Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Extreme empath child?

From a reader:

Enjoy your blog as always.

This video of a little girl with an extraordinary capacity for empathy is doing the rounds.

(I worry about the intentions of the woman who filmed it but that's another story.)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It is very interesting so far

    Just thought I would say that
    I am on page 22

    I am trying to read the book slowly so that I may get as much information out of it as possible

    I guess the reason why i find this so interesting is because I believe we all have moments where we are not empathetic . It is something kind of hard to comprehend. I am def going to fallow up or look up more on your blog

  3. I've seen this video before. She certainly shows enormous wisdom for someone so young.

    I find it interesting to compare it to another video on youtube of a six-year-old giving an extraordinary interview to a psychologist. A little socio girl named Beth Thomas who, despite suffering from an extreme form of attachment disorder, has grown up into productive member of society.

    Mr. Hyde

    1. Which part of the video shows the most wisdom in the little girl? Connecting these thoughts, how do you perceive body language, Mr. Hyde?

  4. Sociopathy is just a modern psychological term for selling yourself to your ego & base instincts. Just imagine looking at the universe and human civilization from outside the Universe (i.e. God's vantage point). Anyone watching this clip (with the possible exception of the extreme psychopath with not an ounce of empathy remaining) would feel some sense of joy (if not psychopathic) and guilt (if psychopathic). Empathy, emotions, feeling & longing for others and for truth, are innate in human beings. Biology explains chemical processes involved behind observed phenomenon, not WHY they exist. We are by nature "good" people. All envy, lying, deception etc must start somewhere and once the first domino goes down, others start falling. All children are, by default, born purely empathetic. I say by default because we know that genetic heretibility does exist so it is very much possible that some people truly are born with a higher likelihood for becoming sociopaths, gay, pedophiles, rapists, geniuses, etc etc. However, that is in itself a result of their parents' turning away from their true nature.

    Those with an evil agenda do not advertise their intentions. They advertise the exact opposite. It's only when they have a firm grip on power that they steadily expose their true selves. This is the classic psychopath - or what people of insight call devils. The next category are their minions - most "sociopaths" would probably fall into this category. These are people that are predominantly functioning on an apathetic level but still maintain some level of humanity in them. If they come across good, empathetic people, they may gradually work their way up but if they keep up their tactics, they'll gradually get worse and move towards the first group. Repentence exists for this very reason. Only God can wipe clean your slate because God can, in his infinite wisdom and power, correct any wrongs committed by mere mortals. The next category of people are those in the middle - lost in the muddied waters of contemporary social norms and ethics. They notice that people are deceptive because they're afraid of being hurt or because they are genuinely assholes. They try to be cautious and work their way through the world until they either end up in the sociopathic camp or God's camp. The next category is what I call genuinely religious people - people who believe in God in their heart and, more likely than not, will behave accordingly. Those religious people who preach the loudest but practice the opposite are almost certainly in the sociopath camp.

    There is no mystery people. God knows full well what is happening and what each individual exposes and hides. You can fool the world but in the end we will die and to God we will return. Wisdom and knowledge comes from God only. The empiricists will go on doing their experiments so long as they don't step beyond the material and start explaining mysteries with anything but the truth (i.e. evolution of life is inevitably a fact but WHY or HOW it started is completely unknown - evolution is not an evidence against God but to the contrary it proves God's existence).

  5. Jon here...who posted the above.

  6. I should add:

    I did not include the vast majority of people who are completely oblivious to what is happening in the world because I assumed that most, if not all, of them do get some idea before their departure. However, that is an assumption so I should not leave out the largest category of people out there. These people have no clue what agendas are running this world, what drives people in addition to what would appear to a purely rational spectator. I was one of these myself until recently.


  7. Mr Hyde - interesting comment as we have come to expect!

    Jon has raised some interesting points. From my perspective - and I do not engage in debate directly because here (as in all similar cases) it will be spectacularly... useless. It's better to offer a different, more personal lens. Reason has its uses - changing personal beliefs is not one of them.

    Rather, I offer a perspective and invite comment from any who wish to engage.

    My mother is a charismatic evangelical and I was raised in a strict Christian, moralistic environment. At around 17 or 18, I happened to be reading lots of C.S. Lewis, that great Christian apologist (Mr Hyde - another for your reading list: The Abolition of Man interesting read). The WHY vs HOW position Jon outlines was my default at that time.

    But there's a splinter... we feel and crave for "meaning" or "purpose" (and particularly in the Christian context for an overarching purpose); however it does NOT necessarily follow that meaning or purpose exists.

    Lewis answers this dilemma by drawing analogy with our physical appetites. We are hungry; food exists. We want sex; there are members of the opposite sex with whom we might copulate. We are tired, we sleep. So, as his argument goes, we crave purpose, therefore purpose must exist.

    Is the analogy valid? What is our actual experience of meaning or purpose? I'm not denying we feel meaning. We certainly do.

    The human brain is a statistical machine. We love recognising patterns. We feel pleasure when we associate ideas, make connections. The deeper the trail of connections, the deeper the pleasure... and the more profound the sense of meaning.

    Humans are a social species. We have advanced communication apparatuses. We are a species capable of complex, abstract thought. We are goal focused. 'Our brains are designed to design realities' (had a fascinating discussion with my colleagues about VR feeling physically real this morning...) In these, we differ by degree from other members of the animal kingdom.

