Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Repulsion and Disgust - What Are They?

As a Psychopath I do not recognize Facial Expressions of Repulsion and Disgust naturally.

Yesterday I wrote an article about one of the characteristics Psychopaths share, namely that we aren't naturally adept at recognizing a fearful expression in another person's face.

I further spoke about my personal experience in this respect, how I've dealt with it and what I think about it.

"Come again, speak up!!"
Does this man have Bad Hearing and I didn't speak loud enough?
"You've got to be kidding!?"
Or did he hear me, but is in Disbelief?

However, when this emotional recognition deficit is mentioned, another one is very often mentioned along with it:

Psychopaths have significant difficulty with recognizing Expressions of Repulsion or Disgust, and other related types of emotions, in other people's faces.

I didn't write about this yesterday, I left it completely out of the article, and I had a good reason for doing so: Repulsion to me is not only something I can't recognize in people's expressions, to my knowledge I have never experienced it. And what's more, it has never held much significance to me.

Disgust, in my understanding, is somewhat equal to Contempt though with a trace of something else which I can't quite pin point. The something else may be Repulsion, which will explain why I can't put my finger on it.

So when I left it out of yesterday's article it wasn't because I didn't feel like talking about it, it was because I don't know what to say about it!


Today I found an article about Emotional Intelligence in which was stated that:

Role of Emotional Intelligence in Social Life
Emotional intelligence is the ability of a person to use emotions as a guiding
tool for interpersonal effectiveness in his or her social environment (Figure 1).
While interacting with members of the social environment, emotionally intelligent
people produce win-win relationships and outcomes for themselves
and others. Such people develop a magnetic field of emotional attraction around
themselves and often are the owners of an ever-increasing network of social relationships
and emotional support structures. People with low emotional intelligence,
on the contrary, enter into counterproductive emotional transactions and
build around them, often unknowingly, a field of emotional repulsion that
causes their social circles to become contracted and distanced from them.

To me this seems peculiar, because I should then be a social outcast and derelict, but I have proven again and again that I can be quite the opposite, namely very popular and sought out for company, for fun, friendship, and advice. It's all a matter of what my intention and focus is at the time.

On the other hand I will not deny that I have experienced the opposite kind of situation on several occasions as well, and it is here my issue with recognizing and understanding the nature of the Emotion called Repulsion, whether in the form of witnessing someone else who has this emotion, or what this emotion really means, what is consists of or how it feels.


Another article starts:

Disgust is a fascinating emotion. Its elicitors are a puzzle: it makes sense that we are disgusted by things that can contaminate our food, but why does this food-related emotion extend itself so deeply into our social world, so that people feel disgusted by certain ethnic groups (or by racism), by homosexuality (or by homophobia), and by a variety of social and moral violations that don’t involve anything physically contaminating?

Oh, really? I have absolutely no sense of disgust towards "thing that can contaminate my food". Why would I invest negative emotions towards f.x. bacteria simply because they might contaminate my food?
How about feeling disgust against tomatoes then? If we eat too many, we can die from that alone! Is a lot of tomatoes disgusting?

The same goes for the line about racism. I've never understood what can move people to take such ridiculous positions against something which is just a more extreme version of different hair color. Is a strong tan disgusting just because it basically is the result of having subjected the skin on one's body to a mild burn from the sun rays? Absurd, I say!


I only remember having seen people who expressed repulsion on a very limited number of occasions which were all related to testing situations. Furthermore, I didn't even see the repulsion in the expressions of these people's faces. Yet, I was told that Repulsion was what they expressed, and I remember these incidents well because it puzzled me that even when it was pointed out to me, I still couldn't see it.

So what does Repulsion look like? And how does it affect me when someone feels repulsion about something associated with me or towards me directly?

I am aware that I have been in such situations numerous times, and yet I've never experienced any of them. - What I see in a repulsed face, is usually what I would recognize as either Contempt or Annoyance, or both, and maybe with a trace of Anger thrown in.

On some test photos(1*) I have found that the person can look funny, like if he's just been confronted with something that smells overwhelmingly bad - most often an adult during an attempt to shame me or simply blame me, after catching me or finding out about something I'd done... it would especially happen when I'd done something outrageously silly and destructive... what people sometimes call 'obscene', combinations of destruction, Sex and Violence elements seem to the fundamental "recipe" that will create responses with these kinds of expressions.

