Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A Different Path
October 10, 2011 4:54 PM   Subscribe

Jon Ronson posts a response he received regarding his recent book The Psychopath Test. (previously, via)
posted by spiderskull (63 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very interesting read. But the correspondent sounds more like a sociopath than a psychopath - as crude a taxonomy as those words provide us.
posted by Trurl at 4:59 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought "sociopath" was just a modern polite term for psychopath, now that psychopathology has been incorrectly associated with violent psychopathology.
posted by muddgirl at 5:02 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


In his book (I finished reading it last night), Jon Ronson states quite clearly that the terms sociopath/psychopath are used by professionals quite interchangeably.
posted by vidur at 5:05 PM on October 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


Interesting wikipeida distinction made between the terms psychopath/sociopath.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:08 PM on October 10, 2011


Also, as far as the book is concerned, if you think you are a psychopath and that thought bothers/worries you (even if it doesn't bother you enough to check yourself in for therapy), then you are not a psychopath.
posted by vidur at 5:11 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought "sociopath" was just a modern polite term for psychopath, now that psychopathology has been incorrectly associated with violent psychopathology.

There are some differences between the two concepts.
posted by shivohum at 5:22 PM on October 10, 2011


Another thing psychopaths do is not get its/it's right.
posted by emelenjr at 5:23 PM on October 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


He describes himself as unusual, unheard of. When he got tested, things were very pessimistic-- all superlatives.

His therapies failed due to "mistrust, concerned at being manipulated, and uncomfortable with the idea of being 'managed'"-- except when he was taken on by the director of the mental health agency. Only the best will do.

Also: a woman. Ten bucks says she was pretty.

"and to our mutual surprise, we got along extremely well." Why would it be mutual surprise, i.e. why would she be surprised?

And then, finally: "Four years later, with sessions no less frequent than once or twice a week, I came out of therapy unrecognizable from when I went into it." So a 23 year old felt very different than a 19 year old.

"I do not 'feel' guilt or remorse, except to the extent that it affects me directly," -- what other kind of guilt is there? He means shame, not guilt.

"--but I do feel other emotions, which do not have adequate words of description, but nevertheless cause me to derive satisfaction in developing interpersonal relationships" which probably makes him not much of a psychopath.

Yet he takes on the label, the brand of 'psychopath': "We are neither the cartoon evil serial killers, nor the 'its your boss' CEO's.... While we are both of those things, it is a sad caricature of itself. We continue be to characterized that way, by media...."

And the Holden Caulfield belief that things are phony "...it is all a sham."

This sounds much more like narcissism than psychopathy; and a narcissism not so unusual at that age. I'm tempted to write he'll be fine, grow out of it, but no one can predict the future about people's behavior because what will determine his future isn't the kind of person he thinks he is, but the choices he makes. Not a particularly popular thing to say, but even if he is a psychopath, he doesn't have to act like one; which, of course, would make him not a psychopath.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 5:24 PM on October 10, 2011 [23 favorites]


Well, I'm not a psychologist but given the definitions presented here it seems impossible to diagnose someone based on a letter. Given that he doesn't talk about cultural causes (which seems to be the commonly-accepted indicator of sociopathy), and given that he was presumably diagnosed by an in-person psychologist, it seems like a silly discussion all around.
posted by muddgirl at 5:29 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are psychopaths ever 'cured'? Would a psychopath feel the need to write in to someone like this? I'm inclined to agree with TheLastPsychiatrist. Can somebody with more knowledge of this please explain if it is even possible?
posted by 200burritos at 5:42 PM on October 10, 2011


Serial Killers & Ruthless CEOs exist - Voldemort does not.

Wasn't Voldemort a ruthless serial killer?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:51 PM on October 10, 2011


Serial Killers & Ruthless CEOs exist - Voldemort does not.

Wasn't Voldemort a ruthless serial killer?

And a sort-of CEO.
posted by vidur at 5:53 PM on October 10, 2011 [16 favorites]


Sounds like the correspondent rather than benefiting from therapy just, grew up.
posted by the noob at 5:55 PM on October 10, 2011


Why are we believing that anything in the letter is true?
posted by The World Famous at 6:00 PM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


So the letter writer basically sees him/herself as Superman walking among the mortals, happy to help them and their little problems with super-perception and super-analysis. Using these powers for good, not evil. I would guess the rationalisation proffered by the therapist is that the psychopath will get more long-term benefit out of being helpfully perceptive rather than malignantly manipulative.

