It’s a well-known truism that psychopaths feel less emotion than “regular” people. This inability to feel everything NTs feel is often considered a deficit. But it can also be beneficial. Without the full range of emotions, psychopaths are also spared the emotions of guilt, anxiety and shame. Tests suggest psychopaths are also less susceptible to physical pain. The same detachment that enables psychopaths to dispense with unpleasant emotions can also free us from physical suffering.
An episode of Law & Order: SVU features a psychopath who has overcome his reaction to pain that he was able to burn off his fingerprints on a hot grill without so much as a quiver. Although it is doubtful that many psychopaths can achieve that degree of detachment, it can be done. I have experimented with such achievement.
It started when I happened to be in pain from something or other and I wondered what it was about pain that is bad. I focused on my pain to try to isolate the thing about it that is, in itself, unpleasant. The more I focused, the more illusive the sensation became until it disappeared. I realized I had a found a way to stop pain. The trick is not trying to stop it. You have to truly and sincerely be trying to invite it. From this point, I realized that the thing that makes pain painful is our trying to flee from it. In other words, not accepting the moment. Those who are always in the moment need not suffer. Pain and fear are practically the same thing. Both involve dreading something. In the case of fear, it is something in the possible future that is dreaded. In the case of pain, it is a sensation of the body.
I have since come across my method (I think of it as mine because I discovered it myself) in the writings of others. It’s considered a high form of yoga. It’s kind of paradoxical that psychopaths should have access to this very advanced kind of self-mastery, especially when we are sensation-seekers, game players and power seekers. The expression on the face of the man at the top of this page is not the peaceful look of an enlightened being such as the Dalai Lama. It is an excited face, the face of a man thrilled with his own god-like abilities. Speaking for myself, the peace of enlightenment is well and good. I guess I’ll want to achieve it some day. But as long as I can seek and get thrills, I want thrills. I want the excitement and the drama of Life but I am not above dipping into some of the wisdom of the sages when it can improve my life.
Kevin Dutton’s book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths, attracted attention partially by the paradoxical idea that we can be wise. We can be impulsive, amoral, transgressing and without a conscience. We are free to do anything we want. But why should wisdom mean living with shackles such as the ones imposed by morality. Is that what the voices of society want us to believe? What if it’s not true. Maybe the laughter of the gods is about this very (to most) terrifying truth. Someone just asked why it is terrifying. Because most people are afraid of freedom. They think without their precious morality, everything would fall apart. They fear the temptation. As Coleridge wrote: