My Thoughts on the Origins of Psychopathy.

This is a comment I wrote in response to a youtube video posted by Thomas Sheridan giving his thoughts on psychopathy.


I don’t think that psychopaths are not human. I think they are human. It’s just that their psychological development remains stuck at a very early stage.

Melanie Klein came up with the idea that there are two psychic positions that a human can take when gauging the world around him or her: The paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive position.

An infant from birth to 4 to 6 months adopts exclusively the paranoid-schizoid position. Essentially, a person who sees the world exclusively from this psychic position has to split both himself and the world around him into 2 parts, good and bad. Later, the infant, provided he enjoys an environment of security, acquires the ability to see the world around him from the depressive position as well. In this psychic position, both the self and people around him can be integrated, with each part incorporating both good and bad.

The example I think Melanie Klein gave was of the breastfeeding mother. An infant operating exclusively in the paranoid schizoid position, just sees the breasts. If she offers him her breast, the infant sees the mother as good. But, when she leaves him, she becomes another mother who is bad whom he wants to destroy. The infant is only capable of part object relations. He can only gauge the usefulness of his environment in terms of what’s in it for him. She gives him milk, then she’s good. She doesn’t, she’s bad.

I think psychopaths operate exclusively in this paranoid-schizoid position or if they can reach the depressive position, they cannot make any use of it. It’s there. They see it. But, they can’t live it.

My theory is that a normal person operates with facility between these two psychic positions, much like a pendulum fluidly swinging between the two psychic positions.

An infant operating exclusively in the paranoid schizoid position has only two psychic positions. To keep this simple and to stay with the breastfeeding mother example I gave earlier: 1) mother bad, self bad. 2) mother good, self good.

Later, with the advent of the depressive position, the infant acquires a new outlook and two new positions are opened up to him. 3) mother bad, self good. 4) mother good, self bad.

By integrating the good and bad of both his self and of external objects such as his mother, he recognizes that he and his mother are separate. He now acquires the ability to pick and choose particular behavioural traits of his mother and father and others that appeal to him and reject other behavioural traits without fear of retribution from those who have behavioural traits that he doesn’t approve of (see 3 above). He also acquires the ability to reject some of his own behavioural traits and modify his own behaviour accordingly ( see 4 above). In addition, in contrast to the previous paranoid schizoid position, he can now build up a complex picture of both himself (his own internal narrative) as well as of other human beings which can lead to the development of friendships and relationships based on mutual respect and equality. Human beings, after all, are not black and white, not something useful or not useful. We are, each of us, a photomosaic. We are inherently complex.

We are not a single bit of information: a zero and a 1 – just 2 values. We are in fact comprised of many bytes of information with 255 values to each byte.

Anyway, the above represents my flawed thoughts on this matter. But, that’s okay. We are flawed individuals



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