Saturday, May 30, 2015

ENTP = quintessential sociopath?

From a sociopathic-identifying reader:

I have been fully immersed in psychology in the last few years, leading to my exposure to the Meyers Briggs personality indicator, which I feel is relevant to my possible sociopathy due to my strong identification with the ENTP type. 

Even on the surface level, ENTPs seem to be the ideal candidate for a sociopath: our zero tolerance policy toward boredom and consequent willingness to go to any lengths for stimulation combined with our ability to turn charm on and off without a second thought is nearly identical to the driving factors that sociopaths seem to have. Personally, I exercise my social manipulation skills (aka "charm") often and with much joy, objectively viewing most people as little more than pieces in a large and exciting game. 

Regardless of my psychopathic tendencies as a child, my uncertainty toward my identity is due largely in part to the contrast of stereotypical sociopathy and my ENTP personality. My lack of morality could either be attributed to a mental disorder or the results of inherent indecision and refusal to accept traditional ideals--although many believe INTJs to be the personality most closely linked to sociopathy, I think (possibly from personal bias) ENTPs natural inclination to charm, cajole, and intently seek out to challenge any form of regulation aligns us almost perfectly with the portrait of a sociopath.

My struggle now is mostly originated from the possibilities of either my true nature as a sociopath or of the simple fulfillment and exhibition of qualities blanketed under the ENTP personality type. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pedophilia = not a crime

A reader sent me this New York Times op ed, "Pedophilia: A Disorder, Not a Crime" written by a law professor. I thought there were some pretty strong similarities to other hated mental disorders, and the comments section is a little disheartening with people talking about how this law professor would not be saying the things she is saying if she knew how disgusting and sick these pedophiles really are. One was from a prosecutor, talking about how he has prosecuted exactly two of these cases in which the details were apparently disturbing, so therefore feels like an expert on the subject: "These people don't need protection; children do." False dichotomy (can't they both need protection?), and one that you could really use for any class of people based on the actions of a few individuals, e.g. couldn't we make the same argument about NFL players based on their seemingly expressed propensity for violence (either on the field or with their wives and girlfriends?).

The article is worth reading in its entirety, but here is the probably the part that most closely parallels other maligned mental health disorders:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines pedophilia as an intense and recurrent sexual interest in prepubescent children, and a disorder if it causes a person “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty” or if the person acts on his interests. Yet our laws ignore pedophilia until after the commission of a sexual offense, emphasizing punishment, not prevention.

Part of this failure stems from the misconception that pedophilia is the same as child molestation. One can live with pedophilia and not act on it. Sites like Virtuous Pedophiles provide support for pedophiles who do not molest children and believe that sex with children is wrong. It is not that these individuals are “inactive” or “nonpracticing” pedophiles, but rather that pedophilia is a status and not an act. In fact, research shows, about half of all child molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims.

A second misconception is that pedophilia is a choice. Recent research, while often limited to sex offenders — because of the stigma of pedophilia — suggests that the disorder may have neurological origins. Pedophilia could result from a failure in the brain to identify which environmental stimuli should provoke a sexual response. M.R.I.s of sex offenders with pedophilia show fewer of the neural pathways known as white matter in their brains. Men with pedophilia are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous, a finding that strongly suggests a neurological cause. Some findings also suggest that disturbances in neurodevelopment in utero or early childhood increase the risk of pedophilia. Studies have also shown that men with pedophilia have, on average, lower scores on tests of visual-spatial ability and verbal memory.

The Virtuous Pedophiles website is full of testimonials of people who vow never to touch a child and yet live in terror. They must hide their disorder from everyone they know — or risk losing educational and job opportunities, and face the prospect of harassment and even violence. Many feel isolated; some contemplate suicide. The psychologist Jesse Bering, author of “Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us,” writes that people with pedophilia “aren’t living their lives in the closet; they’re eternally hunkered down in a panic room.” 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Am I a sociopath?

From a reader:

I come bearing the question countless others must have asked you. Identity is a confusing and often evasive concept: and though I like to believe I've established a firm sense of self, I'm unsure of my true nature. Am I a sociopath, or simply paranoid about certain characteristics? 

Between the years of approximately 8-11, I exhibited a textbook symptom of socio/psychopathy--torturing animals. I didn't know why I did it, there was no logical deduction for the matter. I wasn't expressing pent up rage or harboring intense feelings of vengeance, I just watched in morbid fascination. It was only a year or two later that I told my mother about it (spinning the tale slightly, of course, in order to retain a few layers of the facade I was sure that hid the monster I was) and receiving some degree of comfort at the assurance that I was no such beast. It was natural, she told me. Children often don't know what they're doing. But I knew what I was doing. And I knew that I felt nothing under the thin surface of anxiety and perplexity. 

