A Case of Arrested Empathy Development?

By now just about everyone has heard the unnerving story of two 12 year-old girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, who, in an apparent attempt to impress the popular internet fictional character “Slenderman,” tried to stab to death a young female acquaintance from their middle school (the victim had even been a sleepover guest at one of her attackers’ home), thinking the act would gain them entry into the inner circle of the ghoulish fantasy figure’s online following.  The crime is horrific enough in itself, but certain aspects of it demand our close attention because of what they can potentially teach us about empathy development (or lack thereof) in children and the socio-cultural factors that might at be least partly responsible for the growing epidemic of severe character dysfunction (largely stemming from empathy development) in our young people.

Information available thus far suggests that the two girls had been planning their crime for some time (at least since February), even contemplating various options about how they would carry it out.  Their first plan was to wrap the victim’s mouth with duct tape while she slept and then stab her in the neck.  Another plan they considered was to kill her in a park bathroom, partly because it had a drain that would make cleanup easier. But they eventually decided to carry out the attack while playing a harmless game of “hide and seek” in the park. Such carefully premeditated, heartless luring of the unsuspecting is not uncommon for the kinds of personalities I call “predatory aggressors” (see:  Character Disturbance, pp. 121-127) and who are more commonly referred to as psychopaths (alt: sociopaths) but it has long been most uncommon in children, especially females.  And the level of violence involved in the attack is unusual as well, once again, especially for female children.  Miraculously, the victim survived.  But the fact that her attackers fully intended a much worse fate for her and casually waked away from the scene of their crime, leaving her for dead, should give us all great pause.

The two perpetrators of this heinous crime have made some statements that provide some insight into the remarkable lack of empathy involved in their crime.  One was said to have remarked about how interesting she found it to have no real feelings about stabbing her victim other than the excitement associated with actually doing it. She described carrying out the attack as surprisingly “easy.” And whether these youngsters were able to “compartmentalize” any empathy they might usually have to allow themselves to carry out such a heinous act or they are but two examples of those rare individuals among us who simply lack the capacity for empathy (and, therefore, the conscience necessary to function in a pro-social manner) only time and comprehensive psychological evaluation will tell.  But the fact that so many events like this have been happening lately and that a common denominator among them the perpetrator’s appalling absence of empathy should be of great concern to us all.  In the absence of empathy, it’s impossible to form a functional, mature conscience, and in the absence of conscience, civilization cannot be sustained.

Evidence has been mounting for some time about the role of genetic and other constitutional factors in empathy development.  Some studies point particularly to one gene (heavily responsible for production of the hormone Oxytocin) and its variations as a key factor in how empathetic folks tend to be.  Then of course there’s the research showing structural differences and markedly different neuronal interaction patterns in the brains of psychopaths (I’ve written about this before in the article: Is Psychopathy Genetic?).  But it’s important not to discount the role cultural, environmental, and other learning factors also play in helping a person acquire a mature, empathy-based respect for human life and for the welfare of those with whom we share this our world (for more on this see: Budding Psychopaths on the Bus?). I’ve asserted this many times before:  Socialization is a process – the process by which we rise above our baser natures and forge for ourselves a character both capable of and willing to serve the greater good (for more on this see:  Socialization is a Process). Of all the creatures on the planet, we’re the only ones that require 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for well over 20-30 years (In recent years, the time required for full socialization has been steadily increasing) of mindful training and careful guidance to arrive at a place where we can function in a truly adaptive manner among our own kind. And developing empathy is a critical part of that socialization process.  While the innate capacity for it might vary, we can and must nurture empathy for it to develop fully.  Cases like the “Slenderman Slaying” suggest that a society, we’re not doing a very good job at this.

Hopefully, we’ll learn some important lessons from these increasingly frequent senseless tragedies.  I certainly hope we learn at least one crucial thing:  just eliminating the guns (as we know all to well, knives, rocks, bricks, etc. can work just as well), relieving all the stress (some folks endure mounds of stress and with their character not only intact but sometimes even strengthened), or passing more laws, rules, and regulations (laws always depend on the voluntary compliance of the responsible) won’t solve our dilemma.  These shocking and tragic events keep happening because unfortunately there are far too many among us so lacking in character development that when temptation hits or stresses mount, they have neither the will nor the built-in controls necessary to behave in civil manner.  Character is the problem.  And until we face that reality and confront it directly, more outrageous things are likely to occur.

I’ll be having more to say about empathy development and character formation in the next couple of posts.  I’ll also be talking more about this particular case and other similar cases on Character Matters this Sunday evening at 7 pm Eastern.  During the broadcast, I’ll afford ample time for listeners to call in and participate in a much needed dialog. Hopefully, I’ll also have the time to give listeners the information I meant to share last show on the upcoming new foreign editions of In Sheep’s Clothing (the domestic edition of which will see a new printing and possibly even a revision this August – that’s 23 and still counting!).

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94 thoughts on “A Case of Arrested Empathy Development?

  1. This is a most disturbing case. I must admit I haven’t heard anything about it but the fact that it is two girls is horrifying. It’s hard to fathom that young girls would act in such a predatory fashion. Yet on rare occasions it has happened before. Am I wrong or when these heinous acts take place and children are involved it seems they work in pairs or a group? It just appears to be common when such crimes are brought to our attention via the news.
    I am very interested in this lack of empathy in individuals that cause them to do such things. As I find this is very much the root of the problem particularly in my own experience with my ex. It’s like these people seem to have at times great empathy but then as you say “compartmentalise” this empathy when they unleash their violence toward others whom they say they love or those they don’t know. It disturbs me greatly because if you’re aware someone has say a mental disorder or a predisposition to cruelty whether to animals, other people etc then you know you’re dealing with a disturbed character who is potentially dangerous. When dealing with someone who appears to have genuine empathy in some situations and then can turn that off and commit heinous acts the victim is caught off guard. I know Dr Simon you say… “That’s why, as I advise in all my writings, it’s so crucial to trust your gut over your heart or even your head.” I have always had trouble with this and if I’m honest to a point I still do. I know my gut tells me one thing but dealing with people like this is so utterly confusing…they appear so charming, so genuine and you can’t help but doubt yourself at times. Even as I go through these questions with counsellors and risk assessment advisors I still find myself wondering am I being unfair here. When dealing with someone like this and determining whether he should have access to his child it is extremely scary. On the one hand the child sees this “loving father”, the courts see this “reasonable and apparently rational human being who appears to care a great deal” yet they have no idea what he’s like when he’s in that aggressive mind set. Such people are cunning and subtle with their abusive tactics. It’s so hard to convince yourself at times let alone others.

