What’s your opinion on psychopaths?
I recently asked a (neurotypical) friend of mine, Johann, who lives in Slovakia, the following question:
“I wonder, how do you personally feel about the fact that psychopaths exist? And what emotions do you feel toward them, as a group. Pity? Admiration? Indifference? Or something else?”
His reply is sensible, measured, and – I would argue – reveals a healthy attitude of tolerance we could all* benefit from emulating.
I don’t hold grudges against any one (though I can’t stand people who hurt and torture children) so I take them as other people. They just exist and there is nothing to be done about it. My friend and you are good examples of how they can fit in our society. Although somebody once said that it’s your thought that matters and not the action, I must disagree. Actions matter most. I can even understand why you need to lie and manipulate so much. It’s probably your way of survival and getting along with people (I would never have befriended my friend if he’d told me he was a psychopath, because of fear and not because of prejudice).
As for the ones who purposely hurt other people, well, one doesn’t have to be a psychopath to hurt others. I’ve read that all serial killers are psychopaths, but I don’t think so. There are a lot of lunatic people who actually empathise with others yet they enjoy hurting them. The most dangerous ones are those who feel pain and hatred in their hearts and seek revenge for something.
I may feel a little pity, because you’ll never be able to experience genuine love. I admire a lot of people, so some may be psychopaths. I feel indifference to cruel people only. Knowing that yu exist, I try to be more careful with people, because I don’t want to end up as their target.
I hadn’t even thought about psychopaths before my friend told me.
The friend Johann refers to is somebody he lived with in Bratislava until recently, who ‘came out’ as a psychopath to Johann after being confronted over something naughty he’d done. This in itself is an unusual course of action.
And now, if any of you really care, here’s what I wrote in response:
For sure actions matter more than thoughts, because they are what actually have an effect on the world. But I do think people get a bit freaked out that psychopaths even exist, for what they are more than for what they do. I could be sympathetic to someone who said “I think psychopaths are evil because they hurt people”. I don’t happen to agree that is true, but it’s a valid enough claim. But hating psychopaths just for existing is prejudice. A form of speciesism, if those morons are right about us not being human!
Yes I have to lie and manipulate to survive, but you’d be mistaken if you thought I didn’t enjoy it. I love messing with people.
Ah yes, “love”. Genuinely mystified by everyone’s obsession with love, but I suppose that only serves to prove your point. But if it makes me sound any better, I am also baffled by hatred. I’ve never felt hate for any individual or group in all my life.
“I hadn’t even thought about psychopaths before my friend told me.” A think a big part of our success is people’s ignorance. They don’t know we exist, or if they do they think we’re (i) quite rare or (ii) all serial killers.
Personally, I think it’s amazing that psychopaths have – probably – been around for all of human history, yet their existence was only first ‘discovered’ less than one hundred years ago. Like penicillin. Or radioactivity.
Do you agree with Johann? If not, how would you respond to my question? Are you one of those who believe a lack of conscience is inherently evil regardless of how an individual behaves? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. Be as rude as you like.
Thanks very much, Johann, both for your brilliant answer and for agreeing to let me publish some of our conversation. You’re the best.
*Obviously I don’t need to learn to be more tolerant of psychopaths. But I could certainly improve my attitude to neurotypicals.