My relationship with my family has been one of occasional turmoil. I regard them as little more than an experiment of sorts--I test out certain erratic behaviors and obscure ideologies in order to observe the reaction they cause among "normal" people and learn based on the results. It's not to say I don't love them in my own way. As with all my relationships, I love them off my perception of their ability to intellectually stimulate myself. I enjoy the responses I can elicit from my family members, particularly my conservative father. But if a bullet was racing towards one of them, I would regard the situation as an unfortunate obligation to step in front of it rather than devotion to a "familial bond". At least I might die an apparent hero--I'm a sucker for the spotlight. 

I used to have a friend that I would emotionally toy with more often than not. I was mindful of the effects of the backhanded compliments I gave to her and the jealousy I purposefully provoked among other things. It's easy to read this now and stereotype myself as a simple bitch, but I know that my manipulations were the result of boredom rather than true maliciousness. The same restlessness nearly got me killed by prompting myself to swallow a handful of pills years ago on a whim. I seek understanding and knowledge above all else (well, besides self-gratification), and as I walked past the cupboard I was struck by a longing to know. Curiosity (nearly) killed the cat, I suppose. 

Emotional trauma is nonexistent to me. I don't scar quite as easily as others-- all of the potentially triggering events in my life I regard with ambivalence at best. Ms. Thomas, I hate to sound presumptuous but throughout reading your book, but I was struck by the similarity of our upbringings. My father was abusive toward us for a time, yet I have been raised in an actively devout (although Catholic) family. In spite of the fact that I cannot bring myself to wholeheartedly believe in any particular religion, I refuse to negate the possibilities. 

I could describe multiple other instances where I was certain I was a sociopath, but I do not like to wear such heavy labels. I find them constraining on my interactions with others. However, my antithesis of this plea for understanding is the odd inconsistencies with my fitting in to this mental condition.  While emotional manipulation is endlessly entertaining, I despise asking for material favors if I am in true need. I don't typically go out of my way to damage the feelings of others unless I am provoked by intense boredom, and although I refrain from expressing or even experiencing substantial emotion I think that I care for a few of my friends; if only due to their profound capacity for intellectual conversation. I am risk taking and spontaneous to the point of concern, but I find unlimited joy in pondering the mysteries of life. Do these things eliminate me from the possibility of being a sociopath? 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sofia the First: Good Little Witch

File this under the heading of good things to show young budding sociopaths or children with other anti-social personalities (aspies? autistics?), Sofia tries to teach her witch friend that she can use her powers for good rather than evil and that it is in her best interest to do so (also good brainwashing about victims giving people a second change despite their fears and reluctance to trust):

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Seeing people for what they are

“These people who can see right through you never quite do you justice, because they never give you credit for the effort you're making to be better than you actually are, which is difficult and well meant and deserving of some little notice.”

― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Anti-psychopath non profit?

From a reader:

I came across this post:

This made me wonder whether a tax-exempt "charitable" organization could have a questionably discriminatory purpose, such as freeing the world of psychopaths. I don't know, but I highly suspect that a non-profit dedicated to denigrating people suffering from other mental health problems would not be deemed to be sufficiently charitable.

I thought it was worth pointing out. I am curious whether there is a mechanism to object to a (c)(3) application.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Monetary incentives

From a self-identified narcissist who has sociopathic leanings:

I'm mentioning this to you because it illustrates your point about sociopaths and incentives.

I've been in a few long-term relationships with women. In the beginning, I'm on my best behavior, because I'm trying to seduce them and get them to want to give me whatever I want. After I sense that the woman is hooked, I'll start doing unfortunate and disgraceful things, like not showering regularly, showing up late, farting in her presence or pissing in the kitchen sink (if she's using the toilet).

This can get to be quite unfortunate, because I don't necessarily want to do the bad habits, but my impulsiveness gets the best of me, so I'll keep doing them anyway. Often the woman nags me, which is a bit like trying to teach a pig to sing; it doesn't work and annoys me. She just gets more and more irritated.

Monetary fines work - and they work wonders. E.g. $5/fart. That is, if I fart and she calls me on it,  have to hand over $5 in cash.

