Psychopathy brings a question about empathy. The psychopath has a different kind of logic that is not bound by empathy. They have a cold empathy and turn it on and off at will. Is this a choice? Is empathy a choice or a part of an instinct that drives us? Are altruism and compassion internal forces of governance?
Is empathy a kind of instinct? Are weconditioned to respond empathically to the suffering of others? We will experiment on looking on pictures of tragedy, news and sad stories. What is our reaction looking at these photos?
Are there any emotional responses to these images? Are these natural responses or something that you had to consciously create? Do we have a choice about how we respond?
Most of us emotionally react. We don’t just sit there and need to think about what we have to do. Psychopaths don’t care about something that doesn’t relate to their self-serving needs. These emotional responses don’t naturally occur to psychopaths. They screen the situation and choose how to respond to the situation. Unaffected by the anxiety, guilt or pain that most people feel when they see someone in distress or being hurt, they can act careless and stress-free regarding destruction of other’s life in their midst.
This brings a question of freedom and our morality, knowledge about right and wrong/good and evil and the ability to choose one or the other.
We are born into the cradle of nature and unconsciously carried by affects and desires that stem from a deep obligation to one another. Governed by this internal law of empathy, emotions that arise from a communal ground such as the sense of guilt or shame or simply feelings for the other, naturally regulates self-interests and restrains actions in consideration of others’ needs.
If we are governed by this internal law of empathy, are we simply being pulled to do good from our conditioning and not choosing it out of our own will? If empathy is something that is induced unconsciously, then what we understand as empathy is actually not truly that, but more like sympathy.
Empathy is a prerequisite for many higher forms of love, but love requires conscious choice. If we are programmed to sympathize with others, our act to respond to others with kindness and empathize with others is simply an instinctual reaction. Is love an instinctive reaction or something more?
We are bound by empathy. Emotions that arise from a communal ground such as the sense of guilt or shame or simply feelings for the other, naturally regulates self-interests and restrains actions in consideration of others’ needs. Can we be free?
We can’t do something harmful to others because we feel the pain of others, and that we can foresee in advance the consequences of our actions. Are we conditioned to do good naturally? Then, this good is not something that we choose, but something instinctual?
Encounters with psychopaths challenge our view of humanity and at the same time, they may teach us something about ourselves. Unless we are ripped away from this protective world of empathy, how will we become aware of it, understand its true value and begin to choose it?
Would it be possible to think that an act of love requires conscious choice and if so, is freedom to choose actually a foundation for love?
Psychopathy as a shadow of humanity
The animalistic and primitive parts within ourselves that are often judged and denied by civilized man can then become a shadow, gaining power over us in the unconscious. Carl Jung said there comes a time in one’s individuation process that one has to confront one’s own darkness and integrate it. In order to do this, we have to create a conscious relationship with it.
What is psychopathy and its role in human evolution? We have both aggression and violence within, but also altruism and empathy. The individuation process of human consciousness asks us to build a conscious relationship with our darkness.
Psychopathy can be seen as a force that helps this individuation process, one that tries to get attention from us about parts of ourselves that we fail to acknowledge. It might be seen as bringing a friction that may be necessary in human evolution.
Psychopathy is a manifestation of extreme egotism in the form of selfishness. On one hand, what appears to be evil is a necessary counter-force in human evolution. It makes it possible for us to attain the freedom necessary to truly claim innate empathy that has been quietly guiding us since the ascent of man. Empathy, when it is freely chosen by each individual, develops into a capacity for a greater love that is given as a potential to be realized by our species.
Empathy is a prerequisite for love, but love in some cases requires conscious choice. If we are simply conditioned to sympathize with others, the act to respond with kindness and empathize is simply an instinctual reaction. Is love an instinctive reaction or is it something more?
Encounters with psychopaths challenge our view of humanity, and at the same time, they may teach us something about ourselves. Unless we are ripped away from this protective world of empathy, how will we become aware of it, understand its true value and choose it?
Would it be possible to think that an act of love requires conscious choice? And if so, is freedom to choose a necessary foundation for this love?
Perhaps psychopaths challenge us and our struggle to give birth to freedom, out of which we can cultivate a will to choose what makes us human. In the end, perhaps humans are becoming self-organizing agents who can then participate in the course of their own evolution.