Let me start by saying I am incredibly grateful for your book and website.
In true ironic fashion, what drew me to buy your book is almost comical. I despise how dramatized and one-dimensional most fictional socio/psychopathic characters are portrayed on TV... But my empathic partner at the time would constantly correlate me with the likes of Sherlock (from the popular British TV show), Dr. House, Nick Naylor (from Thank You for Smoking), Doctor Who (cerebral narcissist who is rarely wrong and plays god with glee), and even said he saw me capable of the kind of dispassionate violence of Dexter or Hannibal.
(To this day I despise these rather caricatured versions of those with a sociopathy diagnosis. It tries to make people with the disorder into something they are not.)
A while back I had been to a psychologist who had suggested something in the Cluster B category of anti social personality disorders, strongly leaning on and suggesting sociopathy. Like you, I never put much thought into it. Why did it matter? It all seemed so droll... and that it might work against me in the grand scheme of things, were I to move forward and pursue a formal diagnosis.
I have a history of great success and plummeting failure for my young age. Usually due to becoming bored or being mindlessly vindictive to entertain myself. Today I am an entrepreneur making my place in the tech and marketing industry. My customers claim it's like I can see the soul of their business and reveal it to the world as it truly is. Making money and strategic associations/networks has been a natural talent of mine since I was a young girl.
I am quite good at working a crowd and eliciting trust and confessions from strangers. People constantly claim it is like I have always known them, though I reveal little about myself. I have been berated for my "intense" eye contact, and am known to seduce or terrify people without much effort or even intention.
I don't typically have thoughts of violence... But I adore being a social predator. There is nothing more delicious to me than the idea of emotionally ruining someone and making their feeble little world collapse on them.
On a day-to-day basis, I don't feel much of anything except for a sense of neutrality and an empty roving hunger and boredom. Though I am an adept cognitive empathizer (through conscious and deliberate effort), I don't have automatic or bodily affective empathy. And the moral worlds of other people is endlessly fascinating to me. I have moved through several sects of religion and philosophy, in an attempt to truly grasp why this is of such grave magnitude to most people; the "inherent" nature of such an abstraction is lost upon me.
And as you can probably ascertain from this long diatribe... I have a very sincere form of narcissism.
When I finally read your book, I ate it up with endless mirth. Not out of spite or because I found it to be perfunctory. Quite the contrary. You were the first author who wrote about WELL HIDDEN (or as the neurotypicals cutely coin it, “functional”) sociopaths who blend seamlessly in the world without having a tangible/traceable history of crime or malevolence. Finally someone I could relate to that was multifaceted... And actually existed!
It inspired within me two things. One, I wanted to learn as much about this "condition" as possible, so that I could utilize it with even more accuracy than before. Which leads to Two, my committed attempt to be more constructive, rather than destructive, with my personality and power. If I cannot change this thing that I am (which is the first form of foundational self I can honestly say I've ever truly perceived), then I might as well do the most with it.
Please accept my sincere gratitude for sharing so openly. Even if half of it is lies or greatly masked, your story has made the first indelible impact on my life that I have ever had the immense pleasure of experiencing.
That being said, I am looking to you for your perspective.
Recently I have began to initiate a relationship of sorts with someone whom is also appears to be sociopath. Both of us are aware of our "condition". And both of us have committed to not play games, and to be painstakingly honest with one another. Believe it or not, I find him endlessly fascinating and have a strange respect for him, as I see him as one of my few equals. We have similar goals of being as functional as possible... But we also greatly enjoy relaying our daily hunting and games to one another. It's an unspeakably delicious outlet. Not to mention the level of attention/adoration between us is unlike that of an empathic relationship, where I can easily and without intention hurt that person (and subsequently watch it disturb my life and plans—what an inconvenience).
Being honest with one another, we have not made any commitment or exclusiveness... And in fact this honesty only seems to increase the sense of intimacy between us. Another first in my life--this person has inspired some kind of bodily feeling of emotions in me... And he reports that I have much the same effect on him. It's been overwhelming and at times uncomfortable. We've been experiencing this together, and trying to talk it out... Leading to more research.
Funny that you recently posted regarding the body-mind connection associated with emotions, and not being able to identify them. Have you read "The Growth of the Mind and the Endangered Origins of Intelligence" ?
There is an excerpt on pages 78-80, regarding a woman who "acted" on emotions, because she could not express them. And in fact, she could not even describe or process the bodily experience of an emotion. I think you'll find it quite valuable:
“Something as simple as a child saying ‘I want to go outside’ can be responded to with a yes or no on the one hand, or, on the other, ‘What do you want to do outside?’ The latter response helps the child reflect on his wish, while the former only gives in to it or inhibits it. Reflection fosters the use of symbols, and, more broadly, the ability to think, while inhibition or immediate giving in both foster only a tendency toward action.
