This article is reproduced from my now defunct website, The Slytherin’s Journey. It was the first article I ever wrote about Psychopathy.
Dr. Lector amused himself—he has extensive internal resources and can entertain himself for years at a time. His thoughts were no more bound by fear or kindness than Milton’s were by physics. He was free in his head.
In Pinocchio, a good fairy gave Jiminy Cricket the job of being the conscience to a wooden puppet. At the same time, she gave the puppet the ability to move at will. Pinocchio didn’t know what was right or wrong. Jiminy was there to guide him. But Pinocchio was free, irrespective of the cricket, to choose his course of action. He often ignored his “conscience” and got into trouble. Jiminy and the fairy rescued him. But he learned more from his mistakes than from Jiminy.
What is “conscience?” My Google search defined it as, “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.” Several other definitions always include the word “feeling.” Most of them then follow this with the concept of guilt. Merriam-Webster defined it as “the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong. : a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong … “ Thus “conscience” seems to be inseparable from the “feeling of guilt.” Wikipedia defines “guilt” as “Guilt may refer to: Guilt (emotion), an emotion that occurs when a person believes that they have violated a moral standard that they themselves believe in … “ Of course, there’s the legal definition which isn’t about feelings. But conscience and guilt seem to be closely bound together by feeling. When people all accept one philosophy, such as Christianity, as the Truth, guilt and conscience reinforce that philosophy. Today’s world is a smorgasbord of philosophies and religions, therefore, it is problematic where a conscience is supposed to lead one. I guess people are expected to derive their conscience from inner values. So one man’s conscience may conflict radically with that of another man. For example, Officer Wilson, the cop in Missouri who shot an unarmed teenager says his conscience is clear. Who can argue with that as everyone’s conscience is his own, individual creation. Conscience can justify any act, no matter how heinous.
Conscience makes cowards of us all. Does this explain the fearlessness of the psychopath?
Although conscience is no longer uniform, there is a strange assumption most people seem to have that you must have a conscience to be a good person. Those without a conscience are thought to be “bad.” What makes people “good” is the feeling of guilt they have if they do something that violates their conscience. That seems to go along with the idea that only punishment can make people “good.”
Jay Jones, in his excellent blog, Psychopathy Awareness, said of conscience:
Much is written about psychopaths lacking a conscience, with works like Without Conscience by Dr Robert Hare, and such an opinion is wide spread by experts and laymen alike. In truth though, these people fail to understand the nature of the conscience and to remove their own subjectivity when analyzing the issue. Psychopaths do have a conscience, it is merely completely personal and relates only to personal perspectives and standards. This is in contrast to “normal” people in this time and setting who’s conscience is a reflection of societal perspectives and standards.
Psychopaths are naturally immune to the social conditioning that people learn by, or rather are indoctrinated into at an early age. The job of the conscience is to check the self—analyzing current behaviors, emotions and thinking against the long term decided perspectives and standards of the individual. Where a typical person learns what their society and care givers consider to be truths and standards in their environment, and integrates this into their own conscience, a psychopath doesn’t take on what others have told them is truth and socially acceptable, they make their mind up based on their own experiences and perspective.
Some people say that conscience is really driven by empathy which Merriam-Webster define as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings …” This takes it into the realm of intuition. There is no real way to objectively determine whether someone’s intuition is correct of not. There is definitely a notion that empathy makes someone a better person.
