The psychopath does not lie primarily in order to deceive. He or she deceives in order to satisfy a more primary motive. And that is…
But just a quick recap, I’ve argued in the first post in this series of three on psychopaths and lying that:
They’ll say anything – lie or truth. A psychopath will lie through his teeth no problem. However, if telling the truth will attain his goal a psychopath may well do that rather than lie.
In other words, to concentrate on the lies of the psychopath is to miss the fact that for the psychopath his truths play precisely the same role as his lies.
Perhaps this is what ‘pathological lying’ means: not lying a lot, or unnecessarily, or outrageously; but rather that pathological liars lie even when they tell the truth.
Does the psychopath have a mind?
What I mean here comes from Evelyn Waugh who said:
It is better to be narrow-minded than to have no mind, to hold limited and rigid principles than none at all.
Waugh was referring to people who are too tolerant and see ‘good in everything’ – “which in most cases is an inability to distinguish good from bad,” he said. Ironically, what he may have been describing here is the perfect psychopathic victim. Both have a problem with right and wrong.
The over-tolerant person won’t tell right from wrong, and that is important to him or her. (After a while he or she can’t tell right from wrong because of an atrophy of his or her ethical muscles – though these can be built up again.) The psychopath can tell right from wrong, but it’s not important to him. ‘A blatant disregard for the truth’ is the phrase often used.
We might, then, say that when it comes to morality the psychopath has no mind. The cliché ‘mindless violence’ has some purchase here.
Is it psychopath’s intention to deceive?
This is not quite as silly as it might sound. The psychopath’s primary motive is to dominate: to get what he wants and in the process push you down.
In order to dominate he is more than willing to lie. Or to tell the truth.
Not that regular folks do – or even can – tell the unadorned truth and have no alterior motives. Perhaps that is impossible – speech is always motivated. However, that’s not to say we’re all the same. The thing about the psychopath is that his or her motivation is so singular and single-minded.
Regular folks operate on the priciple of love: that is the sun around which they rotate. The psychopath is powertropic, i.e. his dark sun is power, and this power is power-over.
The con artist’s story may have small inconsistencies or unexplained loose ends. If you ask questions, the con will glibly provide an explanation—which may also not add up. Or, he or she will sidestep the issue by accusing you of paranoia or mistrust.
The psychopathic con artist is willing to deceive to get his way or to accuse you of being crazy. Or tell the truth, or do any number of things.
It is somewhat true to say that it is the intention of the psychopath to deceive. But it is true in a much larger sense to say that it is the intention of the psychopath to dominate, and that one of the many tools he’ll use is the lie.
In the next post I ask whether what the psychopath does even qualifies as lying.