In yesterday's quoted article the first sentence stated that all Psychopaths share two characteristic traits, the first of which was described thus:
[An] inability to empathize with others' emotions, such as the fear in a person's face...
This for me rang a bell. I have learned that there're some facial expressions that I didn't automatically see for what they are.
This photo is titled 'FEAR'.
Is she Worried? Surprised? Thoughtful? Slightly Annoyed?...
No, she's Afraid!
Fear is one such emotion. So I very early on decided to teach myself how to determine when someone was afraid (of me - since when I met fear in other people it was most often me they were afraid of). And I found a few markers that have since been quite consistently effective in alerting me to when someone is afraid of me.
What I look for is this:
- When someone becomes hesitant in responding to what I say or do.
- When they hold their gaze at me - not on something else.
- They stop blinking for long periods of time.
- Their pupils become larger (if I'm close enough to see that).
- They hold their breath or it becomes rapid.
- If they start sweating, often above their upper lip and/or at their brow.
- They widen their eyes.
- Their face becomes pale (blood run to their brains and muscles and away from the capillary tubes in the skin surface - and also away from their digestive organs, but that's knowledge and not something I can see).
Those are some immediate Symptoms of Fear.
If I can break their frozen state, their eyes will often flicker and their faces become flushed red (blush). Also, their movements will still be stilted.
Those are symptoms of fear that I now notice automatically, but I had to learn them like others learn how to swim, f.x.
It was natural to me to use this kind of system to learn how to recognize the way people behave, and I didn't think more about it for many years, mainly because I took for granted that this is what everybody do, that this is how everybody learn how to recognize emotions in others. I even used to think I was somewhat slow in this regard, since everybody else seemed to naturally understand every emotion they saw in others and in each other. It was only because I realized that they didn't seem to know how to use this natural skill of theirs that I instead of feeling actually slow, instead felt superior, and I used to scorn silently scorn others for their blindness in this regard.
But once again, I have learned something of late which I never contemplated before:
It seems the difficulties that we psychopaths have with recognition of certain facial expressions - which is otherwise a normally build-in skill - are directly connected to the same kinds of emotions which we either do not have the ability to feel at all, or which in some cases some psychopaths for various reasons apparently can feel in a vague (Shallow?) sort of way, but rarely do.
So I taught myself to recognize fear, and I am fairly adept in doing so - if I am prepared and know there're circumstances present in a situation which will normally trigger this response.
In such situations I can see it, I can use it, choose my reactions or responses and thereby direct the line of events.
But give me a picture of someone who is afraid when I'm in a situation and place where I recognize none of the fear triggering elements, and I can be somewhat confused unless the expression is exaggerated.
So what do I see in a face of someone who is afraid, if I can't see their fear?
I have been subjected to many tests over the years, and the recognition of facial expressions is just one of a certain type of tests which are constructed to find out about details and aspects in a person's cognitive and behavioral functioning. And it follows naturally thereof that I've speculated and been asked about what I saw when I didn't see what apparently was there.
There's not one answer, but several to what I see.
For example, I often think Frightened people look Surprised, or Worried, sometimes they look to me like they're Bored or Uninterested, and sometimes they look to me as if they've just silently asked a question and are now waiting for an answer - not necessarily from me, they can be looking at a spot on the wall or at 'nothing'.
In the case of the last example people often seem to me as if they've suddenly become heavily mentally retarded. Maybe it's something I read into their expression because I know from experience, that when people look like this, they become very slow, rigid, confused and just plain dysfunctional.
It is a type of situation I've had problems with handling - especially when I was younger - because I would become so frustrated with these people's sudden inability to understand normal speech or carry out a simple, very easy to understand order, I would sometimes loose my temper and make things worse.
Sometimes this would happen even when I could find no reason whatsoever for anyone to become afraid of me. And in such situations I did not WANT people to be afraid... or I would have given them what I would call a reason... But in these situations I hadn't done so, and that made me feel as if they were opposing me somehow. Ridiculous, of course, since people don't become afraid as a means of rebellion, quite the contrary. - And I wasn't stupid, so I understood this, and I did get myself in check.
But I can still remember vividly those first times when I would start to yell and threaten the poor victims. No wonder they didn't snap out of it, heh...
Still, even to this day people becoming afraid of me when I do not want them to do so, can be very frustrating. Fear is a strong emotion, and once it's triggered - intentionally or not - it can be difficult to handle and re-direct in a hurry.
Now a days I never yell, threaten or physically hurt people when they become afraid of me without my consent. And it does happen, still. I also still don't know what triggers it, for I honestly can't find anything wrong with my behavior, mannerism or tone of voice, etc..