Can you love a psychopath?
Did I ever love me? is the title of Liane Leedom's work in which she analyzes loving relationships between psychopaths and their partners Basically based on the testimony of these. The conclusions of Liane Leedom establish four phases in this type of relationship: induction, commitment, disconnection and recovery. However, although it explains how an adult can be involved in a relationship with a psychopath, it does not answer the question of whether a psychopath is capable of feeling the emotion we know as love.
On the other hand, the University of Laval establishes a relationship between the type of attachment and psychopathy . Psychopaths tend to have an avoidant attachment style, manifested in the difficulty in establishing interpersonal relationships with high intimacy. The underlying question that we have here is derived precisely from that: can a psychopath feel true love, or just a substitute? Let's see it
- Maybe you're interested: "Differences between psychopathy and sociopathy"
Are psychopaths capable of love?
A psychopath is able to establish a sentimental relationship and, in it, manipulate the victim. But this does not contradict the possibility that the psychopath may be in love with his partner or love his family. To understand this, it is necessary to define what psychopathy is and define what love is.
The primary psychopaths, those who make our hair stand on end and become superstars of crime or the world of the stock market and business, are characterized by two fundamental features: the low fear and pleasure in the pain of others . These characteristics show a dysfunction in the cerebral structures that deal with emotions and, furthermore, they are the ones that originate the lack of empathy: fear is the precursor of guilt and pain is the precursor of compassion.
If a person is incapable of feeling fear, it is logical that he does not fear the consequences of his actions and, therefore, do not feel guilty for them, you are simply immunized against them. When the center of pleasure is activated in the same individual when viewing scenes of other people's pain, it means that their compassion system is off. And so the primary psychopath was born.
For its part, love could be defined as an emotional state that combines at the psychological level a motivation for affiliation (related to the need for attachment), socially learned attitudes and expectations and overt behavior. All this is sustained on a neurobiological basis which includes different areas of activation in the brain and the segregation of certain neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and dopamine.
Dopamine is related to pleasure and reinforcement . Their response in psychopaths not only corresponds to that of non-psychopaths when we speak of neutral and appeasing situations, but their secretion can be a much bigger reward, in the face of reinforcement (in secondary psychopaths), especially when there is pain in between (in primary psychopaths).
It seems that the affective flattening of the psychopath collides with characteristics and behaviors that socioculturally are attributed to love. But the two great traits that we have mentioned have nothing to do with love. The emotional problems of the psychopath have to do with the suffering of others, fear and pain, not with all the emotions.
This means that a psychopath in principle can love, but with its own rules . You may not show concern or alteration if your teenage daughter does not arrive home on time, but still want to appear and love her. You can lie and be unfaithful to your partner, but still feel that you want to be by their side. Of course, these "rules" of the psychopath need not be accepted by his family or society (and, in fact, in many cases should not be), but they exist and there is a certain moral code behind them.
A different emotionality
The point is that the love of a psychopath does not include the socio-cultural extras associated with this emotion (fidelity, compassion, sincerity ...), nor those accessories that come from the emotions of pain or fear. The psychopath is not going to feel love in the same way that you and I do: in your mind it is a limited emotion, because the structures involved in emotions, like the amygdala and the hippocampus, function in an abnormal way.
Further, it will be a kind of love with its own facets of antisocial brand (Because dopamine is activated in its own way). But love, in a peculiar and crude way, is also a reality in the mind of the psychopath.
This particular way of loving leads to toxic relationships, where the psychopath's partner constantly suffers.However, it is possible that for the psychopath they are also unsatisfying relationships in which they never get exactly what they want (as in the crimes they commit) due to their own limitations.
The debate is open
It has been shown that psychopaths are able to feel compassion for themselves and to feel empathy when instructed to do so. For his part, Joe Newman proposes with an empirical basis that psychopaths have a tuning attentional capacity, where although they feel this emotional range, for them they are a secondary condition that they can easily ignore to focus on their objectives, a theory that houses well with secondary psychopathy. All this proves that in psychopaths emotionality is not a simple vacuum, perhaps it is a very dark hole, but it certainly contains something.
Taking into account these issues, the debate is in discerning if it is possible to call love to this psychopathic emotion that seems to imitate it only partially, or if love, as the romantic idealists maintain, goes much further.
From my point of view, the term "love" is contaminated by many sociocultural constructions that correspond to myths of romantic love and that do not correspond to the reality of emotion. For this reason it is necessary to define the definition of love at a psychological and neurobiological level in order to answer this question, and that is why we may never know it. In any case, there is empirical evidence that psychopaths are capable of feeling something that, at least, resembles love.