Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Choosing the sociopath

A reader writes:

Just read your book, and I thought it was fascinating stuff.

I have a question about Morgan, though. You talk about her losing her job, falling into eating disorders and drug abuse. You say you can't take all the "credit" for her decline, and I know you don't feel an ounce of remorse, but do you think her decline would have occurred if you had never met?

My response:

Actually, in this case, I think it would have. You may be surprised to hear that we are still very good friends, we probably talk a few times a week on the phone. After she went to several treatment facilities and spend some time in 12 step programs, she really turned her life around and is now making six figures in a high-powered job with a side business that is her passion and that fulfills her creative outlets.

I certainly don't think that messing with her during that time somehow led her to this good result. But I do feel like as a result of our interactions she adopted a lot of my ways of thinking and looking at herself with a harsh brutality that allowed her to, finally when she was ready, look at herself with unflinching honesty and make the changes necessary -- to eliminate her personal obstructions to her success and continued growth as a person.

The thing is, and this is what I had hoped to communicate in the book but maybe was unclear on, people like that are seeking self-destruction and they will get it in any form, whether it is from me their friendly sociopath friend, or from drugs and alcohol, or from cutting, or from self sabotage of any other form that seems to appeal to them in that moment. When someone seems hellbent on self destruction, it's easy to villainize the drug dealer (or bartender? or Hostess cupcakes? or gambling establishments? or escort for hire?) or the the sociopath friend because they're a handy target but they're of course more the method than the root cause in a guns don't kill people sort of way. This may not actually be true, but I have found that people on this path to obliterate themselves or their life, at least partially and for whatever reason, will continue that way no matter what you do or how you react to them until they are ready themselves to change. I'd be very interested to hear other people's opinions about this, but am less interested in bystanders' random thoughts than from people who have actually experienced this first hand. 

(It's a little popular on this blog to take the Sam Harris side of life and say that people don't have as much choice as we often think we do, but I think when it comes to people's involvement with sociopaths I think there is often more choice and responsibility there than some would like to acknowledge. It's not like sociopaths have an otherworldly superhypnosis ability to compel people into engaging in activities that they would never do without compulsion.) 

Perhaps surprisingly, I think that because I was willing to indulge her on these activities rather being preachy, I am one of the few friends that she still has from that time period. With the other friends of that era, I believe that she either gave up on them, or they gave up on her. In fact, I know that I am one of only a few friends from longer than a couple years that she stays in regular contact with, and that she would consider me her best friend.

For some reason this reminded me of this recent comment on a not so fresh post:

My father is narcissistic. I was his favoured child, his very best billboard. Which is as much as to say I was the most codependent. 

No one can keep up with my father.

I won't labour the details other than to say I was fertile ground for the most charming of seductive sociopaths.

That whole affair woke me the fuck up. I like referring to this gentleman (with whom I still work) as our Friendly Neighbourhood Psychopath (FNP).

He gave me the red pill stuffed inside a Koko Black chocolate. Delicious. He set me free in the Matrix while everyone else dreams. I see the world in an utterly different way now; in which society is a context rather than a constraint; that rules are mere control; that morality is instinctive, a social adaptation to keep us cooperating and not excluded from our place by the campfire; that we are merely organisms in a perennial competition for resources. All that PLUS neurotypicals *are* wired for connection. And we dwindle when we don't get it (hence all the weeping socios cause). You know, I really didn't know this last point. 

I crave the FNP 'cause his games and his sex hit some dopamine high notes. Not to mention his beauty and intelligence. His intelligence and thrill seeking are - surprise, surprise - reminiscent of my father's.

Yet not even the FNP could keep pace with my narcissistic father (the food chain, the food chain, oh that is a story!) No one can. And I wonder if the rhythms my father set as the cadence of my life can ever be changed.

All this stuff about love - I learnt many things from the FNP and the best thing I learned was self-sufficiency. By this I mean integration, living in accordance with your own nature. An adult should be able to look after their own emotional needs and for a neurotypical, this involves thriving in community. Socios must live in community too and it is a tension for them.

We all have our struggles. I take my lessons from running head on into life and to be frank, it's the best way to change. Emotional and novel experiences provide fertile ground for remodelling the brain. 