    1. Oh Tori…I so so feel for you. Always, always trust your intuition. If you have that feeling in your solar plexus it is never wrong. Your ex must DEMONSTRATE his ability to the courts as evidenced by your child’s stability. I don’t know how the Family Law Act is worded or is administered overseas, it stinks here in Australia. Do you have any say whether he has visitation rights, yourself or the terms? I have personally been through what you are going experiencing now I have been an advocate for women and children escaping domestic violence and disturbed characters, in the Family Court. I will skip my manifesto on the subject and the rage and dramatics and tell you something I heard a Magistrate say in a courtroom once. He said ‘are you two going to be doing this when he is 21? I hope not’. Try to focus on your goal rather than become paralyzed with the fear. I know it’s hard, harder than anyone can know who hasn’t gone through it and it’s especially difficult that while you are still traumatized, you have to make such important judgement calls. When your intuition tells you that you have something to fear and the court makes you hand over your child, you need to document everything. Once you have arrangements in place, most family law acts have a clause in them that allows you to refuse to hand your child over if you genuinely can demonstrate that it is not in their best interests. Demonstrate is the big word though. When deciding who to believe, the court usually believes the parent who is making a very good effort to look to the long term amicable relationship between the parents and the one that demonstrates their belief in the child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents, this also being in the best interests of the child. If your ex is all he sounds, he won’t be able to keep up the act for too long. If he throws lots of mud at you in court, try to remember they see this everyday, standard garden variety. You don’t have to prove he is wrong. This is why having your child in counselling helps because it’s not just your word against theirs. If you don’t want to do that still then do it yourself somehow. I used to sit down and draw with my children and without suggesting what to draw, when they drew horrible frightening pictures that were clearly depicting their turmoil or fear, I would talk about them with them, then we would write the date on them and I would file them away. Parental Alienation Syndrome is a very real thing that can happen to children, even when they live with the most well meaning parents. So it’s so important to uphold and honour that relationship to your child in their presence at all times..when you are on the phone, with your friends and family. Have a big download of your feelings when your child is not there to whoever you can. Big giant hugs to you and beams of light from down under.

      1. Juliette thank you for your words of encouragement and Kudos to you for working in the family court. You are wonderful people, I was so happy to have that support when going into court. I am in Oz too and I know what you mean about the family law act. Not that I’ve read it all but I know that the law states it is in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents.
        On the whole I do believe that to be true BUT when it comes to situations such as dealing with disturbed characters then as a parent you want to keep your children from harm such as maybe entering the same situation you just removed them from. Which is ludicrous when you think on it. As being told by someone that I opened up to that by law if they believe a child is in danger they can remove that child even though the mother is a good parent and would protect them. That’s if I had stayed in the relationship…yet when you leave that sort of thinking goes out the window with regards to the family law act.
        I do wonder if it’s the trauma that has taken over too Juliette, as it does make you over think, decisions are difficult to make and it’s still very raw too. I have arranged counselling for my son in the hope that he can get a better understanding of how he’s feeling and what he wants as well.
        Thank you Juliette you’ve given some sound advice. 🙂

        1. Tori, that is true, you take the right steps for yourself and your child, then you get to court and now you’re painted and possibly bad guy! it’s bizarre. Where there has been family violence or child abuse, a ‘Form 4 notice of child abuse or family violence’ should be filed. This is so hard to do because it sets the tone for things to come but if you don’t do it and then do it later on when things didn’t go your way, it just looks like you are throwing mud because you didn’t get your way. The Family Law Rules 2004 (Commonwealth), are really worth reading on the net. They’re not too long. Section 10.15 (3)a states that if there are allegations of child abuse or neglect, (which these guys often make towards the victim), then it is the duty of the parents and the lawyers if represented to inform the court of these when a consent order is made and how the order attempts to deal with these allegations. The lawyers representing these guys often do not inform the court that their client has made these allegations in mediation, a report or any document, at the time of consent orders because it is not in their client’s interests to have the court look at what was basically just a manipulation tactic and is a baseless allegation. Every time an order is made in court that is not a consent order, the Magistrate has to go into chambers and has to record their reasons for the decision into a microphone which becomes a legal document called ‘The Magistrates Reasons for Judgement”. If you ever don’t agree with their decision and you want to know what they were really thinking you just request this document, it is your right. The Act words it ‘a meaningful relationship’, it is extremely difficult to change a Final Order made by consent and I mean extremely, so you fight for the protections that you know your son needs, whether it’s him to do parenting classes, anger management a psychological evaluation or whatever, fight for what you know is right Tori, sometimes we must fight, it’s not fair but it is worth it later in life. Only you know best, no one else.

    2. Tori, Juliete……when I think of this all again now, I HAVE to remember……It’s confusion that is the BIGEST red flag around when you find yourself confused, and for me it manifests as an image of my eyes kind of going into a squinted, thoughtful look……when you find yourself saying…..”wait a minute”……when something someone says or does sends you into your head, trying to figure it out or remember what they said before……red flags. Spaths CAN and DO override out intuition!!! Spathtard did. HOW?? By working and taking advantage of my primal needs for love and companionship. By lying and manipulating my the exact qualities that are opposite of what he is.
      I know you can trust your instincts and intuition a lot of times in life but there are times you can not. Other things need to be employed.

      1. That’s what is so hard about making all these important decisions so close to the time you have separated. It takes much longer. We women are SO strong, we have survived this crap and we always will. Lets focus on that. I hope you don’t cry when you read what I just wrote to J. ((()))

      2. Puddle the confusion making is ongoing. I can only go on my gut sometimes and the fact that the only other people to be close to mine have said the exact same things as me really does solidify my beliefs that I am not crazy in my thinking. Still it doesn’t help when making decisions about my son’s future. There’s an underlying element to my ex that makes me feel fear and I haven’t gone in to it here. But suffice to say that Spaths being able to override our intuition is so TRUE!

        1. Hi Tori, I just saw this post. I am afraid of Spathtard too. I have never felt that in the past about ANYONE I went out with. Certainly there were people I was involved with that were best left behind, but fear? concern? never. AND, I just watched another show on Investigation Discovery last night…..in this one, the whole family were Spaths. Mother, sons, grandchildren(?). I didn’t get to see the whole thing and I kept hearing the main spath’s name, wanting to look up info on the story and now it’s gone. My point being, I think Spathtard’s whole little emotionally incestuous love nest at mommy’s is disordered. Add to that the friends, or should I say acquaintances, of all of them and yeah…….I feel like I better stay on my toes……. Good thing I’ve taken safety measures all along, especially informing the sheriffs department.

          1. Puddle it’s awful isn’t it to fear someone you loved. I was in fear for years… and even though I’ve moved there’s an element of fear that he might find us. So much so I too told my counsellor about his past and was going to speak with the local police. Really if for nothing more than if I should call and my address comes up they’ll know to get there straight away. You have to be prepared.
            Today has been another light bulb moment just reading the comments I’ve been mulling them over in my head. Suddenly things started falling into place again. The fact in all the time I spent with my ex I can’t remember a time when he seemed fearful or anxious. Nervous excitement Yes but never anxiety…any stress (if it really was stress) came out as anger. Usually because of a perceived loss of control. I even realised how strong his sense of entitlement was things he had said and done that I’d forgotten about. Really it doesn’t matter what part of the CD continuum he falls on if you feel the hairs on the back of your neck as Dr Simon has said then…time to get the hell away! That’s where he falls for me. I’ve been so worried about whether I’ve been fair on him with my thoughts that I haven’t really listened to myself…thinking that he has to be this or that to be considered dangerous. It’s just the emotional entanglements that sway my thoughts. It’s hard to comprehend that I could still have feelings for him. Puddle with such people plan for the worst case scenario. I must say his family don’t seem to be close in the way your Spath is but the males especially do have some worrying traits. His older brother disturbed me and his hatred for women was obvious. Also he had psychotic type episodes, delusional and such…though I have to wonder about that now as I remember thinking at the time it was a real number…something about it all made me think he was doing a big manipulation number. Mind you it was a grandiose plan if it was!!

    3. There are two things that stand out to me about the young girls. One is the apparent inability to separate reality from fantasy. They seem to have retained the magical thinking of early childhood. The other is their age, gender, and the premeditated nature of the act.

      Video games, online games, online fantasy realms seem to be encroaching into the mundane in a very strange way. They are retarding the ability of older children to move past the magical thinking stage and create clear separations between the real and unreal.

