Psychopathy may not be what you think.

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I’ve been doing some reading about psychopathy and have found out some surprising things. I always was a little confused as to how psychopathy differed from sociopathy and have used those terms interchangeably on this blog due to my confusion. I’ve also used the term interchangeably with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) and sometimes even malignant narcisissm. It turns out it’s probably something completely different from the other three disorders and may not even be a disorder at all!

Before you start laughing, hear me out.

It all started with this colorful, humorous description someone wrote on a forum I’ve been active on, describing how a Psychopath differs from a Narcissist:

When I picture a Psychopath, I think of someone who at bedtime bounces around from one thing to the next, essentially a high-energy, happy person. When I picture a Narc at bedtime, I imagine someone wearing long pajamas and a nightcap (yes, a nightcap), walking around a 19th Century house, holding a candle, checking for ghosts.

At first I thought this was a weird (but funny) analogy. But it really isn’t. According to psychologist Theodore Millon, Primary Psychopathy is something you are born with and is not due to abuse, unlike NPD or ASPD. Studies have shown that the limbic system (emotional center) of primary psychopaths is simply less active than in normal people. So they don’t experience empathy or have a conscience regardless of how they were raised, but they also don’t have very deep emotions in general.

Millon

Because they lack deep emotions, primary psychopaths tend to be fearless risk takers. They also aren’t moody because they don’t experience anxiety or depression the way others do–if they experience those states at all. But psychopathy has become associated with sociopathy and/or ASPD or malignant narcissism because a born psychopath may be more prone to developing personality disorders than the normal population, if they are abused. Because they don’t have the capacity to develop a conscience or empathy, if they do develop a personality disorder, it’s likely to be Antisocial Personality Disorder, where the right of others are callously violated. That’s why so many psychopaths are also antisocial and dangerous.

But there is nothing wrong with the cognitive functioning of a psychopath. They are able to learn the difference between right and wrong, and if they do not develop a personality disorder, theoretically they can choose to do what’s right. Only the limbic system is impaired, so any decisions a true psychopath makes are cognitively based. Emotion simply doesn’t play into it at all. They do “whatever works.” They lack a conscience because conscience is emotion- or shame-based, and a psychopath isn’t capable of much emotion in general.

So a primary psychopath can theoretically be a good person who is just extremely unemotional and only uses logic and reason to make decisions. Unlike narcissists, who actually have deep emotions but have turned all their emotions inward toward themselves and require “supply” to bolster their fragile egos, a non-disordered psychopath has no need for supply. They simply don’t care what anyone thinks. What you think is simply not something that even occurs to them. In contrast, a narcissist cares very much what you think and falls apart like wet toilet paper if supply in the form of approval or adoration is not forthcoming.

Primary psychopathy seems analogous to the Myers-Briggs ESTJ (Extroverted/Sensing/Thinking/Judging) personality type. In other words, a psychopath is an outgoing, sensation seeking, hedonistic thinker who happily jumps around from activity to activity like someone jacked up on Red Bull, yet they don’t have ADHD either because the J(udging) aspect means their high level of activity always has a goal or purpose. Such a person would be easily bored (which could also lead to antisocial behavior), never worry about things or experience (or even understand) guilt, and unafraid to try and experience new things. Their lack of emotionality would suit them well for the business world. In fact, people who have become very successful in business tend to score high in psychopathic traits.

two-brains

While many high level executives do abuse the rights of others and callously close entire departments and treat their employees like so many pieces in a chess game (whatever works, right?), because psychopaths can tell the difference between right and wrong, some will try to do the right thing just the same. The difference is, they are using cognition rather than emotion to back any prosocial decisions.

Looked at this way, primary psychopathy may not be a disorder at all but a personality variation. Of course, the term “psychopathy” has negative connotations because most of us associate it with antisocial criminals, shady con artists, and serial killers. And in fact many of them are, but not all.

