lf2

Who is the sociopath?

What a difficult question this is—exactly what defines the sociopath?

 Joseph Neuman Ph.D, psychopathy researcher, in an extensive interview (see link to this interview previously provided by Donna Anderson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmZgnCHweLM) addresses this and other questions about psychopaths.

Neuman’s research, if I understand him correctly (and I did not find him to be particularly clear in his explanations) yields a picture of the psychopath, surprisingly, not as primarily emotionally defective, but rather as emotionally defective secondary to certain forms of attentional problems.

Neuman makes some interesting and, to my mind, somewhat puzzling observations. For instance, and consistent with his basic premise, he actually suggests that psychopaths may be more inclined to genuinely assist someone they perceive to be in need than non-psychopaths. Did I hear that correctly? I think so.

Neuman also suggests that the psychopath’s capacity for this kind of humane response is unfortunately, or effectively, nullified (in others’ eyes) by his more antisocial, knucklehead behaviors. Did I hear this correctly, too? I think I did.

Neuman’s basic premise—again, if I understand him correctly—is that psychopaths aren’t so much fundamentally defective emotionally as much as their emotional capacities which, alas, may be much more normal than otherwise appreciated, are essentially obscured, effectively immobilized, by their over-attention, their over-focus on their particular, momentary interest(s).

So, to be clear, if I’m understanding Neuman, he’s suggesting that psychopaths (at least some, if not many) may indeed have normal emotions, perhaps even a normal range of emotions; the problem is that they don’t “attend” to their emotions because they aren’t “cueing” to the signals that should steer them to recognize, and be better regulated, by their emotions.

Neuman suggests that when psychopaths can be directed to focus on these cues and signals, his research shows that they can and do access a range of more normal emotions. This should and, Neuman says, does result in their coming under the better, and more appropriate, stewardship of their emotions (my italics, not his).

Now on one hand, Neuman says he’s not denying that an emotional deficit lies at the core of psychopathy. Yet it seems to me that this is exactly what he’s questioning!  What he is saying in the interview, it seems to me, again and again, is that, at the heart of psychopathy is less an emotional deficit than a kind of attentional deficit, a signal-attuning deficit, the consequence of which is to detach the psychopath from connection to his underlying capacity to feel, and be better regulated in his behavior, by his emotions.

Now perhaps I’ve badly misinterpreted what I heard Neuman saying. I will leave that to other LoveFraud readers to weigh in.

Also, consistent with what I hear him saying throughout the interview, Neuman takes the rather radical stance that once a psychopath, not necessarily always, hopelessly, permanently a psychopath.

He suggests, rather, that if interventions can be developed that, for instance, can help psychopaths more effectively attune to the signals that will steer their attention to their healthier emotions, well then”¦NASA, we may have arrived at something of a cure, or palliative, for psychopathy.

He envisions interventions, if I understand him properly, that would effectively liberate the humanity within the psychopath, which is obscured, if not immobilized, by his attentional problems.

Because again, he is not saying that psychopaths necessarily lack emotions, or even a range of normal emotions; remember, he goes so far as to say that some psychopaths, including those with whom he’s worked, have shown evidence of an even greater (and genuine!) responsiveness to those in need than non-psychopaths. The problem, he stresses, is that psychopaths, by virtue of their overfocus on present, reward-driven interests, are basically disconnected from their emotions. At least this is what I understand him to be saying.

Neuman makes another interesting observation. Citing Hervey Cleckley, MD, he suggests that the psychopath may have an even weaker drive to acquire what he wants than the normal individual. The problem, he says, is that their “restraints” are even weaker than their “urges.” He describes this as a case of their “weaker urges breaking through even weaker restraints.”

Neuman also asserts that you can’t define psychopathy by behaviors and actions, including, he says, actions like “defrauding” people. I understand his general point—the idea that psychopathy’s essence may be more a reflection of a mentality than specific actions.

However, a pattern of certain actions, especially exploitive actions, can reflect, can reveal, the mind—and  the disorder—behind it.

As I understand Neuman, let us say we have someone who is in the process of perpetrating a cold-blooded armed robbery—and not, say, the first he’s perpetrated. He’s prepared to bind, blindfold and shoot all potential witnesses to the crime. This way he can take what he came for and not get fingered, identified, in the act. Let us say he has done this before, remorselessly.

Neuman seems to suggest that, horrible as this act would be, it’s not necessarily indicative of a psychopath. Maybe he’s right.

But let’s say this individual is a Hare-diagnosed psychopath. Neuman also seems to be proposing the idea that the killer’s primary issue isn’t necessarily the absence, somewhere, of appropriate and potentially self-regulating emotion; rather, he’s so overfocused on taking care of the business at hand—robbing, and removing witnesses to the robbery—that he’s unable to attune to the kinds of signals that would lead him to recognize, and fall under the prosocial influence, of his more normal, humane emotions.

So that, if somehow, in the course of the perpetrating of his crime, you could somehow cue him to the signals that might lead him to recognize his more “humane” emotions, you might, theoretically, be able to short-circuit the robbery and coldblooded murdering of the witnesses!

Really? That’s an interesting concept, but it’s not one that strikes me as necessarily plausible. In general, as I listened to Neuman, I found that he depicted the psychopath specifically, and psychopathy in general, in terms that seemed to me much too benign; as if the psychopath, in Neuman’s view and based on his research, isn’t necessarily lacking in humanity as much as he’s lacking certain qualities that would enable his humanity to express itself in more visible, self-regulating, prosocial ways?

What was your take on the interview?

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2010 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is strictly for convenience’s sake and not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)

 


Comment on this article

183 Comments on "Who is the sociopath?"

Notify of

“liberate the humanity within the psychopath”

*SIGH*

I don’t have time to watch and reflect upon the video right now. However, I will comment on the following:

“Neuman makes another interesting observation. Citing Hervey Cleckley, MD, he suggests that the psychopath may have an even weaker drive to acquire what he wants than the normal individual. The problem, he says, is that their “restraints” are even weaker than their “urges.” He describes this as a case of their weaker urges breaking through even weaker restraints.”

