By Dhammika Herath –
Psychopathy and Sociopathy are often misunderstood and misquoted in contemporary psychiatry, as well as among the general public. However, the study of this fascinating aspect of human personality is important in order to understand certain individuals that we deal with. There is hardly ever an opportunity to analyse someone who so publicly demonstrates a range of behaviours, impulses and cognitions as well as interpersonal relations which are the cornerstone of one’s personality.
In recent months, I have had the opportunity to observe this man who has exposed himself so much in the media. An analysis of his psychological make up is warranted and timely.
Psychopathy is not a very well researched clinical entity, as most psychopaths are either incarcerated or in high public and business offices. It is not a mental condition that can be successfully treated. The problem of personality disorder is where the sufferer is neither aware of the condition, nor distressed by the symptom profile. For him the entire world is wrong but not himself.
His thought processes are egosyntonic and do not cause any distress in him. His behaviour, however much deviant, immoral and unethical, are normal to him, and he will justify them, even going to extreme lengths to justify them.
His interpersonal skills and relations are tattered, but he blames the others for his faults. He lies, deceives, manipulates, even becomes violent to reach his ends and goals. Those actions and behaviours leave no guilt or remorse, and he rather enjoys the suffering of others, and will not hesitate to inflict pain in others in order to derive pleasure or monetary or other material or sexual gains. Moreover, he will act predatorily, using others’ money and property for his own pleasure.
Psychopaths usually live a parasitic life, they do not work, simply live at the expense of others and tend to be proud of it. With air of grandiosity, they tend to be charming, sweet talking and when necessary violently aggressive and will justify their most vicious actions.
They are un-empathic, insensitive and experience little or no sensitivity to the suffering of others, however much pain they experience at the hands of the psychopath.
Sounds scary or familiar?
If we look around the media these days you will be able to spot one or two individuals with those characteristics floating around the country, addressing gatherings, attending media interviews, those few people unmistakably wearing saffron robes!
Let me look at the person of interest very closely in order to analyse the personality structure and understand the evolution of this particular individual’s personality.
Obscure, deprived, violent and neglected childhood
In relation to this particular monk, or individual of interest, I do not have much information about his childhood or upbringing. However, let me indulge in some speculations, as there was no adequate information available to draw conclusions.
One of the strongest clues comes from his current predicament, that he is a monk. In contemporary Sri Lankan society, if child is given to the temple and monkhood, it indicates a few, inescapable reasons. Escape from poverty and hunger as well as hyperactivity and problematic behaviour are some of the most common reasons for parents to give their child to the temple. Almost all are consequences of dire poverty, neglect, and parents who were either poor, personality disordered themselves, underprivileged and perhaps violent and abusing substances in a struggle to escape from the realities of life.
In this background, children are often neglected, emotionally and physically abused leading to the formation of cognitive set where survival by any means becomes a way of life. Primitive, brainstem driven, they connive strategy where higher morals, values and beliefs all go out of the window (technically speaking, their identity runs riot where there is no formation of ego or superego). There is no apparent or clear conflict between ego and superego in order to cause anxiety and depression. These mechanisms are not necessary as there is no ego or superego formation.
I wonder whether this individual, who went on to become a monk, had a terrible upbringing, and was left at the mercy of older monks, neglected and abandoned by his parents.
Growing up in an environment of strict religious indoctrination, where there is limited empathy, limited opportunity to learn about world issues, develop peer relationships, interpersonal skills and emotional validation, young people either withdraw or revolt.
It appears this monk took the second path, fuelled by lack of development of ego and self, resulting in development of the personality structure we witness today; callous, aggressive, emotionally cold, an unempathetic alligator in robes.
Let’s examine some of the characteristics this particular monk demonstrates for appraisal in detail, particularly his adult personality structure or lack of it.
Lying and deceitfulness
He was caught driving a vehicle under influence of alcohol and punished by the court of law for dangerous driving and causing an injury. It is dangerous to drive under the influence and without a valid licence makes it particularly a criminal offence. However, even after the punishment meted out by the courts, he went on to justify the act, blatantly lying in the media and denying the incident. All of this against the Buddhist doctrines of honesty and truthfulness, virtues Buddhists greatly value and promise to keep every day (musavada = thou shall not deliberately lie/ deceive).
Later events clearly indicate that he was lying in many other instances to justify his actions and escape criticism and fallout from racially inciting speeches that he delivered which were publicly present in the visual and audio media. Interested readers can see YouTube for further evidence.
Callousness and parasitic life style
This particular monk does not have an employment, lives on the alms given by the local poor and is being paid by the government. Tax money belongs to the people of the country, yet he uses expensive electronic items, iPods and computers, contrary to the Buddhist virtues of a simple life and devoid of pleasure. He drives expensive vehicles, and travels the world in luxury, all the time preaching for a simple life as a Buddha putra.
Further, this parasitic lifestyle is filled with expensive trips to Europe, America in order to incite violence towards other religious minorities and communities, without any regard to their safety and emotions. Inciting religious and racial violence towards helpless groups is a clear indication of callous, unempathetic, impulsive actions that for a layman appear an act of defiance but for a keen observer, are a cardinal characteristic of deranged personality structure.
Deception, underhandedness and lack of empathy
This fellow is so cold and callous. He attempted to assault another monk and group of minority Muslims in broad daylight and went on to not just deny but also justify the aggressive behaviour. His actions not only endanger communal harmony but create a kind of communal paranoia.
Where are these traits arising from? A deranged, callous, psychotic thought process and personality? We can speculate that his early developmental vulnerabilities transacted with his genetic vulnerabilities resulting in the formation or lack of formation of personality structure where survival remains the core strategy. Since there was no ego formation, it has resulted in characterological abnormalities that define Galabodaaththe Gnanasara.
He is an extremely dangerous man. I will not speculate or comment or recommend a remedial strategy as it is not my focus. However, evidence suggests that he is extremely dangerous to humanity, Sri Lankan society and people in general.