It sounds like an interesting approach and I hope it works.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:01 PM on October 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Sounds like the correspondent rather than benefiting from therapy just, grew up."

You're right, of course, how could we not see it? It couldn't possibly be BOTH!
posted by Blasdelb at 6:05 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I worked with someone who I believe was a psychopath - ten year later I am still getting over the experience. This person was totally aggressive, self centered and destructive- but massively charming, witty and someone you would want to know. Having figured him out, watching him operate and gently and non-confrontationally calling him on his behavior was a stressful full time job.

Quick anecdote:

He was dating the company receptionist at the time- she was absolutely gorgeous, really sweet and no match for him. She was in love and starry-eyed about their future. Christmas was approaching and they had planned a holiday in Europe - skiing in Austria (I'm in Australia so it's a big deal). They had their tickets book and she was looking forward. One day she came to me telling me that she had just received a phone call from the travel agency confirming an upgrade to first class for a Mr A. She queried the travel agency as to an upgrade for Ms M as well- there wasn't. Mr A had gone ahead and upgraded himself to first leaving her to enjoy the 23 hour flight in economy. He was a total shit
posted by the noob at 6:17 PM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


"...I hope that it can remain confidential for the time being"

Oops.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:20 PM on October 10, 2011


Mr A had gone ahead and upgraded himself to first leaving her to enjoy the 23 hour flight in economy.

Is it guilt or shame I feel for thinking this is hilarious?
posted by vorpal bunny at 6:33 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course I got the guy's permission to tweet his email. I'm not going to start messing around down that alley!
I'd be surprised if Jon would do something as ill-mannered as break a confidence.
He's Jewish and Welsh, his mother's wrath would be far more horrible than any serial killer's.
posted by fullerine at 6:38 PM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


the noob He was a total shit
Also a poor medium/long-term planner. What the hell did he think would happen if he did that?

Chances are that he didn't think it through at all, and that's a flaw shared by almost everyone. I'm sure more than one non-psychopath has travelled in first class with a ticked-off travelling companion in economy. Particularly if they separately paid for tickets, the airline rep may have not realized that the passenger had a companion, and the passenger may have assumed that the airline was offering the upgrade to both. Unless you as passenger actually asked, how would you know?

Of course you should ask, but arguably whether or not you did ask is a matter of your logical/organization capabilities, more than whether you emotionally cared about your companion's self-esteem and comfort. "Cared but forgot to ask" seems more likely than "didn't bother to ask because didn't care". Idle curiosity, and the logistics of picking up baggage (especially if the psychopath's companion is carrying any of the psychopath's stuff) are additional reasons to care.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:42 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


So today at dinner the waiter's "thank you" sounded a bit insincere when I handed him my credit card; he was probably a psychopath. Good thing I didn't tip him.
posted by Pyry at 6:54 PM on October 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


So today at dinner the waiter's "thank you" sounded a bit insincere when I handed him my credit card; he was probably a psychopath. Good thing I didn't tip him.

Waiters develop a sixth sense about the likelihood of being stiffed; he was probably distracted by his wonder at how you couldn't taste the phlegm in your meal, given the quantity and variety.
posted by maxwelton at 6:59 PM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


... I had found myself becoming overwhelmed with a predatorial instinct that I could not shake - I'd sit, watching crowds of people go by, driven to mania by what I saw as their limitless inferiorities.

I think he's right though, we should stop demonizing the sick people we've been calling psychopaths, it probably feeds their ego. We should pity them.
posted by wobh at 7:01 PM on October 10, 2011


From a safe distance.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:06 PM on October 10, 2011


Now, Count Chocula - THERE'S a ruthless cereal killer.

/doesn't have anything productive to add
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:10 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe that needed a sarcasm tag? But seriously, "didn't upgrade girlfriend to first class" is a remarkably low bar for labeling someone an incurable psychopath, and in general it seems like there's a very slippery slope to using "they're a psychopath" as a justification for your own bad behavior towards someone. People seem ready to dehumanize each other at the drop of a hat, and saying there's a hidden class of people who are irredeemable serial killers at heart seems not so very far removed from believing that there are witches among us. The whole thing makes me uneasy.
posted by Pyry at 7:17 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to maintain my comfortable fiction that CEOs, scammers and politicians are all clinical psychopaths, distinguished from us humans by a diagnostically distinct neurological apparatus, thankyouverymuch.

