There is an article on the victims’ advocate blog that seems to be a direct rebuttal of Kevin Dutton’s Wisdom of Psychopaths while bearing an odd resemblance to the writings of Thomas Sheridan. It’s called Wise Psychopaths, Honest Narcissists, Empathetic Sociopaths, & Other Virtuous Evil People, by someone called “Peace.” (NOTE: I was unable to find out Peace’s gender so I am guessing female. Sorry if I guessed wrong.) Update: Peace is a dude named Jackson MacKenzie. He is the author of a book called Psychopath Free and a blog by the same name.
Peace deplores the recent tendency to redeem the image of psychopaths in the eyes of the general public. “These strange claims are on the rise as psychopathy awareness spreads. Some from self-proclaimed psychopaths, some from pop-scientists seeking a piece of the action, and some from perfectly well-intentioned people who are just hellbent on seeing the good in everyone.” “Self-proclaimed psychopaths?” Ah. People like me. That’s cool. I think it’s about time we spoke for ourselves. I’m tired of being talked about. But I don’t think it was very nice to call Dr. Kevin Dutton a “pop-scientist” although Peace never mentions names. In fact, even Dr. Robert Hare might now fall into this description since he said, “Psychopathy might not be so disordered and unnatural; it’s something that we can probably work with, help them take advantage of and shape in a way that’s pro-social and productive, good for the individual and society.”
He never mentioned Dutton’s book by name but it was clear what he had in mind when he wrote, “What about ‘wisdom’? Maybe I’m a spiritual nutjob, but I thought wisdom was about turning dark experiences into light, and discovering what it is we can offer to this world. I thought it took adversity & compassion to develop wisdom.” It is the very apparent cognitive dissonance in the title of his book that gives it it’s punch and challenges the reader to want to see how Dutton could have made such an audacious claim. I’m sure he is well aware of the seeming disconnect and was up to the challenge when he undertook to write it.
Peace has written as if she knows what wisdom is. Discussing wisdom kind of presupposes those conducting the discussion are wise, themselves. How can anyone judge what is “wise” or not unless one is wise oneself? There are probably various forms of wisdom. Off the top of my head, I would say we are wise in our ability to live in present time. Doctors may shake their heads over our lack of direction but when every moment is brand new, we can experience things others miss. Our alienation is another tool for wisdom. Knowing one is different and having to negotiate relationships with these puzzling, over-emotional creatures and learn their language can give one an outsider’s perspective that enables us to see the society everyone else takes for granted with a rare understanding. Blogs written by psychopaths tend to be full of deep searching for philosophical answers that can lead one to ponder. I know we’re not the only outsiders and each kind provides it’s own perspective.
Peace writes, “There are lots of disorders that have to do with low empathy, but this one specifically describes someone who actually gains pleasure from causing pain to others.” No, Peace. That’s a sadist you are talking about. Sadists enjoy causing pain to others. Of course, a sadist can also be a psychopath. But there is something paradoxical about sadism. In order to enjoy someone else’s suffering, one has to have some sort of empathy. Otherwise, how would the sadist find that suffering meaningful? One can be callous without any empathy but to be sadistic, one has to have some. But he insists, “The idea that psychopaths have empathy is a bunch of word salad garbage. Yes, psychopaths observe & mimic the behavior of others. They learn to understand human behavior because that makes it easier to manipulate it. But empathy isn’t just about ‘understanding’ feelings. It’s about feeling those feelings. Sadness, because someone else is sad. Joy, because someone else is joyful. Find me a psychopath who has that ability, and I’ll eat my hat.” Sam Vaknin has introduced the concept of “cold empathy.” I would think this kind of “empathy” involves some sort of understanding based on a memory of having felt something similar at some other time. One recognizes the feeling, remembers having felt it, but doesn’t need to get swept up in the immediacy of that feeling.
Peace said, “These theories are normalizing psychopathy in society. There’s no dancing around it. They’re redefining good & evil to make room for people who are incapable of ‘good’ as we know it. They’re eroding our values and minimizing the damage caused by serious personality disorders. Are we really willing to sacrifice our integrity for people who have none? To change the rules so that psychopaths can get away with more than they already do?” This is very reminiscent of Thomas Sheridan’s complaint. He, too, complained that pundits were trying to “normalize” psychopathy. He mentioned, with scorn, that Dutton suggested that everyone has a “psychopath within.” In the same breath, he warned we might claim we have a disability and play sickness card. How can we if our “condition” has been normalized. It can’t be both. Sheridan plays the victim when he tells us he took his life in his hands by saying Tony Blair was a psychopath. Uuuuu! Shudder shudder! Scary! Peace manages to avoid Sheridan’s histrionics but still echo his message. “And last but not least, there’s this relentless suggestion that we’re all ‘sometimes psychopaths’, or that we have the ability to behave like psychopaths when the situation calls for it. What the actual hell? I assume these are the same sort of people who say ‘Omg I’m so OCD’ because one day they decide to rearrange their shoe collection by size & color. Personality disorders are not jokes, and they don’t just ‘sometimes’ arise in healthy human beings.” But it doesn’t seem to be our health that concerns them.
I think any point of view that discusses a human being only from the perspective of how harmful that person might potentially be to the rest of humanity is putting a leper’s cloak over each and every one of us.
Here’s a perfect example of what I mean:
Professionals will tell you that they feel like they’re losing their mind when they interact with psychopaths, like their entire sense of self is falling apart with every moment spent in their presence. It’s a lingering feeling that haunts you, long after the person is gone from your life. So if you really think these people are advantageous in politics, business, and relationships, then by all means, surround yourself with “psychopaths”. But to those of us who have actually encountered psychopathic evil, we know that these predators have nothing to offer to this world except pain & devastation.
Even lepers are accepted now. No longer are they forced to ring a bell and shout, “Unclean.” Psychopaths are not all serial killers. The public needs to know that. We need the public to know it. If you don’t like us, OK. But recognize that we are not lepers. We might “walk among you” and you might not recognize us as psychopaths. We often “hide in plain sight” to protect ourselves from you. I have to admit it. I do not have much sympathy for these self-styled victims whose blogs abound on the internet these days. The thinkers you complain about are only trying to clear up the distortion your reactive demonizing is spreading.
- Sociopath World. A very thoughtful blog that will make you think.
- Psychopathic Writings. by Zhawq
- The Dying Psychopath. The random thoughts of a psychopath.
- Psychopathy Awareness, by Jay Jones
- Psychopathy Awareness, also by Jay Jones
- Conscience? What Conscience? by James whose blogs are on Tina Taylor’s blog, No Psychos. This is only one of his many essays. You have to look around the blog to find them. He hasn’t blogged in a while which is a shame.
- Free to Choose, by yours truly