Understanding the Psychopath from a Psychodynamic Perspective

A Rorschach Study


The psychopathic personality is organized at a borderline level of personality. Additionally, while male psychopaths are considered to manifest pathological narcissism, female psychopaths are best understood in terms of malignant hysteria. Using Kernberg’s three components of borderline personality functioning: 1) identity diffusion, 2) reliance on primitive defenses, and 3) transient lapses in reality testing we examined the following Rorschach variables, Dv, M-, and Kwawer PMRs (identity diffusion); (H), (Hd), and Cooper et al. (1988) RDS (reliance on primitive defenses); X-%, Xu%, X+%, S-, WSum6, and RDS massive denial (transient lapses in reality testing) in 159 PCL-R delineated psychopaths (44 males, 115 females).  In order to study the predominate gender specific personality style, we also contrast the 44 psychopathic males and 115 psychopathic females (PCL-R > 30) with Rorschach variables associated with narcissism, hysteria, and paranoia. The following Rorschach variables were compared: Narcissism, Fr + rF, EGOI, (2), W:M, SumV, MOR, RDS omnipotence, and devaluation; Kwawer’s narcissistic mirroring; Hysteria, IMP, AB, Hx, ROD, C, CF, SumT, Afr, CS intellectualization index, RDS primitive idealization, intellectualization, & repression; and, Paranoia, Dd, Hd, Ad, eye content, AG, AgC, AgPast, AgPot, SM, S, and RDS projective identification.  Our Rorschach findings were consistent with theoretical considerations related to psychopathy and its gender specific differences.