October 1, 2008

Psychopathy, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Narcissism

Updated 12 years later.

I.

A 1996 editorial by Robert Hare, who is the most prominent researcher on psychopathy, even inventing a diagnostic checklist which for complex reasons he named the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.

The article explains the difference between psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder.

He writes that in 1980 with DSM III, psychopathy was relabeled as antisocial personality disorder.   While they still referred to the same individual, it was the approach that was different.  This wasn't just a name change,  it was a paradigm shift: instead of describing personality characteristics, it focused on behaviors.  Not nouns, but gerunds.

Psychopathy: egocentricity, deceit, shallow affect, manipulativeness, selfishness, and lack of empathy, guilt or remorse

Antisocial Personality Disorder: persistent violations of social norms, including lying, stealing, truancy, inconsistent work behavior and traffic arrests

That this happens in 1980 makes sense, coming at a time where "people are not bad, behaviors are."

Interestingly, Hare is mostly concerned that this relabeling will mean psychopathy will be overdiagnosed.  His reasoning is that APD is a broader classification-, and few of these are actually psychopaths.   But once the "diagnosis" of APD is made, clinicians and lawyers may overgeneralize and call them psychopaths.

It matters.  As Hare points out, psychopathy is considered an aggravating, not mitigating factor  in a crime (opposite to, say, bipolar.)  Psychopaths are evil and will do it again, so throw the book at them.

That was 1996.




II.
.
Anyone who has read more than one post on this blog knows where I'm going: What Hare had labeled psychopathy sounds a lot like narcissism.

A glance at the above description supports this, but there are three important differences.

Identity:   The narcissist has identity-- but it is one he chose, not one that evolved naturally.  That means he thinks of himself as something-- based on a model.  He consciously identifies with someone-- Tony Soprano, the guy from Coldplay, Jack Kerouac, or a combination of traits from people, etc. 

The psychopath has no model-- he just exists.

Since the narcissist's identity is entirely made up, it requires other people for constant reaffirmation of his identity and of its value.  Psychopaths don't need people for this, they need them for material things.


Ability to feel:


Psychopathy is characterized by a lack of feeling and empathy-- a lack.  When he kills you, he does not feel remorse, or fear--  after the immediate emotions, he doesn't feel anything. The next day is the same as the previous day. 

"Narcissists, whatever their faults, feel deeply, too deeply.  That's why they take rejection so hard."

No. Narcissists appear to have emotions, feelings, empathy-- they cry, laugh, feel your pain, etc-- but none of this is real.  They don't feel it.  It's not linked to anything internal.  They're crying at the funeral, for sure, but on the inside they're wondering why it doesn't hurt as much as they think it should.  They're proud at their daughter's ballet recital, but not actually proud, inside they're wondering about their promotion, or that jerk at the store, etc.  He may feel pride that she's his daughter, but not empathy, nothing about her as a separate person.

Sometimes even they believe the emotion is real.  If you've decided you're The Godfather, then those are the emotions you're going to experience or not experience, with the same intensities.  Pride matters, lust won't.  Etc.

And don't get confused.  Narcissists don't pick their identity based on their genetic or preset emotional range; the choosing of the identity comes first.  Picking who you are actually changes how you feel, how you think. 

A narcissist is a psychopath who has assimialted the emotions of the character he is playing.

Narcissists don't feel guilt-- based on objective right and wrong-- they feel shame-- based on exposure.  When they get caught, they're answer is always the same: "wait, that's not really who I am..."

The only thing narcissists truly feel is the pain of narcissistic injury, and rage.


Potential for violence:

The technical distinction is how psychopaths or narcissists internalize these aggressive or libidinal forces.  Both feel aggression, but the narcissist takes that aggression and makes it a part of who he is: I am aggressive, I am an aggressor.  The psychopath lacks a properly defined ego.  He's not an aggressor; aggression is simply an as needed tool, a means to an end.

For the narcissist, violence is a volitional expression of rage, or the response to a narcissistic injury.  If he doesn't get the affirmation he needs; if something threatens his identity, then he attacks.

The psychopath is utilitarian:  I needed a burger, you had it, so I stabbed you in the throat.  Whatever.

As bad as that sounds, here's the narcissist's discourse on the same crime: I needed a burger, you had it, so I stabbed you in the throat.  But wait, that's not the whole story, listen,  what I did was justified because...


III.
 

Someone is going to try and correct me, that what I am actually describing is Kernberg's malignant narcissism, and not NPD, or even "run of the mill" narcissism, which are not associated with violence.

And that would be wrong, which is the whole point.  There is no difference between the three, it's all the same, what's different is the execution, not the potential.

There is a limitless, catastrophic potential for violence.  That it rarely manifests is exclusively due to circumstances, not internal self controls.  He's the married man of 20 years who suddenly needs to stab his daughter 10 times because of something that hurt his pride.

It's the guy who goes to happy hour, then is about to get pulled over for a speeding ticket but is afraid of a DUI so he drives off.  During the high speed pursuit he accidentally hits a kid on a bike, but instead of stopping decides now he really has to get away or else he's going to jail, so he drives even faster.  Then he tries to run on foot and hide in a building, but-- surprise-- there's some woman there, so now he has to take her hostage because she's seen his face...

