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Characters Incapable of Love

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Jun 4th 2013 at 8:06:30 PM

I'm trying to design a character who is incapable of experiencing love. The reason is that the character is one of three personalities that the entire character has. This one is supposed to be largely sociopathic with love completely outside of her emotional realm. However, and here's the tough part, this personality is the only one that is completely attached to reality and has a completely accurate view of the entire character's past. As such, she is capable of remembering loving people (namely family), but is incapable of it anymore after being driven through Elfen Lied degrees of abuse (Another personality has grief outside of her emotional realm, but she's easier to write because she's supposed to seem a bit faker). This is tricky because she doesn't actually desire to love anyone anymore (due to the pain that the combination of that and having a completely accurate grip on her past would cause) but still grieves the loss of it internally, although she'd rather die than admit it.

I'm looking for characters to look at for inspiration for this character. The best I've got are the Nobodies from Kingdom Hearts, but they were actually capable of loving others - even if not fully due to not having fully matured hearts, so I'm looking for other cases that could be useful as well. Likely subject areas of good series and characters for reference will involve sociopathy and P-zombies, among other things.

sethodine Not an Airship Captain from Not Seattle
Not an Airship Captain
Jun 6th 2013 at 6:17:50 PM

Rather than fiction, I would look into actual sociopathy text/research and how it manifests. But the core of it is this: the ability to love is highly tied in with the ability to empathize with other people, hence why people on the high end of the sliding scale of sociopathy are said to be incapable of love. If love is "give and take", all sociopaths can do is "take and take".

No, I haven't finished that story yet. No, not that one either...
Jun 6th 2013 at 9:16:30 PM

That's interesting. I guess the detail here is that it's someone who was previously neurotypical - ie in this case, capable of love - who split into pieces, with the one having the most accurate memory being a sociopath. I guess the closest stuff to that sort of thing in the literature would be someone who suffered a traumatic brain injury that disabled that portion of the brain that registers that, correct? Thanks for the help, by the way.

Jun 6th 2013 at 10:23:41 PM

You are talking about psychopaths.

ohsointocats from The Sand Wastes Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Jun 7th 2013 at 2:23:49 AM

You talk about love as if choice was involved.

Jun 7th 2013 at 4:12:21 AM

EDIT: Yes, this is a rewritten post. I thought that what I wrote sounded really stupid, so I'm going to try to articulate myself better.

I apologize if it sounds a little confusing and if my thoughts on this aren't exactly clear. Part of the problem is that I go back and forth a little bit about what is actually going on. So let me try to write this out before putting together the pieces.

First off, I like using split personalities as a mechanism to explore a character's psyche. So technically, the full character has DID. That said, I'm more interested in the parts and what they represent about the character than actual DID, so I tend to play DID similarly to how most fiction does and not go too by-the-book on it. Other aspects of psychology, I'm much more likely to be more careful with. The way I like to think about it is that the multiple personalities are a means to an end - the exploration of the person's psyche - not an end in themselves.

Now then, the sum character - if she were one person - would probably have BPD, is what I've been thinking after doing a little bit of reading on the topic. Even the most sociopathic persona (The one I'm focusing on here) can feel emotions very intensely, which doesn't appear to be the case with actual sociopaths. What she lacks the ability to do - and I think I may have screwed up my articulation of this earlier - is feel close to anybody. This particular portion would have been set up both as a defensive personality - one to protect the whole from being imprisoned again - long story - as well as the one that actively acknowledges reality (Hence why her memories are the most accurate of any of the personae). As such, she is perfectly able to remember feeling close to people - as well as subsequent betrayal or loss of those people. The way I picture her, it's not a choice that she can't feel close to people, but as the only one with accurate, happy memories of the past (those few that exist), she kind of wishes that she could. And the fact that she can't makes her feel more like something was taken from her and causes her to lash out more wildly at others. There are other personae that have a much stronger tendency toward the idealization dynamic (In fact, the idealization is so strong that it's a huge part of the reason that there are two of them - one for each person the character idealizes). This sociopathic personality sort of embodies the devaluation of, well, everyone in the world, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

In case you haven't guessed (and I know I forgot to mention it), this is a character in a fantasy story, so naturally There Are No Therapists. I try to use a little artistic license in a lot of places, but I usually try to get at least the psychological dynamics right, since that's what I'm exploring.

edited 7th Jun '13 11:06:45 AM by Clevomon

SalmonPunch I never asked for this from Connecticutt, USA
I never asked for this
Jun 10th 2013 at 8:03:05 AM

[up] I can provide more advice later. For now I will say this.

