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.

Personality Test

I took this test along with a lot of my friends and decided, for shits and giggles, I’m posting my results. I mean, it’s in these nice graphics.


I was surprised he narcissistic and histrionic sides of me weren’t higher. The masochistic factor is zero but I guess this isn’t about sexuality. And I didn’t know I was so sadistic. Well, the 100% antisocial fits.

The above image cuts off the description of “antisocial” in the middle. Here is the whole thing:


Your test scores suggest that your personality style entails: An extreme autonomy and self-reliance, and a deviance from societal norms. You have poor impulse control and are sensitive to being slighted. Hostility and vindictiveness comes easily to you. You are impatient and restless, always in pursuit of more of “the good things in life.” You are never satisfied in having, only in taking. Seemingly undaunted by risk, pain, and punishment, you are truly unbound by the deterrents that normally condition people’s lives, be they cultural or biological.

A bit more about ASPD:

Well, that’s it about me. The results are corroborated by a professional assessment except they thought I was more narcissistic than this one indicates. They said the only reason I didn’t qualify as a narc, according to them, was that I wasn’t jealous and I was self-aware. Hmmppfff! Sam Vaknin is certainly self-aware and he’s a narc. And many narcs I know say they aren’t full of jealousy either. Whatever…

About this test:

Why Use This Test?

1. Free. This free online test is designed to comprehensively measure your personality style on 15 different scales and is delivered to you free of charge.

2. Comprehensive. This free online 105-question personality style test will help the respondent make sense of a wide theoretical framework, dating all the way back to Sigmund Freud and his associates. The century-old tradition of scholarship on the personality styles contains some contradictions, but this test straightens them out in order to deliver an overview of the field as a whole.

3. Made by professionals. The authors of this test are certified in the use of different personality tests and have worked professionally with typology and personality testing.

4. Clinically oriented. A common criticism of the personality descriptions yielded by Jung Type Tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and similar instruments is that their type descriptions are too positive. The feedback delivered by this instrument is designed to counteract that tendency, delivering a clear picture of the pathologies and problem areas that the respondent’s personality is liable to be susceptible to.

Victimhood: a Growth Industry

beeWe Cluster Bees have long known about the culture of Victimhood that points to us, especially ‘Paths and Narcs, as the evil predators who have abused them. There is a site called Love Fraud, owned by a woman named Donna Andersen, that specializes in helping women who have been victimized by the likes of us, “recover” from the trauma inflicted by such predators as … ourselves.

The latest in this growth industry is the idea that lying in order to get laid is a form of rape.

In order for sex to be truly consensual, a woman must have full knowledge of, not only who the man is, including his occupation, education and marital status, but also how he feels about her. Rape isn’t and doesn’t have to be an act of violence. Well, that’s true. A man who uses a date rape drug is guilty of rape. Even if he takes advantage of a woman donna_andersenwho is passed-out drunk, he can be accused of rape. Then there’s statutory rape, meaning any kind of sex with a minor, consensual or not. But does that mean a man who tells the girl he loves her is a rapist if she goes to bed with him because she believed it and it wasn’t true? What if the man changed his mind? Women who cry “rape,” are often accused of just having next morning remorse. A man may think he loves a woman and not feel the same way the next day. I, myself, have wondered what I ever saw in a man who seemed like a great lover the night before. The same Donna Andersen mentioned above spells it out in Rape by deception: Lovefraud — sociopaths, psychopaths, antisocials, con artists, bigamists.

mirandaI understand that there are bars especially for young people to meet. These places are known as singles bars. Lying, I am told, is rampant in such places. It’s so common and well enough known to be acknowledged on such TV shows as Sex and the City. In one episode, a character, Miranda, needs a date for the wedding of a friend so she meets a man at a thing where men and women have insta-dates which are really more like interviews. Those who find mutual attraction can go on real dates. Miranda hooks up with a guy who claimed to be a surgeon. He really worked in retail. So, according to this new standard, he was a rapist. The problem with this is that Miranda lied too. When she told the truth, that she was a partner in a law firm, the men lost interest. So she told this “surgeon” that she was a stewardess. Both parties lied. Was it a mutual rape? Or, perhaps, a double rape?

joyce_shortAs preposterous as this sounds, a woman named Joyce M. Short wrote a book called  Combating Romance Scams. Ms. Short exhorts women to read the book and then advise their legislatures to make such deception a crime and to call it rape. Ms. Short is also the author of a book called Carnal Abuse By Deceit. In New Jersey, a bill was introduced by Troy Singleton to make “rape by fraud” punishable by 20 years in prison. But let’s hear directly from her:

