Psychopaths, a mind without a map.

v3 8/20/2012


For some of my exploration of the mind of the psychopath I worked on the premise that their imagination was flawed. Their deficiency may be related to creative pursuits, but I have found their flaw is far more specific.

Indications of a lack of creative imagination loosely tracks psychopath populations, but actually contradicts another theory of mine. The idea that they must use disproportionate intelligence and mental resources in an effort to blend into conscionable or empathic society. I also propose that they must use considerably more effort to subconsciously develop their own, abit distorted, sense of self. I also think that psychopathy is caused by a gene that many of us carry, as it is a yet to be defunct predecessor to the breed we see as the modern human. Simply put, they are the final breed of caveman.

These components can be compiled to point to and form a model to explain what is missing in the psychopath's mind. Successful psychopaths (most likely in the final sociopathic stage) do indeed possess vast swaths of both creativity and intelligence. They run internally crafted scripts (like reading a play) to depict themselves as feeling emotions they don't seem to possess. The compelling fact being, with no social support to help develop their scripts, they write and recall them all on their own. Yet these scripts can be as intricate and convincing as Shakespeare at his finest, despite being largely false. In other words, their cognitive abilities while taxed with the duties of integration into society they don't resemble, rival our own.

Adult Children:

The key to the answer lies both in their perpetual narcissistic state, one that emotionally resembles children, and their inability to form a conscience we would recognize as normal.

All emotional matters to young children are expressed at the extremes. Happiness is total bliss. Sorrow is the more egregious depths of self pity. As they grow their emotions become tempered and so are their reactions. This is also known, not coincidentally, as the narcissistic age. Life is not real or independent of the child's id, and they do not comprehend that there are things beyond their direct needs and influence.

I propose the emotional tempering with experience and age, never occurs with psychopaths. The notion that they do not feel legitimate emotion is incorrect. They feel it to extremes. The problem is when they remember an event, they do not feel any emotions as they recall past events. They can recall what emotion they felt, but do not experience it as part of the recollection. Empathic humans experience compulsory emotional recall with memory recall.

Functioning guardians use this mandatory emotional recall to help shape their child's reactions to a growing variety of situations. They reinforce positive behaviors, while adding discomfort to behaviors that have less obvious, negative long term consequences. This is what develops a complex sense of self in empathic humans.

The Psychopathic Self: Wants, Abilities and Limits

In computer science secondary emotional data would be known as metadata, or data about data. For example, when we 'browse for a file' on a computer, it's name, permissions, location on disk, and possibly a small image, are all examples of metadata. Human emotional metadata is played back with every memory and form our ego and superego. In other words our sense of self, and our conscience. I strongly suggest this is why they have different reactions than empaths to emotional word lists under MRI. This is why a conscience is conspicuously missing in psychopaths. Emotional metadata is the glue that involves our entire brain in memory. The activity observed across nearly the entire brain in empathic subjects is their unwilling emotional reactions during their recolection. Most or all memories with relevant emotional metadata are breifly activated during a recolection of an emotional word.

Simply put, the measured flurry of activity across the entire brain is literally the conscience. In psychopaths, merely the linguistic center of the brain is active during this recollection. Without this data type the word being read is simply data, or a fact with little relevance to other memories.

It may be that some creative persuits are litterally concious explorations of the unconcious self as displayed in that SPECT test. Creating a second, seemingly intuitive, fast, low energy, path to conclusions. This could form the basis for faster, mostly successful, abstract concept processing. Particularly to someone who has spent time exploring their emotional reactions. This could result in a meaningful evolutionary advantage. Particularly when interacting with others with the same ability.

This is not to say that psychopaths can not form a sense of self. It is a logical progression to first identify wants, then abilities, and then limits. An empathic human will feel unwilling revolution at the thought of killing another human being. This is because the body and brain experience a lesser version of it's previous sorrows, scolding from parents, and society lessons. Psychopaths can recall their own reactions as facts, but with no emotional content imposed on them that can modify or temper their behavior. Their only tools are to remove themselves from a situation or to manipulate the people around them to avoid extreme emotion and subsequently extreme expression.

