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Patric Gagne and the Art of Sociopathic Zen

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When I first heard about Patric Gagne, a diagnosed sociopath with a buzzy new memoir, I was intrigued. If she lives without the social emotions that often hold us back — embarrassment, jealousy, and shame — does she actually have a superpower? What can she teach us about failure, and does she fear it like the rest of us do? After tearing through her book, I sat down to discuss these big questions, bust the tired tropes, and learn about the Zen of sociopathy.

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David Duchovny, Patric Gagne

David Duchovny  00:00

So today’s guest on the podcast is Patric Gagne who identifies as a sociopath and has written a memoir called Sociopath. And I’m in Greece shooting Malice, unlimited series here, and I’m thinking about Greek gods because they figure in into the show a little bit, but also because I grew up loving Greek mythology, Edith Hamilton’s book on ethology was like by my bedside all the time, and I just ingested the Greek Gods and their misbehaviors in there. They were horrible to one another, and horrible to humans, they were constantly raping and killing and being jealous of humans and doing, you know, transforming themselves into swans and bowls, and, you know, just these incredible stories of the gods. And as I got older, I realized, well, they’re just kind of mirroring the worst of human behavior or the, let’s say, the extremes of human behavior. What human behavior is capable of or at least metaphorically capable of these transformations, these acts of violence, these acts of transgression. And it started me to think about sociopathy, you know, when I was thinking about interviewing Patrick Gagne. So here I am in Greece, the home of these awesome myths and amazing transgressive gods and goddesses. And I’m talking to a transgressive figure, a person who, you know by label would be feared by label would be an outcast. We ascribe sociopaths certain powers, and if they do have certain powers, different powers, let’s say from us, then let’s talk to her. Let’s talk to them. Let’s figure out what we can learn from one another as we once learned from the gods.


David Duchovny  01:55

I’m David Duchovny and this is Fail Better show where failure not success shapes who we are. Patric Gagne is a writer, former therapist, advocate for people suffering from antisocial disorders, and a sociopath. Her book is called Sociopath a memoir. But what is a sociopath you might ask? It’s a tricky and layered answer. But basically, it’s someone who can progress through normal emotional development, but they learned the social emotions like love, empathy, even jealousy differently than the rest of us. Patrick was a very, very interesting person because she knew she was different from young age. She describes a pressure that she would feel building up to act out, she wanted to break out of it, or break out of a state of apathy, sometimes a non reaction and she’d lie manipulate. She’d break into houses when no one was home and just wander around. She got older, she eventually tried to better understand her mental state and got that diagnosis of sociopathy and eventually learned how to behave in a socially acceptable manner because as she says, she didn’t feel compelled morally to act this way. But she wanted to stay out of trouble. She wanted to stay out of prison, she wanted a life. And she knew that if she didn’t get her behavior under control that was going to be an impossibility. So I started out by asking her why she wrote this book.


Patric Gagne  03:20

I think simply put, I wrote this book because I was trying to put a sort of humanized understanding of an otherwise dehumanized disorder. I was diagnosed with sociopathy. And at the time, the definition was very much what it is now, which is sensationalized and one dimensional. And I had this life experience, I found some research that seemed to explain that experience. And I wanted to write this book to reach other people who resonate with that experience. It’s essentially research wrapped in a narrative. And by that, I mean, it’s a story about a child who was very different, who grew into an adult in sort of a relentless pursuit of understanding. It’s a story of how someone was able to identify and live with a diagnosis of sociopathy and, and what that journey of learning emotions and learning behaviors has been.


David Duchovny  04:35

Yeah, when you came out with this book, you know, is there an identified sociopathic community, did you get into because it’s basically a coming out? It’s a it’s a coming out? It’s a it’s a coming out, you know, here I am. This is this is who I am. So did you get a reaction? Either from a community, your family or whatever?


Patric Gagne  04:58

Yeah, and I misunderstood the question. I thought you meant like an established community. No, I, I have been overwhelmed by the reaction that I’ve received from people who identify with my personality type who have received similar diagnoses. And the through line is, is consistent. These are people who have managed to cobble together some semblance of a normal existence, but they are very much living behind the mask. And I assume that would be the case. I, I assume, based on the research that there were enough people who would identify that I would hear from them and I have, and it’s been just a collective sense of, I think relief would be the best word and that aligns with my own experience. It’s it was this feeling of, you know, obviously getting a diagnosis of sociopathic personality disorder. I think most people would not be relieved to have received it, but it really speaks to the personality type.


David Duchovny  06:03

There’s, good news and bad news.


Patric Gagne  06:05

Yes. Well, it also it’s like, alright.


David Duchovny  06:07

I got a diagnosis.


Patric Gagne  06:08

Yes, I, I, I am not alone, there are at least enough people like me to have a personality disorder. And, and I’m, and I’m okay with that. And I am and that seems to be shared by those who who identified with the book and that, I always knew that I wasn’t alone or suspected. But now I have proof like this is, this is my experience as well. And I was expecting that, but what I wasn’t expecting was the number of neurotypical individuals who are also reaching out, recognizing their friends recognizing their parents.


David Duchovny  06:46

Now, when you say that, when you when you’re talking about this to me, I’m feeling emotional, because I’m feeling happy for you. And I wonder, do you feel that way?


Patric Gagne  06:58

Um, do I feel that way about the people who are who are reaching out to me?


David Duchovny  07:04

Just about yourself? Yeah, just finding brethren finding kindred spirits?


Patric Gagne  07:10

Yes, yes.


David Duchovny  07:11

At some kind of community?


Patric Gagne  07:13

Yes, I, I do feel happy. Although I had always known they were out there. So for me, it’s, it’s.


David Duchovny  07:24

But um, but I mean, like, the feeling that you’re, how do you describe that?


Patric Gagne  07:29

Alright, so I think what you’re talking about as an inherent motion, so there are these inherent emotions that everyone is born with. It’s sort of the the factory setting. Okay, so these are anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, happiness, and disgust. Everyone is born with these emotions. And so when you hear people talk about oh, sociopaths don’t feel that’s not accurate. We are all born with these inherent emotions, and sociopaths, like everyone else has access to those where we struggle is with another set of emotions, the social emotions, okay. Examples of these are embarrassment, guilt, love, shame, envy, empathy, even jealousy and pride to a certain extent. These are not inherent emotions, these are learned. Everyone learns these emotions, typically, through modeling of friends, parent caregiver, sociopaths have a harder time learning these emotions.


