Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ender's Game on love and understanding

From a recent comment from the post about the Ender's Game quote:

This is actually one of my favorite quotes. If you haven't read the other books, you should. I've only read to Xenocide, but they're fantastic.

This quote makes a lot of sense. ...Sometimes, I accidentally profile people. I have a knack for knowing when something is "off," and by intuitive leap I've identified a few socios and a neurotypical or two who were waiting for someone to see behind the mask. Usually I'm clueless as to what makes a person tick, but when this thing happens, I am terrifically accurate. And I love them. The way them love themselves. Deeply, instinctually. It isn't empathy, but it is understanding. And oh, how I could destroy them. For me there's a fine line between love and the desire to destroy. They go hand in hand. Knowing someone in this way makes me love them, and loving them makes me want to break them. Ruin them. Possess them. When I love someone, I want their soul. Love, of course, is the reason I take care of them instead. But yes, knowing someone well enough to love them makes it possible to destroy them so completely they, for my own purposes, become essentially a non-entity.

Another quote, Ender talking about the Hive Queen:
"I knew her so well that I loved her, or maybe I loved her so well that I knew her. Either way, I was tired of fighting. So I blew up her planet."

And one more:
"You are the one human being who is capable of understanding the alien mind, because you are the alien mind; you know what it is to be unhuman because there’s never been any human group that gave you credentials as a bona fide homo sapien."

I think most of us here can relate to that one, just a little bit. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Human purpose

This was an thought provoking comment from an old post:

being a sociopath can be incredibly beneficial, and most of us are smart enough to react properly and "empathetically" to most situations, as long as we choose to be inherently good and exercise any amount of willpower over our actions we become capable of pretty great things, the lack of guilt or shame and general quick wit and flamboyance that we often exude is great for attracting a wonderful spouse with whatever qualities you choose to seek if family is something we choose to pursue. if not we can turn those same traits and find success in business and advertising and marketing with ease, we make pretty good managers and business owners as we never have to worry about emotions clouding our judgement, this generally avoids issues with depression and fortifies us against things like PTSD, heartbreak, or emotional stress. by no means are we evil, and we did not choose to be wired like this, its only natural for a creature to play to its strengths and use what resources it has at its disposal to attain comfort and success and advance for personal gain then reproduce with a suitable mate. at our very core this is the greatest purpose any human has managed to achieve so far and we just go about it a little differently. the truth is if a climatic event were to happen tomorrow, and society were to collapse I believe sociopaths would have the greatest chance of survival in a more...natural environment. this is probably why were still such a common occurrence, and may even eventually become the norm for the human species. most "empaths" are afraid of sociopaths to some degree, and regard us as dangerous but we aren't afraid of them, think long and hard about what that says about how this food chain is working. last I checked, the lion isn't scared or wary of the antelope and the wolves do not steer clear of deer. and really I could keep going for hours with every metaphor on the planet but the point is whatever differences we have in our genetics we all still exhibit free will and are all still in control of, and accountable for our actions. we are what we choose to be, whether our heartstrings are capable of being plucked or not. and no intelligent creature should forget that.

There were a lot of possibly controversial points made, but the one that stuck out to me most was "its only natural for a creature to play to its strengths and use what resources it has at its disposal to attain comfort and success and advance for personal gain then reproduce with a suitable mate. at our very core this is the greatest purpose any human has managed to achieve so far".

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Perils of the well-intentioned

I don't like people who are good-intentioned, they are some of the most unpredictable and scary people I know. Once I visited a city that was renowned for its "nice" people. Driving there was a nightmare. Instead of behaving appropriately (and thereby predictably), they would go out of their way to "accommodate" other drivers, often leading to dangerous situations in which no one knew what was going on or who had the right of way.

One day on this most recent trip I was at the mercy of a well-intentioned driver. I was staying out in the countryside with some friends. To get anywhere, we had to rent a taxi. I needed to go into the city to run some errands so I called a cab. On the 40 minute ride into the city, my friend who more or less spoke the native language (expat from home, but of the same ethnicity) translated to me that the driver wanted the return fare, so offered to just drive us from place to place. I was fine with that and we went about our business, eating, shopping, and picking up stuff for the next few days. We told the cab driver to be on a look out for an ATM for my bank -- an international bank with many ATMs in the center of the city, but not out where we were staying. The reason I was so determined to go to my ATM was I had a special account that didn't charge me any foreign fees at all if I used their ATMs, whereas another ATM would charge me their fee plus my bank's fee, plus an additional 3% to my bank and I wanted to take out a large sum of money.

I needed to get money that trip because I needed local currency to pay the cab driver. He knew as much from my friend explaining that to him. We never passed an ATM during our errands, but we did pass by one on a side street just as we were leaving downtown. We told our cab driver to turn left, but he hesitated too long, then thought it too difficult, and continued driving, assuring us that there were plenty of my bank's ATMs on the route home that would be on the right side of the street -- we wouldn't have to go out of our way and could keep the fare down. We showed him the logo on my bank card just to be sure he understood and he said that he was 100% certain that there would be an ATM for my bank on the way home. I didn't insist on going back to the ATM because I wanted to believe him, and I didn't want to insult my friend, who the previous evening had been deriding all of the other expats who treat the natives as second class citizens in their own country.

My friend trusted the cab driver because he was so good-intentioned (had "helped" us "not get ripped off" before with a local tradesman earlier in the day), and continued to relay messages to me about how we were "certain" to find an ATM, until suddenly the cab driver wasn't certain at all.

