It appears that psychopaths (or sociopaths, if you prefer) are people whose mental and behavioral repertoire is restricted to Structural Enneagram perspectives Seven and Eight. Psychopaths seem not to have the flexibility to enter into and use the other four perspectives.
That is one of the impressions I took away from Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry (Riverhead-Penguin 2011). Ronson, a journalist, is also the author of Them and The Men Who Stare at Goats.
Ronson’s book is a good, fast read and a worthwhile exploration into both the “criminal mind” and society’s stake in understanding it. Can we begin to protect ourselves from psychopaths by diagnosing them scientifically? If so, would we find that some corporate and political leaders are psychopaths and that we are all their victims? Or do we ourselves become power-mad when we slap such labels on people and ignore the degrees of difference among them?
The book offers an abundance of evidence by which psychopaths can be correlated to the Seven-Eight structure. Here are just three of the many examples provided by the men and women Ronson profiles:
- They have perspective Eight’s other-orientation and requirement for recognition. They want to be liked and, if not liked, at least respected. Being “dissed” can send them into a rage.
- They also have Eight’s need to control. If they are ingratiating, it is only to turn manipulative.
- They have the perspective-Seven ability to mirror the other. They are skillful imitators.
What psychopaths do not have are interiority and a conscience, and Structural Enneagram can explain that, too.
According to Structural Enneagram, Seven-Eights have some sort of negative relationship with perspective Two, which is the ability to empathize. Ordinary Seven-Eights are rebels whose need to achieve autonomy leads them to do the opposite of what the other wants. Psychopaths flat out can’t empathize.
Ordinary Seven-Eights aspire to Four’s perspective of self-awareness and autonomy. They become rebels in an effort to release their psyches from the other and achieve autonomy. Psychopaths can’t occupy either perspective Two or Four, so they simply have no interiority; they are empty shells.
If Ronson has the full story, true psychopaths may be the way they are because their amygdalas don’t work properly. But if Seven-Eights fall on a spectrum between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Idi Amin, then perhaps at least those in the middle could be helped to add more flexibility to their perspectives through the use of Structural Enneagram principles.