I happened to see the Dr. Phil Show on March 23, 2006. The topic for the day was Nasty Custody Battles. (The show originally aired on January 9, 2006.)
One segment was called An Out-of-Control Father? It featured Angela and Chris, the parents of a seven-year-old girl. Chris wanted visitation rights. Angela didn’t want Chris to see their daughter. She feared for the girl’s safety.
Why? Here’s how Chris matter-of-factly described his past on the show:
“As a juvenile, I was incarcerated for burning down a house. I stabbed one guy three times and it paralyzed him from the neck down. They ended up convicting me of assault causing bodily injury,” he said. “I was arrested in 2001 for first-degree burglary and attempted grand theft. I was sent to prison for 14 months.”
When Chris got out of jail, he and Angela got married. While she was pregnant, Chris injured her nose, gave her a black eye and broke her tooth. He also started using drugs, stole money from Angela and got mad at her cat and killed it.
What did Chris say? “Yeah, I killed the cat. The cat bit me and ran underneath the bed. I just picked the bed up and the cat got smashed.” Chris wasn’t at all apologetic.
Chris also said he no longer abuses alcohol, but admitted he had six beers a month before the show was taped. And he doesn’t use dope, but he smoked marijuana three weeks prior to the show.
Let’s see, Chris had a history of arson, violence, burglary, theft, domestic abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, killing animals and rage. He wasn’t at all embarrassed by his history of violating the law and showed no remorse. In my opinion, the guy appeared to be a classic sociopath.
Angela’s friend, who was in the audience, said, “he’s got a dark look in his eyes which scares you.” She was right. They looked like shark eyes.
The changed man
But now, Chris insisted, he has changed. “I believe I’ve paid my debt to society, and I believe that I am rehabilitated,” he said. He insisted that his life was “moving in a good direction.”
Dr. Phil wasn’t so sure. He pointed out that Chris had poor impulse control, poor judgment, poor anger management and conflict with authority. As the psychologist spoke, Chris became visibly angry. He blamed his anger on the fact that he couldn’t see his daughter. Angela, sitting on the sofa just a few feet from Chris, was trembling.
“I’m scared to go home,” Angela said, practically in tears. “How do you handle a situation like this? What do you do?”
Thankfully, Dr. Phil advised Angela not to allow Chris to have unsupervised visitation with their daughter. He said she should not allow unsupervised visitation “unless and until” a trained professional said it was safe to do so.
Dr. Phil then offered to arrange counseling for Chris so that he could prepare to be a constructive force in his daughter’s life.
It was a generous thing for Dr. Phil to do. Unfortunately, in my opinion it conveyed the impression that a person like Chris can be rehabilitated. It may have encouraged viewers who have angry, violent sociopaths in their own lives to believe there is hope for them to change.
Sociopaths do not change.
I wonder if Chris went for the counseling. I wonder if it did any good. I doubt it.