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  1. #1
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Default To be or not to be a psychopath?

    To most of us, psychopathy seems to be a monstrosity and a blight to humanity. We tend to imagine psychopaths as serial killer, mass-murderers or dangerously deranged individuals. http://www.amazon.com/The-Wisdom-Psy...the+psychopath

    However, it has recently been discovered that most psychopaths do not fit that description. Psychopathy is defined as a general lack of conscience, fearlessness, ruthlessness, superficial charm, tough-mindedness and the capacity to focus with great intensity. The brain of a psychopath differs from that of an ordinary person because it has a severely damaged amygdala that prevents him or her from focusing on emotions as intensely as ordinary people are able to. We have been evolutionarily conditioned to focus on emotions in order to limit our aggressive urges and instincts that compel us to seek out new adventures, as such limitations were needed for our survival. These limitations diminished our confidence in our own abilities and led humans to become more dependent on their relationships with the community and other individuals, however, the psychopathic gene withstood the test of time because communities needed fearless and ruthless individuals to make difficult decisions, keep enemies at bay and maintain a sense of order in an iron-fisted manner.

    Psychopaths almost never suffer from depression or anxiety, crave risk-taking, are highly driven by rewards financial and otherwise and tend to be intensely focused on the task at hand. Because they are not distracted by the onslaught of emotions that most of us are constantly beleaguered by, they tend to be very mindful and are rarely preoccupied with ruminations about the past or worries about the future. In this respect, their deep mindfulness and focus on the present moment is similar to that of the Meditation Masters who claim to have reached Enlightenment. In part due to this virtue of their character, they tend to be successful in endeavors that reward mindfulness, focus and ruthlessness such as businesses, government policy-making and organized crime.

    -------------------------------------------------------
    The line between running from the police and running for office is rather thin.

    The website below documents a study that has shown that most of the U.S presidents had distinctive psychopathic traits.

    http://kevindutton.co.uk/psychopathy-presidents.html

    Psychopaths are generally characterized by a lack of conscience, fearlessness, ruthless dominance over others, superficial charm, irresponsibility and impulsive behavioral tendencies. Only a small fraction of psychopaths end up behind bars, but they are the ones who fail to conceal their capricious and a radically egoistical nature.

    To cut a long story short, your average psychopath has a lot more in common with a ruthless mid-level manager at a transnational corporation than a hardened criminal and accomplished psychopaths have more in common with Bill Clinton than with Ted Bundy.

    ---------------------------------------------

    In principle, it is possible for one to become a psychopath by undergoing brain-surgery that alters one's amygdala in a manner that compromises the individual's attention to his or her emotions.

    If this surgery was lawful and freely offered by the U.S government, would you choose to become a psychopath?

    Source: ttp://www.amazon.com/The-Wisdom-Psychopaths-Killers-Success/dp/0374291357/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373912247&sr=8-1&keywords=The+wisdom+of+the+psychopath
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  2. #2
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    I believe the main character (played by Jeremy Renner) in The Hurt Locker is held up as an example of a common kind psychopath. He's an impulsive risk taker who is very focussed under extreme circumstances.

    But, no, I would not want to be one.
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    To cut a long story short, your average psychopath has a lot more in common with a ruthless mid-level manager at a transnational corporation
    This does not surprise me. But just because someone doesn't end up behind bars doesn't mean he is good.

    These psychopaths in mid level management are probably collectively responsible for more harm in the world than the criminals behind bars, by their sheer numbers alone.

    These are the people who see movies like The Godfather and Glengarry Glen Ross, and don't just see good, intense, movies, but see role models in the morally reprehensible main characters. Their attitude is "Good father, fuck you, go play with your kids."

    This attitude would be half-way tolerable if it worked. But, the vast majority of these guys are losers in addition to being assholes. Their machismo fails not only to win friends, but fails to influence people too. At best, you get someone intimidated into buying real estate and will spend the rest of time fighting frivolous suits (and those law suits are their own falt). I mean, seriously, would anyone buy a tablespoon from a guy like the Alec Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross, let alone a home?

    With that said, those who can add some charm into the mix can be quite capable. But as was said, this is "superficial charm" for a sociopath.

