Sunday, January 12, 2020

"What matters is behavior"

I try to read most of the comments and I saw this one that raised interesting points:

I should have mentioned: I like that video because it's message is that what matters is behaviour, not nature of experience. Behaviour is pertinent to evolution; regardless of how motivation might vary between types of individuals.

The video the comment references is here:

I recognized this belief as being the one that I had for 95% of my life. It was the one that I advocated multiple times in the book, that "what matters is behaviour, not nature of experience." And I still do believe it in so many instances. For instance, I do believe that sociopaths love, even though it is different than the way that other people experience love.

I was also just reading about Shaquem Griffin, who is a one-handed NFL linebacker. He told the story of how when he was young, there were weight minimums and maximums for the league he was playing in. At one of these weigh-ins, he was told he was too heavy, even though he had weighed himself the night before and was fine. He had his coach re-weigh him and he was within the proper range. When they confronted the official that said that he was too heavy the official confessed that it wasn't so much about the weight, the official said what he said because he was too uncomfortable having a boy play who was one-handed. This seems like a very good application of experience vs. behavior. Is he able to play? Then he should be able to play. I don't feel like someone can validly come in and say that he can't participate in all life has to offer just because others experience the same situation differently.

And I think that was always what I was thinking about when I voiced that belief -- that behavior matters over internal experience. Because I didn't want my personality disorder to limit me in any way. I wanted to have enriching relationships and lasting and rewarding jobs and maybe even kids! (Although that last one turned out to not be in the cards for me.) So what if my risk/reward meter was always on. So what if my love was as shallow as a sandbar? These things all felt very real to me, despite not experiencing them in the same way that others did.

But my brother recently shared with my a BYU talk with the following passage:

The challenge is not so much closing the gap between our actions and our beliefs; rather, the challenge is closing the gap between our beliefs and the truth. That is the challenge.

This is more how I feel now. Because when your beliefs are based on true and right principles, it's much easier to act accordingly. When you see good and loving behavior as a natural form of self-expression, that becomes that most natural way for you to behave.

I think a related point is the question that some people have about how much responsibility a sociopath has for their actions. My pinned tweet is "I'm not saying that sociopaths aren't responsible for their actions, but they're certainly not responsible for being sociopaths." Even that gets push back from people who think that sociopaths are trying to eschew any responsibility for their actions. It it oft cited and accurate that a sociopath often knows what the morally "right" answer is in any given situation. But the sociopath does not have an actual belief in the rightness of the thing. To the sociopath, even well decided moral issues are seen as essentially social conventions. To them there's not much difference between the moral issues you fault them for and using a shellfish fork properly.

Some of you are probably less gross than I am, but at least when I was younger I remember washing my hands after using a restroom much more frequently in public than I did in my own home? Why? Because I knew it was the "right" answer, but I myself did not value washing my hands in most situations. I think everyone does things like this, even daily. But imagine the world of a sociopath in which you do things like this dozens of times per day -- always conforming your behavior without ever having the belief. If you want to know how difficult this is to sustain, look at how often sociopaths self-destructive (or how often you give up your New Year's resolutions).

I think the key to a sociopath having greater life living sustainability and being and feeling "better" is not in changing behavior, it is in changing beliefs. Unfortunately, hardly anyone in the psychological community is willing to help sociopaths change their beliefs and it's almost impossible for them to do themselves, like a game of blind man's buff.

I'll write a little more on this in the next post.

Here's the more full context from the BYU quote:

People say, “You should be true to your beliefs.” While that is true, you cannot be better than what you know. Most of us act based on our beliefs, especially what we believe to be in our self-­interest. The problem is, we are sometimes wrong.

Someone may believe in God and that pornography is wrong and yet still click on a site wrongly believing that he will be happier if he does or he can’t help but not click or it isn’t hurting anyone else and it is not that bad. He is just wrong.

Someone may believe it is wrong to lie and yet lie on occasion, wrongly believing he will be better off if the truth is not known. He is just wrong.

Someone may believe and even know that Jesus is the Christ and still deny Him not once but three times because of the mistaken belief that he would be better off appeasing the crowd. Peter wasn’t evil. I am not even sure he was weak. He was just wrong.

When you act badly, you may think you are bad, when in truth you are usually mistaken. You are just wrong. The challenge is not so much closing the gap between our actions and our beliefs; rather, the challenge is closing the gap between our beliefs and the truth. That is the challenge.

So how do we close that gap? 


  1. all these ideas of there being a good life is social constructivism

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    2. yes. friends, careers, relatives, entertainment, culture, hobbies. all social traps. i try to make myself stronger, physically and mentally, my body and mind a bulwark against society.

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    4. yes, unless you want to be a completely submissive slave.... do you?

