By Mav Skye
Psychopathy. Scientists have been stumped and mystified about this condition for decades. The rules of the psychopath game are constantly changing, making it easier than ever for the predator to prey on the naïve. And to make matters worse, Hollywood’s fascination with sensational psychos and its lack of interest in facts has led to a plethora of misconceptions on the subject.
Today, we have a very special guest at Pulp Metal Magazine. Tina Taylor has researched psychopathy for a number of years. Being born into a genetic line of psychopaths, she is extremely knowledgeable and apt in this mysterious field. She kindly joins me to help us sort fact from fiction.
MS: Based on your experience and research, in your own words, how would you describe psychopathy?
TT: Civilization means working together. Everyone learns from toddler-hood how to get what they want in a pleasant manner, with parental guidance geared toward being good citizens and social animals. In a healthy society, we learn that our own pursuit of happiness should not negatively affect other people’s lives. Through our own experiences of physical and emotional pain, and some experimentation with lies and deception, the normal children will become physically uncomfortable with “being bad.”
In contrast, the psychopathic children learn how to get what they want by any means necessary. The consequences of “being bad” causes them no stress, so if left to their own devices, they will run amok. They disregard any attempts to correct their “thinking”, and keep practicing deception until they perfect it.
In a disciplined, and loving family environment, the pro-social, “successful” psychopath learns to use/abuse people covertly. In a chaotic, abusive family environment, the psychopath learns to use/abuse others overtly and perhaps violently. These are not hard and fast rules. There is crisscross and many different manifestations of personality that result from not having the internal control of a conscience.
Psychopathy is a birth defect which deprives a person of neurological feedback from emotions. Observing my siblings and cousins, it appears they can’t form a conscience if they don’t get the butterflies in the stomach, or nausea, or goosebumps, or other physical indicators that connects to emotional intelligence. They operate on instinct alone: “Every Man for Himself” mentality. Woe be unto anyone who stands in the way of what they want.
Psychopathy means no conscience, and learning to use the impairment for selfish gain. Having no conscience gives a person the unlimited capacity to harm other people, the community, and the environment in pursuit of their goals. No one is safe – they even have no problem betraying family, which is unfathomable by non-psychopaths.
MS: I’m particularly interested in genetic psychopathy. Can this really be carried down the family chain? How many generations?
TT: My own family is living proof that there is no limit to passing psychopathy along. I have run into a few other families where there is a long history of apparent psychopathy. The wretched truth about genetic psychopathy is the unbridled promiscuity, not to mention rapes, resulting in unclaimed babies. Many of the psychopathic men have made high numbers of bastard children, who then only know their the psychological history of the mother’s side. It accounts for worldwide random dispersal of the psychopathy genes. I don’t know if the non-psychopathic children pass the genes along later, because from what I’ve witnessed… the non-psychopathic progeny are raised dysfunctional and psychically damaged, and end up unknowingly married to, and having children with psychopaths.
The genetic aspect of psychopathy is discussed in the book, “Without Conscience” by Dr. Robert Hare, who developed the Psychopathy Checklist of antisocial personality traits. I like to refer to the article, “Is Psychopathy Genetic?” on the AFTERMATH: Surviving-Psychopathy.org website, which includes citations from scientific studies.
MS: How do multiple psychopaths within the same family interact if each has an instinctual need to be top dog?
TT: I can only speak for my family – we were all “programmed” with “good manners”. The psychopath can be very civilized on the surface… for the most part, well-mannered, polite, and seemingly considerate (when it suits their grand scheme). Deceptions are on the daily menu, and when betrayals come to light, there are altercations. When two psychopaths want the same thing they “bare their teeth”, run a smear campaign, and just feel free to do whatever gets them to win their prize. So daily fist fighting was a normal occurrence between my brothers. I grew up thinking all brothers fought every single day of every single year.
As a family unit, they are only motivated to work together because they’re thinking “what’s in it for me? Food, shelter, entertainment, sex…?” A psychopath can’t be depended on for loyalty or support. Basically, the family is there for fun and games. If there is nothing for them to gain personally, they will have nothing to do with what’s best for the family.
The psychopaths and narcissists stick together. The black sheep only allow other disordered people into their circle. This caused me a lot of heartache because I felt unwanted and alone because I was “too truthful”, or “sneaky”, or “bookworm”, or “goody-two-shoes”, whatever it was that kept me out of the club. I did not realize until I was in my 30’s that I was the healthy one. I was the one who refused to tell little lies and cover up the misdeeds of all the rest of them. I think psychopaths are the majority percentage of my family tree.
MS: An article you shared with me recently, The Female Sociopath, cites psychopathic traits are valued in feminism. It leads me to wonder if psychopathy can be a learned behavior?
