On Paranoia and Sociopathic Behavior, written in 2003

From Jeanne: My apologies for the weird formatting, I have not been able to figure out how to change it. Jack was referring to the years of being stalked and harrassed both before and after y2k. 

One interesting outcome of the prolonged period of attention I've undergone
over the past few years is that the result has been the reverse of what you'
d expect.  Instead my residual paranoia intensifying, it actually has
diminished during the last year or two.  This has manifested itself in a
number of different ways I don't care to go into, but in other ways that are
worth mentioning.

Keeping in mind that, concurrent with the activities of these people, my
material and human resources have essentially vanished; I've come to the
point where I really don't care much what they do.  When all this began I
was already in a mode of reexamining my entire value system.  The things I'd
valued most were in the process of going away, anyway, along with the value
I placed on them.  I've become a person with almost nothing to lose.

I've never been a person much influenced by fear, in any case.  Fear comes
in a lot of forms. Fear for personal security; fear of death; fear of loss
of valued possessions; fear of what others will think; fear of being alone;
fear of growing old; fear of bodily discomfort; fear of hunger and disease.
These all tend to run in groups.  A person who lacks the fear of one
probably always has a fairly loose hold on the others, too.  Today, as never
before, I've become a person who literally has nothing to be afraid of.

The probably unintended end result of all this is that I believe I'm
actually being cured of my paranoia.  A strange consequence, considering the
motive was obviously a kind of terrorism intended to do just the opposite;
intended to induce terror and intensify paranoia.

A while back I was staying at Deano’s for the night, watching television.  HBO or one of those things had a  piece they’d arranged that rattled me a bit.  There’s a guy in prison in New Jersey doing consecutive life sentences called the Ice Man.  These folks arranged for him to be interviewed over several days by an FBI psychiatrist who’s probably the top man in the field of homicidal abnormal psychology.

As I watched and listened, I was stricken by the similarities in attitude between the Ice Man and myself.  He described a number of things in detail, along with his attitudes toward them, and I found myself nodding in silent agreement while Dean squirmed in discomfort and protested that I ought to find another channel.

The Ice Man was a man with a childhood home life that resembled mine in some important ways, though he was a city boy.  His dad was a bit like my step dad, and his mother, a lot like my mother.  He described some things he did to animals as a child which weren’t too unlike some things I did to other kids, and probably an animal or two.

 The Ice Man killed someone at a fairly early age; not in a fit of rage, but in a cold, calculated way.  He had a tendency to respond to people who fucked with him, or fucked with his head, by killing them.  He did it close up and personal.  During the interview, he claimed he didn’t get any particular joy out of it, didn’t really feel anything at all.  He described one occasion where three young men were harassing him on the road.  He stopped the car and went to his trunk to retrieve a handgun there.  The other car stopped and the men walked over to him.  He killed all three and drove on.

The Ice Man became a hit man.  He says without pride or emotion that he’s probably responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people.  He says the only ones that ever gave him any feeling at all were those involving a particularly prolonged and gory torture.  He didn’t like those, and he didn’t understand why.  The fact it gave him some kind of feeling caused him some wonderment.

During the interview, the Ice Man described his attitudes toward a number of issues, his life (outside the killing arena), and generally his feelings about himself.  He was asked about some specifics concerning his lack of fear, his attitudes toward the things he did, and his own understandings about himself.

The Ice Man said he agreed to the interview in hopes of getting a better understanding of himself.  He said he wasn’t surprised other people experienced fear in certain situations, or revulsion (when compared to Dahmer’s revulsion to cutting up human carcasses), but that what he couldn’t understand was his own lack of similar feelings.

Toward the end of the interview the psychiatrist suggested they turn the situation around and allow the Ice Man to interview him, the psychiatrist.  The killer thought about this a moment and showed a subdued pleasure when he explained that this was his hope when he agreed to the interview.  He wanted to try to understand why he was the way he was.

The FBI man (a pretty cold fish, himself) explained that an unfortunate combination of three psychological traits combined to make the Ice Man the way he was.  One was fearlessness, which by itself might easily have been channeled into positive avenues.  The second was a sociopathic personality.  The third was paranoia.

The sociopathy, minus the fearlessness and paranoia, would have probably resulted in him  becoming a small time crook, a politician, or a used car dealer.  The paranoia, minus the sociopathy and fearlessness, might well have just caused him to be abusive to his family and caused him a lot of unhappiness and years of therapy.  All these conditions exist separately in individuals throughout the population in a surprisingly high incidence rate, and are manageable on a personal level.

