I’ve often noticed that with people who have an offender in the family they frequently ask if they have given their loved one “enough of a chance” or want to know if there is anything they can do to salvage what they describe very clearly as a dysfunctional relationship with someone who, whatever the clinical diagnosis they might merit, is clearly dysfunctional and/or abusive.
Most readers and posters here aren’t physicians or clinical psychologists who are licensed to make a “clinical diagnosis” of someone, and none of us, even the ones who do have licenses, would or could make a legally binding or valid clinical “diagnosis” of someone by simply hearing one side of the story and never meeting the person who is an offender and allegedly acting like a socio/psycho-path.
Most of us compare the “criteria” of what constitutes a socio/psycho-path with what we see as their actions and implied motives with the Psychopathic Check List-Revised list established by Dr. Robert Hare, Ph.D., or with the clinical diagnostic manual (DSM-V) which is now on-line. How much, or how little, these people actually display those criteria is then filtered through our minds and thoughts (which are not always totally rational when we are in a chaotic state of mind from a bad relationship) and we determine for ourselves if this person we are dealing with “meets” those criteria. We must also consider that a person who deliberately does bad things, though they not meet the criteria for any psychological diagnosis can still be “toxic” to us.
MaryJo Buttafuoco published a book in which she states very emphatically, that her ex-husband Joey Buttafuoco “is a sociopath.” Is she right in her assessment? I honestly can’t say, but regardless of whether or not Joey B meets enough of the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of this personality disorder, just from reading the news reports for many years about this man’s infidelities with a teenager, who then tried to kill his wife, and shot her in the head, would lead me to think he might have some of those traits for sure. It is quite possible if he were hauled in for a thorough psychological examination that he just might qualify as a socio/psycho-path. I know one thing for sure, I wouldn’t want to be married to such a man.
In spite of the fact that MaryJo thinks Joey is a sociopath, she may have over stepped her legal bounds in stating so emphatically that he IS one. Socio/psycho-pathy is a label, a perjoritive diagnosis, just like pneumonia or a broken leg. I don’t have to be a physician to see a broken leg is broken if the bone is sticking out of the skin and the leg is twisted at an odd angle, but it still takes a licensed person to make a “legal diagnosis.” Just as I, as a retired advanced practice nurse, can look at a corpse and know they are blue and cold and are “dead” beyond any hope, but I am not allowed to make that “diagnosis” for legal purposes, and only the “county coroner” who actually has less education and qualifications to “pronounce someone dead” than I do (it is an elected office in our area.) theirs is the authority to do so, or a licensed MD.
When we are wondering if someone we are dealing with is a socio/psycho-path we may have pretty good “evidence” for our own conviction that they are pathological, but that doesn’t give them the legal definition of such.
Since the person we are dealing with, and suspect that they are a socio/psycho-path, has not been “legally” labeled as such, we may be prone to give them “another chance” since we may not be correctly “diagnosing” their problems. We may second guess ourselves and our comparison of their behavior with the PCL-R or the diagnostic manual, or we may feel sorry for their pity ploys of having been “hurt” by child hood abuse or their X-significant other.
We may let our own tendencies to want to see “the good in everyone” or to “give someone another chance” because “we all make mistakes” when in fact, your assessment of the situation is right on.
One of the things that I use as a criteria for assessing toxic people (that word, “toxic,” I think, fits every dysfunctional situation without unfairly labeling anyone) is to observe their behavior for “deliberates” rather than “mistakes.”
In defining a “mistake” I use the term as something that wasn’t really an active choice but turned out wrong. For example, you add up your check book and add 2+2=5 and end up bouncing a check. That is a mistake. I can forgive that easily enough.
A “deliberate” is when a person writes a check knowing they do not have enough money in the bank to cover it. That is a choice to do something the person knows is wrong.
When a person chooses to cheat, lie or steal, in my opinion, they are not making a “mistake,” but are deliberately doing what they know to be wrong and do not seem to have any concern for who may be hurt by their deliberate choices.
I don’t know a single human who has not made a “mistake” and I also do not know anyone who has never made a “deliberately” bad choice, me included. However, if a person consistently and repeatedly deliberately does what they know is wrong, then there is a 100% chance that they are a toxic person to be involved with.
I will give people who make honest mistakes a lot of chances, but I will give people who do deliberately bad things no quarter! I will not give anyone carte blanche to continue to use/abuse me or to continue in my good graces when they use/abuse others or serially break the law.