Saturday, June 6, 2015

Confront a new psychopath


Dangerous, reckless, brilliant, or just jaded and lazy.  Was my work with a fifteen-year-old client one of these, or maybe some lucky-intuitive mix of them?  As he sat in clueless-looking silence, his adoptive father named his recent month of behaviors.  He would run – literally run – away from the principal to avoid being questioned by her.  He would skip class to sneak behind stairwells and coax this girl or that to be sexual with him.  Father described and labeled his son's frequent “manipulative” ploys, his repetitive “lying” against the evidence of school surveillance cameras, his plaintive and “charming” sympathy-winning looks and words, stealing at home, his bastardizing my advice – ‘find a special person to talk with’ – to justify sexual imposition.

When his father left the room, I wasted not a moment, grew some instant courage, and informed the young man that he was close to becoming a full-fledged psychopath.  I described his “underground” living in a place beneath the real world, a place of privacy and immaturity that cannot face honesty.  Some passages from Hare’s Without Conscience I read aloud, helping him see that while he wants to be a hider, his character has already been exposed to the masses.  Sociopaths are not geniuses and world dominators as in the movies, they are impulsive, can’t plan, fuck up.

I asked him to consider the stress that must come from having to remember chains of lies.  Then again – I said, correcting myself – good psychopaths don’t worry or get embarrassed about lying: “they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie” (Hare, p. 46).  Finally, I suggested that he not think of his quickly congealing life from a moral perspective – ‘you probably already have your own definition of good and bad’ – but from one of loss: You will lose all things human, live outside the human compass, bury all your feelings but for misery and revenge.

Do you, at your young age, want to be contemptuous of humanity until the end of your life?  Do you want to be a child forever who insists, in court, on a lie in the face of the universe-sized truth, or on your death bed?  Do you want to be a man?

Shaming, appealing to the best, humiliating, or throwing him the most nurturing, last-hope lifeline possible.  Was my work with a fifteen-year-old sociopathic embryo one of these, or maybe some lucky-intuitive mix of them?  Can one help by calling the bluff on a bluffer, a liar soul?  Can I help if I try to trick him into believing what may not be true, that the world merits his truthfulness?


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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.