How To Spot One

We’ve all seen articles promising to tell us how to “spot a psychopath.” Psychopaths are the ones wearing masks, just waiting for “us” to let down “our” guard so they can harm “us.” What if everyone is wearing a mask? Why?

There was a great TV series in 1994 called My So-Called Life. It was about teenagers but, unlike Beverly Hills 90210, it only had 19 episodes. That’s one more episode than Freaks and Geeks. Why did these great series get cancelled? Because they were so good? Sure. But why? The sixth episode of My So-Called Life, called The Substitute, gives us a clue. A substitute teacher offers his students a different perspective to learning or, really, to living. The kids had written nice, conventional poems for a publication that was supposed to show who they were and what they were capable of. The first day the substitute came to class, he threw all these offerings out the window. He told them to see what they could produce NOW. With his encouragement, the kids wrote new more honest statements. When the principle of the school found out what some of these statements were, he banned the publication. That’s probably what happened to both of the series. As the principle put it, this new, honest Liberty Lit (note the irony of the name) didn’t meet the standards of the school. Maybe these two series about teenagers didn’t meet the standards of what we can admit about our own lives in America. People get judged just as TV series do.sociopath

Mayo Clinic Staff defines Anti-Social Personality Disorder, “Antisocial personality disorder is defined by a pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others.” Psychopaths don’t meet the standards of society. That’s why psychopathy or ASPD (as the American Psychiatric Association would have it) is called a disorder.

beverly-hills-90210-locandinaIf society doesn’t approve of one’s personality, it calls one “disordered.” If it doesn’t approve of a television series, it cancels the series. Both My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks were superior quality television dramas about the lives of teens. When I say they were superior, I mean they were more honest. Beverly Hills 90210 crawled up it’s own asshole long before it was mercifully ended. Not that it had never been any good. It just jumping_sharkwasn’t as good as the other two. It continued way beyond it’s artistic integrity should have allowed. It jumped the shark which means it got totally absurd. I would advise anyone diagnosed with a personality disorder not to fret about it. If the “disorder” makes your life  unpleasant or difficult, by all means, go to therapy and try to get “cured.” If you are OK, just enjoy your uniqueness.


The D Factor

The Dark Triad

selfishnessIt was once considered good enough to call someone a psychopath or a narcissist if you wanted to say he was bad or wicked enough to condemn him or her. But human nature, being what it is, nothing is so simple that it can’t be made more complicated. Psychopathy (or Anti-Social Personality Disorder) and Narcissism were part of Cluster B but that wasn’t good enough. Something called The Dark Triad needed to be invoked. Psychopathy and Narcissism were joined by Machiavellianism to make the triad. But someone has now set out to simplify things again and reduce the Dark Triad to one trait.  Katie Heany has said, If You Have One of These Dark Personality Traits, You Have them All.

white wooden chess king on wooden chessboard closeupThe study’s authors argue this overlap is because all nine dark personality traits share the same dark “core,” which — I’m not kidding — they call “the D-factor.” The, uh, D-factor is defined as “the general tendency to maximize one’s individual utility — disregarding, accepting, or malevolently provoking disutility for others — accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications.” Though each dark personality trait varies in expression and severity, all nine rely on personal gain as one’s primary concern.

So the whole thing can be boiled down to selfishness? The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised lists 20 traits. Perhaps the one trait for psychopaths should be optimism and the penticostcrossbelief in happy outcomes. Kevin Dutton mentioned our optimism in Psychopath Night, the TV show on the UK’s channel 4. Ayn Rand believed in the universe being fundamentally benevolent and life being about happiness rather than suffering. I think this kind of “up” view of life can go together with number 8 of the PCL-R, Callousness and Lack of Empathy. We can identify with joy or sorrow. There are powerful arguments toward either. Catholicism is very much identified with suffering. The crucifix with the crucified Christ on it is very much favored with that church. Some evangelical churches identify with optimism. Their symbol is a stylized cross, sometimes with the Holy Spirit bird over it. Some of these churches are identified with prosperity. While both kinds of churches worship Christ, they each focus on a very different side of the story, which is, come to think of it, the different sides of life itself.

