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Transcript II: 8.5 Million Sociopaths: interview with Psychiatrist Donald Black

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Donald Black:   That person could be, and certainly around the world there have been a lot of dictators who essentially do that.  They order the murder or elimination of large groups of - Stalin killed millions, had millions killed, Mao had millions killed, either directly or indirectly because of their policies.  Are these people anti-social?  It's hard to tell, but most of them,probably not.  They're just in power, maybe they're highly narcissistic, maybe they're inherently bad people, or even evil people (we talked about that word earlier,) but I'm not sure they fit the definition of anti-social personality disorder.  It's certainly bad behavior, something that you and I can't endorse, but unfortunately it happens all the time.  We see it all the time around the world.

Rob Kall:   You just brought up "narcissistic."  I had asked about related disorders before, and you didn't really cover that one.  What's the story with narcissism and narcissistic?

Donald Black:   Well narcissistic people are extremely self-centered and entitled.  That is, they believe that everyone owes them a living, basically, and they deserve it.  So this strong sense of entitlement.  You see that in a lot of leaders and people in various industries; I think you see that a lot in the financial world, for example.  People who just have this strong sense that they deserve it all, they're better than other people, they're smarter than other people. 

I think the worst combination is probably the combination of narcissistic tendencies and anti-social traits, because those people commit bad acts and they thin that they can get away with anything.  So I think a lot of bad world leaders have a combination of those traits.  Whether or not they meet criteria for anti-social personality disorder is almost beside the point; that combination is truly bad because it allows people to commit heinous acts and get away with it, and it doesn't offend their sense of what's right and what's wrong.

Rob Kall:   So that takes me to the next place: what about politicians? (laughs) It sure seems to me like there are some of them out there that don't care about other people, that they sell out to lobbyists, and they create bills that are strictly for their own interests, or just their donors interests?  Where do they - ?

Donald Black:   I can't disagree with that.  I think the term "Narcissism" probably applies more than "Sociopath."  I think they just feel that they are better than others, they deserve more; and I think frankly a lot of them lack courage, that they're unable to make decisions that represent the views of their people, and instead they choose to represent the views of those who are paying for their campaigns.

Rob Kall:   Moving from politicians, how about terrorists?  What about these Tsarnaev brothers?  What's your take on what happened in Boston?  Is this a case of sociopathy?  What do you think?

Donald Black:   Again, that's -- I'm not sure because I don't know about their early life.  The older brother seems to have been in trouble periodically; he certainly was accused of domestic violence, in terms of one of his girlfriends before he got married.  The younger one, based on what I was reading in the New York Times just yesterday, seemed to be fairly normal, had friends, was not felt to be unusual or to stand out from other people, and I think in his case he's probably responding to the influence of an older brother whom he admired, and perhaps he was caught up in some sick version of the Islam religion. 

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And the older brother, you know, maybe he was responding to distorted religious views as well, but it's hard to know.  It's like, I mentioned Osama bin Laden earlier, who arguably did not meet criteria for anti-social personality disorder.  Certainly he was messianic in a sense, because he was regarded as a kind of religious leader to a lot of people, certainly very narcissistic, committed horrible antisocial acts that probably technically did not meet the criteria for sociopathy.

Rob Kall:   And the biggest criteria that is difficult to find is -- youth.  Engaging in behavior in youth.

Donald Black:   Yes, because it's considered a lifelong disorder, so you have to have this pattern of misbehavior established very early in life.  So how these terrorists and people like that fit in is hard to know.  They're almost a special category that really defies traditional diagnostic practices.

Rob Kall:   What are some of the early examples?  What do young people, teens or children, do that is predictive or them turning into sociopaths?

Donald Black:   Well, getting into trouble with their parents and teachers, lying frequently, fighting in the schoolyard, vandalizing a local cemetery, hurting animals or small children, engaging in early sex acts that others aren't. All of these things, the behaviors escalating over time to fit their age and opportunity.  So it's people that /

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Rob Kall:   (interjecting) Would cruelty or bullying be an indication?

Donald Black:   Oh absolutely.  Yeah.  Bullying others, that's an anti-social act.  A lot of these bullies we read about in the papers, they're probably, if they're old enough, we'd probably call them an anti-social personality, or sociopath.  If they're younger, we'd probably use the term "Conduct Disorder."

Rob Kall:  OK.  What about this fascination in America with guns?  We've got three or four million members of the NRA.  That's not even half of the number of the sociopaths in the country.  I'm fine with somebody who want to go out and hunt and bag a deer or a squirrel or something like that, but is there a level, an extremity, a degree where gun ownership becomes an obsession that could verge on sociopathic ?

Donald Black:   I'm not sure I even want to go there, because there's no association between gun ownership and sociopathy as far as I know.   Guns, unfortunately, are considered as American as apple pie anymore, and if the NRA has it's way even more guns would be out there.  What we do know is, if homes where guns are kept, you're more likely to see accidental shootings, murders, and suicides in those homes than if the guns were not present.  And that's the elephant in the room that people aren't willing to talk about: that if guns are present, you're more likely to have these bad events occur than if the guns are not present.  And whether you lock them up or not almost doesn't seem to make any difference; if they're in the home, they can be used for these bad things.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

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