Thursday, September 26, 2019

Killing Eve, Mad Chat, and The Hidden Brain

I've written about Killing Eve before. Here's a clip a reader sent in which she discusses the boredom and emptiness she feels.

Killing Eve was also featured in a recent episode of the podcast Mad Chat here. In it they interview Sarah Kay, who had done the sociopath themed episode of Sincerely, X. I think you can sign up for a free trial to listen to it here because it's behind a paywall.

The Killing Eve podcast references a lot of the Sincerely, X concepts, including the ups and downs of empathy and what it makes to be human. For instance, one fictional psychologist in Killing Eve has a quote about how most people when they think of sociopaths think: add violence, add coldheartedness. But what people should really be doing is subtracting everything that makes a person human. The podcast host and guest on Mad Chat do a good job pushing back on some of the portrayals of sociopathy or other mental illness in the show.

The Killing Eve podcast has a transcription.

The Hidden Brain is a sometime favorite of mine. Another sociopath friend of mine likes it because it explains some of the things about humans and how they're influenced, etc. that she's intuited but gives her the science. She liked a recent episode on empathy, but I didn't like the guest that they had on. Nor did I like the supposed example they used of the dude getting shot by paintballs. I just think it's a lot more complicated and whenever people try to simplify and give the same tired platitudes about the importance of empathy, I start feeling a little like I'm getting conned. The guest is a Stanford professor, and I guess I didn't empathize with him because I thought almost all of his takes were tired and even disproven by researchers like Paul Bloom, author of Against Empathy.


  1. Interesting article, ME. I agree, Sarah brings a useful, considered perspective.

    Here are some thoughts I noted while listening:

    * Agree emotionality / rationality is not a see saw. Limited access to emotions doesn't mean better decision making
    * I wonder if holding space for another's experience is empathy. Maybe it is. Maybe it's imagination. I'll think more about it. There might be something in this, though, because I think it was a conscious effort sometimes for **-* to consider my experience. More specifically, it felt to me as though he didn't have the typical *bandwidth* to make account for my experience.
    * Bitter side note: "Getting in the way of progress", hmmph. How about people who can't handle being wished happy birthday.
    * Aspire to greater nuance - absolutely agree
    * "Sickopat"
    * "Who is the audience asked to emphasise with?" I like this lens by the poet. It's a true author's consideration and highlights the opportunity to present the experiences of sociopaths as a coherent, relatable package. There is a choice that people can make to do this. For me, this has always been the fascination, and the difficulty of it is that relating to **-* hurts in ways I find so unnecessary. While I can make efforts to understand, I sometimes just have to expend my energy to protect myself. Like now.
    * It doesn't surprised me that Villainelle wasn't written well - there simply isn't a coherent package of understanding out there - other than what ME presents - about what a sociopath is.
    * Good vs evil: well, I think it's much more productive to understand the intended function of behaviour, noting the ultimate purpose of any behaviour is survival. Just: what is this behaviour or pattern of behaviour attempting to achieve? "Good" vs "evil" depends to a degree on the prevailing culture of the day / place. Although, generally speaking, people seek fair treatment. Unfair treatment is abhorred for obvious survival reasons
    * Difficulty experiencing empathy but worthy of empathy? Yes. But one must protect oneself first. That caveat must be there, because sociopaths will hurt you pre-emptively and inexplicably, especially in close relationships. This will ALWAYS be the challenge with integrating the paradigm into the general culture... or relating to individuals belonging to it. No one wants to be hurt. Why should we put up with that? We won't. I'm not talking about inadvertent offence. I'm talking about deliberate malintent / malevolence. Of course all the "complications" and pre-emptive strikes are self-protective, but in the end, why should we have patience for that? The difficulty is that the sociopath is behaving in a way we would expect if someone had actually hurt him. In that context, the behaviour is totally understandable. Everything would make sense if I had actually hurt him. But I didn't. He simply didn't want me to have any opportunity to hurt him. While I totally get it, it's still bullshit, you see. But I see how it works from a survival perspective. He must keep the adage because without understanding of emotions, he can't predict, doesn't understand anything at all. Better safe than sorry. For himself that is.

