Friday, July 12, 2019

Making Better Podcast

You may have seen my re-tweet this on Twitter, but I realize not everyone is on Twitter.

This is a podcast I recently did with Making Better.

They have an interesting philosophy. I was talking to Francis, one of the hosts, about how he is interested in the concept of a human Utopia and what is keeping us as a race from getting there. He wants to explore some of the things that we could be doing better now, as well as things that might be keeping us back or that we would need to work on before we reach a Utopic existence. I liked this idea of reverse engineering Utopia and having a vision of what we want to achieve rather then just henpecking each other about perceived faults. With no offense intended, there are certain "weaknesses" I often see in neurotypical people that I think keep them from being happier in their lives and more pro-social themselves. That was, at least in part, what we talked about.

Here's a link to the transcript.

Thanks to Making Better for having me on.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Developmental stages of sociopathy

I recently got an email from someone whose loved one told them they might be a sociopath, but they don't want to be a sociopath. They find at least certain aspects of sociopathy to be repugnant, although they do recognize that they themselves share in those traits. It's maybe a little like closeted gay homophobia? Anyway, I thought I'd shared how I replied (please forgive any typos):

Hello friend. I have a personal rule that I don't tell people anything about themselves that they don't already know themselves. But I also feel like you might benefit from some information, and I'll leave it to you to determine whether or not it applies to you. I don't know if you looked at the blog at all, but I've been traveling around the world meeting other sociopaths and writing a second book, working title "A Sociopath's Search for Meaning." Maybe that title is something you relate to. What I've sort of noticed about sociopaths is that they tend to go through certain phases, like the phases of grief. Some take longer in certain phases than others, and I think maybe some skip steps or go out of order, but there's enough of a pattern there for me to describe it. There's the mostly unself aware part of childhood, even though child sociopaths seem to be aware they're different they don't really have a sense of just how different yet. I'll call this Nascent Sociopath. Somewhere in the teens to early twenties they seem to have a better grasp on the basics of their personality. I'll call this simply Newly Self Aware. Next phase is what another sociopath friend called the "Playground Stage". It's where all the world is a playground for the sociopath, who seems to have a charmed life and never really seems to feel or care much by way of consequences of her actions. This is peak sociopath and is characterized by a playful carefree attitude about the world and maximum self absorption. 

Somewhere after this it's common for people to have a second point of self-awareness, maybe I'll call this one a Come to Jesus Stage. It's a phase that for some reason makes me think of the word "reckoning".  I have seen this happen as early as early twenties (the harder people play in the playground stage, the faster I think it comes). It's in this Come to Jesus Stage that the sociopaths starts caring about things like the consequences of her actions and the emptiness she feels. I've heard various sociopaths describe it like this -- you've won all the battles you set out to fight, gotten everything you wanted or at least known you could, and although the pursuit was very captivating in the moment, ultimately it seems devoid of meaning. I guess the Come to Jesus stage is the first stage in which any of the sociopathic traits are seen as being at all negative. I think this is the first stage where there is a high likelihood that someone might get stuck and just stay in this phase for decades. I think they find their lives increasingly meaningless and burdensome and they start experiencing anxiety about the build up of social/political/financial costs of their antics. I've seen some of these people develop neuroses or addictions or other compulsive behavior with negative effects. These people are white knuckling it through life, always feeling like they're trying to wrangle themselves and rein in their darker impulses. The white knucklers are the people who don't like aspects of who they are, maybe even are repulsed by them, and actively reject them. But that sort of internal antagonism is very harmful to one's psyche, so maybe they'll need to add even more compulsive behavior or addictions for self-soothing. This stage is very Jungian shadow. 

If they can get unstuck, I think they go into what I'll call "I'm ok, you're ok." It's in this stage that they really come to terms with the parts of their personality that they can change and want to change, the parts they want to change but can't, and the parts they choose to wholeheartedly embrace. There's no white knuckling. These people have more or less healed some of the original dissociation characteristic of their disorder. In that sociopathy is essentially just having a very weak sense of self, or little to know sense of identification with anything (that's why they demonstrate fluid sense of gender, sexuality, etc.), sociopaths who learn to strengthen their sense of self can get "better" in a lot of ways. Because even though sociopaths have a weak sense of self, there is a self there for them to discover. And as they discover more truths about themselves (not the way they were socialized, but deeper personal attributed), they find more sense of meaning and purpose in their life, they don't white knuckle anything or try to do things solely by strength of will. If they can't bring themselves to care about something, then they just unabashedly don't. It is true that I've seen sociopaths embrace more of their darkside in this stage, like a sort of internal if you can't beat 'em join 'em. But I think I see just as often and even more commonly that sociopaths embrace much more the light part of themselves that they (usually due to trauma as very small children, like toddler age-ish) had dissociated from because that part of themselves was to vulnerable and the traumatic things hurt so much that they detached from those things. But they all seem to stop manipulating or living a double life or trying to manhandle their own impulses, because that's where the stress and anxiety and sense of meaningless come from. As one sociopath I met told me regarding some radical life changes she had undergone to live closer to her personal truth "life is too short." And what's the point of pretending throughout your entire life? 

I don't think they'll become normal people. There are just to many neural pathways that didn't get formed for them to do certain things automatically or well, e.g. empathy. They're like native English speakers learning French in adulthood. They'll likely never pass as normal. In fact, letting your freak flag fly at least in part is common to all people I've met who are in this stage. And I think people are surprised to reconnect with some of the lighter and more vulnerable aspects of their personality. 

Do they come out better people? I think they definitely come out happier and more satisfied with life. They take more pleasure in simple things like self expression and in little forms of self exploration. They tend to be curious and friendly and very open minded and tolerant of themselves and others. They're not necessarily amoral, but I think they just understand that the morality is much more complicated than they were led to believe. 

I personally try to help anyone who is into it to get to I'm Ok You're Ok stage. But I also 100% support people in all the other stages. I figure they'll get "Ok" eventually. Or maybe they'll learn even more than I have or the people I have met have. That would be very interesting to hear.   

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Alaska last weekend in August

I'm going to be in Alaska for the last weekend in August if anyone wants to meet up. I think Fairbanks, maybe Anchorage. I think that's Labor Day Weekend, for Americans. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Understanding beyond our cognitive conception or physical senses

People have asked me many times how I can be at all religious minded in an authentic way. I'm not going to necessarily defend my spiritual beliefs or thoughts or suggest that they are shared by those who attend the same church as I do, but I do want to defend this idea that it is hubris to believe that everything that is reality can be perceived and understood by us via reason and our five senses. Even if we were to expand to something beyond conscious cognition, e.g. the unconscious which is often the explanation for phenomena like "intuition," I still don't think it's enough. There are some obvious examples of failures of our perception to reflect large portions of reality, e.g. infrared and ultraviolet. But the longer I live the more I realize how many things are at play all of the time in even the simplest thing or interaction. Being spiritually minded helps me to at least keep an open mind. Even if there isn't a "religious" explanation or a "spiritual" reason behind things, as those words are commonly used and conceived of, to understand that in a world in which normal matter (as opposed to say, dark matter/dark energy) consists of only about 4% of the known universe, I think it's a little self-centered to think that we are capable of perceiving and understanding reality based on perception and cognition alone.