I keep a vision of being integrated, adventurous and thriving... but those games, baby, are better than sex (and that's saying something!) Dear me, perhaps I still have some lessons to learn the hard way (counts down to next meeting in T - 10d while we are both obliged by the court to refrain from contacting the other)

Yeah, so that's my struggle. I do want a companion. And it's better to be honest about that lest the FNP play his pipe again to that tune. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Irish journalist request

From an Irish journalist:

I'm an Irish freelance journalist, working primarily for The Irish Times newspaper and the Huffington Post. I'm looking for Irish sociopaths or people with antisocial personality disorder, whether diagnosed or self-diagnosed, to talk about their life, how they behave, how they have come to understand themselves, and so on. I'm happy to conduct interviews anonymously and to tread carefully so as not to identify any interviewees. Feel free to contact me: I would hope to do get moving on this by early May if possible. Discretion assured.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sexual intimacy issues

From a reader:

I would like to know if any of your readers or yourself have ever come across an issue like the one I am having. I am a 34 year old female sociopath. I know I'm good looking and I know I can get just about anyone I want in to bed with me. That's never been an issue. I am also gay and sadomasochist. I have been in several relationships over the years but I have never been faithful in any of them. I have a high sex drive and that is one of the reasons I have always cheated on my partners. I have never felt bad about it either. I am now in a new relationship and from the start I told her I was a sociopath. It felt good to tell her, and she didn't run screaming from me. All she asks is that I keep my navigation on at all times. I can understand that since I did divulge all my past indiscretions to her from the get go. Here's the thing, I believe I actually do love her. That scares the shit out of me. I know how I am and I do not want to hurt her. I am also nervous when it comes to having sex with her. I freeze up. That has never happened to me before and it pisses me off. I let her in and told her things about myself and my past that 99% of the population would lock me away for. I know what kind of person I am and I am well aware of the bad things I have done in the past. I also know what I am capable of doing in the future. She knows this too now. Emotions are not my strong suit. I can pull anything off, aside from crying. I do not know if I am having these intimacy issues with her because I let her in. Whenever I "feel" things I can't explain or figure out I tend to bury it and run away. What are your thoughts on all of this?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sociopath movies or books?

From a reader:

I just wanted you to know how influential your book was on me. It was brilliant, I could not put it down. I found that a lot of what I have been told about sociopaths is wrong, but I suppose I've only been informed by ignorant people. I honestly don't understand why people are so intimidated by you all. I don't find sociopaths intimidating at all....

     I kept finding myself biting my tongue during lectures in psychology class because they just did not really have much of a clue what they were talking about. I even got into a heated debate with my history teacher after he casually walked by, snatched your book of my desk and after reading the back of the book proceeded to tell me that sociopaths are simply crazy people and that their lives will only end up in trouble. That there's no way someone like that could live in our society without committing a crime sooner or later, and that they should all be 'locked up'. 

     I gave him my refutation using quite a lot of information out of your book, but he just came back with a bunch of nonsense that had nothing to do with the debate at hand. However, everyone saw him as the winner because they're too ignorant to understand half the crap he was spitting out. 

     Anyway, I wrote to you because your book has given me a miniscule epiphany at the mere age of 16. I am fascinated by your perspective on sociopathy and psychopathy. I find myself no longer really wanting to know what the professionals have to say, but wanting to hear from the actual psychopaths or sociopaths perpective. How they veiw their mental illness and what their opinions on it are. Would you happen to have any book recommendations? Movie recommendations? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015


From a reader:

Confessions of A Sociopath, documenting your experience as a high-functioning sociopath, was an absolute delight to read. While I could relate to a large degree with your account, I am still on the fence about whether I fit the sociopathic classification and in writing to you, I’d like to gain some insight on my personal situation.

