The Psychopath’s Case Against Empathy

September 14, 2015

By Jessica Kelly

It was July of 2013 and my therapist had encouraged me to allow her to administer the Psychopathy Checklist Revised, the primary diagnostic for assessing psychopathy in individuals. The typical adult scores in the single digits, while the typical criminal scores in the high teens. In the United States, a score of 30 (out of 40) is typically used as the cutoff for confirming psychopathy.

My score was 31.

I will leave the specifics of the disorder, including facets of parasitism, a complete lack of guilt and remorse, impulsivity, and so forth, as a responsibility to the reader for further inquiry. No matter where you fall on the intellectual or education spectrum,  I am sure that the following is something you immediately thought of upon reading the term ‘psychopath.’ We completely lack affective empathy: the automatic emotional responses to another’s joy or suffering. Before you choose to dismiss these words as a result, I will give you the punchline.

Affective empathy is responsible for the atrocity that is our current political landscape. It separates humans from each other and forces automatically held beliefs that merely reinforce that uninspired and unfortunate political binary that society, in general, honors and upholds as sacrosanct. It is anathema to intellectual thought.

Consider the current class warfare that the two political poles engage in. The Left sheds their tears for those without while the Right cries for those with. I do not believe that either camp is necessarily behaving immorally on this front. They simply are led to two different conclusions, in this case, because the target of their empathy differs. Unlike my cold stoicism, these individuals are emotionally invested in their cause. It is hard to call that passion “evil” when they are truly wanting to do “good.” However, this process and way of thinking is flawed and must be rejected.

Each political camp tries to condition the empathy of those around them, both of their base and of “independents.” We are taught from a young age by our parents to be like them, to think like them, and to honor their political beliefs. Passion trumps reason as those growing up are not allowed to come to their own conclusions. Fallacies born in “us vs. them” dynamics are executed and at its core, it is empathy that is doing the talking. Just as society sees me as unwelcome because I lack affective empathy (meaning I automatically empathize with no one), members of the Left see those on the Right as empathizing with the “wrong crowd” and the Right thinks the same of the Left. For an automatic reaction, it sure is being conditioned in those that possess the ability to empathize.

Keep in mind that I am not just referring to the far Left and far Right. Even the center has its empathic roots in place, just typically upheld and dictated at an individual rather than societal level. Everyone that uses their empathy as a replacement for logic is at fault. More tears were shed over a cute lion being slain than over any number of injustices recently. Does society really want growth or not? It would seem not if we cannot remove what is ultimately the focal point of our binary political system where individual thought is discouraged and herd empathy is enforced.

The herd is alike on that front, but we have animal versus animal when it comes to discourse. Even though the near totality of those with traditional political thought are using the same mechanism, empathy, to generate their core political beliefs; they turn on one another in the most childish of attacks. We have those that “love” minorities and those that “hate” minorities and those that “love” the religious and those that “hate” the religious. Yet ‘love’ and ‘hate’ should not be considered acceptable adjectives for the intellectual. It paints a black and white picture when their are shades of grey. Intellectual discourse dies at the empathic tears of those in power.

Group dynamics take root and a holy war ensues between those in the sacred circle and those outside. Why? Because their boo-hooing told them to engage in crusades. So what can be done to buckle such a tired and self-referential system? Short of flooding the gene pool with other psychopaths like myself, we as a race must learn to turn off our empathy when it comes to political alignment and listen to our rational minds. We must learn to accept tragedy, just as we accept achievement. We must create inertia by refusing to put ourselves in the same shoes that everyone else is trying simultaneously to fit in.

Turn off your conscience. Turn off your empathy.

The alternative is a dying species in which intellectual and individual championing based on merit and reason becomes extinct. It may make you less human in the eyes of most, but it will be far more empowering than any feel good rally with the status quo will.