The common wisdom is that psychopaths cannot form emotional bonds. In the overwhelming majority of cases (be it individuals in general or those interpersonal relationships that the psychopath is exposed to), I believe this is a fair assessment. A diverse affect combined with empathy seems to drive the emotional bonds of most. The psychopath, lacking both of these features, certainly has a challenge in forming similar emotional bonds. It is my understanding that most emotional bonds are forged organically. That is, that there is no conscious attempt to form an emotional bond, it merely happens on its own. Factors such as how well one relates to another person, whether there is romantic interest, whether another person has gone out of their way for a person, etc. come into play and the subconscious seems to take all of this and form a unidirectional bond if appropriate. People can want to form a bond all that they want, but it is not something that can be willed. In my life, I have had exactly two emotional bonds – a far cry from what the neurotypical would experience in terms of quantity. I have been distressed more than enthused with such bonds for reasons I will go into shortly. To reveal the punchline: I believe that the psychopath can experience emotional bonds, but the quantity, quality, and perspective towards such remains vastly different from that of the neurotypical.
I’m in a period of my life in which I have many more questions than answers. Eternally skeptic, I am probably a bit too obsessive in my search for “truth” when it comes to what resides between my ears. The topics of interpersonal relationships, “love”, and my role in these endeavors have been focal points as of late. At one point I truly did believe that the psychopath could not have any investment or “buy in” to any sort of interpersonal relationship. This seemed to be confirmed by my own willingness to pot my plants and leave them in the window until they died, essentially neglecting human interpersonal relationships. As of late, I’ve begun to question the unilateral nature of this assertion. I’m starting to think that the answer to whether psychopaths can invest themselves in interpersonal relationships is “kind of, sort of, depending on the circumstances, maybe.”
Even as my overtly antisocial behavior continues to wane, there are facets of the psychopathic condition that will remain lifelong regardless of the level of mellowing and restraint that overtakes me. Most notably, my shallow affect and lack of affective empathy will remain until the day that I die. This has proved challenging in my interactions with neurotypicals, my word of endearment for those that are not psychopathic. I live with a neurotypical housemate and he often challenges my stamina with long-winded tales of accomplishment and failure. It takes all of my energy to remain engaged in the conversation and I have to fake the laughter and the smiles that others find automatic in conversations with good friends. I do value him; I just do this in a way that causes most neurotypicals discomfort. There is little emotion behind my stoic face and even less empathy for those joys and tribulations that others face. This is merely the way that I experience the human condition.
I’ve been facing another identity crisis as of late. Two and a half years ago, when confirmation of psychopathy was made by my psychotherapist, I thought that I had finally found insight into my inner workings and core self. A Cluster B storm, the combination of ASPD, NPD, and BPD seemed to shed light on my callous and uncaring self that required limitless supply from others in order to function. Fast forward to today and I am not sure that the picture is so clear anymore. It is well documented that many psychopaths mellow as they grow older and as my hair starts to grey, I can certainly relate. Two separate mechanisms, the head and the heart, are starting to grow closer together than they ever have, and it makes me deeply uncomfortable. I am not uncomfortable because of the thought that I am drifting further and further away from the prototypical state of the psychopath (not that I was ever prototypical). I am uncomfortable because I cannot reconcile the fact that my cognitive self is thawing and is in opposition to the cold person that I thought was my identity and my core.
I spent this past weekend exploring a town that I was considering moving to. I was going to move there with an acquaintance in the hopes that a change in scenery would alleviate the wanderlust and eternal ennui that I possess. The city did not resonate with me for many reasons, but I bring this up because of one particular incident that happened on the trip. My acquaintance and I were exploring various housing options when we came to the conclusion that most “nice” places to live were outside of our budget. Having looked at some more affordable options, we visited on a suburb that was a bit unkempt but not too bad. After we looked at the property, my acquaintance burst into tears, lamenting the lack of luxury that the property in question had. I was immediately put off. How can I expect to associate with someone that needs emotional support from me when the going gets tough? The short answer is that I can’t.