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  2. Yes, "to understand is to know what to do."

    that gets push back from people who think that sociopaths are trying to eschew any responsibility for their actions.
    It it oft cited and accurate that a sociopath often knows what the morally "right" answer is in any given situation. But the sociopath does not have an actual belief in the rightness of the thing. To the sociopath, even well decided moral issues are seen as essentially social conventions. To them there's not much difference between the moral issues you fault them for and using a shellfish fork properly.

    Thanks for this explanation.

    I notice an inherent innocence in **-*. I don't think there's the level of culpability that a non sociopath would have if they did the things he has done. He's acting per his belief that if someone is going to hurt you, you sure as hell better hurt them bad so they don't think of messing with you again. He did explain this to me very clearly; obviously far more articulately, but you get the drift.

    I've been trying to argue with him for months that I was not going to hurt him, ie to change the belief... as if he would listen when he considered me a threat, but I tried.

    Belief change, yes, it's very hard for anyone. It's very risky, it's a lot of hard work. Not many people do it, unless faced with some sort of crisis.

    It's helpful that you share your experience the way you do, otherwise we have no clue. We can't fathom that a person would know the "right" thing to do and not do it, and the common explanations don't really serve - coldness, lack of empathy etc: those explanations don't help us get into your shoes. By explaining your experience by analogy - the shellfish fork - we are better able to understand. We can see how observed behaviours might follow. It's very much more powerful.

    I would love to see more of these analogies of you'd like to share them ME. It will go a long way to breaking down stigma and opening the door to solutions.

    I think other challenges are that it's very hard work to *remember* the entire contents of a different schema of the human condition. In one way, sociopaths have a leg up in this task because they've been surrounded by non-sociopaths their entire lives. By example comparison, I've known **-* for 6.5 years. It's hard for me to always remember what he's like, especially when I'm tired.

    Nevertheless, I think this sort of mapping by analogy will ultimately help everyone. To understand is to know what to do.

  3. Many see no difference between serial killer-types and sociopaths. That probably is one of the greatest misunderstandings of all times. The reason for this probably is that serial killers treat their victims in a cold manner, reducing them to "furniture". But such people are driven by strong (murderous) emotions. My theory is that socios despise serial killers. Just the thought of somebody feeling godlike when strangling a helpless victim most likely makes the psycho think of a sick maggot.

  4. The idea of belief as a thing in itself is i would say more useful to sociopaths than experienced by them on that they believe in, themselves and there abilities. These are facts after all but the need to have belief and that such beliefs provide comfort or aid seems very empathic view.

    An example is religion people of faith. Only time they work together are in the face of those with no religious intentions.

    What is it seems clearer to sociopaths is that what you chose to do -for whatever reason is what you are. Therefor your "beliefs" are immaterial.

    The caveat to that is the many see these beliefs as the motivator for there actions even there lifes. This can be used to manipulate and influence.

    On the question of evolution it fascinates that empaths have created a world society that is better suited to the high functioning, this term is a conceit to separate from those idiots that kill on impulse, sociopaths.

    Are sociopaths the next stage in human evolution. Seems more like they fit the niche or wolves to the deer population. A refining tool.

    The idea of "the matrix" or the mathematical universe theory it derives from does appeal. We are all an experiment by some other life form. Makes more sense than most God concepts.

    1. Hi, I have a question regarding what you mean by belief.

      I agree with you that sociopaths believe in themselves (anon 4:19 has explained it very succinctly), however it's the case that sociopaths are still responding to the world like every other organism on the planet. Because sociopaths are not actually omniscient, they, like everyone else, have developed understandings of it over the course of their lives. These understandings are beliefs.

      When ME talks about being incorrect, I think she's referring to these beliefs, rather than a capital B Belief system (eg religion).

      Your expression that what you do is what you are rather than your beliefs is really interesting so I am wondering how you would describe what drives sociopaths' actions, if not beliefs about how the world is and the various possibilities that might unfold in a particular scenario. Would you like to share your viewpoint? I think it would be interesting.

    2. Interesting question what drives the sociopath. The same drives as empaths. Need for basic sustenance and the higher need for diversion.

      To belive in something like gravity for example is simple you have the irrefutable evidence. But belief in this context is more about applying labels after the fact.

      Conscience and guilt alway struck me as that. The feeling did not prevent the action that it resulted from but rather is an afterthought where the subject believe the action not to be in character or in tune with there values.

      The sociopath does not see themselves as one set group of considered identity. Not it seems given to introspection.

      The world is full of random variables people are not. Its relatively simple to predict what a given person response would be when you know the values they hold. Interesting you can in time predict when they will adhere or reject these values.

      Larger groups make this easier to see mob mentality is often used as and example or excuse for behaviour. But the individuals act. Then for empaths suffer guilt afterwards.