A bit of background: I’m 17, female, and an atheist who belongs to a conservative South Asian country. I identify as a Right-leaning Libertarian. I have a dysfunctional relationship with both parents. My father is an abusive sociopath (has a criminal record, is violent, glib, charming, Don Juan-esque in his heyday, hypocritical, possesses no empathy or remorse, is a pathological liar) and my mother exhibits signs of Stockholm Syndrome. I find myself unable to sympathise with her situation, often mocking and deriding her weakness for a man who treats her like trash. Vitriol flows seamlessly from my tongue at the slightest provocation. My father has been emotionally and physical abusive towards me, threatened by what he observed as a ‘fierce obstinacy’ in my persona since I was 7 years old. I learnt to cope, and it stopped mattering when I was 14, which lead me to hypothesize that perhaps sociopathy is an adaptation to adversity. However, I wouldn’t deny that there isn’t residual anger, bloodlust or a desire for revenge.

In my childhood, I was a sensitive, precocious and well-adjusted kid with one caveat: I liked squeezing babies deliberately to constrict their breathing. I enjoyed hearing their tortured wails. I had these violent impulses at the age of 10. This phase lasted about two years, until my parents brought me a puppy whom I genuinely loved. I hardly ever meet him now. I started stealing small bottles of shampoo and odd little trinkets from shops, although I stopped when my mother told me that was wrong behaviour. I knowingly stole only once afterwards; on an impulse I picked up coins of different currencies. I was much more intelligent than my peer group (I tested in the low-150s on the Stanford-Binet scale at 14, although I’m well aware that IQ is pseudo-scientific charlatanry) and thus was alienated, but being alone didn’t bother me. I did well in school, but I never aimed for top of the class because it wasn’t worth the extra effort. I find myself inexorably drawn to the depraved and the macabre, watching the Serbian Film for its extreme depictions of rape and necrophilia. I am highly sarcastic, ambitious, well-read and a reckless procrastinator. I have an ambiguous sexual identity; bisexuality is the closest equivalent to my sexual orientation but I can turn it on and off like a switch. My peers find me intimidating; I can silence them with a cold stare and take charge in most situations. I have trouble controlling my temper and heartily enjoy intense arguments/verbal jousts. I have sadistic and highly taboo sexual fantasies. In the few physical altercations I have been involved in, I have always been absolutely cold, calmly using my nails as pincers and slapping at opportune moments. I degrade my opponent in every way I can, regardless of who it is, when provoked; I am not merciful in breaking someone down. I do not have a fear response. My family often quips that my emotional detachment and composure in high-pressure situations makes me suitable for fields like Espionage, Neurosurgery or Trial Law. I do have a high opinion of myself and indulge in the odd flight of fancy but my rational bent of mind safeguards me from delusional thinking. I discarded my first romantic partner after dating him for more than a year when he wasn’t meeting my sexual needs. I find myself fascinated by the exploits of Marquis de Sade and Lord Byron; by accounts and memoirs of serial killers and volatile criminals. My peers tease me by calling me ‘ice princess’; I roll my eyes at the juvenility of the moniker but I find myself vaguely in agreement. I don’t follow a strict moral/ethical framework, but I also don’t fully submit to the pleasure principle- I do not knowingly hurt people, unless circumstances necessitate toughness or they provoke me. I have a very sexually charged presence, and I know just how to push all the right buttons when it comes to men- but I do not manipulate people outside the realm of seduction, although I can cry at will and have used that to my advantage in a few isolated instances. I do not have trouble transitioning from sex siren into an image of temerity and docility if the situation demands it; I do not cede control if I can help it, and feel violated when compelled to. I have near-zero levels of romantic jealousy. I’m also quite attuned to my environment and vacillate between a lack of, and a profound connection with, my body.

My argument against sociopathy would be that I’m often blunt and straightforward, rather than cunning and manipulative. My lying cannot be considered a statistical anomaly. I can form meaningful relationships with other people, but I find it easy to sever contact if their behaviour repulses me. I am currently in a relationship with a man I love very much and am very sexually attracted to. What I feel for him in terms of emotional intensity and depth is what stops me from classifying myself as a sociopath. I did seduce another man outside this relationship, but I did not cheat and came clean about the explicit conversations we’d been having because I couldn’t betray my boyfriend. His happiness was more important than my acting on a vague, capricious impulse. He forgave my transgression, and I severed all contact with the other bloke, who continues to follow me around like a lovestruck puppy. Did I feel guilt? It was more like a series of mechanical decisions, a crude cost-benefit analysis so to speak, rather than actual guilt. But the important thing to keep in mind here is that I came clean. That is what necessitated the cost-benefit analysis in the first place. I suppose I did feel vaguely remorseful. I see my current partner as an extension of myself- and have been involved in a physical altercation to protect him from harm.

