Adelyn Birch

psychopathsandloveIt’s funny that the area in life where psychopaths are most often accused of harming people is in love relationships. There are many blogs or websites for “victims” of psychopaths. I call the owners “haters” because of the way they talk about us. What makes Adelyn Birch different (meaning better)?

  1. She is genuinely creative and I don’t mean with facts. I mean, she is artistic. She has some hauntingly beautiful images on her site.
  2. Unlike some people, she isn’t using her site, Psychopaths and Love, as a money-making device, selling classes and the like. Well, she does sell her books but only in a low-key way.
  3. What makes her special, is that Adelyn Birch really gets it. She has an understanding of psychopaths one would hardly expect of a self-proclaimed victim of “psychopathic abuse.”

night-697702_640-400x250By way of introduction, she wrote, “I’m a woman who experienced firsthand what I write about — victimization by a high-functioning, sub-criminal psychopath who involved me in a relationship that caused a great deal of harm.” It was such a major event in her life that she devoted years of time and effort to help others deal with experiences that were similar to her own. I would have liked to open a dialog but there doesn’t seem to be a way to contact her. I am writing this blog post because I wanted to communicate with Adelyn directly. If you see this, Adelyn, I am speaking to you.

Adelyn’s literary output includes: Psychopaths and Love, More Psychopaths and Love, 202 Ways to Spot a Psychopath, 30 Covert Emotional Tactics. I must confess, I have not read any of them. Maybe I will some day but for now, her blog is enough.


The most stunning area of insight Ms. Birch displays is that of charm. I wrote something about this which few writers have displayed awareness of. My post, What’s So Charming About Psychopaths, noted,

What does the psychopath have that is special? The psychopath is truly interested in the object of his attention. He doesn’t put women in a box where every woman is womenwholovepsychopathsand just sees her as every-woman. He is curious, interested and has penetrating vision that goes right to the core of a person. As a woman who has dated many, many men, I can tell you this is a rare quality.

I have a dual perspective. Not only am I a psychopath, I have loved a few as well. Not much has ever been said about path-path relationships but they exist. I’m not the only one. I guess I am one of those Women Who Love Psychopaths. That is the title of a book by Sandra L. Brown. This is another book I haven’t read but maybe I should.

Adelyn Birch’s article about charm, Charm and the Psychopath, explains

First, the psychopath has zero distractions, which is extremely unusual. Again, he has the intense focus of a predator on his prey. Unlike a normal person meeting someone new, he’s not bothered by things like social anxiety, self-doubt and insecurity. Those things don’t exist for him, so they don’t get in the way. In other charmingpsychopathwords, the psychopath is not lost in his or her head like most of us are, thinking thoughts that prevent us from being totally present and prevent us from really connecting with another person. Of course we do connect with others, but It usually takes some time to feel we’ve connected deeply. But the psychopath is able to create that connection — actually, the illusion of that connection — quickly, sometimes in just a couple of minutes.

OK. She couldn’t resist putting the usual junk about “predators” and calling the connection an “illusion.” But the main point is in our focus which is 100%.

When the psychopath’s high-beam of charm is on you, he is absolutely present. When that presence is focused on you, it’s fascinating. Charming, actually. And we’re simply not used to that level of “presence.” We’re not used to being the subject of such intensely focused attention, and that is very compelling in and of itself.

samvakninThat is so much more to the point than the usual junk about love bombing. Speaking of focus, Sam Vaknin offered additional insight into the difference between a narcissist and a psychopath by way of body language. The narcissist maintains his separate space, as if to avoid contamination with lesser beings around him. While the narc sits back, the psychopath leans in. The narc talks about himself. The psychopath wants to learn about you. The narc might impress and intimidate you but the psychopath welcomes you in. As Adelyn Birch says, “The reason the psychopath can focus so powerfully on you is that he’s not in his head — he’s in yours.

Idealize, Devalue, Discard

boredHaters, or “victims’ advocates” area always repeating the above formula like a mantra. But Ms. Birch also has an explanation for the abrupt way some of our relationships end. “When the psychopath I was involved with discarded me, he was enraged. With a voice full of anger and contempt, he shouted, ‘You bore me! I’m done with you!’”
Why the rage, she wondered. Her answer: “I didn’t sorryknow it at the time, but my former ‘soul mate’ was jonesing for some dopamine.” Boredom is agony for psychopaths. When we are fascinated by a new person, still discovering whatever is mysterious and unknown about that person, we are not bored. Birch thinks our focus on the other, which Birch calls prey, is simply about power. But she belies that simplistic idea with her analysis of our dopamine response and our aversion to boredom. The world can be a very small, flat place. As hippies would say, we are old souls. Been there. Done that. Looking for something new. Each new relationship offers bored1the promise of new discoveries. The rage of Birch’s ex can be understood in terms of his realization that there was nothing more to learn about her. It also explains why one of my exes told me he realized I was “a taker, not a giver.” He had nothing more to learn about me, or so he thought. You know the story about the princess who kisses a toad and he turns into a handsome prince? This is the story of kissing a prince and seeing him turn toadinto a toad. The magic was in the mystery, the unknown. Without the magic, we are back in the mundane world. Not that we can’t maintain long-term relationships. But these become more like friendships. Adelyn Birch deserves credit for recognizing the fact that we are focused on reward and dopamine.


woconscienceIt’s a well-known truism that we don’t have a conscience. Adelyn, echoing the sentiments of many other NTs, finds it incredible, almost unbelievable. “IMAGINE, for a moment, being a psychopath. Try to imagine not having a conscience. What would that be like? You would not have any feelings of guilt, shame or remorse, no matter how immoral or even heinous an action you’d taken. Imagine having no concern for anyone, not even friends or family. Imagine that the ideas of ‘responsibility’ and ‘commitment’ are foreign to you, except as things that stupid fools believe in.” She sounds just like Martha Stout in the introduction to The Sociopath Next Door. “Imagine — if you can — not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or maskremorse no matter what you do no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends or even family members.” I have trouble imagining the opposite but it doesn’t look like anything I’d want to be saddled with. These NTs seem astonished at our ability to act like them to “fit in.” Parents and teachers are very helpful in this. I was forever being told how I should be. The lessons were delivered with so much emotional intensity that I knew I didn’t dare be myself in front of them. They don’t seem to realize that the “mask” is for their comfort as much as it is for any desire to “get over” on them. I have felt like an outlaw since I was born.


buddhaIn Eastern religions, enlightenment is often seen as liberation from ego, in other words, attachment to a limited identity. Psychopaths already have that state effortlessly. I have noticed many psychopaths are pan-sexual, in other words, free to experiment with any and all sexual expressions. So many of us are kinky and switchable (both dominant and submissive). Adelyn goes a step further and says we have no gender. “After my involvement with the psychopath, I got the strange feeling that he didn’t really have a gendergender. When I learned that psychopaths have no identity — they only create one as needed — it started to make perfect sense.” Rather than no identity, I would say we have a fluid identity. There is at least one transgendered psychopath. I wanted to be a boy when I was a kid like many other girls. When I hit puberty, I embraced my given gender. I’m glad that I didn’t have the option to “transition” when I was so young. It would have been a mistake. I think society needs to accept the fact that male and female each have  a wide range of possibilities. If more people saw things that way, fewer would need to transition to their “true” gender.


tunnel-vision-212923_640While the most savy and aware of all the pro-victim gurus on the web, Adelyn Birch certainly does look down on us. She shares many of the delusions of the rest of her tribe. She accepts as fact the belief of those who have loved and lost that they were victims of a psychopath. There is an unfortunate tendency to identify bad with psychopathic. These victims’ sites promote such delusions. Every single one of them offers guidelines for  “spotting” a psychopath. Adelyn certainly understands us better than most. But she is reactive to having been hurt and that keeps her from seeing things objectively. While I have a rather jaundiced eye for psychiatrists and psychologists and think they are often wrong, the laypeople are even more likely to err in diagnosing this condition. Adelyn is very kind of her “fellow victims,” many of whom seem to have severe self-esteem issues (no doubt the fault of “their” psychopath). She helps them recover. The world suffers from much delusional thinking. Hoping for (but not expecting) a recovery.