In one of my x-spath’s online profiles, he specifically states “if you describe yourself as focused, driven or motivated, then we probably won’t get along.” In another, he describes himself as being “very laid-back and chill.” While he does have a BS degree from a good university, he gave up a career-type job to become a flight attendant.

Why? The easy route to travel and boys, the only two things in which he seems genuinely interested.

One other comment regarding a “weaker drive.”

Other than travel and drinking and perhaps dance music, I don’t remember my x-spath mentioning any hobbies or interests.

For example, I am interested in many things. Not only travel, but theater and other arts, I go to museums and galleries, I am very much into bicycling both as an active participant and spectator, having gone to France 3 times to watch the Tour de France. I go to the gym and avidly follow football and hockey. I collect things. For example, my place is filled with vintage posters and other decorative arts…

Him, seemingly nothing but “boys, beers and a bit of fooling around.” That is a direct quote from another of his online profiles, under the heading “Hobbies.”

BBE

I’ve been meaning to say how much stronger you’ve been sounding in recent posts and that I’ve been reading all your replies to what I’ve been putting up. I was a little bit unsure at first as you had alot of venting and stuff which ‘triggered me’ about my own narcissistic traits.

I’ve relaxed a little bit and decided that you sound GREAT! Especially the Tour de France stuff (I have frenchie roots and am pleased on behalf of my mother country that you appreciate the majesty of the TdeF LOL haw de haw! You know how us frenchies are proud of our culture!)

My current b/f is a French cycling nutbag it’s very pleasing for the butt & thighs BTW. Blush Tee Hee. But somehow I think I should be weaning you off your whole ‘looks’ thing. I know that this is esp important amongst my gay male friends, but I’ve always kinda felt sad at this aspect of the ‘community’ as we can’t all be Sophia Loren or Brigitte Bardot or …..Brad Pitt? Robert Downey Jnr? Whatever…

I’m in the middle of buying lots of new art for my ‘apartment’ we say ‘flat’ in the UK. It’s lots of fun – but a bit daunting to choose what will express the inner me ‘tee hee’.

I think you should check out Brighton in the UK – where I used to live. We had PRIDE recently and it was quite an event! Brighton is the ‘San Francisco’ of the UK but not as glamorous frankly, a little bit seedy really, but very ‘open’ anyways.

Hope you’re doing as much better as you sound. I’ve been real impressed by you moving towards supporting all the newbies on the forum and really being a supportive member of the LF community -as well as your openess and honesty in relation to your own situation. V. generous towards Verity too when she was a bit triggered and freaked. You are really starting to sound like a totally great guy to me and I’m a suspicious MF!!!!!! Ha Ha Ha

Blessings

Delta 1

Another confusing article. I think I am over saturated with spathology…

paralyzed82 I just wrote something posted it and it never came up on that thread you are on so I hope you read it in this one…I assume it’s deleted? I don’t know…apologise if I’m repeating myself…so annoying I have to write it again!

Delta1 I agree with the Lauren Hill singing and music in the car and singing along. Music hits a place where words cannot get to! and it’s incredibly healing. Songs that REALLY helped me along the way at different times because they hit all the emotions that I went through from anger to tears…are:

Bad Romance- Lady Ga Ga

Bulletproof- LaRoux

Fergie- Big Girls Dont Cry

Bless this road- Mary Black (paralysed this one is for you, get the tissues out….)

Gallileo – Indigo Girls

Lift Me Up- Moby

Can people let me know of any songs that particularly helped you because I love the medium of music to heal by…thanks!! I will find them on You Tube…all the above are accessible on You Tube

Paralysed you are so brave to continue posting and feeling your feelings…if you can stay with it you will be actually travelling through the mess…if you are going through hell keep going and get a cool backing track to keep you company…and sing out loud…use your voice…it’s really good to get it OUT!! yay!

Neuman’s never been in love with a psychopath I take it? 🙂 If steering their attention toward nobler emotions would work, maybe it would have to be done by a brain transfusion….because there is hardly a one of us who has not tried to do that steering until we were blue in the face!

the only time the “my” P siad “stop, stop, stop” was when I said what if some guy had treated your daughter (she’s in her 20’s) the way you’ve treated me; and she came crying to you, saying “Daddy, he did ___ and then he___ and then he___”, would you tell her that’s okay honey, that’s an okay way for a man to treat you???

But nothing changed after that. Nothing. And I wouldn’t fall over in shock to find out HE did those things to his daughter! Or his sister! Who knows why it seemed to get to him.

All I know is that talking, explaining, clarifying, connecting, all that does NO GOOD.

If something an “expert” says doesn’t ring true with the majority of victims of psychopaths, then I think that expert is off.

In my mind at least, it’s the emotional deficit that ALLOWS them to do what they do !!!

Even at our most selfish of times, most of us would not greedily take what we want without assessing the pain it may cause someone else – emotional , psychological or financial etc.

We are all susceptible to what I call “inappropriate thoughts ” or “misfires” at times – you the – the times we say “if only ” or “if I could get away with it.” It’s not just the getting caught or shame – it’s the impact our selfishness would have on others we know and love – or even a stranger.

My daughter and I are addicted to watching “Criminal Minds” on TV . It is the mind of the N /S /P that is so intriguing – at times it is a difficult show to watch . The acts perpetrated are beyond human conception – although someone has obviously thought of them or done them to even be a storyline.

Getting past the CRIME itself is difficult enough – but watching the team build the profile of the perpetrator – habits, demeanor, intelligence, level of Narcissim / S /P is mind-bending. To understand fully that a human can be so devoid of a even spec of emotion that allows them to do what they do – while sometimes possessing such a high level of intelligence and appearance – it’s hard to wrap your mind around it.

I find myself asking ” What is he thinking – what is his motive-what pleasure is he getting – how does he look at what he has done to another human being ?

Is he driven by urges – yes- obviously – but to me it’s the emptiness that allows his mind and soul to live with what he has done – and often gloat about it.

