Monday, February 3, 2014

Practicing Catholic

From a reader:

My name is Violet and I have recently been "Diagnosed" with ASPD, specifically Sociopathy. My psychologist of six years has recently told me (recently, as in almost three months ago) that he believes me to be a sociopath and for quite a while now. This was sort of a revelation; so many aspects of my life and mind became clear and made complete sense. I then realized why so many relationships failed and why I never could understand certain life lessons my mother or others would try to explain.

The reason I am writing to you is because I have a few questions and I am internally torn at the moment.  I am a practicing Catholic and have been since the "age of reason." I think that is probably one of the most difficult aspects of my life, that is, being myself and trying to live by what my Faith and Church teach even when I disagree or possess no love or interest in it. I am purely a Catholic because the fear of Hell was instilled within me from a very young age. I have always questioned the Church when others around me follow it blindly, or what appears to me to be blindly. Do you believe it is possible for a sociopath to fully accept a form of religion? My religion teaches that human nature is inherently sinful. There are degrees and variations of evil and good. The Church never mentions anything about the human brain and how certain disorders or personalities could make one more susceptible to sin. Sociopaths can lie, cheat, kill, steal, etc. without feeling remorse but this doesn't mean that we will, we are just more inclined to do those things and with ease. Would you say I am right? Psychology doesn't seem to apply with most Christian religions. People do not think psychologically. Most people do not seem to think, independently anyway. I am a philosophy major. I have also taken many logic courses. Thinking differently and more extensively has always been a part of me. I am sure you can relate.

I am having difficulty finding facts about Sociopathy online. Most of what I come across are the exaggerated and dramatic narratives from "Victims of Sociopathic/psychopathic relationships" who complain about their past romantic relationships and the "Sociopath or psychopath" who wronged them. I find it very humorous that they think that because one man/woman (normally a man though) cheated on them and ended the relationship that this therefore makes them a sociopath or psychopath. What a hasty generalization. There are so many disorders, why do people always label the "evil doer" as a sociopath or psychopath? Also, there doesn’t have to be something psychologically wrong with a person to perform hurtful or faulty acts.

Most people are terrified of sociopaths/psychopaths. I find this very interesting. I told my closest friend and she has absolutely no issue remaining my best friend. In fact, she finds it fascinating and she said it explains a lot of my behavior. She is also Catholic and an empath. I think she has a "Normal personality." She is the least dramatic and emotionally charged person I know, and because of this our friendship works very well.

I understand that most people are fixated on the "no remorse" aspect of the personality and that is why they are afraid and prefer to remain apart from us. I am tired of pretending though and I am tired of being an actress. Every now and then I am myself though, either with people I am just meeting or my mother's friends. I just do not see the sense in pretending for certain people; I gain nothing from them so I will stay away.  

I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Is this common? My research online only stated that the personality favors order and control. I am constantly internally examining myself for all of the traits I have read or the little "ticks" that I possess. Since discovering that I have the personality this has been a great personal study.

I have one more question. Is it normal that there would be an abusive instigator or crucial person who would illicit abnormal emotional behavior for a sociopath? From Childhood maybe? Research has suggested this. Sort of like the one person who helps form the person through abuse and could possibly only be the person to illicit any sort of emotional behavior? My psychiatrist thinks it is possible and told me that my mother is this person. She is the only one who can make me cry. Do you have that sort of person?

Your website is very helpful.

My response:

Thanks for this! Your thoughts on Catholicism reminded me of this and this post on contradictions.

I do think sociopaths can be religious, for various reasons, including maybe that they just want to. My religion seems to take into account psychological issues and relies more on mercy than justice, so maybe that's why I feel at home there.

I don't think that we don't have emotions, we just don't usually give them any sort of meaning or real role in our lives. You probably feel anger towards your mother? I used to feel angry at my father, now I just don't. I figure, what's the point?

Neuroscientist and diagnosed James Fallon has talked about having bouts of both obsessive compulsive behavior and anxiety issues. If you believe that sociopathy is largely a disorder of attention, which I do, then it makes sense that we would become fixated on things (OCD or anxiety) in addition to being completely oblivious to others (unemotional, unempathetic) -- hyper and hypo attention, if those are words.


