When I set out to write about happiness in psychopaths, the title slogan from the 60s came to mind. It seems kind of simple-minded but the first part clearly matches one of the traits of psychopathy that is always listed by professionals: lack of worry or anxiety. When one looks at all the people who develop ulcers, and swallow Benzos like candy, psychopathy looks pretty damned good. We are not worriers. But what about happiness? We know that our emotions in general are less intense than that of NTs.
It’s difficult to measure the happiness of psychopaths vs. the happiness of NTs. How can a psychopath measure hir happiness against their happiness? For that matter, how can anyone compare hir experiences with those of another’s? A friend of mine was diagnosed with depression but he tells me he wasn’t sad. He was bored. Is boredom the psychopath’s version of an NT’s depression?
Our lack of sadness probably mystifies NTs more than most of our traits. Athena Walker told Quora how she handles the expectation of NTs that she be sad at an event they find sad,
I tend to use more neutral language if I can.
“How awful for the family”
That sort of thing. If it is more personal, say for instance my sister’s death where I was expected to be sad, I would thank people for their condolences. If they asked how I was doing I would say;
“All right. It’s a terrible loss, but I am more concerned for her daughter….”
I like that answer. I felt nothing when my parents died. At my mother’s death, I was a teenager living at home and going to high school. As such, I had to go to the funeral and I know I was supposed to look sad so I played my role as best as I could. My father came back from the hospital and broke the news to me by saying, “You have no mother.” Then he broke down into sobs. It was easier when he died. I was living apart from the family and my sister made all the funeral arrangements. I’m grateful she was there so I wasn’t expected to do anything. I am very grateful to have been spared all the pain others seem to feel when losing a parent. Even losing a friend. Actually, we had been best friends for years and then drifted apart. I was bored or nostalgic so I tried to contact her again only to learn she had died. I was really surprised. I guess this was a first experience in losing a peer. What’s next for me? Become one of those geezers who pour over the obituaries, looking for friends and acquaintances? But, apart from shock and surprise, I didn’t feel much about her death either.
A friend explained the difference this way:
As for NTs, I look at it as they have more emotional extremes. They can get furiously angry and bereaved, but they can also experience intense joy and love.
Perhaps freedom from intense sadness is the way our happiness quotient balances out. I know we have ways of seeking and experiencing ecstatic states. Excitement from taking risks can be great. Kevin Dutton tested a group of students on their degree of psychopathy. The two who scored lowest and the two who scored highest were given the chance to do a bungee jump. The low-scoring students opted out while the two high-scoring ones “jumped” at the opportunity and enjoyed it immensely. I find challenges kind of a necessity for my emotional balance. If I don’t challenge myself regularly, I start to feel really blah. Boredom is terrible for us. The same friend quoted above said, “What I do feel when depressed is crushing, hopeless boredom and flat emptiness.”
I work regularly at avoiding that state of being. I challenge myself with blogging. To me, blogging is an attempt to deepen my own self-knowledge and share it with the world. I also fight boredom with drugs. Since I am no longer young and not able to deal with illegal, recreational drugs the way I did when I was younger, I use drugs that are legal and not as powerful as the ones I once enjoyed (speed and heroin). Actually, I do use one illegal drug, Provigil, which is supposed to be like the “limitless” drug in the movie of that same name. With noortropics, I try to be the best version of myself possible. By being my best, I am able to achieve more with my blogs.
The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley gave me the impression that most psychopaths were alcoholics. Despite that impression and my own experience as a drug user, I know three psychopaths who don’t use drugs or alcohol because it just doesn’t do anything for them. This morning’s Quora had the following response to the question, Do psychopaths and sociopaths get high?
, Diagnosed ASPD. Schizoid Sociopath.
I personally choose not to get high. Not out of pride or anything like that, it just doesn’t seem that fun to me. I have been drunk before and it didn’t do anything for me at all, it just made me slur my words and have trouble walking. There wasn’t any emotional side effects from it. I wasn’t more open with people, I didn’t feel happier/angrier when I was drunk, it didn’t change my behavior or my mindset at all.
I imagine I would react similarly to most other drugs. I would get the physiological effects from it but not the psychological ones. For instance, if I tried LSD I would probably hallucinate, but I probably wouldn’t experience any paranoia or anything like that. I wouldn’t feel what I am no longer capable of.
Some do and some don’t. I am one that just doesn’t. There are much better and more fun ways to spend your time and money than on drugs, although I don’t have anything against people who do use drugs recreationally.
“Some do and some don’t” really seems to sum it up. The key difference is what an individual psychopath experiences from a particular substance. Cocaine always put my lover to sleep. It made me wide awake and up for a good conversation. I’ve heard some junkies say they hate speed. “It’s just like junk sickness,” they say. But, when I was a junkie, speed made me feel better when I was jonesing for a fix.
Some psychopaths say they never feel euphoric. Others say they often do. Or is there confusion over the meaning of the word “euphoric?
It looks like what we feel and what we don’t feel is a trade-off. We are spared a lot of pain but may not be experiencing all the highs NTs claim to be getting. Athena Walker wrapped it up very nicely.
We process the world in a very different way. We don’t feel as neurotypicals feel, we have our own experience that dictates our understanding of emotions. While we can make adjustments based on what we observe and what we wish to have happen, versus what we would prefer not to have happen, we can’t participate in your feelings of fear, dread, sadness, grief, or anything of that sort.
Happiness is really the private domain of everyone and we can only enjoy it when it comes to us.
- Are Psychopaths Happy? Psychology Today
- 6 Happiness Life Lessons from Psychopaths. Susanna Halonen
- Can Sociopaths and Psychopaths Feel love, happiness, joy and sadness? Athena Walker
- 3 Things Psychopaths can teach you about happiness. Eric Barker
- Psychopaths’ Brains Wired to Seek Rewards no Matter the Consequences. Science Daily
- Aging out of Sociopathy? Lovefraud