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. 


  1. My sociopath tried to destroy me! Beware of a lady named Gulan-Zina Shirwani:

    1. if some idiot parent had given me a name like that I'd hurt people too


  3. In a fairytale a great expert on serial killers said: "-They are driven by psychopathy!" "-Really, that inner void they have craves blood, is that so?" asked a curious racoon. "-Yes, this inner apathy of theirs is like a feral vampire, and the worst slayers are similar to autists, persons known to keep away from humans, not seeking them out & avoiding them". "-Thank you for your insights & knowledge of the human mind, where would the world be without its experts!" said the curious racoon.

    1. Did you came up with this BS fairytale?

    2. In the fairytale the grand expert had saved her darkest secrets for last: "-This is esoteric wisdom I found in a shadow-well at midnight...sociopathic people cannot feel anything! This make them deadly like a combination of black mambas and cobra snakes, it´s why they love mayhem" she whispered.

  4. ME, I think you're right about affective empathy being difficult to learn.

    It comes from perspective taking but the affective part - the feeling experience - relies on our emotional infrastructure. What we're doing is just projecting our own emotional experience. That's really what affective empathy is. We're feeling a smaller dose of what we would feel in that other person's situation. They're no distinct "empathy" feeling.

    The ability for perspective taking is important; the affective component as a really useful richness to perspective taking. This is because emotions are highly complex and interrelated and being able to *feel* a situation gives us a lot of information very rapidly. It's not a finely tuned instrument though because it's necessarily based on what or own reaction to the particular situation would be.

    As for empathy causing trouble, I think it's far more complex than that. Tribal identification might cause trouble. Empathy is only a small component of that.

    There's a flaw in the common idea that empathy is the core problem with sociopaths and psychopaths. The bigger issue is that sociopaths / psychopaths aren't geared for trust.

    Why could we expect you to take our perspective and regards our circumstance when doing so is dangerous? That's the position sociopaths / psychopaths are essentially in.

    You guys have explained to me countless times that emotional behaviour is manipulative. It *isn't*, but I completely get why from your perspective it's dangerous and regarded with suspicion. It's dangerous because it's opaque to you. Anything might happen.

    It's happened to me countless times. **-* punishes when I'm emotional. Out come the claws.

    Nope, it's unreasonable to expect sociopaths / psychopaths to have empathy. What we need to it's recognise the dilemma they face; that is they are social organisms like the rest of us, but they are not wired to trust. They do not seek or achieve the benefits / efficiencies of trusting relationships. They don't understand what is like to be on the same team as another person.

    What is the feeling of love? It's the feeling that I want to commit some of my resources for your benefit. It's the desire that you also commit. It's the establishment of collaboration: many hands make light work.

    But that productive union doesn't happen without trust.

    The lack of empathy is part of the issue, but the real issue is that sociopaths / psychopaths don't partake in the richness of our emotional experience. This precludes trust and promotes suspicion. By the fact of their boldness, they act on their suspicion, especially if something is at stake. *This* is where lack of empathy comes to the fore: they will pre-emptively strike at non-existent threats. They will hurt you and feel completely justified in doing so.

    As I've said, one needs a completely different theory of mind to understand and relate to sociopathic people. That can only come with exposure, but it helps when people are honest about their experiences and open minded in reflecting and sharing.

    1. It makes sense that sociopaths look after themselves, you see.

      to understand is to know what to do

    2. North, why are you supporting sociopaths so much? I mean you even understand/ try to understand when they hurt you/ someone else and don't feel bad about it. It seems a little bit like you are trying to find excuses on behalf of them for their behavior and that their mind works different kind of justifies their behavior. Not that this is a bad thing, I just never met someone who is so understanding.

    3. I couldn't feel anything but then he somehow reached me. I wanted to work out how. Figuring him out was the only way I knew to figure myself out.

      I've still experienced more intimacy with him than with anyone.

      The positives for me outweigh the negatives. That's probably a measure of my own strangeness... I'm still growing so it's a good thing. I need to write more about myself (not here), but yeah, that's more difficult.

    4. So you need him (whoever he is) to compare yourself to, hence you can figure out who you are? And do you think that understanding and justifying his (bad?) behavior maybe just makes it easier for you to stay with him and forgive that he sometimes hurts you?

    5. I write to understand both him and myself.

      The value he gives me is that he is not intrusive. I have space to be myself and to grow. That's part of why he is worthwhile. We talk through situations, we make efforts and we come back to each other.

      His threat responses are excessive and annoying, yes. As I mentioned, it's a pros v cons deal. My sister's husband is depressed: everyone has issues. I'm okay to handle **-*.

    6. What are his threat responses?

    7. When you coming back? we need you

    8. also(to Anon) North is different. She walks what William Blake calls The Perilous Path towards complete understanding. Or what Nietsche once described standing at the edge of the precipice and still willing herself to go farther. Interacting with you freaks is her chosen vehicle.

    9. well, North, good luck then

  5. Non-sociopaths are always interpreting / judging behaviour of sociopaths on their own terms. We interpret a sociopath's lie as if it were the lie of a non-sociopath.

