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?

Many psychopaths drift from unattainable goal to unattainable goal and/or from a state of restlessness to restlessness.  I do not know how to properly convey this ennui to my neurotypical readers.  It isn’t quite the same as being locked in a room with no windows and no light – for we have the world at our fingertips should we want it.  Neither is it equivalent to being subjected to a lecture in infinite duration of which the topic is not interesting to the audience.  We can find very fleeting satisfaction and enjoyment in the stimuli around us, but the positive feelings only last on the shortest of time scales.  And, with each experience, the time the satisfaction lasts seems to grow shorter and shorter – tolerance in our junkie analogy.  I can remember giving presentations at international conferences related to my former field and feeling melancholy within minutes of uttering my final words.  My ego is insatiable and devours the “fuel” it requires nearly instantaneously.

I would probably resort to hedonism if I thought that it could bring me what amorphous or unrealistic goals and “progress” could not.  I simply do not see the point, however and I suspect I diverge from many psychopaths on this front.  I realize that it is not possible for myself to be satisfied.  I realize that my efforts to reach such satisfaction are fruitless.  I am left with a form of nihilism as I wonder what then can my life attain.  Not just attain, but look fondly upon when I near my final breath.

I’m not one to give out inspirational messages, but I found a quote from Viktor Frankl to be especially relevant as I battle these inescapable feelings of melancholy.  Referring the reader to his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, I nonetheless think of a paraphrased quote from it.  “We have a responsibility to life.”  This responsibility means using our gifts for those actions that no one else can possibly do.  As such, I may not be amused with my inability to be motivated regarding the steps I need to take in order to reach goals that I cannot even define.  However, I know that there are things that only I can do.  If nothing is going to satisfy anyway, then why not move forward into the darkness hoping that there is a light somewhere therein?  Turning around would only lead to the same darkness, but without any chance of elucidation.

Duality ... The Quick and the Dead
The Borderlands

Comments

  1. beneficii says

    This may be where high-functioning autistics will differ from psychopaths. We have the issues with the lack of empathy, usually not finding others interesting, etc., but we don’t need novelty to enjoy ourselves. We are often content to repeat the same activity over and over and over again, often for half an hour or more. For me, this has always been in respect to music and TV shows and stuff, like where I will watch the same short scene over and over again. Research has looked into this:

    http://file.scirp.org/pdf/OJPsych20120100006_42099449.pdf

    • FNP says

      Autism has a lack of cognitive empathy, not a lack of affective empathy. Autistic people feel for other people, but don’t know how to express their emotions.

      Psychopaths have a lack of affective empathy, not a lack of cognitive empathy. Psychopaths know how to express emotions, but don’t feel for other people.

  2. Berry Thompson says

    Dear Jessica and FNP:

    I have a friend who is a psychopath. We’ve been friends for around 4 years. At about 2.5 years into it, when I simply couldn’t understand why he did/thought as he did (he is very intelligent, in addition to having all of the ‘morph into what you want to see’ characteristics ya’ll mention), he pushed me until I found some web information similar to yours (more ‘medical’, less ‘experiential’) and I said something to the effect of, “OMG, I am sooo sorry! You’re a psychopath!”. He said – and he was right – that he’d driven me to think that, and to read it, to try to get my head around why things were the way they are -why what he said made no sense, or why he lied about trivial things (although he’s been surprisingly honest about what he can and does feel/think).

