Friday, April 18, 2014

Sociopathic decisionmaking

Along the same lines as yesterday's post, another reader writes about what motivates him (gratification) and what keeps him from doing other things (negative consequences). From a reader:

dear m.e. thomas:

i just wanted to write this to you to express gratitude.  until reading an excerpt from your book, i had always had the vague sense that there was something different about me.  perhaps it was always wishful thinking, or some kind of desire to be special.  who knows? i've never been fully examined by a psychologist or any other kind of -ist, for that matter.  so, after all these years of wondering and suspecting, i came across your writing.

now, all i have is relief.  can sociopaths feel relief?  i don't know.  i have no better explanation for it than that. i am relieved at having read your writing.  the feeling of relief was so palpable that it brought tears to my eyes.

i am 30 years old, and i've felt this way to one degree or another for most of my life. i think it started when i was younger, and had to learn to read people to gauge their responses to my words and actions.  it wasn't until later that i learned that empathy is usually what people use to do those things.  i've always had the burning curiosity, and the desire to experiment.  i truly enjoy experimenting, and over the years it has gotten me into minor troubles, but thankfully i learned early on that i can't just do things for the sake of my own desire.  

i can relate to many things you write about.  i especially relate to the desire to hurt others who have seemingly slighted me.  the only reason i don't act upon my urges is the knowledge of reprisal.  i don't necessarily fear consequence; i simply acknowledge it as being more inconvenient than some short-lived gratification. as a matter of fact, the inconvenience of consequences is the only thing that holds me back from my desires.  the wants themselves run the gamut of importance... sleeping with a woman who isn't my wife is not ethically or socially objectionable to me.  overall, the impact on the world because of 'cheating' is incredibly minimal.  the risk-analysis of temporary physical enjoyment Vs long-term stability is more effective in decision making than any kind of ethics. refusing to slow down at an intersection, when i have the right-of-way and someone pulls out in front of me, is not ethically or socially objectionable to me.  however, going to jail and being locked in a cage seems especially repugnant- not to mention the hassle of repairing my vehicle.

i think things that don't seem to be commonly thought.  i've gone to the point of isolating myself from society because i know i'm different.  the quality of the difference has always been irrelevant, but now i have more to think about.  i constantly want to test and experiment with the 'norm'.  i want to change things, both for the better and for the worse, and i want to observe the reaction.  i WANT to do so much. the gross inconvenience of consequence is the only thing stopping me.  guilt and shame are non-existent. the only thing i truly feel with any kind of passion is a certain amount of hatefulness towards that which i can't control.  the barrier between my wants and satisfaction is maddening.  obviously i can cope with that; you'll not see me in jail any time soon.

please realize that these are merely statements of fact. i would no more act upon them than i would t-bone the car that pulls out in front of me, or fuck a woman simply because i can.

thank you for your writing, and for being straightforward in your words.  if you wish to reply, please do.  if not, i won't really be that upset, will i?

I still get a lot of emails from people that suggest that they don't really understand the sociopathic decisionmaking process. Is it because they make Decision X a particular way, let's say by using empathy, so they expect that anyone without empathy would not be able to reach Decision X? I find that religious people can be this way -- assume that atheists must do bad things because atheists have no reason to be good?  Likewise, do some people believe that sociopaths only choose bad? And if so, what consequences, if any, do they suffer? I feel like there are people who fall into either extreme: believe sociopaths magically get away with things (i.e. won't suffer any consequences) or think that sociopaths will eventually suffer for every choice they make (i.e. karma's a bitch). The reality is that sociopaths probably get caught a little less often than other people because they're better liars and manipulators, but even the best laid Ponzi scheme will eventually collapse. Not all sociopaths are intelligent and sociopaths as a group tend to fail to learn from their experiences (possibly because punishments don't affect them as much as normal people?) but sociopaths are also sensitive to consequences in the form of incentives. So yes, sociopaths are capable of and often do take into consideration consequences (e.g. the reader's comment "thankfully i learned early on that i can't just do things for the sake of my own desire"). And maybe this explains why sociopaths can often function very well for a stretch of time, but willpower has its limits for everyone and sociopaths don't have great judgment, which maybe explains how sociopaths can also self destruct in huge ways.