    I've said previously that people did sociopathic behaviour problematic not so much for the behaviour itself but the context in which it is performed. Sociopaths have different social capabilities. Perhaps there are a similar range of potential behaviours... but sociopaths deploy those behaviours in ways that are utterly inexplicable to the rest of us.

    * The bit about the ghost cowering before the psychopath... Really? I couldn't watch that show.

    That was as far as I got. Will try the other podcast later.

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  3. Sociopaths don´t suffer from their own boredome. They suffer if they have to endure trite crap others pester them with. A socio can sit in a room for hours passive & daydreaming, similar to an autist. A socio does not become alienated by not speaking to other people for a month. If a person complains about not having any friends, then that person probably is 99% "psycho-safe" (not a sociopath).

    1. Oh ho! So, we want to play the crazy fuck, huh? XD

  4. I haven't read Against Empathy but I did check it out some time ago and it didn't appeal because I think the premises are off base.

    Essentially, morality isn't the purpose or goal of the behaviour. Survival is. Any argument attempting to convince people to change their ways on supposedly "rational" appeals to morality is going to fail.

    People behave to survive.

    There is definitely a place for reflection (a much more useful term than "rationality", which is a relic of ancient thinking about the human mind). But I see it working quite differently e.g.

    What function does empathy serve? It keeps tribes working together. That is, it prompts us to collaborate with people who have similar goals (people we identify with), and to fight with them and for them against threats. Empathy promoted group survival, which is ultimately beneficial for individual survival.

    Ok cool. So people are now pointing out that Empathy causes problems, causes wars, causes inequality. Empathy is certainly involved in these circumstances because it promotes tribalism.

    The solution is not to lambast empathy. Going against our native mechanisms does not work. Go with the flow, cut with the grain; the better solution is to expand our understanding of people we typically see as other and redefine the groups we identify with.

    Jacinda Arden demonstrated this very powerfully after the mosque attacks in New Zealand.

    This is what inclusiveness is all about. Inclusiveness is adaptive because it expands the pool of resources from which we can draw to solve problems. Hence corporations getting right on that band wagon and encouraging staff to "bring their whole self to work": collaboration means competitive advantage... so long as it remains competitive.

    We must be real concerning human nature. As soon as push comes to shove, we all defend that which matters most. Our pool of trusted allies shrinks very rapidly when faced with threat.

    For sociopaths, it probably shrinks faster from a much smaller circle to begin with. Right down to trusting only one's self.

    Empathy is contextualised to circles of trust.

    1. Context is king when it comes to behaviour, and also figuring out other people's behaviour.

      One of **-*'s chief elusiveness tactics is to limit my view of his context. Makes it very difficult to understand what's happening. There's so little data.

      When our brains have data, we can figure other people out quite quickly and intuitively (subconsciously).

      That's why I don't like thought experiences or examples of moral dilemmas. Context is simplified so unrealistically that the reader is typically forced into a construct designed to allow the author to make their point artificially.

  5. I listened to your podcast and enjoyed it.

    Perhaps **-* has experienced the current situation in a non emotional way, but his behaviour *appears* highly emotional, and he cannot be reasoned with.

    So I don't believe he's hyper rational. It *looks* as though he has extremely limited tolerance of his own emotions, and externalises them.

    I think this is why it's important to be clear about how sociopaths respond to threat, because this is where the real problems are. And if we want integration... This is where the solutions really need to be.

    I liked the professor's take. He was spot on across the board. He described the frequency-dependent model of psychopathic trait adaptivity that has most appealed to me.

    Re the wedding example, my view is that humans normalise. Sociopath are good at normalising, they are not limited in this way.