TT: The observable psychopathic behaviors, according to the Hare checklist, can be learned. They can also be unlearned. This is why the ASPD checklist doesn’t apply to socialized, pro-social psychopaths. Psychopathy is not having a conscience. How each psychopath behaves is their own individual preference.
I think what you are asking is whether someone who lives with a conscience can learn to ignore their conscience, and disregard the effects of their behavior on other people. Yes. Behaving selfishly makes people antisocial, but that doesn’t make them psychopaths.
“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding portrays what happens when a psychopath becomes leader. The society becomes dog-eat-dog. People who are empathic learn to set their empathy aside just for survival sake. In the news today, there are many real-world psychopaths taking societies down. They are leading their corporations to “enslave” the employees, leading their countries to destruction, or leading their violent factions to abuse nonviolent folks.
“The Female Sociopath” is not a person who cares about anyone else, or the consequences of her suggestions. Beware of dangerous individuals who encourage global anti-social behavior.
MS: Are you aware of any cases in which a traumatic brain injury has caused psychopathy?
TT: I am aware of cases where brain injury causes the loss of emotions and empathy. For the majority of people, that’s easier to accept than the reality that so many people are actually born emotionally impaired.
Psychopathy encompasses a manifestation of deceptiveness learned from early in life. Suddenly having a brain injury rob you of empathy and conscience does not cause you to prey on others automatically.
MS: How do real life psychopaths differ from fictional psychopaths?
TT: Real life psychopaths come in a full range of personalities. The majority of psychopaths live mostly without using physical violence. They get what they want through the manipulation tactics they grew up using on their parents, siblings, friends, and strangers.
In fiction, the word psychopath has been associated with an eerily calm demeanor unexpectedly exploding into violence. This focus on the violent ones leaves us with the impression that psychopaths can be spotted easily by their violent behavior. Most violent people are not psychopaths.
MS: A leopard can’t change his spots, but can a psychopath learn to empathize?
TT: No. Empathy for others is learned only by having the ability to physically connect to your own emotions first. That brain connection is missing in psychopaths.
Advances in neuroscience may one day bring about cures for many neurological conditions (Psychopathy, Alzheimer’s, Autism, etc) In most cases, the afflicted persons will want to be cured. However, I can see the probability that psychopaths will not want to be “cured” since there is no gain for them – only for society. Empathy benefits the social group. Psychopathy benefits the individual.
From the world of Twitter, I have seen many people wishing they were psychopaths and free of conscience. This has me wondering how many more people would have elective surgery to become apathetic?
MS: Is there an upside to having a psychopath in my life? For instance, would they be good at strategizing a business plan or working through tough legal situations?
TT: We all know psychopaths, but we are blinded to their presence in our lives right now. As long as you are aware that a person is a psychopath, then you are in a better position of keeping your guard up, because they can never be trusted on a personal level. Psychopathic impulses need to be monitored at all times. They are always working in their own best interest. That may correspond to what is in your best interest at times, being the only upside.
The psychopath always thinks logically without regard to emotional input, so, for any job that doesn’t affect the lives of others, they are good for consulting. (Bomb disposal, crime scene or disaster cleanup, etc.) They are also good for consulting when you want to take the best advantage of someone or a situation (revenge), unless they are merely pretending to be qualified for the task just to get attention or take your money.
MS: How do I identify a friend/spouse/parent/sibling/child in my life that is a psychopath, and what should I do about it?
TT: When you identify a toxic person in your life, mainly, you have to protect yourself. Stay away. If you are raising a Callous Unemotional child, those impaired children should be held to the same standards of behavior as any other child. You accept that they process the world differently, but they still have to follow the rules. Other people in the lives of psychopaths should be informed, to protect other people from being traumatized by betrayals. Betrayals should not be excused.
Since my ex-husband is so “pro-social”, he very rarely showed any negatives in his personality, and perpetrated his fraud for over 10 years. While raising my daughter, for some reason, I did not make note of the fact that I only saw her cry twice in her whole life. I thought she was merely content. When I started researching psychopathy, I realized that I grew up with psychopaths. I realized that my own daughter is a psychopath. That does not mean violent.
It means she has no conscience whatsoever. It means she has unlimited capacity to betray me and all other people for her own selfish gain. It means she lies nonstop. It means she has many faces. It means she has no shame. It means she helps herself to other people’s property and has no remorse. It means she successfully hides her lack of empathy from unsuspecting targets who think she is nice. I, however, have seen the truth many times over…. And, she is mine, and I love her regardless. I just have to do it from a distance. That’s how you identify a psychopath after they’ve revealed their lack of conscience.
