By | February 9, 2014 6 Comments

The Atlantic writes sparsely about psychopaths and rehabilitation

Angry man 72dpi 250x150jpgThe Atlantic Magazine was founded in 1857 by luminaries such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The publication was known for literary and cultural commentary. Today the magazine and its website,, are primarily aimed at “thought leaders.”

So when I saw that published a piece entitled, Can Psychopaths Be Rehabilitated?, I was pleased to see this topic be addressed by a well-respected publication. I anticipate it would present a thorough and thoughtful discussion of the issue.

I was disappointed. What the author, Carla Norton, wrote was accurate, but she barely scratched the surface of this topic. She spends half of the short article writing about sensational crimes, then says experts disagree about what should be done with psychopathic criminals. That’s it.

Oh well. At least it’s a start.

Can Psychopaths Be Rehabilitated? on


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The Atlantic…isn’t what it used to be. That’s putting it as kindly as possible. Last year they ran a remarkable, and very wordy, pro-Scientology (they of human rights abuses and criminal infiltration of the federal government) piece that looked very much like an editorial. The problem is that people who read it didn’t quite get that “sponsored content” small print at the top of the page. It was eventually removed with the mea culpa “we screwed up”.

It’s always a bit galling when journalists look only at the most egregious offenders. But that’s what they’re drawn to – the common every day psychopathic Don Juan isn’t as exciting and doesn’t capture national headlines. It also doesn’t help when there are bleeding heart psychologists who are convinced (convinced!!) that yes, we can rehabilitate psychopaths if we could only figure out how to treat them. The simple answer is that you can’t treat anyone who doesn’t think there’s a problem with their behavior. You can’t ever *trust* a psychopath has been treated successfully because of their lack internal braking system. The very definition of rehabilitation is “to restore” – how does one restore a thing that was always broken?


I agree. Psychopaths or sociopaths can never be rehabilitated… ever. You cannot install a conscience is someone who does not have one or was born without one. Just like any other body part, let’s say the leg. So if you’re born without a leg, you can get a prosthetic fake leg to replace the leg that you do not have, but it is not real. It is not connected to your body permanently and it is not made of skin, bones, blood and muscles that A real leg is made of.
I believe that trying to rehabilitate a psychopath or sociopath is a waste of everyone’s time. The results would be you would get a fake persona from the person pretending to have been rehabilitated. Pretending that they all of the sudden feel guilt and remorse. And now they have a conscience. Yeah that is not going to happen- you are either born with a conscience or without a conscience. You cannot force someone to feel remorse guilt or empathy for others. You cannot make someone learn their lesson. When they just don’t care to learn their lesson because they just don’t get it.
Life to a psychopath or sociopath is nothing more than a game and people are nothing more than little objects of the game. I believe that the sociopath who stalks me enjoys the arguments and the attacks and enjoys the effects that it has on me. I know that I am stressed out and upset and have horrible anxiety when I am at battle with this person and I know for fact that it is having no effect on them, they don’t feel anxious or anything,
but I’m like a complete wreck. They seem unaffected by drama, even tho they put on a dramatic show. That’s all it is – a show. for their entertainment only.
Now if you become a threat to the sociopath as in you could expose them for what they are and you have documented proof of this, then they are not so entertained. Then they will do whatever they have to do to keep your mouth shut and to make you disappear and that put you in extreme danger…


I always wondered why the spath from my youth knew where/what I was doing. Suddenly my occupation became her occupation…she worked in a childcare center, but well after I did (in the same town). She married an Asian and lived in Tokyo after she somehow found out I had moved to Montreal and had a boyfriend there. Then I met people from our high school class. Some knew she was a deceitful person and did not speak to me about it…others jabbered away at where she was, what she was doing, and compared me to her (the implication that I was jealous of her), which is the absolute falsehood.