    I was running one day (just before the drama.) I realised it didn't matter what the subject of goal-focus was; it could shift and I'd still feel the same immersion in the "importance" of whatever endeavour it happened to be. I realised goals were almost completely arbitrary.

    Our dopamine systems, our social nature, our incredible pattern recognition abilities and the way in which we feel pleasure at resonance - these, I posit, underpin our craving for meaning.

    More recently, I've discovered that we will only invest energy into goals or activities that we BELIEVE (at a primal, brainstem level) will help us survive and thrive. This is subconscious. You can observe this at work: if you don't see a usefulness to an assigned task, it is literally a WAR with yourself to make your brain invest energy into it. However, for tasks you really buy into, you will readily do the most mundane things to achieve your goal. Then once the goal is achieved, you switch to another goal.

    So my answer to Lewis is no, the argument by analogy is not valid. Existence of an overarching "purpose" is not implied by our pleasure in pattern recognition and our insistence on allocating precious resources to activities from which we or the groups we belong to derive benefit. There is a simple and better explanation. These things serve the survival of the species and were thus selected.

    There is no unifying purpose to our existence. We exist. We've evolved with wonderful tools to enjoy our existence, to collaborate and to be part of a thriving species. We need only stop fighting ourselves.

    There is no why. There is only existence.

    1. Ooh, just re-reading this. I ought to amend this statement:

      "We want sex; there are members of the opposite sex with whom we might copulate."


      "We want sex; there are other humans (I could make a joke here; won't.) with whom we might copulate."

  8. I'm not sure what the rest of you are blabbing on about besides God and existential nihilism.

    I'm uncertain if I can call myself a sociopath, though I do identify with most of the traits that people use to describe sociopathy. The girl does strike me as a potential sociopath. It is interesting how most people respond to it, because I do not feel any empathy when I watch the video. I'm impressed by her English, charisma, and mimicry, but nothing else.

    I may carry out an experiment; I wonder just how many people that I know in real life can spot sociopathy. Are they spotting me the whole time and just aren't telling me? Do they find the girl in the video to be "adorable"?

    - LostCause

  9. "we feel and crave for "meaning" or "purpose" (and particularly in the Christian context for an overarching purpose); however it does NOT necessarily follow that meaning or purpose exists."

    I totally agree, North.

    Once someone asked if purpose and meaning were innate to the universe. I said I thought no. Only I can and should 'make' or create the purpose and meaning of my own life. No one can do that for me. No one can forge our journey for purpose and meaning but ourselves.

    I think you've said the same thing. Only different. ;)

    Mr. Hyde

    1. Oh yes, Mr Hyde! You add a lovely flourish and depth. Have you read any Sartre by any chance? I have been hovering around him but am yet to read anything. It strikes me that you may find him interesting.

      I meant to write more on your comment regarding the video. My son was similarly insightful at that age, and similar direct and encouraging of human connection. He has suffered since and I want to see him happy again. Life does not have to be fraught.

    2. Thank you, North. I've not read Sartre in a long time and never at depth -- I know of his viewpoints mostly from reading other texts in which he's mentioned.

      I am sorry to hear your son has suffered. Suffering is pretty much in the cards for everyone, but especially those are seeking human connection with their hearts wide open and their eyes rosy with sympathy. I know this problem quite well.

      I have faith in your son's ability to heal and have a bright future. With an intelligent and sensitive parent like you to guide him, I'm sure things will work out in his favor. :)

      Mr. Hyde

    3. Thank you Mr Hyde. Your heart - and mind - are indeed open and you seem to have found very productive ways of dealing with this heterogenous universe :)

    4. Thank you, North.

      Productive as best I'm able.


      Sure could be. The universe is still very much a mystery to me. ;)

      M. Hyde

    5. Yes, I took some liberty with "heterogenous". Cosmologists will insist it is homogenous :)

      A very pleasurable mystery it is too, Mr Hyde!

  10. North:

    You seem like a level-headed & intelligent individual who's more open to seeing the truth, even when it's not transparent, than most self-proclaimed "open-minded" people. I was like you only a few months ago and, although I would not have said so then, I will say now that I can't help but attribute this openness mostly to your religious upbringing. Now to your points:

    I agree that just because we have an innate craving for meaning and seeing patterns (even when they may not exist) this does not necessarily mean that there is any real meaning. However, and this is far easier said than done, one ought to not let their subjective experience in the world delude them into thinking that it certainly remains the most probable explanation for why humanity craves meaning. I can offer my own experience and understanding of the world and how I - a staunch atheist for 12 years - have been forced (and now happily so) to accept the reality of God.