Someone either sent this to me or left it in a comment, which I think explains this well:


"People often think of koans as riddles or problems that need to be solved, but this is not the case at all. With every koan the point is not to arrive at an answer through our ordinary conceptualizing minds. Rather, the point is to see for ourselves that our concepts can never provide us with a satisfactory answer.

This is not to say that satisfaction cannot be found.

It can, but not through any concept or explanation."

I think it's an especially interesting application to sociopaths. Because I think sociopaths often want to cut to the chase. I certainly do. In fact, my therapist had to engage in large amounts of obfuscation to keep me from figuring out what he was getting at, cut to the chase, and give him the answer he was looking for. Because he wanted me to learn for myself and go through the journey, not just know the "right" answer to the question he was asking. But I jumped to the "right" answer part of life almost compulsively, commonly missing the lessons that others had learned by going through the whole process.

"If you don't understand the heart of a koan, it will be very clear the moment you're asked a follow up question."

Isn't this so true of sociopaths? They know the "right" answers to certain questions, but when you follow up with them, you often can tell very quickly that they don't understand the answer at all, or maybe even the original question.

"They simply point out that reality is not to be captured in a thought or a phrase or an explanation." Our rational mind can only come up with models for reality, but reality is not a model. The map is not the territory. And for whatever reason, I think having a mind open to "spirituality" is a better way for me to look for aspects of reality that were not otherwise being mapped by my cognitive-only models.

"Our conceptualizing minds are highly dualistic. . . . To such a mind, everything is either good or bad, right or wrong, friend or foe, this or that, or else off our radar completely."


Monday, June 17, 2019

Greece? Texas, and West Coast up through Canada

Hello friends. One of you mentioned that I should come to Greece? Email me your contact info and we can try to work something out.

Other upcoming trips are Texas sometime and a roadtrip in September up the west coast of the United States into Canada/Vancouver/Calgary and then back down a couple states in, including Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada.

If you have other requests, feel free to email me those as well. I'm submitting the book proposal to publishers soon and the timeline for writing it and still seeing people is probably about a year, so better to contact me earlier than later about it so I can try to work you in.

Thanks!


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Chicago Second Week of June?

I’m going to be in Chicago the second week of June, if anyone wants to meet up.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Buried the Musical (about sociopaths)

A reader wrote a musical about two sociopaths who meet up and recognize each other and they’re trying to get the play to off broadway. They need your help to get them there: https://igg.me/at/buriedoffbroadwayhttps://igg.me/at/buriedoffbroadway

Flagstaff Arizona in June?

I’m going to be in and around Flagstaff the first week and second weekend of June if anyone wants to meet up?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day

My mother has a bunch of kids, and I think that's a nice thing. I certainly liked having a bunch of siblings, because there were just better odds that you would like some of them. Or maybe more accurately, what ended up happening is that I liked certain of them for certain reasons and others of them for other reasons. They each have their strengths and it's great to have so many people at the sibling level who you can reach out to for whatever you might encounter.

Today I was going through and texting my friends who are mothers in whatever ways and wishing them a happy mother's day. I also chose photos I had in my phone to include with the well wishes. In my faith tradition, every woman is a mother, either currently or latent, so every woman gets celebrated on mother's day. And of course many women fill a mother-type role in our lives.

Today I wondered what sort of daughter-like role I fill in my mother's life or the lives of other people who have had a mothering type relationship. I think on the one hand that I am a little bit of an unusual specimen. I don't care in the same ways that people classically care and I don't love in the ways that people classically love. But in choosing photos to send to my loved ones, I mostly tried to let them know that I understood their situation and their loves. For my friends who are animal lovers (maybe even as much lovers of their animals as their own children), I sent photos of them and their animals. I knew that most other people would be thinking of their mother role as humans, so I wanted to let them know that I understood that their mother role to their animals was just as important to them.

For my own mother, I sent her a photo that I had of her mother, taken during high school. Her mother is deceased and my mother had a difficult relationship with her. But the photo I sent shows my grandmother perhaps at the height of her beauty and potential. I could have chosen hundreds of other photos to send: photos of my mother with her and her grandchildren, with her and her children, or any number of other combinations. But I thought this photo of her mother was best because everyone (including my mother) would be thinking about her today in reference to her roles as mother and grandmother. I chose to reflect an aspect of her motherhood that was likely to be a little overlooked today especially now that her mother has been dead for quite some time and is mostly off everyone's radar -- my mother's role as a daughter and the love she maintained for her mother despite their many differences.

This is probably one of the most boring posts I have posted, but I often do think about how sociopaths are different in small but meaningful ways, one of which is their ability to see quite clearly things that are often overlooked in the people they encounter. It's almost like sociopaths are looking at an entirely different spectrum, like wearing infrared goggles. I was just thinking about what this might be like to experience on the flip side. Because in some ways I am one of the least sensitive of my mother's children, but I think in other ways I can be shockingly sensitive and insightful, seeing layers that her other children do not see. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Seeing things as they really are

I've recently been having to sort of explain sociopaths to normal people a little more frequently. It's funny because normal people are really quick to kind of want to know not just about sociopaths objectively, but also want to know how they should feel about sociopaths. Like is it woke to be pro-sociopath? Remove the stigma? Or is there danger? I feel like everyone wants to know what should be the overall take from sociopaths. And it keeps catching me off guard. Because especially in the past couple years all I've been doing is trying to meet and understand sociopaths, the same way I might watch and try to understand leopards as an animal researcher or something. I don't form judgments. I notice how they operate and their strengths and weaknesses, but I don't really think "what's the general take away about leopards?" Nor do I feel like I have to sort of justify their existence or have any sort of reaction (much less emotional) about the fact of their existence. They just are a fact, is sort of how I want to respond.

And I think even if you eventually wanted to come up with some normative suggestion or application of what you learn about sociopaths, it's probably good to spend at least some time just observing objectively, to really understand before you jump to any conclusions.

I felt like this reader did a good job of this:

This feels risky because I don't feel I can trust a sociopath now that I have met one.

I don't know your name, I don't suppose it really matters.

