The terms sociopath or psychopath often bring to mind images of sadistically violent individuals such as Ted Bundy or the fictional character of Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in the book and movie The Silence of the Lambs. But I believe the defining characteristic traits of sociopaths actually cover a much broader spectrum of individuals than most of us would ever imagine. The sociopath is that truly self-absorbed individual with no conscience or feeling for others and for whom social rules have no meaning. I believe that most all of us know or have come in contact with sociopathic individuals without even knowing it. [Wendy Koenigsmann]
What is A Psychopath?
Psychopaths cannot be understood in terms
of antisocial rearing or development. They are simply morally depraved individuals who represent the "monsters" in our society. They are unstoppable and untreatable predators whose violence is planned, purposeful and emotionless. The violence continues until it reaches a plateau at age 50 or so, then tapers off.
Their emotionlessness reflects a detached, fearless, and possibly dissociated state, revealing a low-state autonomic nervous system and lack of anxiety. It's difficult to say what motivates them - control and dominance possibly - since their life history will usually show no long-standing bonds with others nor much rhyme to their reason (other than the planning of violence).
They tend to operate with a grandiose demeanor, an attitude of entitlement, an insatiable appetite, and a tendency toward sadism. Fearlessness is probably the prototypical (core) characteristic (the low-fear hypothesis). It's helpful to think of them as high-speed vehicles with ineffective brakes.
Certain organic (brain) disorders and hormonal imbalances mimic the state of mind of a psychopath.
There are four (4) different subtypes of psychopaths. The oldest distinction was made by Cleckley back in 1941 between primary and secondary.
PRIMARY PSYCHOPATHS do not respond to punishment, apprehension, stress, or disapproval. They seem to be able to inhibit their antisocial impulses most of the time, not because of conscience, but because it suits their purpose at the time. Words do not seem to have the same meaning for them as they do for us. In fact, it's unclear if they even grasp the meaning of their own words, a condition that Cleckley called "semantic aphasia." They don't follow any life plan, and it seems as if they are incapable of experiencing any genuine emotion.
SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHS are risk-takers, but are also more likely to be stress-reactive, worriers, and guilt-prone. They expose themselves to more stress than the average person, but they are as vulnerable to stress as the average person. (This suggests that they are not "fully psychopathic." This may be due to distinctive genetic variations.)
They are daring, adventurous, unconventional people who began playing by their own rules early in life. They are strongly driven by a desire to escape or avoid pain, but are unable to resist temptation. As their anxiety increases toward some forbidden object, so does their attraction to it. They live their lives by the lure of temptation. Both primary and secondary psychopaths can be subdivided into:
DISTEMPERED PSYCHOPATHS are the kind that seem to fly into a rage or frenzy more easily and more often than other subtypes. Their frenzy will resemble an epileptic fit. They are also usually men with incredibly strong sex drives, capable of astonishing feats of sexual energy, and seemingly obsessed by sexual urges during a large part of their waking lives. Powerful cravings also seem to characterize them, as in drug addiction, kleptomania, pedophilia, any illicit or illegal indulgence. They like the endorphin "high" or "rush" off of excitement and risk-taking. The serial-rapist-murderer known as the Boston Strangler was such a psychopath.
CHARISMATIC PSYCHOPATHS are charming, attractive liars. They are usually gifted at some talent or another, and they use it to their advantage in manipulating others. They are usually fast-talkers, and possess an almost demonic ability to persuade others out of everything they own, even their lives. Leaders of religious sects or cults, for example, might be psychopaths if they lead their followers to their deaths. This subtype often comes to believe in their own fictions. They are irresistible.
(Many psychopaths are combinations of the above)
Sociopaths have always existed in varying form and to various degrees. They have been known by various titles. They have been studied using various techniques, and through the years their ailment has been blamed on various causes. But one thing never varies: all sociopaths share three common characteristics. They are all very egocentric individuals with no empathy for others, and they are incapable of feeling remorse or guilt. [The Sociopath Rebecca Horton (April 1999)]
While the psychopath has likes and dislikes and fondness for the pleasures that human company can bring, analysis shows that he is completely egocentric, valuing others only for their enhancement of his own pleasure or status. While he gives no real love, he is quite capable of inspiring love of sometimes fanatical degree in others.
He is generally superficially charming and often makes a striking impression as possessed of the noblest of human qualities. He makes friends easily, and is very manipulative, using his ability with words to talk his way out of trouble. Many psychopaths love to be admired and bask in the adulation of others.
With the lack of love, there is also a lack of empathy. The psychopath is unable to feel sorry for others in unfortunate situations or put himself in another's place, whether or not they have been harmed by him.[Gordon Banks]
How Psychopaths View The World
Not only do they covet possessions and power, but they gain special pleasure in usurping and taking from others (a symbolic sibling, for example); what they can plagiarize, swindle, and extort are fruits far sweeter than those they can earn through honest labor.
And once having drained what they can from one source, they turn to another to exploit, bleed, and then cast aside; their pleasure in the misfortune of others is unquenchable. People are used as a means to an end; they are to be subordinated and demeaned so that the antisocial can vindicate themselves...
The causes of this sociopathic disorder have been narrowed to several factors through research. One of the primary causes of sociopathic behavior is believed to be neurological abnormalities mainly in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area is also related to fear conditioning. The abnormal anatomy or chemical activity within this area of the brain may be caused by abnormal growth (possibly genetic), brain disease, or injury. This theory has been supported by much research using positron emission tomography (PET) which visually shows the metabolic activity of neurons within the brain (Sabbatini, 1998).