I have no history of criminal behaviour. I scored a 21 on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. I don’t cry except while watching movies or listening to beautiful music. Fictional portrayals move me more than actual troubles. Perhaps it’s the mundanity in real life that turns me off.

So, where would you class me? 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sociopaths on Television: iZombie

At the recommendation of a twitter follower, I watched an episode of iZombie with a strong sociopath plot feature. The show's protagonist is a former heart surgery resident turned crime fighting zombie who eats brains of victims of crime in order to regain some of their memories, and as a side effect takes on some of their habits or abilities. For instance, in the pilot episode she acquires kleptomania. In the third episode, The Exterminator, she becomes sociopathic after eating the brains of a sociopath hit man.

The show was interesting enough to watch. I felt like they did a good job showing the bright parts of sociopathy a little (clear headed and ballsy when she needed to be). I think the premise of the show in general highlights the vast differences that there can be between different brains, that we all are really special snowflakes wandering around with such oddities rattling around in our heads, some with labels of diagnosis and some without. Whether we were pre-programmed that way or somehow had a hand in acquiring that programming, it is still programming -- hard wired and hard to get over.

The episode is available on Hulu for who knows how long -- here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tina Fey's Sociopath Daughter

Not sure why I didn't publish this before?

The first one:


And the more recent one, still doing bad to the bone:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Meeting a sociopathic son halfway (part 2)

My response:

I've been thinking about this. First, can I publish this on the blog to see what others would suggest as well?

But I have a few suggestions.
  • It's very important that he trust you. You are essentially asking him to do a childlike abridged 12 step program in which he admits that he is powerless (or at least his power isn't endless) and to trust your judgment instead of his own. To do that, he has to believe 100% that you have his best interests at heart. 
  • To accomplish that (trust), plus provide him some good role models of people who hid their true nature sometimes, I would recommend reading to him books. I know he is old to be read to, but you could read something that is a little beyond his reading level and it would provide both bonding and instruction. One book series that I thought of immediately was Game of Thrones. There is a lot in there about duplicity. Another character I like is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series, and how sneaky and effective he ends up being.
  • I would recommend involving him in activities in which secrecy and planning ahead are the whole aim, e.g. chess or poker or something similar. 
  • Maybe play mask like games with him, e.g. who can speak in a mock foreign accent at the grocery store the longest. Or pretend to be different people -- you're really tourists, or you're actually spies, or everyone is a pod person and you have avoid their detection by always looking them in the eye and responding directly to their questions, or whatever you decide to do. This will teach him to be creative and to focus on the image he is projecting. 
  • You're already doing this, but incentives are the key. You may like this program: My nephew, who is a lot like your son, responded well to this. I would also, if he isn't already, enroll him in music lessons (I would recommend piano or strings, not an instrument he plays with his mouth, as it is more visual and probably easier for his brain to conceptualize). Pay him money to do his practicing and attending lessons. Learning the pleasure and value of money will be a great motivator for him in life. Music will also give him more of a clue to understanding emotions. It's been a while since I actually read about this, but the way our brain perceives music is related to the way that our brain perceives motion, which is also connected to the way that the brain perceives emotion. The theory goes that this is why the movement and motion of music is translated by our brain into something resembling an emotional response. Even if he is not able to register certain higher level emotional things, usually youngsters are still able to tap into the lower, more primitive emotional level of music. 
Another interesting question that was raised in this discussion was whether sociopathy as a diagnosis becomes a further rationalization to the sociopath of doing more and worse bad behavior. I feel like that is a very common worry that I hear expressed -- outside the sociopathic community. At least the way I experience my disorder, I don't care that much about any sort of justifications to tell myself, moral social or otherwise (now, justifications to tell other people or rationalizations based on my own values are a different story). And I don't look for reasons to believe that I can't control my behavior. When you hear bad people say that they do bad things because they're bad people, I don't think they're giving a justification for their behavior so much as just an explanation. In other words, in their minds they're going to keep doing the bad things not because of a belief that they can't help it but because of a belief that they like to do those things.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Meeting a sociopathic son halfway

From a reader:

I'm sure this is something you hear with relative frequency but I am fairly certain that my son is a sociopath. He is nine years old and he seems to have come upon a time in his life where he is beginning to sense that there is something different about him.

