People ask me: "How do you know you are a psychopath?"
I was officially given the psychopathy diagnosis when I went to prison for murder the first time at the age of 18. But I didn't take the diagnosis serious, I didn't believe in it, because like most people at the time I didn't know what it means to be a psychopath.
Today, most of the psychopaths who can read and who have access to general information via the media know what they are.
But it wasn't always like this.
I have wondered by myself many, many times: What am I?
I knew I was different from other people, but I thought I was different in a good way, and in my heart I still think so. I've always thought of myself as a good person, and all I knew about psychopaths was that 'everybody knows' and that a lot of people still believe they know about psychopaths.
So what is it that we all think we know about psychopaths? What do we think psychopathy is?
We think psychopaths are bad, they're mad, crazy, they're psychotic and maybe even schizophrenic, they're evil simpletons and brutes who can't behave or talk civilized, and they spend their lives surfing porn on the Internet, or - when in prison - covering their bodies with crude home made tatoos, and of course they drink excessively, they commit murder for 50 bucks, and are petty criminals or serial killers.
Those are things we all think we know about psychopaths. What I don't know is that whereas there are indeed psychopaths like that, the majority are very different. Most psychopaths are not the psychotic gangster stereotypes most people are accustomed to believe that we are.
But the common idea about what a psychopath is do also influence what psychopaths themselves believe a psychopath to be, and this is one of the main reasons that many psychopaths aren't aware that they are psychopaths - or at least they weren't until recently.
Few people think of themselves as common brutes and petty thieves, and that is no different for psychopaths. Furthermore, most psychopaths probably really do not fit this stereotype. I certainly never did.
Another common misconception is: 'Psychopaths are Evil'. Sure, psychopaths do things that many will think of as evil, but in the sentiment 'psychopaths are evil' lies a subtle implication that they're decisively evil, that evil is what they have chosen to be.
Psychopaths rarely think of themselves as evil. And if they do, being evil to us doesn't have the same connotation of being truly bad as it does to other people. This is part of the paradox that surrounds psychopathic individuals, we don't have the same emotional attachment to ideas and concepts that do neurotypical (normal) people.
Virtually all psychopaths know early on in life that they're different from other people. We know we're different, but we don't know exactly how or what it means.
One of the first things we notice about ourselves is that we tend to not react emotionally the same way that others do. We tend to be less afraid than others. When other kids, and often even adults, become afraid of something, we become intrigued, fascinated. We very quickly realize that remaining calm when others are afraid is an advantage.
We also very soon realize that all the feelings, such as love and empathy, and guilt or remorse, seem to be mere constructs that the adults try to force us to feel, but which really don't exist. We see adults and kids display these emotions on a daily basis, and we're expected to display them also, and we find that it's easy to pretend, everybody believe us even as we're merely faking it. Nobody seems to acknowledge that empathy isn't real, so we assume everybody are doing what we are doing, everybody are faking emotions.
We've always been told that adults know everything, but we find that they don't know the difference between faking and actually feeling something, so we grow suspicious. Maybe the adults don't know everything after all?
The world reveals itself as an arena where the strong, those who have control over their emotions and who don't feel the emotions that seems to only weaken others, are kings and queens. Psychopaths become adept at reading others at an early age - if we have the opportunity to observe others, that is. Not all have the same opportunities in life, and for some psychopathic individuals there's only the small time criminal's way out of crushing boredom.
Whether or not a psychopath realize that s/he is a psychopath depends a lot upon social and cultural background. Where I come from I may have heard the word psychopath before I turned 18, but after I received my diagnosis the first time I only checked up on what it meant twice. I did so by reading two books on clinical psychiatry. One was written by the principal of the most notorious prison in the state, where all the criminally insane, and therefore also the diagnosed psychopaths, were send. The other was a scholarly book about psychiatric diagnoses in general. - But both books were outdated and described psychopathy as according to the older freudian terminology, and I didn't recognize myself in any of it.
It wasn't until about a year ago that I took up the research again, this time with a more serious intention of finding out what it really means to be a psychopath. And luckily there have been written more realistic - if still somewhat dark - descriptions of psychopathy within the last two or so decades.
So to the question: Do psychopaths know they're psychopaths?, I guess the answer is yes, and no.
We certainly know we're different, and we have a good idea about how we're different. But if we haven't read or been told about the real meaning of the term psychopathy, we don't know this is what we are.
Other than that it is safe to say that over the last decade or so there has been a growing attention on psychopathy. Where psychopaths used to be mentioned by using words that mainly describe our behavior, the word psychopath has now become more commonly used in connections with behaviors and traits that we easily recognize as descriptive characteristics in our personality.
And that is why psychopaths are more commonly aware that they are psychopaths in recent years, just as normal people are beginning to become more aware of us. It happens via the media, we overhear it being talked about from friends or family, or we find out about it via a variety of other sources such as f.ex. books or movies.
We are at present becoming much more aware of ourselves than ever before, and we're aware about the fact that 'what we are' has a special position in the public mind, in modern society... A position that may have changed with the changes through time in the history and modern culture. This is something I will research and find out more about.
As for now...
I know there is a name for what I am: Psychopath.
I see a tendency towards more psychopaths also beginning to come forward and being open about what they are... mainly via ways of the Internet, which is understandable.
And I'll will be following the progress in the coming years with great interest.