I mentioned my mostly stoic but sometimes incredibly over-emotional acquaintance in a previous post. We were going to move to another city together but that fell through for many reasons, not the least of which being that I realized that he was attempting to use me for emotional support that I am simply unwilling to give. Yes, I led him on regarding the move and I suppose I’ve led him on this past week in which I’ve kept quiet and left him with false hope that a move was still in the works. He’s the kind that threatens suicide whenever things do not go his way, but he also threatens suicide whenever he’s depressed. I bring all of this up, because when I break the news to him that we are not moving, I suspect that he will, once again, threaten suicide. Now, this does not concern me much other than it would violate my general principle (these days) of avoiding harm for others when possible. I brought all of this up to my therapist who relayed the following to me, the point of this post. “We can influence others, but they are the sole arbiters of control and choice in their lives.”
I am a firm believer that what separates the imprisoned psychopathic (or otherwise antisocial) individual and the free and prosperous one is restraint. None of us arrived at a formal diagnosis without a sordid past of some sort. The past need not dictate the future, however. I’m still digging out of the myriad holes that I’ve dug while living in a freely latent state. My impulsivity has left me essentially destitute and the interpersonal relationships that I’ve ruined with my parasitism and, often, callousness are never to return. What incentive is there to keep on such a path? What is there to be gained?
I chose psychotherapy as a means to quell my antisocial behaviors even if my lack of empathy, identity, and ability to form realistic goals (among other permanent traits) will never be corrected. I do not advocate therapy for most. That said, there is a great power in realizing that the condition need not define you, but rather you can choose to define the condition. While my relative commitment to relative prosocial behavior is a purely pragmatic one, I realize that in order to have a meaningful quality of life, it must be so. I’d rather not be in jail. I’d rather have savings and consistent employment. The psychopath in his natural state is not guaranteed any of this.
I did not wake up one day and decide to become a callous being that possesses neither conscience nor empathy. My genetics and upbringing certainly dictated that for me. I had no free will regarding the existence of my condition, but I have all of the free will world in the world when it comes to acting the part. Psychopaths need not be bloodthirsty lunatics. Intelligence and introspection may go a long way in controlling our primal urges, but, nevertheless, we all possess free will when it comes to deciding whether to act in an antisocial fashion.
Yes, the temptations of blackmail, manipulation, and subterfuge are always present in my life. If there is a goal in mind or an object to be had, my mind will scope out all available options in order to attain that which I want. Before I started therapy and, specifically, before diagnosis I may have not had the insight in order to avoid acting on my antisocial thoughts and impulses, but I realize now that I can’t act out like a two-year old at all times. Isn’t that the best that can be hoped for by society? Anything more seems … unfair.