Psychopaths are widely hated because we do not have a conscience, guilt-feelings or empathy. In short, we are deficient in the ability to connect with other people. We are driven more by our rational brain, Most psychopaths learn to emulate feelings we don’t have in order to fit in. M.E. Thomas said she sometimes felt like a character in the movie, Bladerunner, having to watch her step every minute not to give herself away. Most people think psychopaths are dangerous predators. Robert Hare calls us “social predators.” The public associates us with serial killers although only a small number of psychopaths ever kill anyone. We can manipulate people, often as a game of power. It can give one a heady feeling to know one is calling the shots outside of other people’s awareness. This gives one a powerful experience of grandiosity. Psychopaths have the reputation of using our cunning only to hurt people. Sam Vaknin said, on the contrary, “The vast majority of psychopaths, like an iceberg, are underwater, and like an iceberg, they are inert.” But not having a conscience, that is, a feeling that one must act a certain way does not force a psychopath to do wrong. A psychopath’s lack of conscience gives us a choice. One can objectively know right from wrong. In fact, the law presumes that psychopaths know right from wrong objectively which is why we are held responsible for crimes we commit. Knowing what is right and what is wrong can function as a guide just as effectively as a conscience. Not needing to beat oneself up with guilt feelings, really causes a psychopath to deserve more credit for doing right. A free choice is automatically a moral choice. But the fact that psychopaths can chose to do wrong scares people. How do they know what choice psychopaths will make? There is such a thing as a “pro social” psychopath. James Fallon is one as well as others living useful, productive lives in their chosen profession. They can work as surgeons, ball players, lawyers or a myriad other group of occupations which require single-minded focus and a mind not clouded by emotion.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
In recent years, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual has grown from a slim volume to an enormous tomb and with it’s width, it’s influence also grew until it was the size of a bully kicking the other kids off the playground. Scholars of psychology and psychiatry met regularly to decide what would go into it. Dr. Hervey Cleckley and Dr. Robert Hare developed the concept of psychopathy. Dr. Hare’s checklist is the acknowledged defining and diagnostic tool for what “psychopathy” means. But a powerful group refused to accept it. They found concepts such as “lack of empathy” too subjective and considered a more “scientific” concept based more strictly on overt behavior. Therefore, they replaced psychopathy with the “antisocial personality disorder.” In embracing this term, psychology lost the depth and subtlety that was part of psychopathy. It became an index of criminality. A criminal could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder even if he felt empathy and guilt. Feelings were just too damned unscientific. You can’t even measure them, for goodness sake. However, psychopaths’ brains have distinct differences from normal ones. The frontal orbital cortex which is fed impulses through the amygdala, often appears dark and inactive when a psychopath is subjected to a PET brain scan. This characteristic isn’t part of the ASPD diagnostic criteria. Sounds very scientific to me but what do I know. I’m only a lowly layman. So diagnosed psychopaths like M.E. Thomas couldn’t have ASPD since she is not a criminal. Hail science! Since psychopathy isn’t listed in the DSM as a personality disorder, the real verdict of psychiatry is that psychopathy isn’t a disorder. Robert Hare has stated this specifically. “Psychopaths are not disordered. They have no deficit.” Well that’s that.
Speaking for myself as a self-assesssed psychopath, I have the usual “diagnosis” of ASPD (antisocial personality disorder). I dislike the degree which psychology is oriented to Behaviorism. As Sam Vaknin said, the field of psychology has promise but only if it is approached as a philosophy. Dr. Hare has recently stated that psychopathy isn’t even a disorder.
To the Haters
I wrote the comment on someone’s blog that had a revolting number of hostile comments after it, all signed “anonymous” and all denying the blogger is a “real” psychopath:
I notice most of the hostile comments here are labeled “anonymous.” Seems like you haters can dish it out but not take it. I also find it interesting that many people like to deny the psychopathy of anyone who proclaims him/herself as a psychopath even when they’ve been diagnosed. None of these anonymous nay sayers are able to claim professional credentials but still seem to think they are more qualified than a professional to contradict his/her professional opinion. At the same time, people are highly prone to call people “psychopaths” when they have done something the hater doesn’t like.
I challenge every anonymous poster to identify him/herself or shut the fuck up.
- What Are Psychopaths For? A brilliant speech analyzing psychopathy as an intellectual construct with a look at the psychopath as a scapegoat for society’s Jungian shadow.
- Behind the Mask: The Myth of the Psychopath. It was bound to happen sooner or later. A book has been published which questions some of the most cherished opinions about psychopathy. The Myth of the Born Criminal: Psychopathy, Neurobiology, and the Creation of the Modern Degenerate by Jarkko Javala, Stephanie Griffiths, Michael Maraun. The fact that none of these authors appear to have any scientific creds gives pause yet the one reviewer (so far) on Amazon promises the book refutes Martha Stout which is reason enough to try it.
