The Suffering Soul

If you break the word “psychopath” into its roots you get the term “suffering soul” (psyche and pathos come from the Greek words for soul and suffering, respectively). Is the psychopath a suffering soul, or is it the soul of the psychopath which suffers?

When you think of a psychopath you may think of a serial killer or some other habitual criminal. But the essence of psychopathy is actually much more subtle than either of these examples suggests. The core characteristic of the psychopath is that of an ego disconnected from the soul. Such an ego is without empathy, constructive relationship, or any sense of obedience to a power greater than itself. This inner psychology is reflected in outer relationships by the lack of any sincere connection or concern for the rights, needs, and feelings of other people.

The psychopath lives wholly out of his ego and actually suffers from a lack of suffering. His pain is ego-deep, akin to the temper tantrum or “crocodile tears” of a manipulative child. He lacks authentic suffering—the kind that would connect him to his soul, and which might actually heal him.

Unfortunately, this is a major reason why the psychopath became and continues to be psychopathic. He has been running from authentic suffering. The tears of the soul dissolve the arrogance, hardness, and falsity of the ego. They are both the solution and salve to the suffering soul, and a way to salvation for the ego. But, to the egocentric or psychopathic ego, tears are like acid, caustic and burning. They are perceived this way because of the ego’s own aggressive and adversarial attitude towards the soul. The psychopath is afraid of a genuine encounter with the soul and God.

How do you help the psychopath experience authentic suffering? Fines, confinement, longer or more arduous prison sentences do not seem to be the answer. Even corporal punishment hardly makes a dent in an arrogant ego, and may just inflame its anger and resentment. You can’t force someone to repent, any more than you can force someone to love you.

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