Jump to content

Inside The Minds Of Psychopaths: "Almost Like You And Me"


Recommended Posts

Very interesting article.

http://beforeitsnews.com/story/2388/089/Inside_The_Minds_Of_Psychopaths:_Almost_Like_You_And_Me.html

Here's the article without the images ~

Ice cold, hard and emotionless. Such is the psychopath – we think. Until we get a glimpse behind the mask. Researchers have for decades been almost unanimous in their accord with the popular perception that psychopaths are made in a certain way, and will forever remain that way.

But Aina Gullhaugen, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, disagrees.

Aina Sundt Gullhaugen has challenged the "gold standard" for the study of psychopaths. "Treatment is difficult but not impossible," she says.

Nature or nurture?

“A lot has happened over the past few years in psychiatry,” Gullhaugen says. “But the discipline is still characterized by the attitude that a certain group of people are put together in such a way that they cannot be treated. There is little in the textbooks that says that these people have had a hard life. Until now the focus has been directed at their antisocial behaviour and lack of empathy. And the explanation for this is based on biology, instead of looking at what these people have experienced.”

Through her experience as a psychologist, Gullhaugen has found, in fact, that there is a discrepancy between the formal characteristics of psychopathy and what she has experienced in meeting psychopaths.

Gullhaugen thought if psychopathic crim­inals are as hardened as traditional descrip­tions would have it, you would not find vulnerabilities and psychiatric disorders among them. She wondered if perhaps we have asked the wrong questions, and studied the issue in the wrong way.

With the same intense desire to get behind the mask as Clarice had in her meeting with Hannibal Lecter in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs”, Gullhaugen has burrowed into the minds of psychopaths.

Hannibal's pain

“Hannibal Lecter is perhaps the most famous psychopath from the fictional world,” says Gullhaugen. “His character in the books and movies is an excellent illustration of the cold mask some have thought that psychopaths have. Because it is a mask. Inside the head of the cannibal and serial killer were tenderness and pain, deep emotions and empathy.”

Author Thomas Harris is said to have based his Hannibal figure on real life serial killers, after he conducted research at the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. Harris showed how Hannibal's behaviour was influenced by the psychological damage that occurred during his childhood. Such things, Gullhaugen says, can be treated.

Hannibal Lecter is fiction. But Gullhaugen has immersed herself in the scientific literature and made a comparison between the figure of Hannibal and individual studies of offenders who demonstrate a high degree of psychopathy. “I have gone through all the studies that have been published internationally over the past 30 years,” she says. “I have also conducted a study of the psychological needs of Norwegian high-security and detention prisoners.”

Every published study of these so-called worst offenders shows that they all have a background that includes grotesque physical and /or psychological abuse during childhood. The result of Gullhaugen's efforts can be found in her article, “Looking for the Hannibal behind the Cannibal: Current status of case research.”

“Without exception, these people have been injured in the company of their caregivers,” she says. “And many of the descriptions made it clear that their later ruthlessness was an attempt to address this damage, but in an inappropriate or bad way.”

Incomplete surveys

Gullhaugen has wondered about the methods that have been used to study psychopaths. “One way to examine emotional reactions is to show people pictures of different situations, and then study the response,” she says.

“First the subject is often shown benign or neutral images, where you could be expected to be happy and relaxed. The physical reaction is a calm pulse, no sweat on the skin and the like. Then, suddenly there is a picture of a gun aimed at you. Most people will react to this, right? But when psychopaths do not respond in the expected way, we conclude that they have a biological defect,” she says.

Gullhaugen wants us to put ourselves into the everyday lives that psychopaths often come from. Criminal gangs, perhaps, or a tough upbringing in which the need to be unaffected and strong is mandatory and always present. Perhaps guns are a part of everyday life. Perhaps a cold and almost emotionless reaction is

the only rational reaction, seen from their perspective, and is what they have got used to.

“I found that research on the psychopath's emotions was incomplete,” she says. “We need other tests and instruments to measure the feelings of these people, if there are feelings to measure.”