David Duchovny  08:33

Do you remember feeling that back then even? Because can you talk to me about what it felt like?


Patric Gagne  08:41

Yeah, for sure. I remember being a kid and I, and I had a sister, a younger sister, I have a younger sister. But I I remember seeing her experiencing the world differently. You know, because I had this relationship with my sister, I understood what complex emotional development looked like. But I also understood that I didn’t have it. I would watch her internalize things like shame or guilt. My sister has oceans of guilt, and I just never had it. And for me, the social emotions it was it was it was sort of like leaving glasses. Without my glasses, I’m physically capable of reading. It’s just that sometimes I really have to squint. And that’s a lot like how I experienced the social emotions. And it’s also how I remember feeling as a kid, just sort of, oh, yeah, these kids or these kids say that they feel badly when they do this. And I don’t feel badly when I do this, so I need to fake it. I need to act like I do.


David Duchovny  09:50

Do you think maybe, oh, I’m bad.


Patric Gagne  09:52

No, I never did. I remember I started to wonder when I when I was when I was I like seeing myself in the sociopathic checklist. And then I would, I would look, you know, I would read things about sociopaths, or psychopaths. And I and it was always that so that serial killer, that monster, every manner of evil. And I remember thinking, okay, so is this just a foregone conclusion for me? Because I didn’t I never felt bad.


David Duchovny  10:21

That’s, that’s tariff tariff. Well, me, me and yours in your head, thinking back, that’s terrible.


Patric Gagne  10:26

It was for me as well, no, and I want to make that clear. My sense of fear is there, it might be muted, I might have a higher tolerance for it, but it’s there. And I was scared, I remember thinking, just the idea that I have no control over how I’m going to evolve. If this is my personality type. And everyone who is identifies with this personality type ends up in prison or murdering people, then I’m fucked. And I got to figure this out. So I like being unnoticed. Essentially, I liked being perceived as Oh, there’s the cute little kid and I understood that if I acknowledged, you know what I don’t I don’t I actually don’t have any remorse or guilt or shame. And and, and I don’t know that I ever will have any of those things, saying that usually made uncomfortable is very, are adults very uncomfortable so.


David Duchovny  10:27



Patric Gagne  10:28

Right, but that’s what I’m trying to say is that as a kid, kids are smart, they pick up on things, I understood that I was different almost at the exact same time, I understood that acknowledging that difference was a bad idea,


David Duchovny  11:26

But feeling a difference. I wonder if you experienced this part of yourself as a failure as I’m broken as there’s something wrong with me or this is just another version of life? And consequently, this is too complicated a question, but also want to get to like, when did you decide that you wanted to have feelings? Like, were you not happy the way you were? When did you decide oh, I want to be more like those other people?


Patric Gagne  11:55

So the first part of your question, I.


Patric Gagne  11:58

Oh, no, I know, I want to I there’s there’s so much good questions, and I just want to I want to answer them all. I remember, I never, I don’t think I recall feeling like a failure or bad. But what did speak to me when you were talking was did you feel broken? Yes. I didn’t feel bad, but I felt broken. I felt there is something wrong with me full stop no question. And it really wasn’t until I sort of understood the personality type in that, okay, so you don’t just grow up and become a serial killer, you aren’t a foregone conclusion, you aren’t a lost cause. Once I understood that, and I sort of had that, that agency. That’s when I realized, okay, I’m not wrong, I’m just different. There’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t want to live my life behind a mask. But I also don’t want to live my life without access to society. I enjoy having friends. Not a lot, but I enjoy having some friends. I enjoy conversations like this, I enjoy the white picket fence, I enjoy peeking in and out of my windows within that white picket fence, but I understood you, in order to be a member of society, you have to assimilate. And when I made that decision, it was selfishly driven, of course, but it was also I can’t change who I am. But I’m also not going to mask it anymore either. I’m just going to lean into who I am, and be more honest about it.


David Duchovny  11:58

Sorry, sorry.


David Duchovny  13:37

And it sounds like you know, as a kid, somehow, you were smart enough to figure out your own nature and how, how to try to fit it in, you know how to not go to jail basically, is what I hear you saying is like, I want to have a life and I don’t want to end up in jail.


Patric Gagne  13:52

And I also understood, I don’t remember where or when I read this. But I remember, I want to say it was the FBI, it was some kind of it was some some career where a criminal record automatically eliminated you from from having any, from having the ability to pursue it. And I remember thinking, well, that sucks. Like, I don’t want I don’t want to be told like.


David Duchovny  14:16

By the way, I don’t I don’t I don’t think that’s a thing anymore. Looking at our problems.


Patric Gagne  14:22

I agree, and yet the rules do still apply for some and not for others, and I and I, but I remember yeah, as reading that and saying I’m no, you’re not going to tell me that I can’t have a career doing X, Y or Z just because of a criminal record. So I remember not wanting to go to jail not wanting to be arrested not for any real moral reasons, but because I don’t want to be told that my my life choices are now limited as a result of of this. And I also remember understanding that everyone was living in this box of feeling it was, it was a small box of emotion. And it’s certainly not actually, if anything, it’s, you know, everyone has the, you know, these colorful emotions, whereas my world was more black and white, but it was, you have to be in this box, you have to have these feelings, you have to feel this way. And I remember that rebellion kicking in and like, no, I don’t actually. But you know what I can do, I can get in your little box, and I can act just like you and I can pretend to have all these feelings just like, you know, when you’re not paying attention, I’m going to step out of my box, but I’m still going to watch. And I’m still going to have all of these things to my advantage. So this, this coping mechanism, you know, the manipulation, the lying, the destructive behavior, that ultimately evolved into a lifestyle.


David Duchovny  15:43

Right you know, you say in the book, what’s so uncomfortable in your skin was the sense of apathy. So then you go, and you commit some kind of petty crime, which I want you to talk about, and that gives you that gives you some feeling, and then you’re feeling a little better.


