Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Further thoughts on my avoidant personality

One thing I try to emphasize any time I discuss psychology is the importance of recognizing the value that the concept of spectrum has. Everyone falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Everyone falls somewhere on the sociopathic spectrum. Everyone falls somewhere on every spectrum.

Why? Look at the sociopathic spectrum. To a greater extent than people like to admit, sociopathy is about being effective. Nature has selected humans to be effective. Sociopathy is simply the product of a person, in some cases, being effective to a fault. To be blunt, there are times when its the more socially beneficial choice to be less effective for the simple reason that being too effective crushes feelings and disrupts group dynamics.

Same thing goes for the narcissistic spectrum. You do have to like yourself. And sometimes there is value in have an unrealistically high liking for oneself. After all, the world is full of jerks who are going to try to tear you down, and it's not in your best interests to listen to them.

Avoidant personalities are no different. Everyone is avoidant to some extent. Considering the role that avoidance plays in sexual addiction issues, it's important that we avoid others to some extent. After all, the entire world would become a eugenic nightmare overnight if we simply indiscriminately ran around fucking everyone available. It's just not good for the species.

I'm not a fan of the term "disorder" for the simple reason that I believe that any trait that has passed the test of evolution deserves to be given a fair shake. You'll rarely see me attach the word disorder at the end of any clinical description, for the simple reason that I don't consider it disorderly for a person to be sociopathic, autistic, narcissistic, or avoidant. Even if you think about highly neurotic personalities, how disorderly is it, really, for a person to obsess about hygiene or the food they put their bodies? It's actually quite rational.

Yes, people do get to the point where they need to adjust their behaviors in order to function better. But I don't believe that the thin sliver of knowledge that is modern pharmacology and psychology used in combination should be considered a superior judge of human fitness than hundreds of millions of years of evolution. People deserve the chance to be flawed and eccentric and broken. Where else is our art going to come from?

My avoidance

Let's talk about me. More to the point, let's talk about my avoidant behavior.

Off the bat, I'd like to point out that I'm not a textbook avoidant personality case. Which is to say I was never molested. Physchologist tends to creeps, and they like creepy stories and creepy explanations. And their favorite creepy explanation for avoidant personalities is childhood sexual abuse.

That's not to negate the legitimate cases of avoidant personality issues that are tied to abuse. It's meant as an indictment of the propensity that psychologists have to fixate on that one idea against all other sources of developmental trauma.

Sometimes a person becomes avoidant because they just had a crappy childhood. A crappy parent will do the job just as well as an abusive one. Negligence, poverty, and non-home violence are all good enough to do the job. Trust me. I say this from personal experience.

One of the major indictments of modern psychology, IMHO, is that it fixates on disorders of the wealthy. Modern psychology is an industry rather than a field of research, and consequently it goes where the money is. Avoidant rich kids don't get that way by growing up ghetto-fied. Which means most of the literature on avoidant personality focuses on how people with enough money to pay $150/hr for therapy sessions get that way. And, to be honest, there's pretty much only one way a rich kid gets to be avoidant.

My avoidance . . .

My avoidance is born out of poverty. If you really want to boil it down, that's what you get. I grew up poor in a poor family with a widowed mother who didn't really want the job of raising kids. I joke that my mother would have made a killer 1950s sitcom dad. She preferred going to work as opposed to raising her kids. And she let us know as much to boot.

I won't belabor the poor thing in detail. You can read that here and here and here.

I never really do much detail on my family life. But here's the big factor there. When I was in my teens, I got saddled with basically raising a niece and nephew that my sister left with us. Remember that my mom wasn't big on the kid racket.

One of the big factors that triggers avoidant behavior in people is the belief that love creates problems. When you feel like too many people depend upon you and that you're the only person in a family really trying to make things work, you end up with a deep distrust of the idea that starting a family of your own is a good idea.

I have a lot of sources of avoidant behavior in my childhood. My sister did a lot of bad shit while fucking around and doing drugs (such as, say, leaving her kids with my mom). My dad died when I was five, and my mom acted like it was the most wonderful that ever happened to her (thanks mom). My mom never made a serious attempt to get back into a relationship after that (she very avoidantly torpedoed her one decent shot). The only actual relationships I saw any have growing up were my older bother and sister. His involved fist fights. One of her baby dads actually tried to burn him and her alive in their trailer.

You get the idea. Nothing good to learn from there.

My mom also had what I can only call a sore-loser version of feminism (yes, I am aware that some consider feminism in its entirety to be a form of sore loser whining, and I'm disinclined to tell those people to stop). For my mom, apparently everything that was ever wrong in her life was the fault of her deceased husband and the various men who refused to appreciate how awesome she was.

At this point its worth pointing out that narcissism runs deep in my family. My sister is a malignant narcissist if there ever was one. My maternal grandmother was a narcissist who had a psychic break after her husband died of cancer. A lot of my mom's shitty parenting was the product of being raised by a narcissist who went into a complete downward spiral when confronted with her own mortality. And, of course, my mom has her own brand of narcissism that tries to masquerade as a form of victimhood and a bit of a martyr complex. And much of this manifested in her own self-serving brand of feminism that basically let her off the hook for the many times where she tried to get ahead and deliberately stopped short because (like all narcissists) her ego won't allow her to take the big chances that are required to get ahead in life.

Unsurprisingly, I have my own run of narcissism. It's learn, not genetic. But that doesn't make it any easier to unjigger.

Another fun thing that children develop from a tough and negligent environment is a bit of a sociopathic streak. I actually quite appreciate the slight sociopathic streak that I have. Frankly it comes in handy when you're trying to talk your way out of speeding tickets or that time you threatened to kill your neighbor (no, I am not joking about either of these). It also comes in quite handy the first time someone decides to stick a gun in your face, but you want to tell them to go fuck themselves (again, not joking).

