Recently, I came across a film titled Seven Psychopaths. It stars Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walker, and Sam Rockwell — almost all of them are my favorite actors. The director, Martin McDonagh, had also directed one of my favorite films: In Bruges. As with In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths is a dark comedy about bizarre, violent things happening to bizarre, violent people. I won’t go into detail as to why and how, but I really loved this movie.
It goes without saying that Seven Psychopaths is about, well, psychos. Each of the seven psychotic characters in the film have unique backstories of their own, and different manifestations of their personality disorders — some of them murder, one of them sliced his own throat open once, and so on. What’s interesting about these characters is that not all of them are depicted as serial killers. In fact, a few of them are shown as just perfectly normal people.
An article from The Telegraph says that a number of psychologists believe 1 in 100 children are psychopaths; and by extension, probably the adult populace as well. If so many among us have this personality disorder, then it is intriguing to think that the people around us might have serial killers hidden deep within their psyches. And maybe, just maybe, we ourselves are secretly psychopaths.
Psychopaths are basically people with a diminished sense of empathy and sympathy. They are individuals who do not really care — or care as much as a normal person would — about what happens to others, whether it be good or bad things. That means, psychopaths wouldn’t feel bad about hurting others, or seeing others get hurt. But a new research headed by Dr. Valleria Gazzola from Groningen University Medical Centre, has indicated that psychopaths do have the ability to empathize. They just have an on and off switch for it.
Because of this perk to empathize at will, psychopaths can hide perfectly well among the general population. They’re not immediately recognizable if they act like normal people, after all. It’s not like their facial expressions give out their psychopathy. But I have to wonder, since they can manipulate their own empathy, do they themselves know if they are psychopaths?
Let’s put it this way, if you were born among horses, would you know if you’re a horse or not? Maybe your fellow equine friends would assure you that you are, and you would believe them. Therefore, you would act like the rest of the other horses. You’d neigh like they do, eat the same wheat they do, and drink the same water that’s in your companions’ throughs. And then a rancher comes along and drags you away because, what do you know, you’re a donkey. But you couldn’t have known it before the rancher came, could you?
It’s the same thing with psychopaths, I’m guessing. If it’s only recently realized that 1 in 100 people are psychopaths, then there’s a huge chance that they do not realize that they have the disorder until someone came and told them they do. If someone is repeatedly told that they are normal, and thus should act normally, then they would likely behave in a normal way. Just think about the times you’ve been indoctrinated to believe that you’re a Christian, a Muslim, or whatever. But deep down, some people know that they don’t belong in their pre-appointed religion, and presumably some psychopaths notice that they don’t belong among the normal folk.
For years I have entertained the possibility of me being a psychopath. Why? Simply because I did some bad things, I have some thoughts in my mind that I’m certain others don’t have, and I’m a class A introvert. It’s not like I’m violent, I only have peculiar things running inside my head; I’ve fantasized the death of certain individuals, and some very brutal acts I would like to do to those I actively loathe. Yet I realized that these aren’t good indications of psychopathy. So I decided to take a test.
The test was called the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale. It’s a self-taken exam given by a website, that’s graded by a computer somewhere in the world. Not the most reputable diagnostic tool, I know, but it is the only one I had access to — before I took it, I researched it a bit and found that it’s not the most inaccurate test out there. Lo and behold, after around twenty minutes, I found that I’m about 60% psycho.
I scored a 3.1 out of 5 for primary psychopathy. That means I lack empathy and tolerate antisocial behavior quite a lot. For secondary psychopathy, a measurement of the tendency to disobey rules and unwillingness to behave in a socially acceptable manner, I got a 3.5 out of 5. Judging by that, I’m halfway to becoming a fully-fledged psychopath.
If the Levenson test is accurate, then I do have a portion of the disorder; not a lot, but possibly enough to categorize me as something other than normal. What does that mean, I wonder? Will I one day become a murderer, or some other equally demented agent of evil? Probably not.
I mean, if 1 in 100 people are psychopaths, then they’re not really that dangerous are they? If all of them acted like Hannibal Lecter, then yeah, we’ve got some serious problem on our hands. But since most of them act like normal people, including myself, then there’s likely no issue with their existence.
Psychopaths, myself included, are NOT a danger. We’re just odd, slightly messed-up individuals, just like Seven Psychopaths illustrated. We don’t care about the horrible things that happen around us as much as others do. And I’m pretty sure at least I don’t value human life as highly as society demands I should. Though in the end, it really doesn’t matter if our morals are slightly skewed. In actuality, very few of us actively seek out to hurt people.
So to those who might have some messed-up thoughts in your heads, relax. Maybe you are a psycho, and maybe you’re not. Maybe you don’t give a crap if someone dies right in front of your face, or maybe you’ve actually hurt someone badly once. That’s perfectly fine; you’re just a psychopath. You’re one in a hundred in a population of seven billion people. You and I are a common abnormality.