UCWG 023: Can Your Empathy Be Rational? Deconstructing Sociopaths and the False Dichotomy of Intellect and Emotion.

The guest today is a self-professed sociopath who believes that the more self-aware you are, the fewer emotions you feel. He claims that almost everyone with an IQ over 140 will have symptoms of an antisocial disorder like sociopathy. Sociopaths are superior because they have greater awareness of their emotions. Psychopaths are inferior because they are slaves to their emotions. A psychopath’s emotions are defined by violence and destruction. That is how they achieve ecstasy.

There is a difference between being unable to feel something and simply not finding it useful. Generals in wartime have somehow recalibrated their emotions to justify the killing of soldiers. People who think they rely entirely on reason to dictate their actions fail to see the reason behind their most powerful emotions. Reason only matters when you’ve defined a goal. Change your goal and the validity of your actions changes too.

Emotions are not social constructs. They are not imaginary, counterproductive, or unimportant. What matters is how we calibrate them to external events. Just because we can be conditioned to believe something does not necessarily mean that thing is wrong. Just because something is a social construct, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective or important. Morality is just how well you understand the rules of engagement of the society you happen to be participating in.

Maturity requires us to understand the larger, long-term impact of our actions, like a toddler learns object permanence as it develops. It requires admitting that your life is more than how easy it is for you to experience pleasure. It is the impact you have on your environment and the people around you.

The logical outcome of empathy is intertwining your concept of happiness with that of another person. Sometimes only great trauma can bring us to the point of breakthrough to rapid personal evolution.

What would have to happen for you to bring empathy into your life as a valuable tool?

Do you feel genuinely happy for other people in any context?

Are you afraid to adopt all possible emotional tools into your toolbox?

Deep empathy is overwhelming.

The great task that awaits the individual who becomes secure in his identity… is to share that identity with others. You need to know with every bit of who you are that you are not alone in the world. Consider deeply, for a moment, what that implies about how you interact with other people.

One of the hardest things in the world for exceptional people to accept is that the average human will never share their values. The fact that you pursue excellence does not mean you can expect others to. To hold this expectation is profoundly arrogant. It means you have not learned true empathy, for you cannot see other people as individual beings separate from you.

It is a major emotional milestone to see other people as conscious entities, each experiencing their subjective reality in the shared space of absolute truth. We all begin life somewhat sociopathic, first developing only awareness of our own needs. Then, slowly, we realize the beings around us must also think, feel, and experience in a similar manner to how we do.

Ordinary people only ever empathize in a limited fashion. They acknowledge other people for the role they play as particular social conveniences. The cashier takes your money. The doctor heals you. Your friends entertain you. Your companion loves you. That is the only space you allow them unless you expand your capacity for empathy. The goal is to see people as close as possible to how they truly are, beyond the biases of your specific human psyche.

It takes practice. It may even hurt. You can develop your empathy any time you interact with another person, no matter your prior relationship. The point is to move beyond existing knowledge. It is to forget the limited scope through which you categorize the people you know. Your closest friends are equal to complete strangers when you can see everyone in a neutral way. They don’t change. Only you do, because you look past the little nodes of information that nail down an interpreted version of the truth as fact.

Look at someone you know well. Look inward to yourself. Watch as your mind flickers into action. At first, the story you already know will flash before you. If you are sharp in attention, you will see that it is only a story. However, without sharp, focused awareness, you won’t even perceive the story, as it is so unconscious and familiar to you. Both you and the object of your awareness become victims to the story. Neither of you ever questions the accepted narrative, and fictions become a reality.

Clarity is the most valuable gift you can give to others. You can be strong enough to look at them with new eyes, even when they cannot see themselves as more than what they think they are. Imagine their complete inward experience in every moment. Dive into their heads and examine the familiar world with the associations they have acquired. When you can understand another person’s personal biases completely, you can simulate their thoughts and feelings. You can predict their actions. You will know what conclusions they will reach before they do. Empathy can be overwhelming because you will finally start to see how someone who is not you experiences the world under different operating conditions. You will see things beyond your automated reactions. Deep empathy is intense.

