REGISTER | LOGIN
By | May 8, 2008 13 Comments

There is no drabber place to be

Why is it that in the popular media super-psychopaths like serial killers are portrayed has having such rich inner lives? (Consider the highly cultured Hannibal Lecter.) That’s not right at all.

Anthony Lane, film reviewer for the New Yorker, makes the point well:

There was a time when, as a God-fearing member of the community, you could commit a single murder, drop a couple of clues, and wait to be unmasked. Now it’s all serial slayers, stacking up bodies like air miles. Filmgoers are supposed to find this multiplicity enticing, and we are constantly being invited to enter into the “mind” of the serial killer, but in truth there is no drabber place to be, and the idea that there might be an artfulness, even a style, to the act of homicide is one of the more pernicious fantasies that movies like to hawk.

It’s a drab, dreadful hell in there – all of which is inflicted on others.


13
Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
Notify of
alohatraveler

Thanks Dr. Steve.

I spent a lot of time thinking up elaborate reasons why I was being treated so badly. The answer was quite simple and much less complicated than I had imagined. The comment above should remind us not to fall into the trap of wanting to figure it all out and to accept what is… faster… so we can move on with our lives.

gennyrabbit

sociopaths are liars about their own personalitities more than anything. they would like others t believe they are funny, smart, tough, even brave in away and they are none of those things.

the xS would refer to the skeviest losers as someone you shouldn’t mess with. it was so lame.

i think films are really bad in this way. interesting characters like hannibal lector go to the heads of s,n, and other losers. they use their flamboyancy to make lack of ethics and morals seem cooler. i don’t like that other people can be manipulated this way. but really i think that for the most part people can’t….

Ox Drover

I bought and was reading a couple of professional manuals on the risk assessments of violent offenders and sexual predators in doing the documentation and source quoting for the letters I wrote to the parole board and governor of our state concerning the upcoming parole hearing for one of my Ps who is also a sexual predator (ages 8, 11 and 14) and found some interesting things—one was just what this film reviewer said, there is LESS THERE than what we expect.

Dr. Anna Salter, who wrote one of the books I used, stressed this; we try to give them too much inner life. That we try to make them more complex than they really are.

Sometimes they are very intellectually bright, and can quote philosophers and “sound” very “deep thinking”—my P-son is excellent at this. I went back through some of his letters where he was “counseling me” on how to think, “deep philosophy” and in fact, some of the concepts were very deep, but HE DIDN’T GET THEM. They were just “words” but in no way did he connect with the meaning of those words, he had just figured out that he could say these and OTHER PEOPLE would react to them if he “sounded” sincere.

Re-reading some of his letters, though, I can see that there really wasn’t any “connection” there, it was all manipulation. A cursory reading might sound very “caring” and “deep” but at the same time, there is something, just a bit off, like a letter written in English by someone who is not a native speaker and who really doesn’t speak it well, the words and syntax are just a bit “unusual” or there are some contradictions. Sort of like some of the Internet scammers that Glinda and I were talking about on another thread. Just a “click off” somehow.

Gennyrabbit, you are right “sociopaths are liars about their own personalities more than anything else…” That is so true in the case of my son. He has been in prison all but less than 12 months since he was 17, he is 37 years old now, yet he fancies himself an EXPERT IN SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS and in LOVE and WOMEN of all things.

He had some female pen pal he was writing to, and one time he accidentally sent me the letter intended for her, and I read it. It sounded like some 15 year guy old trying to impress some girl. I remember thinking at the time that he was SO ignorant about male/female relationships that he didn’t know that he didn’t know anything. Yet, he was so arrogant that he thought he was an “expert”—

I never “bought” his stories that living in prison for 20 years, and more than half his life, made him an “expert” on “relationships” and “social interactions” in the free world, though I really don’t doubt that he probably is a “expert” in “prison survival for small-stature white inmates.” He would most likely have had to become one in order to survive.

Films and books paint the con man as “cool” and paint the psychopathic killers as interesting—and I guess in some ways we (humans) are fascinated by the macabre, the “true crime” books sell like hot cakes because people are curious and interested in such things as these horror crimes, and I would not hesitate to say that most of them are committed by psychopaths. Books on Ted Bundy, Scott Peterson, O J Simpson, etc. are written because they SELL. Fiction about this sort of thing also sells.

