Politics and Psychopathology

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The below is an example of one of the letters sent out throughout the past year to all mainstream, and some not, American papers and news outlets. Let it be on record that none were interested in not only openly discussing the presidential candidate’s dangerous character defect, but even publishing such letters of concern as this one.

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by Elizabeth Mika and Frederick Burkle

As this election season progresses and the “puzzling” behavior of the GOP presidential candidate continues to preoccupy the media and public conversations, there is a peculiar dearth of explanations offered as to its causes.

While Republican politicians opportunistically embrace their party’s leader in futile hopes that he may “pivot” toward their agenda, or at least be controlled, if not reasoned with; the pundits offer their dismayed and scathing opinions of the man, grasping for explanations of the seemingly incomprehensible. And so “How do you solve the problem like The Donald?” becomes a serious concern for exasperated journalists trying to do their job of scrutinizing presidential candidates, but also for the nation that grows increasingly frustrated and exhausted with what appears to be a sordid public spectacle of trying to nail jell-o to the wall.

Meanwhile, those with expertise in just such behaviors, representative of well-defined and described psychopathology, sit back, forced into what appears to be a collusion of silence around the ‘huuuge’ elephant in the room, which is the candidate’s distinct character defect with its all too predictable manifestations and dangerous consequences.

Mindful of the ethical prohibitions against diagnosing strange people from a distance, codified most notably in the so-called Goldwater Rule, several mental health experts nevertheless already offered their informed opinions about the man’s pathology; but those opinions  are either “forgotten” by now in the public consciousness or diluted by subsequent well-meaning but incomplete attempts at describing and defining “what drives the man,” attempts that whitewash the seriousness of the candidate’s character problem and its consequences for the public discourse and our future.

There is a fine line between observing the Goldwater Rule and the mental health professionals’ duty to warn the public about dangers posed by individuals with obvious and serious psychological problems – in Trump’s case, a conscienceless drive to power fueled by unbridled grandiosity characteristic for tyrants big and little, past and present.

Finding and toeing that line is a task that looms large in the minds of psychiatrists and psychologists this election season. For what’s the use of our accumulated knowledge and experience if we cannot employ it for public good?

And so, for example, continuing to educate the public about the workings and ramifications of extreme (malignant) narcissism would go a long way, for many, to illuminate the GOP candidate’s seemingly bizarre character. Once this particular malady is explained, the behaviors associated with it become comprehensible and even predictable, though most decidedly no more acceptable.

As it is now, the public as well as the media are mired in confusion, chasing the candidate’s inane and ever-changing pronouncements as if they were a product of a healthy mind. They are most obviously and decidedly not; but not understanding his pathology, people search for meaning in the disordered mind’s barely coherent, self-aggrandizing, and sadistic bloviations heavily seasoned with the necessary for every narcissist sense of victimhood and desire for revenge. The world watches with horrified astonishment and concern as our nation is being hijacked by the tantrums and psychodramas of one man’s pathological psyche.

There must be a way that’s both ethical and legal to educate and warn the public about the dangers inherent in the presidential candidate’s apparent character disorder. It is likely the most pressing task at this moment for both mental health professionals and the journalists who should be working on it in tandem. When historians look back at our time, they will marvel at the peculiar collusion of silence around this issue and wonder why it was not openly discussed before it was too late.

June 6, 2016.

Elizabeth Mika is an Educational Consultant in private practice in the Chicago area. Frederick Burkle is a Psychiatrist with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

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31 thoughts on “Politics and Psychopathology

  1. Elizabeth, have you ever read ‘Political Ponerology’?

    It was written secretly in the Soviet era by a group of psychologists who were trying to understand the nature of psychopathic control. The final author, a Polish psychologist called Andrew M. Lobaczewski, wrote the third manuscript from memory as two previous versions were ‘lost’ or had to be destroyed.

    Here are some quotes

    ‘The reader is entitled to an explanation of the long history and circumstances under which this work was compiled, not just of the content itself. This is, in fact, the third manuscript I have created on this same subject. I threw the first manuscript into a central-heating furnace, having been warned just in time about an official search, which took place minutes later. I sent the second draft to a Church dignitary at the Vatican by means of an American tourist and was absolutely unable to obtain any kind of information about the fate of the parcel once it was left with him. This long history of subject-matter elaboration made work on the third version even more laborious. Prior paragraphs and former phrases from one or both of the first drafts haunt the writer’s mind and make proper planning of the content more difficult.’

    ‘It was a joint endeavor consisting of not only my efforts, but also representing the results of many researchers, some of them not known to the author. The situational genesis of this book makes it virtually impossible to separate the accomplishments and give proper credit to every individual for his or her efforts. I worked in Poland far away from active political and cultural centers for many years. That is where I undertook a series of detailed tests and observations which were to be combined with the resulting generalizations of various other experimenters in order to produce an overall introduction for an understanding of the macrosocial phenomenon surrounding us. The name of the person who was expected to produce the final synthesis was a secret, as was understandable and necessary given the time and the situation. I would very occasionally receive anonymous summaries of the results of tests made by other researchers in Poland and Hungary; a few data were published, as they raised no suspicions that a specialized work was being compiled, and these data could still be located today. The expected synthesis of this research did not occur. All of my contacts became inoperative as a result of the wave of post-Stalin repression and secret arrests of researchers in the early sixties. The remaining scientific data in my possession were very incomplete, albeit priceless in value. It took many years of lonely work to weld these fragments into a coherent whole, filling the lacunae with my own experience and research. My research on essential psychopathy and its exceptional role in the macrosocial phenomenon, was conducted concurrently with, or shortly after, that of others. Their conclusions reached me later and confirmed my own.’