The psychopath does all those things because at each moment, that's his only option.  The narcissist does them because he's "actually a good person, this stuff is just an aberration, if I can just get away I'll be back to being a valuable person again..."   

And you may be tempted to blame the alcohol he had at happy hour.  And that would be wrong.

Two kinds of violence: a means of protecting the identity from exposure or harm, or the result of rage from the identity being exposed or harmed.

You say: my narcissist never ran from the cops, he never killed his daughter.  But that's because your narcissist had at that moment other ways of dealing with the problem.    It's the potential for violence.

All narcissists have this potential, it is intrinsic to the personality structure, which is defined as "me above all things."  Sure, usually they figure out non-violent ways to live their life, but that potential is there.

The reason a psychopath kills is because he is bad.  The reason a narcissist kills is so that no one finds out he is bad.



















Comments

I just started reading "The... (Below threshold)

October 1, 2008 11:33 PM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

I just started reading "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout. It is a great book. Some of what she described sounded like narcissism to me, until she explained why it wasn't, that narcissism was only half the equation in the sense that narcissists don't have the capacity to feel other's pain like sociopaths, but they do feel their own pain, unlike sociopaths.

She also pointed out that sociopaths have a range of natural tendencies like everyone else, some tend toward violence, some for gaining power, some for the "easy life", etc . . . but they all had one thing in common, their lack of feeling or ability to connect with others. Especially their inability to feel love.

Have you read the book?

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What does one do once they ... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2008 12:25 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

What does one do once they realize they are a narcissist?

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Have you ever treated, or d... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2008 2:47 AM | Posted by Just wonderin': | Reply

Have you ever treated, or diagnosed a narcisist? You write about examples you find in older news, but can you show (or at least make up, this is a blog here, you can't really offer proof on the internet) somehow that you've identified a person with this disorder? Can't you imagine how most people are going to look at the people they don't like and claim them as a narcisist? Does that idea bother you?

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Excellent article! The 'up... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2008 8:46 AM | Posted by xon: | Reply

Excellent article! The 'update' format actually clarified some things that I seem to have missed about your approach on narcissism before. I have to echo both Anonymous and Just wonderin'. You've done yeoman's work identifying the problem. What do you see as either the solution or the means of coping with it for the rest of us just-slightly-less-narcissistic-people-as-far-as-we-can-tell?

You know that old middle-school joke about putting, "in bed" at the end of any sentence. Try that, mutatis mutandis with "in politics" with this article. That might, maybe, convey to people the danger that this financial mess actually presents to us.

The narcissists in government and CEO suites have been imposing their world on us for a long time, and they are beginning to be exposed. It seems the majority of people are unaware at the true depths of the capacity for violence that is right underneath the pancake make-up.

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This is going to sound l... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2008 10:54 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Alone: | Reply

This is going to sound like I'm being facetious, but I'm not: stop.

Since the narcissist chooses his identity, he can choose a different one. Choose one that is "for" others, or contributes something to others.

It won't change the core personality problems, which is the self-directed worldview, but it will at least minimize the damage to others. And, like with all identities, the more you do it, the more it will stick.

The rage is a separate problem, and I'll work on a post about it.

To "Just Wonderin'" above, I'm sure people will throw the narcissism term around with no thought to its actual definition. In fact, that's what is already happening (e.g. narcissism being equated with "guy who thinks he is wonderful.") I'm trying to bring some rigor back into the term because-- and this is the point-- useful terms help make predictions about the future.

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I don't think the changes i... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2008 12:08 PM | Posted by theskepticalshrink: | Reply

I don't think the changes in diagnostic criteria in DSM-III have anything to do with a touchy-feely moral ethos of the 1980s. Rather, they reflect an explicit effort at the time to move away from a theory-based, inferential diagnostic paradigm and toward operational definitions in an attempt to bring psychiatry more into line with the physical sciences. I'm not sure this is an achievable goal, that was the idea.

As for the differences between narcissists, psychopaths and APD, you are making distinctions largely based on nonfalsifiable inferences. That doesn't mean you aren't right, it just means you can never know whether you are right. However, I find your argument that narcissistic violence is held in check only by circumstances to be spurious--not because it isn't true, but because it isn't only true for narcissists. It appears more likely that it is true for all or most people. Milgram figured this out a long time ago, Fromm had already written about it 25 years before that, and the holocaust provides an excellent example of how it looks in practice when social constraints on violent behavior are removed.

As for feelings, what comprises a "real" emotion versus a fake one? From a positivist perspective there is no way to know whether someone else's emotions are "real" or not; thus there is no way to distinguish diagnostic categories on that basis. On the other hand, Foucault would argue that all identity is constructed. At a practical level, this means that as soon as an individual takes note of an emotional experience, he or she begins to interpret it and incorporate it into his or her own personal narrative--a narrative that everyone must have, not just narcissists, because personal narrative is what constitutes identity from the first-person perspective.

