How Essential is Empathy? – A Computer Simulation

I was reading a Tumblr post on the need for empathy in a larger social group in order for the larger group to succeed. Interested in simulating this, I wrote a perl module and a perl script to “see” such dynamics in action.  What I found is not surprising.

Apologies in advance for the poor code formatting, my WordPress theme does not like rendering code.

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Where Nothing Resides … Projecting Psychopathic “Boredom”

I’ve been a bit quiet lately as I haven’t had anything new or insightful to report on, but this comment from a reader raises an interesting question:

I was wondering what you think about the concept that the psychopath is actually very boring to us more normal people? Are they projecting their boredom onto others or is their lack of emotional repertoire the reason they bore others? I would be interested to know what you think about this.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard the psychopath referred to as “boring”, but I can see where this question is coming from.

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Tools of the Past, Tools of the Present

I am a firm believer that what separates the imprisoned psychopathic (or otherwise antisocial) individual and the free and prosperous one is restraint.  None of us arrived at a formal diagnosis without a sordid past of some sort.  The past need not dictate the future, however.  I’m still digging out of the myriad holes that I’ve dug while living in a freely latent state.  My impulsivity has left me essentially destitute and the interpersonal relationships that I’ve ruined with my parasitism and, often, callousness are never to return.  What incentive is there to keep on such a path?  What is there to be gained?

I chose psychotherapy as a means to quell my antisocial behaviors even if my lack of empathy, identity, and ability to form realistic goals (among other permanent traits) will never be corrected.  I do not advocate therapy for most.  That said, there is a great power in realizing that the condition need not define you, but rather you can choose to define the condition.  While my relative commitment to relative prosocial behavior is a purely pragmatic one, I realize that in order to have a meaningful quality of life, it must be so.  I’d rather not be in jail.  I’d rather have savings and consistent employment.  The psychopath in his natural state is not guaranteed any of this.

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Duality … The Quick and the Dead

The act of social justice infuriates me.  Not because I am upset with the grave injustices of the world – I’m not – but because of the inherent hypocrisy of those doing the fighting.  People will fight for some causes and leave others to rot.  Everyone, neurotypical or psychopath has their “us” group that they are willing to fight for and their “them” group which they leave for the buzzards.  There are those that will fight for matters of race and leave issues of homelessness to the wayside.  Others will educate regarding gay and lesbian issues and then leave the injustices felt by the bisexual or transgender for someone else.  Not only will they let someone else do the fighting, they won’t even bat an eye at the suffering experienced by these other groups.

Neurotypicals, in particular, live a duality – crying over the injustices of the world, but taking on the roles of the gods in deciding whom is worthy of their psychic energy.  They claim to be above the psychopath but then are no different – NTs on a daily basis choose whom is worthy of saving even though they claim that their empathy gives them a connection to all.  They will fight for one group while crushing the skulls of another out of bias and bigotry.  The psychopath is merely more honest, acknowledging that everyone is in their “them” group and that no one is worth saving except the self, the only member of the “us” group.

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Searching for the Unnameable … Motivation, Goals, and Stimulation

Motivation is very difficult for me, especially as I grow older.  The relatively focused drive I had back in my late teens and early 20s has evaporated as I near my 30s.  When I was young, everything was full of relative wonder and I had not yet come to believe that nothing can be truly stimulating and satisfying.  I suppose I had goals back then, but they were nebulous and ill-defined.  “Get my degrees and I can do … things,” I told myself.  What things?  I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.  How the NT can plan into the future in a realistic fashion and summon the energy to see it through is beyond me.  Why would I spend so much energy on anything when the end result is neither guaranteed nor stimulating and satisfying.

I feel like a junkie looking for some fix that will bring a true and lasting high.  I scour through the possibilities that lie all around me, try each one on for size, and conclude that I really gained nothing.  I suppose that the lack of long-term and realistic goals as well as the insatiable need for stimulation are the biggest drawbacks of the psychopathic condition.  Now, ten years later, I’ve come full circle: “get another degree and I can do … things”.  This is what I try and tell myself, but the nagging thought in the back of my mind remains.  What things do I wish to do?  Will I be stimulated enough along the way in order to see this nebulous goal through?  Is there anything in life worth experiencing?  I don’t mean this in a fatalistic or depressed sense, but in a logical one.  When nothing registers as enough, how could I be motivated to move forward?  How can I climb the stairs before me if I’ve convinced myself that they lead to a place that cannot be reached or if I otherwise do not know where they go?

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