Nature vs. Nurture

I used to believe that every human behavior could be explained by environment. Bad parenting begets bad people. No one is born evil, I’d scoff. It’s always the mother’s fault, Freudians would have us believe. And aren’t mothers of  perpetrators  who create mass destruction at fault?   The latest horrific act of violence has already been laid at the feet of the killer’s mother. The dead can’t speak, they can be assigned blame. Because we so need to blame. It must be the mother, autism, etc etc  Can’t be that someone is born with a piece missing, a vital piece of humanity left out. The ability to feel. More specifically, empathize, the human response to others problems or simply of being. To put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to use a more colloquial term. Society has discarded that old chestnut long ago. The idea that a crazy person’s offspring will be nutty  too, dissipated as more and more people lay on couches being psychoanalyzed. No more does the center theme of Eugene O’Neill’s odd never ending play, Strange Interlude, exist–that the son of an insane person has insanity in the blood, and one must not marry and interbreed with such people. Ok, so that concept my be extreme, but science has found the propensity for depression is passed from generation to generation, just as other bodily or mental conditions are. Is crazy, I mean violent crazy, also genetic and the ‘evil’ one not responsible, due to genetic predisposition? How about none of the above? What if sociopaths are born, and made? What if you take two individuals, treat them exactly in the same horrific manner, abuse them, deny any warmth or love to them, generally make life a living hell–and one turns out to be a decent member of society, the other a serial killer? Is it Nature or Nurture? I believe it’s both.

Recently I’ve been fascinated by the concept of a sociopath. I was hanging out at B&N awhile back, and began reading a slim volume–The Sociopath Next Door. It was a bit shocking to learn that 4% of the population are without conscience, and that maybe one lives next door. But since I had worked with what I believe was a sociopath, the idea wasn’t new.  I think most people, like myself, believe sociopaths are killers, and only that. The Jeffrey Dahmers, etc., who mutilate and murder indiscriminately because humans are nothing more to them than inanimate objects are to the rest of us. Turns out–sociopaths are everywhere, and some are darn successful, maybe too successful. I can think of one prominent person with embarrassingly excessive silly hair who fits the profile very nicely.  Some of the traits of a sociopath are: lack of empathy, lack of feeling, taking no responsibility, blaming others, inflated ego and importance, working to get what they want, no matter who or what is in the way.

There are  scads of books by ‘experts’ on the various mental illnesses the human race is prone to.   Some titles I found;  A Sociopath Beside Me, by Junie Moon, appears to be self pubbed, which gives a bad name for people in love with sociopaths–if I can’t respect the author, how can I believe the story? Getting It Through My Thick Skull: Why I Stayed, What I Learned, and What Millions of People Involved with Sociopaths Need to Know is the lengthy title by Mary Jo Buttafuoco and her ghost writer, Julie McCarron. I can believe Mary Jo’s wandering husband is indeed sociopathic–why else would he become involved with Amy Fisher, also a sociopath? Neither could have any empathy, or they would have noticed a distinct lack of love. Sociopath: Inside His Mind  by anonymous–how surprising–it seems to be coming from the horses mouth–also self pubbed, I would guess. Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm With Psychopaths, Sociopaths & Narcissists by Sandra L. Brown. Almost a Psychopath: Do I (or Does Someone I Know) Have a Problem with Manipulation and Lack of Empathy? by Ronald Schouten. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare PhD, and a personal favorite–Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work  by Paul Babiak.  When I check the publishers, they are invariably unheard of, except for HarperBusiness–for Snakes in Suits! There seems to be a problem of definition between socio and psycho paths–the terms are tossed back and forth like bean bags, and appear to be the same thing. Whatever the differences are, I don’t understand them. The following explained it thusly:

“In other words, in the mental health field there is some consensus that psychopathy is more of an innate phenomenon whereas sociopathy, which has a similar clinical presentation to psychopathy, is more the result of environmental factors (poverty, exposure to violence, permissive or neglectful parenting, etc.). This is of course difficult to prove, as the nature versus nurture debate never seems to have a winner, and for good reason–it is very likely that both our biological components and environmental exposures influence and shape us fairly equally.”

I don’t buy that one or the other is caused by environment or birth-I agree with the last line. Still, how does one comprehend what happened in Connecticut? Even if we can dissect and pick apart the person’s motives, upbringing, mental defects, and blame Hollywood, blame video games, blame Twinkies, not being breast fed, divorce, unhappy marriage, sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, G.I. Joe, etc etc etc to infinity, there is one blaring fact that so many want to avoid, hide from, deny, think up excuses for, and that’s the ease with which these sociopaths, psychopaths, any kind of paths are able to get their sick fingers on–and that is weapons of mass destruction, something the US went to war against, and yet allow here to not only exist but flourish. No matter how sick the mind, how twisted the person is from birth, environment, both, less damage is incurred if a tool that can blow the heads off of 6 year olds are impossible to acquire. Until the people who think their rights are being threatened with reasonable gun laws have a sociopath put 10 bullets in rapid succession into their kid’s face, they will continue to blame everything but themselves for the travesty. They have no understanding of the pain others suffer from these weapons, they can’t put themselves into those parents shoes, they blame everyone and and everything in the world but the tool. Who’s the sociopath then?

1 thought on “Nature vs. Nurture”

Comments are closed.