Most people who hear the word, psychopath conjure images of criminals and serial murderers. Just the opposite is true. Many come across as being very nice, charming, hard working and just decent folk. This is where looks can be deceiving because these peoples struggle with intimacy, relationships with family members, friends and coworkers while being oblivious as to their own contributions to any dysfunction because in their reality, it is always someone else’s fault. If someone suffers from this pathology without criminal activity, they are termed, borderline psychopaths.
I find the subject of the borderline psychopathic Mom absolutely fascinating because I know two women who fit this gentle appearing profile (not criminal). Both were in long term marriages, ran households which seemed well managed, and were employed for years in the teaching profession. The tip off in both these cases could be detected by observing their fruit, the well being of their children. One of these Moms had three children and the other had four. Even though the Mothers gave the impression of being exceptional parents, ALL of these children grew up to have serious problems from drug and alcohol addictions, drug dealing, sex addictions, prostitution, becoming a known sex offender, serving serious jail time, and experiencing issues with underperforming, poor relationship choices, etc. Any family can have a child who is victim to today’s world and who experiences some difficult times. This is not the same as children who all have been harmed and stunted emotionally because of toxic parents.
You can have second thoughts about your own common sense about these people, because to the outside world, they seem so nice. How can you tell for sure if you are the victim of a psychopathic toxic parent?
One person who I’ve known, found herself in this situation. She was going through some difficult times to where she happened to be talking about her Mom to a friendly ear. This kind person advised her to read the book, “Toxic Parents and to immediately sign up for counseling. Fortunately, my friend who did this has benefited tremendously. For starters, she learned how to set boundaries regarding her Mom’s toxic behaviors.
Kimberlee Roth writes about this phenomenon in her book, “Surviving A Borderline Parent.” Here are some excerpts: “It may feel you’re walking on eggshells—or even worse, on land mines that might explode at any time. So difficult that at times, it may feel like this person is almost impossible to please or to understand, to tolerate or to love, but also incredibly difficult to walk away from. And having a parent like this very likely has had an impact on you…..You (need) insight into why you don’t feel normal—because our culture promotes the idea of unconditional parental love, and the love you received seemed to be inconsistent and conditional.”
The following are excerpts from the “Psychology Today” article footnoted below which help to explain these cases:
“Many of us have heard these encouraging words from our loving … The psychopathic mother doesn’t see her child as a separate … Mother-child interactions are very controlling and any affection is tied to behavior that feeds the mother’s ego. Natural resistance or rebellion on the part of the child is viewed as betrayal and is met with harsh criticism or punishment to bring him or her back in line. In fact, she cannot allow her child to develop “normally” because of her need to mold him or her into exactly who she wants him/her to be. Most of us grow up with a few emotional bruises from the well-meaning mistakes of our parents. A child who grows up with a psychopathic mother, on the other hand, may inherit a legacy filled with self-doubt, confusion and guilt as she/he struggles to differentiate who she/he is from the object a psychopathic mother attempted to create and manipulate.”
The borderline psychopathic Mom like the part Kathleen Turner plays in the 1994 movie,”Serial Mom, does look perfect. She is so intimately involved in her children’s life. Here’s the rub. She cannot separate her life and thinking from that of her children.
The young person goes along with their parents’ wishes because they are dependent on them. No matter what happens, the Mom will represent the embodiment of perfection. Breaking away from her web of calculated, never ending manipulations is almost impossible for the young person. When the child inevitably has difficulties in life, many feel sorry for the Mom because she was such a selfless parent.
The following is a link to a you tube presentation by a UC Irvine neuroscientist, James Fallon who admits to being a psychopath. Three Ingredients for Murder: Neuroscientist James Fallon …
His book describes how for many years, he was heavily involved in research regarding various subjects such as psychiatry, adult stem cell development, genetic testing, Alzheimer’s, criminal psychopathy and other abnormalities.
In limited study, he used genetic testing, Pet Scans, FMRIs, another kind of brain scan, and SPEC scans of psychopathic murderers when he started noticing a pattern which was specific to these killers.
He did these same studies on himself and placed himself as a blind (unknown) person in the control part of a study on Alzheimer’s’ patients. When doing some comparisons, he separated out a file on one of blind control category subjects because this person’s test results fit the profile of a criminal psychopath. When he pulled back on a tab to check on the name, the name was his own. At the time he discounted his data which is typical of a borderline psychopath.
Eventually, he started asking coworkers whom he had known for years for feedback. He was genuinely shocked when they all described him as a psychopath. Then he asked for honest feedback from his wife, family and long time close friends and the response was always the same. They concurred with his test results.
His psychological test results indicated that he had high score for aggression and a low test score for empathy and anxiety, and that he tested positive for having the profile of a borderline psychopath.
He is honest in his self reflection. One major difference between himself and others had to with his need for revenge. If he felt slighted, he was not able to contain his anger even if it took a couple of years to get even. But he would get revenge.
Over time, he had to learn that each and every time he acted that he had to remind himself to act in an unselfish way. People around him started noticing that he was treating others better. When he stated that this was not natural for him, they said they didn’t care. What was important to them was that he was making the effort and trying.
UPDATE: This blog was updated on 6/23/15.
James Fallon, Neuroscientist – A Scientist’s Journey …▶ 32:34-http://www.youtube.com/watch? Sep 16, 2014 – Uploaded by Zeitgeist Minds Psychiatry and Human Behavior Professor, James Fallon…