I don’t have television, I watch DVDs sometimes of various movies, but don’t watch “television” or “cable.” It may seem odd to some people, and in fact my best friend who was here this past week “couldn’t stand the quiet” of no television blaring in the background every waking moment, no street noise (I live in the boonies) etc. LOL I’m just the opposite when I go to her house in a large city, even though she lives on a quiet culdesac, TV all day and night, street noise, sirens, doors slamming, people’s voices from the neighbors’ houses.

When my children were small I didn’t have a television for seven years because I did not want them watching violence indiscrimantly, I wanted them to learn to play and be kids rather than sit entranced in front of the TV soaking up violence. I believe that seeing violence over and over, even “make believe” violence, dulls the senses to violence, especially in children. Violent video games, movies, and music foster this “violence is okay” mind set, in my opinion.

Sure, there was violence in this world before television—I doubt that Cain killed Abel because there was a violent TV show that made him do it. LOL Even without early exposure to television and movie violence, and violent video games, my P-son became a cold-blooded killer, willing to kill for gain or revenge without any second thoughts or conscience.

I grew up in a situation where we routinely killed animals in full view of the children in the family. Gutted and butchered them. When I went to surgery in school, I had no problems with wanting to “pass out” (and other students in my class did pass out) when I saw the blood or a patient on the table split open from top to bottom, because I had already seen plenty of “blood and gore” and was “used to it.” Some friends who are not used to such, drove up a while back here on the farm when we were butchering an animal and I thought that the woman in the car would pass out on the spot. She wasn’t used to seeing such things and it bothered her.

It doesn’t bother me at all to kill an animal for food, the only thing that really DOES bother me is if there is a mistake and the animal is not immediately and completely and instantly killed and suffers. I even go to the commercial butcher with my cattle to stand there with them while they are put down so that they don’t have any anxiety or fear which they would have if I wasn’t there to talk to them. If I have a dog that needs to be put down, I do it myself, because I don’t want to take it to the vet and have it AFRAID, or wait to go to the vet while it is in pain from an injury. To me, that is a kindness rather than being callous; but that is “the way I was raised.”

Even with all of this, there were parts of the “Passion of Christ” that I was unable to watch, and had to hide my head, and other movies with graphic depictions of pain and torture.

While I am “for” the “freedom of the press” and “artistic expression” I still think that the utter, senseless depictions of violence that are generally unnecessary to the “story” should be controlled in some form, because it is obvious that the makers of films won’t do this—because violence SELLS. So does Crack cocaine, heroin and lots of other things that aren’t “good for you”—just because people want it doesn’t mean it is “good.” Child porno is also “illegal” and prosecuted, but it is still available to those that want it—just as any “prohibited” thing will always be available for a price underground…so the answer is for parents to be parents and keep this kind of thing away from their children—and themselves…but I don’t expect it to happen.

But Ps, if my son is any example, will and can still become violent even without early and continual exposure to this sort of media violence. It is the Non-P children that I think it does more “damage” to emotionally. If any of that makes any sense.

I just wish our media didn’t demonstrate ways and make “cool” the “biggest baddest bad-ass on the block” being a role model for children.

gennyrabbit

^i know exactly what you mean about violence affecting non-P children. for them hurting another person is about control and the actual thrill and feeling smarter. the control part i think can apply to more people than just P/S/N’s etc. but for other people with out such serious disorders it somehow teaches that violence can be cool, funny, empowering. the bride from kill bill for example was not depicted as an emotionless murderer. she was cartoonish and then glorified. it doesn’t accurately portray them at all.

why doesn’t anyone make a movie about a sociopath who sneaks around the house and scans his wife who he “loves” computer while he sneaks out behind her back with other men and peppers the day with inexplicable “what the hell?” moments of confusion. and throw in their ability to transform from a hee-haw to suave and their her ability to be intelligent and also amazingly stupid. that’s a bit more accurate.

Ox Drover

BEcause WE have a rich inner life, I think that WE tend to think that the psychopath must also have this–it is like them trying to imagine what a conscience is, or us trying to imagine what someone without one thinks or feels.

