An unpalatable confession.
I have to get this off my chest as it’s probably ridiculous but it’s been playing on my mind for a long time. I have been concerned that I display psychopathic traits, which would certainly go some way to explaining the difficult and confused mental states that I have suffered with most of my life.
I know there is some pressure especially on the blogosphere to put a name to one’s condition and to write at length about its causes, symptoms, progress and prognosis. This is of course a vital and commendable part of the healing process for those people. For myself too, I thought, as I undertake this journey of self-discovery and opening my eyes to the world.
This idea that I identify with psychopathic traits is unnerving and I don’t want to give it credence. However it is too disturbing to ignore and as far-fetched as it first seems, I must explore further. This is precisely the platform on which to do so.
The following list is Hervey Cleckley’s List of Psychopathy Symptoms and comes from Psychopathy Awareness but there are surprisingly few (read: no?) resources for those that think they might have a touch of the psychopath about them, or want to find out whether their inklings are just tough self-criticism or might be grounded in actual fact. I think this is a valid point – we talk about psychopaths as though they are ‘out there’ with the werewolves, but what about the psychopath in all of us, could we embody some of those traits ourselves without being out-and-out hell-raisers?
- Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
- Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
- Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms. Considerable poise, calmness and verbal facility.
- Unreliability, disregard for obligations, no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
- Untruthfulness and insincerity.
- Antisocial behaviour which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
- Inadequately motivated antisocial behaviour.
- Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.
- Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.
- General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
- Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.
- Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.
- Fantastic and objectionable behaviour, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking. Vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks for facile entertainment.
- No history of genuine suicide attempts.
- An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
- Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way (unless it is for destructive purposes or a sham
Myself, I have aspects of the following 14 of the 16 traits, and I have emboldened the particularly prominent traits: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. I will go into a little more detail, but I’m itching under the collar here.
I can charm people and behave in a Zelig-like way that feeds off more conventional folk around me. In the past I had always sought sex without love and resisted a loving relationship until I was in my early/mid-twenties. At school I used to proclaim proudly that I ‘had no conscience’ thinking this was cool. More recently it has come to my attention that close friends agree I ‘have no moral compass’. I make the same mistakes over and over again to the point where it has become a joke between my boyfriend J and me. He has the patience of a saint.
And as for my behaviour when I used to drink, to describe it as objectionable would be extremely kind. So many times I have been surprised to learn that my friends are either laughing at me or hurt by things I’d done without my realising. I’ve flitted from one group of friends to another quickly, charming them anew because I can’t stand anyone knowing the real me. I was always terrified of people getting too close, in case they realised how empty I am.
I spent much of my childhood wondering why other people didn’t understand my genius and I’d write stupid nonsense zines and unsolicited emails hoping that my incredible brain would be recognised if only I were in the ‘right’ school or could get to the ‘right’ people instead of the ‘sad losers’ that surrounded me.
I used to throw stones at my poor cat and hold her by her tail when I was only 6 or 7. For this I am truly sorry. I have never admitted this to anyone before and it makes me incredibly sad thinking about it now. Even though I was a little kid I should have known better. I’ll regret what I did as long as I live.
And lastly I have always struggled with the idea of having a life plan and assumed that in time, it would come. I am in my thirties now and I am still waiting. I have a mind block when I think about the big picture, anything more than a few months and even that is a stretch. I’ve never had a career or even a career plan, only a succession of jobs I don’t care about and am not good at, and wild dreams about what the next job could be. I fill my days living my boyfriend’s life plan and to a large extent letting him dictate what we do, what country we live in, what sort of people we are and whether or not I work or get on with any tasks. Supporting him is a happy substitute for doing any hard thinking myself.
I’m scared of myself. I know what I’m capable of and it’s hard to look in the mirror sometimes. I’ve punched boyfriends, one in the eye on Christmas morning so hard it made him cry and walk out, even though he was a plane journey from home. I punched the person that loves me while he was asleep only four months ago while we were on a working holiday. I have left scratches and bruises on people’s faces, some of them friends trying to have a fun night out with me. I have betrayed a friendship so badly by saying unspeakable things about my friend/flatmate behind her back knowing that what I said would get back to her. I’m talking in the past tense because I hope to God that this sickness is behind me.
I have been an abuser, psychopathic or not, it’s so hard to stomach and I am sorry.