      At the same time, the violent nature of much of this material is exercising the shadow aspects of the personality, uninhibited by maturity.

      The same technology that lets us communicate about and try to solve the problem of psychopathy and other psycho-social disorders, also provides a perfect petrie dish to help culture them.

      The parents of these girls, may have been good enough parents but bore children with a predisposition to lack of empathy. The culture did the rest. If I had had children I would have home schooled them and only allowed them to use computer under supervision. Society is becoming that toxic. I think we are returning to the dark ages.

      1. Hi LisaO! 🙂
        When I watched the youtube video about neuroplacticity and FASD, he talked about how all kinds of things leave a footprint in the brain. He said something about addiction and that this is why long after the physical withdrawal has passed, years, an addict can be triggered. I’m just somehow putting that together with what you said above. If a person immerses themselves in violent video games? I don’t know, something is clicking there for me.

        1. Puddle, Juliette,

          If people immerse themselves in anything that isn’t real but appears to be, it has to create a muddying of boundary lines–particularly if they are interacting with it. Dreaming, online video games, and drinking, for sure, all have one thing in common, they do an end run around logical analysis, reasoning. This means that, for all intents and purposes, there are many people who are functioning in the mundane realm, but who are so engaged with the ‘lucid dream’ of the online space, that they are living in an almost parallel reality. Great, if it’s a spiritually uplifting one, but really crappy if it’s Slenderman-realm.

          And yes, this would surely create neural pathways that could be stoked or achieve some kind of dormancy and then be reawakened given the right triggering mechanisms.

          NIce that you took such care with your kids, Juliette

      2. LisaO, when I read Elliot Rodgers manifesto, it occurred to me that the very same thing happened to him too. I refused to allow my kids to have video games. Occasionally their friends would come for sleepovers and bring one and they were only allowed to play sport games like basketball and tony hawks skateboarding. It’s so obvious that simulating violence for hours on end and getting pleasurable biofeedback for doing it, is detrimental to the developing brain.

  2. Goodness, gracious…I am so shocked and lost for words to hear of this event. Whatever had been going on in these girls backgrounds, which I can’t find anything on the net about yet, clearly lead them to be devoid of empathy. It is also another clear example of how visual, auditory and neurological conditioning through ‘creative visualization’ via video games and other internet pursuits, is having a devastating impact on the brains of vulnerable individuals and what is it doing to the rest of them, not so vulnerable but nevertheless affected in some way. I don’t understand why they are being tried as adults either?! It goes back to Puddle’s question a few days ago…At what stage of development is a person truly responsible for their actions? If you plug a child into violence or horror for long enough their brain will desensitize to the violence. Ten points and an extra life for running over the lady with a baby in a pram, like in Grand Theft Auto?! So you get a reward for intentionally ‘doing’ this vile thing and so on and so on…. We all have neurons in our brains that mirror/register what we see and our brain acts as if we had done the action ourselves. Some researchers believe they are the first tangible evidence of the capacity and development of empathy. Mirror neurons are yet to be understood, I believe that in the future we will come to understand that we are not only what we eat, but what we see. I just feel so sickened right now to know that such a thing has happened. God help us all.

  3. “Character is the problem. And until we face that reality and confront it directly, more outrageous things are likely to occur.”

    Amen!

  4. I have a question please: Is Borderline Personality Disorder really a character disorder? I am confused with Dr Simon’s personality vs character disorders. What would be an example of a “character disorder”? Thank You.

    1. Hi Shanleigh, I can only recommend to you that you read Dr Simon’s book character disturbance. It goes into a very clear and easy to understand difference between character and personality in the beginning of the book. Then the difference between personality disorders and character disturbance. I was also confused about the difference. Lots of books, theorists and different therapists use the terms interchangeably and Dr Simon explains the original Greek and Latin terminology for them and then sets out how he uses them to help us better understand the differences. The book only cost me ten dollars to download as an ebook and has been more value by far than the thousands I have spent on therapy in my life.

    2. Borderline PD is traditionally defined as just on the cusp between a neurotic vs. aggressive personality. Hence the name “Borderline”. (Traditionally all labels were either neurotic of psychotic.)

      I concur – read the book Character Disturbance. We need to change the way we talk about such labels and diagnoses to remind us all we carry a responsibility to conduct ourselves with a conscious effort to exercise good character.

  5. What would be an example of a character disorder, and is Borderline Personality Disorder really a character disorder? I don’t have a job right now, and can’t afford the book.

    1. Shanleigh, if you type ‘Borderline Personality Disorder” into the search box at the top right of the page an article will come up which might help you. You can do this for ‘Character Disorders” too and it may lead you to some of Dr Simon’s articles that will help you with your question about how Character and Personality are different terms. There is a wealth of info on this site and I have learned a great deal just from reading the site, even before I read the books 🙂

  6. On the subject of arrested empathy development and these two little girls who are being tried as adults?!..Apparently, the girl with the long hair, Morgan’s, Father was into the death metal culture. From what I’ve gathered so far, it looks like she was more of the instigator of the plot and that Anissa was the follower. I know that there are lots of kids whose parents are into death metal who don’t do these kinds of things but my question is, how does growing up in an environment that is seeped in the vibration of death metal affect a vulnerable individual? The visual and auditory channels in the child’s developing mind must be affected in some way as opposed to one developing in a different, more life affirming culture. One comment on a web page I read suggested that these girls had formed a ‘folie de deux’ or ‘madness in pairs’. It would seem so to me. When I look at the expression on Morgan’s face in court, she shows absolutely no empathy or remorse, she almost seems amused with all the attention. Then I look at Anissa’s who seems to be a little more ashamed of what she has done, with her head cast down but still, clearly not being affected as we would expect a ‘normal’ person to be when they realized that they had just tried to kill an innocent person based on a delusion. I tried to find some info on the Slenderman phenomenon in an attempt to understand why these girls were so attracted to the idea. One analyst describes it as…themes of helplessness, power differentials, anonymous forces, fear of the unknown, people can shape it into whatever frightens them most’. One describes it as a meme. A meme is like a cultural idea that, like a gene is inherited, is passed down through tradition and becomes ingrained in the culture, coined by Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The selfish gene”. Religions, rituals, cultural practices, these are memes. These girls wanted to becomes acolytes of the Slenderman. Apprentices to his ways. Slenderman has a type of omniscience to terrorize, he can morph, teleport, read minds. This is what the girls wanted. He has a penchant for children too. One of the girls, I’m not sure which now, said ‘the bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part didn’t’. Morgan’s own brother said, ‘she is very intelligent, to the point she lacks commonsense’, (sounds like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory). Anissa said that when they reached the woods and Morgan pulled the knife out, she thought..’dear God, this is really happening’. I see a picture on a web page of Morgan opening her birthday present in a ‘onesie’ with a skeleton painted on it. It seems she was developing in a culture that thought death to be fascinating and entertaining. Why is Halloween one of the best, fun, entertaining and rewarding days of the year for children? We have Mother’s day, Father’s day and kids get their treats at Halloween! Why are alot of people fascinated/desensitized to and with horror? Why do people, alot of people enjoy being frightened as entertainment? Where are the myths is our culture that teach life lessons, other than the Bible, which for non Christians, seems to be cast into the donation bin at the Salvation Army these days or left in the drawer of the motels in case someone needs that last rope to be thrown before they kill themselves? Do we have an inbuilt need to identify with archetypes and mythology and is this what drives people to identify with such things as horror? I have no idea, just food for thought.

