That’s Acting

I am always shocked when I remember that Charlton Heston, the star of two of the most liberal movies ever made, the original Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green, went on to become the poster child for what I believe to be the most conservative, warped and corrupt organization in America: The National Rifle Association. I mean, how do you promote one belief system and yet espouse another? I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Bill Cosby also springs to mind. On screen he was the quintessential family man. That was his brand. But in reality he was a sexual predator. The moral tension between what you do and who you are in these situations must be exhausting, unless you’re a psychopath.

But actors aren’t the only ones who act. Diplomats definitely have to do it, as do politicians, if they hope for any type of occupational success. Lawyers, too, along with every director of a human resource department on the face of the earth.

How do you people sleep at night? I would be up at all hours, trying to reconcile the dichotomy of my life. I can’t even stand it when someone within my orbit behaves like that. I can’t abide fake people. I think they’re evil.

Unfortunately, we need diplomats and politicians and lawyers and personnel directors. I suppose I should be happy that there are people out there who are willing to act. I would hate to take on those dirty jobs myself.

So, if you are devoid of integrity, never fear. There’s a place in this crazy world for you, too.

Charleton Heston

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My Response to Search Queries

One of the great features that I get to take advantage of because my blog is on WordPress is the “search engine terms” feature. It lets me know what questions or phrases people have used to find one of my blog posts. (Never fear, it doesn’t tell me who is searching for what or even when, so if you recognize yourself below, rest assured that I do not.)

Can I just say that there are a lot of strange people in cyberspace? Some of them are so odd, in fact, that I feel the undeniable urge to interact with them. I’ve done a post like this before. But new levels of bizarre seem to have cropped up, so I thought it was time for another one.

What follows are honest to God search engine terms in bold, my response to them, and links to the blog posts these queries probably came up with.

  • Can psychopaths have friends? Actually, I’ve gotten many queries along these lines, and they never fail to make me sad. Yes, I used to have a friend who was a psychopath, for many, many years. I thought she was my friend, but was I hers? In retrospect, no. I must have served a purpose for a good long while, but as soon as I stopped serving that purpose, as soon as I started pushing beyond the boundaries that she established, it was over.

    If you’re making this query, dear reader, my first instinct is to tell you to find a better friend. Psychopaths, by their very nature, cannot and do not truly care about you. You deserve more. Set your sights higher. See also: My Friend the Psychopath.

  • Is it bad to change your favorite color? Well, I’ve done it. And the world didn’t come to an end. So I’d say no. A better question might be, “Why do I care if it’s bad to change my favorite color?” See also: Changing My Favorite Color.

  • Gas gauge empty pee, gas gauge montana pee. Okay, there’s a story behind this query. There has to be. And I’d love to hear it. But it probably sent you to a post about my trip through Montana when I was moving from Florida to Seattle.

  • Can you get addicted to acupuncture? Yes, I once wrote a blog post called Addicted to Acupuncture, but I didn’t mean literal addiction. I just liked the way that title rolled off my tongue. I apologize if this caused any confusion. I absolutely love acupuncture and highly recommend it. I can’t imagine how an actual addiction would be possible under these circumstances, but then, I’m no doctor.

  • Where are the best location for the drawbridge and why? Er… over a river? Where you need a lower bridge but taller vessels must still transit the waterway? I’m really not sure what you’re getting at, and I doubt any posts of mine were much help. This one must have just sent you to my blog in general. I hope someone was able to answer your question for you.

  • Why is he picking a fight with me? I have no idea. If he does it often, though, you may want to move on. This kind of thing can go downhill quickly. Take care of you. Good luck. See also: How to Become a Battered Woman.

  • Why are drawbridges so scary? I am sorry you feel that way. You’re not alone, though. I’m sad to say that quite a few people are frightened by them.

    The most common reason I’ve heard is that when you’re going across them, you can feel them move and bounce. But trust me, you do NOT want a rigid bridge. Rigid bridges can lead to disaster. We learned this with Tacoma’s Galloping Gertie. You really do want a bridge to be able to move and flex within reason, so it can adjust to shifting weights and winds and temperatures. If you don’t allow for that, the bridge will find a way, just like Gertie did.

    Other people are afraid of the open grating that many bridges have, as opposed to solid asphalt or concrete. This is to reduce weight and wind drag when they are up in the air. I used to be afraid of these grates, too, but trust me, they will support your weight. Buses and semi trucks cross over them all the time. If they can support that, they can hold up your car, your bike, and/or you. Just don’t look down. You’ll be okay.