As a small kid I would sometimes imagine that someone with this kind of expression had just been secretly slipping a particularly stinky fart ... a thought that made me laugh, but which made them even more annoyed or angry with me. In my childishness I would think this a reaction to them knowing that I'd be telling the other kids about their embarrassing mistake, whether or not they'd actually made one.

But from what I understand, feeling Repulsion or Disgust has no connection with smell whatsoever, or with any other of our physical senses, it's a purely emotional phenomenon. So why it looks the way it does is something of a mystery - especially when we learn that it also has nothing to do with contempt.


I think that when I haven't taught myself how to recognize this emotional expression in others stems from my not having realized there was anything missing in the first place, and further, when I did learn about this kind of emotion, it just never seemed relevant, since for obvious reasons I've never felt it was something I encountered often, if ever.

There have been some times when somebody has told me that this or that person had just shown repulsion towards me, but when I've thought their behavior over I've always come to the conclusion that it either it must've been a mistake on part of those who told me - since I obviously saw no such signs of repulsion - or I've shrugged it off since it wasn't that important anyway.

I know normal people find it very important, and they become very hurt when someone looks at them with this kind of expression. - I've even thought I sometimes use this expression myself when I dominate/manipulate people. But when I do so, I think of my expression as one of Contempt, which apparently is not the same thing at all.


If I am to conclude anything from this, I guess it will have to be that there's a certain comfort in knowing my confusion is shared by psychopaths in general!...


(1*) - In a real assessment situation there're always a couple of pictures that show more exaggerated versions of each type or combination of emotional expressions. And I've noticed that the samples we see in so called Facial Expressions Tests on the Internet usually have a larger representation of these types of exaggerated photos. I gather the reason for this is that these tests are basically meant to be fun, a pass time, and those who provide them don't want people to fail the "test", as this would likely lead to fewer people wanting to visit and spend time with them.



Anonymous said...

Emotional disgust... Yeah. I don't know what to say about it. I mean, I usually have a pretty good handle if I'm not in someone's good graces, but are they disgusted? Angry? Frustrated? Annoyed? I have no idea unless they, or someone else tells me, usually.

Repulsion, hm. Well, I had a really bad night with Tequilla once, and I don't like the smell of it anymore, but that's about the closest I've come to repulsion in any regard. Corny, I know, but I don't have a pool of anything else.

Nyx said...

That's interesting... I've always had an easy time reading people and I can pick up on what others are feeling, even though I'm not sure WHAT they're feeling since I've never really felt those emotions myself. I think instead of imitating the way they talk or act like you do (which I believe you mentioned somewhere else), I mimic how they're feeling, or at least I express what these emotions look like outwardly. I wonder why there's that difference.

Zhawq said...


it's funny that you mention the thing about Tequila that you don't like the smell of it anymore...

When I am asked to describe disgust or repulsion, the only examples I can come up with are a few select smells that I can't abide.

But I'm not sure if I can call it repulsion or disgust, because it goes beyond that.

It's another detail about psychopaths I haven't touched on yet: Many (most) have some form of hyper sensitivity, which is the opposite to what we are with most everything in general.

Where did a pool get into the picture?


I see what you're saying.
The fact is, that the line between picking up on things naturally and having to consciously focus and memorize is so thin I can't even say there is a line.

When I read about how others seem to have difficulty with these things, I sometimes wonder, because mostly it is very easy for me.

But I like to check in the mirror, because sometimes I find I don't seem as natural as I thought I did. Maybe this could be the case with you too. I was so self assured when I was young that I didn't even see it when people showed signs of having picked up something on me that didn't seem 'right' to them.

And guess what it was I overlooked so often? Disgust or repulsion!

I bet you'll find in time the same thing is the case with you.
For how do you know that you can sense all their feelings? How?

I think you have a natural talent, like I have.

But there's always something new one can learn. And it pays to do those little silly things like standing in the front of a mirror and grimace until you get it right.

It's just a piece of advice! ;)

Anonymous said...


I have actually accused someone of being a total shit simply by telling them that I "smell" fear and disgust on them when they look at me. I'm right, they know it, and we do not cross paths at all ever.

Anonymous said...

In Real Life ^

Anonymous said...

Just a flyby post here. I see that you have some folks here suggesting how you might project 'disgust,' but reading your article it seems that you're trying to grasp a a real psychological connection to actually understand it.

