““Dexter” and the Truth About Psychopaths” Comments, Page 1

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37 Comments (14 Discussion Threads) on ““Dexter” and the Truth About Psychopaths”

  1. “As chilling as that thought is, the whole truth, once finally uncovered, is likely to be even more chilling than that.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, you are one of the few authors that really has this right, from the perspective of those who have had the misfortune to get to know one of these creatures well.

    Thank you so much for your insights and books!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Pat. I’m sorry you had the misfortune to have an up-close and personal encounter with this type and I hope the experience hasn’t left you too scarred. Here’s hoping your present life is filled with nothing but joy and wonder.

      Thanks for your endorsement of my work. Look for “Character Disturbance” to hit the shelves in about 9 weeks.

  2. Hi it’s me again Gearoge

    sorry just a quick note , I am living next door to one , have had to involve the Police and hopusing but the scarry thing is his maneuvers are so clever , the bullying tactics emerge again and again with the Police advising me to ignore him but the hallway is just 6′ long and he literally lives 2′ away ( with his partner classic stockhausen syndrome , he has whacked her a few times) so this morning I did my Yoga / Tai chi thing out on the lawn as he was out there tired of feeling sacred i guess, but still he just refused to aknowledge me ( he also watches or has alot of films).

    What to do, leave it in God’s hands eh..

    But I only partially agree about the trauma there must be something wrong pyschodynamically speaking something from birth childhood otherwise this type wouldn’t evolve, the only feeling and that he is reluctant to give way to is anger, they are sacred of feeling…

    my hunch it is one of those extreme Laingian knots ie show emotion and Mum or dad whovere is down on you the conditioning will be subtle and pervasive, yes “hey” and we can all be controlling are VERY difficuilt to live with , unless of course you give into their tactics and then “they” like you scarry or what …

    1. Hi, Richard. Thanks for your input. Sorry about your situation. Something to consider: From an objective, scientific perspective, we always put ourselves at a disadvantage when we assume there MUST be some particular kind of explanation for a phenomenon. When we assume that there MUST be SOME kind of traumatic experiential “dynamic” at the root of someone’s issues, although we leave the door open to some limited possibilities, we close the door on limitless others. Some evidence is emerging that usual networks in the brain that integrate certain areas sensitive to concepts and areas sensitive to emotion and empathy are absent in psychopaths. For a long time, although we’ve allowed that people can be born with defects in their metabolic systems, limb formation, sense organs, etc., we have been reluctant to entertain the notion that people’s nervous systems and brains could be any different, so we’ve insisted that abnormal behavior patterns could only be the result of unusual learning. And with severe dysfunction, we’ve traditionally assumed that the traumatic learning occurred at a very early developmental stage (development after brain formation, that is, as opposed to brain development itself).

      Actually, when it comes the factors that shape behavior patterns, the possibilities are endless, especially when we take an unbiased perspective. And the degree to which nature vs. nurture might play the more dominant role can vary considerably in an infinite variety of ways. So, the “dynamics” of various conditions can get very complicated, especially when both nature and nurture play significant roles throughout development.

      We’re truly at an infancy stage when it comes to understanding brain functioning. But that’s in large measure because for so long we rigidly clung to the notion that all brains are created equal. We truly don’t yet know what makes some of us so different. But in order to get to some level of real understanding, we have to be more skeptical about what we think we know.

    2. You say he’s undoubtedly a psychopath but you haven’t even watched the series??? If you had you would agree that he does not fit the total profile. How is it that a psychopath could fit a code, and feel guilty for killing innocents where dexter does feel guilty when he makes the mistake of doing so. A true psychopath would have no remorse and would not follow a code in the first place.

