This post is a continuation of the therapy arc presented a while back.
I’ve been reading The Psychopath Whisperer by Kent Kiehl over the past few days, looking for insights into how psychopathy manifests in me. I’ll have a more thorough write-up of the book as a whole at some point, but for the meantime I wish to focus on one excerpt in particular regarding commonly held views of psychopaths and psychotherapy in the twentieth century:
Psychodynamic thinkers wrote that psychoanalytic treatment of psychopaths was never successful. Indeed, the psychopath’s ego was fed by the therapist’s interest in him. Thus, while trying to treat the psychopath, many psychodynamic therapists found the psychopath only got worse and more egocentric. (Kiehl, p. 42)
Given my own investment (both in psychic energy and money) in psychotherapy, I was somewhat distressed by this passage. Was I throwing money away for nothing? After all, I could have a friend listen to my stories for free – or, at most, a beer.
During therapy today, I brought up such concerns to my therapist. Am I as introspective as I think? Is this is a doomed endeavor – as are most dealings with psychopaths? If 77% of adult, male psychopaths in the United States are incarcerated, is it only a matter of time before I join their ranks? (Kiehl p. 78)
We spent nearly all session discussing such nihilistic concerns. One factor that is left out about the 23%’ers (as I like to call them) is the degree to which socialization occurred as a child. A unifying factor in “unsuccessful” psychopaths is a irredeemably broken childhood. Mine, while not pristine – and filled with abuse – had an out via the efforts of my grandparents and aunt. Also, education is not accounted for. Education leads to greater curiosity of the world and self. Most 23%’ers don’t seek out therapy. With the hard numbers presented in the book, I realize how rare that I am and that my words do not extend to the vast majority of psychopaths. That said, we concluded that therapy for the psychopath need not be a waste of time, money, and energy.
Certainly, as Kiehl summarized in the quoted passage above, therapy does stroke my ego. While my therapist takes an interactive approach, having an ear that cannot flee is certainly able to fuel my narcissistic flames. However, I like to think that while I am the exception, that many more 23%’ers can reach a relatively enlightened state as well. I do not wish to end up dead or incarcerated, abhorred (more than I am) or left to wither as a pariah. Therapy works for me because I want it to. I may be in the ~ 25% of psychopaths that avoid perpetual incarceration, but I need not be the only one – and I must take steps at all times to bolster my defenses. Ultimately it is up to me to save myself from myself, but a trained clinician who is willing can help me fortify my safety mechanisms.
77% of us are wasted lives. That means that ~ 1:600 humans are psychopaths that are not, however.