The Psychopath: A Different Species? I

By M.K. Styllinski

52045_scorpion&frog


Attributed to Aesop’s Fables, the following best sums up what we are dealing with when it comes to the nature of the psychopath:

Once upon a time there was a scorpion that needed to cross a river. Naturally, a scorpion cannot swim so he endeavoured to find someone to take him across the river. He found a frog resting on a lily pad, approached him and asked, “Sir Frog, would you be as kind as to carry me across this river so that I might explore the other side?”

Now the frog was no fool. He knew the scorpion was the most untrustworthy of God’s creations, and among the most deadly. “If I try to carry you across the river you will sting me and I will die.”

“Not true, Sir Frog. For if I do, then I too shall drown.”

The frog considered the scorpion’s words carefully and could discern no deceit. For indeed it was true that should the scorpion attack him anywhere during his swim across the river they would both die. Trusting that the scorpion’s own sense of self-preservation would protect him, he dove into the water, swam over to the bank, and invited the scorpion to climb up onto his back.

True to his word, the scorpion held off until the very mid-point of the river. Then, the frog felt the sharp jab of the scorpion’s tail and almost immediately an unrelenting paralysis began to creep through his body. He could not work his legs, could not keep his lungs inflated, and felt his heart begin to fail.

With his last breath the frog cried out, “What have you done? You have killed us both!”

As they sank beneath the river the scorpion just had time to say, “I could not help myself. It is my nature.”


The above beautifully describes the nature of the psychopath which cannot be explained by reason or logic. S/he exists to prey on others, even at the cost of his own life. But just what is a psychopath and how has s/he managed to subvert the majority of humanity into following a psychopathic worldview?

The word “psychopath” derives from the Ancient Greek psyche, – soul, and pathos – passion and denotes individuals for whom the ability to empathise is absent and where inflicting pain and suffering on others is paramount. They are the human form of Nature’s predator though with more guile, cunning and cold-bloodied calculation than any animal mind. Some would say they are the channels by which pure evil can manifest, the concept of “soul” entirely lacking. And when you look at the actions of psychopaths through history it is hard to disagree.

However, since behavioural biologists still can’t agree what constitutes ‘behaviour,’ psychologists can’t agree on what ‘personality’ means and anthropologists cannot agree on the meaning of the word ‘culture’ or on the meaning of the word ‘meaning,’  it’s not a great surprise that psychopathy remains as elusive as the predators themselves. [1]

The concept of psychopathy is no longer an actual clinical diagnosis, but a cluster of specific, pervasive and dominating personality traits and behaviours. [2] There is no diagnostic criterion in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Psychopathy is correlated to the DSM-IV’s antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) and is considered its subset, due to the severity of the behavioural traits most notably a lack of emotion, extreme callousness and remorselessness. Even though a psychopath draws many traits from ASPD, generally characterised by a disregard for societal rules, psychopathy does not necessarily lead to criminal behaviour or violence in general – a point that must be reiterated. Many of the most dangerous psychopaths are to be found in high office. Though it is likely, if you scratch the surface of the psychopath long enough, the violence and aggression would reveal itself. *

Without any conception of ethics or morals there are no limits to the psychopath’s desires, the supra-natural force of which impels him to obtain whomever and whatever he wants, at any cost. They are effectively reaction-machines. They may look human and they may perfectly mimic human attributes but their essential nature is the predator that lives to trap and feed. Violence, sexual depravity, a lust for power, perversion, bare-faced lies, and utter fearlessness are characteristic of the psychopath’s true nature. Attempting to find any flicker of human feeling in such individuals is akin to searching for the sun in the dead of night, though the psychopath’s greatest trick is to make us think the sun will rise again in his heart, and that all he needs is to be cured, reprieved, understood, pitied and given a second chance. As author Barbara Oakley noted: “Just as a child needs the neurological structure of the eye to process information from the electromagnetic fields that shimmer through the air around him, a child also needs the structure of the orbitofrontal cortex and related neurological features to have a feeling of compassion. Psychopaths, it appears, may be born pre-programmed with a tendency to grow up ‘morally blind.’” [3]

