ask dr-robert

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman

Dear Dr. Saltzman,

My name is Christian Burke. I am 22 years old, currently living in Switzerland.

First I suppose I should start with a little basic background information. I was born in Switzerland but spent most of my life in Asia. My parents separated at a young age and I was passed between them from time to time. Both of them were in business and moved often, meaning from 3 to around 15 I never lived in one place for maybe more than 2 years maximum. I suppose I could say I was a relatively average child save for the fact that most teachers were frustrated with my apparent high IQ (or potential) being attached to a general lack of interest for anything I did not find personally stimulating (perhaps a mild form of ADD, but then, it is quite common in most children).

I have studied psychology on and off for the past 6 years, I began in college with BA Psych as my major and eventually moved on to Sociology and Theories of Personality (mostly leaning toward the more research based focus rather than the medical) the field of research always interested me since I am quite a meticulous person with an appreciation for gaining personal knowledge.

Over the past few years I have noted a large difference in myself compared to most people. I have mainly come to the conclusion that I am most possibly a Sociopath (perhaps having some other form of Psychosis or Psychopathy). I am a compulsive liar (perhaps a better term would be pathological) though of course for the sake of feeding my own personal curiosity I will be completely candid in this letter. I am of slightly above average IQ and though not exactly a genius most people see me as much smarter than I am due to the fact that I tend to be quite eloquent in my general speech and demeanor.

Of course along with a certain amount of higher education and greater ability to grasp information I do often find myself looking at 95% of general people with some contempt or distain over their own inability to understand what I often see as "obvious". One of these reasons I find it easy to learn, adapt or otherwise focus on processing information is the fact that I generally don't allow emotions to take any precedence over logic. This often makes me see a lot of people as inferior due to their lack of ability to segregate their emotions from facts.

I tend to be indifferent and rarely feel true joy (or what I believe I would classify as joy). I have never truly loved someone. I use the word from time to time but never for unselfish or unstrategic reasons. The few emotions I do feel are mostly frustration or dislike (I use the word dislike because I have never been moved to the point of what defines hated). My ease with lying and a well practiced talent in acting out what I feel is appropriate for the occasion makes most people think I am a completely normal, kind, funny, well rounded, overall nice guy. Though at times I feel regret, it is only over a failed endeavor or mistaken choice. I don't feel guilt. I know the basics of what guilt should feel like and it just does not happen with me, on a side note, though I understand people and how they act or feel I generally seem to lack empathy.

Though I feel distaste for violence (I have never felt any urges to hurt animals or people who have not wronged me) I am not above accepting it as a viable option. I once planned out the murder and disappearance of an individual who was threatening my father and my life on multiple occasions and only decided on another course of action because I found a smarter solution. I took no joy or excitement from the event and actually tried to postpone it for as long as possible until I had exhausted all other options, I felt indifferent about it really, I just wanted to swiftly clear up something that was a blatantly obvious physical safety and financial problem.

I have had a few "serious" relationships and though I like the sense of social contact as well as the physical benefits I grow bored quickly and mostly keep things going as long as possible for the sake of keeping up appearances or keeping certain social ties stable. I never feel depressed, to be honest I find the idea of depression rather pathetic.

I have a few friends, I suppose I could call them that since I am a little fond of one or two of them and would be annoyed if I were to lose them even though they can offer me no personal gain whatsoever, though I mostly keep others around for the fact that they can amuse me and keep me from feeling bored at times. I try to keep a certain amount of friends so as not to seem anti-social or draw attention to myself as a possible loner though I have no problem at all severing ties and simply moving on.

I have on more than one occasion in the past cultivated friendships for personal use, people see me as a very "loyal" and "kind" person when it comes to friends, of course it is not for unselfish reasons and I have more than once used that trust and friendship to let someone take my place on the chopping block (figuratively speaking of course) though never for anything really big or bad. Though I do have a sense of superiority at times, I am not so naive as to think myself infallible, I can admit to myself that I have certain hidden socially unacceptable quirks and though I feel contempt for most people, I have a great deal of respect for experienced or well learned individuals.

