Ask Me Anything about Psychopathy!

John-Michael Kuczynski
Feb 19, 2018

A psychopath is someone who has no conscience, and psychopathy is the condition of being without conscience. There is a phenomenon known as 'institutional psychopathy', this being the process whereby an entire institution becomes psychopathic, in the sense that the institution as a whole is without principle and also in the sense that the people composing it are without principle. Once an institution becomes just slightly psychopathized, it quickly succumbs to wholesale psychopathization. And a number of institutions and professions have become, or are in the process of becoming, psychopathic. This main reason for this is that, owing to technological advances, many institutions are not only obsolete and therefore serve no positive function, but actually thwart progress and prevent people doing what those same institutions are supposed to do. This is glaringly obvious in where academia is concerned, especially, though by no means exclusively, where the humanities and social sciences are concerned. Because psychopathy is now being spread by psychopathic institutions and professions, it is dramatically more widespread than it used to be. Consequently, the old saw that only 1%-3% of the population consists of psychopaths is now pathetically outdated, and also presupposes a narrow as well as antiquated conception of what a psychopath is. Most psychopaths in our time are not slick con-men but are rather bureaucrats, who discharge their psychopathy not by running Madoff-style swindles but by misdeploying educational and professional resources.

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What other areas of psycho analysing are you interested in and why?
Feb 26, 7:31AM EST0
Have you personally known anyone that has been diagnosed as a psychopath and what was their relationship to you?
Feb 25, 12:24PM EST0
What would your advice be on how to handle a psychopath in a dangerous situation?
Feb 23, 3:52PM EST0

Avoid if at all possible. If cornered, do not act fearful. But also do not threaten. Without being submissive, be convivial and relaxed. But I stress that you should have no dealings with psychopaths, and if you are forced to be with them, say as little as you can without suggesting to them that you are afraid. But remember that as long as you are not afraid, they won't hurt you: they are like sharks--they go after creatures that are fearful and leave the others alone. 

Feb 24, 4:12PM EST0
Are some psychopaths more dangerous than others or do all psychopaths display the same set of character traits?
Feb 23, 3:08PM EST0

No, there is a vast range of behaviors. Some psychopaths, e.g. Ted Bundy, are incredibly dangerous. Others, e.g. Jim Jones, are also incredibly dangerous, but on a much larger scale and over much more extended swaths of space-time. Some psychopaths are upbeat and informative and witty--and time spent with them can be pleasant and informative, so long as you do not make the mistake of relying on them. Some psychopaths keep to themselves and appear harmless--until you are in their lair. Others are gregarious. So far as psychopaths have any traits in common, they are con-artists. And the archetypal psychopath is not a serial killer, so much as a he is a con-man---a swindler, a grifter, or a cult-leader. 

Feb 24, 4:15PM EST0
How many years of study are involved when becoming a psychoanalyst?
Feb 23, 3:06PM EST0

Short answer: 5. Long answer: Some very good psychoanalysts. e.g. Erik Erikson, have no formal training, and some profoundly bad ones have decades of formal training. Being an analyst is about two things: having a sixth sense about people and genuinely wanting to help. It is also about listening to them--but if you have the two traits just mentioned, then you will automatically listen.  But it definitely helps to study with a very talented psychoanalyst or, at least, to attend an institute. 

Feb 24, 4:17PM EST0

Are psychopaths capable of feeling long term emotions?

Feb 22, 8:15PM EST0

Short answer: No. They can certainly feel emotions, and those emotions could conceivably endure for a long time. But they cannot have emotions of any depth and thus cannot have emotions that are, in the relevant sense, long term. To have a 'long term' emotion, as you put it, it necessary to have values: to have an abiding and stable emotional relationship to a given thing is to have a value of some kind--it is to value that thing or some other related things. And psychopaths have no values and therefore value nothing. Therefore thye do not have emotions that are, in the relevant sense, long term.

Feb 22, 8:27PM EST0

Can psychopaths be functional members of society?