The immediate imagery that comes to mind for many people is that of Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lector from the movie The Silence of the Lambs. Or perhaps we recall some of the most sensational cases of psychopathic murderers that hit the headlines, notable for their inhuman acts. Ted Bundy, Kenneth Bianchi, Jeffery Dahmer, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, John Gacy and Richard Ramirez are just a few who have garnered considerable celebrity status for their despicable crimes. Indeed, Ramirez himself was in no doubt about the reality of psychopathy manifesting through the State when he claimed: “Serial killers do, on a small scale, what governments do on a large one. They are products of our times and these are bloodthirsty times.” (After you finish this blog/book, you will hopefully understand how true this really is).

What is far more important to remember is that these are the psychopaths that go “pop” and lose control – the “failed” psychopaths whether manufactured or encouraged.  As psychologist and leading international expert on psychopathy Robert D. Hare PhD reminds us:

Psychopathic killers … are not mad, according to accepted legal and psychiatric standards. Their acts result not from a deranged mind but from a cold, calculating rationality combined with a chilling inability to treat others as thinking, feeling human beings. Such morally incomprehensible behavior, exhibited by a seemingly normal person, leaves us feeling bewildered and helpless …. the fact is that the majority of psychopaths manage to ply their trade without murdering people. By focusing too much on the most brutal and newsworthy examples of their behavior, we run the risk of remaining blind to the larger picture: psychopaths who don’t kill but who have a personal impact on our daily lives. [4]

The rate of recidivism among criminals with psychopathic tendencies, schizophrenia and complete psychopathy is far higher than the common criminal with a personality disorder and continue to: “… recidivate at a higher rate than non-psychopaths even beyond age 40.” [5] lending further credence to the evidence that though they know the difference between right and wrong they choose “wrong” as it is their nature, while “right” are simply the normal human moral constructs that present an irritating impediment to the fulfilment of his limitless desires.

Though criminal psychopaths have been studied the most due to their higher recidivism rates and consequent jail time, the non-criminal or white-collar psychopaths who are “in control” are more common and thus more damaging to society. Psychopathic versions of lawyers, doctors, police officers, politicians, corporate CEOs, psychiatrists and members of the clergy: all use positions of power to further their own agenda while using their manipulative talents to dupe the public into believing that they can be trusted. They ensure their success by practiced deception, rising to the top of the heap so that they can further mould a company, organisation, or society according to their own barren version of reality. Their often magnetic personalities hide a propensity for ruthlessness – often unbeknownst to their colleagues or friends – quickly placing themselves in positions that offer opportunities to exercise power and the access to victims this provides, while simultaneously reducing their chances of being caught out.

Churches, law enforcement, charities, schools, politics or any post that will provide significant control within a hierarchical structure of secrecy will offer the perfect setting for a psychopath’s predations. This is why most do not reside in prison and are instead found in key positions and determining how normal people live and function. In other words, during the ascendency of a Pathocracy in particular, they become the directors and instigators of change within societies and it is a the type of change that will conform to the psychopath’s perception of the world.

When psychopaths happen to be pillars of the community which is frequently the case, it is the shock of seeing the reality behind the mask and the complete lack of accountability for their actions that eventually sends their victims over the edge into severe depression or a nervous breakdown. This nail in the coffin of the innocent is unwittingly supported by other members of the community who cannot see past the “Mask of Sanity” they so convincingly present. “But I can’t believe it, he’s such a good father to his kids!  He helped out at the parents’ day last weekend … Did you know he sent flowers to Mrs. Jones when he heard about her son’s death?”  “Maybe it’s her that’s really difficult …You never really know a person…”

Meanwhile, the psychopath lives to fight another day and happily trots off into the sunset leaving a smoking trail of destruction behind him.

Psychopaths enjoy the chase that leads to the expression of the lowest forms of negative emotion, the cultivation of scenarios, large or small – it is their reason for breathing. Like a demonic chef preparing the ingredients for the next gastronomic meal, you better be sure that you are not the main course.