While the personal narrative represents the process of identity construction from a first-person perspective, individual identities are also constructed from a third-person perspective, and social narrative is the vehicle for this. If we define narcissists based on how genuine we think their emotions are, or alternatively what we think they would do under hypothetical circumstances, then it seems to me we are no longer talking about psychiatric diagnosis but rather speculating about human nature and about how specific individuals resolve dialectical differences between their own and society's values. In this context, I think clearly defined terms are actually much less useful for making predictions than they are for construcing internally consistent social narratives.

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You write so much about nar... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2008 12:19 PM | Posted by JC: | Reply

You write so much about narcissism. I enjoyed your last post on Borderline Personality Disorder. Could you perhaps, if you were so inclined, write about Borderline Personality Disorder and it's validity and "competing" diagnoses? -- I'm thinking Bipolar II ---->> Bipolar^14, well you know what I mean. And if relevant, your opinion of its everstill elusive etiology and the ideas of people like Gunderson, Kernberg, Paris and people like Herman and van der Kolk and others? Your posts are always refreshing to read. Thanks.

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Another great post. Especia... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2008 5:19 AM | Posted by s: | Reply

Another great post. Especially as to how it relates to the modern world, celebrity, etc...sort of a culture that encourages this kind of development. Much more useful and straightforward in clinical practice than the long-winded analytic literature. Thanks. Do a follow-up on treatment.

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I second JC. How can anyone... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2008 3:30 PM | Posted by ME: | Reply

I second JC. How can anyone ever know whether you really feel an emotion, or you think you should feel an emotion, or neither? And how can anyone ever know this about themselves? How many of the people at a funeral are crying because they think they're supposed to? How many of them are narcissists? If more women than men think they're supposed to cry, does that mean more women than men are narcissists?

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So you think you're bett... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2008 6:01 PM | Posted, in reply to theskepticalshrink's comment, by Alone: | Reply

So you think you're better than me? :-)

Psychopathy is a construct. Without getting too much into the theory, the most important characteristic of a construct-- rarely mentioned-- is that it is binary. Either/or, yes/no, lots/little. Then things are judged by how far away they are from these poles.

While these constructs are really not much more than prejudices, unconscious models we use to describe people, what makes them important is that we impose them on others.

What were the two poles for psychopathy? Certainly empathy/no empathy and all the other descriptors, but one in particualr mattered most: treatable/untreatable. Psychopathy was definitionally fixed, untreatable. That was one of the reasons Hare worried (in 1996) that APD would be loosely called psychopathy and abandoned by society to jail. (Hare felt APD was changeable-- and, as a behavior system, of course it must be.)

Why is he untreatable and unchangeable? Because unlike a legally "insane" person, a psychopathy does understand what he is doing is wrong, and can control himself. But he chooses not to.

Freud and Kernberg say because the superego isn't developed/present, so there is no internalization of rules. He can be told what he did is wrong, he can learn the rules, but doesn't internalize them into a conscience.
Note the importance of behavior here: he can't change the fact that he doesn't feel anything, but he can decide to act within the "rules" that he accpets exist for other people (i.e. society.)

Hare made (IMHO) the mistake of linking psychopathy to the absence of conscience. What's conscience? I'm sure the honor killer Dad linked earlier thought he was acting by his conscience. The absence of what ends up being an entirely subjective morality can hardly the basis of whether one is a psychopath, but that was the problem in 1980. We know he has no conscience, but we're sure what that conscience is anyway.

The solution is obvious: conscience has to be fixed and a priori. Whether you want to call it religious or Kantian, there has to be an unchangeable morality that applies to human beings. The ability-- the necessity-- to perceive and accept that such fixed guiding princples exist is synderesis. It's no different than the human capacity to understand that "red" exists.

Without positing such a morality, then behavior is the only thing that matters. As long as a psychopath doesn't act up, he's not actually a psychopath.

Enter APD, which is basically taking psychopathy and saying, without these behaviors we do not care that he is a psychopath, it's the behaviors that matter, it's the impact to society that matters.

So the change over to APD was, as you point out, related to an inability to measure psychopathy (ideas/perceptions) and easier to measure explicit behaviors. "e.g. we need to be scientific about this." The problem is that in taking the easier route you do not actually get more information, you get less. How many times you cheat/don't cheat on your wife is not really predictive of how much you love her; and you can't work backwards and derive amount of love from number of affairds, either.

But focusing on behavior does create a false dichotomy: no cheating=love, cheating equals no love.

Your other point about the human potential for violence is a good one, but let me make the point that when one acts violently because they are in Milgram's prison, or a soldier "just obeying orders," etc, then at those times you have become a narcissist. You can kill those people precisely because you can say, "wait, I'm not a bad person, what I did was justified because..." No one else is real, you're the main character in your movie.

Now you could come back and say, well, you're claiming that whacky violence is done by narcissists, but you're creating a scenario where anyone can become a narcissist. Exactly what I am saying. Since we all have the capacity to regress into 2 year olds (i.e. narcissists), then I submit that people who are already narcissists-- who have chosen that world-- are an even bigger threat than the person who has not yet been so beaten by external reality as to need to regress.

That said, I disagree with the premise that anyone has that capacity for violence. Or, more accurately, the capacity exists along with an infinite capacity for sublimation.

