In my book, I make no secret of the fact my adoptive brother “Keith” was (and is) a depraved individual. For those who haven’t read The Tangled Red Thread, here are some highlights. In fact, I’ll throw in a few things I didn’t mention before:
- He enjoyed abusing animals and would do so whenever he could get away with it.
- He held a clothesline to our mother’s throat and told her how it easy it would be to kill her.
- He destroyed things by treating everything like it was junk, then complained it was broken.
- He hit me with his fist, numerous times, once in the face.
- He threw a dead animal at me.
- He nearly killed an acquaintance by slamming his head in a car door, over and over.
- He routinely stole our parents’ things to sell them, or break them, or just keep them.
- He lied continuously, or treated others with utter contempt.
- He was the cause of another kid in juvie going to the ER.
- He spit in our brother’s face.
- He tried to pimp me out from prison.
- He sexually assaulted me twice, when I was nine and ten years old.
Some think he’s the victim. That it’s the “primal wound” a la Nancy Verrier. That the trauma of being separated from his original mother and placed with strangers caused him to lash out, to cause pain, because he was in pain.
He was in pain?
When I explain to others there were three of us, all adopted as newborns, they say “something” must have happened to him that didn’t happen to the rest. That I cannot possibly know, because I wasn’t there. (But at the same time, they do know. Amazing.) They believe our adoptive parents (who they have never met) did not “respond correctly to his needs,” ripping the primal wound open further. That all of Keith’s behavior was because he was hurting.
Apparently, he has such a delicate psyche that adoption turned him into a sadistic monster. But our other brother and I are the tough sort, so even though we were being continuously abused by him throughout our childhoods, he was the one affected. If to be made a sociopath, one has suffered chronic abuse or neglect at an early age, then why are John and I normal while Keith is screwed-up? We were the ones being abused.
I realize part of the problem is the word “sociopath.” The label would imply cause and effect, that a social condition is the cause. But I called him that because the traits fit, over that of a “psychopath.” The terms are often used interchangeably, but in general, psychopaths are considered more smooth and calculating while sociopaths are impulsive. Psychopaths are considered born that way, sociopaths are made.
I could have just said he’s a psychopath, because I assure you he was like this from the day my parents brought him home. The line blurs. Besides my usual term of endearment (miscreant), perhaps a new subcategory would help: base psychopath. Because while he was extremely violent and without conscience, he was also a crude slob.
Our parents were salt of the earth sort of people. They kind who make good parents. While I know Keith was born the way he is, I have wondered if he would have turned out better if he had been raised by his birth mother, or if he would have been even worse. It’s possible our adoptive parents gave him the stability he would not have had otherwise. All my parents knew about his background was that his father got a lot of young women knocked up. His mother was just one of the victims. If Keith had been raised by his bio-family, even away from his father, would he have been better off?
I don’t know. I only know I would have been.
Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread http://tinyurl.com/lbuxw8c