    Lack of conscience, and ruthlessness are not traits I think I see as being that common in presidents. Even in Clinton's case, what he did seemed more like a mind-bedingly crazy act of rationalizing impulsive behavior, not a lack of conscience. I realize there is wheeling and dealing, and a very competitive form of game playing going on in politics. But "lack of conscience" seems a bit much. I see this as more common in the Senate and House than in the Presidency. But who knows? Maybe the stuff we never here about will show the presidents past to be without conscience.

    We have neurotics on one end of emotional sensitivity and psycopaths on the other. (I think it would be amusing if the Big Five change the name of the Neuroticsm scale to the Psycopathy scale and flipped the scores. Considering that the neurotics are more sensitive than psycopaths, this may be seen as implicitly embedding less normative content into the scales.)

    Clam, focus, drive, and much of the other good things we ascribed to psycopaths can all be achieved without the need for lack of conscience. For me, the ill judgement towards the word psycopath comes mainly from that trait.

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  4. #4
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    To most of us, psychopathy seems to be a monstrosity and a blight to humanity. We tend to imagine psychopaths as serial killer, mass-murderers or dangerously deranged individuals. http://www.amazon.com/The-Wisdom-Psy...the+psychopath

    However, it has recently been discovered that most psychopaths do not fit that description. Psychopathy is defined as a general lack of conscience, fearlessness, ruthlessness, superficial charm, tough-mindedness and the capacity to focus with great intensity. The brain of a psychopath differs from that of an ordinary person because it has a severely damaged amygdala that prevents him or her from focusing on emotions as intensely as ordinary people are able to. We have been evolutionarily conditioned to focus on emotions in order to limit our aggressive urges and instincts that compel us to seek out new adventures, as such limitations were needed for our survival. These limitations diminished our confidence in our own abilities and led humans to become more dependent on their relationships with the community and other individuals, however, the psychopathic gene withstood the test of time because communities needed fearless and ruthless individuals to make difficult decisions, keep enemies at bay and maintain a sense of order in an iron-fisted manner.

    Psychopaths almost never suffer from depression or anxiety, crave risk-taking, are highly driven by rewards financial and otherwise and tend to be intensely focused on the task at hand.
    I question this last assumption about them not suffering from negative emotion relating to self. In looking over the scholarly articles online that is generally the accepted belief, but it is also called into question. I'll answer with the assumption that it is correct.

    Psychopathy is not the only means to have hyperfocus and achievement, or to even make fearless choices. I see the lack of empathy and even the lack of internal cognitive dissonance as a fragmentation in its perception of reality. To have no empathy is to lack all that information. It is a different sort of "data" than facts about a person, but rather is a type of insight. Cognitive dissonance when looked at with internal integrity is also a form of insight. I can see why on the surface something like psychopathy can be viewed as advantageous or even like inner peace, but if you look at what is chosen in terms of "ruthless" success, or even fixating on money, those are not insightful goals, but tiny shards of reality. I'd rather take a more Buddhist approach to insight to have a more holistic conception of reality and to make choices from that vantage point. External success is often irrational in nature and dismissing the well being of others is to dismiss the reality of Self.

    Pain is also information. When we don't feel pain in the body we can act in ways that further harm the body. When we don't feel psychological pain in response to reality, then we don't have full information about reality.

    I don't want to live with blinders on, I don't want to rigorously grab onto a single shard of reality, I don't want to be imprisoned within self, and that is why it doesn't appeal to me.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    You may as well ask to be or not to be blue eyed or brown eyed or green eyed.

    You have as much choice in that matter too.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    Pain is also information. When we don't feel pain in the body we can act in ways that further harm the body. When we don't feel psychological pain in response to reality, then we don't have full information about reality.

    I don't want to live with blinders on, I don't want to rigorously grab onto a single shard of reality, I don't want to be imprisoned within self, and that is why it doesn't appeal to me.
    Yeah, its a pretty poor understanding of invulnerability that I think draws people into this sort of discussion but its a little like believing that it would be great to have a brain injury and be rendered a "contented infant" for the rest of your days, that's truly terrible.

    The very best of the world religions, philosophies, psychology, name it, the best of human wisdom recognises that life involves pain and suffering and it can be assailed and used rather than being an end or defeating game over.

