I have written over on Quora since 2015 regarding psychopathy, both in terms of the science, and personal experience. I have leaned more heavily into the neurology of it, as I find it more relevant and less subject to the personal bias that I have seen in psychology. That is not to say however, that I don’t find the psychological aspects important, or at least I did until very recently. I had noticed a shift that had been starting to change my belief that I should be taking it seriously. Yesterday, the notion that I should went out the window.
This is a talk that was given at Yale University back in April. It was given by a woman that is a forensic psychiatrist. In this talk given at the “Department of Child Study Center” she spoke about “the psychopathy of the white mind”.
I am not interested in in speaking about this particular woman. Plenty of people are already doing that, and rightly so. Listening to, and reading the things that she believes is shocking, and you should listen to her lecture, and read her thinking. You can do so here;
Her words are something that you really couldn’t imagine that a person would think, let alone say.
That is what I am going to be talking about today. Not only did she say it, she did so at a university consistently in the top five or ten ranked universities for the study of psychology. The context of the talk is evident in the title, “The Psychopathy of the White Mind”, and Yale not only booked her as a speaker, but also promoted a talk with a clear context that should violate every aspect of a scientific study.
Psychopathy is used to be a stand in for every notion of evil in the general public. It is an erroneous view and comes from years of people being fed a narrative of what psychopathy is. This is helped along by it being studied in forensic hospitals and prisons, but almost never in the general public, and when it is, the studies are significantly biased. It guarantees that the information about it will be entirely negative. If you study prisoners and decide that how their brain works is why they are a criminal, you have created for yourself a conundrum that cannot be overcome. By definition, the construct is tainted.
In somewhat recent years, this notion was challenged. People began to see that psychopathy had many facets to it, and many were positive. High psychopathic traits could be found in some of the most successful people on the planet, and the person that saves your life in surgery might very well be one, because surgeon is on the top ten list of chosen professions for psychopaths.
Researchers began to challenge the idea that psychopath meant criminal. The took to studying people in the general public, began to criticize the notion that ASPD and psychopathy should overlap in definitions, and that a psychopath was by default, a criminal. People began to question the PCL-R, the so-called gold standard for screening for psychopathy in prisons and forensic hospitals. They pointed out that it was overly inclusive of criminal traits, and likely overidentified psychopathy in people that were simply antisocial.
These challenges were taken as a personal insult to the proprietor of the PCL system, Robert Hare, and he sued to silence his critics. Defamation he cried, slander and damage to his legacy. The suit delayed the publication of the first swipe taken at Hare’s dominance in the field, but it was the first of many. Slowly more researchers found their voice and opposed the PCL-R and the widespread reach it had in the idea of what psychopathy was. More papers were published, more challenges arose, the more people started to notice. Psychopathy was getting an overhaul in understanding, and it was about time.
To this day, and every day up until now, anyone who dared approach psychopathy with an even hand, tried to look at it for what it actually was, divorced from behavior, was aggressively shunned. It was not a proper way to see things, and cracks in the psychological world were more and more evident. People were entrenched in a worldview. Ego and money were invested in these notions, and anything that threatened the delicate balance was rejected.
A neuroscientist who not only discovered his brain was like that of a psychopath, he did so in a double blind study, and the discovery was entirely by accident? He’s not a psychopath, claimed psychologists. Psychopaths are all criminals, and he is a successful neuroscientist. His book on the matter, The Psychopath Inside, a Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain, dismissed out of hand, regardless of the research and evidence that he presented.
Kevin Dutton, a professor at Oxford University, who had a penchant for studying psychopathy because his own father was one, had to temerity to speak about it in less than condemning terms? A grifter. Someone whose only intention was to make a fast buck. Quickly discarded as someone to listen to.
I have found precisely this mentality many times over with people in the field. I am told, without question that they know what they are talking about, because they went to school, they have the alphabet soup, I don’t, so I know nothing, and therefore should be silent. They’re right, I don’t have the alphabet soup, but I do have something that many of them seem to lack. A thinking mind, and one that likes evidence. When I see evidence that contradicts what I believe I know, I at the very least consider it, and if it is important will take it into account when it comes to my understanding of something.