    ‘I persevered and the book was finally written in 1984 and carefully translated into English.’

    ‘Someone nobody knew appeared behind the lectern and informed us that he would now be the professor. His speech was fluent, but there was nothing scientific about it: he failed to distinguish between scientific and ordinary concepts and treated borderline imaginings as though it were wisdom that could not be doubted. For ninety minutes each week, he flooded us with naive, presumptuous paralogistics and a pathological view of human reality. We were treated with contempt and poorly controlled hatred. Since fun-poking could entail dreadful consequences, we had to listen attentively and with the utmost gravity.

    We studied ourselves, since we felt something strange had taken over our minds and something valuable was leaking away irretrievably. The world of psychological reality and moral values seemed suspended as if in a chilly fog. Our human feeling and student solidarity lost their meaning, as did patriotism and our old established criteria. So we asked each other, “are you going through this too”? Each of us experienced this worry about his own personality and future in his own way. Some of us answered the questions with silence. The depth of these experiences turned out to be different for each individual.

    You can just imagine our worry, disappointment, and surprise when some colleagues we knew well suddenly began to change their world view; their thought-patterns furthermore reminded us of the “professor’s” chatter. Their feelings, which had just recently been friendly, became noticeably cooler, although not yet hostile. Benevolent or critical student arguments bounced right of them.

    Why did neither I nor a majority of my fellow students succumb to this phenomenon and process? Many such questions fluttered through our heads It was in those times, from those questions, observations and attitudes that the idea was born that this phenomenon could be objectively studied and understood; an idea whose greater meaning crystallized with time. Many of us newly graduated psychologists participated in the initial observations and reflections, but most crumbled away in the face of material or academic problems. Only a few of that group remained; so the author of this book may be the last of the Mohicans.’

    ‘Many thoughtful persons keep asking the same anxious question: how could the German nation have chosen for a Fuehrer a clownish psychopath who made no bones about his pathological vision of superman rule? Under his leadership, Germany then unleashed a second criminal and politically absurd war. During the second half of this war, highly-trained army officers honorably performed inhuman orders, senseless from the political and military point of view, issued by a man whose psychological state corresponded to the routine criteria for being forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital.’

    ‘… we can recognize them and understand how they think and act. This is what a person learns in such a system on his own initiative, forced by everyday needs. He learns it while working in his office, school, or factory, when he needs to deal with the authorities, and when he is arrested, something only a few people manage to avoid. The author and many others learned a good deal about the psychology of this macrosocial phenomenon during compulsory indoctrinational schooling. The organizers and lecturers cannot have intended such a result. Practical knowledge of this new reality thus grows, thanks to which the society gains a resourcefulness of action which enables it to take ever better advantage of the weak spots of the rulership system. This permits gradual reorganization of societal links, which bears fruit with time.’

    You can read about Lobaczewski here:

    sott.net/article/224670-Political-Ponerology-A-Science-on-The-Nature-of-Evil-adjusted-for-Political-Purposes
    (I have nothing to do with the website)

    The Kindle version can be bought from Amazon for about $12

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for that, Richard.

      Yes, I’m familiar with ponerology and Lobaczewski; I reference him in my previous post and will continue in the future ones, as his insights are more pertinent today than ever.

      He collaborated with Kazimierz Dabrowski, another Polish psychologist and psychiatrist, who inspired me to pursue this field of study and profession. We are compatriots in more than one sense.

      I have to laugh at your disclaimer — “I have nothing to do with the website.” Yes, I understand — particularly since they published an article of mine without permission. Some people, I tellz ya.

      There is a very good synopsis of ponerology, along with exploration of related subjects (psychopathy, pathocracy) on Howard Ditkoff’s site.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Early on I’d read some of those reports by psychologists. It’s true that there is a responsibility to use that knowledge in this case, and I was also quite shocked that so little came from it. What shocked me the most is that his supporters (even friends of mine) would hear the logic and truth of such reports and not care. I’m still reeling from it, because I don’t understand it at all. To be faced with 1+1=2 your entire life and then to have someone say, “Actually, it’s five, because I’m a sexy beast.” That people will support that person because it sounds good, even if it would hurt others just makes no sense.

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, it doesn’t (make sense), polymath — unless you are a narcissist or psychopath or a person with otherwise impaired conscience — but mostly the former two.

      A majority of the reports from the experts identifying Trump’s character defect were correct, but not fully accurate — for example, they tended to whitewash the ugly truth by adding qualifiers about the “positive” (!) aspects of narcissism and the many “virtues” of narcissistic leaders (as if), or hedging on or entirely omitting the problem of the man’s missing conscience (i.e., his psychopathy). I understand the need for caution and reticence when warranted (and when the understandable fear of repercussions dicates such). But.

      In my experience, there are generally three major categories of people who resist / deny this knowledge: 1. somewhat naive goody-two-shoes folks of conscience who cannot grasp the psychopathic reality, and 2. psychopaths, and 3. narcissists themselves.

