Your book was phenomenal. Maybe it's a side-effect of a good narrative, but I was slightly unnerved by how much I could identify with your behaviors and observations. One reason why I suspect I enjoyed your story so much is not due to possible overlaps of sociopathy, but that we may share the same personality index from the enneagram. Are you familiar with the enneagram? As a profound "7-type," or "enthusiast" the pattern of trying many things, extreme sports, professions, people to date, and then getting bored and moving on to something else is a quintessential feature. Apparently this type can exist independently of the presence or absence of a "personality disorder." *** As far as the enneagram thing goes, I believe there's a lot to unpack there with its relation to sociopathy. In short, the enneagram is a sort of more useful version of the Meyers Briggs to determine useful career paths. One of them is the "enthusiast" another monicker for a sensation seeker/ creative type. I know the enneagram seems cheesy, but after I guessed every one of my friends' type at law school (They are mostly 8s and 1s) and they took the test I was right each time. But I truly wonder how ubiquitous sensation seeking is among sociopaths. I figure there are risk averse socios out there, or maybe not? I'd like to hear what you think about this. All being said, you strike me as an enthusiast. You hated being bored in a law office (while this should be self evident for any normal human being, everyone I worked with seemed content with their corner office lives). You did the bare minimum to pass school and the bar while maximizing your vacation time. You enjoyed sexual exploration. And you showed the creativity to write a book and lead a cool blog. Those are all qualities of an enthusiast.
A few key moments: 1) 40:40 The interrogator explains that Russell is busted and that he ought to cooperate in order to look more human. Our colonel fails to understand that cooperating because the jig is up *is* in his rational self-interest, and coldly recounting the disgusting-to-normal-people facts doesn't make him appear sympathetic or human. If anything, it makes him seem like a psychopath (42:20). 2) 52:08 I'm concerned that they are tearing apart my wife's brand new house. This guy cares about his wife and his cat. He doesn't care about the victims or their families. He confesses, supposedly to help his wife. He and the wife later took action to transfer their assets to her - so as to protect their assets from the families of the victims. My sense: he cares about himself, his wife and his cat - and pretty much nobody else. (54:43) I want to minimize the impact on my wife. 3) 55:50 "got a map" - having decided that he's busted, when asked to say where the body is, he says, "got a map". For the empaths, this is apparently proof that the guy is very callous - having decided to cooperate, he cooperates. 4) 58:30 the investigator tries to convince Russell that he is "doing the right thing" by confessing. Russell immediately affirms that he is confessing to help his wife and her family. I suspect this is a bit narcissistic. 4) 2:08 "As I described I suffocated her using duct tape." 5) 2:38 - talking about suffocating her, how she died, etc. Quite cold. My sense is the guy is a high-anxiety (secondary) psychopath: http://psych.wisc.edu/newman/SecurePDF/Harmon-Jones_Revision_v4.pdf He got addicted to burglarizing and assaulting women. If he was low-anxiety, he'd have "played" at work with all the men and women he could have easily seduced. That would have been easier than breaking into homes to steal fetish items and sexually assault and murder people. I think that explains why he's so tense about his self-image. If he was low-anxiety, he'd be looking forward to a life of not having to work, not having to make decisions - basically permanent vacation compliments of the Canadian government. He's high-anxiety, so he gives a shit - and suffers. To the extent that he seems unemotional, my guess is that he's focused on the content of his speech. Empaths wouldn't be able to focus on the mission like this guy. He's decided his mission is to confess (for the sake of his wife), so he tries to do it. This whole thing is eery for me and my friend; we recognize that but for the grace of god, we'd be like this guy. We don't empathize with his victims, we empathize with this guy and are a bit sad that he screwed up his life so badly. And yeah, it does suck the women got victimized. But this guy was actually kicking ass as a colonel. He was being productive - until he threw it all away.