  1. Could sociopaths be religious because God is all powerful and they want to be associated with him?

  2. Religiosity is nothing but a set of acquired (And often erounous beliefs.)
    Plenty of sociopaths P-R-A-Y on Sunday and P-R-E-Y on Monday,
    empaths too.
    The key to hitting the spiritual motherlode is to disguard all of your
    acquired "faces" but few have the courage to do that because they
    assume it would be like performing a high wire act without a safety net.
    BTW, does anyone have an opinion on the death of the great sociopathic
    actor, Philp Seymour Hoffman who was found in his N.Y.C.
    apartment with a needle sticking out of his arm? He played sociopaths
    brillantly because he was one.

  3. Fear is an emotion; we sometimes forget this. The relationship between fear, psychopathy, and Catholicism is quite notable. The church has a long, brutal history of inflicting violence upon non-believers and of course we now know a long history of not only the sexual abuse of children but covering it up. If any religion could be deemed psychopathic, it's Catholicism. Perhaps abusive priests are the experts at wearing masks.

    P.S. I watched an old documentary on Charles Manson last night (I think someone forget to tell Denver they were in the Superbowl!), and I learned something new. An FBI profiler brought up an interesting point. Manson is technically not a serial killer; he only killed one person during the Sharon Tate slayings. The media immediately labeled him a serial killer and it has stuck ever since. I don't this is a matter of trusting the media, it's more a matter of applying your own critical thinking skills to everything you read.


    1. Scientists have determined a genetic component or group of genes which might explain many behaviors that go beyond emotions.

      I'm Catholic and my opinion is: the Catholic Church does more good than evil. I accept the fact that malignant narcissists and evil are in every institution. I say this with the realization that not all narcissists are evil.

    2. I was referring to DNA of fear in the 9:00 AM comment.

    3. I could never associate with any organization that is responsible for worldwide sexual abuse of children.


    4. FYI:

      "In A Perspective on Clergy Sexual Abuse by Thomas Plante, a psychiatrist specializing in abuse counseling and considered an expert on clerical abuse, he states 'approximately 4% of priests during the past half century (and mostly in the 1960s and 1970s) have had a sexual experience with a minor.'[36][37] According to Newsweek magazine, the figure is similar to that in the rest of the adult population.[38]"
      I admit, this is from Wikipedia...

      The Catholic Church has done way, way more good than harm in its 2,000 year old history. It is not "psychopathic" in the least. There are predators in every human institution, and although the sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests is horrifying and saddening, it does not negate the value of the charitable works that Catholic lay people and clerics do.

      Would you call a caliphate "psychopathic"? How about the Mormon church? How about a Buddhist temple?

    5. @Anon 12:54 PM

      And "I" would never disrespect someone's Church affiliation because of another's sin. The Church is cleaning house, now. That's all you need to know.

    6. The Catholic Church is no where near as guilty of child abuse as the teachers in our own schools PERIOD. There is evil in every place and organization. We even are seeing celebrities and big name coaches being convicted. I'm sick of you high and mighty haters of the Catholic church.

  4. Religion offers sociopaths a model and means of channelling their instincts. It helps justify some of the most bigoted short-sighted and basically nasty aspects of mob mentality and ties it all up with a line that it is the will of GOD and so cannot be questioned.But like most monotheism it uses all kinds of mind control trickery that can be useful to the sociopath, Its reliance on repetition helps focus the fractured attention of psychopaths, and as mentioned earlier the symbolic imagery and language can appeal to the grandiose poetic traits, and give a mythos that can allow the disconnected emotions of the path to find twisted expression, while the sense of fate feeds into the sense of entitlement (GOD made me do it!). So I can see hiow it can work for others, a simulated social model to help place the sociopath into a context, just my cynicism runs marrow deep and my childhood is strewn with the black eyes of perverted priests who didn't know what they where dealing with and probably made my condition somewhat more difficult than it ever needed to be...

