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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Confessions of a Sociopath (完)

The book is fairly repetitive at places, but kind of fascinating and a fast read. The author commits a large number of curious inconsistencies and contradictions throughout, which seem to result from vacillation between self-aggrandizement and serious self-examination --- unless she's just lying randomly, which would be entirely pointless.

Nevertheless I find the book overall fascinating and refreshing. Yes, refreshing. She's completely without shame and guilt, and somehow it provides an interesting perspective on what purpose shame and guilt serve in nonpsychopathic people. But I digress.

One of the rather confusing subjects is her compulsion for "ruining" people, but then stopped short of describing any specific examples except two examples. In one case she got herself involved in a love triangle in which she "made" the young man dump another woman who was (according to her) infatuated with him. In another case she made (apparently false) accusation about a high school teacher, which may or may not have forced him into early retirement.

The author makes endless references to her habit of and skills in manipulating other people, but again gives very few concrete or believable examples. I can't help but suspect that it is her psychopathic mind that has overestimated her own effect on other people.

Also she claims repeatedly that she is only attracted to men who are handsome and rich and successful (ie, presentable) and then, in a separate chapter, recounts a very serious relationship she had with a man who was almost certainly an Asperger patient who had no job and played video games and ate McDonald's every day. It's small contradictions like this that ruin the credibility of most of her claims.

Nevertheless one can gleam some patterns in her narrative. For example, her grandiose view of herself and her power could be related to the tendency that the psychopathic brain reacts very weakly to negative cues and produces low level of negative emotions such as fear, sadness, disappointment, disgust. The psychopathic brain has an extraordinary capacity to dismiss the negative feelings that often bother the nonpsychopathic people. This allows they to indulge in an inflated sense of self-worth (almost omnipotence) and all the positive emotions associated with it. Apparently the rate of depression is very low among ASPD individuals.

The grandiosity may at times seems comical, but it does make one wonder. I have certainly felt the anxiety from other people's criticism, rejection, or negative judgment. The size of the anxiety is almost always disproportional to the realistic harm due to their low opinion of me, which is usually none. Yet I am still bothered by being disliked by someone here and there. It costs me some amount of cognitive reserve to overcome my negative reaction to others' negative opinion, obviously an inefficient mental process. Perhaps, a pinch of psychopathic indifference (without the unrealistic inflation) to other people's opinion might do some good.

Another interesting confession is that she has a flimsy sense of self. In ordinary interpersonal relationships, she takes on imitated behaviors as her "mask." In intimate relationships (often characterized as "conquering" or "possessing" others for thrills), she makes a significant effort to probe and learn the others' needs and give them exactly what they need. If they want sex, she would give them sex. If they want to confirm their own insecurity, she would feed their insecurity. She claims that no one else would work so hard to understand you. I don't know if that's true and, even it were true, whether it's good for anyone. Although she seems to feel pretty good about this quality because she's always in control, it is in a way kind of sad --- She does not have enough sense of self to offer a full independent person in a relationship, so all she can give is to feed the others' needs, albeit in an exploitative way. On the other hand, she does not feel sad, so it's irrelevant to her.

It does make one wonder: Are negative emotions important to developing a fuller sense of self?

Or perhaps the consequence of NOT having negative emotions lies in another trait of ASPD individuals. Apparently they are reckless and thrill seeking, in part because they do not learn well from their mistakes. She makes some vague references for having made some fairly stupid and unsafe choices over and over throughout her life. She admits that she is not deterred enough to not make the mistakes again. Quite possibly the reason is that the harm does not scare her as much as it does others and the regret does not congeal into lasting memory so that she'd never to do it again. If you don't feel much pain from getting burned, you'll play with fire again. Meanwhile, the grandiosity does not help her recognize the gravity of her mistakes, either and thus modify future behaviors. Avoidance is the result of learning from mistakes. Fear (and sometimes other negative emotions) drive avoidance. Without fear, the brain can't avoid the same mistake again.

So, perhaps, negative emotions are critical for learning from our mistakes.

Philip K. Dick argued in "Do Androids Dream of Electrical Sheep?" that empathy is what makes one human. For him, a person without empathy is not human. M.E. Thomas (not her real name) vehemently disagrees. She argues that she is every bit as human as nonpsychopaths, only different. It is true that a large proportion of psychopaths are not criminals and many hold high-level positions. In typical psychopathic fashion, she alternately argues that psychopathy is superior to in modern business and professional environment and that psychopathy is a disability not to be discriminated against.

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