There has been something "off" about him for his entire life, from his epic tantrums to his insensitivity to cues like tone of voice and body language. He would go into episodes where his eyes went dead, for lack of a better word, and he would be absolutely uncontrollable. These same episodes now result in a child who just doesn't care what anyone is saying to him. He simply stands with that blank stare and absorbs nothing. What we were dealing with really hit me when I talked to him about his continued physical violence toward his younger brother. I was trying to get him to empathize with his brother and understand how he felt and my son simply could not do it. He was trying but when I asked about how he thought his brother felt, the only emotions he could manage to think of were "angry" or "happy". He also seemed completely unable to really understand the feelings of his brother, relying on physical cues from his brother rather than any real connection.

My concern is that he has been reacting violently to the tension he seems to be dealing with as a result of his peers advancing emotionally while he does not. He has been fighting with other students, arguing with teachers, stealing, lying, and manipulating. He's chokes his brother, physically fought with teachers and adults, delighted in feeding live lizards to the dog, convinced his teacher he was depressed, and threatened suicide to illicit a reaction. He's been suspended, put in detention, talked to by the school resource officer, had his grades drop, and any number of other consequences. He simply doesn't care and seems to not learn from experience. We've enacted an allowance method that gives direct correlation between his behavior and monetary reward. This seems to be effective, making good behavior more profitable than poor behavior but I don't know how effective it will be at curbing behavior when a strong impulse hits.

I am trying to understand how to help direct him toward a higher level of functionality. I know that he can't really be "cured" nor does he need to be. I just don't know how to help him understand why it is important to behave in accordance to society's rules. I have had conversations with him about it but the value of obeying rules is hard to impart to someone who genuinely doesn't care about the consequences and lacks the control to reign in his impulses. I'm scared that he will end up in jail or that he will really hurt someone someday if I can't direct him to a more productive path.

I suppose my question, after a bit of rambling, is this: Is there anything someone could have done at a young age to help you to understand the value of "the mask"? I hate that he has to put one on but there is no way for him to succeed in life without it. Is there any way someone could have helped you to develop the ability to live more easily in society? I know you did so on your own but might there have been a way for someone to help you to discover it earlier and save yourself some grief? I don't want to label him or make him something he's not. After all, there is a reason that sociopathy cannot be diagnosed until later in life but I want to help him because he is certainly on that path and I think waiting until he is an adult to address the likely cause of his difficulty would be a mistake.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Taming the sociopath sibling?

A reader asks for our help:

I read your book and absolutely loved it. I’m almost 100% sure my oldest sister is a sociopath and she’s rained some pretty nasty shit on my life over the past 10 years. I told her I was suicidal and she said she couldn’t care a less. [Other facts censored to preserve anonymity.]

I’m now trying to write her an email telling her what I think of her and wondered if you had any tips. What I’m writing will have to be quite damming. I’m actually thinking of doing this in public (on Facebook) to humiliate her but I really need some psychological insight about how best to go about this. I’m actually highly educated (I speak 8 languages) but know nothing about the mind of a sociopath. I’m not writing anything emotional at all because I know that won’t have any effect. Basically my whole family has been her marionettes for years. She’s got my dad under a complete spell and it’s really torturing him. I’ve decided that enough is enough, someone needs to tell her and it’s going to have to be me. Due to childhood problems, I believe she has the unconscious desire to psychologically torture men. I see she does it to my dad and anyone connected to him. Is there anyway you can help me? I’m desperate.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Legacy of a Narcissistic Parent

From the title of a recent post on After telling of some of the difficulties that children of narcissistic parents face and how that affects their development and the behaviors and patterns that those children carry with them into adulthood, the article shares some advice on how to counteract some of those effects now:

First, you have to grieve the loss of the parent you never had. Really grieve the fact that you didn’t get the parent you needed, the one who put you and your needs first. Part of that requires releasing the fantasy that your narcissistic parent can change and eventually give you what you need. They can evolve and grow, but they may never evolve enough to meet your deepest needs. Therefore, managing expectations is key, particularly when you see glimpses of the healthy parent you wish you had had, but in fact those glimpses are often not sustainable. Accept that your parent was limited—and could not give you unconditional love or even deep empathy because she could not get past herself to truly see you. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, the anger and the sadness. Emotion has the word motion in it; allow your emotions to move through you. You might not have lost your parent to death, but you lost what could have been—you lost an opportunity to be truly mothered—and that is really a profound loss. Accepting this, rather than denying it, is the first step in opening your heart to healing.