Lestat_from_The_Vampire_ChroniclesPeople who are happy and selfish (maybe vulgar and superficial) are often more fun to be around. People who are full of empathy are the sort one wants to find when one is in need of this trait. I’m thinking of Anne Rice’s novel, Tale of the Body Thief. The hero, Lestat, is conned by a mortal with whom he exchanges bodies. As a mortal once more, Lestat finds himself penniless and ill. A woman nurses him back to health. Later, once he is again a vampire, Lestat runs into her. From his new perspective, this almost saintly woman seems narrow and boring. Just saying.

Donna’s Shit Don’t Stink

I hadn’t planned to write yet another post about how we are demonized but this post by Donna Anderson of Lovefraud pisses me off to the point of once more putting virtual pen beautiful sexy woman in black leather dress masquerade mask withto virtual paper and sounding off. The article was called A sociopath explains how she loves. The article quotes two emails from a self-identified sociopath who explained what love means to her. Her email is courteous and complimentary to Donna and her website. And yet, Donna’s reaction totally lacks the willingness to meet the author of the email even part way. She concludes “sociopaths may not always be lying when they say, ‘I love you.’ Sociopaths may think they do love you. They simply don’t know what the word means.” Good grief! How condescending! We don’t know what the word “love” means although Donna certainly implies that she, unlike us ‘paths, does know. Maybe nobody ever explained to Donna that there are many forms of love. No. There is only one kind that counts with her. From her lips to god’s ears, here is the straight dope:

Three parts to love

donna_andersenWhat exactly is love? Poets, playwrights and songwriters over the ages have struggled to describe the sensation of falling in love, and the pain of losing love. No matter how beautiful the language,  words are often inadequate. We just know love when we feel it.

Scientists have also tried to explain love. Philip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer wrote a paper called A Behavioral Systems Approach to Romantic Love Relationships: Attachment, Caregiving, and Sex. Their explanation of love is useful for us because it illustrates why sociopaths can appear to be in love, when they really aren’t.

Shaver and Mikulincer say there are three distinct components to romantic love:

  1. Attachment you want to be around and spend time with the person you love.
  2. Sex you want to have physical relations with the person you love.
  3. Caregiving you want to take care of the person you love. You are concerned about his or her health, wellbeing and growth.

Real love has all three of these components. Sociopath, however, only experience two of them.

caregivingThe “component” of love we are deficient in, it turns out, is the third: caregiving. Our overtures of love are fraudulent because “sociopaths are not capable of true caregiving.” She explains why she didn’t bother to show the simple courtesy of replying to the sociopath‘s (please note, she is never even identified with a name) email. “I never replied to author of the above email there is no point in engaging a sociopath.” Is this an example of how loving, how caring, the empathic folks are compared to us nasty ‘paths? Not that it is they who are deficient. It’s because we are such terrible people, we don’t deserve acknowledgement. (Thanks for the warning, Donna. I’ll never try to communicate with you.)

DAndersen_smile_headshot_140x140But the nameless sociopath didn’t give up so easily. Since she never received the courtesy of a response from Donna, she emailed her again. She wrote…

Do you think that just because I’m different from you that I deserve to be ignored? It isn’t my fault that I was born a certain way. You could have just as easily been born a psycho. Would you ignore normal people because you think you’re better than them? I don’t. I know that both types of people—and we are both people, I hope you aren’t so deep in your own world as to think we aren’t—have their merits, strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives that are worth considering. Don’t you agree?

Charming Donna replied, “Actually I don’t agree. Yes, it’s sad that sociopaths are born with the genetics for the disorder, and often grow up in difficult, even abusive, talk-to-donna-300x250_Fenvironments. But when someone says she’s a sociopath, and sounds like a sociopath, I have a choice on how to respond. I’ll play it safe and stay away.” She is “playing it safe.” One can almost feel sorry for such a fainthearted soul. I understand the concept and reasoning of going “no contact.” When a relationship has become unproductive; when there is more pain than joy to be had, I see the point of no contact. But going no contact with someone just because s/he is a sociopath strikes me as mean-spirited, not to mention narcissistic. She is so much better than we are. She knows what love is but we don’t. La dee da, la la… This from a woman who is so caring and empathic that she markets advice to our “victims” rather than simply giving them her pearls of wisdom.