    But such a lie comes from a different place and serves a different function.

    The more we keep the conversation in the realm of non-sociopathic experience, the shower we will be to understand sociopathic experience on its own terms.

    Dutton has tried to justify psychopathy by normal standards and that had limited value. What you can now see playing out as a result is a chest-beating competition about who is "better". If it's a medal you're after...

    If it's integration, though, we have to be brave and dive headlong into why sociopaths say things such as "I like it when a woman loves because it means I can get what I want."

    This is a shocking statement to a non-sociopath. But there's a pattern in behaviour like this. There's a key to understanding how sociopaths approach the world.

    That key is far more valuable than telling the world psychopaths are great because some of them are neurosurgeons.

    To understand is to know what to do

    1. OMG here you are!!!! I've been looking for you everywhere! WHy did you leave QUora? It's like so pointless there without you

      anyway cheers - I guess I have to come here now

  6. How can affective empathy be "learned"? I think I once experienced it when my child was deeply hurt over something. I actually didn't understand what I was feeling at first, until I paused to analyze what was going on. It was so bizarre.

    How can anyone construe this as something *authentically* useful? If anything, it is burdensome.

    Sympathy and perspective-taking, I can understand. But I don't see why or how this thing that has been labeled "affective empathy" can be possibly be pragmatically helpful.

    Coming alongside a pwrson and feeling bad or happy FOR them is one thing. Actually feeling what someone is feeling, simply because they're feeling it, is quite another.

    I spent years doubting this was a real thing.

    Is it?

    I'm still not sure.

    1. I think you can't learn affective empathy but I guess it's a real thing. I also think it is only possible to learn cognitive empathy and learn to understand what people probably feel in a certain situation. But if it is possible to learn affective empathy then I definitely wouldn't want to learn it because I also don't see the value of it.

    2. The utility is both improving ability to predict and to respond effectively to the other person's experience. This helps us both protect ourselves and to build relationship and trust, as appropriate. It's like a quick immersion in another's reality.

      But it's energy consuming, certainly.

      VR: Between 10 and 20 percent [are mirror neurons]. For motor neurons, I think it’s a higher percentage—maybe about 20 percent. For sensory neurons, it’s about 10 percent. But these numbers are not all that accurate.

      JM: So could you elaborate on the social implications and broader practical implications of mirror neurons?

      VR: Well, [mirror neurons] enable me to see you as an intentional being, with purpose and intention. In fact, we suggested nearly a decade ago that mirror neuron dysfunction may be involved in autism. People with autism, ironically sometimes they mimic constantly what you’re doing, but it’s also true that they’re bad at imitation and they don’t have empathy, they don’t have a theory of mind, they can’t infer your intentions, they don’t engage in pretend play. In pretend play, what I do is temporarily say, “I’m going to be this superhero,” so you do role play. That requires a theory of mind.

      So take all the properties of mirror neurons, make a list of them, and list all the things that are going wrong in autism—there’s a very good match. Not every symptom, but many of the symptoms match beautifully. And it’s controversial: There are about seven papers claiming that it’s true, using brain imaging, and maybe one or two claiming that there’s no correlation [between mirror neurons and autism].

      Dan Siegel's Mindsight is also an excellent resource.

  7. North said:

    "...What we're doing is just projecting our own emotional experience. That's really what affective empathy is. We're feeling a smaller dose of what we would feel in that other person's situation. They're no distinct "empathy" feeling."

    Isn't that perspectivbe taking? If what you say is true, then I possess some affective empathy. I can feel bad or happy *for* people- in a limited sense. (I say limited, because it is always very fleeting, and rarely intense.)

    Giving people gifts makes me happy, for instance. And when I hit someone too hard by accident in my martial arts class, I feel sorry. But I suppose those feelings are self-centered, but they are the first examples that come to mind.

    As a self-professed schizoid, what makes you think you really understand affective empathy?

    1. It's projection of our own experience using mirror neurons. If we don't experience depth and range of emotions ourselves, how can we possibly expect to tell them when putting ourselves in someone else's shoes?

      You describe feeling happy for people in a fleeting manner that lacks intensity. Is this a corollary to your own emotional experiences? I think empathy is usually somewhat fleeting though, and I distinguish it from picking up on other people's moods, which can be more prolonged.

      Regarding your last sentence, I don't like to justify myself but you have been helpful to me over the years, so I'll explain.

      Schizoid adaptations:

      A person with schizoid personality disorder often has difficulty expressing emotions and does so typically in very restricted range, especially when communicating with others. A person with this disorder may appear to lack a desire for intimacy, and will avoid close relationships with others.

      This doesn't mean people with schizoid adaptations don't have feelings or experience empathy. We are more likely to experience these things when we feel safe. It's easier for me to connect with children, for example, owr with people in which the relationship is naturally bounded eg with clients. People with schizoid adaptations are also able to experience emotions when reading or watching movies. Some experience a broader emotional range in their fantasy lives. I have tended to process emotional energy by thinking... Hence all the writing I did here.