I'm an academic with a background in pharmacology/neuroscience, and somewhat unsurprisingly as one of your readers, a sociopath. After becoming self aware, I became increasingly fixated on understanding the concept and any sort of serious academic investigation makes it very obvious that the current understanding of the 'disorder' is completely substandard and relies both on reams of terrible a priori reasoning and ridiculous qualitative moral judgements. After spending a while reading (thanks for writing your blog, it was a huge help) and thinking about things, I began to seriously question the prevailing academic ideas around the disorder - I also began to identify some of my peers as possibly sociopathic, and after carefully approaching the topic confirmed that all of the people I had suspected were, in fact, either sociopaths, BPD sufferers, or narcissists. After interacting with various individuals and quizzing person after person (in appropriately controlled ways and avoiding identifying any sociopathic traits myself) I've begun to steadily build my own picture of things. In the long run, I'd like to seriously research into this area and try to break down the ridiculous modern consensus, but at the moment I'm far too junior to publish ideas that controversial. As a result, I've started writing my own blog in an attempt to communicate my ideas and also just to get my thoughts on paper - which is at questioningsociopathy.com. I'm sending you this email because I am rather curious as to what your opinion of my site will be, and also as something of a thank you for providing the idea to start a blog as a way to communicate my ideas. Thanks for your time!
This was an interesting excerpt from Charles Blow's memoir featured in the NY Times about coming to terms with his identity, specifically his bisexuality. It also has an interesting story about how to deal with victimhood (he was sexually abused by a cousin, upon which he wisely remarked, "I had to stop hating Chester to start loving myself. Forgiveness was freedom. I simply had to let go of my past so that I could step into my future." He also makes an interesting argument:
Yes, the mark that Chester’s betrayal had left on my life was likely to be permanent, but blaming him for the whole of the difference in my emerging sense of sexual identity, while convenient, was most likely not completely accurate. Abusers don’t necessarily make children different, but rather, they are diabolically gifted at detecting difference, often before the child can see it in him or herself. It is possible that Chester glimpsed a light in me, and that moved the darkness in him.
The explanation for the strong correlation between childhood abuse and non-heterosexual orientations is that child abuses go after kids who they sense are sexually open? I would like to see some stats on that, because that's the first I have heard of this specific argument. But I feel like this general type of argument is common for victims of child abuse to make. It seems almost too depressing to admit that your sense of "difference" from others all stems from you being a child victim. We would like the world to make a little more sense and be a little less haphazard than that. I certainly have made similar arguments about my own childhood -- that I wasn't made to be this way by what I happened to have experienced in formative years, or at least that I already was predisposed this way. But of course I freely admit that if I hadn't had those formative experiences, I wouldn't be who I am today (whatever else I might look like).
But I also thought his discussion of self-discovery and trying to find an identity in a world that wants to shoehorn and pidgeonhole us into their expectations of what we are or who we should be was interesting.
My world had told me that there was nothing worse than not being all of one way, that any other way was the same as being dead, but my world had lied. I was very much alive. There was no hierarchy of humanity. There was no one way to be, or even two, but many. *** I had done what the world had signaled I must: hidden the thorn in my flesh, held “the demon” at bay, kept the covenant, borne the weight of my crooked cross. But concealment makes the soul a swamp. Confession is how you drain it. DARING to step into oneself is the bravest, strangest, most natural, most terrifying thing a person can do, because when you cease to wrap yourself in artifice you are naked, and when you are naked you are vulnerable. But vulnerability is the leading edge of truth. Being willing to sacrifice a false life is the only way to live a true one.
I love that first part "There was no hierarchy of humanity." Except as true as it is, almost no one actually believes that, unfortunately.
The derivation of the word ‘character’ comes from an ancient Greek term referring to the indelible marks stamped on coins. Once character was pressed into your mind or soul, people assumed it was fixed. But what modern science repeatedly shows is that this just isn’t the case. As we discuss in our book, everyone’s moral behavior is much more variable than any of us would have initially predicted.” *** The analogy of color is an interesting way to think about [character]. Most of us think that colors are very discrete things — something’s red, it’s got redness; something’s blue, it’s got blueness. But we are creating these categories. They’re not natural kinds, they’re not given in ways that represent fundamentally distinct things. Ultimately, what determines what colors we see are the frequencies of light waves entering our eyes, so it’s along a continuum. It’s kind of the same with character. Things blend. We assume that if someone is good, that we’ve characterized them as good, that’s a discrete category, they can’t be bad. And when they are, our categories shatter. That’s because we have this illusory, arbitrary idea of what vice and virtue mean”
I always like the speculations about what sort of personality God is, or for the non-believers, what do all of these God of Abraham worshippers believe to be the personality of the God they profess to love and follow. I was reading Isaiah 48 recently and liked how snarky God came off:
I foretold the former things long ago,
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
4 For I knew how stubborn you were;
your neck muscles were iron,
your forehead was bronze.