We can’t imagine how they actually feel any more than we can imagine how it feels to be a snake, or a cat. A snake or a cat can’t imagine how we feel or think. There is just no frame of reference.

How could a person blind from birth understand colors? How can a child that isn’t bonded understand the concept of “love” and bonding?

Sure, they “know” that “lying” is “bad” and that people react negatively to it, but they don’t see any reason NOT to lie. The only thing they see is to “not get caught lying.”

It is sad, really, that so many people lack this capacity to love, to feel and care…their lives must be pretty empty, and I think that on some level they realize this, and that is why they try to fill it with “excitement” and risk taking behaviors.

Sometimes, in my anger at the Ps in my life, it is easy to forget that they are humans, and to visualize them as somewhat less than human. I do have the right, though, to not interact with them, to not allow them to abuse me.

This is an interesting post, and especially Dr. Steve’s comment the inner world of a socipath being a drab place to be. Rather than drab, I always think of it as being a kind of empty street with no name, no location, no shelter.

My sociopath gave all the impressions of having a rich inner life. He was an MFA, a professional writer. He brought me music and books. He traveled and skied and scuba’d. He dressed like a GQ model. He was funny.

When I met him, and he paid attention to me, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. But there were always weirdnesses. His comments on other people were cruel and shallow. The characters in his writing had no emotions and no back stories. Despite an education that should have at least exposed him to higher values, his mission in live was to become rich, famous and powerful. I overlooked these things, because I just couldn’t believe any of it was really true, because he so obviously was more than that.

And then there was the flattering fact that I must be pretty special, if he was interested in me.

Of course, I got over that delusion fast, the part about me being special. His treatment of me was worse than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’m not going into that here, because I’ve written enough here about my recovery process.

But now, years later, I continue to read his published work. And no longer feeling anything like love for him, I am astonished at how wrong I was about him. Or how wrong I was to overlook what I initially thought were just jokes or aberrations.

His writing is like an invitation to psychoanalysis. Disaffected people wandering through their lives, surviving on pills and booze. Powerful people sneering at people who don’t dress as well or make pronunciation mistakes. Poor people killing each other off for money or because of minor arguments. Most recently he wrote a personal memoire about how much he fears being associated with his “redneck” background, and how important it is to him to be smarter than anyone else.

There is no sense of responsibility anywhere, no compassion, no idea what it means to live a meaningful life in a community, no trust, no love, no joy.

After he exploited our relationship in a short story, I found myself realizing that a line in the story — that I “deserved and was capable of better — was exactly the way he had gotten into my life. Because my life was a mess at the time and I was desperate and feeling incompetent, and he seemed to have all the answers.

But now I see that it is also the way he thinks about himself and his own life. It isn’t real. It’s not the life he was meant to have. Somewhere out there is his real life and his real identity. And since that was somehow stolen from him by circumstances, he has no qualm about doing whatever he has to do to get it back. No compassion, no regrets. He deserves it, because he was wronged by life.

And in the meantime, he’s in limbo. I remember when we were together, he once said to me, “Do you realize that most of the time I feel desperate? Total desperation.” I couldn’t understand it. He personally had everything anyone could want. Intelligence, good looks, health, a woman who adored him and made it possible for him to live as he pleased. What was he desperate about?

I now believe it was the absolute void where other people have an identity. He was fundamentally alone even with himself, a kind of homeless that can’t be cured with a shelter. He would have argued with that, spouting off about no one else was as smart or good-looking or intrinsically valuable as him. But his whole life was about dissatisfaction. And his relationships were about proving that he was impossible to love, while he denigrated the people who loved him as being not up to his standards.

I remember at the very beginning that I felt sorry for him. He was struggling to establish himself as a writer, and I remembered how that was for me at his age. It’s hard to hold down a full-time job and attempt to write serious literature at the same time. I was, as I said, a mess, and he offered to help. And it seemed a good arrangement. As it turned out, feeling sorry for him, caring about his feelings at all, and trusting that he actually cared about me, were the biggest mistakes I ever made.