    Society's even further gone than I imagined if psychopathy is the model citizen or fully developed and adapted personality. It doesnt surprise me though, its what modern economy, politics, other over arching structures demand the social character becomes and so it does. The point at which this sort of thing becomes unsustainable and whether or not that will result in any kind of true reckoning and realisation provoking a conscious rethink is surely coming. It ought to be anyway.

  7. #7
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    Psychopathy is not the only means to have hyperfocus and achievement, or to even make fearless choices.
    I don't see the relevance of this objection. Just because psychopathy is not the only way to achieve these character traits, it does not follow that psychopathy does not help one achieve them. Most psychologists who study people with these qualities would say that most psychopaths have them, but some non-psychopaths also do.




    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    I see the lack of empathy and even the lack of internal cognitive dissonance as a fragmentation in its perception of reality.
    Kevin Dutton dedicated a chapter to this topic that he prefaced with a quote from Homer Simpson "just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't know!". Psychopaths, like all humans are able to experience a wide range of emotions including empathy, but they easily disregard them. Various empirical studies have shown that people of their ilk are far superior at identifying their own emotions to the non-psychopaths.

    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    I can see why on the surface something like psychopathy can be viewed as advantageous or even like inner peace, but if you look at what is chosen in terms of "ruthless" success, or even fixating on money, those are not insightful goals, but tiny shards of reality..
    Nonetheless, there is a reason why the "psychopathy gene" has endured to this day. Where would we be as a civilization if we never had business or government leaders who were able to manage crises ruthlessly and expediently?

    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    I'd rather take a more Buddhist approach to insight to have a more holistic conception of reality and to make choices from that vantage point. External success is often irrational in nature and dismissing the well being of others is to dismiss the reality of Self.
    To the contrary, psychopaths tend to have a deep understanding of their various strengths and weaknesses, that's part of the reason why they're usually very crafty at turning just about any situation to their own advantage.



    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    Pain is also information. When we don't feel pain in the body we can act in ways that further harm the body. When we don't feel psychological pain in response to reality, then we don't have full information about reality.
    They feel pain, but they're able to easily disregard it to focus on the objective they've set their mind to.

    Quote Originally Posted by fia View Post
    I don't want to live with blinders on, I don't want to rigorously grab onto a single shard of reality, I don't want to be imprisoned within self, and that is why it doesn't appeal to me.
    They don't live with blinders on, they simply ignore the part of their identity that prevents them from achieving their goals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    You may as well ask to be or not to be blue eyed or brown eyed or green eyed.

    You have as much choice in that matter too.
    In principle, brain surgery can cause psychopathy. However, it is unclear if medical technology is advanced enough to achieve that objective. For all of your other comments, read my replies to fia.


    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    This does not surprise me. But just because someone doesn't end up behind bars doesn't mean he is good.
    It means he is slightly more responsible than his incarcerated counterpart.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    These psychopaths in mid level management are probably collectively responsible for more harm in the world than the criminals behind bars, by their sheer numbers alone.
    Despite that these psychopaths must have dramatically raised revenue for their CEOs, I imagine that ordinary citizens benefited from that very little, if at all.



    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    These are the people who see movies like The Godfather and Glengarry Glen Ross, and don't just see good, intense, movies, but see role models in the morally reprehensible main characters. Their attitude is "Good father, fuck you, go play with your kids."
    I doubt it, these people tend to have a difficult time identifying with other people on an emotional level.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    This attitude would be half-way tolerable if it worked.
    It does work, Kevin Dutton has shown that a significant percentage of British CEOs, lawyers, mainstream media representatives, surgeons and special forces soldiers are psychopaths. CEOs who have distinct psychopathic traits have been frequently rated by their subordinates as more charismatic, possessing superior communication skills and more admirable than their less psychopathic peers.