Patric Gagne  16:01

The what I ultimately realized at first I did, I thought it was apathy. I thought it was I don’t like to feel apathetic. But what I came to understand was that it wasn’t the apathy that was driving this pressure. I speak about this in the book about how I felt this pressure. And at first, I thought it was related to apathy. But what I have ultimately come to believe is that it wasn’t just the apathy, it was the understanding that once I fell into an apathetic place, and I couldn’t get out of it, if I didn’t somehow do something to jolt myself into feeling, or meet others expectations of what I was, quote, unquote, supposed to be feeling that I would be outed. So as a child.


David Duchovny  16:48

That you would be out at that scale, you’d be outed, but also you would go further. Not only that, but you would go further at some point.


Patric Gagne  16:55

It was eventually I realized that ignoring that pressure was the quickest way to fall into a place of being out of control these.


David Duchovny  17:05

Just releasing a little bit a little bit a little bit.


Patric Gagne  17:08

Yes, but it’s interesting, because although I understood this consciously, as an adult, when I as an adult, I had been engaging in in small acts of deviance as a kid, and those acts of deviance became more extreme as I got older. Can


David Duchovny  17:25

You describe what those things give you?


Patric Gagne  17:28

Yes, when I was a kid, and this is such an interesting, it’s really a testament to the power of the unconscious mind. And that when I was a kid, I didn’t understand this. All I knew is that if I would feel this pressure, and I understood on some level that’s stealing this backpack.


David Duchovny  17:44

What are the pressure was the pressure feel like.


Patric Gagne  17:46

It feels similar to what I’ve heard people with OCD described just this, a Claustrophobia, I gotta do something, I gotta do something, I got to do something, I got to do something. And then and the more you don’t engage or defuse, that, the greater the compulsion, the greater the urge. So people who have OCD can’t really explain to you why they feel driven to couch or engage in repetitive behaviors, washing their hands, checking the door locks, etc. Similarly, as a kid, I couldn’t explain to you why I felt compelled to stab this kid or steal that backpack or, or break into that house. All I knew was that just do it, just do it and feel better, and I did.


David Duchovny  18:28

Almost like hearing a voice sounds like a voice of some kind.


Patric Gagne  18:31

Yeah, like a like a, like a compulsion, an urge. Just do it, like just it?


David Duchovny  18:36

Yeah. I mean, I’ve done some of the some of this research before speaking to you. And often they’ll talk about people getting better at what they do, for instance. You know, they’ll, they’ll attack a child first because more defenseless, but it’s not that they’re just going to attack children. They’re getting better at at murdering, they’re getting. Was there any sense to you? Did you fear at some point that this is not just letting the valve off? Letting the pressure off? But I’m actually getting better at this? And this is fucked up?


Patric Gagne  19:07

Yes, yes, I did understand that. I understood that. Want to say like 20s, when I was like, when I was in my 20s, I realized this is not something on which I want to rely for the rest of my life, which is part of what contributed to my decision to seek or experiment with different treatment modalities and interventions, because I understood that I was getting better. And I understood that I was getting older. And I also was, you know, I’m, and I’ve said this before, and I’m very clear on the fact you know, that I am a white woman of privilege. I understand that now, but I understood that then and I understood that had I come from a different socio economic background.


David Duchovny  20:00

It was easier to get away with shit.


Patric Gagne  20:01

100% but I understood that but I also knew that it wasn’t a guarantee, it’s like, I remember as a kid thinking, I could do anything I want, because your record will be sealed anything prior to 18. I remember having that knowledge. So I’m really good here. And I remember coming of age and realizing alright, you, you no longer have a safety net underneath you, like anything you do from this point forward will stay with you forever, you’re going to have to figure out how to be smarter. And ultimately, I realized now you’re going to have to figure out how to do it without the destructive coping mechanisms because it really is just a matter of time, no matter how, how charming you are, you’re gonna get caught, like, that’s just what’s going to happen and and when that happens, you’re gonna be screwed.


David Duchovny  21:12

You’re right, you’re with your mother and father is very interesting to me, because your dad’s a little manipulative, you know, your dad does some pretty shady things. […] I don’t want to throw dads under the bus but he’s like, you know, he kind of almost, you know, you do talk in the book about people using you. Because you’ll, you’ll do the dirty work, and without feeling bad. But what I want to get to is that even though your mom, you didn’t share with her, she might not have understood she might she might have had a fear of it or whatever. She loved you. And when we talk about epigenetic, and that kind of shit, nature versus nurture, it’s not so much like oh, identify the disorder, I’m going to help you get a drug and get a therapy, whatever. But love, some kind of acceptance. If if your gene for what you have was going to turn at some point, if you would have a different upbringing? Is that something that you feel? Is that something that you feel with other sociopath?


Patric Gagne  22:15

I really do, I mean, I believe sociopathy stems from a genetic predisposition that can be unlocked, so to speak, by environmental stressors, that genetics and environment, you know, sort of interact with each other to produce symptoms. But to your point, because I had a mother, who, who taught me very early, or that, you know, my relationship with my mother, my sister, my father, I love them. I loved them. And so I knew that very early, so later on when I saw.


David Duchovny  22:49

But when you say a lot, what do you mean when you say love, because I’m not sure that we understand that word when it comes out of your mouth.


Patric Gagne  22:55

And I agree with you, i i. And it’s the same for me, because I’m like, all I have is my interpretation of that.


David Duchovny  23:04

It’s all we all have. And let’s, let’s be clear, love is just a word.


Patric Gagne  23:08

But when I look when I look at neurotypical people, when I listen to them, describe it. And I’ve said this before, it sounds crazy, but I understand that love is that sort of be all end all have neurotypical emotions. But for me, I, I experienced it, less emotionally, it was more of a matter of fact, I didn’t have those sweeping overwhelming feelings that my mother or sisters certainly demonstrate. But I love you, I love you. And the reason that I know that is because I care about what happens to you. And I don’t want to see you in pain. And I will follow to the ends of the earth, anyone who’s trying to hurt you. I don’t think that my sister, or my mother, or some of my friends would fall in that latter category. I think that they would be really mad at somebody who hurt me, but I’ll end you if you hurt someone who hurt someone I love. And that’s how I understand love.


