Thursday, December 9, 2010
We have all met them; they are the conscience-free, manipulative, unfeeling and uncaring humans (if I may say that)that leave a well of destruction wherever they go. They know nothing of love or helping and above all, of gratitude. Once you give they want more and only see you as a sucker and pigeon who can be worked for more. How did that happen?
I could quote statistics. You know that a recent study of psychopaths found that they have damage in their feeling centers; no surprise there. (see “A Brain Gone Wrong.” Scientific American/Mind. 3, Sept. 2010). But we get that. They cannot feel and they cannot empathize; they do not seem to have the capacity for it. They have the shell of a human without the internal mechanisms that gives us our humanity. They have learned how to act charming, the better to manipulate others by obtaining their trust first. But it is short-lived and then the truth comes out. They care about no one. There are partial psychopaths who have some of these traits but manage to care once in a while, sporadically and with no depth of feeling. Nevertheless, they seem to be human. They do not scam or cheat others but they are not against it if they have to. Look at the driving business man or politician for examples. They raise prices, the rent, anything, because they care about themselves and profits and not others. They need to get 10% return not matter what it means to others. They don’t hate others but they love themselves more. That is not exactly true since they really have little love to give even to themselves. The politicians care about votes and staying in power; we all know that. They will say anything to stay in office; they are master manipulators and are able to twist other’s needs to make them vote against themselves and their needs. They all care not about others. It is no doubt the sine qua non of going into politics. There are some exceptions and you know who they are. They tell the truth, which is why they cannot stay in office.
This damage to the limbic/feeling structures can happen during womblife and is highly exacerbated right afterward when there is an absence of close human contact; perhaps weeks in an incubator with little or not human warmth. Then to compound matters there is indifferent unloving parents who never touch the child. I say that there is an “emotional band missing.” They seem to be short on feelings. It can begin when the mother is chronically anxious or depressed while carrying; they baby suffers and is already damaged before coming onto this planet.
So what about morality? Psychopaths seem to be immoral, but they are unfeeling; that is what the research evidence shows. They cannot feel or empathize with others so they, as Clinton said in reverse, cannot feel their pain. So anything goes. They cheat their closest friends, a la Bernard Madoff. They don’t feel bad about this “immoral behavior” because they cannot feel the pain they are causing; cheating people out of their life’s savings without a hint of caring. Their feeling band is missing and nothing anyone can do can put it back. That is why when they are caught they can never confess to their crimes; it is always someone else’s fault. We in Primal Therapy cannot treat them because they incorporate the therapy into their psychopathy and often decide to become therapists with no training. They harm many people and advertise so well that they con many. They scream and yell (we have taken them out of prison for the court) but never feel; they go through the motions of being human without being human. We cannot give them back a full brain. The damage is too early and too severe.
A research study at King’s College, in London, came out explaining the origins of the psychopath. He remains as I have described him (and psychopaths are mostly males) but the origin of the personality disorder needs to be pushed back a few weeks. In the study, the investigators used an imaging scan (MRI), on psychopaths (killers, rapists, etc.), and concluded that there were differences in their brains from those in the general population. Two of the culprits were the prefrontal area of the cortex, and aspects of the amygdala. There was an impairment between the connections in those two areas. In a normal brain, when there are emotionally stimulating events, the amygala responds. But in psychopaths there is a breakdown in this response.
The grounds for this condition, set up before birth, are exacerbated by birth trauma and lack of human contact right after birth. It would seem that in psychopaths the neural circuitry that connects feelings to higher level brain processes is deficient. Another way to put it is that feelings are not part of the conceptual, day-to-day cortical functioning. So while the person can be charming on the exterior, there are no sincere feelings underlying this facade. It is all a dumb show. Perhaps if the trauma did not exist before birth to damage the connection between nerve cells responsible for feelings and those in charge of comprehension the lack of touch after birth would not have such disastrous effects. However, when there is a pre-birth impairment of the connections between feelings and thoughts, the lack of physical contact right after birth is catastrophic. The result can be someone who not only has no control over his impulses but also has no means to experience his feelings. There may be learning but not emotionally integrated learning. The implications of the study were that psychopathy, in fact, could be a brain disease. I think it is more likely explained by epigenetic trauma.
The important lesson, though, is that psychopathy, much like other aberrations in development, bears the signature of what went wrong earlier in our lives. Memories are made indelible in our biology because they form guides to our future, instructions on how to behave in order to survive. That is, they become part of our “apperceptive mass;” always ready to serve our interest for survival.
JAJ’s Comments on Reflections on Being a Psychopath.
Like always when I read your Reflections I try to feel what’s in it for me. I felt both good and ill and I agreed, and I disagreed. Having been a neurotic epileptic with some degree of success in business and management, I may have more experience than most therapeutists and psychologists regarding what it takes to be both successful, human and to survive. I’m no psychopath, however, I have ocasionally manipulated and charmed my way through to achieve a result which I could live with.
The American Dream is something, wich was born long ago, and it developed over time into an almost conditional demand for all americans to try to become a millionaire. If you threaten the fullfillment of that dream you create pain so strong that no politician can resist. Hence being a politician in your great country in times of crisis is impossible for a feeling person. They are bound to be more or less psychopathic due to the voters. You tend to blame only the politicians. The voters have in my eyes a very big responsibility and since most of them are neurotic they egoistically vote for the politicians that they believe will make their dream come true.
Madoff’s chain letter model is an old classic, and he became the badman all needed, both those who deliberately played with and kept a good face on the bad business and those who were betrayed because of their greed to make 20-30% annually, which was far above what was reasonable... Madhoff got to taste his own medicine when the tremendous American Junk Bond Bubble burst and one crime revealed another in the chain.
Psycophaths is fore sure an interesting target group and knowing that the American capitalism was built by men with many traits in common with Madhoff, they will influence us, if we allow them to, for generations to come. Your letter includes indications that in psychopaths the amygdala does not respond. However, we do not know, wether this is applicable on some of those which on alleged grounds are considered psycophaths...
We look forward to spreading an attitude among authorities, science and potential customers of Primal Therapy, which is based on the fact that prenatal pain causes later disturbances, depressions and neurotic behaviors, which through PT can be altered and healed, so why do you focus on the group of psychopaths (even if they both from psychological and medical reasons may need help) when you say: “We in Primal Therapy cannot treat them because they incorporate the therapy into their psychopathy and often decide to become therapists with no training.”
The one who lives will find out where the evolution will take us. Competition and survival of the fittest are still valid facts worldwide. Let’s go for that mentally healthy people is a prerequisite for survival in the long run.
When I wrote my comment re. your Reflection on Psychopaths, I felt confused over your exposition of the phychopaths’ morality. Many of them are really proud of avoiding a “immoral behavior”. Their behavior and lack of morality is according to the Webster dictonary amoral: Examples: “He is an amoral, selfish person persuing his own goals”, “A cynical and amoral way of competing for business and politics”
I suppose that many of the psychopaths you are thinking of are having both immoral and amoral behavior. However those you mentioned in connection with Primal Therapy to me belong to the amoral category. The former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer acted in an immoral way, when he used prostitues, in his moral ambition to support hes voters. He broke the american moral code. This immorality is very american, in Spain and France they are having a hard time understanding your immoral regurgitations. They look in general with
sympathy and understanding at Clinton and Spitzer with their own presidents in good memory.