Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Everything can be explained

Design Matters' Debbie Millman interviews Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York. He had some interesting opinions about visiting prisoners, opening his mind to understand more about their story, but still drawing conclusions about "shoulds" regarding accountability. From Brain Pickings:

DEBBIE MILLMAN: Do people scare you with some of their stories — do you hear things that frighten you?

BRANDON STANTON: It’s a good question. There’s a large range of human experience… I just went to five different federal prisons and I interviewed thirty inmates. I think that the truth — and this is a dangerous line to draw, because you get into moral relativism — but I think the truth is always exculpatory… If you dig down into why this woman strangled this 11-year-old girl, you learn about her paranoid schizophrenia, which she didn’t know was schizophrenia — she thought [there] were people talking to her. And then if you dig back even further than that, you find out about the uncle who raped her every night, from the age of seven to eleven. And you start to realize that these people are acting with the information that they had about the world, and they were speaking in the language that they knew.

And once you dig down to that level, everything can be explained.

DEBBIE MILLMAN: It’s a very compassionate, very generous view of humanity.

BRANDON STANTON: And, it’s not a view that can be necessarily acted upon — because there needs to be…

DEBBIE MILLMAN: …what is excusable and what is forgivable.

BRANDON STANTON: Exactly. And you do need to draw those lines. You had schizophrenia? I’m sorry, you killed somebody… [But] this is one thing this prison series really opened up to me — the schism in America between compassion and accountability, and it is a schism that runs through every comment section I have where somebody admits something [difficult].





Sunday, March 27, 2016

Depressed sociopath?

My therapist says (something like, forgive my rough paraphrases) that a lot of people have the symptoms of depression without having actual depression -- that people can have the symptom of depression without having the clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Maybe this is obvious to some, but I feel like it's kind of gotten lost in the past decade or so as a concept. I think it's gotten pretty common for people to believe that if their symptoms of depression last for more than a few weeks, then they have Depression (capital D). The therapist says often what is actually happening is the person has particular beliefs or expectations that are not being met. From Psychology Today:

"I must be loved." "I must do well." These are classic rational emotive philosophies, or mind styles, that foster depression. There may be beliefs about the world: "The world should recognize me." Or "I need a guarantee of success, otherwise it's too hard to live with my dreams and hopes." A belief that things must go your way can lead to very destructive rage: "The world must see me fairly and favorably, otherwise the world is contemptible."

Things like that. And when they're not met there is frustration (and maybe rage). When the frustration continues, the person loses hope that the world can ever be made right in a way that comports with their beliefs. The hopelessness becomes despair (literally "loss of hope"). Your body and mind can't stand to feel despair for longer than a week or two, so it numbs the feeling -- all feelings actually, the same way that your overwhelmed body might go unconscious in reaction to severe pain.

So I've heard from a bunch of people that identify as being sociopathic but have also experienced or are currently experiencing depression and wonder how the two could possibly co-exist, but sociopaths have wrong beliefs about the way the world should work just as much as other people (maybe sociopaths do not have as many wrong beliefs as a normal person, because they are less susceptible to socialization, but having a personality disorder by definition means you have some wrong beliefs). When failed expectation turns to frustration and frustration turns to loss of hope that things will work out the way they seem to need to, depression.

From a reader:

The reason for this email is to determine whether I'm a sociopath or not. Which must be 75% of your emails. I've read your book and It's lead me to thinking I'm a sociopath. I seem to exhibit a lot of sociopathy symptoms but there are a few contradicting aspects to my personality. Which is why I'm hoping you can help me determine whether I am a sociopath or not. I've always knew I was different since I was little. I was dubbed "The Weirdo". Though growing up I quickly learned how to befriend these people and was soon able to become a member of any social group. Despite this 'acceptance' to any group I still knew that I was different and everything I did to be a part of these groups was fake. Before reading your book I attempted to determine what made me different. After a view internet searches I started relating to people living with Asperger's syndrome. I went as far as visiting a doctor to be diagnosed. I was sent to an autism centre and I was asked a myriad of questions. I dropped all of my fa├žades and answered them honestly. They told me that my answers showed signs of Asperger's but some of my behaviour contradicted this. When I probed for specifics they told me I locked eye contact with the interviewer which is usually difficult for someone with Asperger's. They asked If I could attend another appointment but this time to bring my mother. I declined as I felt that my contradicting behaviours was enough to convince me I didn't have Asperger's. Since then I gave up on figuring out why I stood apart from my peers. It wasn't until I read your book that my interest was reignited. As I said before I show signs of being sociopathic.