David Duchovny  24:13

But but let’s say let’s just say what I’m fascinated like theoretically and this is this is like dangerous territory, I think, and I hesitate to talk about it, but fuck it. It’s like sometimes I think we’re more like an ant colony than we like to admit, you know, and that certain people are born with certain proclivities because that’s how the hive headstone is. Let’s say, We’re bees because.


Patric Gagne  24:38

I get it.


David Duchovny  24:39

So who are our warriors, but people who are okay with battle people who don’t have fear people who are okay with hurting the enemy or fighting the enemy or killing the enemy. And so, you know, aside from being a spectrum, and you call it a disorder, I mean, I can look at something’s just the way I don’t know how else to put it. It’s very, we all have a place I guess is what I’m saying. And nature is a genius and creates, you know, the right pegs to fit in the right holes.


Patric Gagne  25:13

I really agree and and see you can say that and I’m glad you did because you can’t say last. Well, I the last thing I want is anyone to think that I’m romanticizing this disorder or.


David Duchovny  25:24

I do feel that it was romanticizing.


Patric Gagne  25:27

No, no, no, like coming from me I can see that people are going to push back on. There was there was an article that ran about me It said something like, LA mom is a sociopath and loves it like are what things are. And it was funny.


David Duchovny  25:43

You know what I read reviews of your book and I thought they were they were snarky. I didn’t The New York Times one, you know talking about your photographic memory. Well, there’s so many books, you can attack memoirs that you can attack like that. I I was kind of pissed off reading those. I’m sure you were as well.


Patric Gagne  26:01

You know what I wasn’t, I really wasn’t pissed off. I was disappointed because it was lazy, to me. That’s what it felt it felt it felt petty and.


David Duchovny  26:09

It was lazy. It is lazy.


Patric Gagne  26:10

It like I listen, I knew that in writing this book, I was going to be met with a certain level of skepticism. You know, I identify myself as a liar on the first page of the book. I mean, I the first paragraph, I think even I get it. You know, what I wasn’t anticipating was the degree to which some people would intentionally disregard facts in order to justify in like, an inaccurate narrative. You don’t understand all I’m trying to do is expand the conversation. This isn’t a zero sum game. This isn’t if I’m right, you’re wrong. And if you’re right, I’m wrong. So let’s talk about it. You know, let’s expand the research. Let’s find more treatment options. Let’s, let’s investigate different different modalities. There’s a much more elevated conversation we could be having. So it’s mystifying to me that people want to, you know, pit my life experience against the pop cultural definition of sociopathy or apply skepticism to my name or my degrees, things that are just so easy to fat check. I think that ultimately, I represent sort of an inconvenient truth in that people want to believe that all monsters look like monsters, all sociopaths are monsters, therefore, they’re easy to spot. So I don’t have to wonder whether I’m sleeping next to one or how or whether I burst one or whether I’m one. It’s they want things to be neat and clean. But that’s not reality. And to your point, I think that there is a tremendous advantage in certain elements of the sociopathic personality.


David Duchovny  27:46

Well, first of all, you have a sense of humor, which I didn’t think sociopaths had. Not just because you’re oh, it’s just charm so you’re faking it, you’re not really.


Patric Gagne  27:54

I’m not faking it, but I think that, for me, that was yeah, I think that’s the easiest way to, for me. humor was always the easiest way to defuse discomfort.


David Duchovny  28:05

Yeah, so just like you call us neurotypical. I think that’s a that’s a weird term. But I don’t think anybody’s typical, but let’s say, what can you what can you tell it? What can you tell us from the land of your land? You know?


Patric Gagne  28:18

For the longest time when I was coming on this podcast, I thought it was Fall Better about the name of the Fall Better? And then I was like, oh, no, it’s Fail Better.


David Duchovny  28:27



Patric Gagne  28:27

And and I think that I don’t know. I think that just that name indicates an understanding that there sort of is no such thing as as failure, everything brings you to the next space. And certainly it’s easy for me to say because I don’t have that feeling of of failure. And again, which is not to say that I can’t fail that I can’t you know that I can’t do a poor job, but I don’t internalize it that way. So when I if I want.


David Duchovny  29:04

Wwhy not?


Patric Gagne  29:05

I just it just doesn’t land with me that way.


David Duchovny  29:09

It has something to do with you say at some point in the book and please correct me, misquote you and or, or in the checklist. Sociopathy inability to learn from mistakes.


Patric Gagne  29:27

Well, no, because I do.


David Duchovny  29:28

It’s my theory, but that mistakes have to hurt to learn. And if you can, I don’t hurt you. No, okay. So please tell me talk to me about that.


Patric Gagne  29:39

I’m trying to think of like okay, well, this is this is the only one I can really it’s coming to mind that I connect can I can connect to a to a sadness. And that was a failure. And even though I’m gonna get an instant pushback because this isn’t a failure, but this is the only one that I can remember having an emotional reaction to. And that was, I had a number of of miscarriages, I stopped counting at five. And I remember, I remember feeling sadness, and frustration and rage. And I can only assume that that’s what a lot of neurotypical people experience when they have that, that you know, that sense of failure, which is that I have done something wrong, I am not good enough to to produce what I want to produce. And that leads to, to shame and to guilt and to remorse and regret. But when you don’t have those emotional constructs that are sort of keeping you tethered, you have to look to an external philosophy. And, you know, if I write something that I don’t like, or if I have pursued something that I didn’t get, I don’t remember ever feeling that shame, or I’m not good enough for I need to work harder, or I need to do better. I just remember thinking, Alright, I’m just gonna figure something else out.


David Duchovny  31:15

That’s a superpower. I can tell you.


Patric Gagne  31:17

I think so. I agree. I agree with you. But But a lot of people don’t want to hear that.


David Duchovny  31:22

Why not? I mean, I know you’re a therapist, and you work, I think mostly with people who are have sociopathic tendencies, right but.


Patric Gagne  31:29

Not anymore. But yeah.