The amygdalae, two small regions buried near the base of the brain, have long been known to affect aggression, sexuality and recklessness. Recently, they have also been shown to affect how people interpret the emotions of others. Subtle damage to the amygdalae may explain many of the characteristics of psychopaths - including the difficulty of getting through to them emotionally. It may be that they simply cannot "see" emotions in others. [Are You Married to a Psychopath?]
The psychopath is a manipulator, who knows exactly what makes us tick and knows how to manipulate and influence our feelings.
They have the talent to spot "kind, caring" women.
Mimicry is often used to convince others that the psychopath is a normal human being. He does this to create a false empathy with his victim. The psychopath will try to make you believe he has normal emotions by spinning some sad tale or professing profound, moving experiences; the truth is, most psychopaths go through life as in an incubator, touched by few and having no real compassion for others; but they will lie to convince you that they have normal emotions.
The pity factor is one reason why victims often fall for these "poor" people.
Lying is like breathing to the psychopath. When caught in a lie and challenged, they make up new lies, and don't care if they're found out. As Hare states,
"Lying, deceiving, and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths...When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed -- they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener." [Hare].
Often, their behavior serves to confuse and repress their victims, or to influence anyone who might listen to the psychopath's side of the story.
Manipulation is the key to their conquests, and lying is one way they achieve this.
One almost amusing example of how psychopaths lie can be exemplified by a man who's footprint was discovered at the scene of the crime. "No, that's not my foot" he said, even though everyone knew he was lying.
This is how psychopaths operate. They will deny reality until their victims have a nervous breakdown. Often, the psychopath will turn on the victim and claim that the victim suffers from "delusions" and is not mentally stable.
The psychopath is primarily distracted and impressed by his own grandiose self-representation, which often leads to him unwittingly telling people things that lead to his detection. They often forget the lies they told and tell contradicting tales, which often makes the listener wonder if either the psychopath is crazy, although in this case the psychopath isn't really crazy -- he's just forgotten what lies he's told.
The most amazing thing, however, is their selective memory. A psychopath might not remember the promises he made to you yesterday, but he will remember something from the past if it suits his purposes in some way. They often do this whenever they're confronted or caught in a lie.
Most psychopaths are very arrogant and cocky. However, when charming a potential victim, they say all the "right" things and make you believe they are kind-hearted souls; not always, but often enough. The truth is, psychopaths are not altruistic and do not really care about friendships or ties.
Guggenbuhl-Craig states that " they are very talented at appearing much more humble than the average person, but are hardly so." Some are also able to feign concern about the lower classes and profess that they are on the side of the underdog, the poor, and so forth. A psychopath may claim, for instance (if he's from a low socioeconomic class), that he dislikes rich people intensely, but at the same time, he will inwardly yearn and envy what they have. He is like the narcissist, desiring to reflect a false image of himself through his possessions. Among his possessions are included human beings: girlfriends, wives, and children.
Some psychopaths can even be very fond of animals (contrary to the common viewpoint), but still view them as objects in relation to themselves.
In general, most psychopaths will brag endlessly about their exploits and "bad" things they've done (often called a warning sign, which will ward off careful souls), but more often than not, the woman who is fascinated by him will not listen to reason, even if she is warned by others who know him about his past behaviors.
Why? Once again, because the psychopath makes her feel so "special."
Please ladies, if you're stuck on any man who is like this, you must come to terms with the fact that it is NOT his REAL personality. He is only playing a ROLE for you.
Dr. Black states that one of the most obvious signs of psychopathy is the way the individual will brag about his experiences, no matter "how unsavory...his apparent comfort with his deviant behavior, the ease with which he discuss(es) breaking every rule, (is) consistent with ASP (psychopathy)." [Black, 68].
The psychopath is filled with greed inside, relating to the world through power, even though, as I said, on the outside he can claim to be on the side of the disenfranchised or the downtrodden. I knew one who liked to repeat phrases such as "they have to stop keeping my brothers down" but he didn't mean a word of it. He was actually a racist. The psychopath can also often identify himself as a revolutionary.
On the flip side, the psychopath also often paints a picture of himself as the downcast anti-hero (his "own worst enemy type") and some like to see themselves as lone-wolves. The psychopath may even claim he is sensitive and profound, but inside he is nothing but emptiness and greed.
Whether or not the psychopath is aware of his behavior is something that is often debated. I do believe that psychopaths usually know exactly what they are doing, although others suggest that psychopaths are "born, not made."
As mentioned, psychopaths often claim to settle for second best (being their own worst enemy) and then think they deserve better. This may be manifested in the way they seek power -- either through money (i.e. material goods), manipulation and/or treating people as objects. By enacting such behaviors, the psychopath is also trying to "get back" at society and the world, in order to gain retribution. They will spend their entire lives doing this, whether they are rich or poor, or whatever their social background may be, although studies have shown that they often come from an impoverished or lower socio- economic background and/or social status. (In one of Dr. Donald Black's studies, many of the men were "overwhelmingly white, blue collar, lower middle class, and married, and most had graduated from high school." [Black, 14]).
Let me add, despite Dr. Blacks' studies, psychopaths can still exist in any social class. Do not be misled. I also wanted to point out that I will be using "he" and "him" for the term psychopath throughout this website; let it not be forgotten, yes, female psychopaths exist as well; however, according to the Sixth Edition of Abnormal Behavior, printed in 2000 by three male professors, David, Derald, and Stanley Sue, the rates do differ by gender. Included in their excellent text is a report by the The American Psychiatric Association that the general estimate is 3% for men, and less than 1% in women [Personality Disorders and Impulse Control Disorders, 238].
