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or from another planet

Despite my reservations on Patric Gagne's book SOCIOPATH, she seems to me to a large extent to be some sort of soulmate.
My own self-diagnosis is Misanthropic Aspy.

expanded from Goodreads

I have many of the emotions and non-emotions described in this book. I avoid people. I am a misanthrope. I hate our western culture. I am a dissident. I am ashamed to be human. I am an anti-natalist. I shoplifted small items (mostly food, kitchenware and clothing) for most of my life. I still 'keep myself in practice' in deeply-immoral supermarkets by, for example, stealing a nice spotty banana to ripen further at home and fry in butter and eat after flaming in pastis. I did worse than stick a pencil (remorselessly) in the neck of another child at the age of five - not long after I had been thrown into brambles and nettles by other children. When I was about 4 I sliced the side of a little girl's mouth with a kitchen knife in revenge for blabbing to her parents about our mutual sexual investigations. I am still not sorry I did it. I don't remember any punishment. I never saw her again. Her name was Brenda. I never did anything like that again. Perhaps I exhausted my meagre endowment of masculinity. I remember nothing of my childhood before these two incidents.

Four years later I was sent to a snooty and nasty private school with very bad and mostly-unqualified teachers, some of whom had been in the army during WW2. (read more here) At home I lied about my miseries, bullying and punishments. I don't know why I did so. In our anti-emotional, Presbyterian household I couldn't express complicated emotions except in occasional brief tantrums, durring which I threw what was nearest to hand at what was in front of me, wheether it was a person or a wall.... Once I left school, I reverted to the aspergerish behaviour of total frankness – saying things that Normals didn't want to hear. I still do it compulsively.

I was a head-banger. I hated sports and communal, competitive activity. I never felt the slightest loyalty to any group. I love solitude and now dislike being with or even near people. But I would place myself somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Do the autistic and sociopathic spectra merge ? If so, where ? And does it matter ? Human behaviour is not a simple matter of labelling like Linnaean taxonomy, but people (especially those with PH.Ds) are constantly categorising, labelling, reducing whole phenomena to words - and in the English language which is notoriously bad at abstract concepts, but very good at describing machinery.

'Person with Antisocial Personality Disorder' is no better a description than 'Sociopath' because it uses the vague and biased word 'disorder'. Is it 'disordered' to see other people as stupid, manipulated, manipulative, greedy, bigoted, deeply dishonest in their attitudes and false emotions – and hence to avoid them and feel no empathy for them ? Is it 'disordered' to much prefer pigs and dogs and horses to humans ? Do hermits have sociopathic tendencies ?

If I were to be asked by some silly interviewer to choose between saving a child and saving a tree, I would answer: depends on the child, depends on the tree. And likewise, between dog and tree. But between dog and child, I'd save the dog.

As for 'empathy', I don't think I have ever said "I'm sorry" [for your loss] when someone I don't know very well told me that their mother/son/brother had died. Why would I ? It's like saying "I'm fine" when asked How are you ?
For me to say "I'm sorry" I'd have had to know the person well, see the pain, and empathise rather than tritely, insincerely sympathise.

I never ask "How are you ?" unless I know that person has been ill. Otherwise, if people want to tell me how they are they can do so without my prompting.

I have learned to answer the stupid How are you (or the even worse Ça va ? ) with As well as yesterday, but I don't know about tomorrow. On the other hand I would apologise for knocking into someone or causing unintended embarrassment. I am certainly sorry that the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s. I remember some from the 1940s.

Many 'normal' people are bullies in one way or another. Freud was a bully. I would describe bullying as 'sociopathic', but maybe they are entirely 'neurotypical' (what a slippery word!). In which case, I applaud Sociopathic Tendencies, if not their outcomes. The sociopaths who started the invasion of Iraq and the several invasions of Afghanistan, the Israelis who simply confiscated whole Palestinian villages and made their inhabitants refugees are acceptable, even lauded. Is not human civilisation sociopathic ?

Abattoirs and zoos appal me. The treatment of most 'pets' appals me. People who cut down trees appal me. People who kill spiders and snakes appal me. The 'breaking-in' of horses appals me. Agri- and pesci-business appal me.

I would shout Sociopath! at a homophobe. Are homophobes simply 'wrong-headed' ? Or are they part of a millennia-long sociopathic movement to extirpate difference in sexual-emotional behaviour ?