“Psychopathy” or “evil”?

Many psychologists are understandably uncomfortable with using the term “evil” to describe psychopaths.Yet, despite this religious connotation one might say that if it quacks like a duck – persistently and repeatedly – it’s a duck.

Rather than extending “sympathy” to psychopaths who are only too happy to receive it, perhaps this needs to be reserved for the victims alongside a cold-bloodied examination of what makes the psychopath tick. As neuroscientist Dr. Kent Khiel discovered in his case study of one psychopath: “Talking about his crimes, it’s like asking him what he had for breakfast.” And when that individual brutally raped and murdered two seven year old girls perhaps it becomes a question of semantics whether you label such acts as “evil” or “psychopathic.” [6]

Studies from neuroscience have conclusively proven that the brain structure and neurology of psychopaths’ brains are quite different from normal human beings. There are extremely low levels of density in the para-limbic system which is the behaviour circuit of the brain housing the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, all of which are involved in the processing of emotions with special attention to empathy, self-control and guilt. There is an uncomfortable possibility that psychopath’s brains are not necessarily “damaged” but a product of a different genetic evolution, as controversial as such a possibility might be.

All the data suggests that psychopathic individuals cannot be treated unless through invasive psycho-surgery or pharmacological means which is hardly the most humanitarian means of tackling the problem. And there lies the conundrum. Though many psychologists and neuroscientists are intent on finding a treatment which allows psychopaths to live normal lives, this may be a highly dangerous attempt to alter objective reality of the situation if psychopaths are simply “hard-wired” for predatory behaviour. In much the same way other individuals employ empathy and cooperation as social skills for survival and creative adaptation the psychopath may naturally balance the equation by embodying the opposite.

Regardless of the inability to process emotions and feelings, the desire to kill and make others suffer as a means of gratification is the driving force, suggesting something more than damaged circuitry. Psychopaths not only reap long term harm but have a hand in the long-term destiny of nations by deflecting and distorting the presence of positive and constructive change at the local, national and international levels. Normal people, if given the chance do naturally seek equilibrium through cooperation and tolerance given the correct role models and circumstances. The psychopath’s goal is to highlight the differences in humanity by stimulating fear and creating divisions that keep secular hatreds alive. They encourage the lowest human instincts to remain dominant, evoking extremism that keeps the lid on our spiritual commonality, our connection to each other as part of the human family.

Criminal psychopaths are unable to play the “human” game for extended periods of time while successful psychopaths have adapted to normal human society insofar as they can maintain a pretence of normality for a percentage of their daily existence. However, this is simply a ruse to secure access to prey. What form and function that prey will take is dependent on personality preferences and the subset of pathological traits in question. And playing the role of a human with conscience is taxing work. He constantly desires the seedy side of life to satisfy his innate desires often incorporating a “hidden life,” hints of which can be seen like a glitch in the program. [7] As a result, when normal society becomes too much he takes off in search of those sectors of living that reflect the truth of his nature; a periodic swim in a lake of degradation, perversion or violence for instance, is enough to nourish his system and maintain the camouflage so that he can rejoin society and continue his “hidden” predations with renewed vigour.

A constant reiteration of the fact that we cannot in any way, apply “human” notions to their psychological make-up is essential to keep in mind. The greatest service one can offer to a psychopath is to imagine they have the capability to harbour a conscience, feelings of empathy, and genuine concern for others outside of their own rapacious desire to control, dominate and “feed.” Once you project normal human sensibilities onto the psychopath in the hope of healing or curing what is perceived as a temporary mental illness, then you are lost. Yet, due to the presence of conscience within most people, this is only usually understood after going through the fires of hell.