I just came out of a 15 month relationship with a sociopath. I had no idea that was what he was until after the relationship ended and I only really feel confirmed in my non-clinical diagnosis after reading your book.

I had to do digging after he initially, flippantly broke up with me over the phone after being so loving and kind for 15 months, and then called back a few days later and swore he wasn't seeing anyone else and wanted to re-visit the situation when he returned to town, and THEN proceeded to block my calls and texts. He had given me details of his mom's illness. And he had started a private Facebook account.

Through his mom's Facebook and one photo she had and tagged him in I found his "newish" relationship (started before he broke up with me) and the fact that his mom wasn't. Through his sister's Facebook I found the woman who was sick. I reached out to both. The new relationship was very new but I was quick to realize that every trip away during the time I was with him involved another relationship, some very short, some probably in search of a situation in Texas that would accommodate his need for a comfy home and a willing, gullible partner. And of course, he was seeing the woman who was sick the whole time (the illness was new though).

The woman who is sick had been in his life for the past 7 years and had known of his incessant lies, his incredible charisma, and his proclivity for multiple relationships during that whole time. She still was willing to shut her eyes to what was going on though and had not known about me. His mother confirmed to me herself that no, she was never ill.

The woman in another state had also been told his mother was sick. Whatever lies he told her about myself and the woman who really has is sickand the fact that his mom isn't sick, she is willing to believe him.

Looking back, of course, I can see clearly that when he left constantly to walk the dog, run to the bathroom, smoke, it was all a cover to make calls to other women. He called me almost every day during that 15 months so that is how he handled them as well. I can also tick of 100's of lies. The woman who is sick and I have met and compared notes - she can tick off 1,000's. It seems obvious to me in retrospect, but I had no context for the reality of a sociopath in my life, before this.

In reading your book I have come to realize that, though my reality is totally altered, I do not have the right to wish this person harm (even though I did at first). He is delusional. He writes the way you sometimes write - in contradictions. With you I mostly see it when you declare you have no fear of consequences, yet you lie. You lie to keep your cover. What do you need a cover for unless you fear consequences? I know that since that writing things have come out and there have been consequences and you seem to have survived them.

What hurt me the most was the lies. I wanted to stay friends with him. The lies made it impossible. And I have no idea, and never will, if he would even enjoy these multitude of relationships without the lies. He felt SO REAL to me. The woman who is sick describes him the same way, and because she's known him longer and he has been more honest with her than with anyone else he is probably more real with her than anyone else.

But I don't think he could ever have a relationship with anyone without the thrill of the lie.
He never showed his anger to me. Looking back I can see the times when he was hiding it. He does go into rages with the woman I have talked to.
I feel sorry for him. One time I told him that and it made him angry (in the very subdued way he would get angry with me). But then I was only feeling sorry for him because I thought he seemed to shut down his emotions. Now I feel sorry for him because reading your book makes him seem like a very lost, lonely soul.

I know you say it doesn't bother you, so I guess it shouldn't bother me because I guess it doesn't bother him. I know you are much smarter than him and much more high-functioning. He never physically harmed me and never stole from me. In fact he probably
gave more materially than I ever gave him. I think he probably takes pride in that (though I returned everything that could be returned when he was out of town).  

It just occurs to me that the lies aren't just for other people, they are also for the sociopath. The sociopath seems to constantly be trying to define who they are with no clear internal signal, "no clear path" is something he would always say. So the lie is the only direction they have, which is no direction at all (often doubling back even)..... which for me is the same as constantly being lost, and never truly being real.

Thank you for your book. It helped me understand.

My response:

It’s interesting what you say about contradictions because I’ve started seeing that more as I’ve hung around sociopaths. They’re not aware of the contradictions. Or sometimes part of them is. Their perspective is like that of cubists. It’s distorted in its own way like maps of the world— their reality is distorted in a particular way that suits them best but it ends up making Antarctica look huge. It’s part of the personality disorder just like the weak sense of self, which you described as being the reason for the lies. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Killing Eve and Bisexual Sociopaths

When the Confessions book came out, the publicist from the publisher asked me if there were any niche audiences that might be interested in the book. I told her that the gay/bisexual community might be interested, because they (especially at the time, in somewhat a dearth of gay themed books and other media) seemed to highlight anything with a touch of gay. I gave the publicist a list of such media outlets, but nothing seemed to come of them, which surprised me then, although it wouldn't surprise me now. The publicist basically shut down my inquiry, but reading between the lines I could see that they weren't interested in the sociopath angle.

Why the big reluctance to have homosexuality or bisexuality associated with sociopaths? I'm a little loose on the facts here so feel free to verify sources, but homosexuality was not only considered a mental health disorder until about the middle of the last century (unless the homosexual acts were done as part of an incarceration or military service, which was considered something that non-disordered people would get up to in those situations as well) -- it was also associated for a time with psychopathy. In my quick and dirty searches for this association, I found a reference in Hervey Cleckley's The Mask of Sanity wikipedia page: "He also notes he no longer considers that homosexuality should be classed as sexual psychopathy, on the grounds that many homosexuals seem to be able to live productive lives in society." But does say that sociopaths often show deviant behavior, and several of his case study subjects appear to be bisexual. (Click on the homosexuality link at the bottom of this article to read more).

Enter the BBC drama "Killing Eve," which features a bisexual sociopath that actually is so accurately portrayed that I'm 90% sure that the writers have done decent amounts of research, including reading the Confessions book? Here's why I think so, without too many spoilers. In Season 2, Episode 1 the sociopath is in the hospital with a serious condition. Her roommate says she's not looking too good and the sociopath starts responding she's fine and then passes out. This is almost identical to what happened to me on the 10th day of a ruptured appendix when nurses came back with my lab results, told me that my white blood cell count was through the roof and that I needed to immediately go to the hospital, asked me if I needed to sit down, I said I was fine then promptly passed out. When I came to everyone was freaking out and threatening to call an ambulance. My dad talked them down from it, saying that we were only blocks from the hospital and it would be quicker (and, I'm sure he also thought, infinitely cheaper without health insurance).

But how do people who identify as gay or bisexual love the fact that the character is both sociopathic and bisexual? (Which given the dozen plus sociopaths I've met in the past year or so is quite common in the sociopathic community, even if the reverse may not be true.) Not too well. A Buzz Feed writer complains (some spoiler-esque parts here): "Villanelle is bisexual, and for all the nuance we see around femininity and desire, Villanelle’s bisexuality is portrayed in a way that is both tired and damaging. Her need for sex with multiple genders is tied to her depraved and insatiable appetite, which she is only able to feed because of her total lack of a moral compass."