Canada, the country that created a radical anti-pornography law based on the ideas of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon, is at it again. A man, Greg Alan Elliot, was arrested and fired from his job and for daring to disagree with feminists on Twitter. toronto-stephanie-guthrieFortunately, justice prevailed as he has been cleared of those charged. Two social justice warriors, Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Riley, publicly shamed a man who had created an anti-feminist video game. It turns out that the whole kerfluffle started out with a man creating a game to punish his girl friend. A culture war ensued with alt.right types rallying behind a Twitter tag called #gamergate. Mind you, Greg Elliot wasn’t the man who created the game. He merely defended that man by saying the shaming of him was as bad as the game, itself. But Ms. Riley claimed that Elliot’s dissent on Twitter made her feel threatened. How far will these touchy-feely NTs go to enthrone their precious feelings as equivalent to real facts? The above video notwithstanding, it seems Elliot did more than mere disagree intellectually with Guthrie and Riley. He apparently posted obsessively. He still didn’t stray beyond the line of legal dissent and those who are overly sensitive should not get involved in trollish wars.

Be that as it may, this topic is really about free speech. The use of speech to defraud someone out of money has always been considered a crime. But should a woman really love_bombbe able to cry rape because the Wall Street millionaire she hooked up with turns out to be a shoe salesman? Isn’t she playing a game too, pretending to be sincere while really trying to marry a fortune? As far as “lying” about feelings goes, feelings change all the time. If a girl is afraid she is being seduced by a guy who isn’t really serious about a relationship, the remedy would be to wait until he’s proven himself over a period of time. In these days of casual sex, people often jump into the sack on very short acquaintance. It’s kind of expected so a woman may fear she will lose the guy if she doesn’t do it. But how serious can the guy be if he loses interest when the girl isn’t immediately available. Thinking one has to do it to keep him interested is tantamount to assuming he isn’t serious about her. At least not yet. Web sites like Love Fraud accuse psychopaths of love bombing their prey as an act of fraud or even rape. As long as we’re being so politically correct, perhaps psychopaths can accuse people like Andersen of scapegoating us with stereotyping. Think about it.

Richard Wagner

wagner…a psychopath?

Richard Wagner, a great composer and innovator in music has a really bad reputation. I consider people’s judgements wrong and would like to examine the man with a clean slate only in terms of the possibility of his psychopathy. We will look at both the man and his creations.

The main charges made by biographers and critics that stand out in any reading about the man are antisemitism, habit of incurring debts, and philandering.

Wagner_Das_Judenthum_in_der_Musik_1869The most disturbing charge, that of antisemitism, doesn’t impinge on the question of psychopathy. A psychopath can be a bigot or thoroughly open minded. But I do have a few words to say on his behalf in this area if only to dispose of it. Critics point mostly to an essay he wrote called Judaism in Music which I have read and didn’t really find offensive. The main thesis is that music comes from deep within a culture with its roots in the soil and the language of a people. Since Jews don’t have this kind of background, they can’t exemplify the music of Germany the way someone who does have these roots could do. The essay was largely motivated by Wagner’s resentment of two Jewish composers of his time,  Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer who had been enjoying a level of success Wagner considered undeserved. Despite his intellectual views, Wagner had Jewish friends and worked professionally with some Jewish musicians. The bitch of the thing is that his second wife, Cosima, was antisemitic which was bad enough. But Hitler happened to be a huge fan of Wagner and his works have been linked with Hitler ever since the Third Reich. I am reminded of how Taylor Swift is being accused of racism and white supremacy due to the fact that the alt-right has taken her on as their darling. I wish to emphasize here and now that the fact that someone likes the works of an artist should not impugn the reputation of the artist. Enough said.

characterteurI’ve been a fan of Wagner since college days. Or, I guess one isn’t supposed to use the word “fan” for someone in the classical tradition. I’m an admirer of Wagner. There. That sounds a lot more dignified. Wagner’s music is in the classical tradition, of course, but it’s really romantic as opposed to classical. Beethoven and Mozart are classical. Anyway, my sister and I would have heated arguments about Wagner’s propensity to get into debt. She was all judgie about it but I didn’t give a rat’s ass whether Wagner paid back his debts. He was a great man and he gave the world far more value than the monetary worth of his debts. Once he said, “They’ll be building statues to my memory but if I try to help myself now…” (quote from memory, not word for word). But here’s a trait that does relate to psychopathy. Psychopaths are said to be irresponsible and have a parasitic lifestyle.