    Yeah I can feel for him or you, and I can include you in my world.

    But I won't let you treat me unfairly because you feel threatened. I didn't hurt you.

    1. North, why are you so obsessed with threat?

    2. It's a good explanation for why sociopaths behave hyper emotional when they say they feel hyper rational.

    3. What's your interest in my ideas? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you have your own theories? Or are you simply interested in me?

      Thanks for your answer.

    4. Why do you share your ideas here if you don't want people to see them and ask questions? I don't agree with you. How do you feel threatened if you don't feel fear? I think fear and threat are connected and you can only feel threatend by things you're afraid of.

    5. Thankyou for your response.

      Of course I want people to discuss ideas with here. It very rarely happens these days. For the most part, people makes personal attacks on me or leave graffiti love notes for me in the park next to my home then tell me here what they have done. When I checked, sure enough, there was a fresh love letter, complete with cute pictures of a ghost and a devil), which is why I ask about your interest and request some investment in the conversation from you before I proceed to engage. On the last post, you (I think) referred to **-* as ***, which was the tag he used in his posts so, honestly, I don't bother to keep track of Anonymous posters - it's too confusing. It's most conducive to conversation if you give yourself a name, so I invite you to do that.

      The interesting thing about sociopaths is that they don't feel but they do act.

      I am not a sociopath, I do not have any clue as to their cognitive experiences, but I can observe their behaviours and the functions of those behaviours.

      Attack is a common behaviour. It's usually either to establish an advantage or to defend.

      Why would one need to attack if a threat hadn't been perceived? The human brain efficiently seeks outcomes... It doesn't waste energy.

      What is the behaviour achieving? Always, that's the best question because no one really knows why they do things. We act on impulses evolution has gifted us with... but there are always reasons for behaviour. There's always a function.

      So this is a useful approach for understanding the "logic" underpinning the sociopathic paradigm in terms non-sociopaths can understand.

      Why is *that* important? Because people demonise that which they don't understand. Understanding is one step. I'm artist it is not that simple because sociopaths also tend to behave unfairly, to take advantage and to strike pre-emptively. Why do sociopaths do this? I'm not satisfied with the answers that they are either evil or hyper-rational or wise like Buddhist monks. None of those explanations gets to the heart of the matter. I want a holistic explanation and this I'm creating one.

      Personally, I prefer the triarchic model of psychopathy which describes disinhibited, bold and mean traits. But I still want the why and thus take an ethological approach.

      I welcome your feedback and ideas.

      Thanks again.

    6. Practical example: why did he write love letters in the park? My guesses are it's either some form of revenge for something I've supposedly done OR he doesn't want me to forget him.

      Why doesn't he simply have a conversation with me, then? He is the one who has cut things off.

      Because he needs advantage. Why? Because he doesn't want to be vulnerable. "I don't want to get hurt" is what he said. He is responding - very strangely - to a risk of being hurt and at the same time mitigating the threat that I will move on. Regardless of what his cognitive experience is, that's the function (you could also use the word outcome) of his behaviours.

    7. "I think fear and threat are connected and you can only feel threatend by things you're afraid of"

      This makes sense, however in practice things are much more nuanced. Let's take a common example: change in the workplace.

      A few weeks ago, a change was announced and a team lead approached me. He explained this and that, made some recommendations.

      In essence, what he tried to do was exert control over a situation in which things were at stake for him. That's a threat response. I highly doubt that his cognitive experience was fear, yet he was promoted to act to secure that which was at stake for him, something he did not want to lose.

      I hope this example shows that I am using the word threat in a general sense.

    8. North, I think I know what your problem might be. You think you are a very open-minded person when in reality you are not. I think you focus too much on your current theory and just dismiss other theories of other people (that are sociopaths and therefor have some more insight). To me it doesn't really seem like you appreciate input from other people unless it supports your theory. So instead of saying the same things over and over again, you should maybe look at this from an other angle to make progress. If you decide you want to go that way: I already told you in a previous comment, that I think *** attacks because of pure boredom. But if you like I can tell you my theory again.