Or am I wrong? Are sociopaths always scheming ne'er-do-wells? And if so, do they always get what they have coming to them or get away with everything? 

42 comments:

  1. I've told a few people that I'm a sociopath. They just look at me like I'm crazy.

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    1. Because they probably think you're buying into the glorified Hollywood sociopath persona and being an annoying, edgy teenager.

      I'm not saying you are, but that's a popular sentiment.

      -KB

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    2. Which is the exact reason why I do not want to tell any of my friends about it as of right now. (Im a baby socio, 19 years old.) I think its hard to explain to a good amount of empaths what it truly means to be a high functioning socio. I also feel as though that if I told them, the relationships would drastically change. I would lose some of the power of manipulation I have over them, and boy, do I love that power. I truly could not give a fuck less if they were all given life sentences to Siberia, but as far as having some company while drinking, they are adequate enough.

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    3. I wouldn't look at you like you're crazy. I wouldn't believe you though either. People say lots of things that I don't believe. I don't hold it against them or judge them, I just don't buy what they're selling.

      MelissaR

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    4. Hey Shad,
      Baby socio, could you indulge me please.

      What do you do if Auntie Emma has a birthday that you know you would be bored shitless at?

      Now, if you accidentally made the world's lamest excuse and hurt Auntie Emma's feelings, what would you do then?

      What would you do when Auntie Karen has a birthday in 3 months that is just as likely to make you want to hump the table decorations for fun?

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    5. Hello again, BM.

      Honestly, I would probably let Auntie Karen think that I was oh so excited and happy to see her (maybe even call her and really sell it.) After I will most likely procrastinate until the day of the party and then let her know how stricken with grief I am that I can not make an appearance after I devised up some grand lie about why I sadly will not make it.

      As far as hurting poor Auntie Emma's feelings, it depends on how often I am forced to see her. If I have to interact with her often and I find her useful (if she gives me money, for instance) I would probably shower her with my dearest apologies. If I do not see her often and I do not find her ultimately useful, she will be dropped from my life.

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  2. The sociopath decision making process strikes me as easy to understand, but difficult to relate to. In the same way as a sociopath might understand the concept of sadness (i.e. a reaction to a negative event) but they may be unable to relate to it.

    I think the difficulty comes from a failing to understand the true component of consequences of a decision rather than the logic behind making it. Everyone understands "I did X because it benefited me"; what people don't understand is "I did X because it benefited me and didn't really care that it fucked over everyone else."

    -KB

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    1. I think plenty of people understand that there are those out there who would who fuck people over and don't care.

      MelissaR

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    2. It's not so much a lack of understanding consequences - cause and (negative) effect can be clearly rationalized. What it is is the lack of emotional reinforcement, specifically guilt or remorse, that prevents locking in an inhibiting response later on. When a person feels enough guilt or remorse for their actions (either inflicted on others, or themselves), the next time a decision is weighed there is no immediate emotional feedback that says, "You now feel bad to do it, because last time you did this it made you feel bad." The sociopath will need to consciously recall the past event and cognitively weigh it against the desires of the moment.

      Also, sometimes you don't remember the past negative event. You forget. This may seem bizarre to neurotypicals, because you recall the guilt felt then and are feeling it again now, but it is an unfortunate idiosyncrasy of being a sociopath that you don't. You might "learn your lesson" now, but later on you might not recall it when needed due to it having little or no emotional weight (either then or now). The information is too dry. Even though you want to remember it for future reference, it does not come up (unless you felt the pain). That is a part of the obliviousness.

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    3. As a personal example to help explain, a few days ago was the birthday of a close immediate family member. Only a few hours before the typical "dinner party at a restaurant" I had opted to abstain attendance. I wasn't hungry, and I wanted to stay and read the news. I had spun the "it is more intimate and personal without me" line. The execution would have worked, if it was any other occasion.

