January 17, 2010

This Man Killed His Family And He Doesn't Know Why

longo.JPG
I guess I didn't want any witnesses

Christian Longo was a "successful businessman" who fell on bad times/spent too much money.  Too ashamed to admit to his wife he was failing, he tried credit and then theft/forgery/counterfeiting to maintain the image.  When he knew the cops were on to him, he did the obvious thing: he strangled his wife while she was on top of him during sex; then strangled his 2 year old daughter who was sleeping on the floor beside their bed; stuffed their bodies in suitcases; then put his other two sleeping kids into their car seats and drove them to a bridge, tied rocks to their feet, and threw them in the river.  Then he went to Cancun.

He had the kind of time in Cancun you'd expect: drinking beer, smoking pot, and pretending to be a New York Times reporter (he had always wanted to be one), and having sex with a girl who wanted to be a photojournalist who thought he needed one for his story.  Within a month he was caught.

Coincidentally, (or not, depending on your belief in synchronicity;) (or not, depending on whether you believe anything Christian Longo says;) the reporter he was impersonating was simultaneously being outed as having faked an article in the NYT. 

Longo was convicted and sentenced to sitting on death row for the rest of his life.  But he never confessed.  Longo decided he would only tell his story-- the real story, of course-- to Michael Finkel, the reporter he had impersonated. 

II.

It's not spoiling much to tell you that Longo is a classic narcissist, but it's worthwhile to go through the examples:

Longo was not a violent or mean person:

In fact, I could not unearth a single violent incident in Longo's life before the murders, apart from a minor scuffle his freshman year of high school. I looked everywhere; I spoke with everyone I could. I didn't even find an occasion when he lost his temper, when he so much as raised his voice. He hardly swore; he never fought with his brother. A woman who attended his church said she used to tell her friends, "I wish my husband could be more like Chris Longo."
But past performance is not indicative of future results because he's never been tested: he's never had a narcissistic injury, wherein you are discovered to be not what you said you were.  He thought of himself as-- he wanted people to believe that-- he was a successful, rich, businessman.  But the business ran out of money, the debts piled up; so he counterfeited and forged, not to cover expenses but to keep up appearances.

And you can't admit that you've been deceiving your wife for years, that in reality she's married a loser and a liar and a thief... You're trapped.
Trapped?  If he cared about money he would have stolen more of it; maybe even killed a couple of people to get their money.  No.  If he cared about his freedom he could have abandoned his family and fled the country.  No.  If he felt guilty about what he had done he could have found Jesus or simply killed himself.   No.   The thing he cared about more than anything else was his identity, and the ones who reflected that identity back to him were his family.  They had to go.

Probably, you don't understand how killing people you love so much protects your identity: aren't you now going to be exposed as a murderer?  But if you kill your family, then no matter what else happens to you it doesn't matter, because they will never know.  You did them a favor: they don't have to live with the pain of knowing you are a fraud.

III.

Even a narcissist is going to feel some remorse when he kills his family, right?  It's not like he didn't love them:

When thinking back about times in life where my heart was squeezed in my throat, nothing hurt more than when Sadie fell off the swing that I was pushing her on. To see tears fall from your child's face that you are the direct cause of was more painful than anything that I could remember. It's still painful. How could I be so horrible & still have that sort of pain?
Nope.  Those are reflex emotions, the kind you feel watching a romantic comedy or a porn or Beaches.

Also, he noted, as further refutation of his psychopathy, "I got choked up during E.T. & Titanic."
That's right, he said choked.

But his reaction to the photo [of his smiling kids] disturbed him. "I'm not really feeling what everyone else feel's," he wrote, tossing in, as he often does, an extra apostrophe. "What should be most difficult to stomach is what I've done [the murders], yet somehow that part is still palatable."
Narcissists don't feel guilt.  Only shame.
Longo's facade in prison is the same as it was in the outside world: a successful businessman. On death row, people think he's a stock-market whiz. And on the surface he seems to be. He subscribes to The Wall Street Journal and Barron's and often keeps his TV tuned all day to CNBC. He supposedly calls his broker with picks and earns big profits. It's actually an elaborate ruse. "All of that pretend stock market playing is believed to be real," Longo writes. "I've never told anyone that it's not. And I use the phone for sufficient amount's of time to all for that thought to seem legit." 

Maintaining the stock-market lie, Longo writes, is getting "exhausting." But he can't be honest, he explains, because of "extreme embarrassment."





Comments

I liked the part about feel... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2010 11:36 PM | Posted by Basil Valentine: | Reply

I liked the part about feeling guilty over his inability to feel guilt. Still the same narcissist as ever, suffering from internal conflict because his identity tells him that he's the sort of guy who would feel guilt in those circumstances, but being a narcissist, he does not.

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I don't have much insight, ... (Below threshold)

January 17, 2010 11:37 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I don't have much insight, but I wanted to tell you: my reaction to this story was to look up information about his wife, so I could think about all the ways I am not like her. Because that makes me safe, right?

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So what is the difference b... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 12:46 AM | Posted by Two Thirds: | Reply

So what is the difference between what you term "narcissist" and "sociopath"? It seems to be one and the same.

I read the link to the Macdonald Triad. Interesting, because I exhibited 2 of the 3--bed-wetting and arson--but I never tortured animals. Is there a progression--that is, do these characteristics typically exhibit in a particular order? FWIW I can't remember which happened first.

2/3s

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No reasons? You just told u... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 1:04 AM | Posted by Jason: | Reply

No reasons? You just told us the reasons. He's a narcissist, trying to avoid suffering a narcissistic injury.

Murder not a remote possibility? To the contrary, given that circumstance, it was inevitable. Probability: unity.

