I am adding The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson to my recommended reading list. This short excerpt from What Is Wrong With Scientology explains why:
Ironically, perhaps the best way to understand the most fundamental flaw in the Scientology system of dealing with the influence of sociopaths is to read a book that touches on corporate Scientology’s vehement, costly protests against the alleged failure of the field of psychiatry to do the same. In The Psychopath Test, Ronson chronicles a member of corporate Scientology’s Citizens Commission on Human Rights (a group established to “clean up the field of mental healing”) and his quest to free an allegedly falsely labeled psychopath from a United Kingdom mental institution.
Ronson becomes fascinated with the apparent terrible injustice of “Tony’s” (pseudonym) incarceration. As Ronson researches the matter in greater depth, he comes to find the Bob Hare psychopath test, or checklist, rather rational and workable. The more time Ronson spends with Tony, the more he begins to doubt the fellow’s sanity against the psychopath test. Out of curiosity, Ronson puts the test to use on a businessman who is unrelated to the matter of Tony. When he completes the analysis, Ronson shares his condemning findings with a fellow journalist. His colleague points out that Ronson only spent a couple hours with the target, and perhaps his journalistic “skill” of catching a target out on lurid admissions, and his preconceived notions of guilt, played a part in his finding. Ronson, in his honest and entertaining style, rides the rollercoaster of enthusiastic certainty to self-deprecating doubt in his own and others’ use of the psychopath test.
Ultimately, Ronson causes the reader to consider that while there is a tremendous, accurate compilation of information that helps us detect sociopathy, can any one of us be trusted with the power to judge and sentence anyone else against that information? Are any of us worthy of the God-like power to condemn another to a life of quarantine and isolation? Do we, in wielding such a powerful tool of knowledge, tend to take on the characteristics of the sociopath when we sit in judgment?
Ronson seems to wind up in much the same place L. Ron Hubbard did when he published this statement: “I have come to find that man cannot be trusted with justice.” While Hubbard persevered and constructed an elaborate system of justice intended to overcome that fatal flaw of humankind, for whatever reason, his lack of trust was proved justified by his own creation.
Ultimately, though, L. Ron Hubbard said that the only guarantee that one would not wind up on the receiving end of a sociopath’s club was to understand how to identify one in the first place. And that conclusion was echoed by Martha Stout. The founder of Scientology and his long-time nemeses in the field of mental health ended up agreeing on one unifying principle: When it comes to the havoc others can wreak upon one’s life, the best protection is the truth – know it, and it shall set you free.
And so my recommended remedy in dealing with the very real problem of sociopathy, or the suppressive person, is as follows:
- Learn for oneself how to evaluate the worthiness and value of one’s fellows.
- Never forfeit your judgment to some authority, no matter how apparently wise and judicious, when it comes to judging the merits of others.
- Strive to be worthy of the trust of those you care about.