Worth 1,000 Words

I have already written (The Eyes Have It) about the article by Adelyn Birch, Psychopathy: Is It In the Eyes? But this picture alone deserves a separate comment.


I think it speaks volumes about the author. If our eyes are really that terrible, why did she have to create this horror-movie, science-fiction image to make her point?

A Psychopath’s Emotions

Do I feel too much?

emotionAs a psychopath, I am considered deficient in the ability to experience emotions the way NTs do. That having been said, we can’t really know if what we mean by the word “emotion” is the same thing an NT means by the same word.

What are emotions? Googling brought me:

Subjective, conscious experience characterised primarily by psychophysiological expressions, biological reactions, and mental states.
Emotion is any conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a certain degree of pleasure or displeasure. Scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings and there is no consensus on…

emothersornotHmm… Subjective? Oxford defines it as “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions: ‘his views are highly subjective.’” So it’s defined in terms of feelings but what if you don’t know what feelings are? Wikipedia defines feelings as a physical experience. Emotions are “Psychophysiological.” Of the mind and the body. I’m getting that emotions are an experience of the body associated with a mental experience.

Furthermore, the experience of emotions involve pleasure and/or displeasure. Wikipedia defines pleasure this way:

is a broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria.

pleasure_and_pain_by_blue_14-d5h58uhOK. Pleasure is a feeling that subjectively is experienced as positive. Displeasure the subjective opposite of pleasure. I don’t know why psychopaths should have any trouble experiencing any of the above. We have bodies and minds. We experience pain and pleasure. Surely, we can detach ourselves and, thereby have the subjective experience under more control than perhaps an NT can.

The Brain

128px-Amigdale1The part of the brain involved with emotions is the amygdala. Strangely enough, men usually have a larger amygdala (In the adult human brain, the male amygdala is significantly larger than the female amygdala, even when total brain size is taken into account) than women although psychopaths are said to have smaller amygdalae than NTs. Also, conservatives have larger right-hemosphere which controls fear. Psychopaths have less fear than NTs. The amygdala processes memory, decision making as well as emotion. It is divided into several parts, notably a left and right side. The left side of the amygdala plays a role in the reward system which is more primary in psychopaths than NTs.


The neurology of psychopathy is something even experts are just coming to grips with so I hardly expect to draw many conclusions with my lay-level of knowledge. I’m more comfortable discussion the linguistic and experiential aspects of emotion. The most obvious dividing point between psychopaths and NTs is in the pleasure/pain aspect. Although everyone has a body and a mind, psychopaths tend to be more detached than NTs in our relationship to feelings. We are more strongly driven by reward than fear.

empathyEmotions that connect us with other people are the ones we are said to lack. The difference that seems to concern NTs the most is empathy. Wikipedia says, “Empathy has many definitions that encompass a broad range of emotional states, including caring for other people and having a desire to help them; experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions…” Closely connected with empathy is the so-called conscience. Oxford calls it “an detachmentinner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.” There’s no mention of empathy as such in their definition but it seems implicit in the way people talk about it that empathy gives people the capacity to pass moral judgement on our own behavior based on how it affects others. Yet psychopaths seem able to understand moral concepts. We can know something we did was wrong in a moral sense but we don’t care as much as NTs would like us to. Here we come back to the issue of detachment.

freeJudgement seems to cause emotional reaction as much as it is caused by empathetic understanding of other people’s feelings. Psychopaths have less hate than NTs, probably because we have less judgement. Personally, I feel incensed by injustice when I perceive it. But I can also let go of my anger and even my judgements more easily than the average person. It isn’t moral judgement so much as attachment to moral judgement that interferes with that sublime indifference which NTs sometimes identify as monstrous or even evil. But perhaps the reason we have less anxiety and depression is that very freedom from attachment.

lovetreeLove is another emotion psychopaths are said to lack. But I have experienced love, both romantic love and nurturing love (for a pet). NTs can say my “love” isn’t the real thing. Only they know what that is like. There is no way their claim can be proven or disproven. Everyone’s experience is hir own. But I have had my heart broken. That’s supposed to be the real thing, isn’t it? I mean, psychopaths are supposed to be these ice-cold humanoids who just move on after it’s over which happens pretty soon since we don’t have long-term relationships. Right? I was with Jack for two brokenheartyears. That was, up until then, my longest lasting relationship. I’ve been with Vicki 46 years. Each great love was radically different from the others. But all three stand out in my life from the mundane, everyday experience of living. In Blank Space, Taylor Swift sings, “We’re young and reckless. We’ll take this way too far. It’ll leave you breathless or with a nasty scar.” Each of these relationships was more wreckless the earlier in my life it occurred and more wholesome, more “sane,” the later is life it occurred. That’s good. At, my age, it’s helpful to settle down with someone who is not only a lover, but also a friend. Great passion is more suitable for the young. I hate to accept the fact that I’m aging. I want to be able to have great adventures, go bungee jumping, swim with sharks, whatever but my body can’t always cover checks my spirit wants to write. But living the twilight years and preparing for death could just turn out to be my greatest adventure. I think that’s the attitude to take.

jackAs I read back over this blog post, I see I have reached no real conclusions. Oh well. To quote a slogan which I really hate, “It is what it is.” I probably feel more than other paths. A friend (also a psychopath) suggested I’m really a borderline. Yes, I have had my heart broken by a lover. But broken hearts mend and I didn’t feel a thing when my parents died, nor when my best friend died. I even didn’t react when Jack (the heartbreaker) died. Death happens. So does heartbreak. I happened too. I was born and lived my life. I have sometimes felt a lot of passion. I also have detachment when I need it. Peace out.

Get Over It, Folks

The Psychopathy Problem

garrettpearl2As a psychopath, I am nonplussed by the odd forms taken by society’s obsession over our kind. It is often amusing; sometimes sinister. Always worthy of study:


psychopath3I subscribe to Psychopathic Times/Narcissist Nation, published by Tina Taylor. Although this web publication is often repetitious, there are enough new and interesting articles to make it worth subscribing to.  Today, I found such an article. The article in question is called Social Psychopathy & Its True Origins, which is part of a blog by a Kevin Chambers. Every page of the blog has a quote from Martin Luther King with his picture. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It’s truly amazing how many people want to identify their cause with MLK. Well, I’m certainly not silent about things that matter to me. Not only on my Cluster B blog, but my Soapbox, dedicated specifically to things that matter to me.

