By Sandra L. Brown, MA
A few years ago, I asked to be on a national TV show to discuss the issue of psychopathy in relationships based on my book Women Who Love Psychopaths. They had looked at the website, read information about the book, discussed what the rest of the show was going to be about, and booked me for the show.
They didn’t invite me based on my other book, although equally as informational, How to Spot a Dangerous Man, they booked me to discuss and showed the book cover of, Women Who Love Psychopaths.
However, 20 minutes before going on air, a producer told me ‘they’ (whoever that is in TV world) were uncomfortable using the ‘p’ word – psychopath. They found the word to be controversial and sensationalistic and that my example of probably well known public psychopaths who are not recognized as psychopathic was too debatable and un-proveable to discuss.
This was, of course, sad for me to hear since so much of what The Institute attempts to provide is public pathology education. Truly the only way for people to avoid psychopathy is to develop the ability to understand the traits and learn to spot it in others. All of these are why our goal for the Institute is public education.
This is of course, not our first time to hear that the ‘p’ word is offensive, debatable, controversial, or judgmental, and it will not be the last time, unfortunately.
Several victims of incredible psychopathic abuse were also on the show and I was asked to comment on their cases but also asked to not use the ‘p’ word. I asked the producer what she thought those perpetrator’s behaviors should be called, or what disorders would motivate their behavior….or what was she suggesting I should call them? I told her I was at a loss to pick another label or motivation behind their lethal behaviors that would come close to helping others understand “who does that?”
I went on to say to her that psychopathy was a diagnosis, not merely a political argument, a theoretical ideology, or even a criminal judgment of character. I was confused as to why I was there when, what I do, what I write about, who I help, and who I help convict are overtly obvious from my professional background and from our website.
I was reminded again, when I heard “the p word” is controversial, that public pathology education is still in its infancy. I know that victims face this all the time when they struggle to figure out what is wrong with the pathological person only to discover the shocking revelation of the person’s disorder. But the victim trying to teach others what is wrong with the pathological is counteracted when others find the information to be disputable, distasteful, un-proveable, unlikely, and unspiritual to even suggest.
The ‘p’ word is now viewed as the new psychological slur of the 21st century. It’s correlated with the devastating racial slurs of the 1950?s, the cultural slurs of the 60?s-70?s, and the gay/lesbian slurs of the 80?s- s-90?s. Now, we face the ‘p’ word the way we faced the ‘n’ of the 50?s and the ‘f’ of the 60’s-70?s and the ‘q’ of the 80-90s. But with a huge difference!
There is nothing wrong with the ‘p’ word the way it was intensely wrong with the ‘n,’ ‘f,’ and ‘q’ words of decades gone by. But it is treated as if we are being racially insensitive, culturally inappropriate, or gender ignorant. We are looked at as the skin-heads of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual that we would dare to call someone a psychopath.
We are viewed as the rock throwers at the psychologically–disabled people with pathology, the Bible thumpers of the poor spiritually disenfranchised psychopath, and the socially clueless that we would spew a power-packing psychological label like psychopathy around that might actually strike and land on a human being.
I know, I know… after all, it’s daytime TV which we all recognize is about ratings and keeping pace with society’s Attention-Deficit-Disordered need for topics to be covered in three minutes no matter how riveting the storyline is. Daytime TV covers tsunamis of natural science as well as the tsunamis of psychological trauma in the same fast fall swoop of selling hair dye and lipstick in the same 30 minute segment.
After all, what did I expect?
… Well, I always hope that a victim’s trauma is recognized and embraced for the emotional and spiritual strength it took to not only survive, but to show up on that TV stage in order to tell their story to help others. …
…Well, I always hope that the need to teach others how to spot the devastating disorders that created the victim’s trauma is the guiding motivation behind why TV shows exist and that it supersedes the mere ‘storyline-as-business’ of TV.
Yes, I recognize that daytime TV is not the spokesperson for the planet, that there ARE those who really want to hear more of the victim’s story and learn more about how to spot them in their own lives… but I have to tell you, it IS a cold-water-splash-in-the-face, like a “wake-up-Sandra-we-aren’t-as-far-as-you-think” call that we are whispering the ‘p’ word backstage and off camera and are editing it out for public viewing.
The whole segment of discussion about low empathy, no conscience and “who does that” was removed. Not one word that explained the behavior of those lethal people was leaked to the viewing audience for public pathology education.
We still have miles and miles to go in educating the public that psychopathy is a disorder, not a verbal tirade. You know what… as offensive, debatable, controversial, judgmental, OR… as disputable, distasteful, un-proveable, unlikely and unspiritual as it felt to those merely producing a nano-second based TV show to say the ‘p’ word, the victims who have lived with the ‘p’ are the true authorities here. They would probably beg to disagree with the nay-sayers that the ‘p’ is a profound psychological slur.
I am sure the victims found the p’s behavior to be more offensive than TV-land will ever understand. The victims surely wrestled with their own need to overcome the debatable-ness of the disorder, or the controversy that swirled around the lethal behaviors of the psychopath. And I am sure the victim’s incurred their own judgmental views of outsiders.
I doubt today the victim’s find their story to be un-proveable or even disputable. After all, some of these stories ended up in murder or attempted murder.
All the adjectives that are associated with psychopathy as controversial as TV-land felt the ‘p’ word was do not even compare to the victim’s overwhelming need to shout from the roof-tops what the pathological IS ….a psychopath.
Using the ‘p’ word of psychopathy is not a slur. It is an education, a prevention, a DIAGNOSIS, and the reality for millions of victims in the world.
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).