Sociopathy differs from primary psychopathy because (according to Millon, above), it’s antisocial behavior that may develop in a person with ASPD or NPD and is always due to abuse somewhere in the person’s past. A primary psychopath can become a sociopath if they become disordered, and that’s where you would find the serial killers and criminals (and these people usually have ASPD). But a sociopath isn’t always (or even usually) a psychopath. Sociopaths who aren’t psychopathic are usually very malignant narcissists (high spectrum NPD + ASPD) or sometimes even Borderlines, and they differ from psychopaths because there is no logic or rational thinking behind their antisocial or destructive behaviors, only unhealthy, toxic emotion. They seem to have no empathy because all their empathy–and most of their other emotions except anger–are turned inward toward themselves. The false self is what they present to others instead of their real emotions. Narcissists have plenty of empathy but it’s all for themselves–that’s why they are prone to wallowing in self pity. A psychopath would never wallow in self pity. They simply don’t care what you think.

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Why men don’t cry anymore.

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Men are allowed to cry openly when their team wins, and that’s about it.

There’s a lot of information out there about how crying is good for you, but this article from The Daily Mail (UK) is interesting because it describes how crying has evolved over time. For example, prior to the two world wars, crying was done openly and often, even by men. Now it’s limited to the football stands or funeral parlor for men, and even women retreat to the “powder room” if they need to cry, especially in work/professional settings.

This is a really good article.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1361214/Dont-fear-tears-Embarrassed-good-howl-Dont–crying-good-you.html

ETA: Right after I posted that, I found this other article from the website, The Art of Manliness, which goes into even more detail about male tears. I never knew any of this!

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/06/19/when-is-it-okay-for-a-man-to-cry/

Oh, and…I guess I lied. It’s my second post tonight. That’s all. Goodnight.

Protected: Embracing vulnerability: reparenting myself.

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Tears of beauty.

Most people associate crying and tears with sadness or grief. Yes, it’s true that you see tears when people are upset, grieving or sad, but it’s not really due to the sadness itself. Crying has nothing to do with the negativity or positivity of an emotion; instead they indicate the strength of an emotion. Crying occurs whenever a person is overwhelmed by any powerful emotion, be it sadness or elation. In western society, tears are seen as shameful and “weak.” Why is that?

Most pregnant women report they become more emotional during pregnancy and shed tears at the drop of a hat. This hyper-emotionality continues during lactation, when a new mother is bonding with her infant. I believe the marination of a pregnant or lactating woman’s brain in a bath of female hormones accounts for this, and is nature’s way of ensuring a strong mother-child bond. It happened to me when I was pregnant and after giving birth, and I’m not much of a cryer under normal circumstances.

I’ve mentioned my friend Shannon before, who is one of the most mentally healthy people I’ve ever met. She is also one of the most loving and joyful. But she cries all the time, because she has a huge heart and feels everything from empathy to joy so deeply. Shannon is as strong a person as I’ve ever seen, not a weak bone in her body. (She also laughs a lot).

I think tears are regarded as weak because we instinctively know they lead to and indicate strong heart connections between human beings, and emotional connectedness with others and our need for communion with other people is becoming increasingly thought of as a weakness, even for women.

Here are some photos and gifs I found on Google that show how beautiful genuine emotional tears (not the narcissistic, manipulative kind!) can be.

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Manly tears.


More manly tears.

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Johnny Depp in “Crybaby”

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From the movie “Crybaby” starring Johnny Depp.

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muslim-girl-crying

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And of course, there is this famous video:

Running naked in public.

streaking

I have never been a risk taker.

But this week I took a big risk. I ran naked in public twice. The first time I was scared to death; the second time, my attitude was more like, “Eh, why the hell not? Let’s go streaking.”

I’m referring to two blog posts this week in which I wrote about moments in my past where I experienced intense emotions that ran so deep I felt incredibly vulnerable and naked writing about them and sharing them with the world, especially because both these posts were about very private matters I wouldn’t even tell a casual friend. I felt somewhat embarrassed reading over the first post to myself, but also realized it was something I’d want to read if someone else wrote it. I also knew it was very well written.

After several days of stewing over posting the first article publicly and re-reading and editing it about a gazillion times, I finally took a deep breath, squeezed my eyes shut, and hit that “Publish” button. After I did so, I actually felt light in the head, like I might pass out. I couldn’t believe I was crazy enough to actually take off my psychological clothes (my natural guardedness) in public.

But I was crazy enough.

For a day or two, I feared reading my comments. I was almost afraid to look at this website at all. I didn’t want to see how many people might have read it…or WHO might have read it.