But I think the Buzz Feed writer actually gets it mostly wrong here. The sociopath character is not portrayed as being inherently depraved or having an insatiable appetite at all, I didn't think. In fact, if anything, she seems to have a classic sociopathic sort of indifference to sex. Even when she finally connects with the object of her obsession, there's no sex, there's just the visceral physical presence of the two. A lot of eye contact! And the Buzz Feed author goes on to describe not just this character but other classic sociopathic bisexual characters (e.g. Frank Underwood) with their voracious appetites that they can't control -- because a character eats ribs for breakfast? Come on. This is the trope that is tired, the sociopath whose appetites drive him or her to commit greater and greater atrocities. Sociopaths aren't engaged enough in the world for all of that. They're not driven by their appetites, so much as (aimlessly) seizing upon anything that intrigues them for longer than a moment, and as a remedy from the boredom that so often plagues them.

I get it that not all bisexuals are sociopaths, but I don't think these characters are chosen in these narratives because they're bisexual, but rather because they're sociopaths. And of course not all sociopaths are killers. But again, I guess if you need a killer for a narrative, a sociopath is a common choice for a reason -- because they're interesting and can be compelling without being offputting for the audience about that whole murderer thing. And if you're going to choose a sociopath character, accuracy demands that there's a good chance they're either bisexual or you'll see some other quirky features about the way they think about, desire, and engage in sex. Because sociopaths in real life don't have normal sex with all of the emotional underpinnings and awareness or acknowledgment of the intimacy of the act with another person. In my experience, they think of sex a lot like they think of exercising regularly or peeing or taking their boss up on that invitation for dinner with the family -- probably a good idea to do and maybe even in a certain way necessary and desirable. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Transgressions vs. Sins and Differences in Motivations

This was also sent to me by a reader, and I found it to be a pretty interesting and valid distinction between the dark triads sociopathy, narcissism, and machiavellianism. I think that people can be surprised at why people do the things that they do. For instance, once sociopath recently told me about how when she was 21 years old, she got a job at a bar so she could get better tips than at her previous restaurant job. She only lasted two weekends because she was giving away free drinks (she says she grossly underestimated their ability to track alcohol sales) and stealing tips from other servers. I immediately related to this a sort of naïvety about the world, a childlike innocence.

I told this story to a lawyer friend of mine and immediately likened it to the way I was with my first law job, in which I exploited some of the weaknesses of that system in similar sorts of ways and ways that were equally unappreciated by my employers. My friend was scandalized by the free drinks and tip stealing, but responded to my story "who hasn't done that?" I thought this was an interesting response. Why? Is it just stealing from the server's? But a lot of servers split tips because of things like some people getting better areas of the restaurant, etc. In fact, this was exactly what was happening to the sociopath server. But my friend thought that my sketchiness was totally normal, and even that my employer probably had it coming or that was just part of the employment deal, whereas she was disturbed by the other story and thought there couldn't be any other explanation for the behavior other than maliciousness and greed.

I kept trying to give her different analogies to help her understand that it was really malicious, and wasn't even really this overwhelming sense of greed, so much as a childish way of exploiting things. I remember once being at Disneyland when I was aged 8 or 9. I was old enough to realize that lines were long and thought of the lines more like a multilane freeway than a static order of things, so I kept pushing forward in line until these people got very angry at me and said that no matter my physical position ahead of them, they were going to still ride the lines before me. Mine was a breach of a rule, yes, but I don't see it as a moral failing.

My theology has a word for the breach without moral failing, "transgression". You have transgressed a law, although you may not have necessarily sinned because you didn't have a sinful heart (so to speak) when you did the thing. Although cutting ahead of people in line did hurt others, and that was clear to me, I didn't understand it to be an unfair hurt. When I get off the plane and walk faster than others to the customs lines, that's also sort of like cutting in line, but we don't think of it that way. We don't have a sense of the line starting from the moment of the plane, so it's a fair exploitation of the system. It of course is hurting others, people for instance who have young children or a disability and cannot walk as fast and have to perhaps wait longer in line than I do. Or I may use scarce resources before others do. I'm going to camp at a location this summer that requires a permit. By me using the spot, someone else is not able to use that spot. That also is prioritizing myself at the expense of others.

I don't know. I have a strong sense of there being a distinction in the transgression behaviors that sociopaths engage in at the expense of others in which there's not really an intent to harm (even though there is an understanding that there will be harm), so there's no malice, vs. the sort of behavior that one might correctly classify sin.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Better communication/intimacy during sex

A sociopathic inclined individual sent me a link to an Aeon article about good communication/consent re sexual intimacy, Sex Talks. One thing that I have noticed in meeting sociopaths is that sociopaths show a shocking lack of interest in sex. Shocking I guess only when compared to the neurotypical population, which seems almost obsessed with it. Sociopaths on the other hand are very take-it-or-leave-it about sex. I think it's because sociopaths don't tend to connect emotionally with their partners very well and so sex is either a performative act (which can be fun and exciting depending on the partner and/or situation) or source of pleasure that most sociopaths are better able to provide with their own two hands (and/or feet?). I also think that sociopaths and everyone have a hard time understanding the role of continued consent during any interaction with a person.

A quick word on my own thoughts about sex. I have had plenty of bad experiences, probably not surprising. By bad experiences I mean experiences that seemed to cheapen rather than deepen a relationship, that made me feel used, that felt like a parallel experience, and even experiences where I feel like the lines of consent got blurred against me. I had a bad understanding of consent for a long time so I am sure that people have similar experiences with me. Now, I do not engage in any degree of physical anything with another person unless I am sure that there is consent and that it is a shared experience of love and affection. It's not hard to be very hardline about this because I otherwise care very little for physical affection. But since I have been this way, I experience everything so differently and it really does seem to have more meaning and pleasure for me that I couldn't recreate more efficiently in a solo experience.

I remember in law school studying rape and the Antioch College rules regarding consent, which require not just all sexual or physical activities to have consent, but that anytime a new element is introduced between individuals. Even when I went to law school in the early aughts, this was considered a little bit extremist, as was evidenced by the SNL skit making fun of it (transcript here). 

Antioch College SOPP Media Coverage from Jon Wohlfert on Vimeo.

But Google "Antioch College sex consent" and you'll see a bunch of fresh takes about how the Antioch College Womyn were more prescient than we had thought. Maybe and romance and these things that we think should just be a natural, organic, but most of all unspoken meeting of the minds. I remember growing up thinking that this is what people wanted and expected, but I also had a really hard time understanding subtext or other forms of unspoken communication reliably so I would often just propose whatever physical intimacy to people whenever I felt like it. They would be surprised and almost embarrassed, but I don't remember being turned down, so maybe they were trying to get at the same thing via subtext?