What is very disturbing about psychopaths, besides their sense of special entitlement, is the complete lack of empathy for normal people, for "antisocials (psychopaths) seem to lack a conscience, feeling little or no empathy for the people whose lives they touch... the antisocial effortlessly resists all regulation, unable to see beyond his self-interest or to adopt standards of right versus wrong." [Black, XIII].
Not all psychopath are uneducated low-class misfits. Some of them are quite handsome and have good careers, and use this all the more to their benefit. Take a look at Ted Bundy; my friend's mother once went on a double-date with him and claimed he was the nicest person. His mother said he was the "best son any mother could have." Bundy was also apparently quite good-looking, which made him even more dangerous. So not all psychopaths are derelict, low-class, high school drop-outs, there are many who also work in professional occupations.
[QFG Note: Black's claim that more "psychopaths" come from impoverished backgrounds seems to be coming under some revision. In fact, Black does not seem to have a truly good grasp of the difference between Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder. As Robert Hare points out, yes, there are many psychopaths who are also "anti-socials" but there seem to be far more of them that would never be classified as anti-social or "sociopathic."
In a recent paper, "Construct Validity of Psychopathy in a Community Sample: A Nomological Net Approach, Salekin, Trobst, Krioukova, Journal of Personality Disorders, 15(5), 425-441, 2001), the authors state:
"Psychopathy, as originally conceived by Cleckley (1941), is not limited to engagement in illegal activities, but rather encompasses such personality characteristics as manipulativeness, insincerity, egocentricity, and lack of guilt - characteristics clearly present in criminals but also in spouses, parents, bosses, attorneys, politicians, and CEOs, to name but a few. (Bursten, 1973; Stewart, 1991). Our own examination of the prevalence of psychopathy within a university population suggested that perhaps 5% or more of this sample might be deemed psychopathic, although the vast majority of those will be male (more than 1/10 males versus approximately 1?100 females).
"As such, psychopathy may be characterized ... as involving a tendency towards both dominance and coldness. Wiggins (1995) in summarizing numerous previous findings... indicates that such individuals are prone to anger and irritation and are willing to exploit others. They are arrogant, manipulative, cynical, exhibitionistic, sensation -seeking, Machiavellian, vindictive, and out for their own gain. With respect to their patterns of social exchange (Foa & Foa, 1974), they attribute love and status to themselves, seeing themselves as highly worthy and important, but prescribe neither love nor status to others, seeing them as unworthy and insignificant. This characterization is clearly consistent with the essence of psychopathy as commonly described.
"The present investigation sought to answer some basic questions regarding the construct of psychopathy in non forensic settings... In so doing we have returned to Cleckley's (1941) original emphasis on psychopathy as a personality style not only among criminals, but also among successful individuals within the community.
"What is clear from our findings is that (a) psychopathy measures have converged on a prototype of psychopathy that involves a combination of dominant and cold interpersonal characteristics; (b) psychopathy does occur in the community and at what might be a higher than expected rate; and (c) psychopathy appears to have little overlap with personality disorders aside from Antisocial Personality Disorder. ...
"Clearly, where much more work is needed is in understanding what factors differentiate the abiding (although perhaps not moral-abiding) psychopath from the law-breaking psychopath; such research surely needs to make greater use of non forensic samples than has been customary in the past."
In short, if you want to learn about psychopathy, don't read Black. The only kind he had to study were the failures, the ones who ended up in jail or psychiatric hospitals. Keep this in mind as you continue to read the excerpts on this page.]
Also, not all psychopaths are calm, cool, and collected. Some of them appear strange or odd, and their behavior can be eccentric or unusual. I believe this is what can confuse victims most often. Psychopaths often appear intense and "electrifying". Do not be misled if someone appears harmless, "foolish", or seems offbeat. An "angelic" visage can also often fool people. Just picture John Wayne Gacy in his "clown costume" as he entertained children as one example.
A psychopath (he was diagnosed anti-social) I knew used the harmless cover-up quite well. Everyone thought he was very funny. I did too, at first. Then, little by little, I realised there was something "not right" about him. At first his seemingly harmless pranks were charming, but after a while, he became more of a nuisance and disrupted our work environment, which created havoc and tension between employees. I've learned, a psychopath can use these disguises for his own hidden purpose.
Regardless of race, social class, or occupation, however, the psychopath is dangerous to society, for "the nature of ASP (psychopathy) implies that it wreaks more havoc on society than most other mental illnesses do, since the disorder primarily involves reactions against the social environment that drag other people into its destructive web...The despair and anxiety wrought by antisocials (psychopaths) tragically affects families and communities, leaving deep physical and emotional scars..." [Black, 5].
There is much to the psychopathic personality which is baffling and disturbing. 1 in about 25-30 people are psychopathic (also known as sociopaths or anti-social -- the correct title being psychopath.) Since the majority or them are men, I (Wendy Koenigsmann) wrote this site in part, to warn women about the dangers, especially women online, which I believe is a favourite "new medium" which appeals to psychopaths. I have personal experience with this subject as well. This is because "antisocials (psychopaths) are not just characters in our fictional or true-life entertainments. They are family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or strangers we may encounter every day." [Black, 10].
Pamela Jayne, M.A., writes that "30% of men are sociopathic." [QFG note that she is not using the term "psychopath".] If about every three out of ten men I may meet are psychopathic, I would assume this is not something to take lightly. According to these statistics, that would mean every three out of ten men and maybe every one out of ten females.
The truth is, we do n ot really know exactly how many individuals are psychopathic; however, there seems to be a rise in the prevalence of psychopathy and that is why some claim that numbers are higher. Dr. Black claims that psychopathy leads right behind depression, along with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, which is an astounding fact.
[QFG note: Hare says that Psychopathy is MORE prevalent than depression, schizophrenia and BPD. For all we know, many people who are depressed, become schizophrenic, or develop BPD, do so as a result of interactions with psychopaths. Psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski says as much in his book "Political Ponerology."]
Psychopaths are often witty and articulate and almost always "glib." They can be "amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely but convincing stories...
They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likeable and charming. To some people, however, they seem too slick and smooth, too obviously insincere and superficial. Astute observers often get the impression that psychopaths are play-acting, mechanically "reading their lines." [Hare, 35].
...They may ramble and tell stories that seem unlikely in light of what is known about them. Typically, they attempt to appear familiar with sociology, psychiatry, medicine, psychology, philosophy, poetry, literature, art, or law. A signpost to this trait is often a smooth lack of concern at being found out." [Hare, 35].
One psychopathic individual I knew claimed that he had a genius IQ and that he was studying several different majors at college. "When I found out I had a genius IQ, that's when all my trouble started" he said. I asked him, "Why?" He replied, "'Cause I'm too smart for my own good." In the end I found out these were lies because he was, in fact, a high school drop-out.
[QFG note: Being a "high-school drop-out" doesn't mean that a person is NOT a genius. In fact, considering the U.S. education system, it is very likely that many geniuses WILL drop out due to frustration and boredom.]
Despite their failures, psychopaths have a very "narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, as superior beings who are justified in living according to their own rules." [Hare, 38].
They often come across as "arrogant, shameless braggarts -- self-assured, opinionated, domineering, and cocky. They love to have power and control over others and seem unable to believe that people have valid opinions different from theirs. They appear charismatic or 'electrifying' to some people." [Hare, 38].
I (Wendy Koenigsmann) know exactly what Hare means when I recall one person I used to know (who had been diagnosed); he always seemed to be charming everyone around him, although in the end every woman who fell for him ended up becoming hostile when they realized all he had been doing was leading each one on simultaneously.
The psychopath is callous, remorseless, and unempathetic, although at first glance he may not seem that way. He is often exceedingly witty, chameleon-like, charming (but not always, especially when not in a "good" mood), the person who attracts a circle of admirers around him at every party, but more often that not, he is usually avoided -- once people find out what he's really like.
Psychopaths often end up associating with others like themselves, although in some cases they don't always get along that well. Sometimes they pair up with other psychopaths and become a close team, one may be a "talker" while the other is a "doer," and so forth, although I (Wendy Koenigsmann) strongly believe that these roles are interchangeable when dealing with a psychopathic duo. Hare states, "As long as their interests are complimentary, they make a formidable pair." [Hare, 65]. It has also been reported that some acquaintances may never really discover their truly dark side.
Psychopaths and Relationships
It is in this realm that the psychopath comes closest to the psychotic. While seemingly in full possession of his reasoning ability, by all the means of clinical psychology to test and assess them, the psychopath demonstrates an inability to comprehend the meaning and significance of his behavior for other people, and to judge their probable reactions to his behavior. He is often astounded to find that people are upset by his exploits. [Gordon Banks]
Histrionic... women are particularly attracted and vulnerable to psychopathic males. The hysteric-personality-disordered female is likely to be enamored of the psychopath... he is able... to reciprocate in this projective-introjective cycle by predominately idealizing the psychopathic character. Her need for attachment and dependency complements his desire for detachment and autonomy; she perceives others as all-giving and benevolent, and he perceives others as all-taking and malevolent.
The hysterical woman is immune to developing a healthy suspicion when details or circumstances don't fit (also relating to the illogicity of his thoughts/behavior) or do not corroborate the psychopath's oral version of his history. [From "The Psychopathic Mind" -- Origins, Dynamics, and Treatment J. Reil Meloy]
The real danger about psychopaths is that some women, in particular, actually have a psychological predisposition towards forming attachments to them. They even fall in love with them. These women, usually of a hysteric or histrionic personality, feel empowered when attached to the psychopath, regardless of the truth she has been told about him, or regardless of what he himself has told her. Some of these women have an underlying fantasy to feel that they are in control with the psychopathic male (according to Meloy).
At the same time, I (Wendy Koenigsmann) often question whether it's only the "neurotics" who fall prey to psychopaths. It should be stated that Freud is responsible for the entire coinage of neurotic women, which makes me a bit suspicious. I will present the information, but at the same time, I'm not agreeing with it completely, because it seems that all women, regardless of their "neurotic" natures or not, are prey to psychopaths.
We've heard of the extreme cases, such as the women who fell in love with the Night-Stalker, Richard Ramirez, but in general, you will find psychopaths in quite innocuous places, and they always know how to spot a vulnerable woman who will feed their self-image of grandiosity. Of course, good looks help in these matters. The reason so many women fell in love with Ramirez, has been speculated, was probably also intensified because of his brooding, handsome looks and the fact that he could appear vulnerable, "like a little kid," said one admirer.
Whether or not being able to feel pity and compassion for a male makes a woman neurotic has yet to be proven.