At the same time, I began to feel delightfully liberated, like I was running through the streets naked–and realizing my nakedness was a beautiful thing and nothing to be ashamed of.

naked

The second time (the abortion story) wasn’t as scary to post, because nothing untoward happened after I published my first “scary” emotionally revealing article.

I gained the courage to post these deeply personal articles by remembering that all my most liked, commented, and viewed posts have always been those in which I revealed the most about myself and my emotional state.

Of course, the ability to use the anonymity of the Internet and a handle instead of your actual name helps too. 😉

This is the post that scared me so much I almost deleted it.

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I have never been so scared to publish a post until this one. I had this set to Private for several days and drove myself crazy trying to decide if I ought to post it. It’s about some of my most vulnerable moments and posting about those is incredibly scary for a person who usually has their guard up. But I longed to post it. Something inside was telling me I needed to and I wouldn’t regret it. I also felt this post was my best written one ever because while writing it I allowed my emotions to flow unimpeded. What to do?

I even wrote a short post asking people if I should post something that made me feel so naked and vulnerable. Ultimately, the decision to make this post public was mine, but the consensus seemed to be that I should.

I read this post over again earlier today from the imaginary perspective of a random reader who just happened on the article and had never seen this blog before. I realized that as this “someone else” it would be something I’d want to read.

So here it is, guys. The post that made me feel like I was going to pass out cold when I pressed “Make Post Public.”

Milk and Open Hearts: Embracing the “Feminine” Emotions

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about vulnerability lately. I’m reaching a point in my healing journey where I can start to allow myself to become more open to my emotions and to sharing the feelings of others. It wasn’t my intention to write another post about crying so soon after my last, but I think my interest is due to something that’s happening inside…

For years I couldn’t cry, but wanted to. I was so numb from all the abuse that I had dissociated myself from my feelings. I felt like I was dead and in hell. Recently I’m finding a lump in my throat or tears starting to well much more frequently–usually because I’ve been touched by something or someone in some way, and it’s usually a pretty simple thing. I realize this is a sign that the long term dissociation within my mind is coming to an end because I’ve gained more courage to embrace my feelings instead of pushing them away or denying their existence.

I remember even during the darkest days of abuse by my psychopaths and narcs, when I walked around like an emotional zombie due to all the abuse I endured, there were rare moments of clarity when truth and beauty shone through the murk of depression and PTSD.

During my pregnancies with both my children (I was pregnant three other times–one abortion which I am writing about next–the child would have been a boy born in 1999–and two miscarriages), my brain’s marination in a continuous bath of pregnancy hormones made me very emotional. Not depressed-emotional–in fact, I was happier than I’d ever been. Things just touched me or made me feel some kind of ineffable euphoria or inexplicable sadness and suddenly there would be tears.

I think the increased emotionality experienced by pregnant and lactating women is the result of nature’s opening our hearts to connect deeply and lovingly with our children from the moment we know we are pregnant. The torrents of female hormones–mostly estrogen and progesterone–help wire our brains to to allow the limbic (emotional) system to run things for awhile. The heightened ability to feel is a gift that helps our species survive because under the right circumstances, emotional openness transforms into unconditional love and empathy.

The hormonal bath continued for some weeks after the births of both my children and I remember getting particularly emotional one dark and cold night as I held my firstborn against milk-swollen breasts, with Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” playing on the stereo. I watched as my son rooted for the nourishment he sought and found it. Latched on tightly, dark pink lips pursed in determination and a primitive and preternatural hunger, my baby son began to nurse. As I felt the milk come down, I was overwhelmed with tenderness and love for this completely helpless creature who so recently had lived inside my body and taken nourishment from my blood, and whose wastes were eliminated with my own, and suddenly my face was awash in tears.

I watched as if through antique swirled-glass windows as my tears soaked my tiny boy’s thistledown-fine hair and ran across a petal-soft pink cheek busily working my milk glands. There was a melancholy underpinning to my overwhelming elation and I allowed myself to feel that sadness too–and realized that melancholy welled up from an awareness of how fragile my tiny son was, how fragile we all are–at any age; and how easily a trusting, childlike soul can be stamped out by hurt, abandonment and abuse. I wanted to protect this child from any harm that might ever come his way. I didn’t realize then my son’s own father would set out to destroy his spirit. Thank God he did not succeed.

