Never Again

payfoeI sold something on E-Bay. They required me to open an account on Paypal. Paypal has been holding my money since April 10. They refuse to let me have money I already earned until May 1. No doubt they are floating my money, making a profit on an involuntary loan, interest free. That should be illegal but the Better Business Bureau gives them a rating of A+. Well, I guess the elite have a different set of rules. I couldn’t help myself to someone else’s money and “borrow” it without permission. But they can apparently. Well, I put in a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. It probably won’t get me anywhere but at least I made my complaint. I guess the real justice, if any, will come by the court of public opinion. Another time, I bought something using Payfoe and the seller got my money right away but they kept putting off the delivery of the merchandise. I appealed to their peers and I got my merchandise right away.

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Libertarianism and Psychopathy

Social Darwinism

the core belief of Libertarianism and Objectivism

fallon2One of the psychopaths I really admire is Dr. James Fallon (The Psychopath Inside). But my politics are at odds with his. He has identified himself as a Libertarian. I am still a Socialist (or Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist, which is just a more technical way of seeking a socialist outcome for society). It seems true intuitively that Libertarianism is the political philosophy of psychopathy par excellance. But, when polled about our political beliefs on the Sociopath Community (formerly Sociopath Forum, attached to Sociopath World), there manifested great diversity ranging from far-left to far-right. Still, the Libertarian viewpoint, with it’s emphasis on self-interest seems the perfect philosophy for our kind. One of the most prominent spokespeople for libertarianism was Ayn Rand. Of course, she called her philosophy Objectivism which she distinguished from Libertarianism by some differences that seem too minor to bother dissecting here. I have been fascinated with Ayn Rand’s ideas since I discovered her in my late teens. I avidly supported her ideas at first. Then I found flaws. Every time I re-read Atlas Shrugged, I find more flaws. (But I think one of the atlascharacteristics of good writing is that one finds something new every time one reads it. I have read Atlas Shrugged many times.) Both Libertarianism and Objectivism are implicitly based on social darwinism. Darwinism means survival of the fittest. Social darwinism means that the people who rise and win in a capitalist society are the fittest. My article is meant to be a rebuttal.

Ayn Rand was a Russian immigrant who wrote three major novels, We The Living, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. Since Rand died in 1982, one wouldn’t associate her writings with the recent phenomenon in American politics. Alas (in this case, anyway)! The ideas of a good writer are often felt years after her works have manifested. So it is with Rand. Gary Weiss’ recent book, Ayn Rand Nation, documents the influence her “Objectivist Movement” continues to have on current political trends. Although Rand was a militant atheist and the Tea Party is full of religious zealots, the latter is willing to overlook, for the most part, aynrandwhat they must consider her flaw. Some of her followers have risen to prominent positions. Alan Greenspan, for example, is a highly influential economist. Representative Paul Ryan once said, “the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

Rand is known as the adversary of “altruism” which she considered the greatest evil on earth. In The Fountainhead, she promoted individualism and one wouldn’t even infer the rest of her agenda except for a small section in which the hero’s, Howard Roark’s, rant against public housing. It was her final novel, Atlas Shrugged, that revealed her full ideology, and what an ideology it was! The government’s only proper role is to protect private property and protect the country from foreign enemies. Police and military. No regulation of industry, no social safety net, neither Unemployment Insurance nor Social Security. Welfare? Give me a break! She distinguished herself from other laissez-faire enthusiasts by creating a moral, philosophical basis for her views. This is what has made her such an important influence on the Right and informs us, on the Left, of where we must do battle.

According to Rand, everyone is an individual first and foremost. He or she is responsible only for h/erself. One has a duty to live life for it’s own sake, for the sake of no other. In Atlas Shrugged, she tells the tale of a productive genius who, disgusted by the collectivist trends in society, goes on strike and leads other productive geniuses to do the same. Without the most brilliant and productive members of society contributing their intelligent input, the society falls apart. The rest of the world has already succumbed to collectivism and are all “people’s republics.” They are starving, of course, and depend on the United States, the last bastion of capitalism, to send them relief. One of the strikers makes it his business to sink all the relief ships and convert their bounty to gold which he deposits in a special bank in the names of each of the “producers” on the theory that it was stolen from them by the nefarious income tax. After bringing society to it’s knees, the leader of the strike, John Galt, gives a scolding speech that spans about 70 pages. The speech explains all the basics of Rand’s philosophy. Here is an important sample.

Just as man can’t exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one’s rights into reality—to think, to work and to keep the results—which means: the right of property. The modern mystics of muscle who offer you the fraudulent alternative of “human rights” versus “property rights,” as if one could exist without the other, are making a last, grotesque attempt to revive the doctrine of soul versus body. Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that “human rights” are superior to “property rights” simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of “human.”

The source of property rights is the law of casualty. All property and all forms of wealth are produced by man’s mind and labor. As you cannot have effects without causes, so you cannot have wealth without its source: without intelligence. You cannot force intelligence to work: those who’re able to think, will not work under compulsion; those who will, won’t produce much more than the price of the whip needed to keep them enslaved. You cannot obtain the products of a mind except on the owner’s terms, by trade and by volitional consent. Any other policy of men towards man’s property is the policy of criminals, no matter what their numbers. Criminals are savages who play it short-range and starve when their prey runs out—just as you’re starving today, you who believed that crime could be “practical” if your government decreed that robbery was legal and resistance to robbery illegal.


nativeamericansInteresting…”no rights can exist without the right to…property.” And “the source of property rights is the law of causality. All property…(is) produced by man’s mind.” She ingeniously leaves out the most basic form of property there is, land. Of course, land is NOT the product of the mind. Our minds had no part in creating the land.The land was there when we came into being. How is it morally justified to “own” land we didn’t create and, if such ownership can be justified, how is the existing distribution morally justified?” If our relationship to land is the product of the law of causality, it was not that of the mind creating the land. Ownership is basically the result of years of traditional ownership passed down through the generations and brute force; the stronger taking it from those who were unable to defend it. The land of the American continents was wrested from it’s native inhabitants by a more “advanced civilization.” European settlers to what is now called the United States of America had the advantages of guns and numbers. What is really strange is the way Rand defends this power of the gun over the Native Americans on the really deep philosophical ground that they were just “savages.” I am claiming that the whole philosophy stated by John Galt breaks down here. Perhaps it breaks down because she is no longer dealing here with individuals but with whole societies. She isn’t talking individualism any more. She is speaking the language of tribalism. zionistbathosShe uses the same “logic” to justify Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands. Israel is a modern, industrial society and the Palestinians not so much. This strips the Palestinians of all their rights, just as it stripped the Native Americans of their rights. There is nothing in John Galt’s speech that explains the rules of justice when an “advanced” society confronts a “backwards” one with land coveted by the advanced society.