After about 20 minutes of driving when we were about to leave the outskirts of the city, the cab driver started trying to get me to use any ATM we passed. I hated him by then. He apparently knew by that time that he had made a mistake and didn't want to bear the consequences of it by not being paid in his preferred form of local currency. I insisted that we keep trying to find my bank. I was angry, I told my friend to tell him that while he was "saving" us a pittance with the local tradesman, he was costing me roughly the cost of that long cab ride or more in fees. Plus I was "certain" that there was an ATM right by my friend's house, something the cab driver vehemently denied, although I turned out to be right.

It wasn't the money, of course. If we had never seen that ATM from my bank on the way out, I would have gladly paid the additional fees for the convenience of using another ATM. I was mainly angry because I had trusted the cab driver in a half-heated attempt to be agreeable.

I should have realized that the cab driver's "helping" us meant that he was a well-intentioned person. I would have preferred a neutral cab driver, or even a crooked one over this guy -- someone whose self-interest would have made him go back to that first ATM so he would be sure he would get paid. Instead I got someone who presumed to know better than I did what was best for me. It's that presumption that I hate most. The good-intentioned think that they are being a sort of saint, when really they are just arrogant meddlers.

See also imperialism.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Song: Change your evil ways

I'm going to take a little winter break from posting (recycling old posts, intermittent posts, etc.).

But first, a song.


Interestingly, I always thought this song was about a truly evil person, like voodoo magic style evil or something? It turns out it is just about a woman who does not cook and clean for her man that way that he expects her to do, instead hanging out with her girlfriends Jeanie and Joan. I don't take the lyrics as suggesting that she is literally "evil", but it is interesting to think about the extent to which the way we were socialized affects our understandings of right and wrong. See also Jonathan Haidt's work.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Delighting in the pains of others

“I am convinced we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others; for let the affection be what it will in appearance, if it does not make us shun such objects, if on the contrary it induces us to approach them, if it makes us dwell upon them, in this case I conceive we must have a delight or pleasure of some species or other in contemplating objects of this kind”

-- Edmund Burke

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Moved

I've spoken a little bit before about being moved. What I mean by that is feeling emotions as a result of some stimulus. It differs from empathy in that I am feeling my own emotions, my own reaction to things as opposed to imagining what someone else is feeling. It is almost always a result of music or film (is it the music in the film that does it?). I can also be moved by seemingly most other things that normal people are moved by -- shows of heroism, patriotism, gratitude, injustice, gross inefficiency, and probably some others that aren't springing immediately to mind.

It's a very odd phenomenon to feel moved. I can turn it off, but if I am in tune with it, it is as if the feeling wells up inside of me, typically inspiring me to some sort of action. It often feels like an increase in adrenaline -- a sense of the necessity of action. This added adrenaline is most often accompanied by a sense of purpose -- like my path has suddenly been made clear. If I wanted to get really caught up in it, who knows where it would take me. Most of the time it dwindles as quickly as it comes on -- too short a time span to really act. For instance, during my trip, I hired impoverished guides to take me around all day. One of them I liked so well, I talked to him about his future and whether he should start his own tour company. He said that that he didn't have the capital to do it. The next day I thought about it and whether I should invest in his company, or at the very least set up a website for him with his contact information because all he needed was an email account and a Trip Advisor page to double his business. The next day as I was motoing about the countryside, I happened upon this brilliant sightseeing must-see, not many kilometers from where we had been the day before. I suddenly felt that he had done a poor job with me and was glad that I hadn't had time to act on being "moved" by the gratitude and sense of inefficiency from the previous day.

I am not moved by certain things that might move other people. I am not moved by signs of want, not beggars or poor starving orphans or slums or anything (although I often "give" on little more than a whim). I am not outraged by unfairness, in fact I embrace it as I do death. I suppose it's an odd distinction to make between being moved by perceived injustice but not unfairness. I guess what I mean is that there is quite a deal of luck/context involved in every aspect of life, and that people cannot therefore expect the same outcomes from the same actions. In contrast, I perceive injustice as someone putting a thumb on the scale, artificially enabling one outcome over another -- an intentional interference thwarting the natural course of things. I guess it's because I don't mind risk, it actually gives me a thrill, but I have no desire to play a rigged game. If I thought my life was rigged, I would probably kill myself and/or others. It's only because I think I can (and most often do) play the game better than others that it keeps my interest enough to persist in playing it.

But what causes this sensation of being "moved" and why am I almost as susceptible to it as most people? Maybe it provides an emotional glue to facilitate group work and cooperation. There are certain things in this world that are impossible to do without help. Maybe those people who are capable of being moved had an evolutionary advantage particularly in small groups of people like isolated clans and tribes. And of course I take advantage of the phenomenon by trying to induce it in others to get them to do what I want. I guess that is what is meant by being a "charismatic" leader.

I'd be interested in hearing whether the other disordered or non neurotypicals are also susceptible to being "moved."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

If it feels this good getting used...

I thought this recent comment on an old post was an interesting perspective:

You act like ALL sociopaths are abusers. That ALL of them are born to hurt and kill. You don't even considered human. ERROR! The whole reason why I'm alive right know is a sociopath. I've had a terrible and abusive life, but because of many reasons my sociopath friend is interested in me. The moments I was about to kill my self he told me "No. Why do you want to die when you know me?" I tried explaining to him all the benefits my death would bring him, but he comely explained that all of it's short term, where me living would be long term. This may seem so terrible to you, but I have PTSD and it's not for me. To me I don't have anything good about me, I suck at everything. I only harm everyone I'm around. To him I'm full of opportunities to benefit him in some way. To him I'm useful. To him it's a game of seeing how long he can hug me before I flinch away because of sexual abuse that happened to me. Sure, his motives isn't like yours or anyone else because they have motive but it's enough to help save a life. How could someone be evil who's keeping me alive at this moment in time?

