The Words We Choose

Events have been quickly coming to a head over the past few weeks and it is increasingly clear that I need to let those around me know my psychopathic status before time does it for me.  As such, I decided that the time was right to begin letting my family know.  My close friends have known for a while and those that are not close do not have enough meaning in my life to warrant disclosure.  What follows is an interesting observation regarding coming out and the words chosen for a chosen impact.

Due to a childhood that others would consider turbulent, my aunt and grandparents raised me. My aunt was the main parental influence in my life.  She has been there at every step of the way in my life and was instrumental to my growth as a child and adolescent.  I wanted her to be the first in my family to know that I am a psychopath.  However, I realized that, for most people, starting off such a conversation with the word ‘psychopath’ would lead to a frenzied reaction.

I wanted to avoid the connotation of the lesser charged word, sociopath, and the more highly charged word, psychopath, so I decided to begin my outing process in a different manner.  She knew that I went to therapy often and I confided that we had not discussed matters of depression for over six months at the time.  I mentioned that we were exploring my personality and that there was a name associated with my constant lying, manipulation, parasitism, shallow affect, lack of empathy, and a slew of other traits that I did not name.  Seeing that she was following thus far, I mentioned that the diagnosis was that of sociopathy (lesser charged word).

She seemed confused.  She asked me to restate the word and began to mention how she thought that a diagnosis and a touchstone would help me work on such behaviors.  Quickly realizing that she had no association with the word ‘sociopath’ whatsoever, I mentioned that the alternate name for the condition was psychopathy.  I received the same ‘deer in the headlights’ look from her.  I had found a person that had no knowledge of either word and did not inherent value judgement based off either word.  I was looking at someone who, although potentially blinded by familial love, did not fall into the trap of proclaiming guilt by association.

Such an account reminds me of the dynamics of large groups.  Stigma is conferred on groups without understanding why those groups are to be stigmatized.  Extremes are portrayed as the norm and the individuals are lost.  My experience with my aunt, although only one experience, gives me hope that a message focusing on what makes up the personality condition rather than the word itself or extreme cases of the condition can lead to positive discourse.  I’m sure I will have such a conversation with many more in the coming weeks.  I am curious if the trend continues.

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