Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hannibal is the Least of Your Worries

A lovely article by an editor of Signs of the Times. Sometimes a complex concepts can be illuminated with the the simplest of stories. Many thanks to Keit for sharing her insights into the nature of the Sociopath Next Door.

For further reading on this this subject see here.

Blue Ibis
If The Sociopath Is Next Door - Move Upstairs

by Keit, SOTT editor
Sun, 24 Jun 2007 04:22 EDT

©PA Game Commission

I recently finished reading "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout Ph.D. and wanted to share with you some realizations. I hope they are helpful.

Before reading the final pages of the book, I was sure that the idea that psychopaths are NOT like most of other people was pretty much "accepted" in my mind. I was sure that I "understood" it intellectually, even if I did not "believe" it 100% yet. Well, somehow, those few final pages organized everything in my mind, and the realization is profound and shocking: psychopaths ARE different. I'll try to explain what I've understood.

First, some words from Laura Knight-Jadczyk about the importance of "believing":
"Today it came to me: The biggest problem most of us have (yours truly included) is BELIEVING that there can be human looking beings that are simply not human inside, or are deviant from normal humans, or cannot be fixed, or whatever.

We keep wanting to try this or that or the other thing because in our heart of hearts, we do not WANT to believe it. We do not want to acknowledge that our reality is that cruel, that human beings are not at the top of the food chain, that there ARE different sub-species of human beings that prey on other sub-species.

It's just too damn far out.

And that is because we have been taught something entirely different from infancy, and so we can't BELIEVE it.

What is so important about understanding it this way?

What I notice is that many of you still do not "believe" it and you have not reached that point where you have nothing to lose to try a different hypothesis of reality. You continue on every day in low-level interactions with teensy tinesy petty tyrants and don't really believe that quite a number of them could, just possibly, be intra-species predators... It's all theoretical and interesting and all that, but not really real. It is not part of your BELIEF.

And your belief about reality which is shaped by psychopaths seeking to conceal their existence and reality and control is still a LIE. And as long as you continue to believe a lie, you are blocked from the cascade of events that can transpire if the "truth" binds to your psychic receptors.

When I first read the above comments, I hadn't yet read the book, and I have to admit that my understanding of psychopaths being "different" was mainly theoretical, even if I had lot of opportunities to observe their nature and experience it in the flesh. But it didn't "click" until I finished "The Sociopath Next Door".

Here is a quote from the book that made all the difference. It is a story about Tillie - the female psychopath next door. Notice her thinking processes.
Fred takes the light out of his pocket, holds it close to the ground, and turns it on. After a few moments, they find the melon-size rock, somewhat more easily than they could have hoped, because the rock is smooth and white and the surrounding earth is dark. Catherine exhales and pushes a loose strand of hair behind her left ear. She and Fred bend down and lift the rock together, revealing a surprisingly small hole in the ground, considering it is used by a fat little groundhog.

Catherine has an impulse to shine the penlight into the hole to check on its occupant. But then she realizes that she will not see much and that she may scare the animal.

Arm in arm, whispering and containing their laughter, she and Fred stumble home.

Tillie does not see them. As they return from their mission, she has already been drinking and sulking for several hours, as usual. She sits on a sofa in her living room and pours herself glasses of Glenlivet, trying to drown out the monotony of her life and the idiots she continually has to deal with. The only thing that makes this evening different from any other is the accumulation of packing boxes now stacked around her.

Inside her drunken fog, she congratulates herself on her brilliant idea not to put up a "FOR SALE" sign this time. She thinks, "I'll take those cretins by surprise. Their stupid mouths will gape."

The good-for-nothing real estate agent keeps telling her that not using a sign is shooting herself in the foot, and that he really thinks she should wait for a higher offer. This buyer came in under her price. But Tillie cannot wait. She has never liked waiting. She will have her moment, and her moment will be tomorrow morning. And then everyone in this whole horrible neighborhood will be in complete shock about her move. She is sure of it. The agent does not understand why secrecy matters, but he is a fool, so why listen to him? She has taken losses before when she wanted to get out of the house fast. "It's all in the game", she thinks to herself, "All in the game. You can't stay in a place where people won't listen to you. And giving them a parting shot is extremely important."