First of all, I am not the jealous type and my ‘exit’ out of her life happened after our first year of college. I did not leave because of her success. She was undoubtedly a full-fledged sociopath. The pain this woman caused me was indescribable. And she played ‘mimic’ to whatever I did. A therapist told me, “She could not become you so she tried to destroy who she knew she was not.”

Thanks for sharing that article. It’s good to see a conversation on psychopathy in main stream media. I think the best thing we can do is chime in and try to create more enlightenment.

Here’s what I responded to the article:

Dr. Liane Leedom’s book, Just Like His Father, is the best resource I’ve seen on how character disorder arises. It seems pretty clear that psychopaths lack “affective empathy,” the underlying character for conscience. Although they demonstrate acute “cognitive empathy,” the ability to size up what’s going on with someone else, they lack “affective empathy,” the ability to care what’s going on with someone else.

Dr. Leedom, and others, have pinned development of affective empathy on appropriate stimulation of oxytocin receptors in early childhood. And she maintains that parental warmth can have a decisive impact. But that alone will not assure that a genetically pre-disposed infant won’t end up on the dark side.

What is most relevant in the assumptions about improving empathy in psychopaths is that once they reach maturity they are looking at life through a pretty disordered prism, and it won’t simply go away. Although they may be able to behave more normally when there is nothing to be gained by not doing so, if given a circumstance where they benefit by harming others, there is likelihood that they’ll revert to their intrinsically conditioned response.

Psychopaths, with their high levels of cognitive empathy are great chameleons. They can pick up social cues and turn themselves into anything they want. Their level of ghoulishness is not what defines them. Rather, their level of non-conscience is what sets them apart.

There are many types of character disorders that revolve around the same absence of affective empathy. There are narcissists who will undermine anyone to achieve self-aggrandizement. There is Borderline Personality disorder that results from fear of abandonment coupled with weak affective empathy. But at the heart of these disorders is the same basic void.

Psychopaths can walk among society doing terrible things to people without the slightest bit of remorse. They can lie, cheat and steal. They can defraud, they can be adulterers and they can abuse. The ones that become ghouls get noted. And some of the ones who perform extraordinary crimes like Bernie Madoff get sent to jail.

When a psychopath grows up in an abusive environment, it is more likely they will become ghoulish. A psychopath that grows up in a more structured, supportive environment will be more inclined toward white collar crime or spousal abuse.

Society should look at the problem of psychopaths as a whole, not singularly the treatment of the ones who are known to be ghoulish. Without addressing how we impart affective empathy to our developing children, we will see not only more Sandy Hooks, and more Penn States, but also the heartache of more common heartless occurrences that take place in society.

My book, Carnal Abuse by Deceit, How a Predator’s Lies Became Rape, (Amazon) deals with one such case.



The article only mentioned one therapist who thinks they might can be cured. It is part of the learning processs. Didn’t we all believe that once? We not only believed they could be cured but that they had good intentions, and it was only through much time and experience that we learned that they were missing the love gene, the empathy gene and the caring for others gene. Only slowly did we come to believe that what appears to the world is all that matters to them, if that. And only much later did some of us learn that there was actually a name for it.

No one wants to believe it, just like they did not want to believe the world is round. Let the professionals prove what we already know. Pray that they hurry and the judicial system follows suit and rids the world of them. Unfortunatelly, many in thhe judicial system are psychopaths themselves.


Interesting post. I find it typical that Carla Norton writes of the “sensational” crimes.

Yet another writer that ignores the fact that the majority of psychopaths are NOT Ted Bundy or Charles Manson. The majority are the soccer coach for your kid’s team, your doctor, your attorney, the next door neighbor and even your pastor. They may not be holding a knife to your neck but equally “lethal” on other levels.

It’s also highly probable that Carla is one herself. The overwhelming denial of mainstream media and our psychotherapy community of the fact that there are over 8 million psychopaths in our culture is difficult to overlook as a survivor. Disorder is a business in this country just like race issues and domestic violence.

No one wants to lose the paycheck.

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