Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Mild Case of "Dexter"

Somebody reminded me today that you don't have to plan what you're going to write. So I'm taking that advice. Spent part of the weekend contemplating the sociopathic personality. It's an outdated psychological term, now called "antisocial personality disorder." It's a subset of personality disorders under the heading of "Psychopath." I tried writing about it and wasn't satisfied with what I had. The best thumbnail description I've got is that this is a person with superficial charm and wit who is otherwise completely insincere and basically gets through life just using people.

Think of it as a stereotype, because it is, but the person suffering from APD engages only in parasitic relationships to others and has no guilt or feelings of remorse. Of course they'll claim otherwise because in order to live that way you have to lie, and lie a lot. It helps when lying doesn't bother them at all, and it doesn't. In most cases treatment is court ordered, not voluntary, and then they go about conning the psychotherapist. "I think I'm getting better doc, I really feel like I had a breakthrough this week." Except the behavior doesn't change at all. In fact it's been documented that a person with APD is actually more likely to act-out when they're undergoing treatment. The behavior manifests typically before the age of 15 and often levels out or diminishes regardless of treatment or the lack of it in their 40's.

You will notice inherent judgment in the description. Not that I'm judging the judgment, because you can imagine what it must feel like for an un-afflicted person to have had a close relationship with a person suffering from APD. I tell you what, if you can't imagine it; the closer the relationship, the more like hell on earth it is. I think that even psychology professionals struggle to have compassion for clients who are completely devoid of compassion, and it's these professionals who write the diagnostic criteria, so there it is. I don't really like the labeling, but I got to wondering what the opposite of an "empath" is, what that would look like and how it would affect a person. Most of the descriptions represent an extreme, whereas I think of human behavior as a continuum.

Here's a description from the web http://www.mcafee.cc/Bin/sb.html

* Glibness and Superficial Charm

* Manipulative and Conning
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

* Grandiose Sense of Self
Feels entitled to certain things as "their right."

* Pathological Lying
Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.

* Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.

* Shallow Emotions
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.

* Incapacity for Love

* Need for Stimulation
Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

* Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.

* Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.

* Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet "gets by" by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.

* Irresponsibility/Unreliability
Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.

* Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.

* Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.

* Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

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