No. You're not in the Twilight Zone. These unfortunate souls live among us.

“Freaking psychopath!”

I’ve said that a lot lately when people tell me about encounters they’ve had with obnoxious, unpleasant, or freaking psychopathic people. You may be wondering:

Isn’t she Buddhist and not supposed to be so judgmental? Well, you’ve got me there. But Buddhism is a very forgiving practice, so when I fall off the Serenity Train, I can always hop on again after I wallow in the muck of judgement. So if you’re judging me, I forgive me. I forgive you, too.

Is she qualified to diagnose people like that? Yes and no. Well, no. But I just read a book called The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson and I’m confident that I can ferret out the crack-pots among us now that I’ve read the book. It’s not hard; they’re everywhere. Maybe some most all psychologists would disagree with my psycho-spotting capabilities, but look at whose disagreeing with me: psychologists. If you’ve got the word “psycho” in your job title, think twice about being high and mighty about anything, which is a sign that you’re a psychopath, by the way. See how much I learned from this book?

This book is, to say the least, eye-opening.

My goal is simple: to scare the begeebers out of you help you, too, become a psycho-spotter. Of course you could read the book, but why confuse yourself with facts?

In a nutshell (good pun, eh?), a brilliant checklist-loving doctor, Robert Hare, created a 20-item checklist: the Psychopathology Checklist Revised (PCL-R). If a person is crazy enough to submit to this test, that’s one sign s/he is a psychopath. Not really; but you’d think that should be factored into the score.

Scores range from 0 (Mother Theresa) to 40 (name your favorite psychopath), but a score of 30 qualifies you to be sent to a nice farm in the country where you can frolic. No. Wait. That’s where parents tell their kids pets go when they’re really going to the pound. Score 30+ on the PCL-R and you’re effectively going to the pound.

Conspicuous frolicking. The electrified barbed wire fences are out of view. So are the armed guards.

For each item on the checklist, the psycho person is given a score from “0” to “2.”

  • “0” means “Heavens no! I’m appalled you’d even suggest such a thing. I feel a case of the vapors coming on. Hand me my smell salts.” (Translation: does not apply.)
  • “1” means “Yeah, kinda sorta. Ya know, a person’s got certain scratches at certain times dat, ya know, just gotta be itched. Or is it da udder way around? Anyhow. Yeah. I guess so. Sometimes, anyway.” (Translation: applies somewhat. This is a grey area that can get people in a great deal of incarceration trouble, as you’ll note when you see the PCL-R items, some of which leave little room for “kinda sorta.”)
  • “2” means “Yup, that’s me and I’m darned proud of it. Just ask any of my fellow inmates/Congressmen/stockholders/actors. It’s special people like us that make the world great.” (Translation: fully applies.)

These are the 20 traits that psychopaths have:

  1. Glibness/superficial charm (good at party small-talk or hiding something nefarious with a smile and a wink?)
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth (really has saved the whales or believes the whales should migrate to his/her feet and blow in unison to pay homage to their savior?)
  3. Need for stimulation/prone to boredom (Sitting for 2 hours in Professor Snoozekoffer’s lecture on the life cycle of a worm or complains there’s nothing to in Las Vegas?)
  4. Pathological lying (exaggerating to make a blog lively or telling the police the blood in your car trunk is from unfortunately heavy menstruation?)
  5. Conning/manipulative (guilt-tripping a friend into anything or being devious enough to impress Bernie Madoff.)
  6. Lack of remorse or guilt (I’m sorry, I envy psychopaths on this trait.)
  7. Shallow affect (emotions) (pretend crying at a funeral of someone you hate or not needing tissues during any movie scene in which the dog dies.)
  8. Callous/lack of empathy (parent watching child have 10th tantrum in 2 hours or smiling while watching aforementioned parent?)
  9. Parasitic lifestyle (20-something child asking parents for cash or 50-something child living with 70-something parents who still do “child’s” laundry?)
  10. Poor behavioral controls (slamming a door or slamming your car into the side of your house?)
  11. Promiscuous sexual behavior (Define “promiscuous.”  If it’s sex with many partners without emotional involvement, then okay. Otherwise, leave me alone.)
  12. Early behavior problems (incessant hair twirling or experiments with live animals that don’t turn well for the once live animal?)
  13. Lack of realistic long-term goals (getting a book published or having Meg Ryan play me in the movie version?)
  14. Impulsiveness (impulse-buying Cosmopolitan because it has 100 “secrets” to great sex or impulse-robbing a bank just because?)
  15. Irresponsibility (driving too fast or letting your 10-year-old drive too fast?)
  16. Failure to accept responsibility for ones own actions (victim of a messed up childhood or those corpses didn’t need that jewelry in the coffin, so I took it–what’s the big deal?)
  17. Many short-term marital relationships (repeated bad judge of character or a Kardashian?)
  18. Juvenile delinquency*
  19. Revocation of conditional release* (recidivism)
  20. Criminal versatility*

* (How can “somewhat applies apply? Either it does or it doesn’t.)

So now you know. People who you once thought merely annoying you can now label “freaking psychopaths,” but I’d do it behind their backs or at least just mutter it under your breath.

Rotten to the core, er, seed, um, pit, that one...

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this post for fun. People who are mentally ill need serious help. Trained professionals dedicated to helping them, like Dr. Hare, have their (and our) best interests in mind. Hopefully. The point of Ronson’s book and my post is to get us thinking about the line between sanity and insanity. Who defines the line and what happens when it’s crossed?

Heady stuff…