Whilst grocery shopping yesterday I noticed at the check-out this month’s issue of Reader’s Digest.
The cover story piqued* my curiosity because I am fairly certain I have met many psychopaths in this world and I wanted to know if I was correct in my criteria for diagnosis. The only problem was that I am reticent to buy the impulse items on display at the checkout because I feel by doing so I am simply a sucker for the marketing techniques employed by the store instead of the crafty consumer I wish to be. So I resigned myself to not buying the issue on principle. However looking back at the issue, I noticed that the plastic bag in which it was packaged also contained the “Reader’s Digest 2011 World Map.” Sold! I’m not sure what the reason was for putting a map in with a copy of my favourite bathroom periodical, but being something of a traveller, and also being more superstitious than I care to admit, I took this as a sign that I had to buy the issue.
The article itself was fairly interesting; there were anecdotes about people who dealt with psychopathic types in the workplace, key signs to look for in diagnosis and also a scientific overview of the causes of this condition. Also the article mentioned Dr. Hare’s “Psychopathy Checklist-Revised” (PCL-R) as a diagnostic tool which had been widely employed since the early 1980s. Obviously, I had to google this test to see if there was a version of it online; there was => http://www.okcupid.com/tests/the-are-you-an-psychopath-test. So I set about answering the first few questions which dealt heavily with unrealistic self-perception (superficial charm, delusions of grandeur, USI, etc…), and I realized with alarm that I stood a very serious chance acing this test.
USI = Unwarranted Self-Imporatnce
Fortunately, the questions switched to my social interaction habits and my answers became less indicative of a psychopathic nature. The test was short and after a mere twenty questions I clicked “See Results” only to have this disturbing score presented to me:
“Fucking Normal?” This was most definitely worse than being labelled a psychopath, at least then I would be special. But as it is, I’m just an average Joe with an average flow doing average things with average hos. Nay! I refuse to see myself in this benign yet unflattering light; I can cheat and manipulate with the best of them as my woman will soon find out lol. I joke, but it actually kind of made sense. I don’t lust after power over others and I have a very acute sense of guilt. I
often sometimes cry when I listen to sad songs and I lament how individualistic the world has become. Basically I am a mark for potential psychos to exploit for their own gain … and proud of it!
What was interesting was that the article mentioned four careers that psychopaths are inclined to take up: policing, military, politics and medicine. Obviously, all of these jobs endow a person with certain powers and being in the military myself, I can attest to the fact that hearing about how brave and heroic you are all the time can inflate your ego a bit.
If John Q. Public only knew how much fucking around we do in the army…
Although anecdotal, I have my own story about a certain military captain whom I never had the displeasure of meeting until recently. He struck me as incredibly self-absorbed, remorseless, and narcissistic based simply on this one encounter where he tried to justify stealing something off of my sergeant’s desk because of his perceived need for the thing. (it was an obsolete piece of uniform that it turns out he didn’t actually need) I objected to the theft strenuously but with his clout as a captain there was not really much I could do aside from courteously protest; in all honesty I wanted to give his smug face a knuckle sammich. After the encounter I vented to one of my friends about what a douche this guy was and he concurred. I left thinking the guy was incredibly arrogant and likely a closet-case. I later learned that he had gotten in trouble a while back for spousal abuse which further confirmed his doucheness in my eyes. However, after reading this Reader’s Digest article I see him as a psychopathic personality.
It may be an overly simplistic diagnosis but he was attracted to a position of power (although a captain in the Canadian army reserves is not exactly a Shogun), he had no regard for the people he perceived as obstacles to his goals, not above violence against those weaker than him, arrogant, and his subordinates complained of his micro-management => things had to be done his way. Unfortunately, in the army people like him are unavoidable. I can only assume that anyone who has worked in policing, politics or medicine has similar stories about co-workers or bosses.
The article mentions also the nature-nurture dichotomy in regards to causes of psychopathy but I am inclined, as I usually am, to put more emphasis on the importance of nurturing. I think that psychopathy is the natural end result of the society we live in. “Me Against the World,” “A Dollar and a Dream,” and “Dog Eat Dog” are romanticized notions in our society. We lionize self-made men (as if there could be such a thing) and are conditioned to believe that its a cold world out there. With these ideas in place how can we not become psychopathic? Obviously nobody gives a shit about us so why should we give a shit about anyone else? If you can’t answer that question, maybe you should take the PCL-R quiz.
This guy has never received any support … except that rock he’s standing on…
I often delude myself into believing that people are essentially good, but I know this to be erroneous. People are what they learn to be in order to survive. But I believe strongly that there are very few lost causes and everyone has a better nature that can be appealed to. Would many of my cop friends disagree? Absolutely! They deal with the “write-offs” in society on a daily basis. But these wretches come from wretched places and I believe strongly that if immersed in a more nurturing environment (not jail) anyone can relearn to be a person.
There is a constant struggle in my mind between “seeing the best in people” and “[seeing] things how they are and not how [I] like them to be.” (“A Good Argument in Favour of Book-Burnings,” 11 August 2011) I don’t know any way to reconcile these two points of view so I must give everyone a chance, approaching them with positive assumptions (See: “One Night in the Big City: Part 1,” 18 Aug 2011). I have long felt that if you don’t believe something about yourself you will never make anyone else believe it either. Well, hopefully it works the other way too, and that by believing the best about others I may convince them to see things my way.
*To anyone who uses this expression it pique, not peak