An ethic that excludes the use of force (except in self-defense) assumes an agreement about the rules of society. For example, if everyone agrees that land belongs to whomever first started working it, there would be no dispute. However, the Native Americans were the first to utilize the land in North America. So taking that land by force violates that agreement, should that been the rule Ayn Rand insisted on. Of course, she never really stated the basis of her claim of ownership of land. Just a reference to the superiority of industrial societies.

notresAccording to Rand, it is only the government that operates with guns, never the private sector. Sure, once the rules of the game are established, the designated winners in the game don’t need guns. The government’s guns are available whenever needed to enforce the rules. But these rules enforce that the land is owned by a certain group of people regardless of how they came to own it. Not only are Native Americans annihilated by these rules, all citizens who don’t own any of the land are as well. Those without land are “free” to work for those who do. Rand doesn’t consider the certainty of starvation “force.” It is just nature. She talks as if we were living in a wilderness and the smartest, most able will prevail. A wilderness is rich in resources if one knows how to use them. The only resource for the property-less is the resource of other people who have exclusive access to the resources. It is ironic that Rand glorifies individualism as not needing other people. She means psychologically. But most of us need other people physically to make a living. People who gain their sense of self-worth from others are damned in the Objectivist term, “social metaphysicians.” By what term, I wonder, should us wage slaves be damned?

Galt says, in his speech, “If you want to know what you lost when I quit and when my strikers deserted your world—stand on an empty stretch of soil in a wilderness unexplored by men and ask yourself what manner of survival you would achieve and how long you would last if you refused to think, with no one around to teach you the motions.” It’s as if the “productive” nakedbabypeople are collectively responsible for all the productive discoveries made by their fellow “producers” throughout the ages. But everyone, including John Galt, is reaping the benefits (and losses) of past generations. In fact, we were all, without exception, born naked and helpless. We depended utterly on the nurturing of others, mainly our mothers. It was many years before we could earn our own way in the world. We were able to become the adults that we are by imbibing the cultural legacy of the world that spawned us, both the good and the bad. Not that the contributions of individually great people weren’t part of it. I’ll even concede that some individuals contributed a lot more than others. But nobody alive today can claim credit for the modern, industrial world. We inherited it’s largeous as well as our relative positions in the social hierarchy. Rand would have that society is completely fluid and accident’s of social origin are insignificant. Sure, there are people who were born with nothing who were able to rise. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. So, when John Galt says, “You decided to call it unfair that we, who had dragged you out of your hovels and provided you with modern apartments, with radios, movies and cars, should own our palaces and yachts—you decided that you had a right to your wages, but we had no right to our profits,” he is claiming credit for the radio, the movies and everything else the modern world offers. If people complain that the wealth is distributed unfairly, the wealthy cannot rationally argue that all the blessings (and curses) of civilization were their own doing.

History tells us that the astounding achievements of capitalist United States and Europe were built on wealth created by slavery. While conventional wisdom suggests slavery is relatively inefficient as a means of production, Imara Jones demonstrated the real part played by the slave trade and American slavery. The production generated by the need to transport slaves from Africa built up a great infrastructure. The slaves kidnapped for slavery had skills needed by the slave owners. Human beings can equal wealth just as animals and land can to those who have the “moral” values needed to utilize such a “resource.”


The bottom line of Galt’s arguments is that only the able and productive deserve to live. Whoever cannot produce enough to stay alive is a “looter” if he expects society to provide sustenance. That includes the disabled, the pregnant, orphans. Of course, if such people know someone who cares enough about h/ir to help out, that’s fine. So women should make sure they have a provider before getting pregnant (unless they’re independently wealthy). People had better provide for their own retirement. If they don’t make enough to save for their old age, too bad. We really don’t need “incompetent” people littering up the earth. Best to keep that population down. There’s a name for this philosophy, “social darwinism.” It’s just as ugly now as it was in the 19th Century. That Rand’s arguments can be considered so persuasive as to be leading our country into that particular hell where life can only be short and brutish (except for the rich), forces us to collectively “examine our premises,” as Rand is always saying. Do we really believe the rich are superior to the poor? Do we believe everyone who needs government assistance is a “looter?” Think long and hard about that, folks. (Ayn Rand didn’t live up to her own words. hypocrisyShe has likened Medicare to “armed robbery” but applied for it under her married name when she got lung cancer. Her faithful followers didn’t need to know about this. “Ayn Rand” didn’t take Medicare. Alice O’Connor got it. But they both inhabited the same body. She also collected Social Security, damned looter! Her followers today want to deprive us living Seniors of that same right.)

Besides the social and economic inequities of unfettered capitalism, there is nothing built into the law of supply and demand that stops industry from polluting. With all the harm being done to the earth now with some tepid regulation in place, what can we expect with no regulation? Does anyone think BP would have paid ANY reparations for their disastrous oil spill in the Gulf if they hadn’t been forced?

Objectivism is a toxic poison that too many of us are drinking to the dregs. We are too afraid we will be cheated in a society that cares for the have-nots. It can be liberating and exhilarating to explore “the virtues of selfishness.” Rand’s world is all about either/or. If we don’t embrace selfishness 100%, we must be giving up all rights to keep anything for ourselves. Funny that a self-described disciple of Aristotle doesn’t seem to comprehend the concept of the “golden mean.” Mankind evolved to the status of the top species through our ability to cooperate as a community. Throw that away at your peril.


Was Skinner a Sociopath?

skinnerboxI was browsing the blogosphere when I came across the article, The Last Behaviorist: Skinner was an evil sociopath. I wish Skinner had been the last Behaviorist. Unfortunately, Behaviorism is alive and well. Most Behaviorists don’t communicate as entertainingly and have as much class as Skinner. He was very good at stirring up the emotions of his readers and provoking them (us?) into defensive stances. The article seems more about his ideas than his personality. He may be right or wrong. Any and all ideas can be created or formulated by a psychopath or non-psychopath. Mike, the author of the above captioned article, was critiquing another article, Why B.F.Skinner May Have Been the Most Dangerous Psychologist Ever by George Dvorsky. Actually, I consider all ideas dangerous. That’s their value, after all. By denying the existence of free will, Skinner threatens many people. His book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, is a challenge to our notion of civil liberties and democracy. Coming across these articles, I recalled my own responses to the challenge his ideas presented to me in my reading of Walden Two, his novel which presented the same ideas as in Beyond Freedom and Dignity but in more readable layman’s terms. Ever the writer about ideas, I produced the following essay:

Skinner’s Scientific Utopia: The Paradox of Freedom

utopiaIs it possible for psychologists to ever understand the human condition well enough to create a utopia by “engineering” human behavior? This is the challenge thrown out by behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner in his novel, Walden Two (1948). Well written and entertaining, Walden Two is directed to the layman rather than to the professional psychologist. It concerns a fictitious intentional community of 1,000 started by one Frazier (no first name or title ever mentioned) who applies the tools of behavioral modification to make of Walden Two the best of all possible worlds.

labratsSkinner’s technique as a propagandist is to show us Walden Two through the eyes of various outsiders who possess varying degrees of skepticism and enthusiasm for the community. The reader can identify with one or another of these visitors depending on his own inclinations. Skinner/Frazier is provocative in his claims, deliberately so, in my opinion, as another technique in breaking down resistance. The more we resist an idea, the more power it draws from our very resistance. He begins with teasers, ideas which have interest and merit on their own but which are fairly trivial and extrinsic to his central thesis. The reader and the skeptical visitors sense he is trying to soften them up and stiffen their backs all the more. A philosophy professor named Castle is the main bearer of resistance. Skinner looks down upon philosophy as a form of navel gazing and Castle is made an easy target. More serious reservations come from the narrator, a psychology professor named Burris. However, Burris also serves as a voice for Skinner and much conversation between him and Frazier is like an internal dialogue within Skinner, himself. The party is completed by two young men and their girlfriends. The guys and one of the girls are the enthusiasts of the group while the other girl resists by avoidance. She never engages any of Frazier’s ideas and remains untouched by them throughout the visit.

