Lately you may have heard more frequently mentioned in the media the word psychopath. I just did, listening to Human Kind, National Public Radio this morning while driving to work. When we hear about psychopaths what comes to mind are characters in movie Texas Chain Saw Massacre and lately the just released movie Revenge in Kind, that portrays some kind of a crazed killer. In real life most psychopaths are not murderers. So who are pyschopaths?
At one time or another we have to deal with people have no trouble causing hurt to others. They may be trolls in social media who don’t care wither they cause grief on others or a boss at work at work who tries to demean those around him, and don’t to care for rules in order to get ahead. This article is to give light that there are people that are wired abnormally, so we could understand them and don’t lose sleep or waste emotional resources being hurt by them and try to avoid them because of their shenanigans. We learn to empathize with their problems and learn to deal with them.
The fact is, many psycopaths blend in with the crowd appear like rest of us. They are usually not these wild eyed crazy individuals ready to kill at the drop of the hat. Findings in research suggests there is about 1 percent of the population that meets the characteristics of psychopathy. That could be your neighbor, you co-worker, friend or social media contact. The percentage is even higher among leaders, doctors, lawyers, politicians, executives, the number goes as high 2 to 4 times the general population.
Fortunately psychopathy has been has been studied by psychologists for years and have come up with cluster of traits the that would help us spot them to avoid being their victims. Knowing to identify them helps us in how to deal with them and understand why they think that way.
Psychologist have tend to agree the psychopaths exhibits three clusters of personality characteristics they refer to as the Dark Triad. These are Machiavellianism, lack of conscience or empathy and narcissism.
Machiavellianism in psychology refers to “a personality trait which sees a person so focused on their own interests they will manipulate, deceive, and exploit others to achieve their goals.” The ends justifies the means, the priority is winning, money and power. They would disregard moral and social rules to achieve their goals. They would cheat, step on others, destroy relationship or manipulate them to get what they want without much guilt. They could be successful leaders by being able to reach their expected goals no matter what the cost may be. These group of people are master manipulators using flattery, deception, bullying and inducing guilt trips to coerce people to do what they want.
They could be very charming and appear interested in your welfare or empathetic to your problem to be able to influence you to do their bidding. They could even use sex as tool of influence individuals. In other words these people have no guilt using whatever means to accomplish their goals. Dictators like Hitler, Stalin, not to mention some of our politician and others were and are masters of deception and manipulation of people.
- Lack of Conscience and Empathy
Conscience is defined as “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.” It is that feeling or voice that gives us a moral compass. Among psychopaths this is either absent or very weak. In fact they if you don’t have it you are psychopath if you have a little of it you are sociopath. This results in them having no feeling of empathy, sympathy, pity, guilt, shame or remorse.
Often times people cross us and we feel like punching them in the nose or even killing them, but we never actually do it because there is that feeling or voice inside us that tells us it is not right to do so. The in general psychopaths however don’t have that thing to stop them, if want to do it they’ll do it without regard to the consequences.
These group of people we often refer to as short-tempered, easily agitated, prone to violence or aggression, impulsive and have many casual sex partners. The sex partners are just meant for self-satisfaction, with no thought of any long-term commitment, after they gotten what they want it’s over. They act on the impulse of the moment, with no self-control.
The term narcissism originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Psychologist uses narcissism to call personality type of someone with extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration.
These are very self-centered people, with an inflated sense of their own importance and worth. They are vain and see themselves as perfect and thinks others are dumb to assure themselves as being superior.
They are sensitive to insults and love to complimented and be placed on a pedestal. They lavishly praise those who speak well of them. When insulted they are quick to anger and retribution. To get along with them, don’t threaten their self-esteem. To them there is no such thing as constructive criticisms one coming from them. They often seek position of authority so they could control others and have the last say, and be able to mete out consequences should one cross their path. They never blames themselves for what goes wrong, it’s always the others fault, be it the opponents, subordinates or co-workers. Some else is to be at fault but him.
Another aspect research have revealed about many psychopaths is about their dysfunctional upbringing. Studies by Aina Gullhaugen and her team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology on psychopaths in Norway she said, ”More than half of the psychopaths I have studied reported that they had been exposed to a parenting style that could be placed on either extreme of scales of physical abuse. Either they lived in a situation where no one cared, where the child is subjected to total control and must be submissive, or the child has been subjected to a neglectful parenting style.” Understanding these issues help reduce the stigmatization of the problem and provides a starting point for treatment.
Is someone in your life a psychopath? Chances are if you have, they would not admit having it even after reading this blog because they’ll accuse you of the one having the problem. I hope that by understanding this psychological disorder would have us better identify and understand people with this problem and avoid being their victims and learn to live with them by knowing how to best handle and relate to them.
Laurence T. Gayao, MD