But now I'm super verbal and communicative all of the time during any sort of romantic or intimate situation whatsoever, and it is such a better experience. I wanted to suggest it to everyone. Sometimes I'll get a little quite, and it's always for some reason worse. It is so much easier to stay on the same page with people by asking short simple questions (credit Arthur, a sociopath I met) and trying to say something every minute or so or as things change up. Maybe give it a try?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

I, Tonya and loving to hate Tonya Harding

I’m late the party but really glad I watched I, Tonya on the plane recently. I remember following figure skating at the time and really admiring Tonya Harding for her skating style, athleticism, and maverick attitude. After her last performance at the Olympics I remember just losing track of her. I don’t think I was even aware that she had been charged or convicted of anything.

When the movie came out I remember there being some bad press about how they were basically exploiting Nancy Kerrigan. Or that it somehow desecrated Nancy Kerrigan to tell the story? And I kind of assumed because people said this that they had watched the film and Tonya comes off pretty badly in it but also like the film was glorifying her badness. I remember Margot Robie thanking Tonya in an awards speech and sort of being surprised that she would engage with that controversy, that she hadn’t just seen Tonya the same way that an actor who had played Hitler think about Hitler – like thanks for the subject matter and the gritty character, but morally distancing herself from Tonya.
But I’m typing this on this 14+ hour flight (uf) and only watched the show because I basically have seen all of the other somewhat appealing movies. I was so entertained, though. Edge of my seat entertained. For those of you who haven’t watched it, the show is all based on interviews they had done with the parties recently. Then the actors reinact those interviews. So you’re getting some he said she said and probably getting some foggy memories, but I was surprised at how likable Tonya came off, at least to me. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised because I found her likable when I was younger and she basically is the same person. There’s no secret dark dark side of her that was this ruthless predator that would hire a hit on a competitor or anything. And her relationship with her husband who did order what he thought was just going to be intimidation via letter was much more complex than I had understood. Even the husband apologizes at the end and admits that he ruined her career and but for him none of it would have happened.

And now that I am older, it just seems so much more human and unfortunate, but not at all black and white morally. Not just morally gray to my eyes, but I was really surprised that anyone would have posted what they did saying that it was overly glamorizing Tonya and bad behavior.

Some of the more interesting quotes, and I wish I had access to the internet to find them but I’ll paraphrase, are when Tonya says that she was abused not just by her first husband, but that we all abused her too by harassing her and having the press hound her and ruining her life. We also abused her. Man, I feel that. I feel part of that when my curiosity for prurient details pops up and I feel that when I see people crowd shame people in this very black and white way for what appears to be gray and much-more-complex-than-they-seem situations. And it’s not necessary and it’s not helpful. Who does it help for us to watch Tonya television and hate her. What useful purpose does it serve? Her husband Jeff was able to change his life and start over, thankfully in the era before internet social warriors would have doxed him. What use is it to dox someone like him? What war are these warrior’s fighting? They remind me of antifa – their version of solution is worse than the problem.
That’s the second quote I like from Tonya. She says that America loves to have people to love. And they also love to have people to hate. But what sort of itch is that scratching for you America? And how is that need to have people to love and/or hate being used against you by manipulators in media, commerce, and politics? It’s basically like a drug America, you’re an addict, and it’s not a victimless crime.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Shanghai, Singapore, and Malaysia

Hey friends! I'm going to be gone the rest of the month in Shanghai, Singapore, and Malaysia. If you're also going to be there this month and want to meet up, email me and let me know.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Texas and Louisiana next week

Reminder that I'll be in Southern/Southeastern Texas and Louisiana next week. Let me know if you want to meet up. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Anticipating regret

I apologize, I forget who sent me this article highlighting some recent research by Joshua Buckholtz, associate professor of psychology at Harvard, and Arielle Baskin-Sommers, assistant professor of psychology and of psychiatry at Yale University. I think we've talked about at least Baskin-Sommers before. I wish there was a little bit better explanation of the nature of the experiment and how robust their findings were, but essentially what they found was that sociopaths are actually capable of feeling regret and disappointment -- essentially just a wish that things had gone differently than they actually did, perhaps because we had acted differently than we did.

This I find to be true to experience. Not just that, I see it in other sociopaths that I've met and still talk to and I think it underpines the inability of sociopaths to learn for experience. Take for instance a sociopath who has totaled on average .85 cars a year since she started driving. That's very high! But I actually know two separate sociopaths who have a driving history like this. I'm not sure if it's always true, but most of the accidents are caused not by weather conditions, etc., but by inattention to road conditions. Maybe some texting while driving, maybe some wandering mind. But totalling a car is expensive. This is something that you think people would start really trying to avoid. And the advantage of texting while driving or doing other things while driving is so low. If sociopaths were true rational actors engaged in a cost benefit analysis, you'd think that these people would have lower automobile insurance premiums. But they don't. Why?

Maybe normal people are better able to learn from their experience because they can anticipate the regret that they would feel. In fact, probably a lot of the source of normal people's anxiety and worry is really just an anticipation of regret or disappointment. Does this sound right normal people? And because those emotions are so negative and powerful, it directs the normal person to avoid the behavior that carries a high risk of regret with it. Not always, but more than sociopaths maybe.

According to the article:

“The assumption has always been that they make these bad choices because they can’t generate negative emotions like fear, or appropriately respond to emotional signals generated by other people … but we turned that idea on its head.”

Using an economic game, Buckholtz and Baskin-Sommers were able to show that while psychopaths have normal, or even enhanced, emotional responses in situations that typically elicit regret, they have trouble extracting information from the environment that would indicate that an action they’re about to take will result in the experience of regret.

“There are two components to regret,” Buckholtz explained. “There is retrospective regret, which is how we usually think about regret — the emotional experience after you learn you could have received a better outcome if you had made a different choice. But we also use signals from our environment to make predictions about which actions will or won’t result in regret. What differentiated psychopaths from other people was their inability to use those prospective regret signals, to use information about the choices they were given to anticipate how much regret they were going to experience, and adjust their decision-making accordingly.

“It’s almost like a blindness to future regret,” he added. “When something happens, they feel regret, but what they can’t do is look forward and use information that would tell them they’re going to feel regret to guide their decision-making.”

“These findings highlight that psychopathic individuals are not simply incapable of regret [or other emotions], but that there is a more nuanced dysfunction that gets in the way of their adaptive functioning,” Baskin-Sommers said. “By appreciating this complexity, we are poised to develop more accurate methods for predicting the costly behavior of psychopathic individuals.”

Using a measure of prospective regret sensitivity, Buckholtz and Baskin-Sommers were also able to predict whether and even how many times study participants had been incarcerated.

