Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How identity changes behavior (part 2)

The reader continues:

Thanks for your reply. The idea is interesting and I will try this over the next few weeks and see what conclusions I come to. 

Over the last few weeks I have started seeing a psychologist - I feel like I actually need to know what is "wrong" with me - although not sure that I really feel like anything is wrong - things just are. He seems inclined to think that I've got antisocial personality disorder or that I possibly am a sociopath. 

I know in your book that you mentioned one time when a guy told you off for walking down a closed escalator on the underground in Washington you had this "snap" when you followed him with the purpose of assaulting him. I've also had several "snaps" like that but have always snapped out of them before anything has actually happened. The most serious was when I was 21. A friends of mine had been dating this guy who worked as a tram driver. They broke up and one day when I was waiting for the tram at my stop the tram approached and slowed down and I could see that he was driving. I was alone at the stop and he slowed down - just to then not stop and drive off to piss me off I guess. As I stood there the tram slowed down (the next stop was just within sight from where I was standing) and I realised that there was another tram on that stop (probably having issues closing the doors or something) and before I knew it I had jumped down on the track and ran after the tram and all I could think of was that I had to kill this guy. I managed to catch up with it and get onto it just as the doors were closing. I rushed through the tram to the front where I started shouting at the driver (my friends ex) and tried to get the door open. Suddenly someone started shouting at me asking what I'm doing and I turn around and realise that there are 2 police officers standing there looking at me, clearly they had been on the tram and I had missed this as I was so focused on killing him. And then I snapped out of it. The police officers was about to arrest me but the driver talked them out of it explaining that he knew me and what had happened. 

I guess my main concerns with incidents like that is that it's something I don't have control over. Don't get me wrong, they don't happen on a weekly basis, but when they do I feel like I'm not my everyday self, like it's something I can't control. Even though I know I shouldn't act on it, when these moments come all reasoning stops and all that exists in my mind is that focus on killing that person. Do you have any method to control these urges/impulses?


Yeah, I know what you mean. For me, the thing that things that contribute to a feeling of being out of control (1) part of me feels like that's who I really am so I can't/shouldn't fight it, (2) part of me feels like I want to do that thing, (3) I can't really predict when they will happen -- sometimes something like that will trigger me and other times not, (4) I think I really do have attentional issues that make it easy to get locked on to a thought the way a pitbull locks on to its prey, (5) it's often irrational, so I feel like it wouldn't do any good to try to reason with myself, and without reason what else could stop me but physical force, I wonder? (6) the feeling that it isn't me, or at least not everyday me gives me a feeling that I am out of touch with myself.

And other reasons, probably. But I have found the previous exercise is really helpful for all of those things. It doesn't necessarily address them directly, but I feel like it is like the swimming drills I love to do -- doing things differently or even awkwardly often makes you aware of things you are doing wrong much better than if someone told you you were wrong over and over again, if that makes sense?

I have always sort of struggled to identify and track my own thoughts and feelings. I think I always felt like my identity was a moving target. And I used to not care to understand myself, at least not actively. In fact, for a long time I felt like at least a part of me was actively trying to hide certain aspects of my identity from myself. Recently, though, I have realized how much I don't know, and it has started bothering me.

So these sorts of exercises are what I am working on in therapy currently. It's not super pleasant. Little things bother me that used to not, e.g. hopefully this is just a passing phase, but it really bothers me to think that other people know me better than I know me (especially when they say as much).

It's odd. I've always believed that if truth relative, or at least the perception of truth is. But in order to maintain the belief that I am connecting to some basic truths about myself, I have had to believe that there are basic truths about me -- things that are true about me no matter what the situation, even if I close my eyes to them, even if we all agree to pretend they don't exist. And that is starting to seem more "true" to me than my previous beliefs about myself. Because even if I ignore them or convince myself that these little "secrets" about me don't matter, they're still there. And they affect me and my life in ways that I am still hazy about. And I think that's a major reason why it has traditionally been hard for me to learn from experience -- why I have historically kept making the same mistakes over and over again. To the extent that I have deluded myself about who I am, I have also remained willfully ignorant of the causes to a lot of the effects I experience.

This must be true for almost everyone, I imagine. And maybe it is disturbing for everyone -- for empaths because they have such a strong sense of identity that may or may not encompass all actual truths about themselves. For someone like me, the disturbing part about not knowing myself is the lack of control I feel and the sense that others can exploit that knowledge gap against me.

Maybe this is how we get sociopaths to care about things that they don't naturally care about?


  1. M.E is bullshitting you, people. I've worked with sociopaths and they're nothing like she describes. All her comments on sociopaths are wrong and designed to mislead you.

    1. There is a difference between violent/criminal sociopaths, and the ones in movies, compared with successful sociopaths who have undergone therapy. It's not one size fits all, and to presume such is arrogant and blind thinking. Just because you want it to be that way, doesn't mean it is.