    I went into business 5 years ago. At the time my motivation was to prove my worth by making a name for myself and becoming a successful entrepreneur. The God question was irrelevant - I had already concluded (based partly on reasons you gave) that He almost certainly didn't exist and if He did there's nothing I can do that I know of to realize that. In any case, business is - like politics - an enterprise wherein most people have control over their emotions and engage rationally, far more so than they would in normal / personal engagements. My experiences there - which were far more unusual & extreme than is normal (for reasons I can't go into here) forced me to start contemplating how the world beyond business works. Why would evolution allow for an anomaly like psychopathy to exist? Of what benefit is it to the species that some individuals go off and care only about themselves, or primarily themselves? If empathy were increased and people cared about each other more, the survival of our species would only be more likely. No civilization could exist without such cooperation. This explains why sociopaths can only exist in small minorities but it does not explain why they must exist at all? Are they, like people with cancer, just sick? Unfortunate victims of nature's brutality? In that case they need more empathy from us and care...but that's odd because sociopaths manipulate and USE anyone who is too caring and loving, leading that empath to disown them and damaging themselves. If the hit is big enough, the empath is damaged so much that they lose a significant portion of their empathy and themselves may become sociopathic. This is how it spreads. If that's the case, it begs the question: where / why / how it all starts. Disease and disorder does NOT spread like this. Sick people know they're unfortunate and appreciate any help they get - they don't delude themselves into thinking they're actually super-healthy and pass on their disease to the good Samaritans that help them.


  11. Psychologists claimed that sociopaths lack the ability to empathize like normal people's in the brain. Then a recent study shows that actually sociopaths are fully capable of empathizing but ONLY when they WANT to - not by default like most empaths. Hmm...sounds like a choice. Well, how does that come about? Perhaps their genetic makeup is different so while most of us are by default empathetic, they have to go out of their way to "turn it on." Well, in that case they have a gift - they have the free will to chose KNOWING right & wrong. There's no excuse for their immoral behavior in this case - if anything, they should be held to a higher standard than normal people because they have a better grip on their emotions and should be able to be objective in any given circumstance. From my personal experiences I know that how others treat you has an impact on your levels of empathy. I was a pure empath who was abused & betrayed by people I loved & trusted blindly (and knew they were up to something but decided to not see the obvious) and gained this ability to turn off my empathy. It was then that I realized that if I chose to become like those that did this to me, I would inevitably start losing my rational faculties in due course. All of these people who hurt me were intelligent people who engaged in foolish misjudgment and did incredible damage to themselves and me - the only difference is I was hurt a lot more because I still have an active emotional world. Nonetheless, they lost reputation & finances and ALL for no reason whatsoever except cynicism & ego. WHY? What benefit is there for them or me or anyone as individuals or as a group? It's a lose-lose scenario. History reveals the same. Civilizations flourish when there is a strong moral code in practice which binds people together. Human civilization - which one would assume is what evolution is concerned with (not any one individual or country - would do far better if empathy levels was increased drastically.

    As for why God became an obvious reality for me, I refer you to the November 12 post entitled "Sociopathy and Religion." M.E. posted my email there and I have several comments there too. I'd love to continue posting but I have to be running at this time.


    1. Hi Jon,

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      One can't help but change in the aftermath of a high intensity experience with a sociopath. Like you, I walked a precipice for some time - do I descend to darkness or return to the Matrix farm?

      I chose my own way because one thing I recognised and learnt from my experience was that peace comes when one acts in alignment with their own being.

      I understand all the questioning. Finding out "why" is important for learning, for adapting.

      You strike me as a systematic thinker, as I am. You've changed some fundamental beliefs about humanity in light of your experience. Perhaps you've learnt, as I have, that beliefs and feelings and perceptions of reality are far more fluid than our experiences might have us believe.

      As it is science can answer the questions you pose. Why psychopaths exist and their function in human evolutionary history are are matters for scientific hypothesis testing rather than armchair speculation. I content myself for the time being with the scientific fact of their existence and use that fact to inform the foundations of my philosophical system.

      It's my nature to create such systems. Everyone has beliefs upon which they operate; I love to articulate mine into a system. I have thrilled at the opportunities my experience has given me to challenge my fundamental principles of operation... and not only mine, but all of society's BECAUSE society left me absolutely unprepared. It's difficult to find people who can even comprehend that humans can deliberately deceive and manipulate in the manner of the psychopath. As such, the prevailing understandings of the human condition are simply inadequate and I intend to challenge them.

      Good v Evil is perfectly useless a conception. It is so flawed. But this is a discussion for another day. I have discussed my philosophical position on this blog many times and from a variety of angles.

      This is one stream of my response. The other is, of course, personal healing. The intellectual understanding helps me create more realistic beliefs upon which to create tools and methods and experiments for living a more enjoyable life than I have done to date.

      Life is a series of hypothesis tests. Experiences are datapoints. Strength is illusion, brittleness. Peace is flow - trust your own organism.

      "I will say now that I can't help but attribute this openness mostly to your religious upbringing. " - I'm sure you don't mean to insult me but nothing could be further from the truth. That environment was all about coercion. I am glad you are happy in the place you have found and encourage you to continue "asking, seeking, knocking" as they say.

  12. trying to find the right words to describe why sociopath-logy interests me is quite a challenge. I guess it fascinates me because any " normal human being" may have a temporary lapse or sociopathic behavior but to have this 24 , 7 interests me. We are all created with this drive to survive some just have it more dominantly then others. I guess the truth is it fascinates me because it scares me. The right to choose between right and wrong is not always inherently black or white. A few weeks ago i was running late for work I knew full well that my credit card was declined but decided to take a taxi and well got a free ride. I could have walked the 20 blocks but choose not too and giped the taxi driver out of his money. I was fully aware of what I was doing and choose to do it, yet I still feel guilty. Guilt is an interesting emotion. do sociopaths feel guilt ? is guilt a moral emotion?

    1. Guilt is a manifestation of fear of ostracisation. It's a socially acceptable transformation. It's willing submission to the norms of society and functions effectively in some but not all cases.

      It is, of course, easier to recognise the base fear for what it is and take any necessary steps to address it.

  13. Fear healthy dose of fear is what separates the two minds sociopaths dont really acknowledge fear
    what about anger , rage
    in narcism that is one of the main components to their abuse
    so where does the diagnosis diverge? narcissism: lack of empathy, intelligent, gradious sense of self, manipulative
    I guess my question is already answered because narcissist need people to fuel their inflated egos sociopaths are more than happy to be on their own they do not need the validation to buff up their egos

  14. M.E. has lots of posts addressing the divergence.

    Sometimes I wonder, both of psychopaths and narcissists, whether those whose traits are primarily inherited suffer less in life than those whose traits developed due to environmental factors. My ex-lover was zen-like and I bet he's a primary psychopath. My ex-husband on the other hand is a narcissist as a response to abuse and he suffers. I reckon my dad is a born narc and he doesn't have it too bad but lives constantly on edge doing the craziest, life-threatening shizizz and has a lot of tension in his body.

    I suppose that's what I like about the sociopath. He's chill. And does what he feels like doing. I learnt a LOT from that.

  15. On the topic of "empathy" and "morality"...

    I encourage the reader to imagine a map. Now imagine the actual territory. The map is a representation of the territory, not the territory itself.

    We humans like our mental models. We use them to communicate complex concepts. We apply labels to packaged concepts such that they work like placenames on a map. And occasionally, the environment changes, or we understand it better, and we need to update our placenames. We need to update our map.

    It turns out, however, that because we are quite attached to our models or maps we err on the side of conservatism in updating them. Our maps have served us reasonably well, and have guided choices on how we (as a group or individually) travel and invest our resources. So it makes sense that we are cautious in making changes.

    It's time to update our maps, people.

    "Empathy" and "morality" are focus words when it comes to sociopathy / psychopathy because it's said that people with sociopathic traits lack empathy and moral sense.

    Let's peel off the labels for a moment and examine the underlying concepts.

    Jon, above, wrote the following:

    "If empathy were increased and people cared about each other more, the survival of our species would only be more likely. No civilization could exist without such cooperation. This explains why sociopaths can only exist in small minorities but it does not explain why they must exist at all?"

    Okies. Let's start with the second claim which we can phrase as: No civilisation could exist without the cooperation entailed by people caring for each other.

    Humans are a social species. It has been argued that homo sapiens - not the most intelligent hominid species - successfully ran the natural selection gauntlet because of our ability to collaborate. ("Our ancestors were not necessarily more intelligent than neighboring hominids, just more social." but you will find many sources.)

    What Jon is arguing - and in fact what many people assume - is that empathy is requisite for collaboration. Sociopaths - please provide counter-examples, it's good for your health! Look, I am not saying sociopaths are awesome at collaboration. The last one I worked with stuck the point of a knife into my sternum and he was appalling to deal with. But we had some wonderful conceptual modelling sessions! My ex successfully collaborated in our company for 5 years, with people singing his praises as being "a nice man", "lovely", "a genius" and "a good corporate citizen." Our friend A is a successful CEO. So let's look at the facts: psychopaths / sociopaths of various flavours *are* capable of collaborating. In fact, because they are social creatures, they simply *have* to in order to sustain their place in the tribe. So they use other tools to do so. I have hypothesised as to what these are previously on this blog. As an example, I think sensitivity to blame / blame shifting is a post facto mechanism for gauging social temperature and taking action to maintain social acceptance. Mimicry is another. M.E. has previously discussed using her own "moral shortcuts" and for choosing environments with a clear rule structure, such as the Mormon church.

  16. Please remember: the map is not the territory. The menu is not the meal. Remember: the concept of empathy is a map placename.

    I want to argue that the *function* of empathy and the *function* of these tools used by sociopaths is the same: NORMALISATION. Empathy might furnish a more effective toolset, but sociopaths adapt and develop their own methods. The so-called high-functioning sociopaths have created pretty damn good tools. Empathy is not a necessary nor sufficient condition for collaboration.

    Have you observed humanity's predilection for creating rules and evolving 'culture' to structure and focus social groups? I argue 'moral sense' is a sensitivity and implicit willingness to follow these rules and an ease in aligning with the prevailing culture. In aid of what? Yes, you guessed it: NORMALISATION. As discussed above, sociopaths - especially high-functioning ones - deploy other tools including blame-shifting and, of course, moralising. They are able to understand the explicit rules and can observe, to a degree, the implicit ones, which is why they are further impeached because they "know right from wrong". Note that I am in no way implying the sociopathic toolkit is not used for nefarious purposes as well. We all know it often is.

    Morality is a complex topic I have treated here only in the most cursory manner. Morality arises from the human tendency to structure social groups and from certain genetic predispositions to avoid "taboos" and to act in ways that facilitate the survival on the individual's gene pool. It is often noted that a sociopath's anti-social and impulsive tendencies puts themselves, their families and their community at risk. This, I argue, is where the pathology lies. There is a constant tradeoff between destructive tendencies and the pressing need to normalise for survival.

    PREMISE #1: Individuals are driven to ensure the success of their gene pool (I believe there is adequate evidence for this statement)

    CONJECTURE #1: Individual humans seek to normalise within social groups. Fear of exclusion is a major driver of human behaviour.

    CONJECTURE #3: Collaboration has assisted the evolution of the species. Empathy is not sufficient nor necessary for collaboration.

    CONJECTURE #4: Moral sense is useful for normalisation but is not essential to it.

    CONJECTURE #5: Based on diagnostic criteria, sociopaths perhaps have a reduced drive to ensure the success of their gene pool.

    The implications of these conjectures will cascade across many areas of human interest. For our purposes, I will leave you with Sarte to update our map placenames: 'The act is every­thing. Behind the act there is neither potency nor "hexis" nor virtue.' I believe this will resonate with a common sentiment on this blog: consider sociopaths based on their actions, not on their feelings or lack thereof.

    We are all wild animals, brother.

  17. North:

    I would love to have an actual conversation with you. As an atheist I would have been intrigued by all the ideas you posted and would have loved to work with you in developing them further. Fortunately for me - and I know full well that this will sound like white noise, self delusion or result of trauma etc - but God literally saved me. I'm in the somewhat painful position of knowing exactly why someone who doesn't share my experiences would not possibly understand unless they're already in a religious mindset. The problem with "rationalism" is that it has come to exclude all non-empirical phenomenon (i.e. how you know your wife loves you when there's no obvious, provable signs). Nonetheless I'll add details that may help further explain where I'm coming from and offer a suggestion to you that may help you to eventually understand my position. It'll be in the next post as this might be over limit.

    1. Jon:

      "I would love to have an actual conversation with you. As an atheist I would have been intrigued by all the ideas you posted and would have loved to work with you in developing them further."


      "knowing exactly why someone who doesn't share my experiences would not possibly understand unless they're already in a religious mindset. "
      No one can ever understand another's experience. This is the value of narrative. Thankyou for sharing yours.

      "The problem with "rationalism" is that it has come to exclude all non-empirical phenomenon" I am most certainly not a rationalist. I'm a materialist. Knowledge is nothing if not derived from experience and applied. In other words, knowledge is living; it's neural pathways and muscle memory. It is our organism: blood, sweat and tears. Your organism is your guide. I trust my self completely.

      I've drawn from many, many sources: Daoism, Zen, Epicureanism, Pragmatism, Psychology, fiction (most notably William Gibson), speculations on the "art instinct", Agile delivery practices, social economics - endless, endless sources. But most importantly, I have learned from my experiences and am developing a toolkit of practices that aid me living a vast and rich life.

    2. "I've drawn from many, many sources: Daoism, Zen, Epicureanism, Pragmatism, Psychology, fiction (most notably William Gibson), speculations on the "art instinct", Agile delivery practices, social economics - endless, endless sources. But most importantly, I have learned from my experiences and am developing a toolkit of practices that aid me living a vast and rich life."

      I had to respond to this. Most of the intellectual minded converts to Islam are people who've looked into almost every major ideology (religious, philosophical, materialistic etc) before stumbling across Islam. It seems to be almost universal. Something about Islam (as far as I'm concerned it's because it - it's ultimate message - is the Truth) that Westerners in particular seem to disregard until they've exhausted all other options. Even when they do finally come around to it they do so with an "oh fine, the hell with it" attitude and end up becoming muslims. It's the same with me although I didn't bother looking into all the various religions - something about Islam when you leave it you tend to go towards agnosticism / atheism, not alternative religions (relative to other religions).

      If I don't get around to addressing all your responses tonight I will do so later on. I'm traveling and using my breaks on this forum.

    3. I perfected my own atheism as best as I possibly could. I don't mind boasting that I could defend atheism better than 99% of the atheists, if not more. That's why I was a cynic - and a small portion remains even now - in how I approached God when I finally did. I had a mountain full of arguments against Him which, if I may, were "miraculously" disproved one after another after I accepted that I was wrong.

    4. I have a hunch you will find what I found in God through the Qur'an (for starters). No one goes studying various traditions unless they have a yearning for ultimate Truth deep down. The seeker finds what he seeks, that's God's promise.

  18. North:

    You mention that you've taken hits from socios yourself in the past and learned how to rethink and come into terms with the world. Perhaps you've found a new balance whereby you keep your empathy levels in check. I assume you're more cautious and less empathetic by default? If that's correct, the question is what happens when your next big hit occurs? There's always a sociopath smarter than you and the last one you knew. The next hit will force you to either reconsider and change your current empathy threshold thereby making you even less empathetic. Unlikely but possible is you might actually say "Fuck it" and give up (either in aspirations or life altogether). The third possibility is - and given enough hits in life this is guaranteed - you'll be forced to turn either sociopathic yourself or, if God wills it, you'll turn to Him and He will respond. When I say respond I don't mean you'll start interpreting coincidences or natural phenomenon as divinely ordainded. That comes after. You'll KNOW it in your heart and EVERYTHING you believe now and have in the past and ALL the questions you have which right now make the idea of God seem nonsensical will all make sense and will be in conformity with your newfound "faith" (which is the exact opposite of blindly believing as I've come to know).

    This happened to me only a few months ago. There's just no way I could do justice to my story here but in nutshell: I was going mad trying to forget or accept the mass betrayal I experienced, to learn from it and move on. Medication, therapy, my own once unshakeable resolve etc none helped. I swear to you my brain literally gave me two choices: 1) stay as you are - self-interested but fair and compassionate 2) become completely self-obsorbed and EVIL (I mean evil). The first was rationally what made sense but I could not for the life of me do it because I remained depressed and it hurt to much to just move on. The second option would always and immediately alleviate the depression when I tried and forced my mind into accepting it. In fact it would make me feel ecstatic almost but I felt I'm betraying myself, and selling myself to the devil (metaphorically although now I believe it to be literally the case). Also each time I did succeed it forcing myself to be sociopath I'd be okay for a few days at most and then go right back to the center, depressed and unable to decide. One of those days (I was a staunch atheist then) I prostrated and asked "anyone who's out there" to help me if they're real. I have no idea why I did that. I mean sure the asking makes sense if you're atheist loses nothing by asking but idk why I prostrated. A few days later, while driving and ruminating helplessly as always, deep in confusion and depression, I had what psychologists will call a "delusion." Instead of me repeating common sense back into me, this time it literally felt like it was someone else and it left it's mark in me. Immediately after it was over, I felt like I was in bliss, everything made sense.

  19. After a few days, howevwr, I started to think cynically and challenge what I experienced. Sure it made me feel alive again (like never before) and everything made sense but some questions still remained (i.e. if it's God which God is He, which religion is correct, if any, and why so many in the first place? Why all this drama in this world? Etc etc) unanswered, at least to my "rational" mind. Over the next two months - till now and ongoing - every single mystery and confusion and question has been answered to my satisfaction. Each time I got an answer (my brain would suddenly figure it out when for years it was unable to) when I was most desperate, losing hope again. God makes you work for it and sees your resolve but each ending reminds you it's all worth it.

    Take what you will - if anything - from what I said. Only additional suggestion I have - and it's a big one - is read the Qur'an. Force yourself to put aside all the reasons not to (just another book claiming divinity, why it and not the Bible, I've read it in the past etc etc). Open the book with the intention of genuine curiosity with some humility. Be a cynic and challenge it, don't compromise your reason and rational faculties (not that you would but I'm just saying) and demand a high standard or proof - BUT make sure you're genuine in your quest for the truth. Whatever it is, no matter how different or alike or surprising etc - if you know you're someone who'll accept the truth when it makes sense to you then you'll find it I guarantee it. You'll be awed - and that's an understatement.

    1. I'm glad for you and can understand your excitement :) Your experience changed some fundamental beliefs in a way that has been useful to you. We are in the same boat here in that we are bursting with excitement and wish to share our learnings with others.

      Human collaboration :)

      It is, of course, very difficult to influence belief change. As you and I have both seen, it's experience that really allows us to change our beliefs. This is why I attempted to invite the reader on a journey in my 8:53 PM post above. The human mind is extraordinarily powerful, and the line between imagination and perceived reality is very, very blurred. In fact, we are constantly integrating all our external and internal inputs to construct "reality", our lived experience.

      Belief change is very important. As I write above, sometimes our "maps" are out of date. Having accurate maps allows to navigate our environment better, and I think actually, human beliefs are more important than a map is to a traveller because we INTERPRET ALL OUR EXPERIENCES through our beliefs. We should always be in a position to challenge them.

      I haven't read the Qu'ran but have read Rumi (and incidentally Khayyam who is a wonderful poet:

      The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
      Turns Ashes--or it prospers; and anon,
      Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face,
      Lighting a little hour or two--is gone.

      - a few lines to the impermanence of nature's conditions)

      But having already lived through belief change away from the existence of God to an understanding that allows me to *operate* better... I can't say the Qu'ran would do me any good. I am living the vast and rich life I had wanted for myself and growing into it more daily.

      I am glad for you that God saved you. He certainly didn't save me. Every day of my life was lived in fear until I decided to blow it all up and stumbled into the arms of a sociopath. From there, all I knew was life is volatile, and I have sought my own understandings based on my lessons and my learnings.

    2. North:

      I certainly cannot change your mind. Even if what I say is true and reasoned well, it cannot penetrate your heart. You have your own story and things need to make sense to you in light of your entire history.

      If you take anything from everything I posted than let it be this: READ THE QUR'AN. I can already tell you're a genuine mind seeking truth. God knows your intentions and if they are in line with what I said I swear to you you'll thank me for pushing you to read the book. I know I sound like a evangelical who's ecstatic because he found peace in Jesus or something. I used to say exactly what you said to religious people: I am glad for you but he didn't save me. Actually it was worse, I used to say "I'm glad you're happy in your delusions. Unfortunately for me (I'm gay) I can't even force myself to buy your story." Here I am - certain to the point where'd I'd happily let my life go for God.

      Just read the book. It's not nearly as long as the Bible.


  20. North:

    Here's why sociopaths cannot collaborate as required. Partial collaboration or collaboration for primarily or purely selfish (by which I mean a inner feeling if indifference to how others might benefit) reasons either fails altogether or yields limited results. My experience was business and I think it serves as an ideal example. The primary "group" which needs to collaborate in a business is the owners / partners. Then there are parties with vested interest...employees who have a job opportunity, vendors who get business, customers who give business but get some service / product they need. In an ideal environment the society at large would benefit because of the infusion if new resources (earned by the business and it's members). Now for maximum benefit for ALL the parties mentioned above it is imperative that each party work with the primary aim of achieving the greatest outcome for the business. This would "trickle" down to each party. Think about this rationally - in fact it's simple math. This strategy can be extended to the economy as a whole and indeed to any project anyone can think of which requires multiple players.

    What is morality? Morality is exactly what I said above wherein the "project" is not a business or anything else but HUMANITY as a whole. Morality is a set of codes which we ought to apply to achieve this maximum possible potential for human flourishing. Sounds too good and easy to be true. Why? Because we know the real world doesn't work like that. People ARE selfish and wealth often does not trickle down. Again why would evolution not push humanity to be more cooperative and less selfish if it clearly is a survival benefit. Surely no one can claim that human flourishing jeapordizes our survival. Just think how much more science we would have if 7 billion people were a single civilization aiming to maximize their joint potential.

    The Qur'anic world view explains this perfectly as far as I understand. Human beings can rationally understand what I've written above. There is no argument against it except that it's not pragmatic because people will never collaborate as needed, even though they will ALL benefit in the end. Why not? Precisely because the "harmony" has been destroyed and confusion remains with very many people aiming to destroy this project of human civilization - some knowingly (the psychos / devils) and some unknowingly (their minions working at a more immediate level). To counter these we have self-sacrificing people ("saints" "moral exemplars" "heroes") who keep the psychos from destroying everything. You can say it's all a natural phenomenon but then why do psychos do what they do knowing full well that it's destructive to civilization and even more pressing is why the good guys keep sacrificing knowing full well that it's not fair and nor going to end in victory. God says in the Qur'an that He made the world for an appointed term and He alone knows when it's end is. He says again and again that the "kafirs" (Arabic for "those who cover up" - often mistranslated as "unbelievers") will scheme their schemes and "plot their plots" but He too schemes and who schemes better than the Creator himself. Of course He is addressing a psychopathic reader here - as if mocking them. The pious are told to be patient and forgive to the maximum extent possible before taking defensive measures. Justice is a right but forgiveness is far better - why? Because we know that people get MORE empathetic when their crimes are "forgiven" in full awareness. It's why Jesus says turn the other cheek. The only difference is that Islam has a more pragmatic approach - be Jesus-like always without getting crucified (except in rare circumstances).


    1. "collaborate as required."

      Who defines what is required? If we look at humanity from a species level, we see endless struggle and competition for resources, endless shifting of alliances.

      Life is competitive at every level. There is always tension between cooperating for mutual benefit and acting for self-benefit. It just happens to be the case

      Look at what is and not what should be. There's no value in questioning why evolution has allowed a particularly self-interested element of the species to exist *based on what we think should benefit the survival of the species*.

      Instead, we should examine what *is*, what exists, and proceed to develop models of understanding and new beliefs FROM there. Nature doesn't answer to us. If we are smart, we understand nature and proceed to interact with our environment as it is rather than as we think it should be. Seriously, what can we know about the mind-boggling complexity of variables and interactions that go on every second of every day! Our models are gross, gross, abstractions and that we progress with them as a species is wondrous and amazing - a source of constant delight to me. But let's refine them where we can, by all means :)

      I highly recommend the following TED talk on Trial, Error and the God Complex by Tim Harford.

      "So shortly after the war, this young man, Yutaka Taniyama, developed this amazing conjecture called the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture. It turned out to be absolutely instrumental many decades later in proving Fermat's Last Theorem. In fact, it turns out it's equivalent to proving Fermat's Last Theorem. You prove one, you prove the other. But it was always a conjecture. Taniyama tried and tried and tried and he could never prove that it was true. And shortly before his 30th birthday in 1958, Yutaka Taniyama killed himself. His friend, Goro Shimura -- who worked on the mathematics with him -- many decades later, reflected on Taniyama's life. He said, "He was not a very careful person as a mathematician. He made a lot of mistakes. But he made mistakes in a good direction. I tried to emulate him, but I realized it is very difficult to make good mistakes."

      I continue to make mistakes in a good direction.

      "The only difference is that Islam has a more pragmatic approach - be Jesus-like always without getting crucified (except in rare circumstances). "
      I'm sure the Qu'ran has many good insights into human nature and effective practices for operating in this world and I will add it to my reading list.

      Thanks Jon.

    2. Reason defines what is required. Is it not reasonable to propose that for human flourishing to be at its peak, the maximum number (if not all) of humans need to prioritize HUMANITY above JUST ME? That's true rationally, empirically, intuitively, logically etc etc. Evolution, like all science, observes particular phenomenon and the supporting evidence solidifies what we see. Natural Selection is a THEORY which ONLY has backing because the evolutionary biologists - who have a firmly established theory in Evolution - are the ones providing the HOW / WHY's. They're no better qualified than you or I (indeed I say we are more qualified) to judge HOW and WHY evolution occurred the way it did. Of course there is an eye when a creature has sight. Of course some chemical reaction is occurring when you're aroused. Does that mean that the chemical reaction is the cause of the arousal?

      One thing I learned from going deep into the topic of Sociopathy is HOW can I ever know what is true that I have not personally verified? Sure evolution has a mountain of evidence to support it. I cannot deny the evidence once I understand it. However, how do I know that the biologists are not confused or have agendas which lead them to utilize verifiable evidence to draw erroneous conclusions? No single person can master every field and thus verify all claims directly.

