Re: Confessions about love, relationships guilt and the world from a young sociopath.
You are welcome.
As much as I do not mind being called
"sly," or being called "devil" for that matter
(and knowing full well that occasionally a therapy will require
something of both roles from the therapist), in this case it was not
specifically your vanity to which I meant to appeal, but only
the vanity, and possible good thinking, of some reader or another.
Nevertheless, it was you who replied, and your reply is, I believe,
another well-thought out and useful one. Thanks for it. I will add it
to the dr-robert website as a reply to the "young sociopath."
Regarding my use of the term
"psychopath," I agree that labeling people is not a good
idea—indeed, I have said as much at many places in my dr-robert
writing—and this goes double for young people. I use the
word because psychopathy is still a term of art for psychiatrists and
psychologists, and because the meaning of that term has become
increasingly burdened by connotations of behavior instead of a
pertinent focus on psychological tendencies.
As a psychologist, my essential stance
towards any behavior is to try to understand what underlies it prior to judging or condemning it in any way, and certainly
prior to explaining it away by pasting a label on it. My method of
fostering that non-judgmental approach to psychopathy (or sociopathy
if you prefer that word) involves using the word (which I
agree is a loaded word which carries negative connotations
inevitably, and for which a substitute should be devised), but then unpacking the psychology behind the word to try to rescue it
insofar as possible both from the largely incorrect public
imagination, as well as from the forces of social control who want to
redefine every psychological category in terms only of
As I have explained often, the same
action might be carried out by two different people, and appear as
similar or even identical behaviors, while the psychology
behind the action is very different. For example, two men rob a 7-11.
In the course of the crime, the clerk is murdered. Back at their
hideout, one man thinks, "What have I done? Suppose there really
is a hell?," while the second says to himself, "It was his
fault. If he hadn't resisted he would still be alive, the fool."
In my understanding, the second man is psychopathic; the first is
not. If we pervert all the psychological terminology by morphing
their original meanings into new meanings defined only by
behavior, we will have taken the focus of "psychology" away
from the psyche, and put it simply on law-enforcement and
As for "chop wood, carry water,"
yes, simply noticing something doesn't exempt one from having to
carry on living, but my speculation is that a first look at the
idea that free will is a chimera—a first look into the void,
so to speak—might engender in someone a new appreciation of the
need for what you call "ethics." It certainly did in me. By
the way, you and I agree on that point too: that "strictly
following a code of ethics" could help the young man. I have a
draft of a reply to his question which suggests that specifically. I
was not fully satisfied with that letter, so it is still sitting on
my desktop, but your reply to him covers the point well enough, so it
will become the "official" one.