I've done this with a few women. They think it is crazy when I bring it up. Then they think it is funny. Later on they are just happy about the results.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

More parenting a sociopathic son

It's interesting what assumptions we make about people (and even ourselves?) about their/our unspoken motivations for things. One of the weirdest conversations I've had with someone about any sociopathic acts was with the attorney for my publisher after manuscript was submitted. We went through various stories in the book that would lead to potential liability for the publisher. I forget why, but somehow we were talking about the first story about killing the opossum. He said that was vicious. I said something about how I was just eliminating a pest the same way someone might smash a spider. He corrected me, saying that I obviously relished the killing and that was my primary reason for doing it. Hm... It's hard to know what to say to something like that. On the one hand, it's possible that that is true and that I am deeply out of touch with my own motivations on that point (or all points), but I don't think so. And even if I were, for him to think that he has such levels of insight to determine that I am an animal sadist (or any kind of sadist) from one story consisting of several paragraphs seems to me a weird sort of confidence in one's capacity for discernment. I used to think I had crazy people reading skills and now either I've lost them or maybe I've come to distinguish better the difference between being able to see one small angle of a person that is hidden to most eyes versus truly being able to understand another person not myself. Because I really don't think the latter is even possible, anymore (if I ever thought it was). I don't know if that makes me more hopeful that neurodiversity principles will eventually triumph, or less.

An update from the mother who was meeting her sociopathic son halfway, from a comment from that post:

I have had conversations with my son and come to realize that his feeding lizards to the dog and such was actually not motivated by sadistic tendencies, nor was his treatment of other children. For example, with the lizards, the dog was chasing them in a playful manner. My son just thought he was expediting the process... Cutting to the chase, so to speak. He didn't enjoy it. He just didn't care, thought the chasing of the lizard was fun and didn't know what to do with it when he caught it so he fed it to the dog, who had been chasing it... To his mind, it simply made sense. The fights with his brother and other children were not sadism either but, rather, a violent response to a perceived injustice most of the time or instrumental violence that served some purpose to him. That has been a great relief to me. 

To those who have suggested a firmer hand, you are correct. I have been holding firmer on rules, regulations, and punishments. It has made a big difference in his behavior. No more sob stories or pouty faces to escape the punishment (or absence of reward). 

We have been having a lot of fun together... And just having someone who is trying to understand him seems as though it has relieved him, like he doesn't have to hide ALL the time. Framing things as games has probably had the biggest effect. "You are an alien sent from another planet to observe humans and today, your objective is..." It takes the tediousness of normal social interaction and makes it something fun and intellectually engaging... With just the hint of deception/conning. 

Everyone's thoughts on being explicit on things that we assume are "givens" has helped as well. I have also worked with him on understanding and mirroring facial expressions and done exercises to help him develop cognitive empathy and be aware of it... 

I have worked on finding decent role models that are interesting to a nearly ten year old boy but also age appropriate... Catwoman, James Bond (Sean Connery), Aladdin (Yeah... Watch it as an adult and analyze his behavior), Snape.... Not all are necessarily psychopaths but they do utilize behavior that is often sneaky or deceptive to achieve goals that are accepted by society with little violence. 

I just wanted to let everyone know I am still here and I am still listening. I just have been busy lately and unable to post much. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Empath Song: Not Your Kind of People

From a reader:

I was listening to this song recently and the lyrics reminded me of how many empaths, particularly those who have been the "victim" of a sociopath, feel towards the sociopath.

We are not your kind of people.
You seem kind of phoney.
Everything's a lie.
We are not your kind of people.
Something in your makeup.
Don't see eye to eye.

We are not your kind of people.
Don't want to be like you.
Ever in our lives.
We are not your kind of people.
We fight when you start talking.
There's nothing but white noise

Ahhh.... Ahhh.... Ahhh.... Ahhh....

Running around trying to fit in,
Wanting to be loved.
It doesn't take much.
For someone to shut you down.
When you build a shell,
Build an army in your mind.
You can't sit still.
And you don't like hanging round the crowd.
They don't understand

You dropped by as I was sleeping.
You came to see the whole commotion.
And when I woke I started laughing.
The jokes on me for not believing.

We are not your kind of people.
Speak a different language.
We see through your lies.
We are not your kind of people.
Won't be cast as demons,
Creatures you despise.

We are extraordinary people.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Discovering oneself

From a reader:

I'm just beginning to truly discover myself in my thirties. Funny how lying to the self can take so long to capture. Anyway, there is an interesting interview online that discusses how to spot us on a very different level than most anti-sociopath websites. I thought you might and enjoy it and share it with others as a means to educate them on how not to behave when confronted with disillusionment. Best wishes and thank you for keeping up your website. It's been with utmost pleasure that I revisit it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Stranger than fiction

I ran across this older than a year email and remembered again how there were some people who absolutely could not believe that the book was nonfiction. I never could understand why that was. I think this from a reader provides at least one plausible explanation (another reason why I actually like the premise of that iZombie tv show -- people really are living in such different brains from each other):

I was informed of your website and subsequently your book by a friend and former colleague.  We worked together for almost 10 years and at some point realized we had a lot of common world views and didn't understand peoples emotional attachments to supposed negative actions.