Feb 22, 3:27PM EST0

Yes.  Many politicians, including some very high level ones, are psychopaths, and so are many actors and actresses. There is a difference between being a psychopath and a degenerate. Degenerates are, by definition, non-functional, but not all psychopaths are degenerates. Some have held that Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton are psychopaths, and Bernie Madoff presumably is a psychopath of a kind. And these are all highly functional human beings. Also, there are some career paths in which psychopathy is or can be an asset, for example, soldier or prosecutor. The term "natural born killer" is a military term: the military deliberately conscripted psychopaths to test out their battle-readiness. And it turned out that when a battallion had at least one psychopath in it--one "natural born killer", to use the military term---it outperformed psychopath-free battallions. I personally have known some hard-core psychopaths who were lawyers (not prosecutors). The anti-septic and emptily procedural nature of the law seem to appeal to them. 

Last edited @ Feb 22, 8:24PM EST.
Feb 22, 3:57PM EST0

What was your goal or what did you wish to achieve by becoming a psychoanalyst?

Feb 21, 12:48PM EST0

I am always psychoanalyzing people. I am always tuned into them--into their unconscious minds--and am always parsing the information that I thereby receive. So I don't have to make any conscious effort to do psychoanalysis, and there isn't any particular goal that I have to have to do it. Mainly, I am just very, very interested in it--and I do it well, and my patients always quickly make real progress. But, since you ask, yes--at this point, I do have larger objectives in doing psychoanalysis. The world is now dividing into entrepreneurs and cubicle workers. I very strongly do not want to be a cubicle worker. And that leaves me no choice but to be an entrepreneur. As it happens, entrepreneurs are increasingly going into computer-related and information-related fields, into both of which categories online psychoanalysis (what I do) falls. So there is that. But also--education and psycho-therapy are on the cusp of being completely revolutionized and de-bureaucratized: they are bout to be integrated into the digital revolution that has taken over commerce. And I want to spear-head that. And I want my online psychoanalytic practice to be the spear-head of that spear-head. Have I accomplished this as of yet? No.

Feb 21, 8:54PM EST0

Are psychopaths born the way they are, if so what your suggestions for raising a child who displays psychopathic tendencies?

Feb 21, 12:47PM EST0

Some people are heavily predisposed by genetics to be psychopathic. But there is no one who, in terms of their DNA, is irredemably psychopathic. I have known people who, judging by their behavior as infants, were clearly as predisposed by genetics towards psychopathy as anyone. But because they were raised morally centered and kind people, they did not ever become full blown psychopaths. Contrariwise, I have known people who had only a modest predisposition towards psychopathy but who, because they were raised by cold, manipulative, and punitively moralizing parents, became highly psychopathic. If a child shows early leanings towards psychopathy, the way to prevent him from becoming completely psychopathic is to give legitimate strengths and to make able to compete, honorably and without cheating, in a competitive world. The worst thing to do to a budding psychopath is to lecture; the worst thing is to give morally tinged but content-light lectures about morality, with some home-spun philosophy thrown in (e.g. 'everything is relative...'). The best thing to do is to show interest in the child; listen to the child; do not negotiate with child; do not yield but not lose your temper. Require the child to do as you do, not as you say. Show moral centerness through deeds; show strength through strength (through deliberate and sensible conduct, not through violence, nor through histrionic displays). And know that children see through moralizing performances; they see them, rightly, as signs of inner weakness and hypocrisy. Children also see violence in much the same way; they rightly see both as attempts to hide inner weakness with a thin glaze of outer pseudo-strenght. Basically---be real with the child, and the child will be real, and, by virtue of being real, he will not become a psychopath. 

Feb 21, 8:17PM EST0

Is there any way psychopathy can be prevented, both in individuals and institutions?

