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Symptoms:

1.Namecaller: This defines flamers. "Flamer" means "namecaller." Being one myself, I can see that our purpose in life is to build ourselves up by tearing others down. When our insults hit home, we become stronger while our victims weaken. It's as if "Self Respect" was something we can steal from others to add it to our own. We're very good at this, and adept at keeping it hidden from onlookers. Often our namecalling will subtly infect every bit of our conversation to the point where it becomes invisible. With this invisibility comes great power. To onlookers, our victims then appear genuinely small and evil. Sometimes our namecalling seems like mental illness because it's completely unconscious: we're genuinely unaware of the namecalling we use, and we honestly deny it when confronted. Sometimes we'll carefully avoid any namecalling whatsoever, yet still suffer from all the other symptoms on this list in major ways (then would I still be a flamer? Yes, just harder to recognize.) Strip the namecalling from an ongoing flamewar, and it becomes a discussion.

The namecalling has another interesting aspect: we flamers love to alter reality by constantly applying derogatory 'important labels' to people, and by striving to convince others to accept those labels. Where normal people would just express their viewpoint on your behavior, flamers will try to make their viewpoints become something real, and we do this by applying a derogatory label to you. For example, I'll try to convince you NOT that (in my opinion) you've misremembered something, but instead that you're actually a "Forgetful Person." No opinions involved. Or instead of saying that I personally don't like your behavior, instead I'll try to convince you and everyone around you that you're a Bad Person. At first glance this might look like a stream of namecalling, but a more insightful description might be "attempting to distort reality by applying succinct labels."

2. Competitive/argumentative:FPD flamers are fighters. We're verbal brawlers; we enjoy fierce arguments for their own sake. Reasoning with us is a complete waste of time, since we're out to win, and not out to actually listen to you. We'll intentionally pick fights and start flamewars, and will also make moves which continue the fight rather than ending it. Aggression is what we live for. "Public defeat of other forum users is what life itself is all about." And our stance is pure aggressive competition, "kill or be killed," where giving ground or working cooperatively with colleagues is impossible. "If you're not a winner, you're a loooooser!" Some of us are extremely uncreative, and we see success as something to be stolen from opponents. We live in a hellish world without any hope of love, a world made entirely of zero-sum games: we don't manufacture our own "joy", so our only possible hope is to steal some of yours. Our viewpoints form our entire world; a world which must be defended at a cost of obliteration. To get us to change even a single opinion, you must utterly defeat us in a public battle. And more often than not, we will somehow forget the entire event, and restore our original opinion the next day. Again: trying to get us to see your viewpoint is a complete waste of time, it's "feeding the troll." And, at the same time we LABEL (ahem!) ourselves as completely "Open To Reason," as if applying the label makes it so.

3. Amoral: flamers believe that insults, verbal abuse, character attacks, lies, and even death threats are perfectly acceptable behavior once "justified." Zero empathy, Zero compassion: totally blind to the pain that our behavior brings to others. Many of us grew up in a world without love, hence love has no place in our mental toolkit. We may even have a psychopath streak, where the very existence of any other beings with feelings is not really real to us. If flamers still have a tiny sensitivity to others' pain, we crush it with words like: "she deserved it!", or, "well, they started it!" If you honestly complain to flamers, expect our response to be "oh, you're so sensitive," or "You're Not Hurt!", said with sneering contempt.

4. Vengeful: flamers believe that once an insult has been received, it becomes perfectly acceptable to return the insult, or even to embark on a longrunning insult stream. Fighting in public is perfectly OK. We know that returning insults in response to insults is always justified, even required, since any damage to our self-image is painful and needs prompt treatment. "Flamewars are not shameful. Only people who START flamewars are shameful." Unfortunately, we constantly start flamewars: we must repair the damage caused by all insults, even the tiny ones, and even the ones which any bystander would see as an obvious misunderstanding. Our sensitivity to ego-damage is so high that we'll often misunderstand things and take insult where none was offered.

This constantly creates new examples of the aggressive "tit for tat" behavior we display. And it's very much "eye for an eye," where each theft of self image requires a quick cure (and perhaps requires some punishment as well.) Some FPD-ers see others' lack of response as being disgusting weakness: "I damaged your ego, and you're such a weakling that you didn't even bother to fight back." And if you drop your defenses and show personal vulnerability, again it's your disgusting weakness. Expect admissions of personal human flaws to be used against you in public.

5. Deceitful: FPD flamers see nothing wrong with constant lying and distortion as long as our victims don't catch on to us. We constantly lie as a defense, but we're extremely skilled at keeping the lies from being seen. As a result, FPD people sometimes seem far more honest than a normal person. During a discussion, most onlookers won't realize that lying and namecalling is even present unless they personally fight with us. We set up deep and extensive "plausible deniability" to conceal our dishonest personal attacks. We're adept geniuses at Playing the Victim ...even as we're attacking our victim! :) If our victims try to point out the misbehavior, often the onlookers will DISBELIEVE THE VICTIM, and take sides with the flamer! To detect this sort of covert dishonesty, you absolutely must fight with us personally while watching for evidence of our deception and distortion. You'll quickly see what's going on, whereas if you only observe an argument from outside, the situation will seem very different, and the flamer may seem completely innocent. These flamers' lies and namecalling subtly penetrate everything, and they remain invisible unless searched for. Call it "oily persuasion" or "malignant dishonesty." Very Creepy! We disclaim all responsibility for problems we have caused and put the blame on others. Many of us are dishonest about our own identity, always hiding our background. For example, don't trust the name we're using, ask for evidence that it's genuine. Often flamers create "fake personalities" or sock-puppet users who seem to provide support to our fights on forums. Flamers are even dishonest about lying itself: "after all, Truth is a matter of opinion." No. Truth is what's left over when all of our lying stops.

Some FPD-ers believe that their undiscovered lies are not "real", and will smugly say "you can't prove that I was lying," when you have discovered that they are. Often their conversations are filled with a recognizable slipperiness, like talking to a sleazy politician or to a dishonest lawyer, or to Dr. Smith from the old "Lost in Space" TV show. Like lawyers in a debate, we aren't straightforward and truthful. We are masters of distortion and persuasion, and will try to manipulate you into huge disputes about infinitely decreasing levels of minutiae in order to divert you from your original topic. Distraction is the flamers' weapon. We'll suddenly attack your misspelled words. We love to dishonestly redefine common words, then to argue endlessly about this. Remember Bill Clinton, who responded to questioning by asking "what do you mean by the word 'is?'"

Flamers are intellectually dishonest and will intentionally sow confusion in order to "win" arguments. We're 'truth obscurers' rather than truth seekers, promoting 'darkness' rather than illumination. We often seem to be thinking: "Lying about my thoughts is the safest. Nobody can know what I ACTUALLY was thinking when I said those words earlier, so I am free to lie in order to completely change my original meaning, and nobody can prove that I did so. " Sometimes we believe all our own lies utterly. That's the worst, because then we see ourselves as impeccably honest... and we mount an enormous distortion-campaign to prove that our opponents are despicable liars.

6. Narcissistic: we have extreme vanity, taking the form of an exquisite sensitivity to anything which even SLIGHTLY resembles an insult. We cannot let small perceived insults go by, but must respond. This is because we're employing a false, artificially good "self-image" in order to remain blind to our own rotten behavior. Our fragile false image is easily damaged by how we're seen by others. As a result, our sensitivity to "What People Think" is very large, and we'll go to enormous lengths to avoid being labeled with negative descriptions. For example, sometimes we behave very nasty during private email conversations, but seem like saints when on a public forum with an audience watching. Also, healthy people spend a bit of time letting down their guard, publicly talking about their successes, about personal flaws, comparing notes with fellow humans, etc. Not so the worst FPD-ers. This whole side of our conversation is simply GONE. Often we'll do almost ANYTHING to avoid having our flaws noticed, or to avoid being embarrassed in public. When things aren't going our way, sometimes we'll drop the thread and go silent for days, then upon returning, lie about being "on vacation" or some such. Escaping embarrassment definitely includes amazingly desperate attempts to avoid being proved wrong in front of colleagues. Whenever we're in danger of losing a public argument, we tend to slip into an intellectually dishonest or even disturbingly "brain damaged" style of reasoning which tends to create feelings of confusion or even nausea on the part of onlookers. It's like looking on the naked face of genuine insanity. If you have ever seen this occur, you'll never forget it.

7. Paranoid: we constantly display secretive behavior, being careful never to freely discuss personal info about our schooling, experience, everyday lives, etc. This goes with #6 above: in order to project a dishonest image as a superior "expert" rather than a flawed fellow human, we must carefully prevent anyone from learning the simple truth about our actual background and experience. We commonly hide behind anonymous "handles," "online names," and anonymous email accounts so that web searches cannot turn up any real-world info about us. We have no real online friends, and instead treat everyone as an enemy who might be "collecting damning evidence" and who cannot be trusted. We can never let down our guard and take part in a simple human conversation, as if that might give our opponents some weapons which will be used against us in future battles. On the other hand, if a person has a true personality disorder, there may BE no genuine human being there with which to communicate, and we FPD-ers desperately try to hide this fact, especially from ourselves.

8. No expressed self-doubt. "Perfect" people don't have to guard against making mistakes (unless those mistakes involve being caught lying, or letting their false image be exposed.) Also, a "perfect" person will see nothing wrong with responding to PERCEIVED insults; it never occurs to flamers to first check out if our perception was a mistake. We seem to be silently thinking: "since I never make perceptual mistakes, then whenever I feel insulted, somebody MUST have insulted me intentionally." Or this: "since I never make mistakes, whenever there is a difference of opinion, the other guy MUST be wrong, therefore I don't have to examine my own arguments even slightly, much less intentionally go looking for possible flaws in my reasoning." And lacking self-doubt, we'll use YOUR self-doubt against you by constantly calling your motives into question during an argument. But note that we rarely take our own advice and sit down to analyze our OWN motives. It's of paramount importance that we hide our true motives from ourselves. We're so busy with this that we don't bother to prevent everyone else from seeing them.

