Sorry for the late post, for some reason I either forgot to schedule it, or it just failed to send. There will be a bonus post coming very soon after. It’s October, and time for a couple of scary stories.
I have spoken about my process for determining morals, which is entirely cognitive. If you missed that post, here is the link to it:
Now it is time to look at what the perception of what morals are made of, and their impact on people’s world engagement. The notion that you must feel something, be it due to faith, guilt, or otherwise, in order to be a moral person is fraught with some difficulties. Often this argument is applied to atheists, and whether they can be moral without the aspect of God lording over them.
Let’s take that for just a moment and look at it. The idea is that it is God, and the fear of eternal damnation, or entry to Heaven being forbidden, that gives this argument teeth. In other words, morality is based on an external. That it is a deity, and that deities laws, that prevent the entire world descending into chaos.
While I don’t begrudge faith, I also think that if there is a God, he would be more expectant of his flock to evaluate His laws, in order to understand them. I also think that adhering to them because of fear, or hopes of a reward, is self serving, and therefore wouldn’t be a good motivating factor. If I were God, and everyone said, I didn’t rape and murder my neighbor because I was afraid of going to Hell, I would not find that to be a compelling argument.
How about, I didn’t rape and murder my neighbor, because it is inherently wrong. I do not want such a thing to be done to me, I can logically and dispassionately evaluate that action and see how it violates the commandments that You handed down, and because I wish to live the best life I can, be pious and diligent, I would not undertake that action. That is at least a compelling argument, so when I see people use the,
“What keeps an atheist from raping and murdering their neighbor if you don’t have the fear of Hell, or the promise of Heaven?”
It tells me a great deal more about that person, than it ever does the atheist. If fear or reward is all that keeps you from indulging the darkest part of the human soul, I don’t know what to tell you, other than you might want to evaluate what kind of person you really are. In my estimation, not a very good one. You probably also believe that empathy is what makes humans “good”, and people without it, “evil”.
Which brings me to what this post is more or less about, and that is the idea that psychopaths lack the ability to have morals, and the impact that assumption has on the understanding of psychopathy.
First and foremost, researchers are studying psychopathy in prison, and you would assume that there is a fundamental lack of moral lines in that community, but that isn’t the case at all. Everyone has a line they won’t cross, and everyone has a line they will cross if the motivation is compelling enough.
I can understand researchers thinking that there is nothing that a criminal won’t do, because usually criminals have crossed a moral barrier in their crimes that that researcher holds dear. If you cross a moral line that someone else thinks is a no go zone, they will assume that everything is in bounds, but if you speak to the criminals themselves, without assumptions of this sort, you will find all of them have their “will not do” actions, and will find the actions of another criminal morally repugnant.
Ask a killer about molesting children, and they will recoil and let you know what their opinion is on that action. (not great, which is why pedophiles are placed into protective custody).
Ask a child molester about swindling old ladies, and you may get a very similar response.
Everyone has a line, but if you don’t probe for it, then you will not know what it is. It is important to understand that there is a line that everyone has, but it very well may not reflect on your understanding of morality. Because of this line, it is easier to see morals as a more nebulous thing that fluxuates, depending on the person.
This brings me to psychopathy. Psychopaths have morals. See the above post. What my morals are will differ from another psychopath. It will be based on life experience, personal boundaries, and what they have taken the time to consider. There are a few reasons that recognizing this fact is important.
The first of course being, that it removes some of the “inhuman” ideas that surround psychopaths. A great deal of the misunderstanding of psychopathy is the fear that people attribute to it. If you cannot see anything that is reflective of you as an individual, it is impossible to empathize with that person. It removes part of those aspects, so it makes psychopaths more able to be comprehended.
The second is the granting of permission by society for bad actions. If you say that a psychopath has no moral capabilities, why would an actual psychopath evaluate that for themselves? In my case I decided that it was an interesting thing to contemplate, but that is a me thing, not a psychopathy thing. With more and more people thinking that identification of psychopathy in children would be a beneficial thing, which I absolutely do not agree with, why would that child that is identified as a psychopath ever bother trying to live outside the assumptions and negativity assigned to them?