Mathilde_Wesendonck_by_Karl_Ferdinand_Sohn,_1850The third charge, that he was a philanderer, is based on the fact that he was married twice and had a famous affair with a beautiful woman named Mathilda Wesendonck. She was married as was his second wife before he took her away from her husband, himself an admirer and friend. Wagner’s behavior was pretty mild by modern standards. Still in all, he was no pillar of conventional family values.

Wagner was very intense. He fully recognized his own genius. Was he grandiose? I would say so. Now let’s move on to his work. While he is considered a composer of opera, he called his works Music Dramas. Operas were loose structured upon which songs, or arias, could be hung. Wagner’s Music Dramas were Gesamtkunstwerken. That means, the music, the story, the lyrics were created as a unified whole. Wagner believed music comes from language. The rhythm of the speech gave birth to the music. He didn’t write arias, songs. His Music Dramas had an endless melody. It was an organic whole.

siegfriedDer Ring des Nibelungen is a series of four separate works that tell the story of the birth and demise of the world. Whole books can (and are) written about the Ring. I’m limiting myself to discussing it in terms of psychopathy. The hero of the Ring is a young upstart named Siegfried. The gods have erred and brought the curse of gold upon the world. Only Siegfried could rid the world of that curse. Wotan deliberately created a race of heroes from which Siegfried could spring forth. However, he was karmically unable to fix things since he had brought the situation about. That reasoning is very un-psychopathic since he took full responsibility for his sins and had real remorse. Now Siegfried, a free spirit with no karmic ties to Wotan, was guiltless and able to act. One of the most emphasized qualities of Siegfried was that he was fearless. He couldn’t even conceive of what fear might feel like. When the wicked Mime tried to teach Siegfried fear, he describes the feelings that he, Mime, experience. But Siegfried thinks it’s a marvelous new experience. He says, “gern begehr ich das Bangen, sehnend verlangt mich der Lust!” (“I would gladly feel this ‘fear.’ I yearn for that pleasure.”) Because of his fearlessness, Siegfried is a great hero. He is light and joyful.

birdsCunning manipulativeness also come into play in this work. Hagen and Alberich con a family into using Siegfried to fulfill their own ambitions. A Tarnhelm or headpiece has the power to transform the appearance of the wearer into any form desired. Siegfried wears the Tarnhelm and penetrates a wall of fire in order to win for Gunther the hand of Brunnhilde who is really Siegfried’s woman. They have first given Siegfried a potion that makes him forget all about her and fall in love with Gutrune, Gunther’s sister. The Tarnhelm is kind of like a mask behind which the wearer hides his true intentions.  Of course, the cunning is seen as an evil thing, not something Wagner would identify with.

In looking at Wagner’s life and work as a whole, I don’t see enough clear evidence of psychopathy. He probably had some psychopathic features. He worked ruthlessly towards his goals. He was grandiose and fearless. But there is not enough to clearly answer the titled question with a yes.


Histrionics and Heroin: Nancy and Courtney

Nancy Spungen is Cluster B All the Way
So is Courtney Love

nancy_childIn reading And I Don’t Want to Live This Life by Deborah Spungen, Nancy’s mother, I have to wonder if people with histrionic personality disorder can be born that way people are born with psychopathy. There are details in Nancy’s childhood that can suggest narcissism or even psychopathy. She certainly controlled her family and was a holy terror to them for years. There is overlap between all the Cluster B “disorders” but I think a histrionic diagnosis fits her the best.

When she was born, February 1, 1958, she had a with a blood condition called ABO incompatibility, similar to RH-negative. nancy_babyShe needed a series of transfusions to save her life. After the transfusions, it was evident that she was an extremely volatile person, scrappy and feisty.

I looked for her through the nursery window. My eyes scanned one infant after another sleeping peacefully in a row. She wasn’t one of them.

She was lying in a glass-enclosed isolette in the very back of the nursery, naked except for a patch over her navel, where the transfusion had been done. Her mouth was open and she was screaming hysterically. Her yellow body was thrashing about angrily. The fighter description was an apt one — she looked as if she were in the midst of a battle.