9. Self-blind: No insight into our own flaws and foibles. We cannot see our own mistakes no matter how obvious they are to others, and as a result we often act like superior and perfect beings who are surrounded by contemptible inferiors. A capsule description of the pure flamer personality could be "haughty superior arrogance" or "smug sneering contempt." Note well that our self-blindness is very active and carefully maintained. No matter how you may try to "hold up a mirror" or help us get even a tiny insight into our own behavior, we will expertly block you at every turn. It's not really blindness when we're such an expert in keeping our eyes tight shut. But you cannot see what *we* see, should our eyes ever open.

10. Hypocritical: totally enmeshed in a self-serving bias: "when I do it, it's a pure and justified deed, but when you do exactly the same thing, it's a shameful and disgusting PLOY." Flamers constantly give advice to others, but it's very obvious that we don't practice even a tiny bit of what we preach. We're always polishing a collection of "reasonable arguments" to justify any of our common misbehaviors, all the while remaining convinced that, when others do them, the same behaviors are reprehensible. For example, we'll often describe our personal attacks as "constructive criticism" or "just telling the truth," but describe any criticism we receive in return as being "disgusting insults, character assassination." Another: flamers often suddenly change the subject to "try a new approach." But if our VICTIMS ever dare to start another thread, obviously they're being manipulative worms who try to weasel out from under justified criticism.

11. Egocentric: we flamers have a very low opinion of others, and an exalted opinion of ourselves. Our humility is almost entirely absent; we act as if we think we're spotless. Flamers also act as if everyone else has disgusting flaws which need to be pointed out in great detail, ...but of course if anyone does the same back to us, we become enraged. Some flamers regard humility and self-criticism as a weakness or a character flaw. We criticize others either harshly or subtly, but become angry and extremely defensive about the smallest criticism we receive in return, sometimes even flying into towering rages. We never apologize, ever, and if you should ever apologize to us, we'll use it to emphasize your embarrassing error. Flamers' noisy, obnoxious behavior and constant flamewars seem like transparent attempts to draw attention to ourselves. Often this effort seems almost "evil", as if the attention we crave is like energy being sucked out of the hearts of everyone around us. It is, but it's "self-approval" rather than energy. We cannot create any self-approval ourselves, so we have to harvest it elsewhere.

12. Denying/projecting: We cannot see reality honestly, but must constantly manipulate it by erasing some parts and distorting others. E.g flamers clearly see others' flaws and launch an attack, all the while hiding from themselves the fact that we have EXACTLY those flaws in enormous quantity. Sometimes our victims don't even have those flaws at all, and the reason for a flamer's attack is nothing but a delusional "projection" of our flaws onto our victims. We describe our own actions in glowing terms, and apply derogatory language to the actions of everyone around us. We constantly change honest descriptions of events into dishonest alternate labels, and will argue incessantly about the "special" phrases which MUST be used to label something. To maintain denial, we must add a dishonest "spin" to all descriptions in order to prevent any clear honest viewpoint of the world from intruding. During arguments, a flamer typically takes the stance of a pure and righteous warrior battling a disgusting foe. ( i.e. we "project" a falsely pure image onto ourselves to cover our flaws, as well as "projecting" a false demonized image onto our opponents to make them seem evil.) Projections are seductive and difficult to fight, and sometimes the victims of flamers will find themselves pulled into the role of "inferior disgusting foe," and then begin to play that character against their will (a strange psychological process called "projective counteridentification.") But note that the role comes from the flamer, not from the victim. It's part of the flamer's deceit-based attack strategy, which is the REAL cause for disgust.

13. Pervasive, long-standing, intense symptoms: Anyone can get angry and "flame" you. And everyone, including both you and I, has a very large "flamer" side to their personality. But having a temper is not the same as having a mental illness. To have a "Personality Disorder", a person has to BECOME the symptoms, so their whole world is ruled by symptoms and little humaness remains. There is a difference between acting like a flamer from time to time, versus taking on full Flamer-hood 24/7. Of course Personality Disorders are also on a spectrum; just because somebody acts normal occasionally doesn't mean they're not FPD flamers. A clue: if I have a very widespread reputation as "a flamer", then my problem might run deeper than occasional bursts of anger. Another clue: if you clearly can see yourself in the symptoms I describe above, then you're not at all self-blind and are probably normal. :)

However, if you are CERTAIN that not the slightest SCRAP of the above information could EVER apply to you in any possible way, and it's a TERRIBLE INSULT that someone could even THINK such a thing about you... well...

 




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