I fail to read a lot of social cues and get very angry when someone tries to make me feel guilty for my actions. I become very bored, very quickly, especially when it comes to my job and my interests. I got straight As in high school but didn't attend university as I knew that there was nothing that I could dedicate 4 uyears of my life to and still be interested. Since then I've been a bartender; a sales agent; a bee-keeper; a funeral director and embalmer; a full time male escort and now I'm currently teaching English in China. These jobs usually require previous experience but I'm managed to persuade my way into these positions only to become bored and move onto the next best thing. To blend in with these careers my personality changes. Embalming [NAME] differs from the [NAME] my childhood friends know and that [NAME completely differs from [NAME] in China. I seem to seek out what is needed in a group and become that person. This is not even mentioning my male escort persona, which brings me to my sexuality.

You noted that a fluid sexuality is one of the give aways to a sociopath. I had a lot of girlfriends and I did 'love' them but again, just like my career path or my interests, I become bored and I move on. I'd like to highlight that one of my ex-girlfriends, who was obsessed with Twilight, literally believed I was a vampire which you stated in your book is a creature that has a sociopathic nature. After an x amount of girlfriends I became curious about the same sex and, mostly to vex my mother, I came out as gay but like everything in my life this title, along with it's shock factor, bored me and I gravitated back to girls identifying as straight. Currently when people ask me what my sexuality is, since having a defining sexual identity is the 'in' thing now, I simply say I go for personality since I have no real preference.

I could go on about my sociopathic traits but I want to mention the parts of me that contradict being a sociopath. I don't have feelings towards humans, I've manipulated them and used them, but I do have a desire to be their friend. I meet some people and I try and manipulate them into being my friend not to use but because I crave the companionship. I have no feelings towards human but I have a big heart for animals. I love animals. I don't need to act for them and it saddens me to see an animal heart which I feel goes against being a sociopath. Finally I have a a lot of depressive traits. If my 'mask' slips and I'm caught, it can knock me into a depression. For example I was out drinking last night with friends and half way through the night I started observing the situation and failing to find the point in any of it. From that point on I stopped trying in conversation and cut short my niceties. When my friends noticed and confronted me, I became down and went home. I remember it being mentioned in your book that sociopaths don't really get depressed. Using the evidence I've given you can you help me find out whether I am sociopath or not?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Real life sociopath encounter?

A reader pitched me an encounter he had with a stranger that he suspected was sociopathic and asked if he could have done anything better than he did:

I enjoy reading the Sociopath World blog.

I have had difficulties with sociopaths in my lifetime.  Myself being a little different, I seem to be viewed as easy prey.  

It seems impossible to remove myself from a situation with a sociopath whether it is a long term relationship or short term encounter.

The frustrating part is I feel I am able to politely remove myself from any situation I might encounter with a sociopath but I feel even being polite does not work.  I have seen situations where a person asks another person politely asks someone to stop doing something and the person physically attacks them.

Here is a scenario I encountered recently at a casino.

I walk up to a slot machine.  A person who I realized later on was a sociopath is sitting at the chair at the machine I want to play.  Here is the dialogue and what transpired.

Me: Excuse me.  Is anyone using this machine?

Sociopath:  No.  Do you want to use it? ( My thinking already was this guy is probably an arrogant sociopath.  OF COURSE I WANT TO USE IT.  I am sure in his mind he was being polite by putting the power in his corner by asking if I want to use it.  As if he is being a nice guy doing me a favor. If I was sitting at a machine and someone asked me this I would just say "No" and get up and leave.).

Me: Thank you.

The sociopath sits at the chair next to me.  He was dressed and groomed appropriately but I am the type of person that can figure people out easily.  He looked like he just got out of jail.

