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Ted Bundy’s Third Grade Teacher May 17, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Teaching.
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I don’t know who Ted Bundy‘s teacher was, but I can’t help but wonder if she (sorry, but the majority of elementary teachers do have that XX chromosome thing going), noticed anything off about young Ted? Serial killers may take a while to reach their full potential (ouch!), but from those who’ve been studied, it’s clear that there was something off early on. Perhaps the class hamster met an untimely death?  Or maybe, like so many psychopaths, Ted skated by on superficial charm. Think Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver.

‘Wally’ Cleaver: [at the bottom of the staircase, calling out to his mother upstairs] Hey, Mom!
June Cleaver: Yes, Wally.
‘Wally’ Cleaver: Could Eddie spend the night here?
June Cleaver: Not while your father’s away.
‘Eddie’ Haskell: [dejected] Boy. Everybody around here is wise to me. I might just have to move to a new town and start all over.

Historically, the Big Three predictors of aberrant behavior are bed wetting, cruelty to animals, and fire starting. Personally, I’d add laughing when other children are hurt and inappropriate remarks showing callowness and a lack of empathy. Yet while most people associate psychopaths with serial killers, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Feb 19, 2011 issue of New Scientist, a crackerjack science magazine, featured an interview with Kent Keihl, whose studied the origin in the brain of psychopathic behavior. Kent also grew up down the street from Ted Bundy which only stoked his interest in how two people in the same zip code take such different trajectories in life.

I couldn’t help but fixate on his comment, “There are probably many psychopaths out there who are not necessarily violent, but are leading very disruptive lives in the sense that they are getting involved in shady business deals, moving from job to job, or relationship to relationship, always using resources everywhere they go but never contributing. Such people inevitably leave a path of confusion, and often destruction behind them. ” (Bold face mine.)

Robert Hare, the Godfather of Psychopathy, wrote Sharks in Suits detailing how psychopaths have been able to thrive on Wall Street and as CEOs.  Think Bernie Madoff and the path of destruction he left behind. And he didn’t even need duct tape!

I found Can You Call a 9 Year Old a Psychopath?  featured last Sunday in The New York Times Magazine to be a fascinating read. The Huffington Post did a follow-up piece 9-Year-Old Psychopaths – Dr. Alan Ravitz on How to Diagnose Children as Psychopaths.

Okay, I teach 9-year-olds. Have I had any students who I thought were psychopaths?  I can think of one, maybe two. But only time will tell. As teachers, we’re forever hopeful that we can make a difference. But still, I document everything so when America’s Most Wanted comes knocking, I’m ready.

The thinking has always been that it is irresponsible to diagnose/label a developing child as a psychopath. So children exhibiting symptoms that would be considered psychopathic traits in the adult population are diagnosed instead with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or with Conduct Disorder (CD). Rhoda, the character from the cult movie The Bad Seed , probably would have had CD. While not all of those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are psychopaths, all psychopaths have strong narcissistic traits. But this does not factor in as children are inherently narcissistic, so narcissism is a given. Bottom Line – Psychopathy, Anti-Social Personality (Sociopathy) and Narcissism are like close kin all dancing around that same May Pole of Lack of Empathy.

Some children diagnosed with these disorders eventually “grow out of them” and become functioning adults. The psychiatric community has always erred on the side of caution, as there’s much we don’t know about the developing human brain and/or the genetic predisposition for psychopathy. It’s the old nature vs. nurture, or possibly a N&N cocktail of circumstances. Just like drinking, you can’t become a psychopath until you’re 18.

That said, I’ve got stories. I’ve had students whose parents thought I was the teacher who could turn their child around. And I tried mightly – but the Mississippi flows south. I have a friend who carries a mug that says Miracle Worker, but as teachers, we can only do so much. We’d all like to think that we can be The One who makes a difference, but more often than not the die is cast. I take no joy in saying this.

When I tell people I teach third grade, their response is often, “Oh, they’s so cute at that age. They don’t have all the problems that come with older kids.” What rock have they been hiding under? We have students who have had IEPs (Individual Education Plans) since Kindergarten to deal with a variety of emotional issues (frequently a result of abuse), but sometimes not.

I’ve had students who laughed when another child was hurt (and not the nervous laugh), or go out of their way to inflict physical or emotional pain on their peers. I’ve also had students who were bald faced liars and master manipulators – at 7 years of age. I even had a student who so terrified his babysitter that he made her pay him $5 day to go to school! And I’ve had parents in denial while others were at wit’s end as to how to deal with their child’s behavior.

I’ve seen some scary s*it, so I remain vigilant – and I document everything. I’ve also never had a class hamster – just in case.


Who’s Your Daddy? Dexter! September 30, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Entertainment, Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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1 comment so far

My husband, a hopeless romantic, surprised me with this shirt

The only thing that’s gotten me through the the first two weeks of the new school year was knowing that the fifth season of Dexter was premiering Sept. 27th. I first wrote about my fixation on this show in Why I Love Dexter.

