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Dec 112013
 

The Psychopath Inside is written by a PhD neuro-scientist, James Fallon, who has for years at various insitutions of higher learning has studied the brains of psychopaths and how they are put together.

He was using fMRIs and other scans to take “photos” of the brains of known psychopaths to see how they compared to the brains of “normal” people and he did scans of his entire family, including himself.

James had been a rowdy kid, running with others who stole cars and went joy riding, but never got caught or prosecuted, and had gone on to get his PhD in neuroscience and to finally make his life’s work to study how psychopaths are different from “normal” or “typical” people

James is married and has several children,  and he admits in the book that he was a “heavy drinker” and that any time there was a chance to go to a “girlie bar” with his buddies, he was the first one to suggest that they go. He would sometimes not come home at night, though he never admitted in his book of actually “cheating” he did get on line and flirt with other women, which he stated had “hurt” his wife of several decades. He even admitted at one conference he was supposed to present a program and he blew it off and went to a bar instead.

He also mentioned that he was unreliable when social things such as funerals, weddings, etc. were involved and instead of showing up for the funeral of someone he would be expected to go to, he went to a bar instead.

By accident James looked at the stack of numbered but  not named fMRIs and saw one that was clearly a psychopath with the characteristics of the brain matter that is now a signal. He thought that somehow the stack of known psychopath scans had some how gotten mixed in with the “normal” ones, and he check and found out that that scan was HIS brain scan.

I sat down to analyze my family’s scans and noticed that the last scan in the pile was strikingly odd. In fact, it looked exactly like the most abnormal of the scans (of psychopaths) I had just been writing about, suggesting the poor individual it belonged to was a psychopath….when I found out who the scan belonged to, I had to believe there was a mistake. ….but there was no mistake, the scan was mine.

He discussed this with some of his fellow researchers, and they basically told him, “Jim we’ve been telling you for years you are a psychopath, and you wouldn’t listen.”

They also told him that the DSM-V which is the diagnostic “bible” for psychology does not even contain the term “psychopath” and that even experts and researchers don’t agree on a definition for this term.

Well, he still didn’t listen but he did set out on a genetic quest to see if he had any ancestors who were psychopaths. He did his genealogy and had his own complete DNA genome mapped…and came up with several very distant ancestors or relatives who appeared to be psychopaths including Lizzie Borden, and a man who in the 1600s was the first man hanged for killing his  mother in the colonies in North America.

From the descriptions of his brothers though who loved to get into very heavy fist fights, I think he could have looked closer to home than some ancestor or relative in the 1600s.

Fallon discusses the issues with defining of psychopath  and the scientific studies going on. He talks about how genetic and neuroscience researchers are working together to be able to define a psychopath, or people like himself who are callous but not criminal which he calls “psychopath lite.”

Over all this book gives a telling view of the genetic and environmental mix it takes to make up a psychopath and underscores the fact that the physical brain of a psychopath lacks the chemicals and the neurons that make empathy and desire for self control difficult, but they are not without choices.

Fallon claims at the end of the book that he is trying to be “nicer” and more responsible to his family, attending funerals, weddings and birthday parties, giving compliments to his wife, but admits that he does not “get it” or really care about these things at all. He also realizes that he hurt his wife deeply with his flirting with other women but he really, he admits, just doesn’t care.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they have come up against a psychopath in their immediate circle or even in their family. By understanding what makes a person callous and mean spirited we can more easily decide if we want to continue an association or relationship with them.

We don’t really need a brain scan to confirm that a person has lack of empathy, we can see it by how they treat others or us. If a person doesn’t exhibit a caring and responsible behavior, and continually exhibits lack of care for hurting others, then….s/he may be a psychopath, or a psychopath “lite” but in any case they will not be the kind of person we can trust, or that will make our lives better.

I feel sorry for Fallon’s wife, Diane. Even though he is trying (he says) to show kindness and consideration for her, he even admits himself, he just doesn’t CARE for others.

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  17 Responses to “BOOK REPORT: The Psychopath Inside by Dr. James Fallon, PhD

  1. “Psychopath Lite” is perhaps just a malignant narcissist. There isn’t much difference, IMO, except that I think a real psychopath would never take off their mask, not even in a book. For a real psychopath, the mask is everything. For a narcissist, not so much. Narcissists feel entitled to be narcissists.

    And maybe the only difference between a narcissist and a psychopath is the road they chose to travel. A person who has chosen to commit heinous crimes can’t afford to let the mask slip, since they know they’ll end up in prison, so he or she maintains the mask as if their life depended on it. But then, Joyce, your son didn’t do a very good job maintaining his mask either…

    Oh well, to quote Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name…” It doesn’t really matter what we call them, I’m just glad we’ve learned to recognize them.