I have seen and felt this emptiness from my husband – – how could he have done these things to me and the kids – because there was nothing inside him to stop him – no heart, no soul, no deep feelings of love and care. And when asked – there is that blank look that says he doesn’t even get what I mean – HE DOESN”T FEEL OR CARE ABOUT THE PAIN HE CAUSES.

It is my heart , my love , my conscience that keeps me doing the right thing even when I don’t want or care to – can I be angry or mean – yes – we all can at times – but most of us could NEVER – EVER inflict on others what has been done to us .

Thanks , Steve – you keep us ever growing and evolving …….

Steve,
I really appreciate your article because these are such good questions to contemplate.
Haven’t had time to watch it though.
At first I thought, “he’s talking about schizoids”. They get very focused on what they are interested in and don’t bother with learning social skills.
But the true psychopath, DOES learn social skills and wears them well. He is a liar and an actor. His success is based on being able to deceive. True that he doesn’t understand how he the emotions should FEEL, but he knows how to represent them. So even a cold calculated bank robber/murder is not what I would call a psychopath.
My exP had MANY skills and interests and was very good at all of them. :Musician, helicopter pilot, welder, CAD, builder. But I realized that he aquired these skills when he saw others doing them and envied them. Then he used the skills in his cons.

As I continued reading it seems he’s just talking about children, or a person with a child like sense of morality/focus. In such a case, he is right, they are child like but what Neuman is not addressing is what happens when a person with a child like mind continues to REINFORCE, child-like thinking over many decades. Redirecting focus is not enough. One would have to have electrodes attached to the Psychopath and monitor his behavior and words, 24 hours a day and redirect him until the new behavior stuck.
My exP actually told me how he REINFORCES his hate toward me or anyone else that he wants to hurt. He focuses on it and he creates strife so that they will retaliate, which then reinforces his entitlement to hurt them back.
My thoughts are that even though Neuman describes childishness, it isn’t accurate because childishness is appropriate in a child’s plastic mind, but in an adult’s more set brain pattern, it’s pathology which can’t be easily redirected. But you can trick them!

on a slightly different subject, here’s an article on psychopaths in politics:
http://www.sott.net/articles/show/213382-Reflections-on-Political-Ponerology

My two cents – FWIW –
really, does it matter?

I am an alcoholic – recovered for 18 plus years.
It does not matter why I am an alcoholic.
It does not matter if it was nature or nurture-
ALL that matter is I don’t pick up a drink.

AND – knowing whether it was nature or nurture is NOT
what caused me to stop picking up the drink (still don’t know definitively why I was born this way – but I blacked out the first time I went drinking so I do suspect it is genetic but it took 11 years of “experimenting” and trying to control my drinking to finally hit bottom.

I was in so much pain and so much misery – a result of MY CHOICES – I finally tried not drinking. Suddenly a lot of other problems started to clear up as well when I quit boozing….

If you read “Why Does He Do That? Inside the minds of Angry Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft – you find out that one of the answers to why is clearly the benefit of behaving like that. Abusive controlling behavior has a pay off that few of those men are willing to give up. By being frightening and abusive they can cow others (primarily women) into being essentially slaves to their needs/desires/whims. Since the “pay off” for changing their behavior is taking responsibility for their own selves and they are to some degree lazy tyrants there is no great motivation to change – even jail doesn’t provide enough of a deterrent to create any significant change in them or in society overall.

So – based on all of that – the question of what motivates a sociopath or psychopath, in my opinion, is simply mental masturbation.

What matters is what they do and the effect it has on others.

Until there is a significant enough amount of suffering within the S/P/N that motivates change internally no amount of external admonishment or punishment (which is ALWAYS TO SOME DEGREE TEMPORARY unless it is life in prison) will change someone like that.

Essentially – I have no illusion that there is a solution other than to shun them, remove myself from their reach as much as possible…

Newlife and Neveragain:

First, I’d like to make a general statement and say that I’ll respond to Newman’s interview when I have more time, but in the interim I’d like to respond to a couple of things Newlife and Neveragain have said.

Newlife:

“My conscience keeps me doing the right thing when I don’t want, or care to.”

Newlife, I completely agree. When I put my Spath up on a few sites to warn other women (such as WomanSavers), I wrote about his manipulative, exploitive behavior, pathological lying, and womanizing. And I even felt guilty about it, and wondered a few times if I should take the info down, even thought everything I said was true, and had also been confirmed by other women and even when I had overwhelming proof that he manipulates EVERYONE–platonic and romantic friendships, family, etc. Despite what this man did that affected me, which included telling his friends, unbeknownst to me, that I was a stalker, which was a flat-out egregious lie, I still did not have the capacity to embarrass or shame him by writing things on these sites that would serve no other purpose except TO embarrass or shame him. For instance, I could have written that he’s often impotent without the use of viagra. Why didn’t I write it? I just couldn’t–and wouldn’t. WHY?? Because I have a flippin’ conscience, that’s why.

Neveragain:

“…there is hardly a one of us who has tried to do that steering until we are blue in the face.”

I think that this has been most everyone’s experience, so yeah, I get it. In fact, my Spath deliberately toyed with me by playing Mr. Insightful, all the while doing exactly what he always does–lie and manipulate. I swear, he enjoyed it. One time in particular that was creepy, I was upset and displaying a lot of emotion and I suggested that our relationship doesn’t mean a thing to him except for the sex he got, I swear I could actually tell he was mimicing my emotion and insisted that it meant something, in an emotional tone, just as I was doing. But, I remember, that just as he did it, my gut reaction was that: He’s acting. And he WAS! And I know for a fact that he is a MASTER level actor and poser. He KNOWS what he needs to say and HOW to say it in order to appear like he is really feeling whatever it is he thinks he needs to. He intends to deceive with what he gleans from us empaths. I truly believe that. An example, after I gave him a book about how couples could help one another to feel safe within a relationship ( he insisted he wanted me to trust him after he cheated), he read it in one evening and could spit out all the concepts in the book. He even remembered stuff from it that I hadn’t. But, ominously, he said, “you’re going to be sorry that you gave me this.” I asked him, scared to death, if he was going to manipulated me with it. He said, “no, silly. I’m going to tease you.” But my gut told me something different and a day later my intuition proved right. No surprise there, Einstein. One evening, he told me that he really wanted me to feel safe with him, and that we should take a few days to really consider what it is we needed from one another to do that. Hours later, at 2am he would show up at my house, drunk, and after he fell asleep I would find, through his cell phone, that he was doing exactly what he ALWAYS had. In fact, it was HIS idea to call me every evening we weren’t together so that I would feel okay that he wasn’t out galavanting. I could see that before or after he was calling me, he was calling and texting other women things such as “sweet dreams.”