I suppose I could give more information but to be honest I believe this is already more than enough to paint a clear picture of me as a person. I am writing this letter to you as a sort of personal release (I have always wanted to have the luxury of showing at least one person who I really am under this persona I cultivated over the years) and also I suppose to get a clearer picture of myself (psychologically) as an individual from a professional. I don't know if I would like to change, the possibility seems intriguing but also a little discomforting over the idea of how overwhelmed I might feel by things like guilt and other emotions if I ever did change.

Is there a more specific way to descibe what I am? Am I a sociopath? Psychopath? Or am I just a self serving jerk trying to justify his own lack regard for his own humanity? I am neither homicidal nor naturally violent, which is a good thing, but the other factors do make me wonder.

Thank you for any help or information. I would find a professional opinion quite refreshing.

Respectfully yours,

Christian Burke

ask dr-robert

Hello, Christian--

Yours is a well-written and thoughtful letter which deserves a reply. To cut to the chase, although I never offer a firm diagnosis without a personal interview, your story demonstrates many aspects of a sociopathic or psychopathic personality. Besides the ones you already know about, such as ease of lying, lack of guilt—all the stuff on Dr. Hare's checklist--you evince a certain attitude which, although not specifically limited to the psychopathic mind, I see often in those I would call sociopathic or psychopathic. In fact, this particular point of view is so frequently associated with a psychopathic outlook, that it may provide one marker for diagnosing sociopathy, although I have never seen it on an index of criteria for such a diagnosis. I refer to your assumption that someone is "inferior" due to "lack of ability to segregate their emotions from facts."

What you (along with many other psychopathic types—just take a look at the posts on the dr. robert forum) fail to grasp is that emotions are facts. Why would you consider that a thought is more "factual" than an emotion? Both arise in the body-mind, are perceived by the human faculty of self-perception, and impel, in one way or another, some kind of response by the perceiver. Your entire letter is made up of thoughts and nothing else, including some rather strange ones, and, unlike many letters I receive, yours lacks feeling almost entirely. Lacking moment-to-moment emotional experience, you really have very little "segregating" to do, so where is the superiority? In what way is someone, such as yourself, who lacks an emotional life "superior" to someone who experiences life emotionally as well as logically? You, Christian, simply are the way you are, just like everyone else, not because you chose to be that way, but because you were born and raised into it, and so your pride in being the way you are is, in my view, totally and completely misplaced.

ask dr-robert

Why be proud of something—immunity to the influence of emotions--which has arisen automatically, and prior to any decision or exertion on your part? You aren't doing any "segregating" at all; you simply rely on cold logic because that is all you have to rely upon. You are unmoved by emotion, not because, through efforts of your own, you have acquired some special ability which non-psychopaths lack (what you think of as the ability to "segregate" emotions from facts) but rather because you don't have much emotional material to segregate.

This arrogant outlook of yours, including the distain for others of which you seem so proud, along with your unquestioned assumption of personal superiority, is purely narcissistic, and gives credence to the theory, championed by Dr. James Masterson among others, that sociopathy is simply the extreme end of a continuum of neurotic personality disturbance which begins with generalized feelings--often unconscious--of shame and/or fear of abandonment, and progresses from mild narcissism with its excessive needs for attention and approval, to pathological narcissism, including continual self-justification and manipulation of others. According to this view, when neurotic disturbance moves even further along that spectrum, one encounters states of mind beyond simple narcissistic personailty disorder such as the overt anti-social behaviors and criminal attitudes sometimes called psychopathy.

Is this the refreshment you said you wanted?

Be well.

ask dr-robert

To comment about anything relevent to this website, or to read the remarks of others,

visit the dr. robert forum.

Check out a full listing of "ask dr. robert" in the archives.

Robert Saltzman's Profile
Robert Saltzman's Facebook Profile

to tell a friend about this page
his or her name:
his or her email:
your name:
your email:
(all information remains private)

link to from your webpage, newsgroup, discussion forum, or blog.

return to ask dr-robert archives

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.

page last modified July 2, 2010

copyright robert saltzman 2010 all rights reserved