It would be much cheaper if I could just buy black and white ink to print out my worldview.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:21 PM on October 10, 2011


I simply assume everyone posting to metafilter is a psychopath and that nothing they say can be trusted. On second thought, make that "everyone on the internet".
posted by happyroach at 7:37 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've got psychopaths confused with dogs.
posted by vidur at 7:47 PM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


aeschenkarnos: "I'm sure more than one non-psychopath has travelled in first class with a ticked-off travelling companion in economy."

Yeah, ME. She was pretty upset! I thought it was hilarious, afterwards. I felt kind of bad during, but not enough to make much of an effort to switch seats with her or anything. I did send a drink back for her though.

It was like a 3 hour flight that we had bought separately!
posted by danny the boy at 7:54 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole thing makes me uneasy. Good.

Recognizing A1 asshole type behavior as psychopathic could be in our interest. I'm not talking about self interested behavior here, I'm talking about self interested behavior without ANY regard for others. This behavior can appear harmless but it can still play out in such horrifying and destructive ways that excusing the damage done is like offering human ritual sacrifices to appease gods.

We are past that.

Psychopaths prey on other human beings. There is no other way to put it. Over time we have accorded certain behaviors stigmatization. We have taboos.

Teach your children to identify psychopaths and avoid them, it is an essential skill if you are not one.
posted by vicx at 8:00 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Having read Ronson's book (which is well worth the read), shameless and constant self-aggrandizement is one of the many striking characteristics of the psychopath.

I don't see that the subject of the letter was cured; simply that he now wants everyone to think that he's cured. It makes him even more special than he was before, even more worthy of acclaim and study.

I guess it's an improvement over killing people, but as Ronson points out, most psychopaths are not actually murderers in the first place.
posted by ErikaB at 8:01 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


From C the psychopath's the letter:

Psychopaths are just people. You are right to say that psychopaths hate weakness, they will attempt to conceal anything that might present as a vulnerability. The test of their self-superiority is their ability to rapidly find weaknesses in others, and to exploit it to its fullest potential.

This chilled me, told me I've been dealing with psychopaths all my life, particularly when I was a kid. Summer camp comes to mind. There was always at least one kid (out of a group of eight or ten) who'd show these kinds of traits. Usually pretty good looking, charming even -- but man would he identify a weak kid and go after him, and fast, and very quickly get the other kids fearing him, lining up behind him so as to avoid being a target.

This tells me that psychopathology is something that we can grow out of (certainly the sinister application of it) if it's identified early enough and focused on.
posted by philip-random at 8:08 PM on October 10, 2011


I don't see that the subject of the letter was cured; simply that he now wants everyone to think that he's cured.

He doesn't say he was cured in his letter, just that "... what I'm saying here is that although those traits can very easily (even instinctively) lead to dangerous levels of manipulation, they do not have to."

So like seanmpuckett suggested earlier, he's aiming to use his powers for good, not evil. Here's hoping.
posted by philip-random at 8:12 PM on October 10, 2011


philip-random: "This tells me that psychopathology is something that we can grow out of (certainly the sinister application of it) if it's identified early enough and focused on."

Wait you think being a child bully is being a psychopath (whatever that is)? So you think everyone in junior high, except the very last person on the social ladder, was a psychopath?

Maybe we should not try to diagnose medical conditions over the internet based on a letter, and instead just learn to avoid hanging out with jerky people.
posted by danny the boy at 8:13 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait you think being a child bully is being a psychopath (whatever that is)? So you think everyone in junior high, except the very last person on the social ladder, was a psychopath?

Maybe we should not try to diagnose medical conditions over the internet based on a letter, and instead just learn to avoid hanging out with jerky people.