      I had forgotten the importance of the occasion, and the emotional impact it would cause to them to not attend. It took me almost an hour before it registered in passing, and I had to quickly backpedal and maneuver back. I even gave their present immediately, before the celebrations, to help detract from the error.

      I am fairly certain this would not have occurred if it was with a work acquaintance. That might seem odd, but when dealing with your family or those close/comfortable to you, you do drop your facade more readily. In the above example, it was a significant lack of caring with someone I should care for.

      When you don't genuinely care for someone or something (ie. a person or event) you do forget more easily. This does get annoying at times, particularly when you consciously want to remember. Remember their birthday, and attending their party, held the equivalent weight as remembering to buy a carton of milk. Both need to be remembered, but both hold the same weight.

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    4. It's nice to see you posting again Bob. You seem to take the time to make thoughtful and meaningful contributions.

      MelissaR

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    5. I agree melissa, i find older and wiser sociopaths are pleasant in their mannerisms and conduct.
      i admit, i'm drawn to what he writes about. He makes so much rational sense. :-)

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    6. Been busy, so reading the blog and commenting have naturally been displaced.

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    7. come on by when you can. just remember to take time out and go to the easter dinner gathering/easter bunny gathering. its important you go. the food is delicious, and id really love the chocolates. ;-)

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    8. Bob, after reading that, all I can say is a very eloquent "Whaaaat the..?".

      Yes, empaths do feel guilt and it can act as negative reinforcement. Sure, sociopaths can arrive there with rational thinking rather than emotions, but if what you said was true, nobody but sociopaths would really be making the same mistakes or causing the same hurt twice. Seriously?

      As Trent Reznor so beautifully said, "beneath the stains of time, the feelings disappear." Empaths often do not feel that emotional feedback either. But they might cognitively remember that what they did caused a lot of crap to come tumbling onto them and want to avoid it.

      Sociopaths *do not* by any means have the monopoly on forgetting and not having a negative emotional reaction to the past event.
      Many, many people rationalise the "bad" they did away and do not learn their lesson. Good for the ego. Not so good for avoiding future fuck ups. But...the ego wins.

      You keep attributing completely normal human behaviour to sociopathy. Just because you try to make it sound profound and an absolute fact, does not make it a sociopathic trait.
      Like "when you don't genuinely care about something, you forget more easily". Reeeallly? You like totally blew my mind, man!

      I'm not really going to go into the whole thing with the birthday (dear lord, you sound like such an aspie).
      Most sociopaths would have made a better excuse or would not have given a fuck and just not shown up.
      If too much fallout, would have charmed their way out of the situation later, turned it to their advantage, or continued not giving a fuck and simply tell the other party to get over it or fuck off.

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  3. A sociopath is a leader, and then an empath would be a follower? That makes sense.

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    1. And let me guess, you put yourself in the former camp? Just like the empaths calling themselves "normal" and everyone else "broken" or "sub-human", everyone wants to be on the better side.

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    2. Jamie, while I agree with you, I think you should know that TMac is the resident lunatic who likes to spit out random thoughts that almost never make sense. Taking logic to her...yeah, good luck with that.
      She's one of those crazies who you know you should back away from slowly and without eye contact, but gosh darn it, they are so entertaining, you can't help but look on.

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  4. Many sociopaths simply run roughshod over others.
    That is the key to their sucess.
    Given the fact that the masses of men are like the "Indians,"
    the sociopaths assume the role of the "Chiefs." They are like
    hardball political operatives, that subscribe to an end-justifies-the
    means-phlosphy.
    As traditional morals vanish, society itself becomes more
    "sociopathic." Maybe the Indians will one day reinherite the
    world.

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  5. That post seems dead on. That's the experience I've had with sociopaths. They can be so fun! The few sociopaths I've interacted with and been friends with were intense, exciting, and intelligent. (I would say I have those characteristics too.) But their not my friends anymore. That's the hard part. It did blow up. It did explode. It could only be maintained for so long. Such a disappointment for me, because truly they were some of the funnest, exciting friends I had. And I miss them. But life goes on. i now choose friends that are fiercely loyal and reliable. I'm getting to old to ride that roller coaster that leads to pain and suffering. I wish their was a fix for this because I so miss my sociopath friends, they could get me fired up like no-one else!

