Monday, July 31, 2017

Narcissism pros and cons

A reader sent me this article discussing recent research on the pros and cons of narcissism in business leaders. According to the research, narcissism is good up to a point because it often gives people the determination, confidence, and drive to pursue difficult and risky tasks. At a certain point, however, people don't like dealing with the narcissist as a boss, motivation drops, and unchecked narcissism can lead to unnecessary and stupid risks and an personal agenda substituting for the broader group agenda.

The article uses Steve Jobs as an example. Being a raging narcissist facilitated his early development of Apple, but once the company achieved a particular size and needed to keep attracting new talent, it became a detriment. During his time away from Apple, he learned lessons in humility that helped him become an even better business leader when he returned to run Apple 11 years later.

Not only does the article/research do a good job of examining both the pros and cons of a trait that we often associate as being negative, it also deals explicitly with the idea that people's personalities are more fluid than many people give them credit for, otherwise how would Steve Jobs be able to learn humility:

“Even if you have a narcissistic leader, and in a sense it’s causing them to be less effective in certain ways, people can proactively practice virtues like humility and develop their character,” Owens said. “Over time, it will begin to stick and enhance their leadership effectiveness.

Also, I don't know why this did, but one thing that surprised me about people's reaction to the book was some people were really turned off by what they perceived to be my narcissism and some people were really turned on by what they perceived to be my larger than life confidence. For some reason, it tended to split along gender lines with women being much more likely to be turned off and men much more likely to be attracted to it. I wonder why?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Grains of sand

From a reader:

4 minutes ago I finished your book. Loved every page of it. Devoured it in 3 days I loved it so much. I've always been so intrigued by psychopathy and other behavioural disorders. I've thought for a long time that it's unjust to punish people for who they are and their genuine wants and desires. My opinion even extents to pedophiles and all the rest.. But it does leave me confused as I do feel hurting people is wrong (I am an empath). Irrelevant. Anyways.

On the last page you invited the reader to email you to discover your real name. I would love to know it. I had a suspicion too that you were perhaps a male? Throughout the book I kept thinking about your motives for writing.. In the conclusion you mentioned changing the world, suggesting that a motive was to end the stigma around sociopathy, in hopes for an easier future for you, 'in the light'? But was it also somewhat out of boredom, the need for a stimulus? Or not only a protection of yourself, but the possible protection of future sociopaths ("inclusive fitness theory"). Which gave birth to my final question below.

Final query: Can you empathise with other Sociopaths? You don't mention having a relationship with other sociopaths.. I don't know how that dynamic would go, do you?

My response:

I don't think I have empathy for other sociopaths, but for whatever reason I have always had a sense that there is not as much separation between us as some people think. What is bad for one group of people really is bad for all people. I have always intuited that, but used to come up with utilitarian reasons to justify that belief. Just in the past few weeks I feel like I have realized the underlying belief is that for each one of us, part of our identity is our individuality and part of our identity is we collectively make up the universe -- like how cells in the body are both individual and collective, or like how a beach is really just a collection of grains of sand. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sociopath's perspective on being in love

From a reader:

I’m a male sociopath in his late 20s, and M.E. has loaned me her pulpit, because I’ve been in love, which I know from personal experience that that’s not something entirely unique for somebody like me (I know at least one other outlier), so it may apply to some of her readers. And because, well, I asked for the use of said pulpit. And, of course, because she’s been gracious-enough and interested-enough to see where I might be going with this.

            I’m high-functioning. I blend. I excel, and I don’t draw suspicion. The medical parameters that define sociopathy by the prerequisite of pre-adult fuck-ups and missteps seems just as asinine to me as to anyone. Not screwing up or making mistakes before a diagnostic age doesn’t change who you are, or what you are; just means you can watch your ass. You aren’t a total idiot. Good for you. But kids are idiots, across the board, and at the end of adolescence, I met a girl.

            Started off pretty mundane, really. She agreed to go out. She got cold feet. I saw reluctance as a game. I successfully made her go out with me, and that was pretty much it, as far as I was concerned; I won. But she wanted to hang out with me the next day, and for some reason, I did too. We spent time together, and then she had to leave. Maybe because I wasn’t ready for her to leave yet, and because it wasn’t on my terms, but the absence made the heart grow fonder.

        After weeks of talking to another human being, every single night, for 2 – 6 hours at a time, I finally had a moment of clarity; I (still) forget what my mother looks like if I haven’t seen her in a week, but I actually miss somebody when I don’t see or hear from her. I might be feeling something for somebody. Faced with two options, instead of cutting and running, I went all-in, because this was the weirdest game of my life. Either I was wrong, which’d be a first, or else I actually had a shot of an emotional bond, which was also a first. So I bet it all, threw caution to the wind, and invested in whatever other bullshit poetic stereotypes I could think of. I even wrote her a poem and asked her to go steady with me; we both cried. Well, I shed one tear, but that was a personal victory.