Friday, December 19, 2014

There are no bad people

I have finally started watching Homeland, am in the second season so no spoilers in the comments. It's obviously an engaging show but I also find myself wondering not just whether it is an accurate depiction of bipolar disorder but what elements of the character are bipolar and what elements of the character are just who that person is. Like if the person gets sad over something that happened I wonder, is that how bipolar people act? Am I meant to think that this character is being histrionic? Or over emotional? Or is this supposed to be "normal" behavior?

Similarly, I think the sort of wholesale ignorance that people have about sociopaths leads them to believe all sorts of things about how the disorder must play out in the every day lives of sociopaths. Some think that we're supermen, some absolute villains, some think we're absolutely two faced and nothing truthful ever comes out of our mouths. I just don't believe that such caricatures of humanity exist. I was watching clips of Frozen this weekend with my little relatives. I don't believe the villain prince in that movie exists -- someone who is just nice and unassuming and then turns out to be absolutely two-faced and everything he did (even the nice stuff like handing out blankets to townspeople) was all for some nefarious purpose. I just don't believe that particular type of person exists.

I thought about that when I read via Brain Pickings "Dostoyevsky on Why There Are No Bad People":

We are all good fellows — except the bad ones, of course. Yet, I shall observe in passing that among us, perhaps, there are no bad people at all — maybe, only wretched ones. But we have not grown up to be bad. Don’t scoff at me, but consider: we have reached the point in the past where, because of the absence of bad people of our own (I repeat: despite the abundance of all sorts of wretches), we used to be ready, for instance, to value very highly various bad little fellows appearing among our literary characters, mostly borrowed from foreign sources. Not only did we value them, but we slavishly sought to imitate them in real life; we used to copy them, and in this respect we were ready to jump out of our skins.
***
We used to value and respect these evil people … solely due to the fact that they appeared as men of solid hate in contradiction to us Russians, who, as is well known, are people of very fragile hate, and this trait of ours we have always particularly despised. Russians are unable to hate long and seriously, and not only men but even vices — the darkness of ignorance, despotism, obscurantism and all the rest of these retrograde things. At the very first opportunity we are quick and eager to make peace… Please consider: why should we be hating each other? For evil deeds? — But this is a very slippery, most ticklish and most unjust theme — in a word, a double-edged one… Fighting is fighting, but love is love… We are fighting primarily and solely because now it is no longer a time for theories, for journalistic skirmishes, but the time for work and practical decisions.
***
A true friend of mankind whose heart has but once quivered in compassion over the sufferings of the people, will understand and forgive all the impassable alluvial filth in which they are submerged, and will be able to discover the diamonds in the filth.
***
Judge [the people] not by those villainies which they frequently perpetrate, but by those great and holy things for which they long amidst the very villainy. Besides, the people are not composed of scoundrels only; there are also genuine saints — and what saints! They themselves are radiant and they illuminate the path for all of us!
***
Somehow, I am blindly convinced that there is no such villain or scoundrel among the Russian people who wouldn’t admit that he is villainous and abominable, whereas, among others, it does happen sometimes that a person commits a villainy and praises himself for it, elevating his villainy to the level of a principle, and claiming that l’ordre and the light of civilization are precisely expressed in that abomination; the unfortunate one ends by believing this sincerely, blindly and honestly.
***
Judge [people] not by what they are, but by what they strive to become.

No wonder Dostoyevsky is so popular amongst the sociopathic crowd.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The science of evil

I wanted to write a response to this NY Times review of Simon Baron-Cohen's book "The Science of Evil," but I already expressed most of my outrage about the book and it's theory that a lack of empathy is the root of all evil here. Today, however, there was an interesting response to both Baron-Cohen's book and Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test" by Yale professor of Psychology Paul Bloom, again in the NY Times. Under the title "I'm Ok, You're a Psychopath":
For Baron-Cohen, evil is nothing more than “empathy erosion.”
***
Now, one might lack empathy for temporary reasons — you can be enraged or drunk, for instance — but Baron-Cohen is most interested in lack of empathy as an enduring trait.
***
For Baron-Cohen, psychopaths are just one population lacking in empathy. There are also narcissists, who care only about themselves, and borderlines — individuals cursed with impulsivity, an inability to control their anger and an extreme fear of abandonment. Baron-Cohen calls these three groups “Zero-Negative” because there is “nothing positive to recommend them” and they are “unequivocally bad for the sufferer and those around them.” He provides a thoughtful discussion of the usual sad tangle of bad genes and bad environments that lead to the creation of these Zero-Negative individuals.

People with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, Baron-Cohen argues, are also empathy-deficient, though he calls them “Zero-Positive.” They differ from psychopaths and the like because they possess a special gift for systemizing; they can “set aside the temporal dimension in order to see — in stark relief — the eternal repeating patterns in nature.” This capacity, he says, can lead to special abilities in domains like music, science and art. More controversially, he suggests, this systemizing impulse provides an alternative route for the development of a moral code — a strong desire to follow the rules and ensure they are applied fairly. Such individuals can thereby be moral without empathy, “through brute logic alone.”

This is an intriguing proposal, but Baron-Cohen doesn’t fully elaborate on it, much less address certain obvious objections. For one thing, if people with autism can use logic to be good without empathy, why can’t smart psychopaths do the same? And what about the many low-functioning individuals on the autism spectrum who lack special savant gifts and don’t spontaneously create moral codes? On Baron-Cohen’s analysis, they would be Zero-Negative. But this doesn’t seem right. Such individuals might be awkward or insensitive, but they are not actively malicious; they are much more likely to be the targets of cruelty than the perpetrators.

