I’ve read in multiple places, written by multiple specialists that psychopaths/sociopaths cannot be rehabilitated or changed.
Surely I’m not the only person to have asked this: Why not?
The short answer to this question is simple: Psychopaths don’t change because they don’t want to.
The key to any kind of behavioral change is desire. It’s hard work to change the way we relate to other people, the world or even ourselves. The reason any of us embark on a self-improvement project is because we are not happy. Our relationships are not fulfilling, we believe we could do better in our careers, or we just want to feel better. For reasons like these, we are motivated to change.
Psychopaths are usually quite content with who they are. They see no reason to change.
Psychopaths are happy with themselves
Oh, I have heard from a few people who identify themselves as diagnosed sociopaths or psychopaths, and who have said, “It’s not fun being me.” But I’ve also heard from several who view themselves as superior to those of us burdened with pesky emotions and consciences.
For example, one person wrote to me:
Hello my name is Alex. I would like to thank you for making your videos they have given me an insight into how you people recognize us. WE are not to blame for your short comings because you are weak minded and foolish enough to be taken advantage of. We are evolutions next step we don’t allow silly emotions to cloud our judgments. In fact we use our advantage for survival because we are natures next course. I know I sound very narcissistic and apologize for that but if you are so proud and concerned and attached to your emotions why not allow someone to make you feel like a queen for something as worldly as money? We give you what you are missing just as all of the world ecosystem has since the beginning of time. It’s funny how we have been so easily classified and even now as I attempt to alter myself in order to become unparallel to descriptions of us, I find it very difficult to even perceive. I would like to boast of my strategic victories over hearts but I would fear you making another video and making this game more difficult, of course it would make it much more challenging and pleasurable when enjoying the hunt. Well you take care Donna. Bye.
Illness and personality disorders
Generally, if you have a mental illness such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, there was a time before the illness began during which you were reasonably healthy. Then something happened — either an experience or biological change — that caused the illness to begin.
You know what it’s like to feel better, and you want to return to the state of health.
Personality disorders are different. Most psychopaths are well on the way to disorder by adolescence, and many show signs as children, even as very young children. So there never was a time, as fully developed human beings, when they were “healthy.”
Psychopaths are not loving, ethical people who go bad. They never had the capacity for love, or concern for the wellbeing of others, to begin with.
How the disorder develops
How does this happen? First of all, experts pretty much agree that there is a large genetic component to psychopathy. Children with psychopathic parents, or psychopathy somewhere on the family tree, can be born with a genetic predisposition for the disorder to develop.
Whether the disorder actually does develop may be a function of the parenting that the children receive, or the environment that they grow up in.
Unfortunately, psychopaths make lousy parents. At best, they regard the children as possessions, and care for them about as well as they care for their cars. At worst, they try to turn the children into mini-mes, or abuse them.
Many Lovefraud readers have realized, with trepidation, that they share children with a psychopath. There are steps these parents can take to try to prevent the disorder from developing in children, which Dr. Liane Leedom outlines in her book, Just Like His Father?
It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes the genetic predisposition is so strong that nothing can be done to overcome it.
But if there is any chance of preventing people from becoming psychopaths, it’s when they’re young. That’s why Lovefraud advocates keeping disordered parents out of children’s lives as much as possible — to limit the effect of their bad parenting.
Drive for dominance
So how exactly does the disorder develop? Dr. Liane Leedom believes it is a result of an out-of-control drive for dominance.
We all have a drive for dominance to a certain degree — this is what makes us want to be successful, become a leader, or even drive a hot car. But in most of us, the drive for dominance is tempered by our ability to love. Because we are also concerned about the wellbeing of others, we can put the brakes on behavior that we know will hurt other people.
Psychopaths don’t have an ability to love, so they don’t have any brakes on their aggressive behavior.
No connection to others
What psychopaths are missing is a true feeling of connection with other people. This can start really young.
Lovefraud previously posted a story about the results of a study showing that 5-week-old infants who preferred looking at a red ball rather than a human face may be at risk of developing callous-unemotional personality traits. These are the traits that can morph into a full psychopathic disorder.
Here’s the post:
Early warning sign that a baby could grow up to be a psychopath, on Lovefraud.com.
The researchers discuss the importance of infants making eye contact — failure to make eye contact may affect the entire development of an infant’s social brain. To greatly simplify the process, this may lead to an inability to respond to another person’s distress, which may lead to a lack of empathy, which may lead to an inability to love, which may lead to antisocial behavior.
Even at a young age, a psychopath experiences much more satisfaction from dominating other people than from connecting with them. Every time this individual feels pleasure due to exercising power and control over others — which can start during the “terrible twos” — the drive for dominance is reinforced.
Power and control
So this is why psychopaths don’t change. By the time psychopaths are adults, the desire for dominance is an integral part of their identities. They like power and control. They don’t particularly care if they don’t have love in their lives, because they don’t know what it is.
Psychopaths do not feel any distress due to their disorder, so they don’t go for therapy on their own. They’ll only go if dragged in by a parent or partner, or if court-ordered. And when they get there, their objective isn’t changing. It’s winning.
Research has shown that therapy makes psychopaths worse. Why? Because through therapy, they learn the buzzwords, and they learn more about how they’re supposed to behave. They use what they learn to improve their skills at manipulation and deception.
It’s possible that if psychopaths perceive controlling their antisocial behavior to be in their own self-interest, they’ll do it. Criminal psychopaths, for example, may get tired of going to prison. But although they may change their behavior somewhat, it’s unlikely that they will ever become loving, caring human beings.
Unfortunately, once psychopaths are adults, they will not develop a heart and a conscience. That window closed when they were young.
Lovefraud originally posted this article on September 28, 2015.