Were there signs? Could it have been prevented? Now that's more difficult, but I'd say, "Yes". If you don't want to get murdered by a narcissist, don't be his mirror. Don't threaten to expose him to his mirrors. If you're close enough to be his mirror, you're close enough to see the signs. If you stumble across information that would allow you to expose a narcissist to his mirrors, you have the signs in your hands. You know he's living a lie.

Note I don't say, "Don't expose him". It's, "Don't threaten to expose him." If someone owes you a bunch of money, or you catch him cheating on his wife, don't offer to keep it quiet out of a desire not to embarrass him. He won't be grateful, or see it as a kindness. You become the greatest threat to his existence. Or what he sees as his existence. Blow it wide open before he knows you're even a threat. He'll still be a narcissist, he'll rage, accuse of all kinds of things, but he won't kill you - or his wife and kids - because it'll be too late to save his image that way. He'll have to fix it. Convince them he was framed. He can't kill them once they know. Only before.

The only thing holding him back is, he still had lots of lies left to tell. It's only when the lies run out that he moves on to murder. But the converse of that is, when the lies run out, a narcissist will move on to murder. Fortunately, most narcissists are imaginative enough liars that they rarely run out. Otherwise the murder rate would be a lot higher than it is. But after you eliminate killings over drugs, that leaves a couple thousand murders a year, so in a country of 300 million, your chances of getting killed by a narcissist is vanishingly small.

Still, if you know someone who's living a double life, don't let on to them that you know, certainly don't blackmail them, and if you love your life, don't quietly offer them an opportunity to "make it right".

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Really enjoyed the analysis... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 2:59 AM | Posted by Griffin: | Reply

Really enjoyed the analysis. I read the article in question a day ago, so it was a refreshing second perspective.

Although there's probably not enough evidence contained within the article, I'd be equally as intrigued to have a breakdown on the author's psychological state. It's been bugging me ever since I finished the article. He admits, without ever really admitting, that he has an obsession with Longo. I wonder how much of that is narcissism too?

It as if Longo only feels what he thinks other people want to hear. And the author only feels what he thinks other people want him to feel about Longo.

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This is pretty much the fir... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 4:44 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This is pretty much the first time I agree with you re: narcissism. This dude is a CLASSIC narcissist, a narcissistic psychopath.

Usually when you call someone a narcissist, there are easily several other explanations (e.g. the prior example of the woman who faked cancer)... but in this case, clearly, Longo exists only as his image and nothing else at all mattered. There was no other motivation besides protecting his image/identity as someone successful and powerful - narcissism.

He doesn't feel guilt, and his antisocial traits are such that he probably doesn't feel shame much, either.
He isn't emotionally sophisticated enough to fake guilt, and I would argue he was faking shame because he knows society expects him to feel "bad" in some way. I doubt he feels much of anything at all in the way of remorse, no shred of guilt and probably only slight shame which is largely faked. I bet Longo's primary thoughts/feelings are more accurately described as anger/frustration for being locked up.

A narcissistic psychopath, clearly.

But note, the main reason Longo is such a loathsome creature is less the narcissism and more the psychopathy. Narcissists who aren't psychopaths are just annoying/frustrating/emotionally destructive but they don't like, kill people and stuff.

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I was just reading up on th... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 5:24 AM | Posted, in reply to Two Thirds's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I was just reading up on that, bedwetting isn't associated with sociopathy anymore. So fear not. Bedwetting (primary bedwetting) is usually related to slow neurological / hormone development, which is rarely related to psychopathy.

Firesetting is also a weak sign.

The strongest sign is animal abuse, which is decidedly abnormal and clearly associated with lack of empathy and violent aggression characteristic of a psychopath.

Narcissists are not sociopaths, although many sociopaths are narcissists and vice versa. The difference is that narcissists w/o socio/psychopathy generally stay within the bounds of society and will not markedly deviate from norms (e.g. killing people).
A run of the mill non psychopathic narcissist would have perhaps abandoned his family and fled to cancun.
A psychopathic narcissist will kill his family first, because his psychopathy makes him unable to care or respect societal norms/expectations.

I suppose it might be accurate to say that psychopathy / sociopathy is narcissism, but like, a really severe form.

Narcissism is probably a mild variant of psycho/sociopathy. Sorta like cyclothymia is a really mild version of manic depression.

The relationship to psychopathy/sociopathy seems to be that all of these conditions involve some degree of indifference/apathy regarding how others feel.
To some degree narcissists must not care about how their actions impress upon others and they must lack empathy - but the narcissist has a firm understanding and a respect for major social norms like murder/violence/major theft. Narcissists without psychopathy won't kill. Or to put this another way: It is narcissistic to emotionally hurt people. Narcissists don't give a shit how bad others feel and often gain power from the emotional pain of others.
However, it is sociopathic/psychopathic to PHYSICALLY hurt people. Sociopaths often find power/exhilaration/thrill/release in violent behavior. They are generally impulsive and often have low intelligence. They do not feel fear normally.

Narcissists are preoccupied with how others think of them (or, how they imagine others think of them). Image.
Sociopaths are preoccupied with sensation, thrill seeking, feeling what they want to feel, etc. They do what they do because they feel frustrated, or bored, or they want to feel a thrill. They are more random than a narcissist. Narcissists are better socialized.

Anyway. I tend to think that NPD is a mild, better socialized more inhibited variant of APD, and psychopaths are people with really severe APD (or alternatively, APD represends mild psychopathy).

Even though NPD and APD are considered distinct disorders, I would argue they are probably very similarly etiologically, the image obsession of NPD is incidental and merely represents greater inhibition/intelligence/socialization of what would otherwise be a lowly caveman-like psychopath, randomly attacking people for impulse whim and thrill.