I think there’s a better approach, one that involves breaking empathy into two parts, understanding and feeling, as Baron-Cohen himself does elsewhere in his book. Individuals with autism are unable to understand the mental lives of other people. Psychopaths, by contrast, get into others’ heads just fine; they are seducers, manipulators, con men . . . and often worse. . . . The problem with psychopaths lies in their lack of compassion, their willingness to destroy lives out of self-interest, malice or even boredom.
Bloom goes on to criticize Baron-Cohen's theory by pointing out that everyone can suffer from a lack of empathy due to circumstances or sometimes through choice. Unfortunately Bloom does not then take the final step of questioning whether a lack of empathy should actually be the scientific definition of "evil," as Baron-Cohen advocates, but instead makes a nod to the I-hate-sociopaths camp, quoting: "'Why should we care about psychopaths? They don’t care about us.'" At least people are starting to think twice before drinking the Hare et al. Kool-Aid of fear-mongering.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I don't think you're a sociopath

Says a reader:

I don't think sociopathy is inherently some kind of evil thing upon humanity. They are useful people for tasks that most can't do. But I don't think you fit the bill of sociopathy. You fit the bill for a type of antisocial personality disorder that a normal person can obtain, but with the disorder can perform the tasks of a sociopath, but I don't think you're a sociopath.

Well, perhaps you are if you take sociopath as learned and psychopath as inherent... but if you don't do such a thing like modern diagnosis does, and you simple let all the learned APDs take their form in the various other names, you definitely are not a sociopath. 

I think you're just among one of the more common "express pathological capable", and you're much more similar to an empath than you care to admit (because empathic personality is achievable by every person not sociopathic). Sociopathy is born, or irreversibly instilled by damage or early 'wiring'. 


A sociopath can not actually love, because love means to value the person and stay by them even though you found something you think might be a better time. Sociopaths don't do such a thing. You seem to be able to do such a thing. I think you just have one of those very intense APDs that isn't sociopathy that is just self indulging and maintaining child-like behavior.

I don't mean any offense, it's just what I'm noticing compared to what I've researched.

M.E.: No offense taken. If sociopaths can't love at all, then I must not be a sociopath because I feel like I feel love.

Reader:

So the brain varies in many different ways and people just fall along it, of course you know this based on what I've read. The way your describe stuff puts you very analytical. I think that's just the way a person should strive to be. I feel like everyone has it in them to want to hate, cause harm, dislike, "see what if". 

Also, there's this way of thinking that basically anyone can accomplish, where one puts oneself as an observer of life like a show to watch, or one actively participates. I feel like a lot of people just observe, do "what if" and really see no one as important.

Once one immerses one's self into life as something that is important to survival, and so on, and realizes cooperation with a healthy sense of caution is important, it is all better, in my opinion. What with the possibility of life spans somehow miraculouly growing exponentially if some kind of technological singularity breaks lose, however unlikely it is to happen. I'm just saying, it's the way most people just act without realizing why they act that way. I really had to analyze this myself and understand how being good is important.

M.E.: I think I understand a little what you're saying. You're saying that this mindset, that you also share or admire, is normal (or at least natural) and probably better (or more logical?) then the other way of being. But the fact that there is another way of being that most people are that leads to completely different ways of relating to the world and others is sort of what I mean. I understand that people can be sociopathic without being sociopaths. I also believe the current trend in conceptualizing sociopathy is to see it as a spectrum, with people expressing certain traits more than others but all sharing the same basic thought processes. And I also understand sociopathy to be quite common, at least 1% and as much as 4% of the population. So I'm not really one of these people that think that sociopathy is a rare thing and that there is a bright line separating sociopath from normal (and particularly not sociopathic from normal). And yes, of course thinking sociopathically has advantages (for both the individual and society) -- otherwise it wouldn't have arisen as an evolutionary adaptive trait shared by a significant portion of the population.

Reader:

I also just want to point out that the more I try to figure out the reason people do things different, the more they're just similar but raised different. The reason someone gives me for a particularly striking social deviation has always been because this is my experience (or come to find lack of an experience that is common). So of everyone is so different in some analytical way, most people seem to be powerful computers that are simply capable of preferring anything, really.

And I just read one of your latest articles about caring. Tying into what I said last time, and remembering how most people describe children as sociopaths of the worst kind. I really believe people's default level of caring originates from upbringing. Its usually useful. Work together, get more done. Don't feel passive aggressive or be hurtful just for fun, feel more relaxed and ready for tasks. But one should take the power in themselves to not only re-evaluate if they should care less, because some of it is burdensome and pointless... Because what if there are other things to care about?

Intellectually, one may not care about strangers, but if one can train oneself to identifying within strangers the altruistic good behavior (that remains cautious, mind you) then one can safely indulge themselves in on that behavior, only ever going too far to help strangers when identifying such demeanor.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Camus on Candyland

I thought this was an interesting sort of follow up to yesterday's post, from Existential Comics (with the bigger, more readable version here):




Monday, December 15, 2014

Survival of the fittest

Sociopaths have a reputation for thinking that they're better than everyone else. Not true (or at least I don't think it is, I don't know a sufficient sample size of sociopaths). Even if it's "true-ish", I believe that it's much more nuanced than that. Sociopaths do suffer from delusions of grandeur, yes, but they're not necessarily a comparative delusion of "I'm better than you" so much as "aren't I great?" or even the slightly more comparative but still within a narrow niche of applicability "nobody could have pulled that off like I just did." Second, it's not a thought so much as it is a feeling of self-love and admiration. When it comes to a sociopath's actual thoughts, sociopaths, at least the grown-up mature ones, understand well that everybody is about the same in terms of meaninglessness in the grand scheme of things. It's perhaps what makes utilitarian thinking so natural and easy.

