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.


  1. Interesting. I can see how this works in the minds of sociopaths. In fact, it explains a lot.

    If say, though, that unfair behaviour, whether intended to hurt others or not, is generally frowned upon.

    And yes, non-sociopaths are capable of very nuanced calculations as regards fairness. An heuristic would be that of you're taking an advantage others are not, you'll be regarded as acting unfairly. It's speculation, but maybe others were also exploiting the system the way you were, or in similar ways, or perhaps your friend regarded it as unwritten recompense for contributions you were making in some other way?

    Regarding the tip stealing, that is unfair. You drew a comparison to other servers distributing tips to create a fair system - it kinda stsggers me to have to point this out, but would have been a mutually agreed system, not a unilateral action committed by the sole beneficiary! Anazingly different circumstances.

    But I noticed even with **-* a tendency to take these unilateral decisions based on somewhat skewed assessments. Yes, I agree, naivety played into it. I also think there's just a general minimisation of perspective taking. Maybe I write this on Quora rather than here: I think it's really difficult for a sociopath to pull themselves out of their own headspace to take another's perspective. While non-sociopaths might do this - and natively, easily - 5% of the day, sociopaths might do it. .5%. Obviously those are made up numbers. But ultimately, yes, I agree. The sociopath's selfishness is amazingly childlike.

    1. Should add that non sociopaths will take account of the formal rule system in the gauges calculations, but it's not hard and fast. Those are a framework for behaviour. A simple example is the speed limit. If a few people speed, chances are others will join in. Police even take this into account. I was pulled over once and the copper said to me I was traveling faster than the traffic. Another simple example would be parking illegally when everyone else is doing it.

      Hope that's a useful perspective.

    2. Sociopaths need to win at all costs. But even more than the need to win is the need to justify winning at all costs. The flimsy justifications are an attempt to avoid shame. In my opinion that is why they can appear so childish and naive. Some justifications are better thought out than others but even a poorly executed justification is sufficient in their mind. It is always better than the feeling shame.

    3. And I would like to add that most people would rather avoid shame. Sociopaths just are willing to take more risks partly, I believe, because they have developed a way to avoid shame. If we all functioned in this way we might also be more willing to take seemingly pointless risks .

    4. Isn't it possible that sociopaths just need to justify winning at all costs because other people want them to justify their behaviour and their determination to win at all costs? Because it can be really annoying if people always question you motives and if you are determined to win at all costs then you are probably willing to cross some lines. And most people don't understand that so they annoy you until you give them some explanation. But I don't think a sociopath is feeling any shame because of that.

    5. No I don't think they are feeling any shame either. Well, let me rephrase that..if they were feeling shame they wouldn't be a sociopath.
      Not everyone wants to win at all costs. Not everyone needs to win at all costs .The need to win at all costs is tightly wrapped up with the shame associated with that need. To identify that in one's self is what sociopaths are desperately trying to avoid.

  2. He always imposed a cost for the pleasure of his company.

    As a teenager, I was fascinated by pain. I was very curious about what it was, how it worked. I played contact sports and thrived with the physicality. Pain showed me I was alive; an interaction between myself and the environment. A connection in lieu of social ties. A reflection I existed.

    Everything else was frozen.

    Then along came **-*. He threw pleasure into the mix. Pleasure and intimacy. And here was a side of myself I had never known, and again I became fascinated.

    I always encourage people to follow their curiosity. It's our brain's way of illuminating the path to greater insight, freedom and capability. This is why "a fool who persists in his folly will become wise."

    I followed my curiosity about **-*, just as I did with pain when I was younger.

    That pleasure reorganised my internal being, and the pain was worth the price.

    Everyone is vulnerable. I had dealt with it by closing myself to others; preventing them from touching me. **-* does it by artfully blending pleasure and pain: feeding the desire but never allowing it to flourish. Frustration is his signature.

    Deliberate fucking with people's minds.

    Meanwhile, all of these sensations were energy for me; fuelling connection to new places in myself.

    I saw **-* as more vulnerable than I am, and safe in the particular way I needed: he would never engulf me.

    But now I don't need someone weaker than myself in order to feel safe. My social muscles are developing. I've learned to sit in my place within the hierarchy without being perturbed or destructive. I've learned when to be dangerous and when to connect. I've developed my capacity for authentic conversation with others: sharing appropriate truth and being clear about my personal limits.

    **-* was running out of levers to pull and he was spiralling out of control. I didn't want this. I don't want him to feel out of control.

    I'm just going to be who I am and continue growing. I still love him but he's not allowed to hurt me and he was very definitely trying to hurt me. Because I remembered his birthday and he said he loved me. I wish he could find equilibrium without hurting me, but he can't. He just doesn't have that capability.

    And there is a side of me that refuses to be beaten. I like this side of me; it's a good tool in my arsenal because people are dangerous. But with him while he's in this mood... No. Time to get well away.

    I don't want to pay a cost for loving someone anymore. It's unnecessary. II don't have any intentions to hurt people; he, just like my ex husband and my father, are deploying their weapons instead of their shields.

    Fuck pre-emptive strikes.