If you're a high functioning psychopath, you're antisocial PD/ a "sociopath". You don't behave randomly, impulsively, violently, like a psycho, but you are given to violent/destructive behavior if left to your devices.
Psychopaths are low intelligence minority criminals with no ability to plan for the future, delay gratification, a deficient ability to feel fear or contented, impulsive and aggressive as a rule, IMPOSSIBLE to socialize.
Sociopaths are like the white collar criminals who embezzle money from their company destroying the lives of their employees.
It is argued that sociopaths are "made by environment" and psychopaths are "made by genes" but I tend to think the reverse - if you're white and educated you're a 'sociopath", meaning, what would otherwise be called a run of the mill psychopath is labeled a sociopath if it is educated and slightly more socialized.

If you're a high functioning APD, you're probably just a narcissist. This means to say, you probably aren't particularly violent/destructive physically but you are pathologically apathetic to how your actions affect others emotionally. The narcissist is a very well socialized sociopath, who is a very well socialized psychopath.

But, it is possible to be both a narcissist and a psychopath... so clearly, they can only be related pathologies and not simply a linear progrogression of pathology. Narcissism is mostly about identity, psychopathy and sociopathy is mostly about feeling/impulsivity/emotional release and sensation seeking. Narcissism is about ends, psychopathy is about the means.
But all the same, they m
Just my 2cents.

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RE: Which child was killed ... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 5:30 AM | Posted by mark p.s.2: | Reply

RE: Which child was killed first
TLP"This is an vicious, absolute lie. He killed the child on the driver's side first, and every parent knows which kid is on what side. This is a show, a pretense, designed to invoke sympathy for his suffering"
Chronic alcoholics and chain smokers can say the same thing of their drug habits.
Cognitive dissonance.
def"Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously."
Drug X is good for me, drug x is bad for me.
This locked room you are in is a hospital not a jail. Really , trust me.
This drug is a medicine not a poison. Really , trust me.

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%*$#, the way he drowned hi... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 6:06 AM | Posted by fraise: | Reply

%*$#, the way he drowned his children is the same way people used to (err, may well still, sigh) get rid of unwanted kittens...

Crime Library (article here) adds a particularly important point: Chris was "disfellowshipped" from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Disfellowship is another word for shunning, a practice considered archaic by most, but is a part of the Jehovah's Witness ways. According to the Witnesses, shunning is an act of love intended to inspire repentance and a return to right living. For the Longos, especially MaryJane, this must have been a horrifically shameful thing; without her community, she had only her husband and children to cling to. With the disfellowshipping, Chris lost all his Witness employees, they lost all their friends, and even his family no longer spoke to him.

So the narcissist really did have no one but his wife and kids to reflect his image. He'd already been exposed.

I know that when I left my very-likely-narcissist ex BF after he'd started hitting me (I didn't wear enough makeup, I wasn't as thin as he liked, he felt that I was smarter than him - yes, he himself told me that was a problem), his solution to the narcissistic injury was two-fold: death threats, and then rather than physical death, he told all of our friends that I'd left him for a married man, claiming I'd lied for years, inventing all sorts of salacious details and forbidding them from speaking to me, otherwise I "might change their minds with my lies". (Yuh-huh. He knew I might have changed their minds, with the truth.) No one believed him - which is how I found out - but they did just let it drop, never confronting him about it, since apparently he was frightening everyone with his behavior. He'd taken the apartment (never having put my name on the lease), car (ditto), my computer (I was a freelancer, so couldn't work without it, which meant he took my livelihood), cat, furniture, everything except my clothes.

So, he symbolically killed me, without committing a proveable crime, since I was then homeless and jobless in a foreign country (his), and even though no one believed him, they'd been friends (and family) with him longer, so there's only one person among them who still speaks with me. And she feels she has to hide it, for fear of retribution. (Guess who she is? His mother.)

I'm pretty sure that's usually how it works; I was surprised reading your article that he went straight to killing his family. If he hadn't lost every other mirror (church, business, etc.), his wife and children might have lived... physically, anyhow. He may well have divorced his wife, trying to lay as much blame as possible on her to deflect shame (since indeed, narcissists can't/don't feel guilt).

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I swear to goodness that I ... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 7:02 AM | Posted by fraise: | Reply

I swear to goodness that I hadn't finished reading the (long) Crime Library article.

The next day, December 19, Longo told co-workers that MaryJane had been involved in a three-year affair. She had taken the children and moved home to Michigan. They would not be back.

He'd already killed them. And he chose this particular, shaming lie to explain their disappearance...

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Fascinating. And terrifying... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 8:41 AM | Posted by Mae: | Reply

Fascinating. And terrifying.

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anonymous - "If you're a hi... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 10:39 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

anonymous - "If you're a high functioning psychopath, you're antisocial PD/ a "sociopath". You don't behave randomly, impulsively, violently, like a psycho, but you are given to violent/destructive behavior if left to your devices.
Psychopaths are low intelligence minority criminals with no ability to plan for the future, delay gratification, a deficient ability to feel fear or contented, impulsive and aggressive as a rule, IMPOSSIBLE to socialize."

I'd suggest you're merely outlining a class distinction with the difference you're noting between sociopaths and psychopaths. Sociopaths do tend to be better socialized and able to create grandiose identities that are celebrated by society (this could be due to being born into a higher class, or being intelligent or beautiful enough to move into a higher class). They seem to get no less of a thrill hurting or controlling people, they just have more sophisticated means to do so (and more people make excuses for them..."it's a dog eat dog world" etc). Psychopaths, or lower class narcissists have access to less of a spectrum of grandiose identities, being an important/feared criminal may be the best they can access. As a society, we make far more excuses and exceptions for higher class sociopaths than we do for lower class ones (not that our culture doesn't elevate gangsters as well, we just recognize their cruelty rather than pretending that it's just part of doing business). High class sociopaths also behave randomly and violently - and kill their families or others if they fear being exposed. The chief difference is that a low class sociopath's grandiose identity is based upon being violent and cruel, it's being privy to their vulnerability that would put someone at risk (hence they're more likely to beat their wife in public to keep her in line since it affirms their identity, while a high class sociopath will beat his wife but privately and generally not hit her in the face..spousal rape, threatening to take away children, etc are more likely tactics).