David Duchovny  31:32

If you were, if you had somebody in therapy, like, say me, and I’m saying, fuck, I can’t get over this thing. And this was a failure, and it’s just sitting with me and I, what do we do?


Patric Gagne  31:44

Well, I, I think that’s where the therapeutically, I was able to offer something that that not, you know, every other therapist could, which is, you know, they talk about this therapeutic process, you you will lend your, your patients or, you know, the ego strength when lending an ego strength is, is common, and I knew them from sociopathic strength, it’s, it’s, it’s okay, so let’s take a look at the feelings that you have. And let’s, let’s observe them objectively. And you know, and because I wasn’t coming to my practice with my own typical emotional baggage, my emotional experience, never played a part in that, so I would have, you know, individuals disclosing all types of things that might make someone else react emotionally. Whereas for me, it was more there was there was, I didn’t come to it, emotionally came to it objectively, you have shame, because of this thing that you can’t get past. Let’s talk about it, let’s get into it. Let’s process it. And I think maybe even unconsciously, somebody seeing another person in front of them not having a pearl clutching reaction, or even a reaction at all, sort of diffuses the, you know, takes the sting out of it a little bit deeper.


David Duchovny  33:00

It’s a little different from say, neurotypical therapy, where the therapist would model constellation or grief.


Patric Gagne  33:08



David Duchovny  33:08

Empathy, so you’re, you’re, you’re modeling objectivity, and, you know, for lack of a better term, just get over it. You know, let’s go, let’s go.


Patric Gagne  33:17

Let’s get over it, but just not. Because my goal wasn’t just get over it. It was observation. So it wasn’t hurry up and get over it. It was, oh, wow, let’s, uh, let me observe this, like, oh, that’s interesting. So this thing happened to you. This was your reaction to it. And now you’re carrying this reaction into all of these other reactions? And have you noticed that like, have you thought like, did you notice that this, this action right here looks from 10 years ago looks a lot like this one from yesterday. Like, isn’t that interesting?


David Duchovny  33:48

You’re not so hunted by any kind of emotional reaction to the story. And you can just see the plot points and you go, hey, you’re just in an endless loop of repetition here.


Patric Gagne  33:57

Yeah. As opposed to you fucking idiot like you did that 10 years, do you not see.


David Duchovny  34:02

It’s a nice way of saying, you fucking idiot. But it can help. You know, it can help.


Patric Gagne  34:06

See you’re you’re coming you’re helping them come to a place of observation too, as opposed to reliving this trauma, reliving the shame sitting in it. And certainly all of those things are helpful. And that occurs too. But ultimately, it’s observation and helping them people be more objective about what’s going on with them, as opposed to this endless cycle of guilt and remorse and grief and shame.


David Duchovny  34:31

Yeah, that’s, that’s the ticket out if possible, you know.


Patric Gagne  34:36

Yeah, I think so.


David Duchovny  34:37

Okay, we did it. I was wrong, we solved it. That’s the end of the podcast.


Patric Gagne  34:40

Thanks, guys. Thanks, everybody.


David Duchovny  35:12

By your estimation, you’re are you going to say 5% of the population is sociopath?


Patric Gagne  35:18

The clinical understanding is that it hovers right around 5% of the population, but.


David Duchovny  35:24

So we’re talking about millions upon millions of people.


Patric Gagne  35:28

Millions of people, but when you consider that most of the diagnostic interviews for sociopathy, and psychopathy take place within the prison system, there’s no way that number isn’t likely, considerably higher.


David Duchovny  35:41



Patric Gagne  35:42

But even if we were just talking about 5%, that’s roughly the same percentage as those suffering from depressive disorders, bipolar, borderline personality disorders. And yet, if you walk into a bookstore, you will find dozens of books on every personality type, every disorder every psychological ailment known to man, except for sociopathy or psychopathy. There are no self help books. There are no support groups, there are books for those who have been victimized of sociopaths and psychopaths. But there’s nothing for that personality type specifically. And it’s because of that stigma.


David Duchovny  36:27

It’s just lazy Hollywood writers are your problem.


Patric Gagne  36:29

Well, it’s not just.


David Duchovny  36:32

Depressive people can’t drive a plot, it just moping.


Patric Gagne  36:36

Well, if it bleeds, it leads. It’s a lot. It’s a lot more more fun, I think.


David Duchovny  36:43

And you’re saying in the book, you call it a spectrum disorder, which to me, it’s tough. Because once you say spectrum, all of a sudden, it’s very hazy, all of a sudden, what I had was a diagnosis. And now what I’ve got is a mood, you know?


Patric Gagne  36:57

Yeah, certainly there are going to be those extreme examples as there are with lots of different personality types. But there are also individuals that fall fall on the mild to moderate side for whom treatment is possible for whom self awareness is possible. And I think it’s, I think it’s really important to to understand that because the research indicates that the majority of the individuals who fall on within, you know, under the sociopathic umbrella, are those mild to moderate cases. And I think as long as we continue to define sociopathy, by the extreme examples, we’re going to miss the opportunity to address the individuals for whom treatment is not only possible, but effective, potentially, especially when we’re talking about juveniles.


David Duchovny  37:52

You know, you write about this in the book and, and it’s a major to me a major part of the book and something that I’m very interested in from the experience I had with my daughter was nine months old, and she got very ill, and I was afraid she was going to die. And I kind of disconnected in a way because I was terrified. And you talk about having this maybe a fantasy of when you’re gonna give birth, you’re gonna feel that love. And it doesn’t happen. And can you talk a little about that? And and again, I would go back to if you could also address it as did you feel like a failure? I mean, if you said that to a mom, I all my life didn’t change. As soon as my child was born, I didn’t feel that overwhelming thing, which is what you write in the book, Can you can you talk a little about that?


Patric Gagne  38:41

Yeah, that’s a really good point. I never made that connection that I probably did feel like a failure in that in that moment, but I what I felt, so I, I felt when my when my son was born. And I didn’t have that instant connection to him. I remember I was, I was it was rage. It wasn’t sadness. It wasn’t, it was rage. And I remember.


David Duchovny  39:13

The rage directed at?