What's the difference between a real emotion and a fake one? Nothing. You choose how you feel, and once chosen, the more you do it the longer and tighter it is fixed. But narcisssists choose to be like someone else. When they yell at their wife, they know exactly what movie character they are imitating.

Let me rephrase it: what's important isn't how genuine I think their emotions are, what's important is how genuine THEY think they are. "Yeah, I was proud at my daughter's recital, but, deep down, you know, I didn't really feel it." If even they themselves are not convinced of their own emotion-- excepting rage, which they have down pat-- then what?

You bring up the third person social narrative, but implied in "narrative" is a discourse. If the individual is not having a discourse with society-- if he is retreating into a self-generated "Matrix"-- or preferred reality-- than that social narrative has no bearing. And that's the problem with narcissism.

This is going to seem like a weird example, but here goes: in the show Heroes, there's a character (the Haitian) who can take away your memories, one at a time. So the Haitian threatens a guy-- give us X, or we'll take away your treasured memories: your wedding day, the birth of your son, etc, etc. And, indeed, they take away some of this guy's memories.

Here's the point: the guy is still the same. He can't remember the memory, but everything else about him is the same, he acts the same on the show, etc. But you, the TV viewer, think nothing odd about this. Do you know why? Because it's true. There are nearly no memories that are necessary to your identity, because a normal person's identity is overdetermined (like Freud's dreams.) Multiple reasons/causes/influences generating the same identity elements. That's why most of us bounce back from major traumas.

This isn't the case with narcissists. They rely on the character they've built. And it's not a necessary character, any other would do.

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Give himself a present?... (Below threshold)

October 9, 2008 6:52 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by june: | Reply

Give himself a present?

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Hi Alone, Just read your co... (Below threshold)

October 15, 2008 9:08 PM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

Hi Alone, Just read your comment to the skeptical shrink, and finished reading The Sociopath next door. Her suggestion to tame sociopathic behaviors is to to change culture, ,it won't reduce the number of sociopaths but may mitigate the behaviors. I don't remember the details of her suggestion, and not a lot of time was spent on it, as most of the book was spent sharing how to identify them.

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I've known a Narcissist. T... (Below threshold)

January 16, 2009 2:54 PM | Posted, in reply to Just wonderin''s comment, by Elizabeth Conley: | Reply

I've known a Narcissist. The description here is uncannily accurate. If you'd known a narcissist, you would know why I'd prefer to not to know another, EVER! There's no up side to being around a narcissist.

You ask, "Can't you imagine how most people are going to look at the people they don't like and claim them as a narcisist?"

Sure, "Narcissist" can become the latest fashionable pejorative, but that doesn't change the basic usefulness of information about narcissism for objective thinkers. Identifying and understanding narcissists is a very useful life skill. Narcissists are relatively common in corporate management, politics and ministry leadership. Knowing who they are and anticipating how they will act out helps people make decisions about how to deal with them.

In general, it's possible to identify a narcissist through the relatively benign manifestations of the condition and thereby be forewarned of the narcissist’s tendency to slander, exploit and abuse others.

In general, narcissist leaders tend to cause a very high turn over among subordinates. Their tendency to cover their own serious malfeasance with slander and scapegoating can open the organization employing them up to serious lawsuits. Just knowing that the individual is a narcissist can tip you off to the warning signs that s/he is up to some kind of criminal malfeasance. (If the narcissist is scapegoating, figure out what s/he is covering up. It may be some interpersonal nastiness, but sometimes it's embezzlement, criminal sexual misconduct or worse. Better to find out before there's a judgment against your company/church.)

Then there's courting and marriage. If you're dating a narcissist, stop. No good can come of it, ‘cause they can't be cured. They cause serious damage to their children and their spouses. Often the harm spans several generations. You can do better than that.
Yes, some people call names. Reading about narcissism may cause these people to use “narcissist” interchangeably with “jerk” or “A-hole”. What of it? Narcissism is a real condition. It is a Personality disorder identified by the DSM IV among the other cluster B disorders: Histrionic, Borderline, and Anti-social. If you can see ‘em coming and get through your interactions without serious harm, you are among humanity’s fortunate few. It’s worth the risk that a few dumb-bunnies will mistakenly abuse the term “narcissist”, when balanced against the benefit sensible people gain from an understanding of narcissistic personality disorder.
Personally, I can attest to the benefit of seeing narcissists coming and avoiding prolonged interactions with them. Narcissists love to spend their lives making drama, whereas I prefer to enjoy more harmonious relations. I avoid them, and they engage in head games with other people who need the drama to feel alive. Everyone is as happy as they know how to be, which is all anyone can hope for.

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I think some of the things ... (Below threshold)

May 13, 2009 11:40 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think some of the things that you mentioned -- like crying and not crying at a funeral might be just as much cultural as psychological. Our culture expects us to cry at funerals, it expects men to not cry at pain or ever be scared. Other cultures might not expect the same thing from the same groups of people. I don't think acting out a cultural expectation is the same thing as being unable to feel emotions or worrying about how others will perceive you. It's just culture.

As a personal story I personally felt like crying at my grandfather's funeral. He was in many ways my hero -- the bravest man I'd ever known. I knew that he was very much in favor of the "stiff upper lip" -- that we shouldn't weep for him but instead go on living. Despite my best efforts, I cried anyway, especially when I saw how much my grandmother was hurting. Me trying not to cry was to my mind living up to family culture, not so much trying to get people to notice me. I was in the back of the group, I wouldn't have been seen either way.

