I'm reading a book. And like all of us avid readers there comes a time when you have to say something about the book you're reading. 

"The Psychopath Whisperer" by Kent Kiehl, Ph.D is a non-fiction piece about Kiehl and his experience interviewing and cataloging psychopaths in order to find some concrete proof that their brain is marginally different in certain areas (like the amygdala) than the average person. 

According to him there is an actual difference between a psychopath and a sociopath. I'll assume it's because a sociopath is labeled with Antisocial Personality disorder once they are caught committing a crime and their history is examined. A psychopath is labeled as such via the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist Revised).

Convenient, right?

What is the list you ask?

 

  • Glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • juvenile delinquency
  • revocation of conditional release
  • criminal versatility

Read more: http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Hare-Psychopathy-Checklist.html#ixzz4CMgJUPC

Most assuredly we all have a bit of understanding towards these terms, I’m sure we all know what grandiosity is and pathological lying, irresponsibility and impulsiveness. We all have general definitions for these things.

Revocation of conditional release is essentially the individual repeatedly failing to “redeem” themselves when given an opportunity. For example, you get arrested, you go to jail for 180 days and you never return back–you learned a “lesson”. Your friend gets arrested and goes right back to that life.

“Parasitic Lifestyle” can be summed up as a lifestyle which consistently interrupts relationships in an unfortunate way, like purposefully being a couch potato or constantly draining your parents and or friends of money without any compensation or intention of compensation.

Need for stimulation isn’t like a “poke me with a pin” or “brand my ass with a cow prod” kind of stimulation, it’s more of a “I need to get involved with something” kind of need. I need to feel that rush, I need to mess with these people, create a shockwave.

What is most interesting, in my eyes, about the idea of psychopathy, is the induction of philosophy and personal bias into the characteristics.

For example, in the book I mentioned above the author did a miniature case study comparison on John Wilkes Booth (President Lincoln’s Assassin) and Charles Guiteau (President Garfield’s assassin). In the category of “Callousness/Lack Of empathy”, the author gave an excerpt of one of Booth’s letters where he claims himself a confederate doing duty upon his own responsibility and pledges his love for the Southern half of the united states.

The author goes on to say :

“Booth had adopted the racist ideology of the time. Personally, I find it very difficult not to score a racist who endorses slavery high on the Callous/Lack of Empathy. However, we have to review the rest of Booth’s life. In it we fine little evidence of any callousness or inability to empathize with others. Since we find evidence in only one domain of his life, we must score him in the low to moderate range”.

I despise slavery as well. I have slaves and cotton pickers in my ancestry after all. It’s ruined generations of my family  and only served to add more fuel to the historical trauma fire that colonialism started.

But it would be biased of me to score someone’s level of empathy based on a belief system they acquired through the systematic brainwashing of their childhood. If I was raised under a strict conservative household to believe blacks are ignorant, ill-mannered animals not worth the dirt under my shoes, how I treat them is a result of what I was told as a one year old, a two year old, a three year old, e.t.c.

Some people grow out of that. Some people see the damage they cause by such belief and they choose to believe something else. They make a choice. Some do not. Do either of those paths effect how callous of an individual you are? If I were taught one specific thing and never experienced a reason not to (such as leaving the family, the state, the environment, e.t.c) why would I feel the need to be empathetic towards that one specific thing?

I’m not giving them an excuse to be uneducated. I understand the majority of people believe that because slavery is horrid, endorsing it and racism in any fashion represents callousness towards humans and/or ignorance. I don’t disagree.  I’m simply asking how much of what you are taught results in the level of emotion you feel towards others and whether or not that can be critically and unbiased-ly judged abnormal, normal, wrong, or right by beings who are inherently biased.

We'll pretend Unbiased-ly is a word.

Morality and Ethics is a tough subject in philosophy because one realm takes the side of “majority rules” as what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”. The other realm takes the side of “You’re taught what is right and wrong by a select few who decided what was right and wrong and you have to decide for yourself”. Some realms sum it up to feeling and personal opinion. It’s not something I claim to be an expert in, nor is it something I claim has a right or wrong answer: that would defeat the purpose of discussing this.

80917c90c6d36e170c70f5f15c054d0eThe problem I see here more so than anything is that we judge character, particularly in regards to mental health, on how we believe someone should act. Even when we try not to, we are human, and therefore we will make that mistake indubitably.

In the psychology/psychiatry field what happens is what becomes normal is what we’re told is normal and what becomes abnormal is what we’re told is abnormal. And what we miss is the entire story of both individuals. We fish for symptoms and characteristics to match them to a chart and they become just another person with a problem. 

(Psychopathy is an exception here, they obviously could care less what you call them, fisherman like to fish so they fish; killers like to kill so they kill. That’s the world).

But that’s just my opinion, as flawed and biased via experience as anyone else’s. I’m sure you see the conundrum now.