      Its i powerful dynamic not diminishing its effects. Remorse can get the worse of crimes mitigated after all.

    3. Thanks, interesting response.

      I think feelings like embarrassment and remorse are really good tools for improving social performance. It's as though our brains recognise that our actions had a suboptimal outcome and the feeling - being a form of pain - stirring motivated us not to make the same error again. The truck of to not get stuck in the pain but to continue through it and he'd the lesson.

  5. I'm amazed by the comments I read here. While the people "seem" intelligent, they all seem to be unable to accept, deal with, and enjoy the hand they've been dealt.
    Suck it up, live your life, and quit crying about who you are!
    The world does not respect whining crybabies!

  6. In a fairytale an unusual haunted attraction had been built: a psycho mansion. Paying visitors were advised to "please disturb the psychopaths!". A door with a do not disturb-sign led in to a room with peculiar looking people sitting around a table, pale doll-looking women & men with triangular faces and shark eyes sat there. As soon as the visitor came in they all rose and surrounded the guest, resembling owls. "-So, you think you belong with us?" one hissed. "-Finally some entertainment.." one of the dollwomen giggled..

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  7. He always seems to respond to stuff I write with a twist to hurt me.

    Is that a common pattern?

    Is there anything self-generative? Or is it always like a warped, angry mirror?

    I'm not trying to be rude, I'm curious. He's blocked me everywhere now, and I guess he'll go quiet here too. I'm sad, but I suppose over time I will learn I can't get what I want and my brain will let go.

    Regarding your post, ME, I listened to a podcast today that claimed both Plato and Buddhist traditions consider it a moral imperative to understand the nature of reality, to see clearly what is actually happening.

    Over the past 6 years, I've very much changed the way I interpret human nature, mostly because of meeting **-* and trying to make sense of his behaviour and my own. And I disagree with the philosopher that it's a moral imperative to understand reality. It's a functional imperative. Understanding reality helps us function more productively and sustainably as social animals, it helps us see copies of our genes into the next generation (ultimately).

    The podcast included a story of a devout Buddhist woman, serving monks at dinner. A messenger arrived and told her that her husband and 32 subs had been killed. She simply continued serving. Later, a pot of ghee broke and a monk told her not to worry about things that are broken and she agreed with him. But then, she went to her daughter in-laws and told them to not hold bitterness against the king who had killed their husbands, and that they were blameless.

    The presenters of the podcast claimed the woman was seeing things as they are and had the right response. I disagree. She created a narrative for herself to minimise her own suffering. And she created a different narrative for the slain men's wives - one they were more capable of accepting - with the same purpose: to minimise suffering.

    I don't think the best approach in life is necessarily to minimise suffering. I think it's more productive to maximise learning and to face reality. There's much to be gained in grief and sorrow in terms of learning what has true value and how to protect resources that matter.

    I had a huge crash today. It felt bad, it hurt. I initially thought I'm not riding that bloody trail again - and that was a self-protective response. But then I reflected as I calmed down. There are better risk mitigations than avoiding altogether: I'd miss out if I did that. I could make sure I'm well rested before riding it. I could scope out those blind, advanced features before riding or I could follow someone who knew the trail. I could ride a smaller bike. See, the self protection impulse is the same, but the context of the risk mitigations is constrained only to the exact problem: I got way off line because I went too fast into a blind feature and didn't have time to correct.

    That's the art of life: taking the right lesson from painful situations. That's what builds resilience and capacity; not the avoidance of suffering.

    That I have loved **-* means something very profound to myself. I don't want him to be sucked into some vortex because of that; I want him to retain his autonomy so it's probably good he has blocked me. It's a no, I guess. There's always some process that plays out... I have no idea what it is but I can only be myself.

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    1. Oh and the crash wasn't all bad. I didn't panic. I stayed loose, committed to the line I was on (the option I deemed safest) and did my best. I got spat out into the dirt, bit I'm not injured. And I decided to just straight-line the ski slope to get out of there which was EPIC!!

      Same with this situation with **-*. There's always an a opportunity. It's how you look at things.

  9. Is he trying to make me suffer the consequences of exercising my own will? I remember around five years ago a fellow canned BaseGroove said to me "you've shown your willingness to exercise your own free will and he will not have a relationship like that as a psychopath". I was very surprised, actually, when he did come back after that because I thought BaseGroove was probably right. Mysterious. I think the vortex theory might explain it; that is that my desire for him creates shine sort of vortex that he can't resist, but simultaneously despises. That does genuinely sound horrible; I don't blame him for being angry if that's the case, but it has nothing to do with me. He's arranged that way; and unfortunately his nature was also very compelling for me.

    What can you do?

    The only thing I can see to do is to let the processes play out.

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