So, forgive me if Neuman’s theory is just sounding too simplistic, somehow. I’m sure it’s not, but I’m going to have really listen to the interview again and really give some thought to what Neuman posits–that psychopaths need to be redirected TO their emotions, and THEN they are motivated NOT to do their Spathy crap. I don’t know if I buy this.

Everything was going just fine until my dad called my mom to say that I was beibg disrespectful. He needed his loan to help pay for school and I asked for his SSN. If I don’t recieve it, then he’s not getting it. He just keeps lying and lying on me over. I’m so fed up with it!

I actually laughed, Steve, at this article and the video—sounded so much like J. Reid Meloy’s ‘PROFESSIONAL WORD SALAD” or to put it another way “How to say NOTHING in 10,000 words or less and make people think you are smart because they didn’t understand you.”

Yea, I’m ready to try his theories the next time I encounter an armed robber and see if I can help that poor person connect to his conscience….if I don’t get shot first!

All I can say about this guy is that there are lots of FRUITCAKES out there with grants and PhDs doing what they call “research.”

It’s a shame this money wasn’t spent on how the fruit flies in Egypt replicate. It would have been more informational and beneficial in my opinion.

Oxy,

You’ve made an excellent point!! Just because someone has a Phd, it doesn’t mean the guy isn’t a total quack. Hell, HE could be a narcissist, at the very least. Who know? There’s an assumption in our society that social status (being highly educated and/or in an otherwise “elite” group) is commensurate with being socially/emotionally intelligent. My Spath went to college at U of Chicago with a dual concentration in…wait for it…….Psychology and Anthropology, and then went on to grad school at Harvard. He was in the 99th percentile on his GMATS (verified). But, well, he’s a SPATH! Anyhow, perhaps we can boink this Neuman dude together. Boink Boink Boink. ‘Cept I want to do the honor of the frying pan. I haven’t made up my mind on him yet–but a good fryin’ pan noggin’ boinking may just be what the doctor ordered.

Dear Hurtnomore,

Obviously, the problem is that your father is slowing down or stopping the loan for your school. He apparently has no intention of getting the loan.

Did you go visit your mother out of country? The last I read your post it seemed your mother was going to provide your school money.

Well, if your parents are not able or willing to provide you money to go to school, then I suggest that if you truly want to go to college, that it is up to you to provide your own college and if you do not like the living conditions which you have living with your father and your sister that makes you miserable, that you should provide your own living independently so that you do not have to endure their poor treatment of you.

You cannot change how they treat you, you can only change yourself, and you are NO LONGER REQUIRED BY LAW to live there with your father or to associate with your sister.

I would look at the options you have available:

to go to a resident college. (can you raise the money through scholarships and work study to attend ANY resident college) This might be a bit late now to apply to one since classes will be starting soon.

to get or keep a full time job and find another place to live, and maybe take a few courses either over the internet or at a local college close enough to attend, maybe at night. Maybe do this for a year until you can apply for scholarships and admission to a residential college.

Find a friend to rent a small apartment with while you both work, to help keep down costs of an apartment.

Find a job that provides living space, like a live in baby sitter for a family, there are agencies that find this kind of jobs for young women who have clean criminal records. You could maybe take some on-line computer classes during this time as well.

None of these options might be your ideal wishes, but they are all viable options for getting where you ultimately want to be and that is (1) out of your father’s house, and away from your sister and (2) working toward getting a college education so that you can live an independent professional life.

Sometimes the road toward where we want to ultimately end up is blocked due to “landslides or floods,” so we must find ways to get where we want to go by focusing on the ULTIMATE DESTINATION IN OUR PLAN, and then find a way to by-pass the road blocks.

Look at the OPTIONS YOU DO HAVE, and don’t focus on the ones you don’t have. You can’t get on trying to get your dad to change his behavior—HE IS NOT GOING TO DO IT. Neither is your sister. So since they WILL NOT CHANGE, then YOU must change your reaction to their behavior.

You cannot force him to sign for a loan for your school, no matter how many times he promised to do so. Actually, he is NOT required to do so if he doesn’t want to. IF he does, it is a GIFT not a responsibility. If he does not want to give you a GIFT, you can’t make him and he has a right to say NO. That’s just the facts of life. Now that you are an adult, the ONLY person responsible for meeting your needs for food, shelter, medical care, education, etc. is YOU. If someone wants to give you a GIFT for these things, wonderful, but if they don’t want to, then YOU must take care of these things yourself. Welcome to the WORLD OF ADULTS. ((((Hugs))))))

OxDrover: He wants me to validate the loan online. I’m the only one who can validate the loan. I need his SSN to do the PLUS Loan. This for parent’s to sign for a loan but it needs the student’s information. He got upset because I asked him for his SSN to validate the loan and to get the loan through. He said I was being disrespectful because I didn’t say good afternoon or hello. Just straight to the point. He told my mother I disrespected him so much. I only asked for something so he could get his loan. If he’s not willing to provide the information so he can get his help with student expenses, then he doesn’t get to take out the parental( PLUS loan). My mother isn’t listening to anything I’m saying. She believes him that I was being disrespectful. I’m with my mom right now. He called and told her. I emailed him for the information since I’m the only one who can access it. But I have a plan for next year to weed out my dad when it comes to school expenses.

I think it is interesting that psychopaths and non-psychopaths score differently on those tests in a marked way, but I’m not sure HIS explanation for WHY is correct.

