Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Psychopath Named Zhawq.

Readers sometimes ask how I came to go by the name Zhawq, so I wrote the following as an introduction.

I go by the name Zhawq when I present myself openly as a diagnosed psychopath. But it wasn't I who came up with this nick, it was an acquaintance of mine who used to call me Shark, as a friendly pointer to how he and others (used to?) see me.

He created a video game character and gave it the name Zhawq because every other version of the name Shark had been taken. One day I decided to create a website on the Internet where I would tell the public about psychopathy and how this subject is viewed from the perspective of the psychopaths themselves - or more precisely, from the perspective of one psychopath: Me. - And it came about this way:

I had recently been released from prison on grounds of the special probational condition that I remain subject to a psychopathy research program in which I was enrolled when it was launched 8 years earlier. One of the biggest changes that has happened in society since I went to prison - now almost 13 years ago - is with the Internet, and I immediately found the prospects fascinating.

As I acquainted myself with the more basic technical workings of the web I soon found out about another change: The change surrounding the general information and awareness about what is frequently called Antisocial Personality Disorder, Sociopathy, or Psychopathy. The Internet is a virtual goldmine in this respect, though it is also a dust bin. Either way, there are so many books and so many websites out there which discuss psychopathy, but they share one thing: They always discuss and describe psychopathy and psychopaths from the perspective of the scholars, the clinicians and those that we call the victims. Very few are represented by the psychopaths ourselves.

It was time to change that. So I told my acquaintances that I had decided to set up a website with the purpose of creating yet another resource for information about psychopathy, one which would be different because it would be presented, written and run by a psychopath, me.

However, I couldn't afford to use my real name, I had to find something else to call myself. Somebody suggested I call myself Shark, but I felt it might identify me eventually. And then it was that a friend of mine, who was playing a video game using a character he had named Zhawq, said: "Dr. Hare compare psychopaths with Mr. Spock from the TV series Star Trek, it's not unlike the name of my character, Zhawq, why not use that?".

And that was pretty much it. I thought about a few alternatives, I never really warmed to the name Zhawq, but once I'd used it in a few fora it somehow stuck with me, and now I'm known as Zhawq.

I created a website and called it Psychopathic Writings. It's a public blog where I post articles on a regular basis, all about psychopathy and psychopaths from varying angles. You are very welcome to pay me a visit, I will be your friendly host.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How We Use Remorse. (Part 1)

A reader wrote:

[the] value of remorse lies in the ability of most people to learn from their social mistakes using emotional guideposts that most people are born with. I believe the lack of remorse goes hand in hand with the inability or stunted ability of psychopaths to learn from their mistakes within certain social/emotional realms.

I came upon an article in which it was put forth that "Lack of Remorse can lead to Antisocial Behavior". This is a well known theory, and it is a good example of what I see as contradictory statements put forth by many of the researchers and clinicians who enjoy positions as Experts in Psychopathy.

They say Psychopaths cannot learn from their Mistakes. They also say we are Adept Learners.

An example: Psychopaths get better at manipulating people if they learn about psychology and get training in therapy. We get better at conning and cheating, at avoiding detection. Many psychopaths, once the interest in a subject is there, learn both more and faster than most normal people do because we have something called hyperfocus. - Yet there is proof to support the claim that psychopaths can be prone to repeat mistakes.

But how does this fit with the statement that psychopaths don't learn from past mistakes? Can both of these statements true? Can psychopaths learn from their mistakes or can they not learn from their mistakes? What does it have to do with lack of ability to feel Remorse?
The answer lies in how we look at the problem...

Psychopaths tend to have a strong Need for Stimulation (Item 3 under Factor 1 in the PCL-R). We also tend to experience high levels of frustration when this need does not find an outlet. Clinicians call it a "Low Tolerance for Frustration" which they explain with the common tendency among psychopaths to Act Out in Frustration and Give In to Temptations easier than normal people. In connection with this they point to our Lack Of Remorse and hypothesize that this is the 'weak link', that we act out and give in to temptation because we don't have the experience of feeling remorse as deterring agent.

In reality there are several things that play a role in why we behave the way we do, but in my opinion none of them have anything to do with remorse or lack thereof. We give into temptations easier because we don't experience the same level of fear of punishment as normal people have, and because we don't share the normal person's concern for what is morally correct. These factors combined with a strong drive toward and appetite for life and living is what can sometimes become a destructive cocktail.