      Over the past couple of years, I've worked on broadening my concept of safety and on refining my own experience of emotions. For example, I have managed to tell and express things like regret and resentment. This has definitely improved my ability to connect with and empathise with others with a greater degree of granularity (and therefore utility). I've always had feelings and always experienced empathy though.

  8. bitch is talking shit

    "I am such a fuckin empath that I would literally give someone the water from my fuckin blood if I needed to in the desert eh ahahahahahahahahahaha thats just the person that I AM ehahahahahaha"

    Hypocrite. Everyone has narcassistic traits, we all wanna look good, when we meet our friends, we will eventually get round to talking about ourselves and thats not a bad thing. Yes some people feel superior though, thats extreme. Its like lacking empathy and then theres violent psychopaths.

  9. I do not know what I am. I have found this page trying to figure myself out.

    I am 21 but I am cold as fuck regarding my enemies, very selfish and I dont trust anyone.

    I think I have diagnosed myself I think

    When I was 3 my father cheated on my mother with her best friend, that in itself has contributed to my trust issues, as well as my mum saying that everything that came out of my Dads mouth was a lie, with childish thinking I didnt believe anything my dad said at the time, like anything, I was too young, like only a child but that was like a bad start to life, today with more intelligent thinking I am so suspicious of everyone and anything anyone says, not anything but you get what I mean. The selfishness, I just forget others, my mother has always been working all day, I am an only child and it really is only me, my mother and her parents, just the 4 of us. I never really had to think about others. Then the coldness comes from losing all my friends in 2nd year of high school, in the UK. The leader kicked me out, who was also my best friend from when we were both 4 years old. All the others like followed him and I was left with no one, all I had was just raging hate towards him and lesser so the others of the group.

    Thats kind of created who I am today. I lack empathy, I am cold, I am selfish and I have trust issues.

    However I am desperate for a group of friends, I am desperate for revenge & I am desperate to find a woman to be a good husband to and to care for as well as to raise children to not be the same as me, I just dont want to be my dad.

    I am not a good person, I lack empathy and I am very selfish. I wouldnt want to harm anyone who isnt my enemy though. I am just disappointed, I wish I had more empathy and I was less selfish. Is this sociopathy or is this just selfishness and lack of empathy?

    1. It's really hard to have empathy when you can't trust others. Not being able to trust increases your sense of vulnerability and you become defensive and closed off, or aggressive towards your enemies, as you say. Empathy takes energy and when you lack trust for others, you're really using all your energy to protect and provide for yourself.

      My dad also cheated on my mum and left us when I was 4. He's aa reall unreliable person and I also have trust issues.

      You have a good handle on the narrative of your life and a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your relationships. That's a great start.

      As an adult, you don't need to depend on people the way you did as a child. Attachments aren't life-and-death issues so there's not so much at stake.

      This means you now have the scope to learn and broaden your relationship skills. Lack of trust was an adaptation to your childhood context. You can learn to trust people to the appropriate degree.

      Keep a focus on your goal and enlist people to help you. Maybe your grandparents or a therapist.

      All the best

  10. I've seen this video before. I believe from the data available and every case I've encountered there had to be a genetic factor there to start, though in sociopaths they are triggered to develop by environmental factors. I've met a pure psychopath who was definitely born that way, and far more malicious than me, though just as indifferent and unremorseful as me. Despite the fact I was a product of genetics and circumstance, I was on my way to a successful career and he was on his way to prison.

  11. Replies
    1. Why?

      Who are you.
      Why are you Yet Another Anonymouse?

    2. Why?

      Who are you?
      Why are you Yet Another Anonymouse?

    3. K@ "heart eyes" is there anywhere where we can talk? You were gone and you're finally here...

    4. K@ "heart eyes" is there anywhere where we could talk? You were gone and now you're finally here....

  12. yeah saw this video a while ago. I spent most of it fixated on her appearance, like finding her oddly super attractive somehow but not sure why so specifically

    that is a popular consensus though, born v. made.

    that story at the end that was my reaction - even if/when it occurs to me to do things like that it's like who has the bloody time? The closest I came to that to revenge a dump was like 2 or 3 months and it was mostly non pre-meditated - things just worked out that way

  13. I've seen this video before. I am not a big fan of it because I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to what makes a person sociopathic. M.E, I really enjoyed reading your book. Your story gave me a lot of insight and answered a lot of questions I had about cluster B's.

    I grew up with a father who was a malignant narcissist and it took me 28 years to understand what was really up with him. Once I learned about the disorder, I experienced an epiphany where all of a sudden everything made sense after a long period of confusion.

    Because of his emotional and verbal abuse, I left home at a young age and became heavily addicted to drugs. My addiction completely diminished my ability to empathize with and trust others. I know this because I was still very cold hearted and self centered long after I got clean. It took me a long time and a conscious effort to consider others before I could experience empathy. I am still very much an apathetic and selfish person when compared to my extremely empathetic mother. I believe that our sense of self is directly related to our ability to empathize with others and each one of us falls somewhere in between the two extremes of empath and ASPD.

    It makes me wonder if a neurotypical person (whatever that means) can become sociopathic due to abuse or long term addiction because such experiences do harden an individual.


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