But I think my first instinct to feel sorry for him was right. No matter how messy my circumstances were, he was broken in a way that I couldn’t imagine. And while I could get my life cleaned up and did finally after I got rid of him, I don’t think he will ever find that special set of circumstances that will make him whole again. Because he will always believe that it’s about acquiring more stuff, or looking better, or being rich or powerful enough to heal whatever did this to him.

It will never be enough. As everyone here knows, that kind of healing doesn’t come from the outside. Ultimately we have to learn to love ourselves. A hard thing to do when you imagine you’re true self won’t exist until you get the right stuff.

alohatraveler

Khatalyst,

“A hard thing to do when you imagine you’re true self won’t exist until you get the right stuff.”

Perhaps this applies to us as well in a different way. Why didn’t I just walk the moment the Bad Man began to show his true colors. Even if I didn’t know he was a sociopath, I did know I was being degraded and hurt and attacked… But I wanted to get married and live happily ever after and he said he thought he might marry me… so I wanted to get the right stuff so I could be happy and be who I was meant to be.. a lover, a wife… a mother.

There’s a song by Colin Hay… Waiting for my Real Life to Begin. That goes through my head all the time.

I think the belief that my real life had not yet begun made me a vulnerable and perfect match for Bad Man. I needed someone to complete me and he showed up and wouldn’t go away… and I didn’t have the strength to make him go away.. but I did have the money for an airline ticket out of town. Whatever works. :o)

I thought it was interesting what you said about your Bad Man using a part of your relationship in his writing. Bad Man did that all the time.. he used a piece of me and a piece of every woman he crossed paths with in his ads for Match and on CL. It was so obvious and so weird. I could read his ad and say “that’ me, that’s me, that’s me.” Like he is building a Frankenbabe or something. He can’t think up anything on his own so he has to steal a piece of each person.. I noticed his “own” thoughts and desires were assembled this way as well. I discovered the source of some of his favorite catch phrases.. there was nothing authentic about him.. He is just a walking empty shell.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I relate oh so mucho!

Ox Drover

kayhatalyst,

You wrote some powerful stuff there woman! It really describes my own P-bio-father’s life—to be rich and famous (and in the end he made both happen) but it didn’t bring the satisfaction that he thought it would. He was the smartest, the baddest-bad-ass, the meanest guy on the block, don’t mess with him! The very people he wanted to admire him and look up to him, he scorned because they did look up to him.

How empty is that? He had 7 wives, but never a mate. He had 4 children, and only one, another P, was with him at the end, admired him and emulated him. The rest of us were NC. Even his obituary in the national press was more about one of his previous wives that had left him and gone on to a very successful career as a model, and then real estate developer, than about his success, and what it did say about him was only that he had become rich and eccentric. (Even he used to say if he was poor he would have been a paranoid crazy, but because he was rich he was eccentric.)

He hated the people who had stood up to him with a passion beyond belief and did as much of the P-smear campaign as he possibly could against these people, me included. At the time I first read what he had written about me, it was devestating, but when I realized he had also smeared other very well known and people with world-wide reputations as good, honest people, I realized I was in “good company” and that no o ne who knew me would believe a word of it, and the rest that might read it…so what! It was just his pathetic attempt to “blame place” on to others. He never had anything good to say about anyone in any case, he was the only intelligent person in the world, everyone else was equal to a “malicious chimpanzee” COMPARED TO HIM. How laughable he was, really, if he also had not been so violent and literally murderous. How pathetic his life really was. How empty. Because he despised the rest of the human race, yet wanted the to worship him, but because they were despised, their worship was meaningless to him. What a paradox he was in. He needed and wanted the worship, but the worship was meaningless, less than meaningless. Unfortunately, he left one son, and one grandson to carry on his “legacy” of psychopathic pathology. I feel fortunate though, that neither of my biological sons have had children, so at least the genetic component has been limited as far as that is concerned. I have 5 neices though that are still young, so who knows about that, so there are 5 more children in which the genes might pop out. I pray to God that they don’t, but 2 of them have a P for a father.

alohatraveller and OxDrover,

Thanks for your comments.

ahohatraveller, I totally agree with you. That feeling of imagining that our “real” life was waiting somewhere in the future was exactly the thing we had in common.