5 Therefore I told you these things long ago;
before they happened I announced them to you
so that you could not say,
‘My images brought them about;
my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’
6 You have heard these things; look at them all.
Will you not admit them?
“From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you.
7 They are created now, and not long ago;
you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
‘Yes, I knew of them.’
8 You have neither heard nor understood;
from of old your ears have not been open.
Well do I know how treacherous you are;
you were called a rebel from birth.
9 For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
so as not to destroy you completely.
10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.
Basically, the only reason God told you all of these things were going to happen is so he could get the glory -- so you wouldn't say, that wasn't you God, that was my graven image that did those things. And the only reason that God is not destroying us completely is for his own sake, not for ours.
I also like people to acknowledge my power, will set up elaborate schemes to demonstrate my power, and then will sometimes show mercy to people, for no other reason than because it gives me glory to still have them under my power than to be completely destroyed
One of my sociopathic friends sent this to me, written to her by one of her intimates:
You're arrogant, thinking way too highly of yourself. You're selfish. You're stubborn. You're an outright cum sucking cunt. You believe yourself to be untouchable. You bore easily. You're controlling and calculating. You're cold and distant. You are a serpent. You know how to dance and sing in just the right way in just the right key to make others memorized by you. It's effortless. So much so it's appalling You love feeling empowered and important. You need it more then you care to admit. You are a queen in your own world and you need no one - that alone making you all the more powerful. You'll find yourself a new batch of toys even though knowing, full well you can return to your old play things. Because we are all intoxicated by your poison. It's an addiction, I suppose, on my end. Every time I find myself a bit more immune. But I still get the kick - the hit - every now and then from the sting of your bite. I burn where you strike and ache when you don't. Guess I'm ok with that for now.
I still see a lot of confusion as to why a sociopath would want to "seduce" or "ruin someone". The answer is basically what was written above -- that is what we're looking for, however misguided. We would like to leave an indelible mark on someone, either positively or negatively. It's like someone carving their initials into new concrete at some posh resort. Or the early British explorers of the Pyramids and other Egyptian ruins carving their name next to already etched ankhs petroglyphs. In fact, why were the Egyptians spending so much time and energy building and engraving those monuments in the first place? Maybe for the sociopath to behave this way is juvenile. Maybe it is destructive. It is clearly self-interested and not very considerate. But it's also not so different from the desire to be loved -- the desire to feel like you matter a lot to at least one other person in this world.
Have no clue whether he actually is a narcissist or not, but from Jezebel, one man's response to being rejected on Tinder:
It reminded me of this recent comment regarding narcissism:
A malignant Narc believes their own lies. They don't have a compartmentalized brain like a sociopath. They also have a single personality unlike a sociopath's mirror constructs. Narcs NEED the ego feeding. Sociopaths don't really. Narcs attach to their sources of feeding they will not leave a source before finding another one. A sociopath can walk away at any time. A sociopath understands that they are other. That there is a degree of separation between themselves and the reset of humanity. A narc is enmeshed. Nothing is separate from them. A sociopath becomes a mirror, we recognize that to fit in we must become a mirror of those around us.. The Narc thinks that they ARE the mirror. That everyone and everything is a reflection of their godlike self. They can't even understand why someone else would like a different food than they would. If they hate peas all people should hate peas. They will then try and make you eat peas and enjoy them because obviously you are defective if you do not. Example: Sociopath meets a person who thinks the sky is green who has something they desire. They agree the sky is green. Narc decides the sky is green. No one on the planet and no amount of scientific proof will get them to admit they are wrong. Ever. They will keep telling people the sky is green and try to make everyone else think the sky is green too. They can NEVER be wrong. Just a few differences. There are many similarities but these are some of the most basic differences.