“Contrary to what you would expect based on these basic emotional-deficit models, their emotional responses to regret didn’t predict incarceration,” Buckholtz said. “We know psychopathy is one of the biggest predictors of criminal behavior, but what we found was that behavioral regret sensitivity moderated that, raising the suggestion that intact behavioral regret sensitivity could be a protective factor against incarceration in psychopathic individuals.”

While the study upends the pop-culture image of psychopaths, Buckholtz is hopeful that it will also provide a new direction for scientists who hope to understand how psychopaths make decisions.

“We actually know very little about how psychopaths make choices,” he said. “There have been all sorts of research into their emotions and emotional experience, but we know next to nothing about how they integrate information that we extract from the world as a matter of course and use it to make decisions in daily lives. Getting better insight into why psychopaths make such terrible choices, I think, is going to be very important for the next generation of psychopathy research.”


Monday, February 4, 2019

Diagnosing Logan and Jake Paul as sociopaths?

I was aware of this at the time they came out but didn't have anything to really say. But I stumbled upon this article by Self , "What Mental Health Experts Want You to Know Before Watching the Buzzy New YouTube Series ‘The Mind of Jake Paul’,: that interviewed some of our friend researchers that I thought had some good information :

Although the word pops up in everyday conversation, it is not actually a medical term, Steven Siegel, M.D., professor and chairman of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, tells SELF.

“We try to avoid the term because it just doesn’t have any formal meaning. It’s a colloquial word and it’s not used consistently,” Scott Lilienfeld, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Emory University, tells SELF.

“It has no clinical content,” Ronald Schouten, M.D., J.D., director of the Law & Psychiatry Service of the Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, tells SELF. “It’s used as an epithet.”

As Dr. Siegel explains, sociopath is generally a label that some people give someone they believe is a bad person.

Sociopathy is really an outdated, slippery term for what is known today as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), according to the American Psychological Association (APA). As Morton notes in episode two, “The Dark Side of Jake Paul,” ASPD is the technical term most clinicians prefer to use today. (The terms are still sometimes used interchangably, according to the National Institutes of Health).

“Antisocial personality disorder is psychiatry's way of trying to classify people without using the pejorative or derogatory terms,” Dr. Siegel explains. “It’s a way of commenting on a pervasive pattern of behavior that spans someone's adult life and that may inform why they experience life the way they do.”
***
“personality disorders are notoriously difficult to diagnose,” Katherine Dixon-Gordon, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, tells SELF. “This diagnosis is a really complex thing to undertake, and requires these long interviews.”

Even having all the relevant information doesn’t always ensure a reliable diagnosis. “They are so complicated that even among psychologists and psychiatrists, we can’t agree on how to diagnose personality disorders,” Dixon-Gordon says. “Even when we undertake these incredibly complicated interviews with people, experts don't always agree.” She explains that two well-qualified clinicians could evaluate the same person and not necessarily come away with the same assessment.

In reality, the behaviors some experts may link to ASPD span a spectrum. “All of these personality disorders describe being at an extreme end of a spectrum of normal human behaviors,” Dr. Siegel says. Dixon-Gordon adds, “By definition, [personality disorders] represent maladaptive variance of normative personality functioning. So often that line between what’s adaptive and what’s maladaptive and what’s normative and non-normative is a difficult one to find.”

In episode two, Morton cites a statistic that one in 25 people is a sociopath. (This stat is arguably outdated and was derived from several studies dating back to the ‘90s.) While there are not many reliable epidemiological studies on how prevalent ASPD is—although several experts noted that figure sounds high—Lilienfeld argues that the stat is misleading for a different reason.

“Saying ‘one in 25’ implies that [people with ASPD] are different in kind, rather than in degree, from the rest of us,” Lilienfeld says. “In my view, there’s no real distinction in nature that clearly tells you [if somebody has ASPD or not]. There’s no categorical cutoff. It’s almost like asking, ‘How many people are tall?’ Depends on where you draw the cutoff for tall.”

Dixon-Gordon makes a similar argument. “In the same way that the cutoff for whether or not you have high cholesterol changes from year to year, these [diagnostic cutoffs] change,” she explains.

These complicated, nebulous aspects of personality disorders mean that attempting to diagnose them even in a professional setting requires extreme care and caution. “All of these things are reasons why diagnosis is so, so nuanced and complex and contextual,” Dixon-Gordon says, “and really requires [...] not jumping to conclusions.”

Interestingly some of the researchers quoted worry that the webseries is trying to glamourize what they describe as a "dangerous" disorder. But maybe watching were concerned about the opposite, that it was attempting to demonize and stigmatize. So much so that Shane Dawson included an apology at the beginning of episode 3:

“I do actually want to apologize because there was some backlash from people feeling offended and feeling like I was making a horror movie out of an illness or a disorder. And I 100% understand [...] to treat a person like a scary monster is like, not cool, and I shouldn’t have done that. So I apologize for that genuinely.”

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hyperrational or sociopath?

I've met a couple people now where I half wonder if they're not so much sociopathic as hyperrational. A lot of them will sense the difference themselves, i.e. they're the ones telling me that maybe they're a little on the sociopathic spectrum or have similarities, but it's primarily on the hyperrational side. I got a recent email from a reader along those same lines, maybe we can get other people's thoughts?

First thing first, I'm sorry it's a long read, and since English is not my first language there could be some unclear passages, but I tried my best.

I admire your introspection, M. E. I found your book casually surfing the internet, while I was seeking info about personality disorders. I read it in a night, with my admiration of you growing page after page. I share some personality traits with you (sociopath traits), but at the same time, we have some big differences, which are leading me to question myself, and I am writing to you for this reason. Only recently, despite my young age, I came to realize that there’s something not quite right about the way I look at the world. I don’t have empathy, at all. There are really a few people I have feelings for, almost all of them close family members. After recent events, I realized that whereas other people suffer seeing someone else feeling pain, I don’t. I am incapable of feeling any negative emotion about someone else. I am glad to be this way. I look down on empaths, so emotionally unstable, feeling miserable just because of others feeling that way.

I feel no guilt, no remorse. I am ruthless, I have no moral code. To me, there doesn’t exist anything good or bad per se. It all depends on the point of view. One big difference with you though is that I usually don’t engage in behaviours risky for my life. Being dead is not a great way to succeed. I learnt to control my impulses and to be cold, especially if I sense some great danger. Usually, if I’m about to do something that others consider bad, I think twice about the pros and cons, and the likeliness of getting caught. I am cold and callous, and I don’t really care about other’s emotions and needs. The only person I truly care about is me. I dislike strong emotions. I get annoyed when someone around me is crying or yelling or complaining.