    2. Mrs. Public Relation, you are right but which percentage of socios undergo therapy and is it useful?

    3. In general, there is a lack of desire to obtain therapy, assuming they have a diagnosis and know. As for its utility, that depends. I can only speak anecdotally on that based on my own experience with it, but with that being said it was eventually useful. It allowed me to see and appreciate cause and effect more, and the added benefits of pro-social behavior. Mind you this did not happen overnight - it took years of self-inflicted knocks (5 jobs in three different careers) as well as the therapy until I adopted a more ascetic lifestyle. That being said, therapy by itself wasn't helpful. It took the combination of repeated cycles of destruction and therapy to sufficiently appreciate it enough to significantly change my behavior.

      Keep in mind that impulses don't go away. Continual control is needed. I think of it like weight loss - comprehensive measures are needed over a long period of time to lose the weight, and keep it off. At first it is not pleasant, but eventually over time you can see and appreciate the results.

      Whether this is the same thing with other sociopaths I do not know for sure. However, I suspect it may be similar.

      You think you're a cold blooded sociopath? Here is a little test for you, Watch this vid: http://www.bestgore.com/beheading/brutal-decapitation-iraq-closeup-view-video/ If you're not moved by it, you're a sociopath. To all you sociopath wannabes who are gonna try to be cute, save it. This is the real deal guys, good luck, you'll need it, mr self claimed socio.
      N.B -This post HASNT been posted to glorify this crime but to document it and also to make people aware of the situation in the middle east.
      So M.E please do NOT delete this.
      Reply to this comment your sincere reactions. Over and out.

    5. The second big problem besides impulses/control, is the joy you experience by ruining people. It is the "revenge is sweet" type of joy, that emerges in people after beeing humiliated or in people full of envy or hate

    6. This is why I do not like sadists. ^

  2. Whatever she is, M.E. is a very alluring (I've seen her
    pitchures) and interesting person who thinks along
    Buddest lines.
    It's difficult to descern whether she is a contented person.
    She tells us about the "sociopathic" aspects of her behavior,
    but tells us little about the REAL aspects of her personal life.
    It's difficult to know what drives her, or if she seriously believes
    she can change entrenched opinions.
    What is beyond dispute is that she is more discliplined then the
    average sociopath. No one gets to where she did in life,
    (Dispite the ocassional "cheating" and self-sabatouge.) without
    great discipline. It can't ALL be smoke and mirrors.
    As for what she said the other day about living a minumalist life:
    Ridiculious! M.E. as made it clear she could retire NOW if she
    wanted. It doesn't surprise me one bit. M.E. was born in the year of
    the Boar, (1983) Boars love luxuary. They go in style. No eating
    out of dumpsters for M.E. And she doesn't have to go crawling to
    frogs for support.

    1. There aren't no entrenched opinions. Sociopaths are too rare, people are not aware. The aware ones were non-biased when they started to experience sociopaths

  3. So we have a guy about to commit a crime in a public space (hassling a public employee), and he runs past cops, and doesn't think anything of it, because he's so focused on getting at his nemesis? That sounds quite psychopathic (or "sociopathic", to use the preferred term here).

    This has been studied - e.g. here. You can see it in a fictional movie here: a guy is so focused on doing his task, he doesn't pay attention to an important cue.

    This is the quality that separates the low-functioning psychopaths from the high-functioning ones.

    When a high-functioning psychopath tries to do something that he shouldn't be doing, his goal is to do the thing and avoid punishment. So he'll be looking for things that could lead to trouble. He'll alter his actions to suit the circumstances. He learns and changes his behavior. He has to have fairly well functioning frontal lobes to do this - which tragically makes him seem like a cold and evil bastard when he does get caught - because he premeditates and schemes.

    The low-functioning psychopath just looks to get it done. He ignores potential red flags and winds up getting caught. They come off as the victims of their criminal impulses, and less like criminal masterminds.

    My advice: avoid all drugs and alcohol. Do a practice like meditation to improve your impulse control, ability to get insight into your behavior, plan, etc.

  4. Every high-functioning sociopath is at risk loosing control over killing impulses if the risk to get caught is low and stimulus is high, don't you think so? At least this was my intuitive conclusion after heaving dealt with a high functioning socio aquaintance for two years

    1. I once smashed a hood of a car with my fists during a road rage incident at a red light.

      I suffer from impulse control. I am better than I was. MUCH better.

      Bipolar Empath

  5. This whole "I snap into random killing mode" is deeply disconcerting. I'd be interested to see how being a prosocial sociopath fits with this.

