My Better Half

xanderMy last short story got enough positive feedback that I’m trying my hand at another one. The TV show, Buffy, has an episode in which a character is split apart into two people. One has his weakest traits and the other his strongest ones. They each think the other is an imposter. The weaker one whined, “He’s living my life better than I am.” Their first impulse is to kill each other but they learn that if one dies, the other one does too. They resolve the issue by doing magic to bring the two selves together again. I thought of a much more wicked outcome as I let my imagination run wild and pictured a scenario in which I, as the stronger “self” decided to enslave and imprison my weaker “self” but keep her alive so I could just enjoy the power.

limitlsI always want to be the most optimal, the most perfect me possible. You know the guy in Limitless? Like that but in all areas of my life, not just intellectual. What if I could split myself in half with one half having all the weak, imperfect, undesirable traits and the other all the perfection I can muster.

 

magickLast week, I came across a recipe for a magick spell that would do exactly that. I think I’ll try it. What have I got to lose. Of course, I’ll have to prepare. I’ll have to find a way to keep the weak self alive but under my control. I am already identifying with the strong half. I will have to build a cage to keep her in. I’ll make it pretty comfortable. I will include a bed and a TV. I’ll let her have drugs, the kind that keep her calm and tranquil: Benzo-diazapams and opiates. That should do the trick.

yinyangbreakI cleared the basement and built a cage, one large enough to hold the lessor or mini-me. I like that term. “Mini-me.” It has alliteration. Of course, it’s also the name of some toy for babies but so what. Zero night is here. I descend to the basement and draw a circle which I duly consecrate, calling the corners and invoking deities. I pour the magick sand I have purchased with great difficulty in a little mountain. Then I drizzled the potion over it while chanting. Never mind what was the chant. That’s my secret. Then I took the wet sand and drew a line down from my crown chakra to my second and first chakras and up over my back until the line met itself at the top of my head. I lit a candle and dropped an explosive onto the flame. A big bang.

girl-in-cageI am on the floor, gradually taking inventory of my hands and feet. I am moving, discovering I can get up. I look across the room. There is a weak, pathetic girl my age and gender but very nondescript and lacking in energy. I tower over her. I’ve done it. I’ve accomplished the task of isolating the most excellent qualities and making them the whole of me. I lift Mini-Me who looks questioningly and fearfully at me. I carry her to the cage and lay her on her bed. I see she has all the necessities and I lock the cage and leave the basement.

Now I am Super-Me. The world is mine. Mini-me hardly exists but she keeps me alive.

The Bad Seed, Part II

13What is it like to be rejected by one’s parents? Thankfully, I didn’t know it at the time. I only found out when I received records from my past, the two  years I spend in the nuthouse from ages 13 through 15. My parents told a social worker what they never told me.

Mother discusses patient with little show of emotion and her warmth in describing younger sister reveals much that is not verbally expressed in her resentment towards the patient. Mother’s tensions toward patient have been more fully expressed since the latter’s hospitalization. She has shown increasing hostility toward patient’s visits home on week-ends, and once remarked to assigned social worker that her reputation had been ruined by the patient, and she could no longer accept her back in the household. By February, 1958, the mother had arranged to move into a more expensive apartment with fewer rooms, with the idea that the patient would not be allowed to return home. She also stated tearfully, “I no longer consider Frances my daughter.”

Well, I can’t blame her entirely for that reaction. I did some heavy stuff that would have upset a saint. But the pervasive aura of rejection that showed up in my parents’ ongoing interviews makes me aware of how deeply they rejected me. I’m glad they were such good actors so I was spared the knowledge of how they really felt about me until, as an adult, I can handle it.

Today, I came upon another mother’s statement of rejection of her psychopathic daughter on Quora. I quote it in its entirety.

What is like to have a psychopathic child?
Helen Forrester, Mother of a psychopath
Answered Jul 2

I googled ‘i don’t love my child’ and all that came up was stories of misbehaving toddlers and experts assuming that this is a temporary thing. I eventually came across this and although it is out of date, I felt the need to answer.

On the rare occasions that I have admitted to someone that I don’t like my daughter, the response has been that there are always times that we don’t like our children but we always love them. No! I don’t like her, I don’t love her. I wish she would go away and never contact or occcupy space in my mind ever again. She’s not a child anymore. She’s 39. I remember the day that I first knew that I was repulsed by her. She was 15. I won’t go into details nor can I tell the whole 39 year story here but she is a cluster b psychopath. It’s unlikely that she will ever harm anyone physically. Her problems are, delusions of grandeur, narcissistic personality disorder, munchausens, attention seeking, lying and many other related problems. She reads books like ‘A child called it’ then applies the stories to her own life and believes them. She is pregnant with her 6th child. 2 are grown up, 2 were forcibly adopted. Im sure as she continues the same destructive behaviour that her one year old and her unborn child will also be taken eventually. 4 different fathers. The last 2 were homeless junkies that she took home to ‘save’. Then she destroys them. She adopts the personalities of people she meets to reel them in. Anyway the point is you asked if they manipulate and yes they do. They are very clever and guilt makes you give them the benefit of the doubt even though you know that whatever you do for them, they will piss all over.

It’s like having a great big brain tumour. It’s incurable but it’s never going to kill you. It just sits there eating at your brain bit by bit. You can’t cut it out and sometimes you feel you could smash your own head in just to make it stop. You can’t even tell people about it because only a monster would say they don’t love a child.

Child Psychology.Yesterday, I found another statement by a mother about her ASPD child. This one has an ironic twist in that it is the psychopath who went “no contact” on the NT mom. But the rejection is the same. This is from Facebook, name repressed for the sake of privacy.

Hi. I’m the mother of an ASPD grown son (35). He has done and said terrible things to me throughout the years. He is extremely spiteful and vindictive. For the life of me I don’t know of any trauma he suffered as a child. He had every opportunity before him and always cut his nose off to spite his face instead of take advantage of them. Fast forward 20 yrs. still same old behaviors but now has a wife and two toddlers. Has been using opiates for yrs (I think they calm his ever present underlying rage). However discovered he was using Heroin and doing unsafe things like driving kids in car under influence. Refused to go to treatment Wife has prescription opiate prob too. She refused treatment as well. All of this forced me to call Child Protective services on grandchildrens behalf. Now ASPD son will not allow me to see kids out of vengeance, it’s been 3 long months. He has tried to be no contact. I’ve emailed and sent letters to no avail. Need advice on how to get through to him to let me see kids. I love and miss them so much. Of course he thrives on emotional pain he causes me. Please help?

I have always known that psychopaths are demonized. Sure, we are glamorized too. But we seem to be permanently stuck with the “bad guy” badge.


Links

Self-Sacrifice

Using shame to rob us of our rights

shareWe are always being taught that it is noble to sacrifice oneself. When goods are unequally distributed, I can see the point of telling those who have the most to share with those who have the least. Of course, those being asked to share would protest that they have the most because they earned it or won it. That’s the way generosityconservatives think and that’s why they favor policies that enable the rich to keep what they have. I can sympathize with that point of view. If I have something, I don’t want to give it up. Of course, that doesn’t preclude generosity. But one is generous to a point where he can spare something and still have most of what he wants to keep. And true generosity is in line with one’s desires. So acting on a generous impulse gives one pleasure so it’s not a sacrifice.

classwarfareMany have-nots on the Left believe they have been unjustly shortchanged and they work politically to take their share from those who have too much (in their judgment). We live in a democracy (of sorts) and, since the have-nots and have-lesses outnumber the haves, the latter are in danger of the have-nots voting to confiscate their goods. To prevent that from happening, the rich have set up think tanks which have successfully spread ideas that stopped the have-nots from using their political power to equal the distribution of wealth. Russia had a Communist revolution which the opinion molders of the West lost no time in demonizing. “Communism” and even “socialism” have become dirty words, especially in the United States.

fdrnewdealEconomic inequality causes some very real suffering and hardship among the poor. During the Great Depression, Communism was looked at favorably by greater numbers of Americans. While there was a real possibility of revolution, President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt instituted his New Deal which softened many of the hard edges of Capitalism. It allowed people to retire when they got old and live a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. Unemployment Insurance gave workers a soft cushion to land on when tossed out of their jobs. The idea that government could make the lives of the struggling working class easier using tax money was accepted as reasonable by all except the rich and those ideologically committed to “free enterprise” capitalism.

