Monday, April 7, 2014

A computer analogy

From a reader:

For most of my life I've been operating under the assumption that I was fairly normal psychologically even if my social life and general socialness was atypical based on what I could observe around myself.  This would turn out ultimately to be an elaborate trick on my part against myself, but solely for the sake of my own survival.  I'm not sure when exactly it started, but it must have been fairly early on in my life as I have no recollection of building my web of self-deceit, only sporadic instances that could have contributed to it and general notions of my childhood. This includes my overly curious nature, always asking questions that "didn't matter" or "didn't concern me" as a child, but I would always press until I got answers or until I could be pointed to other information that could satiate my curious mind.  "Why" was my favorite or at least most used word growing up, much to the dismay of many people around me.  I also would watch people intensely for clues into their behavior, to figure out "why" for myself instead of asking questions.  Reflecting on this I realize now that it was because I understood very little compared to others when it came to anything outside of factual knowledge I'd picked up from classes or books.  I always wanted to know more about how and why people thought like they did.

Using analogies is one of the key ways I figured out how others work, and I find them equally useful in explaining myself to others, whether it is some fictitious account to make myself more acceptable or actual truth.  And in relation to the human mind my favorite is using the analogy of a computer.  Using this theme and imagining everyone else wireless computers of some kind, constantly sending and receiving signals, it is easy for me to understand mental difference.  Some of them are genetic predispositions(hardware) and others are socialized into them(software).  When something goes "wrong" with one thing or another it results in a mental disorder.  I could spend the rest of the day explaining all the nuances of this analogy, but I'm sure you can suss them out for yourself.  Sociopaths fit into this model as computers that lack the hardware and/or software to make sense of certain codes transmitted in the signals they are constantly bombarded with, one might even go so far as to say they're running a different operating system than most(as I think Linux computer users will tell you, it's hard making their machines talk nicely with a Windows computer).  Criminal sociopaths would be the ones that, frustrated with their position, start bombarding others with malicious viruses and strands of code meant to disrupt the processing of other computers.  Successful or at least non-criminal sociopaths on the other hand would usually attempt to make sense of the mysterious codes by seeing what other computers were doing with the same codes and then writing their own programs as to mimic the same responses so as to appear normal and try to function with other computers in the system, but eventually there are issues as spitting out mimicked codes only works so much.

Bringing this back around to my story.  It was my overly curious nature mixed with a very nurturing, protective, and understanding mother that allowed me to build my little program that kept the real me hidden, even from myself once I had it up and running.  I'm not sure how I did it or if was entirely me, but continuing from the computer analogy, I didn't stop at building a simple list of commands to mimic the responses of others.  I built an emulator program.  As such, instead of simply responding with a mimicked code, I could actually take in, process, and spit back out code in the same fashion other empaths did.  It wasn't and still isn't perfect, and requires constant maintenance and energy to keep it up to speed.  The main difference being I can actually "feel" the emotions I pretend to have, even if those responses are merely my own trickery.  To try and bring this back into the realm of reality and not just analogy, the best I can figure out is I that created a mental programming that not only tried to figure out the correct mental and social responses to others it actually caused physiological changes similar to those experienced by empaths, thus allowing me to "feel".

The only reason I'm still not bound up in the web of my own creation is after several years of living away from my parents(my mother in particular), and I'm sure several other contributing factors I'm not whole conscious of, this construct began to degrade as I no long had reason to maintain it as thoroughly.  My sociopathic nature began to seep through at an alarming rate(it had always popped up now and then, but was excused by everyone, myself included as the result of stress at school or work) and I thought at first something was seriously wrong with me.  As time when on the sociopathic traits showed more and more, until eventually I had to sit down and figure it out NOW.  When I did I realized that most of what I felt made little to no logical sense to me, and I began poking at this mental construct until it all but completely fell apart.  I put it back together because I realized it made my life a ton easier after only a day or so of not using it.  I still had no name for what I was on the inside, that is until I came across your book.  How nicely everything you said lined up with what I saw in myself allowed me to finally ignore the clinical representation of sociopaths and explore the notion of it from the perspective of someone who really knew.  That as brought a level of ease and acceptance to me that I'd lacked until now, probably due in large part to my empathic emulator's influence.  And now that I'm looking at myself and the world in a new light everything is making a lot more sense.  But it also makes me wonder if there are more out there like me who have this capacity to emulate even down to the internal responses of empaths.  I've not found any evidence of them, but then again, if they never have reason to doubt their own trickery then they would remain stuck in their own web oblivious to who they really are.