I think psychopaths are very good at spotting traps, ways of being fooled, are constantly on the lookout for that, and have a great ability to just focus on what THEY want to win. It is like they are determined to get the task right, no matter what obstacles you set in their way. WINNING. POWER. CONTROL. Those are things that matter most. They can have a lazer focus on that.

There are non-psychopaths who seem to have trouble with emotional depth, but nonetheless don’t hurt people. They make, for instance, great undercover agents to document torture and other things that most of us would fall apart at seeing. Or they are people who had to disassociate as kids because of abuse, and still do it automatically as adults. Some of them become victims of psychopaths, denying or minimizing what is happening to them. But they don’t hurt others.

So as you have pointed out Steve, the essential characteristic is the almost compulsion to exploit. I think your blog on the essential characteristic still holds. (And in it you make the point about autism’s problems with emotions don’t lead to psychopathic behavior. ) So they may feel some emotions, but still are driven to exploit, to win, to be in control, to have the power. They will focus on emotional cues only when it helps them exploit.

But I still hold that while they can have some emotions, there is not the ability to sustain positive emotions over the long haul, because (from their point of view) damn…there are just so many good opportunities for power, control, and exploitation, and so little time!

I don’t think a sociopath/psychopath would participate and encourage the steering their focus towards “healthier” emotions. This is a really dangerously simplistic idea.

Maybe, if at a young age, the idea of “redirecting” could be used. But, at a later age, what would be the incentive for a sociopath to go along with a game of “healthy changing”?

I doubt that sociopaths could simply just tune into emotions that have been present, all along.

I also doubt that change for a sociopath can be achieved without the assistance of drugs, to reduce their impulses long enough to “get their attention”.

Sociopaths need chemical interventions to shut down their behavior, just like pedophiles need chemical castration. Then, maybe behavior therapies will help them make “new connections”, and healthy associations. Even so, I’d guess they’d still need those drugs to keep them in line, long term.

Dear Hurtnomore,

You can’t control what he says, you can’t control what your mother believes…..I know that is frustrating. If he won’t’ give you the information, he won’t give you the information, so it may mean you can’t go to school this year. Many people, myself included, do not or did not have parents that helped pay for our college. I borrowed money on my own name, and I worked while I went to school, and I got grants and scholarships. Anyone who has the ability to do the course work, can get a college education. It may take more than 4 years, but it can be done, so do not despair! Just do the best you can to take care of yourself if your parents won’t contribute. Good luck.

Purewater,

FYI, even physical castration does not deter rapists—-it is not a hormonal impulse, rape and sexual abuse is a MENTAL and CONTROL issue. Otherwise we could fix them just by castrating them. Doesn’t work, unfortunately. It is a crime of violence not sex.

OxDrover,

Yeah, good point.

My mother is willing to pay for my education. But the point is that it was going peaceful until today. He told my mom to tell me that I needed to do a coursework on obtaining loans so he can take out a parental loan for undergraduate students. I needed his SSN so I emailed him for it. The point is he uses “disrespect ” carelessly and validates his unspeakable actions for it. My mother believes him everytime but never asks us what really happens. Instead she yells at us( the kids) and then we have to apologize for nothing. I’m tired of that! He will sit there and lies to my mom. Just to make me look bad or as if I’m a terrible child. He complains to my mom that we don’t respect him.

Hurtnomore:
It sounds as if you are ‘competing’ for power of your own life.
The only way you will win this ‘war’ is if you get out on your own, support yourself, and make all of your own decisions.
Your 18……what I tell my kids is…..if you don’t like it…..Sianara.
It’s unfortunate that your dad is the way he is…….your not going to change him.
It’s unfortunate that your mother is not believing you…..your not going to change her.
It’s unfortunate that your sister is vying for pops attention and your friends attention……your not going to change her.

Now….you must ask yourself……WHAT can I do for ME to be happy?
A good start is……work on your independence.
If school is not in your immediate future…..for financial reasons……get out and get that job, pay for your own housing, and get student loans and scholarships for your education.
This CAN be done…..and it CAN be done without the guidance of your parents.

Fear of the unknown will paralyze you……IF you let it!

It seems as if your making decisions to tie yourself to your parents further…….and that will only prolong this situation of unhappiness for you.
There is empowerment for you to gain by learning how to be independant. It will catapult you into your life.

Good luck!

XXOO
EB

Dear Hurtnomore,

As I said before, YOU CANNOT CONTROL what He says—and you cannot control what she believes…..those things are OUT of your control, the only thing you can do is to control how you REACT or RESPOND.

If they “make” you apologize. Then you can TRUTHFULLY say “I did not mean to disrespect you.” Which is a TRUE statement, you didn’t mean to disrespect them. It isn’t admitting that you DID disrespect them, only saying That you did NOT MEAN to. So you are not lying or admitting anything either.

Just keep your cool, and you will soon be out of their reach and can start living your own life. If you dad does not want to help you with the school loans, then do without them. You cannot control whether he helps you are not.

IMHO . . . Newman is WRONG!

I really do think that some people have more education than their minds can handle and they develop a kind of intellectual autism or something.

excellent post breckgirl.

“Intellectual autism” LOL ROTFLMAO WOW, that is a great “diagnosis” and there are several people I know who I think fall into that “diagnosis.”

“If you can’t impress them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bull chit!”

Some people seem to think that if they use enough 4 bit or 6 bit words, and arrange them into what looks like sentences or paragraphs, that the rest of us will feel stupid because we can’t figure out what they “mean” but in actual fact, they are MEANINGLESS….sort of like the people in the town when the naked emperor marched through town in his “INVISIBLE CLOTHES.” No one wanted to let on they were not smart enough to see the clothes, except the one kid who didn’t know what the king was SUPPOSED to be wearing and was honest enough to say what he DID SEE. “the king is NAKED!”