The truth is, an attractive psychopath is probably more dangerous than a less attractive one, by all means.
For many women, the attachment to a psychopath goes beyond mere Freudian analysis -- many simply deny the truth, blindly trusting and ignoring reality. Some, even when presented with the cold hard facts, will still admit that they cannot stop loving their psychopathic partner, even after they've been discarded by him. This problem is both a psychosexual one (women with personality disorders themselves who become obsessed with psychopaths), or women who just won't admit to the truth or are ignorant about the situation. It can even be a combination of all factors.
Regardless, the psychopath knows whom to "choose."
As I (Wendy Koenigsmann) said, the information regarding "histrionic women" and "hysterics" as typical victims was taken from the ideas of Meloy, but does not represent the norm as it were. Anyone can be conned and taken in by the psychopath.
Psychopaths pick on everyone, whether rich or poor, smart or not so bright. Although it does seem that the mentally ill are more susceptible: the aforementioned histrionics, etc., as well as victims with borderline personality disorder.
Also, trying to "spot" a psychopath by appearance, as I already noted, is not easy. As one student of psychopathy told me, "They often alter their appearance to appear non- threatening, or to create a persona."
Tim Field, a noted author and researcher of psychopathy, believes that the psychopath picks out people who can see through him: "A bully's (sociopath) apparent self-esteem and self-confidence is actually arrogance, an unsustainable belief of invulnerability honed from his willingness to act outside the bounds of society to ensure their survival. Targets (or victims) are people who can see through the arrogance to perceive the empty shell behind it - and bullies can sense who can see through them, furthering the target's elimination." [Bully OnLine]. This usually happens in the workplace, and in situations where the psychopath has let his mask drop.
According to the author of The Psychopathic Mind (Meloy), when needing to manipulate a female, the psychopath often targets women who are what is often called the "dumb blonde" type, the kind of woman who exudes naivete, often unconscious of her own sexuality, vapid innocence, often not too bright -- their personalities usually border on the Pollyanish, and they always see a silver lining in every cloud. Not that there is anything essentially wrong with innocence or optimism, but when dealing with a psychopath, that can prove a bad combination. Psychopaths seem to be attracted to this type of woman in particular. She is nurturing and all-giving, while he is closed-off and retentive.
They have "an uncanny ability to spot and use 'nurturant' women -- that is, those who have a powerful need to help or mother others." [Hare, 149].
As Hare recounts, a particular "nurturance-seeking missile" who had a local reputation for attracting a steady stream of female visitors seemed to have this talent. He was "not particularly good-looking or very interesting to talk to. But he had a certain cherubic quality that some women, staff included, seemed to find attractive. One woman commented that she 'always had an urge to cuddle him.' Another said that 'he needs mothering.'" [Hare, 149].
Psychopaths also like to "attach" to women of higher social status, a woman who represents what he would like to be. Then when he is through with her, he can destroy her and "kill two birds with one stone."
However, regardless of what personality type they go after, everyone is still a target.
Like the narcissist, the psychopath has an arrogant, disdainful, and patronizing attitude; however, let me make this clear: often in the initial stages of charming someone new, the true character is kept hidden, naturally. That is why, when a woman warns another woman about a psychopathic man, his newest victim will not be able to believe the bad stories about him. "But he's so charming, so kind, so nice..." and so forth will be her reply. Yes. Exactly. He is playing a game with you too.
Psychopaths have a grandiose self-structure which demands "a scornful and detached devaluation of others" [Gacon et al 1992], in order to ward off envy toward the good perceived in people. They react towards perceived or existing attachment capacities with ambivalence and often aggression. According to Meloy, most of them transfer the attachment to "hard objects" such as weapons, knives, [magical practices] etc. The grandiose self is represented onto the weapon or object and is a projection of themselves. This of course is more in depth study of the psychopath. Not all psychopaths have a gun collection or a favourite knife or sword, but a great deal of them do tend to be fond of weapons and such symbols of aggression and dominance. I'm not sure if this is true in all cases, but one psychopath I knew loved swords. He was obsessed with them and loved weapons of all kinds.
How To Deal With Psychopaths
If you leave the psychopath, you can expect that he will either be the type who doesn't make any "noise" but ruins your reputation by spreading lies, or you can expect a lot of open manipulation (a final attempt to gain power and control).
For example, I left a psychopath, and to this day, if given the opportunity, he will tell friends to warn me that I am nothing but a "bug" on his windshield and that he has the ability to destroy me like an insect. Meanwhile, he has also spread false stories about me to anyone who'll listen.
Why does he do this?
After dealing with this annoying behaviour for nearly two years, I've come to a conclusion: Even though they cannot really love another person, and lack real deep-seated emotions, psychopaths relate to others through power and control. If someone should actually attempt to "demean" (in his eyes, this is very real) his power and control, he will react to some extent. The psychopath also made himself appear in control by stating that he "kicked" me out, even though he lived in his mother's house. Later on, he also told my friend that I was nothing but an "experiment" to him, after I had lost money, time, and suffered immensely because of his lying and manipulation. By suffering, I also count extreme depression which lasted nearly two years, as he did not stop attacking me in the two years after (even to this day) that I left him.
I believe that some individuals are strong enough to stand up to the psychopath; unfortunately, not all people are, and most psychopaths succeed in permanently damaging their victims. This is why we clearly need more support groups for people who have been in relationships with psychopaths.