Feb 20, 4:16PM EST0

Yes. Psychopathy can be prevented in both in institutions and in individuals (even, in most cases, those with a heavy genetic predisposiiton to psychopathy). In individuals, psychopathy is prevented by raising the child, especially during his very earliest years, in an environment that is warm and loving and that also provides a moral structure--an environment in which good actions are rewarded and in which bad actions are clearly and firmly (but not brutally or censoriously) not allowed to be indulged in. The worst sort of environment---the sort of environment that is most likely to trigger psychopathy--is one that is both bold and moralizing. An environment in which morality is used as a way of demeaning and undermining, instead of strengthening, is one in which morality is being represented as lacking value, except as a weapon, and in which the child's superego will either fail to develop or will develop only in some corrupted form. As for institutions, there are two ways to prevent them from psychopathizing. The first is to give them some kind of a mission or function that refers outside of themselves. It is hard for hospitals or car-companies to be completely psychopathic, since they are held to objective, institution-external benchmarks: if a car-company fails to make functioning cars, it goes out of business; if a hospital butchers the people it is supposed to cure, it goes out of business. And because such institutions must be functional, they cannot become completely fraudulent and therefore cannot become completely psychopathic. As for other institutions--institutions that have legitmiate functions, albeit ones that are more intangible (e.g. ---the way to prevent them from psychopathizing is to make them a bit 'anarchical', i.e. is to make them have fluid structures. And the way to do this is to define them, from the get-go, not in terms of their structures, but in terms of their ideals. There is an author named Dmitri Orlov, who just published a book called 'shrinking the tchnosphere.' In that book, he makes a very good point, namely, that in authoritarian and rigidly hiearchical institutions, intelligence is 'subtractive'; basically, intelligence at a given level is basically suppressed by the dictates at the next level up. And Orlov also points out that, in systems that are less authoritarian--with more of a 'horizontal' as opposed to 'vertical' (top-down) power structure---intelligence tends to be 'additive', meaning that people in different parts of the institution in question tend to add to and benefit from, rather than simpIly suppressing, the intelligence in that institution. In any case, when institutions become psychopathized, it is by acquiring frozen, rigid, hyper-bureaucratic heiarchical structures. And the way to prevent institutional psychopathy is by building a certain plasticity and openness into them, which is done by making the objectives of those insitutions super-ordinate to their internal power-structures. 

Last edited @ Feb 20, 5:43PM EST.
Feb 20, 4:43PM EST0

Is it possible for a psychopath to realize the error of their ways?

Feb 20, 2:24PM EST0

A psychopath can realize that he has made errors of a practical kind: he can realize that, in order to get what he wants, he has to change his methods and techniques. But he cannot possibly realize that his very identity must undergo a change. For the psychopath, all shortcomings are practical shortcomings, not moral or existential shortcomings. In order for the psychopath to see his very identity as being remiss, he would have to have a conception of a pure (as opposed to instrumental) value: he would have to see certain identities as being more valuable, not as means to an end, but in and of themselves. And since the psychopath has no conception of non-instrumental value--since, for him, all value is identical with utility--he cannot possibly see his very identity as falling short. So, no--even though the psychopath can certainly realize that he must change his methods, he does not, for he cannot, see his very self as being on the wrong path. He sees shortcomings as attaching, not to his self, but merely to his methods. For him, all problems are technical problems, and are never moral or existial in nature.

Feb 20, 4:28PM EST0

Are there any other mental illnesses connected to psychopathy?

Feb 20, 4:59AM EST0

Short answer--no. Setting aside psychopathy, mental illnesses are about internal conflict. More precisely, they are about conflicts between one's drives and one's superego (conscience): One wants certain things, but, for reasons of conscience, one won't permit oneself to gratify those desires. And the resulting instinctual frustration is discharged in the form of symptoms, symptoms being displaced forms of desire gratification. Since the psychopath has no conscience, he is not internally conflict. (He may be undecided as to what means to employ in a given context, but he is not conflicted as to what he wants to achieve; so he is not, in any significant sense, internally conflicted.) The long answer to your question is---yes, but only because psychopathy contains within itself a number of forms of psychopathology: poor or erratic impulsive control; narcissism; inability to form meaningful emotional attachments or, therefore, to draw strength from others; inability to learn form past mistakes. But all of these deficiences are included in psychopathy itself; so, ultimately, the answer to your question is--no: the only conditions that are comorbid with psychopathy are the various forms of psychopathy. No condition other than psychopathy is comorbid with psychopathy. One minor point: some physical illnesses are comorbid with psychopathy, owing to the psychopath's inability to process affective (emotion-related) information. For example, psychopaths are unusually likely to get IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), owing to their inability to interpret the signals that their own body is sending them. And they are often diagnosed withed 'fibromyalgia', but only because this supposed condition is used as a cover for malingerers. 