Your lack of empathy towards philip-random (and jerky people, and the very last person on the social ladder), is disturbing. Probability of you being a psychopath = 23.2%

Regards,

- Internet Comment Diagnostic Centre
posted by vidur at 8:24 PM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've just finished reading the book, and I can't stop classifying everyone around me as a psychopath. Help!
posted by vidur at 8:26 PM on October 10, 2011


How odd that Jon Ronson does not possess a single incident of formal education or clinical experience in psychology, and yet everyone believes what he says a psychopath is.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:28 PM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


the book spends a lot of time being quite ambigious about diagnosis, and about the nature of pyschatric work in this field--and he notes himself, how easy and seductive the checklist type of diagnosis is.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:30 PM on October 10, 2011


In his book (I finished reading it last night), Jon Ronson states quite clearly that the terms sociopath/psychopath are used by professionals quite interchangeably.

The reason that psychological professionals would not actually use these terms interchangeably is that they are not diagnostic terms. There is no Psychopath or Sociopath diagnosis.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:35 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


thank you, so-gracefully. It bothers me generally to put these kinds of dangerous labels on people, especially when people are assigning them to bullying schoolchildren. I feel for the letter writer, but I also feel for the fact that he's been slapped with this dark, disturbing and isolating label, when he might really have a set of behaviors that respond to treatment.
posted by sweetkid at 8:44 PM on October 10, 2011


How odd that Jon Ronson does not possess a single incident of formal education or clinical experience in psychology, and yet everyone believes what he says a psychopath is.

How odd that a reporter would report what people with formal education and clinical experience in a particular subject would say, and anyone would believe that they're reporting those interviews truthfully and accurately.

Surely everyone knows by now that all journalists are psychopaths?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:52 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Teach your children to identify psychopaths and avoid them, it is an essential skill if you are not one. (@vicx)

Once you recognize all those people as psychopaths, they have also all recognized you as paranoid.
posted by PlanoTX at 9:04 PM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


The letter is a great demonstration of what psychopaths do so well. Connection, confidence, empathy, perceptiveness - they're all there. Obviously someone can access these attributes and not be a psychopath. But psychopaths seem to have a special gift in this regard.

I suspect I've been around some borderline psychopaths. Not full blown ones mind you. Just people who share many of the traits. The outcome of extended contact is not enjoyable. And if some stupid checklist increases your chances of not being taken advantage of then that's ok with me.

Consider this: .5% to 1 percent of the population are psychopaths. That number is way too high for me not to do some armchair psychological profiling.
posted by quadog at 9:12 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


quadog: "Consider this: .5% to 1 percent of the population are psychopaths."

Yeah, ME!

I wasn't kidding about not giving up my first class seat! She'd never flown first class before. She wouldn't haven even known what she was missing!!
posted by danny the boy at 9:24 PM on October 10, 2011


Is it guilt or shame I feel for thinking this is hilarious?

Well, i was actually going to mention that in many dealings he was an utter bastard - but this one showed a lighter side of the psychopath (seriously, I'm not having a go).

But who upgrades themselves and leaves their romantic half in economy? That behavior should come years later.

We also had a nice engineer guy working for us that had his laptop stolen - Mr A called the cops on him claiming that the engineer had stolen the laptop. Day-to-day was managing this sort of shit.
posted by the noob at 9:52 PM on October 10, 2011


Interesting letter, but I bet Jon Ronson finds it frustrating that this guy is trying to explain to him what a psychopath is in general, apparently just by extrapolating from his own personality.

I'm probably just projecting, though - as a linguist I find it extremely annoying when I have written something that is based on intensive research using reliable academic methods and some random guy tries to explain to me why I am wrong based on his personal experience of speaking a language.
posted by lollusc at 9:53 PM on October 10, 2011


Aw man... now I'm getting all nostaligic about my past in TV and film production.
posted by Kloryne at 10:06 PM on October 10, 2011


Pedantry: A serial killer is someone with a cyclical need to kill. I would not regard Voldemort as that, based on the movies anyways (I only read the first three books); he kills out of expediance, in order to achieve aims. He may do so with a villainous glee, but I see no evidence that he's remotely driven to kill simply for the sake of it.

Voldemort = not a serial killer.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:44 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


philip-random: "This tells me that psychopathology is something that we can grow out of (certainly the sinister application of it) if it's identified early enough and focused on."

Wait you think being a child bully is being a psychopath (whatever that is)? So you think everyone in junior high, except the very last person on the social ladder, was a psychopath?


