Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ocean to my shark

From a reader:

I read the entire thing yesterday. It was fascinating. I'm not a sociopath or psychopath - I took the test and ridiculously low. I actually wouldn't mind being just a little bit sociopathic; I care way too much about the stuff that doesn't bother sociopaths at all, which is a big part of why I'm interested. 

Anyway, I'm really interested in atypical neurology; as I've tried to understand other people and myself, I've learned that part of the reason people are different is that their brains genuinely process things differently. So my reading brought me to Kevin Dutton's books, and then to yours. By the way, if you haven't read his more recent book, The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success, I highly recommend it. One thing I like about his books is that he acknowledges that neural atypicalness doesn't automatically doom people to evil or uncontrolled violence, that there's a lot of other factors.

This is actually important to me partly on account of fictional characters; I get probably too involved in some of my favorite fictional worlds. After Thor 2 came out last fall I got dragged into a six-month flame war on tumblr because I and a few others pointed out that the supposed villain's actual behavior isn't any worse than that of the supposed hero - actually, it's much better; he kills fewer people and with better reasons. And the way the supposed good guys in that movie treat their enemies is horrifying; a limit on how cruel you are to your enemies is supposed to be one of the distinctions between the good guys and bad guys, but a lot of the people who flamed us for this seemed to figure the whole point is that once you label someone as a bad guy, anything you want to do to them is okay. It's just like people saying that we ought to put sociopaths on islands or something. And while I'm not a sociopath, I am a misfit, and gay, and converted to Judaism a few years ago, so I am all too aware of the danger in such thinking.

We got some sympathy from some Harry Potter fans, because the fans of that series have been arguing fiercely for years about Slytherin. Are Slytherins just evil by nature, or is it just that people distrust their habits of manipulation and opportunism? And what kind of society labels a fourth of its population as evil at the age of 11 and then treats them all like dirt for the rest of their lives? And while I don't think all the Slytherin characters are sociopaths, I also think most sociopaths would be sorted into Slytherin.

As I've read these books on socipathy, I've realized that some people I've known were probably sociopaths. Most of them weren't violent, but they were skilled at manipulating and were emotionally detached from a very young age. I am terrible at manipulating people, so people who are good at it intrigue me. Some of the sociopaths I've known have harmed me, but empaths have caused me a lot more pain and damage because they couldn't or wouldn't control their emotional impulses. I'm inclined to think the world could use a few benign sociopaths, like you and some of those Kevin Dutton writes about.

I think it was really brave of you to tell your story, and I'm sorry you had to stop teaching because of it. I don't think that was right at all when you didn't do anything. I think we can hope people are starting to understand neural atypicality more and that law-abiding sociopaths won't continue to be condemned for what they are instead of what they do. Maybe.

You might like to read the novel The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten. It's a spoof of Twilight, in which Bella (Bonnie is her name in this version) is the sociopath and she seduces Edward because she likes the idea of being immortal. She's not a benign sociopath - she's killed people, for one thing - but from what I've read, the book seems to have accurately captured the sociopath way of looking at things. There's one line where she scoffs at the label "antisocial": "I love society. It's like the ocean to my shark."

Friday, March 27, 2015

Teenage sociopaths

From a reader:

About a year and a half ago, I stumbled across your blog - how, I don't recall. At 15, I had never heard the term sociopath before. The term psychopath had been thrown around, but I only knew the cliché version - sadistic, cruel, and with no emotional capacity. The type of person you wouldn't want to be alone with.

Reading about sociopathy was oddly fascinating to me. I found myself able to understand and relate more than I would have thought. The question has been tugging at me ever since: Am I a sociopath?

I recently purchased and read your book. I enjoyed it immensely, and while I could not identify with it 100%, which might be due to age and experience gaps, much of it struck a chord.

The weak sense of self was particularly relatable. I've always felt that "chameleon-ness", the ability to put on different personas without a second thought, and not feeling attached to any. Alone, I realize, I almost feel like a shell of a person. Without others to react to, there's not much of a "me". So for that reason, I like being around people. They give me substance.

The destruction of others has been a fun game for me. I know not to do it with my friends or family too much, since I'm likely to lose them if I do, or not get what I want out of our relationships. After all, I like my friends. They're funny, intelligent, and interesting for the most part. They're like puzzles that I'm trying to solve. But the thrill of destroying others is too much to resist. I have toyed with students I'm not fond of, turned people against certain individuals, tried to see if I could break a good relationship between a student and teacher once or twice. I don't think I've ever caused permanent damage. I just like the feeling of destroying something in the instant.