    • Amen, Sky!!! I think though that someone who is very narcissistic is not someone we want in our lives because they think they are “better than” us and in that case it gives them the “right” to abuse us in one form or another.

  2. Can this book be found at a library, or is it newly released (needing to buy it)? I think of psychopaths as being destructive, destroying people who are in their path. Usually, don’t most of them have a double life, leading a life that would come as a surprise to most people. Personally, I think that the sociopath that I know has spent his life “running the streets,” being a “bad boy,” although he’s a little too old now to be acting the way that he does. He comes across as a humble, sincere person, average, conservative looking, but, he’s anything but. This sociopath can probably get away with quite a bit just based on his appearance and personality. You wouldn’t suspect that the guy is a bad-ass because he doesn’t fit the image of one.

    • You might try your library, but I ordered mine from Amazon. I wanted to keep it for my own library about psychopaths anyway.

      Not all psychopaths are criminals and not all criminals are psychopaths….some are more pro-social (law abiding) than others, and then there are the Ted Bundys of this world who do horrible things, yet appear to be “nice folks.”

      I think what this guy is is a more pro-social psychopath, not a criminal, just a jerk wad to those that know him, not caring about their feelings, irresponsible in many ways, a drunk and a letch who hurts those who love him. He even admits that he does NOT CARE that he hurts others, then goes on to say he is trying to be more pro-social and “kinder” to those who love him.

      I’ve known many “James Fallons” in my life, they weren’t criminals but they were jerk wads that would steal from you,, cheat you, be hateful and arrogant to you,, and many of them were “successful” by the standards of this world. My own paternal grandmother was apparently one of these arrogant, hateful, but “successful” people. She later became a doctor herself, my physician grandfather would have sent her one way to India if she would have gone, but he got her out of the house into medical school when the kids were very young for 7 or 8 years while she finished medical school and internship. She was universally despised by everyone who knew her, and my grandfather (a widower at the time with two kids) offered her half of what he owned for a divorce THREE DAYS after the marriage. LOL He said later, he should have taken his kids and left her with everything but he didn’t, he stayed with her and had two more kids. One a psychopath (my own “father”) and one normal person.

      Tracing her geneology as far back as I can, her own father, who was a Methodist minister, had 4 wives, 2 at the same time….so I bet he was very high in P traits as well.

      Sometimes the only destruction that a psychopath may do is to emotionally destroy their close associates and family by their arrogance and lack of empathy.

      I do think this book is very instructive about psychopaths and how they act, as well as the genetic component. There is NO doubt that there is a difference in their brains from “typical” people, both in structure and chemical make up, but environment does play some part as well. Even in identical twins (DNA exactlfy alike) only 80% of them will be psychopaths even if raised by two different families, but I would imagine the 20% who don’t “qualify” as psychopaths are still high in the TRAITS. Of course the environment of even identical twins, even before birth is not IDENTICAL.

      Yes, many of them do come across as “humble and sincere” but as you well know with your ex husband, what he “appears” to most people is NOT what he actually IS. Neither was Ted Bundy who was a “good friend” to Ann Rice when they worked together at the suicide hot line. He could mask very well when he wanted to, but even then there were times his mask slipped…it took ann a long time to see what a monster he really was. While he was her “good friend” he was by night raping and killing other women. so just because someone appears to be a “nice guy” doesn’t mean that they really are. I’ve had some people say to me about the P in their own lives “but he’s not ALL bad, there’s good in him too” –well Ted Bundy didn’t rape and kill daily, but even him being “nice” to some folks did not mean he was not a monster.

      I can’t remember where I heard someone say “but he’s so nice when he is not robbing banks” LOL There are in my opinion folks who appear to be nice guys when you are not examining their ENTIRE behaviors, when you only see the mask, but none the less they are worthless or monsters.

      Several times I have been “love bombed” by various people who were full or “lite” psychopaths and I have been warned by others who knew them better than I did, and I did not listen to the warnings. I should have and in the future, I will listen. LOL I have also warned folks about some Ps I knew and they did not listen and got burned. But as Sky said, learning to RECOGNIZE them is something that is self protective for us. If a person is dishonest, if a person is not responsible, if a person is unkind to others, you can bet they will be dishonest with us, irresponsible and unkind to us as well if we hang around them long. That’s why NC is so important, if they are not in our lives they can’t hurt us. Just as a rattle snake at 30 feet is not dangerous to us but one by our foot can kill us.