  3. Thank you Dr. Simon for writing on this topic. I enjoy your e-columns and I agree with your views about psychopaths, otherwise labelled as sociopaths or having anti-social personality disorder. I counsell people who have been abused by family, partners, or in the workplace and none of them would fit with a diagnosis of psychopathy. However, the descriptions they render of the abusers often seem like they would fit. The Dexter series and the Hannibal Lector books and movies tend to romanticize psychopathy and portray the most violent end of it. However, there are many who would be considered “sub-criminal” psychopaths, such as are described in the book “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout. There are fmri’s showing significant differences between the brains of those diagnosed with psychopathy and ‘normal’ people in Dr. O’Hare’s research. The reality is indeed more chilling than tv and movies suggest.

    1. Thanks, Sacha. Your comments are right on the mark. Dr. Robert Hare’s research has increased our understanding of psychopathy immensely. And Martha Stout’s book gives a good glimpse into the “Snakes in Suits” phenomenon as well as other seriously deviant personality types who don’t fit into the “garden variety” criminal profile. I have a classification scheme of my own that I introduced in “In Sheep’s Clothing” but expand upon quite a bit in “Character Disturbance.”

      One common finding in some recent studies is that individuals with strong psychopathic traits tend to report histories that exaggerate the degree to which they suffered any kind of abuse while simultaneously minimizing the degree of abuse and victimization they’ve inflicted on others.

      Another fact that I’ve always found not only the most interesting but also the most ignored statistic of all, is that women are by far the most frequent victims of abuse, be it physical, emotional, or sexual. Yet, they are also by far the minority victimizers. If abuse alone causes abuse, and 1 in 4 women have been subjected to it, wouldn’t you figure that 1 in 4 women would be out there abusing others? Hmmmmmmmm.

  4. I am tired George

    Yes of course i have also from a dim distant past A levels in Bio , physics and chemistry and have studied neurobiology to some degree, I am not in dispute with what you are saying .

    But it makes the matter too deterministic as if there is no hope, other than a biochemical approach.

    top down approaches to human behaviour at least leave the door open for readjustment, for the projection the label itself ie you are a pyscopath ( for that is what it is a social construct )just then gets in the way we have lost site as buber would say of the human being , the i-thou relaithionship has been destroyed.

    No matter how many agree, what is needed is a more humane and optimistic outlook ie perhaps beginning with the aknowledgment that it is the behaviour( response ) we find indicative of pyscopathy ie impossible to cope with and the person still has potential to become more human ,… to feel, rather than to project from some deep subconscious space and cause others “pain”.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Richard. But I think it’s the dichotomous thinking that if there’s a biological component, then all hope has to be lost in a sea of determinism. Ultimately, truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, with the weight varying depending on individual circumstances. And, if we objectively seek the answers without pre-judgment, who knows what miraculous discoveries we’ll eventually find that will enable us to devise remedies and promote healing? We’ve done that in so many other areas already!

      For me, the real loss of hope is in hanging on to beliefs that lack support and go too long unchallenged.

    2. Humane? What makes a person human? Seriel abuse to a fellow human does not exactly display characteristics of what make us human.

  5. You are so h…

    what can i say, I’m off to communion and will ponder this deeply

    God Bless and bye for now


    1. I have thought about it George and am not happy .

      all theories are terrible reductive, the what we see and what we think we see,are not and cannever be the same to the poont that Zen Monks spend their whole lives trying to break free of “this” delusional tendency to project from the past ( an annihilation of knowing?) .

      The label psychopathy being one of the most damaging and dangerous ever contrived by psychiatry .

      Basically put in layman’s terms someone whose whole mod-us operandi is controlling and manipulative and scheming.

      yes this does fit the person next door to me , with his aggressive rebuttals and desire to blame , in an encounter once I said “what is you’re problem and he replied you are ” indicating that if I continued to try to relate to him he would be even more aggressive.

      such behavior lies at the extreme of ego eccentricity or rather definitely ego centered to the point that any sense of challenge to their way or being is seen as a threat, put simply this world in which we live George encourages and endorses mild “psychopathy” .