She has now done exactly that. While Gullhaugen has not replaced conventional survey methods, such as a diagnostic interview, use of a checklist for psychopathy and neuropsychological tests, she has added more methods to see if she might get other results. To this end, she has used questionnaires that measure a number of interpersonal and emotional aspects of Norwegian high-security and detention prisoners.

The results suggest that the so-called gold standard for the study of psychopathy should at best be changed, and at worst, be replaced.

Need and want closeness

“There is no doubt that these are people with what we call relational needs”, says Gullhaugen. “In the aforementioned case descriptions and my own study, it became clear that they both have the desire and the need for close relationships, and that they care. At the same time it is equally clear that they find it almost impossible to achieve and maintain such relationships.”

Gullhaugen's study demonstrated that where the most common survey methods would have shown that individuals reported good self-esteem, low depression and a sense of general wellbeing, other methods show that psychopaths suffer from underlying psychological pain.

~ Jeffrey Dahmer ~

DarleneSignaturePic1.jpg

"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 7
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

In an episode of Criminal Minds they had a professor giving a lecture about the mind of serial killers. It would take a long time to figure out which episode and find the transcript, if there is one, but here's a quote from someone else that says the same thing, and to me, explains that "fine line."

The birth of a serial killer

- Damage of the Orbital Cortex (located right above the eyes)

- MAOA GENE:

Under the effects of the high risk gene, the brain of the psychopath was bathed in way too much serotonin during fetal development. As an adult, this brain is now numb to serotonin’s calming effects. The first dangerous elements are now in place. The damage is done. This is a recipe for catastrophe. So when the fetus reaches the day of labor, a potential serial killer is born.

DarleneSignaturePic1.jpg

"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Elders (Admins)

That study is interesting because it raises the nature -v- nurture issue, where in the past too many experts have concentrated on either one or the other, and sometimes the professionals seem to flip-flop between the two. It is true that each of us is made up from a unique and complex sequence of genes, and some of them we can do nothing about, but it's also true that those genes are affected by our pre- and post-natal environment. Very often, some character traits are said to be genetic because they are evident through the generations of a family, but those traits could also be learned behaviour from the family environment, and it's not easy to separate the two.

For instance, if a pregnant woman is in a highly stressed situation throughout pregnancy, she will be producing high levels of stress hormones which can pass through the placenta to the foetus, which could then be "primed" for an unhealthy over-reaction to those same stress hormones after it's born and possible throughout the rest of its life if that child is raised within the same stressful situation as its mother.

But an infant's brain is highly plastic, so a stressed pre-natal situation doesn't always result in a permanent condition if the baby can be raised in a much calmer environment from soon after its birth.

The adult brain is also somewhat plastic - which is why we can suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome where the brain gets sort of re-programmed from experiencing or witnessing a shocking event. And also that ability of the brain to change, or re-programme itself, is really what's behind cognitive behavioural therapy, which seems to proving successful even in adults who have problems, especially low-esteem or chronic anxiety, because of a poor childhood.

However, there's also the issue of deciding when a psychological issue such as psychopathy, or sociopathy, or narcissism actually becomes a problem. There is the view that many very successful people, including some CEOs of large corporations, could be given one of those labels or something similar. But they're not generally considered to have a mental health problem (except, maybe, by those who live with them or work closely with them).

There is also the issue of how best to deal with violent offenders. The UK and the USA have very different sentencing policies, not least that the UK doesn't have the death penalty and a life sentence doesn't always mean imprisonment for life. Certainly some violent offenders do need to be locked away for the rest of their lives in very secure institutions, but where it's possible to rehabilitate people like that, then that's not only the cheaper option, it's actually a more effective option if they can live in a secure but more normal environment akin to living in a gated community.

Some while ago, I bought (yet another) DVD-based course, that one called "Biology and Human Behavior", comprising 24 lectures. I made notes up to Lecture 17 and then got stuck, but I think I should go back and complete my note-taking and put those on my blog here. That course is relevant to this topic because it goes from the brain and the nervous system, through neurotransmitters and hormones, to a discussion on aggression. One of things that the lecturer said stopped me in my tracks – that the statistical likelihood of a young male being violent was more to do with where he lived, e.g. Chicago versus Toronto. Which goes straight back to the nature versus nurture argument.

