One of the most maddening misconceptions of psychopathy is that we are unhinged lunatics waiting to slice up the first person we meet or that generally we are ready to lie and steal and assault and kill anyone at any moment.  For most psychopaths, this is simply not true.  We may have a different, and disturbing to some, mindset – but we are capable of keeping our destructive tendencies in check.  It just may be remarkably difficult at times, akin to the compulsive gambler resisting the urge to go to the casino.  We need not run free with our desires and it is insulting to hear over and over again that the only true psychopaths are those committing heinous crime on a daily basis.

No one wants to confront their own demons – they want to place their own state relative to a much more extreme group.  The neurotypical with a slight violent bent may excuse their actions as acceptable because they are not a psychopath.  The successful psychopath may do the same, placing unnecessary value on their own restraint since they are no Ted Bundy.  The problem is inherently the same.  There is a false equivalence between psychopathy and unhinged destruction.  There are members of every strata on this earth that have done heinous things.  However, we don’t generally think of most of these groups as being extremely dangerous as a whole because of the actions of a few.  With psychopathy, though, many are willing to make that leap.  Yes, we may have a higher incidence of violent and immoral action, but each individual must be evaluated for their own worth and restraint.  Most of us are not in prison.  Most of us are not violent monsters.  We just may have a proclivity to act selfishly and immorally, but once again – we are in control of our own actions.  It is not like the moon rose and we lost our collective sanity.

The flipside is that such false equivalences mean that many psychopaths are not treated with the respect and caution they deserve or merit.  I’ve had plenty of acquaintances dismiss my revelations when I’ve told them.  They see psychopathy as a constant state of bathing in blood. Since I am relatively non-violent, they chalk it up to something else even as I am trying to be honest with them regarding our relationship.  I may try to explain to them why I’m so callous and distant and utterly unable to empathize.  They’ll disrespect me by pushing my revelations aside.  They can’t move past their own conceptions of a psychopath and so I simply cannot be one even as I’ve gone through great pains to make sure my personality could not be explained by one or more other conditions.   At this point, if you are dismissing the words I say, you are dismissing my identity and self as well.  To that, I have cut out many since the diagnosis.

I am no lunatic.  Most of us psychopaths are not crazed maniacs that feed off destruction and mayhem.  We see the world through different eyes and are highly self-centered.  Yes, we are capable of the immoral, but usually not to the extreme that others envision when they hear the word ‘psychopath’.  Give us some credit, we often try to keep our impulses in check as much as possible.  It is to our benefit to do so.  It is to your benefit that we do so.  Also, give us some respect.  Just because we don’t meet the absurdly high bar you set for what is and is not psychopathy does not mean that we are not such.  The lunatic does not know what she does.  The psychopath does. She just may not care.

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Use of this image does not imply endorsement by the image author, Peter Freiman.

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