How do psychopaths get by
A psychopath tells us how best to deal with rejection
I recently went on a date with a beautiful and smart young woman. She laughed at all of my jokes, but never replied to my messages afterwards. After the appointment, I thought that I had done everything right. I was wrong about that. Who knows what was really going on in the lady's head.
Rejection sucks. If the phone doesn't ring, the invite isn't invited, or you're excluded from a group, you automatically feel bad or hurt. However, this does not apply to all people. Because psychopaths don't care what other people think. That's why I asked such a person for advice.
Dr. James Fallon is a neuroscientist at the University of California. In 2006 he studied the brain structures of serial killers and found that his own brain fitted this profile. His social circle had suspected this for a long time.
When I read about it, I knew immediately that I had found the perfect contact. James is considered a "socially minded" psychopath. In other words, he is empathetic enough to be married and have friends, but he is alien to the worries and pains we are all familiar with. So how does James manage not to let rejection get through in the first place? And can I learn that too?
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VICE: Hi James. How does rejection feel to you?
Dr. James Fallon: Totally OK. According to both of my psychiatrists, my biggest problem is that I don't care. And that's true too.
Why do you care
I just know that I can do anything and that something better will always come. My extreme self-confidence also accounts for a large part.
As a scientist, my whole life has revolved around probabilities and percentages. For example, if I think the odds are 20 to 1 against me, then I think of 20 different approaches to really getting what I want. At the same time I train my expectations. If the odds are 20 to 1 and I only try once, then I can't be mad if it doesn't work out.
I want my students to think the same way. I always tell them: "There are three options when it comes to success and failure: the things that always work, the medium-risk things, and the high-risk but also high-reward things." In my opinion, this is how life should be approached.
A very sober way of thinking. But you're also more prone to it, aren't you?
That's true. One of the key areas of the brain for worry and fear is the middle cingulate cortex. It is not entirely certain whether this part of the brain will also be active in the event of rejection, but I strongly assume it is. In experiments, this area of the brain is "switched off" in my case.
So your brain is not able to feel rejection at all?
Yes. Or let's put it this way: I feel a lot less rejection than the average. My circuits are running on the back burner. That is probably genetic. And not much is known about the genetics of this region of the brain. Borderline personality disorder is not uncommon in people with very active cingulate cortex. These people feel hurt and rejected all the time.
Can you manipulate this area of the brain?
Last year, a study showed that a drug turned off this part of the brain. In an experiment with cancer patients who were afraid of death and the emptiness afterwards, this fear went away after taking psilocybin.
Psilocybin like magic mushrooms?
Exactly. According to the study, psilocybin helps relieve many types of mental pain. I believe that the psychedelic also works against the negative feeling of social rejection.
I think that having a healthy self-esteem is a more realistic solution. How did you develop your exuberant self-confidence?
When I want something, I almost always get it. So for me the whole thing is based on my experiences. As a child, I didn't have the feeling that I could do anything. That only came about in my teenage years and was favored by my good looks at the time, my sportiness, my funny character and my cleverness. I was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and get my way.
Do you have one final piece of advice for the readers of this article?
When I am rejected and rejected, I always ask myself why this has happened now - and never why I was not worth it. Am I targeting the wrong person? Or did I get it wrong? There is always a better approach. And you have to be able to tell when you are betting on the wrong horse. There is nothing more to say. If I am rejected, then I do not waste any time with negative thoughts, but immediately set about solving the problem.
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