You are going to need to discover boundaries—where you begin and your parents end—to free your authentic self. When you choose who you want to be, rather than who your parents wanted you to be, you break free from their narcissistic grip. Tolerate their discomfort, even if they make a lot of noise. 

You are not misbehaving, rebelling, or rejecting them. You are being you, the real you—maybe for the first time. This is the first part of breaking the cycle. Next, you don’t want to repeat/generalize the relationship that you had with your narcissistic parent to your coworkers, partner, or friends. Realize where you are meeting the needs of other narcissists in your life, real or imagined. Sometimes children of narcissists assume that every person they’re close to will need the same kind of hyper-attention and appeasement that their parent did—and unconsciously begin doing mental backbends to please others. At times you may be tapping into the expectations of a narcissistic boss or partner, and reflexively playing that familiar role. At other times you may be making erroneous assumptions about what someone important to you really needs—perhaps they don’t want you to mirror their opinions or they don’t need you to sugarcoat your real feelings or soften constructive criticism. Breathe, pause, give yourself some psychic space and then test it. Try just being frank, try not to rush in and take care of their feelings. If being different from your loved one feels uncomfortable—or if you feel you’re risking love with that stance—just notice it. Watch how much stronger your bond is than what you secretly imagined it to be. This is the gift of evolving past the scene of the original crime—your own childhood. Surviving childhood meant taking care of the narcissist and swallowing your feelings. But now as an adult you can begin to surround yourself with people that you feel safe and at home with—like soul mate girlfriends—who know and love the real you, and this can be deeply transformative.

Children of narcissistic parents often wonder if they are really loveable. You are! Start loving and caring for yourself in ways that you wished your mom or dad had loved and cared for you. Start paying attention to what really matters to you; what makes you feel alive and moments when you feel authentically you. Maybe you will need help mothering yourself. Maybe that means getting re-parented by a therapist, or maybe the healing comes from an emotionally reparative romantic partnership. Maybe you have a friend’s mother who is nurturing to you, or a mentor who celebrates the real you. All of these people can become part of your collective parent. No one person is ever capable of meeting all of your needs so start building your collective parenting community. And once you have learned to mother yourself, you will be able to mother your child.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sociopathy & Addiction

Sociopathy & Addiction

There have been numerous studies made to understand the link between sociopathy and substance abuse addiction.

One of the problems researchers face when trying to study this problem is that often addicts with no previous history of sociopathic behavior do begin to show signs of it when something happens to make the addictive substance difficult to obtain.  This tendency could lead researchers to record "false positives" when declaring that an individual addict is also a sociopath.

What is known is that it would be wrong to think of all addicts as sociopaths, or that all sociopaths are addicts.  But there is strong evidence to suggest that substance abuse is more common among people who can be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), more widely known as sociopathy.

Emotional control, denial, and excuses

Many people mistakenly believe that because one of the supposed signs of ASPD is that the individual has a high level of emotional control, they would be unlikely to use substances that would lead to a loss of control.  For example, by using drugs or alcohol, it is expected that the sociopath may "slip up" and reveal his or her true nature.

In fact the opposite is true.  Some sociopaths may actually crave that loss of control.  But more importantly, it must be remembered that sociopaths tend to be exceptionally self-confident, and it is unlikely that they will believe they will experience a loss of control when they first get on the path to substance abuse.

Even once they do become addicted, they may assert that they are in control of their addiction, or "could give it up if they wanted to".  For some sociopaths, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol also provides a handy excuse for their antisocial behaviors.
Addiction is always a serious problem, but it can be even more serious for sociopaths

A key difference between true sociopaths and other addicts is that whereas most normal addicts come to realize the negative effect of their addiction on others and eventually seek help, the sociopath may be left untreated until the situation has become so dire that there is absolutely no other choice but to get treated.