    1. Also in some schools, I understand it thus, kids seem to have some code along the lines of “If someone comes to you spoiling for a fight, hit them hard and you’re a tough guy worthy of respect.” That kind of mentality teaches to value aggression. Those, who aren’t willing to fight, are seen as sissies. If someone is bullied because of being passive, it’s seen as a target’s fault for not being aggressive and willing to fight. Sometimes even bystanders internalize that Just World -hypothesis early on and learn to think a target must’ve done something to deserve it.

      1. Hi J, I think schools are trying to and starting to address bullying but I think you are right in saying what you say, on a school yard level. That’s the kind of thing that goes on in jails and it shouldn’t be happening at school. Kids get all the right messages from the teachers to speak up against bullying but they know deep down that being a ‘sissy’ is frowned upon by their peers. So true what you say about bystanders too. Bad things happen because good people do nothing etc… I think of Elliot Rodger and what his life would have been like in a world free of school bullies. In a classroom with kids who were raised and educated to have empathy and care for the shy, anxious and socially, less developed kids.

      2. “being a ‘sissy’ is frowned upon by their peers” Indeed that’s a huge problem. Adults can say that it doesn’t matter, but does a child really believe it? I don’t think so. Of course, there have to be other solutions besides passivity and aggression or, referring again to Albert Bernstein and Emotional Vampires(and other books of his like Dinosaur Brains), other options beside fight, flight or freezing.

        If a child managed to do the unexpected, varying moment to moment, that would be a very useful thing. Not hitting and being a ‘tough guy’ and neither being a passive target. This is something that could and should be explored further when talking about challenging situations, especially with children.

        1. When my youngest was 8, he was being bullied by a boy who was quite a social loner. We invited him to a meeting at school with his mum and the teachers. The outcome of the meeting was that he was taken under the wing of my son and his friends. He was on Ritalin for ADD and he had never had a sleepover at a friends house until he came to ours, which became a frequent occurrence. There were times that the other kids were pulling their hair out trying to get along with him but it helped him to socialize better and the story had a happy ending. The reason I asked for this meeting was that my son told me that the boy had said that he wished he could get a gun and bring it to school and shoot everyone. I still get a text message from this boy’s mum every new years eve, blessing me and my son. I get a lump in my throat just typing about it. The boys are 18 now and this troubled boy is doing well and has started a trade and has a girlfriend. I wonder how things would have differed for that boy and his family, if we had not done what we did. Good things happened because good people did something, it’s that simple I believe.

          1. I think it can be that simple but I also think that is over simplifying! LOL
            None the less, you did a good thing and it turned out well and he is fortunate to have had you cross his path!

          2. I just think that if we did these kinds of things en-masse as a society, the kids such as Elliot whose parents failed him wouldn’t quite tip over the edge like he did. I know that good people everywhere doing good things like that go unnoticed and that good nations go fight against tyranny for the sake of human rights etc. It takes all of us doing that kind of thing to make the true difference that needs to happen. We can only each do our little bit in our own community. I don’t think that we averted a school shooting by any means, he was just fantazising because he had seen it on tv probably but we helped him to raise his self esteem at a crucial age before it was too late and changed his life at a fork in the road for the better, while he was still young enough to benefit from it. All of his peer group did their part too. Instead of punishing him and making it all about boundaries we looked deeper with human compassion at the reasons he was acting this way, without shaming him. Not all bullies are social loners either, quite often they are the popular kids from ‘good homes’ with overinflated self-esteem and lacking in empathy for the weaker ones. Pack hyenas.

          3. Juliette, the problem I see is that the social situations at the age you are speaking of are so fragile. That developmental segment is just filled with……well everything! I think that adolescence is a secondary narcissistic stage? I though I read that somewhere. Anyhow, it would be great but just not realistic. It is what it is and for it to be something else usually requires a pretty severe shake down.

      3. J, it’s similar but not directly to what victims in these relationships go through……..that somehow you allowed yourself to be manipulated. Someone actually posted a comment on here (I think) a while back……that no one can be manipulated unless you let yourself be. I of course took exception to that comment/ belief/ statement.

        1. I agree Puddle, it’s like saying that the victims of genocide ‘let’ it happen. There are social forces and drives to fit it at play in bullying. If you apply the analolgy to being in a manipulative relationshiop the forces are our conditioning, gender roles, identification with the gender roles in a social sense if you get what I mean? Like how our status is different when we are partnered, how we are viewed when our relationship ‘fails’, the status of our mate, ‘that behind every good man, is a great woman?!’…bla bla bla.

          1. Not to mention…..the human trait of being a part of a “pack”. It’s out social nature to not be loners. Our survival depends on coexisting with other humans. It may not seem like it does when everything is going well but as soon as something major happens it will become pretty clear that we need other people. one of my vulnerabilities in this mess was that I LOVE to be the homemaker. I love to keep house and putter and do laundry and dishes. I might not be very good at keeping all of those balls in the air but I really love it. It soothes me in a way I can’t describe. So off i go being basically his mother/ house keeper. That would be fine if it was appreciated and I was valued for it instead of being taken for granted. In his words, “you would be doing that anyhow.” just like I would be paying my household bills anyhow. Basically he resented my asking him to contribute financially. LOL!
            I’m not really thinking clearly this morning……….I’d better stop.

          2. I just watched the new release movie ‘Her’ starring Joachim Phoenix. What an amazing movie about love and human relationships! It is set in the future but not too far and is about a guy that falls in love with an artificial intelligence. So moving and thought provoking.

  7. Dr Simon, if someone has an overcautious temperament at birth, but go through childhood and youth poorly socialized, how do they turn out? Does their temperament curb their otherwise antisocial behavior?

    1. Hey J, I don’t think that “poorly socialized” and “antisocial” is the same thing but I could be wrong on that and maybe the former could lead to the latter……or not?

      1. Elliot is a good example of this. He had huge social anxiety, is that what you mean by anti-social as opposed to pro-social. I think we tend to box the word anti-social in the character disturbance category. Are you meaning that the poorly socialized kid is ‘against socializing’ but not necessarily antisocial in the psychiatric definition of the word? I would say that in the situation you describe the person would turn out with a considerable degree of social anxiety that would lead them to either be very withdrawn or turn to forms of stimulants such as drugs and alcohol that give them the confidence they lack in social situations. They could also withdraw into knowledge and become a great artist, thinker, writer, philooipher or poet. Misanthropy is very underrated! lol

        1. ” I would say that in the situation you describe the person would turn out with a considerable degree of social anxiety that would lead them to either be very withdrawn or turn to forms of stimulants such as drugs and alcohol that give them the confidence they lack in social situations. ”

          Me in a nut shell Juliette

          1. It’s ok Puddle, you are not alone. I didn’t get that insight from books either! I was a pot head for years on and off when I was younger.

      2. Elliot is a good example of this. He had huge social anxiety, is that what you mean by anti-social as opposed to pro-social. I think we tend to box the word anti-social in the character disturbance category. Are you meaning that the poorly socialized kid is ‘against socializing’ but not necessarily antisocial in the psychiatric definition of the word? I would say that in the situation you describe the person would turn out with a considerable degree of social anxiety that would lead them to either be very withdrawn or turn to forms of stimulants such as drugs and alcohol that give them the confidence they lack in social situations. They could also withdraw into knowledge and become a great artist, thinker, writer, musician or poet. Misanthropy is very underrated! lol

  8. J, I’m thinking that the person having developed an anti-social personality and having an overly cautious temperament would likely develop into a Covert Aggressive. Antisocial by it’s usually accepted definition in the psychological literature that is. Is that what you’re meaning? As opposed to someone anti-social that was less cautious and would become a criminal that gets caught or a person who goes around blatantly abusing and exploiting others without caution. ie Bad… what you see is what you get, the CA…. the wolf in sheep’s clothing?