passioKevin Chambers doesn’t seem to think much of psychopaths. He starts by lauding one of the most obnoxious haters on the web. “To start, Mark Passio really knocks it out the park here in this first video, as he speaks aloud what many of us are silently thinking.” Really? What am I “silently thinking?” LOL! This man uses slides to illustrate his lecture like some professor. He starts by analyzing the word psychopathy, taking it apart. Yes. The first part of the word is psyche, the mind. The second part is path, as in “pathological.” So it can represent any kind of “mental illness” if one goes by the meaning of the Greek words. But psychopathy has a specific meaning. It isn’t just a generic word for mental illness. And this is not, by the way, what I had been “silently thinking.” He then goes on to call us “animals.” We have “cunning” but it’s not real intelligence. For goodness sake! Can’t catch him saying we’re intelligent. We have a “lack of conscience or empathy.” YAWN! Tell me something new. Margaret ThatcherBut Mark Passio can’t get over our lack of empathy. That is totally strange to him. And yet, as he marvels at this trait, he shows a picture of Margaret Thatcher on the screen. Now, there’s a dame who is full of empathy. A close friend of the blood-drenched Chilean dictator, Pinochet, she has said, “The trouble with socialism is sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” Stunningly empathetic, no? Of course, there are psychopaths on every part of the political spectrum. I know socialists who are psychopaths and libertarians who are psychopaths. But nobody ever accused Ayn Rand of having too much empathy. I don’t think Margaret Thatcher could be accused of it either. Laissez-faire capitalism gets its justification by assuming money is already justly distributed so taxing a rich man to feed a poor one is pure theft. Empathy be damned. Or maybe empathy is only supposed to be extended toward the “hard working” billionaire whose taxes are stolen to feed the poor.

vonmisesNever-the-less, we psychopaths do whatever we want. “It’s not a human being, folks. It’s an animal,” proclaims Passio. We’re it’s now. “These beings are out there among us, feeding off of us.” Towards the end of his spiel, Passio graduates us to the title of “demon.” We “think” we are at the top of the food chain. Yet Passio’s video is full of one anti-welfare state mime after another quoting the most extreme pro-capitalist pundits around, von Mises, Hayek, etc. Yet, Kevin Chambers thinks this video “knocks it out of the park.” The fact that the political propaganda on this video clashes with the political convictions of Martin Luther King isn’t explained. It is noteworthy that Passio admits that psychopaths are born with a brain that is wired for psychopathic thinking. Once asked self-proclaimed psychopath Athena Walker if she thought she was evil. “For being born?” she asked.

johntrudellIn addition to Mark Passio, Chambers lauds John Trudell, a Native American who indicted Christopher Columbus and, in fact, the entire Western civilization that moved in on the American continent, disregarding the humanity of the indigenous folk, decimating their civilization in favor of their own. The same blog post that has Mark Passio’s indictment of psychopaths, calling us “animals” and “demons,” has a video by John Trudell which contains a heart-felt cry for social justice. Chambers doesn’t seem to recognize the irony of the fact that both Mark Passio and the settlers on North America dismissed the humanity of people they considered inferior to themselves.

passio2Somehow, Chambers thinks the diseases of Western civilization can be chalked up to psychopathy even though Passio’s speech stressed the enormous difference between the psychopath and the “rest of” humanity. It doesn’t seem that Passio considers his civilization so damaged that he and his fellow man don’t even understand what a human is, which is what Trudell said of it. We, psychopaths, born with a defective brain that makes us animals and/or demons, are not humans but he, Passio and “most people” are human. They say politics makes strange bedfellows. But this is nothing short of bizarre. Chambers’ politics appear to be highly generic. From Martin Luther King, to John Trudell, all the way to Mark Passio the virtuous standard of humanity inhabits every part of the political spectrum.

birds-born-in-a-cage-think-flying-is-an-illnessI have analyzed the ravings of Mark Passio, elsewhere, in a blog post entitled, Birds Born in a Cage. I find Mr. Passio highly narcissistic or, in layman’s terms, full of himself. He talks down to his audience in a way that is so insulting, I wonder why they even put up with him. For example, he says, “understand what is true or get used to the chains, folks.” He calls his series of videos “The Great Work” which is a term used by occultists who are seeking higher truth. I am grandiose. It’s part of my psychopathy. But I couldn’t imagine being as grandiose as this man. No, not even in my best (or worst) days.

lamarkAside from his deluded admiration for the rantings of Mark Passio, Kevin Chambers does say some interesting things. His post goes on from Trudell to a discussion of epigenetics which considers the ability of beings to transmit acquired characteristics to their next generation through their genes. This idea, promoted by a Russian scientist called Lamarck, was once laughed into absurdity. Now it’s being reconsidered. It is oppression that seems most likely to change people’s genes. Survivors of the Holocaust and descendants of African slaves are being examined in this light. Chambers offers these theories as a possible explanation of why society is so fucked up. But there is an apparent dissonance between the idea of society as less human presented by Trudell and the idea of psychopaths as alone being demonic while the rest of “us” are just stupid (the extent that they don’t agree with Passio).

My own opinion

funny-psychopath.pngAlong with Martin Luther King, I am not silent about things that really matter. As a psychopath, I object to the idea that everything that’s wrong with our civilization is a reflection on us. Certainly, any awake individual knows our civilization is highly flawed. Reams of literature have been written explaining how and why we got where we are today. Many of those theories have merit. Blaming 1 to 4 percent of the population strikes me as absurd. If we are so far from the norm, as Mark Passio claims, how can the many problems of civilization be our fault? It does remind me of something. Antisemitism has always presented Jews as simultaneously pathetic outsiders and powerful threats. This is as true of antisemitism in the Middle Ages as it was of Hitler’s antisemitism. In the movie, Cabaret, a woman living in proto-nazi Germany wonders, “if Jews are capitalists, how can they be communists?” A friend answers, “That is their cunning. If they can’t destroy us one way, they use the other way.” Isn’t there a whisper of the same kind of thinking when people describe the all-powerful psychopath who, no matter how fucked-up, manages to be destroying the fabulous civilization these fabulous normals have managed to build? Isn’t it time people got over it?

Healing With Hate

dandersenThe Worst Coming to the Worst

Most psychopaths and most “victims” know the word Lovefraud. This is one of those sites that I have named hater sites. Owned by Donna Andersen’s professional background is in journalism. She calls herself a “freelance writer” and is the author of a book by the same name as her website, Love Fraud and Red Flags of Love Fraud. Her expertise in sociopathy comes from her marriage withJamesMontgomery-72dpi James Alwyn Montgomery “who has been diagnosed as a sociopath.” (Reading a bit further, I discovered that she was the “doctor” to give him that diagnosis after having read Without Conscience.) Regardless of his psychiatric diagnosis, he certainly was a sleaze. She met him through a single’s ad. I guess as a single 40-year-old woman, she was feeling kind of desperate. His ad claimed he was worth two to three million, a widower with a grown daughter and a dog. After the wedding, he moved in with her and she converted her basement into an office for him. Strange she didn’t wonder why, with two-three million, he couldn’t do better than that. It turned out he was a professional conman who took money from a number of women. She lost everything she had but gained a new identity, a survivor of sociopathic love fraud. With this, she was able to write two books and start a money-making website for fellow victims/survivors.

George-Simon-5254-214x300Dr. George Simon is a psychologist who has written a lot about psychopathy. He also has the dubious distinction of declaring psychopathy a “character disorder” instead of a “personality disorder.” So what is the difference?

“Personality and character disorders are not the same thing. Our personality defines the stylistic way we tend to interact, while our character is defined by the level of social conscientiousness and virtue in our personality. When personality or character traits present major obstacles to functioning in a healthy way, they might constitute a disorder.” (emphasis mine)

Dr. Simon is rather cagy in explaning what he means but I have finally managed to find a definition in his own words that admits that he mixes morality with science (and comes crossbreedup with a frankensteinian monster). In the animal kingdom, some species can breed with other species but the offspring is usually sterile. So, I believe, is the frankensteinian mix of science and morality. Simon defines disorder as a set of “obstacles to functioning in a healthy way.” This sort of begs the question. One is unhealthy because one has a disorder. But a disorder, by definition, is unhealthy functionality. I, myself, would define “disorder” as any pattern or order that the people with the psychopathpower and prestige to name things don’t like. As for health, how is that defined? If someone is generally in harmony with hirself and feels good about hir life, isn’t that the best definition of health one can honestly come up with? Most psychopaths, when asked, declare themselves pretty satisfied with who they are. Some are in prison for breaking the law. One might call that a misfunction of disfunction. But the many psychopaths who are free and living what Hare calls reasonable lives. They do not seek out therapy and don’t think they need to be “fixed.”

preditorAha! But the problem with psychopaths, Simon will say (with Hare’s agreement) is the affect we have on others. We are predators. What’s the proof? Well, there are sites like Love Fraud which goes on and on about how terribly psychopaths have treated their lovers and/or spouses. There are plenty of “victims” there to testify to that. But how do we even know how many of these “psychopaths” really are that? Ms. Andersen’s “sociopath” hasn’t been clinically diagnosed. We only have his bad behavior to go on. And psychopathy and/or sociopathy are not identical to bad behavior. If they were the lay person could gleefully go through life, pointing to various folks they don’t like and calling them ‘paths.

