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!


Anonymous said...

Why do some people kill themselves because of some insults people keep telling them? I have never understood that, I have never been affected by any kinds of insults and I never understood why people would insult me about how I look or about how stupid I am in order to hurt me.

Anonymous said...


What is the difference between psychopathy and sociopathy?

Wheatley said...

From a neuropsychological point of view, learning from one's mistakes is governed by both the amygdala and orbito-frontal cortex; areas of the brain which are both thought to be underdeveloped in psychopaths.

On an unrelated note: interesting how I felt compelled to use 'psychopath' whereas over at SW I mostly use 'sociopath'. Probably peer pressure of some sort. :)

Anonymous said...

Zhawq, I like you

and I hate that I am living in a world that's not full of love

am I not ironic?

but I don't think so.

I am not ironic.

Zhawq said...

Anon 6:47:

Why do some people kill themselves because of some insults people keep telling them?

There's more to it than merely being insulted repeatedly. It's a process, and the person has to have certain psychological pre-dispositions.

Many have posed this question, but it will take at least several articles to get into some of the dynamics involved with interpersonal control in more detail. The problem with doing this is that I could face serious legal problems if I am too explicit with my descriptions. But I am considering it, since it's part of most psychopathic people's common practices, and leaving it out altogether seems wrong.

Thank you for bringing it to my attention once again. I'll find a way to get this topic covered, eventually. ;)

Zhawq said...

Anon 6:47:

What is the difference between psychopathy and sociopathy?

I will publish an article about this topic soon.

Anon 10:23:

I hate that I am living in a world that's not full of love

am I not ironic?

Life is ironic in many ways. If you look closer at all the little details surrounding your daily life, you'll find there is something ironic in everything. It's just that we often don't notice the irony until we come upon something that speaks to something in us on a more personal level.

I understand what you mean. :)

Zhawq said...


From a neuropsychological point of view, learning from one's mistakes is governed by both the amygdala and orbito-frontal cortex; areas of the brain which are both thought to be underdeveloped in psychopaths.

It's far more complicated than that. Otherwise I'd not have been able to learn how to edit my articles. I hate editing (something that shows in my earlier writings), and yet I've learned to do it.

My amygdala is smaller than the average person's, but it works better than the average person's when my focus is strong. But it's true that in other ways it works less effectively.

Focus is key, it is what makes all the difference.

On an unrelated note: interesting how I felt compelled to use 'psychopath' whereas over at SW I mostly use 'sociopath'. Probably peer pressure of some sort. :)

I'll say it's got nothing to do with peer pressure, you're just using the terminology of those you're conversing.

Here at PW it's a good idea to use the word Psychopath if that is what you mean to say something about, whereas SW is addressing the wider antisocial community to whom Sociopath is the fashionable term.

M.E.'s and my audiences overlap, they're not quite the same. I aim at those who seek a more in depth type of information with more emphasis on the psychiatric aspects and actual definition of psychopathy in particular, whereas SW is geared toward a wider and more casual kind of audience.

I think that maybe because of this, more than anything else, our two sites complement each other well.

Wheatley said...


Well yeah, obviously there are a lot more factors than just having an amygdala. I think the difference is that empaths have some kind of autopilot which automatically learns from mistakes and lights up a warning light when they are about to make the same mistake, whereas psychopaths need to consciously make themselves learn; they don't have the luxury of an autopilot.

And I agree, SW has a much broader focus and generally more superficial topics. The really interesting thing is the comment section and the people on it.

Bella said...

This is from the wiki link on hyperfocus:
From a medical viewpoint, hyperfocus is thought to result from abnormally low levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is particularly active in the brain's frontal lobes. This dopamine deficiency makes it hard to "shift gears" to take up boring-but-necessary tasks.[ci

I imagine this is something people with trouble motivating themselves have, but I can't speak for others.

What (if anything) do any of you take medicinally to combat reluctance to do more "boring-but-necssary tasks?"

Ettina said...

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

I think the thing is that researchers generally consider psychopaths to show a 'reward dominant' learning style. What this means is that you learn very well how to get rewards, but don't learn how to avoid punishment very easily. For example, the classic test involves a game in which you can earn money or tokens to exchange for prizes. You press a button and randomly either get money given or taken away, and after each button press you decide whether to keep going or settle with what you have. The first ten button presses, you have a 90% chance of winning, and this drops by 10% with each ten presses. Psychopaths tend to play the game longer, because they don't pay as much attention to when they loose money as they do to when they gain it. Ironically, this means non-psychopaths usually make more money on this game.