      The most vehement rejections and denials of this truth come from the latter two. In my experience, it is pretty much a given that when someone vociferously argues against “negative labeling” of psychopathy and narcissism, this person is most likely narcissistic (and possibly psychopathic — although in general psychopaths, unlike narcissists, do not give a damn about public perception of their pathological existence). These individuals are invested in maintaining the denial, individual and collective, and the veil of ignorance over their character defects and the damage they cause to the world. The consequences of this denial are deadly, for individuals and entire societies.

      Here is a clip of Van Jones’ interview with Michael Moore. Toward the end (at 10:47 or so), Moore (correctly) describes Trump as a malignant narcissist — and the audience gasps in disbelief and disapproval, as does Van Jones.

      I find it both fascinating and disturbing. It is not clear what people understand when they hear the term “malignant narcissist,” but it is obvious that it frightens (?) them so much that they reject it off-hand when they see it applied to arguably the most archetypal malignant narcissist that has “graced” the American public life in their lifetime. How can we teach the truth when people actively reject it? (No need to respond; it’s sorta rhetorical, and likely the subject of my next post, “See No Evil,” to be written soon — I hope.)

      What’s even more disturbing than the gasps from the audience is the incredulous and dismissive reaction from Van Jones. I expected him to know better. (I was wrong, obviously — as it’s often the case.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I will be reading it. Thanks for your reply.

        I’ve found myself spending more time on WordPress with strangers than Facebook with people I thought I knew. It’s refreshing to hear intelligent arguments. Some of my Facebook “friends” are really family who I’ve always known to be racists. It doesn’t surprise me that they voted Trump. They would deny themselves to be racist, but they are. The difficult part is the large number of friends who are really just…well, ignorant. I came to that conclusion after debating with a few of them. They clearly have no idea who they just voted for, but when two thirds of one’s awake free time is spent watching sitcom reruns, it’s difficult to strain oneself to think through an important topic. There are others, like my mom (who is a very wonderful lady), who really didn’t care who won and believe that we should all just smile and hold hands. We are clearly too comfortable in this country. To not understand the stakes of this election is the one thing that will harm it.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Elizabeth, I would be fascinated to know the difference between narcissists, malignant narcissists, psychopaths and narcissistic psychopaths.

    Starting off with narcissism: it’s been of little interest to me until recently because my focus has been on learning about psychopathy. Here’s a quote from ‘Snakes in Suits’:

    ‘For example, narcissistic personality disorder involves an excessive need for admiration and a sense of superiority, among other traits. Someone with narcissistic personality disorder is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) as displaying a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, sense of entitlement, and lack of empathy. Narcissists think that everything that happens around them, in fact, everything that others say and do, is or should be about them. In social situations where this is not the case, they will take action to become the center of attention, such as hogging the conversation or belittling others. Narcissistic people lack other choices in their behavioral repertoire, like paying attention to the needs and wants of others, sharing the floor, and negotiating with others for attention and feedback. Being described as narcissistic is not necessarily a bad thing, according to these individuals, as they see pathological self-admiration as merely a natural reaction to their obvious perfection. After all, “What’s not to like about me?” Some narcissists even may complain that their talent and beauty are burdens they must bear. Narcissists have difficulty learning alternative behaviors; but over time, and with some assistance—as with all personality disorders— they can learn to moderate their behaviors and the negative effect they have on others. The real problem for others is when narcissistic features, especially a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy, shade into antisocial and destructive behaviors. When this happens, the pattern might be described as aggressive or malignant narcissism, which is difficult to distinguish from psychopathy.’

    My fairly shallow research on forums and blogs in relation to narcissism (though I’ve spent probably thousands of hours researching psychopathy) has come up with endless accounts that usually echo Trump, though the protaginist usually has a ‘sweet’ Mask in public – which is why Trump is so instantly recognisable as such a caricacture (incidentally, he is capable of the sweet and charming Mask). So I’m thinking are such accounts on forums and blogs mistakenly referring to malignant narcissists rather than narcissists ?

    Psychopaths can be manipulative, bullying or puppet-master. My experience has been with the manipulative type. I’ve also observed plenty of (probable) bullying psychopaths in the media e.g. the bullying businessman plundering his company, indulging in shady / criminal activities, multiple s*xual partners, no remorse etc. And I’ve read a bit and am starting to read more about the puppet-master types (probably Stalin and Pol-Pot for starters: a mix of the charming and bullying psychopath).

    I initially had Trump pegged as a narcissist and then as a bullying psychopath. He’s sky-high on the PCL-R as far as I can figure it. I’m not qualified to administer the PCL-R but I and many other P survivors probably have more knowledge through our personal experience and our almost obsessive reading around the subject as we try to understand what’s been happenning to us than many psychiatrists or psychologists do (IMO) since, as I understand it, they barely touch on the subject of psychopathy in their training (correct me if I’m wrong).

    ‘The psychopathic bully … is a callous, vindictive, controlling individual with little empathy or concern for the rights and feelings of the victim, no matter what the context.’
    Snakes in Suits

    Now I’ve got him pegged as a narcissistic bullying psychopath.

    I’m particularly interested in the subtleties of distinguishing between a malignant narcissist and a narcissistic psychopath.

    The main difference as I understand it between Ps and Ns is that narcissists have emotions, psychopaths don’t, and Ns need admiration and attention, Ps find admiration and attention useful as it gives them more opportunities to manipulate people.

