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.   
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