- The Cluster B stigma and the nature of evil. I look around and notice a lot of people who are a little too comfortable with the label of “victim.” I think considering oneself a victim erases all guilt and fault because it is the other guy who is really “evil.”
- Murder Crow Eat Crow, a very interesting blog full of social analysis by a sociopath.
- Is there such a thing as healthy shame?
- Psychopathy Awareness. Psychopathy from the psychopath’s point of view.
- Psychopathy may not be what you think
- Psych Forums. My link is specifically to personality disorders. They have other things there but this is my area of interest.
- It’s Not You, It’s Me…and…My Hyper-Reactive Dopaminergic Reward System. A woman who was in a relationship with a psychopath and was hurt when he cut it off abruptly has some very interesting insights about the whole dynamic of the exciting, breath-taking, “love-bombing” and often short-term kind of relationship psychopaths often have.
- Psychopathic Writings Is there such a thing as a spare time psychopath? Probably not, so I guess I’m a professional one. In the last decade or so researchers and experts have published much new knowledge about psychopaths and psychopathy for the public to learn more about this 1% minority of the world. I think some insider information has been missing from the picture and this is why I have decided to contribute with some of the knowledge that only someone who lives with the condition can provide.
cognitive and neural dysfunction. This highly technical paper states what many people, both professional and lay, believe: That psychopathy is different from ASPD. The paper is heavy on methodological strategy in testing psychopaths. I could not find, however, how they decided who was a psychopath to begin with. Is it something that can best be spotted through images
- Identification of psychopathic individuals using pattern classification of MRI images. This writer asserts, “Psychopathy can be assessed in forensic settings by the Psychopathy Checklist–Revised (PCL–R) and in nonforensic contexts by the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL–SV), each supported by extensive evidence for their reliability and validity (Hare, 2006).” Good to know that Hare’s work is taken seriously in some quarters.
- Psychopathy Research. A slew of other scholarly articles linked here.
- What’s So Charming About Psychopaths?
- A psychopath’s Take of Morality by James. An excellent discussion on the Ethical and Moral implications of psychopathy in light of the actual functionality of these concepts within societies. Highly recommended.
- How a Psychopath Views You by James
- Psychopath meet Psychopath by James
- The Psychopath Translator. (what we really mean) by James
- Conscience? What Conscience? by James
- What’s your opinion on psychopaths. A neurotypical friend of the author gives a balanced answer to that question.
- What Makes a Successful Psychopath? a dialog by James Renard and Tina Taylor
- A Psychopath and a Scholar, Memoirs of a Misfit
- Sociopath’s Domain.
- Three Kinds of Empathy, Cognitive, Emotional, Compassionate
- Psychopathic criminals have empathy switch
- Coldhearted Psychopaths Feel Empathy Too
- Psychopaths Don’t Lack Empathy: They Just Have The Ability To Turn It Off At Will
- Psychopath Resistance. A fox in the hen house.
- DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, exercise an inordinate influence on psychology and how we think about people. This article analyses the history as well as current trends. One thing it hasn’t mentioned was the way behaviourism has infiltrated the thinking of those actually writing the manual. Sam Vaknin mused that a psychologist can either strive to be a philosopher or a scientist. Behaviourists think they can establish their scientific credentials by limiting their work to what is observable. Thus, the personality disorder called psychopathy has been dropped in favour of “antisocial personality disorder.” They measure this disorder by the overt antisocial acts someone exhibits. The inner characteristics of psychopathy such as lack of conscience or empathy don’t count with these
- Narcissist or Psychopath…Both are human predators. Another spot-on critique of the DSM for removing psychopathy from their ever growing, politically influenced tomb. She puts her finger on the problem by indicting these experts for looking only at behavior and not at the person behind the behavior. Sam Vaknin thought the DSM V might combine psychopathy and narcissism into one disorder. Instead, they continued to discard psychopathy for the much less meaningful “antisocial personality disorder.” Well, it’s their choice to make psychology increasingly less relevant.