Sticks and Stones

reputationNobody is as impervious to other people’s opinions than a psychopath. Good for us since we have one of the worst reputations in the world. When someone wants to disparage somebody else, s/he often calls that person a “psychopath” as if that’s the worst thing s/he can call hir. “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never harm me,” the saying goes. But sometimes names can harm us. Being labeled a psychopath in the criminal “justice” system can lead to longer prison time independently of how a convict has actually behaved while serving a sentence.

One of the oldest and most toxic forms of stigmatization is the one directed at racial groups. This has been energetically condemned with the word racism. Most people vigorously deny being racists although, since Trump has been president, those who acclaim it have been very emboldened. But decency seems to be prevailing.

caitlynjennerLet’s face it. People spend enormous stretches of time discussing each other. Then, there is the special kind of person called a celebrity who is talked about obsessively. Like who the hell are the Kardashians? I am always hearing that name but I have no idea what they have done to be spending so much time in the spotlight. Perhaps it is because Americans deliberately established a republic with no royalty that “we” jazzneed to set up this pseudo royalty in its place. Bruce Jenner was some sort of athlete until s/he decided to transition to a woman and had hir image splashed over the media. Because s/he is related to the Kardashians, this event seems to have somehow made transgenderism more acceptable to the American public. But some achieved fame all on their own. Jazz Jennings (similar last name a coincidence) was a boy who identified as a girl since the age of three, had understanding parents to enabled the whole transformation, hormones, surgery and all. S/he has hir own reality show on TLC where hir life has been documented for years.

aerieWe live in a mass culture where we are very accessible to each other through the mass media. Perhaps this is the reason why public opinion and treatment of others is subject to so much scrutiny. People have their prejudices. But idealists believe it is important to remake society by erasing stigma wherever it exists. I just came across a quest to de-stigmatize ostomy bags. For those who don’t know, these are bags that are surgically attached to people who are unable to poop or pee normally. An article How the Aerie Real Campaign Is Helping Shatter the Stigma Around Ostomy Bags features a woman named Aerie who is doing for people with this handicap what Jazz is doing for the transgendered. She says, “Personally, I have always felt proud of and grateful for my ostomy – never really ashamed of it. After all, it saved me from a life of constant pain and suffering. I know it’s not gross.” Wearing a bag of shit on your body isn’t gross? If you say so.



'I let my conscience be my guide, and it turned out to be a sociopath.'
‘I let my conscience be my guide, and it turned out to be a sociopath.’

While physical disabilities may arouse pity and transgenderism may be seen as a civil rights issue, stigma around personality is a horse of a different color. Psychopathy is so powerfully linked in the public mind with evil, those who are ashamed to badmouth other stigmatized groups seem to feel no compunctions about letting the shit fly at us. An article in Psychology Today called It Takes a Psychopath to Like a Psychopath has some real zingers. Psychopathy is considered, says the author, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, “one of the least desirable traits a person can have.” She admits our “traits” are “fascinating” but also “repulsive.” Repulsive? susankraussDon’t hold anything back, Hon. She continues, “The idea that you could show anything but revulsion for a psychopath may seem impossible even to entertain.” She goes on to say, “There’s an assumption in the public mind that these individuals have chosen their personalities, and for this reason, they should be treated with ostracism and contempt.” I never did understand why the question of choice is so important. The gay liberation movement has insisted that gays don’t choose to be gay. They are born that way. Transsexuals (the “T” added to “LBG”) are also supposedly born in the wrong body. Psychopaths are now said to have been “born that way” but it doesn’t seem to matter much. I don’t see why it should, frankly. However we “got that way,” are are that way, take it or leave it. Everyone still has the choice to act on proclivities or not. I am not one of those people who think psychopaths should get away with crimes because of “mental illness.” If we can’t help ourselves, we are not responsible. We also don’t have the civil rights of adults. Not having a conscience makes me free. Freedom is responsibility.

Responsible or not, we are still stigmatized.

