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The Mask of Insanity

Lack of remorse or shame

The psychopath apparently cannot accept substantial blame for the various misfortunes which befall him and which he brings down upon others, usually he deniesemphatically all responsibility and directly accuses others as responsible, but often hewill go through an idle ritual of saying that much of his trouble is his own fault. Whenthe latter course is adopted, subsequent events indicate that it is empty of sincerity-ahollow and casual form as little felt as the literal implications of "your humble andobedient servant" are actually felt by a person who closes a letter with such a phrase.

Although his behavior shows reactions of this sort to be perfunctory, this is seldom apparent in his manner. This is exceedingly deceptive and is very likely to promote confidence and deep trust. More detailed questioning about just what he blames himselffor and why may show that a serious attitude is not only absent but altogether inconceivable to him. If this fails, his own actions will soon clarify the issue.

Whether judged in the light of his conduct, of his attitude, or of material elicitedin psychiatric examination, he shows almost no sense of shame. His career is always fullof exploits, any one of which would wither even the more callous representatives of theordinary man. Yet he does not, despite his able protestations, show the slightest evidence of major humiliation or regret. This is true of matters pertaining to hispersonal and selfish pride and to esthetic standards that he avows as well as to moral orhumanitarian matters. If Santayana is correct in saying that "perhaps the true dignity ofman is his ability to despise himself," the psychopath is without a means to acquire true dignity.


53. Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love

The psychopath is always distinguished by egocentricity. This is usually of a degree not seen in ordinary people and often is little short of astonishing. How obviously this quality will be expressed in vanity or self-esteem will vary with the shrewdness of the subject and with his other complexities. Deeper probing will always reveal a selfcenteredness that is apparently unmodifiable and all but complete. This can perhaps be best expressed by stating that it is an incapacity for object love and that this incapacity (in my experience with well-marked psychopaths) appears to be absolute.

Terms in use for what we experience as "emotion" contain much ambiguity, and their referential accuracy is limited. This contributes to confusion and paradox which are difficult to avoid in attempts to convey concepts about such a matter. In a sense, it is absurd to maintain that the psychopath's incapacity for object love is absolute, that is, to say he is capable of affection for another ill literally no degree. He is plainly capable of casual fondness, of likes and dislikes, and of reactions that, one might say, cause others to matter to him. These affective reactions are, however, always strictly limited in degree. In durability they also vary greatly from what is normal in mankind. The term absolute is, I believe, appropriate if we apply it to any affective attitude strong and meaningful enough to be called love, that is, anything that prevails in sufficient degree and over sufficient periods to exert a major influence on behavior.

True enough, psychopaths are sometimes skillful in pretending a love for women or simulating parental devotion to their children. What part of this is not pure (and perhaps in an important sense unconscious) simulation has always impressed this

observer as that other type of pseudolove sometimes seen in very self-centered people who are not psychopaths, which consists in concern for the other person only (or primarily) insofar as he enhances or seems to enhance the self. Even this latter imitation of adult affectivity has been seldom seen in the full-blown psychopath, although it is seen frequently in those called here partial psychopaths. In nonpsychopaths a familiar example is that of the parent who lavishes money and attention on a child chiefly to bask in the child's success and consciously or unconsciously to feel what an important person he is because of the child's triumphs. Although it is true that with ordinary people such motives are seldom, if ever, unmixed, and usually some object love and some self-love are integrated into such attitudes, in even the partial psychopath anything that could honestly be called object love approaches the imperceptible.

What positive feelings appear during the psychopath's interpersonal relations give a strong impression of being self-love. Some cynical psychologists and philosophers have, of course, challenged the existence of any love which is not on final analysis

selfish, saying that the mother who gives up her own life for her child really does so because it would be more painful to her to see the child perish. Without attempting to take up the cudgels in this interesting dispute, it will suffice to say that whatever normal and highly developed and sincere object love may actually be, it is, whether judged behaviorally or intuitively, something that impresses the ordinary observer as definitely unlike anything found in the psychopath.