Anonymous said...

psychopath. would it be better for you and your kind to not have to put on a mask? if we released you from social etiquite? would you perfer to writhe and hump with abandon? or do you WANT to have access to us? how about if we released ALL from social norms and let us have a chance to point a finger at you and say you are evil? what works best for you? by the way, what if what the bible says about you is true and that "blackest darkness is reserved for you forever?" Jude 1:13. just wondering. hump, hump, hump and writhe!

Anonymous said...

I dont understand suicide either. If your christian, like most of the world, your going to hell after you die so isn't it ironic that christians would believe in the bible and kill themselves because of a percieved hell when in reality if they want to be respected by people, they just have to make themselves into the type of person society wants them to be. If your male, you dont need to be attractive to get a woman in your bed because women aren't as shallow as men, they just want a nice guy. And if you kill yourself because people say youre wierd then your also just an idiot. If people dont like you simply look at one of the popular but easy personalities to mimick and act. Everything people ever do is an act. We are all professional actors as every action we do in public is done because it will get us sometging. Respect, money, authority whatever. If your wierd its probably because you need to stop letting people know what your views are and hide yourself under a mask of stupidity so you can fit in with the rest of society. I hate that society ( especially for people my age wo are still in school) has to pretend to be so rediculously stupid to please our peers. Every word that comes out of my mouth in front of my class mates makes me sixk to my stomach. I have to make jokes about vaginas, dicks, intercorse, how much school sucks, (i find work to be fun, it keeps me stimlated) but i do like rippin on the unpopular kids. There was an ugly girl in my physics class last year who was extremely emotionally unstable and stupid. I made it my goal to convince her she had no purpose in life and i wanted to push her to kill herself and failed of corse. (i bully people psychologically it doesnt leave a bruise haha) im kinda just typing as the words come flowing through my mind i guess im probably making an ass of myself so il just post this annonomously and be done thanks for reading.

Ettina said...

"If people dont like you simply look at one of the popular but easy personalities to mimick and act."

Not everyone can put on an act as easily as a psychopath can.

I actually have almost no ability to put on a different persona. I have tried, on occasion, to hide the fact that I'm autistic, but as soon as I let my guard down even a little bit (and I don't have the energy to keep it up constantly) I'm rocking, going into long monologues about my interests, and so on. Or something sets off a meltdown and I *really* lose control of my actions.
And that's even the stuff I'm aware of. Apparently my tone of voice is odd in some way that I can't hear for myself. I also apparently have odd timing of eye contact. With both of these, I have no clue what I'm doing differently, so I can't change it.
The only thing I've found that works is to seek out social situations where being autistic is not as much of a disadvantage. I think homeschooling probably saved my life - when my parents pulled me out of school, I was no longer trapped in a situation where people picked on me and I couldn't do anything about it. Now, I go to university, and people don't pick on weird intense people in university because we're the ones everyone aspires to be like!
Meanwhile, I go through life always being myself, because I have little or no ability to put on an act, and I wonder at all the people who do so effortlessly.

Anonymous said...

"Why declare war on a few who are stronger? There is so much more to gain from being our friends"

Hmmm, let's see. We normal people should allow someone to use and exploit us, kill us, rape us, and steal from us (like you have) because it's nice for society to have variety? Hahahaha. Nice try Zhawq - an attempt at manipulation at it's finest!

Zhawq said...

Anon jan. 2. -15,

Don't put words in my mouth. What you say is nonsense. Nobody should allow others to exploit them. This is why education is so important. But to be able to navigate in a world of variety you need to have a wide range of understanding.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:21 (Jan 3)

I would say that lack of certain emotions is a good thing if you use it right. Yeah, people don't like it when they are exploited. However, due to my low capacity for fear U end up doing all the public speaking for my group, especially when we don't have a clue about what we are doing and still need to present.

Anonymous said...

In the above post (anon 6:44, Feb. 1) I meant to put "I" instead of "U." Also, lack of empathy can be a good thing, depending on your job. If all you see is people suffering (like when you are handing out aid after a major disaster that literally ruined people's lives or in a refugee camp), I'm guessing lack of empathy will help you keep your sanity. Because of my lack of empathy, I can be a PERFECT person for the job (also, add the exitement of travelling to a new place as well as the low capacity for fear that allows me to make decisions even in high-pressure situations)! Now, lack of remorse kind of comes with the package, which allows me to be a good liar. I usually play it honest, but when people expect empathy or love from me I'm pretty good at faking it (like when I told my wanna-be boyfriend that I love him without feeling the least bit of remorse for messing with him and his feelings). I do not go as far as manipulating people or exploiting them (I really don't know why because there is nothing holding me back). Well, I guess this works for me.

Bottom line here is (disregard the tangents I went off on) that it's important to look past the fact that the person cannot feel fundamental emotions and look at how that person uses this (may I say) advantage.