In 2012 the BBC broadcast a documentary programme entitled Are You Good or Evil? in which it looked at the issue of psychopathy – the psychology of the psychopath – looking at brain scans, genetics and childhood backgrounds. There is no formal psychiatric diagnostic category of psychopathy in either the DSM IV or the ICD (The World Health Organisations classification of diseases), and there is no formal consensus as to the diagnostic criteria. However assessments of psychopathy are frequently used in the criminal justice system systems in some countries.
The most prominent means of diagnosis at present was devised by Dr Robert Hare, a leading expert in psychopathy, in the form of a checklist known as Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R). Psychopathy is thought of as a form of personality disorder, the main characteristic of which is an impaired or complete lack of empathy, which neurologically is seen as a malfunctioning or non-functioning of mirror neurones and/or lack of, or minimal, releases of oxytocin. Other common traits of the psychopath are often a high intelligence, persistent lying and superficial charm, making them often difficult to assess. Only a minority of psychopaths are violent offenders, and the programme found that most are sub-criminal, and that many are top-flight business executives who succeed by charm, charisma, manipulation and brutal insensitivity.
There is thought to be a ‘psychopathic gene’, known as MAO-A, and those with this gene have tendencies to psychopathic characteristics. However it was also shown that the combination of the gene and a traumatic childhood are always indicated in those who resort to violence, and that those who seem to have the gene but have had a relatively good childhood are not so likely to end up at the violent end of the scale. In my thinking the existence of a gene that we could call a ‘psychopath gene’ is likely to come from several generations of violence where the RNA (gene expression) across the generations solidifies and modifies the gene to what is known as the psychopathic gene. Of course I am not a geneticist and this is just my thinking, but in the theoretical framework presented in my latest book, the heart of things: understanding trauma – working with constellations, this makes sense.
Nevertheless there is the interesting case of Willie Bosket, written about in the book All God’s Children by Fox Butterfield (Butterfield, 2008). Bosket is a violent offender who committed his first murder while still a minor in New York, which eventually caused a change in the law in that state, followed by the rest of the US states, to enable a minor to be tried and convicted of murder. Bosket seems a typical psychopath combining stupendous violence with a high intelligence and charm. Butterfield in his book on Bosket shows that his family were violent on a multi-generational scale traceable back to slavery in what is said to be one of the most violent counties in the south: Edgefield County, South Carolina, which, since 1760, has been known as “Bloody Edgefield”. Edgefield county at one time had double the state’s average murder rate. Bosket’s family since 1760 had been violent repeatedly, culminating in the notorious Willy.
In terms of Franz Ruppert’s theory, the psychopath has developed such efficient survival strategies, to the extent that feelings are virtually obliterated in order to avoid any possible risk of unresolved trauma feelings surfacing and disturbing the person. They are the ultimate victim turned perpetrator, being the victim of generations of violence and childhood abuse.
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