In sum, the experience of dealing with a psychopath can be very troubling for most people, not to mention, when he is through with you, you can be sure that you will be vilified falsely, no doubt about it. I recently asked Field about what one can do when faced with the lies of a psychopath (Field refers to them as sociopaths) and the apparent absence of justice when it comes to their behaviour - - Field's response was:
"The main lesson I have learnt is that when dealing with a sociopath, the normal rules of etiquette do not apply. You are dealing with someone who has no empathy, no conscience, no remorse, and no guilt... It is a completely different mindset. Words like 'predator' and 'evil' are often used."
If you try to deal with psychopaths in an ethical manner, you will be in for a shock. Dr. William Higgins claims that you "can't negotiate or bargain with psychopaths."
Psychopaths will not only deny the past and trivialize it, but will avoid answering your questions directly, and even if they seem to answer them -- you can be sure that it's not the answer you were looking for. It has been said that even when they do give you a straight answer, the real issue will never be addressed by them, although they may even claim to be honourable when it suits them. But don't be fooled, for this is where the psychopath wants his victim -- he wants to shame you while at the same time fitting you into his plans; this is because "psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others. Often they are completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they no have no sense of guilt, are not sorry for the pain and destruction they have caused, and that there is no reason for them to be concerned." [Hare, 41].
On the other hand, "psychopaths sometimes verbalize remorse but then contradict themselves in words or actions." [Hare, 41]. Psychopaths may apologize or show remorse only to get away with something, but in the end you will be stabbed in the back and realize how very shallow their words were.
The psychopath appears not to be able to remember what they had said or committed to for very long. They seem to always be living in the present. That is why they are usually guilty of being big "promise- makers" who cannot live up to their word. Once again, it will be the victim who must deal with the aftermath of all the psychopath's twists and turns, and when he gets you angry enough, you will be discredited as "defective" by him, and the psychopath will often make himself out to be the real victim. As John Wayne Gacy once said, "I was the victim, I was cheated out of my childhood."
What often happens in the aftermath, as Field has stated, is that the victim may repress his or her anger for a quite a while, but then, often many months later, a sudden realization of the truth may come over the individual, and the victim will finally realize that all along he/she has been bullied by the psychopath. This is when the victim suddenly becomes very angry and is motivated to have some sort of justice. But when trying to obtain justice with a psychopath, be aware that you will be the one to pay if you don't take a firm stand; the experience will have you more confused and bewildered, and you may even feel tempted to fight fire with fire.
In some cases, our society allows psychopathy because we do not really fight back against cheating and lying behaviours (one good example: Bill Clinton). They are also good at tricking their own psychiatrists. For instance, two individuals I (Wendy Koenigsmann) knew bragged that they liked to play mind-games with psychiatrists.
"I was the case-study; they could never figure out what was wrong with me, so I would just play mind-games with them" commented one of them. He also learned, from reading about psychiatry and having therapy, that he could just "blame someone else" to get away with things. "I just blame someone else" he said, nonchalantly.
When asked, in particular, why he hated his mother so much, (he claimed she physically/ mentally/ emotionally abused him), he replied, "Because my mother projects all of the assholes she's ever been dumped by on me."
That is why Hare believes that therapy makes psychopaths worse; most of them learn about human emotions through psychiatry, and they are "eager to attribute their faults and problems to childhood abuse." [Hare, 50]. Also, "antisocials (psychopaths) themselves can be uncooperative or unpleasant, complicating efforts to study and treat them." [Black, 12].
As for recovery from the psychopath, despite the pain that may be left (some people never recover, according to Field), you will learn how very uncomplicated yet cowardly the psychopath's means of keeping cool is. It's just the way the psychopath must function to maintain their rather fragile (but set in stone for life) self-image.
While few psychopaths commit violent crimes, the callousness of the average psychopath usually ranges through subtle, but still devastating misdeeds:
"Parasitically bleeding other people of their possessions, savings, and dignity; aggressively doing and taking what they want; shamefully neglecting the physical and emotional welfare of their families; engaging in an unending series of casual, impersonal, and trivial sexual relationships; and so forth." [Hare, 45].
This is a main feature of their lack of empathy. Also, be forewarned that the psychopath will expend much effort (at the victim's cost), in setting up plans, expectations, etc., but they give very little, or nothing, in return. When he knows he's done something to you which you may not comply with, he'll have an escape route ready. Most normal people do the same thing, in a general sense, but the psychopath does it out of pure selfishness, greed, and callousness. He won't care whether it hurts your feelings or not, whatever treachery he enacts will not be disguised once the show is over with him.
I (Wendy Koenigsmann) would like to recount the experience of a friend of mine from Japan. She had been communicating with a man who lived in San Diego for over a year, and during the time of their correspondences and phone calls, he seemed so "sweet, caring, and kind." She mentioned how beautifully written his emails were, and so on.
It came to pass that this man asked my friend to marry him, and, to top it off, he promised her that he had a job ready for her in the city where he lived, he even sent her a letter from the company with all the information.
Well, my friend believed him and came to the United States to marry him.
On their first meeting, she mentioned how it was already the beginning of the end, and how she should have seen it coming. She told him, after they met at the airport, that she needed to make a phone call, and instead of letting her use his cell-phone, he told her to use the pay-phone. My friend, albeit naive, mentioned that this contradicted his persona on the phone and through emails. She said she was a bit shocked, but nevertheless she married him.
As the weeks went by, things got worse. She found out that there was no job, and that the letter he had sent her was actually just the letterhead from the company copied onto another paper. In other words, her new husband had committed forgery in order to trick her.
