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Symington, N. (1980). The Response Aroused by the Psychopath. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 7:291-298.

(1980). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 7:291-298

The Response Aroused by the Psychopath

Neville Symington


Heathcliff, the protagonist of Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights, is a psychopath, and the article analyses his character from an object relations perspective. It highlights the powerful ambivalent feelings towards the primary love object as the source of the psychopath's determination and energy. The loving feelings are kept hidden and the hatred is displaced onto suitable objects in the environment. The loving feelings emerge in an analysis, as they do in Emily Brontë's characterization of Heathcliff. The cause of his condition is traced to an object loss that has occurred before symbolization has taken place.

The response which the psychopath arouses is considered under three aspects: collusion, disbelief and condemnation. The psychopath is desperate for concrete goods that he can tangibly lay hold of. People collude with him because their own infantile longings are aroused. Disbelief in the psychopath's greed and destructiveness is a defence against sadism in those who treat with him. So also is condemnation, which occurs when

people project their cruel and vengeful feelings onto the psychopath. The foundation for a successful treatment is to be present to the psychopath as he is.

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