Simon has attempted to explain the difference between personality and character.

masksThe word ‘personality’ is derived from the Greek word persona, which means “mask.” In the ancient theater, males played all roles, including the roles of female characters. Also, the art of dramatizing situations and conveying emotion was not as evolved as it is today. So, actors used masks of various types to denote gender as well as to emphasize various emotional states. Classical theories of psychology borrowed the term “persona” because they conceptualized personality as the social “mask” a person unconsciously puts on to hide and protect the more authentic but more vulnerable “true self.”

But psychopaths are notorious for wearing a mask to hide his true personality. But if personality is the mask, then all we have are characters living behind masks that are called their personalities. Simon says everyone wears a mask to protect hir “vulnerable ‘true self.'” Character, on the other hand,

Character-Traits-Poster-Pin-2-791x1024The word ‘character’ derives from both French and Greek words meaning to engrave or furrow a distinctive mark. The word has been used to denote the most distinguishing traits of an individual that define or “mark” them as a person. Most especially, the term has been used to reflect those aspects of an individual’s personality that indicate the degree to which his or her personality traits reflect socially desirable qualities such as self-control, ethics, loyalty, fortitude, etc. So, the term ‘character’ generally refers to the extent of one’s virtuousness and social conscientiousness.

Hmm. “Socially desirable qualities” such as “ethics?” Well, it seems clear Dr. Simon is talking about morality no matter how skittish he is about spelling it out.

peckDr. Simon isn’t the only professional confounding science and morality. M. Scott Peck, who, unlike Dr. Simon, is an actual M.D., wrote a book called People of the Lie, subtitled, “The Hope for Healing Human Evil.” Unlike Dr. Simon, Dr. Peck is not at all shy in using his medical credentials to call fellow human beings “evil.” It’s right there on the cover of his book. Dr. Peck is refreshingly honest. He looks the problem right in the eye. In People of the Lie, he writes,

evilEvil is a moral judgment. I am proposing that it may also be a scientific judgment. But making the judgment scientifically will not remove it from the moral sphere. The word is pejorative. Whether we call a man evil on the basis of pure opinion or on the basis of a standardized psychological test, we are passing a moral judgment on him either way. Had we best not refrain from doing either? Science is dangerous enough. Moral judgment is dangerous enough. How dare we mix the two in the light of Jesus’ admonition

Bloody Mary

And not everyone even believes in Jesus. There was a time when every country standardized the faith all citizens had to adhere to. It led to many religious wars. In times of monarchy, it was the monarch who defined the “true religion” for his subjects. The creation of secular society freed mankind from the sticky quagmire created by the insistence on a one true religion. Science has long been held as independent of religious dogma. How can “evil” ever by a “scientific judgment?” By some sort of scientific consensus? Dr. Peck is right in calling this slippery slope “dangerous.” It’s a wonder that he still thinks it’s ok to risk it.

creationismScience isn’t quite as objective was we want to think it is. Otherwise, scientists who disagreed with each other would be able to subject their various hypotheses to an objective scientific test and then everyone would see the truth. But there are bona fide scientists who believe in and preach creationism. There is disagreement among scientists about vaccination. It seems to me, too, that, just as in business meetings, there are a couple of actual thinkers and a lot of ballast that just floats after a leader. Mixing science with political policy can become just as sticky as established religion once was. Nevertheless, I think we should try to keep science as pure as we can. Anyone truly committed to Truth, should agree.

victarianmadhousePsychiatry started when scientifically inclined individuals sought to divorce social stigma attached to certain behavior from what they started calling illness which they believed actually caused that behavior. Despite the efforts of those psychiatrists, the stigma remained, now attached to the label mental illness. Changing a name doesn’t change people’s minds. Simon and Peck seem to want to reunite some “sick” behavior with the original stigma. Since the stigma has clung to the concept of “sick behavior,” these two have managed to develop a following.

Sam Vaknin suggested psychologists might do better to develop psychology as more a philosophy or school of philosophy than a hard science. There is some justification in that idea. Human beings are much too complex and variable to reduce to some kind of hard, scientific formula. Thinkers resist over simplification and we don’t seem to have liberated ourselves from religion as much as we think.

donna_andersenBack with Donna Andersen and George Simon. Simon says people with character disorders can’t be “helped” by traditional psychotherapy. The videos of him on Donna’s site hint but don’t spell out how he would suggest people like us psychopaths ought to be treated. To find out, sign up for the courses and pay your fees. I think I am correct in turning a wary eye to these people who call me “evil” and want to “treat” me. I think their sympathies are all with the “victims” they insist we are piling up (who are probably just folks who had bad relationships). Still, it is fitting that these two people who fall into my definition of haters are teaming up.


more real than reality

cokeBladerunner is a kind of cult film which has appeared in several different versions. Not really being one of the dedicated buffs of this film, I have only seen the final version so my impressions will be based on that version. The film is obviously futuristic and I would add dystopian. The society is more advanced technologically than our real world but socially it shows signs of being retro. For example, a huge electronic poster advertises Coca Cola. A voice on a loud speaker urges people to seek life in the “off world” where they can “start over” and find opportunity and adventure. This suggests that the world they live in is somehow deficient in both. There are jobs in the world. For one thing, the Tyrell Corporation which manufactures replicants must have a workforce. And we see people selling food.

sushiBut the greatest number of jobs seems to be in the production of artificial life. It is so advanced, people specialize in different parts of the body. For example, some people specialize in creating only eyes. Some create scales for artificial snakes. It is also multi-ethnic with a preponderance of people of Asian extraction. The interesting artificial life of this society is the replicants, androids who are “more human than human” according to the Tyrell Corporation that created them. They are made to be slaves of humans. They have super strength and are used for dangerous and onerous tasks. Following a rebellion, they have been banned from the earth and work only in the “off world.” The advertisements urging people to go to the “off world” mention the advantage of having replicant slaves designed just to meet their needs.

enjoycokeWhile there seems to be a wide divide between the lives of humans and the lives of replicants, humans don’t really seem all that free either. The film starts with Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) being arrested and dragged to the office of his former boss, Bryant, who wants him to go back to work as a bladerunner. Deckard’s retirement means little to Bryant who threatens Deckard that as long as he isn’t a cop, he is a mere nobody with no power (the implication being that he can be victimized with impunity).

