Now how can that be?…
– I don’t consider myself a psychopath!
The reason is that I think categorizing everybody who have a certain neurological structure as psychopaths is beyond measure a display of lack in understanding of human nature.
…There, I said it: As much as I agree with you in many ways, Dr. Robert Hare(1*), I also think you lack some fundamental understanding and are very much a product of the present philosophy of the society you grew up in, and as such you are narrow-minded in some ways that are damaging, because as much as your research and the conclusion you have come to are helpful in giving information that can be used to limiting a certain category of damage to society, it extends another kind of damage that we’ve already been suffering from for a very long time.
I have hesitated with saying this directly until now, in part because I’ve been weary about getting your attention, but since I know I already have it anyway. and since I think what I have to say does carry some weight, it may be time to express where my view differ from yours. I am not saying I don’t respect you, because I do. I think you have done some outstanding research and helped us understand and learn about some of the fundamental things about how the human mind works, how it is structured. In that sense we all owe you more than perhaps anybody else in your field of work (at least within the same period in history).
Some of the more well learned readers may now expect me to put forth one of the somewhat well known claims in the last one or two decades saying: “Not all psychopaths are bad!”.
I am not going to do that. Quite frankly I don’t agree with it, I think it’s probably one of the most ridiculous statements out there.
How on earth do anybody come to a conclusion that all psychopaths are not bad!?? They might as well say: “Not all psychopaths are psychopathic!”.
I know this psychopath, it’s really unfair how people call him a psychopath and all. And yeah, he may be a psychopath, but it’s not like he’s a psychopath or anything just because he’s psychopath! He’s not a psychopath just because he’s a psychopath, now, is he!?”
Yeah … not all psychopaths are psychopaths! … Can we pronounce the word: ‘Ri-di-cu-lous’?.
What I am saying is that not everybody who neurological fits the description of a psychopathic person, are psychopaths. And that may seem just as much of a contradiction as the above, but there is a difference.
Another way of saying it: The definition of a psychopath is too narrow, or too wide as it were.
Are Autistic people psychopaths? According to part of the psychopathy definition they are!
An Autistic person who commits violent crimes and who lacks empathy (one of the things they say about Aspies), would fit the description of a psychopath, even if they’re not charming. In fact Hare lists a number of known serial killers whom he (apparently) consider to be the very definition of psychopaths. Among these are Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and Edward Kemper. Hare admits Ed Gein is not classical psychopath, but he mentions him nonetheless. – The point is that psychopaths can (apparently) also have other conditions. In Ed Gein’s case he was schizophrenic, and Jeffrey Dahmer seems more austistic.
But at the same time we learn that psychopaths differ from all the other conditions in that they’re not insane and they ‘know right from wrong’.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s a lot of internal contradictions, there are something not quite right about it all. Whereas we all probably have a very good understanding of what psychopathy is, it isn’t so easy to define psychopathy as any specific kind of human being abstracted from the cultural setting and the mores it adhere to.
I know Aspies who are charming, at least under certain circumstances, and who lie (a LOT!), who most definitely doesn’t display a lot of sympathy (I use the word sympathy because I don’t really understand what empathy is, but – though I may be wrong – I bet that if they don’t have sympathy they don’t have empathy either). The only two things where they don’t fit with the typical notion of psychopathy is in that they aren’t criminal (to my knowledge, that is) and that they have morals.
But then, we also hear that some people with ASPD, and perhaps some secondary psychopaths and at least some sociopaths, can have morals though not the morals of society in general.
Let me say quite plainly how I see it: Psychopaths are bad, ‘bad’ is the very fundamental defining part of what it is to be a psychopath. A Psychopath is a person with a certain neurological make-up, but it’s more than that: They also fit a description of someone who is bad for other people and for society in general.
A psychopath lack empathy. But he’s not a psychopath because he lacks empathy, he’s a psychopath because of what he does with his lack of empathy.
A psychopath lacks remorse. But he’s a psychopath because of what that leads him to do, of what he uses his lack of remorse as an enabling trait for.
A psychopath lacks anxiety and fear. But that in itself isn’t why he’s a psychopath, he’s a psychopath because of the actions he decides to take which he can take only because he has no fear to stop him from taking them.
A psychopath often has a strong persistent need for emotional stimuli. But he’s a psychopath because of the way he seeks stimuli in connection with the type of stimuli he seeks.
Being sadistic does not in itself make you a psychopath. It is what you do with that trait that makes the whole difference. And the same goes for all the other traits.
Being a psychopath is not solely a question of what kinds of personality traits and what neurological make up you have. The definition of psychopathy incorporates to a great extent your actions, what you do with the traits in your personality!
But in my understanding that isn’t the whole picture either. I somehow can’t help but think a very fundamental part of psychopathy lies in how the psychopath thinks… Or that’s how it should be! Because what you do and how you act and behave in life is very much related to how you think.
We often hear that psychopaths believe their victims ‘had it coming’, or ‘it was their own fault’, because ‘they shouldn’t have let me abuse them’. Stuff like that. … I guess it’s got to do with their lack of empathy (though I’m not sure as I don’t quite understand what empathy really is). And this is one of the main points where I really differ from any psychopath I have met or heard of: I understand that most people are not like me, and I also understand that people’s ‘letting emotions run their lives’ is not a choice, they really cannot do any different!
Do I use this difference between myself and others? Yes, but only when I have a very good reason to do so. What I’m saying is this: I don’t inflict pain without reason or merely for fun. I really have to be very, very under-nourished emotionally before I do something of that sort, and even then I keep it to a minimum.
How many psychopaths can relate to what I just wrote? My bet: None!
This is where I believe my opinion differ from Robert Hare’s.
(1*) – …No, I’m not making myself sound important by talking directly to Dr. Robert D. Hare. I know he’ll see this! Hare is a human being like everybody else, not a god. So there’s nothing overly self-important in addressing someone, when you know they’ll see what you’ve written! And I know he will. – No, I don’t know him and haven’t met him. But I know he’s researching the same thing I am and with a lot more experience and help than I’ll ever have, but texts of the type I write in this blog aren’t that common which is why he’ll look into them when they get publicly available. – Voila: Nothing psychopathic grandiose about my words to Dr. Hare in this article.