Next, she began to receive phone calls from women in the Philippines and Canada who told her that her new husband had been inviting them (via online) to come and live with him. My friend was so distraught that she told these women over and over that he was lying to all of them while playing the biggest trick of all on her. The women didn't believe it (why do women tend to disbelieve another woman when they are trying to warn them?), but eventually, my friend told them "If you want to see the proof that I am married to him, then come here and I will prove it."
Eventually, she learned from friends and family that Mr. Wonderful was a pathological liar who had a long history of using women and having his mother cover his tracks for him, and, sad to say, this wasn't the only one she ran into. I can say the same, that is why I've written this, (Wendy Koenigsmann) because I can tell you that these people are out there, and I don't want anything to happen to anyone else or go through what my friend or myself have experienced. It is my goal that through my website, more people, not only women, but men, will become informed and not become victims themselves, because it is truly a painful experience to deal with.
So, what is the lowdown on dealing with psychopaths?
Either avoid them, or, once you know or suspect what they are, avoid them.
Any further contact with a psychopath will be truly damaging. Once you have been involved with a few of them, like many people I know, you also learn to watch for the "red flags." This doesn't mean you should be paranoid about people, just careful.
The fact is, regardless of all studies and new therapies, psychopaths are "hard-wired" for life-long bad behaviour. Leland M. Heller, M.D., writes that people who have this disorder have symptoms which include lying, cheating, cruelty, criminal behaviour, irresponsibility, lack of remorse, poor relationships, exploitation, manipulation, destructiveness, irritability, aggressiveness, and job failures. Many do not exhibit criminal behaviour, but act antisocially in socially acceptable professions.
Alcohol makes the disorder worse, and psychopaths are very prone to substance abuse. The causes are often "poor parental discipline, association with "bad" kids, and poor bonding with parents..." [Heller, 75]. But the causes can also be mostly biological.
Another characteristic is their unusual word usage, because they can't distinguish between neutral and emotional words. One psychopathic individual told me that he was "deftly afraid of needles" once, but the word deftly implies "skill." Instead of saying "deathly afraid," he said "deftly," and never noticed it was wrong. (See Hare's book for more interesting examples of this).
Strangely enough, many find the psychopath's verbal deftness quite charming, and psychopaths do tend to talk a lot, especially when they're pouring on the charm.
The question is, can you spot one before they get to you?
That is why it's important to study whether or not you may be the type who falls for them, who, in essence, becomes prey to believing in them. (see Women Who Love Psychopaths, Second Edition by Sandra Brown, MA) Some people may find concern over psychopathy irrelevant, but it's not. Psychopathy causes tremendous damage in our society, and affects all levels of our lives. It causes illnesses and disorders such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), autoimmune disorders from the stress and some become disabled. Money is also lost by innocent victims to psychopaths, and these social predators also do much economic damage to our society.
Everyone, especially women, should learn to identify psychopathy and watch for red flags. This doesn't mean diagnosing every man you date, but preferably just being aware of the disorder can help out a lot! After my own experiences, I truly believe in the saying "better safe than sorry."
I will emphasize once more that I do believe most women transfer what they want to believe onto the psychopath, to the extent that he is painted in an unrealistic light, so psychopaths can also "play with your mind" in this regard. Most victims of the psychopath only see what they want to see, initially. That is why Field says, "Naivete is the great enemy."Many also "cling to the belief that their loved one (the psychopath) simply has a few problems just like anyone else, not the symptoms of a personality disorder." [Black, 59].
In the book When Your Lover Is a Liar the issue of psychopathy and how psychopaths manipulate women is also pointed out. The author believes that a psychopath's greatest thrill is just being able to "pull the wool" over a woman's eyes. For people who are emotionally normal, we cannot understand what kind of thrill this is or why some of them would go to such lengths in order to trick someone. But as Dr. Heller states, "psychopaths feel no remorse, and actually enjoy their antisocial behavior." (Heller, 76).
Also, what I believe makes them most dangerous, is that they can be quite charming and persuasive, and "they have remarkably good insight into the needs and weaknesses of other people" as recounted in the text, Psychology In Action: "Even when they are indifferent to the rights of their associates, they are often able to inspire feelings of trust and confidence." This is best exemplified by a psychopath who professes that "everything is fine" while lying point-blank to your face with seeming honesty and candor, and then, as soon as you turn away for a second, he will stab you in the back.
In the end, you will know them "by their fruits" so to speak. They will be sure to let you know who's boss. As one female victim recounted in Hare's book Without Conscience... she couldn't understand how someone (the psychopath she had known) could have wormed his way into her life and then just disappeared so easily. This is how they operate. They just don't give a damn about anyone. Except themselves.
Another very strong characteristic to look for (or listen for) is what Dr. Hare refers to as "duping delight." It is as if the psychopath has no need to lie or purpose in lying, the pleasure is attained through merely pulling one over on somebody.
As for addictions and so forth, "among the clearest of these links is the one between ASP (psychopathy) and the abuse of sex, alcohol and other drugs," [Black, 91], although most psychopaths would never admit they have a drinking problem, even when it's obvious. As one psychopath put it, "I know how to drink. Drinking is a responsibility, I've been doing it since I was 12."
So, once again: Can psychopaths change? Can you change them?
No, they choose to behave as they do, even though, to some extent they do have a personality disorder. Dr. Black, however, believes that even those patients who "show the greatest change seem unable to comprehend the degree to which their actions affected those around them. They may continue to live in emotional isolation. Self-interest is a natural component of the human makeup, but it is especially strong in antisocials and leaves many of them unable to develop full compassion, conscience, and other attributes that make for successful social relations." [Black, 144].