Unfortunately psychology is one of those fields of study where “opinion” is sometimes accepted where there are no blood tests or brain scans that can distinguish one “opinion” from another as being “more true.” It is a field not dominated by common sense, but more by consensus and unfortunately heavy on the CON. (IMHO)

Their just at this point is no way to determine objectively….but things are rolling in that direction at last.

newlife08,

I relate to your post – “there is that blank look that say’s he doesn’t even get what I mean – HE DOESN’T FEEL OR CARE ABOUT THE PAIN HE CAUSES.” That describes my experience to a tee. When you try and tell “normal” people about your experiences, forget about it, they cannot grasp what you are talking about, too unreal, far-fetched, out of their everyday realm of existence. Unless you are intimately affected by a spath, you will more than likely not even look into what this disorder is all about. It’s a thorn in my family’s side.

My h-spath has shown concern for others in the past (especially his employees), but it really is the knucklehead, antisocial behaviors that cause you to ignore the really nice things that he’s done for others. He has gone out of his way to help others – it’s just that he does the illegal, stupid things too that makes your stomach churn, be in knots, living on the edge. You just want to get away from and keep away from the insanity.

Bluejay,

” show concern for others” should be said as “APPEARED TO SHOW CONCERN FOR OTHERS, IN ORDER TO MAKE THEM THINK HE REALLY CARES” They are NOT able to actually care for others, but sometimes it meets their purposes to APPEAR to care about others.

That is sort of like saying “He really is a NICE CARING GUY when he is NOT ROBBING BANKS OR RAPING CHILDREN.”

No one is a “good guy” 24/7 and never does a thing to hurt someone else’s feelings, but neither is a “bad man” robbing banks 24/7 or murdering people 24/7 either—you just have to look at the overall picture. How many people does someone have to murder to be a MONSTER? One? two? Three? six million? 60 million?

OxDrover,

I don’t know because with him, it does seem that for a time, he has shown concern for others (usually everyone gets ticked off with him, thus, the end of the relationship) – he would go beyond the call of duty, find housing for some of his employees, appear in court for employees, co-sign automobile loans for employees, on and on and on, etc. I think that he wants to be seen as this great guy, great employer, having a hard time saying NO to people. I don’t think that he is a good guy, my own experiences confirming this truth.

What planet is Joseph Neuman Ph.D, psychopathy researcher living on??

The only time the N/Spath cares for anyone, is when he has his own ulterior motive clicking in his sicko mind! Hence the word “appeared to show concern for others? Fact, they care for NO ONE, they are void of ALL emotions unless feigned! They fool everyone but when their mask drops holy terror reigns on everyone! But of course it’s never their fault. Perhaps Neuman (PhD???) needs to face “reality” of what he’s dealing with in a sociopath.

heispureevil-Joseph Neuman Ph.D is living on the same planet as Sam Vaknin Ph.D–the one who writes all over the place about malignant narcissism and he himself is a malignant narcissist!

Dear Bluejay

Darlen, “the SEEMS like a nice guy” SOME of the time is the PROOF OF THE PSYCHOPATH—they “love bomb” people at first to convince them what great people they are then POW! GOTTYA!!!! That appearance of “being nice” is the MASK THEY WEAR.

Erin, the term “malignant narcissist” I think is Sam Vaknin’s coining. His Ph.D is another FRAUD, it is an internet PhD that you can get for $25! LOL NOTHING ABOUT SAM IS ABOUT ANYTHING BUT SETTING HIMSELF UP AS AN EXPERT FOR HIS OWN AGGRANDIZEMENT. There is a thread here about “I, Psychopath” the movie made about Sam, it is linked to the thread. search on LF for it and watch the movie. Make you puke though! LOL

erin1972- Yes, and it leads me to believe the same about Neuman- PhD?? Really, a PhD???? (or is that a facade)

Ox – for only $25?!? I’ve come to the conclusion there really is only one cure and I think we all know what that is!

God, give me strength!!

Seems those Spaths fooled the great Doctor huh?!

I agree with Dr Newman. It is exactly what my husband said, he had a reason for killing her. He HAD to do it to teach her a lesson, not to make him mad. Killing her was just something he had to do, like taking a shower or mowing the grass. A job that needed doing. He killed calmly b/c he was focused on the task.

My husband, the nice guy. Ask anyone. Everyone who knows him will tell you, he is a NICE guy.

But without laying a finger on me, I was pissing myself terrified of him after that.

Nowadays I am trying to get divorced, hard to do when he retained ALL our assets and I was such a basket case for years that I couldn’t even keep a volunteer job…. And truth is, I am now 3000 miles away too, so that makes it difficult as well… and still unemployed b/c while I am incredibly improved, I still suffer terrible insomnia and very sensitive startle, have a hard time staying focused so much so that even I wouldn’t hire me.

But hey, let’s not draw conclusions about a psychopath based on the outcome of their behaviors on their victims, whether dead, or many times just wishing I was dead…

I will say it again..unless you and your PHD have been run over by a truck you have no ideal what it feels like, so until you have tire tracks on your face I dont give your expertise much thought. I have been pleased with most of the responses to this article.

Ox-the term malignant narcissist does not appear to be coined by him because I read about it on legit psychiatric sites. The term is also called pathological narcissist. They have Narcissistic Personality Disorder combo with Anti-Social Personality Disorder and paranoia. They have a little more evil than than the traditional NPD. That’s how I figured my ex to be. I always knew he was a combo of both disorders.

I am not interested in Sam’s book or movie. I had enough experience with my own ex to last me a lifetime. The good thing is that my experience with him is going to be a huge asset for my law enforcement career. I can pick them out in all of 5 minutes now. I was always a real good judge of character before him. There was just one piece missing. When I started my present job that I hate, I knew which people were going to be problems behaviorally within the first several hours of my first shift and they all proved me right. Now to what brings me to my passion for law inforcement. Here’s my big story.