The last part I truly identified with was the attachment to family. Well, in a way. My mother and brother are too emotional and empathetic for me to relate to. They're mine, and I'd defend them if they were threatened, but saying I love them might go to far. My father displays sociopathic tendencies, though I don't know if he's one or not. What I mean to say is - I romanticize the concept of family. The concept of family lines is a beautiful thing. Which is why getting married and having children is something I am very interested in. I want to have something that is mine, to have an extension of myself.

The defining factor of a sociopath though, the empathy, is something I hesitate on. I'm only 17. While I can't think of a time I've felt truly empathetic towards another, that doesn't necessarily mean I can't. My emotions are egocentric, yes. I'm motivated by myself. I can logically understand emotions, but I don't connect with them. The worst thing people can do to me is cry. I don't know what to do, and I always feel like I'm just making it worse. Which means they cry longer, and I still have to feel uncomfortable/irritated.

My other hesitation with self-diagnosing myself is my emotions. I feel them, perhaps not as strongly as I should, especially the negative ones. But I feel happiness when doing something I like, frustration or sadness when something doesn't go my way. As for love... I don't think I've ever felt it, but it is something I want. I wonder if all sociopaths want love, though. It's a rather selfish thing, or so it seems. I want someone to possess, and I want the adoration that comes with being loved.
Part of me wonders if I'm too young to be a sociopath, truly, since I could still "change".

This has ended up being a larger email than I intended, and I apologize. I'm almost done.

What is your opinion on sociopaths and imagination? I don't just mean violent day dreams (who hasn't fantasized about slitting the throat of a rival?). I mean stories, like coming up with your own world, own plots, own characters. Not actually believing in them, but treating them like a book in your head. A distraction from boredom. I haven't seen anything on your blog about it, but could have just missed it.

My other question: do you think sociopaths are naturally curious? Or just people in general? In your book, you struck me as a curious person, but I may be wrong. I myself am absurdly curious, since knowledge can always indirectly affect or protect me. Truth be told, I am dying to know your name. But I can understand why you wouldn't want to tell me, and I'll live if I never learn it. Either way, I would like to thank you for your book. It was enlightening and fascinating.

My response:

I'm not sure if we have different imaginations or that we imagine vastly different things. Maybe we imagine things more explicitly and are more self-aware about it? Like I imagine in the ruining games that I've really seduced someone so much that they will never get over me, but who knows if that is really true. I also imagine what it might be like to be other people in the cognitive empathy sense. I also imagine ahead of time several strategic steps if I'm playing some sort of game or even in life, which makes me a good plotter, I guess.

I consider myself a truthseeker, although I'm not sure if there's complete overlap with curiosity. I have always thought that maybe it was because I grew up living in the warped reality of a narcissist and in a lot of ways also lived in my world of my own imagination in which I was this powerful figure, that I always wanted to be sure to distinguish between real life and make believe, unlike my father?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I thought that this recent comment from an old post showed a good deal of wisdom and was overall good advice.

I am the partial empath who adapted to the reality check. I gave the mental pink slip to the person I encountered even though I am not in his range of vision anymore. I certainly can't change anyone, and it is self-destructive and foolish to harbor hatred when there are so many other great stuff of life to enjoy. The unapologetic sociopath is forgivable (release that person and move on with your life) because lack of remorse has qualified him/herself to be dispensable. To all you empaths out there, there is no ethical need to pause for the sociopath who never intended to pause life for you. You can't help someone who doesn't want to change. 

It reminds me of the book Unbroken, which I am just finishing. It's kind of a funny read for me because the childhood chapters read a lot like the childhood chapters of my book -- listing a bunch of shenanigans that make it clear that the child is taking childhood pranks one step further than most. (It actually makes me wonder a bit at the people who insist we can diagnose children based primarily at their antisocial behavior.) I won't spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read or seen the movie (or knows of the underlying facts), I'll just quote:

The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer. 

