A reader says: “I kept wondering what was going on in his head. I could never follow his thinking. I think he might have been into alcohol and drugs and that in itself messes the brain, and along with his other personality disorders, sure makes for a confusing relationship.”
The thinking patterns of the psychopath are indeed weird. It seems there are biological and intentional reasons for this. In others words, he is unable to think very logically PLUS he intends to mislead. No wonder he is hard to follow!
Below I list several factors which together make the psychopath a most bamboozling character.
The odd speech of psychopaths
The psychopath makes “frequent use of contradictory and logically inconsistent statements”, says Robert Hare in ‘Without conscience.’ E.g. “A man serving time for armed robbery replied to the testimony of an eyewitness, “He’s lying. I wasn’t there. I should have blown his fucking head off.” It is as if, says Hare, they have “difficulty monitoring their own speech”.
Psychopaths may also construct strange words: ‘unconscientious’ for unconscious’, ‘antidotes’ for ‘anecdotes’. Perhaps there is something about the brain of the psychopath that contributes to his odd speech.
Drug and alcohol abuse
With their poor ability to tolerate frustration and their high need for stimulation (same thing?), the psychopath is likely to abuse drugs and alcohol which obviously affects the ability to think. Chronic abuse damages the brain.
But, as M.L. Gallagher recently writes, he speaks in riddles purposely too.
The intention to deceive
This doesn’t need much elaboration here. The psychopath wants to get something. He may simply take it by force. Otherwise he will use his cunning to fool the other person. (Interestingly, the illogicality of his arguments doesn’t stop him successfully conning one person after another.)
Most of us use logical fallacies when we argue or try to persuade. Some of these are errors in our own thinking, some are conscious manipulations. Just accentuating a different word can make all the difference: “Mom said that we musn’t throw stones at the windows” (i.e. she didn’t say anything about hitting them with a tennis racket).
We can fully expect that the psychopath, with his flawed thinking plus his intention to deceive, will use every logical fallacy in the book. Bear with me for a couple of paragraphs.
Take the example the logical fallacy, the ‘ad hominem argument’. It has two types, circumstantial and abusive. In the circumstantial ad hominem argument the circumstances of the other are confronted instead of the evidence: “Of course you don’t accept that it’s OK to be a loan-shark. You’re a Christian and Christ drove the money lenders out of the temple.” (But that’s irrelevant; if I was Jewish what would your defense be then?)
In the abusive ad hominem argument the opponent is attacked instead of their argument: “You criticise me for loan-sharking, but three years ago you were arrested for drunk driving.” (What does that have to do with loan-sharking?)
But the psychopath uses fallacies with an evil twist. Whenever possible he’ll use a logical fallacy as a paramoralism. In other words, he won’t use a fallacy only to win a point but also use it moralistically in order to corrode the other’s moral thinking.
How would a psychopath argue ad hominem? Several readers have mentioned precisely this example: “What kind of Christian are you to accuse me of this?” (Again, the other’s Christianity is irrelevant to the topic at hand.) Can you see the difference? Unlike the examples above where the opponent’s Christianity is used to score a point or bring the argument to an end, here the other is being denounced as a bad Christian. An open-minded person is likely to say to themselves, “Maybe he’s right. Perhaps I’m the bad one here.”
Perhaps you have an example to share of the bewildering speech of a psychopath?
For glimpse into the wacky thought-processes of the narcissist see this article.