As we peeled away layers of our friendship it became clear that we had both "cheated" on boyfriends and felt nothing that would constitute shame.  That was only the tip of the iceberg.  We kept so many of each other's secrets and still do.  I get nothing out of gossip and know it serves me better to keep her secrets as much as it serves her to keep mine.

When people see us together they assume we are on our own planet.  We are very well liked individually and collectively and are two of the smartest people I'm aware of.  We often joked about how things would easier if certain people were dead.  It wasn't that we would actually kill them, but just a logical fact that it would be easier if something killed them.  What prevented us from any wrongdoing ever was not our moral bias but our awareness of the consequences.

We joked a lot about being sociopaths and started to really look into it.  Well before I came across your book, I already knew.  Here's the thing.  I've read a lot of bad reviews of the book wherein people are shocked that someone would try to pass that off as nonfiction.  I merely read it as written confirmation of everything I have ever known about the way I think.  However, it messes with their construct of a functional person.  It reads like a hoax to them when it is anything but.

Additionally, I have met others like my friend and I.  It's something subtle that I can pick up on.  Maybe they haven't figured out why they are different yet.  They're always smarter and ask questions I would have asked.  I'm drawn to them and after each and every meeting, I text that friend and say.  "I've found another.  So and so is one of us."  I tell no one.  I thrive more on keeping the secret to myself and I feel a little less alone.

You said you would tell me who you are. You know who I am.  Feel free to use any of this on your website. For all I care, you can make me the face of non-violent sociopaths.  I'll take everyone on because I like the challenge and no one is going to take me seriously anyway, much to their own demise.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sociopaths in literature: The Seducer's Diary

I once knew of a girl whose story forms the substance of the diary. Whether he has seduced others I do not know... we learn of his desire for something altogether arbitrary. With the help of his mental gifts he knew how to tempt a girl to draw her to him without caring to possess her in any stricter sense.

I can imagine him able to bring a girl to the point where he was sure she would sacrifice all then he would leave without a word let a lone a declaration a promise. 

The unhappy girl would retain the consciousness of it with double bitterness because there was not the slightest thing she could appeal to. She could only be constantly tossed about in a terrible witches' dance at one moment reproaching herself forgiving him at another reproaching him and then since the relationship would only have been actual in a figurative sense she would constantly have to contend with the doubt that the whole thing might only have been an imagination.

Søren Kierkegaard 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Sociopaths = utilitarians

Sometimes I get people pushing back on the idea that sociopathic are largely utilitarian (think trolley problem, etc). I was looking through some old emails, however, and found this Psychology Today article about there being an actual empirically recognized link between the two. My guess is that utilitarians are not necessarily sociopaths. My guess is, however, that it is true that sociopaths naturally default to a more utilitarian way of thinking because there almost is no other universal, sustainable basis of decision making for a sociopath to choose that would work in almost any situation without the sociopath being run out of town for outrageous selfishness. From the article:

As The Economist recently wrote, a forthcoming paper in Cognition (link is external) reports that experiment participants "who indicated greater endorsement of utilitarian solutions had higher scores on measures of Psychopathy, machiavellianism, and life meaninglessness" (from the paper abstract). 

From the Economist article in the link above:

One of the classic techniques used to measure a person's willingness to behave in a utilitarian way is known as trolleyology. The subject of the study is challenged with thought experiments involving a runaway railway trolley or train carriage. All involve choices, each of which leads to people's deaths. For example: there are five railway workmen in the path of a runaway carriage. The men will surely be killed unless the subject of the experiment, a bystander in the story, does something. The subject is told he is on a bridge over the tracks. Next to him is a big, heavy stranger. The subject is informed that his own body would be too light to stop the train, but that if he pushes the stranger onto the tracks, the stranger's large body will stop the train and save the five lives. That, unfortunately, would kill the stranger.

Dr Bartels and Dr Pizarro knew from previous research that around 90% of people refuse the utilitarian act of killing one individual to save five. What no one had previously inquired about, though, was the nature of the remaining 10%.
They found a strong link between utilitarian answers to moral dilemmas (push the fat guy off the bridge) and personalities that were psychopathic, Machiavellian or tended to view life as meaningless.