Ron and Nancy.Ronald Reagan’s presidency was a turning point in ideological trends. The US has been moving to the Right ever since the Reign of Ronald the Terrible. An article called Fire From Below: Advice for Activism in the Trump Era From Bill Ayers explained these changes in detail. But that’s not really what this article is about. Fire From Below describes how unions had to give back a lot of benefits their workers had won when changing circumstances took away the unions’ bargaining power. The Right is on the march, trying to reverse as much of the New Deal as possible. One of their problems is that lots of their own base are enjoying benefits of the New Deal and have no desire to give them up.


unselfishHere’s the real subject of this post. Mainstream morality has a belief in the “virtue” of selflessness. What’s wrong with this value? While a small number of people achieve enlightenment, a state that transcends the ego, to most of us the self and the ego are one. A truly egoless person identifies with the entire universe. This removes the idea that we are limited to our selves. We are everything. So what happens to us as individuals isn’t important. To be in that state of consciousness feels blissful, sustaining it long-term can be difficult. Spiritual ego results when someone experiences that ego-choppingwoodless state and then returns to normal but still thinks he is enlightened. The ego is cunning. It takes credit for the spiritual high one has achieved and claims to be that state. Everyone on a spiritual path is aware of spiritual ego as a snare to watch out for as one evolves. I wouldn’t know but I have a theory that as one reaches higher states of consciousness, spiritual pride becomes more subtle and harder to detect. I think the highest souls give up on trying to “be” spiritual and just carry on with their lives. As Baba Ram Dass said, “chopping wood and carrying water.”

selfFor the vast majority of us who have not transcended the ego, at least not in any sustainable way, each one of us is a self, ourself. To be self-less is to be at odds with one’s very self. A house divided against itself cannot stand. That statement is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln but it was originally made by none other than Jesus Christ.

totalsacrificeIn the Gospel of Mark 3:25, Jesus states, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”, in response to the scribes’ claim that “by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.”

Jesus is all about agape love, the purest empathy, identifying oneself with the Other. saintlyThat is a state of consciousness akin to the eastern ego-less enlightenment. Most of us raised in a Christian society, even those whose parents aren’t Christian, are taught that selflessness is a superior way of being. That value is forced on us as children whether we like it or not. Most professing “Christians” are far from real selflessness while preaching it. That’s kind of like the spiritual ego of those who think they are in an “ideal” state of mind but are really just themselves. Not being a Christian, I’m not overly concerned with this apparent contradiction. As a psychopath, I have a gut-level antipathy to the very idea of selflessness. I am my own greatest advocate. If I’m not for myself, how can I expect anyone else to be for me? I have had to fight the pressure to bow to selflessness all my life.

Giving up one’s own possessions or advantages is a value that has been pushed down our throats from an early age. Children are made to share. Sharing can have value, of course, when all parties have something to gain. If I have a toy train and you have christianabirthdaya set of toy tracks, sharing is a natural. We can have a lot more fun putting our toys together for a better game. But parents often don’t wait until a child sees the advantage of sharing. The kid is just supposed to let other children put their hands all over his things whether he wants to or not. Joan Crawford took it to a ridiculous extreme. Her adopted daughter, Christine, was showered with birthday gifts. But she was forced to give away all but one present. Mommie Dearest was apparently unaware of how married she was to her own ego while trying to force her child to prostrate her own ego.

boomerbetrayalWhile we normally think of selflessness as an ideal of the Left, this depraved “ideal” is now being used by the Right as an excuse to take benefits people have won through political struggle. The latest is trying to guilt-trip Boomers into “sacrificing” for Millennials by giving up our Social Security. Ageism makes it easy to hate Boomers. Cartoons depict us as ugly and selfishboomersungainly while young people whom we’re exploiting are beautiful. Before we had Social Security, the elderly who were not independently wealthy has wretched lives or were dependent on their adult children. The Right is trying to persuade us that we must return to those days as an act of virtue and as an economic necessity. The fact of the matter is that there is no real economic need to deprive any generation of a life with dignity. The 1% want us to battle among ourselves instead of stop the constant suction of all wealth from the 99%. Occupy Wall Street did a great thing by making the 1% more visible. Instead of seeing another generation (or race) as the group that threatens to take our resources (or to which we must give up our resources), we need to see who is really consuming the lion’s share of what we need to sustain life on earth. This isn’t supposed to be a political blog and the political-economic arguments about this are stated in other posts which I’ll link to below.

This blog post is concerned with the moral aspects of the way people are being shamed into sacrificing ourselves foolishly.


Links

 

Right and Rong

Do we need a conscience?

truefalseThe concept of “right” and “wrong” are pretty easy to grasp. Every day physical reality involves right and wrong choices all the time. For example, how do you get to the 7/11? Left turn? Right. Right turn? Wrong. All questions about physical reality can be answered correctly or incorrectly and most are pretty easy to verify.

But what about morality? How do we verify the statement that a particular action is morally right or goodbadwrong? That’s more difficult. Some people believe right and wrong come from a supreme being who provides the “correct” guidelines and tells us what to think. That’s a pretty childlike mindset. We’ve all been told what is right or wrong by our parents. We were usually rewarded or punished based on which one we choose. No wonder so many look to “god” to give them a moral compass. It’s the first thing we learned about morality.


goodbadevilFriedrich Nietzsche made a distinction between good-bad and good-evil. The former involved competence. You can be a good or bad dancer, soccer player, writer, etc. The other duality involves morality, meaning, not how well you do something but whether you should do it at all. The underlying assumption is that one has the ability, the power to do something. But there are laws or rules that would stay one’s hand even if one is able to do whatever. Nietzsche named these two sets of opposites “master morality” and “slave morality.” The master does whatever he is able to do. The slave does what he ought to do. The reason the latter is called “slave morality” is the assumption that rules concerning what one should do are usually preached and imposed by those who aren’t able to do it. By telling those who can, not to do something, those who can’t gain power over the former.

slavemasterNietzsche preferred master morality and saw slave morality as a way inferior beings could control their betters. That ethic has been called “Might Makes Right.” Of course, there are various ways of achieving might. A large group that works together can have greater might than an individual who is just by himself. Society is more powerful than a single person. Those who buck the rules of society are penalized by that society. Everyone has a will to power regardless of whether he is a “master” or a psychocat“slave.” The slaves get power by imposing their own morality on those who could have power over them if they just resorted to their abilities being the stronger of the two. Robert Hare described it by imagining what a mouse might be thinking when a cat is coming after him, “The mouse tries to impart it’s own values on the cat. The cat has a set of values of it’s own based on it’s evolution. So we have predators and prey.” Of course, mice can’t really impart values on predators. But people are very good at that very thing.

christianityNietzsche blamed Jews for subverting the classic, pagan cultures of the Greeks and Romans by substituting “good-evil” for “good-bad” by means of Christianity. Although Christian values are used to stay the hand of the strong against the weak, stronger people have managed to insert their own will to power into Christian societies. Such societies have a complicated set of rules of right and wrong which often favor the strong over the weak. Power in such societies is hierarchical. Still, values based on empathy are recognized and can be resorted to by those who want to change the balance of power in favor of those lacking in it.

goldenruleThe Golden Rule is a powerful statement placing empathy in a position of importance in determining morality. As stated in Matthew, the rule is “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Seeing oneself in others is the key to morality derived from empathy.


crowleydowhatThe philosophy of Thelema, formulated by Aleister Crowley, is critical of Christianity and says, instead of following a list of rules, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.” “Will” in this context refers to a certain kind of awareness called “true will” which really means alignment with the “will” of the universe. Everyone is a sovereign being (“Every man and woman is a star”) but, unless one is in touch with his “true will,” he is out of step with what might be called “divine will.” “The entire momentum of the universe” is behind those who do their “true will.” In other words, a Thelemite is still doing the will of God. However, as Robert Heinlein stated in Stranger in a Strange Land, “Thou art God.” Everyone is (or can be) the deity. The idea that everyone is God is popular in New Age thinking. Thelema is really a form of New Age philosophy. Only it is called The Age of Horus.


bookofthelawIt is commonly thought that the key to conscience is empathy. The Golden Rule makes a lot of common scense. It is fair. In a democratic society, everyone has the same rights. Or should have. Once the Divine Rights of Kings went the way of the Dodo Bird, it just made sense that everyone was equal. Every man and woman is a star. Of course, it doesn’t mean we all have the same ability. The Book of the Law has a lot of warlike pronoucements, “love is the law” notwithstanding.

“Therefore the kings of the earth shdoveall be Kings for ever: the slaves shall serve. There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was. Yet there are masked ones my servants: it may be that yonder beggar is a King. A King may choose his garment as he will: there is no certain test: but a beggar cannot hide his poverty.
“59. Beware therefore! Love all, lest perhance is a King concealed! Say you so? Fool! If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him.
“60. Therefore strike hard & low, and to hell with them, master!” (Book II)

charlieThe New Age is basically mystical and mysticism is solipsistic. Everything is itself and it’s opposite. Charlie Manson identified himself with Love. If everything is one, the language of duality is meaningless.

 


What is Conscience? do we need it?

fallonDo we know what is right or wrong? Do we care? Do we have empathy? Does empathy make people any kinder? Psychopaths are feared because we have neither empathy nor conscience. Some psychopaths have done done terrible things. Some of us have led rational and reasonable lives. Some have contributed to society, pursuing careers and taking good care of ourselves. Some of us are Christians. Many are atheists. Some are Thelemites. Some are Wiccans. No doubt, some are Muslims. On the other hand, some people with empathy and conscience have been terrible people. But it is the crimes of psychopaths that fascinate the world.

I’m Just Like You

crockdove.jpg

peacedoveOnce upon a time, there was a little white dove named Sweetsie. Sweetsie wanted to go into show business. She auditioned for many parts. Unfortunately, the only parts she was ever offered were representing world peace in political plays or playing the Holy Spirit in religious melodramas. It was better than getting no work at all but it was unsatisfying. Sweetsie wasn’t really like that at all. She has a dark side. She wanted more exciting roles. But they were never offered to her. She was type-caste.

henryHenry was a crocodile who lived in a nice swamp. There was lots of water and algae all around. He had lots of crocodile friends and was pretty happy. But deep down inside, he was unsatisfied with his life. He yearned for something more delicate and gentle.

Sweetsie was flying around, exploring the world. She came upon the swamp where sweetsieinflightHenry lived. She lit upon a hollow tree that was standing there. She looked down and saw Henry wallowing in the swamp. Something about the sight of Henry opened a sweet space in her heart and she started singing. Henry looked up. He had never seen such a pretty, graceful being in his life. “Please come down and talk to me,” he called.

LaworderSweetsie swooped down to earth and the two of them had a long chat. They shared their interests. It turned out, they both liked watching Law & Order: SVU. They both found the criminals more interesting then the cops. Then the conversation moved to their lifestyles. Henry was a predator, of course. As a crocodile, he hunted the swamps for smaller creatures like fish, birds, frogs and the like. Once a man was shot by another man and left to drown. Henry had quite a feast that day. Sweetsie usually ate seeds, grass and occasionally snails. They wondered if it might be practical for them to hunt together.

swampThe next day, they decided to try it. Henry glided through the swamp, detecting by smell and sound signs of life around him. First, he caught a fish. He grabbed the fish in his teeth. While he held the fish steady, Sweetsie pecked at parts of the soft, white belly. She ate enough for her modest needs and Henry finished off the fish.

henryeatingLife was pretty idyllic for the next few months. They hung out, shared their love of the hunt and shared their treasures. But the fact of the matter was that Henry was a crocodile and Sweetsie was a dove. After a while, their routine got boring, especially for Henry. When they had a hard time finding enough prey, one day, Henry realized that Sweetsie was made of potentially delicious meat. He ate her. He was, after all, a crocodile and crocodiles eat birds.

yum

THE END

Gaslight

1narcinmarriageWho is the Real Victim?

Gaslighting is usually discussed as a sinister thing Narcs and ‘Paths do to nice people. But the reality is that everyone gaslights. All it really means is trying to alter someone’s sense of reality. Not all gaslighting is destructive and done with malicious intent.

The above video not only makes that point and gives a few lessons on how to gaslight with the proviso that we “should play nice” and use it for good. Therapists’ jobs are to change a patient’s beliefs into something healthier for him. Informing a friend of the fact that someone else has spread gossip about him can be an act of kindness. When someone tells us things like that, it’s important to know who they can trust.


gaslightThe term, Gaslighting is almost always used in describing its negative use. The term, itself, comes from the 1940 movie, Gaslight about a husband who is trying to drive his wife crazy by making her doubt her perceptions of reality. The term became popularized by websites and blogs warning people of behavior at the hands of “predatory” narcissists and psychopaths. I have already covered the subject of such sites in A Psychopath’s Guide to Haters.

1flyingmonkeysGaslighting is closely associated with Flying Monkeys, people who are manipulated into helping a malicious person persecute someone else. A perfect example of gaslighting being used maliciously with flying monkeys is the way Republicans and other Righties have turned masses of Americans into flying monkeys against Hillary Clinton. While political “discourse” has unfortunately grown increasingly into character assassination, the slander against Hillary has been uglier than any other case. To be fair, Donald Trump has been pretty spectacularly badmouthed too but his enemies don’t have to make things up. His record since in office provides plenty of material. His (dwindling) supporters didn’t miss a beat in claiming victim-hood for Trump, saying no other president has been treated as badly as he has (although he has yet to be assassinated or called “nigger”).

1gossipAs ugly as slander, whispers in someone’s ear to the effect that she has been slandered can really cause people to question their reality. Is it true that X has said that about me? Who is repeating it? This has been done to me in an office and I have seen the same tactic used on others. Bullying can do the same, encouraging people to join in persecuting someone safely from the anonymity of the crowd.

1quarrelHowever, the term gaslighting has been most commonly invoked concerning behavior of couples toward each other during intimate relationships. “I never told you that! You’re delusional!” “Why do you always…?” “You embarrassed me at that party. Everyone was talking about your (outfit) (behavior) (weight).” “Are you bipolar?” “Have you forgotten to take your meds?” The You-Tube documentary, The Psychopath Next Door 1womenwhohas a segment in which the author of the book Women Who Love Psychopaths, Sandra Brown, played a verbal description of a woman who was a “victim” of a psychopath. Her face was never shown for her “safety.” Her story was that this charming man “love-bombed” her and she fell in love with him. After the wedding, he changed. But they stayed together long enough to have a child. Finally, she consulted a counselor who told her, “Your husband is a psychopath. He will never change.” On the strength of that, she divorced him. The story sounds very prosaic to me. Don’t all suitors put their best foot forward during courtship? Don’t relationships usually 1redridinghoodchange once they are married? It even has a name: The Honeymoon is Over. How can a “counselor” diagnose someone he has never even met? Is it just possible that the counselor was used as a flying monkey? And how about Sandra Brown? And the makers of the documentary, for that matter? Disclaimer: The documentary was pretty good for the most part. By applying the label psychopath to the man (who never gave his side), his ex-wife suddenly became his “victim.” His courtship, a predatory act. And, honestly. How is calling your husband/wife a narc any different from calling him/her “bipolar?”

Looking at the above example, isn’t one moved to re-evaluate the stories on these websites that claim to give information on people they have decided are “narcissists” and/or “psychopaths?” How many of them have been even clinically diagnosed? Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door (a different work), said sociopaths and psychopaths love to play the victim. What does one do when both sides are claiming victimhood?