If replicants are really “more human than human,” their enslavement raises ethical Rachael-blade-runnerissues. Most systems of ethics consider human life the most important phenomenon in the universe. Despite the existence of an animal-rights movement, human supremacy reigns almost universally. Even in the TV series, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, there is a tedious discussion in which Buffy makes a clear distinction between slaying vampires and demons and killing human beings. The former is good and the latter terribly bad. As Buffy calls killing vampires “slaying” as if that makes it seem cleaner or something, killing replicants is called with the bitterly ironic name of retirement. Replicants “retire” but never see a pension nor any kind of reward for their hard work. As slaves they have no rights. But how free are their human masters?

deckardWhat does “more human than human” really mean? Is it just an advertising slogan emphasizing how “real” they seem but not literally true? Or are they really more human than human. How can they be more human than the thing they are imitating? Empathy seems to be the feature that distinguishes replicants from humans. But there are people known as psychopaths living in the world today who are deficient or even incapable of empathy and there are people who want to exclude them from the political arena by administering a test to find who they are and limit their civil right to participate in democracy. Some people would deny the very humanity of psychopaths and think all should be “retired.” Perhaps Bladerunner is more real than reality.

prisIn Bladerunner, they use a test to spot the replicants. The only way to know for sure whether someone is a replicant or a human is an empathy test using a Voight-Kampff machine. Replicants don’t possess empathy and humans, supposedly do. Funny how this empathetic species is capable of creating sentient beings to be exploited as slaves. Despite a feminist movement, the world of Bladerunner has female replicants known as “skin jobs” to work as unpaid prostitutes. The dehumanizing term “skin job” speaks for itself. The replicants  are endowed with only four years of life so they won’t become self-aware enough to rebel. That tactic didn’t work. Four replicants rose up against their human masters. Their leader, Roy Batty, wants to extend his life beyond four years. In order to do this, he must confront the man who created him, Tyrell. It looks like Roy isn’t just in it for himself. He seems to see himself as a true leader and champion of his kind, seeking liberation for all replicants. When he learns of the death of his fellow mutineers, he is distraught, something contradicting the idea that he is without empathy. From Roy and Leon, we hear the bitter, “You know what it is to be a slave? To live in fear.” The humans may deny the replicants their humanity but it speaks to us loud and clear.

duttonfallenAnother rebel, Leon, a manual laborer, kills a bladerunner, Holden, who is conducting the Voight-Kampff test on him. Holden conducts himself in a way that seems very far from empathetic. When Leon admits he is nervous, Holden doesn’t even make the slightest gesture of trying to make him feel more at ease. A documentary on the British Channel 4 called Psychopath Night has a countdown of films featuring psychopathy. One of those films is Bladerunner. Kevin Dutton and James Fallon metomaswatch the films and comment on them. They both thought the scene with Leon was stunningly psychopathic. But why wouldn’t someone kill the man who is threatening his life? I would think even an NT would do that much for himself. The documentary also features M.E. Thomas, author of Confessions of a Sociopath who tells us she sometimes feels like a character in Bladerunner herself, having to hide her true nature to avoid the wrath of the NTs.

Perhaps the most poignant character in the film is Pris whose creators and exploiters just roytoss her off as a “skin job.” She exists for their pleasure. In other words, she’s a sex slave. We see her in the film, homeless and lost, going to sleep in a pile of garbage. Fortunately, she encounters J.F. Sebastian who lives in an abandoned Bradbury Building. He is apparently at loose ends. He created a bunch of electronic toys to be his “friends.” He is also playing a game of long distance chess with Tyrell. He takes Pris in and gives some help to the replicants, putting them in touch with Tyrell.

rachaelA fourth replicant, Zhora, another “skin job” who is also an assassin, is working under the name of Taffy Lewis who is working as a dancer in a sleazy nightclub. Deckard is dedicated to the job of killing all four of the rebels. A fifth replicant, Rachael, a secretary to Tyrell himself doesn’t know she’s a replicant until she is forced to take the test and is informed her memories are the memories of someone else, implanted in her brain. Deckard and Rachael fall in love. Rachael turns on her own kind, killing Leon.

Bladerunner is stunningly beautiful in a dark way. It has a haunting quality. And it bears an eerie resemblance to our reality. It’s a strange movie.

When is it Morally Right to Kill?

stranger-in-a-strange-land.jpgI wrote the essay below in 1991 as part of an initiation process into the neo-pagan Church of All Worlds. I had already been a fan of this book. As with Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, I originally read the novel with complete acceptance of it’s message. Later, I found flaws in its logic. The test of great literature is how a reader can grow over a period of years through repeated readings of a single document. The words don’t change but one’s understanding does and the book “changes” with every reading.

sislSome of the ideas in this novel reflect prejudices of the times in which it had been written. Homophobia and male supremacy are two such ideas which I demolished in the essay of 1991 and won’t bother with now.

One idea in Stranger was, if anything, ahead of it’s time. It appears in New Age thinking in part or in whole. It is frightening, thrilling and challenging. Grokking is an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong that transcends the moral code accepted by society and even logic. When one “groks,” one can act on this superior knowledge unilaterally. Of course, I did think it odd that Michael disappeared cops wielding guns because he grokked the “wrongness” in the guns, tools of killing when he was also killing. Why were guns wrong?

“Thou shalt not kill” is one of the ten commandments in the Bible. Of course, there are oodles of exceptions. Westerners eat meat of animals we have killed. We also kill in war. For centuries, there has been capital punishment. And Western man still believes he is in obedience to that commandment.

knifeI think the real meaning of that rule is one mustn’t kill a fellow citizen except under legally defined circumstances. The real purpose is to promote social cohesion. It wouldn’t do if one could be murdered any time one stepped outside one’s home. Of course, we can kill in self-defense. A cop can kill if there is threat of imminent harm. And, in some places, citizens can be executed.

gnosticwarrierMichael was spiritually more advanced than the average human being. He had the ability to grok, meaning he had access to knowledge that transcended other forms of human knowledge. This kind of knowledge resembles gnosis. Wikipedia defines “gnosis” as “knowledge of spiritual mysteries.” I define it is “direct knowledge” or knowledge by experience. As a member of OTO, I belong to the Gnostic Catholic Church. Our Bible is called The Book of the Law which is famous for it’s quote: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” which is followed by the less-well-known “love is the law, love under will.” While not quite explicit, this book implicitly lets in the idea that a consciousness that is enlightened enough can be above the law or actually be the law. Murder has existed among humans from Day One but the idea of justifying murder in these terms is newer.

chaosphereThe problem with this is, as I pointed out in 1991, gnosis and grokking are subjective. In a society that depends on some form of consensus, each of us deciding s/he is enlightened and knows when it is ok to kill would open a Pandora’s Box to chaos. I guess that’s why New Age thinkers hint at it rather than enshrine it as doctrine.

conscienceThe 1960’s was big on individuals acting on their own “conscience” rather than social consensus. The left re-examined the mainstream morality and accused the consensus of genocide and slavery. The war in Vietnam was so full of atrocities, it was criminal according to international law as defined by the United Nations when judging Nazi Germany. Of course, that was the winners of a war judging the losers. When the same criteria was applied to acts of the US and allies, it didn’t sit too well with the national leaders. Left-wing revolutionaries, on the other hand, found it completely logical and consistent to judge the United States by standards of international law.

wuoThe Weather Underground Organization declared war on the United States. They claimed the right to replace society’s moral consensus with an alternative system or morality. Unlike Michael Valentine, they, themselves, were a collective. Through criticism/self-criticism, the strove to keep the truest and most ethical standards under which to live and act. They were able, by these means, to judge the United States. Most of the illegal acts of the WUO were mere assaults on property, “armed propaganda,” symbolic. At one point, one of the collectives in WUO decided that everyone who was complicit in the American system, in other words, everyone who wasn’t fighting it, deserved to die just as enemy troops deserved to die. The bomb that killed Diana Oughten, Ted Gold and Terry Robbins has been intended for a military dance. After the accident, the WUO backed away from that position. Today, Bill Ayers says what they did to stop the war in Vietnam was justified but he criticizes himself for being too self-righteous.

godWhat are the rights and responsibilities of the individual in setting a personal standard for morality? As a psychopath, I am a law unto myself (as my mother said of me years ago). I am more “individual” than most people. I don’t really think right and wrong are absolute truths. Of course, a society that hopes to survive must establish rules by which we live together. We can’t just kill whomever or whatever we “grok” is “wrong.” The rules will be broken no matter how much sense they make. They will be broken by empaths as well as psychopaths. Some will kill because they grok wrongness. These people are guided by conscience. Psychopaths can usually see both sides of an issue even if we steadfastly have chosen one side for ourselves.

bookofthelawCrowley stated that “Love is the law, love under will.” The implication is that there is a universal law and everyone doing his “true will” will be automatically in harmony with that law. I think that’s probably true. But is has been my will to go against universal law, to do what is objectively wrong. But does that make my will, not my “true” will? Or is my will as an individual the highest law? It’s my law, anyway.


