By now many of you have heard about the ruckus involving a Standford student convicted of raping an unconscious woman. The judge issued a fairly lenient sentence (as lenient as any sentence can be when one is required to register as a sex offender) and many are calling for both his head and the rapist’s head. The reasoning for the “light” sentence is that the convicted had no prior criminal record and was deemed to be with good chances of rehabilitation in prison. This logic combined with the outcry of many circles is what interests me. If prison is intended to be a tool of rehabilitation, then the system must be celebrated when it is successful. This would dictate that sentences be made proportional to the odds of successful conversion from criminal behavior to prosocial behavior. However, we are left in a world of bloodlust as the very people that decry the prison system are outraged that its power was not used in complete force with respect to the convicted. After all, it’s okay to empathize with the disadvantaged that wind up in the system, but for those in which it is agreeable to pile on crucifixion, it must be done so with great gusto.
We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ before. When it comes to studying the psyche this approach could not be more dangerous. It would be ludicrous to claim that depression is incurable or that it can be cured with one silver bullet, yes? It would be considered tactless to write off all schizophrenics as untreatable. Yet, the psychopath is deemed incurable and untreatable. The mental health professionals that are sworn to help those that seek their aid tend to refer clients with antisocial disorders to other professionals who then do the same thing until these clients are exhausted. The view that the antisocial is untreatable is ubiquitous. And, this has no reason to change. Before we dive in, let me note that I am playing a bit fast and loose with the terms ‘cure’ and ‘treat’ with respect to the psychopath or otherwise antisocial. The antisocial most likely does not want to be cured, but she may wish to control her disorder rather than it control her.
The psychopath that acts out solely for the sake of acting out soon loses it all. There is a reason that 77% of psychopaths are incarcerated. This is because the vast majority of psychopaths do not know how to learn to be selective with their choices to be antisocial. So many run wild with their destruction because they think it to be fun or constructive. The truth is that such rampant antisocial behavior only leads to a pariah status and unpleasant consequences. It is better to be a shadowed figure feared for his ability to sneak than a scarecrow placed in plain view of all.
This post is a continuation of the therapy arc presented a while back.
I’ve been reading The Psychopath Whisperer by Kent Kiehl over the past few days, looking for insights into how psychopathy manifests in me. I’ll have a more thorough write-up of the book as a whole at some point, but for the meantime I wish to focus on one excerpt in particular regarding commonly held views of psychopaths and psychotherapy in the twentieth century:
Psychodynamic thinkers wrote that psychoanalytic treatment of psychopaths was never successful. Indeed, the psychopath’s ego was fed by the therapist’s interest in him. Thus, while trying to treat the psychopath, many psychodynamic therapists found the psychopath only got worse and more egocentric. (Kiehl, p. 42)
Given my own investment (both in psychic energy and money) in psychotherapy, I was somewhat distressed by this passage. Was I throwing money away for nothing? After all, I could have a friend listen to my stories for free – or, at most, a beer.
I do not feel guilt for those actions that have wronged others. This is not born from a necessarily malicious mindset; I simply am incapable of feeling guilt or remorse for any action that I have committed. I have conducted many experiments, seated in deep introspection, in order to determine if I have the capacity to feel such negative emotions. No matter how hard I reflect, the feelings never come. I, like most psychopaths, cannot feel guilt. There is simply a great disconnect between harming another and feeling “bad” about such.
That said, many psychopaths will rationalize their harmful actions. Many of us will proclaim that the victim deserved it or otherwise had it coming. Many of us view the vulnerable as being ripe for the taking and see no problem with merely taking “that which is ours.” Whether it is Machiavellianism at its finest or merely predator/prey dynamics, we can rationalize our behaviors by putting the blame on the victim. It may not seem fair, but it is reality.