I proceed to play and begin winning huge.  It was insane how much I was winning.  When winning reels came up the sociopath would calculate how much my winnings were as if he was doing me a favor.  After I hit the spin button on the machine he would put his hand up and pretend to control the reels on the machine.  (I was thinking how could he not realize he was being as annoying as fuck.)  He would also give me fist pumps.  This guy was annoying the hell out of me and knew eventually he would ask me for money.  I was actually afraid of him and wanted nothing to do with him.  But the machine was so hot I could not leave.  I thought I would be able to play along, be friendly, and get the hell out.  I even gave him a beer for free.  I was in Las Vegas so drinks are complimentary so it cost me a $1.00 tip.   I jokingly told him that he was a good luck charm 


After one winning spin he says, "Gimme some" in a half angry voice.  He thought it was funny but he couldn't care less how inappropriate it was.  I stared at him for 10 seconds hoping he could get the message I was not giving him a dime.

During my conversation with him, he told me how he was moving to Las Vegas for his brother. I could tell it was a lie.  I asked what he did for a living.  He said architect which was horseshit.    He asked me what my favorite type of food to eat was.  I said Italian.  Of course he tells me his is also an Italian chef.  This guy saw dollar signs and was spewing lies everywhere.  

At this point I was thinking how crazy he was for thinking I would believe his crap.  I thought my only way out was to pretend to be his friend and hope that would be enough for him to not rob me.  

Two hours later I racked up about $2.5K on the machine.  I was ready to leave.  I wanted to say, " I am tired.  I am going to get back to my hotel room.  My girlfriend must be wondering where I am."  I didn't.  

I was afraid even being polite and reasonable with him would make him angry.    I asked if he wanted to go to another casino with me.  I thought about not cashing in my TITO (machine payout slip).  I could say to him "I do not want to carry around this much cash."  I decided to cash the TITO to show him my trust I had.  

I told him I would drive.  So here I am in a car with a sociopath and $2.5K cash.  We get to the casino.  I end up winning another $500.  Fast forward we get back in the car and I take him back to his hotel.  He asks if I could buy dinner for his "good luck charm".  I gave him $20.00 and felt like I got off cheap.   It was a traumatic experience.

My questions are. 

Would a raging sociopath like this have pulled a knife and robbed me in a casino with a million cameras?

Would being reasonable with him have gotten me out of the situation?  

What should I have done?

My response:

I actually think you played this pretty well? I mean, I probably would have never gotten in the car with him, but maybe that was what was necessary to continue the evening in a way that didn't interrupt your plans while waiting for him to get kind of tired of you? I.e. you never provoked him until he got over the dangerous initial period in which he was likely to act on impulse. You know what I mean? Like after he had been around you for an hour or two, any impulse to attack you would have been less strong and less likely to be acted on until you were just another possible opportunity that never came to fruition? I don't know.

But what does everyone else think?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What's you vs. the disorder?

I've heard a lot of explanations for why despite being disordered, there's still something beyond that worthy of moral condemnation. Let me unpack that a little more -- a lot of people will acknowledge that my brain has certain deficits (e.g. empathy, recognition of my own emotional states, etc.), deficits that I never asked to have (i.e. born or acquired/developing by the time I was an infant or toddler). But despite acknowledging that is true, there is something about me that is still morally abhorrent to them. So since they feel that way, they often try to come up with logical reasons to justify that feeling. I've heard a lot of variations on the theme, to list just a few: (1) I still have the power to choose, so I should (or at least could theoretically) just choose to go against all of my hardwiring, 100% of the time,  just by sheer strength of willpower (just like gay people can can choose to go against their hardwiring and act straight), (2) everybody has brain problems and we can't allow people a "get out of jail free" card for their brain issues otherwise no one would ever try to surmount their brain problems and society would collapse (although this one doesn't explain why the moral animus, i.e. why I am morally culpable, just that people think I should be economically responsible for the harm/consequences of my actions), (3) I was created evil or am some sort of devil that is inherently morally wrong. But actually the one that bothered me most at the time that I first heard it, perhaps because it was in part used to justify some very bad behavior towards me, was "it's not the things you've done, it's the way you feel about them." To this person, I had not done anything truly objectionable, it was more my lack of guilt about having done them. They said, it's not your disorder that is a problem, it's your attitude about it. I never did reply, it wouldn't have mattered at that point, but internally I yelled -- the disorder is the attitude.  