I think this is right but there is something more to it, I think. The narcissist believes his own lies yes, but the sociopath sort of does as well. I think maybe the more telling distinction is between a sociopath's cavalier/casual/convenience-based attachment to believing or acting upon his personal reality versus a narcissist's insistent/aggressive/self-righteous/prescriptive/judgmental attachment to his personal reality. In other words, a sociopath may, in some finite period of time (a day, a week, a decade), believe his own lies. But he has no real need or desire to defend that reality to the death against conscientious objectors, because it ultimately doesn't mean much to him (no real sense of identity, and thus ego is a moving target). In contrast, the narcissist is very firmly attached to concepts like being "right" or "wrong" or "better" or "superior" to others. He is not only strongly invested in believing that those terms can not only be validly applied to sort everyone out on a spectrum of human worth, he also believes that his yardstick is the only criterion worth measuring with. Sociopath not so much. Sociopath understands that so much of rating anything is a matter of personal preference. Something might be true in this moment and not true in the next. Consequently, the sociopath may ultimately seem more reasonable, whereas the narcissist is more a bully because not only will he force you to acknowledge your place on this fixed relative hierarchy of value, he will make you acknowledge his infinite wisdom and judgment in making the assessment. If that makes any sense?
Because I can no longer find this available online, and because so many people ask for it:
Sociopathy. The word makes "good" people cringe. It is a very real syndrome that affects young and old. In general there are ten real symptoms:
Not learning from experience.
No sense of responsibility.
Inability to form meaningful relationships.
Inability to control impulses.
Lack of moral sense.
Chronically antisocial behavior.
No change in behavior after punishment.
Lack of guilt.
If you are a sociopath you probably don't know it, but if you want to be a sociopath and have fun unlike all the other blockheads in the world, then this is the recipe for you.
There is a general trend in the symptoms listed above, carelessness. There is a surefire way to disassociate yourself from feelings, which includes guilt. Can you think of what emotion and feeling has done for you? Nothing is what I am thinking. So here it is, without further ado, you own personal guide to becoming God. This means being totally free of emotion and feeling, unless you desire them. You will no longer associate certain actions with certain feelings so you will be able to do anything you want and not feel a damn thing, if you elect to. You can steal, lie, cheat, fight, hurt, and you won't think twice. There is a great balance that must be emphasized before we can start the program. Although the whole point of being a sociopath is to not feel guilt, sadness, or hurt, you will also be stripped of 'positive' feelings and often times actions that usually resulted in happiness will be replaced with anger and then normal bad emotion actions will become happiness producing instead. So if you are squeamish or don't desire a sadomasochist view on life, don't read on.
Here's the ten day beginners guide; start on a Monday for the best and fastest results.
WAKE UP EXTREMELY EARLY, this will allow you to be groggy enough not to care on your own.
Good act 1: Go and buy 40 dollars in groceries for your local homeless man. It will fuck with his head so bad. This action is called 'Rampant Altruism".
Bad Act 1: Find the nicest luxury car at your work and vandalize it.
You are set for the day. Make sure not to think twice about anything you've done today.
Wake up earlier than the day before and play VERY loud music. This works on many levels, but you can't count it as a bad action.
Good Act 1: While on the hustle to work drive very slowly and let everyone in, don't get mad or stressed.
Bad Act 1: Go to a coffee shop and sit down, order the most difficult drink to make and keep changing your mind about it, then don't pay for anything and when she looks at you just say, 'ah never mind', then start muttering and swearing to yourself barely audible, but definitely call her a 'slut' or 'bitch'. Leave and slam things on your way out.
Good Act 2: Go to the Library. Find the most frumpish looking mid 20's girl and start flirting with her heavily. Leave and come back and bring her flowers, real nice ones, then give her someone else number when she asks for it. This will destroy her.
Bad Act 2: Hopefully it will be garbage day, but if it isn't find one of those huge dumpsters and spread trash all over the street. Break as much glass as you can.