Some of the Stranger Ideas in
Stranger in a Strange Land

coawI had already read Stranger when I joined the Church of All Worlds, but as I had enjoyed the book so much the first time and since it is so important in CAW (indeed, are requirement for 3rd circle initiation!), decided to re-read it. It was just as special for me as it had been the first time around, when I was an acid hippy, but not a Pagan. The years have deepened my appreciation of certain ideas and I found myself agreeing with the basic philosophy even more than before.
homophobeI was surprised to find some things I had no memory of having read before. I attribute my failure to remember the following to the fact that I was heterosexual when I originally read the book. It is incredible what one doesn’t notice until the shoe pinches. I refer to the homophobia which makes its first appearance on page 303 (Ace Books, 1987):
“Jill … had explained homosexuality, after Mike had read about it and failed to grok and had given him rules for avoiding passes .. .He had followed her advice and made his face more masculine, instead of the androgynous beauty he had. But Jill was not sure that Mike would refuse a pass, say, from Duke-fortunately Mike’s male water brothers were decidedly masculine, just as his others were very female women. Jill suspected than Mike would grok a “wrongness” in the poor in-betweeners, anyhow- they would never be offered water.”
Heinlein-Quotes-2.jpgIt is a real shame that such a backward idea should find its way into such a progressive book. I realize that these ideas were given to Jill rather than Mike. However, with no disclaimer on Mike’s part, we are forced to conclude that this idea did belong to Robert Heinlein.
sexismReading most novels, you can usually find a character and say with a great deal of certainty that this is the author. Such is the case with Jubal in Stranger. He is a usually likeable old curmudgeon who is quite chauvinistic. I like him even though I wouldn’t want to be a woman in his household. Goddess forbid that I should be expected to earn respect by “not intrud[ing] into sober talk of men, but [being] quick with food and drink … ” The women in Jubal’s household are nice and perky but the seem to be a cross between nurses and Charlie’s Angels. They are low key and never intrude with any major needs of their own. It is somehow not surprising that Mike sensed that “all young human females had the same face-how could it be otherwise?” So when Dawn was invited to join the household, it was as a secretary (Jubal never asked any of the males if they took shorthand).
cawIt seems that Heinlein had his mystical vision and his chauvinism as well. That’s alright as long as Heinlein keeps his human limitations confined to the character of Jubal. But by hinting that Mike could “grok a wrongness” in gays/lesbians and want to ban them from water brotherhood for that reason alone, Heinlein contaminated the beauty and innocence of that very great character. This viewpoint would affect me personally: by definition, I would not be allowed to join the inner circle.
caw_logoIf CAW is truly a sequel to the CAW in SISL, then I could also be less than acceptable in today’s CAW. Somehow I don’t believe that is possible. But a definite statement from CAW leadership would really help to counteract the ill effect that part of SISL has on all gays/lesbians in CAW. Aside from the way I would be personally affected, the political and philosophical implications contradict the very heart of Mike’s philosophy — or so I grok.
What I find particularly saddening is that I really love the sexual philosophy in SISL except for the anti-gay part. There is great beauty in Jill being “as happily shameless as a tabby in heat” while showing her body to horny men. Indeed, there is no sexual act that occurs between consenting adults which strikes me as wrong in any way, as long as nobody is harmed or exploited. How can someone come to this realization and slam on the brakes the minute same sex relationships are suggested?
gunLater in the novel I found something even more disturbing in its own way. This is where Michael speaks of killing (or removing) people because he grokked wrongness in them. After the jailbreak, Mike grokked that some criminals were too “vicious” to release with the others:
prison“So I got rid of them before I got rid of bars and doors. But I have been slowly grokking this whole city for months … and quite a few of the worst were not in jail. I have been waiting, making a list, making sure of fullness in each case. So, now that we are leaving this city—they don’t live here anymore. They were discorporated and sent back to the foot of the line to try again. Incidentally, that was the grokking that changed Jill’s attitude from one of squeamishness to hearty approval: when she finally grokked in fullness that it is impossible to kill a man—that all we were doing was much like a referee removing a player for ‘unnecessary roughness.”
thouartgodWhen Jubal asked, “Aren’t you afraid of playing God, lad?” Mike replied, “I am God. Thou art God … and any jerk I remove is God, too.” He “tossed” “about four hundred and fifty” in one night. And then added that this was not really a cure. There was no cure other than “the discipline.”
Holy Shit! Consider the implications! First there is the logical fallacy so broad you jehovahcould drive a truck through. If everyone is God, what kind of God is each of us? Could you imagine a world of Old Testament Jehovahs, each passing judgement on everyone else’s right to live, and each executing the sentence of death as he finds appropriate? No. If everyone is God, then everyone is sovereign. No one has the right to kill a sovereign being, except in self defense. If the “jerk” Mike “tossed out of the game” was God; too, then that jerk had the same right Mike had to toss someone out of the game; In other words, if Mike has the right to kill, so does everyone else.
popePerhaps Mike does not mean that everyone has the right to kill. Perhaps that is the sole prerogative of those who have achieved enlightenment That would make Mike’s society a benevolent dictatorship. Specifically, it would be a theocracy — a kingdom of God, where God is here on Earth, ruling infallibly (like the Pope) but not merely in matters of Church doctrine. God would rule on matters of life and death. The Catholic Church did rule on matters of life and death once before. We call that time the Inquisition, the Burning Times. They “grokked a wrongness” in witches.
gaysIf Mike “tosses out” those in whom he “groks a wrongness,” and if he “groks a wrongness in the poor in-betweeners” (gays), mightn’t he toss us out someday? It would be the logical conclusion. I read somewhere that Charles Manson read and liked SISL. It is easy so see how someone like him could get justification for murder from that passage. Anyone can decide that he is the enlightened being high enough to grok the rightness and wrongness in people and decide to remove them from the game.
"Is it wiser to be ruled or to be the ruler? Hmm...maybe it's best to be ruler of ones self while living the golden rule."Sometimes, especially when the people do something incredibly stupid, I feel it would be really nice if an elite of people who think like I do would run things instead of the democratic majority. Perhaps a benevolent dictatorship, run by the right people, would be better than what we have now. The trouble is that the wrong people get control of the machinery of power. Most of the time I wouldn’t even want people whose ideas I like to run things dictatorially. I don’t really like the idea of being made to do the right thing. I prefer to be free to discover the right thing myself.
Perhaps if the inner circle in SISL were more convincing as enlightened beings, I would be more open to the idea of their ruling. However, the characters in SISL remain the same narrow people they were before they learned Martian. Stinky is just as chauvinistic. Miriam thinks the idea of selling her daughter to make room for a son is cute and funny. Jill thinks gays are fucked up. And so on. I am happy to say that the people in the inner circle of our CAW seem to have a great deal more true wisdom and maturity than those who inhabit the inner circle of Heinlein’s CAW.
So where does this leave us? For all its flaws, Stranger in a Strange Land is a great book. Let us cherish it for all its greatness and forgive its weakness. But let us be sure we don’t mistake those weaknesses for strengths. And above all, let us never make a bible out of SISL or any other book. And let us go on sharing water and grokking the God and Goddess in each other.