    1. Key word = aggressive. Overt, covert, aggressive = anti-social. when your intention is to do harm to someone for whatever reason, in whatever way, that is aggression. I had serious social anxiety as a child and still do to a lesser degree but I don’t plot and plan on how I can demolish someone elses life because of it. I have poor, underdeveloped or broken emotional coping skills and mental overload problems but if I “loose it” it is reactionary, not my intentional goal.

    2. Yes, Juliette, that’s what I mean.

      It’s that I’ve understood cautious temperament to be typical of more neurotic folks. Then again, human development isn’t always so simple.

      1. J, perhaps what you have hit upon, is that a cautious temperament is a good primer for becoming predatory. The predator is being very cautious when sneaking up on their prey. The child with an anxious/cautious temperament would perhaps develop early, skills to monitor and scan their environment, whilst their peer were happily, curiously exploring it, free from the same worries. I think you have a great insight here that is worth further exploration. Something early on in the development of a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, that when developed alongside other factors, contributes to the eventual style of the covert aggressor. When I think of my first ex, the one that played piano and how his parents thought he was deaf at age 2, because he didn’t communicate, he was obviously taking alot in because when they tested his hearing at 2 it was fine and only 2 years later he locked the babysitter out of the house and put a complicated (for a child) killing machine together and knew exactly what he was doing, on many levels when he pointed the gun out of the window at the babysitter. I’m wondering if he had shot the babysitter and had lived in the state where Morgan and Anissa live now, would he have been tried as an adult because his actions were premeditated?!!

      2. It’s interesting and disturbing really, considering psychopaths don’t have anxiety, even adaptive kind of anxiety.

        So someone, for whom spontaneity comes more naturally, but who grows up without proper character, becomes an unbridled walking impulse. Someone, naturally cautious, who grows up without proper character, becomes a calculating predator.

        1. You know what J, so much of what’s assumed to be true about psychopaths is written by the people who study them in jails and use the words and actions of psychopaths to assess them. Ask any woman who has lived with one for years if they are capable of anxiety. They are. Their anxiety is only for themselves and when their sense of control or impression management is threatened. They are better at hiding it but it’s there. The ones I have known know how to disassociate out of this state with either aggression, becoming a laughing madman or other strategies, offensive subject changing etc. The literature also says they don’t have adaptive anxiety. I believe this is not true either. They learn from their mistakes too. They perfect their ways and learn over time what works and what doesn’t. We tend only to get the opportunity to study the less organized ones that get caught too. What about all the ones out there going around doing the perfect crime, serial killing and wreaking havoc in peoples lives that never come to the attention of authorities and those that study them. I think what makes the baby cautious is a good question. A baby should develop to be curious, spontaneous and trusting. No one, not even psychopaths ever remembers what went on in the days before their memory became long term, the preverbal stage. It’s this stage where first trust and self/others/object relations develops and where I believe the first seeds of anxiety are sprouted in all of us, psychopaths included. That’s my theory anyway. Growing up in a healthy social environment and having opportunities to develop character is what is sadly lacking in so many peoples lives. Is capitalism and democracy the ultimate well meaning experiment gone wrong? Like communism was too? I think so.

          1. Two comments, here, if you please, which might help with this debate. First, remember, the severity and quality of character disturbance exists along a continuum, and while there are those with an almost non-existent capacity for adaptive fearfulness, some severely disturbed characters, including some psychopaths, have some degree of anxiety capacity. That said, distinctions need to be drawn between genuine anxiety, truly adaptive fearfulness, and and becoming easily unnerved or harboring an irascibility of temperament when denied. There’s a MONUMENTAL difference between being afraid of losing control and being unduly irritated and enraged at losing power. They can look almost the same, but they’re quite different internal experiences and produce much different external results, generally. Also, there’s a huge difference between the defense of dissociation and the uncanny, cool ability to compartmentalize emotion. These two features can also appear similar but are deadly different. When I can, I’ll devote an article to the key variables in early development, but I must caution: Although there’s much more we all have in common as far as innate characteristics go (psychopaths included), I can’t stress enough how hugely problematic it is to think in terms of “all of us” and then try to make general rules apply. More people have been victimized by this kind of thinking than anything else. The fact is that every day we’re getting new evidence of the distinctly different set of predispositions and capacities some of us possess right from the beginning and I can’t count the number of horror stories I’ve heard from good parents who stood in utter amazement as their later-to-become-psychopathic child engaged dauntlessly in extreme high risk behaviors at very early ages while their horrified siblings looking on and their concerned parents who tried desperately to teach them better did all the fretting for them.

          2. I figure that a true psychopath doesn’t experience anxiety but rather anger when they feel they are losing control. Their apparent ‘dissociation’ is simple acting. There are a few serial murderers who used dissiciative states or MPD, as a defense and, of course, they were psychopaths acting — being different people. If and only if you are positive you are dealing with a psychopath, you just have to accept that they are acting most of the time.

          3. LisaO, You took the words right out of my head as I read the recent comments!! Anxiety can be faked, just like all the other things they fake. I watched (and get sucked in of course) as Spathtard put on the most dramatic crying displays I’d ever seen by ANY human being, let alone a man! Of course it must be real/ genuine, right? What man would reduce himself to a mess like that if it wasn’t real? Right?? Well,,,,,,,,something never felt right to me about it (among other things) and it’s so easy to see and understand why now. But of course when a man is laying on your chest, crying like a two year old who’s just lost his favorite security blanket, with mucus running all over your bed sheets, you don’t stop the performance and ask him if he is faking it! So I propose that a spate can absolutely fake ANYTHING!

          4. Juliette, there has been plenty written about psychopaths by the people who were victimized by them too and lived to tell about it. Very true, the ones who have been studied are in jail.
            Adaptive anxiety and learning to manipulate someone better are not the same if I’m understanding the term right, which I may not be.

        2. I don’t mean to disparage you or your words, but I think several things of what you say.

          I don’t get the impression you’d be thinking they’re more like us than they are. Still, where have you gotten the idea there supposedly could be anxiety in psychopaths, however much of milder and otherwise different variety than in neurotics?

          Also, by disassociate you probably mean “dissociate” or do you? Now, I don’t claim you would be wrong, but I wouldn’t be so ready to think that psychopaths exactly dissociate or anything like that. Of course, I don’t know whether there could be times when psychopaths use their own brand of coping mechanisms. I also don’t know how psychopaths would respond to trauma. Speculation speculation.

          Just because someone polishes their predatory arsenal probably means more that they’re getting better observing and calculating.

          Still, the world is a confusing place for infants as far as I can tell, so perhaps even a psychopath experiences some measure of anxiety. That anxiety transmutes differently, then, we could suppose.

          Considering how dangerous the world is, aren’t aggressive fighters also looking over their shoulders just in case another aggressive fighter could swoop in? Especially in hostile environments with ihg levels of aggression, reactive aggression, defensive aggression and counter-aggression? It’s not like psychopaths themselves are completely safe, either.

          1. The ‘caution’ of a young P would revolve around building and maintaining a facade of normalcy. That facade is part of their arsenal used for offensive, not defensive purposes. Dr Simon has taken pains to elaborate on this theme. If there is defensive anxiety caution and fear, it isn’t psychopathy.