Patric Gagne  39:14

Me, because because I understood that unconsciously, I had been holding out hope that this would be the one time that emotion would not be robbed from me. And I didn’t know why it wasn’t playing out on a conscious level because I remember I had I had been through the graduations I had been through the weddings. I’ve been through, you know, all of these markers that are supposed to you know, elicit these reactions, but but this was this was it if it wasn’t going to happen here was going to happen. I and I instantly understood that I had been holding out hope. And I was so angry at myself. It’s like what have you done? This whole experience now is once again proof that you can’t feel only now you’ve brought a small person into it. And what if you never feel for this kid like way to go? Way to go mom, excellent job, and just this just fury at myself for having been so foolish. But once that part, calm down, hi, hello. Like, probably a couple months, like weeks, two months.


David Duchovny  40:24

And at that point, are you having trouble being with the baby?


Patric Gagne  40:27

Oh, yeah, and I and I, I just sort of went through the motions, I did what I needed to do. But again, without that emotional component, I understood that it was it was, it was lacking. But I also understood there was nothing I could do about it. But after the rage came down, that’s when I settled into the yeah, there’s nothing to do about this, like, I didn’t choose this, all I have is this, this toolkit, that’s what I got. And, and there are some tools missing. But there are also some tools added. So if I can look at this from from that, you know, from that lens, I think that I could be a good mom, I might not be a typical mom, I might not be like everyone else says mom or all the other moms on the block, but I also don’t give a shit. So as long as my child is not being hurt, as long as I can, as long as I can give him what he needs. And when I can’t I know, to bring in others who can, it’s going to be okay. And and I and I remember later reading about postpartum depression and the experience of women suffer from that, and and also being better equipped to treat that as a clinician. Because up until that point, I didn’t really have any. I didn’t have any understanding of that. And my experience grew that understanding. And it was also sort of nice to feel that although other women were not experiencing this necessarily based on sociopathy, they were having a similar experience and they figured it out. So I’ll figure it out too.


David Duchovny  42:13

Well, that’s that gets back to like, you know, you have this access to the non apathetic version of Zen detachment, you have an access to what all the housewives in Beverly Hills are paying so much money to try to get, you know, to try and be naughty. We all valorize non attachment in the society, we also is the holy grail. And then then when we show it we’re vilified though, you know, when we show it in action, we are vilified, for instance, that would be caring for the planet more than the fucking people destroying it from time to time. So how do you experience other people’s sense of Zen attachment or non attachment? How do you experience that neurotypical people? And how do you kind of can you describe it in yourself? What?


Patric Gagne  42:58

Well, it’s funny because you know, you referenced you know, it’s what every, every housewife in Beverly Hills is trying to attain, myself included. By the way, I was one of those women that spent 1000s of dollars to take one of these like, you know, you know, advanced meditation.


David Duchovny  43:03

[…] ours you had or what were you doing?


Patric Gagne  43:15

Well, I got I got I remember walking around Brentwood. Like we’re all going to take a walk now. And we’re just going to be with the trees. And we’re not going to say anything. We’re not going to have any reaction or emotion. I remember we were walking around, I was like, This is it? Like, this is what I do every day. It really, and I remember laughing about it with with the guy leading it, who’s this extraordinary guru named Steve Ross, who I just think I know. God, he’s so bad. About that. Yes, we laugh about that, to this day.


David Duchovny  43:45

I’ve known Steve for 30 years, probably […] brother.


Patric Gagne  43:49

I love him. Yeah, I’ve probably known him for about Yeah, it’s like me 20 years and, and he was like, yeah, I don’t I didn’t understand what you were doing. My interpretation of others. Detachment is that it is it’s an effort and is.


David Duchovny  44:06

Well, as you have to make an effort to feel they have to make an effort to not feel so we can have we gonna have sympathy maybe for one another and try to meet in some kind of a middle. But maybe you maybe you have again, like your approach or your natural approach to failure. Maybe you have some, some insight from the other side of what non attachment is like and what it feels like. I don’t know what I’m asking. But you know, if you’ve thought about these things.


Patric Gagne  44:32

Yeah, no, I just I, I think it’s from what I understand. It’s so much of the clutter and the neurotypical mind comes from shame and guilt. And what other people are thinking this fear this need to people please this fear that they’re not doing enough that they aren’t enough and.


David Duchovny  44:52

You, really don’t care what people think of you.


Patric Gagne  44:54

I really don’t.


David Duchovny  44:55

I know I’m not one but.


Patric Gagne  44:58

I really don’t I.


David Duchovny  45:00



Patric Gagne  45:01

Listen, that is different from, you know, not caring when I have I heard someone do. Yeah, no, I don’t I don’t care. Not at all.


David Duchovny  45:13

And let’s go back to that New York Times because when the New York Times doesn’t like, yeah, I heard you didn’t hurt.


Patric Gagne  45:19

No, no, I was frustrated for the others. For the others, like me, you know?


David Duchovny  45:29

What do you mean the others like you, other sociopath?


Patric Gagne  45:32

Other people who identify with my personality type, so here’s Okay, so So I was contacted by a magazine who wanted to write a profile on me. And the fact checkers wanted to vet my credentials, proof of my degrees proof of my clinical work. They wanted a copy of my dissertation, no problem. We sent it over, they acknowledged receipt. And yet when the article ran, it said, and I’m paraphrasing, while Patrick claims to have a PhD, we were unable to find evidence of it online, which was intentionally misleading. And that’s when it dawned on me. Oh, it’s not that you don’t believe me? It’s that you don’t want to believe me, you would rather stick with your one dimensional understanding of sociopathy because it’s cells because what I’m saying isn’t as sexy as the serial killer composite. And and so tonight.


David Duchovny  46:23

You know, I don’t agree with that what you’re saying demands a lot of work.


Patric Gagne  46:28

Yes, okay yeah, it’s it’s lazy. This isn’t about me. This has nothing to do with me at all this has to do with the word sociopath, the emotion it evokes in people, which I find endlessly fascinating that this personality is word sociopath, which is, which is synonymous with lack of feeling actually elicits the most feeling. And it’s problematic. Not really, for me when when something like that happens, but for others like me, who are going to be less inclined to come forward because the climate is still so, so charged. And yeah, I don’t I don’t have that sadness, or, oh, no, I I wish you liked me. I don’t, it’s just not there. It’s just not there.