Empathy does not mean you have to agree with another person’s value judgments. It only means that you must be willing to hold them in your mind for a time, so you can see how they affect their reality. You can do this with anything, even the ideas you utterly resist. You do not have to become a murderer to envision what it is like to internally justify murder. You do not have to enjoy watching sports to see what someone else gets from the experience. All human states are available to you when you open your empathy to them. You can take the lessons they give you and move on with your life, now with greater perspective over why you act the way you do. Without alternatives, no choice can be said ever really to have been made at all.

UCWG 019: Are You Accountable for Your Subjective Preferences? Identifying and Living Out Your Principles.

Today’s guest, Rolf from Germany, is a strategic consultant for expensive professional problems. Ironically, he does not trust his own subjective evaluation on some of life’s most important topics, such as the worth of specific human lives. He states that he would rather flip a coin on certain life and death situations that be the one to make important decisions and live with the consequences. Yet, in other more menial areas he has no qualm about choosing and standing by his decisions.

In the political domain people frequently use words like “human rights” to defer responsibility away from their opinions and acting as though their preference were a natural law. Thus, nearly everyone is constantly at odds with everyone else about their idea of the natural order of things, and conflicts go forever unresolved. If instead they could own their statements as merely their own preferences, a common solution would become more obvious and available to everyone seeking something different.

Accuracy is not always the same thing as utility. A high-functioning person must willingly adopt accuracy as his goal if truth is to become his useful ally. They must look beyond momentary and emotionally gratifying base level actions like lust and gluttony. Rolf uses the philosophy of the free masons as his principal philosophical toolkit for determining truth and his own values. The root of order lies in changing the map or toolkit that people use to conceptualize reality.

The fact that you think a thing important does not make it objectively so. It is often not practical to seek accuracy and truth in all things. You can always choose not to choose. Your preference can be to exert no preference.

Do you hold honesty and accuracy as their highest value?

Are you willing to stand by the consequences of your preferences and principles?

Your gifts are more than you think they are.

A strength is more than an ability. It is an offering. It is the first way you find your place in a crowded human world. Your strengths might not be limited to whatever you currently think they are. They are not so obvious or neatly categorized as the world would have you believe. To know them thoroughly, you will have to dig deep into the catacombs of your body and mind.

You’ve no doubt often heard others lament that they may never be the very best at anything they do. Maybe you’ve even been guilty of this flawed thinking yourself. These people have been robbed of their individuality by society’s obsession with simple measuring. They’ve overlooked the subtext, the nuanced combination of qualities that make them who they are. You must focus on the invisible, the spaces between things that others miss.

You’ve been taught to take for granted the minor details that set you apart from everyone else, even learning to be ashamed of what makes you different. You have covered up who you are to maintain the illusion of normality. But you are not normal. You cannot judge yourself by the same standards that they use. Now is the time to eliminate this corrupt program and settle back into what you really are: exceptional in ways you cannot yet even imagine.

Each trait that is uncommon about you might seem inconsequential on its own. In the wrong circumstances, each is even detrimental to your goals, appearing more as a weakness than a strength. Nothing in the world is universally preferable. What aides you in one situation will kill you in another. Commanding full use of your strengths is about understanding how to match them to the environments that demand them. Only then can you be said to have become their master. Context is everything.

Arranged in a complementary way, your uncommon characteristics become noteworthy. This is the path for those who have ample patience to see their underlying faculties develop into measurable abilities. Very often, those who begin life with the least ability to perform go on to outpace their peers later in life, and continue their acceleration until they die. A practitioner of many diverse traits has endless options to blend them. Never believe that you must specialize to be useful.