I actually think Unbroken is a great book for people who would like to adopt this ability to let go of the (often one-sided) emotional connection that they still have with their abusers, long after the actual abuse is over. Of course, I can't advocate dismissing a whole category of human beings as "negligible" in the grand scheme of things, e.g. as being a lower form of humanity than you are so you wash your hands of their suffering/fate. But I definitely think you can dismiss particular traits of a particular person as being, how the commenter put it, "dispensable", or "able to be done without". That, in fact, it's almost impossible (paradoxically) for many people to see their abuser as a human being without first condemning and then dismissing a few of their worst traits as being morally repugnant to them. Once those traits of the abuser are condemned/rejected/dismissed with finally in one's mind, all that one is left with is a flawed human being that may be more flawed than most, but actually shares in common with every other human being the fact that it is flawed at all. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Calling all military sociopaths

From a reporter:

Hello all. I'm a journalist with New York magazine and I'm working on a piece that will be a realistic and balanced portrayal of sociopaths in the army. I've been looking into a lot of the same issues that were brought up here. I'm seeking vets or active military who would be willing to discuss this with me, anonymously if need be. Anyone fitting that description and interested in an interview, please email me at Thanks! 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


From a reader:

Firstly, I'd like to tell you that I'm not a native English speaker, so excuse me, if there are any language mistakes.

I think I may be a high-functioning sociopath, but I also can find some definitely non-sociopathic behaviour. First, I have to tell you that I have cerebral palsy, but it's a light form, so I don't have much problems with it. But why i think I'm a sociopath? 

When I was a kid, I had moments in which I felt I didn't have the same feelings as other people. For example, I was never able to feel love to my parents, and therefore to say them: ''I love you'', or to be moved by a song, and I couldn't make many face expressions. Additionally, I was quite well accepted by people, but strangely I was good contacting mainly with the older ones, meaning that I was the loner at school. But I also had that period when I didn't want to meet new people and I was starting to growl and felt anger (I know that there is too much contradiction, right?). Another contradiction is that, while I was the loner at school, I also tried to be with the other kids and to communicate with them, but most of the time I was rejected. 

Later, at middle school, this tendency continued, but (another contradiction) I started chatting to some of my mates on the Internet and in 6th grade we became friends. My behaviour with them wasn't like the one that is expected from a sociopath - many times I was rude and sarcasstic with them, but it wasn't a big deal. Most of these people are still my friends. 

When I entered high school, the same story began. I tried to get in contact with people, but again I was somehow rude to them and I didn't made any friends (maybe here is the place to say that since I was a kid, I've had moments in which I had thought that I'm better without friends). At the second year, the rudeness peaked and I lost any opportunity to have friends at my class. In the summer I went to an excursion in the mountain, and met there three girls, all one year younger than me, and we became friends. On the next school year I had the idea of stay and repeat the school year, so we can be at the same class. It didn't happen, and, additionally, I started behaving extremely rude with my classmates, which worsed my relations with them (that rudeness was a theatre, but i will talk about it at another point of the e-mail). 

Now I'm 18 and I'm 11th grade, second-to-last year high school student. The relations with my classmates improved, but still I don't have friends at my class.

I think some of my problems at school are caused by my incapacity of feel empathy, gulit, fear (to a lesser extent) and remorse. For a contradiction, I have to say that I'm not very risky person, and even had regret missing some opportunities for meeting new people, for example. Another contradiction is that I don't like thinking much about important things. For example, I decided i want to learn Spanish at high school after the first episode of a Spanish TV series.

My personality is something very relative. I have never had any favourite music style, celebrity, etc. Instead I have taken parts of music styles that I like, and I have used them to try a create an image, but I have always failed. When talking with people, I immitate emotions, so I can be appropiate, but I have problem with face expressions. In last years, I have trained myself to be a good liar, and when I'm with friends, or face a problem at school, it works.

Boredom is something I have always experienced. It had led me to a number of things - changing wishes for jobs, becoming bored of people, imagining making friendships with other people, strange behaviour on the Internet (as you see, imaginary things are also a contradiction, but I will clarify this at the other part of the mail), etc.

At my family things are thew following: my parents say I was very good and sociable child, yet I've had also spend much time alone and i was selfish. Here is where my first problems at school started to influence me. At junior school I was the best student - no need to say that I loved being said that I'm smart and intelligent. But in 5th grade I started failing at maths. As my father is very good with maths, he started helping me to learn the things faster. The problem was that I wasn't understanidg anything and he started to yell at me and sometimes even insult me. After that I have always felt bad, but only for a short time. Another problem was my lying. When I had a bad mark at maths, I was lying that the results hadn't come out yet, but in few days I was ending up with an explanation and a dramatic excuse. Later I continued to lie them about other things, but it led to a paradox where in most cases when I lie, they believe me, but in some cases when I tell them the truth, they don't believe me.