At the moment the first drop of salt water touched my baby, opaque dark blue eyes fluttered open and gazed at me, seeming to understand my feelings. Sighing a delicate baby sigh, this tiny human being I had created through my love for a man and sustained and nurtured by my blooming, hormone-soaked body, nestled in closer and suckled harder until swept away in blissful sleep. I marveled at the knowledge this tiny boy would one day be a man, taller and probably physically stronger than me, and that I would play a huge part in his journey to manhood. It scared me to pieces but I felt willing and ready to take on the challenge–because of love, the greatest power we have as humans.

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This wondrous connection–this moment of almost painful sweetness–was so honest and magical I almost dared not breathe. The tears poured down. I didn’t wipe the wetness from my face for that would have disrupted the beautiful connection I felt with my child.

It’s during these moments our hearts are open and we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, that we are fully engaged and connected with life and open to the bliss and pain of pure unconditional love. That kind of love is expressed in tears (often combined with laughter or smiles) because there are no words that could ever express the depth of this sublime emotion–an emotion of such beauty, rarity and truth it nearly hurts.

Tears are the mark of our common humanity and connect us with each other. We are pushed into the world crying, and are (hopefully) cried for when we leave it. Crying marks the most important milestones of our lives, whether they are happy or sad. There are always tears at graduations, pregnancy and wedding announcements, falling in and out of love, weddings, births, baptisms, death and funerals. There are tears wherever there is honesty, intimacy and love.

The happiest people in the world are often people who cry a lot. Their hearts are open, so everything and everyone touches them. They’re not afraid to connect and to empathize. Their love sometimes overflows the confines of their physical composure, and so they cry. I used to know a beautiful young woman who said she cried five or more times a day–just because she was so happy all the time. She wasn’t annoying happy. Honest joy never is annoying. She moved through life regally and with dignity and compassion, appreciating everything and loving everything and being touched by everything, and everyone loved her right back because they knew she was an empath. People wanted to be close to her, they wanted to be touched by her, both emotionally and physically. Her large expressive eyes were almost always wet with tears. At first it seemed a little strange, but soon we got so used to seeing her that way it just seemed normal after awhile. And it WAS normal, more normal than anything could ever be.

empathic_badass

I was so envious of that girl for her emotional openness. But she showed me a great truth about myself. I could be that girl because that was me. I just needed to find a way to knock down my thick concrete walls of fear. It’s getting easier. I still have a lot of emotional blockage, but I no longer feel like one of the walking dead.

In the Stephen King movie “The Green Mile,” John Coffey is an autistic man who nevertheless is an empath. He’s been unjustly sentenced to Death Row for the murder of two little girls because he was the last one seen with them (and probably due to his being black as well). You sense Coffey never killed those girls and in fact you realize how empathic this man really is. He has no defenses against the world due to his inability to hide his emotions (some autistic people have trouble regulating their emotions), and at the same time this very defenselessness gives him unbelievable strength and goodness. Coffey cried almost constantly, feeling the emotions of everyone around him and freely giving unconditional love where none existed.

A couple of years ago, there was a very popular video that went viral. It featured a 10-month old baby girl apparently crying from empathy as she listened to her mother sing. I’m not usually a fan of “cute baby” videos but watching this baby was fascinating because she cried like an adult would have–and the purity of her emotion was an achingly beautiful thing to see.

We are born withour hearts unguarded. When life begins to hurt too much (and it always does), children eventually learn to guard their hearts or in the worst cases (NPD, ASPD and some other mental disorders), dissociate themselves from their true feelings so thoroughly there is no turning back to the emotionally open state we were born with.

It’s a sad state of affairs that all the tender (“feminine”) emotions such as sadness, deep connection or friendship, love in all its forms, joy of the non-shallow type, feeling touched or moved, gratitude, and empathy– have been so devalued in modern society and are often seen as proof of weakness in a person when in fact they show a person who has the strength and courage to leave their hearts unguarded when it matters the most.

It’s interesting that all these softer emotions indicate goodness and purity of heart. They possess enormous potential to eliminate or reduce darkness and evil because they are emotions of healing, love, and our human connection with the Divine.

In a perfect world where all human beings had open, unguarded hearts, an alien from another planet upon first meeting a typical human would see smiles and laughter graced by tears. If the alien were to question what these signals meant, the answer would be “Love.”
The angels in Heaven would tell you the same.