I’m going to do a devil’s advocate thing here. I have a friend who is enamored with the idea that certain kinds of mental illness provide people tools to accomplish things that other people can’t.
I think that’s true. I have thought sometimes that the sanest people, the people who are just very balanced, very happy, are probably lower achieving than other people. My kind of irrationality happens to be fear or anxiety. That’s the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, gets me to my computer. A quite famous person, whose name I won’t use, said to me, “Any of us who do well, we’ve all got these psychological issues that drive us on.”
By no means will it always be psychopathic issues that make people achieve. Quite often it’s depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder. I think all these different disorders propel us onward. In a way I should be glad to have an anxiety disorder.
It’s interesting in the context of capitalism, because my pop notion of psychopath is someone who doesn’t care what other people think of them. And that is something that people say is necessary to succeed in the business world.
People with anxiety and a surfeit of empathy care a lot about what people think of them and it makes them ethical. So I think in the business world it can matter to be a good, ethical person. But it must surely help to have no conscience.
You know what though? I’m thinking on my feet here, but you just said psychopaths don’t care what people think of them. The ones who score high on the Hare checklist have a grandiose sense of self-worth and they do get really pissed off if they’re being disrespected. High-scoring psychopaths, past 10, tend not to be emotional, but they care a lot about their social standing. So maybe that’s not true.