Nothing is very interesting, really. Suffocating the rodent [by placing a rock over the burrow opening] was okay for a few minutes, and she hopes Catherine was watching. Catherine would have a stroke. But then that project was over, and there was nothing else to do. She cannot imagine what these absurd people on all sides of her do that seems to occupy them so completely as they scurry about their little lives. They must have brains the size of peas.

In the house up the hill, Greta has the weekend off, and she and Jerry sleep late. When they slowly rouse themselves and go out to the sunroom to drink their coffee, they notice a big moving truck in Tillie's driveway.

"Does that mean what I think it means?" Jerry asks, staring at the truck. "Or are we in bed, dreaming?" "Got to be dreaming," says Greta, also staring. "I never saw a sign. Did you ever see a sign over there?" "Nope"

Just now, two men wearing canvas coveralls come out of Tillie's house, each carrying one end of a sofa. Greta and Jerry look at each other and begin to laugh. Jerry laughs so hard, he spills some of his coffee.

Greta asks him, "Why do you suppose she kept it a secret?" "Why does she do anything? But it doesn't matter anymore, does it? Unbelievable."

Greta is thoughtful for a moment, and then says, "How old do you suppose she is?" "I don't know. Not young." "I wonder whether she ever had any children. Oh wow. Can you imagine being one of her children?" "Worse yet, can you imagine being her?" "So do you think we should feel sorry for her?" Greta asks.

Jerry grins and waves his hand dismissively at the furniture-moving scene in the distance, "Well, I am not sure sweetheart. But if we're going to feel sorry for her, let's do it over breakfast, okay? Remember that strudel?"

"Yes!" says Greta, smacking her lips. She picks up both coffee mugs, and they abandon the view from the sunroom, for the pastry in the kitchen.

Since they are in the house next door to Tillie's, Catherine and Fred also notice the activities of the men from the moving truck, and wonder why they never saw a FOR SALE sign or heard from Tillie that she was moving. Fred rolls his eyes again, and Catherine shakes her head. But then they are distracted by another phone call, this one from their daughter and son-in-law, who say that in two weeks they and four-year-old Katie are flying out for another visit. Catherine is beside herself with excitement, and Tillie's moving day, still in progress outside is forgotten.

As Tillie said: it is "all in the game". All thinking capabilities are busy observing and calculating the outcome. There are no disruptions from those silly and foreign "things" called emotions. Tillie saw emotions as buffers, interferences, something her stupid neighbors didn't know how to get rid off. Tillie's thinking process is so drastically different from her neighbors, the only thing they can do afterwards is shake their heads while witnessing such absurdity.

But for Tillie this thinking is not absurd. It is crystal clear and obvious. She sees everything around her as a game, chess maybe. And all the people are chess pieces, and her life goal is to win the game and gain the maximum power she can gain. There is nothing above this goal.

And there is this boredom. Tillie must be so frustrated that those stupid neighbors don't "dance" to her tune, and she gets only short pleasure from time to time.

But what does she do, and how does she see it?

Imagine a very strange and lazy person sitting near an ant hill. He has been sitting there for a very long time and is extremely bored (too lazy to get up and go somewhere else). He takes a small tree branch and sticks it into the middle of the ant hill and thinks: "Oh, cool! Those tiny creatures started to move. Not boring! Lets see what will happen if I do this", and he disrupts the hill structure a little bit more. "Oh, this is just great! All this action, and I am the one who controls it. Definitely not boring. What a great way to spend time". And he continues to play with the ants, each time inventing new ways to torture them and entertain himself. After a while all the ants are either dead or have left the place. It is boring again.

Luckily for this person, some tourists just happen to be in the area, and this strange person decides to see if he can play with them as with the ants. Apparently it is so easy, they don't have a clue! Not boring again.