Psychopaths are the Others

Paranoid Hatred of Psychopaths

I consider myself many things. I am an American, a woman, a human, a baby boomer, a sexual masochist and a psychopath. But, more than anything else, I consider myself a philosopher. Psychopaths are considered, more than most anything else, “pathological liars.” That is the characteristic I have the most trouble identifying with. Sure, I can lie when it is necessary (meaning to my advantage). But I also deeply love the Truth. As a philosopher, I have sought Truth all my life. I remember pondering philosophical questions literally in the crib. The philosophical field I find most compelling is Epistemology: the study of, not what is Truth, but how we know Truth. That is my life’s work.

I have always known that I am an outsider. Being an outsider gives me a perspective that enables me to see things that many people miss. The ability to deconstruct concepts most people take for granted is a powerful tool. I know I am different from most people and exploring the answer to what it all means has been, not only my passion, but also my joy.

The Psychopathic Times (Narcissist Nation) has been a rich source of ponerology2edarticles that make me think. They have been the inspiration for many of my blog posts. The article I am discussing today, The Psychopath: A Different Species? IV published by INFRAKSHUN, it badly written. I have had to struggle to figure out what the author is saying. The article begins with a quote from a web site called

“The ultimate cause of evil lies in the interaction of two human factors: 1) normal human ignorance and weakness and 2) the existence and action of a statistically small (4-8% of the general population) but extremely active group of psychologically deviant individuals. The ignorance of the existence of such psychological differences is the first criterion of ponerogenesis. That is, such ignorance creates an opening whereby such individuals can act undetected.”

Hmm… We see that this is trying to suss out the “ultimate cause of evil.” The “causes” are two: ignorance and an active minority. Hitler could have said this. Jews in Germany were a minority (now an even tinier minority). But what is pomerology? Merriam Webster says, “Ponerology definition is – a branch of theology dealing with the doctrine of evil. a branch of theology dealing with the doctrine of evil…” Wikipedia says, “In theology, ponerology (from Greek poneros, “evil”) is a study of evil. Major subdivisions of the study are the nature of evil, the origin of evil, and evil in relation to the Divine Government.” Although ponerology is claimed to be scientific, we see from these definitions that it is theological. Science is supposed to be universal. But theology can only apply to the beliefs of a particular religion. And yet, this article claims to be stating a universal truth. Mankind has fought many a bloody war over theological differences between different countries. The more enlightened ones have accepted the wisdom of letting theology be a private belief system that is only binding on the believers.

The word psychopathy has always confounded psychologists who want to be scientific. Science tells us what is, not what should be. Morality is about what should be. It is derived from the field of philosophy called Ethics and/or from theology. Some, George Simon, for example, have even fallen into the temptation to call psychopathy a character disorder rather than a personality disorder. Of course, the very word, disorder, is judgemental. Since psychology deals with human behavior and thought patterns, it is, perhaps, impossible to develop a “science” of psychology that is morally neutral.

The article discussed here claims that our government is controlled by a minority consisting of psychopaths. M.K. Styllinski, like many others, holds the paranoid view that Psychopaths (are) Running the World. Funny how psychology was supposed to destigmatize “mental illness.” But stigma is a powerful phenomenon and not so easily vanquished. Psychologists hoped that understanding would lead to acceptance. Writers like Styllinski, Peck, Simon are steering the “science” back to moral judgement. I thought my essay comparing psychopaths with Jews in Nazi Germany was somewhat overwrought. But blaming a minority for everything that goes wrong is just what this article and others like it does just that, doesn’t it? These writers use all the technical language of psychology, the science, to justify these judgements. Styllinski explains that the small minority of actual psychopaths has gotten control of a larger group of mostly weak-minded folk who are doing our bidding. (Gosh, I could use a group of willing slaves. Where are mine?) The result is something Styllinski fancifully calls Pathocracy. It seems he is a bipartisan abuser. Not only does Trump preside over this new world order, Obama did too. I wonder when our democracy turned into a pathocracy? Which president was the first? Or has the government of the United States always been a pathocracy?


My Favorite Negative Poems

langston-hughes-book-cover1What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

aldous-huxley“The leech’s kiss, the squid’s embrace,
The prurient ape’s defiling touch:
And do you like the human race?
No, not much.”

Aldous Huxley, Ape and Essence

Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.

Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must

Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,

How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost

Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust

Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes

Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again

With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain,

Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.

Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Gerard Manley Hopkins