No, I think the kid that reads a situation and quickly ascertains who the weakest kid is and goes after him viciously has all the hallmarks of what the individual writing the letter defines as psychopathology ...

that psychopaths hate weakness, they will attempt to conceal anything that might present as a vulnerability. The test of their self-superiority is their ability to rapidly find weaknesses in others, and to exploit it to its fullest potential.

The other kids just back the bullies up out of the fear that, if they don't, they'll be the next victim.
posted by philip-random at 11:51 PM on October 10, 2011


1) Voldemort obviously works at a large bank. One that would coin the term, 'ripping people's faces off'.

And to be fair, Voldemort never said he was anything besides a power-mad individual willing to flatten and destroy anyone that got in his way. He contained no empathy, but he never manipulated anyone in to thinking that he did. Same with Darth Vader. Crazy forceful and rather violent? Hell yes. But you knew that the minute either dude showed up.

The bankers on the other hand. Not empathic, and manipulative. Sitting at congressional hearings:
"We didn't know! It's not our fault! We thought we were adding value! Ripping people's faces of was... just a saying... we never actually ripped anybody's face off. Not physically. It was a metaphor! A metaphor!"

Congress: "Bitches, you knew"
"Ok, ok, we knew. And we're sorry. We're really sorry. You are a big scary Congressman. I am just banker, so small I fit in your pocket. If you give us just a little more money, we will fix the problem. We swear. No, no, we promise. We're going to sew those faces back on. It's another metaphor. I swear."
THAT is some psychopathic shit. At least Voldemort and Vader had the courtesy to be transparent about their motives and goals.

2) Granted, psychopathy is a serious problem, however, it's always been concerning that once the diagnosis is handed down, it's essentially inescapable.

How can a psychopath prove they are no longer psychopathic? By being empathetic. Without being manipulative. And proving that to someone who thinks they are being manipulative when they show empathy.

Perhaps we need something better. Like a brain scan. If we're going to throw people in the pokey for life based on a derivative analysis of a psychological condition that may or may not exist, I do think we need a better criteria for that then: "here, have an impossible situation. oh see, you failed. sorry."

3) Pre-emptive response: Yes, psychopaths run a head game on those around them. I think quite a few of us have been there. But to say "psychopaths predate on people" is neither here nor there, for a lot of people prey on other people. We are on the same page that it exists. But untreatable?

In India, villagers chain disabled children to trees -- like animals -- for they literally don't know what to do with the children. They act like animals, they are not productive members of society but obviously human, so they deserve to live. For a learned mind to see that is offensive, but it is also unintentional. the villagers don't know how to diagnose, must less treat, the problem. Perhaps we are at the same place with mental illnesses like psychopathy.

One day, I hope we can stop chaining psychopaths to trees and start treating them appropriately. Until then, I suggest we house them somewhere besides the institutions that run the global financial economy.
posted by nickrussell at 11:55 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sociopathy/psychopathy is very prominent on metafilter and elsewhere recently.

Without any clinical training or much interest in the subject, I offer a comparison with those who used to be politely termed "difficult people". I've known a few "difficult people" in my family and at work. I've observed and been a member of impromptu sentimental communities that have formed around recognising and managing difficult behaviour, swapping anecdotes about the latest extremes and sharing coping strategies. There seems to be something profoundly socially adaptive about this response, and necessary, but I wonder about the stigmatization and group-think; whether or not it effectively recognises or deals with the situation; and at what point the community-building becomes the priority.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:28 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In his book (I finished reading it last night), Jon Ronson states quite clearly that the terms sociopath/psychopath are used by professionals quite interchangeably.

Yeah, there has been a shift, and its been discussed on mefi before (if someone can find it).

About 15 years ago at university, I actually took a course for my criminology degree on psychopaths and sociopaths...and there was a HUGE distinction.

I haven't been working in that field, and I found out that the terms are used rather interchangeably now.

WTF?!?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:30 AM on October 11, 2011


This is always difficult - labelling people with something one doesn't even really know exists. I don't know. But twice in my life, I've encountered people where I really, really wondered what was going on. One was a younger person, and as such could not do me much harm, though he did try. He also created a complete havoc among his peers.
Another was a business man (executive, but not top-) I had to deal with over a period of 5 years. I didn't chose to work with him, but I could have. First, he seemed very calm and reasonable in a very difficult situation - like the guy who could solve things; but gradually I realized he was the puppet-master behind all the problems. Then I checked his resumé, and found that he had a series of near bankruptcies in his wake, and other problems, actual crimes, that he had somehow convinced people not to report. (Economic crimes + sexual assault, if you want to know). Every single former employer brought forth a litany of complaints.
I can see why people didn't report it to the police. At a certain point, we considered doing so, but resolved it would be to much of a strain on our flailing company, both psychologically and economically. Afterwards, when all was good, we just wanted to forget everything.