I found it particularly interesting that he focused so much on analogies to figure out the world around him. I feel the exact same way. I focus on the structure and relationships between things, so thinking in analogies is a natural fit for me. I think that's what made studying law such a good fit for me, because particularly in common law systems, everything is analogized to previous cases or previous legal reasoning. It's a very instrumental way of thinking, thinking of everything and everyone in terms of what they do and how they function in different situations. But it makes me wonder, is this something common to any/most sociopaths? Certain personality types? Other personality or mental health disorders?

I also liked the part about how it was a "very nurturing, protective, and understanding mother that allowed me to build my little program that kept the real me hidden". I actually just met someone who has sociopathic tendencies/proclivities, and he speaks much the same way about his mother -- about how she trained him to be sensitive to certain things. He always says things like, "if you follow a thought, it can take you all sorts of places," like he makes a distinction between "having" a thought, and "following" it (and of course finally "acting" on the thought).

34 comments:

  1. I felt like the computer analogy was weird, but whatever works to help him make sense of it. I also tend to think in, and try to relate concepts to other people through analogies. Like ME, I find common law a sensible way to make an argument; when I was writing legal briefs, assuming I could find the legal authority I needed, I could bulldoze right through them.

    I've also found that my parents had a profound influence on reigning me in, and I agree that the more distant I became from them, the more some of my restraint fell away. I actually remember an incident from my childhood, one in a constellation of the few early memories I have- I had gotten into an altercation with a neighborhood boy. I was probably 5 or 6. Over what, I don't remember, but I recall I hit him or pushed him down or something to make him cry. The inevitable chain reaction occurred, and his parents spoke with mine. I got in trouble. After that, I remember vividly my Dad sitting down and telling me: "You can't be mean to other people. If you are always mean to other people, you won't have any friends and you will be all alone. Is that what you want?" I wonder if the lesson I internalized was that you have to make people think you are nice. I wonder if my pattern of deceit, of adapting myself to what people expect of me, can be traced back that far?

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    1. :my father told me i have to fake being normal if i want to fit in

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    2. Fake it till you make it eh? Tried that...living in hope...

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    3. Normality is just an ideal.

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    4. Hieronymous,

      Isn't teaching children not to be mean to others a typical childhood lesson that most parents try to teach?

      MelissaR

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    5. Melissa,

      I'm sure it is, not that I would know personally. But the reason this seems meaningful to me is because I tend to focus on appearances. Tailoring my actions to the audience; not because of what they want or deserve, but because of what I want from them.

      I'm not suggesting that my father had any motive other than to be a parent, teaching parently lessons. But if some aspect of sociopathy has a basis in early life experiences (nurture) I wonder if my misapplication of that lesson, of pretending in order to fit in, might be an early indicator.

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    6. I don't think your father was advising you to pretend to be nice in order to fit in. I think he was advising you to be nice in order to fit in. Love is a verb and all that...

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    7. Hieronymous,

      I wonder if we all struggle to fit in at times in our lives. I've always been very independent and marched to my own drum so to speak. For empathic as I am (intuitive would be a much better word), I would and do have a difficult time tailoring my actions to the audience as you put it, to get what I want. But I feel that this is mostly because I don't want much from people as I'm independent, comfortable with myself and with who I am. I'm sure that you and many other socios are much more charming that I am; especially with a crowd.

      But when I walk into a room, I instantly know what's going on; the atmosphere, who's angry, happy, etc. I just don't show what I know!

      MelissaR

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    8. That's what lube is used for.

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  2. All human motivation is based on the avoidence of pain and
    the reciet of rewards.
    The problem with the socopath is that he never learned that
    doing "bad things" deprives him of rewards. As far as he is
    concerned, doing "bad" things IS his reward. He is an Empathic
    imbecle. His expreiences-due to a variety of reasons-have taught
    him to take the easy route.
    There is some COLD "logic" to this. Having a conscience can
    interfear with personal progress, like prolonged grieving and
    self pity. The trouble is, the sociopath doesn't know when to quit.
    So the "obstical" to be removed can be anything from a child who
    makes incessent demands on your time, to a President of a
    country.

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  3. On the subject of Mothers, is that the Mothers are just responding to the needs of their child and adapting, say being protective of a child that cannot bare being touched and is hyper sensitive?

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  4. The interesting thing about this is post is what the writer doesn't say. There is no mention of what the "real self" he or she is trying to hide looks like (at least to him or her). It's completely devoid of any description or example of personality or specific behaviors. When people talk a lot the quickest way to figure them out is to focus on what they are not saying.

    MelissaR

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    1. Reading your last 2 posts, I "empathize"!

