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Is redemption possible?

Last night Larry King Live of CNN hosted a discussion about whether criminals can be rehabilitated. I think it will be re-aired this weekend so try to watch. One of the guests drew a distinction between “learned” criminal behavior and psychopathy. She stated she believed that criminals who have learned to be that way can unlearn but psychopaths cannot be rehabilitated. I know many of you also hold this belief so I would like to tell you why I strongly disagree.

First I will tell you my position:

ALL criminality stems from an interaction between a person and a situation. A person is a product of his/her genetics and experiences. So in a sense what makes up personality (the “person”) is learned for everyone including the psychopathic. We are preprogrammed by our genetics to learn certain things better than others.

In terms of situational variables solid research has demonstrated that antisocial associates, poor work and educational performance, substance abuse, poor family ties and poor recreational achievement are all associated with criminality. These variables operate independently from personality variables and are important for even the most psychopathic individuals.

The more psychopathic a person is, the more deeply ingrained is the lifestyle of parasitism and predation BUT even those with lower levels of psychopathy can be very resistant to change and very dangerous to society. The definition of response to treatment depends on what you are looking for. If a person cheats 8 people a week, then goes into a program and cheats 1 person a week, that is a change. Everyone has a different definition of “rehabilitation”.

Coincidentally, I just read a great book, Persons in Context: Building a science of the individual. It is a tribute to Walter Mischel, Ph.D. one of the great thinkers of modern psychology. In his chapter “Intelligence as a Person-Situation Interaction”, Robert Sternberg lists five fallacies of thinking. He says, “There is another dimension to person-situation interaction: the extent to which particular situations elicit ‘stupid’ thinking in intelligent people.” All of his 5 fallacies occur in the context of perceived power or dominance. They are:

  1. The unrealistic optimism fallacy. This occurs when one believes that one is so smart and so powerful that it is pointless to worry about the outcome of what one does.
  2. The egocentrism fallacy. This occurs when one comes to think that one’s own interests are the only ones that are important.
  3. The Omniscience Fallacy. This occurs when people think they know more than they do.
  4. The Omnipotence Fallacy. This results from the power one wield or believes one wields.
  5. The invulnerability Fallacy. This derives for the illusion of complete protection.

Dr. Sternberg is one of many scientists who have discovered that the experience of power changes the mind/brain. Some people are more prone than others to these effects of power. Since psychopathic individuals seek out power constantly like a heroin addict seeking a fix, they are never free from all of the above fallacies of thinking. Life is a situation of constant power or perceived power.

In the absence of a loving nature all power pursuit becomes antisocial. Now power pursuit and attainment can also stomp out a person’s loving nature, if it was ever present in the first place.

To rehab the psychopathic we have to strip them of any power and teach them to love and care for others. To my knowledge there is no program that has yet succeeded in doing this even for those “sociopaths” who score at the lower end of the psychopathy scale.



156 Comments on "Is redemption possible?"

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  1. bulletproof says:

    JJ

    You seem to have started the emotional building and getting honest about it here on lovefraud is a great step towards separating yourself (your being, your sexuality, your heart and soul) OUT from HIM…… a suspected spath ( plenty of warning signs there.. ) they are extremely seductive once you are in their sights as a target….I think opening up to your mom sounds like a great idea as her instinct about him is something you need to discuss further….so great beginning…it’s so scary finally admitting that maybe the person of your affections is a spath…but better now than later…putting words on it, naming what you feel…observing in hindsight…talking talking…keep talking…may the force be with you as you tackle this….

  2. one_step_at_a_time says:

    ErinBrock – well, it’s been four weeks now since the new job started – man, that went fast…it’s been a HUGE struggle. just starting to find my feet. i am such a mix of competency/ incompetency/ confidence/ fear, hiding and ambition!

    the neurofeedback is making a BIG BIG BIG difference.
    http://www.brainandhealth.com/

    the feedback and the paycheck are having the most impact. i am a bit overwhelmed by having money again. and just starting to not be in constant fear of being canned.

    have spent tons of money on groceries. made a thai shrimp soup the other night. :) it’s such a paradigm shift. there is so much that i just had to stop buying, basic things. i am a bit shocked at how much i was doing without now that there is money to redress some of it.

    i am able to talk more again, too. am posting more about the various spath residue. and that’s good. and you know, i am getting more comfortable with being alone – being that most of my friends ran off.

    the weather turned from nasty hot to fall over night – and that brings up all my fears about this place and the off gassing and having to close windows. i am not ready to address moving yet. i am still putting togehter my health care plan. dunno. fear is here. i can just let it sit with me i guess. felt so sad about this last night.

    best,
    one step

  3. skylar says:

    JJ,
    I just talked to a 16 year old girl that is so wise it blew me away. She was telling me about a boy she loved, but the moment he began to accuse her – just once- of infidelity, she broke up with him. She knows all about my story, but she told me that she just won’t take crap from anyone, no matter how much she hurt breaking up with him, she knew it would just be worse the longer she stayed with him – it would hurt more later. She has met other Spaths and though she didn’t know what they were, she just dispatches them without looking back.
    This girl amazes me with a maturity that I don’t have at age 44.
    So, I’ll tell you what she would say: get rid of him, forget about him and have nothing to do with him, because he is not doing you any good and he never will, it will only get worse.

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