    N’s also have black and white thinking whilst Ps CAN compartmenalise, have a ‘competitive predator / prey’ view of the world (as well as seeing other people as obstacles to get around) BUT are far more utilitarian in their view of others. Lacking deep emotions they don’t get attached in any meaningful way to other people and can pivot on a dime in their relationship with them under their own volition rather than reactively.

    In outward behaviour Ns can fly off the handle with narcissistic injury and have constantly changing scapegoats / golden children (their own children, and the equivalent in adult relationships). Ps ‘fly off the handle’ when frustrated but can also keep their rage under control if it’s in their own best interests – they return to ‘normal’ almost instantly and act as if nothing’s happened.

    So if that’s what Ns and Ps are, with not too much difference in outward behaviour, what’s the difference between malignant Ns and narcissistic Ps?

    In one of your posts you said that misogyny is almost a defining characteristic of narcissistic psycopathy (https://goodmarriagecentral.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/darkness-invisible-or-on-dangers-of-narcissistic-blindness)

    Of course, these questions aren’t helped by the constantly changing ‘definitions’ of narcissism and psychopathy (the quote marks are sardonic as psychopathy as a concept appears to be being carefully kicked into the long grass under the guise of ASPD, so that low-functioning criminal psychopaths and ordinary criminals become a useful scapegoat / distraction, perhaps for high-functioning psychopaths. ‘Look, all the psychopaths are locked up! Nothing to see here! High-functioning psychopaths don’t exist because the definition says so!’)

    Liked by 1 person

    • A great comment, Richard!

      Last things first — your closing paragraph is excellent, and it makes my heart warm up to know that people see it so clearly. Especially since many psychologists and mental health experts in general often do not understand these distinctions.

      This year, I attended three character disorders-related conferences / workshops, one of them conducted by an expert in psychopathy, and saw first-hand how the experts miss the truth. The psychopathy expert, for example, does not “believe” there exist white collar, non-criminal psychopaths. Moreover, he, along with another conference leader (different conference), “believes” that politicians cannot be psychopathic. (Takes my breath away.) The other leader I mention — a prominent psychologist — holds the view that malignant narcissists are never successful in life (this is his diagnostic criterion for malignancy, BTW — their lack of any success, social, professional, personal; it’s pretty stunning in this era of Trump).

      Such ignorance is unsettling, but I cannot say I’m shocked (too much). American psychology has done its “best” to normalize deficits of conscience, specifically psychopathy and narcissism. Not surprising, as every socio-political system creates its own psychological and mental health “science” to best support its needs.

      As you note, psychopathy is no longer an official diagnostic category in American psychiatry, conveniently so for the psychopaths who are in charge of the world. Instead, we have ASPD, pathologizing criminality, which can stem from unbearable life circumstances, and locating it within the individual rather than looking at the social conditions that created or contributed to it. It does not take a genius to realize that those so diagnosed would come, overwhelmingly, from the lowest socio-economic strata. And as you note, this takes the highly placed psychopathic destroyers of the world off the diagnostic hook.

      I use the terms malignant narcissism and narcissistic psychopathy interchangeably, but, technically speaking, there may be a difference between them and it is in the presence — or maybe the degree of — sadism. Sadism is a diagnostic feature of malignant narcissism (look up the dark tetrad), and I think if one really wanted to make a distinction between it and narcissistic psychopathy, this could be it. But there is much overlap between these character defects (I prefer this term to personality disorder, which, IMO, does not capture the depth and extent of the defect caused by the severely compromised or absent conscience), so these distinctions are blurry and maybe not so crucially important, not when it comes to naming them. Almost all psychopaths are narcissistic, as they believe themselves superior to others; and most narcissists have seriously impaired conscience, which makes them semi-psychopathic.

      The main difference between psychopaths and narcissists (and again, it is often blurry) has to do with the degree of the impairment of conscience and the types of defense mechanisms (if any) used to cover that impairment.

      Narcissists, unlike psychopaths (generally speaking — the caveat of blurriness applies), sometimes show some evidence of conscience: they can be aware of higher values, for example. Some (many) prominent people — social reformers, politicians, saints, writers, scientists, philosophers, artists, etc. — are narcissists who build their careers and lives on advocating higher values (peace, equality, justice, truth), while using, abusing and/or psychologically destroying people in their private lives. MLK and Gandhi come to mind as two examples. The grandiose persona of a narcissist is usually how s/he covers up her or his deficits of conscience — and it works like a charm. We loathe admitting that our idols may have feet of clay.

      Some narcissists, unlike psychopaths, experience shame, which can be an asset in their possible emotional development (and therapy) centered on growing, to some degree, of their conscience. Also, unlike most psychopaths (again, blurriness ‘n all), narcissists can idealize and idolize select others — to a point. This capacity for admiration of others can aid their relationships and possible development — depending, of course, on who and what it is that they admire. If they idolize /admire serial killers and rapists — or Hitler, Duterte and Putin, as Trump does, for instance — then this capacity is not of much help.

      Psychopaths do have emotions, and sometimes strong ones. But they are low level (or unilevel), primitive, egocentric. Psychopaths are blind to higher values. Psychologically, they are locked in the unilevel, two-dimensional world, without the capacity for multilevel emotional and character development, which is always based on a conscience, specifically our capacity for empathy, guilt, shame, and compassion, and awareness of higher values.