Religion is Gaslighting

fascismA dear friend of mine, Lucky Otter, has a blog post criticizing Christian Dominionism called Christian Dominionism has taken over the GOP. I appreciate 99% of what she has written but there is one statement that I not only disagree with, it has inspired this blog post.

Now, the old Testament has much to recommend it, and of course the Ten Commandments are just plain old common sense. Personally, I have no objection to the Commandments being displayed in courthouses or “In God We Trust” being printed on the dollar bill, because these things don’t necessarily favor only Christians and they’re simply good advice for anyone. They don’t repress, oppress, or marginalize anyone. They don’t hurt people or the environment. They don’t undermine the Constitution or our freedoms. People who object to these things really ought to turn their minds to more important issues that actually affect their lives.

atheismAs an atheist, I do feel “marginalized” and downright discounted by public displays of religion funded by taxpayers like me. As far as I’m concerned, “god” is the imaginary playmate of many people. I have had to deal with believers all my life. They are so sure of their righteousness, so entitled to preach their beliefs, anyone who thinks otherwise is atheistautomatically put on the defensive. While they demand “respect” for their delusional systems of thought, they never seem to think dissenting opinions deserve their respect. Well, many do agree to show respect for other religions but not for lack of religion. Frankly, I am sick of these self-assured entitled people demanding the upper hand for their delusions over my rationality.

What gives religion its power, is pure emotion. Since when can reason stand up to emotion? In the market place of ideas, emotion is like a big bully who hits everyone who disagrees over the head with a big club.


gaslightThe 1940 film called Gaslight brought into the English language the term gaslighting as an expression for manipulating someone into doubting his/her own sense of reality and adopting the lie the gas lighter wants him/her to believe. The villain in the movie alters the environment while pretending he doesn’t see the changes he brought about. His victim, his wife, comes to think her very perceptions must be false. She trusts her husband so she believes him when he says he doesn’t notice the change in the lighting and other things she has observed. She comes to think she is losing her mind.

funny-demotivational-posters-76-16Gaslighting has come to be sited as one of the common ways in which people can be victimized in an abusive relationship. Stephanie Starkis, Ph.D., wrote 11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship published in Psychology Today. In her article, Dr. Starkis says that gaslighting “is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders.” It is considered rude to apply this term to religion, at least a major religion. Any religion that has little enough recognition by society can be called a “cult.” It is difficult to define the difference between a “religion” and a “cult.” Before the phenomenon of secular society, it was considered unthinkable to have a society that wasn’t defined by a particular religion. As people began questioning the established religion and developing alternatives which, in turn, gained adherents, societies were challenged by the cognitive dissonance that occurred when their society adopted a religion that they didn’t believe in. Only one religion can be The Truth so it was very important that one’s religion be The religion obeyed by their society. This led to religious wars which are well documented by historians.

coexistThe need for religious warfare was resolved by the advent of secular societies which embraced pluralism. Mankind discovered that adherents of different faiths could coexist in one society if that society didn’t officially endorse one faith at the exclusion of others. Still, upstart religions which didn’t have enough clout could still be denied status and could be devalued as “cults” instead of religions. It was even possible to kidnap a member of a cult and brainwash (excuse me, deprogram him/her) to make him/her drop all that “nonsense” and accept a more mainstream view of reality.

socratesEpistomology is the most important branch of philosophy because it is all about how we know what is real. For years, most people believed science was the key to rational knowledge. But today even science is challenged, mainly by religious folk whose fundamentalist insistence on the creationist myths of the Bible clashed with Darwin’s theory of evolution. Another scientific theory, embraced by most scientists, is being challenged by a group of well-financed people who don’t choose to believe there is such a thing as global warming. Another example of dispute in science is with vaccinations. This goes to show that there is no way mankind can come to consensus about truth. In most cases, the best solution seems to be let everyone think what he wants to think. In some situations, the need for consensus seems really urgent such as the case of global warming. The wrong answer to that question can even lead to the destruction of our very planet.

pontius“What is truth?” asked Pontius Pilate as he washed his hands. Truth is as much a disputed territory today as it was when he asked the question (allegedly asked because the Bible doesn’t measure up to the criteria for established historical evidence).

The bloodthirsty insistence on consensus seems to be confined to the Western nations, those formed out of the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Religions of the Far East such as Hinduism and Buddhism have no problem co-existing with each other. Only the Abrahamic religions claim the need to be the exclusive arbiters of Truth. That is probably the reason Westerners, raised in those religions can argue about even science.


evangelicismBoth Christianity and Islam are evangelical religions. Funny how they both sprang from Judaism which never has been evangelical. While believing in the absolute truth of their monotheistic religion, Jews never believed that the whole world had to embrace Judaism and don’t seek converts. Since Jews don’t believe people are either damned or saved, there is no need to bring others into the faith. Only when Jesus came along did the idea of mankind needing to be saved from sinfulness become an essential feature of religious thought. Looking at it that way, one can actually claim that Jesus was the original creator of holy war.

objectiveI do believe that Truth is objective. In other words, reality isn’t subjective. I don’t have my “truth” and you don’t have your “truth.” One can be “right” and everyone else “wrong.” Or everyone can be wrong. But truth transcends subjective opinion. Whether it is knowable or not, it is indivisible. Socrates was the first to say it, as far as I know. “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” He started with one assumption: that he didn’t know anything. Everything that could be known had to be proven. But he never said truth was subjective. Just hard to know.


freereligThe Europeans who settled North America were seeking religious freedom in a time when every country was thought to need an established religion but many citizens had different religious beliefs. Even among the settlers, a single established belief system was thought to be a necessity. Every colony had a religion everyone had to obey. Over time, the colonies came to accept the need for unity with other colonies in order to win independence from England. The nation that was built was deliberately designed to avoid establishment of any religion.

ingodwetrust“In God We Trust” did not appear on the US currency, at the start of the Civil War, it was added to coins. Teddy Roosevelt ordered the phrase removed but popular sentiment forced it to be returned. It didn’t appear on paper money until 1957 when the Cold War made combining piety with patriotism seem like a good idea. “Under God” was added to “One Nation…” around the same time. Although the onenationreligionists like to argue that these tokens of religious piety were part of our original identity, none of them appeared at the founding of our nation. In fact, in 2002, the Ninth Circuit of California ruled that the “under God” phrase violated the Constitution. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit by “Michael Newdow, who had complained that his daughter is injured when forced to listen to public school teachers lead students daily in a pledge that includes the assertion that there is a God.” (One Nation Under God) The ruling set off political backlash. It was argued that the girl didn’t have to recite that phrase or even the Pledge of Allegiance itself. (Funny, when I went to school, I was never told I had the right not to say the Pledge.)

pledgeIt may seem petty to some people, but having to proclaim something I consider a falsehood every time I spend money is being forced to be false to myself and that is gaslighting. Having to stand with my hand on my heart and recite (or pretend to) words I don’t agree with is gaslighting. In the movie Song of Bernadette about the Catholic Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, the life of a royal family is saved by the Lourdes water. When a member of the royal family, praises the waters for healing the prince, his father scolds her for not giving the doctor enough credit. “You’re an atheist,” she proclaims. “That’s the stupidest thing a monarch can be,” he returns. Religion and national sovereignty go hand in hand. The “divine right of kings” was long considered justification for the government of nations. We don’t believe in that any more but we still have prayer breakfasts and atheists have little chance of ever being elected to office.

redmenaceHere’s an interesting piece of trivia: The original Pledge was written by a socialist. That’s right. A socialist by the name of Francis Bellamy. The story is covered in Why we’re not one nation “under God,” by David Greenberg.

Hand in hand with the Red Scare, to which it was inextricably linked, the new religiosity overran Washington. Politicians outbid one another to prove their piety. President Eisenhower inaugurated that Washington staple: the prayer breakfast. Congress created a prayer room in the Capitol. In 1955, with Ike’s support, Congress added the words “In God We Trust” on all paper money.