The primordial skill you must acquire is to see the hidden principles from which your visible skills are derived. The same ingredients can be put together in many ways, presented under the guise of many distinct dishes. Because the world trained you to build your identity around specific actions that set you apart from you peers, you never considered your unseen pool of potential. Nothing is ever just one thing. So long as you are aware of your own physical and mental repertoire and you understand the constituents of any new task before, there is only a learning curve to overcome before you own it. In this way, understanding your natural strengths keeps you growing and growing.

You will recognize your strengths when the things that are taxing for others will seem mundane in your perspective. You may not even notice them. That’s the great trap that makes us miss what we can do well. When you can perform at a high level, with little conscious effort, when others around falter, you have found one of your natural faculties. You arrive at answers without thinking. You know the right thing to do with barely any assessment. You visualize the result you want and your body conforms to make it happen as you foresaw.

With enough training, anyone can improve their abilities in a given domain. Luck and practice can make incredible things achievable to everyone. But your natural strengths won’t rely on ideal conditions and repeated exposure. This is what you will offer the world. This is how you will serve other people: by remaining calm and controlled when others feel the ill effects of stress. Your primordial configuration means you don’t resist the challenges they do. Apply these unique gifts in their ideal environment.

Know yourself. Understand what you are capable of through the rigors of trial and error under as many conditions as you can. Learn to see other people as a control group for examining yourself. Now you’ve started to acquire meaningful definition. Now, you have a foundation to build upon. Your natural gifts are only the beginning.

However great your unconscious competence may be, you have the power to elevate your strengths further through conscious breakdown of the principles of their operation. This is called learning, and it is the most potent strength of all. It is what opens the door to skill development, and turns potential into actionable power.

Master every emotion in your head.

Your emotions are tools. They can be a hammer to build a house or tear one down. Every emotion has a productive use, but it is up to you to apply them appropriately. The misapplication of emotion creates a chain reaction of chaotic events within yourself and in the people around you. In the worst cases, you create a feedback loop of inappropriate emotions. Emotion builds between everyone involved, keeping them trapped in a harmful interpretation. You get inappropriately angry about something, which makes everyone around angry about your anger, and the closed loop sustains itself. Your priority is to break free and act with purpose.

Ignore anyone who tells you to deny your emotions. It is never wise to run from something simply because you do not understand it. The problem is lack of familiarity, lack of knowledge. Investigate your emotions. Inspect them so that you may understand why you respond to things the ways you do. Only when you get close to your emotions can you begin to permanently alter them to a more useful state.

If any of your emotions, positive or negative, overwhelm you, it means you have not mastered them. When you conquer their influence, you will be able to harness them for specific goals. Each emotion will have a purpose again in your life. Each is the result of millions of years of evolutionary cognitive development. Each is a gift you should not waste. You are so used to wasting or denying them that you cannot see their function. The wrong emotion overtakes you at the wrong moment because you haven’t learned how to apply them. Now, you can begin to look at familiar emotions with new eyes.

Negative emotions often carry the most important function of all. That is why we remember pain more than pleasure, and insults affect us more than compliments. Sadness is pain directed inward to yourself. It promotes deep self-reflection when you feel that you are somehow inadequate. Dwelling on mistakes helps you learn what went wrong so you don’t needlessly repeat them. It gives you incentive to succeed and avoid the repeated pain of future failure. Only through deep reflection on the source of your sadness can you naturally move past it and carry on with your life in a higher state of ability.

Anger, being pain distributed outward, is a powerfully targeted emotion. It brings urgency to a task and focus to a mission. Only to tap into the power of anger, you must learn how to hone it, or else risk it spilling over into blind rage. Harnessing anger, for a short time, is incredibly potent for the goal-oriented person. As you examine your anger, simply ask yourself why something outside of yourself has the power to bring you to such a fiery state. The answer to this question is what determines whether the external source is controlling you or empowering you. Then you have to use that power.