Last edited @ Feb 20, 4:12PM EST.
Feb 20, 4:08PM EST0

What made you interested in working as a psychoanalyst?

Feb 19, 2:32PM EST0

Two things. First, ever since I can remember---but certainly since around the age of 12---I have been extremely intuitive about people. They have always been transparent to me. And I have always been limitlessly curious about people--about their motivations and drives. Second, I myself had rather serious difficulties. To find answers to them, I read a lot of philosophy. But philosophy, though deeply interesting to me, provided me with no answers to the psychological questions that I had. Then, when I was 18, I read Freud--Totem and Taboo and a couple of case-studies. And it simply blew my mind. I cannot describe how illuminating it was. This precipitated a long series of developments within myself, which culminated in me undergoing extensive analysis myself and in my undergoing extensive psychoanalytic training. And in the process, I was able to hone my ability to read people. That gave me a power that really gave me an edge over life's very numerous (as it turned out) difficulties.

Feb 20, 3:56PM EST0

Which professions have the most psychopaths and why?

Feb 19, 1:46PM EST0

Showbusiness, politics, and academia (especially 'chic' branches of academia, such as media studies and Marxism-related studies). Psychopaths are, almost by definition, about flash, as opposed to substance--sizzle without steak. To be a psychopath is to be someone who has no conscience, and therefore no values, and therefore no real identity. (One's identity is largely defined by one's values---not just held together by values, but actually constituted by them.) And psychopaths, having as they do, no values, have no real identities. They therefore have fake identities---pseudo-identities: identities that are define by 'narratives'. And since they have no identities of their own, they require constant validation from others: they cannot self-validate since they have no real selves. So they are drawn to politics and show-business, since those are largely appearance-driven and since those who participate in them are given hefty doses of adulation and external validation. And they are drawn to media studies and other such puffery-based branches of acadmia since those areas are chic but insubstantial. Also, notice how heavily identity is 'deconstructed' in those areas: how central to them is the idea that 'identity is a construct'--that just about everything is a 'construct.' Most things are not, in fact, constructs. But what is a construct is the psycyopath's sham-identity. In any case, by going into 'deconstructive' areas of study, such as Marxism, the psychopath gives legitimacy to his own attempts to replace his lack of identity with a narrative-based identity.

Feb 20, 2:56PM EST0

How to deal with a person with psychopathic features?

Feb 18, 10:18AM EST0

Do not engage. Avoid. You can't win with them. And when your relations with them go bad--which they do as soon as you see through them--there is no way to fix them. Psychopaths, despite often having a veneer of logic and reason, are protoplasmic blobs of infantile rage. And their logic--their real logic--is the pseudo-logic of a self-indulgent are rationalizer. And their emotional life is that of a tyrannical and violent infant, who, unfortunately, has at his disposal the social and intellectual resources of an adult. Do not engage. Do not confront. Do not attempt to outwit. Give a wide berth and tread cautiously.

Feb 18, 11:21PM EST0

What’s the best psychology major course to take for those who want to become a psychoanalyst?

Feb 18, 9:16AM EST0

Criminal psychology and counseling. But you are going to have to do a lot of studying on your own and/or study at an institute. I myself have started an institute, the Freud Institute LLC, but we are not yet offering classes. www.ocdandphilosophy.com 

Feb 18, 11:21PM EST0

Who is most likely to become a psychopath, a woman or a man and why?

Feb 18, 6:43AM EST0

They are both equally likely to become psychopaths. When women become psychopaths, they become psychopaths in distinctively feminine ways---often going to enormous lengths to dress up their children for perfect family pictures and spending hours putting together hair and make up and assembling perfect little knick-knacks for a perfect house. Also, a lot of female prostitutes are psychopaths (as are a lot of male gigolos, for that matter). And when women are serial killers, it is always--with few or no exceptions--by being a black widow (husband killers) or angel of death (nurse who kills those in her charge). And when heterosexual men become psychopaths, it tends to be in a stereotypically male way--by being athletic, money-oriented, goal-oriented, swash-buckling etc. In general, when people are psychopaths, they tend to be psychopaths in a way that mirrors--and also exaggerates and distorts--the characteristically generally had by members of their gender and sexual orientation. 