      The use of the Cartesian dualist perspective to then label people and use this label then to say well there is something wrong with their brain and therefore it is almost pointless trying to relate, well that just sucks!

      All mental illness is fictional in the sense that people whose way of being does not easily fit into normative frameworks , if this person then has a lot of insight and emotional intelligence they might be lucky and escape labeling going onto even to be successful ie the Pablo Picasso’s and Churchills of this world ,but even then their behavior is so different and un- predictable well , a bit like one of my favorite mythological heroes .. need I say more

      Yes this man does make me alternatively afraid and angry yes I do find him impossible and yes I do want to label him and to convince others of this “he’s dangerous ” , but what it boils down to is our relating has reached a non passe, and I am frustrated and confused , but he is probably best left alone.

      and Who knows..

  6. You raise some very valid concerns and criticisms, Richard, but none of them really speak to the reality of the condition with which some are afflicted. Psychiatry’s diagnostic schemes are at best marginal, despite the fact that they are regularly reviewed and updated. And, it’s also true that once a syndrome has become popularized or assumes a place as the “diagnosis du jour,” folks seem to find the syndrome everywhere, even among those who have some traits suggestive of it but really don’t have the syndrome.

    All that said, it is the denial of average folks that can be a bigger problem. In Jesus’ day, folks simply couldn’t imagine that God could create a person with a biologically-based inability to see or hear, so they simply assumed that either the person or someone in his family had committed a sin for which the defect was really a just punishment. More “enlightened” folks later came to believe that certain deviations from the usual human blueprint could be merely a matter of biological variation. But even those folks, had problems viewing matters that pertain to the brain and behavior as subject to variation because it challenged their already weak understanding of and faith in the human soul.

    Psychopathy is a very real thing. Yes, it’s over-diagnosed sometimes and mis-diagnosed. And, unfortunately because its key characteristics are so hard to comprehend or accept (if one has a heart at all), the greatest risk a potential victim bears is their failure to listen to their intuition (an excellent read on this is “The Gift of Fear”). Most of the victims aren’t around to testify to this.

    There are some among us that are just as different as those who were, through no fault of their own, not blessed with sight, hearing, or ambulatory power. Through observation, they can learn what more normal human interaction looks like, but it’s not innate to them. And some of them can do heinous things. Our attempt to understand and possibly be of help simply must be free of bias or all hope is lost. Or should we simply assume that someone in their family tree must have committed an unpardonable sin for which someone must be punished?

  7. The DSM cheerleaders aka psychotherapists have it wrong. They love to marginalize patients into a wastebin category called sociopath. The truth is sociopathy is a cultural reality that manifests across a wide variety of people.

    An individual practices amoral and moral acts and sometimes he is a murdering soldier and sometimes he kills cops.

  8. I was told last summer that the 20 years of my marriage has been emotionally abusive. You ask me why I didn’t know? I don’t know. I fell into a trap, I guess. For the last ten years +, my husband has used the silent treatment with me, bullied me with glares, lack of affection (hasn’t kissed me in 10 years) He says he was “Living inside his head” and that he will now change because I have finally woken him up. I have started to really question everything. I am tall, slim and have been told on several occassions that I am very attractive. It was a slow conditioning. I don’t know. But for someone to be so mean. I would ask him to kiss me. He would say “No, my teeth hurt” I have been going to a battered women shelter for 7 months and am just getting my confidence back. Everyone says he is psychopathic. He broke into my emails, put a GPS on my car and told my family damaging things. Even to my 2 sons. Why? Because I was trying to leave. I haven’t left yet. What kind of behavior is this? His father died when he was little, but he said he had a fine childhood. ANY input is greatly appreciated.
    Confused in Connecticut

    1. Thanks for your comment, Karen and for having the courage and taking the time to write.

      What you describe is common for individuals in your position and explained in both of my books, especially my first book, “In Sheep’s Clothing.” And the reason folks are often caught unaware is primarily twofold: First, the tactics (e.g. “I didn’t know what I was doing until you woke me up,” etc.) work; Second, the kinds of things we’ve long accepted about the psychological underpinnings of behavior (e.g., much of people’s behavior is unconscious, “underneath” their bad behavior, they’re struggling with fears and insecurities, etc. set us up for not seeing the “method” (i.e. calculated nature) to their apparent madness.