The combination of the three, the FBI man suggested, along with his being in a place where there were mob contacts, were the key to the Ice Man’s long and successful career as a hit man.  

As I digested all this I realized what a close call I’ve had this lifetime.  I started life as a sociopath.  I didn’t know it until my experience in the jungle in Hawaii, when I got my first real look at myself during the extended time of solitude.  I can still recall, after my return from the jungle, reading about sociopathy for the first time, and realizing that was what I was, had been prior to the jungle experience, and had a strong tendency toward even then.

I worked a lot of years on that sociopathic issue.  It still lurks there in my background psychology, willing to be turned on if I’m willing to turn it on.  I’ve held it mostly in check consciously for many years, but occasionally have allowed it to emerge.

It was a number of years later when I realized I was also clinically paranoid, with a touch of manic depression thrown in for good measure.  The paranoia, I channeled into some pursuits that, while they weren’t precisely positive, they weren’t negative.  I used to be described by my friends as the MOST prepared person for any eventuality, they’d ever known.

The difference between the Ice Man and how he spent his life, and me and the way I spent mine, was merely a matter of luck, manifested in life experience.  The jungle time gave me an early awareness of one of the crucial ingredients of the soup that might have led to a life spend in some bloody avenues.  My relentless curiosity and introspection was a trait he lacked.  While he merely wondered why he didn’t experience the same feelings as other people, I dug and read and probed to understand.  The "spiritual" awakening in Tucson after my return from the jungle further contributed and acted as a brake on my behavior; helped me to understand how the kind of person I was differed from the kind of person I wanted to be.

I’m not suggesting I’ve entirely overcome any of these tendencies.  I’m not even suggesting I’ve succeeded entirely in holding the associated behaviors in check.  What I am suggesting is that I was handed a big job of work when I came into this life, and that, considering that, I haven’t done too badly.  

I think the sociopathy, I’ve succeeded almost entirely in overcoming.  The spiritual pursuits allowed me to balance and offset the sociopath tendencies.  This is not to say I couldn’t still do almost anything, completely without feeling.  But it is to say that I don’t want to do those things; don’t want to be the kind of person who does those things.

Strangely enough, as I mentioned earlier, the last few years of attention from a whole cadre of sociopaths seems to be taking care of the paranoia.  I’m only beginning to realize what a debt of gratitude I have toward them, no matter what their intentions.  These damned people are curing me without intending to.  It's entirely a matter of luck.  I might have gone through the rest of my life as a paranoid, knowing I was a paranoid; dealing with it, but with it always an issue.  It's clear to me these people would never have done what they did with the intention of helping me get rid of it, but I was fortunate enough to be within their focus; to receive their full treatment, and to have come through without doing anything to cause the chips to fall on the other side of the issue.

I've been puzzling over why the activities of the opposition ended up
affecting a cure, of sorts, instead of resulting in havoc and mayhem as they
probably intended.  I think the key point was the introduction of a
protracted series of actual threats to a person already prone to paranoid
fantasy, and acutely aware of that tendency.  By offering actual, verifiable
threats into the equation, the desire for survival forced me to carefully
examine both; to compartmentalize each, and to use a lot of caution in
discerning which was which.  They forced me to learn to distinguish between
paranoid fantasy and realtime threat on a relatively constant basis by
inserting a prolonged real threat.

In the short term, this probably wouldn't have happened, and had the process
ended in a relatively short span of time, I'd probably gone on just as
paranoid as ever; just as prone to paranoid fantasy.  Had I also been
isolated during the process, there probably would have been similar results,
or possibly much worse.  However, I had some friends to help me measure what
was fantasy and what was real.  Because I had outside confirmations that the
threats were actual, not fantasy, I maintained a (sometimes thin) hold on
reality.  Instead of the intended pathological result, I think my mind began
to chase down the roots of my unique brand of paranoia.

As I said earlier, fear (paranoia) requires as a basis for continuance,
having something of value to lose.  Concurrent with the harassment my
material resources and personal relationships eroded away.  With them a lot
of the "things" that served as anchors for the paranoia also gradually faded
out of importance or vanished entirely.  Meanwhile, my spiritual beliefs
were being internalized to a such a point as to allow my natural
fearlessness to be bastioned by a spiritual awareness that, a) I really
needed to get out of this life without adding any complications to the next
one;  b)  the things that were happening here, on an eternal scale, didn't
amount to much; and c)  from a spiritual perspective, whether those people
decided to kill me or not was irrelevant.

Once again, a lucky combination of circumstance.  But pure luck and nothing

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