Over the coming weeks and months I hope to address each of the twenty traits that the modern psychopath is defined by. Not all psychopaths exhibit all of these traits, and a person that exhibits all of them is rare. If you want to get ahead of the game and read about what these entail, go for it. For obvious legal reasons, I cannot talk too directly about my experience with the PCL-R, but let’s just say that it felt like the Meyer-Briggs for psychopaths. You are interviewed and based off the answers to the interview questions and your history you are diagnosed as a psychopath or not. There are twenty traits that make up psychopathy according to this checklist and you are assigned zero, one, or two points for each based off the interview and your history. A score of 30 or above leads to a diagnosis of psychopathy.
Lack of realistic long-term goals / Revocation of conditional release
These are two separate traits, but they really, to my eye, get at a single core component: the inability to consult past or future when making decisions in the present. Many psychopaths actually have limited, or no, criminal history. Your author is one of these psychopaths. Now, this isn’t to say that I have not done things that would land me in the pokey, but I have, more or less, been free of actually being a resident. Which is fortuitous considering the tragedy of being transgender and imprisoned (a post for a different day). As such, your ‘smart’ or law-abiding psychopath may test lower on the PCL-R than the unlucky or dim-witted sap that has his mail sent to jail. Such does not make us any less psychopathic, but it is interesting how many border cases may fail to test positive due to some luck or wits. However, I digress. The first trait suggests that we have a poor eye toward the future. The second suggests that we ignore the past. And, I would say, that is largely true.
Unable to value the past, my present is unguided. The outcome of an event in the past does very little to deter me from doing the same actions in the present. Usually it is the outcome of a past event that shapes the way we act in the present. Go to the Knights of Columbus hall and totally tear up at bingo because you have far better eyesight and dexterity than the geriatric packs of cigarettes? Well then, buddy, maybe another Friday night at the cancer ward is in order! Employ a business strategy that has you rolling in dough? Maybe consider that strategy for this factory merger. Get lucky and not get pulled over nor hurt anyone for driving wasted? Maybe we shouldn’t be tempting fate again. The take home point is that our past informs what we do in the present. Psychopaths are stuck in a loop in which they do not change present behavior based off past consequences. We are free to break free of such a cycle, but ultimately it is our knowledge of pre and post-conditions arising from past events that dictate how we behave in the present. The psychopath is not terribly adept at using information from the past to shape the present for reasons I will touch on after the next point.
Unable to value the future, my present is reckless. Defined as a completely different trait, the inability to define feasible or realistic long-term goals is another trait of psychopathy. I’ve been working for nearly ten years now and I have very little to show for any of it. The number of useless items that I’ve blown money on is staggering. My inability to set up savings until people wiser than me pointed a gun at my head is also notable. But, god damn, if the market for adult dwarven amputee porn ever rebounds, I’ve got a goldmine. Most people have a vision for how they want their lives to unfold and a plan to balance the risk and reward to achieve such life goals. Most people are aware of what is attainable and what is not. I do not have such a vision and I am not aware of what my life could realistically hold. I can barely plan what I’m going to do later this evening. The thought of actually planning where I am going to buy a home, what kind of car to buy, or what kind of partner (or partners) I want to share life with is not considered at all. I drift from moment to moment, expecting the best, and often receiving the worst.
What these two traits get at is a perpetual state of living in the moment for the psychopath. It isn’t that we do not intellectually realize that learning from the past to make wiser decisions in the present is important. It isn’t that it is lost on us that what we do now ripples into the future. It is, simply, that we do not care. We want immediate satisfaction from immediate actions. Maybe the psychopath violates parole by breaking into a shop and stealing DAK Dwarves VIII. It isn’t that she is unaware that stealing porn, inspired by the song, One, by Metallica, got her into trouble in the first place. It is that she really wants to to have the latest and she’ll get it by any means necessary. We do not consider past or future when living in the present. We want what we want and we want it now, regardless of what the consequences may be.