I thought about this again while watching the movie Still Alice, about someone with early onset Alzheimer's. She gives a speech about what her experience of that disorder is that I thought was remarkably like living with anything that is both part of you, and not really -- where the lines of what is you and what is the disorder blur, particularly in the minds of other people:

  The poet Elizabeth Bishop once wrote: 
   The art of losing isn’t hard to master. So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their lost is no disaster. 
   I am not a poet. I am a person living with early onset Alzheimer’s, and as that person I find myself learning the art of losing every day. Losing my bearings, losing objects, losing sleep, but mostly losing memories. 
   ***
   All my life, I’ve accumulated memories; they’ve become in a way my most precious possessions. The night I met my husband, the first time I held my textbook in my hands, having children, making friends, traveling the world. Everything I accumulated in life, everything I worked so hard for, now all that is being ripped away. As you can imagine, or as you know, this is hell, but it gets worse. 
   Who can take us seriously when we are so far from who we once were? Our strange behavior and fumbled sentences change other’s perceptions of us and our perceptions of ourselves. We become ridiculous, incapable, comic, but this is not who we are, this is our disease. And like any disease, it has a cause, it has a progression, and it could have a cure. 
   My greatest wish is that my children, our children, the next generation do not have to face what I am facing. But for the time being, I’m still alive, I know I’m alive. I have people I love dearly, I have things I want to do with my life. I rail against myself for not being able to remember things. But I still have moments in the day of pure happiness and joy. And please do not think that I am suffering, I am not suffering. I am struggling, struggling to be a part of things, to stay connected to who I once was. 
   So living in the moment I tell myself. 
   It’s really all I can do. Live in the moment, and not beat myself up too much, and, and not beat myself up too much for mastering the art of losing. 

It's an interesting thought -- if something has a "cure" or is "treatable" or at least alterable, does that mean it's never "you"? 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Good and bad

A reader shares a different perspective on good and bad, which I am not sure I understood completely, but it seemed to have a ring of truth to it:

I stumbled upon this insightful article that categorizes different types of morality while challenging popular notions of what is good and evil.  I think this is a good read for anyone struggling with the concept of morality; sociopaths and empaths alike.

However, there are passages that really stuck out to me in terms of identifying with sociopaths. When talking about "highly intelligent" people who fail to feel compassion or sympathy for their "victims":

So, why do people suffer, and why do people feel pain at the hands of these people if there is no "evil" in the world? 
The answer?  Because these "evil" people lack sensitivity of soul.  They lack wisdom.
Intelligence and knowledge are tools that help us process and play with the ideas of the fragmented reality that our minds create.  Wisdom on the other hand is the sensor that experiences a direct connection to it, it is the sentient perceiver of our existence, the pathway straight to the heart. 
These misguided and unwise people are incapable of cultivating peace and harmony in their lives, so instead they act on whatever provides a fleeting sense of fulfillment: money, power, gratification.  To them these feelings are "good"; they provide security and a false sense of fulfillment, and so they are willing to do anything to anyone to continue feeling these things.

If this were true, is it possible for a naturally "unwise" person to gain the wisdom needed to halt the persistent need for these "fleeting feelings"? Is it possible for them to achieve true self-fulfillment? 

This basically sums it up:

"Good" could be said to be conscious, loving and wise behavior while "Evil" could be considered egotistical, fearful and unconscious behavior.  These words work as metaphors for personal growth, as measurements for the quality of life you're attracting.  For example, anything which helps you 'awaken' to this wisdom, to experience yourself, to become more authentic and experience something higher than yourself is "good", while anything that hinders this is "evil". 
The wiser people will realize that "evil" behavior will attract many problems into their lives - such things as enemies, low self-esteem, paranoia, addictions, attachments, persistent dissatisfaction and suffering, world-weariness and cynicism to name a few. 
Essentially, those people who do "good" in life aren't perfectly saintly beings, but are people who realize, if only intuitively, that doing good benefits them, that being compassionate results in less suffering for themselves and produces a deeper sense of fulfillment and connection to others.
I'm very interested to hear what you have to say about this particular viewpoint, and what you believe to be true or false. Thanks 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Scripted

I thought this analogy was pretty interesting, from a comment from a pretty recent post:

Imagine, a script for every occasion, all kept in several filing cabinets; a secretary sits at a desk nearby, jabbing her fingers away at a typewriter keeping notes and processing the continuous stream of thoughts I'm having that are being used to adapt and write new scripts for me to perform. I might ask her to fetch a script from one of the drawers in the cabinets when I need it, or sometimes I spontaneously do improvised acting, flying script free. I like to improvise especially when it's in my best interests to do so, as prior scripts don't always suit the occasion. Afterwards I sit on the top of my secretary's desk and write a new script using the new material from what was improvised, sipping some hot black coffee and musing on how to better perfect my art of acting.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My sociopath girlfriend?