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Ok, re the exposure.<... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 12:00 PM | Posted, in reply to Jason's comment, by CC: | Reply

Ok, re the exposure.

There was this Law & Order episode --maybe 10 years ago, and the early suspect was this construction contractor guy because he had financial difficulties. As it turned out, it revolved around an affair. (Amazing; there's a Wikipedia entry on the episode: Act of God, 1995.) Anyway, the contractor had one line where he's explaining some of his actions. Look, he tells the detectives, of course I was hiding the fact that money was tight. Word gets out that I'm borrowing to make payroll and it's all over for me; I lose bids, taken off jobs, guys call in debts. I had a good business. I've done good work on jobs. I figured if I could hold it together and get that next bid, I could get back on track.

I'm just looking for a concession that, in fact, there's a difference between deception and discretion. And any comment on the line between those two ideas.

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Reading this, I couldn't he... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 2:08 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by xon: | Reply

Reading this, I couldn't help thinking of Vizzini. . .

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I read that article last mo... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 4:03 PM | Posted by Tex: | Reply

I read that article last month in Esquire and have had the creeps every since. Scared the heck out of me how some guy could do that to his own wife and kids. Just thinking about the gory details makes me feel nauseous all over again. Thanks for talking about this though, because after reading something creepy like that it's good to process it a bit.

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I just found a new found gr... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 6:38 PM | Posted by Lexi: | Reply

I just found a new found gratitude for my experience of guilt.

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One of my favorite TLP writ... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 9:33 PM | Posted by Nadia: | Reply

One of my favorite TLP writings. I liked it so much that I posted a link to it on my blog...and my ex, who I stopped talking to a year ago, found it right away and commented. He monitors me because no matter what I write, he thinks it's about him. I think he's in disbelief that I am still existing when not connected to him. The back in forth is on my blog; he admits he is a narcissist and has Longo's traits but then gets angry and says everything is too vague.

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Question to anyone willing ... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 9:34 PM | Posted by Jbow: | Reply

Question to anyone willing to answer: how strongly can you feel guilt if it is based on external guidelines (ie religion)? I mean I'd love a set of guidelines to live my life by, but they all seem so man made, so fallible.

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Interesting. I dated a guy... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 10:05 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Interesting. I dated a guy who probably was a sociopath. He told me (and other women) that he was divorced, only he wasn't. He was charming and nice, until he got caught in his lie. He didn't feel guilt or shame when he got caught, only rage. Creepy guy.

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There's an interesting pass... (Below threshold)

January 18, 2010 11:42 PM | Posted, in reply to Jbow's comment, by Basil Valentine: | Reply

There's an interesting passage in the book Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, wherein a character named Marathe explains how he managed to stop feeling miserable after the loss of his legs by devoting his life to a woman he'd saved from an oncoming train. The woman's got all sorts of health problems and is generally in rough shape, so Marathe thinks about taking his newfound happiness and leaving-- but as soon as he moves to do so, the feeling of misery returns.

When compressed into a few sentences, the point is a little trite and obvious, but it's an interesting thought that Wallace brings up in a lot of his work: you can choose what you worship, and that choice has consequences. An excerpt from his Kenyon College commencement speech: "Worship power – you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out". Who/what does that sound like?

Centering your life around God, or some altruistic moral code seems to work better; this doesn't make religion or ethics any more "true" in the scientific sense, it's just an observation. Ultimately the only real axiom you can depend on is Descartes' "I think", everything else is just a leap to faith in one form or another. It just seems like narcissism represents a smaller gap

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Thursday, February 12, 2009... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2010 8:38 AM | Posted by rurald: | Reply

Thursday, February 12, 2009
From the blog "Laudator Temporis Acti"

An Old Saw and a New One
In a University of Chicago dissertation supervised by Paul Shorey, Eliza Gregory Wilkins investigated the adage "Know Thyself" in Greek and Latin Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Libraries, 1917) and found the following different shades of meaning in the Greek saying γνῶθι σαυτόν (in Latin, nosce te ipsum) — know your measure, know what you can and cannot do, know your place, know the limits of your wisdom, know your own faults, know you are human and mortal, and know your own soul. All useful things to know, no doubt.

In light of the ancient popularity of the maxim, I was interested to see Menander's dissent (fragment 181 Kassel and Austin):
In many respects "know thyself" was not well said. For "know others" would have been more useful.

κατὰ πόλλ᾽ γ' ἐστὶν οὐ καλῶς εἰρημένον
τὸ γνῶθι σαυτόν· χρησιμώτερον γὰρ ἦν
τὸ γνῶθι τοὺς ἄλλους.
In our narcissistic, psychoanalytic age, it might be healthier for an individual to turn his gaze away from himself now and then. I propose a different maxim — "know what is outside yourself" (nosce quod est extra te ipsum). Take an interest in something other than yourself for a change.

I have not seen Pierre Courcelle, Connais-toi toi-même de Socrate à Saint Bernard, 3 vols. (Paris, 1974-1975), or Hermann Tränkle, "ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ. Zu Ursprung und Deutungsgeschichte des delphischen Spruchs," Würzburger Jahrbücher für die Altertumswissenschaft N.F. 11 (1985) 19-31

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Thank you Basil... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2010 8:47 AM | Posted, in reply to Basil Valentine's comment, by Jbow: | Reply

Thank you Basil

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"In our narcissistic, psych... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2010 11:32 AM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

"In our narcissistic, psychoanalytic age, it might be healthier for an individual to turn his gaze away from himself now and then. I propose a different maxim — "know what is outside yourself" (nosce quod est extra te ipsum). Take an interest in something other than yourself for a change."