Third, and the focus of this post, I think that a lot of people might naturally believe that a sociopath needs feelings of superiority in order to justify his behavior or self-love. Also not true. In order for empaths to be cold and cruel, they often need to lean on their pseudo-science understanding concepts of "survival of the fittest" or as one commenter recently wondered "trample or be trampled". But sociopaths don't have to logically talk themselves into this sort of behavior the same way that no one has to logically talk anyone into falling in love with their newborn. That's just the way sociopaths are wired. And there is no real logic to this sort of bastardization of "survival of the fittest" way of thinking. Nature is not some hardwired meritocracy that values objectively "superior" traits over "inferior" ones. Your worth is almost entirely contextual and based on scarcity and demand at that particular moment. If you're the only electrician in the world, you'll be a king. If everyone is an electrician, you are nothing. If you're one of the few in the world who can flawlessly sing high C's, you're an opera star. If everyone could, you're nothing. Society is in constant state of flux in terms of what is values and what it needs. The most we could say is that for a particular problem or feat, you also could be the "only one who could pull this off". Forgive the oversimplification, but all Darwinism says is that the more diverse a species is, the more robustly it encounters external opposition or change. It's as if we all drew from the genetic lottery and we have no idea what the truly "winning" ticket will be until nature and chance draws it (and keeps drawing it from day to day). Sociopaths win at different things than normal people only because their lottery ticket has different numbers and due to their relative scarcity. Nobody has a clue who will survive until it happens, so it's pretty foolish to make an assertions about people being "worthy" to survive or not.

I also liked this recent comment responding to the trample or be trampled question:

I knew a guy at university who was so insecure and trying to look clever and tough, he went on and on at a party, where people were tripping, about 'the law of the jungle' and 'survival of the fittest'. People were coming out of the room dazed and worried because they were almost convinced that it was therefore OK to kill him because he was irritating them. I had to talk them down because even though I used to be a nice person, I agreed this guy needed to be removed from the gene pool, but lets leave that to the decision of the insecure fat girls he was always creeping on to. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Compartmentalizing

A reader asked me how a sociopath could seemingly feel one way about something one day and feel something entirely inconsistent another day. I responded:

Sociopaths seem to be exceptionally good at compartmentalizing, which would explain why it is possible for him both to have cared (and perhaps still care) for you very much but seem to not be at all interested in you now. A good way for normal people to understand the extent to which this works is to think of a vivid dream, perhaps an anxiety dream in which you dream of things that need to happen, projects that need to get done, problems that need to get solved. During the dream you get very caught up in the urgency of things, whatever it is that you are dreaming about becomes very important to you, you can't imagine a world in which this was not a primary concern for you. When you wake up from the dream there are still lingering feelings of the dream. Perhaps you just have the feeling that you need to do something, or maybe you actually remember specifics of what you supposedly "need" to do. Within the first fifteen minutes or so of wakefulness, however, you eventually realize that it was just a dream, that you really don't have to worry about those things at all, and so you continue living this other life and quickly forget about the dream life. That is how much sociopaths can compartmentalize. The dream world never fully goes away, maybe they remember some of it, or something will remind them of it, but for the most part it and the feelings felt are a faint memory. Those feelings associated were "real" in that they reflect how the sociopath would feel under the circumstances of the dream, but those circumstances just turned out not to be true.

I wonder whether the mechanism of compartmentalizing for the sociopath is the same as the mechanism that allows people with multiple personality disorder to have separate personalities each living essentially independent lives, sometimes unaware of each other.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Who wants to be a sociopath?

From a reader:

I'm going to ask you the most common question you must surely be asked, Am I a sociopath? I am fourteen years old and female and have researched many possibilities for what was clearly an emotional development problem since I was about ten years old.

 When I was ten I came up with the theory that my emotions were more detached than other peoples and this made me wary of those who used emotions in decision making processes (i.e. everyone) and began to seek understanding in fictional characters  who seemed to act like me. They were almost all villains which didn't faze me in the least because I have grown up rooting for the evil side in every story.

 Later in life when I had read into this further I decided that I might have social Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) but again rejected this theory when I thought it through further.

In September/October time 2013 I started looking into psychopaths not in an attempt to diagnose myself but to see if it would apply to the fictional character Yassen Gregorovitch from the Alex Rider series. When I started to read through available material online I kept seeing things that applied to me and eventually thought I'd do some of the many tests online as truthfully as I could and each one told me that I was a psychopath and so I found every old diary entry I could in my desk drawers and even they only backed me up with stuff that is surprisingly indifferent when talking about how I hurt my little sister or how stupid books with morals were.

Ever since I was really young I kept to myself and used all that I knew about other people to keep them away including my family. I don't do affection. I have little attachment to things and I feel as if my life is just one huge mask that I've woven since I was little. I'm quite clever but what appears to be intelligence most of the time is just me finding the easiest way to the answer. I have a good understanding of emotions and how to influence them but I have really rather shallow emotions most of the time but some people really piss me off. I've begun to really hate having to go to church but it's all part of my mask. If I can get away with something without getting caught I will do that but if I can't then I won't.  This all seems to be sociopathic.
The only problem is I have two really close friends that I would and have fiercely defended as fierce as I would myself.

I am writing to you because I saw a post talking about a child developmental stage for a sociopath and it was exactly the same as me and as I don't want to tell my parents of my suspicions (they'd take it badly) and I desperately need to know if someone else agrees with me.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Growing up to be a sociopath?

This was an interesting new comment to an old post, "Sociopath child, to teen, to adult":

It's stunning how accurately this describes my life. I get so frustrated when I hear people say sociopaths are the same person from fetus into adulthood. That sociopaths were heartless, self absorbed little monsters when they were children or they aren't really sociopaths.