I consider others chess pawns in my hands, I maintain a relationship only if I can profit from it. If the bads outweigh the goods, I shut the door. I believe that everyone is completely replaceable. “friends” are no more than people I use, and I enjoy putting one against another. In fact, I plot in the dark and I instil doubt in people, unaware of my deep feelings. The best situation for me to act is war, conflict, enmity. When everyone is against each other my manipulation is more effective. I seek this situation, I try to create it trough suspicion and lies.

I don’t really like talking, communicating, if there isn’t a clear purpose. Most of the times I find people talking do me annoying.

I get easily bored of what I do, what I study. I have a boring life, and anything different than usual thrills me.  For example, a friend of mine has been recently diagnosed with BD, and although everyone else is sad about it, I find it extremely exciting. It’s out of the ordinary, it’s a new thing. I am interested in mental illnesses and psychiatric drugs, so I find an extremely positive thing for me. This is one of the facts that led me to this period of introspection: I am happy for a thing considered bad by everyone.

Until this point, I believe I met a sufficient number of criteria to be diagnosed as a sociopath. I don’t want to be officially diagnosed, that’s why I’m asking your insights. Anyway, the truth is, I often don’t succeed in manipulation this way. I am not the classic sociopath who can manipulate others and bend their will in any situation, but I was. Now I am the perfect sociopath just in my mind. Fantasies about controlling others are sweet as honey, they give me pleasure. Plotting itself is so satisfying. I am not so charming anymore, unfortunately.

The first experiences about manipulations were in kindergarten. Back then I was really good. Kids were really easily bent, especially if younger than me, and adults too, even if to a minor extent. Elementary school was also quite a proficient period. And here we come to the main reason I am questioning my sociopathy. After elementary school, I was not the same anymore. I started being inhibited, I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t charming, I was kinda shy. I became no one. I never had a good physical shape or strength, and given how was the “social value” of someone measured in middle school (and generally by teen population), this could be a reason I lost my charm. Now, more than half a decade later, I am trying to restore my social power. Even during those years, I kept not having feelings for others. But due to my lack of social prestige, I was down psychologically, maybe depressed, I don't know. This is really a thing I regret about my past. So I’m not immune to depression if it involves being socially powerless. Is this a relevant feature? I am not immune to anxiety either.

According to your book, you kept that charm and those manipulative skills throughout the whole childhood and adolescence. I wish I was like you in that sense.

I blend very well with society now, and in the past too, maybe because in the past years I wouldn’t even seem a sociopath. Maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I’m not. But my dark and cold heart Is difficult to ignore. I rarely disclose what I really think, who I really am. No one really knows me, maybe because there is nothing to know: I’m unsure about my identity, I don’t feel having one. People build a world around me starting from the chunks of information they have. I am well used to then become who the other person imagined. No one got the bigger picture yet, even if my lack of empathy was noticed sometimes. I try to conceal under layers of lies my real thoughts and what drives me.

I don’t get upset easily, I am quite detached. There are a few people who can make me lose my temper. In that case, I can harm them verbally and psychologically – but not physically, I already said I am not at my best in that sense. There are many emotions I can fake, but I have a hard time crying fakely.

I think a lot about killing. I never even attempted, obviously. I have no intention in going to jail. But my enemies' destruction is a sweet fantasy. I wouldn’t mind sacrificing someone innocent to obtain the destruction of my enemies.

I am very intelligent, more than literally anyone I know. Probably more than you too. I was extremely precocious, my early infancy is totally relatable to yours. While other kids wondered about princesses and superheroes (kindergarten) I was already deeply aware of myself and my surroundings, and I was experimenting with every kind of scientific thing. At 4 I discovered that joining the two poles of a battery with a wire and touching the poles I would get a mild shock that made me drop the battery. Silly thing, but I was very curious. I learnt reading at 5, by myself. By the time I was 6 or 7, I would know more about science in general that someone entering high school. I used to read any sort of things, and I still do. I like knowledge. Knowledge is power. I learn just for the sake of knowing things. Of knowing more than others. I feel joy when I am the best, in every field. I had the habit of talking to myself too.

I am interested in people, in the relationship between them. In elementary school I wrote secret papers that contained strengths and (especially) weaknesses of everyone I knew, addressing ways to bend them and secret information I could use if my plans failed. I get a thrill about it just remembering. I have a good memory about people’s secret. I crave them.

I am not in university yet. Over the years I often had confused ideas about what I wanted to be. Right mow I want to be a surgeon. I completely relate with the trauma surgeon you wrote about in your blog. I don’t want to be a surgeon to do something good for patients. I just want to operate for the sake of operating, to interact with flesh and organs, to have power over someone. And to excel in what I do, be groundbreaking. Emergency surgery is what I like the most. I like the rush, the speed you have to make challenging decisions.

I will have success. It’s not sort of a megalomaniac and narcissistic delusion. I am born to be the best, to shine. I already had some personal successes, but I will not talk about it here.

I am sexually fluid, and I experience sexual love or lust. But they’re just superficial feelings, I believe, even if they are strong.

Generally, I understand what people want, even if others made me notice that I sometimes don’t recognise if someone is sad. One of the things I am so bad at is comforting people in grief. I am clueless, even if I know that is socially required to comfort sad people. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t even wanna know people’s problem unless I can use them to manipulate. I learnt to know people, but I still don’t understand them completely. I don’t understand how they can have such strict moral codes that they are unable to live their life freely but I suppose it’s better for us this way. It would be impossible if everyone was ruthless and cold-blooded. There can’t be only lions. There must be sheep too.

Concluding, this is the first time of real introspection in my life. I had a hard time getting to know myself, and I feel like I’m unable to grasp the majority of things anyway. And I don’t know what I am. I struggle in defining myself, I would seem sociopath if not for the negative emotions, I could be a malignant narcissist maybe? Or am I just a sociopath with some narcissist features? I need your opinion Ms Thomas, and I am thankful I found your book.
Thanks in advance 

My response:

I guess you are still a bit young, which makes me hesitate to say anything definitive, but I would say that you appear to be on the sociopathic spectrum. One thing that has surprised me as I've gone around meeting people is that I have met people that are less charming -- only like 2 out of 15 or something, but it is interesting to meet them, and yet still know that they are like me in a lot of other ways. It makes me think that there are sort of 12 traits of sociopathy and people sometimes have more of one and less of another. For instance, you seem to be high on conscientiousness to the point where you almost seem to be just hyperrational. And maybe you are, maybe as you continue to age and develop, that will be the more pronounced thing about you. But I feel like even hyperrational people are able to recognize the emotions of others (e.g. recognize when someone is sad), even if they don't have a ton of empathy. This suggests to me that there's something more going on then just hyperrationality. But should we post what you wrote on the blog and see what people say?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Chicago this weekend?

Anyone in Chicago or southern Wisconsin this weekend (1/26-1/27) and want to meet up?