I have a brother. He is 16 months old. When I heard I will have a brother, I turned to the calendar, pretending to see if it was the 1st of April, then I said: ''O.K.''
When he was born, I faked a smile at my face. I have never paid him much attention. But some months ago, something interesting happened. 

I was playing with him (very rare thing) an suddenly put my hand on his throat and I felt a crave to kill him. But I stopped for a second, started thinking, and then I felt horrible. The idea of doing it was horrible. But I continued imagining it and I got into a point when I liked the fantasy and even started asking myself: ''If I kill him, would I feel better?'' But I didn't do it. Now I don't have this fantasy. And it wasn't the first time I had experienced it. When I was a kid, I used to imagine myself killing my then baby cousin, and when I was holding a knife, I've had a craving to kill the person against me, and I even was asking myself: ''What it would be if I do it?''

With my relatives I have generally a good connection. The only real bad thing I have done was when my grandma died. She died in front of my eyes. firstly, I didn't feel anything, then I forced myself to cry, and cried for 15 minutes. At the funeral I wasn't crying and I was thinking: ''What's wrong with me?'', but, at the end, I forced again myself to cry and thought: ''I cry, so I'm normal''.

The non-sociopathic part of me is related to my behaviour and there are 2 crucial characteristics. The first one is my imagination. With this one I had fulfilled many of my time, and I still continue to do it. It's very various and includes things both from the real and from fictional worlds. I've had fantasies about making friendships with people, having talents like singing, I invented a parallel government of the youth people in my head and was the primr-minister for a while, I've had imagining ideal love and ways to get to know my crushes, etc. The other one is related with something which I call hyperactivity, and the others are calling it extra energy. It consists in constant walking, or jumping, or running inside and outside with stick, pen, pencil, or whatever similar, and it is a way to express the little bit of emotions that I have (a contradiction to what I've said above, but true), because this emotions are the power of this hyperactivity. I even do it in class if I'm bored (it happens almost all of the time) and is something that people around me know that is a part of me, but some of them, like my parents, are annoyed from it and try to stop me doing it. Recently, emotions aren't the power of this movement, because they don't exist, or if they are, I have to think about an emotion to be able to feel it.

There are two less important characteristics, as they are more recent. One of them is that I was a hypohondriac and had diagnosed myself with diabetes, AIDS, schizofrenia, paranoia, etc. Because of the schizofrenia thoughts I started visiting the school psychologist. Now she knows that I think I'm a sociopath, but doesn't believe I am one. The other one is something that I know is very non-sociopathic. I have a problem with my sexual orientation. When i was 11 I found out that I'm gay (I'm a boy) and as I knew that I find out boys as more beautiful than girls, I was O.K. with that. My friends (they are all girls), also. My crushes were boys from school, mainly younger than me. The only year I had crushes older than me was the first year of high school, as I was among the youngest. The feelings were always different, the time - not too much, and they all were boys that I didn't know personally. However, with the last two of my crushes I had strong feelings and I liked them for a longer time. My last crush was from the class of my friends and even started dating one of them. I was hurt, but overcame this for 2 days.

But even of the time when I liked my second-to-last crush, I had the thought that I may like a girl. It wasn't very important, so I forgot it after a while. But recently I realised that since then there was an emerging feel towards girls, which I still want to eliminate. Now I'm in a situation where I find many boys cute, I even have a crush, and it's a combination of jealous when I see him with another girl, and the knowing that I'm hetero.

That's it. I have more information, but maybe I will post it on the comment section of the blog.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feline sociopath

This funny SNL skit with a shout out to a feline sociopath at 3:27. "It's not that he's evil, he lacks empathy . . . "

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dating advice

From a reader, asking for our advice:

I would like to give you some background. I started talking to this guy online for over a month. We had never met. He would text every day telling me how lonely he was, how he wanted a bestfriend, lover and long term relationship. Weeks later he would tell me he was in love with me, how i was the one for him. I told him that since we haven't officially met that it was questionable how he felt- he insists his feelings were real. We did meet date went great. He said he still felt the same. He asked me to be his girl i accepted. I spent 2 days at his home with him... we had sex. After that i haven't seen him since. He texts now he rarely texts. I've asked him if he was seeing anyone so i can move on he said no. He still texts and ask me for oral sex but never attempted to spend time with me. My question... I want to manipulate this guy to get whatever i want from him and have him wrapped around my finger... and get him to spend time with me, take me out and use him to my advantage and spend money on me. How do i go about doing that? Please help me i am tired of being ' the nice girl who finish last and being used up by men.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Self-interested silence

From the same reader as the previous post:

Just finished your book. It's astonishing how self-aware and candid you are, without the denial and self-deception that's characteristic of sociopaths. Seems like you put an incredible amount of work both into self-awareness, manipulating people and fitting in. Can't imagine how hard it must be - and if it's easy, even less so.