    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    But, the vast majority of these guys are losers in addition to being assholes.
    Most people have a misconception about psychopathy that it is a disorder that you either have or do not have. As with all disorders, psychopathy is assessed on a continuum: to be sure, a mild psychopath is far more reprehensible than a normal person, but he'll have an easier time passing himself off as socially acceptable than a radical psychopath.

    http://www.daniweb.com/community-cen...athy-checklist

    For example, most people score 2 or less on Hare's psychopathy checklist and 27 is the minimal threshold where you can be officially diagnosed as a psychopath. At 27, you wouldn't be ruthless enough to reap the full benefits of social and financial success, but 40 will most most likely led you in the lunatic asylum sooner or later. However, at the 30-34 range, you have a considerable chance of thriving in organized crime, business or government bureaucracy.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Their machismo fails not only to win friends, but fails to influence people too.
    Then why are psychopaths CEOs constantly rated as highly charismatic, persuasive and even humanitarian? Why is psychopathy so prevalent among trial attorneys, they don't seem to have many problems influencing people and I doubt they're running short on friends. They have all of the things that their normal rivals covet: status, abundance of wealth and hordes of acolytes who adore them.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    At best, you get someone intimidated into buying real estate and will spend the rest of time fighting frivolous suits (and those law suits are their own falt). I mean, seriously, would anyone buy a tablespoon from a guy like the Alec Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross, let alone a home? .
    Most successful psychopaths don't get caught or even recognized as such, that's why not a single Wall-Street mogul stood trial in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis.



    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    With that said, those who can add some charm into the mix can be quite capable. But as was said, this is "superficial charm" for a sociopath.
    The world is full of idiots, superficial charm is all it takes to be recognized as stupendously charismatic and persuasive and most psychopaths are recognized as exactly that.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Lack of conscience, and ruthlessness are not traits I think I see as being that common in presidents.h.
    Really, you think they got power by being nice and actually believing in the things they say they believe in?

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Even in Clinton's case, what he did seemed more like a mind-bedingly crazy act of rationalizing impulsive behavior, not a lack of conscience..
    I am sure that his decision not to intervene in the fastest genocide in the history of civilization in Rwanda had nothing to do with his lack of conscience. Nikita Kruschev repeatedly sought out conciliatory resolutions to the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Kennedy refused to comply until the brink of the nuclear showdown, what does that tell you about his conscience?

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    But "lack of conscience" seems a bit much. I see this as more common in the Senate and House than in the Presidency. But who knows? Maybe the stuff we never here about will show the presidents past to be without conscience.
    What are you saying? Biographers of these presidents confirmed that your favorite psychopaths from our Middle School History textbooks had no conscience, do you claim that you know these people better than their biographers did?


    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    We have neurotics on one end of emotional sensitivity and psycopaths on the other. (I think it would be amusing if the Big Five change the name of the Neuroticsm scale to the Psycopathy scale and flipped the scores.
    That would be technically incorrect as the spectrum between psychopaths and saints is circular as both would score very low on neuroticism. [/QUOTE]


    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Clam, focus, drive, and much of the other good things we ascribed to psycopaths can all be achieved without the need for lack of conscience.
    We achieve all of these virtues through years of dedication and deliberate practice, psychopaths are practically born with them.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

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  8. #8
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    Not all psychopaths are the same. Most psychopaths are described as they are here, because they are the extreme version of the ESTx types (ESTP = risk-taking, ESTJ = idiot in management). If another type were to be a psychopath, or sociopath (usually ISTx), then they would manifest as the extreme of their type. For example, an ENFJ would be a cult leading manipulative controlling bitch.

    Why you'd want to be the extreme negative version of your type, I don't know. I could see some people wanting the charming or emotionally-risilient (but they aren't.. they seem very touchy) or fearless nature of the psychopath, but I'd say separate the want of those things from the rest of what these shits are.

    Sometimes I want to be a sociopath, because I've spent my entire life being accused of being one, and I suppose actually going there (instead of giving a shit about people) would be a freeing experience. Because, you see, when someone is an actual sociopath or psychopath, they put on a show for everyone, and everyone likes them and becomes their pawns.. they don't actually get accused of being fucked up, and more importantly, these idiots that would accuse me of being this way go out of their way to defend these shits. Just think of how many times these idiot women crave a "thug" (sociopath) or the fearlessness, adventurousness (risk-taking), and charm of the psychopath. Fuck 'em all. Their stupidity drives me up the wall.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Yeah, if you want to consider a pop cultural reference you should consider Dexter rather than Homer Simpson, there's a show which does a not bad job of investigating someone who lacks empathy and may be a true psycho or sociopath.

    There was an episode of House too in which he treats a true psychopath, the character is contrasted with his own and he in some ways envys the psychopathic character but ultimately its portrayed, I believe rightly, as fundamentally flawed and an unenviable state.

