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Do psychopaths know what they are?

Lovefraud recently received this e-mail from the reader who posts as “Flicka.”

Most experts seem to say that psychotics know what/who they are…different from the rest of society. However, I question whether or not this is true. My experience has been that they SEEM to sincerely believe they are a superior group of humans, intellectually, physically, emotionally and the ultimate future of the human race. I.e. when confronted with their outright lies, accusations, priorities, misjudgments, lack of morals, compassion, they either sincerely defend their lack of emotionalism as a sign of their superiority or call you absolutely “crazy”. If this response is part of their “act,” they must realize they’re different from the rest of us…not just mentally and emotionally superior.

What is your opinion?

Sincerely,

Flicka

P.S. In my personal case, my 5 children defend their psychotic traits with what appears to be complete sincerity.

Psychotic vs. psychopathic

First of all, I’d like to clarify the difference between “psychotic” and “psychopathic.”

People suffering from psychotic disorders lose contact with reality. Here’s the definition from the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions. People with psychoses lose touch with reality. Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, such as thinking that someone is plotting against you or that the TV is sending you secret messages. Hallucinations are false perceptions, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling something that is not there.

Schizophrenia is one type of psychotic disorder. People with bipolar disorder may also have psychotic symptoms. Other problems that can cause psychosis include alcohol and some drugs, brain tumors, brain infections, and stroke.

Treatment depends on the cause of the psychosis. It might involve drugs to control symptoms and talk therapy. Hospitalization is an option for serious cases where a person might be dangerous to himself or others.

Psychopathy

Interestingly, there is no concise definition of psychopathy. Even in Without Conscience, the classic book by Robert Hare, Ph.D., here’s the shortest description I could find:

A self-centered, callous, and remorseless person profoundly lacking in empathy and the ability to form warm emotional relationships with others, a person who functions without the restraints of a conscience.

Dr. Hare doesn’t believe anyone should be called “a psychopath.” Instead, he says a person with this disorder should be described according to his or her score on the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R), the test he developed to measure an individual’s traits and symptoms.

For more, see the Key Symptoms page on Lovefraud.com.

Here’s the key point: Psychopathy is not an illness; it is a personality disorder. As Dr. Hare says in Without Conscience:

Psychopaths are not disoriented or out of touch with reality, nor do they experience the delusions, hallucinations, or intense subjective distress that characterize most other mental disorders. Unlike psychotic individuals, psychopaths are rational and aware of what they are doing and why. Their behavior is the result of choice, freely exercised.

Awareness of the disorder

Another helpful book is Character Disorder, by George K. Simon Jr., Ph.D. Dr. Simon explains how traditional views of psychology simply don’t work very well in dealing with personality disorders, or as he calls them, character disorders.

Classical theories, Simon explains, regard basic human needs and emotions to be universal, and people develop psychological problems because they fear or experience their needs being thwarted. In his training, he was taught never to ask a client why he or she did something, because it would put the client on the defensive.

But in working with people who have character disordered, Simon eventually learned that they know exactly what they are doing, and why. When these people say they don’t understand their own motivations, they’re playing dumb.

In Character Disturbance, Simon writes,

Most of the time “I don’t know” doesn’t really mean the disturbed character is oblivious about his actions. It almost always means something else. It can mean:

• “I never really think about it that much.”

• “I don’t like to think about it.”

• “I don’t want to talk to you about it.”

• “I know very well why I did it, but I certainly don’t want you to know. That would put you in a position of equal advantage over me — having my number, so to speak — and I won’t be able to manipulate you as easily or manage your impression of me.”

• “I hope you’ll buythe notion that I’m basically a good person whose intentions were benign. That I simply made an unwitting mistake, oblivious about the harm I caused; and that I am willing to increase my awareness with your guidance.”

Knowing they are different

In answer to Flicka’s question, most psychopaths likely know that they are different. Some have been professionally diagnosed, after being dragged into therapy by family members or the court. They certainly didn’t go for treatment on their own, because they do not experience distress due to their disorder.

Or, even if psychopaths don’t know their diagnosis, they realize that they have an innate ability to manipulate, deceive and control others. They know that other people have these pesky things called “emotions” and “conscience,” which make for easy exploitation.

But psychopaths do not really understand what they lack, because they’ve never experienced real love or closeness. Remember, there is a very strong genetic component to psychopathy, so many of these individuals are the way they are from a very young age. It’s not like psychopaths were able to love, care and act with morality, and then stopped. They never had the abilities to begin with.

You can’t explain the difference between the colors red and blue to a person who has been blind since birth. Likewise, you can’t explain the value of “love” and “shame” to people who have never had the capacity to experience these emotions.

How one psychopath puts it

Last year, I received an email from a self-proclaimed psychopath. It sums up the psychopathic perspective:

I would like to thank you for making your videos they have given me an insight into how you people recognize us. WE are not to blame for your short comings because you are weak minded and foolish enough to be taken advantage of. We are evolutions next step we don’t allow silly emotions to cloud our judgments. In fact we use our advantage for survival because we are natures next course. I know I sound very narcissistic and apologize for that but if you are so proud and concerned and attached to your emotions why not allow someone to make you feel like a queen for something as worldly as money? We give you what you are missing just as all of the world ecosystem has since the beginning of time. It’s funny how we have been so easily classified and even now as I attempt to alter myself in order to become unparallel to descriptions of us, I find it very difficult to even perceive. I would like to boast of my strategic victories over hearts but I would fear you making another video and making this game more difficult, of course it would make it much more challenging and pleasurable when enjoying the hunt.

 


Posted in: Donna Andersen

70 Comments on "Do psychopaths know what they are?"

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  1. catnoch says:

    For the last two months I was involved with what I determine a socio/psychopath. At first of course he was very charming as most psychopaths. But, after a few days I realized he was not right. Each time I resigned to move away and distance myself I found myself pulled in closer and closer. The roller-coaster ride was an experience that I simply could not easily walk away from. I wanted to take a closer look at this individual and see just how far he would go to try to get what he wanted. On the second date he asked if I could give him a million dollars. I was shocked and could not believe my ears. I told him I found that to be insulting and walked away from him. He then said he was joking of course.

    I examined his behavior for two months and now of course I have had enough. Through all of this I had to question my behavior. Why did I not immediately walk away? Again because he was very charming, he knew how to smooth things over and I was very lonely. I knew he was manipulating me, but I knew I would only allow what I was willing to allow.

    This psychopath I learned had a wife of 38 years and a girlfriend of 5 years. He wanted me to fit into that equation.

    Reading the email from the client puts it into perspective nicely and a very clear assessment of the mind of a psychopath.

    Catherine



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  2. skid says:

    RE: personality disorders, or as he calls them, character disorders.

    That is not correct. Dr. Simon makes a clear distinction between the two types of disorders.



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