Last edited @ Feb 18, 11:22PM EST.
Feb 18, 11:21PM EST0

What is it like to have a mind of a psychopath? Are there really no feelings at all?

Feb 18, 2:00AM EST0

They definitely have feelings---very strong ones, in fact. Their feelings are intense in the way which a three year old's feelings are intense: intense but shallow; mercurial; confined to certain frequences or bandwidths; strong but not rooted in depth of outlook. They lack principle, and they lack feelings of the principle-based variety. And this greatly impoverishes their emotional repertoire; it renders them unable to enjoy many forms of beauty or, correllatively, to be repulsed by many forms of ugliness, this being why they are curiously indifferent to artificial or crass surroundings (e.g. neon lights, cheap decorations, generally tawdry or gauche surroundings). They live in a perpetual present, the reason being that living in a distant future is about having ideals and psychopaths have no real ideals. They need praise and stimulation. They are not self-contained. They depend very much on external validations and external stimuli. They have to expend an enormous amount of energy keeping up appearances---trying to appear to have values and to have the sort of internal life that non-psychopaths have. They can feel pain and anger and sadistic gratification. But their emotional pallate is very limited. They often exercise for hours and hours at a time--biking or doing triathlons or some such---simply so that they can feel something. They don't enjoy anything for its own sake, except conning people. Despite the movie-based myths to the contrary, psychopaths are actually very dependent on others, and they have very unstable and fragile personality. All of this said, there are some emotional factors working in their favor, mainly, that they have very child-like minds, and this gives them a freshness of outlook and, in some contexts, a fearlessness and vitality that comes with what Zen-masters refer to as 'beginner's mind.' This child-like, obliviousness-based energy is often mistaken for a high degree of 'intent' that is rooted in depth of character; but in actuality it is 'rooted' in superficiality of character and a consequently blinkered outlook. Nonetheless, it is to their credit, for lack of a better turn of phrase, that they have a child-like freshness and tend not to become beaten down and molded over with the bitterness and sourness that corrodes others. The ideal situation is to have the depth of the character of the non-psychopath and the vitality and freshness of the psychopath. And this can be achieved. 

Last edited @ Feb 18, 11:39PM EST.
Feb 18, 11:22PM EST0

If an institution is considered a psychopath, what are the basic first steps to make a positive change in it?

Feb 17, 11:22PM EST0

It is hard to de-psychopathize institutions. What can be done is to create new, alternate institutions that serve the function that is supposedly served by the institution that has become psychopathized. So, for example, if an academic department, or plurality of such departments, has become psychopathized, it is more or less impossible to de-psychopathize it. And even if that could be done, the forces that psychopathized it in the first place are still going to be operative and will re-psychopathize that institution. But if an alternate institution is created, then it can be constructed in such a way that it is not capable of being corrupted by the forces that corrupted the original institution. The colonists originally tried to reform the British government. That didn't work. So they set up a new government. And that is how it must often be. Reform is possible; and in most cases, it is the only possibility. But in the contexts that I have in mind---academia, mainly---reform is neither possible nor necessary. And inexpensive, efficient and effective alternatives can and must be set up. 

Feb 17, 11:41PM EST0

What’s the most rewarding thing about your job that keeps you going?

Feb 17, 10:49PM EST0

What I really enjoy about it is honing my ability to read people. With every session, I sharpen my ability to tune into what others are thinking. And it is like developing a super-power. And it is the feeling of power that comes with that sharpness that keeps me going. That and my boundless interest in what goes in other people's minds, this being an interest that there is no way to gratify except by being an analyst. Also, I do not have to deal with bureaucrats or bureaucracies. I am dealing with people who are open and honest and fundamentally non-bureaucratic in nature.

Feb 17, 11:43PM EST0
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