Some of these guessing games from readers tickle me a little, either because I see some of myself in them or because the thought of this person out there in the world doing whatever he or she wants is sort of charming to me.

Despite these people being too young to tell, something tells me that this story will seem familiar to some of you. From a reader, regarding her girlfriend who gives off sociopathic vibes:

I think my girlfriend is a sociopath. We are both just finishing high school so I don't know if you can "diagnose" her at 17 but I just want some input. I've been with her for a year and a half now but I'll just give you a list of some of the things she does.

Whenever she's done something wrong to ME, she can somehow turn the situation back on me posing as though it's my fault. The issue is It always works. She'll try different methods of getting the same reaction from me. She'll fake hurt, as though she's sad or upset as though I hurt her. If that doesn't work which all this depends on my mood at the time she'll try ignoring me. This normally works as her giving me attention makes me feel good about myself. So when she ignores me I fee as though I've done something terrible to her and I'll consistently apologize and then get angry at her for doing this which just starts the whole cycle over again. But after a few rounds of this it always ends in sex. She wants sex all the and it an be odd especially when I'm declining and she's pushing for it. It feels like she's bored and she gets stimulation out of this. She told me multiple times she doesn't even like the feeling. So I don't know what she's in it for. Another thing is She's amazing at it but one thing I think might be of note is she likes to be on top, and dominant. Not like a dominatrix but she wants to be in charge. 

This girl is one of the most unique I've ever met. She never judges anyone for anything and I believe that's because she does terrible things herself or she just doesn't care enough about other people to remark on their business. 

She's dominant, abrasive, highly intelligent, but her reactions to things are off. Her father just died last month and she hardy cared about it. 

One thing she does is she sees things as a win or lose, relationships for her are either beneficial in some way or they're useless. I actually believe she's incapable of having healthy relationships she was cheating on me with 2 guys and 1 girl at the same time. When confronted with this she told me she never liked me, I was terrible in bed, and i just give her relief from the boredom. This visibly hurt me and she knew it, but the next day she spoke to me as though everything was fine! 

She's very popular in school for her weird but charming personality, she's befriended the creepy kids and the athletic popular ones. She's known for being "wild" and funny but also loud, and promiscuous. She's not even considered beautiful ( she really could be if she put effort in) but she acts as though she is. 

She's constantly asking how people see her as though she doesn't know how she acts. But one day she's the life of the party the next she's indifferent about her "friends" which she doesn't have many of. She's popular but true friends she has 1 of and I assume it's because the girl is like her. She's calculating, and seemingly indifferent about everything. She's smart as hell but can't understand people's emotions enough to comfort them through anything or even relate. Oh and another thing is she's  training to be an actor. Go figure. She mimics perfectly. Once while meeting a Scottish friend, after he introduced himself she said something back but in his own accent. These might be small examples but these are just a handful of the things she does. She's truly cold. I can see how she intoxicates people, but she can be a bitch because she's so strong willed and capable. 

Do you think she's a sociopath?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Restoring from back-up

A therapist reader wrote, among other things, this observation:

"I believe sociopathy, like any other incapacity, can be improved upon by a relentless search for truth and love through an acceptance that good and evil powers drive our lives from a deep spiritual level. We need to get used to spotting which is which and going for the good one every time. That always yields healing and always leads to happiness for us and those we influence. If we keep doing these good things, they grow in us and it gets easier. Peace, happiness and identity just roll in."

My response:

I do think that everybody has an identity, a core identity that came with us from birth and is written into our genes and would have expressed itself much the same no matter where in the multiverse "we" currently are. That identity is never rooted in any sort of evil, never corrupted by this society and its well-meaning or malicious attempts to mold people. Everyone is like a computer that has a backup version stored somewhere, not corrupted viruses or user error or anything else. And if you can just get back to that backup version and restore the harddrive to that, no more virus, no more sociopathy, no more of any type of personality disorder.

What do people think about that analogy?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Seduction 103

A reader recently asked me how he could get back together with his sociopathic girlfriend that got bored with him and took off.

