Something I’ve always found fascinating is Nature vs Nurture, and all the more now that I’m pulling Alice on to the pages, along with those around her. B and I have had lengthy discussions around it too. Are you born a bad seed, or do you become that way through your upbringing and circumstances?
My almost unshakable belief (I have to leave it a LITTLE shakable, given I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist) is that a psychopath is a psychopath, i.e. that you are born that way, just like I believe depression is something you are born predisposed to. That is, I believe that Nature is the main force at play. Then, of course, Nurture potentially adds fuel to the fire. I believe that you’re born that way, but you might as a psychopath grow up to be a successful (and ruthless) business person if from harmonious beginnings, and in some cases something more sinister altogether if life treats you badly when growing up and forming your frames of reference.
I’ve always been particularly interested in psychopathy and sociopathy – it just fascinates me, and I have read quite a few books on the subject. It’s alien to me, as a very emotional creature, to think that a fundamental trait like empathy for others can be missing. The complete absence of feeling other people’s pain or joy. Of course it is only a very small fraction of psychopaths that go down the Hannibal Lecter route, more often you find them all around you (although most of us would fail to spot them, given their charm and social skills), but it’s interesting nonetheless.
My second novel is going to be around a psychopath called Jake, as mentioned before. Jake won’t be a terrifying serial killer though, he’s going to be one of those “everyday psychopaths” (I might call him a sociopath to soften it a bit – not a huge difference in the checklist of traits, but it sounds less severe), and he’s going to be textbook: charming, ruthless, manipulative, cold, an excellent actor and determined.
For Alice, it’s depression that comes to the fore. Not in her, but in Monica. It’s another affliction that I find very interesting. I’ve seen it close up, and it’s frightening what it can do to a person. I’ve seen people close to me both get out on the other side, and one in particular slip in only to sink beyond where anyone could reach her again.
I’m not sure where it comes from, this keen interest in mental disorders and illnesses (having said that, I’m less interested in schizophrenia and those more extreme illnesses further out on the psychiatric spectrum – I’m more of a psychology kinda gal). I’ve not, apart from a few people close to me suffering depression, been exposed to any of those conditions, although I have no doubt that I have known my fair share of psychopaths, just like we all do whether we’re aware of it or not. It just fascinates me, that’s all.
There is a distinctly evil section of my vast bookshelf, where you can find a disturbing collection that includes the Columbine shootings, a handful of books about Rose and Fred West, one on Myra Hindley, and there’s also Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway amongst those dark pleasures of mine. I guess it’s with a kind of morbid and terrified curiosity I’m interested to know what might happen in those minds, what goes on within the people who can go on to commit acts so wicked and cruel I sleep with the light on after reading about them. I just want to understand how they are wired.
If I were to list people for my dream dinner party, Ted Bundy would definitely be one of my guests. Not because I’d like to cook for him, but imagine the conversation. He remained lucid throughout. This isn’t some madman like Charles Manson (now we’re talking CRAZY, folks – will the Real Bad Crazy please stand up) rambling incoherently and hearing instructions for a race war in a Beatles song, but a calm and composed well, psychopath, who matter-of-factly accounts for the grisly deeds he carried out and casually blaming pornography in the process, how society made him this way. Which is the bit I can’t wrap my mind around. If that were the case, we’d all be stalking college girls and bludgeoning them to death in the most horrific manner (as opposed to bludgeoning someone to death in a nice way, hah).
So I can only reconcile in my head that there was something within Ted Bundy that Nature placed there, that was there from day one, but with time was teased out by Nurture. Anyway. I find it interesting, even though I do recognise it probably makes me a morbid bitch.