        I attempted self-delusion. I’d read everything there was to read about sociopathy, ASPD, and about psychopathy. If I felt love, I must’ve been wrong; I couldn’t be a sociopath, by definition. But I still couldn’t make myself care about anyone or anything else, and I still gut-laughed when cripples fell, despite my best efforts. I grew to quietly accept that I was still an asshole, and she was just the one exception to all my rules: the one I didn’t get tired of, the one I didn’t want anything from but her company, the one I gave a fuck about even when it had no bearing on myself. The one I resolved to never manipulate in any way.

        I was happy. Not satisfied, like winning a fight, or getting my way, and not amused or entertained, but happy. It was fucking intoxicating. Addicting. Like nothing I’d ever felt before; I felt simple for ever doubting the empaths I saw with their dumbass little bliss, because I actually had it. And it was real.

        We were together for years. I joined the military, because I’d already had plans to kill people and not go to jail, and I wasn’t going to bitch out on plans I’d told others of just because of somebody else or their feelings, and still she stayed loyal. Finally, she broke it off, for her own personal reasons. I didn’t blame her. What’s incredible is that I still don’t. The only person I haven’t ever been able to be mad at, even if I tried, and rage is the one thing I’m truly good at.

        I imagined that I should be furious at how she could be so dumb to throw away one of the only times lightning struck and somebody like me felt love. I wanted to think her stupid for throwing away my complete, unfettered, and unchallenged love, because nobody could love her with the same focus I could. And her friends did.

        But I realized that the reason I couldn’t actually judge is because I don’t know. I can’t claim that. I have no idea how somebody else would love her, and maybe a normal man would be able to love her, and her family, and his family, and whoever else, and still be full of love leftover. Maybe somebody else would have room in his mind for all the love I felt and other loves, but without all the hate that I always have in me. Even if she could appreciate the statistical anomaly, I’d never tell her what I was, so it’s not like she could be culpable. And even if she’d known, if leaving me was what she needed, I actually just wanted her to be happy, for whatever fucked-up reason, far more than I’ve ever wanted myself to be happy.

        I’ve read, all my life, the “studies,” the bullshit, about how sociopaths aren’t capable of love. I’ve heard the “prognosis,” all of which end with the same recommendation: everyone who knows any sociopath should cut all ties and abandon them. I’ve even read sociopaths’ accounts of being in love. One described it as all-consuming, wanting to suck the air out of the person’s lungs. I think that might actually be the sociopath’s infatuation, but I’m not positive that’s love. When you don’t care about anything, the one thing you do care about can be intoxicating.

        But to actually love somebody, it’s selfless. When all you have is yourself, that’s dangerous. It’s addictive, it’s destructive, and it’s terrible. Love actually is all they crack it up to be. But if you don’t even love your family, if all you love is one person, it’s crushing, unrelenting, and as single-dimensioned as a fucking fairy tale.

        To say I love this girl more than myself isn’t that impressive. I couldn’t give a shit about my own personal well-being. If picking a fight or riding a motorcycle breaks up the monotony of the day, let’s roll the dice. But I can say that I was willing to grow old for her, and that I still dream about her, and both are equally horrifying.

        I’m proud of her for stepping away before I or my lifestyle scarred her, but I hate myself every single day for it. Letting her go without manipulating her into staying, every day that I don’t call her and worm my way back into her life, is the only selfless thing that I’ve ever done, probably my only “redeeming factor.” But I also live every day knowing that I could. Not contacting her seems to be the only “decent” thing I’ve ever really done. The voice that says I could tells me I’m a little bitch for losing the only game I actually care about anymore. And I live with the self-directed anger. The fact that I don’t is more proof to me that I actually do love her than any proof I ever saw while riding the high.

        I’m working on being as angry as I used to be, but instead of fueling fearless aggression that drives success, my apathy now tends to be a shitty little anchor tempting me towards comfort and complacency. I’m open to tips from anyone who’s been there before, to get back to where I was. I do not value this “personal growth.”

        This isn’t a tale of redemption; I never stopped treating people like the social commodity they are before, during, or after being a mutually loving relationship. This isn’t a bitch-session; if I had to do it again, knowing what I know now, I’d still do the same, because that high was indescribable. And it isn’t advice, because I’m not “better” for having been through the experience. If you have the chance, do whatever you fucking want. These are just words, and one solitary account. If you’ve been through the same, you aren’t alone. If you haven’t, you’re in the majority. But the concept that a sociopath can’t feel love, under the right circumstances, real, selfless love, is utter bullshit, and I’d beat to death anybody that tried to argue. And I wouldn’t even feel bad about it.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Monster's Children

From a reader:

So I was wondering if you'd take a look and possibly review on your blog.

Monster's Children

The Queen of Order and the Trickster gods originally formed an alliance to defend against the dreaded beast they called the Monster. That alliance was dashed with the Monster’s defeat. The war that erupted with the alliance’s dissolution has ripped the land apart for millennia. With recent defeats the Tricksters face an unpleasant truth. They need the help of their most malicious and feared member. They need Spider and her Chosen to win this war.