David Duchovny  47:12

That’s a superpower if ever I heard no, no, I’m not making a joke. And I and I wanted to ask you, you know, a lightning round. First, I wanted to first I wanted to ask you, do you think there’s a difference between male and female sociopath?


Patric Gagne  47:27

100%, and that’s one of the things that I really hope I and I’ve had this conversation with, with other clinicians and, and I’ve had this conversation with with, you know, actual researchers, people whose life is research. And in that I find a lot of a tremendous amount of gender bias in the diagnostics, one of which being the one of the dominant traits of sociopathy and psychopathy is social dominance. And the way that they have determined psychopaths and sociopaths assert social dominance is through overt physical aggression. But that was never the case. For me, the way that I always asserted social dominance was through charm and sex. And I find that a lot of females are going to move through the world, female sociopaths female sex, they’re gonna move to the world differently than men. Because we are built differently, we have a different set of skills.


David Duchovny  48:16

Right, two last things I want to talk about, because I don’t want to take up too much.


Patric Gagne  48:22

No, I’m loving this conversation yeah.


David Duchovny  48:26

One is I want you to talk a little about cognitive behavioral therapy, because that’s what works for you. And that’s very interesting, because it’s very similar to like, 12 step stuff to me.


Patric Gagne  48:36

Cognitive Behavioral, I always understood right from wrong, I just don’t always have that emotional connection to it. So when you’re missing that emotional connection, again, you have to make decisions based on external philosophies. For the longest time acting out was were was rewarding for me in that it, it neutralized this pressure that I was experiencing. Could I act out now? Yeah. And I remember somebody asking me what, what keeps you from kicking the dog, and it was I was, I just remember being like, I don’t want to kick a dog like it doesn’t smell like I need these invisible forces, keeping me from from injuring animals. But even if I did want to kick the dog, it’s, there’s no more reward. Like for me, being able to live in society, being able to have these these conversations. That’s the reward. I understand that if I engage in, in negative coping mechanisms, destructive coping mechanisms, I’m not going to get anything out of it. So it’s, it’s very, it’s very selfish. It’s very, it’s very objective. But who cares? There’s this understanding that well, if we don’t want to do good, if it doesn’t come from your heart, then it doesn’t count. And I’m here to tell you, that’s insane.


David Duchovny  49:55

Right, yes. I want to ask it’s gotten dark here, and in Greece and.


Patric Gagne  50:04

It’s that, what is that? It’s not dark yet by Bob Dylan.


David Duchovny  50:09

Oh, it’s a great song. I know, I know you love music. Oh, this is perfect. Perfect. Lead me right there. I wanted to ask you. Do you think actors are sociopaths?


Patric Gagne  50:17



David Duchovny  50:18

Yeah, because you have this line in the book, which was very, very harsh. And I don’t think I agree with it. But you say something about artists, once they become artists, they stop evolving as human beings.


Patric Gagne  50:32

Oh, no. Yes, I remember it was I was talking to someone about it was less artists, it was more fame. It was it was specifically related to fame.


David Duchovny  50:43

I can relate to both. And I’ll say, I’m really interested in this topic, because there is something about artists well, first of all, you take actors, actors create masks, they mimic behavior, they plunder their world, the world to try to come up with facsimiles that are dramatically palatable to an audience. How is that different from a sociopath?


Patric Gagne  51:12

Yeah, yep, I would say that, that behaviorally, it’s quite similar, but the difference is the motivation. So an actor is doing that, why for validation, they want the fame, they want the attention, they want to be liked, they want that, that that constant, all.


David Duchovny  51:26

They wanted was or they want to escape themselves.


Patric Gagne  51:29

Or that, whereas, whereas the sociopath masks out of necessity, so I and listen, it’s always tricky to generalize, like.


David Duchovny  51:39

Of course.


Patric Gagne  51:40

Certainly, there is there is a current of of, of manipulation. There’s a current masking, there’s a current of deceit, that runs through actors whose job is to impersonate others for a living. And I think that there’s something sort of alluring about that when you become an actor. At first, it’s like, oh, this is fun. And then it’s like, oh, wait, no, this is actually really fun. And I have all these tools, and I can do all these different things. And it’s, it’s all an illusion.


David Duchovny  52:10

Well, what I’ve said before, what I said before, on this podcast is, you know, I came from a very kind of heady intellectual upbringing. And it was through acting that I learned how to access my emotions, and it’s very, it’s, it’s reminds me a little bit of your journey, as well, where you’re trying to access something in yourself. That was muted. And myself, it was not, it was not the lingua franca, in my family where, you know, it wasn’t that you weren’t validated for being emotionally validated for being smart and intellectual. So I had to then go back and learn myself. And that’s, you know, we listed a lot of like, shitty reasons why somebody becomes an actor, but they’re also, you know, self teaching and, and artistic reasons to become an actor and.


Patric Gagne  53:00

Oh, 100% and I, and I hear that when you’re, when you’re saying that, it sounds like, you know, in order for you to learn emotions, it was probably easier for you to pretend to be someone else because you can you David can sort of stand off to the side, whereas.


David Duchovny  53:17

Well, it was like you it was like you is the tricky thing of like, they don’t know that I really have this inside me. I’m pulling through this, this character named whatever, but shit, I could do these things.


Patric Gagne  53:29



David Duchovny  53:30

Can you spot the sociopath? Could we play that game with you?


Patric Gagne  53:35

Yeah, but I want to be. I want to be transparent in saying that. It’s not easy, you can’t you can’t really spot the sociopath. There’s, it’s it’s tricky, but yeah, we can play that game, I don’t.


David Duchovny  53:47

You’re walking down the street. And you run into somebody and you have a little conversation with them. Do you go hmm. Or is it or do you need more than that?


Patric Gagne  54:01

No, you need more than that. And I am there.


David Duchovny  54:04

Donald Trump?


Patric Gagne  54:06

It’s tricky, because.


David Duchovny  54:08

How many people have asked you that?


