Making a Psychopath | Mark Freestone

Summary of: Making a Psychopath: My Journey into Seven Dangerous Minds
By: Mark Freestone

Introduction

Embark on an intriguing journey into the minds of psychopaths with Mark Freestone’s ‘Making a Psychopath: My Journey into Seven Dangerous Minds.’ Delve into gripping stories of violent criminals like Ben and explore the neurological and genetic factors that contribute to psychopathy. Examine the role of environmental influences in shaping these complex individuals and discover how psychopathy manifests differently in men and women. Unravel the flaws of the psychopath test and consider the potential for rehabilitation in cases like Eddie, who ultimately reformed and reintegrated into society. This book summary offers a compelling look into the lives of psychopaths, humanizing them while providing valuable insights into their minds.

The Mind of a Psychopath

When Ben was released from jail, he sought revenge against his stepfather, who he believed had ensnared him. His plans to murder the man took a detour when he went out drinking with a friend instead. The friend goaded him into going through with the murder, and Ben reacted with violence, killing the friend. Ben’s story exemplifies the traits of a psychopath, a person who lacks the ability to acknowledge the inherent value of other people. While it explains how Ben could commit murder, understanding why he did it requires delving into his individual psychological makeup.

The Neurological Roots of Psychopathy

Recent technological innovations have enabled us to explore the brains of psychopaths. From this research, it is evident that two brain regions, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, play an essential role in psychopathy. Psychopaths have decreased activation in these regions, which creates difficulties in recognizing emotions and cues. However, not all people with psychopathic brains turn out to be criminals, as genetic makeup and life experience form a complex interplay in the development of a mature adult brain.

The Risks of Getting too Close to Psychopaths

Most often, our knowledge about psychopaths derives from the criminal justice system, but prisons are not ideal settings for research. While trying to understand Paul’s story, the author highlights how easy it is for a psychopath to manipulate the system and persuade professionals, especially women, to help them. It also shows the peculiarity of how psychopaths can change the norms of the institution that was supposed to contain them; this could put any worker in danger.

It’s fascinating to look into the brain of a psychopath, but there’s much more to understand about what drives them and forms their worldview. Unfortunately, meeting them in real life can be challenging. Psychopaths are rare and tend to fly under the radar until they commit a major crime. Prisons are not the most convenient place to conduct research, given the high-security checkpoints, and they’re not neutral settings either.

At best, prisons bring out the worst in psychopaths. They are stuck, often surrounded by other people, and willing to do whatever it takes to get out. Paul’s story illustrates how easy it is for a psychopath to manipulate the system. Growing up in a criminal family, Paul was inducted into the criminal underworld from a young age. He worked as a debt collector for loan sharks, using torture to extract money from his victims. He dealt drugs, took advantage of his clients, and used them to do his bidding.

Paul was a manipulator by trade, willfully using others as a means to an end. Even behind bars, he didn’t stop charming people. He managed to manipulate one of the highest-ranking officers in his prison – Louise – into having an affair with him, utilizing his charm and good looks effectively. The relationship started small but escalated quickly, with Louise bringing him gifts, including cigarettes, pornography, and contraband. The affair was discovered, and Louise was charged with misconduct, ruining her career.

Unfortunately, Paul’s story is not an isolated event. Over the next few years, three similar incidents were reported in other UK prisons and hospitals. In each case, female staff members engaged in relationships with male psychopaths, which led to their careers being ruined.

Psychopaths have a peculiar ability to pervert the moral standards of the institution supposed to contain them. This ability can put their caretakers at risk of being compromised. While it’s hard to avoid working with psychopaths in fields such as criminal psychology or law enforcement, workers must recognize the risks of getting too close and develop strategies to stay safe.

Different Faces of Psychopathy

The term “psychopath” is often associated with a natural-born criminal who enjoys causing trouble. However, there are variations of psychopathy, such as those whose antisocial behavior stems from an unfortunate past instead of intentional malice. Danny is an example of this. Despite being diagnosed as a psychopath, he displays more symptoms of borderline personality disorder. The psychopath test, used by psychologists globally, incorporates a patient’s history of crime and antisocial behavior into its questions. Consequently, individuals like Danny can score high on the test and be diagnosed as psychopaths, even if they don’t possess typical psychological traits. Thus, psychopathy is a catch-all term that groups different people together, making it crucial to exercise caution, especially in areas where psychopathy can determine life or death.

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