There is a common misconception that psychopaths are “crazy” or otherwise delusional. This often leads to people confusing the condition with psychosis, for instance. The psychopath is perfectly sane. She is aware of her effect on others, but she does not care. The only delusion is that of extreme narcissism – often times without accomplishments to back up such egocentrism – but that is not the focus of others when they claim that psychopaths are insane. Others making this claim are positing that the psychopath is merely a caricature of destruction that has no internal bearing as to the mechanisms that cause such destruction. These people are wrong. The whirlwind of destruction that the psychopath engages in is often reasoned and is often a result of narcissism combined with a lack of concern for others. This may seem alien to the neurotypical, but it is perfectly sane and calculated.
The psychopath’s narcissism and self-centeredness are legendary. We pull everyone into our vortex and few leave unscathed. Even if the intention is not to harm, our narcissistic proclivities can leave those around us drained and depleted. That is, simply by maintaining the focus on our grandiose sense of selves and our own wants and desires, we leech others dry. Combine this with our grandiose (if existent) goals, and we are often stuck spinning our wheels: demanding self-evident respect and worship but only attaining such through force.
Psychopathy is much more than narcissistic tendencies, or else diagnoses of Narcissistic Personality Disorder would be in order (and are usually in order in combination with Antisocial Personality Disorder by most governing bodies). However, it is often the narcissistic ways that neurotypicals notice first when interacting with a psychopath. Psychopaths tend to ignore conventions of speech, interrupting conversations and ignoring the turn-taking that dominates most conversations, and tend to ignore the needs of others. Sprinkle in a callous nature that not only results in ignoring others needs, but sabotaging others to better meet the psychopath’s needs, and others can often see through the mask before we know it.
As usual, as of late, I am up very late reading. As I get ready to transition back to an academic-filled life – I’m returning to school with the intention of going to graduate school this time, although in a different area than I studied ten years ago – I am training myself to be educated again. Not a passive education, but an active one in which I make it an endeavor rather than an afterthought. I’ve been reading books on neuroscience and psychology, mathematics and programming, but one book that has struck me especially is the one I am currently reading: The Last Lecture by the deceased Randy Pausch. It is a memoir of a dying man, giving a “last lecture” talk. For most, the “last lecture” is merely a theoretical exercise in summing one’s life work under the pretense of imagining what a final lecture would be like. For the author, this was to be his last lecture as he was soon to die from pancreatic cancer.
The book is a page turner and I suspect that I will not sleep this evening until I have finished it, but that is not the point. The point is that, faced with his imminent demise, the author pains a most compelling argument to chase one’s dreams and to set goals that can be accomplished through hard work and a bit of luck. According to the author, challenges are not meant to destroy the trajectory, they are merely opportunities to prove just how badly one wants something.
So what does this memoir by a dying neurotypical have to do with psychopathy? Everything.
Yesterday I visited a friend that I have not seen in several months. We had the usual small talk and then moved on to other topics. In my current age of solitude, it was pleasant to interact with someone that I actually respect.
The conversation turned toward our endeavors as of late. She remarked about major life changes that she had chosen as well as other anecdotes that I can no longer remember. She and I were very close when we lived together as roommates a while back and she knows of my sordid past. Out of curiosity, she asked what foolishness I have engaged in as of late.
I’m sorry, I really don’t have any stories right now. Things have been fairly quiet. New job, solitude, and side projects take up my time.
That’s good! Your stories often … concern … me.
Every time that I attempt to gaze into the future, I find that I am dangerously myopic. I can only consider immediate outcomes and my approach to major life decisions that ripple far into the future is haphazard at best. I want to see what my actions will bring, but all that I see is blurred.
My decision to transition and tackle my gender dysphoria was considered for all of fifteen minutes. I found a napkin and a marker and wrote out the pros and cons. Yes, the cons were potentially severe – loss of job, family, friends, reproductive ability, etc. – but I could not “feel” any of those possible negatives. All I could feel was that a decision to act on impulse would provide a “better” outcome in the moment.