    Other people are afraid that the bridge will open up while they are crossing it. There are a whole lot of safety systems in place that you aren’t aware of to prevent that. And most bridgetenders take their jobs very seriously. Do people get hurt on drawbridges? Yes, it happens. You can do a lot of very common sense things to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. First of all, DO NOT wear headphones or ear buds when crossing a drawbridge. You want to be able to hear the warning gongs that signal that a bridge is about to open. And if you see a red light, stop. If you see a gate go down, do not try to run past it or crawl under it.

    I’m sorry you are stressing out over this. I just suggest you stay safely outside the gates when a bridge is opening and enjoy the show! If you allow yourself to become fascinated with drawbridges, they won’t seem nearly as scary.

    This is another query that probably just sent you to my blog in general, but I’d also like to invite you to join my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook Page.

  • Construction man cement porn. Okay, I have no freakin’ clue why this brought you to me. And I’m not sure I want you to stay. Maybe you stumbled upon my post about Gender Specific Jobs? I don’t know. But I’m kind of worried about you.

  • Drawbridge jokes. If you know any, I’d sure love to hear them. But I got nothin’. Something about this job having its ups and downs? Yeah. I’ve never heard that one before.

  • Weird face. I sure hope this didn’t bring you to me because of my face. That would be crushing. But perhaps you stumbled upon my post about Uncanny Valley. That one has some weird pictures. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

  • How to hate alcohol. It just so happens that Why I Hate Alcohol is one of my most visited posts by far. It seems that there are quite a few people out there who hate it, and for very good reason. I think if everyone did, the world would be a much nicer place.

    Unfortunately, there’s no one who will be able to convince you not to like alcohol if you do, in fact, like it. The fact that you’re making this query leads me to believe you are ready to make a change, though. I wish you the best of luck.

  • Anorexic women with breast implants. Okay, I did write a post about Valeria Lukyanova who is the poster child for this. But I hope you didn’t just go there to “admire” the picture of her. My post was a cautionary tale. This woman is not healthy, and I hope you don’t want to emulate her.

  • Hoop skirt pee, and/or six inch heels. I wrote about the first topic because I was genuinely curious about how this maneuver was pulled off. But it seems to have drawn quite a few fetishists to my blog. I’m quite sure they leave very disappointed. And I think the photograph of the heels in another post (in which I was trying to explain how self-destructive humans can be) is the most viewed photo in my whole blog. That kind of makes me sad, because the post is informative, but I bet it’s rarely read. I wasn’t really trying to please pervs. Oh well.

  • Graffiti is like dogs peeing on lamp posts. I do tend to agree. But I have to say, some graffiti definitely approaches the level of art. And I think I said as much in my post entitled Sliz. It’s a shame these artists choose to destroy other people’s property instead of using their power for good.

So welcome to my blog, you fascinating, quirky people! Hope you’ll come back soon.

Welcome

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Adult Bullies

The psychiatric community does not like to place the label of psychopath on children. I suppose that is understandable, because there’s no known cure for psychopathy, and if you get that diagnosis wrong, you could drastically damage that child’s life. No one wants to give up on a child. But the theory is that one percent of the population is psychopathic, and the current thinking appears to be that this is not a trait that you suddenly acquire one day like a new pair of shoes. You are born with it. So it stands to reason that one percent of all children are psychopathic as well.

Most psychopaths do not turn into violent serial killers. Many of them are quite successful in business and relatively functional members of society. A lot of that has to do with their upbringing. Put a psychopathic child in a warped and abusive family, and you might get a murderer. But put him or her in a healthy, loving environment, and chances are you’ll get someone who can at least pass as being a normal person much of the time.

When children behave badly, it’s their parents who are usually blamed, or lack of education, or inadequate role models. The assumption is that their behavior can change if these factors are altered. But when an adult is violent or cruel, those excuses, as far as I’m concerned, only go so far. Adults, you see, should know better.

I’ve known my fair share of despicable adults. Many of them have had horrible childhoods. But after a certain point, one ought to be able to put on one’s big boy pants and take responsibility for one’s actions. If you are incapable of doing that, then there’s a good chance you have psychopathic tendencies.

I’ve known people who were 65 years old and were still bullies. They delighted in making life a living hell for those around them. They were cruel, hostile, aggressive, and completely devoid of compassion. If you’ve functioned like that for decades, that’s not some mere character flaw, that’s a lifestyle.

Speaking from painful experience, people like that are not going to change, and your best defense against them is to avoid contact as much as possible. Woe betide you if you have to work with this type of individual. If your human resources department thinks that these negative traits can be reversed with some sort of communications or anger management training, they will be sadly mistaken. If they don’t have the courage to cut these people out of the company like a cancerous tumor, then your only hope, unfortunately, is to try and outlast them with your sanity intact, or move on.

