As a 'neurotypical', I found your book both fascinating and inspiring. In fact, it may have been life-saving, if that description does not sound too melodramatic.
I was diagnosed with an eating disorder (EDNOS) about three years ago, and the disordered habits in turn triggered a very self-destructive form of depression. That depression came with its own score of disordered behaviors, steadily growing into masochism. I was, essentially, drowning myself in emotion. I lost sight of what was important for me and my life, and instead spent my energies either helping others or antagonizing them until they used me as an emotional punching bag.
And then I came across your blog, and the perspective you presented captured my attention. It was the opposite of where I was mentally, and thus intrigued me as I struggled to imagine what it would be like to be a sociopath. Several weeks later, I hit rock-bottom in all aspects of my life. I was either half starved or full to bursting, suffered frequent panic attacks, and couldn't find the strength or motivation to complete my classwork. For a period of about two weeks I was incapable of anything that wasn't self-destructive, and I was in a constant emotional state of pain and guilt.
When your book came out I purchased it immediately. I latched on to the personal perspective and tried to imitate it, just to see if I could get relief from my own situation long enough to recover my grades. It slid on like a second skin, and I couldn't shake it. I did not magically become a sociopath, of course; but I do think something in my subconscious clung to the behaviors I had tried to imitate. For a period of about a month I lost all of my programed emotional responses. I no longer felt pangs of empathy, nor could I consciously recreate those feelings. All my self-destruction evaporated as I was suddenly able to see how completely idiotic such behaviors were, even as coping mechanisms or addictions. I no longer had intense emotional reactions to food, and I no longer cared empathetically for my friends or family. In essence I became a creature of complete selfishness. Boredom was my arch-enemy, for I had no emotional issues to occupy my thoughts (except anger; interestingly, I felt anger with a bright passion I hadn't ever felt before), so I launched myself into projects of my own creation. I wanted to see what I could do. I found I had huge influence over the emotional states of the people around me, and I convinced my teachers to extend due dates and give me opportunities to gain back the points I'd missed with very little effort. I enjoyed pushing people and watching their reactions with a fascinated sort of distance. Of course, I also lost the love of a few friends, simply because I didn't have the motivation to sustain a relationship if it wasn't giving me anything. But the gains I made were outstanding. I could eat normally and was able to lose weight healthily. I participated in sports without having fainting spells.
After my exams were over, I slowly fell out of that state and returned to a pre-eating disorder, pre-depression mentality, with a much healthier body and mind. And I began to wonder if sociopathy is not a programmed survival mechanism. Perhaps we all have the capacity to abandon empathy and embrace an a-moralistic and self-centered world view. Perhaps it is an adaptation which allows those who do not have the luxury of being pro-social to survive. Of course, I do not pretend to have become sociopathic. But I was able to step into a similar pattern of thinking and behavior which likely saved my life. It certainly improved it. Maybe the sociopathic mind is designed to surmount obstacles the empathetic mind cannot.
Either way, you have given me a new perspective and a very good book, and I thank you!
This was a particularly interesting email for me to receive because one of my friends also has an eating disorder and found it to be very empowering, which is not the typical response that most people have to the book. I wonder if there are other disorders or issues that people have that would benefit from trying to put themselves more in the sociopathic mindset, at least temporarily?