I can hypothesize that if I could feel remorse then I would be less prone to act on my urges because I would fear this emotion. But you don't need to feel bad in order to notice when you make a mistake or to find motivation to not to repeat it.

I recognize the psychology in Reader's words from my observations with my subjects (the people I have controlled) over the years. But is such an auto-application of emotional punishment really necessary?

I've used the argument myself when I "correct" a subject - or anybody, really. I'll tell them it is morally necessary, and they always accept it as totally natural and logical. But I've always assumed that my method works because I had prepared and made them susceptible to my directions in advance, and I know this is possible only because it is how society works and therefore familiar and part of the subject's early cultural and emotional imprinting. All I do is apply society's model and rearrange the details by placing myself in the position of authority and forcing my subject into an inferior position as my obedient citizen. There is nothing special about it, and most psychopathic individuals who share this kind of practice - whether they're consciously aware of it or not - use the same formula.

People grow up with the notion that they should feel a certain way in a certain type of situation (until they're told otherwise or are told that certain types of people do not count as human beings and they do therefore not have any cultural obligation to feel a certain way about them if they harm or kill them), and they feel what is expected of them. Society's expectations become the individual's expectations to themselves.

I can't feel but think it is sad that society rejects a minority who doesn't function by this type of emotional mass-manipulation. I am not saying I can't see that it is probably the most efficient way to make society function smoothly where the masses are concerned, but I must insist that any society needs minorities with characteristics that defies the norm. We need the few who have higher IQ than the average person, and we need the few who are less prone to feel fear or to bend under pressure, we need the few who are not impressionable by normative formalism or even tradition, those who can think and act outside of the box, try new ways, bring about new discoveries.

These are my words: My lack of capacity or comprehension of the emotion called Remorse is in it's own right a strength that I possess. It could be a strength of society too, but society has chosen to label it a deficit... that is until someone uses it to control and exploit others. Then they punish you because you used as an advantage that which was supposed to be a deficit.

Let the majority have Remorse as an intricate part of their emotional lives, but do not stigmatize those of us who can use this very emotion in you to strengthen ourselves and weaken you. Why declare war on a few who are stronger? There is so much more to gain from being our friends. We represent strengths that are part of being human and therefore part of you, don't be so afraid of the dark!

The Dark is the Sun's Greatest Ally!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Psychopaths Understand Remorse.

I know of one psychologist who has none of the otherwise all too common tendency to reject as bad and not human those of us who's emotional life is not quite like that of normal people. Dr. Robert is really unique in this respect and was one of a very few people who played a role in making my own wish to understand how normal people see someone like me become more than just a vague idea.

Dr. Robert's view on what psychopathy is differs from the view of most others in the field of psychology and psychiatry first of all in that he focus only on the emotional aspect, not on behavior, but also in that he doesn't place lack of capacity for the emotion Empathy as a distinct marker for psychopathy. Instead he gives lack of capacity to feel the emotion Remorse this position as the sole distinguishing factor.

I always saw it almost in the opposite light. I know most think of lacking empathy and lacking remorse as more or less equally important factors, but I never could take Remorse as a significant emotion serious and focused on empathy, which I believe I have capacity to feel.

When I found out about Dr. Robert's view on Remorse as the central element I began to focus more on finding out why this one thing can make such a difference to so many people, when to me it seems slightly comical and definitely funny that anybody would judge a whole 1 % of the population based on this. I wanted to understand why, so I contacted Dr. Robert again and eventually placed a post on his forum asking if he could explain to me why Remorse is seen as such an important and central emotion.

Anybody who visits Dr. Robert's forum and website will see that this is not a man who lacks understanding or knowledge. In fact, I believe he could do a lot better than several of the foremost psychologists who presently play a part in defining psychopathy. And yet it seems that my question about Remorse is not one that can be answered easily.

After giving it some time I concluded my question would not receive an answer and wrote the following:

Okay, I guess it isn't an easy question to answer. How to describe the color blue to someone who can't see blue and therefore isn't capable of recognizing it?
But I wonder, is that really what this is? I can see the color blue in the paintings others create, and I can and do create paintings myself that look a lot like other people's paintings with various shades of blue in them.
My problem is not that I can't see the color blue but that I can't understand it's usefulness. I understand that it is important to others, and that's why I asked.

I usually say that once you pose a question there is no such thing as receiving no answer. Silence is also an answer, if perhaps less specified and detailed.
Maybe another day, another time, I will somehow hear it.
And yet I wonder: Do I really not understand why others think of remorse as important and central? In a way I'll say 'Of course I understand!'. But it seems to easy to argue against those reasons, and maybe this is what I really would like to see a response to.