10commandThe Ten Commandments are not “common sense” as Lucky Otter has declared. (“Ten Commandments are just plain old common sense.”) The first four of the ten are all about worshiping God. That leaves atheists out. It also threatens anyone who isn’t worshipful enough with punishment to the third generation. “Honor thy Father and Mother” is more authoritarianism. Lucky Otter knows better than that as she has discussed the limits of one’s obligation to honor a parents who doesn’t deserve it. The others are mostly about preserving the status quo. “Thou shalt not steal” even if an unjust system enriches some justly at the expense of the many? Nice that people are told not to commit adultery. How about a rule forbidding rape?

dominionistsCertainly Lucky’s main point that Dominionism goes way beyond what is accepted in today’s society. Domionists are every bit as extreme and authoritarian as ISIS. Lucky’s opposition to the wave of fascism that threatens to overtake our country is important.

The Problem of Perfection

Why is there Religion?

idealmaterialMan is said to be the one species who walks in both the spiritual world and the material one. Metaphysicians are divided into “materialists” and “idealists” depending on which of the two they believe to be the fundamental reality. Does the spirit create matter? Can the soul exist without the brain? Do lobotomy victims still have their souls? What about “near-death experiences?” Life after death? Scientists have seen the body of a dead person lose weight at the time of death. I never saw someone die on a scale but I can testify to a qualitative difference between a living being and a dead one. Something just isn’t there anymore.

godaThe majority of mankind exhibits a need to believe in something supernatural, hence the existence of religion. The “three major religions” all sprang from one small part of the world, the Middle East. They are, of course, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The other major religious current comes from the Far East. They are Buddhism and Hinduism. In addition, there are religions of indigenous peoples. Christianity is a spin-off of Judaism (just like The Jeffersons is a spin-off of All in the Family). Judaism was really a tribal religion like the other indigenous religions. Jesus Christ changed all that, founding a universal, transcendental religion named after him. He may have been influenced by the eastern religions.

religiouswarWhile some people are just fine not believing in any kind of god and while people who practice tribal religions seem at ease with a religion that focuses more on how to live in the world than on other worlds, most humans prefer focusing on beliefs that take them beyond the world we live in. This other world has become so important for humanity, people have fought bloody wars over their beliefs. They have also imposed all sorts of austerities on themselves, sacrificing advantage in the material world for hoped for advantages in the spiritual world. That is putting a lot of gravitas on their spiritual beliefs, showing how important transcendence is to man.

21-sufferingOne reason people cling to religion is an explanation for suffering. They need to see the universe as something meaningful and benevolent. If they must suffer, let it be part of some larger good. Of course, a very high and enlightening thought can be, “It don’t mean shit.” That there is no “meaning” to suffering and that things just “are” with no higher purpose can be extremely liberating. Just accepting reality with no moral narrative can instantly free us to be here and now, the most spiritual place one can be, in my not-so-humble opinion. The Buddhists seem to understand this when they say thereisnogodthe enlightened mind is “alive and empty.” My own mystical experience informed me that we are all One. When one considers that time and space don’t exist in the spirit dimension, how can it be otherwise? Seeing oneself as One with Everything can really be the same as seeing oneself completely alone as there is no Other.

How do we bond?

sacredheartIf Eastern mysticism is mainly located in the third eye and the crown chakra, Christianity is located in the heart chakra. The Other is very much present as the Christian unites with his fellow man in Agape Love. Both forms of unifying oneself with the All involve releasing the ego which is only there to limit us in our individual identity.

No matter how religious, we are still living in physical bodies which are, by their very nature, limited and vulnerable. Our bodies have needs that simultaneously link us to the world and keep us separate. No matter how idealistic one is, filling one’s own belly is satisfying in a way that feeding one’s brethren is not. So, although Christianity is about spiritual transcendence, Christians living in the material world must still negotiate the tricky terrain of Malkuth. Some examples of Christianity can involve behavior that would seem odd to outsiders.


The Prosperity Gospel

prosperityParading extraordinary shows of “goodness” can be profitable in America. The best known examples of this are the televangelists. Most of these are Pentecostals and Baptists. There is a pattern to their beliefs. Many preach the “prosperity gospel,” which promises that if Christians are good enough, they can be rewarded in this life with material wealth. The pastors  certainly are rewarded, mainly by members of their flock who make donations in hope of being likewise rewarded. Many of these justforgivenpastors have been caught in scandals, some sexual and others financial. Because God’s forgiveness is stressed, these pastors simply confess their sins and expect their congregations to forgive them too. A seemingly heart-felt act of contrition is thought to be enough to wipe out all transgressions. After all, Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Where there’s life, there’s hope. No matter how low someone falls, he has infinite chances of rising to the greatest heights. This can easily be dismissed as corruption but, on the plus side, it teaches optimism and tolerance. Of course, once you die, there are no more chances of recovery or forgiveness. Only in the mortal state, is forgiveness and salvation possible.

theblanchardewomen-1050x700-cb799087-3c1e-40b4-bc35-31cfd426e5a7Goodness for profit isn’t limited to evangelists. Dee Dee Blanchard made herself into a media saint by convincingly making her daughter seem to be a mega-invalid. The sight of illness combined with saintliness has inspired people long before the above-mentioned cases. The media loved to build this spectacle into it’s own secular altar. A perfect example of holiness combined with suffering is Lourdes. Saint Bernadette revealed the presence of healing waters after the Blessed Virgin told her where to look. Since then, Lourdes has been a Mecca for the sick and handicapped. Not only do infirm people want to find healing, I think the chance that their disability can become sanctified probably boosts their self-esteem. Here is where explaining suffering and giving it meaning is such an important part of religion.

brokennessIn each of these cases, “goodness” equates with humility. It is the very brokenness, the imperfection, the weakness of an individual that is a gateway to holiness. Jesus said, “That which you do to the least of these, you do to Me.” That is probably the deepest essence of Christianity. God humbled Himself to become a mere mortal, born as a helpless infant “between piss and shit,” subject to all the natural shocks and woes that we mortals must bear. Perhaps, we mortals cherish the belief that we are all really God, disguising ourselves as fleshy beings. The lower we fall in the earthly realm, the more powerfully our inner light is destined to shine. That idea has been stigmatized in psychiatry both as masochism and covert narcissism.

Do the gods envy us?

lohengrinJust as man yearns for the spiritual, human culture is also full of stories of gods who yearn for the four dimensional realm of Malkuth. Think of Lohengrin. The realm of spirit is exulted but also cold. It seems the material world, with all its hardships, has something one can not get anywhere else. As humans, mortality is all we really know. The rest is speculation or projection. I guess there is an uneasy relationship between spirit and matter. Goethe, who was a scientist as well as a poet and novelist, had a theory of color that was at odds with Newton’s. According to Goethe, color is a manifestation resulting from the struggle between light and darkness.

Time’s winged chariot

timefleetingThe sanctity of human weakness appears to be based on the idea that our mortal lives are perishable, temporary.  Buddhism stressed the temporary nature of everything. Marx, too, said that everything is changing, matter in motion. All change is the opposite of perfection. It has been said that perfection is death. Of course, even death is part of the process of endless change. We die. Our bodies decompose and fertilize the soil in one way or another. Mankind has also striven for immortality. But can there be immortality with change? Vampires live forever but never change. Christians go to Heaven where they live forever in a state of perfection. Buddhist nirvana is a state of perfection that is the end of change.

zygoteGoethe’s Faust rejected that unchanging perfection in favor of eternal striving. “Man is continually striving and, striving, he must err.” Constant struggle seems to be another ideal seen by Goethe as well as by Marx. It’s a very Western concept. Eastern philosophies look at continual change as “the curse of birth and death.” It looks to me as if life is inherently fleeting and ephemeral while immortal life is only a moment frozen in time, like a photograph. We strive for perfection just as a sperm cell strives for the egg. Once we find it, we are obliterated.