But I recall a time of feeling normal and having emotions. Or at least feeling as though I had emotions. Feeling love and crying over things, even if they were actually fake. I don't think sociopathy blossoms until your 20's. It's like a seed of darkness that slowly shallows you as you mature.

My childhood followed the same trend of fitting in to hitting an abrupt wall where I was a weird, socially awkward outcast. Always getting picked on and having a very tight circle of friends, going about life like a dog trying to play piano. It wasn't until my mid to late teens that I started studying psychology and social interaction, picking up books on how to manipulate and pick up women, etc.

Sooner or later I became good at getting what I want (control over men, sex from women). It was then I stumbled upon books about psychopathy, and was slowly starting to manifest all the telltale traits. I'm 27 now, and can't remember the last time I really felt all that much about anything. I think I went through a "mean streak" in my early 20's, but now I'm starting to mellow. I don't feel love, but I don't feel contempt either. 

I think I went through that deep soul searching period to reach this point, and I feel I've done a 180 away from the callous, cynical, reckless ways of the dysfunctional sociopath. I don't feel compassionate, but maybe a little benign. Like the world is undeserving, but I happen to be merciful. I don't see a reason to do harm, so why not try to be civil and let the sheep adore me? 

It was really challenging to write the childhood chapters of the book. I wasn't sure whether to write them in the mindset that I have now about things that I used to think were perfectly normal or innocent (manipulations, certain antisocial behavior, etc.) or whether to write it with the mindset that I had then, with all of the megalomania or delusional thinking that I was heavily subject to until my late teens and early twenties. Like everything with the book, my choice ended up being to basically filter out only the most sociopathic seeming things -- often whatever sounded most sociopathic or interesting to my editor at the time. In a way, doing that unwittingly catered to this idea that we are static individuals -- have always been and acted the same. 

The truth is I don't trust my memories of particularly my early childhood before about 8 or 9 years old. They're too hazy and they seem too dream-like to feel like they really happened to me. Maybe I was more normal than I seemed. Or maybe I was more different than I seemed. I do remember having a sense at the time that I was seemed more ruthless and coldhearted than my peers, but I also have a lot of memories of feeling pretty normal -- upset about regular things that children get upset about and megalomaniacal and selfish but perhaps no more than all children tend to be. I don't know, is it possible to have been normal and feeling emotions and then later grow into a sociopath?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Enabling? or promoting understanding?

From a reader:

Your book's been a beacon I've given up searching for. It's really fascinating, to finally have the words to identify these abstract ideas I've had about myself for so, so many years. It's helped me organize certain behavioral traits which allowed me to organize my thoughts and my behavior more efficiently. There's a story behind all of this, but I would ultimately want you to know that your work and the numerous sources you've referenced have helped me understand myself. It was liberating. The fact that I can recognize my sociopathic traits has allowed me to release these limits I've placed upon myself in order to prevent any damage that may have gotten me noticed in a way that wouldn't suit my interests. 

Perhaps what your work has done most to impact my understanding of this condition is that I'm not the monster that the media has brainwashed people into thinking. And even if I am; that isn't all I have the capacity to be. I'm so much more.

So for all of what I've mentioned, you have my thanks.

Patrick O.

M.E.: I wonder, how would you respond to critics who might say that the book is bad because it empowers sociopathic individuals to embrace their evil behavior rather than fighting it?

The reader's response:

To answer your question,
This book isn't meant to treat or cure anything. What it does is it promotes a degree of self-awareness and provides information that enables the reader to make an informed decision of how to address this particular condition. Knowledge is power and by that idea alone, may correlate to how the book may empower an individual. However; to say it will certainly strengthen the evil and malicious intent of the individual is completely false. Sociopaths are people who simply view the world differently due to their psychological make-up. To me, it seems like such a dark declaration would translate to antagonizing a sociopathic individual for understanding why they have a harder time crying at a funeral than others. It's preposterous. I've done volunteer work at a hospital of my own accord without any incentives, donated to charities, and engaged in what many people I associate with (the majority empaths) would recognize as random acts of kindness. Whether or not I express humility or feel closer to being a saint won't change the fact that my actions were altruistic and ultimately benefited the lives of many others around me. That being said, some may be callous, others may be assertive, but that does not render the sociopathic individual incapable of having integrity and possessing the qualities needed to live in a much more empathetic world. The book did not make me a sinister individual or upset whatever spiritual balance of good and evil emotionally attuned people would be receptive to. It helped me recognize certain characteristics I possessed that damaged relationships that I made a conscious decision to return to and successfully repair. Finally, sociopaths have just as much of a choice to do good as empaths. So reading a book can do as much good to the individual as that person will allow.

Personal Note:
From my understanding of your question, I believe it stems from those numerous studies of sociopaths in the prison system that critics may have gone through before approaching your book. I believe what you're doing through it is a necessary step despite whatever condemnation your work may face. You're very wise to have chosen an alias for yourself considering how steep this uphill journey you're progressing through is; so I commend your foresight. It's a real shame that it may be quite quite some time until your interpretation of socipathy is accepted in the general populace, but until then, it seems assimilation will still be the ideal method of living in this world. You have a good day M.E.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sociopath or what?

From a reader:

Hello. 

