Whoa. Not every day you wake up and discover you have a personality disorder. Yes, folks, I am a self-proclaimed victim of Antisocial Personality Disorder. I didn’t even know such an animal existed before studying this week’s psych chapter, and even now I wonder if the appropriate term applied to people with this disorder isn’t simply “assholes”. Either way, I know I fit most of the descriptions (surprise, surprise). Get a load of this:
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Symptoms Scott Peterson, the murderer described in the opening pages of this chapter, demonstrated four of the key traits of an antisocial personality disorder: egocentrism, lack of conscience, impulsive behavior, and superficial charm. Egocentrism refers to a preoccupation with one’s own concerns and insensitivity to the needs of others. Dr. Robert Hare described individuals with an antisocial personality disorder as “social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and empathy, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret” (Hare, 1993, p. xi).
Unlike most adults, who have learned to sacrifice immediate gratification for the sake of long-range goals, these individuals act on their impulses, without giving thought to the consequences. They are usually serene and poised when confronted with their destructive behavior and feel contempt for anyone they are able to manipulate. They change jobs and relationships suddenly and often have a history of truancy from school and of being expelled for destructive behavior. Even after repeated punishment, they seem to lack insight into the connection between their behavior and its consequences.
Interestingly, people with antisocial personalities can be quite charming and persuasive. They also have remarkably good insight into the needs and weaknesses of other people. Even while exploiting someone, they generally inspire feelings of trust. Mass murderer Ken Bianchi was so good at charming others that he convinced a woman he knew only casually to give him an alibi for some of the killings. Bianchi had been charged with several murders and was behind bars when he persuaded her to help him (Magid & McKelvey, 1987).
Whoa! That is just flat scary. You know how many of these people are crowding the average college campus? Lots and lots.
None of these characteristics are surprising to me, if there’s one thing I’m keenly aware of, it’s my own nature, in all it’s hideous evil. Everyone has a sinful nature, but some of us are so talented with it that one little nudge could turn us into Hitlers and Marxes. The line of “whom much is given, of him shall much be required” is the most horrible one to walk. There are deprived people in this world, lacking knowledge, ability, opportunity, who may never get the chance to impact the world much at all. Then there are those of use with the dubiously dangerous abilities of leadership, persuasion, learning, and ambition; along with the opportunity to advance these in a near-limitless capacity. Solomon’s ancient observations on the dark dichotomy of wisdom hold true to this day – demonstrating that our most persuasive demons hang on the edges of our most virtuous talents and noblest capacities. The most crushing part of this unhappy coupling is contained in a word: responsibility. The simple knowledge that exercising my will in a particular direction, or not exercising it in another, can alter the fate of untold numbers of people over the course of history (yes, I subscribe heavily to chaos theory; you calvinists can just save it); either to advance and egnoble humanity in a pursuit of higher virtue, or to bend people to my will, emptying the souls of those I exploit and twisting truth to justify, nay glorify, depravity. While I do not presume to have attained, I can clearly see that the wise man walks on the edge of a knife, off of which the whole of the natural and supernatural realms endeavors to push him. No, I probably won’t lead a nation, cure cancer, start a nuclear war or anything so dramatic as even literary immortalization. The weight of my actions – and therefore my life – will not be judged by myself or my contemporaries, however. It will be judged by history and the great Justice of all. Bearing this in mind, what action of mine could go without consequence? As Jesus said, even so much as a “cup of cold water, in my name” will not go unrewarded, should it not be assumed from this that the slightest cruelty or kindness can significantly alter the course of history? Selah.
P.S. I just finished reading a book on the founders, and I’ve decided that I am madly in love with the romantic era of western history (to be perfectly redundant). The realization that I should have been born in the 1700s in a world of people who passionately cared about the intricacies of human existence has… here goes… constrained this latest muse to descend, and revive the erstwhile spring of symphonic eloquence, so often denied by the predication of condescending overtures and deference to societal misallocation of significance.
P.P.S. “You may feel like a poet, but you sound like an idiot.” -Roland, A Knight’s Tale