French and British governments spent centuries and actually spilled blood in their attempted erasure of 'inferior' languages such as Occitan, Breton, Welsh, Gaelic and Irish. Those governments were sociopathic. The American prison system (along with most others) is sociopathic to an extreme degree.

It seems to me that a person with ingredients or attributes of alleged 'Antisocial Personality Disorder' might well be acting quite rationally. They might be not so much antisocial as anti-conventional. Might honesty and a sense of fairness not be as much 'a good thing' as social acceptability and bonhomie in a world slipping down into catastrophe, while all the Normals are ignoring it and desperately, aggressively, internecinely being Normal ?

Some scholars of the Shoah/Holocaust have decided that its ocurrence defies human reason, that it can never be understood.
I disagree. I see possible actors and collaborators of turbo-genocide in every city street. Some of them might be Jews. That is what it means to be a reealist-misanthropist.

Might it not be society itself that is 'sociopathic' ? R.D. Laing ceertainly thought so. Kurt Vonneegut thought so.


The author, aged 4 ?



Adapted from a condensed interview of Patric Gagne by David Marchese.

New York Times 23rd February 2024




For Sociopath it may be more helpful and less crude to read Misanthrope.

DM Sociopaths are modern-day bogeymen, and the word “sociopath” is casually tossed around to describe the worst, most amoral among us. But they are not boogeymen; they are real people and, according to Patric Gagne, widely misunderstood. Gagne wrote “Sociopath,” her buzzy memoir, to try to correct some of those misunderstandings and provide a fuller picture of sociopathy, which is now more frequently referred to as antisocial personality disorder. As a child, Gagne found herself compelled toward violent outbursts in an effort to try to compensate for the emotional apathy that was her default. As she got older, those compulsive behaviors turned into criminal ones like trespassing and theft. Eventually, she discovered that there was a name — that dreaded word — that could be used to describe and explain her experiences of remorselessness, criminality and lack of empathy. The desire to destigmatize her experience and also to help others who may share it (Gagne previously worked as a therapist to those with the disorder and has also written about sociopathy) put Gagne on a path that led to “Sociopath.” “I’m not trying to say, ‘Sometimes we do bad things, but we’re really sweet on the inside,’” says Gagne, who is 48. “I’m saying there is more to this personality type.”


DM When I hear the word “sociopath,” I think of an antisocial, uncaring person who is interested only in satisfying his or her own desires. What’s a clearer picture?

PG Sociopathy is a perilous mental disorder; the traits (which may include lack of remorse, deceitfulness and a disregard for the feelings of others as well as right and wrong) associated with sociopathy aren’t great. But that only tells part of the story. The part that’s missing is you can be a sociopath and have a healthy relationship. You can be a sociopath and be educated. That’s a very uncomfortable reality for some people. People want to believe that all sociopaths are monsters and that all monsters are easy to spot.

In the book, you write about stabbing a classmate with a pencil when you were a kid, and then as you got older trespassing; Specifically, breaking into people’s homes and stealing cars. You don’t succumb to those sociopathic compulsions anymore. How did you learn to control these urges?
As a kid, I didn’t understand why I was acting out the way that I was. All I knew was I felt this pressure, and something in my brain was telling me, Punch that kid, and you’ll feel better. As I got older I understood, OK, there’s a name for this, there is a whole group of people who share this diagnosis. Once I understood that I wasn’t out in space untethered and going crazy, I was on the path to understanding that when I had those feelings of “go steal a car,” I could go, Yes, I could do that, but now I understand what’s going on. That understanding helped break the cycle — or at least redirect the compulsion toward something less destructive.

What does that redirecting look like in practice?
Every once in a while, I will have an urge to do something destructive just because I can, and my redirect is, Do you want this destructive behavior? Or do you want to continue to maintain this life that you have, which requires that you not do those things? I have to have that conversation with myself.

What’s a recent sociopathic impulse that you had?
This is a very vanilla example. When I go to the grocery store and I come home, if anything that I’ve purchased has gone bad, I’ll make a mental note: I’m stealing this next time.