    We met as consultants, on a plane, headed to a city in which we were both working for different clients, and in which neither one lived. I am very logical to the point of stoic, and definitely an NT. Yes, there have been times along the way – particularly in the first two years – that were VERY painful, as I struggled to determine if there was enough there between us to form a lasting relationship (we are both in our 50’s), and he was doing illogical ‘relationship’ things, that taken as a whole proved he wasn’t trustworthy/reliable. But my heart doesn’t get involved – no matter how much its buttons are pushed – if the actions the person takes don’t make sense; if its not logical. My ‘why?” about everything nearly drove him crazy, even to the point of trying to use it for the ‘devaluation’ phase, because if it doesn’t make sense, I don’t do it. So he lacks enough true ‘Character’ to be able to fall in love with him (which is good, or it sounds like my heart would be ripped out). We both have a love of ‘stimulation’ and hate to be bored (I know, unusual for someone as linear as me, but I never had kids or anything that made me ‘grow up’). We are both quite good at things that take a long time to GET good at, as well as owning our own equipment to do so. Water skiing, jet skiis, snow skiing, motorcycles, travel, dancing, kayaking, guns… even roller skating! The list is pretty long, and none of those are things you can fake being good at – we both really ARE good, from years of practice, and well-matched. So we have hung out together all these years, doing periodic adventures together.

    So now fast forward thru that background info, to my question: I don’t feel that he is particularly damaging to me, and I enjoy the things we do together. I have made it clear that I have to see other people to try to find a long-term relationship, and I do. He has always had the high/frequent sexual drive ya’ll mention,and was seeing other women in that sneaky way ya’ll talk about, like since we live in different states/time zones, I’d never know about weekends spent with his local girlfriends/hookups, etc. But I’m really fine with that – like I said, for me there’s acknowledgement of no long term future of a one-on-one relationship with a psychopath because you’ll get destroyed if thats who you try to mate with, so good for him – go do whatever, whenever, with whomever to fight the boredom and satisfy the need for challenge on a more daily basis…

    But as FRIENDS? Can you be lifelong friends, til one or the other finds a reason to get out of the ‘friends with benefits’ relationship, then let it go platonic, but yet still be friends? Does the psychopath find any benefit to having long-term ‘people’ in his/her life, to do things with, or to talk things over with, or is it always just to use them, like someone to split costs with of trips, or having access to 24/7 sex while you’re on the trip (even tho of course he flirts.. and I really don’t care – like I said, we are not long-term relationship material, and i don’t do jealousy, which I think annoys him). And in addition to that, because I AM an NT, and I DO think about damage I might do, is there any way he’s going to get hurt by me if I continue – even tho he knows thats whats going on – when the day comes that I finally find someone and *I* move me into ‘platonic’ relationships with my non-platonic friends like him? Like he IS going to just say, “well, it was nice while it lasted” then be on his way – maybe not even choosing to BE ‘friends you bounce things off of’, because if there’s no sex, he’s not interested… OR, try to get me to be with him even AFTER I find the guy I want to try Long-Term with as a conquest challenge… but still, generally, I think you get the basic question. Like you guys don’t ever actually CARE, so when I move on, given that you may go a month without even talking to me, then say, “Hey! Lets go snow skiing weekend after next!”, ya’ll don’t levitate and spew green gas like Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist’, when I say I moved on, right?

    I should also mention that he’s so proud of ‘never having been married’, that it took me almost 2 years to figure out that he lived with his second baby mama, when he went back to his home state. She calls him ‘Loser!’ and he tries to do things that get under her skin, absolutely. I have heard his daughter in the background say, “I hate it here!” on her way out the door to work, with so little reaction from him that its obvious its a near daily occurrence… so its become an isolated life, even if he’s controlling it. Like ‘King Shit of Turd Mountain’, i suppose.

    And without him knowing, I’ve watched him in titty bars, at bars watching sporting events… even at his own fathers funeral, to peel away the lies and see who’s REALLY in him. What I see is a man with no one there FOR him, or WITH him. YES, I’m sure he’s generally FINE with that – he can move faster, court targets, etc. But is there VALUE to the psychopath having a friend who knows him without the mask, that he can just be who he is around? Do either of you have long-term friendships, where the other person KNOWS you’re a psychopath – even jokes about it with you from time to time – but where the friendship has some sort of a ‘value’ to you? And if so, WHERE is the value proposition to you? If your NT friend finds another relationship and tells you they’ve got to go, do you take it in stride, or think you’ve lost “a possession”, because of the changes that happen to the available relationship aspects (like we quit doing trips and sex between us ends, but we still talk thru family estate cleanup, software consulting challenges, etc)?