      The example of change at the workplace: I think that is a rational response to a "threat". I mean it's his job to keep things running smoothly and he just adapted to a new situation. If you're using the word threat for this, then you could also say rain is a threat and you choose to use an umbrella because subconscious you feel threatened by the rain.

    9. To the last paragraph, yes exactly, you have my concept.

      Okay, let's go with your boredom theory. It has to cover these data points for me to accept it:
      * Why would he choose to pester me instead of finding a novel target? It's been six years now.
      * If he were simply bored, why did he suddenly become so after saying he loved me? Last time he said that, he disappeared for two years. That's vulnerability, not boredom. Sociopaths hate vulnerability, apparently. Many people here have told me that.
      * Why does he respond to my Viber messages in novel ways (graffit) of he's bored?
      * Why did he say the reason was he didn't want to get hurt? Seems much more reasonable to go with the the anti vulnerability theory.

      He's not someone who leaves things to chance. It took him three weeks to come up with a plan that he's now executing.

      Why does he feel bored? Why do you feel bored? There's usually a reason people feel bored. Was it because I was pushing back on his controls? Seems like frustration would be a more likely reaction.

      Even if he felt boredom, you can't exclude context from an explanation of behaviour. I highly doubt that behaviour, even sociopathic behaviour, is context free. If it is, then it's truly maladaptive, and yeah, maybe I'm wrong to consider there's a coherent logic behind the sociopathic paradigm. Maybe there's no adaptivity whatsoever.

      Our maybe you have an explanation. Please feel free to share.

      But I personally doubt boredom as an explanation for behaviour in this context because other typical sociopathic reactions - frustration, antivulnerability - are far more plausible in the context and there's ample evidence of those.

    10. Now, if we want to start conversations with pejorative - you mentioned I was "obsessed with threat" and now apparently you know what my "problem" is...

      You need to be clear on your mind that I am interested your statements for their utility. I don't rate you as a person of any mettle. Why do you need to start a conversation by putting someone off balance? Why do you need to start a conversation be seeking the upper hand? Can you not engage on your own merits? Are you afraid you can't face someone on equal terms?

      Bring an adult game to the table next time or don't bother. Your approach engenders no respect with me.

      Usually I'm more gentle when sociopaths engage with me because this is the only pattern you guys use. But you didn't add value and in not in the mood.

      I pretty much wonder now what value there is in bothering with you lot and him in particular.

      Anyway, it's T - 10d.

      The people I could thank for being helpful over the years are long gone.

    11. It sounds like you're in a sticky situation. lol. Not my problem.

    12. North, I didn't want to put you off balance, I merely wanted to point out that you might need to be more critical of your theories. Apparently you did that so good job.
      Re your data points that need to be covered:
      *No offence, but I guess you are a good target for him because you show a reaction and don't just break off contact with him. So why would there be a need for him to get a novel target?
      *I don't know him or you, but I told people I love them without meaning it and forgot about it and acted in an opposing way.
      *You already answered this one. It's a novel way to answer your messages so it's probably more exciting than a normal conversation.
      *Maybe he said that because he thought you want to hear that. Or he wanted you to feel sympathy for him because he knows that consequences are usually not that bad if people feel sorry for you.
      But I don't know *** personally so maybe I'm wrong about all that.

    13. It's ok. Problems, once defined, are usually solved fairly easily. Talking helped with definition so thankyou for that.

      He used to consistently say he doesn't want a woman in his life for the sake of his son. At the end, he explained he didn't trust himself because he is irresponsible. He has been very impulsive, and we both lost our families.

      Yet he has wanted me around. He managed the tension by keeping me at a distance, but he never explained it in this way. He made excuses, didn't answer calls etc. He didn't allow me to help solve the problem.

