On Friday night, XUP Jr. and I, still basking a bit in the after-glow of a week in Paris together (sorry, I had to mention that one last time) decided to have a mother-daughter night out. She got her hair cut, then we went for dinner and did a bit of browsing downtown. (So, to be clear – the “daughter” part was her getting pampered and the “mother” part was me being allowed to tag along so I could pay).
Anyway, I spent part of my time while waiting for her to get her hair cut, at the salon’s coffee bar enjoying a complimentary espresso and chatting with the swarthy owner. When he went off to “consult” with a client, I read an article in a recent copy of MacLean’s Magazine (I know, pretty classy joint, eh?) about Ottawa’s alleged serial killer, Colonel Russell Williams.
There wasn’t really a lot of new stuff in the article, but near the end it was speculating on whether psychopaths are particularly drawn to the military or nurtured by the military. The article went on to say:
The incidence of psychopaths in the military is no higher than in the general population, where it’s pegged around one per cent.
I did a double-take and re-read that statement.
One per cent of the general population are psychopaths? Holy crappola!
Maybe I don’t really know what a psychopath is. I know it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is obviously evil, but what exactly does it mean?
I looked it up:
Psychopathy is a personality disorder is characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy combined with strongly amoral conduct, masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal. Psychopathy and sociopathy are, today more accurately defines as antisocial/dissocial personality disorder.
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R) is a diagnostic tool used to rate a person’s psychopathic or antisocial tendencies. People who are psychopathic prey ruthlessly on others using charm, deceit, violence or other methods that allow them to get with they want. The symptoms of psychopathy include: lack of a conscience or sense of guilt, lack of empathy, egocentricity, pathological lying, repeated violations of social norms, disregard for the law, shallow emotions, and a history of victimizing others.
To diagnose a psychopath, a clinician will use the Hare PCL-R — among other diagnostic tools. The Hare PCL-R is made up of the following 20-item list that measures central elements of the psychopathic character:
- glib and superficial charm
- grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
- need for stimulation
- pathological lying
- cunning and manipulativeness
- lack of remorse or guilt
- shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
- callousness and lack of empathy
- parasitic lifestyle
- poor behavioral controls
- sexual promiscuity
- early behavior problems
- lack of realistic long-term goals
- failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- many short-term marital relationships
- juvenile delinquency
- revocation of conditional release
- criminal versatility
To score, the test subject is given a score of 1 or 2 depending on whether they fully (2) or just partially (1) match the characteristic.
So, a full-out psychopath would receive a score of 40, while someone with no psychopathic traits or tendencies would get zero. Anyone with a score of 30 or more qualifies as a psychopath, according to this scale.
A lot of regular people could score up to 5 on this checklist. Many criminals will score around 20.
How did you do?
I don’t know about you, but it gives me the willies to think that one out of every 100 people is a psychopath. So many of them…
To have a person in your life who would score over 30 on this list would make for some serious misery in your life.
And yet, most of us know at least 100 people. For instance, I have 145 Facebook friends. (Yes, I realize that’s a pathetically low number in the FB world, but I sort of actually have to know and feel some friendliness for the people I accept as FB friends). Anyway, odds are pretty good that at least one of my FB friends is a psychopath.
Odds are pretty good, in fact, that at least one of the people you interact with in your every day life is a psychopath. They could be your boss, your doctor, your neighbour, your spouse, a member of your family. If you spend enough time with them, you probably know who they are. And yet, plenty of people live with a psychopath (Colonel Williams’ wife??) and never know — or are able to admit it to themselves.
I see some of you nodding. I’d suggest that if you know someone who scores high on this checklist, you might want to get far away from them.
One of my brothers would score pretty high on this list — not as high as 30, but over 20 for sure. He also scores pretty high on the general “feeling that there’s something not right about him” list. After half a lifetime of trying to keep up with, trying to understand, trying to find excuses for and trying to recover from his behaviour, I quit. I haven’t had contact with him for over 15 years. On one hand it makes me sad because he’s my brother and he could be good fun (if everything was going his way). On the other hand … well … he’s poison.