When I was about 9 years old, my best friend and I were walking from my house to hers to go swimming. We were wearing two piece bathing suits with jean shorts on top. We lived in a rural area across the lake from NOLA and the walk was about a half mile. A man stopped us in an old truck. He was asking for directions. Looking at him sent a chill up my spine and I felt like something was terribly wrong. My best friend never knew a stranger and immediately began openly talking to this man and I was freaked. He then told us how nice we looked in our bathing suits and that sent my fears into overdrive. I kept trying to get my friend to leave without being to obvious. I felt like we were in danger. I couldn’t do it so I thought I would have to wait it out until I could. I was totally quiet and proceeded to memorize every detail about this man’s appearance and his truck. I didn’t get his license number because we were standing by the driver’s side of the truck and I didn’t want to arouse his suspicions that I was on to him. They finally stopped talking and he took off down the road. When he turned the corner I said “run” to my friend. We ran the rest of the way and I was berrating her the whole time for being dumb enough to talk to him. We were almost to her house when he came back. There was a pond and a horse pasture between us and the road. He stopped his truck, got out and started RUNNING in our direction. We took off like a bat outta hell and ran into her house and locked the door. The fat bastard finally stopped in the pasture, turned around and went back to his truck. We told our parents and later that night I spoke to a cop. My dad had a friend who worked for the sheriffs office and he came over. They woke me up and had me talk to him. I gave the officer the full detailed description. I remember sitting down by the officer on the fireplace and he was writing his notes and I thought that was the COOLEST thing ever-that he could possibly catch this guy from the details that I provided. That’s what did it for me with law enforcement!

one/joy_step_at_a_time

hens – jazus, is that what happened to my pretty face?

thats what happened to your pretty heart..

one/joy_step_at_a_time

truer words….

Steve,
I think the fact that Newman’s insight produced only 10 comments (I checked) and yours – over 40 – is enough of a statement in itself.
They are certainly capable of human emotion. In my experience, they can “Tune in and out” at will. You should have seen the amount of patience, support and empathy I got from P while he was courting me. Sound familiar?
It would almost be nice if ALL disabled individuals could turn on their disabilities and OFF. I guess, if that were the case, most would TURN Them off and keep them off. The fact that Ps don’t seem to be interested in keeping their urges under control and consistently doing the “right thing” goes right back to the original DSM definition. then, again, it is only disability if it makes one’s life miserable. I think, so many of them prove themselves capable of just the opposite: keeping others’ lives miserable.

My child cried at the Gingerbread Man – the story ends in Gingerbread being eaten. There was my proof that he WAS human, had emotions and could empathize. My child takes a stick and beats up our dog. He beats up that dog so brutally that a huge animal hides from my child in fear. My child understands FEAR. He NAMES the dog’s fear, but he does not stop, unless I impose harsh and unavoidable consequences. My child is three. His judgement reminds me of his P father’s. His emotional development is no match to his mental capacities

erin1972, wow, you were such a smart kid!!!
(and now a smart adult!)
your story freaked ME out!
I couldn’t read it fast enough.
You are going to be a fabulous police officer!!!

GettingIt, oh my, this is very disturbing.
I am not a professional so I am not in a position
to offer advice on how to handle your son, perhaps
it would be best if you found a new home for your dog…
so he wouldn’t be there for your son to beat…
it would be good for your son, and it would be good
for the dog.

Very interesting.

I didn’t see any major inconsistencies in what Joe Newman had to say. First there’s the shallow affect typical of a psychopath. Psychopaths don’t seem to experience emotions in anything like the same depth that normal people do. Newman did not seem to be denying that emotions in psychopaths are attenuated. He said: “Some people look at my attention theory and think that I’m denying that there’s an emotion deficit in psychopaths, but that’s not the case. I mean their emotion deficit is what really does this thing… Emotions are there to some extent, to the degree that you attend to them. They may have a signal that says you shouldn’t do this, but that’s a weak signal.” [My emphasis.] He does seem to be implying that emotions in general are simply not “felt” by psychopaths with the same intensity.

Taken by itself, this attenuation doesn’t necessarily preclude a psychopath from (potentially) experiencing the same range of emotions that a normal human would. It just means those emotions will be weaker than in normal humans.

One such emotion is fear, and it’s commonly recognized that psychopaths can be less prone to the fears that would otherwise inhibit rash and reckless behavior in more normal humans. Consequently many psychopaths behave in ways that stupidly cause harm to themselves, as well as to others.

What Newman was saying, as Steve Becker pointed out, is that much of the psychopath’s failure to perceive and respond to emotional cues (including “fear” cues, no doubt) is caused by a failure of attention. Psychopaths are less likely to notice certain emotional cues, those that might otherwise inhibit undesirable behaviors, because they’re overfocused on other aspects, including the “reward” potential of a behavior.

However, I don’t think Newman is saying the psychopath’s emotional deficit is secondary to this failure of attention. Rather, I think it’s the other way round. Both factors play a part, but it’s precisely because emotional signals are “weak” in the first place that they’re prone to being ignored altogether if attention is focused elsewhere.

It’s easy to understand this idea with an auditory or visual analogy. Suppose we’re in a room where a party is in full swing and there’s lots of noise. Now and again the noise can “interfere,” but on the whole the auditory signals are strong, and we can discern multiple signals. We can not only hear what a companion is saying to us, but we can also pick up snatches of other conversations around us, besides identifying any music that’s playing. In the visual field, we can easily recognize several people we know in a group of people nearby. There’s Ted, there’s Tom, there’s Sally. We can see all of these multiple people clearly and individually.

Conditions are different if the signals are “weak.” If there’s music coming from somewhere in the distance, and murmurs of conversation from the next room, we’ll have a harder time recognizing what’s being said, or played. More relevant here, trying to recognize it calls for an effort of concentration. If we’re straining to hear what’s being said next door, we may not even notice there’s music playing somewhere else. Or if we’re trying to hear the music, we may not notice the conversation at all, let alone make out what’s being said. Similarly, if we spot a group of people some way away, they may be hard to recognize at a distance. Quite possibly we’ll focus on one person who looks vaguely familiar and ask ourselves “Is that Ted or isn’t it?” But while we’re focusing on him we’re not focusing on the other two, so we may never recognize them. In short, we only pick up some of the many things going on around us, and miss others altogether.

What I got out of Newman’s discussion is that something similar could be happening with psychopaths failing to recognize weak emotional signals if their attention is focused on one signal at the expense of others. That seems plausible to me.