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    2. It would be interesting if they'd share what really goes on in their head. Or maybe it would be frightening?

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  5. I know a young boy who I would guess is sociopathic. Was kicked out of two pre-schools for bad behavior. The mother is very loving and nurturing and has made a full time job of raising this boy(now in middle school), and he behaves similar to his peers now. His mother has worked tirelessly with him. I sometimes wonder what his life will be like when he leaves home. At least he has loving parents that have helped him the very best they can. One of M.E."s causes: early intervention. Seems to have helped some for the writer of this post. Hopefully it's helped the writer and will improve his/her quality of life and benefit society also.

    Nice to see some progress.

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  6. Nurturing Mothers makes it easier to fit in, but less ruthless. Probably a good thing.

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  7. I really love this post. What I like is the absence of moral judgement and the focus on the practical realities of being a functioning member of a society full of people different than you.

    The only thing I would add is that there shouldn't be too much regret over the hardware/software deficits because the brain is amazing in its capacity to change itself. Especially still developing brains (under 28 or so)- I would argue that the changes/influence on personality his nurturing mother effected on the individual above are part of him as much as any other trait is. Certain environments cause us to draw more or or less on aspects of our personalities, but the seeds of those realities remain. Our lives are the sum total of our cumulative choices and experiences.

    And not to pathologize sociopaths as the only personality types missing hardware/software. We all enter this world with certain potentials that can be developed or neglected. A skill like empathy may only be possible to achieve on a cognitive level, but if the end result is prosocial behavior, the hardware/software lack is irrelevant. What matters is results. Likewise, an empathic type may lay around in pajamas all day thinking about rainbows. The net result of that is a lack of exposure to the real world so empathy is impossible.

    Anyone who has the capacity for self reflection and the willingness to seek understanding from others can compensate (to some degree) for what might be considered an organic defect. The key is- the desire to do so must also exist.

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    1. well said mach. :) i really enjoyed today's post too. thinking in analogies can get the gears going. i do this also.

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  8. I find myself trying to make models, instead of analogies, to figure it out how people behave.
    "this kind of people reacts that way on this situation/topic"

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    1. Be aware, do not generalize blindly. That is a fallacy.

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  9. Just for varieties sake, and over to something else but related;

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-vikings-were-feared-for-a-reason-9241032.html

    Obviously, Scandinavians are bad bad people who should apologize for theyr 300 year or so onslaught and full blown warfare on the rest of europe.

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    Replies
    1. And the Spartans were worse. So what?

      Be careful when you go outside because there's bugs on the ground and you might step on one.

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    2. The vikings were just bold explorers, that´s why so many americans still love them after all these years; almost like a rowdy "sea-biker" gang. Don´t belive the nazi crap about aryan norsemen, they assimilated themselves into foreign cultures and were cute & friendly. Their axes were sharp cus they had to cut timber just like other infamous axe-wielders like the "oregonian loggerman"..

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    3. Damaged - April 7, 2014 at 12:27 PM: Absolutely true. These guys were all just doing whatever they all were doing back then.

      Anonymous - April 7, 2014 at 2:38 PM. Personally I like theyr stories. They have a cold superhuman manly-man feel to them. Especially the Icelandic sagas and the Norwegian king sagas. I also love the debate of the potential truthfulness in these stories, though it is sure that there is more fantasy there then could be real. The people described and the stories told show the beast within us all, a beast that I so much relate to.

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    4. Norse tales seem to have a laconic "scorpio" tone; most scorps would agree that life fades but the reputation remains. Most scorps would ask their wife for some hair to make bowstrings in a final stand against home invaders. Odin seems rather like a scorp king, somebody its not wise to disturb even with faithful prayers. The tales also seem "polished" by the afterworld, the original universe were more "hairy": the valkyries were not sexy babes in armour, they were horrific female wraits looking for heads..

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  10. Autism and psychopathy, common topic on this blog.

    "Autistic people can be very empathetic – they feel other people’s pain – but are less able to recognise the cues we read easily, the smiles and frowns that tell us what someone is thinking. Psychopaths are often the opposite: they know what you’re feeling, but don’t feel it themselves. "

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10737827/Psychopaths-how-can-you-spot-one.html

    ReplyDelete
  11. More people need to be on http://sociopath-community.com/

    !!! it used to be connected to this blog but was disconnected over a year ago. We need fresh blood and lots of interesting things have happened recently (relates to kiwifar.ms drama: https://archive.is/M2tXa) that will go down in the forum's history! Be sure to check out http://www.psychforums.com/antisocial-personality/ too, as some of its regulars are regulars on SC too!

    ReplyDelete

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