I think this may be one of those areas where inhibited temporal projection comes into play. That is, that disgust is an anticipatory reaction. The emotional response is not to the germ that might contaminate our food, but an anticipatory reaction to a mouthful of feces. This kind of response, with certain nuances, extends to other anticipated "distasteful" (no coincidence in how we use that word) situations.

Probably if a person has a very strong "disgust" reaction to a remote contamination danger it has to do with the associations being 'psyched up' through reinforcement of some sort.

Anonymous said...

Disgust is what normal people feel when they read this blog and get a glimpse of your mind. Yes, it is like a contamination. It is something that used to be edible and healthy, but now is poisonous. destroyed.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous said...

Disgust is what normal people feel when they read this blog and get a glimpse of your mind. Yes, it is like a contamination. It is something that used to be edible and healthy, but now is poisonous. destroyed.
December 1, 2011 3:24 PM

People who are different from you are not disgusted by a glimpse into your mind at least not compassionate people... you know what i cant speak for others ... Your mind is not disgusting.... some of your actions are the issue....

ChosenOne said...

Some people are not smart enough to understand your point.

Anonymous said...

Ah,who cares don't tire yourself with that trash,who cares what some article says about psychopaths and what not.

Anonymous said...

Do p's get sadistic gratification by saying things to elicit a look of disgust from an empath? Just to see "that look on their face?"

Ettina said...

Lack of disgust helps to explain the actions of some serial killers, I think. When I hear that Ted Bundy kept the corpses for a few days afterwards and played with them - even if I had no moral qualms about killing, the thought of keeping a dead body around while it starts to rot just grosses me out.

Even if you don't have a lot of contact with the body afterward, murder itself may be too disgusting for some people because they hate the thought of even being near a dead body, even briefly. Blood also grosses out many people.

Hmm, I wonder if there are some psychopaths who do feel normal disgust, and these are the psychopaths who con and cheat but aren't particularly violent. That might be an interesting research study.

Anonymous said...

If psychopaths can't feel empathy or disgust, does that mean that you would not get a reaction from watching a so called "shock video", for instance? Just curious.

Here's the kind of reaction I'm talking about:

Anonymous said...

1.- I'm not sure about my ability to read repulsion and disgust most of the time, I have seen it before, generally though, who gives a shit if their disgusted, not me. Though I might show them my disgust in return . Occassionally I delight in repulsing people too.
2 - I certainly feel disgust though, food ,hygiene, man made chemicals in my world, most people disgust me on some level and I would like them to leave so our world can be better. Though I am the voilent type Ettina.
3 - Personally, the thought of smelly rotting flesh is a bit repulsive, though, I suspect I would become use to it and loose my repulsion quite quickly, as I did with human faeces. Maybe this is shallow affect ?

Anonymous said...

Personally, the first time I felt repulsion - at least I think it was repulsion - was the first (and only) time I kissed someone. I was practicing my conversation/flirting skills on this guy I'd just met in the park. He asked me to kiss him. He seemed healthy, so I figured I wouldn't get sick, and I was curious what it would be like, so I said sure. Maybe he wasn't a typycal kisser, but Im not experimenting any further to find out. It was the single slimiest thing I ever felt/tasted. Like eating a mouthful of slugs. Worse, he was apparently feeling passionate, and just wouldn't stop. I realized i had lost control of the situation. I stuck around for another half hour so he wouldn't realize I didn't feel the same way he did. I guess I was trying to regain a sense of control, but it didn't work. He just kept kissing me. Finally, I made an excuse and left. Ever since then, whenever I see people kissing or getting intimate, I feel like I want to throw up, and I have a desparate urge to leave the room. It's like standing next to a dumpster - it's not unbearable, and I sometimes hang around just out of curiosity, but I really feel like being elsewhere. I don't make wierd faces though. I'll never quite understand those. Hope this explanation helps.

Anonymous said...

There was a time when I did some "match the emotions" quiz in a magazine. Oddly, I interpreted the eyes displaying disgust as displaying sexual attraction or interest.

When I did see the photo in this article, I thought, "that looks like anger."

Anonymous said...

