I’ve had a few good days of relaxation and not tending to the blog (or much of anything else) but it is time to jump back in.
I’ve been reading The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a book devoted to various neurological disorders whose symptoms would seem, to most, incredible. Losses of spatial reasoning, memory, and tales of phantom limbs and their pain line the pages of the work. In each case – each chapter is devoted to a case study – the individual suffers from a debilitating and (usually) permanent condition. They are forced to greatly adjust their lives and expectations in order to maintain some modicum of dignity, but at what cost?
As the author recounts one of the case studies, he makes an interesting observation regarding the afflicted. I forget the specific injury or disease that the patient was stricken with, but they lamented that they were no longer human – simply a shell whose condition now defined them. The author describes it as the struggle between ‘I’ and ‘it’. It can be too easy to let a condition define us. However, we still have choice and our minds – unlike many of those described in the pages of the book I describe. Whether it is psychopathy or Bipolar Disorder, depression or Borderline Personality Disorder, we may face a challenge in separating the ‘I’ from ‘it’, but we must always strive to do so.
I’ve written that the psychopath must resist the urge to become a caricature of the condition. I wish to make a more subtle point here. Many with psychopathy have no identity outside of the psychopathic condition itself. For the stricken in the pages of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, there was little in life that could be separated from the devastating conditions that they hold. However, they still found ways to separate their core selves from their inability to function as they could prior to the onset of their conditions. Those who did not have memory problems held on to their pasts and those that did held onto their present selves. They learned to adapt and to recognize that while the conditions they held were part of them, they were not equivalent to their “souls” and identity.
I encourage the psychopath to take the same approach that the stricken souls did in that book. Separate the self from the condition, that is. It may mean going back into the haze in search for identity, but the haze with its corporeal and felt form is far better than the ghosts of succumbing to an personality disorder that will be present for life.
I may be a psychopath, but am not psychopathy itself. I am a living person with my own thoughts and it is my responsibility – to myself – to find what lies behind the curtain. There is no magic bullet, but there may yet be peace.