      And, unfortunately, as you have apparently discovered, a most risky time is when you finally set boundaries and limits and attempt to end the domination. It’s then when you come to realize that it was never about losing you, but only about losing.

    2. I’m willing to bet that you grew up in a household where you got little if any positive attention from your parent or parents.
      You were probably conditioned as a child to accept that cold, rejecting, abusive behavior and very conditional approval or attention are what “love” is. That was your “normal.” You learned to endure a great deal of emotional abuse for a tiny emotional reward now and then.

      When you first met this man, I’m willing to bet that he was giving off signals and behaviors that seemed familiar to your subconscious, resulting in your responding with something like, “Wow, he’s cold, difficult to please and rejecting, just like my dad/mom, and he’s so attractive; I think I’m in love!”

      I think that more important than having a label or diagnosis for your husband is for you to gain the ability to simply recognize abusive behaviors when you experience them, and to gain the skills to protect yourself from them. The fact that you are in the process of leaving him is an encouraging, positive, healthy, self-protective move on your part.

      If you are not already seeing a therapist who specializes in helping the victims of emotional abuse and domestic violence, I think that would be a positive next step for you.

  9. There is also the possibility that Dexter was never a sociopath but has been heavily conditioned by his adoptive father to believe that he is. If this is the case, then Dexter’s upbringing is not at all portrayal of how sociopaths get to be the way they are, but rather how an emotionally vulnerable child can be pushed toward pseudo-sociopathic behavior.

    1. I find that theory implausible because the Dexter character is presented as being a serial killer, and therefor a true sociopath.

      I’m pretty sure that all the serial killers that have been studied over the last 30 years or so have been diagnosed (after the fact) as having antisocial pd, aka sociopathy or psychopathy.

      Being a serial killer isn’t a pseudo-sociopathic behavior, it IS sociopathic (antisocial pd / psychopathic) behavior.

  10. I find the discussion on the theories of the causes of psychopathy and other Cluster B personality disorders fascinating, and I too find the greatest possibility of hope in the research that shows that personality disorder may be due to organic or chemical brain defects, possibly due to genetics. If personality disorder is an organic, mechanical, chemical problem, then there is very likely to be an organic, mechanical, or chemical solution found, eventually.

    My mother has been formally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder although she is very high-functioning, but I think she also shows many traits of narcissistic pd, and even some antisocial pd and histrionic pd traits. It makes me wonder if Cluster B is more of a “spectrum” disorder, with antisocial pd (psychopathy/sociopathy) being the most severe end of the spectrum and histrionic pd being the least severe?

    I look forward to following continuing and future research studies to see if this mechanical/organic/chemistry-related theory is correct. And I am very interested in reading your books now, since you find hope for better treatments, prevention and cures in the hard sciences as I do.

    1. Some very interesting thoughts, Annie. Research is indeed indicating that there are some interesting biologically-based predispositions to many disorders. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however that all conditions will be found to have organic roots that can be ameliorated biochemically. The interplay between biological predispositions and environmental influences can get pretty complicated at times.

      One particular feature of psychopathy that might prove to be heavily constitutionally-influenced might be the lack of capacity for empathy-based conscience formation. This area of study needs much more exploring, however before we get a clear picture of the factors involved.

      Your point about the hope for medications to help with syndromes once thought extremely difficult if not impossible to treat is very well-taken. Even if there’s no magic pill per se, we’re beginning to see all kinds of benefits to certain medicines helping with various aspects of all disorders, including the personality disorders (e.g., mood stabilizing meds helping with the emotional lability and impulsiveness of borderlines).

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