And in the long recovery process, I got to the bottom of that in me. During the period that I was incested, I made up my mind to live my life as though it never happened, because I imagined no one would ever love someone damaged like that, and I didn’t want it to make me a bitter person. So I buried the memories, buried the feelings, and went on with my life imagining that I could “create” a life that some undamaged girl would have had.

Of course, it didn’t work out like that. I had all kinds of PTSD issues, got involved with people who were as messed up as I was, and was absolutely incapable of being the person I really wanted to be — a person who could hold onto her own dreams, plan, take the necessary steps, and achieve them. Instead, I become a relationship centric codependent, structuring my life around one person after another who I hoped would help me heal and get whole again. Whew!

My relationships didn’t give me what I needed (who could?), and I left all of them eventually. Until this character. Everyone had said and acted like they loved me, until him. But all the way through the rotten five years of being exploited, insulted, cheated on and having my self-esteem basically destroyed, there was a little voice in the back of my mind, saying “Pay attention. This is important.”

And I think that little voice had the truth of it. This guy was my guru. At first, I thought he was a kind of model in being more self-interested and more motivated to achieve my dreams. Everything with him was about his writing, and he once said to me that he’d kill, if necessary, to get his work published. No matter what my role in his progress was — and I hated that role — I was impressed by his commitment.

Later, I thought that he was there to teach me how truly much I needed to change to have what I wanted. It wasn’t just that I needed to learn the behaviors of self-interest, I needed to let go of all my airy-fairy beliefs that nothing that happened to me mattered, as long as I was a kind of angelically good and generous and sympathetic person. The lesson was that I was going to have to start focusing on my own needs instead being everyone’s perfectly accommodating lover and friend.

I had to get rid of him to actually process through these lessons. And though I wouldn’t allow him or anyone like him into my life again, I’m grateful that I finally manifested a partner so terrible but also so educational that I finally woke up and re-thought my basic strategy for living. If it hadn’t been for him, I’d probably be involved now with my umpteenth needy person, swapping my dreams for their approval, and watching the years tick away. I can’t exactly say he did me a favor. He didn’t do me any favors. But the relationship was what I needed, and I guess he showed up at a time when I was really ready to get serious about changing.

OxDrover, one of the models I work with in my consulting business is the Clare Graves model of personal development, as it was described in a book called “Strategy of the Dolphin.” I love this book so much and have read it so many times that it’s practically my Bible. The model has seven levels, and we may be processing at any one of them in different aspects of our lives. I think this might interest you, so here goes (and notice that they alternate between “I” and “we” orientations):

1. Survivor — we have no sense of any social environment and are movitivated by nothing but meeting our own needs. We feel alone, exempt from any rules or laws because our survival need is so great, and we operate as scavengers. We graduate from this when we realize that there is more safety in groups.

2. Tribal — we are attached to an affinity group, possibly family, but also possibly others who share our ethnicity, values, etc. We identify with the group, are committed to group wellbeing and work as an organism. At this level, we also feel a connectedness with everything that creates a kind of magic sense of reality, trying to influence events by appealing to greater powers or interpreting signs. We graduate from this when we feel the desire to excel.

3. Mastery — I also call this stage “the fastest gun in the west.” It is when we become competitive and pursue mastery of skills, games, even ourselves in a controlling sort of way. It’s the mind set where we feel great satisfaction in winning or rising above. We graduate from this level when we realize that it’s lonely at the top, eventually we will lose our “smartest guy in the room” position in life, and we want something more lasting.

4. True Believer — In this stage, we share group beliefs that are characterized by enforced values and sacrifice for a future benefit. This is the level of organized religion, corporate cultures, and other hierarchical systems. We graduate from this when we decide that we want to build something of our own.

5. Entrepreneur — This stage is where we begin to work with material reality to create our idea of what would make us happy. It may be a company, or a house, or a fabulous spouse, or accumulation of wealth, but we are actively pursuing and acquiring the things and lifestyle that we believe is ideal. We graduate from this level when we discover that no matter what we acquire, it doesn’t serve to create happiness or meaning.