      Of all those components of conscience, guilt — at least the capacity for it — is the most important, I’d say. Psychopaths and narcissists (especially) can mimic empathy — it is believed that they do not lack its cognitive component, so they can understand what makes people tick; but they do not have the corresponding emotional piece, as it were (they do not co-feel with others). Neither, however, can mimic guilt. The lack of guilt is always a very bad sign.

      We, the normals, can understand psychopaths and narcissists, because conscience gives us the capacity to see the multilevelness of reality: its higher and lower aspects, the right and wrong, the good and the bad. For psychopaths, there are no such distinctions, which is why they cannot understand the normals. Lacking a conscience, they are not aware of the existence of higher and lower levels of reality, including that of our inner lives; and when they are confronted with evidence of the higher levels (and values), they typically dismiss it, often with contempt, as something that only poor suckers, whom they exploit, pay attention to and respect.

      Misogyny is so much part of the narcissistic psychopath’s make-up that it could (and should) be one of its diagnostic features. These guys (and some gals) simply do not see women as fully human. This is where their “natural” tendency to objectification and dehumanization of others is often most apparent. They may treat other men with respect, but women, for them, are merely objects to use for sex (and domestic duties). At best, they are inferior humans who should be subservient to them. Reading the so-called manosphere’s sites and blogs gives one an excellent view of this pathological mindset. It is not that these are just “normal” guys acting macho at the moment for the purpose of impressing other men — although that is of course common. This is really how defective they are, which you realize when you observe them for an extended period of time. And it is no surprise that they all support Trump.

      OK, by now you’re probably dazed and/or dozing off, so I should stop, I think. Don’t know if this helps, or even answers most of your questions — will go back to re-read your comment and see what’s left behind. In any case, we shall continue (I hope).

      Like

  4. Wow! That’s the sort of answer I’m looking for. I think I’ll have to let it settle in my mind for a short while.

    ‘The psychopathy expert, for example, does not “believe” there exist white collar, non-criminal psychopaths.’

    Well, Professor Hare has this to say:

    ‘Not all psychopaths end up in jail. Many of the things they do escape detection or prosecution, or are on the ‘shady side of the law.’ For them, antisocial behaiour may consist of phony stick promotions, questionable business and professional practices, spouse or child abuse, and so forth. Many others do things that although not illegal, are unethical, immoral or harmful to others: philandering, cheating on a spouse, financial or emotional neglect of family members, irresponsible use of company resources or funds, to name but a few.’
    (Without Conscience)

    ‘. . . many psychopaths never go to prison or any other facility. They appear to function reasonably well—as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, businesspeople, writers, artists, entertainers, and so forth—without breaking the law, or at least without being caught and convicted. These individuals are every bit as egocentric, callous, and manipulative as the average criminal psychopath; however, their intelligence, family background, social skills, and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy and to get what they want with relative impunity. … Rather than refer to these individuals as successful psychopaths – after all, their success is often illusory, and always at someone else’s expense – I prefer to call them subcriminal psychopaths. Their condut, although technically not illegal, typically violates conventional ethical standards, hovering just on the shady side of the law … (they) exhibit much the same behaviours and attitudes in all areas of their lives.’
    (Without Conscience)

    I don’t think I could sit in the same room as a dunce like that. On the other hand both Stout and Cleckley have vignettes of psychopathic psychiatrists …

    ‘Sadism is a diagnostic feature of malignant narcissism (look up the dark tetrad)’

    The ‘dark tetrad’ was a new one to me.

    Interesting.

    Psychopaths can also be sadistic – in fact, in the devaluation stage they are ALL sadistic …

    ‘character defects (I prefer this term to personality disorder, which, IMO, does not capture the depth and extent of the defect caused by the severely compromised or absent conscience’

    Character defect unforunately sounds like what a Boy Scout would be told if he failed to run up a hill. There must be a term more appropriate that that. Psychopaths love words and the thought-stopping soundbite. I think they’d be mighty pleased if they were termed people with ‘character defects’ as it would be so easy for them to twist that into something mild.

    ‘Some (many) prominent people — social reformers, politicians, saints, writers, scientists, philosophers, artists, etc. — are narcissists who build their careers and lives on advocating higher values (peace, equality, justice, truth), while using, abusing and/or psychologically destroying people in their private lives. MLK and Gandhi come to mind as two examples.’

    MLM and Gandhi – that was new to me. I’ll check that out. Steve Jobs was apparently a narcissist – I don’t know if he was a malignant narcissist or not. And Mother Theresa appears to have had psychopathic traits (Christopher Hitchens’ book).

    ‘Psychopaths and narcissists (especially) can mimic empathy — it is believed that they do not lack its cognitive component, so they can understand what makes people tick; but they do not have the corresponding emotional piece, as it were (they do not co-feel with others). Neither, however, can mimic guilt.’

    Mimicking empathy, yes. They’re brilliant at the Mask of concern, brilliant at mirroring and they’re also brilliant at picking up feelings, which are not the same as emotions but are incredibly useful (‘ …he could smell insecurity and loneliness the way a pig smells truffles’, ‘Without Conscience’). They might also have an ’empathy switch’, able to switch ’empathy’ on or off at will.

    Not sure about not being able to mimic guilt. There are plenty of stories about the hoovering stage and how psychopaths suck their target back in by saying how at fault they were, it’ll never happen again etc. Typically they mimic guilt / remorse when it’s to their personal advantage.