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I know this is an old post,... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2010 1:49 AM | Posted by pseudonymous maximus: | Reply

I know this is an old post, but, it can't hurt.

I'd like to thank you for going in to such detail on this subject. It's very difficult to find anything beyond the same superficial description of these conditions. I especially appreciate the exploration of NPD and identity, as it helped me to confirm the possibility that I am a narcissist.

I would take issue with an idea that self-control has nothing to do with being non-violence though. At least for people who (on your sliding scale of execution/behavior) are narcissists, I think self-control is a factor. The catch is self-image. Recently, I've been doing a lot of introspection. Well, that's not right since I've com to realize there isn't much there. Let's say retrospection from a different angle. I'm 26, but until about year ago I thought of myself as a basically good person. I spent most of my time inhabiting "good" characters. I even emulated Clark Kent much of the time. I feel it's important to point out that I don't have MPD/DID, I'm aware and in control of my "characters". They are all me, in as much as there is a me. Maybe it's more like a costume?

Anyway, I'll give a brief example on morality and violence: At the age of about 15, I went hiking with my father. He (also a narcissist), decided that dress shoes were perfectly fine for walking along the side of a mountain. We were all alone when he was hanging on to ridge for dear life. I've replayed that moment in mind many times. He arrogantly put himself in that situation. He slipped. No one would have blamed me, or likely even questioned me if I had let him fall. I resented him very strongly, I stood to gain from his death. Yet, my "good" persona was so ingrained in me then, that I did not hesitate to rescue him. I was a little upset that he never thanked me, but at the time I still truly believed it was right. Now I know I was just following the rules of my current self-image, instead of the gut instinct for goodness I believe most people experience. It may be sublte, but I think there is a difference.

I'm just not sure (if it's all just a matter of execution) if NPD and psychopathy are the same. You say that psychopaths have no identity and that basically, they are ok with that. Without a character to play I'm just a mass of envy of and discontment. Even with my new awareness I still find myself mimicking a character I like after watching TV sometimes. It makes me feel a little better. Point is, I'm not ok with having no personality. Isn't that a difference beyond execution?

I'd also like to say that not all the people on this NPD/Psychopathy spectrum do not want treatment. I know you didn't explicitly state that, but it seems to be a common belief. I think a big part of it is just having some degree of self-awareness. I've never really been content in my life and this last year things have just gotten worse. Other than being appetite on legs, I'm faced with the crushing realization that I may not (perhaps could not) ever live-up to me "grandiose" ideals. Especially not being this lazy.

Faced with the options of acting good, acting bad, or reverting to a tabula rasa doesn't matter in this regard. I wasn't content being good, and I know that being bad provides only the most temporary distraction. I wish someone would try a little harder to come up with treatment options instead of just writing us off. I'm actually afraid to bring this up with a therapist. I don't need moral judgements or endless referrals. I'm willing to put in the work if I had help. I just need to be rid of this so I can be content at least some of the time, like a normal person. Or at least find a better character. I'm mostly blank now but (to go back to Heroes) I unfortunately find Sylar to be a highly relatable character these days.

Sorry for the tangent. But I think it's important to point out the desire for treatment among at least some of us. Anyway, thanks again for your time and your efforts.

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For some reason something i... (Below threshold)

July 14, 2010 6:38 PM | Posted by L: | Reply

For some reason something in this article made me stop feeling guilty for not feeling what I thought I should be, and just accept what is. So thanks.

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Houses are expensive and no... (Below threshold)

August 12, 2011 10:48 PM | Posted by VINSONSue27: | Reply

Houses are expensive and not everybody can buy it. However, mortgage loans are invented to aid different people in such kind of situations.

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Psychopathy has been... (Below threshold)

November 7, 2011 3:29 PM | Posted by EliteMach: | Reply

Psychopathy has been measured from within a person using fMRI data. It is shown that they have a sluggish autonomous (fight or flight) nervous systems (fearless dominance), reduced physiological responses to stress (lack of anxiety), and cortical under-arousal (chronic boredom). Psychopathy is a biological syndrome which can be exacerbated by social and environmental influences. A psychopath is born psychopathic; if he is influenced by an antisocial environment, he'll just get worse. When tested with non-psychopaths, psychopaths all respond in a similar fashion to emotive stroop tasks designed to elicit emotional responses. Words like tree, sand, and apple elicit no emotional response in either group, but when non-psychopaths were shown words like cancer, murder, and rape certain regions in the right hemisphere of the brain lit up indicating a physiological stress response; the psychopath processed the information in a different region entirely: the language and logical left-hemispheric regions showed activity. This indicates that psychopaths don't process information in a way that gives it the emotional significance that non-psychopaths do. They're cold blooded, calculating machines that truly feel nothing much at all but fleeting bouts excitement, lust, rage, and frustration. Even these can be feigned to elicit desired responses in people they wish to manipulate.