Before you even touch the topic of DID, do a ton of research. Otherwise your book will become a Narm mine for psychologists, regardless of whether it is fantasy or not. Psychologists are still fighting over how many "cases" are Iatrogenesis ("Lit: Originating from physician") or not.

edited 10th Jun '13 8:06:50 AM by SalmonPunch

"You like Castlevania, don't you?"
Jun 10th 2013 at 8:41:05 PM

Yeah, I've done a lot of reading on my own time on the subject, and I'm very doubtful of just how many genuine cases there are. That's part of the reason why I see trying to write on that subject accurately as kind of a fool's errand and more just try to use it as a character development and plot device, where I see it as still having a lot of potential. I'd like it, though, if you could help me avoid some really really serious Narms, either via PM or on the thread, whichever you feel more comfortable with.

SalmonPunch I never asked for this from Connecticutt, USA
I never asked for this
Jun 11th 2013 at 6:59:18 AM

This post ended up way longer than I planned.

I'll be using the term "alter", which is another term for one of the sub identities.

First off, maniacal alters are an extremely rare occurrence in an already extremely rare disorder. Avoid maniacal alters.

The biggest landmine to dodge is that, unless they are eccentric or attention seeking, a person with DID won't start referring to themselves as "Us" or "we" unless they are trying to make a point about their disorder. Only one alter is in control at a time, that alter will refer to itself as "I" unless directly asked about all alters as a whole.

While in some people every alter is watching, and indeed emotions may "leak" between them, as far as I've read only one personality can be in control at a time (Though as someone with DID receives treatment and the personalities merge together they may feel as if more than one is currently active).

Its apparently unlikely that someone with DID will ever merge into one identity through treatment, but they can reduce the number of alters to a number as small as two, and can "remove" some of the barriers between them (especially the memory one) until its no longer an impediment to life. So if your character tries to resolve her DID, make sure its portrayed as an uphill battle that's never really 100% resolved but is resolved enough for her to be happy, but also don't make it seem incurable.

(from what I've learned in my research so far) the biggest psychological flame war is about whether or not alters are the result of trauma . From what I've read, some say it seems as if the alter was always there, but trauma was handed off to it in an attempt to protect the primary identity. Once the trauma was handed off, the disorder became far more distinct. The argument against DID being a result of trauma is that, such a connection would imply that there is a general "threshold" of trauma in which DID would manifest. Such a threshold has not been found. (This is one case in which you could probably just go ahead and have trauma induce the disorder in your story for the sake of plot, as long as you don't make any concrete statement that its the only possible cause.)

In terms of how they appear to the world, most people will not notice that another person actually have DID unless the case is extremely severe. Often people will just see that person as things like "unstable"/"moody"/"forgetful"/"flaky"/"confused" etc.. Even psychologists have issues diagnosing the disorder, as it can manifest symptoms that look like countless other disorders including anxiety, OCD, etc. Often alters are "assigned" to deal with unique situations. There might be an alter that appears only when shopping, an alter that takes over during public speaking, an alter that appears when at parties, etc. The reason most people don't realize a friend from work or school has DID is that they are usually talking to the same alter every time whenever they see them (IE:If you have a friend at your job that has DID, your probably talking to his "job" alter every time.) and whenever they do interact with a different alter they brush it off as the person being "moody". The only someone on the outside could tell alters apart would be if you were spending all day around them and learned the subtle distinction between the different alters. Remember that, like most disorders, people would try to keep it hidden in public. They wouldn't announce the transition between alters out loud. Its also very unusual for alters to refer to themselves as anything other than the name of the dominant personality. There wasn't allot of info on how they act around significant others. But to avoid some narm don't have her talking like "Can you repeat that? I just became Jenny"

In very serious cases, alters can be out to get each-other, but this does not usually develop into open violent hostility. Remember that in most cases alters work for the benefit of the primary identity, or what they think will benefit the primary identity, a sort of interior support group. when they do happen, inter alter conflicts (usually as seen in written conversations in alter journals) are petty things like an alter spitefully going on a shopping binge in order to anger a more stingy alter the next time it takes control, or one alter throwing out a tacky decoration another alter liked decided to buy. Alters are also reported to have different fashion senses. To avoid narm don't have a superpowered-evil-side alter.(from what I've seen so far) either every alter is a psychopath because dominate personality is one as well, or none of them are because the dominant personality isn't. Some alters can have less regard for others well being or others emotions than the other alters, and can appear to be cold and uncaring and manipulative, some may even hate people in general, but you wont have an utter Neitzche Wannabe or violent sociopath in the body of someone who's primary identity is a Pollyanna. If they hate people, it should be made clear that they still have the ability to like people, but the stuff they have dealt with means they have decided that they never want to again. Even that uncaring alter you mentioned will have at least one thing it loves, even if its something that's not another person (it could love dogs or animals in general for example) as it cannot be a complete sociopath/psychopath unless the dominant personality has those same tendencies.