Sadly it is often the case that may cause serious harm to themselves or others as a result of their addictions, and sometimes they will even die or end up in prison.

Why sociopaths are so susceptible to substance abuse

What may seem like normal life to many people can be incredibly boring to a sociopath.  Sometimes they are willing to do almost anything to escape that boredom.  Sociopaths tend to be thrill-seekers by nature, and they are more likely to indulge in risky behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse.

Something can be done

While many professionals view sociopathy as "untreatable", the sociopathic thrill-seeking tendency does not necessarily have to be destructive.  It just may never occur to the sociopath that the stimulation they crave could be obtained in more constructive ways.  Sports and physical activities, for example, could be viable alternatives. Florida Beach Rehab is just one of many facilities around the country that’s fully capable of dealing with sociopathy and other types of addiction problems.
Seeking treatment as early as possible is vital

Everyone suffering from addiction should receive treatment for it.  The tendency of sociopaths to avoid treatment places them especially at risk of serious consequences.  Without treatment the addiction will continue to get worse, and so could the destructive behavior patterns that accompany it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

New assessment tool for incarceration

The more that I studied music, the more faith I had in its timeless beauty and infinite variation and admiration for its greatest practitioners. The more I studied law, the more I realized that most of it was built on entirely unfounded assumptions. And there is an odd, awkward, and often misguided interaction between the social science findings and the legal reactions to them. This sort of blind leading the blind feature of the law is troubling, to say the least, which is why I love the empirical movement in law (and continuing expansion in social science).

That's why I was so interested to read that the Kentucky in the United States has established a new risk assessment tool to determine when a potential parolee is likely to be a reoffender based on (wait for it) -- actual verifiable and replicable data! If this surprises you that this was not the status quo or if you don't quite believe me, these quotes from the article:

"We have had a risk-assessment tool since 1976, the Vera scale. Over time, modifications were being made to factors used to determine risk that were reactionary. The indicators for determining risk were not research-based," says Klute.
"Good, reliable data drive good bond decisions," says Kentucky Circuit Court Judge David Tapp. "It's definitely changed the way I decide. When I was a young judge, I relied on intuition and community expectations. Now I know with verified information what is statistically likely" if the defendant is released. 
"It enables us to make better arguments for our clients," says Scott West, general counsel of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. "It allows a factual argument to rebut gut instinct." 

Not everyone is a fan, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:

On the PBS NewsHour with Gwen Ifill on July 31, 2014, Holder questioned the use of big data on the front end to determine detention. States are already "using that as a predictor, though, of how likely this person is going to be a recidivist. Using group data to make an individualized determination, I think, can result in fundamental unfairness."

No doubt big data can often lead to stereotypes and covert racism, but statisticians have gotten increasingly more sophisticated about trying to filter out those tendencies (I believe), and if there is no evidence that this is what actually is happening (again from real, reliable data), then I'm not sure how non research-based risk assessment tools are any more fundamentally fair than research-based ones?

For anyone who has been worried that being tagged a sociopath would lead to their permanent incarceration should they ever be caught up in the system...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Severus Snape

The previous post reminded me of this video, showing Harry Potter's Severus Snape's scenes in chronological order (spoilers!):

The best part are the comments, particularly those on this site. If you've ever thought that moralizing was a simple matter of doing right things at right times, you may be surprised to hear that is not enough in the black and white moral worlds of many others in which there are only good people and bad people and good people must have done bad things for a good reason and bad people were probably doing good things for selfish reasons (like romantic love?) or didn't really mean them (even though they sacrificed their life for it?) or shouldn't ever be trusted anyway because once a bad guy, always a bad guy. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It could happen to you

I spoke with a friend who was recently ousted from a job based on fabricated charges. She told me that she finally understood -- for the first time -- a little bit about what it was like to be me. She told me that before this happened to her, she had always just assumed that if anyone left her previous places of employment or were fired, it must have been because there was something bad about the firee that she simply didn't know about that justified the firing. 