  5. In regards to the latter blog remarks, it is certainly possible to have additional "ticks". I used to have a mild case of OCD. I currently still have mild arachnophobia and acrophobia (a rather intriguing case, because while I feel physically tense when I see a spider or over a ledge, my rational sociopathic brain is functioning without issue - I find it both interestingly paradoxical and irritatingly stupid). That being said, certain kinds of anxiety - specifically phobias - have a neurological/biological basis.

  6. I just took a quiz on a class that I took it 6 years ago, and I got almost perfect score on it, I don’t have much attention problems too. I have kept many of my good relationships alive for many years, but I am very leery of letting some of my revengeful acquaintances from the past, who still insatiably like to collect data on me, getting too close. My point : Lack of trust, can cause lack of empathy, or duplicity (hyper/hypo behavior)

  7. I have fully accepted a religion (well maybe not fully but I'm getting there). Mine is to take 100% responsibility for my experience of life. If we create our own reality, then we create all of it, not just the things we don't like.

    1. I take that back. We create all of it, including the things we don't like. :S

    2. I create good and I create bad.

    3. Basically its about total self-forgiveness, or "extreme" forgiveness.

    4. Always all the time, forgiving oneself. Non'stop. Daily.

    5. Step by step, moment by moment.

    6. "You're nothing!" That's what Jesus said. Seek ye first the kingdom (nothingness) and you shall see God.

    7. Yes we are inherently sinful. That's what makes it so rewarding.

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  8. Psychopaths have the option of ignoring their emotions because their emotions aren't nearly as intense as those of empaths. That's what psychologists mean by "shallow affect."

    It's the difference between feeling a few small waves and a tsunami. You can ignore a few waves bumping your ankles at low tide. You can't ignore a wave that crashes over your entire body.

    Empaths don't have the option of ignoring their own feelings (although emotionality occurs on a spectrum in empaths, as well). Their emotions overtake them - physically.

    1. It is also important to note there are cases where instead of feeling little emotion for something (barely noticeable as to be ignorable), there are many cases where you don't feel anything at all (negligible or devoid as to not register).

      This is where obliviousness can come into play, because there are times where there is no emotion to register that can contradict rationale and/or behavior when interacting with empaths. Commonly what occurs is this disjunction is discovered after analyzing the empath's response, from overt wording and facial/body language to absence of an expected reaction replaced with something atypical (eg. hesitation, nervousness, or suspicion). Before this clearly registers, a sociopath is truly oblivious to it. And sometimes afterwards, they are left perplexed.

    2. The fear phenomenon and the hyper/hypo attention stuff makes it hard for normal people to understand sociopathy, because it is so different from them.

      E.g. why would a person with a very high IQ impulsively blow their career? Impulsiveness and not being afraid of living a "deviant" lifestyle.

      That same person might be OCD about their taxes and doing everything possible to avoid an audit, or catching a cold, or committing something their religion calls a sin.

      James Fallon writes about how in the period when he had OCD, he was concerned with thought crimes. He knew he had a lot of thoughts that were sinful, and it troubled him. Around the same time, getting drunk, spraying partiers with firehoses and so on didn't scare him. He probably figured that stuff was just "fooling around" and not a matter of sin and religion.

      Imagine a professional who drinks and masturbates in his office, due to a fear deficit, but who procrastinates on opening his mail, due partly to feelings of anxiety/aversion (he doesn't have his life under control enough, and he doesn't like that). And in another circumstance, he "fearlessly" defends himself on the street, because he's decided he'd rather get beat up than cower.

      His lack of fear causes him to do things that are reckless or self-destructive. His fear response for non-important things (what the mail says) leads him to procrastinate. His impulses get him to get in fights, drink, procrastinat or be cruel to people he's done with.

      As you wrote, "Empaths don't have the option of ignoring their own feelings (although emotionality occurs on a spectrum in empaths, as well). Their emotions overtake them - physically," whether or not that's true, it seems the socipath's impulses overtake him.

    3. Sometimes the impulses do. Low-functioning sociopaths have very poor impulse control. High-functioning/successful sociopaths do have a degree of impulse control (enough to be high-functioning).