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    1. With the knowledge that you now have, have you considered keeping them around but at a distance? Maintaining a friendship for going out once in awhile for those fun times when you feel like it, but not getting drawn in to the drama, chaos, etc.? It sounds like you did have a lot of fun and what's wrong with that? Not everyone we meet plays the same role in our lives.

      MelissaR

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    2. Have you succeeded in doing this Melissa? I've considering it but since most psychopaths, possibly all psychopaths, have limited respect for boundaries, I'm not sure it would work. And if it doesn't work, I've just drawn a pile of hooey on myself again so maybe not.

      (I'm not the Anon you addressed your question to btw....)

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    3. My experience with Axis II folks has been different. I haven't met one who has been fun. People I've met have been very serious in an unusually intense way. They didn't understand subtle or dry humor, never smiled or laughed, and were pessimistic to negative. Not people that I would want to spend time around.

      MelissaR

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    4. We're attempting it. Right now we have very limited contact. We are both highly aware of our situation. Anon 338 is probably right, it would be risky, but it's interesting that both of us are leaving the door slightly open. Time will tell.

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    5. It is usually situational with sociopaths. If, for example, the two of you go to an event where everyone is portraying joy and happiness (a good time), this is observable. A sociopath will, in response, typically mirror it. Whether it is happy or serious, it'll be mirrored appropriately. It is done either consciously or automatically, depending on the situation and the sociopath's current (counter-)desires. Adapting self to the observable behavior of others in a "best fit" model comes naturally for adult high-functioning sociopaths.

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    6. Melissa,

      and yet you hang out on a sociopath blog. I don't get it.

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    7. Bob, I know you are trying to be all profound, but what the hell are you talking about?

      How is that a sociopathic trait?

      Pretty much everyone (save for the seriously disordered or mentally ill) does that.
      If a person goes to an event where everyone is portraying joy and happiness, almost everyone will adopt a "best fit" model and have some fun.
      Unless they have cause not to. But that has nothing to do with sociopathy either.
      Same with a serious occasion.

      It's very simple, it's called fitting in. Almost everyone does that. To do otherwise, to go against the herd, is to invite disapproval, negative attention and social sanctions.

      But then again, with you it can't just be completely normal human behaviour. Noooo, it has to be evidence of a very high functioning disorder.
      That's called narcissism.

      You strike me as the type to go to a party, have polite, but relatively aloof conversations - basically try to impress them with your wisdom while commenting on the wine. Then spend the rest of the evening patting yourself on the back for being such a high functioning sociopath.

      Off topic, good to see you back :)

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    8. You will find your interactions with people will become better when you remember to acknowledge the effects your disorder have on what you see and what you say. When you don't, it is evident when we read your writing. The others are being civil withholding their comment to you, but they do see it. Once you do that, you can account for it and try to adjust accordingly. If you don't, you'll just keep coming back to it.

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    9. Bob...did you just try the old "You are being a very naughty girl! Look at all those nice people and how upset they are by your behaviour! They are just too nice to tell you that you need a good spanking" trick on me?
      That actually cracked me up. This is SW, Bob. People don't tend to be shy around here.

      My interactions with people are just about where I want them, thank you. I explored my personality and perception of the world, in great detail, with the help of many on here, including those sociopaths I told you about.

      As I told you before, you need more than an arrogant manner and great vocabulary to make completely normal human traits into hallmarks of sociopathy. It does give good soundbites though :)

      Curious, what disorder is it you think I have, Bob? And what is it that you think I'm not seeing?

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    10. God your thick. Only an arrogant idiot calls themself "bite me" and pretends not be a narc while calling everyone else a narc. I dont know what disorder bob thinks you have, but he is right when he said your writing is ridiculous. I mean, luscious breasts and stuff? Seriously at least everyone else admits their disorders.

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    11. I would not put it that way, since it was advice. That being said, I can not force you to follow it.

      If you would like to contribute to topics being discussed, you are welcome to participate. Outside of that, I won't be, since your game has become pointless.