Psychopathy has nothing but negative stereotypes, and those stereotypes grant permission for a lack of trying, or doing better. Hand that to any child, psychopathic or not, and you have a recipe for disaster. Even if the child was not psychopathic, they will live to the negative stereotype, because, why not? What is there to motivate them to be something other than the dead end label they are given. I wouldn’t have. I would have just shrugged and said,
“I’m a psychopath. What do you expect?”
Which brings me to my next point. “I’m a psychopath, what do you expect?”
I have been writing over on Quora since 2015, and in that time there have been dozens, if not hundreds of people that claimed the diagnosis of psychopathy. Interestingly, nearly all of them, after writing prolifically about psychopathy either show themselves to be anything but, or outright admit they were either lying, or mistaken.
One of the most common tropes that they relied on was this notion that they have no morals. That they could, and would do anything. I have been writing about having a code of conduct since I started. The other psychopath that I know has one as well, but that is one of the first things those that claim psychopathy, without being psychopathic, go after to try and tear down. It is either that, or it is the notion of the inner circle of people that are considered close friends, or family.
Why do they go after the idea of a code of conduct? Because it doesn’t fit their mold of who they are trying to pretend to be. They want to be dangerous, able to do anything, they want to have the power of the stereotypical “psychopath”, to garner fear and respect. If a psychopath has a code of conduct, lines that they as an individual will not cross, then they aren’t as powerful as they would like to be.
Here’s the problem with that idea. Psychopathy is not a superpower. It isn’t anything. It’s neutral. It is simply the way the brain works, but nothing about it determines actions. I am often accused of stating things about psychopaths that I have never said. A great example would be this question:
I have never made this claim, that psychopaths cannot abuse anyone. What I have said is, abuse has nothing to do with psychopathy. People abuse other people, and if a person abuses someone, they did that. It doesn’t matter if they are psychopathic, neurotypical, autistic, bipolar, none of that matters. The cause of the abuse is the person, not the way their brain functions.
If they are antisocial and/or toxic, and they are abusive, that is what to look to. Most people with autism, psychopathy, bipolar disorder, or those that are neurotypical, are not abusive. When you say that X person is both (psychopathic, autistic, bipolar, neurotypical) and abusive, you are essentially letting them off the hook by skewering an entire group of people with their bad actions. That simply isn’t reasonable.
My stance is, psychopaths are not abusive. That person, who also happened to be a psychopath may have been abusive, but you should hold that person to account, and not let them skate on the premise that psychopathy had anything to do with it. I am pretty hardlined on personal responsibility. I think people too often are looking for an excuse to act badly, or to paint groups of people with a broad stroke that has nothing to do with reality.
Back to the people that claim psychopathy as a shroud of an identity. A large part of that is because they have no identity of their own, and due to that, they feel very vulnerable, and isolated. This is precisely the type that will duck behind blaming something external, or internal that they claim to have no control over, in order to not be held to account by anyone outside, but especially by themselves.
They often find other like minded people that will echo their beliefs, or claims, and a clique of such people forms. It becomes a self feeding frenzy of disturbed self image, until it falls apart, and it always does. Where does this leave them? Not any place closer to being personally responsible, but seeking another, different shelter to hide in to deflect any personal blame.
This is a very good reason that psychopathy needs to be stripped of all the negative connotations. Of course to stop people like this from using it as a cudgel to get away with whatever they want to say or do, but also because unless those negative stereotypes are stripped away, the positive ones as well, then other people in the general population that are psychopathic without knowing it will never come to that realization that it is a possibility. Unless that happens, psychopathy can never be studied in the large body population of the world, and continue being confined to being studied in the prison system. People have no idea what psychopathy means, because it has been so polluted by things that have nothing to do with it.
If you ever want to entertain yourself and annoy yourself at the same time, just Google search psychopathy and see what comes up. It is almost nothing but these perceptions about it that are created by people that have no idea what they are talking about. One of the best examples is this one:
This is one of the most obnoxious self indulgent load of garbage about psychopathy I think there is. It certainly tops Hare’s work, and the guy that wrote it has been pretty much wrong about everything in his entire career, but for some reason people take this one seriously enough to ask me about it on a nearly weekly basis.