          2. J, the way I picture a psychopath, a true predatory Spath, is this……..like a cat about to pounce on a mouse. I have watched my cat in the yard many times as he is dead set on getting a bird or a mouse or whatever other tasty critter he is after. When he is in that state of focus, I can guarantee he is at HIS most vulnerable because he is NOT paying any attention to anything other than that tasty critter. Calm, cool, focused.
            I think that is how these ppaths DO get caught. they have their eye on the prize so intently and lack concern and anxiety about getting caught. I’m not sure how to put this exactly. I think it is what enables them to do what they do and at the same time it digs their grave for them……doesn’t the grandiosity factor in here as well??

          3. J, my lack of professional training and experience shows in much of what I’m trying to describe. Dissociate yes, my bad spelling and what I’m trying to describe here is, as Dr Simon has clarified, is more so an ability to compartmentalize feelings and display another veneer of something else, suited to the presenting situation that a psychopath is trying to manipulate. My idea that psychopaths experience anxiety is based on direct observation in many situations I have been in with them. I think Dr Simon has clarified the continuum that exists that people such as ourselves can only speculate on. Without the understanding that comes from being educated in normal development then having a clear objective viewpoint that an experienced professional has over years working with and assessing CD, we can only relate our own observations and learn from what professionals can tell us about them. During the 90’s and to 2010, I worked as an advocate for women and children escaping domestic violence across several areas of the system that supports them ie mental health, DV, Family Court and child protection. It would take a ridiculous amount of time and this page for me to relate the details of every experience, so I won’t attempt it. Early on in this work, I was so inexperienced and lacking in proper training, that I didn’t maintain proper boundaries and got ‘too involved’ with many of the families I was ‘helping’. This is where I met many male psychopaths and a number of their psychopathic children. There were times where I was in, completely over my head, which was very stressful for myself on many levels. I did learn alot from this as well as observe the actions of some psychopaths and just plain CA’s over two decades and some still to this day. I became the target for manipulation and intimidation for a few. I also became the person that two particular psychopaths used as their therapist, because they were not in a position to relate their crimes to anyone else, lest they be jailed. How this came to be and why I allowed this to happen is another story. Neurotics do stupid things as we are all well aware. I am a very good example. Once you are part of the web of a psychopath it is not easy to remove yourself from it and where innocent children are at stake, safer to stay involved because it’s better the devil you know. All said with the benefit of hindsight. In no way do I claim to know the answers to the Holy Grail of what causes psychopathy or how to label each individual on the continuum. I have some theories but that’s all they are, uneducated theories. My continued interest is mostly driven by the fact that I have seen a few child psychopaths get early intervention which seemed to make a difference in their ability to develop empathy and better character. I have watched these two boys in particular, for almost 20 years now. The anxiety I have seen true psychopaths have isn’t like the anxiety the rest of us have. To me it seems to be tied to the thing/object/power/impression they most desire and their perception of possibly losing it. I will try to give you an impression without the whole story. Like the guy who had hog-tied his partner for 5 days in the boot of their car and made her eat her own vomit, who when he managed to get her back home after her hospital stay in the orthapedic ward after he broke alot of her bones, showed an enormous level of anxiety over all the black hair roots growing out on her head of bleached blonde hair, (that he insisted upon her having) so much so, that only one minute after she walked in the door, in an anxious state, he went straight to the cupboard and got out the tools to ‘fix’ this problem. I watched this happen and watched from a distance whilst the anxiety slowly went down as he applied the bleaching cream as she slowly submitted to whatever on earth was really going on. Or the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang boss, who up til then, I was convinced was a true reptilian psychopath, incapable of any anxiety, who crumbled into a wreck when he though that someone had stolen his ‘patch’ (jacket with club insignia). Or the ‘gun for hire’ who would come to my house in the middle of the night and lay next to me and shake violently and uncontrollably for hours after one of his ‘jobs’. There are hidden dimensions to the psychopath that are rarely seen. I have made some very dangerous and stupid acquaintances in my life and whether any of you believe me is up to you. I don’t have any of the answers, just some experiences that have shown me that the ones we don’t get to study are the one’s who may offer us some alternative ideas. How does a psychopath experience trauma is a really good question. I’ve tried to think of any experience I’ve had that relates to this J and I truly can’t think of even one. Maybe they are not even capable of it?

          4. LisaO and Puddle, these points you make are great insights too. I wonder if the heightened focus of the predator honing in on their prey is indeed the moment they are most vulnerable. Then what you say LisaO about the anxiety, caution and fear being defensive. What motivates a psychopath seems always to relate to need to maintain the facade of being powerful and unshakeable and then always, satisfying the power lust that lies beneath it. When child psychopaths engage in high risk dangerous behaviours and watch everyone around them be anxious, which I have seen too, I wonder if the reactions of those around them are part of what they are seeking to achieve. Quite often the audience is necessary to experience the full extent of the thrill. Watching other people’s anxiety. Same when they are cruel to/torture animals or light fires.

          5. Juliette, Your observations in these examples are also subjective interpretations of the behavior they displayed around you and if you believed they meant something (what they wanted you to believe at that time and what they said they meant) they they really are only subjective interpretations. That said,,,,,,,I don’t know because I wasn’t there and any male who is of the caliber of beating his wife and landing her in a domestic violence shelter or someone in the Mob, especially at the Boss level or the motorcycle boss…anyone at the above mentioned levels of humanity in my book should not be believed no matter how convincing of an act they put on but that is my opinion based on my experiences of repeatedly getting sucked in by both Spathtard and my sociobro. In fact, the more convincing they sound the more I am convinced it’s not true.
            The anxiety I have seen true psychopaths have isn’t like the anxiety the rest of us have “To me it seems to be tied to the thing/object/power/impression they most desire and their perception of possibly losing it.”

            Exactly! This is not anxiety, it is self concern that the game the have been playing might be
            o v e r. I’m sorry, people at the low level of existence you describe more than likely
            don’t experience ANYTHING that a “normal” person does, and I mean nothing! The underlying structures to experience things that normal people feel isn’t there. Doesn’t matter if it was never there or it withered and died, it’s not there. Again, I am talking about the extreme examples, the people who are able to do the things you describe, the Spathtard who targeted me…….

          6. After 45+- years of my brother’s dramatic displays and lies and multitudes of manipulative crap by a true sociopath, and after what I’ve been through with Spathtardx, I just recently got sucked in by him over some supposed health issue! More lies, more manipulation…….the actual goal? No clue. All i know is that I will never know and that he was not being truthful with me, my father and others. I say I love him no matter what because he is my brother but how can I really love someone who I have spent a lifetime dealing with and watching him manipulate both of my parents endlessly? What can I love about someone who continuously does this to their own parents? It’s the strangest feeling. Normally I would think that your brother SHOULD be someone you could go to when you have been done wrongly by someone like Spathtardx……..not this brother.