Another physical problem was that one of her eyes was crossing and she couldn’t keep her tongue in her mouth. The doctor said this could be related to neurological damage caused by the crisis she had endured and that she would outgrow both conditions.

courtneyloveaschildCourtney Love was born July 9, 1964, about five years later. She looked a lot like Nancy Spungeon and was drawn to her. She wanted to play her in the movie Sid and Nancy. She didn’t get the role but she played a small part in the movie. There is a strange symmetry between the lives of these two women. Both were deeply involved with music, Courtney fronting her own band, Hole. Both had men who were, themselves, musicians, into punk and grunge, respectively. Both of these relationships ended with murder. Nancy was murdered by her lover, Sid Vicious. Courtney has been accused of murdering her husband, Kurt Cobain. Everyone would have to agree that both were drama queens. Courtney grew up on a courtneyloveaskidcommune, spent time in prison and has worked as a stripper (which Nancy did as well). Both were into hard drugs, heroin as were their men.

Courtney, like Nancy, had a troubled childhood. She was in therapy at the age of six and started cutting herself at the age of twelve. Her mom, Linda Carroll says in her book, Her Mother’s Daughter, her life was characterized by “violent mood swings, troubles with attachment, terrible dreams, and a sense of persecution had plagued her all her life.” She used drugs, recreationally, from an early age.

As far as histrionic personality disorder went, Nancy didn’t fall far from the tree. Her mother, Deborah, displayed massive doses of self-pity and self-justification in her book. It’s true she was inexperienced as a mother and too prone to accept advice of doctors. A pediatrician told her not to run to the baby with comfort and/or food when she cried because that would “spoil” her. That idea could have come from Babywise, the organization whose manual has been characterized as “tough-love for infants.” Babies don’t cry to control or manipulate their parents. Meeting their needs doesn’t spoil them. Deliberately failing to respond to a crying baby is downright rude. It’s just like not answering another adult who has spoken to one. Even Scientology tells people they should “acknowledge” others when spoken to.

nancydancingIn their efforts not to “spoil” Nancy, the Spungeons created an aura in which Nancy’s presence dominated more thoroughly than any willful demanding child could never do. They were so afraid of making a sound when Nancy was sleeping, they wouldn’t turn a light switch on or off after they put her to bed. “My friend Janet and her husband lived nearby. They came over to visit one night and sat with us in the darkened living room, afraid to utter a single word or use the bathroom. We tiptoed around in stocking feet. We served them iced tea without ice because we were afraid the noise from cracking ice would awaken her.” They finally resorted to phenobarbital rather than just comfort or feed her when she cried.

Nancy dominated her family throughout her life. The parents were so afraid of her, they give in to all her demands. They had two more children but those kids had to take second place to Nancy’s demands.

After dinner Nancy wanted to watch a particular show on TV in the den and sit in the easy chair. Suzy was already sitting in the chair, watching something else. Nancy changed the station.
“Hey!” Suzy protested.
“I don’t wanna watch that, ” Nancy snapped. “Get up!”
“What for?”
“I wanna sit there!”
“Why don’t yo sit somewhere else, Nancy” I offered.
She ignored me. “Get the fuck up, you little shithead!”
Get out of that fucking chair you fucking goddamned shithead!
Frank spoke up. “Don’t talk to your sister that way, Nancy.”
“Or what, asshole?”
Nancy crossed her arms, glared at him. “Go ahead, hit me, why don’t ya?”
The color rose in Frank’s face.
“Frank, don’t start with her,” I cautioned.
“She can’t talk to her sister that way!”
“You’re rising to her bait! I asked you not to! Let it be!”
“You’re rising to her bait by letting her get away with her crap!”
“Stop yelling,” begged David. “I’m trying to watch TV.”
“Don’t you starting opening your big fat mouth!” ordered Frank.
“Don’t take it out on David!” I cried.
David stormed out, ran upstairs, and slammed his door.
“Suzy, let her sit there,” Frank commanded.
“No,” Suzy said. “I’m sick of doing things just because she wants to.”
“Please, Suzy,” I begged. “It’ll be easier if you do.”
“But is isn’t fair, Mommy!” she sniffled.
“Suzy, I order you to get out of that chair at once!” yelled Frank.
She got up, fighting back tears and angrily left the room. Her door slammed.
Nancy triumphantly sat down.
“You happy now?” Frank demanded of her.
“Shut the fuck up,” she said. “I’m trying to watch the show.”

What craven cowardice! What amazes me most about that scene is that Suzy and David would have even the most modicum respect for the parents who allowed Nancy to walk nancyatdarlingtonall over them. That they would try to reclaim their non-existent dignity by playing stern parents to the already obedient children is ludicrous. As obnoxious as Nancy was in that scene, if her parents were such tools, her behavior was more appropriate than that of Suzy and David. At least Nancy had spunk.

Nancy’s parents finally put her in an institute called Darlington, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers. The first year was good but the school changed by the second year, the patient-staff ratio changed in the direction of less one-on-one care. Still, she remained in the system until she graduated. Darlington was able to do what the Spungens claimed to be impossible. They handled Nancy and got her through her teen years and school.

Courtney Love’s life was more successful than Nancy’s. She had her own rock band and courtneyasnancyshe murdered (probably) instead of being murdered. But she felt a strong connection, a pull towards the persona of Nancy Spungen. She tried to get the role of Nancy in the movie Sid and Nancy. Moreover:

Courtney wanted to be seen as another Nancy Spungen. She use to check into hotels with Kurt under the name Nancy and Kurt used the name Simon Richie (Sid’s name)  It means that when Kurt said, “She looked like Nancy Spungen and I probably could have fucked her that night,” comment from Kurt in About A Son was one of Kurt’s attempts to flatter her and cover her ass.

courtneyandkurtCourtney wanted to subvert the archetype. Kurt was a sucker for subversion so it makes sense that he didn’t notice that. Subversion is overthrowing something, like a government or law, or it can mean corrupting someone’s personal morals, like making a vegetarian eat bacon by tricking her. The Latin root subvertere means “to turn from below,” and when you turn something on its head in a sneaky way, that’s subversion.

I’m not trying to make Kurt out to be gullible, or weak but he seemed to cave to a lot if not all of what Courtney wanted through her manipulation.

An interview with Kurt by Everett True in 1992, Melody Mker, Kurt says:


courtney-love-march-2004So let’s take a look at who Nancy Spungen was. 1958-1978

  1. Everyone on the punk scene had slept with her
  2. Everyone called her Nauseating Nancy because they didn’t like her.
  3.  Heroin addict
  4. She worked as a stripper
  5. Followed rock groups like Aerosmith and The Ramones.
  6. She was mentally ill
  7. Had a troubled childhood (something Cl tried to say about her own childhood but it’s been proven otherwise)
  8. She had a reputation for short temper and explosiveness
  9. Accounts of domestic violence between her and Sid
  10. Was said to get Sid hard core hooked on heroin
  11. Responsible for the band “Sex Pistols” breaking up,(Sid played bass)

Here is a snippet of Courtney’s audition for Sid and Nancy:

She didn’t get the role although she really looks more like Nancy than Cloe Webb. When she said, “I am Nancy,” the producer and director should have listened.

But here is the real thing, Nancy and Sid in what was probably their last interview.

Some people call Courtney a psychopath. Both she and Nancy were plenty narcissistic but I think Histrionic Personality Disorder was where they lived.

Another coincidence involves stomach trouble. Kurt Cobain was plagued with it his entire life. Nancy Spungen was stabbed to death in her stomach. Just one more irony.

debnancyDeborah Spungen, the actual author of And I Don’t Want to Live This Life, certainly had a harrowing and dramatic tale to tell. But she told the tale with no acknowledgement of her own mistakes in raising Nancy, the way she let Nancy manipulate her into making Nancy the center of the family while blaming Nancy for everything. When she wasn’t blaming Nancy, she was blaming all the professionals who played a role in dealing with the problems incurred in the raising of her daughter. An example of her self-pity is evident in this quotation.

I had a nightmare that night, the nightmare I was to have so many times over the next three years. I dreamed we were back on Welsh Road. Nancy was five. She was running up to me in the living room, excitedly waving her hands in front of her face.

“Look what I have, Mommy!” she exclaimed. “Look what I have!”

babynancyWhat she had were track marks all over her little girl’s hands and arms, the track marks I’d seen in the restaurant.

Then she began to cry.

“Help me, Mommy!” she sobbed. “Help me!”

I tried to reach out to her, but my arms wouldn’t move no matter how hard I strained.

I awoke from the nightmare with a start.

Seeing Nancy’s track marks haunted me in daylight, too. A few days later Franki and I went to his friend’s house, where a briss was being held for the baby that he and his wife had just had.

nancyThe proud mother held the lovely pink baby in her arms. When I saw it, I nearly screamed. I saw needle marks on that baby’s pudgy little hands. I saw my Nancy’s baby hands covered with track marks. I saw my sweet-smelling, innocent infant with a pink ribbon in her hair, the infant who had grown up to be a receptacle of unendurable pain. Maybe this baby would too. Some would. Too many. I couldn’t blot out that realization, that fear.

I had to leave the room. I thought I’d get hysterical if I stayed in there with that baby for another second. I tried to compose myself in the dining room.

She repeated this story throughout the book. Her propensity for drama is echoed by Nancy, herself.

We drove in silence for a while. Then out of nowhere, Nancy quietly said, “I’m going to die very soon. Before my twenty-first birthday. I won’t live to be twenty-one. I’m never gonna be old. I don’t wanna ever be ugly and old. I’m an old lady now anyhow. I’m eighty. There’s nothing left. I’ve already lived a whole lifetime. I’m going out. In a blaze of glory.

Crybabies and ‘Paths

James, writing in No Psychos, wondered what babies have got to cry about. Their lives crybabyare so perfect. “I’ve always found it odd that very young children cry. I think ‘What have you got to cry about? You have no responsibilities. You can play all day. ‘” And he wondered if “even in infancy, a psychopath may be far less prone to crying than others.”

I thought about it and replied, in part, that one reason babies cry is physical discomfort. They get things like colic. They wake up hungry with wet diapers. They get diaper rash. And they might get lonely if they are left alone in their crib. They cry when they are startled with loud sounds. And I understand they need their mothers to “mirror” their facial expressions and get upset if their mothers don’t do it. Also, I understand most babies have empathy. So if another baby starts crying, the baby who hears it can start crying out of empathy.

crybaby1Thinking about it more deeply, I went on saying that I don’t blame babies for crying a lot. After all, finding themselves thrust into this world. They don’t even known where their bodies end and the world begins. They can’t coordinate their arms and legs or even see in the beginning. They suddenly depend on an outside person, the mother, usually. She controls when they eat, when they are warm or cold, when their diapers change, etc. Then they begin crawling and then walking. Everything is really difficult. Fortunately, it’s not in the nature of a baby to be a quitter. They keep trying until they succeed.

As for James’ remark, addressing the hypothetical baby, “the normals haven’t even infected you with the misery they live with yet,” I knew at an early age that adults were full of shit. I assumed most of what they told me was a lie. One of my earliest memories was distrusting what I was told. It’s not that they were necessarily lying. But they seemed to be deceiving themselves. I distrusted even things that later turned out to be true. For example, I was told New York, my hometown, was the biggest city in the world and the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. I immediately thought, “I’ll bet everyone says that about the city they live in.” I was also told over and over that childhood was the best time in my life, just like you are saying. I thought, “I don’t believe it.” Guess what. I grew up and discovered that childhood was not the best time in my life. I enjoyed adulthood much more. Sure, there are hassles. But there is also more freedom.

meM.E. Thomas, author of Confessions of a Sociopath, sheds some light on the subject.

“When I was an infant I had a particularly bad case of colic, a poorly understood condition affecting infants whose main symptom is frequent, inconsolable crying. My parents complain about it even now, what a difficult child I was, especially because I came so soon after my brother Jim, who was needy in his way.

“My parents have very vivid memories of taking me to functions with my extended family during which I would wail the entire time. Each aunt, uncle, or grandparent would think they had the solution, and each would eventually give up in desperation. When my parents recount the stories now, they express a hint of vindication that no one else could console me. It seems to reflect a happy truth for them—that there was nothing wrong with them as parents, only something wrong with me. My father openly acknowledges that he would frequently just leave me in a room to cry myself to exhaustion. At the age of six weeks I was finally taken to my pediatrician—I had ruptured my navel due to excessive crying. I’m sure my parents did as well as they could, but it no doubt must have been difficult to tolerate such a child, much less nurture it.

“Long after my colic days were done, my mother says that I was a remarkably independent child. When I was left in the church’s nursery for the first time, I was the only baby who didn’t cry or ask for my parents, playing quietly and happily with the unfamiliar toys of the schoolroom until I was picked up. It was as if it made no difference to me where I was or who was looking after me. Maybe I missed a window of opportunity like those less-licked baby mice.

“The brain learns different skills at different stages that are tied to neural development and growth. If a child misses the correct developmental window to learn a particular skill or concept, for example empathy, that child’s brain may never be able to catch up or become normal.”

This suggests that she may have been a “normal” baby until the colic traumatized her, causing sociopathy. As a sociopath, she was like the hypothetical psychopathic baby in James’ blog post. Quiet and detached.

Another psychopathic baby, this time in fiction, was Keven Khatchadorian. He was another constantly-crying baby. Ezra Miller “was ravenous” to play this role and he did. About Keven, he says, “If a baby feels ignored, even if subtly, there’s an awareness in a baby … If a child feels neglected, he’s gonna clamor for attention.” In another interview, he said “Some people are just born screaming.”

How Can You Be Proud of That?