Legal Pot

marijuana-dispensaryCalifornia recently legalized pot for recreational users. Today, I went to my first legal dispensary for cannabis. It was an amazing experience.

I found a place on Google located in Berkeley. I must admit the experience was bizarre. It actually reminded me of my old methadone clinic. You enter through a metal detector. Honest! And there are uniformed security officers.

cannabiscandyI looked around the room and saw all those exotic things I had heard of. Candy laced with marijuana. I didn’t have much money so I planned to get two low-price candies. To make a purchase, you have to go into another room. You are asked if you are there for recreational use or medicinal. The we were put on lines appropriate to each. The line was slow moving. I think us recreational users only had one person assisting us. The people around were all very nice. I got to the front to learn that the item I had planned to buy as only for medicinal users. But she was helpful and found candy that didn’t exceed the $10 I had with me.

She packaged every purchase in a white plastic envelope with a note of warning from our government. I ate the candy on the train. It was VERY, VERY INTENSE! That was my experience. Life is good in spite of some people.

Diagnosing People You Don’t Like

This is a Reblog just from Zen Psychiatry.

Images added by me. Elana doesn’t seem to like Cluster B very much but, nevertheless, she is witty and she’s pretty accurate about our traits. She should be. She’s a psychiatrist.

How To Diagnose People You Don’t Like With Personality Disorders

Welcome to the wonderful world of Psychiatry.

A place where there are all sorts of amazing diagnoses to give people who rub you the wrong way. A place where people aren’t just assholes, they’re Narcissistic. They’re not just dramatic and self-indulgent, they’re Histrionic. They’re not just emotionally labile and needy, they’re Borderline.

cluster_bNow, I’m not necessarily a fan of needlessly labeling people with personality disorders, and I do think psychiatrists tend to diagnose people with personality disorders just because they’re difficult to deal with. At the same time, though, having a framework can help you understand people who have semi-pathological traits and characteristics and can actually make it more tolerable to cope with these people.

For example, say your boss is a real jerk who’s always giving you a hard time, and all you can think is “Hey, this guy’s a jerk.” But if you understand he has traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you start to see certain small interactions with him as part of a larger pattern of psychopathology, which can help you realize not to take stuff he says or does so personally, because he has a different way of interacting with the world than you. Make sense?

So let’s get into the nitty gritty. The diagnostic bible of psychiatry is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is constantly being updated and revised. We are currently on version IV (so DSM-IV), although version V is in the works and supposedly will reframe how we diagnose personality disorders. So the following is accurate as of now, but may change when the new version of the Manual comes out.

cluster_AThere are 3 “Clusters” of personality disorders in the DSM-IV.

  1. Cluster A – People with odd or eccentric characteristics. Includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.
  2. Cluster B – People who are dramatic, emotional or impulsive. Includes Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline CLUSTER_CPersonality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder.
  3. Cluster C – People who are highly anxious and fearful. Includes Dependent Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

Now I’m just going to focus on the Cluster B disorders because people with these disorders tend to be the most difficult to deal with. Someone with Schizotypal Personality Disorder will just sit in their room by themselves reading subversive books and ordering prayer rocks online, but a raging narcissist can make your life a living hell.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

narc.jpgPerhaps my favorite disorder to diagnose in people who are difficult to deal with. Anytime you interact with someone who acts entitled, demanding and superior probably has narcissistic personality traits, if not the full blown disorder. As with all personality disorders, the different between someone with a mild case of asshole-ism versus the full-blown personality disorder is that someone with the personality disorder has such severe characteristics that they are impaired in interpersonal interactions and daily life.

Per the DSM IV, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is diagnosed when someone meets 5 (or more) of the following 9 criteria:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  7. Lacks empathy:  is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be extremely frustrating to deal with and will test the very ends of your patience. It’s key to realize they are operating from a very specific place – one where they are the center of the universe. You’re not going to be able to convince them that they’re not, so don’t waste your energy trying. Unsurprisingly, Narcissists aren’t usually too eager to seek treatment for their condition from a psychiatrist or therapist.

Borderline Personality Disorder

borderlineYou know that friend you have who’s emotionally needy and clingy one minute, and then pushing you away the next? The type of person who loves you one day and hates you the next? Who’s afraid you’ll leave them but then leaves you first? Who crumples into a pile of tears at a moment’s notice and cuts as a way to cope with emotional pain? Yeah, that friend of yours just might have Borderline Personality Disorder.

Per the DSM IV, Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed when there is pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by 5 (or more) of the following:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (eg, spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating).
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
  6. Affective instability/marked reactivity of mood.
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

Borderline Personality Disorder is just as frustrating for the person who has it as it is for the person who’s dealing with the person who has it. It is very common for people with BPD to have a history of childhood abuse, leading to feelings of severe insecurity and fear of abandonment. They’re so afraid of being abandoned that they lash out at others as a way to protect themselves from feeling hurt. They “split,” meaning they put people in categories of all good and all bad. When you’re in their good graces, they love you. But when you’re not… watch out. It’s a complicated disorder often treated with a combination of medications and therapy. It’s much more common in women, but men can have it too.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

histrionic.jpgIt’s hard to miss someone with Histrionic Personality Disorder. She’s usually female, loud, dramatic and attention seeking. She’s sexually provocative way past the point of appropriateness. You may have talked to her at a party or two, but don’t feel like you could ever have a deep or meaningful conversation with her.

The DSM IV describes Histrionic Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by 5 (or more) of the following:

  1. Is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention.
  2. Interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior.
  3. Displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions.
  4. Consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self.
  5. Has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail.
  6. Shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion.
  7. Os suggestible, i.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances.
  8. Considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.

People with Histrionic Personality Disorder feel a compulsive need to be the center of attention. They might look like they’re in a constant state of performing. It can be difficult to have a meaningful friendship or relationship with this type of person.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

aspdWhen people think of the word “antisocial,” they probably think of a loner-type of person who is shy, doesn’t have a lot of friends, and sits at home playing World of Warcraft instead of trying to find a girlfriend. Antisocial Personality Disorder, though, is a totally different ballgame.

People with ASPD are your run-of-the-mill sociopaths and serial killers. They are often criminals, breaking the law with little regard for social norms or rules. They can be charming and manipulative, but lack empathy when they hurt others.

According to the DSM IV, a person meets criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder when there is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by 3 (or more) of the following:

  1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
  2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
  3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
  4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults.
  5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
  6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
  7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

In order to be diagnosed with this disorder a person must be at least 18 years old and have had evidence of behavioral problems before the age of 15 (someone who is younger than 18 but displays similar behavior would be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder. For example, there’s a good change that kid running around your neighborhood setting fires and torturing small animals may grow up to have Antisocial Personality Disorder.

The Concept of Countertransference – It’s Not Just About Them, It’s About You

One of the things we learn in psychiatry is that when a person with a certain personality invokes a strong reaction in us, is helps give us insight into what their issues are but also tells us a lot about ourselves.

Instead of just talking about liking or disliking a person, we talk about countertransference. Countertransference is how a therapist or psychiatrist feels toward a patient, but more broadly can be used to describe how anyone feels toward anyone else. They key is, when you feel a strong reaction toward someone, it tells you something important about yourself.

So before you go out and start gleefully diagnosing all sorts of people with the above personality disorders, keep in mind a couple of things. One, it’s a tough thing for psychiatrists to get right, and we train for years to be able to accurately diagnose people with mental disorders. Two, despite how I titled this post, it’s better to use this information as a way to better understand and tolerate others than to use it as a way to judge. And don’t forget – if all you do is go around judging people, then you’re probably the asshole.