    ‘These guys (and some gals) simply do not see women as fully human.’

    This is really, really strange. Why? Why would female narcissistic psychopaths do that? Why should male NPs do that? Why not pick on other minorities? Why misogyny? It doesn’t make sense.

    Thank you! You’ve opened my eyes some more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I could sit in the same room as a dunce like that. On the other hand both Stout and Cleckley have vignettes of psychopathic psychiatrists …

      –Mhm. Any position of power over other people will attract psychopaths and psychopaths-lite, those who maybe do not entirely lack a conscience but are very skilled at shutting it down when convenient. I’m thinking, for example, of the mental health experts who assist in creation of torture protocols for our “killers in high places,” as Leonard Cohen calls those who run our military and politics.

      Psychopaths can also be sadistic – in fact, in the devaluation stage they are ALL sadistic …

      –Yes, which is why these diagnostic / name distinctions tend to be blurry. There is a huge overlap between defects of conscience in terms of their currently used diagnostic designations.

      ‘character defects (I prefer this term to personality disorder, which, IMO, does not capture the depth and extent of the defect caused by the severely compromised or absent conscience’
      Character defect unforunately sounds like what a Boy Scout would be told if he failed to run up a hill. There must be a term more appropriate that that. Psychopaths love words and the thought-stopping soundbite. I think they’d be mighty pleased if they were termed people with ‘character defects’ as it would be so easy for them to twist that into something mild.

      –Psychopathy is a character structure where intelligence is subsumed under primitive drives: essentially for sex and power. It is not amenable to development (emotional — which is the kind that matters most), so how about emotional and moral retardation then? This term should be thought-stopping enough, even for the most discerning psychopath, no?

      MLM and Gandhi – that was new to me. I’ll check that out.

      –See this (for example) on Gandhi: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/gandhi-was-a-racist-who-forced-young-girls-to-sleep-in-bed-with-him

      Steve Jobs was apparently a narcissist – I don’t know if he was a malignant narcissist or not. And Mother Theresa appears to have had psychopathic traits (Christopher Hitchens’ book).

      –Jobs, yes, definitely. MT had an empathy chip missing and replaced with a narcissistic religious fervor, so she could possibly qualify for the label too. People have worshiped both and have had an extremely difficult time coming to terms with their shadow side. This is one of our, humanity’s, most troubling shortcomings.

      Not sure about not being able to mimic guilt. There are plenty of stories about the hoovering stage and how psychopaths suck their target back in by saying how at fault they were, it’ll never happen again etc. Typically they mimic guilt / remorse when it’s to their personal advantage.

      –Yes. But. Remorse is shallower than guilt and thus easier to mimic. Words of contrition, with an appropriately downcast look (and maybe a bitten lip and shuffling feet) would suffice to convey a convincing expression of remorse for someone too eager to accept it.

      Guilt is different, though — deeper. It unsettles, gnaws and shatters, for better and for worse — and you cannot fake that. It is probably the most disintegrative of all human emotions, and the driver of genuine inner transformation (and personality development through positive disintegration). It dismantles our egoism and activates higher values within our inner milieu, preparing the ground, so to speak, for those ready, for accelerated emotional development — or least for learning humility.

      When looking for genuine guilt, we should never stop at just words, or superficial and in-the-moment emotional expressions. Even tears cannot be trusted. Ariel Castro, who kidnapped, imprisoned, raped and tortured three women for years, cried what he thought were “remorseful” tears in court. But he really cried over “poor me” and not his victims, whom he actually blamed (classic) for what he did to them. “They wanted it,” you know.

      Look for long-term, protracted evidence of guilt’s workings. A person unsettled, much less riddled, by guilt will be turned inward, in some measure at least, coming to grips, slowly and not, with their conscience and its demands, and not really interested in assuring others about his/her remorse. It is an internal process that manifests outwardly in ways that are not always readily visible.

      Most importantly, though, look for changed behavior.

      Here’s one example of the gnawingness of guilt: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/80-years-ago-this-man-ruined-a-womans-life-and-its-taken-him-this-long-to-try-to-make-amends/

      There are psychologists who believe that narcissism is a defense against guilt — and they may have a point, sort of. Because another possibility is that there is no “defense” there and that narcissists are simply incapable of experiencing guilt. It a defect, after all. As society, especially in America, we’ve done what we could to get rid of guilt or any intimations of it (we relish making fun of Catholics, for example, for their insistence on our inherent guilt) — which is why we have Trump as president now, the epitome of our collective narcissism, who is as guilt-free — and inherently destructive thanks to it — as one could imagine.

      ‘These guys (and some gals) simply do not see women as fully human.’
      This is really, really strange. Why? Why would female narcissistic psychopaths do that? Why should male NPs do that? Why not pick on other minorities? Why misogyny? It doesn’t make sense.

      — They’d pick on anyone who’s weaker and/or not useful to them. Remember, psychopaths (and narcissists) dehumanize others as a matter of fact. They don’t have to go out of their way to single out particular groups. That’s why Trump’s racism is such a seemingly undefined and plausibly deniable issue. He objectifies others (especially those who are not rich white men in positions of power) the way he breathes. No need to waste energy on specifics.

      However, the more “the other” differs from the psychopath or narcissist, the easier it is to dehumanize them.