I really have no idea of where to start. I've Always felt different from everyone else and ive Always known that there was something wrong with me. I think i might be a sociopath. When i was a small child, i used to beat up everyone. Ive Always had all this violence built up inside even though when i was small i never got physically or verbal abused. I was that little bully that everyone feared yet everyone loved, till this day. Even though i got bullied, cut myself, attempted suicide. Ive Always thought about murder, my aunt told me that when i was 5 i used to make up stories about people getting brutally murdered with chainsaws, getting tortured, then id just smile and walk away. Im not capable of feeling love. Every single time i got into a relationship id insult and make that person feel bad, hurt them. I didnt care. I never did. Ive never felt remorse. Sometimes id wake up just thinking ''i wanna fight with him''. Even when someone close to me is hurting, i dont care. I cant understand how people can feel pain when someone they love is in pain. I can't do that, i just don't care, no matter who the person is!! Some time ago my dad got mad at me cause we were having a conversation and i said ''i prefer to speak the truth no matter how hard it is. If the person kills herself, then be it. Its their problem, not mine. If they're weak then its not my fault''. 
Now im 17, ive fucked up my last relationship with a guy  i was in love with cause i kept on insulting him heavily, im very anti social, ive had problems at school for the past 2 years : Teachers calling for my behaviour, failed gr10 twice, i dropped out.  I got called ''psychopath''.  A friend of mine said ''i could tell you're a sociopath from the first day ive met you''

Looking forward to a response :) thank you!

Just as an aside, I am just as guilty of making judgments about a person's mental state and possible mental disorders based on just a few short paragraphs of self-reporting, but I sort of think it's interesting what sort of comments these elicit. I'm not sure if you can tell more about the original poster, the projections of the people commenting, or if it's a mixture or neither or what. But I also found it to be at least interesting to see other people respond to who I was via the book -- whether it was things that I thought were interesting, insightful, factually (in)accurate, not likely, etc. If you've ever wondered how quickly (and far) people would take a few salient facts about you and run with them, you should email me a quick bio for me to post to see how ready others are to give you their assessment (and with what absolute confidence, some of them). 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Human connection

This was an interesting recent comment on an old post, "Am I My Asperger Brother's Keeper?":

Is the resentment/jealousy of auspies that they are what sociopaths are, but that auspies don't need people? Most of the negative view against socios is that they "prey" on empaths. It seems to me that sociopaths lack empathy but still want/need a human connection... but as they can't have a "real" empath-style love, they only have power and control for a connection. It makes me feel sad for sociopaths... which maybe makes me an uberempath? Being an auspie actually sounds pretty awesome and very well suited for a post singularity humanity. 

What do you think? A main distinction is that sociopaths need humans and aspies or autistics don't? I have sometimes opined that sociopaths are on the autism spectrum, and that their fixation is on humans and human behavior rather than, say, trains, as is true of my friend's brother (not to stereotype).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sociopathy in the Bedroom

From a reader:

So I have a new girlfriend. I met her on fetlife.com, a social network for pervs.

She wants someone that will physically dominate, punish and terrify her in the bedroom. It turns out that sociopathy comes in really handy for this.

I heartily recommend that sociopaths get out and date this way. What's fun? I've trained her to be obedient. When I say "open" she spreads her legs. When I say "close" she closes them. When I tell her to squeeze she squeezes (with her kegels) and so on.

Having got the basic obedience training done, it is time to mix it up with hits. So I tell her to open. She opens her legs and I hit her between her legs. Or maybe I tell her "open", she thinks I'm going to hit her, but I tell her "close". And then I tell her "open" and I hit her. Or perhaps I put the vibrator between her legs.

Recently in the middle of a session I was hitting her so much that her fight or flight reflex kicked in and she tried to get away. She got one of her limbs untied and was flailing away. She actually hit me. I knew I had to take control, so I sat on her chest and started choking her - a blood choke, to make her dizzy. Then I turned her over and hit her butt, telling her to tell me when she wanted to get hit between the legs. When she said she wanted to get hit between the legs, I said, "just tell me when you're read to get hit between the legs" and kept hitting her butt, really hard. And finally I turned her over and hit her a bunch between her legs. I took my time doing it so that she had maximum dread.

After the fact, she said that when I was choking her, I looked absolutely evil, like a villain from a movie. I had a smirk on my face and seemed coldly determined. I can recall being thrilled at being able to regain control and punish her for getting out of line. She absolutely loved this whole thing (Oh, and by that phrase I mean "She had a huge orgasm and flood of bonding emotions.")

After the fact I talked to her. She explained that a lot of the guys that will be rough and controlling in the bedroom are such disturbed individuals you'd never want to let them take control. So if you've got a well-ordered sociopath - the sort that can hold it together when he has to - taking on the role of a sadist in the bedroom might allow you to have a lot more thrills and make someone very happy. It will mean causing your partner a lot of pain, dread and distress, on purpose. Whether or not that "hardens my heart" I don't know, but obviously sociopaths will find this job easier to do than non-sociopaths.

Oh, I should mention. I'm not particularly into all the hitting. The obedience stuff is fun; it is great to have a person act like a dog. However, I'm doing the hitting because that's what this partner needs to be happy. I am glad to be in a relationship where we can both get our needs met.

It got me thinking that maybe sociopaths make good interrogators.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Which sociopath thoughts are most popular/beneficial?

Forgive the intrusion on our regular scheduled programming. I'm working on a little project and would like some feedback (probably will leave this up for two days in a row for more time to think, respond, and interact). I've been trying to come up with a half dozen to a dozen ways that sociopaths think or methods of how they go about doing a particular thing that they find helpful or that other people would find helpful to either learn how to do or at least learn more about.

One that I thought about was a sociopath's ability to not feel guilt, or other ways to tame or otherwise interact with emotions (particularly negative ones?). Emotional detachment? Others?

Another thought was about how sociopaths might be more efficient or productive in certain aspects or have thought patterns or methods that can sometimes make them more efficient or productive. Ability to compartmentalize? To either hyper focus or not focus on something? Others?

