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The Rebellion of the Psychopath

Their rebellion often begins early in life against parental authority.

Psychopaths are rebellious, and their rebellion is often evident from the earliest age. Their rebellion against society’s norms for human behavior is rooted in mind, body, and soul.

Psychopaths have an incapacity for love, show no remorse, and have no conscience.1 Not only is the psychopath emotionally immature, but their immaturity is of “animal” rather than “human” nature.2 The child psychopath is “hard as nails,” and often does not learn from experience.3

Psychopaths and the tripartite personality

Transactional Analysis sets out three elements of personality: Parent, Adult, and Child, analogous in some ways to Freud’s superego, ego, and id.4 British psychotherapist Robin Skynner’s formulation of the tripartite personality characterized it as consisting of Conscience, Self-control, and Desire.5 The psychopath cuts off the Parent, the Conscience, and the normative functioning of the superego. In cutting off the “Parent,” psychopaths cut off authority. Their acts often violate laws and cause destruction. Minimizing or eliminating the “Parent“ or Conscience prevents the internalization of moral standards, ideals, and guidelines for making judgments. The psychopath does not live in our world but “has different allegiances and loyalties.”6

The impact of the psychopath’s rebellion

Psychopaths can turn anyone’s life upside down, and often does so with close family members. They vilify, devalue, mock, deride, and scheme, and will undermine even those they claim they love. Their damage and destruction endlessly repeats. Psychopaths rebel against the fabric of society. They infiltrate relationships, topple institutions, tear out our hearts, and shake our faith.

They can commit heinous crimes without an ounce of feeling because they are conscienceless. Their absence of emotion and feeling compromises the rationality that makes people distinctly human.7 They can wreak havoc with emotions, kill self-esteem, and endanger lives. As champions of rebellion, they pursue instant gratification that serves no one but themselves.8 They are in the “service of the wrong goals.”9

The rebellion begins early in life

Clinicians and researchers agree that psychopathic characteristics are manifested early in life. But just how early? Some research suggests that “reduced face preference in infancy may be a developmental precursor to callous-unemotional traits.”10 My elderly father, in his last years of life, sadly confided in me that my sister would never look at him from when she was an infant. Throughout her life, my sister’s personality was dominated by high levels of psychopathic traits. When my father walked through the door of our house at the end of a workday, my sister never went to greet him. She ignored him as if he did not exist, then and at every other moment. At best, her glassy eyes gazed over him before looking away. She also disregarded all paternal warnings and suggestions.

Psychoanalyst Robert Lindner has written, “There seems to be little doubt that the special features of psychopathic behavior derive from a profound hatred of the father ...” [and the father could be representative of society at large, with all its] “precepts, commands, and conditions for satisfactory social living..."11

With a "stunted super-ego,"12 and a desire to be free of all external commands, the psychopath lives in society, but not as a member.13 Without conscience, without shame, without love, and without remorse, as Lindner so aptly states, the psychopath is a “rebel without a cause.”


1. Hare, Robert D. (1990). Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (New York: The Guilford Press).

2. Karpman, B. (1961) The structure of neurosis: with special differentials between neurosis, psychosis ... psychopathy, and criminality. Archives of Criminal Psychodynamics, 4, 601.

3. Karpman. 603.

4. Berne, E. (1961). Transactional analysis in psychotherapy: A systematic individual and social psychology. (New York: Grove Press). DOI: 10.1037/11495-000

5. Skynner, Robin. (1996) Life and How to Survive It. (New York: Norton and Company). 62.

6. Lindner, Robert M. (1946). Stone Walls and Men. (New York: Odyssey Press).

7. Damasio, Antonio R. (1994). Descartes' Error. (New York: Grossett/Putnam). xii.

8. Lindner, Robert M. (1944) Rebel Without a Cause. (New York: Grune & Stratton). 2.

9. Lindner. Stone Walls and Men.

10. Bedford R, Pickles A, Sharp H, Wright N, Hill J. (2015). Reduced Face Preference in Infancy: A Developmental Precursor to Callous-Unemotional Traits? Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Jul 15;78(2):144-50. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.09.022. Epub 2014 Oct 6. PMID: 25526972; PMCID: PMC4510143.

11. Lindner. Rebel Without a Cause. 7.

12. Lindner. Rebel Without a Cause. 7

13. Karpman. 636.

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