      Psychopaths are motivated by primitive, unilevel goals: greed, power, and sex. Add adulation for narcissists. All those goals work interchangeably and fuel each other, i.e. sex can be / is a means to and expression of power and greed, greed is a means to and expression of power, etc. They don’t understand values; but in order to make their primitive goals more socially acceptable and to meet them more easily, they create false and sick ideologies to justify their pursuits. This helps them turn those goals into what may appear as “values.” Then they peddle those ideologies to the gullible, and often infect entire societies with their emotional and moral retardation.

      See Ayn Rand’s “objectivism,” for example, which is just such an ideological cover-up for the narcissistic psychopaths’ pursuit of their primitive goals dressed up as “values” with self-serving (because of course) pseudo-philosophical justifications of it.

      So for a sex-interested (male) psychopath — who, remember, dehumanizes people as a matter of course — women are just objects of wish/need fulfillment. His misogyny is inherent in this dehumanization, and it “helps” that, as an attitude, it is also common in the human society. Our psychopath will find a lot of confirmation for his instrumental and dehumanizing attitude toward women. Religion, with its warped view of women as, at best, inferior to men, will be especially helpful in that.

      As to misogynist female psychopaths (and narcissists), their situation is a bit more complicated. They often hate their mothers (most claim to have been abused by their mothers, which may be true) and identify with men. They do not have to eschew the outward signs of femininity — although some do, others are conventionally feminine, and some ultra-feminine (and hypersexual, though they mostly use sex as a means to power and control — there is no love involved, as they are incapable of it). They view women as inferior to men (weak, untrustworthy, lazy, what-negative-not), and some include themselves in this view; but others see themselves as “special snowflakes,” different from all those horrible women out there.

      Thank you! You’ve opened my eyes some more!

      –You’re welcome!

      Like

      • QUOTE:
        Any position of power over other people will attract psychopaths and psychopaths-lite, those who maybe do not entirely lack a conscience but are very skilled at shutting it down when convenient.

        Nice. These psychopaths-lite are perhaps the Flying Monkeys around a common or garden psychopath, or some of the various layers of pathocracy around a ruling ‘essential psychopath’.

        QUOTE:
        moral retardation

        Nope, too many overtones of people with learning difficulaties. How about ‘moral void’? Or ‘moral emptiness’?

        QUOTE:
        People have worshiped both (Jobs and MT) and have had an extremely difficult time coming to terms with their shadow side. This is one of our, humanity’s, most troubling shortcomings.

        Agreed. Accepting that we have a shadow side and having the discipline or motivation not to act on it. Acknowledging our inner darkness. Rejecting the shadow makes it much stronger.

        QUOTE:
        Guilt is different, though — deeper. It unsettles, gnaws and shatters, for better and for worse — and you cannot fake that.
        Look for long-term, protracted evidence of guilt’s workings. A person unsettled, much less riddled, by guilt will be turned inward, in some measure at least, coming to grips, slowly and not, with their conscience and its demands, and not really interested in assuring others about his/her remorse. It is an internal process that manifests outwardly in ways that are not always readily visible.

        Most importantly, though, look for changed behavior.

        That was an excellent answer. Yes, I can see the difference between remorse and guilt as you explain it. Ps are hopeless at mimicking deep SUSTAINED emotions, and the long-term transformative effects of guilt are also almost impossible to mimic.

        QUOTE:
        They’d pick on anyone who’s weaker and/or not useful to them.

        Interesting. Trump must see women as weaker or irrelevant. Given the way the world’s changing and women are taking charge (hurray! – hopefully) maybe that’s a throwback from when he was brought up. Which would tie in with him not being able to change.

        QUOTE:
        See Ayn Rand’s “objectivism,” for example, which is just such an ideological cover-up for the narcissistic psychopaths’ pursuit of their primitive goals dressed up as “values” with self-serving (because of course) pseudo-philosophical justifications of it.

        I have for a long time thought that Ayn Rand was a P, without having done more than superficial research into her life and her novels. It’s on my to-do list. I have no idea if she is a P until I check her out. If she is, then it’s fascinating that so many Americans (GOPs?) have taken her ideology to heart – the slow pathocratisation of a society.

        QUOTE:
        So for a sex-interested (male) psychopath — who, remember, dehumanizes people as a matter of course — women are just objects of wish/need fulfillment. His misogyny is inherent in this dehumanization, and it “helps” that, as an attitude, it is also common in the human society. Our psychopath will find a lot of confirmation for his instrumental and dehumanizing attitude toward women. Religion, with its warped view of women as, at best, inferior to men, will be especially helpful in that.

        Nicely said.

        Appreciate the time, thank you again!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most welcome, Richard.

        You say:

        “How about ‘moral void’? Or ‘moral emptiness’?”

        Those are good. Soulessness or black soul (as Khizr Khan called Trump) would do too, though they probably sound too poetic for that crowd.

        Way back when, psychiatrists used the term “moral insanity,” to indicate the moral void. I talk about it a bit here, discussing Dabrowski’s views on the subject.

        P.S. The two pieces below, on Ayn Rand and Trumpism, may interest you:

        http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/the-scary-ghost-of-ayn-rand-looms-over-the-trump-cabinet/

        http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/its-ayn-rands-america-now-republicans-have-stripped-the-country-of-its-last-shred-of-morality/

        Like

  5. To clarify in my last paragraph – I meant ‘Why not pick on minorities’, not ‘Why not pick on other minorities’.

    Also, in relation to not being able to mimic guilt:

    ‘He had frequent superficially serious talks with his physician in which he expressed despair over his situation, remorse for his all but incredible record as a failure, and a quick, cheerful confidence in his future.’