Yes, I know, it should be
Yes, I know, it should be “than”, not “then”. I didn’t make the meme.

The Life Penalty

As sick as I am right now with the head cold from hell, death sounds very appealing to me. Please put me out of my misery. Please. Sure, I know that in a few days (God willing) I’ll be feeling better and my attitude will change. But right now, I’d dearly love to shuffle off this mortal coil, wrapped in flannel and wearing bunny slippers.

That’s also how people who are suicidal feel. At a time when every single aspect of their lives feels totally out of their control, their mortality, or lack thereof, may seem like the only choice they have left. That’s a short-sighted view and one I disagree with, but there you have it.

Call me crazy if you like (and a lot of people do) but I am completely opposed to the death penalty. Not for moral reasons, although there are many of those. Not for financial reasons, although there are tons of stats out there that show that it costs more to put a human being down than it does to lock them up and throw away the key.

No. The reason I oppose the death penalty is that dying is easy. Life is what’s hard. Especially a life behind bars without the possibility of parole. That’s why people refer to death as being taken out of their misery in the first place.

Most murderers and serial rapists and the like are all about dominance and control. Putting them in a situation for the rest of their lives in which they don’t have control over anything would be hell on earth for them. They are also usually under the impression that they are the smartest people in the room, and now they’ll be surrounded by fellow idiots. Torture. Imagine being condemned to a life with no future, full of boredom, frustration, hostility, violence, ignorance and helplessness. I can think of no more apt punishment for a psychopath.

I know that the families of victims often think that the death of the perpetrator will bring closure to them. I can’t even pretend to understand what they are going through. But I will say that I used to long for the death of my abusive stepfather, and when he finally obliged me, I felt… nothing. Nothing at all. The damage still had been done. Death will not negate the atrocity that was visited upon you. Death cannot bring your loved one back. Nothing can do that.

I could talk about the racial disparities that are related to the death penalty. I could discuss how it has been proven not to be any type of deterrent. I could blather on about how people have been put to death and then have been found to be wrongly accused, which makes murderers of us all. You can get plenty of information about these things on other web pages. But what I will tell you is that if revenge is your thing, then death isn’t the worst punishment. Life with no freedom and no potential for joy is.

Life Penalty

[Image credit: seattletimes.com]

Attack of the Lizard People

If you read anything about psychopathy or watch documentaries on the subject, you quickly learn that contrary to popular belief, most of them are not serial killers. In fact, they comprise about 1 percent of the population. They walk among us.

According to the article “Psychopaths: how can you spot one?” by Tom Chivers in The Telegraph, the common traits of a psychopath are:

“Glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control, behavioural problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behaviour.”

In the past I’ve been taken in by people that have many of these traits. Just read any of my blog entries about Andy Johnson or My Friend the Psychopath and you’ll see what I mean. I have to admit that I really do tend to have a hard time accepting the fact that people can take genuine delight in ruining someone’s life, or that they can know right from wrong and yet not care. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of them until they prove me wrong, and by that point it’s often too late. The damage has been done.

So to help me be a little more self-protective, I now think of psychopaths as human lizards. And they’re not just the cute little lizards you might find in your back yard sunning themselves on the garden wall. They have no emotions. They are predatory and highly focused on getting what they want.

They are the Komodo dragons of lizards. They’ll eat you if given half the chance. And most importantly, they are never going to change. Their brains are just not wired normally. Once you start looking at them through that lens, it’s much easier to avoid their manipulations.

I got to observe one of these people close up many, many, many years ago. I worked with a guy who gave me the creeps. I could never quite figure out why. I just knew I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side. Maybe it was the smug look he’d get on his face when he thought no one was watching. Like he was a fox among the chickens. Thank goodness he never focused on me. He was too busy ruining the lives of his family.

His wife had a baby boy and named it after him. Let’s call the kid John Doe Junior for the purposes of this story. Right after he was born, John Senior came home and told his wife that not only was he having an affair, but the woman was pregnant. The next day he brought home a trailer, put it in the back yard, and had the pregnant girlfriend move in. When she had the child, it was a boy. And what did he name the kid? John Doe Junior. Who does all that? A cold, unfeeling lizard who does not care who he hurts.

Psychopaths can be your friends, family members, neighbors or bosses. You could even be married to one. It’s important to be aware of how they operate so you can avoid being the person that they choose to operate on. Beware of the lizard people.

dragon-komodo-komodo-indo-ar-594

[Image credit: thedictionaryprojectblog.com]

Mental Illness and the Internet

Sometimes I really think that cyberspace is not the healthiest place to be. Every once in a while I encounter someone who is clearly in need of help, and since I’m not a mental health professional I am definitely not the go-to girl in situations of this nature.

