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.   

18 comments:

  1. Are socios mostly open and friendly people? Some tend to see them more like zodiac Scorpio types: dour, hostile, secretive and suspicious.

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    1. They are people... they come in all shapes and forms. Personally I shift between the two extremes depending on my mood, the setting and the person/persons.

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    2. Everyday psychos often are "neutral", their opinions mostly are just based on facts & efficent ways to solve problems.

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    3. That's not how you do it.... Facts and efficient ways to solve problems? Legal expert? I knew this know-it-all. Guy would sit there in the coffee shop in the middle of the day spewing medical terminology, names of diseases, drugs, evaluations of others... Looking at med school clinicals and interacting with doctors, this guy wasn't in the radar. Didn't know what he was talking about. There are countless chemical components, physiological functions, and general headers of illnesses that he's oblivious to. It's like average sleaze misinterpreting fidgety, disruptive, or disinterested behaviour in children as autism/adhd, or whatever the hell is simple for them and sticks constant in their head. If we need anything, we'll leave it up to the doctors bucko.

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    4. Maybe this person lives in an old derelict mill area where you're bent to demonstrate to the local folk that you're "abled."

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    5. That's your attitude toward life? That's where people have to end up? And it's pervasive. There are kids with self-conscious behaviour about adroitness imbued in them from family and close ones. You see some really strange shit.

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    6. "Had to have high, high hopes for a living, shooting for the stars when I couldn't make a killing, didn't have a dime, but I always had a vision, always had to have high high hopes" -Panic at the Disco

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    7. If somebodys views just are truths (facts), he usually is more clever than the "I inherited my opinions from my parents"-crowd, right? But I think there also exists genuinly chatty sociopaths (car salesman-types), they don´t pretend to be that way to fool anybody. But the behaviour does not mean anything more than the sullen psycho-types attitudes, its just narcissistic "hi, please admire me"-stuff they are doing..

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    8. The stupidity is unreal. I can't believe what I'm experiencing.

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    9. 'America's dumbest criminals'

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  2. One would hesitate to call out socios, especially if they're important, or relevant. Ultimate it depends on their doctor and lawyer and the district attorney and judge.

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  3. Important people have enough to retire.

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    1. There are people that did the same thing as you, are more important than you and weren't pushed to leave. These people would coincide with me.

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  4. It’s been 5 years since this post was published. Has it aged well? J'Accuse: Twitter justice http://www.sociopathworld.com/2014/02/jaccuse-twitter-justice.html …


    Firstly, re the primary content of moral judgements in the social realm: I look at this topic from a different lens. These sorts of cases are cultural flashpoints and the debates that surround them are not so much about the incident itself, but about society's position on the various tensions that incident represents.

    At the moment, Israel Folau is captivating attention in Australia. He was a star rugby player who posted an inflammatory message on Instagram - after being warned by Rugby Australia not to do such things. There was public outcry, he was sacked, and has now raised millions to take the matter to court.

    This issue is so engaging because of context: it draws key public sensitivities into tension. And the public debate is essentially a power struggle around all of those issues: homophobia and diversity, Christianity's disenfranchisement and the threats it faces from the growing tolerance of Islam, the role of corporations in our private lives, the limits of employer influence and whether or not we are actually serfs.

    All this because a famous footballer said drunks and homosexuals were going to hell.

    This fascinates me because it's about which groups are more influential. The groups that come out on top win narrative control, you see. Who controls what in society.

    My personal view is that Folau breached the "Don't be a dick" rule that was discussed in your podcast interview, ME. He used tone and language to divide, to inflame. His behaviour wasn't mandated practice for a committed Christian. It was free choice. And while I understand why Christians are jumping to support him, I think he's a very poor poster boy for the faith and they'd be wise to consider that. I think Rugby Australia has to consider strategic , operational and reputational risk associated with his behaviour. Association with those sorts of comments is marketplace death

    I do think it's important than all these issues are played out in the public domain in a democracy because laws reflect social expectations of fairness and justice and those are not set in stone. Those are debatable.

    It's very informative to look at people's emotional responses in debates because it shows you what threats they are actually responding to. I know Christians are supporting Folau because of the threat of Islam, for example, because I engaged with them and that was the first thing they said: they accused me of supporting Islam.

    Our brains are wired first for survival and second for accuracy / truth. Survival and security in life comes from group membership.

    Morality is normalisation. Who has control over the social narrative of what's acceptable and what's not. Morality is less to do with good and evil.

    I've said all of this before. I think sociopaths generally have different capabilities in this regard. And I think it comes back to sociopathic counterdependency: the preference to survive by one's own means, less connection to the group, or more of a mechanical, rules-based connection. The term logical or rational is a misnomer. Behaviour is always goal-driven and in that sense efficient and rational. Sociopaths just don't get non-sociopathic social goals... and maybe non-sociopaths understand implicitly rather than consciously.

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  5. Moral clings to everyday-sociopaths, just like with other (non criminal) persons. Good parents can "delete" the psychopath and turn him into a low emotional individual..

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    1. This isn't working for you.

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    2. Primitive sociopaths resemble taunting children.

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  6. Sociopathcommunity.com
    We've migrated to a new url, but the community that was born here still exists.

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