Why do we have such a strong tendency to resist the concept of behavioral engineering? Skinner devoted another book, this time in essay form, which grapples with the issue. Its title, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, pretty eloquently explains the reason for such resistance. Do we really have free will? Do we even have a soul? Are we mere mechanistic beings of such finite dimensions that the entire workings can be completely understood and programmed by another human, if highly intelligent, being? Most people’s tendency would be to revolt against such a notion. To intensify our revulsion, Frazier comes across with a smugness and egotism that must be calculated to activate our most atavistic possible response.

ratFor a man advocating a program with a formidable name like “behavioral engineering,” Skinner’s utopia promotes a great deal of freedom. There is no money and everyone consumes the goods of the society as he needs. The law of supply and demand is based on labor credits. Everyone is expected to contribute 4 labor credits a day. The ratio of time employed to kind of work depends on the desirability of the kind of work. In other words, work that is really unpleasant which nobody really likes doing, would have a high labor value, so you would do it for a shorter time to get your labor credit. This makes the job more desirable. What you lose in pleasure of work, you gain in leisure. Enjoyable work has a lower labor value so you spend more time at it but it is still alright because it is pleasant. Either way, everyone is about equally contented. And residents choose their work (assuming it’s something they can do of course) so the people who figure out the value of a credit can adjust it by the number of people who volunteer for each task. If fewer people volunteer for something, they give it a higher labor value until more start volunteering. Thus, the economy combines elements of capitalism (supply and demand) with collectivism (everything is owned and consumed in common and used for the common good).

behavioristeduThe educational system is also based on freedom and self-motivation. There are no regimented classrooms or threats of bad grades. Motivation to learn is solely the curiosity of the students. They are taught the methodology of learning and set loose. Behavior mod involves conditioning the children to persevere by introducing progressively greater obstacles that can be overcome. A strategy that achieved desired results every time, will now be made to only work every other time. Then, every third and so on. He may have gone overboard with this and created too much perseverance in them, encouraging them to use tactics that don’t work over and over. If something doesn’t produce the right results for the first 9 times it is tried, is it likely to work the 10th time (unless it is set up that way on purpose)?

There is no democracy, no political parties and no voting. Society is run by behavioral engineers. But actually a kind of democracy really operates. The goal of the society is the happiness of all. The more successful the planners, the more people do what they are intended to do, living productive and contented lives. When things don’t work right, it is because people are “voting” against a certain social arrangement by not cooperating. Nobody’s freedom is really interfered with and his voluntary participation is the only thing that enables the society to run smoothly. It is all based on “positive reinforcement” rather than punishment or “negative reinforcement.” “Every member has a direct channel through which he may protest to the Managers or even the Planners. And these protests are taken as seriously as the pilot of an airplane takes a sputtering engine. We don’t need laws and a police force to compel a pilot to pay attention to a defective engine. Nor do we need laws to compel our Dairy Manager to pay attention to an epidemic among his cows. Similarly, our Behavioral and Cultural Managers need not be compelled to consider grievances. A grievance is a wheel to be oiled, or a broken pipe line to be repaired.” I wonder, however, if that is really enough of a check against possible corruption on the part of the leaders.

dystopiaA more obvious weakness of behavior engineering as a panacea is manifested in a discussion of how to create a “golden age.” Smug as always, Frazier claims to know what “conditions” are necessary to stimulate a renaissance in great culture. But his conditions strike me as evidence that Skinner is ignorant of crucial portions of the human psyche. The first thing he mentions is leisure obtained by means of patronage. Of course, it helps to have time to devote to one’s creative urges. But it doesn’t seem crucial. We enjoy more leisure as a whole today than in most periods. But we tend to fill that leisure time with trivial entertainment such as TV. The more time we have, the more distractions we clutter our lives with. I think an artist must have a certain amount of solitude, even, perhaps, loneliness in order to develop the kind of depth needed to create a new and crucial work of art.

I find it interesting that the examples of culture displayed in Walden Two are all from our classical tradition. They are creations of past generations. Real culture is living culture. Playing old masterpieces is the work of a museum curator. The man who rejects the study of history is culturally living in the past. Of course, some of the classics we now revere were considered rebellious if not outright revolutionary at the time. Such creation would seriously clash with a society that is already “perfect” and must remain stagnant. That is probably the weakness of all utopias.

roseviolinFrazier goes on to argue, “When artists and composers aren’t patronized, they generally get a modicum of leisure by becoming irresponsible. Hence their reputation with the public.” He doesn’t mention examples but one that seems to fit would be Richard Wagner who had a reputation for irresponsibility due to his habit of accumulating debts. Of course, Wagner was, indeed, suffering from a lack of patronage. So far, Skinner is right. But Wagner was just as productive during this earlier period of his life as he was later on when under the generous patronage of King Ludwig III. True, he wrote his most mature work at this latter period but only because he was in the mature time of his life. There is no evidence that his work improved under Ludwig or that it suffered before him. Not that the patronage wasn’t a good thing. Artists deserve support. But Skinner has not managed to support his contention that making support more available is really going to make a difference to the culture.

Frazier also mentions an appreciative audience as a factor. But many works of great art take years to complete. The artist must be borne up by more than an appreciative audience that he may or may not find once the work is ready for his public. Of course, if a composer, Richard Wagner, for example, knows that there is a public for a certain kind of art, he could take encouragement from this knowledge. But Wagner expanded on his chosen medium, Opera, to such an extent that he created works which had been hitherto unknown and so he had no assurance of ever being accepted.

I suggest that inspiration from other works of creative art is more important than anticipation of an appreciative audience. Wagner was exposed to Carl Maria von Weber, for example, who exerted an early influence on the direction of Wagner’s own creativity. Belonging to a culture where creation is already taking place seems to enable more people to move in that direction.

Frazier also contends that “[t]he career (of an artist) must be economically sound and socially acceptable.” But how respectable was the theater in Shakespeare’s time? True artists are not deterred by lack of support, be it financial or social. They create for themselves, having something they need to bring to life and the will to achieve it, if they have to walk on bodies to do so.

Another weakness is Skinner’s arrogant dismissal of the field of ethics, claiming that values are already obvious to everyone, beyond the possibility of dispute:

centipede“Of course, I know nothing about your course in ethics,” Frazier said, “but the philosopher in search of a rational basis for deciding what is good has always reminded me of the centipede trying to decide how to walk. Simply go ahead and walk! We all know what’s good, until we stop to think about it. For example, is there any doubt that health is better than sickness?”

“There might be a time when a man would choose ill-health or death, even,” said Castle. “And we might applaud his decision.”

“Yes, but you’re moving the wrong foot. Try the one on the opposite side.” This was not playing fair, and Castle obviously resented it. He had made a friendly gesture and Frazier was taking advantage of it. “Other things being equal, we choose health,” Frazier continued. “The technical problem is simple enough. Perhaps we can find time tomorrow to visit our medical building.

values“Secondly, can anyone doubt that an absolute minimum of unpleasant labor is part of the Good Life?” Frazier turned again to Castle, but he was greeted with a sullen silence.