Generally all I can do is the same thing I do when I encounter a rattlesnake in the bush: calmly and gingerly step back to a safe distance and then run like hell. In the digital world that means block, delete, ignore until they get bored and go away, whatever it takes to take myself out of that person’s realm.

The other day I was visiting a Facebook page that celebrates a certain breed of dog, and a lady posted about her guilt and anguish that her beloved dog had just gotten hit by a car. We were all saying things along the lines of, “I’m so sorry for your loss” as you do, when two different nut jobs chime in that she was careless, it was all her fault, and that she shouldn’t get another dog because she was utterly irresponsible.

This, without knowing the whole story. This, at the most inappropriate moment someone with even a modicum of tact could possibly conceive. But there you go. And it did, in fact, turn out to be an unavoidable accident that could not be prevented, even by a very loving pet owner. This was a tragedy that was definitely not made lighter by two people with borderline personality disorders who were incapable of keeping their mouths shut.

In the virtual world of Second Life, I’ve met quite a few amazing, wonderful people who will be friends for life, but I’ve also met my fair share of pathological liars who are only in there to manipulate people and see how much emotional damage they can cause. It seems to be a playground for sociopaths who want to experiment in ways they could never get away with in the real world.

And I’ve also encountered a few crazies on this blog. A psychopath once told me that a mass murderer I had mentioned should actually be celebrated for his acts as he had done the world a great service. My blood ran cold with that one.

And once or twice I’ve made the mistake of disagreeing with a narcissist and the response I’ve gotten was epic and totally out of proportion to my statement. Narcissists love to blog, and love to read other people’s blogs so that they can point out their many flaws and therefore feel, for a brief shining moment, intellectually superior. Their blogs are generally self-absorbed, irrational and easy to dismantle, but for the love of God, don’t do it, even with the most helpful intentions, or you will risk their wrath. It’s a very fragile bubble in which these people live.

Of course, most bloggers are fine, stable people who are writing to explore the world and its intricacies or to put forth new perspectives without forcing them upon anyone, or they simply want to share opinions or entertain. When you cross over to the dark side, I believe, is when your blog becomes, “All you people are idiots! Here’s the unfounded truth!” Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Cyberspace is also the hunting ground for stalkers, bullies, and people with every form of sexual disorder. To dwell in all things digital is to realize that there is a lot of sickness in this world. Tread carefully, dear readers.

I’d like to think, though, that in some circumstances being in here can be a healing experience. One can make friends and build up an emotional support group that will shore you up against waves of depression. It may also allow agoraphobics or those who are socially awkward to interact with the wider world. It can inform and it can make you feel less alone.

Perhaps the internet is the universe’s way of teaching us that we need to be more self-protective and set up very clearly defined boundaries. But every now and then I must admit that I prefer the sanctuary of a good book or the comfort of a real life, in-the-flesh hug.

Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_edited

Narcissus by Caravaggio

My Friend the Psychopath

Recently I saw an interview with a psychologist. I wish I could remember her name so I could give her due credit, but after hearing what she had to say it was like someone had poured a bucket of ice water over me, so I hope I can be forgiven if her name escapes me.

She was discussing psychopathy. When most people imagine a psychopath, “serial killer” is what springs to mind. That’s not necessarily incorrect. The vast majority of serial killers are indeed psychopaths. But the concept that this psychologist put forth, the one that hit me like a very large brick, is that you can be a psychopath without being a killer. You don’t even have to be violent. She stated that 1 percent of the general population is psychopathic, and many of them are quite functional within society. In fact, in some ways having this disorder can set you up for a certain level of success. When a psychopath says “It’s not personal, it’s business,” he’s not kidding. Not even a little bit.

Please realize that I’m not a mental health professional, but from what I’m reading, psychopathy consists of several traits. The main indicators of this disorder are antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and poor self-control. If you want more details, I suggest you take the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale.

Psychopaths can be very charming, cunning and manipulative, and are often pathological liars. They demonstrate a shortage of empathy and fail to accept responsibility for their own actions. They are easily bored and often impulsive. They also have a hard time maintaining relationships, and can be sexually promiscuous. There’s a good chance you know a psychopath. I actually think I may know a couple of them.

That’s what gave me the chills. When this mental health professional was discussing the various traits of a psychopath, I immediately thought of someone whom I had considered to be my best friend for over 20 years. I still have fond memories of her, frankly, but there were always these strange little red flags that I ignored for as long as I could, until one day I was overwhelmed by the enormity of, well, her brand of reality, I suppose. None of these things, individually, scream certifiable nutcase, mind you, but when you add them all up, the picture painted is not a pretty one.