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Psychopathy has been... (Below threshold)

November 7, 2011 5:16 PM | Posted by EliteMach: | Reply

Psychopathy has been measured from within a person using fMRI data. It is shown that they have a sluggish autonomous (fight or flight) nervous systems (fearless dominance), reduced physiological responses to stress (lack of anxiety), and cortical under-arousal (chronic boredom). Psychopathy is a biological syndrome which can be exacerbated by social and environmental influences. A psychopath is born psychopathic; if he is influenced by an antisocial environment, he'll just get worse. When tested with non-psychopaths, psychopaths all respond in a similar fashion to emotive stroop tasks designed to elicit emotional responses. Words like tree, sand, and apple elicit no emotional response in either group, but when non-psychopaths were shown words like cancer, murder, and rape certain regions in the right hemisphere of the brain lit up indicating a physiological stress response; the psychopath processed the information in a different region entirely: the language and logical left-hemispheric regions showed activity. This indicates that psychopaths don't process information in a way that gives it the emotional significance that non-psychopaths do. They're cold blooded, calculating machines that truly feel nothing much at all but fleeting bouts excitement, lust, rage, and frustration. Even these can be feigned to elicit desired responses in people they wish to manipulate.

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In response to pseudonymous... (Below threshold)

January 5, 2012 6:14 PM | Posted by Chinese Secret: | Reply

In response to pseudonymous maximus: I enjoyed reading your post and your intelligence is relayed. I believe humans are comprised of three parts: mind, body, and soul. While and mind and bodies are more often studied, our souls - which make up the most important component - and are more often neglected. I'm not sure what you use for spiritual growth? Find it, and I promise that you will find what you are seeking. Good luck!

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This is a great article. No... (Below threshold)

February 2, 2012 5:45 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This is a great article. Now tell me how to deal with APD.

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The cliché about how... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2012 1:59 PM | Posted by Zirk Quillems: | Reply


The cliché about how too many women seem to be attracted by psychopaths, it's true - at least from my watchtower. Reduced emotional functioning can be a great advantage as it eases inhibited communication about emotions or relations. A person with a psychopathic mind might very much appear like an open minded person, willing to share his inner thoughts; the kind of guy who dare to talk freely where others remain silent.

( But be aware, he's conscious about creating a secret and personal space. - "Remember, I'm only telling you. It stays between you and I" )

In some sense it's not fakery - he do have special capabilities when it come to uncensored expression of thought and I suspect that is exactly the main feature of attraction for certain unfortunate women. They don't care too much about what he's done or where he's been. He provide them the sense of intimacy and sincerity they long for. Add e.g looks and wealth to the mix and she is effectively his to own. That is, until he has taken all her money and fucked her brain past the breaking point, which is about the time of disposal, when he makes a drama suitable to baiting the next fish.

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Oh that edit button.<... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2012 2:04 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Oh that edit button.

Reduced emotional functioning can be a great advantage as there's fewer restraint in communication about emotions or relations.

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I've forgot to mention one ... (Below threshold)

May 20, 2012 6:57 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I've forgot to mention one particular speech characteristic of psychopaths I've observed. It shows best when the person is in an agitated state.

The machine gun effect.

Ever felt like you've verbally been run over by a train? Or had a discussion which could be likened with boxing someone equipped with an extra set of arms? A psychopath will often - like many ordinary persons - engage a discussion solely for winning it.

I'm not sure whether this is uniquely a psychopathic trait, but I've noted there to something out of the ordinary with the speech. Firstly the rate of it - that is, fast. But it comes at a price, I think. If you register and analyze what's being said, chances are you'd notice a notable intellectual incoherence, i.e an uncommon lack of integrity to the numerous arguments being made.

It's like a new bullet is being fired before the prior one has left the barrel. I've also experienced it as clipping, like a tape roll with a second or two missing in between and in that tiny missing piece of tape and argument might e.g. transition into a completely new one. And importantly, it happens dazzling fast.

Does anyone here have positive experience in handling persons with psychopathic traits?

I suspect my psychopath to have very limited introspective capabilities or understanding of self. How do I ignite a process in which he become aware and start changing? Do I put it in writing and pull back? Should I find a way demonstrate/prove my good intentions?

I'd appreciate any experience, success or failure.

#MetaButton #NotWhatImDoingNow #Tomorrow #WrongWindows

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Grammar and spell check ple... (Below threshold)

September 6, 2012 1:38 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Grammar and spell check please!

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Re narcissism and emotions.... (Below threshold)

September 6, 2012 2:08 PM | Posted by Wim: | Reply

Re narcissism and emotions.

No. Narcissists appear to have emotions, feelings, empathy-- they cry, laugh, feel your pain, etc-- but none of this is real. They don't feel it. It's not linked to anything internal.

Narcissists may fake emotions frequently, and it may be that their response to emotions are structured differently, but isn't removing emotions from their equation more or less to dehumanize people with these traits?

If you believe a narcissist to not be driven by emotions then what make them act? I don't have anything worthwhile to add really but it appears to me that though I recognize the truth value of the quote above it's strictly speaking false.

Perhaps you merely wrote that the narcissists emotions are linked to externals rather than internals. Confusing topic.