When I then began to put some pressure on the guy, the ugly side came out, including threats and really boundless gossiping and lying in public. In the end, we got the guy out of the project, and out of any relevant influence. The project and our business are safe and sound, and no one doubts our decisions or products. Now I'm just waiting to see when his current bosses call me, like I called his former employers.
The thing is, primarily, this guy was/is incompetent, and all his scheming serves to cover that incompetence. Obviously, he doesn't see himself as incompetent - when things go wrong it's always someone else's fault, and he is really good at finding faults with others, which makes them insecure. In this particular case, I was 100% certain we as a team were more knowledgable about the problems and their solutions. But I can easily see how even top-executives could be, and were manipulated. In this case, people I've known and trusted my entire adult life were taken in by the guy and turned against us. Even as some of them knew the guy's history! They believed his excuses, and without access to confidential material, they couldn't be convinced of the truth.
posted by mumimor at 2:00 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think sociopath is a far better term, since "psychopath" is, to a layman, synonymous with "psychotic".

I think it's very important to ensure people know we're not talking about Norman Bates.
posted by unigolyn at 3:05 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


saying there's a hidden class of people who are irredeemable serial killers at heart seems not so very far removed from believing that there are witches among us.

Wouldn't you agree that it's more likely that someone will eat your liver with fava beans than turn you into a newt?
posted by unigolyn at 3:20 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


saying there's a hidden class of people who are irredeemable serial killers at heart seems not so very far removed from believing that there are witches among us.

Yeah, well, the vast majority believe a psychotic episode where you kill your whole family in their sleep, or cut off someone's head on a greyhound bus is psychopathic. It's almost to the point where it's become synonymous with a general lack of empathy, like schizophrenia is to indecisive or, narcissism to selfish, rather than being what it is.

I hope we can stop chaining psychopaths to trees and start treating them appropriately.

They've tried. I can't remember the name of the study, but a Canadian team tried in the late 60's and found that treatment didn't lower the rate of recidivism, it actually increased and their crimes were more violent. In a sense, the treatment was teaching them how to be better psychopaths.
posted by squeak at 6:51 AM on October 11, 2011


In India, villagers chain disabled children to trees -- like animals -- for they literally don't know what to do with the children.

I have a disabled family member in India and he's not chained to a tree. I think there's a lot more that could be done for him in the States, mainly due to our culture and approach to his particular disabilities, but he's not chained to a tree. I really wish people wouldn't make blanket statements like "In India..." about anywhere or anyone.
posted by sweetkid at 8:15 AM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


please do not conflate antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder, thanks
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:06 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find it difficult not to conflates them all. I say, send 'em all to therapy and let the psychologists sort 'em out!

Is it ever helpful to lay-diagnose disorders, rather than learning how to respond to behaviors?
posted by jabberjaw at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sociopathy is a diagnosis. A diagnosis is a method for categorizing problems based on symptoms. Diagnoses tell you jack shit about the underlying cause of the problem. They are mainly useful in the same way that genre is a useful concept when you're talking about fiction: they help you find the kind of treatment you need.

Definitions shift and slither, so maybe the guy who wrote this letter wouldn't have been a psychopath if he'd signed up a year earlier, or at a different clinic, or whatever. He still had problems that fit the definition in use at that particular time and place. He got help and benefited from it. If he does not fit the definition of sociopathy in use at some other time and place, whose problem is that? And who benefits from assigning him the [NOT SOCIOPATH] tag?
posted by LogicalDash at 12:53 PM on October 11, 2011


That email made me feel sadness and sympathy for the individual. It reads so much like the many many well-constructed "solutions" to mental illness that individuals come up with. Usually these constructs don't last. I hope it does for this person.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:41 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


« Older Originally published by Finnish forkloristAntti Aa...  |  Hundreds of backgrounds from c... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments