Tell people that you’ve had a few run ins with the law and that you were a little devil as a child and they nod. Tell them that you are a psychopath and they run. While people are afraid of mental abnormalities and / or mental illness to begin with, it seems that there is heightened fear toward those with Antisocial Personality Disorder and/or psychopathy. As always, I am not one to say that such a fear is necessarily unjustified. The psychopath, in particular, does not get assessed regarding the condition without significant evidence of antisocial thought and deed. However, I do believe there are two main reasons that the psychopath is singled out with such fear by the neurotypical. The lack of empathy we possess and the associations with violent criminals define the reactions that neurotypicals have to our existence.
Earlier this evening, I met with my therapist as part of touching base from time to time to ensure that my Bipolar symptoms are mitigated and that I have not gone too far off the antisocial end. As part of that session, I related to her – in passing and without emotional feeling – that my closest friend was strongly considering suicide due to a rough turn of events in his life. As she began to show feelings of grave concern, I started giggling. Not because my friend is debating suicide but because of my therapist’s sudden change from a light-hearted tone to that possessing a great gravity. She became aghast with her thoughts that I could be so dismissive of my friend’s plight. Yes, she was the one that administered the PCL-R, but at times I believe she forgets just how little empathy I possess. I bring up this story because this disconnect between the events in our lives and the psychopath’s reaction to them cause many great pause. How can one be human if they cannot feel the pain of others, the neurotypical may think. Even worse, what can those without empathy do if they have no connection to any other living human? This brings me to the second reason that I believe the neurotypical is so fearful of the psychopath.
The neurotypical wishes to equate a lack of empathy with an ability to commit great grievance. And, this is not necessarily untrue. However, the association between the millions of psychopaths that stay out of jail and those that are incarcerated for life is unjust. Yes, many (quite possibly the majority) psychopaths are rotting away in jail due to heinous deeds, but many more show some level of restraint. We may not be angels, but we are not unequivocally demons either. However, this want to demonize an out-group relative to the self is not uncommon for the neurotypical. We see this all the time with straight/gay dynamics, religious dynamics, class dynamics, so on and so forth. And, many liberal cultures suggest that such approaches are undesirable. Yet, apply this to the psychopath and it is AOK.
Ultimately, I am not surprised by society’s want to silence and fear the psychopath. It is merely unfortunate given that the only way to determine the merits of any group, psychopaths included, is for discussion – not silencing – to be had.