Logically there is no good use for remorse. It helps nobody, it changes nothing.

An argument would be: If you know how remorse feels the notion that you may feel it if you perform a certain activity can deter you from doing so. Yes, that makes sense. And yet it does not, because it lacks reason and makes you susceptible to manipulation.

Feeling bad because of an action should be based in the effect the action has, not in how you feel about the action itself, because in that case there should be no such action to begin with. Why do something you feel bad about? Why ask the question at all?
Maybe you had no choice! Well in that case there's nothing to feel bad about, is there? If you truly didn't have a choice it wasn't your fault!

I love my brother and will miss him and not have the fun times we had together if I kill him, therefore I will not kill him.
Everybody have a better time if everybody in the family are happy and content. My family will be discontent, sad and moody if my brother suddenly dies a violent death, therefore I will not kill my brother.

Those two are understandable and sensible reasons for not killing my brother. That I will feel bad because I did something bad is not a valid reason, for why do something I consider bad in the first place?

If it is about choosing a lesser of two evils, what good will it do to feel bad because the lesser evil was still not exactly good? It doesn't make it good that I feel bad about it!

This is still how I see it. Maybe some of my normal and non-psychopathic readers can help me with some input?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Psychopaths And Power.

One of the questions I have been asked from time to time is this:
Why is it so easy for you to gain Power and power over people? What's your secret?

It is not an easy question to answer with a few words or even in a single article, but I can give you a few words that are of importance:

Emotions are at the heart of everything we do. Wishing is an emotion, and so is feeling delight at achieving or owning something. This is no different when we talk about Power, about wanting, acquiring, and keeping Power.

If you want power, you need Victories - not one Victory, but many, ongoing and persistently new Victories. The first and most crucial victory you must win is the Victory Over Yourself. You have probably heard this said before, or have read it, and it is a universal truth that all powerful people know intimately.

As a psychopath I am blessed in this regard, for there isn't much about myself that I have to conquer. My character traits are custom made for power and victory.

The perhaps greatest enemy to anybody who wants power is his/her own emotions. You see how this gives psychopaths an advantage, not because we don't have emotions - we certainly do (no matter what the professionals say) - but our emotions are different from most other people's and we don't have issues with morals, remorse and regret, etc. This is important because you can't avoid hurting others or do things that are morally questionable in one way or another if you want to pursue power (anybody who claim differently is either lying or a hypocrite).

It is said about psychopaths, that:
The problem with psychopaths is that when they go out to have a night in town and a drink or two in order to forget, they really do forget!
If you want power you must be able to forget your losses and failures. The depth of your emotional attachment must be light as spider's web: It sticks, but is easy to sever.

To be emotionally superficial when it is convenient is something you can learn to some extent, but only the psychopathic individual has it naturally build in as a character trait.

Am I saying everybody in power are psychopaths? No. I am saying the psychopathic personality is subject to debate depending on the person being debated and the circumstances surrounding him/her, and upon the view points of those who discuss him.

The legal system, the clinicians who know of me, and my readers here at Psychopathic Writings see me as a psychopath. But my band members and managers, etc., our fans and my personal fans, my private friends generally, and the public in general, all of these see me as a successful, intelligent and charismatic performer and leader.

The key: I always make the decision about who may know, and therefore think, about me that I'm a psychopath.

Obviously this didn't apply to when I was diagnosed and convicted and send to jail for several years and latest for ten years. But this is an example of a failed victory that I, as a person of power, must be able to put aside, and I have done so successfully.

The question about being low functioning: All psychopaths are low functioning some of the time. Again the key is to control who knows what about you. I am choosing deliberately to tell my audience (here at Psychopathic Writings) about my failures and losses in the past because it is part of the concept of the project I have created here: To be honest and provide honest information about myself as a psychopath. In this I have turned my loss into a victory, and I can do so because I am not emotionally attached to these failures. I am in control.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do Psychopaths Have Dignity?

Readers sometimes ask me:

What makes psychopaths sometimes behave so undignified? Why the sudden undignified actions when they obviously know how to behave with Dignity? It makes no sense!

When psychopaths behave undignified it is because that dignity to us, like most other social notions, really does not stick deep. At least not in the same way that it does with normal people.

To non-psychopaths there're a lot of subtle aspects attached to the notion of dignity, to what dignity is and to what it means to have dignity and to behave dignified. To psychopaths the only meaning we can really give to the word dignity is in the dignity of the winner, of the one who is in control. Everything else are secondary elements that we apply only if we can't get what we we're after otherwise.

We know society in general places very high value in dignity, and we know that what society places value in, society rewards. Dignity is something that generates great societal rewards and therefore it is highly coveted not only by psychopaths but by almost everybody.

Psychopaths often claim that dignity means a lot to us, and in a way this is true, but it doesn't mean a lot to us in the same way that it does to most people. Dignity, as most people understand it, to a psychopath will never be more than a slightly odd notion that psychopaths see normal people put a lot of value in, and we see this as a result of all the emotions that define you, but which do not define us.

The only reason why we try to give the impression that we place profound value in dignity is that we are aware of the enormous value that our surroundings place in it, and this is also the reason why many of us can become almost obsessed with our personal dignity as well as that of those we consider 'part of us' (or 'ours'), our family, circle of friends, co-workers, etc., that is the people around us who's level of dignity reflect our own,

It is not until certain kinds of situations arises that it becomes apparent that we really don't have dignity in the 'true' sense of the word. The situations I'm talking about are such where needs that are fundamental to psychopaths are not being met. I will try to explain...

We, psychopaths, act dignified for as long as it pays, which means for as long as it gives us what we want. What we want and what we need are not that different, but do often tend rather to be more or less the same thing. If I need something, I naturally also want it. If I want something, it often seems to me that I need it too. The moment we can gain more by behaving undignified, or basically fulfill a wish that we interpret as a need if only at the moment, we'll do so without the slightest sense of shame.

I say this with certainty, for I have been in such situations and have done such kinds of undignified, seemingly illogical things again and again throughout my life.

But why do we behave undignified even at times where it seems we would gain so much more by behaving well, dignified? The answer is not simple, there is a constellation of several aspects that result in our infamous ability to 'slip' in this manner.

One aspect is our need for stimulation (Item 3 on the PCL-R. - I write about it here). We derive stimulation from strong and often extreme experiences. Sticking to routine is very demanding for a psychopathic individual, and those who seem to cope with ease seem so because their life circumstances give them enough needed opportunities to deviate without it being discovered.

But with social success comes growing attention from one's surroundings, and growing expectations to one's behavior remaining the same, even when it's accepted that you don't behave like most other people (like when you're an artist, to name an example).

Another aspect is our lacking sense of shame (strictly speaking Item 7 on the PCL-R, but several more plays a role, such as lack of remorse, callousness, i.e.). We do not feel devastated by being viewed as wrong, deviant, evil, odd, boastful, self obsessed, vain, etc. We do not experience feelings such as shame or embarrassment. All these things are merely things we generally avoid simply because they make our surroundings less likely to be willing co-actors in our plans and plays which we create for the sake of stimulation and gratification, and which are again closely intertwined with our need/wish for power and control, as well as (to some of us) for satisfying our curiosity.

Undignified behavior from someone who was successful for a period, maybe several years, can be a sign that his situation has become too much of a routine, and the undignified action can be simply a symptom of boredom and irritation, and perhaps a way to get some curiosity satisfied while they're at it.

Clinicians say we don't have a true understanding of the consequences of our actions, that this is what makes us behave so strange and reckless from time to time. I'm not sure this is true, I personally think my predictions of possible consequences of my actions are rather precise, I think it will be more correct to say that we don't place the same sense of importance in the same things as normal people do.

I hate to use serial killers as examples, but they're often the most readily available, and in this case I have one in Richard Ramirez who, when he was arrested and a journalist shouted a question at him immediately after he had been condemned to death:
Richard, don't you regret anything, now that you got the death penalty and may be killed yourself because of it!
Ramirez replied:
Big deal, death always came with the territory!
Our dignity lies in how effective we are at getting what we want, how well we execute our plans and how efficiently we deal with obstacles. For as long as we get what we want it matters NADA if others think the worst about us.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Game About Emotions

From Zhawq:

I love the way Amy Winehouse sings her song 'Love Is A Losing Game'. It doesn't matter much that I basically don't agree that love or anything else is a losing game per se, it's the sound and the explicit fun I have with expressing the emotional content that matters to me.
During the last four days I've been in solitary confinement, so I've had plenty of time to think about many things. One of the things that came to mind (again) is the apparently absence of Remorse in my emotional repertoire. As I was being walked through the gate, through the prison and to my cell, I sensed the silent, but very easily observable expectation from some of the guards towards me, that I "ought to be remorseful". Not because of the mistake I am being punished for, but because of the 'deeds' I did those many, many years ago.