This is how I replied:

Today I went to the beach and was struck once again with the fact that even very very talented surfers don't always catch a wave. A lot more has to do with the wave than the surfer. This is true in seduction exploits too. A bigger determinant of your success is the vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of your target. Right now, it sounds like you're vulnerable and susceptible and she is not. You have no hopes of winning until/if that changes.

I think a lot of people mistake seduction and manipulation as an ex nihilo type of affair. Only god can do that, arguably, and Mormon God can't even (at least it's not part of the theology). Everything comes from somewhere. Even con men intentionally look for particular types of "marks", they don't expect to just make a "mark" out of absolutely anyone they come across. Similarly, people who have good seduction rates are mostly largely (if not primarily) talented at spotting good targets. In other words, the odds of getting someone to fall madly in love with you are great. The odds of getting a specific person chosen at random to fall madly in love with you are quite low, even for sociopaths.



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Single-minded focus

A reader asked what to do with someone on the board of directors of her company (for which she is an executive director) that hired her just because he thought she would be easier to control than the previous executive director. When she resisted his encroachment into her stewardship, he has become increasingly aggressive and nasty.

She asked for advice, and I feel like my advice on these types of issues is a little different than it has been before, so I thought I would share (my current thoughts in brackets):

Ok, a couple of thoughts. First, I think you're right that you shouldn't get down in the muck with him. It's actually probably what he wants from you -- to have you play by his rules. [This reminds of mixed martial arts, actually, with your opponent always wanting you to play the particular style that he is most comfortable with, and vice versa.]

Second, I think that the best thing you could do along with any actual day to day things that you do or interactions you have with him is to make sure that none of what is happening is interfering with the way you conceive of yourself or define yourself in any way. My therapist would call this taking "identity hits." I'll give you a quick example of what I mean. A lawyer friend was telling me about how her colleague at a very adversarial deposition tried to be friendly with the opposing attorney during a break by asking him if he had any kids. The opposing attorney sneered at him, as if to say -- I know what you're doing, playing this game of let's be friend -- "yeah, I have kids, two of them, and then went back to his phone." Somehow, this objectively small interaction made her colleague feel very small, made him doubt his own self-conception of himself as a "nice guy", and someone who people respect sort of as a matter of course. He should have no access to tinker around with those areas of your identity and self-conception, which is your job to keep them safer and more tucked away than you'd keep your passport. [This is not something that sociopaths have to worry about because they don't really associate with their sense of self in this very personal way that non personality-disordered individuals seem to. But having recently gotten more in touch with my sense of identity, I now understand how debilitating these identity hits can be -- or at the very least, they will distract you and impede your performance in a fight.]

Third, you need to be an immovable force to survive and thrive in this type of caustic situation. [Again, sociopaths naturally do this third thing because they have a big obsessive streak and they are capable of hyperfocus, or in this case a single-minded focus on getting one over on other people. I think this is hugely advantageous for reasons I explain later. The rest of the advice is to non-sociopathic people who might not naturally come by this single-minded focus, particularly not for something as potentially boring and fungible as their job.] A lot of religious people get this immovable force assurance from the sense that they are doing God's will. I think you're religious? Maybe you could contemplate or pray what it is that God would have you do in your particular situations, and then act with the confidence that what you are doing is approved of by God. Addicts in 12 step programs submit to their higher power (often as relayed through their sponsor). But their program requires them to make that choice and accept the consequences willingly and happily, the same way that martyrs are happy to die for their cause. Single-minded focus is a win-win approach because you have (1) the confidence and self-assurance that is usually required of high performance and (2) the spiritual or emotional robustness to weather small setbacks without counterproductive self-doubt. [Of course the risk is that your single-minded focus results in a Gallipoli, so be sure to pick your battles wisely before going all in, but do prepared to commit to all in if you get even a hint of your opponent being willing to do so.] There are other ways you can get to being an unmovable force (an incredible sense of personal integrity is probably the other major one or an overwhelming passion). You need to get to the point where you feel like you're not even choosing these choices so much as you are being swept up in something greater than yourself, otherwise you'll probably get cold feet at some point. [It's like they say about athletes, you have to get into the flow where you're not even thinking about your next move, it's just a natural extension of who you are.] The truth is that the actual decisions to be made are so complicated that you can't rationalize to the right answer, likely, and definitely not under time and stress conditions, and if you try you're just going to spend a ton of emotional energy in expecting things of yourself that you have no right to expect [and no adequate skillset to back up]. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Just depression

I responded to another "am I a sociopath?" email two years later and found another young person who would now describe what she was going through at the time as something very different from sociopathy. I asked her to write how her perspective changed over those years:

During most of my teenage years, I was determined to find the crucial component to my personality; a defining factor. Something has to be wrong with me, because no one else seems to have my problems and issues. In 9th grade, I had friends; none close, but people to talk to during class, and see in the halls. I would act differently around all of them... (it wasn't until two years later that I noticed this behavior). When around the cool kids, I'd act cool, when around the nerds, I'd act nerdy, and so on. I'd take on similar personalities, so I could fit in, and have friends. 

