The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson, a "madcap journey" indeed. I learned a lot, and it was funny. Just like the author, and probably all medical/psychology students, I was self-diagnosing, but I am not a psychopath. Neither is he.
It does seem possible that lots of tyrants and heads of companies would pass the psychopath test. Next up: All the Devils Are Here.
But I want everyone in my house to read this one before I take it back to the library.
I appreciate how the author takes up the issue of diagnosis and over-diagnosis, seeing both sides. Quoting Allen Francis: "There's a societal push for conformity in all ways....There's less tolerance of difference."
This always surprises me, given the age of Political Correctness, the tolerance we are relentlessly encouraged to bestow, all the celebration of "diversity," and the real compassion and kindness and respect for human rights I see so often around me. I guess the point here is that difference is tolerated in terms of "political identity" but not if your way of being human breaks the conventions too much.
On the other hand, as Francis continues, "And so maybe for some people having a label is better. It can confer a sense of hope and direction. 'Previously I was laughed at, I was picked on, no one liked me, but now I can talk to fellow bipolar sufferers on the Internet and no longer feel alone.'"
Yes, if there is a name for what is wrong with you and a legitimate reason for your behavior, you are, perhaps, more accepted, can find your own, can fit into the larger community, thus labeled, can be treated and accommodated. Although I don't see labels as stopping bullies from bullying. Oops, I just labeled bullies, who are sometimes psychopaths.
But Francis immediately says that the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder is not good. It's a label for life, and it is probably a mistake. And probably an excuse to give medications. And even the originator of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, about which there is always plenty of controversy), Robert Spitzer, does not like to speculate on the mistakes that may arise from it, in which ordinary behaviors may have been labeled mental disorders.
I read an article recently on how there is no sympathy for the parents of psychopaths. Other people who have children with various disorders get plenty of sympathy, but not these. And psychopaths have a problem with the amygdala. It's not the parents' fault, though, of course, they might aggravate the situation or not deal with the problem.
But it's the psychopaths themselves that are and have the problem. Looks like we all need to spot them, guard ourselves against them, and not continue to let them bully the world or individuals in it. But we'll have to do this with the empathy we feel...and they don't. Ouch.