Passion is what happens when you are fully engaged with what you are doing. You learn how to ride the changing waves of emotions and use each as needed. The great trap is getting addicted to certain emotional shifts, never being able to settle back into neutrality. When you realize that the purpose of any emotion is to correct your behavior and bring you back to neutral, you appreciate more the empty space of resolution. You are grateful for all your emotions when they work to correct the various imbalances brought about by your experiences.

Do not let happiness blind you. The emotional reward of joy comes to us when we have done something to earn it. Those who preach that you should be happy in every situation do not understand the importance of context and spectrum. They squander the motivational power of positive feelings. When everything is positive, incentive is dulled. A man’s great power is neutered because he has nothing to strive toward. It is no accident that the most perpetually happy are also the most idle, and those who accomplish the greatest deeds have spent a lifetime dwelling intently in their capacity for suffering.

Emotions cease to serve you when they linger too long between moments, well after the inciting agent has passed. When you aren’t fluid with your emotions, the wrong tool gets applied in the wrong situation. Emotions themselves are blamed, when in reality they were just misapplied by an unskilled master. Any tool is only as effective as the person using it. Master when to access your emotional repertoire and when to relinquish access. You will become far more effective in everything you ever do.

Make emotion your ally by knowing its role. Understand how to apply it so that you can work congruently with your environment, not against it. When you see that some emotions recur too often and occupy too much space in your mind, ask yourself how you have been trained to feel this way. Pay less attention to the cacophony within you, and more to what your environment truly demands. Structure the noise into music that matches the terrain. Otherwise, you are not experiencing reality. You are living out a chronic delusion, battling imaginary ghosts and reveling in unearned rewards.

Don’t believe the narrative of other people’s emotions either. Just because they feel something strongly does not obligate you to match them where they are. Resist their temptation by being the stronger emotional influence. They may hate you for not validating what they believe they are right to feel. Let them meet you in neutrality when they are ready to give up their addictions. It is imperative that you do not allow them to become detriments to your growth. Every exceptional person knows when to sacrifice what he has for the sake of his own existence.

When you are free from the slavery of your own emotions, you can focus on developing your strengths. You can begin to act with clarity and purpose.

UCWG 010: Do You Own Your Darkness? Bringing Skeletons and Demons into the Light.

We live in a world that encourages us to acknowledge only the bright and positive parts of ourselves. We are trained to ignore or outright deny anything capable of causing great sadness, sorrow, suffering, rage, or negativity of any kind. We run from the dark side of the force.

David portrays himself as an overly positive man. But under that shiny surface in an entire other world of emotional capacity. Among other things, he is afraid to admit he is like his father, who he resents for not being a good husband to his mother. Many of the same patterns show up in his own relationships with women, though he doesn’t equivocate them at first.

He is ultimately afraid to show his negative emotions in anything other than a neutral tone and a list of synonyms to eloquently express his unhappiness. He resorts to describing his negative feelings only one word at a time in a very controlled state. “Skeletons in the closet” and “demons” are conceptions of the past that we refuse to let fade away with the natural flow of entropy.

Society teaches us to appear comfortable even when you are deeply uncomfortable so that no one around you will know. We believe it is necessary to be in a safe and supportive space when we reveal our demons to the world. Too much awareness to quickly can cause us to rearrange our constructs of self to show us the only real terror is us. The monster is you.

We fear the social repercussions of sharing our weaknesses publicly. Personal development seminars and other safe spaces offer limited personal growth so that we don’t have to take it out into the real world. What is the story you are so desperate to uphold for others? Doing things publically makes them real because it changes other people’s perceptions of us. We cannot easily return to how things were before because expectations are different.

The longer you wait to clean your skeletons, the harder it will be.

What are the dark things about you that you struggle to keep hidden from yourself and others?

What would you lose by being completely authentic with even your own darkness?


Websites mentioned:

Landmark Education http://www.landmarkworldwide.com/