    I know he wouldn’t get hurt in the classic, NT way, but still, he’s not stupid. He sees he’s getting older, and feels many of the things Jessica mentioned in a 2014 post about ‘why do anything?’ and trying to be stimulated enough, when NOTHINGS enough. He has expressed some thoughts about growing old alone, and thinking he’d like to get married (I think if he DID, it would be to find someone with alot he could inherit). We’ve both tried to take our common interests, and at least every couple of months go DO something. Yes, of course, he can’t help but gaslight. Try a round of devaluation. I may be kidding myself, but I am fine with the sitch – I just point out when he starts it, that thats what he’s doing. Should he take one of his ‘dont speak to me for a month’ timespans and make it a forever, I’m fine with that too – I’m only concerned with MY side of the street – not doing any damage to him, should I be the one who moves on first. And trying to understand how, unwittingly, I MIGHT, because I want to be sure I take steps to NOT do damage. Ya’ll, it was so telling to see him at his father’s funeral – all the bullshit he told me about fights between siblings, their spouses, fear for how it was going to go, needing security there… you know, the general self-aggrandizement, and puffery that I see thru and I’m pretty sure he knows I do, given that he’s a pathological liar, which we’ve also discussed. But to see a man all alone on one side of the isle, with no one in entire pew, or TWO PEWS behind him, and his ENTIRE FAMILY on the other side, with NO ONE saving him a space between/next to them… and he has 3 brothers and 3 sisters. Well, it was VERY telling about the loneliness, alienation, trauma, etc that he’s caused in his family’s life. And, of course, while he frames the relationships as they’re greedy and only want Dads money, HE’S fighting to be in control of his Dads estate for the exact same reason! Seems to me – and again, I’m an NT – that a person like that could use friends, if there can be a mutually respectful relationship framework. I cannot do his side of that framework, but I can certainly do mine, hence seeking input from ya’ll.

    Sorry for this to get so long – I appreciate all the insight I’ve gotten from both of you in the long and thoughtful posts ya’ll have made over the years, and I just want to make sure that if I assume he has NO feelings for me whatsoever and if I disappeared tomorrow it’d take him a week to figure it out, that its TRUE. I don’t know if ya’ll tend to make crazy, unrealistic assumptions in your heads that aren’t in the least supported by the facts. Or if you think about people often even if you never speak to them (I think it’s “out of sight, out of mind”). Or if subsequent to finding out they moved on – especially if you thought it would never happen – you’d DO anything but just immediately stop speaking to me forever because you got ‘displeased’ when I found another NT that I wanted to try having a long-term relationship with. If so, I’d like to hear your thoughts on it – and any other things I should flat out say to him, so that even if he’s lying to me, he’s hearing my truth, and I don’t unwittingly do anything that would amount to ‘hurt’ for a psychopath.

    Thanks, ya’ll – BT

    • Jessica Kelly says

      I read your comment in full and want to chew on it for a bit. I’ll respond later today or tomorrow when I’m at a computer.

      I will say that my answer that I am mulling is far different than the answer I would have given four years ago. Intrapersonal evolution is the discriminant here.

      • BT says

        Thank you, Jessica. Given that he has no desire to view things any differently that you did 4 years ago, so please take that into consideration. But given that you can see ‘both sides’ – and are considering a foray into friendships of Character yourself – just help me understand how to ‘do the next right thing’, as you can envision it. Dont want to be hurt, dont want to be used, and dont want to hurt or use anyone else.

    • FNP says

      I think PG and myself will have very different responses to this, and I think a lot of the difference comes from the difference in how psychopathic each of us is. I’m fairly high on the spectrum, and afaik, she’s at the low end.