      Prioritize the Qur'an - put it on top of your reading list. Someone as well read as yourself should read it, if for no other reason, than to familiarize yourself with a book that nearly a quarter of humanity believes to be divine. A book which has replaced almost all the ancient civilizations and continues to impact the world today (for good and for bad, depending on who's doing the impacting). It's not just a religious book.


  21. North:

    Of course empathy and some level of selflessness is a prequisite for true collaboration. Sociopaths only collaborate when they have to for their own good (as they see it). Why would a sociopath collaborate for the interest of his country first? Only IF by not doing so he loses something not worth losing. Doing something in collaboration or alone to benefit his community or country or humanity is by definition impossible for a sociopath without some ulterior motive. Now who's going to claim that optimal performance is possible without an inner, positive drive?

    1. There is constant tension between self interest and interest of the group to which the individual belongs. This is the dance we play each day, the absolutely most fascinating element of our existence, the focus of most of our energy.

      My perspective on this as it pertains to sociopaths is that they simply have a different "algorithm" (I use the term strictly as a metaphor) for making behavioural decisions. They preference their own needs and act in the interests of the group where the see a direct benefit. Neurotypicals don't typically look for a direct benefit just because we're wired that way - we're happy to let the benefits play out on a longer timescale and judging by the proportion of empaths in the species, that works out well.

      Jon, it's been a really interesting discussion that I thank you for. We differ on some fundamental premises but there are many similarities in our journey.

      All the best.

    2. This is exactly how I looked at the world and God was an obvious NO NO. Ask yourself WHY is there a tension between self interest and interest of the group. You've already made a prior assumption that maximum benefit for the group is NOT maximum benefit for the individual. Think about this logically. Map it out. Maximum benefit for individuals is only possible if you have maximum benefit for ALL ("the group"). That is pure logic, pure reason. The only problem is pragmatics. WHY the world isn't that way is precisely because some people are not content with maximum benefit IF it means others too will benefit equally. They want more, if not all, for themselves. WHY? Why must such a person exist? There's absolutely no reason, biological, survival, random none whatsoever except that our mind has the capacity to see the system as it is and decide "I want more and I'll cheat to get more." In the end, they don't get more because the trust that is required for ideal collaboration will break down once you don't know that you can 100% trust the other group members. Trust does not mean in every aspect of life - it means with respect to the project. If you and I were business partners, I'd expect that you'd have the same agenda: maximize our profits. I may not trust you in anything else but I'd always know that North will not knowingly do anything that will not benefit the company. My trust THERE would only break if I started to think "North is putting money in his own pocket and is not prioritizing the business itself." What will be the result? Will the company (and both of us by extension) be better off now that we cannot collaborate (and lose motivation) because of distrust?

      Listen to me - consider me a crazed & over excited religious fanatic. I'm not gaining anything by inculcating you into a religious mindset. Read the book in sincerity and humility. Your life long quest for truth will end and your journey into the real world will begin.

      It's been interesting here as well. I know you'll find what I found. You'll seek me out I promise you.

    3. I have treated you with respect and have pointed out the reason for our divergence. I'm comfortable with divergence, I enjoy it. You have provided additional richness to my understandings and I appreciate it.

      "You'll seek me out I promise you."
      I don't appreciate this statement. It smacks of arrogance.

      Engagement from this point would be merely shouting because we do not agree on the premises of the argument. This means we are no longer collaborating for a better model of understanding and are no longer hearing the other's narrative.

      So I once again thank you for your perspective. I'm sorry for your experience and wish you all the best.

      Ms North

    4. I'm glad you got annoyed at that. It's a good sign. I did not mean you'll seek me out for ME - I meant you'll want to know the guy who pushed you to find God. Out of curiosity and perhaps gratitude. I wouldn't deserve it - God guides as He wills.

    5. I should add though - and this is a question as well as a comment so please don't take it as my being judgmental - that arrogance is a state of being first & foremost. To actually think & feel that you are above and beyond what you have any right to is arrogance. Merely uttering something which appears to signal arrogance may or may not be indicative. It could be, as it was in my case, misconstrued (perhaps I could have phrased it better) or said so out of genuine ignorance (as an atheist if I accomplished something brilliant who should give credit other than myself?) or it could actually imply hubris. The one who's NOT arrogant ought not to presuppose after merely reading a few phrases. I'm curious if you think I'm wrong how so? I had this problem with my brother. I was being honest with him when I said that somehow I have an innate understanding of arithmetic and numbers in general which far exceeds the vast majority of people. I didn't believe in God then so the most honest thing to say was what I said...somehow I have it innately. He took that to be arrogance. Should I lie instead and feign humility?

      It's interesting how arrogance works. When I was in business (and I quickly learned I was brilliant despite my inexperience) I quickly became afraid of eventually becoming unduly self-centered. It was an irrational fear because in practice the better I'd do the more humbled I'd feel. Recently, in dealing with a very close friend and romantic interest, I tried to force myself to think better of myself but I'm not sure if I'd call that arrogance or simply being realistic (I was feeling too shitty about myself which my record would not justify). It seems like most things, even pride & arrogance work inversely with sociopaths and empaths.

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