Ok, you are getting into the swing of things. It is important not to dwell or celebrate about anything you did today, this is very important.
You can wake up normally, but don't eat breakfast, don't drink coffee.
Bad Act 1: Drive fast, mean, and flip off as many people as you can on your way to work. Make as many people start off with bad days, especially to women. If people follow you just keep driving till they can't anymore, but always flipping them off.
Good act 1: Bring Coffee and Donuts for everyone but just set them down and don't allow people the time to thank you or offer to pay you back or whatever, say as little as possible.
Bad Act 2: Find that dog that is always barking in your neighborhood while the owner is away, and terrorize the shit out of the dog, hit it with a stick if you want to, just make it pissed off. Make it meaner than shit and just leave.
Good act 2: Give 20 dollars to the cash register person and ask them for change in quarters, then right in front of them put each coin individually into the collection jars, it's especially good if there are people waiting.
Bad Act 3: This one is a wild card, but here is something you can do that will help you later. Get dressed up as White trash as you can, get yourself real dirty and roll in stuff if possible, then go to the Big 5 or other sporting good store. While you are there, just look at the guns with a sort of 'far away look', shaking and twitching. Deny help as many times as you can, but stay in one spot the whole time. Then after nearly half an hour, go up to the asst supervisor and plead for help, use 'fuck' and 'Jesus Christ' as many times as you can while you purchase an air rifle and huge amounts of pellets and BB's. Speed in the parking lot, flip off someone if possible. When you get home, get acquainted with your "lil' boom stick", make sure you aim is good, this will be important later.
Good act 3: Buy a pizza and bring it to the bookstore and say 'you know, this pizza guy just gave this to me and I already ate, would you take it?" if they accept it great, but if they don't just go and give it to another establishment, don't accept money and stay as little time as possible.
Don't sleep this night, read as much philosophy or propoganda'ish material as possible, the internet is great for that shit. Drink a lot of tea.
Hopefully you didn't sleep, but if you did make sure you got up early and promptly. Go and take a run, a long one, so that you are exhausted when you get back. Don't shower and don't shave.
Bad Act 1: Go to the store, but before hand fill your pockets with random trinkets, the weirder the better. Buy something like 4 grapes or one Tab soda, or something else really random. Then when it's time to pay, look at her for a second and then start rummaging through your pockets, act really worried. Then pull out one of the trinkets and offer her a trade for whatever it is you are purchasing. Keep going and ask her to call her manager, say 'man, I really need this but all I have are these guitar picks', he will not give in and you shouldn't either, get frustrated and finally pull out your check book, when she asks for your drivers license be reluctant and say that you don't have one, she will be damn angry and they will have probably asked you to leave several times, do it but call them a bunch of racist Nazi's. Everyone will wonder what is happening and you have to keep up the yelling all the way to the car.
Good act 1: Go to the coffee shop you visited on Day 2 and order a medium latte with heavy cream if possible. Pay for it with a 20 and just walk away when she tries to give you back the money. She will try in vain to get your attention, don't give in to her, and just walk out ignoring everyone.
Bad Act 2: Show up extremely late to work and walk in scowling at everyone, don't answer any questions, just mutter and look only at your feet. Everyone will be worried but you won't answer any questions. If your manager starts talking to you change the mood totally, be happy, but after he leaves continue snapping at everyone. Leave early from work if possible. Just shrug your shoulders if asked why you are late, but don't answer the 'are you ok?' type questions, people will be very concerned. Go home and shower.
Good act 2: Buy a bunch of flowers and hand them to the most beautiful woman you see. Don't say anything more than 'will you accept these?" Make sure you are very abrupt when you walk away and don't turn around for ANY reason. Don't do it if her boyfriend or husband is right there.
Bad Act 3: Buy a can of red Krylon Spray paint. When it is Dark go and Spray paint something awful on a wall that you pass everyday, make sure it is just fucking rude and mean, something that people will gawk at and be pissed off, something that would even piss off you.