I, for one, loved watching Dexter balance his new role last season as a doting daddy with being a serial killer. Nothing like a sleepless night to throw you off your game. But from everything I’ve read about psychopaths (and I’ve read way than you’d ever want to), the one false note of last season was how Dexter’s becoming a daddy made him think twice about putting someone on ice. Dexter, himself, said that being a better killer made him a better father. Go figure.

In the Season 5 premiere, Dexter can’t even conjure up any fake tears for his dearly departed Rita. “I got some mouse ears,” he says, matter-of-factly. Yeah, that’s as good as it gets. It should be interesting to see how the writers handle Dexter’s parenting of his stepchildren Aster and Cody, and son Harrison this season. I’m afraid they’re taking some artistic license so as not to make Dexter too dark and despicable. He is, after all, America’s favorite serial killer, so the audience needs to be rooting for him. But what’s it really like to have a psychopath for a parent?

Psychopaths have strong narcissistic streak. It’s all about them. Just like those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), they view their children as extensions of themselves – things to be manipulated. The parent projects their “ideal self” onto them, so the child has to follow “the script,” or they’ll anger their parent. Yet, no matter what they do, it will NEVER be enough to earn the love of the parent with NPD. Many children spend their entire lives trying to get in their parent’s good graces, or just to get their parents to notice them, not realizing that this is impossible.

Last season, Dexter’s nemesis, the genial Arthur Mitchell (aka the Trinity killer), appears on the surface to be the consummate family man. It is only as the season progresses, that cracks appear in the carefully crafted image that Arthur has created, and Dexter can see how Arthur’s wife and children live in mortal fear of his rage. The majority of psychopaths are not serial killers or even physically violent. They kill the spirit of those near and dear through their callousness.

I have several friends and relatives who have children with narcissistic spouses. After coming to terms with the disorder themselves, they’re often at a loss as to what to do when sharing joint custody of a child. How do you prop up a child’s fragile self esteem when the other parent views the child as an extension of themselves, and/or delights in cutting the child down? One friend said she can only hope to give her son the skills to cope with his father’s taunts and criticism. He’s three years old.

If you think back to Dexter’s attempts to play Daddy, he mimics cultural stereotypes to play the part. When he asks,”Who wants pancakes?” it sounds more like a TV commercial. That’s because Dexter, like all psychopaths, is merely playing a part. In this case, he’s playing the part of TV dad.

The following comment was received from EMZ on my Close Encounter with a Narcissist series. She grew up with a narcissistic father and I think her experience is fairly typical.

My father was a classic narcissist. He was married to a woman (my mum) who all her life was, too, a narcissist. One of my brothers I fear is also. They undermine every achievement with a heart-stopping accuracy and coldness that you are left to wonder your own sanity. They contradict themselves just to oppose an opinion you may have dared utter. As a child you are dependent upon their guidance/encouragement/world perspective. But as a child they train you to know that you are worthless (to them), but you must accept it and pretend that it is normal.  So you question – does every parent act like this?  Is everybody just “acting’ normal.” I began to think and unfortunately hoped that all parents did hate their children, and it was normal to degrade and emotionally abuse friends especially boyfriends. Obviously, friends abandon you.  You don’t realize why, as nothing seems to fit together. I knew I was not normal.  It is such a relief to know that it is they who have a disease of the mind and very soul. My parents watched me suffer for years with a slow-growing brain tumor. I survived, but my father said, “The worst thing that could happen is you don’t fully recover and we might have to look after you.” Yeah…that would be a serious annoyance for you? It never came to pass, and I thank you lord.

Amen.



The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #4 March 23, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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18 comments

I never could have imagined that so many people would read my 3-part series Close Encounter with a Narcissist.  Or imagined how many people would leave comments detailing their own often heart-wrenching “close encounters.”

When I check my blog stats (something us bloggers obsessively do), I like to check the “search engine terms” people typed in before they were electronically dropped off at my blog’s doorstep.

In this new series, The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism, I’ll use a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping off point for a discussion. (Please read the Close Encounter with a Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started.  Shhhh!)  Here goes.

“Are all narcissists charismatic?

A growing number of celebrities/politicos have been been dubbed by the media as Narcissists.  While it’s true that those with narcissistic traits are often drawn to professions that allow them to be front and center, I worry that this only perpetuates the myth that all narcissists are charismatic svengalis who believe they can walk on water.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, most people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are downright ordinary. Shlubs.  That’s right.  I’ve resorted to Yiddish to describe how pathetic these people are.

Presidential hopeful John Edwards and Tiger Woods have both been called narcissists. Maybe. Maybe not. There’s a big difference between having narcissistic traits and having full-on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Only those closest to a Narcissist can see these people for what they are, or more importantly, for what they aren’t.

Most people with NPD are not natural charmers, though they can certainly turn on the charm when it suits them (like during the Idealization Phase or when dealing with total strangers).  No, they are downright ordinary, and on some level, they know just how ordinary they and their lives are. Their false self, or the image that they project to the public, attempts to disguise the oh-so ordinary nature of their lives.  No wonder so many of them come across as blow hards or just a$$holes.  At best, they’re legends in their own minds.

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #5.

Photo Credit:  Jan Marshall

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