You write about your difficulty with understanding other people’s emotions, feeling apathy and lacking empathy. But you also write about experiencing love. Why are you innately able to feel love but not, say, empathy?
The way I experience love seems to be very different from the so-called neurotypical experience. My experience of love seems less emotional. If I had to explain what love feels like to me, I would say symbiotic. So, a relationship that’s beneficial to both people involved. Not transactional, not possessive, not ego-driven. Mutual homeostasis. It’s not that I’m unable to access emotions or empathy. It’s that my experience of those emotions is different.

Are you able to describe how you’ve built a sense of morality?
Just because I don’t care about someone else’s pain, so to speak, doesn’t mean I want to cause more of it. I enjoy living in this society. I understand that there are rules. I choose to follow those rules because I understand the benefits of this world, this house where I get to live, this relationship I get to have. That is different from people who follow the rules because they have to, they should, they want to be a good person. None of those apply to me. I want to live in a world where things function properly. If I create messes, my life will become messy. I think people are uncomfortable with the idea of, You don’t really care? What does it matter? What does it matter why I choose to help the woman cross the street? Why does it matter why I choose to pick up a wallet and hand it to the person in as opposed to keeping it? It’s not because I’m a good person. It’s not because I would feel shame or guilt. But why does that matter?

What advice do you have for neurotypical people about how best to interact with someone who identifies as sociopathic?
I’m not sure neurotypicals need any, because I have been identifying as a sociopath for years now, and my experience with people who don’t know that has been positive. I have yet to encounter anybody who, when I disclose my diagnosis, acts afraid or upset. I think, inherently, neurotypicals are fascinated by sociopathy because it’s a relatable disorder. Everybody has that darkness in them. Everybody has those thoughts that they shoo away because of guilt. If more conversations between neurotypical and so-called neurodivergents were to occur, it would benefit both. It would benefit the sociopathic person because that acceptance lets 80 percent of the air out of the balloon, but it would help the neurotypicals, like, Oh, I can share things with this person that maybe I couldn’t share with other people. I get more secrets from strangers after telling them my diagnosis; you wouldn’t believe the things that people have told me because they feel safe.

What secrets do they tell you?
Oh, man. I was sitting across from a man at a dinner party — this was like two years ago — and my diagnosis came up, and 30 seconds afterward he said, “You know, I have thoughts of killing my wife a lot.” Not to normalize that, but I was like, Tell me about that. And he goes: “I’ve really thought about it. I’ve reached out to people about hiring somebody to kill her.”

So people just assume that you’re a sympathetic audience?
Yeah, because these are things you’re not supposed to think about. So to be able to talk to somebody — you don’t have to worry that I’m going to start clutching my pearls.

You were a practicing therapist, and we think of therapists as highly empathic, invested in the emotions and stories of their clients. So how did you relate to your clients?
I didn’t "relate to" them. That is not to say I didn’t care about my patients. The easy answer is, of course I care about you. I wouldn’t continue to see you if I didn’t, but why do you need that reassurance from me? My job is to help you understand what’s going on with you. My job is to help you take your emotions, separate them out, explore your motivation. That’s my job. I think that I was a good therapist because I was able to parse those things out unemotionally. My gift to my therapy patients was that I was able to lend them sociopathy: Why do you care? What does it matter? What do you need from that? That, I felt, helped them achieve things that maybe a nonsociopathic therapist couldn’t have offered.

In the book, you describe things like mirroring people back to themselves or your conscious and intentional manipulation in the moment. Is that happening now?
Listen, everyone has a front-facing persona. Most people use that persona as a preference: a desire to be liked, a fear of judgment, wanting somebody to be friends with them. But sociopaths use it out of necessity, and that’s a really important distinction. My decision to mask (by adopting prosocial behaviour). is not because I have some dark ulterior motive. It’s because you guys are interesting to me. Neurotypical emotions are so colorful and complex. In order for me to engage with you, you have to feel comfortable with me. In order for you to feel comfortable with me, I have to mask. I find that people are unnerved by me when I’m not masking. Because otherwise I’m quiet. I ask invasive questions. I stare. My affect is low. The bottom line is that I want you to feel comfortable, so I engage. I smile. I mirror. It’s not nefarious; it’s necessary. The issue here is motivation. I don’t mask because I’m secretly trying to kill you. I mask because I want you to feel comfortable because I find you interesting.