      It's important to delineate sociopathic impulses and "emotional overload". Sociopathic impulses have a basis on having a lack of emotional barriers (ie. regret, grief, and remorse) which would typically inhibit/prevent fulfilling the impulse. Emotional overload have a basis on overwhelming rational barriers (ie. logic, situational awareness).

      It is analogous to suggest that sociopaths can have too low an emotional seawall to inhibit/prevent a wave from getting through, while an empath can have too high a wave to overwhelm a rational seawall.

      It is also important to note that the example you gave of the professional is not a prototypical sociopath. A prototypical sociopath would procrastinate not because of feelings of anxiety/aversion (regardless of not liking not having his life under control), but because the sociopath just doesn't care. Also a prototypical sociopath would not fearlessly defend himself because of an aversion to cowardice. Cowardice implies fear, which was he was already state as being fearless. It also isn't bravery, because that would imply having courage. The sociopath in question would be coldly confident.

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  10. Oh but the neat thing about Ho'oponopono is that when you start taking 100% responsibility you basically get everything you've ever worked for in life. I don't wanna spoil it..

    1. Hey TMAC MSHAK, do you know what happened today???? “A Touch leery” died in a car accident, actually it was a huge truck. “A Touch” died peacefully, but said to tell you, “Sorry about the data, it was all made up”. Then closed her eyes…….it was a beautiful scene! You missed it.

      She did seem a touch remorseful, I think she was changing toward the end!!!Oh well...

    2. Do you know why she died and called her data wrong? Because she knew how dangerous mentally ill people like you are. Thieves, sick, and perverts, who like to get into peoples personal life, with their dirty dirty, dirty hand….

  11. Replies
    1. @anon, Don’t insult, he is not.

  12. i like the way that's phrased
    "Practicing Catholic"
    i i'mplies doing it
    and in noway does it implie believing
    so it's nice and supperficial

    1. If one truly is a practicing Catholic, then they are also engaging in the Catholic practice of accepting all that is proclaimed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church to be true. So, yes, it does imply believing.

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  14. I would like to comment on the religious aspect of this post. I am a forensic psychologist with a background in both behavioral analysis and religious studies. I firmly believe that not only can sociopaths exist and function within a religion, but there are probably more within the confines of Catholicism than you might think (and i am not just spotlighting the recent priest sexual abuse cases). You must look at Catholic doctrine itself (and Christianity for that matter) this is a religious system that had to conjure up a place like hell, and the concept of eternal damnation as consequence to keep its followers in line... Plus it marries this with the act of forgiveness, "it is okay to lie, cheat, steal, maim, kill etc. As long as you simply ask for forgiveness." What an easy out for the conscience-less! "I do not have to worry about how society feels about me, my sins are between me and Jesus." As you stated yourself (i will paraphrase) the fear of hell is the only thing that kept you in line.
    Finally, sociopaths enjoy power... the role of a Catholic Priest (or any preacher for that matter) is one that places itself on a pedistal higher than that of the parishioners. Could there be any more powerful place on a Christian earth than someone with whome you have to speak to God through?
    I am telling you, Catholicism, and Christianity are both safe-havens for sociopaths.. So enjoy your eternal salvation and keep repenting when you sociopathic thoughts and desires go against what society might frown upon.

    1. Your alleged background in religious studies clearly did not cover actual Catholic doctrine on these matters (particularly on moral philosophy and eschatology). Please consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church before presenting any more ludicrous assumptions as fact.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. I'm a convert to Catholicism and a friend of another Catholic convert who is a sociopath. The way he has dealt with his condition is more or less immersing himself in the actual teachings of the Church, which are far more developed and sophisticated than anyone gives the 2,000-year-old institution credit for. While he will readily admit that his primary motivator was a fear of Hell, he has since developed far past simple prudence and discovered that Catholicism contains troves of wisdom that is only proper for the world's oldest surviving institution, particularly when it claims to have all the answers to the biggest questions, as the Catholic Church certainly does.
    He told me once that this encyclical by Pope St. John Paul II was the deciding factor in his conversion. I'll leave it to the reader to investigate for themselves.

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