    Hearing people talk as you have favourably about it is on a par with individuals who have psychological fixations which lead them to believe their lives would be better if they could amputate a limb. Perhaps for people who are emotionally flooded frequently or experience real troubles with their emotions the idea of being able to do without that or medically inhibit it seems appealing but I dont think its a good idea, I dont think any of the "enjoy your symptom" turn in psychology or the precursors to it have been positive for human health, happiness or dignity.

  10. #10
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    I don't see the relevance of this objection. Just because psychopathy is not the only way to achieve these character traits, it does not follow that psychopathy does not help one achieve them. Most psychologists who study people with these qualities would say that most psychopaths have them, but some non-psychopaths also do.
    It's not an objection, but there are so many other ways to achieve hyper focus that I don't see how it is a special advantage. It is not unique to psychopathy. You later say that the psychopath chooses to dismiss information, so why couldn't anyone choose hyper focus? You seem to emphasize the positive, but also see the negatives as a choice. Do you desire to see psychopathy as purely advantageous? That is the part I do not think is proven in your position.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    Kevin Dutton dedicated a chapter to this topic that he prefaced with a quote from Homer Simpson "just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't know!". Psychopaths, like all humans are able to experience a wide range of emotions including empathy, but they easily disregard them. Various empirical studies have shown that people of their ilk are far superior at identifying their own emotions to the non-psychopaths.
    It isn't the same sort of information, and I thought I addressed that fact. I'm well aware that a person can intellectually understand a lot about another person without a more experiential knowledge. A more experiential connection to another's worldview contains countless amounts of nuanced information that cannot be transmitted via language. Intellectual empathy is the ability to maintain accurate associations without a true knowledge of the nature of those associations. Hearing crying and relating it to sadness for the non-empathetic person is like hearing a bell and relating it to sadness. It is not complete knowledge. A damaged amygdala suggests to me that there is a lack of personal knowledge about certain aspects of experience that would absolutely constrain actual empathy.

    Perhaps their superior ability to identify their own emotions is because the framework is simpler? The reason that non-psychopathic individuals can struggle with identifying emotions is because it is layered and complex. Given enough time and insight it is absolutely possible, and I strongly suspect that it is possible to know every cause for every effect.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    Nonetheless, there is a reason why the "psychopathy gene" has endured to this day. Where would we be as a civilization if we never had business or government leaders who were able to manage crises ruthlessly and expediently?
    I can't answer that, but I'm not going to assume that we would be in a worse scenario. There would likely have been fewer dictators who initiated wars and genocide. If the world had powerful individuals with empathy, with a sense of self that extended beyond the individual, then there could well be more highly developed arts and philosophy. Perhaps we would be traveling space by now, educated the world, and have eradicated hunger? Perhaps cancer and other diseases would be cured. Perhaps learning and knowledge would be brought to levels unimagined through research. Money and resources would have been focused on strengthening the whole of humanity and not just the power of individual dictators. The cost of our recent U.S. wars could have eradicated world hunger, but we had a likely sociopath in office.

    What is the reason that the gene for mental retardation, M.S., and other issues has endured to this day? Existence of a malfunction does not necessarily prove it is superior state of being.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    To the contrary, psychopaths tend to have a deep understanding of their various strengths and weaknesses, that's part of the reason why they're usually very crafty at turning just about any situation to their own advantage.
    From a distanced perspective it is irrational and destructive. There is no reason to value one individual over another, even if we happen to be viewing reality from the vantage point of one individual.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    They feel pain, but they're able to easily disregard it to focus on the objective they've set their mind to.
    Once again, if their amgydala and limbic system is damaged or non-existent, they are not functioning with all data. They are functioning without the data provided through that system.

    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker View Post
    They don't live with blinders on, they simply ignore the part of their identity that prevents them from achieving their goals.
    If they don't experience fear, if they cannot experience empathy, then they are metaphorically lacking peripheral vision.

    Their brain is not fully functional from the standpoint of looking at the hardware of it. Yes, a person can interpret advantages for this state, and I agree that contextually there can be advantages. I do not agree that it is a universally advantages state of existence. Technically it is a damaged, or incomplete, piece of hardware with which they are functioning.
    Step into my metaphysical room of mirrors.
    Fear of reality creates myopic morality
    So I guess it means there is trouble until the robins come
    (from Blue Velvet)

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