Psychopaths

Psychopath. Say the word and we conjure up images of serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey MacDonald, Kenneth Bianchi (one of the notorious Hillside Stranglers), Richard Ramirez (also known as the Night Stalker), Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Although these individuals are in fact psychopaths, it is important to know that psychopaths are everywhere, and many do not commit the type of sensational crime that grabs media attention. While some psychopaths may be arrested for petty crimes, others are never arrested, and still others may be the heads of huge corporations.

So what exactly is a psychopath? Some key characteristics of a psychopathic personality include superficial charm, pathological lying, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow emotional response, lack of realistic long-term goals, manipulation, and a parasitic lifestyle. Psychopaths tend to have stormy relationships with families in which family members are blamed for the problems. They tend to be rebellious toward authority figures, resulting in obvious conflict. They tend to be hostile, aggressive, and resentful. The attitude of the psychopath is often characterized by sarcasm, cynicism, and a lack of trust. Psychopaths also tend to thrive on impulsivity and instant gratification. They very often do not consider the consequences of their actions, are impatient, have poor judgment, and are considerable risk takers. Psychopaths are very self-centered and are described as being immature and childish. They are insensitive to the needs and feelings of other people, and are only interested in other people in terms of how they can be used. However, the psychopath is also very outgoing, talkative, active, adventurous, and energetic. Psychopaths are predators who use other people for stimulation and to build their self-esteem.

Although the psychopathic personality sounds a lot like the antisocial personality, it is important to note that they are not the same. In fact, Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., the leading expert on psychopathology, reminds us of that very fact. Dr. Hare contends that the antisocial person is a person who does not respect the rights of others and the laws and rules of society. Psychopathy involves the lack of conscience, an inability to feel attached to people, and an inability to experience remorse. Dr. Hare goes on to say that psychopaths value people only in terms of how they can be used.

If you were to have an experience with a psychopath (and there is a good chance of that since psychopaths are in every part of society) what should you do? Dr. Hare, discusses that in his best-selling book Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us.

First of all, know who you are dealing with. Although this sounds easy enough, it is important to realize that the psychopath can dupe, manipulate, and con even the most thoroughly trained professional. Although we may never completely understand the nature of the true psychopath, we can arm ourselves with information regarding psychopaths and how they operate.

Secondly, Dr. Hare advises us to be wary of the psychopaths “props.” The props of the psychopath are his smile, his charm and wit, his soothing voice, his mesmerizing mannerisms and characteristics, and even his body language.

Thirdly, don’t wear blinkers. Oft times, when a person sounds too good to be true, he often is. Question the person about his friends, family, relatives, employment, place of residence, plans, etc.; the psychopath will very likely answer vaguely to these types of questions. While this is not in itself a reason to avoid the relationship (and is not a definitive way to weed out a psychopath), it does give us a chance to do a little bit of checking before we commit ourselves to any type of relationship, whether romantic, emotional, or even financial.

Fourth, keep your guard up in high-risk situations such as singles’ bars, social clubs, resorts, ship cruises, and foreign airports. Psychopaths tend to look for victims who are lonely, looking for a good time, and looking for some companionship.

Last, but not least, know yourself. Psychopaths are experts at detecting and exploiting the weak spots in people. Dr. Hare contends that the best defense to a psychopath is to know what your weaknesses are and to be able to identify when someone is able to zero in on those weaknesses and vulnerabilities almost immediately.

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