As adults, empaths may try to deny, disguise or disregard the emotions associated with and played back for our memories. Irregardless of their desire and perhaps moderate success to disregard some emotions, these emotions form a map of behaviors as complex as the whole of their memories. Emotional metadata forms a rough map of behaviors and consequences. This is why psychopaths can fly into a severe ego rage when despair is felt. They have no map. They have built no tolerance or recall tempering contrary messages from their society and guardians. Likewise for bliss. In the case of romance, they may cheat on their lover or spouse because from their perspective, they have had no practice tempering their emotion. They know logically it may result in separation or divorce, but are overcome by bliss like they have never experienced (that they can recall.)

When at rest they understand the negative consequences of their actions. They may decide logically they may experience more bliss if they control the situation by leaving without explanation, or by saying something untoward to ruin the mood, and protect their fragile emotional state. This is their variation of the development of the self. Defining the self as wants, abilities and limits. While empathic humans can grow the self during emotionally stressful times, psychopaths can only grow through decision making during periods of calm.

A highly diminished or complete lack of an emotional map, along with higher testosterone, and the need to control their environment to avoid consequences of emotional impulse, makes them highly competitive and confrontational. They try to level the playing field by making every situation emotional for us, much as it is for them. Not to mention every time they win (or get their way) it is the best feeling in their life. Since they have minimal or no previous reference, this may well be literally true.

Secrecy about their past is also another result of this. As empathic humans discuss past experiences, we compare our emotional maps. Laughing, crying, and occasionally being shocked at each others emotional reactions. Psychopaths have no metadata to compare with ours. In addition, they may have faulty scripts or no scripts at all when discussing many memories. The simplest solution is to completely avoid discussing past events. Adult psychopaths will likely recognize the high risk of being cast out, but child psychopaths may not, and may talk openly about any memories completely devoid of emotional metadata and associated reactions.

To reiterate emotional stages of both Psychopaths and Empaths.

Logical StagePsychopathic stageEmpathic stage
AbilitiesAnti Social Personality DisorderEgo


Despite their inability to share our empathy for them, the suffering of psychopaths is real. Overwhelmed with the burdens of integration, psychopaths walk among us in constant fear of discovery. They struggle to learn the most basic lessons of right and wrong, and the battle against their emotional rollercoster is a loosing one. They are forced to resort to complete manipulation of the people around them in their best case and flight from their past and responsiblity in their worst. As a best case example, a successful sociopath's obsession with wealth is actually an unquenchable thirst for isolation and power resulting in social control.

The goal should be able to help them avoid being overtaken with emotions they have no capacity to control. Primarily through assistance in avoiding situations that would provoke despair. They are selfish but primarily logical and do not want personal consequences any more than we want the outcome of their extreme actions.

Remediation varies per society. The ideal solutions of accommodation require near universal awareness, and without it would have criminally negligent results. A compassionate plan is far simpler in an aware society where testing, particularly for employment or public service, is considered necessary by the public at large. The alternatives including inaction are inhumane both to the emotionally whipsawing psychopaths and the swath of humans they will negitively effect through their life.

If this is indeed proven to be genetic, there is a chance that gene therapy or genetic screening may present permanent solutions.

On a case by case basis, I have had personal success with persistent emotional isolation, better known as shunning. This has a double positive effect. It creates a calm environment, where the psychopath builds and develops their self, and it externally replicates the moderating effect of emotional metadata contained within the empathic self. It must be completely persistent, but presents an alternative to typical crash and burn outcomes of conflicting interests between empath and psychopath. Importantly, it's low impact approach will help in positive identification. This is important in the absence of a definitive test, as often the psychopath will work to frame nearby empaths as if they were psychopaths. Otherwise known as projection. Empaths are likely to have an emotional reaction to the shunning, and will seek a rapid solution by comparing emotional maps to better connect with you to end their discomfort. Psychopaths will never offer this option, unless they have a script of what they think you expect to see and hear, prepared in advance. This is why it is important that it is persistant, so as to give no clues what script may be effective for the psychopath to demonstrate their contrived self to the empath.

You may be interested in my blog, The Civilization Gene

My other theories on the human mind.