May be you’re stuck in a horrifying relationship with extreme ups and downs, where you feel exploited and confused. Or you may have to work with or under a cold calculating colleague who entices you with his compelling charm and self security to comply with him. Your life is under a bad spell and you’re asking yourself: “Am I with a psychopath?” In the end, they don’t care a bit for you, and you wonder why some people lack empathy.
Beware of soulless people who can break your heart.
It wasn’t until three years ago that I came across this concept of psychopathy. Of course, I saw the movie Silence of the Lambs with Hannibal “the Cannibal”, a sadistic psychiatrist. So for me a psychopath was a rare species, and as a serial killer even an exceptional minority among criminals. But when I had to acknowledge the fact, that in our society 1,5 % of the population or more are diagnosed as psychopaths, it hit me like a bombshell
People Born Without Conscience
How many times have I struggled as a teacher or pastor to deal with individuals who were conspicuous in society? Or how about that girl I fell in love with who played on me and who played with my feelings raising my hopes again and again, until she was gone at a moment’s notice? How much have I tried to appeal to fairness or understanding, to decency or conscience! No resonance at all, it was like talking to a wall.
Everything changed when somebody gave me the book Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Dr. Robert D. Hare, former Professor of Psychology in Vancouver, Canada. There I learned that sometimes we’re confronted with social predators who unscrupulously cruise through life with charm and manipulation leaving behind a huge trace of broken hearts, disappointed expectations and empty wallets.
Under the thumb of reckless subjects
For some odd reason those psychopaths only see their own needs and wishes, to them every act of empathy or self-control is a sign of weakness. What’s impossible to understand is, that they absolutely don’t feel guilt. The past is just a vague memory without any form of reality. From many years of research recently also with children we can say now, that some are born without conscience. So as an identifying feature they show a totally different brain pattern
In summary, it’s important to discern between those who are born with a strong disposition, the so-called primary psychopaths, and those who developed this disorder because of many traumatic experiences, the so-called secondary psychopaths. Just as a preliminary remark: Only the latter is curable. The primary psychopaths won’t change under any circumstances. In addition to that, we live in a society that favors ruthless psychopaths with corresponding incentives. But this a topic for another post.
Characteristics of a Psychopathic Personality
Part of becoming adult means: We have to come to grips with the disturbing fact that a small percentage of our society (1,4-4%) is contaminated with degenerate and abnormal people who are absolutely without conscience, predators without limit. It sounds pretty harsh, but that’s the conclusion we come to if we dive deep into this subject. All throughout our daily life there’s a hidden front line of mainly psychological warfare, outright violence included.
Being in a conflict zone, it’s a matter of live and death to know not only yourself but also your adversary. This harsh and intolerant talk may sound strange to you, especially if you’re feeling affection for someone like this. But once you perceive the true character traits and behaviors of a psychopath, you’ll understand my rigorous attitude.
Dr. R. Hare developed a scientifically validated Psychopathy Checklist (the so-called Hare PCL-R) as a tool for diagnosis. He deals with the subject’s interpersonal relationships, with the grade of his emotional involvement and responses to others; with deviant social behavior as well as peculiar lifestyle. This material basically covers two key aspects that help define the psychopath:
- Emotional: selfish and unfeeling victimization of other people
- Behavioral: unstable and antisocial lifestyle
WARNING: Do not try to diagnose yourself or others with the checklist! This requires professional education. If you need to clarify your suspicion, please look for counselling.
As mentioned before, we’re dealing with ruthless predators who use the charm and humor, deceit and violence and much more to get what they want. On the surface we can detect symptoms like: absence of a conscience or sense of guilt, self-centeredness, lack of empathy, pathological lying, constant disregard of social norms, disrespect for the law, superficial emotions, and a long trail of victims.
Factor 1 (emotional)
Facet 1: Interpersonal
- Glibness/superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Pathological lying
Facet 2: Affective
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Emotionally shallow
- Callous/lack of empathy
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Factor 2 (behavioral)
Facet 3: Lifestyle
- Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
- Parasitic lifestyle
- Lack of realistic, long-term goals
Facet 4: Antisocial
- Poor behavioral controls
- Early behavioral problems
- Juvenile delinquency
- Revocation of conditional release
- Criminal versatility
- Many short-term marital relationships
- Promiscuous sexual behavior
Instead of entering an academic debate, I recommend to look at the material of Thomas Sheridan, an Irish musician, artist and blogger. He really can help you to feel the drift in dealing with psychopathy. Go to his book Puzzling People: The Labyrinth of the Psychopath or to the well received videos for many examples and further insights.
Can Psychopaths Love?
Let me understand the question first: I suppose with love you mean something else than attraction, want and lust. Rather a deep connection between two individuals which is based on empathy and mutual care; the miracle of feeling one. Now from what you’ve learned, you probably can answer the question yourself. In case of a primary psychopath the answer is absolutely no.
Of course, it’s not that easy to discern between real love and the cunning of a psychopath when you’re stuck in the thick of it. Sometimes it’s just an odd feeling, quite often neglected. And in case of a secondary psychopath who most certainly suffers from trauma, he or she might learn to love through inner work and patience. At any rate, a life affected by psychopaths is more like shades of grey than black or white.
How to Deal with Psychopaths
First and foremost, if you’re affected by a destructive relationship at home or at work, a relationship that keeps you tangled up in blue, distance yourself and find a safe and protected place. Then listen to your feelings, become aware of what tears you down and freezes you and what lifts you up and lets you breathe. Ask yourself: “Am I with a psychopath?” Finally trust your heartfelt insight and come to a decision.
In case your answer is yes: NO CONTACT EVER AGAIN!
Please don’t be mistaken: Psychopaths never change, no matter how long you suffer and try! For this insight, you don’t need a professional diagnosis. Your personal ordeal is reason enough to hit and run. Protect yourself, dealing with a psychopath you can never win a fight! By the way, in case you’re asking yourself if you’re a psychopath yourself, most certainly you’re none
Please share your questions and experiences below, so we can support each other.