Monday, January 30, 2006

Can You Feel This?

 Posted by PicasaHad an off day today, in part because of the exhaustion from yesterday. It is also unsually humid. I intended to cycle and swim for about an hour, in the end Fransa and I ran together (with our iPod's) around the block.

Run: 0:35
Distance: 5km
My heart beat barely skipped over 115, and poor Fransa looked stricken with pain. She said afterwards that smoking causes something like a poison to rise up your throat...she didn't want to eat afterwards and felt sick.

We wouldn't have run at all if we'd had dinner with Ruth, as planned, except, just as my dad was leaving he had the graciousness to say, "If you keep making mistakes, you're not going to be living here much longer." Or words to that effect. Wasn't a nice thing to hear. Seemed a bit unnecessary and overly drammatic.

But it got me thinking...

After our run I asked Fransa - she has a friend who is a shrink - to ask Rene what sort of personality type is a person who is always blaming everyone else.

So I was wondering what personality type always ends up blaming everyone else for things going wrong.
Fransa said she didn't need to ask Rene, because she replied that someone who is always blaming other people, someone incapable of feeling empathy, is basically a psychopath.

I found these characteristics interesting. Some of them seemed relevant to me - GASP - like 'lack of realistic long term goals'. Is being a writer realistic? And others: being impulsive, and repeatedly breaking parole. (That last one was a joke;-)

Characteristics of a Psychopath


superficial charm (hang

self-centered & self-important (me)

need for stimulation & prone to boredom (me)

deceptive behavior & lying (Yes I have a job/I have money/I don't have any money)

conning & manipulative (hmmm - only when working in advertising)

little remorse or guilt (Does going back to save a tortoise from certain death on a highway cancel that one out?)

shallow emotional response (I sometimes insult fat people behind their backs...)

callous with a lack of empathy (See above)

living off others or predatory attitude (Can I bum a cigarette? You don't smoke. Oh...right.)

poor self-control (I gave up porn years ago...or did I?)

promiscuous sexual behavior (Can you be promiscuous with one person?)

early behavioral problems (Does wearing braces for 7 years count. I'm pretty sure it does.)

lack of realistic long term goals (I want to write a book)

impulsive lifestyle (Nice boobs, can I- SLAP!)

irresponsible behavior (But I just wanted to see what the microwave would do to a kitten...)

blaming others for their actions

short term relationships (So you don't like this shirt - see ya.)

juvenile delinquency (Maybe I am gay, I haven't tried that yet...)

breaking parole or probation (Get busy living, or get busy dying.)

varied criminal activity (What credit card bill?)

I wonder what effect a psychopathic, or let's just say, a parent lacking in empathy, has on a child. Now I'm not implying anything about my parents, I'm just wondering aloud, trying to form a hypothesis. I think all of us, in some ways, are psychopathic about some things. Maybe some people would say I train like a psychopath, having no empathy for my own body, the pain I put my own self through. Some might call it healthy, others might not. Certainly, some forms of it are pretty despicable.
But is it conditioned or is it, well, inherited. Or both? I went to google to find out (click on the title of this post to link directly to this article).

A psychopath will use people for excitement, entertainment, to build their self-esteem and they invariably value people in terms of their material value (e.g. money, property, comfort, etc..). They can involve and get other people into trouble quickly and they seem to have no regret for their actions. To date there is no checklist of behavior and symptoms that will tell you with certainty whether or not a person is a psychopath. But there are warning signs. The following warning signs are based on my experience but primarily research conducted by Robert Hare, Ph.D - the leading expert on the Psychopathic Personality.

The idea that psychopaths eat people is a myth. In reality, a person with a psychopathic personality can lead what appears to be an ordinary life. They can have jobs, get married and they can break the law like anyone else. But their jobs and marriages usually don’t last and their life is usually on the verge of personal chaos. They are almost always in some kind of trouble or they are not far from it.

A psychopath is usually a subtle manipulator. They do this by playing to the emotions of others. They typically have high verbal intelligence, but they lack what is commonly referred to as "emotional intelligence". There is always a shallow quality to the emotional aspect of their stories. In particular they have difficulty describing how they felt, why they felt that way, or how others may feel and why. In many cases you almost have to explain it to them. Close friends and parents will often end up explaining to the psychopath how they feel and how others feel who have been hurt by him or her. They can do this over and over with no significant change in the person's choices and behavior. They don't understand or appreciate the impact that their behavior has on others.