It's a commonly held belief (and absolutely self-serving), that if something bad happens to someone, that person must be guilty. It's so common that when an even worse thing happened to a mutual friend of ours, during what became a minor media scandal the precipitated the ouster, her co-workers were quoted as saying things like, "you think you know a person, but I guess everyone is capable of darkness." When this mutual friend was eventually exonerated by her place of employment, the employer gave her a sort of a shrug of his shoulders -- yes she was innocent, but there was no way that they could re-hire her given the salacious nature of the scandal and the delicate nature of the job. Now she has no career.

Even before my own very personal experiences with the media, one of my extended family members was an integral part of a national scandal. Although she was largely kept out of the limelight for being a minor, I was able to see how dodgy even very respectable journalistic outposts were about accurately reporting the facts. There's actually a surprising amount of inferences dot connecting reported as absolute that goes on (probably true of any area of life), and there's an odd sort of hubris and self-assurance that some journalists have that their inferences have to be right, just because that is how the journalist happens to see it. 

So Jon Ronson has his book about public shaming out. I haven't read but excerpts (see here for adapted excerpt re Justine Sacco), but obviously I am a fan of the topic, given its coverage on this blog. I've never been a fan of the empath's capacity and eagerness to form lynch mobs. And I can imagine that Ronson's book may be the least loved and most controversial of his books because there is a significant portion of the population that loves lynch mobs so much that they will defend almost every aspect of them, including the capacity and authority to judge others to the point of deciding who gets to live a normal life or not. 

For instance, in his piece that reads (at least to me) largely as a defense of his own part in the Jonah Lehrer shaming, Slates's Daniel Engber quotes the observation of a theatre professor regarding the reaction that some had in learning that Lehrer was to speak at a Midwestern university: “As soon as it became clear to certain people on the East Coast that Jonah was here, I started to get phone calls from people who had no other wish than to ruin his life.” Can you imagine hating a stranger so much that years later you are still harassing him in anyway you can?

Engber gives some obeisance to the idea that he was less knight in shining armor and more misguided Crusader: 

It seemed to me that Payne might have had a point. Am I part of this East Coast mob of angry journalists, out for nothing less than Lehrer’s blood? Ronson’s book suggests as much. In the coda to his chapters on the scandal, he cites a post of mine in Slate, in which I found signs of plagiarism (among other problems) in Lehrer’s newest book proposal. Could I be, as Ronson hints, a self-appointed fury, cruelly bent on someone else’s destruction? 

He concludes, no. Why? Because even though he has done only a bit of anecdotal fact-finding (sound familiar?), he believes that Lehrer has still not owned up to what Engber imagines is scores of misdeeds. What does he base this belief on? Not much more than the fact that Lehrer's publishers never released their reports on his other books, which naturally indicates that they have something to hide: "Houghton Mifflin never published the results of its investigation, so there’s been no full accounting of the problems in Lehrer’s work. But it’s safe to say the Dylan quotes were just the tipoff for something much worse." Is that really safe to say? In what sense of the word "safe"? Safe to say in the sense that it is convenient to assume without verifying and makes Engber's piece seemingly stronger and more compelling (again, what he accuses Lehrer of having done in making "'mistakes'" that "tend to make his stories more exciting".)

Other misdeeds are that the following sentence appears in Lehrer's work and also appears in another book: "The coaches were confident that the young quarterback wouldn’t make a mistake," along with similar descriptions of what happened during a Super Bowl (probably all descriptions of the Super Bowl would be similar because they're all based on the same underlying facts of what actually happened?).  

So basically we have a menace to society on our hands in the form of Jonah Lehrer. And Engber concludes, unsurprisingly from a pitchfork wielding member of the original mob, that Jonah Lehrer should never get back into society's good graces perhaps until he acknowledges all of the mistakes that Engber thinks are mistakes, or perhaps never because how could we ever trust him again. As Engber notes himself, "there are rules to telling stories," and when we tell ourselves stories of self-justification to excuse the blood that we may have spilt in enacting justice, best to stick to the original script of -- if something bad happened to a person, they must have had it coming somehow. 

Otherwise we'd have to admit, as my friends have unfortunately had to recently, that this sort of life ruining and shaming can truly happen to anyone.
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