Twentieth Century Psychology: Recent Developments in Psychology

By Philip Lawrence Harriman | Go to book overview

PSYCHOPATHY AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM

ROBERT M. LINDNER United States Public Health Service, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Perhaps the most challenging enigma in clinical psychology and psychiatry today is posed by those individuals who are diagnosed as psychopathic personalities. As the voluminous and often contradictory literature shows, the single fact of the prevalence of such persons in our society--taken together with the ramifying potentialities existing in this variant of personality deviation-- poses a complex and fundamental problem.

Unlike other so-called mental disorders and defects, psychopathy is difficult to lay hold of, to grasp and subject to the usual techniques of clinic and consulting room. For one thing, it lacks a central theme or rallying point for its various and diffuse symptoms. It has no core, no marrow: it is amorphous, elusive.

With schizophrenia the clinician can usually pyramid his findings on the bed-rock of affective impoverishment; with the paranoiac the fulcrum of systematization shapes a comforting handle. In the affective psychosis the cyclical or fixed mood-patterning sounds the dominant chord. Whether psychopathy simply lacks such a centrum as other disorders possess; whether our regard is not sharp enough to detect it; or whether it is in the nature of the thing and the essence of the diagnosis that no such magnetic point exists, are questions that must eventually be clarified.

Hydra-headed and slippery to the touch though it is, socially regarded, psychopathy represents the most expensive and most

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