I am not a psychopath, but my dad is. I will try to describe the way I experience repulsion so that it makes sense. Repulsion is the feeling that happens right before you are about to throw up, after you have had way too much to drink, and you absolutely have to get whatever is in your body as far away from you as possible. It comes from a self-preservation drive. It is your body's defense mechanism telling you "something is not right with this situation/food/person, I need to get the Hell away from it, NOW." It is very much a "gut" feeling for me.

Disgust is like what the woman above me was talking about, with kissing someone unpleasant, or rolling in something dirty/touching something extremely foul-smelling, etc.

I am not sure that my dad, for example, ever felt disgust. He did some extremely disgusting things...but he never expressed disgust. Disgust is what people who experience empathy feel when they see something morally offensive, dirty, etc.

I understand that the idea of "morally offensive" is lost on you, but I do not understand why the idea of "dirty and therefore disgusting" would be lost, as well. I know many psychopathic people are extremely clean, but that does not seem to come from a sense of disgust or from OCD - more from a need to "keep up appearances" - or am I wrong?

Contempt is easy, I would imagine, for someone with psychopathy (and I genuinely do not mean that as an insult, only an observation), as it is borne out of a sense of superiority, and isn't that one of the hallmarks of the personality type?

Unknown said...

Speaking as a person who has felt those emotions and does not have psychopathy, I do think disgust and contempt are very similar. When you're disgusted by something it's like you're angry about its existence (like bacteria on food - why does it have to be there? I could die from eating it) or the situation (it's very unfair that this happened to someone because of this other person), but you also hold yourself back from acting on it (you can't do anything about bacteria and you won't punch the person because after considering the whole situation they don't deserve it, you don't want to be someone to spread pain, or it won't further the situation). It's almost like a reminder to yourself or a statement to others that you won't tolerate something. I guess if you're disgusted by a person, it's like you're not feeling the pain that comes with anger at that point/anymore but you're trying to tell them your thoughts and reasons for disapproval in one quick expression and hope and know they will understand. Disgust ironically I guess is almost a manipulation technique playing on people's usual dislike for lack of acceptance and getting them to think about their actions that way haha. And since it's hurtful to the person you're doing it to people don't do it often obviously, unless it's justifiable. (Tomatoes won't get hurt from you making a negative face at them, and the person who you're doing it to probably did something really bad, worse than your expression to you or to someone else so it's worth to get them to think about it so they don't do it again.) I don't know, I don't really have the expression of disgust often if ever when it comes to people honestly. I probably would in a situation I think is really unfair. I do have feelings of disgust about gross things sometimes, but when I have expressions it's usually just to socialize and be funny I think haha.

Anonymous said...

That's actually wuite "fascinating".. (I was reading your previous article about language and it's meaning to you, however..)
It is actually fascinating that you and other psychopaths share this inability to detect disgust/ repulsion.
In the sense that perhaps this is why psychopaths are synonymous with obscenity and cruelty; more so than the undiagnosed.
You never learned disgust/ repulsion because what seemed that way to the neurotypical, did not seem that way to you. I.E. No boundaries and high tolerence for deeply affective things that would normally disturb a non-psychopath.. Theoretically speaking ofc.

Do you delight in seeing other people's annoyance? Does it satisfy you to garner their reaction? I mean some people enjoy seeing other people visabley disgusted/ repulsed.
Disturbing someone else comes with a sense of rebellion and anti-establishment etc.
For example: Being purposefully sexually inappropriate infront of an elderly woman, just to see her reel over in utter disbelief.
It gives the mischiever a sense of freedom and power and a kick too.

It isn't decent to shock an old lady because she is old. In society it is disrespectful to frighten/ intimidate/ discomfort the elderly regardless of our own beliefs. WE understand them more fragile, so keep the knowledge of our comparable strength and sense of duty top priority in this regard.
However some elderly people are just dickheads regardless of age but it is shunned by society to let them know it. That to me is a social construction i can't abide. That makes me shocking. Shock can also play into these 2 feelings, i think it even preempts them.
On an evolutionary note, perhaps disgust is an important safety protocol, to keep us a safe distance from contamination.
No-one wants to see someone else eat their own feces, the person eating their own feces may like seeing that though?

I like to speculate.

Your posts are enjoyable. The post about your first memory concerns me for my nephew. He behaves oddly too. Violent and seperated from caring. Do you think you needed the nurse to forgive you and comfort you after punishing you or would that have just reaffirmed what you could get away with?
Were you devoid of optimistic exposure?