Interesting point. Just to add to it, don't we only truly come to know ourselves when in an honest relationship with others and the world? When our self image, our thoughts about who we are, gets challenged by reality/others that show us that our thoughts and actions don't align? (Being in therapy is all about relationship and having a mirror held up.)

The narcissist gets enraged specifically because the reality of who they are in the real world doesn't align with their fantasy self/identity - it's why they're so hell bent on controlling external "things" (this includes people who they treat as objects). Narcissism takes us away from the world and reality - which is why advertising is such a potent driver of cultural narcissism. Where effective art exposes reality though the use of imagination, advertising obscures reality and attempts to replace/hide it.

Narcissists are actually very focused on the outside world, it's their interior life they try to avoid by controlling the world. They're all surface, no depth. (And the "spiritual narcissist" is no different and, I'm coming to suspect, one of the more dangerous flavors of narcissist. That "The Secret" guy Ray is a prime example of how dangerous "spiritual" narcissists are.) Now, caring for others is certainly a productive thing but that's something that narcissists just don't do. Focusing on others may be a good counter to cultural narcissism, for NPD it just seems to be another way to manufacture a grandiose identity.

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Here's another fine example... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2010 12:39 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

Here's another fine example of spiritual narcissism in action...using the suffering of others to aggrandize oneself while not really giving a crap about the people being used...

http://gawker.com/5451086/john-travolta-to-airlift-desperately-needed-e+meters-to-people-of-haiti

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I am not religious at all. ... (Below threshold)

January 19, 2010 9:18 PM | Posted, in reply to Jbow's comment, by Lexi: | Reply

I am not religious at all. I don't believe in god. I've tried to be thoughtful about what makes a society run well for all of it's members, rather than just one or two. Screwing up is inevitable, and a willingness to own up to the screw up/be seen messing up is important for making a repair/amends with the person that you've hurt. So in terms of how much I feel guilt depends on how much I think I've hurt someone else and I try not to let the guilt take over, just to let it guide me as a signal to know that I've done something that hurt someone, and then, hopefully figure out together what that person and I can do to repair. Additionally, there is kind of an "advanced guilt' warning that I get as well, ie thinking about doing something may make me feel guilty if I think it will hurt the other person.

But sometimes I don't do things because I also want to be 'right', although that is rarely the sole reason it is usually coupled with not wanting to hurt someone.


That being said, I also know that sometimes I am going to hurt people and there is nothing I can do that wouldn't also hurt me to not hurt them (ie breaking up with someone). But how I do it can make it better or worse.

Does that answer your question?

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Brilliant analysis. It's te... (Below threshold)

January 20, 2010 1:19 AM | Posted by Ramkumar Ramachandra: | Reply

Brilliant analysis. It's terrifying how a perfectly normal person can turn out to be a brutal murderer. I've never really understood how people can murder the people they love so much.... until now.

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Ramkumar - Except that he n... (Below threshold)

January 20, 2010 10:22 AM | Posted, in reply to Ramkumar Ramachandra's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Ramkumar - Except that he never was normal, he just looked that way on the surface and to people who don't look very deeply at others (I'm sure there were people who noticed his narcissism, he'd just exclude or revile them). He was actually more "the perfect guy" than any normal person actually is. That's kind of the point. Narcissists usually try to construct very socially impressive false identities, this guy constructed one where he was not only "normal" but better than a normal "good guy". He never loved his wife and children but he loved how they made him feel and look as long as they were serving his needs and sustaining his false self image - they were always objects to be used for his own ends and not individual people to be loved for who they are. His kids and wife were never loved, they were simply used. He killed them to punish them for not serving his narcissism, for ultimately being people and not objects, and for not reflecting back to him is grandiose self image as a "good guy". He also did it as a means to try to exert total control over the/his world and anyone who didn't buy into his bullshit. Normal guys aren't perfect, neither are real good guys (we're all a mix of "good" and "bad"), they're human and flawed like the rest of us.

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Fraise: I'm so sorry. I ho... (Below threshold)

January 20, 2010 12:41 PM | Posted by La BellaDonna: | Reply

Fraise: I'm so sorry. I hope things are better for you now. I hope you've found some safety. It sounds, from what you said, as if his mother has, at the very least, a strong suspicion as to the truth about her son. Not just the truth about his relationship with you, but the truth about what he actually is: a monster.

His mother is afraid of retribution for admitting she knows the truth, that you are not the way he's been portraying you. That's just - that's a lifetime of fear, until he's dead.

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nice post. i think this sto... (Below threshold)

January 21, 2010 10:23 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

nice post. i think this story was on one of those tru crime tv shows. i agree abt the guilt and shame distinction. what i learned in my counseling training fits: you feel guilty for some undesirable behavior, even if you are a decent person; you feel shame if some undesirable behavior is perceived to reveal the bad person you truly are. This distinction is important not only for addressing narcissism clinically, but also for addressing ptsd: some people end up in some terrible circumstance (say, a medic responding to overwhelming earthquake disaster in Haiti), then fail to perform as they believe they sshould perform (fail to reach a person before the person dies in rubble, medical intervention for dehydration, inetrnal bleeding, etc., fails), then gets great problems with shame as they dwell on the thought: I thought I was a good medic (or whatever), how could I fail and let that person die? The medic winds up with shame-based ptsd. Therapy involves discovering if these shame-based views are involved, then having discussions about them with a goal of first: seeing that the tragedy was a set-up to fail - no medic saves each victim's life in an earthquake tragedy the size of Haiti's; then, acknowledge the failure to some degree (or else the medic will figure out that you do not get-it that a bad thing happened and you are a typcial pollyanna counselor); and move the failure-to-behave-optimally from shame to guilt; then develop the part of that person's psyche that does believe that he or she is generally a worthwhile, decent person, if not perfect in all situations.