I have found the opposite in regards to psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists. I have encountered strong resistance to consider what they have never seen before. To question what they can repeat from rote learning, but never actually evaluated for themselves, to showing them who the person that has had the largest hand in defining the modern understanding of psychopathy actually is and how he operates, as it draws all of his insistences and conclusions into question. I present them neurological studies, discoveries about how the psychopathic brain actually functions, and how it challenges the beliefs that they hold about it, give them links to read on their own, not to opinion pieces, but to actual research being done on the brain. It is nearly always rejected.
To acknowledge that you have more learning to do, it’s uncomfortable, I am aware of that. However, when you are in the field, and rely on the notion that the DSM is somehow all knowing and all seeing in regards to the mental welfare of humanity, either not understanding, or disregarding that all that it is is an insurance repayment manual, you are not doing your job, and I think you are just there for a paycheck. You certainly aren’t doing your patients any favors if you are looking to check off boxes, apply a label, and get money from an insurance company for jumping through the hoops in the proper sequence.
I am not under the impression that most are this way, but it is certainly enough. Enough that I saw a poison in the profession that is rarely countered with any efficacy. There are a few doctors, and I can actually name them off the top of my head because they are so rare, that do not do this. Either they have already done a great deal of training, and have come to the conclusion that the more that you know, the more evident it is that you know very little, or they have experience outside of what is considered normal practice.
There are even fewer that I have seen shift their thinking and belief systems from that of this static understanding that they have been working in, and start to incorporate more information into their way of approaching things. Understandings become questions, and they start to look for more information. That’s awesome, but it is rare.
All of this, all of the problems, shortcomings, limitations, closed minds, entrenchment, anger, and resistance, all of that I believed could be overcome with time. Many people who read my writing on Quora have told me that they began to study psychology because of what I write. They wanted to know more, but many wanted to change the system from the within. They wanted to take a more scientific approach where things could be looked at critically, defined absent the notion that a singular set of behaviors was all there was to it, but rather what the cause of those behaviors was being the more important point.
I get asked all the time, why is it that I write on Quora? What do I get out of it? It entertains me, which is quite important. Psychopathy comes with a heaping serving of boredom. I want to find things to keep my interest, and writing always has. Writing about psychopathy has had several benefits for me, but the shifting in thinking was one that I can’t deny is a perk.
I dislike misinformation. As much as I dislike someone telling me that the Earth is flat, I dislike people being hellbent on convincing the world that they have known eleven hundred psychopaths, and they can spot one in an instant. Or that psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder can magically be merged into a supermoster called a “narcopath”. No, they can’t, and don’t even get me started with all the things wrong with that word.
People telling me that they are interested in pursuing an education in neuroscience, neuropsychology, forensic psychiatry or psychology, or any of the other fields was good news for the future, or at least I thought so at the time, but that time has ended.
I will not encourage anyone that has a thinking mind to risk it going into a study or an education system that has such a gross misrepresentation of that field, and people that are so obviously unwell teaching within it. This is not a problem with one person, it is not a problem with one subject. This talk wouldn’t have been given at Yale if there wasn’t support behind it. The only reason people are talking about it now is because articles got written about it two months later. Yale has not clarified that this is not what is taught at their “Department of Child Study Center”, that they do not stand by someone stating that they fantasize about;
“unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way.”
The fact that they had this talk to begin with tells me the state of psychology. It’s dead. Terms that they claim to be experts in have such a malleable definition to them that they are stretched and reformed without regard for anything in terms of fact. There is no term of “psychopathy” if it is applied to anything that someone doesn’t like, especially when they have the credentials to not only know better, but be one of the defining voices in what the term is and how it should be considered.
Don’t think for a moment that this mentality stops with psychopathy. This talk, and the university putting it on demonstrates a complete and total breakdown of what the profession is supposed to be. There is no logic or reason in it any longer. There is no interest in defining constructs of mental or physical health in a way that the people who struggle with it in their lives on a daily basis can hope that the person with the alphabet soup actually has an interest in helping them.