  • One time we were talking on the phone and I hit my head on something and began bleeding profusely. I mentioned that fact and she didn’t even pause in her conversation. She didn’t ask if I was all right. It was as if it hadn’t happened. I even remember asking if she cared, and she laughed it off.
  • As long as I knew her, she never had pets, and absolutely hated mine.
  • She would do impulsive things like buy plane tickets on a day’s notice even though she couldn’t afford them.
  • None of her relationships ever lasted, and THEY were always the crazy ones, according to her. It sort of became a running joke between us. I used to tell her she needed to figure out why she was attracted to lunatics.
  • Long after she broke up with people she would insert herself into their lives again, often creating a great deal of havoc and confusion. It kind of reminded me of a cat batting a mouse around until it finally died.
  • She treated waitresses and shop clerks like they were garbage.
  • She used to see a therapist, but she delighted in lying to her. That seemed counterproductive to me at the time, but now it makes sense.
  • At one point she worked in Washington DC, and said she liked it there because all people cared about was the pursuit of power.
  • When we were in college together there was one class that I was struggling with. She had taken the class already, so she helped me study for the mid term. Thanks to her help, I got an A on it. She promised me she’d help me study for the final, and I was counting on it. We discussed it often. At the last minute she said she didn’t feel like coming over. I did so poorly on the final that I got a C for the semester. I had a 4.0 grade point average up until that point. What struck me about that situation was that she didn’t even feel the need to make up an excuse. She didn’t feel like it, and that was that. And she felt no remorse about it, even when I told her how much it hurt me.
  • She once told me about a time when she and one of her boyfriends played Russian roulette. They took turns holding the gun to each other’s head and pulling the trigger, because, she said, they “wanted to see what it would feel like.” Seriously, who does that?
  • One time she came to visit me and we had a full day planned. About half way through I told her I wasn’t feeling well. (It turned out to be heat exhaustion.) But she insisted that we keep going, and I did until I turned purple and started vomiting. Again, she acted as if nothing at all had happened. In fact, she took a picture of me all bloated and in tears. It was weird.
  • Toward the end of our friendship, she admitted to me that when she was younger she used to beat her little sister with a metal hanger. Just because she could. That horrified me.
  • She would sometimes get “interested” in things to an extreme degree. Like religion. But it always seemed forced, like she was trying on various masks to see which one would make her more acceptable to society.

The final straw, though, was when I was planning a trip to her side of the country, and told her I’d like to stay with her for a day or two while I was there. I thought she’d be as excited as I always was when she came to visit me. But she said I couldn’t stay with her because she wouldn’t trust me in her house. After 23 years. Suddenly I had a rare moment of clarity. When we would see each other, it was always her coming to me. I thought it was simply because she always earned much more money than I did. But all along it was a trust issue and I had never realized it. That, combined with all of the above, was the death knell of our friendship. I was done.

It took me a long time to get over the fact that I had been an utter fool for so many years. Why was I ever friends with her in the first place? Good question. I must say there were just as many good times as there were bad. She has that psychopathic charm, for sure. And when you couple that with my amazing ability to overlook things that I would rather not see, and my intense desire to think the best of people whether they deserve it or not, you get rather a toxic cocktail.

I had finally gotten past the point where I was licking my wounds on a daily basis when suddenly one day I received a letter from her. In it was a ticket to hear her be the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony at our alma mater. I was, frankly, stunned. But then I realized that that was her pattern: she was attempting to insert herself back into my life after causing me so much pain. But this was one mouse that that cat was not going to play with anymore. I didn’t go, and I sent her an e-mail after the fact explaining exactly why not, and telling her that if she had even the slightest regard for me she would never make contact again.

It’s been 5 years and so far she has respected my wishes. But every once in a while I think about her out there, uncaring, unfeeling, and completely devoid of compassion and the hair on the back of my neck stands straight up.

And what’s even scarier is that I can think of a few other people in my life who show symptoms of this disorder, albeit to a lesser degree. I have a relative who delights in discovering a person’s weakness, saving that information until such time as that person is in a moment of conflict with her, and then when you least expect it, she uses that weakness to eviscerate you verbally. Many’s the time when I’ve looked down to see my emotional entrails scattered about her feet, and looked back up to see a look of triumph in her eyes.

And then there’s the coworker who just walked in the door as I was typing this who…oh lord, I can’t think about it. My goose bumps might arouse his killer instinct.

Once you start looking at people through the lens of potential psychopathy, you begin to feel as if you sometimes have to whistle your way past a junkyard dog.

psycho

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