My blood always boils when I hear claims that psychopaths are guaranteed to be soul-sucking monsters that contribute nothing to society. If psychopathy is reflective of neurophysiology in which those structures that control affective empathy and impulse control (for example) are deficient, then we must realize that not everyone with those physiological profiles are unchecked with their antisocial behavior. While I tend to be of the opinion that the antisocial facet is important to confirming psychopathy – a disorder – I also realize that the underpinnings of the condition lie in many that are not antisocial. So we are left with two counterexamples to the claim that psychopathy is always a disease on society. First, there are those that lack empathy that have found ways to avoid overtly antisocial behavior. Second, the past need not dictate the future so those that meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder are capable of making changes if they so wish.
If I had to think of one phrase that sums up the promise for the underground, it is this: they haven’t taken our thoughts away … yet. We can commit any crime that we want in our heads and no one yet has the authority to punish us for the sins between our ears. Neurologically speaking and psychological speaking, there may be no avoiding the crimes we commit each night in our heads. The psychopath is wired to be aggressive. Some are wired with unmentionable sexual preferences. Others feel so hopeless in their interpersonal relationships that they dream of murder as a way out. The list goes on and on. Instead of throwing us into the gutter for our deviancy, should not others respect the fact that we realize that certain actions are off-limits?
I’ve communicated with psychopaths that dream of killing people. I’ve communicated with psychopaths that fantasize about eating people. I’ve talked with those that would rape if there were no consequences. I know a non-practicing zoophile. I’ve had my own dark and violent dreams and fantasies. I suspect most of us with such criminal thoughts never asked for them; they simply are. Nature or nurture does not enter the equation as only one thing matters: restraint. I have yet to meet a psychopathic-identifying individual that did not have some form of bloodlust on the brain. However, the successful psychopath knows that such thoughts are a curse that must not be honored. Unfortunately, the only one that recognizes the gravity and achievement of such restraint is the psychopath himself. Society does not care as it wants blood for thoughts.
I often am confused by others’ focus on proclivities rather than actions. I’ve never been convicted of any crimes. I’ve never physically assaulted anyone. I may have a sordid past, but these days everyone who interacts with me tends to get some benefit. Why should my wiring and my latent state matter at all? As long as I show restraint toward antisocial behavior, why should my psychopathic nature be relevant?
A saving grace for psychopaths in society is the relative ignorance of the condition by the general population. People tend to equate ‘psychopath’ with the most heinous of actions and fail to realize that many more of us are not doing (or least getting caught) such actions than those that are. This lack of awareness may save us for the moment, but statements like some I heard the other day in response to a news story worry me about the future.