Finally, I was thinking that there are ways that the sociopath sees the world, especially maybe in terms of power structures/hierarchies or utilitarianism or others?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Attention deconcentration

I was reading about the phenomenon of attention deconcentration in an old New Yorker article about free diving, "The Deepest Dive," unfortunately not available in its full form unless you are a subscriber. Here is the relevant portion:
To still the unbidden apprehensions that might interfere with her dive -- what she describes as "the subjective feeling of empty lungs at the deep" -- Molchanova uses a technique that she refers to as "attention deconcentration." ("They get it from the military," Ericson said.) Molchanova told me, "It means distribution of the whole field of attention -- you try to feel everything simultaneously. This condition creates an empty consciousness, so the bad thoughts don't exist."

"Is it difficult to learn?"

"Yes, it's difficult. I teach it in my university. It's a technique from ancient warriors -- it was used by samurai -- but it was developed by a Russian scientist, Oleg Bakhtiyarov, as a psychological-state-management technique for people sho do very monotonous jobs."

I asked if it was like meditation.

"To some degree, except meditation means you're completely free, but if you're in the sea at depth you will have to be focussed, or it will get bad. What you do to start learning is you focus on the edges, not the center of things, as if you were looking at a screen. Basically, all the time I am diving, I have an empty consciousness. I have a kind of melody going through my mind that keeps me going, but otherwise I am completely not in my mind."
This passage in the article intrigued me because it reminded me of playing games to see how far I could expand my visual focus. On the diver Molchanova's website, she mentions that although it is rare for most people to have stumbled upon this experience, people who are subject to persistent stress factors typically have, such as hunters or fighters or other activities where quick decisionmaking is necessary and "emotional reaction in critical situation can lead to the wrong decisions and panic." I feel like I frequently will do this, or try to at least go that direction with my focus. I will do a more toned down version in big crowds, like at an airport. I've heard another practioner refer to something similar as "situational awareness." When I get closest to the idea of deconcentration, I am so hyper aware of all of sensory inputs that I reach a sort of ecstasy. It's very pleasurable.

I'm curious, have the other sociopaths experienced something similar to attention deconcentration?

More information.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Quote: Karma

“Our actions are like ships which we may watch set out to sea, and not know when or with what cargo they will return to port.”

― Iris Murdoch, The Bell

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Red pill blue pill

From a reader:

This morning as I sit quietly in my sunday school room right now, watching as people move past, a thought began to stir in me. Statistically, 1 in 25 of these people are sociopaths. I may not be alone here after all. So I began to examine them. Somewhat amateur profiling, but none the less interesting. I can only wonder if anything them feel as I do, suppressed and hated by the church. I have seen much hate for sociopaths on the internet, but the most villainous and non-christian talk came from professing Christians, of which I am one. I cannot help but wonder, what would it be like for them if we were the majority of the population, whether that population be the world or their sunday school class, and they were hated by the majority simply for being different. I understand that it can be morally wrong to act upon these sociopathic desires, but to simply have them, that is no different than their temptations of sexual sin, drunkenness, or thievery. I wonder what you would ask them if you could ask a question of them? Would you ask the same thing I would, the most commonly asked question in psychology: why? Why is sociopathy so different from all the other human conditions that are upon people due to a fallen sin nature? I always want to know why. Yet I find it too dangerous to ask, for I know their pre-conceived notions and reactions to the knowledge of a sociopath: they are dangerous, exterminate them from a position of power or even from the church.

It is so ironic to me. I now am forced to wear a mask and dance at the stained glass masquerade and pretend like there is no cognitive dissonance with this. I wonder, ME: if I make them all believe that, is it possible to make myself believe it as well? Could I somehow manipulate myself into believing I am one of them, an empath?

M.E.: Unfortunately, I don't think you could manipulate yourself into believing you are one of them, at least not for long. Unlike some of the other personality disorders, sociopaths tend to keep a good deal of self awareness. So unless you had memory problems like the guy form Memento, I don't see it happening. Has anyone else had success trying reverse self-awareness? It seems to me that once you are aware of what you are and that you are different, it would be very difficult to go back?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Training oneself

From a reader:

I was wondering about you training yourself to enjoy and admire a different sex than you were originally attracted to. That seems like a very useful skill, and I wonder whether you can use it to train yourself to do different things, for example to enjoy watching bloody violence in movies more. I was always enamored by ways to test my self control and will, for example the ability to withstand pain, to control emotions etc. I don't self harm, at least not in the traditional sense. I do not cut myself or anything like that, and I do not get enjoyment out of things similar, or any release. But I do however do things such as ice baths to test my self control. But I do care about my self image greatly, and would not do anything that would defile my body.

Anyway, could one train themselves to become more sociopathic? Could you experience less emotions, especially less fear and stress? How do you think one would go around doing that? You mentioned you trained yourself using masturbation, it seems like any release of dopamine combined with an action or visualization would work, but it would have to be revived often. What would you recommend? Facing your fears? Deliberately putting yourself in stressful situations? Watch horror movies until you are never scared of them? Or even masturbate or eat sweet foods while watching violence? 

Or, how would one at will be able to invoke strong emotions, especially rage and happiness? 

Please help. 

P.S: I loved your book. You should if you haven't already read "The wisdom of psychopaths", it explores how psychopathy, lack of emotions especially stress and fear, can be very useful in some professions, such as surgeons and bomb defusers, or astronauts.

M.E.: I absolutely think you could be trained to be more sociopathic. Isn't that how we program child soldiers? Desensitize concentration camp guards? Empathy itself is very context specific. People cry over a child with cancer on the news here while millions are dying of AIDS in Africa. Not saying that it's bad or anything, of course you can't care about anything and everything. But it does suggest that it can be manipulated, either to care more or less about something. And brainwashing? I feel like that used to be more of a thing. Do we still believe that brainwashing happens?

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