          7. That is what I’m saying Puddle, that the anxiety IS entirely about themselves and attached to the loss of whatever they are getting from the game being in their control, it is still anxiety or fear of some kind, as opposed to the belief that they are incapable of feeling fear at all or are another species as I read recently. The descriptions I have given were more observations and I really don’t know what they meant at all, just that I saw them with my own eyes, they had nothing to do with me being there and they were a brief moment or window in what was otherwise, usually a very in control and lacking in feeling psychopath. All interactions and relationships with these people are ones of utility. You are used or tolerated because it is useful to them. I haven’t met even one guy on the bigger end of the CD spectrum that didn’t regularly use alcohol or stimulants of some kind either. I believe it is one of the ways they deal with their own ‘anxiety’ and give themselves permission to switch/switch between different ego states that they enjoy having a romp with. I have also never met one who didn’t have either an intrusive or enabling Mother either. Not to say that they aren’t out there, just that I haven’t seen any. Please don’t think that I’m feeling all compassionate for these individuals, far from it. I was responding to a comment that they are incapable of anxiety which I believe is not true. I think they all suffer from a delusion of superiority which whether they show it or not, is the basis for every apparent ‘feeling’ and ability to compartmentalize and act they have. They also have the ultimate ability, which is to compartmentalize their fear of the afterlife. The one thing they know they will never have control of is that. Deep down they try to escape the fear that they may suffer their punishment in the afterlife. I give all of them, a wide berth these days, long gone are the days of my confessions of a blow-torched well meaning neurotic, trying to rescue the victims of psychopaths.

          8. Puddle, that reminds me of something I was thinking a few days ago about being targeted. My brother is a CA, woman beater all sorts of things. He was also a state champ boxer in his youth. It shocked the life out of me that he didn’t help me with my 2nd ex. Then I looked at all of the victims I was involved with during those days and none of them had families that stood up and in for them against their abusers, or felt able to. Once of the reasons we are selected as targets is because we don’t have a solid, loyal, protective family structure behind us. Our socio brother’s treat their sisters just like all the other neurotic women they encounter. Mine was so abusive to me and my children that I cut him out of my life. Having children sometimes raises the stakes of things and I just wasn’t prepared to let him be n our life, the way he treats everyone. I remember you were both adopted too, so do you think that comes into where he manages to hook you, into that sense of belonging?

          9. Juliette, these examples you’ve given, some analysis for possibilities:

            1.Perhaps they were not outright psychopaths, but did have some miniscule guilt that didn’t really prevent them from doing vile stuff.

            2.All those moments of “anxiety” and “vulnerability” could have been just momentary impulses. They could as well have been temper tantrums or bursts of mania, self-pity or craziness.

            3.Could some drugs have part in that with them? It’s possible some of them could be drug-induced mood swings.

            4.Someone suffered consequences for their own actions for once and then they feel bad and want to vent at someone convenient.

          10. Juliette, I’m sorry…..I just don’t agree with the use of the word “fear” or “anxiety” in combination with these types. I think that it is really reaching to say that whatever goes on in these monsters is anything similar to what “normal” people experience. The examples you gave of the various spaths you observed this in sound like pretty extreme specimens along the continuum which makes me question what they were really feeling, or more likely wanting you (or someone else) to believe they were feeling.
            And no, I don’t think that my sociobro “hooks” me because I want to “belong” I am a loyal person though, to a point, and he is my brother so I do have the ability to feel concern for him is he can trick me into believing there is due cause. He hooks me because I feel bad not believing him when he has manufactured a good enough story but I also know to take that story to other people for confirmation and of course, a whole other picture emerges. There is nothing but an obligatory relationship between him and me so there’s nothing to “belong” to if you know what I mean. I have little contact with him at all. there is little doubt in my mind that this last situation was just part of some attempt to manipulate my father out of $$ and he was using me as some kind of back up story. It’s terrible to think that because I don’t really KNOW that but at this stage of the game, it’s more than fair to say that if his lips are moving he is probably lying. The burden of proof lies on him.

          11. LisaO, I have wondered about this myself……maybe there is a language issue here, different meanings or different understandings of word meanings or usage issues.

          12. Juliette, I could have lost my life once because of the little act my sociobro put on and I fell for. They are not to be believed! Period! I don’t care if they are sitting on the toilet writhing in pain because they can’t go potty! unless I see visible proof of SOMEsort that their pain is legitimate, I don’t believe it’s even pain! I don’t and won’t believe the legitimacy of their performance! And a hit man?? And a man with the capacity to lock his insignificant other in the trunk if his car and break her bones?? No…….I seriously doubt what you saw was anything that should be called “anxiety”. Color me jaded and cynical but there you go…..

      3. I understand that aggressive characters could be put on the uncautious/cautious -spectrum thus:

        unbridled – channeled – sadistic(varies) – covert – predatory

        1. J, the OMG boss dipped his fingers in every one of these categories when it suited him. The one that used to come to me to shake, also did. He once said to me, after really looking inside himself for the answers, when I asked him why he put himself in certain situations that you or I would find extremely traumatic ‘It’s hard to explain but sometimes it feels like I just need a really good flogging and I go and find it and make it happen’.

          1. I think the confusion here involves the definition of anxiety. One form is ‘anxiety’ over ‘concerns’ of losing control. If you equate anxiety with underlying fear, you will miss the point of a P. The concerns about losing control can look like fear based anxiety to the normal individual, but it is likely just annoyance or irritation. If it looks like real honest to God fear, imho, it is faked.

            And, of course, everything is on a continuum. My narsister is a highly highly manipulative and charming actress. She is highly aggressive and a very proficient liar, but manages to cover it up, most of the time. I watched her grow up and from what I can see, at core, she is extremely fearful. She is almost hysterically concerned with impression management. There is real fear there. It’s not fake. At core, I feel she is trying to make up for profound deficits she feels she has in either her personality, intellect, or whatever. I don’t know what it is exactly, because her perfectionism doesn’t allow her to adequately address it with me or anybody else.

            I know she is at least a garden variety narcissist and she certainly skirts the edges of malignancy, but I am not qualified to say whether she has tipped into that category. I hope not.

            Perhaps when we are dealing with someone who exhibits some traits of psychopathy, we are dealing with a fear based narcissist.

            Juliette, the people you are describing here, based on their ‘hobbies’ and or careers as hit men, are likely acting, if they appear vulnerable. As for the families you were trying to help; as a novice you would have been ideally situated to be manipulated by P’s who were acting, or you were just dealing with violent f’d up individuals who weren’t P’s., perhaps. Though the trait of fearlessness exists on a bit of a continuum, in the Psychopathic disorder, I personally consider it a bit of a defining characteristic and when a P is exhibiting MORE fear than the average person, they are acting. You haven’t somehow, through your extended efforts managed to salvage them. They know what you want, they know you derive empathetic pleasure or ego gratification from helping others and they are manipulating you.

            Men don’t generally cry and shake when they come home from work, particularly if their career choice is ‘hit man’

          2. Yeah J, ritual maybe, definitely peculiar. He goes in and out of different ego states/personalities doing what he does. Most of what he does to others is psychological violence, skillfully applied. It’s like a type of self harm/masochism he has towards himself sometimes. Then there are the times he is acting sadistically towards those that have harmed women and children. He takes delight in acting violent and sadistically/humiliating towards men that abuse women and children. I’ve actually seen video footages of him doing this taken with a mobile phone, so it’s not just a matter of me believing his stories. Then there is this other side of him that goes around rescuing abused women and he’s so gentle, patient, caring and not manipulative with them, it’s bizarre. Just about everything he does is self defeating in some way. Even though he’s not DID, he’s something close to it. Split personality, ego states I’m not sure but he’s in control of everything he does and doesn’t try to negate responsibility for his actions either. Big inner working model/ego issues and narcissism to a large degree.

          3. Perhaps it’s just that he has urges to act sadistically and has a conflict with this, then does negate responsibility, by looking for an ‘acceptable’ victim and abusing men who abuse women, playing God by dishing out their punishment and teaching them a lesson.