Patric Gagne, aged 4, the same age as the little girl
whose mouth I slit with a knife in revenge for her blabbing
about our sexual explorations.



Why are you interested in me? Why are you interested in sociopathy? Talk to me about your darkness. I’m not expecting answers.
You want to get into it? Oh, yes. I find neurotypical people absolutely delightful!

I’ll give you two reasons I’m interested: I was sent the book, and I started reading, and the opening involved you as a second grader stabbing a kid in the head with a pencil. I thought, Holy moly, readers will be interested in this! So there was a mercenary quality to my own interest. Then also, there are times when I’ve wondered if the skills that I’ve learned from doing my job over the years are basically just forms of interpersonal manipulation, and I was curious to talk to you as a roundabout way of exploring that question for myself.

Where does that question reach you?
What do you mean?

Do you manipulate people in order to execute your job?
I think there is a degree of manipulation, but what do we really mean by manipulation? Is manipulation by definition negative, or does manipulation just mean intentionally creating a certain interpersonal context?

That sounds like a justification to me, which means you’re sidestepping shame or sidestepping guilt.
I disagree. That would be like saying therapists are always guilty of “manipulation.”

Just so we’re clear, when I said justification, I wasn’t trying to say that what you were doing was bad. You’re talking to a sociopath! I don’t think anything that you’re doing is bad. Yes, you are manipulating people to a certain extent — to your point — in the way that I might manipulate somebody in therapy, but I would never feel the need to justify it, and your justification came so quickly. That’s why I was like, Hey, what’s happening that you felt the need to defend your answer?
We don’t usually say we have to justify a positive thing. That’s probably why I reacted that way.

What else? How much of that dark side of sociopathy can you relate to? And if you don’t have an easy answer for that, was it comforting to read about somebody who was open with their experience of being fully immersed in their darkest impulses and a lot of times carrying them out?
Well, I would say that one question that the book raised for me was the extent to which a lot of behaviors that people do could be considered sociopathic, and we just don’t understand them that way. Plenty of us do things that we know are bad because the transgressions feel good. It feels good.

Why? I think it feels good because it feels free. To do something bad, it’s like, I don’t give a damn. The consequences — be it internal guilt or getting thrown in jail — happen after. In this moment, I’m going to do this because it feels great to just not care. That is what the sociopath experience is almost all the time. One piece of advice I would give to anyone who sees themselves in my description is to find an external philosophy that works for you. I liked karma. It seemed clean. It seemed organized. Find that philosophy for yourself, because you’re not going to get to rely on internal checks and balances.
I realize I didn’t quite understand what you meant when you said that you can experience empathy, just differently. What is empathy to you?

Eventually as I got older, what I started to realize is that if I can connect to something that I can internalize naturally, I use that as a bridge to broaden my empathic response. For example, I’ve found frequently that a lot of people who exhibit sociopathic symptoms have strong feelings for pets. That’s a great bridge: You would feel upset if something happened to this animal that you care about. Now let’s extend that feeling to someone close to you that you have a strong relationship with.
But when you say “extend that feeling,” is it cognitive understanding that you’re describing or an emotional response?

At first it is cognitive. Then, over time, that does grow into the emotion. It’s the understanding of it that leads to the feeling. I’m sure you’ve had a situation where someone is explaining something to you, and at first you’re like, I don’t care.
Several times a day!

[Laughs.] Great. Now, imagine if that’s your first instinct, but you understand that you have to be like, Oh, yeah, I understand that I have to care. That is cognitive empathy. You’re not faking it, but you’re internalizing it. That’s your first take on something, and then maybe you get to know the situation better, or you find something about that situation that you can anchor to, and then the feeling kicks in.
Do you see your sociopathy as beneficial to you?

I think my sociopathy is entirely beneficial to me. I see my friends struggling with guilt. On an almost daily basis I think, I’m glad I don’t have that. The psychological characteristics of sociopathy are not inherently bad. Lack of remorse and shame and guilt has been misappropriated to mean this horrible thing, but again, just because I don’t care about you doesn’t mean I want to cause you more pain. I like that I don’t have guilt because I’m making my decisions based on logic, based on truth, as opposed to ought or should. Now, there is a flip side. I don’t have those natural emotional connections to other people, but I’ve never had those. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Just because I love differently doesn’t mean my love doesn’t count.




The best of Man is his ruins.

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