Thanks!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Italy in 10 efficient days -- Padua/Venice (2 days)

Day 8: Arya and I took the fast train from Florence to Padua, but I'm sure there's a train from Cinqueterre or from Pisa too. We booked our tickets for the Scrovegni Chapel (otherwise known as Giotto wonderland!) like a week ahead, which is pretty much the minimum to book any of the places that require tickets. It's walkable to the chapel from the train station, but a good thing I kept losing clothes everywhere because after a week of extensive walking with Daniel and continuing to walk with Arya, this time I maybe had low grade plantar fasciitis. Arya and I just had backpacks, so that was easy, but also the chapel has a coat check that can handle even bigger luggage, so it is a very easy detour to/from Venice and one I absolutely recommend as the whole detour took just a few hours including lunch.

The Scrovegni Chapel is essentially like the pre-Renaissance (and my favorite artist's) Italian master Giotto's version of the Sistine Chapel. It's a miracle that it was preserved. Giotto pieces are super rare. Before this I had only seen two in the Louvre and two in the Uffizi. Now imagine an entire interior of Giotto. Wow. This was for sure the highlight of the trip for me and one of the main reasons I had wanted to go to Italy.



I wept in there. I wept before we even got in there from the video that we watched while we were getting dehumidified (overly moist air is a big problem in there because they're all frescoes and the land has underground water too). In the video (not the one above, I can't find it online) it talks about how the two layers of paintings are about Mary and Jesus's lives respectively and how underneath the main paintings are paintings of the 7 virtues on one side and vices on the other side.

Here are my notes from the video:

Each of us is called to choose between good and evil. This is the message of free will. 
He appeals to our sense of responsibility. He points us to the healing process that can make us better people. 

I think there are other things in Padua worth checking out, but we didn't. Also, it's expensive to stay there. For some reason I thought it would have been cheaper to stay in Padua than Florence, so my initial plan (before we got night tickets to see the David) was to train it up to Padua in the evening and stay there, but we ended up one more evening in Florence.

Weird side note about the coat check, after we were done we grabbed out back packs again, ate a snack, but wanted to check out the multimedia section (not that great, but it did have a video and dress up). BUT the crazy lady in there gave us such a hard time about having a backpack, even though we were the only ones in there, and insisted that we couldn't even be in the room with a backpack. Rather than re check the bags in the free coat check, we just walked back to the train station. That's a potential "gray rage" scenario (more on that later?), but luckily we had just been through the chapel so I was on a spiritual high!


That afternoon we took the train the final 20-40 minutes to Venice. There are two Venice train stations -- the one on the mainland and the island ones, make sure you're getting the right one. We stayed in some sketchy dive a short walk from the train station that nonetheless had the most beautiful grand canal view. We kept that window open the whole time, just listening to the boats and people outside. Gondola rides were 200 euros at night in cash. What?! But still, it's like pony up the cash because it's such a singular experience. Other than that and St. Mark's square, I don't think there are any things that you have to do. The churches are ok, but there's nothing unmissable, which is nice because you don't want to spend your time inside museums here, you want to spend it out on the streets and on the water.

Definitely get a little ferry pass (their version of a bus) for however long you're going to be there, otherwise there are certain places you simply can't get to. We went on the ferry to the little island and accompanying church of San Giorgio Maggiorre, which has a tower that you can get up to for cheap that is a very nice alternative to the St. Mark's one, which can often have a line. See below and above photo for the view from this tower. We also went to the Doge's Palace with the audio tour, which had entertaining amounts of blood and intrigue and prisons. Word on the street is that the Secret's of the Doge is a fun tour, but has to be booked so far ahead of time that we were not even close to being able to do that. 

We spent about 36 hours there, which I thought was great -- enough to see Venice in all sorts of light. If you are short on time, I think you can get the gist in even shorter amount of time. But do go! Because it keeps getting more crowded and flooded by the minute and it is such a different city, very singular and unmissable, I think. And because we went at the very end of summer, we didn't have any flooding or any similar issues.

We left that night by taking an overnight bus to Munich (Flix). Either Venice or the bus exposed me to a new bug that gave me bullseye bug bites that itched like crazy for 2-3 days and then disappeared. I don't think bed bugs, and I had it confirmed that it wasn't tick bites by my doctor when I got home. Other than that who knows. Maybe wear bug repellent. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Texas and Louisiana in February?

I'm thinking about hitting up some of my Central and East Texas and Louisiana people who have reached out to me before I go to Mardi Gras. Email me if you would like to meet up. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sociopaths

Here's another video that one of my family members sent:

I just ran into this video on youtube and I was wondering what your opinion on it is, based on the research that you have done into these kinds of distinctions.  To be honest, I had a hard time even comprehending some of the things she was talking about and I think that it might have something to do with the nature of empathy.  Like it seems like people who are empathetic are naturally so (and this is what makes it so hard for empaths to even understand what it would be like to be a sociopath/psychopath) but the stuff she said about psychopaths being born and sociopaths being made made me wonder if empathy is an acquired skill.  Have you seen other people citing this same distinction between psychopaths and sociopaths (i.e. that the causes are nature and nurture, respectively)?  If you haven't seen this video before, it might be interesting to show to your blog and see how people react to it there. 

See below my response to the distinction between psychopaths and sociopaths. But I think the issue of empathy being an acquired skill is sort of a separate question, in a way. From my own experience, I think that anyone can learn to do better perspective taking -- or cognitive empathy. But I've had brain scans that show low low levels of function in the typical empathy brain areas. And after so many years of therapy, I still don't really have the sensation of feeling affective empathy. I don't feel like I will ever get to where I am feeling affective empathy normally. But I also don't feel like I need affective empathy for a normal, happy, fulfilling life. In fact I think the overreliance on empathy in our society has led to a great many ills.



I like her explanation of guilt and shame. I think along with the previous video about regret, these people are accurately describing what negative emotions sociopaths may or may not experience.

I don't necessarily agree that a psychopath is born and a sociopath is made. I have heard this before, but I don't know that this is a consistently held belief or that there has been a good deal of research to justify this distinction. I do think that there probably is a different between people that I would consider sort of a genetically driven sociopath and those that may have been culturized or socialized that way. For instance, I have heard from several people that a high degree of the population of Romania seems sociopathic. That seems like more of a cultural response. Whether that means we call them sociopaths and other people psychopaths, I don't know. I'd like to see the academic empirical research on this.

One story I did like is the girl who broke up with a dude who  tries to win her back, successfully. They date for a solid year and he is the perfect boyfriend. On the one year anniversary of getting back together, the boyfriend tells her that he had been playing her this whole time to break her heart. Wow, cold. But I could see sociopaths (especially young ones with a lot of time on their hands) do something like this. 
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