Happy diagnosing!

All About Bees

allabouteveThe other night, my partner and I watched an old favorite, All About Eve. The 1950 classic stars Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. Davis plays Margo Channing, a 40-year-old prima donna who sees her status as a glamorous movie star slipping away as she ages out of that role. Baxter plays Eve, a young, ambitious newcomer to the theater. Eve’s problem is how to get into the clique-ridden empire where the elite of the theater jealously guard their lairs. She presents herself as a waifish fan who worships Margo, her playwrite, Lloyd Richards, and Margo’s lover and co-star, Bill Sampson. For the rest, follow the link if you aren’t familiar.

All About Eve is well known to us. We’ve seen it over and over. The characters are stunning and the dialog very witty. The other night, we had fun “diagnosing” the characters with their probable personality disorders. Almost all were in Cluster B. That makes sense since Cluster B is the dramatic “disorder” and the characters were in the theater.

karenWe found there was only one Cluster C: Max Fabian, the producer, a man suffering with enough anxiety to give him stomach trouble.

There are also a few “normals.” Karen and Lloyd Richards, Margo Channing’s best friends. No personality “disorder” I could detect. Stupidity is not a personality disorder. Birdie, Margo’s assistant, also strikes me as “normal.”misscasswell

Marilyn Monroe’s premier performance was in a minor role. She played Miss Casswell, a starlet under the sponsorship of Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). Miss Casswell is a naive wanna be of questionable talent. It is interesting to compare her technique (really lack of one) with that of Eve whose scheming and very real acting talent earns her a place at the top.

Now for the fun part. Cluster B

addisonCluster B “disorders” all merge into each other. Histrionics need to be the center of attention but so do narcissists. Histrionics are drama kings or queens. But so are borderlines. Narcissists are low in empathy, dominant charismatic. So are psychopaths.

My guess is that Bill is Histrionic. Addison De Witt, of course, is a Narcissist. Sam Vaknin described the difference in the body language of narcissists and psychopaths. A narcissist sits back as if contact might contaminate him. A psychopath leans in. Narcs talk about themselves. ‘Paths want to get you to talk about yourself. No question which of them is more charming and more potentially powerful.

margoWhat is Margo? One can easily label her a narcissist. She is certainly grandiose enough. She also shows histrionic traits. But, in the last analysis, I call her a borderline. Her insecurity about her relationship with Bill reveals a haunting fear of abandonment. She knows her days as a star are numbered and she fears Bill’s interest in her will also fade.evepsychopath

There is only one clear-cut case of psychopathy (or ASPD). That is Eve, of course. As a success, she is described as “the Golden Girl, the Cover Girl, the Girl Next Door, the Girl on the Moon. Time has been good to Eve. Life goes where she goes. She’s the profiled, covered, revealed, reported. What she eats and what she wears and whom she knows and where she was, and when and where she’s going.” Her cunning is perfect. She starts out playing under the radar. Not only is she stunningly humble, she is practically in rags. Her trench coat is shabby and stained.

eve_and_margoShe first attracts notice of her target audience with a silent vigil, standing outside the theater before and after every performance of Aged in Wood, starring Margo Channing. Having gotten their attention, she finally approaches Karen, the playwrite’s wife, a good friend of Margo but someone who isn’t normally noticed outside their small circle. Karen, who laughingly calls herself “the lowest form of celebrity,” eats up the flattery which Eve doles out to her in just the right amount.

Karen, who is quite taken with Eve’s fanatical devotion to Margo, gets her into the dressing room, where Margo is removing her makeup and relaxing with her intimate circle. Eve, a complete unknown, manages to get everyone interested enough to start questioning her about why she has been standing outside the theater before and after every performance. They are surprised evetellsherstoryto learn she has actually seen every performance of the play. With very few words, Eve turns the strangers in that room into an audience, thereby showing her considerable acting talent. She spins a sad tale of poverty in which the theater and Margo Channing are her only sources of joy, except for a brief marriage to “Eddie,” a soldier who is killed in action. She tells it so well, Margo tears up. Birdie walks in and finds herself butting into a performance. Chastened, she sits down and listens. “What apsychoeve story!” exclaims Birdie at the end. “Everything but the bloodhounds snapping at her rear end!” Birdie is the first one to see through her and yet even Birdie is moved by Eve’s story. Note, in the mention of the time she played summer stock, Eve tells them “I was awful.” She makes sure she is not perceived as a possible threat to Margo.

Eve’s intensity shines through her mask throughout the entire movie. She never takes her psychopathic eyes off her goal.

all-about-eve-1950-eve-skirt-and-blouseMargo invites Eve to move in with her where she takes on a lot of the tasks Birdie used to perform. She also does more, organizing Margo’s inventory. In time, Margo starts to see through Eve’s mask. Eve’s increasingly aggressive moves toward Bill activates Margo’s insecurity. The growing tension is laid bare at a party for Bill. Margo’s hostility towards Eve doesn’t dim Eve’s ambition. She “casually” mentions to Karen the idea of becoming Margo’s understudy. Somehow nobody tells Margo about it until Margo arrives to “read” with Miss Casswell while she auditions. Margo is hours late for the reading as is her normal habit. But Eve is on time and she “gives a performance” so powerful that it astonishes both Lloyd and Addison. When Margo shows up and finds out that not only is Eve her understudy but she gave a great performance “full of fire and music” for what was only supposed to be a reading, Margo’s paranoia grows to full bloom. She vents her rage in no uncertain terms.

karen_and_margoKaren is so stupid that she remains oblivious to Eve’s machinations and decides that her best friend, Margo, has been such a bitch that she needs to be taught a lesson. Karen makes Margo miss a performance of her play, something she ordinarily never does. Meanwhile, Karen has informed Eve of what she was doing so Eve managed to invite a lot of critics to that performance. The reviews are full of praise for Eve’s performance. She is a talented actress. Then Eve gives an interview with Addison in which she disses Margo for playing a part she is too old for and complaining how hard it is for a newcomer to get a break in the business. She has also come on to Bill although Bill rejected her and suggested she “just score it as an incomplete forward pass.”

The war is now out in the open. But Eve has moved too aggressively and has been “told off all over town.” She remains undaunted, however. Lloyd has just written a new play in which it is assumed Margo will star. But Eve has been working on Lloyd who tells her he would let her play the lead except that Karen has her heart set on Margo playing the lead. That’s when Eve shows her true colors, blackmailing Karen with the favor she had done for her, sabotaging Margo by making her miss her performance. “A part in a play,” Karen exclaims. “You’d do all that for a part in a play!” “I’d do a lot more for a part that good,” replies Eve. It turns out Margo has already decided she doesn’t want to play the part. She has agreed to marry Bill and retire from the theater. Karen is relieved and Eve becomes a star.

Eve’s final act of treachery is to take Lloyd from Karen. Serves Karen right for the dirty trick she played on Margo. But one thing gets in the way. Addison De Witt feels entitled to win Eve’s romantic allegiance. He is not a man who will allow anyone to use him, not even a psychopath. He has done his research and he knows about every lie Eve told in the process of getting where she is. Eve withdraws from her conquest of Lloyd and admit she “belongs” to Addison (at least at this point). Since she is now moving on to Hollywood, Addison’s hold on her won’t last forever. But, for now, she is caught in his spider’s web. A touch of irony concludes the film when another ambitious ingenue moves in with much the same agenda as Eve had. Eve, puffed up with her own sense of importance, doesn’t see what the girl is up to and we are left with the possibility of Eve getting the same treatment as she has dished out to others.

Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Pychopathic