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Libby, I sure appreciate your reply to this post, and I so look forward to you posting more from the lecture. Please keep us informed about it. It's absolutely amazing how complex the human brain and body is.

DarleneSignaturePic1.jpg

"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

It is nature versus nurture. The capacity for psychopathy exists in all of us. However it takes the vulnerability coupled with the "right" external environment and experiences to turn out a potential serial killer. Not all sociopaths are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are serial kilers. Most are businessmen, CEO's, lawyers and politicians.

However a few, cannot retain the mask of sanity long ehough to succeed in such things. They also, due to nurture or lack thereof, have a greater desire for power and control on a more personal level. Those are the future serial killers.

The homicidal triad of bedwetting, fire setting and small animal torture is a warning for sure. And it is a truth in many of the SK cases. After the age of 12, there is usually no reclaiming the child and habilitating them.

Also, you cannot rehabilitate a serial killer or psychopath because they were never habilitated in the first place. They feel. They have emotion. However they do not believe that anyone or anything else has emotion or feels in the way that they do. WE are but props in their world to be manipulated. They know right from wrong. They don't care though, except they wish not to get caught doing what they do. They think of the world around them as plastic, or not real as in how they themselves are real.

Thanks for listening so to speak.

"I smell blood and an era of prominent madmen"

W. H. Auden
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey, "listening so to speak" is what we do around here, and it's who we are.

Enjoyed reading your post and I totally agree, "serial killers" aka "psychopaths" (the same to me) just don't care, and I sometimes wonder if they actually even care at all about themselves either. They're insane.

DarleneSignaturePic1.jpg

"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

too long for  those who grieve; too short for those who rejoice.

But for those who love, time is eternity."

(Jane Fellowes)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Elders (Admins)

Seesthru, I think you're very right when you say:

Also, you cannot rehabilitate a serial killer or psychopath because they were never habilitated in the first place. They feel. They have emotion. However they do not believe that anyone or anything else has emotion or feels in the way that they do. WE are but props in their world to be manipulated. They know right from wrong. They don't care though, except they wish not to get caught doing what they do. They think of the world around them as plastic, or not real as in how they themselves are real.

By the time psychopaths come to the attention of the authorities, in their teens or as adults, it's pretty much too late to do anything to turn them around. Whatever the cause of their disordered thinking, it is mostly permanent by the late teenage years. As you say, if there's sufficient intervention before the age of 12 then there is hope - the brain goes through some fairly massive reorganisation during the teenage years and into the early twenties, so if there is extensive intervention before then, that individual's brain can be, in a sense, re-programmed.

I'm reminded of the case of a child killer here in the UK, a 10-year-old girl who was convicted of the manslaughter of two toddlers, on separate occasions. She was the daughter of a prostitute and there were allegations that the girl herself had been sexually abused by her mothers "clients". I would think that by the age of 10 years her thinking was seriously disordered, and she quite probably had no concept of self (as in self-worth, self-esteem, self=me, etc) and might not have been able to see those toddlers as having a "self" of their own. She was subsequently released at the age of 23 and then went on to have a child of her own, and there were no concerns about her ability to re-integrate into society, nor about her ability to parent her child effectively. There's a brief overview of her case here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Bell. But I think that cases like are pretty rare.

I think that probably a lot of the people who reach the top rungs of career ladders are more likely to be narcissists rather than psychopaths. There are some similarities, but narcissists are usually charming, cunning, manipulative, and tend to be verbally aggressive rather than physically aggressive. I think narcissists tend to be "made" rather than "born" that way, and can be the result of over-indulgent parenting where they grow up thinking that they're perfect and all-important. There was one case of a 19-year-old who brutally killed his parents, and then used their credit cards to go on a £30,000 spending spree. He was diagnosed as having a narcissistic personality disorder. Story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/4633339.stm.

Narcissism seems to be as impossible to "cure" as psychopathy. I don't have any statistics, but I think psychopaths are more likely to be male, whereas narcissists seem just as likely to be female as male. Although narcissists rarely commit murder, they often dominate and control people so could be described as "serial killers of the soul".

Libby

"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. Terms of Use Privacy Policy Guidelines