Family dynamics create a micro-environment where you grow up thinking that what you are experiencing is the norm, and just like everyone else’s childhood. The people surrounding me as I was growing up were dysfunctional and disordered and unconscionable, but I was unable to see it until I was away from them for a long time. If you are growing up under the influence of one or more psychopaths, you may never awaken to how you have been selfishly manipulated your whole life. You may not ever realize that being groomed into a self-sacrificing doormat for your defective parents later translates into your being a doormat for other manipulators in society.
I was betrayed many times by family members. My boundaries were crossed all the time, and I just thought everybody was like that, and to overlook that behavior. I was taught not to question, just to “trust” and allow a lot of bad things matter-of-factually. I had no idea when it was happening that I was a victim of a rare phenomena called psychopathy. All I knew was that I was insignificant, misunderstood, and alone. I would attach myself to anyone who showed me the least scrap of attention. I became a defective adult due to the fact that my empathy was used against me, and I became used to always being self-sacrificing to the other psychopaths’ whims.
In much later years (only after learning that I had somehow married the treachery I tried to escape) I analyzed the bizarre, unconscionable things that family had done and said. I analyzed how my husband tricked me into thinking he was a good person. I have developed my own list of traits that identifies the subtle and overlooked “accepted” behaviors of pro-social (masked) psychopaths. It differs from anti-social psychopathy identification of bad behavior. http://spot.geneticpsycho.com
These socialized psychopaths would probably score low on the Hare test. They may behave civilized, but underneath the mask, they are incidentally damaging and untrustworthy. They live by their own rules outside of societal expectations, and they can only ever be self-serving.
Hopefully, science will progress rapidly, so that brain scans and genetic markers will make psychopath identification as simple as getting an annual physical.
MS: What should I do if I discover that I am a psychopath?
TT: Psychopaths know from early childhood that they are different from the rest of society, in that they don’t get upsetting feelings that control their behavior. I think the majority of psychopaths do not identify with the label because people presently get our ideas about psychopathy from violent and “maniacal” fictional characters in TV and movies. People often think they are alone in their condition, and don’t know what their condition is called, unless someone else tells them.
Psychopathy is not something you would discover in adulthood. You would know from childhood that you are not controlled by emotions. You would only discover that your “special gift” of being emotionally detached and at ease with being the cause of others discomfort makes you a part of the psychopath category.
If you discover that your disdainful attitude is really, in fact, psychopathy, then by all means, please tell everyone.
MS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
TT: One to four percent of the population are born with no conscience. “If we don’t know how to identify psychopaths, then we are doomed to be their victims.” From toddler-hood through adulthood, civilized society becomes their playpen of action figures to manipulate for their amusement.
People are globally ignorant in terms of psychopathy. Identification and monitoring of destructive personality traits should be a topic presented to everyone in Kindergarten, not be an optional college psychology course. Children should not be growing up falsely believing that “everybody has feelings.”
Psychopaths teach themselves deception, early in childhood; how to mirror other people’s emotions. They learn at a very young age, that to “fit in and win”, they have to wear a mask, and that mirroring receives the greatest reward.
I’ve made it my mission to encourage the use of FMRI psychopathy testing for people applying for a position of trust (political, romantic, job candidates). From my observations as a layperson, I can see that stomach discomfort is involved in forming conscience, so possibly Neurogastroenterology would also be an area of psychopathy testing. Not being an Academic myself, and lacking knowledge of neural pathways and terminology, I am not sure how to reach the right audience of researchers to evaluate my theories.
Struggling with PTSD from narcissistic psychopathic abuse hinders my progress, and it will take me a very long time to go to graduate school and push research in that direction. I am presently (slowly) taking Duke University’s “Medical Neuroscience” for free on Coursera. Making the world a more informed, and possibly more civilized, place would be quicker if I could influence some established Neuroscientists to take on my mission right now.
For my part, I have established a fund for expanding psychopathy awareness in the United States. We need to identify psychopaths and vote them out of leadership. Psychopaths are impaired neurologically, don’t know the meaning of suffering, and thus, are in no position to serve as government lawmakers. We, the People, need to remove psychopathic influence from our decision-making. http://crowdfund.geneticpsycho.com
MS: Thank you so much for sharing your insight and knowledge with us, Tina. You’re a true gem.
Tina Taylor is Daughter, Granddaughter, Great-Granddaughter, Sister, Cousin, Niece, Aunt, and then subsequently…ex-Wife & Mother of Psychopaths. Keep up to date with psychopathy information at Tina’s Website, Facebook Page, Facebook Profile, or on Twitter. Support Tina’s cause at http://www.gofundme.com/psychopath