Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do Psychopaths Have Dignity?

Readers sometimes ask me:

What makes psychopaths sometimes behave so undignified? Why the sudden undignified actions when they obviously know how to behave with Dignity? It makes no sense!

When psychopaths behave undignified it is because that dignity to us, like most other social notions, really does not stick deep. At least not in the same way that it does with normal people.

To non-psychopaths there're a lot of subtle aspects attached to the notion of dignity, to what dignity is and to what it means to have dignity and to behave dignified. To psychopaths the only meaning we can really give to the word dignity is in the dignity of the winner, of the one who is in control. Everything else are secondary elements that we apply only if we can't get what we we're after otherwise.

We know society in general places very high value in dignity, and we know that what society places value in, society rewards. Dignity is something that generates great societal rewards and therefore it is highly coveted not only by psychopaths but by almost everybody.

Psychopaths often claim that dignity means a lot to us, and in a way this is true, but it doesn't mean a lot to us in the same way that it does to most people. Dignity, as most people understand it, to a psychopath will never be more than a slightly odd notion that psychopaths see normal people put a lot of value in, and we see this as a result of all the emotions that define you, but which do not define us.

The only reason why we try to give the impression that we place profound value in dignity is that we are aware of the enormous value that our surroundings place in it, and this is also the reason why many of us can become almost obsessed with our personal dignity as well as that of those we consider 'part of us' (or 'ours'), our family, circle of friends, co-workers, etc., that is the people around us who's level of dignity reflect our own,

It is not until certain kinds of situations arises that it becomes apparent that we really don't have dignity in the 'true' sense of the word. The situations I'm talking about are such where needs that are fundamental to psychopaths are not being met. I will try to explain...

We, psychopaths, act dignified for as long as it pays, which means for as long as it gives us what we want. What we want and what we need are not that different, but do often tend rather to be more or less the same thing. If I need something, I naturally also want it. If I want something, it often seems to me that I need it too. The moment we can gain more by behaving undignified, or basically fulfill a wish that we interpret as a need if only at the moment, we'll do so without the slightest sense of shame.

I say this with certainty, for I have been in such situations and have done such kinds of undignified, seemingly illogical things again and again throughout my life.

But why do we behave undignified even at times where it seems we would gain so much more by behaving well, dignified? The answer is not simple, there is a constellation of several aspects that result in our infamous ability to 'slip' in this manner.

One aspect is our need for stimulation (Item 3 on the PCL-R. - I write about it here). We derive stimulation from strong and often extreme experiences. Sticking to routine is very demanding for a psychopathic individual, and those who seem to cope with ease seem so because their life circumstances give them enough needed opportunities to deviate without it being discovered.

But with social success comes growing attention from one's surroundings, and growing expectations to one's behavior remaining the same, even when it's accepted that you don't behave like most other people (like when you're an artist, to name an example).

Another aspect is our lacking sense of shame (strictly speaking Item 7 on the PCL-R, but several more plays a role, such as lack of remorse, callousness, i.e.). We do not feel devastated by being viewed as wrong, deviant, evil, odd, boastful, self obsessed, vain, etc. We do not experience feelings such as shame or embarrassment. All these things are merely things we generally avoid simply because they make our surroundings less likely to be willing co-actors in our plans and plays which we create for the sake of stimulation and gratification, and which are again closely intertwined with our need/wish for power and control, as well as (to some of us) for satisfying our curiosity.

Undignified behavior from someone who was successful for a period, maybe several years, can be a sign that his situation has become too much of a routine, and the undignified action can be simply a symptom of boredom and irritation, and perhaps a way to get some curiosity satisfied while they're at it.

Clinicians say we don't have a true understanding of the consequences of our actions, that this is what makes us behave so strange and reckless from time to time. I'm not sure this is true, I personally think my predictions of possible consequences of my actions are rather precise, I think it will be more correct to say that we don't place the same sense of importance in the same things as normal people do.

I hate to use serial killers as examples, but they're often the most readily available, and in this case I have one in Richard Ramirez who, when he was arrested and a journalist shouted a question at him immediately after he had been condemned to death:
Richard, don't you regret anything, now that you got the death penalty and may be killed yourself because of it!
Ramirez replied:
Big deal, death always came with the territory!
Our dignity lies in how effective we are at getting what we want, how well we execute our plans and how efficiently we deal with obstacles. For as long as we get what we want it matters NADA if others think the worst about us.


Anonymous said...

I find myself battling with this issue almost constantly. For example, I often feel the impulse to defacate outside. Sometimes when I'm driving I'll feel compelled to take my pants off. However, I recognize that both of these acts could get me into a lot of trouble.

I think that's definitely the attraction because being without emotion makes it so hard to find excitement. Mostly, I find that I have to uphold the "good" image of myself that others have of me even when they aren't watching. I find doing this allows me to feel more normal which I truthfully desire to be.

At my best friend's wedding reception, his step father told me that I was a class act. Even though the comment didn't register with me emotionally I have since felt an obligation to behave more appropriately when people aren't watching. I'll fight impulses to a poing but when they are strong enough I always give in to them...

Anonymous said...

"Sometimes when I'm driving I'll feel compelled to take my pants of"


Wheatley said...

Say Zhawq? Would I be right in saying you are German? Or better yet: Ware ich richtig in sage das Sie bist Deutsch?

Bella said...

"the undignified action can be simply a symptom of boredom and irritation.."

I know a lot about this one. I dated a conservative boring guy. A couple of times I walked a few feet behind him at a shopping mall or supermarket close to closing hours, with one hand over my eye snivelling "He Hit Me!" This was to get him to lighten the fuck up as well as to break free of the serious monotony of the mundane activities for a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when I'm driving I'll feel compelled to take my pants off.

LOL..been there done that and I am female.

Anonymous said...

leather seats?

MrBlake said...

Been there done that too. Trick is to not suppress your urges and understand dignity is an illusion.

Okay, I got that one from Zhawq, but that's beside the point (he's got plenty from me too - there's a reason some people can't tell us apart. Haha).

"This was to get him to lighten the fuck up"

You sure that's why ye did it? I don't buy it, sweetie! ;)

Bella said...

Just for you, Mr Blake, I am going to go into the recesses of my memory banks and replay the scene.

Ah here it is.

Yes, this guy was way serious and he had a thing about appearances which kind of made me crazy. I did it more to embarrass him...

which, IN TURN, IMHO, took a bit of the stick out of his ass. So, yes, Mr. KnowitallboutmeBlake, I'm pretty sure at some point during the day after making him turn red, he lightened the fuck up.

Anonymous said...

I found this to be one of your most insightful articles. You say it all, and so precisely. The question with us is always, what do we want.

The breaking of monotony first started as I can remember when I was about 12. I would walk on the other side of the road or do the dead opposite of whatever just to break it up. Have some good memories of breaking the monotony.