The Magick of Psychopathy

iwtvSome years ago, I was friends with a group of gals who shared my love of Anne Rice’s vampire novels. We often engaged in moral/intellectual debates about which of the vampires in Rice’s novels were best and who was right or wrong in various story lines. We even named ourselves for the vampire of our choice. Louis was a vampire who felt guilty about killing people. I despised him for that but he was the favorite of the majority of my friends. They self-identified as Louisians. Those who favored Armand called themselves Armandians. I was a Lestatian due to my allegiance Lestat who was the most rational of the vampires. He said things like, “God kills and so we shall kill” and “evil is a point of view.”

I was not “out” to them as a psychopath. But one day, one of my friends shared an interesting puzzle she had found on the internet. It was the story of a girl who killed her sister. The puzzle went…

670px-identifyapsychopathstep8-1-638While at the funeral of her mother, she met a man whom she did not know. She thought he was amazing, her dream guy, and she fell in love with him but never asked for his number and could not find him after the funeral. A few days later the girl killed her sister. What was her motive in killing her sister?

The answer was

She was hoping that the guy would appear at the sister’s funeral. If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test used to test if one has the same mentality as a killer. Many arrested serial killers have taken this test and answered it correctly. If you didn’t answer correctly, good for you. I’ll seriously like to know your response, please comment!

iwinI got it right away. None of my friends did. One of them asked me why I seemed proud to have the mind of a psychopath. Why, indeed? I realized immediately that none of my friends really understood me and never would. Given our debates, which went on at great length, I was kind of surprised that they would be shocked that I accepted so readily the mantel imposed by my correct answer to the quiz. Maybe I was more like Lestat than they felt comfortable with. (Disclaimer: Lestat is later shown in less flattering lights as Anne Rice, herself, probably developed. But that’s besides the point.)

psyvsempMy blog just got a new follower. I visited the blog of this person and was surprised to see the lead title: Psychopath vs. Empath: The War Between Evolution and Stagnation by WakinTimes. The author, Universe Theyself, clearly identifies as an empath. For example, she writes, “Psychopaths are indifferent, apathetic and emotionally shallow; empaths are deeply thoughtful and compassionate.” I would add that empaths certainly certainly seem to have a high opinion of themselves. That isn’t quite consistent with the statement saintlyempaththat “empaths are humble and sincere.” She goes on that “Psychopaths are overconfident and narrow-minded; empaths are confident but open-minded.” If psychopaths are overconfident and empaths merely confident, what are those people who suffer from a lack of confidence? Moving right along, “Psychopaths are selfish and violent; empaths are selfless and loving. Psychopaths are rigid, inflexible, and intolerant; empaths are open, flexible, and tolerant.” Well. Empaths are all kind of wonderful, aren’t they? Selfless and loving. Open, flexible and tolerant. We, on the other hand, are selfish, violent, rigid, inflexible and intolerant.

splittingSuch black and white thinking is what is called splitting and it is usually associated with people with Borderline Personality Disorder. It looks to me that such absolute division of people into pure goodness and pure badness is not consistent with the quality of being “deeply thoughtful” or “open-minded.”

Man to other: 'You don't really know what it's like until you've walked a mile in another man's scandal.'Ah, but Universe Theyself realizes how false black and white thinking really is and admits: “But human nature is never so black and white.” Yet, she still assigns the narrow-minded, selfish and violent traits to that part of human nature which she labels psychopathic. We each have traits of both the psychopath and the empath within. Yet 1% of the population consists of actual psychopaths. She got this figure from the same deeply insightful website that tells us “How to Spot Psychopaths.” She also mentions that the book The Mask of Insanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley said psychopaths number greater than 4%. That book’s title is The Mask of Sanity. A third reference is Dutton’s The Wisdom of Psychopaths but only through a review in The Guardian. Too bad she apparently hasn’t read Dutton’s book because she might find out we are more than just narrow-minded, “rigid, inflexible, and intolerant” folk, traits that are incompatible with wisdom.

lizardbrainShe continues her analysis by connecting psychopathy with the “lizard brain” which gives us a tendency to cling to tradition and habit. She seems to equate psychopathy with conservatism and admonishes us to be “able to cut through the bullshit divisiveness of religions and narrow it to a single concept that we can all agree on: love, especially love for our children.” While she is insisting that psychopaths are a bunch of stodgy, conservative advocates of religious tradition, she might be surprised to know that many psychopaths don’t follow any religion. Our “lizard brains” are not propelled by fear. In fact, fearlessness is one of the traits of psychopathy. Fear can, of course, make people unwilling to let go of “tried and true” dogmas of society. But it is Conservative brains that have been shown to have a large portion of fearfulness. Empathy, itself, isn’t always linked with progressive politics. For example, a lot of Hitler’s speeches invoked empathy on the part of German people towards suffering of their own kind, suffering allegedly caused by the evil Jews. Paul Bloom wrote a book audaciously entitled Against Empathy which Universe Theyself would do well to read.