In the Epilogue you address a lot of things I wondered about throughout the book, especially how risky it must have been to publish it. There must have been people at work or old lovers who read it and figured out it was you, it was them. What was their reaction?


A lot of people had a lot of different reactions. I actually have only heard from a couple of people who were sort of victims. One of them (I was really surprised to hear) was just really relieved to find out that was what had been going on and now sort of insists that I update her periodically with what's going on with my life in a very friendly way. I think most of them would rather (1) believe that I'm talking about someone else and not them (if the story is general enough) or (2) recognize themselves but feel like it would be beneath them to confront me about it. This is also partly because at least for a couple of characters, I combined stories and characteristics from multiple people into one to deal with fewer "characters" and to further disguise real events.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tone of voice

From a reader:

I'm about two-thirds into your book and I'm struck by the tone of your writing. It sounds non-judgmental and emotionless. Not detached, as these are things you take pride in, but the humanly closest to being objective. Perfectly consistent throughout the book and certainly with your diagnosis.

I know that tone of voice from someone I love. Your book helps a lot in understanding the way he experiences the world and people, primarily me. Jokes that used to deeply offend and shock me, lack of emotion that used to hurt me, his meteoric, self-centred rise in the office are suddenly just who he is and the best he can give in all his sociopathic glory.

I'm very pleased that I'm finally beginning to make sense of him; he's kept me fascinated and puzzled for two years. He's not someone I wanted to love but I absolutely cannot help it. You're probably rolling your eyes right now but this is not about sharing my emotional state. I thought it must be interesting for you to hear about how people try to resist the lure of the sociopath and fail.

He started paying attention to me and trying to seduce me years ago but I only yielded very recently. The intervening two years have been an exhilarating rollercoaster ride of emotions from my side and lost and won games from his. I think the gambling nature of this game just amplified our enjoyment and made the unpredictable rewards more addictive. We've come to share a closeness that I haven't experienced with anyone else, and needless to say, he's an excellent lover.

I've known he's a sociopath for a long time. I don't know if he does but I would imagine so. My challenge was trying to avoid being beguiled, to show him that I see through his pretending, that he has no power over me.

But, incredibly annoyingly to me, I'm helpless. Giving up my wary resistance to admiration and love seems the most rewarding outcome for me. I'm sure it's what he wants, but it flatters me that he wants my love and attention. He's gone out of his way to earn it, even if most of it was what people commonly call "manipulation".

He is not reliable, constant or trustworthy. He can hurt me and let me down badly. He can put the brakes on my career progression even from another part of the business. But he's so brilliant, ruthless and charismatic that I can't help but be in awe of him, admire and trust him despite overwhelming evidence. Sometimes it's like catching a child next to a broken bowl. Of course he keeps asserting it wasn't him, and of course I know it was. The outcome is always the same - I decide to trust him and feel an even stronger bond.

Is it because I'm an irrational or daft person? Far from it. It's not like us empaths are idiots. I'm educated and independent, entrepreneurial and emotionally intelligent. I've never fallen into anyone's trap. I've always excelled at everything I've done and I've always achieved what I wanted. 

The reason I continue to trust him is because I entered into a mental contract. I willingly do this, over and over again. I know what's going on, I can mostly tell when he's playing me. Whatever I need him to be, he is, obligingly. People keep telling me this is not right for me but I think otherwise. In a lot of ways this is a fair exchange. A lot of my needs are fulfilled this way, and to anyone that can tap into them the way he does, please feel free.

This is the brilliant thing about sociopaths - not only luring people into their halo, but enabling people to share a kind of trust that they don't experience with anyone else. You want to see my insecurities, here, take this magnifying glass. I know they are safe with you because you'll play me like a fiddle in places I want to be played.

I get a lot out of that. But even better than that, there are moments when he's unguarded, vulnerable and gives himself up to me. Those moments are my prize, and for them it's all worth it.