    1. I've learnt there is a time to lose as well. When someone means to hurt you, the best thing to do is lose them. To take that loss. Where they are unable to communicate barriers and they push you away with violence, don't hold on. Take that loss.

    2. It was like being a teenager - defining one's self against parents who are safe.

      I didn't go through that process then and I even knew at the time I wasn't going through it.

      Having to resist **-* have me the opportunity to define myself: what I like, what I dislike, how I want to conduct myself as a social being. Did all the stupid, impulsive things a teenager does, which again made up for lost years when I was younger.

      This because he was safe to me in a way I specifically needed. Boy that I loved. Would have kissed him forever, but will no longer bleed for the chance.

    3. North hello. I understand exactly what you are speaking about. There is always a cost. Nothing can be given freely because... Well I think that implys weakness and that is something that cannot be communicated. And yet, you're correct in assuming they are the weaker one. They come across as weak and needy. I think that is almost embarrassing to observe,at least for me. And yet both sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time. So, you assume they are weaker. And they hate that weakness in themselves. Trying to soothe them is both wanted and loathed. It is a no win situation. They only admire strength. They only accept strength. But strength is not all there is in the world. It's not enough for me anyway. I need more. The hardest thing I have done is walk away from someone I truly love.I need more than strength but yet that is all I have...
      I truly hate this delimma. I hate longing to be with someone that I know will hurt me. But your right, once they run out of levers they move towards violence . The only good thing about that is that it is so clear-cut. Crystal clear. There is no more denial.

    4. North I am at a point where I have to differentiate the differences between me and my x. What I want to see as his want to re-establish a connection we had is actually a need to reistablish control. Everything has pointed towards that and I must see it that way, even though I want to believe it is deeper than that. I truly feel our feelings are deeper than that but his need for control will always kill anything tender and vulnerable.

    5. I think you are right about all of this.

      He once told me he needs his fantasy for stability. If I do that for him, he knows I love him.

      I think there is genuine intimacy there. I think he had shared some of his truth. He did explain why. Maybe he wants me to solve a problem he can't solve. But he wraps all of that in a package that also pushed me away. He can be close when he has advantage.

      I wonder if self-determination isn't a better lens than control. I mean, control is one means to achieve self-determination. Maybe this is another way of saying sociopaths are counter-dependent.

      He is so raw, so unfiltered as a human.

      The feeling I get is that he wants me naked (metaphorically), in full sight, while he remains hidden. As if I were impossibly dangerous, yet he still wants me. I don't know what goes on in his head, or how he experiences this, but it's definitely the vision of what his behaviour is driving at.

      I've simply said to him that I want him on my life but don't want that kind of exposure. It's up to him to communicate the levers he needs, the limits he has. There's only so much protection I'm willing to give him.

    6. Also, I'm finding that change or ambiguity sparks a kind of swarm intelligence process, commonly known as grief. Our different impulses and feelings prompt us to look at the situation in various ways, and usually we seek to extract more information from the environment. In reality, our brains, probalistic machines, are modelling the situation. Sadness, anger, denial... we act from these positions and *test* the environment. Little experiments, the data for which reduces or model. And like ants solving the traveling salesman problem, we eventually converge onto the optimal path, carrying a bunch of lessons with us.

      The trick is to simply allow this process, which is adaptation. Not get stuck on any one feeling. A Buddha can't be stuck. Then everything is ok. This is what I've learnt and it's pretty cool.

    7. Refines our model, not reduces or model.

    8. I think also that sociopaths operate at extremes. There's no real centre. Binary, on or off. So, there is sometimes this deep intimacy, but then he freezes me out. There's no gradation or fluidity.

      Honestly, I think this is what makes it so difficult for non-sociopaths. Maybe we feel so drawn to this connection that feels very deep because a sociopath can, when unguarded, be as open as a child, as naive and innocent as a child. We interpret that as connection. And then we're flummoxed by the distance.

      I don't have enough data, but this is what **-* is like and it makes a bit of sense of all the psychopaths-and-love / Stockholm syndrome narratives.

      I just don't think it's as deliberate as people think. The devaluing and aggression is self protective. It happens with **-* when he's overexposed himself. That exposure is what he's projecting onto me.

      Yes, that's it. Absolutely.

  3. watch?v=zWKAXr1YOjA you tube 3 Mistakes Empaths Make - How to Protect Yourself
    relationshipadvice wierd that they use the word empaths

    1. ah it's a narc thing
      imho most narcs have empathy

  4. Quite the pile that is. Complete crap. You'd be deluded to believe your own bullsh!t. Which you do.

  5. narcs believe their own shit
    psychopaths do not

  6. Much more fun, when there are some good topics to read. For so much a beautiful theme for me, I love a lot of love for the author.
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  7. Interesting, but not surprising.

    Empathy often avoided because of mental effort

    To my point in the last parts of my first comment... No one has a great deal of head space for others.

    Sociopaths are more prepared to be callous, I think that's more to the point. And I don't think that's *driven* by lack of empathy; it's driven by need for advantage.

    That's my experience. Self as central focus, violence as instrumental.


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