This is not easy therapy to do. a counselor cannot do it unless the counselor believes that the ptsd client is a decent, worthwhile, if not perfect, person (rogers unconditional positive regard, but it must be true, not fake counselor-mask). there are a lot of ways to mis-step. however, if you can do it well enough, it sure beats ssris or antipsychotics.

if you do this with a narcissist, they mostly will just enjoy the unconditional positive regard, then cast you off once you get close enough to see what they fear they truly are.

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Interesting, I've always un... (Below threshold)

January 21, 2010 4:54 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

Interesting, I've always understood shame and guilt in reverse - with guilty being about not living up to external expectations and shame being about feeling as if one has betrayed one's own self/ethics. Obviously I learned a reverse meaning somewhere! In the case of being abused and feeling shame (er, guilt), I understand that as a misplaced taking of responsibility and belief that one somehow caused the abuse. This is what's so damaging, the belief that one's self was causative somehow.

Do narcissists ever truly feel shame OR guilt? I mean, they may regret tarnishing their image if they get caught but that's neither shame nor guilt really.

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"...The important question ... (Below threshold)

January 22, 2010 3:26 PM | Posted by Jess: | Reply

"...The important question is the one no one asks anymore: what was holding him back?..."

Fear of being revealed.

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Here is an interesting twis... (Below threshold)

January 23, 2010 12:57 PM | Posted by parousia15: | Reply

Here is an interesting twist on a narcissistic murder-suicide: http://www.sphere.com/nation/article/new-york-dairy-farmer-dean-pierson-kills-51-cows-commits-suicide/19328726

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I know it's a little late a... (Below threshold)

February 11, 2010 8:38 PM | Posted by AK: | Reply

I know it's a little late and I'm not a psychiatrist but I wouldn't call that dairy farmer's actions a narcissistic murder-suicide. He had more cows that he did not kill. He only shot the animals who were milking and so would need regular attention (for those who are not involved in agriculture, dairy cows need daily milking otherwise they get to be in pretty serious pain), and his family was not interested in the dairy so he was the only one directly involved who was able to provide that care. Killing those cows was an act of mercy, not a bizarre attempt to preserve an image.

Again, sorry for the late comment but the fellow in question was sort of a friend-of-a-friend so it bothers me to see someone call him a narcissist who killed his animals to protect his self-image.

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After posting that, I reali... (Below threshold)

February 11, 2010 9:15 PM | Posted by AK: | Reply

After posting that, I realize I meant to say "an act of mercy (however misguided, as there were probably others who could step in and care for his livestock)." I also feel I should explain myself a little, as I am also a rancher who has struggled with depression (I am in treatment now which is proving to be quite successful) and has planned out a suicide which involved humanely slaughtering livestock (most farmers who keep livestock know how to humanely kill a large animal with a gun, as it does occasionally come up in emergencies like broken legs) who would have a substantial risk of suffering in my absence. It's not really a sane way of thinking, but the motivation is concern for the suffering of the animals, not some sort of pride or whatever. Animals live in the moment so most people I've met in 25 years of professional ranching who make a living with animals believe that a humane death "before their time" is better than prolonged suffering possibly leading to death. That was certainly my motivation--I made no plans to kill the animals on winter pasture with windmill-powered stock tanks who could survive for a long time without people and also planned for putting out a weeks' worth of food for the dogs and cats so they could survive until someone missed me, but there were some (like my personal dairy cow and some older horses and an elderly pet pig, were in close to the house so we could watch them but also needed to be fed regularly/needed medications or other daily care, or had behavioral problems which meant them finding a new home was pretty unlikely) who I thought it was better to humanely kill when I wasn't there. Thankfully I wound up finding someone to care for my critters and hospitalizing myself for a week, leaving with an effective treatment plan, so I didn't go through with it but I can sympathize with Dean. Most dairy farmers are losing money and hanging on for dear life (keep in mind agriculture is as much a lifestyle as a job so it's not as easy as just quitting, I've worked outside of it as well so I know), and those with underlying psychological problems are really in bad shape.

I'm sorry for harping on this but it's a situation I fear we will be seeing more and more as it becomes increasingly impossible for small family farms to make it in this world of big business agriculture, and I really hate to see farmers who take this route demonized (which probably was not the intention of the poster, but comparing this farmer to a man who murdered his family to keep from admitting that he failed in business is basically doing so to my mind), so I feel it's important to clarify this. Most Americans in my experience are separated from food production/agriculture to a large enough degree that this is not obvious to them. I'm not saying that what Dean did was a good thing, far from it, but I don't think he should be demonized either. I didn't know him personally but know those who did and by all accounts I've heard he was a good man who loved his animals and simply suffered from depression and desperation and felt this was his only way out. I just hope anyone else who feels like that can find another way.

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Not mentioned here is a par... (Below threshold)

February 17, 2011 11:47 AM | Posted by JAMES LEONARD PARK: | Reply

Not mentioned here is a part of Christian Longo's life since 2010,
which will also get into the news soon:
He wants to donate all of his reusable organs after execution.
See further information and links here:
Portal for ORGAN DONATION AFTER EXECUTION:
http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/P-ORGAN.html

James Leonard Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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I personally would want a o... (Below threshold)

April 21, 2011 2:12 PM | Posted by TT: | Reply

I personally would want a one on one with this jackass because I know how dig. Doesn't matter WHAT you are labeled. There are ways of making people feel the guilt. If he doesn't know why? Just frickin' LET him know. Rub it in his face..make him FEEL the guilt and shame. Make him REMEMBER and show him his own stupidity in not asking for help or looking elsewhere.

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I suggest to all prisoners ... (Below threshold)

April 21, 2011 3:24 PM | Posted by James Leonard Park: | Reply

I suggest to all prisoners on death row (more than 3000 in the USA)
that they write their stories from their own points of view.
We might not believe everything they write,
since any telling has a spin,
but such stories still might be useful as cautionary tales
to know what led them into the behavior that put them on death row.
Christian Longo now admits that he is guilty of killing
all four other members of his family.