Even it they are calculated.

You sociopaths are astonishingly brilliant and fascinating. Offering a glimpse into your minds is a service to humanity that no one has done before. I'm infinitely grateful for it. 

Even just penning the above lines I've had to struggle to keep my candour and stay objective. Perhaps that's easier for you to do, but in some ways, having made a lifestyle of lying, inconceivably harder. Your self-awareness is rare and very surprising in a sociopath. Thank you for the honesty in your tone of voice. I can't even imagine what it took.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

It's not always depression

From a reader:

I recently read your book. I finished it yesterday actually. It's full of little highlighted sections that I marked that sounded just like me. It was eerie how recognizable your experiences were and how closely they seemed to mirror mine. I did not cry at my uncle's funeral. I knew him very well and grew up with him. He got brain cancer and everyone was very upset - he was a very kind, loving man. I can't remember a single person besides me who didn't cry, but for whatever reason, I just couldn't force myself to. I didn't feel anything at all, except mild curiosity. Was he still around somewhere else, like heaven? What does it feel like to die? And what does it feel like to love someone so much you react like everyone around me was reacting at his funeral? 

I used to torture ants, absolutely fascinated by their pathetic struggles on the sidewalk when I smushed parts of their bodies to see how long they could continue dragging themselves along. I didn't realize it was cruel until someone reacted with disgust (probably my mother). Whenever someone reacted to me with disgust, I always responded the same way. I acted contrite and then continued doing whatever I was doing, but much more carefully to avoid detection. 

I was also a perpetual liar and still am. I love to charm people - to be the person they want me to be exactly, even if I might bend some truths and tell some tales in doing so. I get bored with people who become too dependent or too attached and throw them away. I'm underage, but not a virgin, despite never being in a lasting relationship (longer than 4 weeks). 

When I was younger, I was sadistic towards my little sister. I loved hitting her, pulling her thick curly hair, and watching her eyes well up with tears. Sometimes I would blame my misdeeds on her so my parents would punish her for things she wasn't guilty of. Sometimes I would simply cut her apart verbally. I don't remember exactly why I did this, just that I did, and for immense pleasure from it. 

I wouldn't call myself a bully currently and I've never done anything officially criminal (except maybe the underage sex or that one - or two - times I shoplifted), but I do blackmail people sometimes and love the power it gives me. I value power far above intimacy. I love to be feared, and there's something about me that either draws people in or repulses them, because there's something not quite right about me.

I would consider myself high functioning. I'm usually pretty good at faking emotion (except at the funeral). I lie constantly, but rarely get caught. When I fail to follow through on promises, I act adequately contrite. I'm good at guessing what others feel through careful observation. My mother is convinced I'm absolutely fine.

I've told you all of this because I genuinely believe myself to be a sociopath. The above is all of my evidence that I am. However, I don't remember it myself, but my mother tells me I had irrational anxieties as a child. I was afraid of some things that made sense - like not 'fitting in' or being a 'freak' to my peers and aggressively tried to adapt correctly to avoid those things. I was also apparently afraid of bridges and grass, which I don't remember and don't understand. 

I have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder and depression. I do feel like I have less energy in the winter, and I know that my vitamin D levels are down, so seasonal affective is probably at least partially true. I feel bored a lot and fairly apathetic, but I'm not sure if I'm depressed. I often over exaggerate my sadness to get sympathy and favors from my parents. I also manipulated my therapist into sending me into the hospital by claiming to be suicidal because I didn't want to spend Christmas with my family before realizing how awful mental health wards are. 

I'm not actually sure how much of my depression/anxiety disorder symptoms are real and how much were simply manipulation. I feel like I can turn emotions on and off. If it's beneficial to cry, I can tap into sad emotions and bring myself to tears. If it's beneficial to stop crying, I become calm and no longer sad. I don't understand if I am sad or if I somehow manage to manipulate myself into feeling sad in order to cry in order to get things.

I'm emailing you because I know sociopaths are supposed to be immune to depression and anxiety so I'm wondering if you, knowing what you know, think I am a sociopath, or simply a delusional depressed girl who wants an easy explanation for her apathy and problems in life (such as difficulty relating to others). 

If I truly am a sociopath, it seems like my life will be fairly empty and flexible - ambiguous and spontaneous - which it is now. I'm wondering how you cope with the knowledge that you don't get to relate to people like others can or feel things that others can. Doesn't it bother you to know that others may be better off than you and you will never actually know whether or not they are? And if so, what do you do about it?