“That’s the millionaire’s idea, anyway,” I said.

“I mean the minimum which is possible without imposing on anyone. We must always think of the whole group…”

nojustificationBut even he admits, “I can’t give you a rational justification for it. I can’t reduce it to any principle of the great good. This is the Good Life. We know it. It’s a fact, not a theory.” In Skinner’s terms, the “Good Life” is one in which people’s motivations are understood and gratified. But how well does he understand out motives or motivation, itself, for that matter? People’s motives (based on their values) have varied a great deal more than the above excerpt acknowledges. Frazier mentions health and leisure as “good,” hardly doing justice to the complex cacophony of choices our species is known to make. No doubt, he believes behaviorism can explain it but he has not demonstrated such ability. Certainly Frazier works at shaping the motives of his subjects. But are they not also shaping his behavior? If he does, in fact, govern without compulsion, he cannot force his values on the population. He can only work with what they already value. Is this not, in fact, a form of symbiosis?

powerOn P. 255, Frazier asks “What would you do if you found yourself in possession of an effective science of behavior? Suppose you suddenly found it possible to control the behavior of men as you wished?” But Frazier’s “control” is hardly what is usually implied by that word, which would be power-over, power wielded over people against their will. Frazier’s only “power” comes from his ability to organize people in a way that enables them to be happy and to get what they want. It is power-with. Skinner must have his reasons for putting his ideas in such threatening terms, almost as if he delighted in pushing our buttons. In his own language, calling his program, “behavioral engineering,” is bad behavioral engineering. He used a term most calculated to generate resistance. It seems he wants to win people over in spite of themselves. It smacks of ego aggrandizement (which Frazier admits is one of his motives).

puppetsHe intensifies the provocative effect of his claim to be able to control people with his “mysterious” science of “behavioral engineering” by saying, “If man is free, then a technology of behavior is impossible.” But his “technology of behavior” is not opposed to freedom. It is based on it. “It’s a little late to be proving that a behavior technology is well advanced,” he goes on. “How can you deny it? Many of its methods and techniques are really as old as the hills. Look at the frightful misuse in the hands of the Nazis!” The Nazis used techniques of manipulation for power-over. Their ability to manipulate did not abolish free-will, however. We are always free to refuse to be manipulated. Most manipulation is based on the knowledge on bargainingthe part of the manipulator (consciously or otherwise) of secret guilt, inadequacies and resentments on our part (which is usually unconscious). Manipulation is blackmail. The antidote to manipulation is the same as the antidote to blackmail: to tell the truth. The victim of most forms of manipulation is not as much afraid of the blackmailer telling the world as he is of becoming aware of his own secrets, carefully hidden from himself. A self-aware human being is enured to manipulation. It always costs us to face our inner demons and that is the true cost of freedom. Other forms of power-over are outright deception and physical domination in the form of guns or muscle. These techniques are outside the province of psychology and hence our discussion. It is noteworthy, however, that, without these additional techniques, the Nazis couldn’t have reigned.

ParentchildHe continues with more benign examples than the Nazis. “What about education? Or religion? Or practical politics? Or advertising and salesmanship? … My question is, have you the courage to take up and wield the science of behavior for the good of mankind?” By his examples, he shows that what he means by “behavior technology,” is in the hands, not only of educators, religious leaders, advertisers and salesmen. They are in our own hands at well! We use these “techniques” on each other every day. A child can do it, and does. What else is he doing when he acts on his best behavior in hope of going to the circus as a reward? What else are his parents doing by doling out rewards for such good behavior? Most manipulation is mutual.

Hopefully, by utilizing techniques based on honesty and cooperation rather than of manipulation, Skinner/Frazier can build a society based on honesty and cooperation among it’s members. Such a society would be one of power-with at its best.

While Skinner has offered some very compelling ideas on the reorganization of a free society, involving new applications of the law of supply and demand as well as democracy, his application of behaviorism in terms of training are less original, impressive or far-reaching. The gradual introduction of aversive stimulation is an old behavioral technique. It is also a technique we all know and practice. Children use this method every time they get into a cold lake gradually instead of all at once. He has not demonstrated possession of anything powerful enough to make us believe his utopia could actually be created in real life.

Less predictably, Skinner then goes on to deny the scientific method, itself, the very thing his utopia is supposed based on.

“You use the word ‘experiment’ a great deal,” I said, “but do you really experiment at all? Isn’t one feature of good scientific practice missing from all the cases you have described?”

“You mean the ‘control,'” said Frazier.

switchFrazier says, “to go to all the trouble of running controls would be to make a fetish of scientific method.” The reason it isn’t necessary to go “to go to [all that] trouble” is “…the relation between cause and effect is obvious. The happiness and equanimity of our people are obviously related to the self-control they have acquired.” So Frazier, the “experimental scientist” now abandons experiment, itself, and presents himself as a channeler of revealed truth, received from the Great God Obvious. Burris’ “head was spinning” as he wondered “how Frazier had been so successful.” The answer to that question, of course, is also “obvious.” It’s easy to be successful in a fictitious “experiment” if the author so decrees.

historyAs the visit draws to a conclusion, Frazier reveals yet another radical idea. He considers history bunk and does not encourage its study at Walden Two. “I don’t care how well historical facts can be known from afar. Is it important to know them at all? I submit that history never even comes close to repeating itself. Even if we had reliable information about the past, we couldn’t find a case similar enough to justify inferences about the present or immediate future. We can make no real use of history as a current guide.” He offers a lot of pertinent criticism of history and it’s relevance, including the unreliability of its information, its skewed perspectives, etc. But, even with all of History’s drawbacks, eliminating history as a study would cause an even greater distortion of our understanding. Why study history? Er … it exists, doesn’t it? We have a past. Would he let young people grow up in Walden Two thinking it had always existed, thinking, perhaps, that it had sprung up full-blown from the brow of Zeus? It strikes me as dangerous to accept such massive ignorance. To remain ignorant, is to believe a lie.

Skinner’s Frazier has boundless faith in his ideas. He no longer needs to know history. He is assured that his planners and managers will never become corrupted. (If they did, it would be difficult to know it without a knowledge of what Walden Two had been like before the corruption started.) His rigorous program turns out to be curiously lacking in substance. Skinner’s ideas are provocative and thought provoking. But the problems are far to serious to allow the quick dismissal Frazier would give them. In short, I am not ready to sign on the dotted line.

Some people have actually formed a community based on Walden Two. But Twin Oaks abandoned the Walden Two model 20 years ago.

In retrospect, I dislike Behaviorism for representing a retreat from bolder students of the human psyche represented in other schools of psychology. The Behaviorist has given up on trying to understand our inner-subjective selves. He has retreated to the safer and more “objective” study of mere behavior.  Sam Vaknin once wrote that psychologists have to decide whether they are scientists or philosophers. Skinner, advocate of the most restrictive schools of psychology, was very much a philosopher — a metaphysician.  He looked deeply into the implications of his ideas and practice. But most psychologists think they are scientists. As such, Behaviorists are so dull, Skinner might as well have been the “last Behaviorist.”