      I can’t see myself being in either your friend or your situation, but I know from personal experience that it might appear to an outside observer that someone is my friend, they’re really nothing more than a source of something I value. Whether it be lunches that I never end up paying for but they never notice, or just someone that can hold a political discussion with me without running away from my less-than-conventional viewpoints, it’s still something that gives me value with very little effort put in from me.

      I also don’t stop collecting information to use against my “friends” just because they move away.

      I’d probably write a longer reply, but I’m currently on a train.

      • BT says

        FNP –

        I’ve pondered your comments for a few days, and I have a ‘why’ question for you, if you know.

        I understand that you’re not able to ‘feel’ most of the happier/lighter human emotions (love, gratitude, appreciation, etc), or the empathy ones (guilt, remorse, shame, sorrow for someone’s loss of family/friends/pets), but do you have any opinion why psychopaths gravitate toward mean/painful actions rather than kind/thoughtful ones?

        I mean, you can see an NT for who they are, better than the NT’s own family.

        You can mask yourself to be anything – an awesome ‘too good to be true’ relationship partner, all the way to a sadistic SOB.

        So why is it that it makes you …’feel’… better – that you enjoy it more – when the other person is suffering, or confused, or expressing consternation, or in tears and raising Hell at you for something you’ve done/said, than it is to see them laughing, cutting up with you, being playful, and having fun?

        Or is it that you’d LIKE the latter, but the investment of energy is too much, so you just do nothing and the relationships’ entropy RESULTS in the sadness, tears, hard words, etc?

        Been trying to understand that, because I get the ‘honeymoon’ part where the psychopath is putting in ALOT of ‘game on’ energy out which they enjoy because the ‘hunt’ is on and they’re succeeding wildly at making the other person happy, so they’re ‘winning’. The NT is having what the NT thinks is a great relationship, but what the psychopath KNOWS is ‘setting the hook’ for what comes next, so the psychopath knows they’re not going to do the output for long, and for the time they’re doing it they don’t mind, because its part of the game.

        But WHY is there more joy in watching a person be confused/unhappy/troubled over the vast majority of the relationship duration, than in watching them be happy/content? Do happy people give you less of the ‘value’ you want out of them? Is it too wearing to put out ‘positive’ energy that makes someone happy, but it’s fun and therefore easy to do things that you know will be confusing/baffling to the NT so its playing with them, like a cat and a mouse? is there something thats more enjoyable about tearing someone down, rather than everyone doing well simultaneously? Like, do you feel less in control if everyone is happy/content, or that you’re not getting all of the energy you want unless you’re the only one who’s happy, and so much energy has been sucked out of everyone else that whats left cant be happy?

        Does it have to do with control? internal anger/rage? some sort of looking down on the NT? I just can’t figure it out, because they seem to require about the same amount of energy, but in one case you have someone pouring energy into you because they’re happy, and in the other you have someone who’s got less energy to pour into you because they’re rarely happy. So how much of the time are YOU enjoying any given relationship, unless you enjoy seeing misery (which is possible – I guess that’s part of the answer)?

        Thank you again for your candor and introspection as you have time.

        BT

        • FNP says

          Regarding gravitation toward actions you see as mean or painful to others, I’m quite sure that it’s typically easier to intimidate than to cosy up to someone, especially if you don’t really give a shit what happens to them after you’re out of the room. Personally, I’m quite sadistic and take pleasure in utterly destroying people. It’s really quite the rush to know you hold the power to turn someone into anything you want them to be just by pushing the right buttons.

          I think one of the things you’re failing to understand here is that I have absolutely no interest in any kind of relationship with people. I use them until I’m done with them, and discard them (often burning the bridge as best as I can in the process).

          I don’t spend energy on making people happy. It’s not worth it, as I don’t get anything out of them being happy. I don’t derive satisfaction from happy people.