    ‘The theft of an automobile brought Tom to jail again. He expressed remorse over his mistake, talked so well, and seemed so genuinely and appropriately motivated and determined that his father, by making heavy financial settlements, secured his release.’
    The Mask of Sanity

    ‘Other psychopaths may sometimes say that they feel remorse for their transgressions, but scrutiny of their behaviors betrays their words as simply lies to get better treatment or an earlier release’

    ‘…but they may also claim to feel remorse or experience religious enlightenment to the parole board considering their early release.’
    Snakes in Suits

    Indeed, when it comes to getting parole psychopaths typically get early parole presumably in part because they ARE so good at faking remorse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating, Richard — thanks for the link!

      That virus Paul describes in the esoteric and poetic language is of course narcissistic psychopathy.

      He is correct on all counts there, as far I can tell. (The piece is very long and I’m sick today, unable to concentrate on much.)

      I’m taken by his personal story, or what I can glimpse of it so far, as it appears that he has undergone global positive disintegration. Hope to explore it further, fates permitting — thanks again!

      Like

      • It appears as if he’s undergone a spiritual rebirth. You might want to check out information on ‘Kundalini’, one of the stepping stones of spiritual development. Dr. Glenn Morris has some brilliant books if this takes your fancy.:-)

        Stay well!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mhm. That kind of spiritual rebirth, through the dark night of the soul that resembles (and often is) psychosis, is a form of positive disintegration, which is either a partial or full dismantling of the existing character structure and replacing it with a new one, functioning on a higher level and embodying one’s personality ideal.

        This process always starts with a confrontation with our shadow, and it is painful and messy. Not sure whether this is indeed Paul’s situation, but a brief glimpse at his story suggests so.

        Like

  6. Also, if some of your students are highly sensitive you might want to consider that they’re ’empaths’. There are websites for empaths out there. Empaths can ‘feel’ the people or ‘things’ around them. We’ve all done this – walked into a pub and picked up the bad vibes, or strolled through a glade of beech trees and thought ‘Wow!’.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Basically, yes. It can mess up childhood a bit without us knowing why. I read a bit of your bio and some of your articles and thought the connection between gifted / empaths might interest you. I’m not gifted but being an empath can cause us to make connections that other people don’t seem to.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Richard, it can do that — mess up childhood and much of one’s life. But it cannot be otherwise; and in that necessary mess, there are already forces of growth and self-transcendence (IOW, positive disintegration).

        Empaths are most emphatically gifted, though. What else would you call the ability, as you so well put it, “to make connections that other people don’t seem to”?

        And, may I say, this is the best and arguably most important kind of giftedness known to humankind.

        P.S. If put to good use.

        Like

  7. QUOTE:
    ‘Mhm. That kind of spiritual rebirth, through the dark night of the soul that resembles (and often is) psychosis, is a form of positive disintegration, which is either a partial or full dismantling of the existing character structure and replacing it with a new one, functioning on a higher level and embodying one’s personality ideal.

    This process always starts with a confrontation with our shadow, and it is painful and messy. Not sure whether this is indeed Paul’s situation, but a brief glimpse at his story suggests so.’

    Ah, Kazimierz Dąbrowski seems to have a spiritual component in his theories. I had no idea.

    http://dezintegracja.pl/dark-night-of-the-soul-st-johns-of-the-cross-theology-versus-kazimierz-dabrowskis-philosophy-of-development-through-positive-disintegration-en/

    But I’m not sure that the process always begins with a confrontation with our shadow. It seems it can also be a spontaneous, out of the blue experience in an otherwise healthy, even non-spiritual person. And it can also be the product of years of disciplined searching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that article — I’ve not seen it!

      Dabrowski did not stress the spiritual component in his theory, but it is glaringly obvious. For what is self-transcendence (through suffering — i.e., positive disintegration), if there is nothing to transcend toward?

      Being a Serious Scientist, however, he left that question open for all to investigate (or not) on their own.

      “But I’m not sure that the process always begins with a confrontation with our shadow. It seems it can also be a spontaneous, out of the blue experience in an otherwise healthy, even non-spiritual person. And it can also be the product of years of disciplined searching.”

      That is so absolutely true — and yet our shadow is always implicated in the scenarios you put forth as well.

      I should explain perhaps that our shadow includes all the repressed and unrealized parts of ourselves, good and bad (or “bad”), though mostly the latter. The impetus to positive disintegration, whether slow or sudden, partial or global, always involves a confrontation with those unknown or dimly intuited and/or rejected parts of our selves.

      Like

  8. There’s a study that looked into how psychopathic presidents have been based on the PPI. Some traits of psychopaths are associated with better presidents. In fact, JFK scored the highest on the PPI. A psychologist rated Trump higher than Hitler on the PPI due to his grandiosity. Psychologists, to my knowledge, say grandiosity and empathy are the two main factors which decide if psychopathic traits are good or bad. Unfortunately Trump has proven to push the limits of grandiosity. I posted the rankings of all the presidents on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: If Only We Knew | good marriage central*

  10. Pingback: Tyranny 101: Shock and Awe | good marriage central*

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