They do appreciate what it means when they are caught breaking rules or the law even though they seem to end up in trouble again. They desperately avoid incarceration and loss of freedom but continue to act as if they can get away with breaking the rules. They don't learn from these consequences. They seem to react with feelings and regret when they are caught. But their regret is not so much for other people as it is for the consequences that their behavior has had on them, their freedom, their resources and their so called "friends." They can be very sad for their self.

A psychopath is always in it for their self even when it seems like they are caring for and helping others. The definition of their "friends" are people who support the psychopath and protect them from the consequence of their own antisocial behavior. Shallow friendships, low emotional intelligence, using people, antisocial attitudes and failure to learn from the repeated consequences of their choices and actions help identify the psychopath.

Psychopaths with low intelligence or a poor education seem to end up in jail more than ones with a higher education. The lack of emotional insight is the first good sign you may be involved with a psychopath. The second best sign is a history of criminal behavior in which a person does not seem to learn from their experience, but merely thinks about ways to not get caught.

So what happens to these poor kids if they don’t learn right from wrong? Parents with a child like this usually end up angry and frustrated. They will often shield their child from the consequences of their decisions and take the role of continuously trying to educate their child as to right and wrong. The child is always in trouble and doesn’t seem to learn. Their parents may begin to excuse their child's behavior believing their child will eventually "get it." When they don't, many parents resort to punishment. But what these children need is intensive guidance, instruction, training, choices, consequences and supervision. Severe and repeated punishment alone is the worst thing you can do. Letting a child like this run around unsupervised with violent and antisocial children is almost as bad. And child abuse is a sure way to create a social misfit or a monster.

There is a growing discussion among researchers to suggest there may be a genetic influence that creates a psychopathic personality. The psychopath may lack the ability to physically feel what others identify as the physical sensation of guilt. They can feel fear, anger, sadness in the moment but not guilt for what they did or what they are about to do.

Some sociologists believe that a sexually promiscuous psychopath who can live off others is a survivor and may represent one of many genes for survival in the human species. Even more surprising has been the observation that many adult psychopaths do not seem to benefit from support, counseling or therapy and may in fact commit crimes again and sooner because of it. Research using brain scanning technology has revealed that the brain of a psychopath functions and processes information differently. One famous brain imaging study showed that psychopaths can remain calm looking photos of dead bodies in automobile accidents where as other people were clearly upset. They don't use their brain they way others do. This suggests that they may be physically different from normal people.

Are you involved with a psychopath? You may not know because they can be very charming and friendly until you get close and disappoint them. Don’t assume anyone is a psychopath based on their behavior alone. It is the pattern of their life and many other factors. Please don’t go around assuming or calling someone a psychopath just because they may have some of the warning signs. Get a professional opinion from a qualified mental health professional if you think you are involved with a psychopath.

For more information on the psychopathic personality and Dr. Hare's book "Without Conscience", see www.Hare.Org

Hereth endeth the lesson. What I think is interesting is that some behaviour probably creates a psychopathic tendency in a person, which may numb a few centres of the brain, while other centres continue to be sensitive. What do I mean?

Prostitutes or sexually adventurous people - sorry, very promiscuous people - probably lose a sense of what is precious about sexual intimacy, and loyalty becomes incidental.

Very rich people may be unable to appreciate the value in things or in people - although often it is the very rich who do appreciate value, this is why they are rich. Possibly, it is people who inherited wealth or it came to them in some or other way, and so nothing holds any value because it all comes virtually free.

Depressed people form a huge echelon of psychopathic behaviour. This is because so much energy goes into feeling sorry for themselves, chewing on the bone, and just being stuff, that very little remains for basic human decency. I'd guess this last one is the most common.

Depressed people are also exceeding hard to deal with, because in dealing with them, you risk contaminating yourself with their depression and mental malaise.
This may sound reckless, but I'd recommend to depressed people a healthy diet of exercise and nutrients. Fresh fruit, water - not coffee and sugar rich foods. Plenty of exercise.

Meanwhile...I'm back on my road to a home. I thought I'd find my own place when the next edition came out and my South African scenario became a bit clearer. It may be prudent to be somewhere else sooner rather than later.

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