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Yes, they have superior ski... (Below threshold)

December 1, 2012 3:40 PM | Posted, in reply to Zirk Quillems's comment, by Ann Draper: | Reply

Yes, they have superior skills in attracting women. Especially if they choose a vocation in life that exposes them to vunerable women.I have just managed to extract myself from one.Within two weeks he had found another victim thankfully, for me that is.When i lived with him he wouldn't let me leave even though he had another mistress all the time he was with me.He just blamed the mistress for me leaving! He was the greatest liar,manipulator, larger than life pretender that you could imagine.Women seemed to be very attracted to him.These people learn how to say what you want to hear,and tell you they will give you the world, but words are cheap. The mask slips gradually and you see the empty space where their heart should be.

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Thankfully for you? ... I d... (Below threshold)

December 1, 2012 9:56 PM | Posted, in reply to Ann Draper's comment, by A Beautiful Lie: | Reply

Thankfully for you? ... I don't think that it is -his- mask you should be worried about, but your own. n=1

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This article made me feel v... (Below threshold)

December 27, 2012 3:51 AM | Posted by Nizza: | Reply

This article made me feel very sad. A person who has a survival instinct is now called a Narcissist? Come on. It's practically unavoidable to [at leats subconsciously ) attempt to survive.

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Thank you so much for writi... (Below threshold)

December 27, 2012 3:57 AM | Posted, in reply to theskepticalshrink's comment, by nizza: | Reply

Thank you so much for writing what I was thinking. I don;t have the vocabulary to articulate my similar concerns.

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Um...are you sure you're de... (Below threshold)

December 27, 2012 4:07 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by nizzaa: | Reply

Um...are you sure you're dealing with a sociopath? Sound's kind of like mania or some kind of problem with emotional regulation.

I'm starting to wonder if there is really even SUCH THING as a psychopath. From the sounds of it it's just a name we call people who we don't approve of or can't relate with.

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A person who has a... (Below threshold)

December 27, 2012 11:50 AM | Posted, in reply to Nizza's comment, by jonny: | Reply

A person who has a survival instinct is now called a Narcissist? Come on. It's practically unavoidable to [at leats subconsciously ) attempt to survive.

Strange how that happened. Narcissists creating narcissists. Everyone fighting to survive a world of predators who lie to Their Own.

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Why did you put capital let... (Below threshold)

December 27, 2012 6:07 PM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by nizza: | Reply

Why did you put capital letters on the words "their" and "own"? I do not understand what you meant by that? Does it mean that people should love all others ? Ok. Does it mean that we must treat everyone equally? Does it mean that we should treat blood relatives in a special way because they are related to us? Do you truly believe there is an "us" versus "them"? Are we ignoring inner struggle? Jonny, Where are you coming from? What's your story?

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Calling everyone who has be... (Below threshold)

December 27, 2012 6:21 PM | Posted by nizza: | Reply

Calling everyone who has better self esteem and superior survival instincts a "narcissist" is a total cop out.

Maybe some people are just born leaders or have a more positive self-image than we do.

Maybe those people are equally human and able to feel empathy and have emotions BUT they ALSO have the ability to REGULATE such emotions instead of being victims to their insecurity and emotional feelings.

Is it narcissism to train yourself to act a certain way?

Are you a crazy sociopath or psychopath if you have made a decision not to let your emotions get the best of you?
I think NOT!

Some people have natural survival instincts. Others do not. It sounds to me like a lot of self critical losers are jealous of folks who they PERCEIVE as more successful than they are. PERHAPS in order to justify this jealous rage they tell themselves that the more " sucessful" people are not REAL people and thusly don't have "real" feelings. If someone is not a "real" person with feelings then it's OK to hate them and call them a narcissist.

I call BULL!

Narcissism is supposed to be a rather specific personality type ( as described in the DSM) and not just a word for everyone who is more confident than you are.

Seriously people. Stop throwing this word around like it's no big deal. Outward confidence does not equal inner lack of empathy.

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Preach!... (Below threshold)

February 10, 2013 9:04 PM | Posted, in reply to nizza's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Preach!

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Your comment was fine befor... (Below threshold)

June 27, 2013 8:22 PM | Posted, in reply to theskepticalshrink's comment, by Anon2: | Reply

Your comment was fine before fMRI's revealed (Parts of the brain are indeed off) they are NOT feeling what a whole person feels..now that it is known, they 'do not' feel...one hardly has to read minds or speculate if one is in actuality feeling or not.

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Only difference between my ... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2013 3:37 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Only difference between my NPD mother and Diane Downs or Susan Smith is that our NPD mother "graciously" chose to let her children live. There is no difference. This article is spot on. Ask anyone raised by a NPD.

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Very good comment. Being r... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2013 3:52 PM | Posted, in reply to Alone's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Very good comment. Being raised by a NPD I would advise any mental health professional that there is absolutley nothing they can do to change the NPD. Or tret them. Remember when in the Sopranos, Dr. Malfi's mentor/friend/pyschatrist told her tht "When we treat sociopaths, we teach them how to be normal so that they can become better sociopaths." Anyway, you can not tret them. You can only try to come up with some way of helping them to create a false self that could help mitigate the damage they inflict on others.

