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Thursday, May 8, 2014


A commenter, "Steven," gave an insightful response to Prison Pen Pals IX:

I thought it was interesting that a few of them said they were spontaneous or liked to live in the moment. That bit is probably true -- impulsive, uninhibited -- but it kind of sounds attractive so it can go in.

I replied:

You hit it right on the head: "spontaneity" generally has positive connotations, but it basically equals impulsiveness, which is one of the hallmarks of sociopathy. These inmates know that if they use the word it will be interpreted as sexually spontaneous, i.e., they're promising their prospective correspondents that they're up for sex, anytime and anywhere. But in fact the other way they've exhibited that trait in the past is by spontaneously pulling a trigger, or spontaneously smashing a bottle across someone's face.

It is striking how many inmates, both male and female, describe themselves as "spontaneous." (Look at those ads.) Society generally assigns a positive value to being spontaneous. After all, the opposite is to be a stick in the mud, a boring worrywart who is not fun to be around and who doesn't even seem to want excitement.

By contrast, a "spontaneous" person is one who is always up for adventure, and has never lost touch with his inner child. The implications, as I stated above, are sexy. But in fact, it just means having little impulse control. 

While such a person may be fun in the short term -- as a sociopath can be -- they will inevitably be trouble in the long run. They may not be able to resist having sex with you, but they won't be able to resist having sex with anyone else, either. They also won't be able to resist having just one more drink before they hit the road, or an impulse purchase (with your money), or a hit of crack. When they're angry, they won't be able to resist lashing out in the most hurtful way -- and not just verbally. They'll avail themselves of whatever's at hand, be that a knife, a baseball bat, or a gun. 

And that's why people like this end up in prison. 

We all have to make spur of the moment decisions -- like whether or not to steal that fancy car with the ignition running. For most of us, it's an easy decision. In fact, it's so easy that we never really consider the bad alternative. For someone with no impulse control, i.e., with no the inhibitions against doing the wrong thing, it's difficult to resist the temptation. 

(This is why so many inmates also say that they ended up where they are because of "wrong choices.")

Be forewarned. Although the idea of a free spirit or an unfettered soul may sound appealing, their charm will wear off very quickly.


Steven said...

Hey, this is cool. I'm honoured :-D

Also, living in the moment would perhaps be just doing whatever you feel like without thinking about the consequences. Just do it because it feels good now or it seems like a good idea at the time. Not so good when you live in a prison cell day after day, week after week, for years. The woman who took a guy into a trap to be robbed by her boyfriend said she lived in the moment.

The phrase you used 'free spirit' that's exactly what I associated with spontaneous- fun and free spirited, exciting, light.

John Craig said...

Steven --
You're right, not being concerned about the future is a big part of being spontaneous/living in the moment.

It's actually tied in to another common behavior of sociopaths, which is lying for the sake of self-aggrandizement. Sociopaths realize that eventually they will be caught in their lies, but if they get admiration at the moment for the grandiose lies, they bask in the 9false) glory of it, and enjoy themselves at that moment.

Yes, I'm always a little leery of people who claim to be free spirits. There are plenty of flaky women who aren't sociopaths but who also aren't particularly responsible who call themselves that. I know I won't have to REALLY watch out for them, but at the same time I know they'll be sort of undependable and will believe in a lot of things along the lines of astrology.

Anyway, yeah, the philosophers all have said to seize the day/carpe diem, which is another way of saying to live in the moment, but I don't think they fully realized the psychological implications of what they were saying.

Though, I have to admit, there are times when I wish I was a bi tore like a sociopath, as much as I detest them.

Steven said...

And "live each day as if its your last". What? Visit all your close family and friends to tell them you love them, then spend 3 hours in a brothel? Also, I'm guessing you would end up pretty fat if you lived by this.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, that expression too.

Fat, and maybe with an STD or two.

Steven said...

So basically if you lived every day as if it was your last, you'd be fat, broke, have syphilis and your family would be avoiding your calls.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Or you'd be in jail advertising for pen pals.