Free to Choose

This article is reproduced from my now defunct website, The Slytherin’s Journey. It was the first article I ever wrote about Psychopathy.

Dr. Lector amused himself—he has extensive internal resources and can entertain himself for years at a time. His thoughts were no more bound by fear or kindness than Milton’s were by physics. He was free in his head.

pinocchioIn Pinocchio, a good fairy gave Jiminy Cricket the job of being the conscience to a wooden puppet. At the same time, she gave the puppet the ability to move at will. Pinocchio didn’t know what was right or wrong. Jiminy was there to guide him. But Pinocchio was free, irrespective of the cricket, to choose his course of action. He often ignored his “conscience” and got into trouble. Jiminy and the fairy rescued him. But he learned more from his mistakes than from Jiminy.

squishedWhat is “conscience?” My Google search defined it as, “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.” Several other definitions always include the word “feeling.” Most of them then follow this with the concept of guilt. Merriam-Webster defined it as “the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong. : a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong … “ Thus “conscience” seems to be inseparable from the “feeling of guilt.” Wikipedia defines “guilt” as “Guilt may refer to: Guilt (emotion), an emotion that occurs when a person believes that they have violated a moral standard that they themselves believe wilsonin … “ Of course, there’s the legal definition which isn’t about feelings. But conscience and guilt seem to be closely bound together by feeling. When people all accept one philosophy, such as Christianity, as the Truth, guilt and conscience reinforce that philosophy. Today’s world is a smorgasbord of philosophies and religions, therefore, it is problematic where a conscience is supposed to lead one. I guess people are expected to derive their conscience from inner values. So one man’s conscience may conflict radically with that of another man. For example, Officer Wilson, the cop in Missouri who shot an unarmed teenager says his conscience is clear. Who can argue with that as everyone’s conscience is his own, individual creation. Conscience can justify any act, no matter how heinous.

Conscience makes cowards of us all. Does this explain the fearlessness of the psychopath?

Although conscience is no longer uniform, there is a strange assumption most people seem to have that you must have a conscience to be a good person. Those without a conscience are thought to be “bad.” What makes people “good” is the feeling of guilt they have if they do something that violates their conscience. That seems to go along with the idea that only punishment can make people “good.”

Jay Jones, in his excellent blog, Psychopathy Awareness, said of conscience:

Much is written about psychopaths lacking a conscience, with works like Without Conscience by Dr Robert Hare, and such an opinion is wide spread by experts and laymen alike. In truth though, these people fail to understand the nature of the conscience and to remove their own subjectivity when analyzing the issue. Psychopaths do have a conscience, it is merely completely personal and relates only to personal perspectives and standards. This is in contrast to “normal” people in this time and setting who’s conscience is a reflection of societal perspectives and standards.

Psychopaths are naturally immune to the social conditioning that people learn by, or rather are indoctrinated into at an early age. The job of the conscience is to check the self—analyzing current behaviors, emotions and thinking against the long term decided perspectives and standards of the individual. Where a typical person learns what their society and care givers consider to be truths and standards in their environment, and integrates this into their own conscience, a psychopath doesn’t take on what others have told them is truth and socially acceptable, they make their mind up based on their own experiences and perspective.

power-of-empathySome people say that conscience is really driven by empathy which Merriam-Webster define as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings …” This takes it into the realm of intuition. There is no real way to objectively determine whether someone’s intuition is correct of not. There is definitely a notion that empathy makes someone a better person.

Kevin Dutton visiting a psychopath in a secure unit. After Dr. Dutton says the difference between them is he is out there and the psychopath is locked up, the psychopath says,

“There’s only one difference between you and me. Honesty. Bottle. I want it. I go for it. You want it. You don’t.

“You’re scared, Kev. Scared. You’re scared of everything. I can see it in your eyes. Scared of the consequences. Scared of getting caught. Scared of what they’ll think. You’re scared of what they’ll do to you when they come knocking at your door. You’re scared of me.

“I mean, look at you. You’re right. You’re out there. I’m in here. But who’s free, Kev? I mean, really free? You or me? Think about that tonight. Where are the real bars, Kev? Out there” — he points at the window — “or in here?” (He reaches forward ever so lightly, touches my left temple.)

Split-Second Persuasion by Kevin Dutton, Ph.D

Psychopaths are widely hated because we do not have a conscience, guilt-feelings or empathy. In short, we are deficient in the ability to connect with other people. We are driven more by our rational brain, Most psychopaths learn to emulate feelings we don’t have in order to fit in. M.E. Thomas said she sometimes felt like a character in the movie, Bladerunner, having to watch her step every minute not to give herself away. Most people think psychopaths are dangerous consciencepredators. Robert Hare calls us “social predators.” The public associates us with serial killers although only a small number of psychopaths ever kill anyone. We can manipulate people, often as a game of power. It can give one a heady feeling to know one is calling the shots outside of other people’s awareness. This gives one a powerful experience of grandiosity. Psychopaths have the reputation of using our cunning only to hurt people. Sam Vaknin said, on the contrary, “The vast majority of psychopaths, like an iceberg, are underwater, and like an iceberg, they are inert.” But not having a conscience, that is, a feeling that one must act a certain way does not force a psychopath to do wrong. A psychopath’s lack of conscience withoutconsciencegives us a choice. One can objectively know right from wrong. In fact, the law presumes that psychopaths know right from wrong objectively which is why we are held responsible for crimes we commit. Knowing what is right and what is wrong can function as a guide just as effectively as a conscience. Not needing to beat oneself up with guilt feelings, really causes a psychopath to deserve more credit for doing right. A free choice is automatically a moral choice. But the fact that psychopaths can chose to do wrong scares people. How do they know what choice psychopaths will make? There is such a thing as a “pro social” psychopath. James Fallon is one as well as others living useful, productive lives in their chosen profession. They can work as surgeons, ball players, lawyers or a myriad other group of occupations which require single-minded focus and a mind not clouded by emotion.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

antisocialpdIn recent years, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual has grown from a slim volume to an enormous tomb and with it’s width, it’s influence also grew until it was the size of a bully kicking the other kids off the playground. Scholars of psychology and psychiatry met regularly to decide what would go into it. Dr. Hervey Cleckley and Dr. Robert Hare developed the concept of psychopathy. Dr. Hare’s checklist is the acknowledged defining and diagnostic tool for what “psychopathy” means. But a powerful group refused to accept it. They found concepts such as “lack of empathy” too subjective and considered a more “scientific” concept based more strictly on overt behavior. Therefore, they replaced psychopathy with the “antisocial personality disorder.” In embracing this term, psychology lost the depth and subtlety that was part of psychopathy. It became an index of criminality. A criminal could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder even if he felt empathy and guilt. Feelings were just too damned unscientific. You can’t even measure them, for goodness sake. However, psychopaths’ brains have distinct differences from normal ones. The frontal orbital cortex which is fed impulses through the amygdala, often appears dark and inactive when a psychopath is subjected to a PET brain scan. This characteristic isn’t part of the ASPD diagnostic criteria. Sounds very scientific to me but what do I know. I’m only a lowly layman. So diagnosed psychopaths like M.E. Thomas couldn’t have ASPD since she is not a criminal. Hail science! Since psychopathy isn’t listed in the DSM as a personality disorder, the real verdict of psychiatry is that psychopathy isn’t a disorder. Robert Hare has stated this specifically. “Psychopaths are not disordered. They have no deficit.” Well that’s that.