Links

Kids and Psychopathy

lucypeanutThe DSM doesn’t allow shrinks to diagnose an underage patient with “psychopathy.” Actually, the DSM doesn’t allow the diagnosis of “psychopathy” to people of any age. Yet, they allow kids to be diagnosed as “callous-unemotional.” So what are these kids when they grow up? Psychopaths or the DSM-preferred ASPD? Of course, there is one place where people can still be tested and diagnosed with psychopathy and that is in the penal justice system.

aspdvspsyRobert Hare tried to keep the American Psychiatric Association from replacing “psychopathy” with “ASPD.” Perhaps the disconnect stems from the degree to which present-day psychology is dominated by behaviorists. Behaviorists famously deny the reality of such a subjective entity as a consciousness. Perhaps we do have a consciousness (DUH!) but it can’t be seen or examined “objectively” so we might as well act as if it doesn’t exist. This evokes the question of whether a psychologist is really a scientist or a philosopher. Philosophy doesn’t get much respect from scientists who claim they deal in reality and philosophers only deal in some fuzzy sort of wool gathering. Interestingly enough, behaviorism is more concerned with how to make someone behave a certain way than in understanding what makes him tick. Dr. Jordon Smoller of Harvard Medical School, said, “Researchers who were influential in developing the modern DSM argued that the diagnosis should be based mainly on observable patterns of behavior rather than psychological constructs. And so, ASPD emphasizes aggressive behavior, rule-breaking, and criminal acts. Not surprisingly, 80–90 percent of inmates in maximum security prisons meet criteria for ASPD, though only 15–20 percent qualify as psychopaths.

Illimitable Men wrote, “Consciousness remains an enigma to science, and for as long as this remains true, philosophy will remain hegemon of all things metaphysical and thereby spiritual in nature. This is precisely why philosophy exists, for it has repeatedly endured as a form of top-down investigation into the metaphysical substrate of reality for millennia, filling a vacuum of human need that religion embodies, but does not explain.”

cogitoConsciousness is something everyone experiences and knows intuitively that it is real for goodness sake. That people calling themselves “scientists” deny it only indicates that they are limiting the scope of their field to the point where it has less relevance to human lives. Only that which can be treated as an object is worthy of scientific examination.  Psychiatry is properly a field in biological medicine so it can encompass both the physical and the behavioral aspects of psychopathy. Yet it is the American Psychiatric Association that created the DSM.

brainscancartWhile psychiatrists remain firmly routed in the limiting and unproductive channel of behaviorism, it is the neuroscientists who have really moved forward in exploring this possibility. Of course, they are examining the physical and are, thereby making the study of the mind even more objective. In The Guardian, Chris Chambers wrote, “Psychopathy is of course a very real disorder and a lot more complex than portrayed on film. For many years, the gold standard for diagnosing psychopathy has been various forms of behavioural assessment. But now, Californian neuroscientist James Fallon claims he can diagnose psychopathy from a brain scan.” Neuroscientists have identified characteristic scans for various conditions including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

conscience3However, this field is still in it’s infancy. A diagnosis of psychopathy based on brain scans alone is not accepted as yet. “The flaw with this argument — as Fallon himself must know — is that there is no one-to-one mapping between activity in a given brain region and complex abilities such as empathy. There is no empathy region and there is no psychopath switch. If you think of the brain as a toolkit, these parts of the brain aren’t like hammers or screwdrivers that perform only one task.” I believe they are on the right track however. Of course, there’s another possibility no scientists seem to have considered. What if “psychiatric conditions” other than psychosis can be assessed outside of the narrow field of science. Lay people instinctively act on that assumption. How many newspaper articles have called a public figure a “psychopath” or a “narcissist?” How many people on Facebook have done the same?

cuteaspdBoth psychiatry/psychology recognizes that children’s personalities can change before the kid becomes an adult. The brain is known to undergo significant changes as we grow up, even in one’s teens. Professionals who treat kids whose behavior indicates a likelihood of psychopathy in adults work to develop interventions while the kid is still a kid in order to prevent that from happening.

psychokidThere has been a lot written about callous unemotional kids lately. Most articles acknowledge what psychologist, Michael Stone, said in the documentary, Psychopath Night that “psychopathy is like diamonds — it’s forever.” These kids, despite what the profession insists, are psychopaths. They can’t be “cured” but they can be steered in a pro-social direction mainly by means of positive reinforcement. Psychopaths aren’t deterred much by threat of punishment but are very receptive to rewards. Another viewpoint has been argued in the case of Beth Thomas. A treatment called Rebirthing, nicknamed “tough love,” is supposed to have turned this very “callous unemotional” little girl into a healthy adult free of ASPD or Psychopathy. I have severe doubts about this and explore them in my blog post, Tough Love Success? The writers believed she was cured of psychopathy. I neither support that psychopathy can be “cured” nor the methods promoted.

MJTCMendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Wisconsin has had more success in achieving happy outcomes than many (or any) others. They seem to accept the idea that psychopathy already exists in teens but can be guided in a positive direction. Author and former NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty wrote, “They will never feel empathy, they will never feel guilt or remorse,” she said. “But if they can train them that, ‘Gee, my life will be better if I play by the rules,’ then they hope that these kids will turn out better.”


Links

Neuroscience and Psychopathy

This article which is linked to from Psychopathic Times under the title 6 Scary Realities Of Working With Actual Psychopaths, is almost all about James Fallon so I found the title misleading. I wanted to read this but the page it’s on is so full of graphics and links and scripts that it kept freezing my browser. To access it, I downloaded it and removed all the excess. Now that it’s so accessible, I want to share it with others. So, without further ado, here it is.

6 Scary Realities Of Working With Actual Psychopaths

By Saundra Sorenson

fallon“Psychopath” is the “literally” of mental illnesses, a phrase that’s tossed around frequently, but rarely used correctly. It’s become our catch-all for “dangerously crazy.” But it’s a very specific diagnosis, characterized by impulsivity, a very high drive for reward, and little to no remorse. It’s a diagnosis that neuroscientist James Fallon is both professionally and personally familiar with. We spoke to him, and Professor Kent Kiehl — who has spent years analyzing the psychopathic brain through a pioneering MRI study — as well as “Sasha,” who currently leads group-therapy sessions in a Midwestern jail. She has attempted to treat (arguably more than) her fair share of psychopaths in that correctional setting. Here’s what they told us …

6. You Can Actually See Psychopathy On A Brain Scan

brainscanIn 2006, Fallon was finishing a study on Alzheimer’s. Poring over countless brain scans, including one of his own, which he’d submitted as a control subject. Fair enough; he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s. But he did know an abnormal limbic system when he saw one — and he knew that low levels of activity in the part of the brain that governs emotional life and social interaction are … less than ideal.

“I got to the last scan, I looked at it and chuckled. I called the technicians in, and said, ‘You mixed the files? This is a dangerous person who shouldn’t be walking around, a psychopath!’ I had to peel back the name (on the scan). Of course it was me.”

“We either have ourselves a psychopath or an internet commenter.”

fallon2He refers to it as “that moment Gandalf knocks on your door,” summoning him on a great mission. He told his wife of many decades, who wasn’t surprised. Then he just let this knowledge lie for a couple years, like so many of us do when it comes to disturbing things like lingering health concerns, or recently purchased exercise equipment.

But others had taken notice of Fallon’s probable diagnosis long before he did — be they family, or the top psychiatrists in Norway. See, Fallon was asked to give a talk on bipolar disorder at the University of Oslo in 2010, and for ethical reasons, he used his own brain scans for the PowerPoint presentation. Some of the country’s top psychiatric minds invited him to a friendly, hours-long chat after — nothing fancy, understand; just a “thanks for participating! We think you’re probably a borderline psychopath” kind of affair.

fallon1“That’s the first time I took it seriously,” Fallon says. “They didn’t know me, but they knew my biological and psychological data.” Fallon had stumbled across what Dr. Kent Kiehl already knew too well. Kiehl has spent years lugging a mobile MRI machine to prisons to analyze the brains of high-rating psychopathy, and he knew that the scans of a psychopath show much lower than normal activity in the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control and “emotional responsiveness,” among other things. Kiehl published some of the first studies showing that brain scans can predict antisocial behavior. If this sounds a little too Minority Report for you, keep in mind that it’s much more accurate than a lot of the risk equations we use today — take, for example, parole boards — to predict recidivism:

“We have a whole field of psychology that tries to assess by proxy things that are happening in your head — your IQ, your age, all these variables … Those are all measures that are trying to assess what’s happening inside the head, whereas what neuroscience is doing — we’re simply being able to say, well let me quantify the brain data directly, rather than by proxy.”