But the big thing I have is the autistic streak. Left to my own devices, I prefer the autistic inner world. I love to figure out how things work. There's also a big autistic streak in my family. A lot of tinkerers. Little kids disassembling and reassembling their Christmas toys just to see what makes them tick.

I read an entire encyclopedia set by age 8 (we got one as part of an educational program that poor families were eligible for). I bricked my first computer within two weeks of owning it. I also unbricked it.

My brother was much the same way, but with cars. Oh and breaking into places. That part didn't work out too well for him.

The big takeaway from all of this is . . . ? Don't be the stable person in an unstable family. It's a shit deal.

From there to here

One thing you have to appreciate is that who I am today is not who I was then. The form I was in my early teens would easily (nowadays) be considered a mild form of Asperger's syndrome with some serious aggravations caused by a bad environment. It was a loud household, and I generally holes myself up in my bedroom in the furthest corner of whatever house (or trailer) we were living in at the time.

My teenage years sucked. You have to understand that we were dirt poor. My view of myself was that I was fat, poor, dirty, nerdy. I existed. That's it.

Funny thing was, puberty in my case disagreed with this self-view. I still don't understand what happened, and it barely registered at all back then. Girls tended to like me. Nice girls from better families, in fact.

I had a couple things going for me. One was that people didn't fuck with my brother. Two was that people assumed I was larger and crazier version of my brother. The big difference, in truth, between my brother and I is in how we view violence.  My brother is the type of person who lets shit needle and needle at him until he blows up. I view violence as instrumental (sociopathy for the win, baby!).

The prevailing view on me was that I was:

  • Smart - My former teachers still talk about me. "Smartest kid" is a common usage.
  • Tough - I once was maced and just kept on going and my brother was stabbed and kept going. In a small town, tough brother pairings develop reputations fast. Ironically, my brother and I didn't grow to like each until well into adulthood!
  • Violent - And willing to go lower and dirtier than everyone else in a fight. No one ever threatened me without either bringing a weapon or trying to ambush me.
  • Rebellious - My former teachers still talk about me. This time not so positively.

In retrospect, I realize that I could have been rolling in pussy in my teens. I didn't know what to do with it. Again, I was enjoying my autistic inner world and trying to avoid the mess around me as much as possible. Somehow, this translated into the idea with girls that I was aloof and unobtainable. It also led to jealous guys claiming I must be gay.

Yeah, needless to say, that was a lot for a kid to digest. Too much violence. Too much negligence at home. Sexual signals from girls that I just wasn't picking up on at all. Being called queer behind my back. Fun. Fun. Fun. High school. Only worse.

The power of fear

One thing I always hated about my life is that other people want to understand me, but no one really has it in them to say anything to me.

People don't fuck with me. Understand that when I say this, I mean that state police troopers don't fuck with me. I do pretty much whatever the fuck I want and people get out of my way.

However I learned to project fear out into the world, it works. People regularly think I'm a body guard. Or if I'm by myself at a club that I either am a bouncer or (if I'm dressed well) the owner. An older friend of mine once said that I always look like I'm casing a place to rob it. Even the mouthiest drunk spoiling for a fight will not actually escalate with me. That's how people perceive me. I am a quiet threat that is best left to pass.

How women that like me see me

I've said before on here that I am a TV trope. I do sit at the sweat spot in the female libido. I'm a smart guy. Tall -- 6'2", so I'm the right kind of tall and not freakish tall. I have money and I do tend to wear it when I go out at night, but not in overbearing way. I have a tough and intimidating streak.

I have regularly been described as attractive. Sometimes in terms that border on hyperbole. Some terms: "movie star", "kinda cute", "white guy that got swag". I've been asked whether my online dating profile photo was really me. Yes, my inner narcissist enjoys that way too much. I don't really see it. (Especially movie star, although in defense of the tag, Steve Buscemi is kind of a movie star, right?) I try to see it, but if you really asked me to lay it out there and explain it, I couldn't. In truth, I know that I am attractive enough that I get eyed by women I don't know in the middle of the business day.

More importantly, every woman that has ever decided to swoon my way is absolutely convinced there's more going on underneath it all. I am the difficult, distant, attractive guy who just needs the right girl to crack him open. Women love that shit. Don't want a boy to be too easy to crack open.

Understand that in the arc from awkward, poor teen to whatever the hell I am today, I figured a lot of this out. I went from not really understanding that the girl in front of me in Spanish class was interested in more than discussing my taste in music to being able to scope out an entire bar and within seconds figure out who the easiest lay was going to be.

Why I like the avoidant label

The range of my behavior goes from high function autism to high function sociopathy.  I'm comfortable with that fact. In truth, every human being has the right to be effective at doing what they want to do. And when I'm willing to let the layers of impairing neurosis slip away, I am a highly efficient person at getting what I want.

The big unifying threat throughout my experience, the thing that really ties it all together nicely, is the avoidant personality. No matter what my situation is, my goal is to avoid situations that require me to be both emotionally and sexually vulnerable. That's what makes me tick.

Yes, I can sociopathically seek casual sex. Yes, I can autistically retreat into my own little inner world. Yes, I narcissistically enjoy stringing women out (and OMG do I love the compliments). But those are three very divergent approaches that you just don't see very often in a single person. What ties it all together nicely is the avoidance.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way sometimes, especially when it comes to being efficient at what you want and being emotionally detached 24/7. In my early teens I thought I had autism. Luckily... I found out that it was me being "aloof" rather than being autistic. Honestly I also do that balancing of emotional ties and sexual ties to different women but luckily I found one that could do both sort of. Damn all I want is a HAREM. haha, it'll happen.