        2. Puddle, Unless a rat has actually entered a sewer pipe, found its way to the toilet bowl and bitten them hard on the (never mind) do NOT trust them, even if they are writhing on pain…on the toilet.

          And even if there is a rat there, you might want to verify with the rat if it bit the P, because we know that rats probably have higher moral standards and lie less than P’s do!

          1. Puddle and LisaO, Lol re the toilet/sewer rat! it has to be that there is a continuum and no one is easy to put in one box or the other, especially by someone like me. So yes, perhaps they aren’t psychopaths or like you say, better described as irritation, more than feeling genuine fear/anxiety of some kind. All 3 were certainly narcissists, the ‘gun for hire’ less so than the others but still one for sure. Our relationship has always been platonic and he used me, just like everyone else in his life. I’ve never seen him cry and the times when he came to me at night to climb in a warm bed and shake like that, I didn’t ask him why, it was like the wave motion you get when you cry, coming and going in gradually lesser degrees to a whimper. I used him too, to give me the psychological edge I needed to not fear that every guy I came across might be a CA that would destroy my life. With him in my life, I felt I was safe and avoided having to do the expensive and hard psychological work of becoming stronger. I only had to use him to scare a CA away once, it worked, the CA got on a plane home to mummy that day. He is still my guardian in the world if I ever needed it and I’m certain that I would be in a whole lot more trouble, fear and stress with Bambam if it weren’t for the fact that he knew my guardian can be here with one phone call. Sick, sad, bizarre me. I have no family to do that for me. The other two incidents I related were, isolated incidents that I observed and I found strange but not overly involved in, besides supporting the women and their children that were involved with them. Okay ladies, you’ve got me on side, it doesn’t matter if it looks like anxiety or fear or even if it is, we don’t care what they’re feeling… or believe them, is the point. Thanks 🙂

          2. OMy///////I actually KNOW someone who had a rat in their toilet!!!!!! they opened the lid to use the flush and there it was!! This person is NOT a spath and not prone to BS so I really do believe them and,,,,,,,,,,,,,,better them than me!!

          3. Juliette, Silent crying coming in waves. Did you notice that just before the whimper there would be short sharp almost hiccupy inhalations. I have witnessed that very thing myself, with someone I slept with, though I have to confess it was my miniature schnauzer. Though here is the similarity–she too would protect me from anybody. And if the P showed up at my door she may not kill him but she would give him the stink eye and then seriously mangle his ankle.

          4. Yes, you know he did, like when you suppress a breath in by closing your throat off, or like when you are trying not to cry as hard as you need to and suppress the breath. When I had the brief encounter with the CA that he saved me from a long stressful struggle with, he slept in my front garden like a guard dog for 3 nights, hoping to catch him stalking me! Such was his motivation to protect and/or lex talionize the jerk. It’s such a strange attachment/ gratitude, relationship of utility, goodness knows what it really is that him and I have. So bizarre, he is the first guy that ever came along that didn’t manipulate me either. If I told him to go away tomorrow he would but I don’t want him to??

          5. the thing that I feel sad about with my brother is that a) he is SO alone. and b) I always think about the story of the boy who cried wolf……what if someday he really is sick? I think there is something wrong with him, beyond the obvious but when he was offered to be taken in for tests and to get some help, he wouldn’t go because he didn’t want them to draw blood and I know why. he kept saying he couldn’t go for two weeks,,,,,,,,well……he is really a mess. So, In spite of EVERYthing I still have a feeling towards him, I still shed tears when I think of the tragic life he has had…….and I still WANT to think there is something genuine there. The parallels between him and Spathtardx are so striking.

  9. “Of all the creatures on the planet, we’re the only ones that require 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for well over 20-30 years (In recent years, the time required for full socialization has been steadily increasing) ”

    What evidence is there that we need more years to be full socialization? I’d wondered if the infantalization of people in their teens, 20’s and 30’s was a reason behind delayed or completely missed character development we’re seeing at such increading rates.

    Being given full adult responsibilities and being held accountable gives an individual an opportunity to develop self-respect, the kind of self-respect that is needed to develop character.

    1. You know what Claire? There are many places on the face of this earth, many societies, that don’t have this magical ideal childhood that some people seem to believe is an inherent human right! In many societies and countries you step to the plate as soon as you are physically capable and it USED to be the same way in this country/ society. Barring abusive conditions, I see nothing wrong with that. Somehow there seems to be a higher value placed on leisure time vs work time. wouldn’t it be a blessing to view both work and leisure time as equally valuable and rewarding but in different ways? I know people who do! They work but they also value their time at work and enjoy the environment, the people they work with, etc…..
      Sorry if that was a little ramble!

      1. Puddle, in ancient cultures (perhaps other cultures today) the male children had to leave the tribe for a journey to transition themselves into adulthood.

        1. I believe that and the females participated in running the home front. young children! If they were physically able they participated in all aspects of life from an early age. I don’t know, this is how life has been, it’s just the way it was. The thought of some kid laying around and doing whatever the equivalent would be of playing video games, two hundred or even a hundred years ago? I don’t think so! So much has changed in the last 50 years.

          1. Puddle, Very good points. I don’t know which is worse, allowing kid’s minds to meld with the machine or forced labor in third world countries. Really. And Claire, while boys were transitioning to manhood, girls were preparing to become mothers. Not something that I would want for myself, but certainly provides a life of SUBSTANCE and bonding with the tribe. These features of life, though fraught with all kinds of their own unique problems, innoculate the individual and the community against the P.

            P’s don’t do well in prolonged, sustained company of others at a fairly intimate level. They can’t maintain a mask that long.

            Eskimos describe deeply disordered as a rare type of person that they deal with by surreptitiously nudging off ice floes.

          2. I’m wondering if the eskimo pPaths are allowed to take their mommys with them on the ice flow? Ice flow for two!
            But this does bring up a VERY interesting point……the fragmenting society, the break down of the nuclear family structure, in SO many cases the norm these days. the same situations that may create a Spath also make them hard to defend against.

  10. Speaking of acting I have been involved with 2 CD’s. The first one I figure was extremely passive and sometimes covertly aggressive. He cried so easily. Why, that time he dropped his ‘my little pony’ over the edge of a cliff and started his own waterfall, really stands out in my mind! Kidding… But dang, I was the strong silent stoic type in that relationship. And, indeed, I think I was even more heavily muscled… and that just struck me as all wrong. So I left him, finally. Really, you would think like a month tops of a manipulative sobby sob would be enough but noooooo…I had to stay for the extended symphony of tears. Two years I will never get back!

  11. Hello puddle!
    I can’t find your post. I like the Goyte song. I’m sorry for the strange circumstances around your receipt of the link! I agree the video is a little weird. Here’s another great song that inspires me quite a bit:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRfuAukYTKg&feature=kp. Video strange, it’s about the song not the video. Acoustic version with a different singer also really good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGoCtJzPHkU&feature=kp
    Wide Awake by Katy Perry and Mean by Taylor Swift were good ones too, for a while last summer. Mean is more of a victim- song so I was only “there” for a short while.
    Oh, and Ariana Grande: I got one less problem without you:)
    Music- total therapy!!

  12. I do not leave a response, but I browsed a few of the responses on A Case of Arrested Empathy Development?.
    I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you do not mind.
    Could it be simply me or does it seem like a few of these remarks come across
    like they are left by brain dead visitors?

    😛 And, if you are writing at additional social sites, I would like to
    keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Could you make a list of all of all your public pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page
    or twitter feed?

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