And he wants to donate all of his organs after his execution.
If any reader of this message wants to look more deeply into this,
go to: Portal for ORGAN DONATION AFTER EXECUTION:
http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/P-ORGAN.html

Yours,
James Leonard Park, advocate of prisoner organ donation.

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his wife did nothing but lo... (Below threshold)

April 26, 2011 5:59 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by sickoflongo: | Reply

his wife did nothing but love him and their children, that is a really stupid comment you stated.

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nothing is being said about... (Below threshold)

June 13, 2011 9:01 PM | Posted by jeri: | Reply

nothing is being said about the pressure he received from the watchtower, those " friends" one can do without. I bet he doesn't get in the 144,0000 to heaven

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this is my belief that narc... (Below threshold)

August 1, 2011 12:21 AM | Posted, in reply to Basil Valentine's comment, by jamed fraese: | Reply

this is my belief that narcism is caused by some kind of personal trauma as a defense mechanism the subject then create a new persona a new identity.

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This sociopath needs a reli... (Below threshold)

October 7, 2011 5:07 PM | Posted by Bob Roberts: | Reply

This sociopath needs a relief from his non-feelings, a relief from his non-guilt, a relief from his blood pressure, a relief from his hard breathing. Oh please justice system, give this man relief FROM LIFE!!!

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I was in a 10 year "love" r... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2011 9:32 PM | Posted by Carrie: | Reply

I was in a 10 year "love" relationship with a man I believe is a narcissist.
When I met him he was "too good to be true", the perfect man in my eyes. Intelligent, witty, charming, caring, compassionate, even tempered, easy to talk to, non-judgmental, romantic, giving, almost naive yet with a touch of "bad boy" and so in love with me. He quite literally swept me off my feet and I couldn't believe my good fortune to have this man in my life.

As time went by it became apparent he was a pathological liar and had an unpredictable and violent temper. If he sensed I was prepared to leave him his behaviour got very scary. He had a tracking device hidden on my vehicle, video camera hidden in the house pointed at where I usually sat, an intercom speaker hidden to listen in on my conversations. My vehicles always had mechanical problems only he could fix. He even admitted to me once that he felt I could leave him if my truck wasn't running.

The more I learned about his secret life, the more of his lies that were uncovered the more bizarre was his behaviour and the more I feared for my life. I even told him to his face that if anything should happen to me or my dog he would be the first person my family would name as a suspect.

But one morning I walked out to go to work and he was under my truc, I asked what he was doing and he said he thought he saw something broken under my truck but it was nothing. Later that day my brake line went and I had no steering or brakes; luckily I was on flat ground at the time. My brake line went twice.

Another time he messaged me to be careful, bizarre; he'd never said that before, not 1/2 an hour later my front tire bLew in the highway going 110 km /hr. It was by the grace of God (and maybe some good driving) that I kept it on the road. I left shortly after that and he was immediately involved with another woman.

I had the truck checked over and there were strategic bolts loosened, wheels that were about to fall off etc he had been abusive at times but I never pressed charges, if I had died in some freak accident where my brakes failed or my wheel fell off he would have been successful in keeping me from blowing his cover plus would have gotten attention for being the grieving lover. No one would have suspected a thing and his facade would have remained intact.

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I'm just hobbyist, but i wo... (Below threshold)

December 22, 2011 1:42 PM | Posted by Pa: | Reply

I'm just hobbyist, but i wouldn't label him as a NPD. I think he's a sociopath with narcissistic tendencies.

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Christian longo is evil. He... (Below threshold)

March 17, 2012 9:32 PM | Posted by michelle schenck: | Reply

Christian longo is evil. He feels no guilt about murdering his wife and 3 children. The only remorse he feels is for himself about getting caught,

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Is that what Descartes was ... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2012 11:26 AM | Posted, in reply to Basil Valentine's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Is that what Descartes was saying? (I never liked that quotation). But seriously---because that would be very interesting, as Descartes was very religious. It didn't 'feel' right to me---it didn't parse---so I looked it up and I can't find the basis for what you're saying. I did find a nice critique of 'I think therefore I am' by Kierkegaard. (I have no idea if I spelled his name right or not, though). Kierkegaard did a great thing--- he took the idea and reworked it in such a way as to make it psychologically more sound----it seems to me philosophers never do that as a rule.

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Based on personal experienc... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2012 11:39 AM | Posted, in reply to rurald's comment, by Cindy: | Reply

Based on personal experience, sometimes I am better with others if I take care of myself first; it's the taking care of me that clears me up to see other people.
Nobody ever says that on this site. But if anyone has an opinion about that I'd love to hear it.

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You are better of to be a h... (Below threshold)

March 18, 2012 11:37 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You are better of to be a homosexual than to judge. LOL

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I seem to fit the dterio ty... (Below threshold)

August 3, 2012 12:10 AM | Posted by cb: | Reply

I seem to fit the dterio type for bad things. 37 single man one kid fighting to see. beat ss child by mother. demeaned all through youth. Picked on at school. Alcoholic dry 5 years. read many things putting me right there in the characteristic average to do bad. Hate to realize this of course. Don't plan to hurt anyone or myself in fact what intriuges me the most about this story is. The fact that this HORRIBLE souless man may just be able to save hundreds even thousands of lives shouls he succed. That begs the question to me. probably not understood by many. Could that possibly be a God made desicion. 4 must perish in order for countless to live. What a wonderfull legecy for the 4 lost souls. If they had a choice knowing there time on earth is shortened in order for hundreds tobe lengthened. What would you or they chose?
I know thats way out but I myself have been put through hell by false accusations and have chosen to fight for changein our systen.In fact its the only way I can accept my fait. That I should suffer in order for others to not. I could see tis kinda accusatiob turn a man suicidle and chose to help him in order to make sence of my suffering.
A weird parallel in this story to mine but way less trajic.
Exept for me and my child. we suffer but will be the voice of change.
I hope he gets his law passed and pays his debt to the higher power!