    • Blue Jay,
      Yes, they do lead double lives or triple lives or more. The mask can change on a dime.

      I sometimes wonder which mask the ex is wearing these days.

      He knows that people notice that he is different. He would say things like, “I’m a humble guy, I drive a Geo.” or “I’m just an eccentric inventor and pilot.” Never mind that he’s never invented one single thing and he doesn’t have a pilot’s license either. lol.

  3. Joyce,

    I am so glad you read this and reviewed it. I wondered what this author was all about, and everything I read online didn’t reference him at all, except to say he was well respected, blah, blah, blah. As if to say that the brain scans obviously didn’t indicate a problem, since this fellow wasn’t affected.

    It sounds like he is indeed quite affected by his genes, even with his supposedly ‘unmasking’ himself in the book. To me this kind of unmasking is just attention seeking of a grand sort, not some humble attempt at real change. This way he makes himself look insightful, and he shows how powerful he is in trying to overcome the cards he’s been dealt with.

    I know I can’t have it both ways; saying they can have some self control, and then poo-pooing when one says he’s trying to do just that. It’s just that they are so self-deceptive it’s hard for me to swallow that he’s trying to do anything more than create a new mask of an ‘insightful spath’. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

    Skylar, I think that you are definitely onto the continuum of disorder when you talk about the ‘difference’ between psychopathy and narcissism. I think the last one I tangled with was highly N, but not particularly prone to crime or violence. He loved to make fools of women, lied, was hugely grandiose, and lived a very public life of total hedonism. He was terribly hurtful, neglectful, thoughtless, abusive, envious of others, contemptuous and by turns solicitous, and a total liar. Pretty rotten character all-round.

    Slim (though less so with all the holiday junk around the office)

  4. Dear Slim, good to “see” you again…I think your take on Fallon is about what mine is, he is “trying” to act like a nice guy, but even then, he admits that he DOES NOT CARE what others think or feel…he is playing a ROLE in a play not living it. He is just like an actor on stage pretending to be something he is not because that is what he is expected to do. LOL

    To me a “narcissist” is just a symptom of psychopathy. Some are more or less narcissistic, some are more or less criminal, some are more or less a lot of things…the person you mentioned and the things they did screams to me PSYCHOPATH!!!!

    We are all to one extent or another narcissistic, but when it is taken to a LEVEL where you are unkind to others, where you infringe on the rights of others, then it is OVER THE TOP and to me a symptom that you are not worthy of trust because you are so SELFISH and EGOCENTRIC that you really don’t care what your behavior does to others…because after all, no one else is as deserving as you are, because YOU ARE SPECIAL..

  5. Slim,
    The reason I lump them all into one homogenous category is because they are prone to doing whatever they think they can get away with. If abusing a spouse and children is the only thing they can get away with, then that will suffice. A more audacious spath may think s/he can get away with murder.

    The ex-spath once said, “It’s amazing how EASILY I can find guys who are willing to rape a girl if they think she is drugged and they’ll get away with it.” So the spath specialized in getting garden-variety spaths to “realize their potential”. That is why/how he got my spath brother-in-law to rape women, become a cop and then marry my spath-sister.

    Then the spath BIL, helped my extremely stupid spath-sister to realize her own potential. Before she met him, she was selfish to the point of beyond stupid. One time, she under-billed a customer by 25 cents. The bill was in the hundreds and, as a coffee caterer, my stupid spath sister could have expected to get more business from this client. Guess what she did? She sent an invoice requesting the 25 cents. yep! The client was shocked and incensed, but the concept of good will could not be explained to my spath sister (believe me, I tried). She just wanted her quarter because she felt cheated. So now you know a little something about my stupid spath sister.

    But one day, I heard her on the phone with her spath-husband’s suicidal brother. He had tried to kill himself twice in years past. He was depressed and called her saying that he was thinking of getting a “Jesus” tattoo and declaring bankruptcy. She told him that he could do whatever he wanted because his actions don’t affect anyone. Basically telling him that nobody cared what he did.

    I know that her spath-husband told her to say that. Those were not her words, she isn’t capable of coming up with that kind of reasoning. She admitted to me that her husband told her to talk to his brother in his place. Her spath husband wanted his brother dead because that means there will be more money for him to inherit and suicide is the perfect murder to get away with. Well, they found him dead a week later. He’d been dead about a week.

    Now I know that she was working on getting me to commit suicide too.

    So maybe that’s the definition of a spath: someone who will do anything they can get away with. That’s why they test our boundaries.

  6. Yea, Sky and they don’t seem to get it that some of their behavior has consequences…or as Hare would say “no fear.” Sometimes they do get away with murder…or theft…or spousal abuse, and they are never charged or convicted, but they are criminal nonetheless.