One quote of many completely incorrect or imagined passages from the essay:
“Psychopaths can suffer emotional pain for a variety of reasons. As with anyone else, psychopaths have a deep wish to be loved and cared for.”
There is no truth or reality in that statement at all. If you read the entire piece, you will find that the man is successfully describing MNPD, not psychopathy, neither of which have anything to do with each other, but this essay gets a lot of attention. Nothing that an actual researcher in psychopathy has ever found correlates with the misinformation found in this essay, but it is still there, Google search number four, and supposedly written by someone that should know better.
Malignant narcissism is a real issue and is something that should be focused on for a deeper understanding of why a person with NPD would develop antisocial traits, but because psychopathy has become conflated with ASPD, anyone with antisocial traits gets called a psychopath.
Imagine that you are a psychopath, but don’t know. You have always known you were different, but can’t put your finger on why. If you looked into psychopathy because it crossed your path as interesting, you would never ascribe it to yourself, because the people that have been in charge of defining it for literally decades either are only speaking about prisoners (not a good cohort at all), they are speaking about something else entirely like the essay above, or they are people that are seeking to define it in terms of their supposedly abusive ex, and I can’t help but notice the extreme lack of self awareness to their own toxicity those types of people have.
If you are that person that has no idea that you are a psychopath, you certainly won’t think you are after reading Love Fraud, seeing “The Hidden Suffering of the Psychopath” or looking over the traits on the PCL-R which has found itself splashed over thousands of websites encouraging people to self test. You would simply look at it, shake your head, and discard the information, never thinking,
“Huh, that sounds a lot like me. I wonder?”
Quora has been a good place to put some of that information out there, and I think that it has an impact, but for every single good answer provided there, there are a hundred, if not a thousand, that are just variations of that Google search that annoyed you. How do you pick through it? By first establishing a definition of psychopathy absent all the stereotypes.
Psychopathy no more makes you a criminal than it does a god. To see it for what it is, people need to take their emotions out of it, and see it as an actual repeatable construct. If you are defining it on action, and not functionality, you have a mess. If you are defining it based on assumptions, you have a mess. If you are defining it based on anger and rage, you have a huge imaginary mess.
Even the most well known “expert” on psychopathy, Robert Hare, defines it based on his own hatred of psychopaths. Nothing he writes about them is unbiased, nor is it based in science. It is based on his conclusions, that he then sought to support with evidence, not the other way around. He has a heavy financial investment in it, and a personal egotistical one as well.
If you all are interested, I can write a detailed post that goes through Hare’s influence and also his bias regarding psychopathy, as currently almost everything that is studied in regards to psychopathy is done so with his exceptionally flawed tool, the PCL-R at it’s base. Let me know if that is something you want to read, but be forewarned, it will leave you wondering what can be done about it. It’s a vexing problem.
The first thing to know about psychopaths is that they are humans. As humans there are certain things that all humans have, and one of those things is a version of morality. Morals that do not reflect your own, do not make them any less morals by the definition of them. If you look how morals are defined:
A lesson, especially one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.
A person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.
You will see that there is nothing there using emotional language, or feeling of any sort. It is a personal choice as to what the correct, or incorrect way of conducting one's actions. Nothing more.
Psychopathy needs to be brought out of the realm of outrageous, and handled in the realm of the relatable. If we cease to use fantastical language about it, people can start seeing it in better and more understandable light. Instead of being seen as the enemies of the world, seen as people within it. Psychopaths are literally currently called “intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence to control others and to satisfy their selfish needs”, by Robert Hare, someone that is supposed to be neutral on the subject as a scientist. Psychopaths (needs a new name, that’s for sure) need to be seen as either without any intention, or as complementary to the human condition. We would not have evolved if that were not the case.
Kevin Dutton says psychopaths have existed for time immemorial. I agree with him. As I have said many times:
A sound in the bushes can mean many things.
The person that goes to check it out, that is the person that ensures the group's advancement.
The person that is reluctant and encourages them to turn around ensures the group’s safety.
You cannot have one without the other. They complement one another, and this advanced the human race. Adaptations evolve because circumstances call for them.