psychopathmemePsychopaths are less attached to a static self. We are also, for the most part, less burdened with the baggage of conventional thought. I have been a critic of conventional thought all my life. Rationality is one of the known characteristics of psychopathy. The irrationality of our society drives me wild. For example, in an episode of Law & Order: SVU, a woman was desperately trying to earn a living with which to support herself, her husband and her terminally ill child by working in the porn industry. One day, unable to find a baby sitter, her husband in the hospital, she brings the child to work, where they kept her in a place where she wouldn’t be exposed to dreaded porn. Unfortunately, the kid broke free from the adults looking after her just when the cops where there so these cops and their charming ADA arrested the woman for child endangerment. They went on to endanger the child, themselves by separating her from her mother, one of the few people who knew how to administer medical care to her daughter. If is considered worse for a child to witness pornography than for a child to suffocate without the adults who know how to keep her breathing. These kinds of irrational thinking are just accepted by most people without even questioning them.

holyspirit1Psychopaths have some of the worst press in the world. We, the publicly acknowledged psychopaths, have been working on rehabilitating our image with limited success. We are also glamorized and, in a crazy way, I think it is our very glamorization that makes people reluctant to see us as we arepeople. They like the larger than life evil-but-exciting image. Thing is, some of that glamorization is justified. Many of us are charismatic. What is charisma? Psychology Today defines it thus: “Charisma is the ability to attract, charm, and influence the people around you. Charisma is often said to be a mysterious ineffable quality—you either have it or don’t have it—but it’s actually easy to break down many of the key factors that make someone charismatic.” There are churches which give special focus on the Holy Spirit calling themselves charismatic.

Pied-Piper-of-HamelinCharismatic people do have magic. Some of that magic has to do with daring to step outside of society’s rules. There have always been mythical figures from Till Eulenspiegel to the Pied Piper who beckoned those laden with the norms and responsibilities most people dare not shuck off. The notorious Led Zeppelin reference the Piper in their notorious song, Stairway to Heaven:

And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter

tilleulenspiegelWikipedia says “Till Eulenspiegel is a trickster figure originating in Middle Low German folklore. He appeared in chapbooks telling episodes that outlined his picaresque career in Germany, the Low Countries, Denmark, Bohemia, Poland, and Italy.”

A third verse captures for me the magic of psychopaths:

Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
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.

flashingeyesKubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Magic, trickery, charisma and joy are all part of the secret allure of the psychopath.  In Psychopath Night, Oliver James says psychopaths are, “ultimately, completely self focused…. They never do anything that doesn’t benefit themselves.”

selflessharrySociety has a strong bugaboo against acting in one’s own self-interest. The highest compliment NTs hand out is to call someone “selfless.” I remember Harry Potter was so-described. Let’s look at selflessness for a moment. Harry Potter was protected from Lord Voldemort, who wanted to destroy him, by his mother’s selfless sacrifice of her own life on his behalf. But, the moment he would become an adult, his protection would vanish. So his friends arranged a risky means of moving him to a safer place at that moment. Lives were lost during this transfer but it succeeded. So what did “selfless” Harry do the moment he was safe? He prepared to leave this place of safety because he didn’t want to impose danger on his friends by being there. HELLO! His friends had already lost lives and sacrificed much. So idiot-Harry wants it all to have been for naught? He could have wandered off into the world without protection and spared them the peril if he was so damned selfless. Ever hear the phrase “too good to live?”

selfishpsychoWhile selflessness is reified, “selfishness,” it’s opposite, is shamed. Nobody wants to admit s/he considers hir own self-interest first. Nobody but a psychopath, that is. James Renard said it well. “An example of the second difference (morals that only a psychopath would have) is “to thine own self be true”. Whereas most people would view this statement merely in terms of self-identity, I take it altogether more literally. My primary function is to help myself. Ergo, where helping others takes precedence over helping myself, I am being true not to myself but to the weakness of others. Altruism is self-betrayal and time spent helping others when you could be helping yourself is shameful weakness, and morally repugnant to me.” There is something vitally refreshing in being able to proclaim, not as a shameful admission, but as a point of pride, that it is, not only alright, but right to put oneself first. It takes courage and self-regard to unapologetically claim it as a right. They say we have a sense of self-entitlement. Damn straight, we do!