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Why did you put ca... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2013 6:05 PM | Posted, in reply to nizza's comment, by jonny: | Reply

Why did you put capital letters on the words "their" and "own"? I do not understand what you meant by that? Does it mean that people should love all others ?

"If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another."
- the Buddha

Did your mother want you to love yourself or to love her? The former is humane, natural, sane. The latter is human slavery, exploitation, manipulation. When I capitalise "their" and "own", it's to denote the fact that they perceive humans as their property, owned by them.

Ok. Does it mean that we must treat everyone equally?

No. You'd forget about treating others and how others treat you; that's all Christian Self-less bullshit. Your sole focus should be treating yourself Right, pursuing the best interests of you; if humans had Self they would perceive the truth of advantage (if it is not mutual, it cannot be true). Selfish pursuit of one's best interests runs parallel to pursuing the best interests of Humanity.

When you are Selfish, you are at one with your species.
When you are Selfless, you are a manipulatable slave being prepped to kill and die in cannibalistic war.

Violence and conflict are exclusively Self-less pursuits.

Does it mean that we should treat blood relatives in a special way because they are related to us?

That is not optimal pursuit of your Selfish best interests. It's being a slave to obligation and misogynist lies about heritage and filial responsibility.

The family is the plantation.

Do you truly believe there is an "us" versus "them"?

The human species has no enemies. We fight the wars of combative, deceit-ridden whore demons. Some people call these demons "Mom".

One Humanity.
One species.
One race.
One love.

Are we ignoring inner struggle?

Humans are conditioned from birth to be slaves by those who set them up to be betrayed. Mothers condition humans to be Self-less. They take aim at Self expressly to erode it for the purpose of slavery. Lies, fear, shame. You wear clothes as a permanent reminder of your mother's capacity for evil; no toddler should ever be slut-shamed for innocence and biological truth. They'll be scarred for life.

A mother will inflict totalitarian tyranny (without provocation) on her children to force them to behave (be her pleasing slave). Humanity fails to come to their child's aid. In a desolate lonely place (the private family home), a toddler is no match for a psychotic evil Toddler whore. Terrified by the imposition of tyranny, the toddler breaks like a wild horse when it is tamed and saddled. To survive the tyranny of their mothers, toddlers forfeit their Self and adopt their whore mother's corrupted Value system.

Pleased with the broken child who is now beaten, cowed and 'well-behaved', mothers take their foot off the pedal of tyranny. The child mistakes the cessation of malice for an act of kindness, and in a classic capture-bonding pattern, the newly-made dependent imprints onto the tyrant by falling in love. They're seared blind by the most evil and exploitable emotion imaginable, seemingly for life.

Jonny, Where are you coming from? What's your story?

I'm not really important. I will say that my motives were driven to seek redemption for failing to act as my siblings were murdered. They used to be so full of life but the demon needed slaves because she has no Self and no purpose or worth in life; there's no reason for her existence to be sustained so she pops out children to leech off. She turned them into zombies, considerate (ugh), braindead, unfailingly polite (vomit) emotional vases liable to shatter at a mean word.

I wanted to bring them back to life.

But I was wrong to presume it was my job to keep them alive; that was their job. It was my job to act in my best interests, which should have included telling them the truth about the demon playing dark and creepy games of attraction to induce love out of them. I didn't want to create a toxic atmosphere. I didn't want conflict. I kept silent about the evil truths I knew of the mother who tried (but failed) to do to me what she did to them.

Children don't die when you kill them but I don't know how to bring them back to life.

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You make some interesting p... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2013 6:03 AM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by Coop: | Reply

You make some interesting points, Jonny. But demonizing mothers is going a bit far, even if you had a bad experience. Parents must and do care for their children. Because after all, that's the only thing they leave behind when they die. Although it feels like every day we distance ourselves a bit more from our biological nature.

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Though I would give a great... (Below threshold)

July 19, 2013 6:10 AM | Posted, in reply to Coop's comment, by jonny: | Reply

Though I would give a great deal for it not to be the case, the reality is that it is impossible to demonise mothers enough.

There is no other source of corruption. Their malicious desire to reduce the value of those they're reliant upon for value is the only original source of need. It's not a biological need, it's sheer broken-minded psychotic depravity. They've been shooting themselves in their putrid, sex-obsessed, Toddler faces and destroying the entire world in the process of telling themselves they're oh-so-shrewd.

Everything has been destroyed by filthy whores imagining they Know Best when in (mis)perceiving opportunity where there has never been any.

All the war
All the misery
All the lies
All the suffering
All the need.

Every element of corruption is the fault of mothers who need children. They (and their damaged, broken, imprinted slave spawn) are the only forces driving against the Natural Order.

They retard children with lies to keep them needy and manipulable and broken. This isn't my opinion; it's what they do. If you need some proof about the nature of their evil, I have that for you too. This is called "a smoking gun".

Retarded children suit mothers just fine.

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This article definatly caug... (Below threshold)

May 7, 2014 5:49 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This article definatly caught my attention. I find this disorder very fascinating, I was married to one for 25yrs.7 months no contact. Can't begin to express how alive again I feel. Went through all the grieving process, now I am in the acceptance stage and am getting on with my life and rediscovering me again. Love and peace 😄

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