"Don't Expect A Miracle"
In consequence, whether or not they can't or don't desire to change, studies have shown that they won't change, in general, so don't waste your time trying to help or change them, for the help you offer will always be repaid to you in full by treachery. Black also believes that "victims may fear revenge or other potential consequences, but leaving the abusive situation (with a psychopath) is often better than trying to survive in a relationship built on intimidation and violence." [Black, 185]. Personally, I also believe that it's better to not accept meager crumbs of fake affection from a psychopath. No one needs that kind of abuse. If you keep taking that abuse, I can grant you that you will pay for it both mentally and emotionally, for a very long time. The end result is what is referred to as having been psychologically battered.
Some people, feeling that they need to save others, and perhaps a bit proud in their need to prove a point, often fall prey to psychopaths because they refuse to believe the truth.
I also wanted to make note that some psychopaths appear to show some insight into their own personality make-up ("I'm a jerk," etc.); however, this does not really mean that they care how they behave. They choose to behave this way.
The aftermath of dealing with these individuals and the recovery process can be a "long, slow and painful process" according to Field - - but one must remember that if you have been a victim (target) you are only the "latest in a long line of people onto whom he (the psychopath) had to displace his aggression. He will probably do this throughout his life." Sad to say, "antisocials (psychopaths) often spend their last years alone..." [Black, 89].
Do I find this a sad fact? Yes. It is very sad and I find it extremely unfortunate that there are people who live their lives this way. But like I mentioned before, as I cannot emphasize this enough: no matter how much pity or compassion you may have for a psychopathic individual, don't try "saving" them. It will only hurt you in the end. As my friend from Japan stated, "(These people) just don't care whether what they do may ruin your life! They can ruin your life!"
Cleckley's original list of symptoms of a Psychopath:
1. Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
2. Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
3. Absence of anxiety or other "neurotic" symptoms considerable poise, calmness, and verbal facility.
4. Unreliability, disregard for obligations no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
5.Untruthfulness and insincerity
7. Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
7.Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
8.Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience
9. Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness incapacity for real love and attachment.
10. General poverty ot deep and lasting emotions.
11. Lack of any true insight, inability to see oneself as others do.
12. Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness, and trust.
13. Fantastic and objectionable behavior, after drinking and sometimes even when not drinking--vulgarity, rudeness, quick mood shifts, pranks.
14. No history of genuine suicide attempts.
15. An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated seX life.
16. Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way, unless it be one promoting self-defeat.
(does not have to have all the above, just a few)
"...More often than not, the typical psychopath will seem particularly agreeable and make a distinctly positive impression when he is first encountered. Alert and friendly in his attitude, he is easy to talk with and seems to have a good many genuine interests. There is nothing at all odd or queer about him, and in every respect he tends to embody the concept of a well-adjusted, happy person. Nor does he, on the other hand, seem to be artificially exerting himself like one who is covering up or who wants to sell you a bill of goods. He would seldom be confused with the professional backslapper or someone who is trying to ingratiate himself for a concealed purpose. Signs of affectation or excessive affability are not characteristic. He looks like the real thing.
"Very often indications of good sense and sound reasoning will emerge, and one is likely to feel soon after meeting him that this normal and pleasant person is also one with -high abilities. Psychometric tests also very frequently show him of superior intelligence. More than the average person, he is likely to seem free from social or emotional impediments, from the minor distortions, peculiarities, and awkwardnesses so common even among the successful. Such superficial characteristics are not universal in this group but they are very common..."
"...It must be granted of course that the psychopath has some affect. Affect is, perhaps, a component in the sum of life reactions even in the unicellular protoplasmic entity. Certainly in all mammals it is obvious. The relatively petty states of pleasure, vexation, and animosity experienced by the psychopath have been mentioned. The opinion here maintained is that he fails to know all those more serious and deeply moving affective states which make up the tragedy and triumph of ordinary life, of life at the level of important human experience..."
Hare's Checklist (from Without Conscience)
1. GLIB and SUPERFICIAL CHARM -- the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example.
2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH -- a grossly inflated view of one's abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.
3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM -- an excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.
4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING -- can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.
5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS - the use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one's victims.
6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT -- a lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one's victims.
7. SHALLOW AFFECT -- emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.
8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY -- a lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.
9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE -- an intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability to begin or complete responsibilities.
10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS -- expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.
11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR -- a variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.
12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS -- a variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use, and running away from home.
13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS -- an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.
14. IMPULSIVITY -- the occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic, and reckless.
15. IRRESPONSIBILITY -- repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.
16. FAILURE TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR OWN ACTIONS -- a failure to accept responsibility for one's actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.
17. MANY SHORT-TERM MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS -- a lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including marital.
18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY -- behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.
19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE -- a revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear.
20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY -- a diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.
(again, does not have to have all the above, just a few)
From: An American Obsession ... the Psychopath
I wish to educate and warn you the reader of some of the more common signs that the person in question -- usually a male -- is someone you should detach from...and quickly! The sooner you can detect a troublesome person, the better off you will be.
One quick check is your placement of him/her on the asshole scale. Now remember, not every jerk or idiot is necessarily psychotic! However, the psychopath is an extreme form of the "asshole" personality type, they've just learned to conceal it most of the time and appear to be "nice, charming" people.