Later on I noticed that my emotions were fading away... as if one day I'd wake up and no longer be able to feel a certain emotion. I first noticed it with embarrassment, from my ability to do anything and not feel that emotion from it... I felt fear at the realization that I could potentially lose my emotions and become void. It was until one day that I no longer feared losing my emotions that I realized was a sociopath. I didn't feel empathy or regret... I didn't care who I upset. Albeit I realize it now, just a teenager's desperate attempt at clawing their way into accepting themselves. 

All of this was from depression, that went unnoticed for years. I didn't know that then. I convinced myself, and others, that I was a sociopath, and I lived by it. I didn't allow myself to feel emotion, and that bit me in the butt. In the latter part of my teenage years I sorta, grew out of that pit devoid of emotion... Back then, I wanted to be important and special. A lot of people going through their teenage years experience this with other categories too. I wanted to be the strong one of my family, no emotions to cloud my judgement... pure logic; like a robot. I take this in part that there was no father figure in my family. I felt like I had to be the man. 

That's not me now... I climbed out of the hole I dug myself into by conditioning myself to feel happiness. What I mean by that is, I would do my best to find something to make me happy during my day... It took a while to feel full emotions again but now I'm at the point where it's a normal part of my life. I have learned that with happiness, comes sadness... and to not block either emotion. Emotions are like yin and yang and you cannot have one without the other. 

Mental health is not self-diagnosis, mental health is accepting your personality for what it is... if you are normal, average... that's okay. I had to learn that. Also of course, seeing a therapist helps, which is what I did to get my anxiety under control. Now, I will be driving down the road and I'll smile at a bright blue day, and I'll smile at a gloomy rainy day. Both are beautiful to me, because contrast is good. 

The whole period where I thought I was a sociopath is not something I'm proud of. It's a little embarrassing because I genuinely believed it. and now I know how stupid it was. Let this be a lesson to all.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Quote: caprice

"Your advantages are prosperity, wealth, freedom, peace—and so on, and so on. So that the man who should, for instance, go openly and knowingly in opposition to all that list would to your thinking, and indeed mine, too, of course, be an obscurantist or an absolute madman: would not he? But, you know, this is what is surprising: why does it so happen that all these statisticians, sages and lovers of humanity, when they reckon up human advantages invariably leave out one? They don’t even take it into their reckoning in the form in which it should be taken, and the whole reckoning depends upon that. It would be no greater matter, they would simply have to take it, this advantage, and add it to the list. . . .that is, that man everywhere and at all times, whoever he may be, has preferred to act as he chose and not in the least as his reason and advantage dictated. And one may choose what is contrary to one's own interests, and sometimes one POSITIVELY OUGHT (that is my idea). One's own free unfettered choice, one's own caprice, however wild it may be, one's own fancy worked up at times to frenzy — is that very "most advantageous advantage" which we have overlooked, which comes under no classification and against which all systems and theories are continually being shattered to atoms. And how do these wiseacres know that man wants a normal, a virtuous choice? What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply INDEPENDENT choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead. And choice, of course, the devil only knows what choice."  

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Love the sinner, hate the sin?

From a very old comment, a concept that many find difficult or nonsensical:

Sam Harris makes this argument in his book "Free Will". If you "get" this line of thinking, you stop blaming people and you stop experiencing pride and shame, because all those are based on the idea that there is a "you" that "freely chooses" to do things that are either bad (blame), good (pride) or bad (shame). 

The best parts of his book relate to psychopaths like Uday Hussein and how we ought to kill them (of course) while loving them (because they aren't blameworthy). It is a very Epicurean/Stoic/zen approach to things, free of the faulty assumptions that almost all humans share - which is quite sociopathic. 
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