Regardless of how strong (or weak) the emotional signals are in absolute terms, much of the problem with psychopathic behavior is still how strong (or weak) these signals are in relation to one another. If psychopaths’ perception of their “urges” is weaker than in normal humans, bad behavior can still result if their “restraints” (such as “conscience”) are weaker still. That’s entirely logical. Newman mentioned that these ideas aren’t new; they originated with Cleckley.

Along with that, Newman did indeed say that “when they turn their attention to things… the psychopaths will tell us this themselves, they’ll say I don’t know, you know, when I see somebody that’s suffering, I’ll go and help them. I’ll do this and that for them. And they’re saying they have emotions, and if you look at some of their behaviors they actually go out of their way more than other people would to do something about it. And yet… because of the negative, cruel things they often do, people are saying the evidence is that those emotions are not genuine.”

It is of course perfectly possible that people judge psychopaths mainly by their negative behaviors. After all, people notice unusual things, exceptions to the behavioral norm. They don’t notice what seems normal. So even if some psychopaths were particularly helpful to others at times, people still count that within the range of “ordinary, human” behavior and don’t take any special notice of it. Acts of exceptional cruelty on the other hand do get noticed and remembered, and those are what characterize the psychopath in people’s minds.

However, I think the point being made is that because psychopathic behavior is not well regulated emotionally in any constant fashion, it tends to be impulsive. One characteristic of “impulsive” behavior is that it’s likely to be inconsistent from one time to another. It may even be somewhat RANDOM in the direction the impulse takes from one occasion to the next. The psychopath is a “loose cannon” whose behavior may be hard to predict.

Given this built-in inconsistency, it’s credible enough, at least in theory, that a psychopath acting on impulse could behave helpfully, even generously toward others at one time, and at another time, acting just as uninhibitedly on a very different impulse, be guilty of an act of sheer cruelty or predation.

For the reason I mentioned above, people observing these contrasting behaviors are likely to discount the psychopath’s acts of helpfulness or generosity and characterize him or her chiefly by the acts of cruelty. But people go further. They attempt to see (as Polonius put it) “method in the madness,” where sometimes there may not BE any “method”! People expect “consistent” behavior out of others, and they look for a pattern. If a psychopath appears helpful and generous to them at first sight, they’ll start off believing “this is a kind, caring person.” If the psychopath then turns round and treats them badly or exploits them, eventually they’ll decide “this person is a villain after all.” But they may still try to reconcile the contradictory behaviors in their own mind by trying to find a common motive or purpose behind both. Then they may conclude that the behaviors they saw as “kind” and “caring” were deliberately contrived by the psychopath in order to “take them in” and “put them off their guard.”

That may well be true in some cases, but in other cases it may not be true at all. The contradictory behaviors may be largely random and impulsive, not part of any greater “scheme” or purpose. Whether or not that’s true of psychopaths, people certainly do make that mistake with other types of abusers, often imputing motives to the abuser that simply aren’t there in that messed-up individual.

Needless to say, no matter what’s really going on in a psychopath’s skull, they still need to be given a wide berth!

Another point Newman touched on was the disagreement in how to define a psychopath–which of course includes distinguishing the psychopath from other kinds of abusive, predatory or antisocial individual. As he pointed out, the majority of people even in the prison system, 80 to 85 percent, are not psychopathic. The majority of people commit crimes for other reasons, or due to other pathologies. One problem is that methods of assessing psychopathy (and similar conditions) in any individual nearly always, even in Hare’s PCL-R, takes criminal behavior into account to one degree or another. Assessment of so-called “antisocial personality disorder” leans even more heavily on such behavioral criteria. This runs the risk of circular reasoning, in which subjects may be classified as “psychopathic” because they’re criminals, while their criminal behavior in turn is attributed to their psychopathy! In other words, it’s important to ensure that a test really is detecting a specific clinical disorder of the mind rather than just measuring criminality.

Of course, everybody needs to bear in mind that a person does not have be a psychopath to be potentially harmful to them!

In this light it was interesting to hear Newman’s remarks on the prevalence of psychopathy in the population. While he estimated 10-15 percent in the prison population, he repeated the standard figure of 1 percent for the population at large. Asked about gender aspects, he gave the standard ratio of three men to one woman. However, he hemmed and hawed about that gender ratio, and hedged a bit by saying that’s using criteria for “antisocial personality disorder” rather than the more precise ones for psychopathy. If the kinds of socially deviant things men do are more likely to attract the attention of the law than those women do, this might mean the prevalence of psychopathy is somewhat more gender-equal than that “three to one” ratio suggests.

As for the rest, I listened to this twice, but nowhere did I hear anything about anyone “coming under the better, and more appropriate, stewardship of their emotions.”

Nor did I hear anything I could interpret to mean “liberating the humanity within the psychopath.” Where did all these warm fuzzy feel-good notions come from?

If Newman was discussing psychopathy in terms that seemed “benign,” that didn’t mean he was gushing as if psychopaths were truly warm, wonderful souls who only needed “liberating” from their cold shell of pathology. I didn’t hear anything of the kind!

He is looking at treatment possibilities, yes, and not writing off all psychopaths as utterly untreatable the way many experts do. However, even from what he said, my impression is that such treatment possibilities are rather limited. They’re also far more in the nature of “fear conditioning” and various methods akin to dog training. I didn’t hear any warm fuzzies about “liberating humanity” there. He did talk about early intervention with children, and that’s bound to hold more promise than with adults. However, I doubt he’s holding out much hope that cold-blooded killers can be trained to short-circuit their homicidal impulses. To do that he’d have to start by getting their cooperation and willingness to learn and change. I doubt very much that would be forthcoming from those types!

hens..ha ha PhD, truck..yeah! right on Brother!

OxDrover,

Love bombing, that’s what it is! Bing, the light went on. Thanks. We are leaving for our family vacation tomorrow morning. I hope that you are doing okay, being aware that you lost your dog. We have three Corgis (a brother and two sisters), loving them to death. They’re so cute – their eyes are precious to look at because of their light.

Send this to a friend