Meanwhile, the child's concomitant neurological growth helps his repertoire of symbols multiply rapidly. The nervous system allows for quicker learning now, and he accumulates words and ideas with growing ease. He can imitate almost any sound or word and does so regularly. This is still not automatic, however. New words take on meaning and become part of the child's vocabulary only when attached to the emotion or intent.
Memories are formed that involve not only images of patterns of action but also emotions, intentions, and desires. Without these affective components, memory would be a mere computer screen that showed pictures by rote, without meaning or structure. Because of them, however, memory becomes part of the expression of the individual self. Meaning and purpose, in other words, together with remembered sensations, form the dual code that is essential to our humanity.
When a child lacks nuanced relationships or cannot for neurological reasons learn from them, the images he develops contain less detail and complexity, his personality less differentiated, and his later ability to form relationships is much reduced. Many adults have never sufficiently mastered the ability to form images.
One such person, Susan, came into therapy in the hope of saving her deteriorating marriage. Her husband was spending increasingly long hours at the office, and their relationship was becoming more and more acrimonious. Whenever Jim's work hours lengthened, she would complain and criticize, which naturally made him spend even more time working--which in turn only stepped up her complaints. Try as she might, she lamented to the therapist, she could not get him to pay her the attention that she needed and deserved.
Susan couldn't connect the couple's problems to her own feelings. She knew only that she felt generally "bad" but couldn't find words to describe her state of mind or the root of her trouble. Nothing she tried seemed to break the pattern that was driving Jim away.
Her intense orientation toward changing Jim's behavior alerted the therapist to the fact that had great difficulty representing many of her feelings symbolically rather than simply acting on them. When he asked her for more details about her feelings, she said that Jim's refusal to come home made her behave coldly toward him. She would describe her actions or tendency to act a certain way, but not how she felt. The therapist, hoping to help her focus on her feelings, asked her first to attend to her physical sensations. She began by describing her muscles as tight and tense. Over time her descriptions hinted at emotions: for example, her body felt as though it were ‘getting ready for an attack.’ Only gradually did feelings like anger and furry emerge more clearly.
Eventually Susan learned to identify the bodily manifestations of fear and loneliness as well as anger. She came to realize that she felt vulnerable, helpless, and lost. Never before had she discussed her anger of feelings of loss; she had only sensed a vaguely defined, overly inclusive state of panic. Once she learned to talk about her sense of loss, she was able to connect her anxiety to Jim's absence to similar terrors she had felt as a child. Whenever Susan had became needy, her stubborn, domineering mother responded by rejecting her emotionally. Distant and controlling, her mother had refused to brook any communication around issues of vulnerability, helplessness, or loss. Anger was completely taboo. Thus she had prevented the little girl, and the woman she had became, from learning to represent herself the feelings that surround rejection and abandonment. Unable to abstract and understand the painful feelings Jim's angry absences evoked, Susan could only act them out and experience a global state of distress.”
Now, in my case, I would be acting like Jim... But I digress. I thought this would further help your hypothesis. Personally, as I begin to write out the physical sensations I undergo in given situations, it helps me identify and even parse out something that may be affective. Some food for thought.
To continue on my dilemma... While things are going quite well between myself and this man, there is something I've noticed.
Overall we are quite good at mutually driving each other to our very best in everything. We foster an interest to understand each other. It helps our behavior become less erratic.
However, when one or the other of us grows apathetic, as we tend to do when we have subdued acting on impulses/destructive desires... It tends to rub off on the other. We are at least cognitively empathetic toward one another, but obviously it's quite hard to feel much distress for one another when we otherwise don't feel distress for anything but an extreme or rare basis. It seems apathy breeds apathy, as we look to one another for some sort of solace in an otherwise dull world.
Have you ever heard of sociopaths in an intimate/meaningful relationship with one another?
We don't have very much motivation to destroy or manipulate one another. If anything, we may egg each other on to act on our impulses at times. The reward in acting and moving forward with one another, without the usual neurotypical baggage/expectations, is much greater. Being largely without affect, we can offer one another advice that is mostly sound. But it seems that even though we commit to not mirror one another, we still can't escape our natural inclination to do so, at least in this particular instance. Perhaps due to our very small sense of self? That we have conditioned ourselves to do such things and aren't sure how to do otherwise?
What is your take on this?
Thank you for your time and thoughts.
Much adoration and respect,