Patric Gagne  54:10

Everyone, and I and I don’t have I don’t have the idea.


David Duchovny  54:15

I do, yes, yes. I’m giving you the answer right now.


Patric Gagne  54:17

No, I don’t have the answer that everybody wants. Because to me, no, because to me, when I look at at someone like him, it’s it’s grandiosity, fragility and the need for admiration, and those.


David Duchovny  54:30

Why are we holding back?


Patric Gagne  54:32

Why am I holding back?


David Duchovny  54:34

Why are you so.


Patric Gagne  54:34

Why are we saying because I don’t I don’t think he’s I don’t think he’s sociopathic. And that’s the thing it’s like everyone wants that, that that diagnostic the diagnosis for him. And I don’t believe that to be the case. I it doesn’t match it, you know.


David Duchovny  54:48

Inability to learn from mistakes.


Patric Gagne  54:50

Yes, but what you have to understand is that narcissism and sociopathy have a tremendous amount of overlapping, overlapping traits.


David Duchovny  54:58

I don’t think your system is really a […] of.


Patric Gagne  55:01

It is narcissistic personality disorder isn’t is is not only a diagnosis, but it’s it’s, it’s empirically recognized and and listen, sociopaths they they struggle with the ability to connect to other people so they’re gonna fake what they they’re gonna fake it when they need to get something you know sometimes it’s nefarious, most of the time it’s benign but ultimately it’s a means to an end, sociopaths take the path of least resistance other people’s opinions don’t matter to them, they don’t need the validation if appeasing you helps them reach their goal, they’re going to do it if not appeasing you helps them reach their goal, they’re going to do it all they care about is the goal. To a narcissist, though, the goal is meaningless without the validation, they need that admiration they need to believe that other people see them as as a godly creature. It’s all that matters. That’s what I see. And that’s not consistent with a sociopathic diagnosis.


David Duchovny  55:57

You know, it everything to me, is a double edged sword. Life is a double edged sword. So narcissism and sociopaths, whatever we call these disorders, or these, whatever you want to call them, there’s good and bad to what those things are, they give power as well as taking it away, they give beauty as well as as being the ugliest things we can we can think of so, you know, I believe you can’t be an artist without being somewhat narcissists are gonna have to, you just have to believe just believe that you have something the world needs to come out of your mouth or out of your paintbrush, or out of your typewriter, whatever.


Patric Gagne  56:37

I agree, but I do believe that there is a difference between narcissism and what is described as malignant narcissism. When someone’s talking about malignant narcissism. They’re speaking to the personality type, the narcissistic ego defense has gotten so out of control that there is no coming back, but just narcissism. You know, once you tap into that, that malignant area, that’s when that’s when it is believed that it is not treatable in much the same way that that psychopathy is not believed to be treatable.


David Duchovny  57:07

We’ll say that’s kind of what you’re saying, at some point, we’ll start to see seen as a spectrum disorder as well.


Patric Gagne  57:13

I really believe especially when you’re talking about something that is that is that is born out of necessity as, as is with narcissism. Again, this need for grandiosity, this need for admiration. It comes from a place of pain, it comes from a place of deep inferiority like primal life or death, inferiority. So if we can dismantle that coping mechanism, if we can redirect it before it gets to the point where you can’t scale that wall, I think that in that case, treatment is possible self awareness is possible. But again, we got to get to this stuff early. We have to identify this stuff early. And you’re not going to do that. So long as everybody’s just being tossed into the garbage bin of narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy.


David Duchovny  57:56

Of course. Well, I think I would like to end here because we, it’s dark in Greece. And we ended with narcissists. You know, we ended up back with the myths, and I thank you for, you know, for entering into that conversation. And like I said, I really enjoyed reading the book. Thank you, thank you, for your honesty, for.


Patric Gagne  58:17

Thank you for having me. Honestly, this was truly it was such a it was such a fun and smart conversation.


David Duchovny  58:25

I don’t believe anything you’re saying but.


Patric Gagne  58:26

That’s okay.


David Duchovny  58:27

Because because I know it’s just charm. It’s just charm you’re trying to get at my people, please.


Patric Gagne  58:31

No, and I’ll tell you what.


David Duchovny  58:32

I’m trying to manipulate my narcissism. I know what you’re doing.


Patric Gagne  58:35

Here’s why. And here’s why that’s not true. Because if if it if it if I didn’t mean what I was saying now, I wouldn’t have stayed on on the call. Like, I enjoyed this, which is the only reason that I wanted to keep talking. Otherwise, I would have made an excuse and bailed.


David Duchovny  59:05

When I finished my conversation with Patric, I was felt myself going back to that discussion we had about the failure she felt when her child was born. And she didn’t feel that overwhelming. Maternal love come out of her the way she realized she had been expecting it. And I thought back to my own mom, not because my mother was a sociopath, but just because there was a time when I was in first or second grade when I was hyperactive or acting out or whatever. And they sent me to the psychiatrist. I didn’t know they’re watching me play. They were just watching to see what kind of kid I was, I guess. And my mom bless her. She ended up telling them just because you can’t handle him, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. That just fills me with love for my mother and respect for her as a parent, and that is the kind of parent that I think Patric can be that kind of fierce, protective. Draw the line in the sand kind of mother. That’s the kind of love that she can give. I’m sure with other kinds of love as well, but that’s what I’m thinking about after the conversation.


CREDITS  1:00:28

There’s more Fail Better with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like more of my behind the scenes thoughts on this episode. Subscribe now and Apple podcasts. Fail Better as a production of Lemonada media in coordination with King Baby. It is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Dani Matias  . Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Our SVP of weekly is Steve Nelson. Our VP of new content is Rachel Neil. Special thanks to Carl Ackerman, Tom Karpinski and Kate D. Lewis, the show’s executive produced by Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova, Kramer and me, David Duchovny, I mean, the company dammit. The music is also by me and my band. Lovely Colin Lee. Pat McCusker, Mitch Stewart, Davis Rowan and Sebastian […]. Special thanks to Brad Davidson. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me @DavidDuchovny, you know what it means when I say at David Duchovny. Follow Fail Better wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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