          When I do something, it’s typically about power more than anything. I don’t especially care about control, and anger/rage lead to a very different end, which is why I don’t let my anger surface unless there’s no other choice.

    • Jessica Kelly says

      Sorry for the delay, the priority I place on this website is low these days – though I *do* read all commentary.

      The psychology of a psychopath is fairly simple at its root. Take some narcissism and sprinkle some antisocial behavior on top so that the narcissist can feed themselves by any means necessary and voila, you have a psychopath. Yes, there is more to it, dealing with an insatiable boredom, lack of realistic goals, and other nuances, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s just take the overly simplistic description I provide above.

      Narcissists come in various varieties, but at their core, they need masturbatory ego massaging and will turn to others when their own means are insufficient. I do not believe that an unchecked narcissist can form meaningful bonds with other people. They lack the mechanisms needed to create these bonds, and even if they did, a bond distributes energy among 2+ people when the narcissist needs as much energy focused on themselves as possible.

      So what does this have to do with psychopathy? Well, if you can’t have a bond with a narcissist that is not actively trying to create harm, then how would you have a bond with one that can actively resort to underhanded and unsavory tactics with others? Simply put, you can’t. Maybe you want it, but odds are they don’t. Now, that said, if they end up do wanting bonds, then that’s another story, and constant attempts to mold a neuroplastic mind can result in a trajectory much more similar to mine than to FNP’s, for instance. There is no value-judgement in that statement, but I’m a bit less optimistic, four years later, than I was in the beginning when it comes to the capabilities of others.

      So, where does this leave you? You can a) take what you’ve got and leave it well enough alone, b) let go, or c) have a conversation with your psychopathic acquaintance about your expectations for the acquaintanceship – not unlike any similar discussion two NTs would have. In a), you are probably a potted plant – nice to have around but requiring only the minimum of care and upkeep. In b), you are out of an acquaintanceship that seemingly provided some moments of pleasure or satisfaction. Lastly, in c), you risk the usual awkwardness that such a conversation brings between two individuals with the added specter of an unpredictable psychopath getting nonplussed with the whole thing. Ultimately, I have no recommendation here as your needs are yours alone.

      Psychopaths have their place in society. Narcissists have theirs as well. However, no one owes them anything. Of course, a psychopath may have needs that they have trouble articulating or fears that prevent them from interacting with another in some way constructive for getting something they want. Interpersonal psychology still comes into play. That said, I’ve seen enough vignettes from others over the years that never do break the mold. My take only anything involving psychopathy in 2017 is to assume that one is irredeemable. Or, rather that there is no meaningful possibility of change. Whether such a position and place in life (of the psychopath) is truly irredeemable or just different, that’s another story.

      Maybe I’m wrong. I certainly do not know you or your acquaintance, and individuals are still individuals with all of the promise that brings, but they are also suspect to their wiring. Our free will is precious yet limited.

      —-

      As an aside, this comment is not meant to invoke pity nor reassurance. Psychopaths should not be pitied. My writings and misguided belief that they could enact change, is not to be pitied. This is all merely a continuation of a conversation that never ends. As such, everyone controls their own destiny, even if the overall narrative is etched in stone.

  3. Morty says

    Just curious, have you ever done drugs? Including drinking alcohol. I think the only point of life we can work to achieve is to experience everything. Both good and bad feelings. If you don’t experience everything then you are just missing out, and I think this applies to a lot of drugs.

    I would consider myself to be bordering on psychopathy, but I am only 19. I have an obsessive personality and managed to get mentally addicted to drugs but I think it is easily possible to do most drugs without addiction, if you are smart.

    • FNP says

      I personally don’t touch drugs and only very rarely do I have a drink, but it’s more related to my political philosophy than anything else.

      Though I do get very easily addicted to other things (blood porn, I’m looking at you), so I do know that I would get addicted if I ever decided that having no money and no job was a good way to achieve my goals.

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