So from Tillie's point of view it was very important that Catherine would watch Tillie throwing the stone onto the groundhogs burrow door, without it there is no fun, only boredom. Catherine's strong reaction is fun, because Tillie is the one who makes her squirm and feel this emotional chaos inside. "Oh, this is so invigorating!" It is the game, and Tillie is the master player. She knows exactly what makes people tick. This is easy for her, and she cannot understand how stupid others can be for not getting it. The thrill of winning is all that counts.

So after realizing this, it is very easy to understand why she decided to keep her moving as a secret.

She wanted to poke the human ant hill one last time. She wanted to make them run frantically, with confusion in their minds. And Tillie as a "game master" is the reason for this chaos. She introduced this unexpected event into their lives, and now she will enjoy seeing them coping with the consequences.

If Tillie was less lazy, she could be some municipal clerk, making decisions on who will get registration papers and who will not. Oh, it could be a thrill. To see people crying after telling them that their papers are lost and the date for appeal is expired! What chaos, what fun! She could hold the control keys to their lives in her hands. She could do even so much more if she could be president.

And this in fact is what is happening. We are those ants, at the mercy of strange bored creatures, who are not able to grasp the thing called "emotion" or "conscience" or "empathy". This is who they are - soulless game masters. We cannot outsmart them in direct confrontation, because all their thinking capabilities go into calculating and analyzing our natures - we just will make them more thrilled from an opportunity to play the game with engaging ants. But we can fight them still, by learning their natures and avoiding being their "ants" - learning not to play the game. We must learn how to be above the game, a concept that they simply cannot grasp.

Maybe that is why psychopaths have an ability to "sense" wounded souls, people who were hurt in childhood and are generally more susceptible to manipulation. They are much more fun than "healthy" ants! Every tiny suggestion creates chaos in a wounded mind, they can be shaped so easily - a rich source of "fun".

All of this reminded me of a dialog from a great movie "The Fifth Element", between the psychopathic character of Zorg, and the Priest:

Zorg: It's nice to see you again, Father.

Priest Vito Cornelius: Ah, I remember you now. The so-called art dealer.

Zorg: I'm glad you got your memory back. Because you're gonna need it.

[directs his men out of the office]

Zorg: Where are the stones?

Priest Vito Cornelius: I don't know. And even if I did know, I wouldn't tell somebody like you.

Zorg: Why? What's wrong with me?

Priest Vito Cornelius: I try to serve life. But you only... seem to want to destroy it.

Zorg: Oh, Father, you're so wrong. Let me explain.

[closes office door, places an empty glass on desk]

Zorg: Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder and chaos. Take this empty glass. Here it is, peaceful, serene and boring. But if it is...

[pushes glass off table]

Zorg: destroyed...

[robot cleaners move to clean broken glass]

Zorg: Look at all these little things. So busy now. Notice how each one is useful. What a lovely ballet ensues so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people who'll be able to feed their children tonight so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny weeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain... of life.

[Desk prepares a glass of water and a bowl of fruit]

Zorg: You see, Father, by creating a little destruction, I'm actually encouraging life. In reality, you and I are in the same business. Cheers.

[drinks water with cherry, only to choke on cherry stuck in throat. Zorg frantically presses all buttons on his desk in an attempt to get something to clear his throat]

Priest Vito Cornelius: Where's the robot to pat you in the back? Or the engineer? Or their children, maybe?

[Desk brings out Zorg's pet Picasso; Zorg motions it to try and help him]

Priest Vito Cornelius: There, you see how all your so-called power counts for absolutely nothing? How your entire empire of destruction comes crashing down. All because of one little... cherry.

[Slaps Zorg in the back, causing him to spit the cherry at Picasso]

Zorg: [opens doors, throws Cornelius to guards] You saved my life, and in return, I'll spare yours... for now.

Priest Vito Cornelius: You're a monster, Zorg.

Zorg: I know.

[directs guards to take Cornelius away]

Zorg: [snaps fingers] Torture who you have to. The President, I don't care. Just bring me those stones. You have one hour.

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