6. Healer — This stage is when we begin to actively work on healing the world by healing ourselves. This is a very connected stage in terms of being highly conscious of other people’s as well as our own problems, psychologies, challenges and deep issues. It’s the state that helping professions, consultants, etc. are motivated by, as well as the stimulant for personal healing and growth. We graduate from this state when we realize that healing ourselves doesn’t change the dysfunctional systems in the world.

7. Choice — In this final stage described by Graves (with other names) and in “Strategy,” we become what I call “reality mechanics.” We are self-referenced in the sense that we trust our own reality, rather than what anyone else tells us. We are most interested in interfering with systems — such as organizations, politics, etc. — to make them more functional for the common good. And we arrange our lives to suit ourselves and support our goals and evolution.

I’ve found this model to be really helpful in understanding a lot of things in a quick-and-dirty way. Such as the basic level of sociopathic behavior, which tends to wander around the first three levels, depending on how secure and gratified they feel. A successful sociopath might work into a level 5, but they you’ll never find them in 4 or 6. And they absolutely don’t have the necessary compassion or commitment to anything beyond themselves to operate at 7.

The model is also consistent with a lot of class theory, and one thing I’ve come to think about the way sociopaths give themselves away is that people in the Survival level may be able to pretend for a while that they’re good friends or members of the community, but the real psychology of that state is something that you can’t hide for long. They are alone, desperate, angry and afraid.

Ox Drover

Khatalyst,

Very interesting! Thank you for sharing!

I was discussing healing with a woman once, victim of a P, and I was discussing my philosophy of healing, and she screamed at me, “I don’t need philosophy 101, just tell me how to HEAL!”

It reminded me of an episode years ago when I was doing diabetic teaching to a patient, diet, exercise, and other things (besides medication) that are THE treatment for diabetes, and she impatiently listened for a wihle, and then screamed at me, “Don’t give me all that crap, just give me enough insulin that I can eat what I want and control the blood sugar!”

Well, in either of these two instances there is no “easy” answer—healing is philosophy 101, it is psychology 101, it is medicine 101, it is spirituality 101…etc. it is all of these things, just like treating diabetes is diet 101 , is exercise, is medication 101, and it is healthy living 101…

I am a Christian in my beliefs, but to me “spirituality” doesn’t even mean that you have to believe in any god or any “higher power” even, but spirituality is in us all….what your beliefs are isn’t important, just that your spirit is involved. To me that is a very important part of healing…just as learning about psychology, and learning about ourselves, and the Ps, and learning what stress does to our physical health, and about brain function etc…so all of these things help us heal. Not just one aspect.

While we are individuals, still our experiences are so much alike, because we all got bitten by the same emotional snake, and the pain, little or great, fills us entirely. The recipies for healing are pretty much the same, with just a tweek here and a tweek there to meet our individual specifications. But, there is NO simple answer, and for some it takes more time than others. Thank you for sharing.

silvermoon

Bill Rielly did a whole show segment tonight on wheter Obama shows any empathy for the people of Louisiana.

That was interesting!

Anyone?

shana31

AlohaTraveler- he used a piece of me and a piece of every woman he crossed paths with in his ads for Match and on CL.

I thought it strange when after knowing my man for maybe a month or so, that he said he had saved every one of my emails to him. Some of the stuff he wrote to me, I would wrinkle my eyebrow and think WHAT? When I found out the first time he was cruising dating websites, I called him on one of the things he had written in his profile that proved it was current and not an old ad he “forgot” he had. He said “it’s not like I copied and pasted it.” Funny how months later, I see some of my verbiage used in his emails to me, and subsequently to other women. The kicker was when he called me one afternoon from work and said he was talking with some of the guys and pumped me for info regarding a trip we had taken. I saw it a couple of months later in an email to someone else.

Ox Drover

Dear Silvermooon,

This blog is open enough we do often discuss spirituality and religion on here without killing o ne another, but I am NOT SURE WE SHOULD DISCUSS POLITICS in any more than a general context—LOL ROTFLMAO

Personally, I think ALL the politicians are CROOKS and NARCISSISTS AT BEST, but many are psychopaths, but won’t name any names here! LOL ROTFLMAO

Having lived outside of New Orleans for a while, I DO have empathy for those people’s lives and life styles…and for our mother earth!

Send this to a friend