I spent this past weekend exploring a town that I was considering moving to. I was going to move there with an acquaintance in the hopes that a change in scenery would alleviate the wanderlust and eternal ennui that I possess. The city did not resonate with me for many reasons, but I bring this up because of one particular incident that happened on the trip. My acquaintance and I were exploring various housing options when we came to the conclusion that most “nice” places to live were outside of our budget. Having looked at some more affordable options, we visited on a suburb that was a bit unkempt but not too bad. After we looked at the property, my acquaintance burst into tears, lamenting the lack of luxury that the property in question had. I was immediately put off. How can I expect to associate with someone that needs emotional support from me when the going gets tough? The short answer is that I can’t.
I’m presently reading Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. I’ll have further insights once I am finished with it, but for the moment I am still working through the introductory chapters. Having blunted – though, still present – emotions of my own and formal training in mathematics and computer science has left me with a void when it comes to truly understanding emotive processes. My rational mind will always trump my emotional mind, but I am curious as to the mechanisms that I am, more or less, missing out on.
Goleman does a satisfactory job of describing the evolutionary reasons behind humans’ emotive states. Fear leads to mechanisms that allow for quicker retreat. Anger allows one, also through biomechanics, to strike harder and faster in a retributive fashion. Love allows for self-sacrifice in order to ensure the survival of one’s children, thus passing the parents’ genes far into the future. All of this makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. So, then, what exactly am I missing out on? I’ve written that I feel that I am not missing out on anything, but upon further introspection, that may not be quite right.
Many neurotypical readers over the past year have pointed out how emotionless my written words are. My life has been a sordid one at times and, of course, my writing focuses on the nature of psychopathy. That said, I do not wish to mislead the reader. Maybe it is my shallow affect or maybe it is my inability to feel guilt or remorse, but I simply do not have an emotional state when reflecting upon my life and the role that psychopathy has played in it.
Yes, the occasional antisocial act will bring a smile to my face for a brief moment, but as I distance myself temporally from the event, I lose all sense of “pride” in my actions. I especially do not feel sadness nor remorse regarding my sins. I am simply stoic regarding it all. We will see later that many psychopaths can exhibit a sort of smugness regarding criminality, but in general, it seems that many or most of us simply cannot dredge the waters for emotion regarding that which we’ve done.
Most psychopaths have a very shallow affect. That is, our emotions tend to be shallow in general. They are also short-lived. Now, that said, the presence of other personality disorders, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, can cause this criterion of psychopathy to become somewhat muddy. It can also be difficult to tease the shallow affect of psychopathy from our inability to feel affective empathy or guilt and remorse.
When my mother was in critical condition a few days ago, I did not feel sadness, despair, or any other emotions that most neurotypicals would have when presented with the real possibility of losing a loved one. I was completely stoic except for the adrenaline rush caused by the intellectual realization that a high-stakes game was unfolding before me. My therapist is often stunned by the lack of emotion that I present in session. We talk of my many accomplishments, both saintly and sinful, and there is nothing but stoicism as the words recounting such pour from my mouth. In my writing, I try to avoid any portrayal of emotion as it would be false. There is simply nothing – usually – there.
I have been taking estrogen for over six years now. I often wonder if I made the best decision with acting on instinct, but seeing the world from the eyes of both dominant genders has given me insight into the nature of masking that I would have not had without such a journey.
I’ve also had insight from HRT regarding the interaction of biology and personality. Whether I like it or not, sex hormones have affected my thinking at times, be it from the increased aggression that came with testosterone or the illogical mood swings brought on by my first experiences with estrogen. Neither hormone brought empathy or compassion, however.