- Do Psychopaths Know They Are Psychopaths? Part of a fascinating blog I was turned on to by my friend, Suzanne, from Facebook
- Lucky Otter’s Haven, an Aspie’s musings about narcissistic and borderline personality disorder. Suzanne has added her own thoughts to the blog, Psychopathic Writings.
- Psychopathic Writings. The blog from which the above article was extracted.
- Dr. James Fallon Makes Being a Psychopath Look Like Fun
- I, Psychopath, Sam Vaknin.
- Diary of a Narcissist. Sam Vaknin’s Journal
- Kevin Dutton is an expert who holds a positive opinion about psychopaths.
- Young Lawyer Reveals ‘Deep Inside Me There’s A Serial Killer Lurking’. Interview by Dutton, the psychopath’s best friend.
- The Distinctive “Look” of Psychopathy: staring into the face of evil Suzanne considers it “evil>.” I find his face beautiful (see above). The famous “psychopathic stare.” So pure in it’s freedom from the mundane emotions of “normal” humanity.
- Can a Psychopath be “Good?” Well readers of this website know my answer to this question would be. We are free to choose. The Lucky Otter would concur. This is the difference between psychopathy and “anti-social personality disorder.” No matter what they do, psychopaths are psychopaths due to their inner landscape. ASPD is strictly behaviour oriented.
- 10 Careers With the Most Psychopaths by Kali Holloway of Alternet
- Can a Psychopath Learn to Feel Your Pain? Jill Suttie interviews James Fallon.
- The Hidden Suffering of the psychopath
- Do Psychopaths Suffer by James Renard. Are psychopaths victims of their own condition? Do they experience emotional pain? Is this even possible? Read on and find out
- Psychopaths are awesome / psychopaths are terrible
- James Fallon, a neuroscientist who discovered he is a psychopath.
- Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas
- Without Conscience, Robert Hare, considered an expert on psychopathy. His checklist is a frequently used diagnostic tool. Unfortunately, the tool is used most frequently in prison. If someone scores high on the psychopathy spectrum, he is denied parole.
- James Fallon discussing psychopathy on Insight.
- From Internet Troll to Psychopathy Expert: The con-artistry of Thomas Sheridan. This man seems to suffer acute paranoia, delusional thinking and histrionics.
- Can a Test Really Tell Who’s a Psychopath?
- The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil by Camille Paglia. This article was snipped from a much more complex page on the Time website. Paglia is the prime maverick of the women’s movement.
- Psychopath Night, Channel 4 UK
- Psychopath vs. Antisocial Personality Disorder and Sociopathy
- Francis Dolarhyde, the Red Dragon
- Sociopath World, M.E.
- Grandiose is my Indian Name
- Severus Snape Redeemed? This author doesn’t buy it. He accuses Snape of having the “nice guy syndrome,” meaning a seemingly nice platonic friend who goes ballistic when the lady of his choice chooses someone else. I don’t see Snape as a nice guy. He didn’t grow fangs because Lily chose someone else. They parted ways when, in separate and opposing houses, Lily became increasingly critical of Snape’s choice of friends. Like Lily’s friends in Gryffinder were so nice. They were bullies, humiliating Snape in front of Lily. Being defended by the girl he would have wanted to impress and defend, he let out a word that makes all Gryffinders and Potter lovers’ heads explode — “mudblood.” Horrors. The author, Bridget, even reached into her bag of insults and pulled out the worst he could find, “sociopath.” Snape obviously didn’t really believe this prejudice or he could never have loved Lily. And he didn’t just change sides to protect Lily. After she died, he remained on Dumbledore’s side. His patronis was a dove, Lily’s patronis. And as for Snape favoring his house, the whole bleeding school was against Slytherin. Why shouldn’t Snape favor them. They were the underdogs. Weren’t they?
- New Study Suggests Not All Psychopaths are “Bad.” Psych Central News
- Are Some Psychopaths Helpful, Even Nice? Psych Central News