Thank you so much for your time and hopefully reply.


From M.E.:

I don't think I have ever really put limits on what I am able and not able to do, even post diagnosis. To the extent that I describe myself in what may seem like a fixed way, it's more that I am trying to accurately describe myself in any moment, as you might describe the particular location or slope of a mathematical function with precision, all the while knowing that the function is constantly changing. 

I have had depression and anxiety symptoms. I have spoken with my current therapist about it. He says that depression and anxiety are common byproducts of an underlying issue. Let's say, for instance, you have been frustrated a long time. Or empty? The frustration or emptiness may eventually manifest themselves in a depressed mood if they persist. I think I taught myself, trained myself really, to be anxious. I found that I didn't naturally care for things that I should care for, so I trained myself to, the same way I trained myself as a musician to be really sensitive to fine changes in intonation and to abhor playing notes that are even slightly out of tune, when before when I was younger I wouldn't even notice it.

UPDATE: This is an interesting NY Times article about how depression can be symptoms of other issues (in this one, it is shame and lack of emotional awareness).

Monday, March 9, 2015

Am I a sociopath?

From a reader:

I am not sure if this is the correct place to ask but I was just wondering if I am a sociopath.

I grew up and I knew that I was not your 'average Joe' growing up, I was bullied for being different, however when I got slightly older (about 14) I was able to use my charm and intelligence to manipulate people's thoughts on me and I became a very central part of my year. I was basically the heart and soul of my school, everyone knew my name. I wasn't the most well behaved child either, however I could get away with murder, using my charisma to manipulate my teachers thoughts of me, everyone loved me. Once I had a bout of my usual impulsive behaviour, this time aggressively, and swore at my teacher; however after speaking to the Headmistress I got away with almost no punishment.

I cannot stick to one thing at a time for long as I get bored of it very quickly, I am a jack of all trades but master of none. I amateur in playing the piano, drums, guitar, didgeridoo and trumpet. I get interested in certain parts of history and learn almost obsessively about them and then move on to a different period in time. I am 16 at the moment and am attending one of the most prestigious schools in the country, I aspire to be a Barrister (like you) when I graduate from a Russell Group University.

I have a high level of respect for people that can maintain an interesting level of conversation with me. People that I deem either vulnerable or thick (don't interest me when I speak to them) I toy with and manipulate to get my own way. If necessary (or I am bored) I will manipulate anyone I come across. I don't really feel anything for the people I speak to and I don't feel guilt or remorse on any level for anything. I feel love for only 5 people in my life (my mum, dad, two brothers and my best friend) I would not really manipulate them for fun, but if there was something I wanted I definitely would. I also lie a lot to people, never to my best friend for a reason unknown to me, but I do regularly to my family.

P.S. I love your book!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Existential crisis?

From a reader:

I've very recently finished reading your book I wanted to say that it was quite brave of you to write this book, as after reading I immediately searched for others like it but one simple search of the word "Sociopathy" in Amazon Books brings up a dominating majority of witch-hunt esqe guides to "spotting sociopaths" and how to avoid the 'morally insane' which shows that despite the possible 4% of.the human race being this way people are still very unaware and, in a lot of cases, ignorant to what Sociopathy is and so are fearful, like you discuss in your book. What would happen if this was well known information? Would the other 96% want sociopaths imprisoned or removed, see them as an enemy? A predator with the sole purpose to prey on the morally susceptible? 

I have been thinking in, somewhat an existential crisis, about who I really am, and through similar interests with a friend over psychological thrillers and 'psychopathic' characters she introduced to me the concept of a sociopath, and I'm not going to go into detail of all the times I have experienced the tell tale traits or coincidently mention events that line up with things you have experienced yourself to make me seem like a sociopath, because I know people in my everyday life that glorify the term "Sociopath", thinking of it as an interesting character quirk like being a hipster or alternative art enthusiast, when in fact it is, well, a 'disorder' of the soul. But the events and traits you describe are more than familiar, (some of which is down to how well it was written and how open you have been on terms of intimate thoughts and ideas of your own, being a diagnosed sociopath) and I'm 18 in the later important stages of education where my apathy and diversion for social norms and impulsivity (to name a few) are affecting my everyday life in obvious and negative ways. I have done the surveys (such as the Levenson self report psychopathy scale) and seen the trait lists, which do point to me being a sociopath, but I wondered if there is anyway of getting an anonymous professional diagnosis to be sure, because I doubt my local GP will have the understanding to both competently diagnose me and to keep it as a secret, Ideally it would be through the Internet, or even if you know of a test I can do that has a reliable conclusion to whether I am a sociopath?

