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Monday, December 18, 2017

A conversation with a psychopath

I had an interesting conversation last week with a commenter who told me he was a psychopath. It took place after the Murder victims' ages post from December 2012 if you want to see it in its entirety. (There are no other comments on the post.)

Mark (his pseudonym) started out by saying he was researching Cluster B personalities, but in fairly short order admitted that he was a psychopath. He took pains to explain the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths:

The documentaries I Youtubed all roughly say that Psychopaths are not evil per say but are simply the most CAPABLE of harm and evil SINCE they are essentially robots that mimic human emotions brilliantly (thus avoid being exposed) and SINCE they think the most rationally and logically that therefore they're armed with the best arsenal of necessary skills to commit the MOST destructive and MOST efficient harm/evil; think of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie terminator. After all Psychopaths unlike Sociopaths plan and execute their crimes/schemes with deadly efficacy and efficiency leaving little to no evidence behind all the while achieving precisely what they desired. Sociopaths tend to be very messy with their evil endeavors with poor planning and poor results since they act with impulse and Rage.

These documentaries frequently mention that most Psychopaths don't use their 'superior logic' for evil but rather to obtain an advanced career and/or become rich & famous eg. wall-street big shot, Hollywood superstar, genius scientist or clever politician.

This is in contrast to Sociopaths/MNs who are very sensitive to how people perceive them (Psychopaths are mostly indifferent to how people perceive them) MNs/Sociopaths unlike Psychopaths are rather highly emotional and they use intense rage and impulsiveness as opposed to total calculating logic to commit harm/evil (this causes a lot of mess for them) and most importantly they are proudly and willfully evil. On a site note: paradoxically Sociopaths/MNs are capable of empathy for a small circle of people of their choosing in contrast to Psychopaths who literally have empathy for no one.

I replied:

I know there are people who liked to distinguish between sociopaths and psychopaths, saying that psychopaths were born that way because of their abnormal brain circuitry, whereas sociopaths basically became that way because of the (relatively loveless or even abusive) way they were brought up. I don't subscribe to that distinction.

For all practical purposes, since they act exactly the same, they ARE the same. I'm not an expert on the physiology of the brain, and I don't doubt that abnormalities in the frontal lobe can cause people to act more like sociopaths...

I'm more interested in behavior than brain physiology (that's just another way of saying I know little of the latter), so I don't make the distinction between sociopaths and psychopaths. What you've described above (in terms of who gets away with crimes, who achieves success, and so on) is basically the difference between high-IQ and low-IQ sociopaths. 

We argued the point a bit, then agreed to disagree. I admit, though, that by the end of the conversation I had moved a step in his direction.

One of the interesting things Mark said is that he's not really into music, which made sense. If, as Tolstoy said, music is the shorthand of emotion, then since sociopaths lack the full range of emotions, a lot of music's effect will be lost on them. Certainly the types of songs which are supposed to evoke inchoate romantic longing and sentimental journeys are not going to stir them. 

When I thought about it, I realized that the two sociopaths I've known best -- I had extended contact with both -- never expressed the slightest interest in music, nor did they ever play any when I was around them. 

I asked Mark what happened when he met another psychopath. (It has always been my impression that fireworks will erupt, as both are essentially alphas who will not abide the presence of another encroaching on their territory.) He said that he could usually pick them out just from their body language. Psychopaths will often just fix someone with a cold, reptilian stare (my words, not his) and essentially just wait for the other person to flinch. And most non-psychopaths will blink, in fairly short order, and feel obliged to end the silence with some kind of talk.

I found that fascinating. I had always figured that sociopaths recognized each other the same way the rest of us recognize them, by gradually figuring out from their words and actions what they are. Evidently the process is much shorter.

Mark also said that when he did come across another psychopath, he basically just avoided him.

Of course, once someone tells you he's a psychopath, you have to put up your defenses. There are only two possibilities in that situation. If he's lying about being a psychopath, then he's a liar who can't be trusted. But if he's telling the truth about being a psychopath, then he's a liar who can't be trusted. Either way....

But strangely, I got the sense that Mark was being relatively truthful with me, and much of what he said rang true.

Mark also said that he enjoyed trolling. That certainly fits with the literature on the subject, that a lot of trolls are sociopaths or otherwise Machiavellian personalities.

But he also said he wasn't going to troll me, and was complimentary on a number of occasions. When I told him I'd have to write off his flattery as psychopathic manipulation, he seemed amused.

It was a little strange having a civil, almost friendly conversation with an admitted psychopath. I devote a sizable portion of the blog to the proposition that sociopaths are the scum of the earth, yet here I was chatting away with one almost as if we were buddies. Knowing that he's a psychopath, I'd never want to meet him, as no possible good could come of it. But on this blog, as in real life, I try to act towards others as they act towards me, which I guess means...that I'm easily manipulated.

Anyway, I now consider myself more educated on the subject of sociopathy -- or psychopathy. I'd never been aware of the music thing before, but it makes perfect sense. And the bit about psychopaths recognizing each other right off the bat just from their body language made sense too.

The entire conversation is after this post.


Steven said...

It reminds me of the scene from 'the lives of others' in which the brilliant stasi spy Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler is listening into the apartment of the famous playwright Drayman who is playing Beethoven on his piano. Wiesler is in the midst of his transformation and he is visibly moved by the music. After he finishes, Drayman, who is himself deeply disillusioned, tells his girlfriend that Lenin appreciated Beethoven's Appassionata and asks her this: "Can anyone who has heard this music, I mean truly heard it, really be a bad person?"

Lenin himself was probably a psychopath but there you go.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Hannibal Lecter was supposed to have been transported by classical music, but he was a fictional character, and that was just one of Thomas Harris's artistic flourishes. I read somewhere recently that sociopaths like two songs in particular, and when I listened to them (both were rap songs, one was by Eminem), they were obviously not songs intended to make one feel sentimental, but rather, warlike. (And personal, I don't even consider rap to be music; to me, music has to have a tune as well as a beat.)

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what are those songs?

Steven said...

What were the songs? Til I collapse? Like Toy soldiers?

John Craig said...

Anon --
Just looked it up. Black street's "No Diggity" and Eminem's "Lose Yourself."

Here's the article:

Anonymous said...

I knew a sociopath IRL who was really into Lady Gaga and Pink Floyd, so much that he had a Pink Floyd tattoo.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
I'm not really familiar with Lady Gaga's music, but Pink Floyd isn't really the kind of music which evokes sentiment, though it does create a mood. I would think the type of music which sociopaths would appreciate less would be, for instance, Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds, or any Richard Rodgers' music, or Tchaikovsky's ballets. But even those, I probably shouldn't make a blanket statement out of.

One of the above-mentioned two sociopaths I knew best once went to a Broadway musical with his wife, and he told us he just fell asleep his seat.

Runner Katy said...

This was helpful, and even the stare bit is news to me! The sociopath that I knew well seemed interested in music, but it may have just been because I was a singer for so many years, and he knew I liked music. More great clues, thank you for sharing!

John Craig said...

Runner Katy --
Thank you.

You were a singer? What kind of music did you sing? Were you with a band?

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in knowing more about the staring aspect of psychopaths. If you think about it, the average person doesn't stare at others and if caught looking at someone for too long, you look away because you feel awkward. If a person stares at you and doesn't look away, is this a sign of a disordered person? In my 20's, I dated a Filipino and I did catch him staring at me at times (across a room type of thing), but never thought that he was disordered. When I caught him staring at me, he never seemed ill at ease. However, he did have a mother who was cold, heartless woman, having treated her husband and all of her children harshly. This boyfriend shared with me that when his mother was 16, she had been raped by the town drunk. Apparently, his mother sought this man out and killed him. This occurred in the Philippines.

- birdie

Justin said...

Hi John,

I don't think you're correct about the music thing. My sample size of 3 sociopaths all seemed to genuinely enjoy music. One was heavy into classical music and jazz, to the point of being a major hobby. Another dabbled in electronic music production in high school.

John Craig said...

Birdie --
That sure sounds as if your Filipino boyfriend might have been a sociopath. Having a mother like that is fertile soil for sociopathy to develop.

Usually when someone stares at you like that, it means they're coming on to you.

John Craig said...

Justin --
I was using a sample size of two (three including "Mark"), so I could well be wrong. I would point out, though, that neither jazz nor electronic music fall into the schmaltzy, sentimentality-inducing category.

Martin Black said...

Hi John,

Your sample size might be too small, I know a sociopath who loved music as well. I can also think of numerous minorities who like those two songs, heck they play it in my gym a lot during workouts.

I've also been tracking tells I see in sociopaths I met in real life. The number one give away is the word salad or speaking like a 45 year old man (proper and sophisticated) especially when they are just in their twenties.

Another one is offering to play a significant role in your life having recently known you in relation to your other friends. For example, suggesting they be your best man at your wedding after only known you for a year and knowing you have many other friends who you are even closer to and have known for decades.

Last, the smirk when they think they are tricking you, it's like the can't resist the smirk. All of the above applies to male and female, and they could even be other cluster B types.

Those three tells have helped me a lot.

Martin Black

John Craig said...

Martin --
Those songs are both good for getting "psyched up," or revved up for a workout; but neither is a sentiment-inducing song. But yeah, my sample size was awfully small.

I hadn't been aware of the speaking beyond one's age thing. But now that you mention it, it does ring a bell. They do tend to be quite glib and good on their feet. And speaking in complete sentences with fancy words could be an aspect of that.

And yes, wanting to immediately jump into the role of best friend, becoming familiar way too quickly, that's absolutely right.

The smirk? I'll have to look out for that one. But thanks for the tips.

LBD said...

Staring, forcing prolonged eye contact, is a very hostile gesture throughout the animal world, especially with carnivorous animals. If you really want to have a strange dog attack you, just stare at him straight in the eyes.

Dogs show friendliness in part by partially closing their eyes and averting their gaze.

John Craig said...

LBD --
That makes sense, our dog will always look away when I look him in the eye.

I've always associated prolonged stares with homosexuals who came on to me when I was young. When I'm walking down the street, I usually look at people, but if I see them looking at me, I'll just look away. But after a couple seconds I'll look back. Homosexual men will just continue to try to hold your gaze, and I always found that annoying. In any case, for that reason, I always associated it with coming on to someone.

But the psychopathic thing makes sense too.

Anonymous said...

When someone is staring at you, aren't they just sizing you up?

John Craig said...

Anon --
I suppose if someone wants to fight you, they'd size you up, but they'd do it by giving you the once over, looking you up and down. I suppose holding your gaze is a form of sizing you up psychologically.

Anonymous said...

Many would seem to deny they grew up in dysfunctional families or had abnormalities if those are the cases.

Yes, there are neurodiversity types who are sociopaths. They believe they are useful to society and are fine just the way they are.

And I really hate trolls, I used to not care. But they have gotten as of this decade "moral", they don't go around making people angry so much as they are the angry ones.
It feels closer to borderline in this sense than sociopathy. Some of these "trolls" even call others sociopaths. Like "every single (insert target group) is just a sociopath waiting to rape you, they are just sociopath retards and ruin lives the same way those damn (insert target group)"

Examples of the older sort is some single guy, or 3-4 people at most going onto twitter and posting the n-word all over some random person's page or rickrolling people. A modern one is some guy attacking some Jewish person but saying "think of all the oppressed muslims you dirty k***! Hitler should have gotten all of you, Hitler was a Jew you know!" or you can switch muslims for jews and see the same thing, and they are not lone wolves, but act in huge armies which seems too organized.

You hear tripe, I've even heard guys in real life say similar tripe these "brave people" proclaim like "Stalin/Mao/Hitler was misunderstood" "It's a shame, but homeless people all need to be killed" "(Famous movie) was overrated". (Google "meta contrarianism" you might find it interesting)

Maybe sociopaths pull the strings? But a lot of these new trolls are self proclaimed "brave people" "truth speakers" "what we said is cruel and heartless but it's the truth!". Operating out of 4chan, ED, and reddit. Way too organized, something is going on. They are like the counterpart to SJWs, an inverse parody almost, the perfect enemy SJWs want. Sociopaths? The Cabal? Borderlines? Internet asshole syndrome? Meta contrarianism?

I would like to find out.


LBD said...

John, your experience with homosexuals is consistent with animal behavior. One reason the atare makes animals nervous is that staring is what a predator does to prey before the predator moves in for the kill. The vody language says “I am hunting and YOU are prey”.

John Craig said...

LBD --
Are you trying to tell me I'm a "bottom?"

LBD said...

Hey, it’s not me who’s staring at you, I wouldn’t like to speculate.

John Craig said...

LBD --
C'mon, just joking.

LBD said...

Yeah, I know. Me too.

Anonymous said...

Well It does really seem that these commenters are evidence To what I have been saying all along, they describe the sociopaths they met as being fans to music which evokes extreme adrenaline, Yet we psychopaths dont waste time with such indulgent distractions, we don't need music like sociopaths, who really use it to gain courage and try to make sense of their anti-social nature, like the anon above said sociapaths like evil eg. mao/stalin for the sake of being a badboy. Psychopaths are never confused and hesitant about their lifestyle and never were so in their lifetime so they dont need msuic to empower them.
I have stated earlier that I find such nazi fan boys or even stalin fan boys to be atmost pathetic, unlike them I never pretend to represent he 'greater good' whenever I commit harm

Psychopaths are too esteemed and assured about their capabilities and worth to resort to such cheap villain dicksucking, In every criminal syndicate you find a bunch of sociopaths who steal,murder and destroy because they think it makes them superior and cool and the one man who's the boss of these idiots is the psychopath. Think of latin american gangster and drug cartels, the stupid gangster front line soldier dies for the cold calculating cartel psychopath boss. and the boss dont give a damn about sentiments such as pride,masculinity and other meaningless words that only chain them.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Then I guess the two whom I knew best were psychopaths and not sociopaths then. Though both of them paid lip service to noble sentiments from time to time when it suited their needs.

Do you think the following people were sociopaths or psychopaths: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Bill Clinton?

Anonymous said...

Psychopaths can insert any mask imaginable to normal humans to serve their interests virtually perfectly an the sociopaths cannot. Such noble sentimentalities displayed by your 2 psychopath friends is nothing more than a perfect fabrication.

You seem to recycle your questions, you already asked me about gacy and clinton

As for bundy and dahmer my judgement is psychopathy, both engaged in atmost malicious violence
for no sentimental reason and always bore a robotic face with the occasional smile, suggesting they felt neither pride or guild or any emotion for that matter, they thought and felt absolutely nothing of their crimes.

I am going to just expand on Gacy, Gacy who experienced severe prolonged abuse and the fact that his his way of handling with his victims reflected the abuse he himself was the recipient of, easily points towards sociopathy. Him fitting the bill of a Sociopath can further be explained by his interview and interactions he had with the press. He rather was very sentimental and proud, he believed that his actions were for a noble cause and he at frequent occasions lost his cool and threw pathetic tantrums at the interviewer, all this is in contrast to the ice old collective calmness and cunning wits displayed by our psycho killers.

Anonymous said...

Since were playing the game of who can name the celebrity psycho, my move would be to point out the ultimate dictator Joseph Stalin,a true psychopath. Stalin didn't waste time exhausting himself with extravagant passionate speeches he instead spent more time LISTENING gathering every bit of information about everybody as much as possible, after that he could simply get rid of any opposition, thats why hes called a man of steel, he didn't waste time with sentimentality he spread a clear message that no one can cross him. The terrified Soviets immidietly realized that he had 0 mercy for anyone who dared to cross him. Unlike the fuhrer he didn't give a damn about ubermensch myths when in came to warfare; he listened to every intelligent advice given by his generals, scientists, economists, logisticians.. etc when fighting the war (only to steal the credit later for himself), He did whatever it took to win, can you say the same of the schizophrenic Hitler?, or the sociopathtic Saddam? (who made the worst military decisions known to man). So now are you able to wake up and realize that theres a damn difference. I am not fanboying Stalin here, I declare him to be a mass murderer and a menace to humanity but we can't ignore the realities of his unmatched cunning and cruelty.
we psychopaths are born with a different brain and a different physiology but the sociopaths aren't.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Okay, thanks for the answers. The reason I asked you about Dahmer was that supposedly the reason he kept the body parts of his victims around him rather than disposing of the evidence was because he didn't want to be "lonely." He didn't like the idea that his lovers could just leave him, so he kept them around. Doesn't that sound more like a sociopath than a psychopath?

As far as Stalin, while I don't disagree about the particulars of how he ruled, it seems to me that there are a lot of psychopaths who, if given absolutely power the way Stalin had, would behave like him. I've heard different estimates of how many people he killed, but whether it's 30 million or 60 million, he was the greatest mass murderer of all time; but I think that a lot of psychopaths -- or even sociopaths -- would do that if they had the means to, and they knew they could get away with it.

One guy I can't figure out is Kim Jong Un. He doesn't fit any syndrome that I can see. What do you make of him?

Anonymous said...

What you said about him is the slick fabricated exploits he espoused to the press.
He was rather socially isolated in his school years and suffered a family dysfunction with his parent's divorce and he used this convenient narrative to try to give a more sympathetic reason for his murders, something that normal humans could relate to and feel some level of solidarity. "uhm ya I killed them because they all seemed lovely and beautiful and I didn't want them to leave me lonely" In reality he was CURIOUS to open the 'beautiful' insides of small rodents ( as a child and teen); can loneliness also explain rodent murder?.Truth is: he simply was born with an unquenchable killer instinct and no he didn't suffer substantial abuse (in his early childhood)for it to have been the trigger of his disorder.

What if you I told you all his supposed apologies and remorse that he expressed to the media, was all perfectly crafted fabrications. When he wasn't giving out crafted lies, his body and face and eyes resembled the coldness of the thundra.
Thats what separates psychopath criminals from sociopath criminals, the psychopath is very calm and deceptively open and honest about what he did, they profess that they are very dangerous and that their victims didn't deserve it. Sociopaths pathetically attempts to justify their crimes and try to shift the blame to the victim (something a child would do) and always use the media to further their narcissistic ego supply, such behavior is sluggish manipulation at best. People easily call their bluff.
Sociopaths mostly espouse BS what they themselves WISH to hear and believe. aka pussy fox
Psychopaths espouse BS what OTHER people WANT/NEED to hear and believe. aka Siberian Tiger

Kim jong uhn despite delivering mindbogglingly brutal punishments to his adversaries seem to me as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (not anti social) and he extends this narcissism beyond himself and to his country, The fat man wants to believe he and his country is the best at everything. His old man by contrast seemed more rational and calculative despite being similarly brutal/cruel..

John Craig said...

Mark --
That makes sense, and is quite possible. The thing is, his situation is so unique, having been brought up by a publicly revered dictator and an ambitious actress mother, and spoiled beyond measure, it's hard to fit him into any standard category. And many of his actions go beyond what a standard narcissist would do. If he's a narcissist, he's just another Donald Trump, psychologically. But his actions make him appear to be far more unbalanced. But what you say makes sense, even though we have to look at him through Western eyes, which make his brutality seem a function of his personality rather than partly of his culture.

Anonymous said...

Yes you make a great point about KJU's behavior and personality being shaped by his family status and his culture, indeed this could be true

I personality reckon however that he does have narcissistic personality disorder
remember that narcissism just like Sociopathy is a product of nurture or how the person's upbringing was, the man man was born into one of the richest and most powerful families on earth, being the son of a dictator of a country of 22 million whom revered his family as a god,then he lead a comfortable life in swiss, attending a prestigious private school on top of being his dad' favorite successor (despite being the youngest of 3 sons).He was practically mouth fed with a golden spoon since he was born. Such an over-privileged upbringing can easily ignite narcissism.

Now lets look at his tenure as the 'supreme reader' This fool invites Dennis Rodman to his country for fun (despite Dennis being an evil American) simply to satisfy his juvenile desires, he shows off the fact that he executed his uncle with an anti-aircraft battery, he executes another official by feeding him to hungry dogs (his father might also done this but KJU made no effort in concealing this), he felt entitled enough to foolishly challenge Trump (who is the chief of the world most powerful military) and finally acting against the advice of the party he drastically opened up N.Korea to the outside world economically (in an attempt to modernize the country), not realizing that once the people get more prosperous and have access to the outside world that they would actually revolt against the dynasty, his father knew that he had to keep the NK people in the dark and starving so they never even think of revolting. Lastly this fat ass had countless facial reconstruction surgeries to resemble his grandfather in order to look more appealing.

John Craig said...

Mark --
If Kim Jong Un was vain enough to get plastic surgery, you'd think he'd make a little effort to lose weight.

I heard that the story about him having fed some official to some hungry dogs may not have been true; no question about killing that military leader with an anti-aircraft gun, though.