So what’s it like to be a psychopath?

Fallon puts it this way:

psy“I don’t get anxious about things, and if I’ve done something wrong, I’m challenged by somebody catching me.” He also says his pain threshold is very high, consistent with psychopathy. “I drove my dentist crazy, root canals with no anesthesia … I think it’s just a kick. The way I feed that particular monkey is being around danger.”

And if you’re wondering how a neuroscientist like Fallon wouldn’t know he had such a notorious diagnosis, well, he argues his experience is pretty textbook …

5. A Psychopath Almost Certainly Won’t Know It

psychopathinsideIf Fallon hadn’t been in that particular line of work, and if he hadn’t accidentally (perhaps hilariously? It’s a dark sitcom premise, but we’d still watch it) revealed his own disorder during the report to those Nordic doctors, the only other way he might have ever received his diagnosis is by going to jail. As Sasha explains: “People seek therapy when they’re struggling with symptoms or issues, and ‘successful’ psychopathic individuals are, by the nature of their condition, not negatively impacted or even inconvenienced by their symptoms.”

When psychopaths are diagnosed, it’s using a checklist created by Dr. Robert Hare. Kiehl breaks it down for us in his book: “It contains 20 items that capture the essential traits of psychopathy — including lack of empathy, guilt, and remorse, glibness, superficiality, parasitic orientation, flat affect, irresponsibility, and withoutconscienceimpulsivity. These traits are assessed based on the individual’s entire life and in all domains of his or her life. That is, to ‘lack empathy’ on the Psychopathy Checklist, you must have evidence of this trait in the majority of your life — at home, work, school, with family, friends, and in romantic relationships. Each of the 20 items is scored on a three-point scale: 0, the item does not apply to the individual; 1, item applies in some respects; and 2, item definitely applies in most respects to the individual. The scores range from 0 to 40, with the clinical diagnosis of a psychopath reserved for those with a score of 30 or above. The average inmate will score 22. The average North American non-incarcerated male will score 4 out of 40.”

In other words, consistency is key. You may have committed a few mind-bogglingly horrible, unforgivable-in-the-eyes-of-society-or-your-exes transgressions, but there are a number of other mental illnesses or personality disorders that could account for that.

But there is a range for how much of a psychopath you are. Fallon says that he, himself, rates “mostly mid-20s, from 20 to 28” on the Hare checklist. That would make him a borderline psychopath in the U.S. (although a “true” psychopath for research purposes), and a total psychopath in the U.K.

Although Kiehl was not talking about Fallon in particular, he points out that someone who falls short of a full-blown psychopathy diagnosis, but has a higher-than-average score — say 20 or beyond — is not someone you want to date: “They’re not going to have all of the same problems because it does run on a gradient, but they are someone who is not likely to lead to happiness for those around them all the time.”

elephantsFallon’s personal inventory doesn’t exactly undermine this idea: “I do things that are really quite dangerous with people — with my young kids, my brothers, and I push it right to the limit,” Fallon says. “To me, I’m a thrill-seeker. Physically and socially, (I do) some dangerous things.” For example: While working at the University of Nairobi hospital, he took his son fishing at Mount kitumcaveKenya … disregarding all the signs warning of impending lion attacks in the area. Later, a guy came into the hospital bleeding out of his nose, suffering from the Marburg virus, which has shocking similarities to Ebola. Rather than avoiding, well, the plague, Fallon says, “I found out where he had stayed … he went into the Kitum Cave, where the old elephants, the old matriarchs, bring the young ones to dig out the caves to get iodine and all the minerals. My brother came (to visit), and I said ‘I’m going to give him a thrill here.’ I knew nobody was going to the place.”

batsBecause of rebels shooting in that area, naturally.

“I knew there were a lot of animals, and no tourists. So we went in there, and I didn’t tell my brother anything. I took him into the caves and I said, ‘Don’t touch the ground.’ The virus was living in the batshit, and that’s where this guy got it from. I went in, there were bats all over, it was wild. We stayed overnight at this camp, where this guy had stayed. All night, animals — leopards, hyenas — were all around us, because it was a clearing. I said, ‘We gotta keep this fire going, it’s very important.’ It was like a scene from Quest For Fire, with us brandishing these logs, screaming at these animals to keep them
batshitback.”

He still talks about it like it was a grand adventure. His brother only found out about the cave when 1995’s Outbreak hit theaters. “He said,’You son of a bitch, you knew it all along, but you still brought me there.'”

4. Psychopathy May Be Genetic; There May Be Psychopathic Children

damianIn retrospect, Fallon figures that he must have looked like Damien from The Omen to the adults around him. “Since I was about 13, there were always some adults — psychologists, teachers, rabbis, priests — every year, an adult saying ‘There’s something really bad about you.’ But you don’t put these things together until you have a narrative.”

That jives with Kiehl’s findings. “What we found is we see the same effects in maximum-security-incarcerated boys by age 15 as we do in a 30-year-old offender in the other sample.” In fact, their brains looked more or less the same, which means that psychopathy is likely genetic.

psychild“The label ‘psychopath’ is not given to anyone under the age of 18,” Kiehl says, “but there is an enormous field of research assessing what we refer to as ‘callous and unemotional traits.’ We just refer to it as ‘callous conduct disorder’ — (which includes) acting out of impulsivity, getting in trouble — easy to quantify.”

And there is a kind of junior version of Hare’s Psychopath Checklist, used for those aged 12 to 18. And it continues: “Essentially, the younger you get, the harder it is to access what’s happening in the brain, but there have been people trying to assess it as early as four, five, six.”

While a postdoc, Fallon worked with a leading expert who claimed to be able to distinguish psychopathy in two- and three-year-olds. The guy wouldn’t go on record saying so, fearing the public outcry that would inevitably distract him from his work, “but he told me that he could see it. He could follow them until they’re in their 20s. And they all had been abused, or some problem like that, so that’s a key thing.”

Thgoodlyeris is where Fallon’s life gets decidedly Sliding Doors.

Scenario A: The fucked-up, full-blown psychopath lifestyle of
self-serving violence, broken relationships, sporadic employment …

scientiOR

Scenario B: Life as a scientist and an academic, happily married, his relationships with his children intact.

What differentiates them?

“I had all the biological markers, but I was never abused as a kid,” Fallon said. “Look, you can have the biology, but it’s not a death sentence. If you treat kids well, don’t abandon them, they’re not going to clinically have these pernicious (habits/traits).”

wifeHe also credits the women in his life. “Even friends growing up — not just as adults — said, ‘If it wasn’t for your girlfriend, (then) wife, you’d definitely be in jail.’ She had a very stabilizing influence on me. My mother, my aunts — the whole matriarchy kept me in line.”

Kiehl notes that every adult psychopath he worked with was “different from normal children from a very early age. Their prison files are typically replete with stories from siblings, parents, teachers, and other guardians about how as a child the psychopath was emotionally disengaged from other siblings, got in trouble more frequently, engaged in more severe antisocialsports behaviors, and started using alcohol and drugs and having sex at a younger age than other children.”

Much of that holds up for Fallon. “My mother knew there was something wrong. She was worried about me. After I wrote the book, she told me she was really concerned about me.”

She had always noticed his “‘tendencies toward being a bad boy.’ She just kept me really busy, all the time. I was always involved in busysports.” Often the more violent, the better. “Plus skiing and swimming. Any other time I was involved in acting. And she knew the teachers, and she as a teacher said ‘Keep this kid busy.’ When I am not busy life gets dark around me. I’m just busy all the time. It’s a good thing for the people around me.”

While his mother’s savvy over-scheduling mostly kept him out of trouble, Fallon’s lagging limbic system still had some influence. “I just had this tendency, even when I was being a good boy: I always try to get groups of people to do things that was against their conscience. It was never to hurt anybody. It was for fun, it was goofy.”

But Kiehl has seen a lot of hope in young, burgeoning psychopaths! He tells us …

3. A Psychopath Is Not A Hopeless Cause

teachingempathyPsychopaths are notoriously hard to treat, and some mental health professionals even believe them to be beyond help. Psychopaths aren’t typically assigned to group therapy, but Sasha has ended up working with a couple in jail anyway. The best advice she’s received? “‘Think about how little kids learn’ — so I’ve been approaching it that way.”

One of her patients, for example, doesn’t realize he isn’t empathetic:

“One of the things he was telling me was he feels really protective toward women and children, and that always gets him in trouble. He says, ‘Say I see a woman jogging in the park and I see some shady characters hanging around. I’d want to go up to her, and warn her about them … if it was my mom, I’d want someone to do that for her.’ I said, ‘But do you think your mom would want that?’ And he got a really confused look on his face. I said, ‘You know, you’ve got to think about it from that lady’s perspective: She doesn’t know you from those strangers or anybody, and you’re just approaching her. She might feel afraid.’ It was like a brand new idea to him.”

Kiehl believes even the psychopath brain is capable of change, but it’s best to start early. He is a huge supporter of a program at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Wisconsin, which has had an unprecedented 50 percent success rate in reducing violent outcomes among boys who score high on the Youth Psychotherapy
Checklist.

mendotaAs Kiehl writes: “The (Mendota) model was founded on the belief that prison deterrence and prisoners’ defiant responses can become a vicious cycle. As they cycle repeats itself, prisoners give up more and more investment in convention, and their lives become ‘compressed’ as the use of punitive and restrictive sanctions increases. Eventually … the only response left in their behavioral repertoire is violence.” Fallon agrees: “What Kent’s saying, if you try negative reinforcement on (a psychopath), the brain interprets it as abuse. Since they do not appreciate what bad behavior is, they think it’s completely unfair. To them it’s not immoral or anything.”

sanmarcosThe program takes a minimum of about 10 to 12 months to have any effect, but you can’t argue with the results, or the rosy economic benefits — it’s all been peer-reviewed. “That’s the only program in the world that has done that,” Kiehl says, and this gives him hope for adult psychopaths, too. “(Kids are) potentially more malleable than adults, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe the program would work with an adult, it just might take two or three times as long. Once you get entrenched in your behaviors and your attitudes, changing those things can take as long a time as long as it took you to get ingrained in them.”

That’s one battle. Another?

2. Pop Culture Gets Psychopaths All Wrong

Let’s clear this up right now: Norman Bates is a Psycho, sure. But he’s a psychotic, not a psychopath. Kiehl points out that psychopaths are characterized by shallow emotional lives, and some even consider them incapable of love; Bates shows attachment to his late mother, and it’s suggested that his delusions are the result of his remorse for killing her. A true psychopath probably wouldn’t resurrect a victim to compensate for anything.

talentedripThe Talented Mr. Ripley fits more cleanly into the “psychopath” category — he seduces, forges false identities, and kills for either personal gain or simple convenience — but he would likely have a secondary diagnosis of “psychosis” (a different thing!) according to this exhaustive, whimsical study of silver-screen psychopaths, which argues that Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko is a mere manipulative psychopath, while Patrick Bateman is indeed the full-blown American psychopath.

Moving on to a more nuanced cocktail conversation: It’s popular to use “sociopath” as a point of reference for shitty people. Cut it out. According to both Fallon and Kiehl, it’s passe.

behaviorism4“‘Sociopathy’ was a term coined in the behaviorist era of psychology, when it was believed every human was a blank slate at birth,” Kiehl explains. “So ‘socio’ means social forces, ‘pathy’ means pathology — created by environment. We know now that psychopaths are not solely made by their environment, so that term (‘sociopathy’) is not used in academic circles anymore.” Likewise, maybe consider tossing out your copy of The Psychopath Test. Kiehl called Jon Ronson’s popular book “a work of fiction” and points out that it’s “the only book that the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy publicly opposed.”

passpclr“I just have never seen someone who scores in the top percentile of the Hare test be very successful,” Kiehl says. “The way they go about life, and go about manipulating, and the way they go about lying, basically — they’re lazy. They don’t follow through with anything. They’re not going to be a good employee.”

Fallon explains that he was able to become professionally successful, despite his diagnosis. “Somebody who scores very high, over 30, that’s a dangerous person. For people like me, who have high scores on maybe half of them — I scored very high — you’d say you’re a borderline. For me, I have all of the pro-social psychopathic traits … I’m not quite a categorical psychopath. And if I was a psychopath, I wouldn’t able to be quite successful. A 35-scoring psychopath tends not to have a successful life at all. They tend to get disordered and they get caught at some point.”

fallonfamily.jpgFallon theorizes that genetics worked in his favor, which is a bit ironic, because, well: “We have four lines of killer in our family. That’s too many.” Lizzy Borden is a distant cousin; his great-and-then-some grandfather, Thomas Cornell, brutally murdered
his elderly mother in the late 17th century.

“We have direct fathers and grandfathers, grandmothers, really badasses, murderers. But the other parts of the family, we have a couple nuns, ministers — they’re either very holy or (murderous). I have a first cousin, he’s gone the other way, he’s getting his doctorate after years of being a teacher. He’s going through the spiritual history of my family, instead of genetics, (with the theory) that they passed down a sense of holiness.”

In his family, Fallon thinks that the very gray area, which Kiehl has long studied, can be “turned on all the time, or off all the time.”

As for true, full-blown psychopaths? Well …

1. Most Psychopaths Are In Jail, But We May Be Able To Change That

jail.jpgOne of the psychopath’s more enviable traits is that he (statistically, more of them are men) doesn’t worry all that much.

He isn’t too troubled by the idea that he’s behind bars — because he is liable to be incarcerated, and often.

Kiehl writes: “A little less than 1 percent of the general population, or about 1 in 150 people, will meet criteria for psychopathy. However, the number of psychopaths in prison is much higher than in the community because psychopaths tend to get themselves in trouble with the law. Studies indicate 15 to 35 percent of inmates worldwide will meet criteria for psychopathy — with more psychopaths being found in prisons with higher security ratings.”

crimeAnd goes on to tell us: “One of the classic definitions is that (psychopaths) are willing to engage in a wide variety of different crimes. You’ll see psychopathic — even more so than non-psychopathic — inmates who will experiment in just about any different type of criminal activity. Whatever opportunity plays by. They usually don’t develop an expertise … the types of crimes they commit are wide-ranging.”

That said, he has found psychopaths are more likely to commit homicides.

stabbing“We’ve published studies on the types of crime psychopaths commit, and the types of aggression profiles you see. They’re more likely to obviously abuse close relatives or spouses than others … There are a lot of other types of more aggressive violent crimes (that) are perpetrated by psychopaths, but the vast majority crimes psychopaths commit are non-violent crimes.”

In his book, Kiehl writes about a particular subject, “Gordon,” whose future plans included “leveraging some of his residual bank-robbery proceeds to start a motorcycle dealership.” His rap sheet included not only robbery, but nearly stabbing a girlfriend’s alleged lover to death. His cellmate, “Grant,” was in for murdering his two accomplices in neurosci.jpba robbery. Grant was quick to add that he’d also dabbled in arson, credit-card fraud, some assorted B&E’s, and a string of other murders of convenience. Grant was, of course, a serial killer.

More optimistically, Kiehl says:

“That’s where neuroscience, I think, is going to help. What it does is tells us which regions of the brain are immature that are contributing toward that (unwise) decision. And then you can develop a program or treatment that tries to exercise or work on that system. Or maybe there’s medicine that helps them work on that system.”

Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, Pychopathic