Corsets and Empathy – Letting the Mask Slip

Often times our lack of empathy is of no real harm to others.  So what if we can’t feel the pain or joy of others?  We often have our masks in place and can feign enough concern or elation to where those around us don’t realize the disconnect between our thoughts and actions.  Other times, our mask does not fit well enough and the perceptions others have of us come crashing down.  Of course this is bound to happen; like one wearing a corset, eventually true forms return.

The long-time reader knows that I have been married before.  The relationship was one of parasitism and it wasn’t until I drove my ex-husband to the brink of suicide that my playtoy left my life.  In an intimate situation like that, every move is both under scrutiny and quickly forgotten.  We notice the quirks of those that we are around most, but at the same time we often gloss over those details that are incongruent to that we expect.  Many years ago, my lack of empathy would take the relationship to the brink – long before I had a word that explained it.

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‘Psychopath’ – Reclamation or Asserting Difference?

Without retreading all of the particulars of what I term “psychopath erasure“, I want to tackle one of the common perceptions of psychopathic-identifying (or assessed) individuals.  Some speak of the psychopathic condition as being a fictitious one and that the efforts of psychopathic individuals are merely one of reclamation.  To these individuals, the use of the term “psychopath” by antisocial individuals is seen as a way to fight the often oppressive use of the word in society.  To them, the word does not hold actual significance beyond the personal meaning given by the psychopathic individual.  This is wrong.

I’ve cited numerous examples of the neurological differences (and behavioral differences) that exist between psychopaths and mere ASPD individuals.  In my opinion, we are not “taking the word back” so much as we are seeking to be validated for the differences we possess.  ASPD does not sum up the elegance of our brains, the tenacity of our actions, or the magnitude of the thoughts we are with.  The analogy would be the discovering of a new species on this planet and then refusing to give it proper taxonomy because a similar – but still different – species already exists.  Essentially, psychopaths are erased.

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Fleshbags … Dancing with the Dead

I am a loner.  I do not value the company of inferiors, especially neurotypical ones.  I get all of the social interaction that I need by teaching and communicating with those who are antisocial.  Even then, I do not care about their lives or their hopes and dreams.  I am concerned solely with my own will.  The company of fleshbags is simply not appealing.

I’ve written before about the bubble that exists between the psychopath and those around him.  Our lack of affective empathy creates a rift between us and others.  We cannot feel their pain nor their joy.  We can see what lies before us but can never touch.  However, the pain of such can only exist if there is a true desire to be with others in anything beyond a superficial level.  I don’t want people in my life, I want potted plants.  I want people to be there when I need them, but I only want to interact with them on the shallowest of levels – “feeding” them occasionally and ensnaring them in such a way to where they can’t leave on their terms – only mine.  This is in alignment with the psychopath’s intense self-centered nature.

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Predator / Prey … Psychopaths and Evolutionary Psychology

Psychopathy, in many ways – though not completely, runs counter to evolutionary psychology.  Evolutionary psychologists believe that many human behaviors have been hardwired over time due to the evolutionary desire to procreate and otherwise propagate the species into future generations.  This is not a stretch by any means; we see this with dogs that have been selectively bred over time.  German Shepherds, for instance, were bred in part for their protective personalities.  Poodles, not so much.

I was listening to a psychology professor lecture on evolutionary psychology recently.  She was discussing how evolution has incorporated behaviors into the human psyche.  Even homosexual couples that will never reproduce are subject to this evolutionary drive:

Even if you will never have children, you still are subject to these evolutionary pressures to ensure the survival of your genes.  Unless you are pathological, a psychopath, you have a drive to protect your siblings and their children and a desire to see the species live into the next generation.

The anecdote, while brief, sums up an important point regarding the psychopath.  We tend to not care about anyone’s survival except occasionally our own.

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The Odds of Meeting a Psychopath

It’s not often that I get to combine my loves of mathematics and psychology, but this will be one such post.  The less mathematically inclined reader can gloss over many of the details, but the more mathematically inclined reader may refer to probability theory for further details.

The prevalence of psychopathy in the general population is believed to be anywhere from 1 in 150 individuals (Kiehl) to 1 in 25 (Stout).  Male populations have been studied in greater detail than female populations, but let’s assume that there is no difference in the proportion of psychopaths according to either dominant sex.

For a single encounter with a person, the distribution is Bernoulli in nature, so, assuming the probability is .01 (1 in 100):

 P(psychopath) = p = .01

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