I remember the questions during my trials when the prosecuter asked me: "[Zhawq], do feel any remorse about the people you've killed?", and I remember how I lied and made the 'correct' display of being remorseful. I know I couldn't have felt it even if I had wanted to.

And I guess it's an example that is hard to explain, because how do you explain that you really have no reason to feel remorse about doing what I did? I'll spare my readers such an explanation and try a different approach:

I am not sure if I can find a song where remorse is part of the emotions described by lyrics and/or sound. I can try, but it would be a shot in the dark. Instead I will ask something of you, my readers:

Inform me of a song with the emotion Remorse. Give me it's title and the name of the artist/s or band. It doesn't matter what genre or what year it is from, nor does it matter if the singer is a woman or a man, or if the lyrics are about a man or a woman. All that matters is that it has some kind of expression of the emotion we call remorse.

Once I have such a piece of music or a song to work with, I will find out whether or not it is posible for me to at least imagine this emotion. I will find out if I know what about remorse makes this emotion different from other kinds of sadness or sorrow, or maybe shame, ...whatever it could be mistaken for.
I will post the result in an article and I will describe my experience with it, or with trying to find out what it is, as well as I am able.


Zhawq will try and get to call me again tomorrow or maybe Monday. The priest said he would try to get time to let Zhawq visit his office again maybe Sunday, but he wouldn't promise anything. But from how I know Zhawq, and seeing that he actually did get to call me, and he sounded very sure, then I wouldn't be surprised if he convince him again. -- Jeanny. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

On Vacation In Prison!

Zhawq called me Monday afternoon around 14:00 o'clock from the city's central police station and told me he would be imprisoned under Solitary Confinement for two weeks, starting immediately and ending 2 weeks and 1 day later. He will be released Monday August 15.th, probably in the morning.

He has asked me to keep an eye on his place and sign if possible special mail or packages etc. get delievered while he is away, and of course I will help him in every way that I can. He also asked me to write those of you, his readers, who could be reached by mail and inform you of his situation. He also told me to include some text he'd left in the draft folder, which I did, and it seems like Zhawq knew or at the least suspected what was going to happen for the draft he asked me to include was a mail that he'd written early the same morning before he left to go to the meeting.

He told me he would try to see if he could find a way to call me from prison. He would try to get the prison priest to help him and take him to his office and let him use the phone there. I wasn't so optimistic about it, for I know how fanatic the mentality is about never making exceptions from a rule.

Before he had to hang up he asked me to see if I could find some of his finished articles and publish them so his readers wouldn't wonder why he suddenly don't publish anything and don't write any mails. To be honest, when I was sitting there with his documents and articles and should decide what to publish, I felt I wouldn't know if an article that is marked Finished, because it's really an article that Zhawq hasn't publish yet, because it may be finished but he doesn't think it's good enough to his liking, so he waits for more inspiration or information.

Having thought about it several days, I know can't take that responsibility. It's been terrible because I haven't been able to call Zhawq and ask what to do.

But then Zhawq called me today! He called me from the priest's office, he spoke fast because there wasn't so much time and I've written down as precise as I could what he asked me to tell you.



From Zhawq:

First, in short, I'll tell you why I've been pressured so hard to go on this exotic vacation that I couldn't find it in my heart to refuse these lovely and kind people, who apparently really wants me to go for my own good:

I was trying to download some free software that I honestly didn't know I'm not allowed to download, and which I didn't get to download because the process was stopped immediately. The board said they appreciate I may very well be telling the truth, but they want me to be more careful in the future, and they can't allow it to go unpunished, due to the seriousness blablabla of me, my past, the program, etc. etc. I'll be back home on Monday, August 15.

I like the roughness and energy from Michael Jackson in this song. I remember seeing a very different version on TV, but this is not bad and maybe suites me more even though the other version is more spectacular.

I think he's probably right, they don't care about "us". But that's because of the kind of 'Us' he is singing about. I sometimes wish they'd care so little about me too, but that's because of the kind of 'Care' they have for me. Then again, I can't really complain, because I get plenty of the kind of 'Caring' that I prefer. But of course, being human and all I can always see room for improvement.

Tomorrow I've prepared a few words about a special idea that just might be a possible potential for improvement. And - if you read these words - my friend will post it. I believe it can become interesting!...