Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Everything breaks down at sociopathy

I was trying to figure out how to tell this story without mentioning that I'd had a bunch of psychological testing done. But I mentioned that last post. Again, I'm fine and have escaped some pretty serious demons through what is I assume the grace of a few well-placed strands of DNA. (Of course, the indirect effect of said demons in others was inescapable, but that's another post. Actually, it is in some ways exactly this post. People unaffected by such things don't have their minds go into places like this in the dark hours of a sleepless night. I assume.)

Anyway, so this was hours and hours of filling out multiple choice batteries, describing ink blots and making up stories to go along with pictures. When it was all over, the psychologist who had administered the tests went to her computer and was compiling my bill.

Being me, I started looking at her books as I was waiting. She had quite a few on crime and the criminal mind.

"Do you do forensic work?" I asked.

She smiled. "Yes." My bill was printing.

"Can I ask you something about that?"


"Do sociopaths have souls?"

She looked at me for a long moment, but not nearly as long a moment as a lot of people would have. "True sociopathy is not as common as most people think. But the real ones? No. They don't have souls."

"Hmmm..." I said. "I tend to agree. I confess I've been working on this one in my own head for years. As closely as I can figure, the soul is what inside us that is receptive to the force some people call "God." And I am really loath to label another human being as soulless, but that's the conclusion I'd come to. They just can't pick up on God's radio signals." She nodded as if that sounded reasonable to her. "But it upsets me that my religion breaks down at sociopathy."

She gave a tired laugh, "oh, Honey. Psychology breaks down at sociopathy, too. Everything breaks down at sociopathy."

I'm certain I thanked her for her time and said goodbye, but my memory of the conversation stops there.

(Item: Boris, one of our cats, just nosed the bedroom door open and I about jumped out of my skin.)

So, I guess what I am asking here is does anybody else have a theological framework where the concept of a person who can't really concieve that other people feel even fits?

Many people take a "Well, if my girlfriend with clinical depression loved me enough, she'd cheer up" approach to mental illness and assume that anything can be overcome by sheer willpower. That people with ADHD don't fail to focus on you every minute because they don't like you, it's just the way their heads work, is really a post of it's own, but suffice to say such thinking is useless in this contest. A friend told me once about a sociopath she knew who was genuinely broken up about the fact that his sister didn't like him any more after he stole her visiting daughter's money and left his neice stranded on vacation. He can do something really obviously awful one minute, then be distressed that his victim doesn't love him the next.

Such a person is missing peices that are necessary for a moral consciousness beyond the very basic cops and robbers level.

As a universalist, I know they well be OK in the hereafter, but how does one minister to them on earth?



Anonymous said...

Channing spoke of the death of goodness in the soul. I prefer Channings idea of soul death to soul deprivation, those who are evil had a soul but repeated evil acts killed their own goodness in the soul.

When working with violent criminals in a institution one is struck by their soullessness.

Chalicechick said...

I have thought of this, but if they followed the textbook psychological model for such things, they were torturing kittens when they were five.

Can a soul be stillborn?


fausto said...

I don't know how you minister to them, except to keep them from hurting others and hurting themselves, by force if necessary.

And pray for them, for what it's worth, which may not seem to be much.

Joel Monka said...

I do not believe their souls to be dead or nonexistant, but rather damaged or defective. They do, afterall, seek out human company, even marry and raise children, join organizations- though the relationships will be bizarre by any normal standard. To me this indicates that the structure is there, it's just that there are modules not plugged in.

The textbook cases begin, as CC said, in childhood... but I begin to wonder if it's possible to begin more or less normal and slowly develop into a sociopath. I know that classic brainwashing techniques are more likely to destroy a personality than to change it- but what if the victim participated in his own brainwashing? I'm thinking of members of social movements, whether it be communism or a religion- surely only a psychopath could, for example, slowly saw a preson's head off and drown out the screams with shouts of "God is great". The question is whether existing sociopaths are drawn to religion, or whether a sufficiently religious person could be made into a sociopath.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't think there is anything you can do for them - it is a dna defect. Take a look at "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout.

Anonymous said...

I just recently read The Sociopath Next Door. Dr. Stout says that sociopathy appears to be about 50% genetic and the other 50% environment, so, if that is true, then it must be influence-able at least while the personality is forming.
She also says that it's less prevalent in cultures that are less individualistic than ours.
G. W. Bush blew up frogs with firecrackers as a kid.

Chalicechick said...

The psychologist did say that true sociopathy was overdiagnosed.

I don't think it is appropriate for non-psychologists to diagnose political figures whom they haven't even met.

We had a big fight about this one on beliefnet once.


LaReinaCobre said...

The other day my SO and I were talking about such things, and I asked him what his thoughts would be if he learned, through some sort of amnio-like test, that his unborn child possessed the genes to be a sociopath. He said that he would do everything he could to influence the child to be a different kind of person.

Steven Rowe said...

>I don't think it is appropriate for >non-psychologists to diagnose >political figures whom they haven't >even met.

in many states, diagnostic ability is with MDs or psychiatrists.
It is uneithical for even psychologists, psychiatrists to diagnose someone they havent met.
there is NO diagnosis with the name of sociopath or psychopath anyway.

steven r

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know for sure, and I doubt I ever will in this lifetime. For people who are deep thinkers in matters of philosophy or theology, it can be especially painful to have to give in and admit that about something as potentially...disturbing...as sociopathy, but there are limits to what can be explained with humanity's current level of insight, whether we're talking about scientific or spiritual insight.

Personally, though, I do believe that sociopaths have souls and that their sociopathy is not some sort of permanent defect in the soul. The point of disconnect seems to me to be in the brain, not the soul. Something interfering with the interaction between the soul and the brain, perhaps? Again, no way to say for sure at the moment. Hopefully, that will change in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Okay this blog is a little old but you should get "sociopath next door by Martha Stout and Without conscience. I've read something interesting. Dark souls are known as dark souls in the spirit world but on earth they are psycopaths or sociopaths. I believe they do have souls,everything has a soul HOWEVER they're dark and it's part of their karma in this life time to be without conscience on earth. Theres nothing to learn from them but that evil exists and they have great veneers,charming,cunning ,a superficial charm. Use your intuition with people. If you read those books you'll be blown away and it will gove you an awareness with people

Dr. J said...

A soul is not necessary to exist. Perhaps sometimes, a body is born without a soul. This person is an empty shell. They seek to fill the emptiness but never can. These are your true sociopaths/psychopaths. Not all sociopaths are born, though. They can also be made. Enough trauma, rage, pain, neglect and the soul either dies or escapes the body. Either way, you can't replace a soul. The best you can hope for is to reprogram the body to cognitively simulate a conscience.

Normie said...

Kim, your comment was both silly and insulting.

"The Sociopath Next Door" is a fine work but marred by the author's injection of her political beliefs into her work - like when she speculates that G.W. Bush is a sociopath. This is not only slanderous, but absurd. No matter what you think about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - wars that were waged with no self-interest to Bush - if you going to label a politician a sociopath, you can't stop with him. I could say that many pro-abortion politicans are sociopaths - but I won't, because it's not true.

Saying a politician is a sociopath is liking calling someone you disagree with a "Hitler" - it shows that you have no empathy with your opponent's point of view, and no understanding. It's more a reflection on yourself than on your opponent.

A student said...

Love thy neighbor as thyself. This is the whole of the law.

Anonymous said...

But what about people who get brain trauma from an accident and lose that part of their brain that functions emotions like empathy, an become " aquired sociopaths" do they just lose their souls ? That seems cruel.