Jamie is the newest Chosen of the Spider. Having spent her childhood struggling to fit within society, Jamie has been set free from hiding behind masks. As she learns to contend with the power within her so to must she come to terms with her feelings for her alluring teammate Nettle. 

Jamie and her team must discover what makes them so special before they fight against those that would bring Order to a world meant to stay wild and free. Most importantly she must learn what it means to be a monster’s child.

Jamie is noted by one reader as a “Psychopathic Power Ranger that stabs her way through obstacles leaving a trail of bodies.” 

Another said about her team, “This is what Captain Planet and the Planeteers would look like if they had a lust for blood and each other instead of charity work.” 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happily dating a sociopath

A reader shares how (through fits and starts) she has found success in maintaining a romantic relationship with a sociopath.

After some earlier history, I’ve now been dating A. for 13 months. I have grown a lot in that time and honestly we are now at a point where the level of intimacy is quite enough for me. There is a level of trust between us that I wouldn’t have anticipated; in fact that exceeds anything I have known. He is responsive to me.

I wanted to share some of the features of the dynamic that I believe have been helpful.

Firstly, I learned from interacting on Sociopath World that sociopaths want to be treated fairly, just as anyone does. They are social organisms and must solve all the same problems any social organism faces. From this point, I developed an hypothesis that control-seeking behaviours such as manipulation are a strategy for creating a safe and predictable environment.There were lots of data points I used when coming to this hypothesis, not least of which that it’s a common strategy amongst primates!
Referring to our previous history, I'd always had a gut-feeling that A. hadn’t intended to hurt me. He had said as much. He also had ample opportunity to truly injure me (for example, by ruining my reputation at work) and he had refrained. I think the truth of this sat in my mind for a long time, burbling around with all sorts of dissonant conceptions and questions. Coupled with the life-changing positive effects our earlier interactions catalysed, I was driven to understand who this creature was. In this process, I reimagined my conception of the human condition and human sociality in general (that's another story.)

I eventually created two operating hypotheses:

He needs to feel safe and elusivity is his preferred strategy. 

This view diverges from standard interpretations that sociopaths / psychopaths seek power / control for it’s own sake. I believe that idea to be flawed as a blanket rule as it didn’t fit my observations andbecause there is too much overhead for that to be an end in itself. Control / power seeking is a means to an end. What problem does it solve? It aims to create predictability. 

He wants exit routes, freedom from being pinned down. He prefers to meet on his terms, when it suits him, where he can manage the interaction. In other words, he wants the interaction to be predictable for him and less predictable for me. I make sure to call him on his behaviour if he is unfair in attempting to achieve this aim.

2. Neither of us intends to hurt the other: we simply have different strategies for managing risk.
He appears to accept this view.

I’ve deemed it worthwhile to invest in the relationship. This means interpreting him generously, in alignment with both operating hypotheses. I can see he doesn’t ever want to overcommit himself or be in a place he can’t back out of. When he says I have a beautiful bum, it actually means he rather likes me. It’s difficult for him to say that, but I can recognise his intention.  When I said I was glad I’d met him, he said “yes, you’re right.” It meant he was also glad. He speaks by code and metaphor. Even this is extremely direct in my experience of him and I want to honour that. I know he can’t be vulnerable.

Investing also means making an effort to offer him safety, to predict and provide for his needs. This takes all sorts of bravery and intuition, but he rewards my efforts and reciprocates. He listens and responds - perhaps not to the degree I have requested, but again, I can see he is doing what he can.
Loving him thus becomes a very practical matter of respecting each other’s needs, allowing each other space to develop our own safety and to maintain our independence. I am blown away that he responds to me. The process helps me both learn about my own needs and actually be empathetic toward him. I must also be bold in asking for what I need.

This is not to say it’s easy. He is still cold and aloof. He’s very cold and this drives all my fears to the surface. They rise to choke me; which provides an opportunity for me to address them.
Additionally, it’s incumbent on me to take the risks entailed in relationship growth.

It’s my experience, however, that the risks are worthwhile. He makes efforts and that is beautiful to me. It’s healing elixir. That he isn’t too perturbed when I panic teaches me that there is space for me and I probably don’t need to panic. It gives me the opportunity to realise I am an adult, no longer the comfortless child I was. I am learning to see his efforts and recognise them. This means I am finally letting someone in. 

I think when he feels safe, he’s happy to let me feel safe too. He cares. I read the other day that when a sociopath is controlling you, he might love you. I think I am experiencing his love, although I don’t feel controlled. The connection is safety: I think a sociopath can love when he or she feels safe. 

Intent counts hugely.

This reminds me a little bit about what one of my friend says about me -- that I don't always do a great job at being a friend, but she can tell that I am trying and that is what matters most to her.