      Speaking of fun, is that due to potential risk-taking being exciting to be a part in, or is it reduced inhibitions at times?

      Delete
    12. Anon 343,
      *Sigh* this place can't even attract a decent troll anymore.

      Bob, I find it surprising (and amusing) that you claim to be this great hyper-rational, unemotional sociopath and yet the slightest criticism clearly gets to you...

      As I told you before, I am here to ease my boredom a little, so will continue to call you on your bullshit as I please. See you around :)

      Delete
  6. I wonder if part of sociopath decision making comes from the sense that people are interchangeable and no loss is not easily replaced with something new and possibly better. This is a belief pattern that can really only be changed by life experience. To have something sweet... lose it and not miss it but then after a few years or more come to understand that what was lost was truly irreplaceable.

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    1. All things being equal, people are weighed based on their utility. What they can provide in terms of financial, social, and personal wants. What is liked. Once the utility has been expended - if what they have been fulfilling you in terms of your wants ceases - then it ends. There isn't much else to that once it is over. Any additional efforts expended on the sociopath's part would be a continuation of those wants, just at a different angle.

      Moving on and finding a replacement can be difficult. It is an expenditure of effort, time, and resources to find another person who can reliably and effectively fulfill those wants.

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  7. I think sociopaths and other Ne'er- do- wells, try to get away with everything.
    Some of us just set boundaies and say NO. That doesn't mean they do not try.

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  8. Reading this article was painful. Seriously, how can you get to 30 years of age and not have learnt to put a capital letter at the start of a sentence? It totally distracted me from the crux of your otherwise cogent argument.

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    1. i found the article very satisfactory, i seem to follow it... despite the punctuality of missing capitals. but maybe that's because i just don't choose to use em either. i should, but i find it painful to keep pressing the dam shift button, lol. jk ;)

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    2. I have never posted a comment here before because I don't really see the point but this article has prompted me to ask, what exactly is the point the writer is trying to convey? He talks of relief bringing tears to his eyes, relief from what? A vague sense you feel differently to others? What does this revelation afford him?
      He writes about wanting to do things but not doing them due to the consequences. In what sense is this 'sociopathic' behavior?
      I get the impression that many here see a lack of 'empathy' as the primary characteristic of sociopathy, but personality disorders are inherently social disorders. If how you feel deep inside your special little soul is not causing problems or harm to others who cares? If you are weeping over a book on sociopaths you can rest easy that you are not one. If you control your impulses because you fear the consequences you are normal.

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    3. Very well said.
      Please comment more often, this place needs a little dose of reality every now and then.

      As for why he wrote those ramblings...easy. Narcissism.

      He always wanted to be special. He always thought he was above all else. Well now, he has his chance.
      He is not just special (socios make up what? 2-4% of population), but he can fancy himself the Sociopathic Elite. Creme de la creme of sociopaths.
      That incredibly special specimen that has only the best traits of sociopathy, but none of the... unsavoury ones.

      Delete
    4. Thankyou. Perhaps I will try to comment more. I follow a few forums and blogs but seldom join discussions, I suppose its because I can't see any gain from entering into that form of engagement. None of the people involved are going to buy the next round or blow me in one of the bathroom stalls, its just social interaction for the sheer joy of interacting with ones fellow man. But perhaps I'm missing the point.
      Its funny how the worst insult here for a self-proclaimed sociopath is so frequently narcissist, and that people can have a preference for one disorder over another within the same cluster of undesirable personality traits. Many seem to confuse rationality, vanity and a sense of entitlement with these conditions, but they're not special or unique, they're just normal human traits. Having your head up your own arse is a medical condition, not a psychiatric one.
      That said, I fucking hate narcissists. Fuck those guys.

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    5. No drinks, no fuck, not even a quick grope of a luscious breast...
      Just the possibility of having an interesting discussion, or better yet, putting a real damper on some narcissistic dick's day. Come play :)

      Delete
  9. Does this mean im a sociopath if i want to ruin my life and fail school purposely

    ReplyDelete

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