People who have committed horrific acts have been in the news a lot recently. Prime examples are Ariel Castro, accused of holding three women captive for 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio, and Jodi Arias, convicted of viciously murdering her ex-boyfriend in Mesa, Arizona.
Who is so heartless and cruel that they can engage in these terrible behaviors? The answer is probably that the perpetrators are personality disordered. So various mental health experts have been writing blog articles on the cases and personality disorders, which Lovefraud readers have been forwarding to me.
Some of the statements made in the articles I agree with, and some I don’t. So I’m going to write a series of critiques of the articles. My views are based on:
- My experience of being married to a sociopath
- Two Internet surveys, each with more than 1,300 responses, in which Lovefraud readers described experiences with sociopaths
- More than 3,700 cases I’ve collected from Lovefraud readers
- Experts who I believe “get it” when it comes to these disorders, especially Dr. Liane Leedom (who was also married to a sociopath).
Please read the first article by Dr. Paul W. Ragan, a psychiatrist, which appeared on CNN.com:
Where sociopaths come from
I agreed with what Ragan wrote, until he got to this point:
Where do people like Castro come from? Male batterers often grow up in families fraught with strife, conflict, neglect and violence.
The basic theory is that deleterious early life experiences of the perpetrator cause developmental arrest of their psychological maturation and personality formation.
In my opinion, Ragan’s explanation of where sociopaths come from is total garbage.
Research has now determined that psychopathy/antisocial personality disorder originates from a combination of genetics and a bad early environment. What happens is that an individual is born with a genetic predisposition for the personality disorder, and then early experience, such as bad parenting, enables the genes to “express.” Essentially the genes get turned on, and the personality disorder takes hold.
If a person is born with a genetic predisposition to sociopathy, it often means that at least one parent is a sociopath. As Lovefraud readers attempting to co-parent with sociopaths know, they make lousy parents. Even if they aren’t overtly abusive—which many are—they are neglectful and disinterested in the welfare of the child.
That’s why the best a healthy parent can hope for is that the sociopath disappears from the life of the child. Even then, the genetic predisposition may be so strong that a parent who tries mightily to raise the child to have empathy and a conscience may not be able to overcome it.
Ragan, the psychiatrist who wrote the article, mentions none of this. Instead, Ragan says that Ariel Castro had the opportunity to grow into a normal, healthy adult, but his early experiences derailed him.
Emotional needs of the sociopath
Then Ragan wrote the following:
What happens is that the individual is left with deep emotional needs for which they feel totally inadequate to get met.
Their self-concept is so impaired and their self-esteem is chronically so low that they feel totally unable to compete in the normal adult game of attracting and keeping a mate.
At this point, when I first read this article, I choked on my breakfast. Have any of us ever met a sociopath with “deep emotional needs”? Or a sociopath who feels “totally inadequate”?
And excuse me, according to the thousands of people I’ve spoken to, sociopaths are exceptionally good at attracting mates, and many of them do keep people around for decades, which is unfortunate for their partners.
Here’s another major fallacy: Sociopaths do not have low self-esteem. Instead, they have incredibly high self-esteem, a major sense of entitlement, even when they do not have the accomplishments to back up their lofty views of themselves. If their actual resume is thin, they just lie.
Anger and rage
Okay, I need to take a breath for the next paragraph. Here it is:
When their attempts are met by failure, their impaired moral development and lack of empathy coupled with unbridled anger and rage lead them down the road of violent possession of their “partners.”
A sociopath’s impaired moral development and lack of empathy have nothing to do with failure in the mating game. These are the characteristics sociopaths are born with, which then take over the personality. The “unbridled anger and rage” is typical sociopathic dominance and aggression.
So why did Ariel Castro engage in violent possession of the women? First of all, he liked it. I assume, like all sociopaths, that Castro has excess testosterone. In The Moral Molecule, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, author Paul J. Zak says that high levels of testosterone are associated with a desire to punish, so that some men experience inflicting punishment as exceptionally rewarding. (This is less likely to happen in women.)
Secondly, Castro probably experienced extreme “duping delight.” Sociopaths love to know they are getting away with their actions. Castro kept these women right under the noses of everyone in the neighborhood and even his own family. He must have been chuckling to himself for years.
Finally, what sociopaths really want in life is power and control. Ariel Castro had total power and control over those three women for 10 years. He wasn’t angry. He was in hog heaven.
Dr. Ragan’s article is frightening. When so-called “experts” have such a poor understanding of the sociopathic personality disorder, and get to write about what they don’t know on CNN, it’s no wonder the rest of us are confused.