When it comes to whether all alters obey legal laws rather than moral ones, you can have a criminal alter as thievery isn't necessarily a result of antisocial tendencies (It can be a result of strongly feeling that your entitled to things society just isn't giving you, etc). Just make sure such an alter isn't pulling off bank heists or anything. It would be more low key than that.

Alters that act like they are other ages or genders are possible, but so far I have yet to find any evidence for the supposed celebrity, animal, and mythological alters being anything other than products of hypnosis induced Iatrogenesis (they only seem to manifest after diagnosis and treatment, not before) but I could be wrong. In other words, avoid having your character have an alter referring to itself as the Indian goddess Saraswati or something.

People that switch alters mid conversation most likely have an equally serious parallel disorder of some kind, and even then its not possible for them to switch every other sentence. Usually, something that I'll nickname "leaking" happens instead. An alter that has a fear of swimming may have its fear "leak in" when the person with that alter decides to jump into a pool at a party, causing the person to feel afraid and panic for reasons they cannot immediately explain. A simple illness most alters have dismissed as a cold could have an alter with hypochondriac tendencies leaking in and driving the dominant one to set up doctors appointments. However, it is possible to switch alters rapidly if an event happens that taps into an alters fears or matches something one of the alters is better at/ always wanted to do. Sometimes (you'll have to research how often) alters may abruptly trade places with the current one if the situation is better suited for another alter. IE: A person with DID in the audience of a game show, when suddenly put on the spot by the TV host, may switch to their public speaking alter to answer him if the dominant personality hates speaking in-front of crowds. From what I can tell this process is subconsciously done. Don't have your character's alters switching like a strobe light ("I hate you! No I love you! No I actually HATE you!...")

Alters may or may not share memory, depending on the seriousness of the condition. Apparently some people have memory blackouts, but with others its as if the dormant alters are watching what the active one is doing like a film, but wont interact. In the case of the latter the alters would share memories, but the memories would apparently be fuzzier in the memories of the alters that weren't in control at the time. Choose whichever one works better for the story. Almost universally, if someone is aware of the disorder, they can "sense" the other alters exist. Some people hold journal conversations with their own alters. In other words, if she wakes up in an unfamiliar room or situation and has no memory of getting to it, she will know than alter was responsible.

Alters are not caricatures, they aren't defined by a single emotion (IE: an angry alter, a happy alter, a nitpicky alter, etc). A single alter can have an emotional spectrum like those of a "whole" person. What sets them apart from each-other is their talents, goals, and ideals. An alter whose always sad or angry would be a caricature. You can write alters that are pessimistic or easy to anger, as long as they aren't defined by that emotion. Narm results by making each emotion of a person its own alter. That pessimistic alter could feel happiness just the same as the primary identity, it just has to work harder.

This is an extremely difficult disorder to get the facts straight on, so use my post as more of a guideline than as a definition. I was using articles by psychology and behavioral neurology professors to collect allot of these facts, and even they were disagreeing with each-other. There was a craze about disassociation a while ago, and like an overhyped movie there has been a huge backlash. Tread carefully.

To psychology majors: If I did get anything wrong, simply say so and I'll edit my post to correct it.

edited 11th Jun '13 7:18:10 AM by SalmonPunch

"You like Castlevania, don't you?"
Nov 15th 2021 at 10:30:01 AM

A psychopath is a person who is incapable of empathizing with others, takes no responsibility for their actions, and feels no remorse or guilt for hurting others. Most psychopaths are grandiose, meaning that they consider themselves superior to others. Psychopaths are characterized as being remorseless, narcissistic, usually violent, and also may appear to be a "blank slate" when in the depths of their pathology.

TitanJump Relationship Status: Singularity
Nov 15th 2021 at 8:20:32 PM

In short, consider DID as "having a strawberry-soul".

You start off as the one original piece, then it begins sprout its runners, if they can root themselves into the mind, they become new plants and grow more strawberries, and from there, spread more runners that may or may not be able to root themselves into the mind.

All in different shapes and sizes and colors, but still, all being connected to the same original strawberry plant.

Edited by TitanJump on Nov 15th 2021 at 5:40:01 PM

Aug 22nd 2022 at 9:26:19 PM
Thumped: This post has been thumped with the mod stick. This means knock it off.
MacronNotes MOD she/her Relationship Status: -not set
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