Monday, February 8, 2010

Hope for Sociopaths

What if my daughter is a sociopath? After watching last week's episode of House, entitled Remorse, that question peek-a-boo'd it's head right out from behind my laptop and scared the begeezus out of me. In the episode, House's team of diagnostic doctors were baffled by a patient's symptoms. Per the requirement of the formula of all episodes, the patient gets a lot worse before getting better. However, what interests House the most is not the puzzle of the her symptoms, but her apparent lack of emotion. Acccording to a brain scan, the woman proves to be entirely lacking in any conscience, empathy or love.

House is drawn to the woman and questions her. She sees right through his questioning and aims the arrow with accuracy directly at his jugular. "So, if you know your conscience is just an animal instinct, then you know you don't need to follow it. That's why you are talking to me." This is House's fear. What if I am so completely self-interested that I never choose what is best for others, only myself? Or worse. What if I am without a conscience completely? What if I am a sociopath?

Lucky for me, I have other close people in my life I can be critical of. Instead of examining my own lack of interest in others' feelings, I have a perfectly self-absorbed creature I can analyze, right here in my own home. She is 9 years old and I will leave out her name to protect the innocent. She scares me with her lack of empathy.

I immediately started flipping through my files of memories, trying to find evidence that she indeed has a conscience. Like House, there was very little proof in my files. Before completely panicking though, I remembered that I have a recent theory. We are all on the disorder continuum.

My Disorder Continuum Theory is as follows: Due to the fall and our inherent brokenness, we are all suffering from mental disorders, to some degree or another. Though I have not, nor has Ellie (yet), been diagnosed with Sociopathic Personality Disorder, we all suffer from at least a small form of it. To support my theory, lets ask this question: Who has NOT exhibited antisocial behavior or behavior that would suggest a lack of conscience? Or better yet: Who has ALWAYS considered the needs of others before their own needs?

How is my theory helpful, you might ask. The way I see it, if we are all suffering from some sort of mental illness, we shouldn't be surprised if evidence of one or several show up (like depression, anxiety, etc.). However, we should expect some. And, like Dr. House, the most important quest, needs to be finding the hope of redemption and change. Nothing is incurable. Not for House nor for God, anyway.

God, in his continued presence in our lives, works and is working (and has completed his work) for this healing. The most reassuring truth I cling to these days is this: God does not want me (or Ellie) to have a mental illness. And though I may experience panic attacks and depression or have a child who is cruel to her BFF and ruins said BFF's birthday, we have a God who is working to restore to us all our sanity. Our stories are not finished. We have hope because we have a Healer. We are being changed. We are being made sain and true sanity is the ability to receive love and give love without restraint.

By the end of the episode, Gregory House and his sociopathic patient both experience the evidence of change. For House and for us, there is no disorder, no disease, no brokenness that is without a cure. And, for a Monday morning, that is some really relieving news.


  1. 'Sarah Braud': helping me feel better about my deep ingrained insanity and dangerously high levels of dark introspective behavior since December 30th 2008.

    Exceeds any over the counter remedy known to man!

    Side effects can include, smiling, lol'ing at work, the occasional nervous sweating and a very real possibility of addiction.

  2. I was fascinated by that episode too--especially the realization that he was so willing to help out the guy from medical school, but not simply apologize to those closest to him for how he'd hurt them. Why is it so much easier to help those we AREN'T close to, to address issues we have some distance from? It makes me think a little bit about how generous Americans are generally when there's an international disaster (and please don't take this to mean I think we shouldn't give to Haiti), but much more reluctant to address some of the perpetual disasters of homelessness, hunger, poverty, in our own back yards--I am certainly among the guiltiest of these!

  3. good call, emily. that is exactly what i was getting at with the "look at ellie" dont look at me part. i love house. i was shocked when i realized the writers were actually willing to look at house changing. its so scary. change is really scary for even writers to address in a successful show where house's insanity is as an important character as anyone else, let alone scary in real life. but, as they address small changes that affect far way things, it gives hope for changes to occur nearby, right?

  4. ahh yes, the continuum. that sort of makes it all okay, i think.

  5. I miss you both and all your mental illness. I've been enjoying our own little psychological and sociological experiment these days - an unusual patch of calm waters. D some days seems completely without empathy - he really doesn't understand why we don't want him to hit his brothers. But he's a boy. He hits. He doesn't wound. I imagine that would be hard to watch. Anyway - great reminder that we should never be surprised by their sin - or our own (ugly ugly very ugly). Thanks for sharing Ms. Sarah!