through the lens of "will others find out". Your attention is focused on other things. You never have to clarify what, if any, your values are that you'll feel guilty about.

      If a psychopath ever sits down and gets moral, he's likely to wind up like St. Paul. Read about that guy - clearly a psychopath.

      A psychopath is better equipped to read Ecclesiastes, come to terms with it in all its horror - because it is about reality as it is, and a psychopath sees reality - and live a saintly life.

      Super Chick - these are all the links. They opened for me.






  2. But the chief delemma of the sociopath remains the same. He has
    to "fake it" in order to "make it." And he is condemned to do so his
    entire life.
    Is it any wonder that the "lower functioning" ones simply get fed up
    with the facade and KILL? There is NO THRILL greater then having
    the power of life and death in your hands.

    1. If this was true there would be 1000's of people knocking over liquor stores with "Born To Lose" tattooed on their chest.

    2. OHH I am NO 4!
      Realising ones nature is revelatory, but the fundamentals do not really change,one must try harder to find suitable outlets for our black souls to flourish, this is a social issue, if society dont find ways to channel sociopathic and psychopathic souls they will pay for it big time.

    3. Sheet! Some one sneaked in whiles I was blabbing, so 5 it is! Assuming violence is the only channel to satisfy ones sociopathy is like saying all black people can dance-drawing a very thin cliché into the area of psychology-but then again to me all psychology seems to be based on clichés and guess work-it will be the hardware of neuroscience that will provide an answer, I am holding on for when we will be able to plug a nervous system direct into a computer a biological interface network-as to my mind the functioning of the spectrum based nervous system has ,more in common with computers than empaths, and when empaths try and engage with sociopaths this disparity become glaringly obvious-resulting in rage and anxiety on the sociopaths side and emotional discomfort for the empath.

    4. May I ask something? Do borderline personalities also feel like they are faking it. I do mean faking empathy. (I understand there is crossover between bpd and any other sort of pds/conditions there could be.)

      I am guessing that the narcissism or histrionic is what bpd is crossed with stereotypically. But in this example im not talking about attention or praise or approval.

      Im talking specifically about the acting, the showing of appropriate emotion.
      How is the acting, the putting on the empathy show, the saying all the appropriate things, giving the correct touches, and then the walking away thinking : " gee I'm pretty sure I did a good job" similar to that of any of the so-called sociopaths here?

      And do the narcissists do this very well too? My narcissist friends irl all do ths pretty well I think, but I dont think they see themselves the way I can see them. They would never ever see it. The ones here I am sure pretty well know themselves.

      Ii just want to know if this thing with the standing next to yourself aware you have been acting is normal for both bpd and socio and how it is or is not different for the narcissist.

      Thank you very much.

    5. I suspect that the feeling unreal or fake is characteristic through all PDS-when one is surrounded by hoomans who communicate in emotional shorthand and empathy the fact one cannot feeds into the sense of disconnection that seems to be so common-either one feels fake and unreal or other people do-which of course opens the door for callousness and the predations of serial killers who can manage such sadism because their 'victims' are purely ciphers. So I think that this existential horror is common to all, but methods of acting upon it, channeling or venting differ considerably.

  3. I believe I am going through a similar revelation right now. I am currently seventeen and I've always been aware that I don't think like most of the people around me but until a few months ago I never really applied it to any particular label. I've done a fair amount of research on Sociopaths and, like you, found many similarities but also some difference between the 'typical' sociopath and me. For example I have no criminal record, which is apparently common, although I do partially attribute that to the fact that I have never been caught doing anything too bad. I also wouldn't describe myself as impulsive at least on most occasions. So I am still in the not sure phase of my realisation so to speak. Although the word sociopath has been used to describe me multiple times as I very rarely keep much of a mask on, at least around those I consider friends.

  4. I suspect the rouble with these terms and the way psychology functions is trying to place complex neuro-social forces ion tiny boxes-sociopathy and psychopathy affect every aspect of the human condition, so one could argue it is a sexual problem, its cognitive problem, it is physiological, it is spiritual, it is emotional-truth is it all encompassing, and its manner of manifestation can be varied-even though the mechanics that generate it are probably basic---like the concept of internal combustion is simple, but its manifestation results in numerous different models of cars.

  5. This may be interesting to some...

    1. It was an interesting read. I wonder if there's an operative procedure for hyper - empaths.

  6. As I said yesterday, a friend first told me I was a psychopath when I was 16 or 17. The label felt right and good even though I didn't yet know much about it. M.E.'s book got me interested and I read a lot about it and discovered this is me.

  7. This blog is like one alcoholic telling other alcoholics treatment will never work for them but the only thing that will work is continuing to talk to the untreated alcoholic.


    1. So we should return to our isolation and the endless parade of failed treatments? I hope that maybe others in the same condition may provide tips for traversing this odd psychological landscape-all empaths seem to offer is a paradise I can not attain-which I have started to find rather trying.

    2. I dont agree, Melissa. ME suggested gardening to someone in a post one time. You have to comb through the negativity here... like everything in life.

  8. You are the only one that can make YOUR treatment successful.


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