Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Religious moral reasoning vs. guilt and getting better

A reader sent me this video of David Woods (Christian psychopath) talking about his religious conversion and how he gets pushback from other Christians because he still doesn't feel guilt.

First, him explaining (I don't think super well) about guilt. 


Second, him talking about how religious people insist that feelings of guilt are a necessary part of religious conversion/salvation. 



I remember when I got judged by some members of my own church, they said that it wasn't necessarily what I had done in the past that made me such a bad person, but that the way that I felt about it. I thought that was a totally anticipated reaction for people to have because my religion does emphasize to a certain point one's change of heart over the ledger recording one's actions in life, whether good and bad. That is, someone might have a change of heart at the last minute death row style and still be just as worthy of salvation as someone who had been "good" their entire life. On the other hand, it's obvious a mental health disorder to not have the same feelings of guilt and to expect someone to feel differently is like expecting gay people to not be attracted to members of the same sex. So I feel like this thoughts vs. action issue is something that many if not all religions have had to evolve their thinking on as we learn more and more the limits of controlling one's thoughts and feelings.

A quick word about guilt. The way I explain a sociopath's lack of guilt is through sense of self. Shame is something that society imposes on you to make you feel bad because you have violated one of their moral constructs. Guilt is a feeling that you have violated your own moral construct or self construct. For instance, if you think of yourself as being an honest and generous person, you may feel guilt if you behave in a dishonest or selfish way. But if you don't think of yourself in any sort of terms, either as being dishonest or honest, you won't ever have experience guilt because you won't ever violate your own self concept. I think sociopaths can regret that things didn't play out differently, and they can even feel remorse when they understand that it was their action that led to things paying out poorly or hurting people that they didn't want to hurt but maybe in a moment of extra impulsivity they did hurt.

Here's his video saying that before a sociopath can get better, he has to see himself as having a problem or being flawed or missing something, rather than seeing sociopathy exclusively as a super power.






Thursday, March 12, 2020

Knowledge vs. Understanding

One thing I hear a lot from people is that sociopaths know right and wrong, i.e. if you asked them to say what is the right thing to do in a particular situation, they'd more than likely give you the "right" answer. Consequently, the argument goes, sociopaths are responsible for all of their actions to the same degree as a normal person. I've tried to use the analogy before of how most children understand the "right" answer regarding stealing, hitting, not waiting their turn, not sharing, etc. but that we don't expect them to have the same capacity to behave well as we would a neurotypical adult. I think this difference between knowing something and understanding something was illustrated well in this video.



On the positive side, just like this guy learning how to ride the messed up bike, I think that sociopaths can learn to perspective take (which is basically empathy) and to learn to think more of others and other "good" behavior (or behavior which promotes "good" actions). I actually think the bike analogy is really good because like the hard wiring we have regarding riding a bike, the sociopath got hard wired at a very early age -- hard wiring that is very difficult to ignore or bypass. Just as the man describes needing to concentrate the whole time while riding the messed up bike and if anything should happen to distract him, he crashes, even a sociopath that has learned the "good" behavior mentioned above will likely socially or morally "crash" if there are too many other things taking up his or her cognitive load. I do think with practice the sociopath can get better and better, like learning a foreign language, but we should not expect sociopaths to just understanding good behavior automatically, just like we shouldn't expect a normal person to understand how to ride the messed up bike automatically. 
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