The Borderlands

One whom I communicate with on a semi-regular basis contacted me a while back to resolve an internal dilemma.  I often use the words ‘antisocial,’ ‘neurotypical,’ and ‘psychopathic’ in a haphazard fashion.  The picture in my mind is really a spectrum, but I suppose that it can be easy to instead think of the categories as being distinct, mutually exclusive, and exhaustive buckets in which one has to jump in.  Often one’s place on the antisocial spectrum is much fuzzier.  What of the person with chronic impulsivity and aggression that manifests via physical encounters that does not meet any other criteria for ASPD?  Would they be considered neurotypical?  Antisocial?  Somewhere in between?  The DSM would say that they are not disordered but maybe there is improvement or changes to be made.  What of the antisocial individual that clearly meets ASPD but falls just short of psychopathy?  Would they identify with the strictly antisocial?  Psychopath? Neurotypical?  Does it matter?

Often we get caught up in the logical truth of something is either X or not X.  This can cause great distress to the individual who butts up against the cutoff for a category.  I often weasel word my way into the fallacy that ‘if not psychopathic, then neurotypical’ when in reality not psychopathic could mean nearly psychopathic or mildly antisocial or perfect sainthood.  I, like many, have to remember that human personalities lie in a continuous hyperplane and not merely at the two poles of a category.

This person who contacted me wanted to know if it was ‘okay’ to identify as psychopathic even though they were certainly not prototypical but certainly much more than mere ASPD.  For the purposes of identity, is it okay to hijack a label?  Is it really hijacking to begin with?  I’m not a huge fan of hard cutoffs in psychology.  Often a disordered individual can have less checkboxes checked off than one who has come to reasonable stability.  In PCL-R terms, the difference between a psychopath and a ‘neurotypical’ is a matter of one point.  The difference between “legitimacy” and “illegitimacy” is a single point.  Does that really make sense?  Of course, it is logically consistent to say that it does, but does that really help the afflicted individual?

All I will ever ask my readers to do is to engage in introspection.  Do not come to the label as a means of being edgy or trendy.  Do not identify as psychopathic simply because there is nothing else to identify as.  Gauge your own behaviors and thought processes and see if it makes sense.  There are no fouls committed by being in the borderlands and choosing a label that puts your mind to ease.  You do not need my permission or anyone else’s in order to seek an explanation for the way you function.  The human condition is a fuzzy one.  Those in the borderlands have an identity crisis that I can only vaguely relate to.  Too often they are accepted by no one – not even themselves – due to their position on the continuum.  Truth is often more than an unquestionable entry in a dictionary or the number of checkboxes on a therapist’s notepad.

 

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Comments

  1. TygerTyger says

    I use the label sociopath, although I don’t have an official diagnosis. I occasionally find essays by psychologists trying to describe the differences in the ASPD-sociopathy-psychopathy diagnoses, and I have chosen sociopathy because it’s the one that I think fits with my configuration most closely. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s close enough for me to feel at peace about having a description. Although I have avoided being diagnosed, I always knew I was not…right. Things weren’t right in my head. I knew this and I struggled to act in a way that would just let me fit in and seem normal to others. I acted like that for so long, with mixed (but increasing with time) success, that I reached a point where I couldn’t remember what if any of my behaviors were “real.” After my first marriage ended, I started reading some psychology and trying to figure out what was going on with me. “Sociopath” fits, very nearly perfectly, and figuring that out helped me realize which was “real” me and which things were behaviors I performed to seem normal. This helped me both reach peace with who I actually am and also become better at performing prosocial behaviors because I could more easily reconcile them with my own motivations. But the label itself, in some sense, isn’t important to me. I am generally unconcerned with what others call themselves (although I did know a fellow recently who was clearly narcissistic but insisted on calling himself a sociopath, and I was unreasonably irritated by it). So, I think whoever does the reading and self-analysis and finds that a word that fits them, should use it if they’re comfortable with it.

    • Jessica Kelly says

      “So, I think whoever does the reading and self-analysis and finds that a word that fits them, should use it if they’re comfortable with it.”

      I agree. I believe there is a responsibility to the self to make sure that the analysis is done with due-diligence, but beyond that accepting any label is a sacred and personal experience.

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