Imagine going to the office of someone that thinks this way, but you have no idea. You have no idea that ‘depression’ is something that they will remake in the image of whatever ideology that they ascribe to, and will tell you untrue and dangerous things without you having any idea that you shouldn’t trust them. How long would you see them before you saw the terrible results, and how much damage would you accrue along the way. A moment is too much, a year is unfathomable, and all of it is unconscionable.
As I said, I am not interested in crucifying this one particular doctor, because the problem itself is what needs to be focused on. I could lay out all the incredible things that she said, but that detracts from the point that she had a place that wanted her to teach this to the next generation of people that will sit pleasantly in the chair in front of you, claiming to have your best interests at heart.
If this is what is being taught, and it clearly is, they don’t. They have no interest in what you might need to help you get to a better place. You have no idea what sort of absolutely toxic sludge they might give to you as advice, not only not helping you, but making things exponentially worse, but the fact that they can frame it in a way that is palatable hides it’s extremely ugly effects.
I don’t think that this is a new problem. I think it has been a quiet one. I think that the world at this moment has given a comfortable place for people to speak about the utter depravity that they believe in the silence of their minds with a loud voice because currently it is socially acceptable. Be grateful that they are showing you who they are. Be grateful that you aren’t going to subscribe yourself to years of therapy with someone that may lead you into a far worse mental health condition than when you started.
I am not here to say that all psychologists are nightmares. They aren’t, and as I mentioned I have encountered some that are logical, reasonable, and balanced. They do want the best for their patients, and they dedicate themselves to study and furthering their understanding of how people work so they can help the solve their problems. The feel purpose in this profession, and that should be lauded.
That doesn’t fix this. It doesn’t fix the massive issue that has permeated this landscape, and has distorted it beyond recognition. I have noticed this for awhile now, and have seen things that have made me question if I could continue relying on anything coming out of the psychological world that would be accurate to psychopathy. Robert Hare is a symptom of a larger problem in that arena, but people like a researcher that has directly stated things like;
“You don’t want to have these people in positions where they can cause a lot of harm.” We need a tool to identify them without their cooperation or consent.”
“The beauty of this idea is you can use it as a screening test without consent, cooperation or maybe even the knowledge of the people involved. The ethics of this are very hairy, but so is having a psychopath as a boss, and so is having a psychopath in any position of power. Fortunately for ethicists, the possibility is some way off yet. This work is very preliminary. This is not the end of an investigation, it is the very beginning.”
are a much better insight to how things had been shaping up in terms of how psychopathy is considered. These cracks, these problems, made for a significant issue in my mind. There isn’t a lack of bias there, it is quite the opposite, his study is steeped in it. If his notion is to underhandedly identify and label psychopaths because in his mind they are fundamentally bad, that’s a problem. That in and of itself shows such a lack of insight, that there is little hope for anything coming out of that study to be of any value.
There are many things just like this, not only in psychopathy, but in other areas as well that were giving me pause. I like facts and evidence, not supposition and worldbuilding around an ideology. More and more I saw the profession turning away from the facts, and more into ideology that flies in the face of facts, but this is the moment that psychologies death became impossible to ignore.
If you are in this profession, you need to look around. This affects your patients, this affects you colleagues, this affects you. You might be incredible, have an open and giving heart, want the best for those that hand you the gift of their time and trust. You are one of those that should represent the psychological world.
You don’t. This does;
“The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind”.
That is what young people are being taught to regurgitate on tests, to commit to rote memory, to take forward into their professional lives. You are in the study of the human thought process, and you know how easily people can be led into terrible beliefs that are presented in a shiny box of social acceptance.
If you want your profession to remain about helping people, and if you want it to remain in the realm of science, this has to be stopped. If it can’t be, your entire profession is lost, and with no hope of salvage. The damage to trust will be too great, and no one that is not already hopelessly floundering without hope or choice, will risk sitting across from a reassuring smiling face, who, in the same lecture will say that they fantasize about murdering people for their immutable characteristics, while proclaiming that those same people are the ones with the problem.
Psychology is dead. I have no idea if it can be resurrected.