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Often when we think of the word psychopath, we think of deranged serial killers that are hopefully locked up in prison for life.
While there are many psychopaths who kill for reasons that are unfathomable to most of us and who are indeed in prison, there is an even greater number roaming free in our society and often using their condition to their advantage in any way possible.
In fact, it is very likely that you know some – they might even be your colleagues.
Most of us do not know or work with any serial killers, at least not that we are aware of. So, what exactly is a psychopath and how can we define them? The dictionary definition is as follows:
“A person suffering from a chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.”
As you can probably tell, a lot more than just serial killers will fit into this broad definition. In fact, according to Canadian psychologist Dr. Robert Hare, a world-renowned expert on psychopathy, an estimated 1% of the Earth’s population is psychopathic and around 25% of the population of male inmates at federal correctional facilities are psychopathic.
It is important to note that, in contrast with the popular image of the ‘deranged psycho,’ psychopaths tend to be very well composed, take good care of their appearance and are very charming (think of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho). Because of this you may have a difficult time spotting them out, as they are masters of deception and are able to fake a lot of the qualities that define regular people. Some other psychopathic traits, according to Hare’s Psychopath
- Glib and superficial charm
- Grandiose estimation of self
- Need for stimulation
- Manipulative and cunning
- Complete lack of remorse or guilt
- Pathological lying
- Have a parasitic lifestyle, often latching onto and taking from others
- Have a history of early behavioral problems
- Overly impulsive
- Are very irresponsible
- Unable to accept responsibility for actions
- Unable to commit to long-term relationships
- History of juvenile delinquency
- Display criminal versatility
- Experienced a “revocation of conditional release”
- Lacks realistic long term goals
- History of promiscuous sexual behavior
- Have poor behavioral controls
- Are callous and lack empathy
- Have a “shallow affect” (psychopaths show a lack of emotion when an emotional reaction is appropriate.)
You can actually rate yourself to find out if you are psychopath. On each criterion, the subject is ranked on a 3-point scale: (0 = item does not apply, 1 = item applies somewhat, 2 = item definitely applies). The scores are summed to create a rank of zero to 40. Anyone who scores 30 and above is most likely a psychopath. Hare has used this test and checklist to detect which inmates are psychopaths.
Snakes In Suits
What many of us don’t realize is that psychopaths actually thrive in the corporate world. Hare has actually co-authored a book with Dr. Paul Babiak on this topic entitled, Snakes In Suits: Understanding and Surviving the Psychopaths in Your Office. Psychopaths manipulate others to accrue power, sometimes pitting them against each other in an attempt to divide and conquer. They are often attracted to bigger, dynamic corporations with very little structure or supervision. They generally don’t work well in teams because they don’t like to share information or skills and it brings them joy to watch others fail. They are addicted to power, status and money. Sound familiar?
Sadly, the corporate world is set up to favor psychopathic traits such as fearlessness, dominant behavior and immunity to stress. Because of this, psychopaths often find themselves in these types of positions, and then have an easier time climbing the corporate ladder and obtaining positions of great power. This is where they can do real damage to society.
Are Psychopaths Running The World?
Not only as corporate heads do psychopaths find success in our modern-day society, but also within our governments and political system — often as front-line politicians. This may come as a shock to you, but when you really look at some of the atrocities that are taking place on our planet, and if you’ve ever wondered how things that are so inhumane could actually be happening, well, therein lies your answer.
When you consider the war, genocide, senseless murder of civilians, treatment of the indigenous cultures of the world, chemicals in our food, air and water supply, acts of “terrorism”, war crimes and so many other unjust and cruel actions which are often instigated by our political leaders, it becomes easy to see how psychopaths actually fit the requirements for these types of roles quite well. As mentioned before they are masters of deception, pathological liars and often quite charming.
Many soldiers go to war and because they are conditioned to believe that they are fighting an enemy in the name of peace. They do as they are told and commit these heinous acts against other human beings. The reason why so many soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder is because it is not within human nature to murder other humans, and especially innocent civilians
We already know how many politicians are crooked, but perhaps its time to start looking at them with the psychopath checklist in mind so that we can be better equipped to protect not only ourselves but our society from their malicious acts.
But Can’t We Help Them?
It is natural for anyone who is an empath or those involved in spiritual work to have compassion for these individuals and feel compelled to help them overcome their psychopathic behavior. However, most research has pointed towards the understanding that psychopaths are born, not made and therefore cannot be cured. This is one of the main differences that separates sociopaths from psychopaths. Another is that sociopaths have a conscience, albeit a weak one, and will often justify something they know to be wrong. By contrast, psychopaths will believe that their actions are justified and feel no remorse for any harm done. Sociopaths are made, and have a higher likelihood of overcoming their condition. However, many of those with sociopathic behavior will find themselves in similar corporate positions.
Hare’s research discovered that by attempting to heal or help a psychopath, you might actually be strengthening their cunning abilities, as they will find a way to manipulate you into believing that they are remorseful and understand how their actions were wrong.
The best we can do is learn to recognize the traits of psychopaths and be sure to stay clear of their actions and behaviors to protect ourselves from the wake of their inevitable destruction.