    1. I can think of two people I had something like this happen with, but I eventually restrained myself. One was the partner of a relative, the other was a boss. Instead of killing them, I ruined the former's relationship and partially ruined the job of the latter. But as for random? Not that I could recall. Both instances were with people I knew, and both were triggered from more serious offenses by them. Don't get me wrong, I don't care if people die so long as it doesn't negatively impact me (an important barrier to have for yourself), but it is a difference from wanting someone dead.

      By the way, if you are encountering this phenomenon, then obtaining therapy can be useful (albeit banal, if not irritating if you don't have the right professional). It kept me out of prison, which by itself is a good thing. You learn a lot about your personal mechanisms, and can account for them as a result. You do get beneficial results. Eventually.

    2. Sociopaths are often said to behave relaxed. I would say they are rather destracted or kind of busy with observing, acting, controlling themselves. Relaxed only in terms of not worrying and detachement.

  6. Not seeing the causes that produce effects in your life will certainly lead you to repeating your mistakes.

    I spend every waking moment attempting to mitigate the negative effects that any action has on my life. This usually prevents me from doing anything stupid or irresponsible. Unfortunately, I've gotten so good at it that I never cause anything bad to happen. I've modified my behavior to be less in line with what is considered socially/fiscally/professionally responsible, and empirically this has proven that I am too cautious.

    I'm always looking for cause/effect relationships, especially with regards to the behavior patterns and emotions of people around me. Occasionally I will make people angry or otherwise upset, and I immediately determine the cause and set to mitigating the effects. Some people with abnormal psychology will respond to me in a way that I don't understand, until I understand the rules that control their thoughts and behaviors in certain situations.

    You shouldn't be concerned about not knowing yourself. I don't know myself, and I never will. Those who think they do (as you clearly understand) have simply convinced themselves that what they believe is true. Every person and every situation is so complex that no person can predict how they will act in any occurrence. Yet, most people stoically stand by their statements, "This is what I would do. That is what I would have done." Remain flexible, and certainly attempt to predict how you would act, but don't be certain. If the effects and causes in your life aren't what you want, examine what you've done, why you did it, and what happened as a result. If you don't like any of those things, change it. A greater level of understanding will affect your behavior without you needing to willfully change it. The important thing that needed to change, at that point, has already. You.

  7. It would be much safer not to get angry, than controling the impulses caused by anger. I guess your "needs" must be revisited.

    1. That does not make sense. While you can reduce the occurences of anger, you can't get rid of it. To suggest "just don't get angry" is unrealistic. Something, somewhere, at some time will make you angry. The important thing is what happens once you are angry, because then it translates into action and what happens to the subject that caused that anger. It's at that point where the focus must be to short-circuit it.

  8. there's nothing wrong with you. you're perfect, but you got errors (of judgement) inside you. They're not your fault you inherited most of them from others. You wanna rid yourself of these errors. When you rid any of those errors in yourself, those errors are automatically deleted in everyone else in the world. Not permanently though, its something you have to work on and keep working on until the new belief becomes habit. You want to make yourself have positive beliefs that benefit you, so any negative or ineffective ones will have to be changed and you will have to continually convince yourself of the new belief until the new belief is treated by you as fact.

  9. Like you gotta train your subconscious because it takes direction and if you don't give it the right direction it will rely on old directions that you haven't corrected or the direction of someone else.

  10. Its my Birthday today, nothing is wrong with anyone. Remember you inherited your problems okay its not your fault. Its only your responsibility.

  11. Dunno if introspection is a sociopathic feature? Most "heavy" socios appear to be slightly in psychosis; reality is not really there, even if they know the timeless right from wrong, or at least give the right answers?

  12. I think introspection can be a sociopathic feature since we're all about "me me me" so basically I'm only interested in myself...

  13. But many socios probably could not stand the truth about themselves, most seem to identify with positive traits: winners, beauty queens, academic titles to hide the misery behind etc? Dreary, weird, unreliable people heading mostly for the gutter or suicide by overeating if successful because in the end they became very lonely & felt very, very sorry for themselves..?

  14. There are no socios only sociopathic people. So like.. there are normal good people out there who happen to be sociopaths. They are not all heading mostly for the gutter. They are not all sad people. I think socios can be quite happy, provided they remain social.

    1. This happiness is only fed by the little every day manipulating and ruining acts.

    2. Isn't all happiness fleeting though? At least sociopaths have the potential to be honest with themselves about it.

    3. A part of it is fleeting, but there is such a thing like "happiness as a basic setting", I guess that is more likely the case if you had a warm (sympathy) and supportive upbringing.

      Another question: On a sympathy x-axis socios are zero, the rest of the population forms a normal distribution I think. It is annoying to deal with people on the very low and high tail of the curve. While the very ubersympath is engaged in drowning, the socio is what's the topic here. Surely you can switch sympathy on and off to a certain amount, but somehow the amount of sympathy/sociability seems to be a fixed personality trait. Any idea how to raise it in young persons?



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