      So I got sick of it and pushed back against his constraints. He went with me for a while, but the birthday situation turned out to be the last straw. He cut me loose perfectly ruthlessly.

      I am tired of being treated that way and there is not a way to make it work. I think he has made the only possible decision and it's time we both accepted it.

      Everybody wants to have their cake and eat it too... maybe for him that means assuaging his boredom as you describe... but it means more pain for me.

      We just have to accept it now. I can grieve and get on with my life. He can do whatever the heck he wants to do in his life and I hope his dreams of being a good dad to his son work out. He said he took the decision to have the child very seriously and it's a good thing he acknowledges his limitations. I can respect that.

      As soon as I said I wanted to say goodbye, he went offline on Viber. I don't think that's coincidence. But he doesn't have an alternate solution and I have a life to lead. It's been four and a half months since we spoke. His graffiti messages and online stalking don't count as acceptable forms of communication.

      I asked to meet him this evening at a restaurant we occasionally went to. He wasn't there, unsurprisingly, so I left a card for him. He was the strange boy that I lived, but quite simply, love isn't enough.

    14. Anon, I've had the idea that if a sociopath is engaging, they are still interested. That's the pattern of it.

      It might be convenience or boredom in his mind, I totally grant that. But underneath those things, I think I am also right that he still feels a pull that he's not yet prepared to handle.

      And in the same way he gets a reaction from me, I get a reaction from him, see. He went off Viber. Maybe he was annoyed, whatever. But it's not that there's nothing at stake for him.

      It takes him extended periods of time to deal with internal tensions that others who can feel more deeply can handle more rapidly. Feelings are information about our internal started and sometimes our goals compete. I don't think he experiences it this way, which is why it issues him so long to figure things out.

      I think this is what Cleckley meant by specific lack of insight.

      And I do think all those impulses he has - boredom, frustration, annoyance - still run to the story that he just hadn't accepted his own decision. He doesn't want a woman in his life; but he does still want a woman in his life.

      And same here: I want him but am sick of being hurt. We would oscillate in this state for the rest of our lives unless we act to break it. Always prowling, hunting each other. Getting closer, moving further away. Like wild, untrusting animals.

      Who am I kidding, we will probably keep doing that.

      Just my two cents. I look at the patterns and what the behaviour achieves and that approach worked pretty well.

  6. Replies
    1. I'm taking that as a yes and that you're still angry. Ok, no worries. See you in ten years

  7. Griselda...a figure noted in European folklore for her patience...and obedience.
    Oh I like it.

    Ms Gris, call me out by all means, I love this place, well, loved anyways, I'd like to say it's all gone a bit, South, but quite the opposite unfortunately.

  8. North...I like you, I do, but ffs, don't you see ffs that them (us?) there sociopathic/psychopathic types, get off on looking for, finding and obsessing over a type?
    Look inside instead of the obvious externals, and realise you, are it.

  9. Hi there - I'm a journalist for Cosmopolitan magazine. I'm trying to get hold of you but your email is bouncing - please could you drop me a line? Thank you, Sirin

  10. The fascinating thing about the more emphatic humans is not the questions they ask about humanity but the answers they reject. Richard Dawkins wrote "the selfish gene" explaining how genetic processing explains how life basic and higher forms like humans act as they do. And why. It was simple even had social variant of the gene called "meme" -yes that is where that came from.

    The environmental factors and the change in the replication process of gene or any simlar system thus effected.

    This is an elegant and logical hypothesis. The answer to life how and why. But no one wanted to here it where was god, love etc. Well at best derivative phenomena or even illusion.

    If humans all accept as sociopaths seem to that this life is all there is what would the world be like.

    They won't of course excessive feeling are lauded as noble. Childern have more value than adults to the point the western culture has become youth obsessed.

    Still can't be helped really, relax everyone its all in your genetics after all :)


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