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?


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. 
Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies


Comments are unmoderated. Blog owner is not responsible for third party content. By leaving comments on the blog, commenters give license to the blog owner to reprint attributed comments in any form.