Good act 3: Go to a bar, sit next to a semi-attractive girl. Do not make any come ons, pretend for a second that sex would actually make you ill and pretend you hate it, this will help you out. Talk about everything besides sex. Buy her many drinks, don't ask for her number and don't give you hers even if she asks. If she comes on to you, just look really surprised and even be offended, this will be a good time to leave.
Bad Act 4: Use your handy dandy pellet rifle and roam the streets of your neighborhood shooting out streetlights, car windows, or another building windows. DO NOT shoot at houses or anywhere where you could draw attention to yourself, be careful but make sure you have made visible damage.
Ok, this is the right amount of good/bad actions you should be doing on a daily basis. Hopefully with the oscillation of emotions from the different actions you should start to feel numb about them. You are on the right start.
This weekend will be an important step: Your focus will be on reversing emotions.
You must take any action that would normally cause you pain or sadness and tell yourself how good it feels. You need to do your good actions as if they are actually doing harm to those you do them for. You will also start to associate the different actions.
Over the next 3 days you should accomplish:
Shoot one bird and be happy about it, go to the Dog Pound, find the cutest puppy and regard it as evil.
Steal something and justify it.
Cook a large meal for someone less fortunate, then later drink a bottle of castor oil and force vomit over a large plate of food at a restaurant.
If you see someone at a bus stop, offer him or her a ride, they usually won't accept but ask until it happens. Pretend you hate the person in the car internally, but be SUPER polite to them, even go outside and open their door. Then when they get out and you drive away, tell them to fuck themselves.
Drink heavily, very heavily. Then go to a park and talk to children, the parents will freak.
Just start picking up trash in a public park, don't answer any questions. Donate blood as well.
Slap yourself, cut yourself, hurt yourself, but regard it as 'masturbation', trick yourself into enjoying it.
Watch your favorite movie four times in one day.
Hopefully you should now realize that feelings or emotions are not directly associated to actions. With this knowledge you now have the ability to do things without feeling anything. You know you are detached from feelings if you do the same action twice with feeling both good and bad feelings about it. Then when you do it the third time, you feel nothing. You will no longer have a value of "good/bad". Everything will just be things, you will have an open mind. The important thing is to still continue to do both good and evil actions.
This is Monday; you will notice that even though you have had the weirdest week of your entire life, you feel recharged but nothing more. You don't feel bad or good or even in between, you just don't feel. Live your day normally, but you notice that you don't care as you once did. Everything seems easier to deal with and is no longer stressful. Go out to eat tonight and don't tip your waiter. Give a homeless man the tip that you were going to give to the waiter.
Go to a bookstore and pick a fairly well known classic and sit there and read it for as long as the store is open. It will be you and the closing clerk there alone. Hopefully it is a women, tell her that you can't pay for the book but you love it so much. Give her your watch as collateral. Order a huge amount of flowers for her but when you come in to pay for the book and collect your watch be surprised about the flowers. Persists that you did not buy them but you really appreciate her kindness about the book. If she asks for your information or suggests that you should go out sometime, just look disgusted and walk away. On the way home that night pull up next to someone walking, start pretending to get directions but when they start insult them repeatedly and threaten their life. Drive away fast.
Don't go to work, call in sick if you have to. Drink tea ALL DAY. Find a pad of paper and start writing or drawing. Draw/Write the weirdest most convoluted stuff you can come up with, paste it all over your room. If you aren't thinking to yourself in some way 'man, I'm fucking crazy' than you aren't doing it right. Just repeat the week over until you can be in denial and know it. Yes your crazy, yes you know it, but it is sooo fun.
Now that you are totally detached from the externalities of a social culture and you are totally void of feelings or guilt, you are on your way. Upkeep can be less frequent. Be unpredictable in your actions or moods. Don't keep the same face on twice with the same person. Love someone passionately that you don't know, hate someone passionately that you do know. Fight all the time; argue with everyone. Do charity and public service out of the blue without any reason. Don't have a favorite anything, try everything and be open minded about everything. Give someone your favorite book as a gift.
This plan has worked on about 7 or the 11 people that have tried it. Although there is great degrees on how they responded there was great general trends. The most important thing is that everyone is happy and their lives; which are greatly improved.