    My son’s story is beyond stupid, yet he has an IQ in the top percentile…you’d think he would be a “smart” criminal, he’s not, he is wreckless and has no fear…I actually think he feels comfortable in prison, he wants out of course and has this fantasy of how he will live when he gets out…and it isn’t to reform. I think if he had 10 million dollars free and clear if he got out he would go steal something. LOL I shake my head in wonderment at how stupid it all is, but he feels so ENTITLED, so “special” the rules do not apply to him.

    He especially hates me because I no longer bow to his wishes. He despised me as stupid when I did bow to his wishes, but now he truly hates me because I’m a challenge.

    I was stupid in threatening the parole protest, because I hoped it would make him quit being so violent toward me…he didn’t expect me to go that far, and I had WARNED him in advance…so that’s the thing in dealing with them, we must not let them know what we are thinking or planning. Very important not to warn them.

  7. Joyce, this is a fascinating article and discussion because it just reiterates for me that it doesn’t matter whether someone is a full-blown psychopath, or a “psychopath lite.” If they are toxic, mean-spirited, demeaning, belittling, and manipulative, they are TOXIC to me, bottom line.

    I tend to lump them all into a category of being toxic, regardless of their tactics. It’s simpler for me to say, “This person has ‘an agenda,'” and to walk away than to attempt to assess what someone could possibly be.

    Joyce, it’s not “stupid” to threaten someone with a response that we fully intend to follow through with – it’s not a “threat” as much as it is an assurance that our word is our bond. But, I do agree that giving a toxic or psychopathic person a “heads up” on what we will (or, will not) respond with usually won’t make a difference in their choices, actions, or behaviors. They’ll do what they want, regardless, because they simply do not care.

    We often discuss the “red flags” that were present when we were in the midst of whatever relationship we were in, but we can only “see” those screaming, flapping, waving indicators in hindsight, IMHO. I did not WANT to believe that I had chosen two (not just one) very toxic partners – I wanted to believe that I was going to be “The One” that would help, assist, and walk beside two men who were/are clearly DISORDERED and will never, ever, EVER morph into an empathetic human being with a conscience and sense of remorse. I didn’t want to believe that I had allowed clearly disordered people into my boundaries in the forms of friends and business associates – I did not have the self-confidence, self-esteem, or self-worth to realize that I did not NEED these people’s “attention” or approval.

    Absolutely, toxic people have an overblown sense of entitlement – the exspath felt entitled to my personal investments, and helped himself to them at any time he wanted to. Eugh…

    Fallon may be “trying to be nicer,” but it’s just an endeavor to meet expectations that are NOT based upon true empathy. Paying his wife more compliments is just paying lip-service to appear “normal.” Fallon will never BE “normal” nor will he ever experience empathy, conscience, or remorse. He won’t because he CAN’T, and I also feel desperately sorry for his wife and family.

    Would I have still entered into a contract of marriage with the second exspath if I had “known” what he was? I cannot speak to that – it’s a question that will never be answered. My guess is that I would have simply because the person that I was when I married that *sshole is NOT who I am, today.

  8. Truthy, you are right, we are NOT the persons we were in the past. You are not the baby that was learning to crawl, you GREW and learned to walk and then to run, to dress yourself and learn your ABCs. In fact I was baffled on how I would EVER learn all those letters by rote. It felt impossible, but I’m not that child any more, my understanding has grown and my beliefs have changed. It is what life is all about, continuing to grow and improve.

    Yes, I too saw the red flags waving, but I DISMISSED THEM and thought (arrogantly) that I could fix “anything” that was wrong with Patrick (and other psychopaths) by being “nice” to them and supportive etc. In other words ENABLING them. But I am no longer so arrogant as to think I can control anyone else’s beliefs, actions, or thoughts.

    While I think and research is showing that psychopathy is somewhat more genetic than environmental, just as alcoholism is more genetic than environmental, I do think that psychopaths CAN be more Pro-social if they try to be, just as an alcoholic can stop drinking if he chooses.

    In AA they call a psychopath that is also an alcoholic a “dry drunk” because even sober these people are hateful, controlling etc. I have met and worked with a few of those “dry drunks” and they will stab you in the back and not blink. They are sly and manipulative and hateful, and can mask it pretty well if you don’t know them very well, but as you come to know them you see more and more of the flags of disordered personalities.