Also I hope you continue your work on blog because you are one of, if not the main active author and sort of activist towards proper understanding of Sociopathy for everyone, along with helping sociopaths understand who they are, it really is important work and I for one am grateful.

M.E.: Here's an interesting thing my therapist shared with me recently. I'm not sure if I believe him because he is more of a fringe type of guy (in my mind at least). He said that personality disorders are all sort of the same basic thing, but that there are like several dozen different traits that often appear in the same constellation with other traits, and that's where the personality disorder diagnoses came from but that there just different manifestations of the same sort of basic personality issue. (SIDE NOTE -- DOES ANYONE KNOW IF THIS IS ACTUALLY TRUE?) So I'm starting to think more that way. Of course the diagnoses are useful, I think, because even though I might have the same fundamental personality issues (lack of or flexible sense of self, etc.) as a narcissist, we see the world in really different ways. But I am less hung up on whether I'm a sociopath or not and more interested in figuring out what degree of freedom I have in choosing who I want to be rather than relying on my genetic or environmental programming. Does that make you less inclined to seek confirmation? Because, actually honestly, I bet a lot of what you're diagnosed with will depend on the personal biases of your doctor, so I'm not sure if there's any certainty out there no matter what?


Firstly thank you for replying, and yes that does make sense there will always be a large amount of uncertainty even with diagnosis as, especially with personality disorders, there isn't much understanding when it comes to the workings of the mind, and I don't really feel restricted by sociopathy, more the opposite due to the heightened self awareness and kind of viewing the world through a screen as if it were a film or game that is to be played. I think it was just more of an identity crisis in trying to find a confirmation, and I do agree that either way as long as I understand myself then that is enough. Yes I am perfectly happy with you using my email, and thanks again, without your work it would be a lot harder for a lot of people to understand themselves and for others to actually understand real sociopathy instead of the cliché TV psychopath,

I look forward to your future work,

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bisexuality and sociopathy

From a reader:

I've always been interested in what you've got to say. Long time reader and occasional commenter of your blog.

I recently mentioned your book in an interview I was involved in, regarding the correlation between bisexuality and sociopathy. I thought you might find it interesting.


"Why? Is this the bisexual version of the gay-lisp: an unfair stereotype that we’re all shifty, amoral psychopaths? I don’t think so. I actually think it’s the other way around: psychopaths strike me as far more likely to be bisexual. It makes sense for sociopathic characters to be bisexual: someone so inured to social convention and so aware of the power of seduction would be extremely likely to be bisexual, even if only for utilitarian means. As M.E. Thomas, the author of Confessions of a Sociopath puts it, it’s not so much bisexuality as it is gender indifference. The sociopath doesn’t see gender; rather, they see someone to manipulate and prey on."

If you've got the time, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter, including my opinions on the literary and historic links between bisexuals and general troublemakers.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Assisted suicide?

Several people notified me about the teenager from Massachussetts who was charged with murder for her role in urging a friend to kill himself.

Here's one link to the story. Fee free to share others that may have a different spin.

I've heard about the dangers of this happening (prosecution for encouraging suicide), but I think this is the first I have seen where the person being indicted wasn't an actual physical participant in the suicide, but rather just someone who facilitated it emotionally or psychologically without bullying, intimidation, or other possibly threatening or unlawful conduct.

This is an interesting case particularly because the victim apparently deleted all recent texts except those that the victim had with the girl? Why? To set her up?

And the oddest thing about this type of charge is that it all seems to boil down to whether she really felt badly for him and it was more like an assisted euthanasia (sympathy), or whether she just wanted to push him over the edge for self-gratification of a power trip or too garner attention and sympathy from others (pure evil)? Probably the thing that is scariest about this are the people who will feel with absolute assurance that they can look into her heart and find either evil or look into the prosecutor's heart and find overreaching or the parents' heart and find an over-willingness to spread the blame that should rightly land on them, etc., when who could know the heart of another, particularly a stranger.  I find these sorts of stories to be interesting litmus tests, not just to how people will come out, but what degree of moral surety they have in something that seems so clearly unknowable unless you were one of the principal players, and even then so easy to misunderstand or misapprehend.

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