Speaking Personally

Speaking for myself as a self-assesssed psychopath, I have the usual “diagnosis” of ASPD (antisocial personality disorder).  I dislike the degree which psychology is oriented to Behaviorism. As Sam Vaknin said, the field of psychology has promise but only if it is approached as a philosophy. Dr. Hare has recently stated that psychopathy isn’t even a disorder.

To the Haters

hannibalI wrote the comment on someone’s blog that had a revolting number of hostile comments after it, all signed “anonymous” and all denying the blogger is a “real” psychopath:

I notice most of the hostile comments here are labeled “anonymous.” Seems like you haters can dish it out but not take it. I also find it interesting that many people like to deny the psychopathy of anyone who proclaims him/herself as a psychopath even when they’ve been diagnosed. None of these anonymous nay sayers are able to claim professional credentials but still seem to think they are more qualified than a professional to contradict his/her professional opinion. At the same time, people are highly prone to call people “psychopaths” when they have done something the hater doesn’t like.

I challenge every anonymous poster to identify him/herself or shut the fuck up.


Deconstructing Psychopathy?

bookIs there really such a thing as “psychopathy?” Is it a disorder? Is it ASPD or something similar? Or is it, as I believe, something real. There are psychopaths in every culture on earth. And some moral values are universal.  But, according to The Myth of the Born Criminal: Psychopathy, Neurobiology, and the Creation of the Modern Degenerate by Jarkko Jalava, Stephanie Griffiths, and Michael Maralin, psychopaths as we are discussed in public, are mythological monsters. The existence of real-life monsters fulfills a need, either human or cultural, to believe that “evil” can be understood as something existing apart from our humanity. “This shift, which has been the theme of our book, is ultimately a story about a very human wish to believe in an orderly universe. In this universe, evil is its own biological category, readily set apart from the rest of humanity, and revealed in human tissue. The scientific mind in this respect is as loaded with cultural assumptions and imagery as the lay mind is, willing to reach for conclusions well beyond physical data.” What these writers don’t mention is that the very concept of evil, itself, defies definition. There follows the story of James Fallon and his discovery of his own psychopathy. But they find flaws in his narrative. The “warrior gene” is passed down by the mother. So his long list of forebears who were murderers, including Lizzy Borden (who we are reminded was never convicted) were on his father’s side of the family.

How do we assess a disorder that we are hardly able to define? There is little that people can agree about when discussing psychopathy. Most will agree that the PCL-R is the “gold standard” for diagnosis. There has also been a steadily increasing tendency to look towards neurological factors in understanding this phenomenon. Much discussion has occurred about the “nature/nurture” question. In fact, when we draw back and see the larger picture, we find that most of these questions we have about psychopathy have never been completely resolved in psychology, or, indeed, even in science.

natureScience is notorious for changing its findings every 30 years or so. We used to think a new-born infant a blank slate; that whatever s/he would become would come from environment and experiences. The pendulum has swung to the opposite side with ever greater awareness of what an infant already brings with hir. A book, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As a Girl by John Colapinto, describes the spectacular failure of the blank slate theory when Dr. John Money tried to have a boy who had lost his penis in an accident raised as a girl. The movie, The Bad Seed, showed the confusion of family and friends at the extreme psychopathy if an eight-year-old girl who was just “born bad.” Although few eight-year-olds are serial killers, there are instances of children who show psychopathic traits from an early age and who grow up into adult psychopaths.

Tina Taylor, NoPsychos, is probably the most radical advocate of nature. She says, “Psychopaths are impaired neurologically, and (like drug users) are not fit for positions of leadership. Let’s get all disordered people out of government. fMRI neuroscience testing needs to be a part of the security clearance background check.” Her mission in life is to make all politicians submit to MRIs to weed out the psychopaths from public life. The implicit assumption is that MRIs are reliable diagnostic tools.

brainscanJames Fallon, a neurologist, famously discovered his own brain scan was like the brain scans of murderers he had studied. He began entertaining the idea that he was a psychopath. Looking at his life and questioning his friends, he found confirmation of that possibility and he wrote The Psychopath Inside. Clearly, he stands on the side of those who do believe psychopaths can be diagnosed by scanning their brains. Tom Chivers, talking about Dr. Fallon, said, “he barely draws breath in an hour, in which I ask perhaps three questions. He explains how he has frequently put his family in danger, exposing his brother to the deadly Marburg virus and taking his son trout-fishing in the African countryside knowing there were lions around. And in his youth, ‘if I was confronted by authority – if I stole a car, made pipe bombs, started fires – when we got caught by the police I showed no emotion, no anxiety’. Yet he is highly successful, driven to win. He tells me things most people would be uncomfortable saying: that his wife says she’s married to a ‘fun-loving, happy-go-lucky nice guy’ on the one hand, and a ‘very dark character who she does not like on the other. He’s pleasant, and funny, if self-absorbed, but I can’t help but think about the criteria in Hare’s PCL-R: superficial charm, lack of emotional depth, grandiose sense of self-worth.”

nocountOn the whole, psychopaths are not well liked. Kurt Vonnegut, the scribbler who inflicted that piece of pious cant, The Man Without a Country, weighed-in. “To say somebody is a PP (psychopathic personality) is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete’s foot. And so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!” I notice this rant is more political than medical, despite his claims. My views about eliminating psychopaths from public life are found in my blog on that subject. But are psychopaths really “sick” at all?

fallon1Psychopathy isn’t listed in the DSM and Dr. Robert Hare isn’t sure if it is really a personality disorder at all. Tom Chivers asks, “But is psychopathy a disorder – or a different way of being? Anyone reading the list above will spot a few criteria familiar from people they know. On average, someone with no criminal convictions scores 5. ‘It’s dimensional,’ says Hare. ‘There are people who are part-way up the scale, high enough to warrant an assessment for psychopathy, but not high enough up to cause problems. Often they’re our friends, they’re fun to be around. They might take advantage of us now and then, but usually it’s subtle and they’re able to talk their way around it.’ Like autism, a condition which we think of as a spectrum, ‘psycho­pathy’, the diagnosis, bleeds into normalcy.” I’m happy to see Dr. Hare has softened towards us a bit. He used to just say we were “not very nice people.”

funpsyJames Blair defines psychopathy as “a developmental disorder marked by emotional deficits and an increased risk for antisocial behavior. It is not equivalent to the diagnosis Antisocial Personality Disorder, which concentrates only on the increased risk for antisocial behavior and not a specific cause—ie, the reduced empathy and guilt that constitutes the emotional deficit.”

I have heard it said that “every psychopath” has brain anomalies that show up on brain scans. But, to speak of “every psychopath,” one must first have determined that the person is a psychopath. For that, the best tool is still the PCL-R. Whether psychopathy is genetic, developmental or not, the PCL-R can still identify it. A pretty clear picture emerges from all the confusion once the notion that we are all murderers has been put to rest. I think most people understand what a psychopath is and what s/he isn’t. The narrator of the video documentary, The Psychopath Next Door, said it best, I think, when he called psychopathy “a radical emotional detachment.” Everything people love or hate (or love to hate) can be encapsulated in that description.

The Myth of the Born Criminal, ibid is on the other end of the discussion. In this book, the authors seek to deconstruct psychopathy which they believe to be subject to the moral values of Western civilization rather than something existing objectively in itself. They accusingly use the word “rhetoric” a great deal. The book begins with the intellectual gyrations of the Nineteenth Century. He makes a big point of the fact that we don’t really know what causes psychopathy. Are psychopaths what we are because our brains look a certain way or do our brains look that way because we are psychopaths. Correlation is not causality, in other words. Point taken. But, if there is a correlation, can’t imaging capture an aspect of it for an assessment? In Google, only James Fallon seemed to think so. Most experts in the field don’t consider the brain scan a diagnostic tool.

What do We do About it?

reptileThe authors of Born Criminal discuss some problematic public policy decisions based on the psychopath-as-monster paradigm. For example, there is a tendency to prolong the prison sentence of  an inmate who scored high on the PCL-R. Robert Hare says that a high score correlates positively with recidivism. I don’t mind the fact that such a person can be denied parole as parole is really a privilege, not a right. But wanting to extend imprisonment beyond the court mandated sentence flies in the face of our civil liberties. There has been a lot of loose talk of “solutions” which are even more sinister. Some people would isolate psychopaths from “normal” folk for their protection (the protection of the normals, that is—keep the sheep from the wolves). That not only harms psychopaths. It is demeaning to the sheep, oops, I mean the normal folk. Who wants to be keep enclosed and “safe” the way society used to try to “protect” women. Born Criminal talks a great deal about the metaphors comparing psychopaths to animals—wolves, snakes, lizards, etc. Depriving us of our humanity is a step in the direction of depriving us of our civil rights or even our lives. The book also touches on the blogs and websites devoted to exposing the monsters in their midst. “Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy partnerFoundation and” participated in a study by someone working on a master’s thesis at Carleton University. Questionnaires were given to people recruited from Robert Hare’s website and other places which sought to discover if these good people had the misfortune of working with psychopaths. “ was run by Donna Andersen, who according to her website was ‘not a licensed therapist’ and whose qualifications consisted of having been married to a sociopath and having ‘heard from more than 2,800 other victims about their experiences’ (a phone consultation with Andersen cost $65 per hour). One of the findings of this study was to warn employers against hiring psychopaths. Funny how they want to prevent us from contributing to society in a lawful manner.

Demonetization of society’s outsiders has some useful effects for those not demonized, I suppose. It reminds me too much of the witch hunts, Nazism and similar horrors. As a child, I was force-fed The Man Without a Country which nauseated me and made me want to be an outsider. A lot has been said about narcissism. How about the narcissism of a whole society? How about group narcissism?


scannerI think we need to leave the assessment of psychopathy to the experts. Brain Scans don’t seem widely accepted among them. Since M.E. Thomas’ Confessions of a Sociopath, a lot of psychopaths have stood up and told our own stories. Professional labeling is valued by some of us and rejected or ignored by many others. I would like to see a scan of my brain but it’s too expensive and society is not as keen on doing this large scale. The difficulties in defining and assessing us do not prove we are a myth. Of course, we’re not born criminals. We have a choice between criminal and non-criminal pursuits.

I think Born Criminal has done a service by pointing out how society uses us as modern-day monsters. Knowing someone doesn’t “have a conscience” is scary for most people. In the words of Coleridge,

And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.




Are You Crazy?

crazyHow to separate psychotic delusion from regular dumb ideas?

The concept of “delusion” is ultimately based on the concept of “truth.” This is a problem. Everyone claims to have “The Truth.” But they each say different things. To be in possession of The Truth, one must reject all other beliefs as delusional. While as many beliefs abound in the marketplace of ideas, there is some consensus about the wrongness of what crazy people claim to be true. Of course, this is also problematic. People say, rhetorically, that if Jesus lived in our times, he would be locked up in a mental hospital. And yet, billions worship and have worshiped him. As Pontius Pilot said, “What is truth?” We won’t be able to identify delusion until we identify truth.


Merriam-Webster defines Truth as:

  • the real facts about something : the things that are true

  • : the quality or state of being true

  • : a statement or idea that is true or accepted as true

All but the last of these is a tautology. Truth is what is true. How nice. But what is “accepted” as true really seems to get us somewhere. So, I would venture to say that Truth is about communication. If you can get people to accept your truth, it will be, well, accepted. Still tautology.

In my Epistemology class back when I was in college, the theories of truth were basically

  1. Correspondence Theory.
  2. Coherence Theory.
  3. Pragmatic Theory.

The Correspondence Theory, which is what Merriam-Webster adheres to in their definition, is really Metaphysics and is tautological.

The Coherence Theory, which I consider the only viable one, tests truth by how well it theoriesconsistently fits a unified view of reality. In other words, one’s beliefs must be consistent with one’s other beliefs. If two beliefs conflict, one of them must be wrong. If one believes in a natural, material universe, and a bright light appears with a loud voice announcing, “I am the Lord, Jesus Christ,” and then performs miracles to prove it, one would have to either reject this experience as a hallucination or modify hir previous philosophy in order to accommodate this new data. One should always be willing to modify one’s view of reality in terms of the data.

The Pragmatic Theory is just that “what works” is what is true. I think this “theory” shows enormous lack of respect for reality and an indifference to philosophy. One could say, “Everyone has hir own reality.” I believe in an objective reality. I leave pragmatism to the facebookpoliticians.

Now that we have some sort of working handle on “truth,” what about delusion?


About Health defines delusion much the same way as others do so we can use them as an example. They define delusion as follows:

Delusions are false beliefs that a person firmly holds to be true, despite what other people may think or say. They are usually a part of psychosis in bipolar disorder.
What Kinds of Delusions Are There?

Types of delusions include:

Delusions of grandeur. Believing that you’re famous or publicly important or that you’re a god.
Delusional jealousy. Believing a spouse or partner is unfaithful when it is not true.
Persecutory or paranoid delusions. Believing you are being followed, spied on, secretly listened to, or the like.
Delusions of reference. Thinking that random events contain a special meaning for you alone.
Other “bizarre” delusions. Believing in things that are impossible, such as thinking you’re a werewolf, that your spouse is an octopus, or that giant worms make subway tunnels.

paranoidA “false belief that a person holds to be true, despite what other people may think or say?” But aren’t there people who believe something we might think is nonsense without being psychotic?

“Delusions of grandeur?” Don’t most of us Cluster Bs have them. We know the rest of the world probably doesn’t agree about our greatness but we still hold on to our grandiosity without actually being delusional.  I mean, if someone believed he was president or something, that would be a delusion. But thinking one is god? Why not? Maybe we’re all god. The belief in “god” can be seen as delusional for that matter. But non-psychotic people believe these things.

jealousy“Delusional jealousy?” Lots of people are plagued by irrational jealousy. I hardly think they’re ready for the rubber room.

“Persecutory or paranoid delusions?” This can be neurotic or crazy depending on the belief. People can think others in their office are whispering about them. That’s paranoid but not insane. Thinking an enemy is reading their thoughts from the headquarters of the Illuminati. Yet, that’s pretty crazy.

“Thinking that random events contain a special meaning for your alone?” That can happen on strong grass. Everything can have a special, symbolic significance.

“Believing in things that are impossible, such as thinking you’re a werewolf, that your spouse is an octopus, or that giant worms make subway tunnels?” OK. That’s pretty open and shut nuts.

lunaThe thing is, there seems to be a sometimes pretty thin line between actual delusion and the kinds of thinking “normal” people sometimes engage in. Harry Potter fans will remember Luna Lovegood who believed many bizarre things most people considered nuts. Of course, her beliefs earned her the nickname “Loony” but she really didn’t seem to be so. Lots of people entertain all sorts of conspiracy theories. Look at Munch in the series Law and Order: SVU. Even I believe some things that are dismissed as crazy by the mainstream. For example, I believe that 9/11 was an inside job. Of course, I could change that view if shown enough evidence. Maybe that’s the difference.

munchQuite often, other people’s beliefs seem crazy. How can they rationally believe that? Truth should be self-evident.

People seek to reduce the confusion by getting into groups. Within the group, they struggle for what they think is the best answer. This is why political groups have created the concept of “politically correct.” This is what medical associations and all learned associations, for that matter, define. And other groups, in opposition to the “truth” of some established learned group, espouse their different ideologies. For example, Freelee the Banana Girl, believes a high-carb vegan diet can cure cancer and prevent those who don’t have it from getting it. So she and those who agree with her reject the Cancer Society’s basic paradigm. Then there are all the religions in the world, each claiming to “have the truth.”

speakerThe beauty of a democratic, pluralistic society is that each of these claimants can co-exist with one and other. We often think other people and groups are crazy. But we usually live and let live. The only people to whom this courtesy is not extended are those who are deemed crazy by the consensus. For this to happen, they can’t just have bizarre beliefs. They must also be harmful to self or others. Of course, ideas can be very dangerous. But this is a danger we are willing to live with. If someone threatens my view of reality, that’s my problem. Only if he physically threatens my autonomy or well-being is his freedom taken away from him. At least, in theory. Of course, someone who does this sort of thing can be subject to the criminal “justice” system unless he seems mentally impaired enough not to be responsible. Even convicted criminals are considered rational enough to have a point of view that deserves to be taken seriously. Only the mental patient’s reality is dismissed out of hand. Mental patients are to be treated kindly, again in theory, because they are not held responsible.

nuthouseSanity is a privileged status. Seriously denying someone’s sanity is an assault on his adulthood. This might be a good time to mentioned the fact that psychopaths, as a group, have sometimes been subject of that assault. To say we are wearing The Mask of Sanity is to suggest that we really only seem sane on the surface. All terms of that sort, such as moral imbecility would remove us from the sphere of those who must be taken seriously. At present, the law regards us as sane and responsible. Some psychopaths have sought the status of mental patient to avoid the long arm of the law. Most of the “cases” Dr. Cleckley discussed in his book had voluntarily put themselves in his care. The book, The Psychopath Test, shows what dire consequences can come once one is in the mental health system. They can do anything to a mental patient, give hir electric shocks, put hir in a straight jacket… Of course, some people really are crazy. They can’t help it. Be glad you’re considered eccentric and/or bad and not nuts.

Blank Space

It is a common belief that psychopaths have an emptiness inside of us. This is most commonly expressed by people who don’t like us. We have many enemies on the internet.

Our Enemies Weigh In

blankspaceQuora asked psychopaths who are signed up with them to answer thorny questions, “Do psychopaths feel empty inside.” Most answered “No.” They replied that they were not aware of what was missing, if anything, so how could they “feel” empty. Only one, Lore Lei, said, “It depends on the psychopath, their level of self-awareness, and if they are brave enough to take their mask off and truly look at what is lying underneath.” James, who sometimes writes on the NoPsychos blog, said about Taylor Swift’s song/video, Blank Space, “Even the title says it all: a blank space in an empty soul waiting to be filled by some unsuspecting sucker.” M.E. Thomas wrote, “Without actively spinning stories, I had no self. If I had been Buddhist on my path to seeking Nirvana, this lack of self would have been a huge breakthrough, but I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment at having achieved that state. Instead I felt the only way anyone can ever feel a sense of accomplishment at having achieved that state. Instead I felt the only way anyone can ever feel without a sense of self—free.” Do I sense some emptiness or void inside myself? voidAs an infant, I remember feeling that I was about to be swallowed by a void, as if there were chaos inside me trying to suck me inside. I never felt that again until my first acid trip. How about this very minute? As the psychopaths answered Quora, it’s hard to know a deficit with no standard of comparison. Is boredom a sign (as some have suggested)?

What about the fluid identity bit? As a teenager, I hardly knew what I looked like. I would see my reflection in the mirror, of course. But it seemed vague, somehow. Is a fluid identity emptiness? M.E. Thomas said, “I don’t really have ‘true thoughts,’ just good and bad performances as I attempt to say and do things that normal people say and do.”

Psychopaths have tackled the issue as well.

What Psychopaths have said

There are also those who don’t think inner emptiness is such a bad thing.

Perhaps the thing that makes psychopaths seem soulless is something that is valued in Eastern tradition, presence. We are in present time more than most people. That’s probably why we are notorious for not learning from experience. Every moment is new. It also explains the lack of direction or goal in many of our lives. These qualities are stigmatized in Western thought. Everyone is supposed to have a goal. We are supposed to “grow” in a steady, linear fashion. It’s not that I’m not learning, however. I see my present circumstances as an excellent opportunity to learn what I need to learn at this point in my life. I am doing an in-depth study of mortality. People in this assisted-living center are dying all around me. Aside from the sudden disappearance of people I know, there is also the ever-present evidence of sickness, decline. What happens to meat when the spirit leaves it. It decayrots. While still alive, many people here experience failure of one organ or another. The most poignant loss is that of the brain. Many people here have various degrees of Alzheimer’s and dementia. I used to consider these dreaded conditions. Now I don’t fear them. There is something deeply disgusting about the physical world. I choose to deal with that by not turning away but looking at it full on (giving is the psychopathic stare?). I am also struck by the number of deaths taking place among celebrities. Bowie, Patty Duke, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman… It’s like they’re wiping the slate clean. Out with the old, bring on the new. By the old, I probably include myself. I’m on the way out. I’m at peace with it. I am not straining at the bit to get their sooner, nor am I hoping to put it off.

lightAs I stated in my Grandiose is My Indian Name, I’m drawn to the Platonic Ideal more than to the physical actuality. Not that I haven’t enjoyed the physical world. We have it. We damn well should enjoy it. But life is essentially spirit. Whatever that means to someone with a blank space. I guess I’ll find out.








During a discussion, it occurred to me that three of the Cluster B “disorders” provide a firewall to protect us from emotional pain. For Psychopaths, it’s detachment. For Narcissists, it’s the “false self.” For Histrionics, it’s the shallowness of emotions. They are easily wounded but heal quickly. The only one that doesn’t seem to have a firewall is Borderline. Borderlines can be consumed by their emotions.

Do you Borderlines out there agree or do I have that wrong?