    Also it is not unusual that alcoholics are “self medicating” for depression or other mental illnesses or disorders….of course they blame their bad behavior on the booze. I don’t go along with that at all. Alcohol DIS-inhibits a person, allowing in my opinion for the REAL person inside that drunk to come out. For example, my Uncle Monster was “nice” when he was sober and was a wife beating ranting, raving monster who hated women with a passion. I think the monster was the real man and Mr. Nice guy was the MASK.

    The few times I have been drunk in my life, I started to SING (and I’m not a great singer but would like to have been) so the booze dis-inhibited me from singing, and I would not have sung when sober. I did not become violent or try to hurt anyone, I wanted to love everyone and recite poetry and hug all my friends and tell them how special they were to me.

    So my opinion for what it’s worth is that people who become violent when drunk or high would LIKE TO BE VIOLENT when sober but don’t have the guts to do so, they are inhibited by their judgment, but drunk, that judgment is silenced and they become what they would like to be.

  9. Exactly, Skylar! They are all prone to do whatever they can get away with. As a matter of fact, even though the spath I was talking about was ‘never’ violent or a criminal, that is only to my knowledge. But, as you recall he was the one who may have run a cashiers check scam on me. And, he admitted to ‘once’ striking a woman who was stalking him.

    It’s really hard to know what any of them have really gotten up to.

    I know the information about your stupid spath sister (SSS) is serious. But, once again, you made me laugh. That story about the quarter. OMG! Hilarious! Stupid beyond. The part about the suicide is sad indeed. But they do potentiate one another don’t they? I never thought of it that way, exactly.

    Joyce, I agree with Truthy. That was a warning shot across the bow. Nothing wrong with that. It’s like saying “contact me again and I call the police”. Though I do understand that you may have been emphasizing that you showed your cards, and may not have needed to.

    And, Truthspeak, your rhetorical question if an interesting one, about whether you would have entered into marriage with the second spath, if you had known what he was. And your answer to yourself really hit a bullseye with me. I likely would have too, given who I was at the time. Boy have we come a long way!

    Love to all,
    Slimish

  10. Slim, good to “see” you and I agree, the people we were THEN is not the people we are now. That’s important for us to realize because it keeps us from bashing ourselves on the head for being “so stooopid” and boy have I done plenty of that!

    Forgiving myself was the most difficult part of any of this….I’m not actively bitter toward any of “them” but if I don’t watch myself I can fall back into that bitterness. It is an ongoing process.

    What’s with the “slim-ish?” too much holiday goodies? LOL

  11. Slimish and Oxy,
    🙂
    I agree that we should never warn them. Say nothing, just do it. It’s even better if they never know you retaliated in anyway.

    For them, a warning is “GAME ON!” They love knowing that you’re going to play with them. It’s much better if they think you’re dumb and boring.

  12. You know I was looking for something to read the other night before I went to sleep and I went to my bookshelf and pulled down the slim volume of Miller’s play The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials Miller saw the parallel between those witch trials and the McCarthy communist “witch” hunts in the `1950s in the US…and of course every “witch hunt” since time began….as Skylar reminds us it’s the scape goat thing all over again, but unlike the Jews who in early times would send an ACTUAL goat out into the wilderness to represent their sins, most societies have actually found some living breathing humans to persecute in a frenzy of “rooting out evil” and there is no defense against it because how do you prove that you were NOT on the grassy knoll when Kennedy was shot, or how do you prove you did NOT cause the tornado that took down someone’s house? It can’t be done. YOu can’t prove a negative.

    In Miller’s play you saw that greed, lust, entertainment, and revenge were the motivators of the mob in decrying their neighbors to the gallows.

    • Joyce, that’s a very good point that the most evil of intentions are played out on actual “targets” with 100% immunity. Scapegoating is something that we’re not taught about – that it exists, and that someone will always, always be sacrificed.

  13. Right now, in North Korea the “dear leader” has scapegoated his uncle and killed him, also executed an ex girlfriend and many others over recent months. Supposedly the uncle was plotting to overthrow him, and that very well may be true. Maybe the uncle saw what a monster this young psychopathic “leader” was/is and tried to dethrone him for someone less barbaric…

    I saw the rerun of the live performance of the Sound of Music last night (I missed the live broadcast) and the von Trapp family is a perfect example of those who try to resist a political evil…if they hadn’t made their escape they too would have either had to give in or die.

    In my opinion it doesn’t matter if it is a political state, or a church, religion, when freedom of speech is curtailed, when there are “thought police” ruling the family or the land, then things will not go well for the ones who do not conform.

    In an abusive family or in an abusive culture and country, life is not good for those with little power, and unfortunately many times the victims are unable to escape. Sometimes we don’t even recognize that we NEED to escape, that things are not going to change.

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