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I dated a narcissist for a ... (Below threshold)

November 4, 2013 3:10 AM | Posted by anonymous: | Reply

I dated a narcissist for a relatively short time, but in that time she got into my head like nothing had before. In the beginning she was the perfect woman, the one that completed me. The signs were there from the beginning but I was too infatuated -- and coming out of a painful divorce -- too vulnerable to see them. When I did see them I managed to end the relationship on my terms, but the mental anguish that followed was nearly unbearable. You can't understand it until you've lived it. Once I saw the truth and understood the depth of her lack of empathy, compulsion for destruction and deceit, and her uncanny ability to pass herself off as not just as a functioning person, but one of the most charming, intelligent, interesting, and attractive women you've ever met, I felt that I'd been in the clutches of something distinctly malevolent and not human...supernatural is a word I'm comfortable using to describe the effect she had on me. I'm a big guy, a combat veteran, mountain climber, martial artist, self-sufficient and seldom ruled by fear, but when I left her I was afraid. She made the hair literally stand up on the back of my neck and I had nightmares in which she first taunted, and then murdered me...heavy stuff. So I understand the journalist's seeming obsession with Longo. He saw something that seemed human, like himself, but he can't reconcile the image with the horror. I was obsessed as well, I couldn't stop turning it over in my mind, couldn't find an answer that satisfied. The only answer that comes close to working is that they aren't human, and you just have to accept that, like vipers and hyenas, they serve some sort of purpose. She doesn't scare me any more, she's lost her hold on me and I've turned the experience into something positive, but I wouldn't turn my back on her, and I wouldn't discount her willingness to destroy or damage, whether physically or emotionally, if she thought she could get away with it. One benefit of my obsession was the extensive research I did on NPD and the other Cluster B disorders. As a result I don't believe there is anything separating them, they are all the same condition with the differences being in individual personality, environment, intelligence and the magnitude of their compulsions and appetite for destruction balanced (or not balanced) against their ability and/or will to control them. It seems to me now that what defines a human being is not self-awareness or the ability to reason, but the ability to empathize and to see other humans as possessing intrinsic value of their own. There are more of them out there than you think, some with enough control to fit in, and some without, but all potentially dangerous.

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Dear Dr Obodo, Aft... (Below threshold)

November 13, 2013 5:07 PM | Posted by GET HELP FROM DOC OBODO @ TEMPLEOFANSWER@HOTMAIL.CO.UK: | Reply

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Anon Nov4 '13 3:10AM... (Below threshold)

December 20, 2013 12:19 AM | Posted, in reply to anonymous's comment, by Tripp Hanning: | Reply

Anon Nov4 '13 3:10AM
We're all potentially dangerous, to varying degrees.
'Cluster B' types seem most likely to/capable of justifying/exonerating [to themselves & others] behaviors that other people might stop at merely mitigating or excusing while still feeling the guilt.

In terms of any criminal or otherwise antisocial act:
"I Felt like it; all the 'why' I'll ever need or care about."-psychopath,
distinction between HIS perception of'SELF' and anyone else's is either meaningless or useless?

"It is/was necessary! They must never know/find out about this damage of/insult to my self-image!"-narcissist,
everyone else's perception of his 'self' AS DESCRIBED BY THE NARCISSIST is the entire POINT?

A 'borderline' would be a narcissist-by-proxy acting on behalf of the narcissist-in-charge? In other words, they feel the guilt, but acting on behalf of the identity-provider is more important than-and-sufficiently mitigates/excuses the inevitable guilt?

Whereas the 'merely antisocially disordered person' may simply be UNable to stop themselves from committing antisocial/criminal behaviors; may even feel guilt after the behavior if they fail to internally mitigate/excuse justify such behavior that they know as wrong, and understand the difference between explanation, excuse/ mitigation, justification, and exoneration of a 'bad' behavior?

I am NOT a psychologist/psychiatrist/related-whatever-type person, just a layperson trying to understand how to parse the info, hence the question marks.)

In another entry of this blog, I read that it is markedly more difficult to know/perceive/conceive/understand the inner thoughts of anyone, than to apply the same to their behaviors/actions, which is why this layman would appreciate the redefinition of 'personality disorders' as 'behavior disorders', rendering the term 'personality disorder' archaic?

In other words, what do you call a person who has everything in common with [either] narcissistic [or even psychopathic] thought patterns, yet be completely bereft of malevolence/antisocial tendencies [besides a 'good person']?

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4 years later so it's not i... (Below threshold)

February 6, 2014 8:31 AM | Posted, in reply to fraise's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

4 years later so it's not important but will say so anyway. If Chris was disfellowshipped then it was not from one 'mistake' no one gets that from a one time act. She, on the other hand, was not on the outs, that's not how it works, Chris' wife chose her husband over her religion, she did not have to leave and in fact, she and the children did still attend on occasion in Oregon. She was counseled on certain things about her husband, she was offered help if she needed it because he did show signs of certain behaviors JW deemed as a possible danger to his family. She chose to believe her husband and stick with him through thick and thin. But JW never, ever abandoned that family, Chris moved his family away and began to keep them separate from everyone, family, religion, etc, which is a sign of an abusive husband btw. JW do not shun people, people who have been disfellowshipped can still enter the so called 'church' but they can not take part in certain functions of that religion and a JW is advised against socializing with such a person because bad fellowship spoil useful habits. But that family was not shunned, Chris made sure his family's life revolved around him.

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I want to say thanks to thi... (Below threshold)

May 23, 2014 2:31 AM | Posted by sarah: | Reply

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