One of the great psychiatrists of the twentieth century was Hervey M. Cleckley whose classic Mask of Sanity contributed valuable information in the study of psychopathy remaining a bible for psychologists and psychiatrists today. In this 1941 book he defined the following characteristics of a psychopath, though this is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Superficial charm and average intelligence.
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations.
  • Unreliability.
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity.
  • Lack of remorse or shame.
  • Antisocial behaviour without apparent compunction.
  • Poor judgement and failure to learn from experience.
  • Pathological egocentricity and incapacity to love.
  • General poverty in major affective reactions.
  • Specific loss of insight.
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.
  • Fantastic and uninviting behaviour with drink, and sometimes without.
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out.
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated. [8]

Dr. Robert Hare pared-down and updated the list with his own version which has become the generally accepted definition of psychopathy. (See below). These indications could easily be associated with the narcissist or even someone going through a breakdown or psychotic break. The difference is in degree and the behaviour which manifests as a persistent, lifelong dynamic. Though it may not be apparent that your boss or lover is a psychopath, his or her true colours will eventually reveal themselves only to you as primary target, usually to the disbelief of friends and family who have not been privy to the games.

Interpersonal

Affective

Lifestyle

Anti-Social

Grandiosity

Remorselessness

Impulsivity

Poor behavioural

controls

Superficial

charm

Shallow affect

Stimulation

seeking

Delinquency

Lying

Callousness

Irresponsible

Criminal versatility

Conning and

Manipulative

Failure to accept

Responsibility

Parasitic lifestyle

Lack of

realistic goals

Early behavioural

problems

 Robert Hare’s Psychopathy check list


When you engage with a psychopath you cannot win.

Ever.

They will never give up until you are either broken or dead. The only way to resist their predations is through strength in numbers which provides an emotional and physical shield; by totally and completely disassociating oneself from their sphere of influence and by persistently and thoroughly defending against all attacks with as much objective truth as one can muster. Strategic retreat is the only viable option when engaging with such people. Eventually the psychopath will move on to easier prey.

If you think you can pull one over such people in terms of tenacity and will power – think again. The thrill of the chase that produces all the hormones of desire, sex, hatred and fear is just as important as the final psychic death or as psychologist Martha Stout observed, it’s about satisfying the ultimate “intrapsychic need.” [9]  Indeed, Hare informs us: “Psychopaths view any social exchange as a ‘feeding opportunity,’ a contest or a test of wills in which there can be only one winner. Their motives are to manipulate and take, ruthlessly and without remorse.” [10] No amount of reasoning or appeals to morals, ethics or a residual good nature will work because you will be interacting with something that has no conception or need of such human constructs. What you get is an entropic abyss which requires interactions with normal human beings with conscience to feed its essential lack.

Even language has a different meaning which has been noticed through their inability to grasp their own words and anything approaching an objective appraisal. (Cleckley called this inability to process normal language and meaning as “Semantic aphasia.”) Since there is no depth or profundity in their inner landscape everything is two-dimensional for these emotionally-bereft individuals, which means their language displays a jumbled amalgamation of meaning drawn from an absence of feeling. Therefore, assigning feeling to linguistic associations and any creative, abstract allusions are impossible. A cardboard cut-out of the original is all the psychopath can produce.

Coupled with the magnetism and charismatic allure that psychopaths frequently manage to exude, they are able to wing it most of the time so that the subtle signs that you’re interacting with a reaction-machine is, initially at least, seldom seen. They inhabit a wholly subjective, possibly dissociative world in which reality is created anew according to their anti-social impulses.


* A sociopath refers to the individual suffering from an anti-social personality disorder that is sourced from experiences in the environment and / or family and peer group influences along with various forms of trauma and abuse which may have occurred. It is thought to be largely a condition of learned behaviour perhaps overlaid onto psychopathological tendencies. Psychopathy on the other hand, is thought to be primarily genetic in origin although these terms of are used interchangeably since the results are ultimately the same.  Another point to remember as we continue is that psychopathology refers to pathological, anti-social mental illness in general whereas psychopathy is concerned with the anti-social personality disorder of the psychopath alone.

Notes
[1] A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning By Claudia Strauss, Naomi Quinn Published by Cambridge University Press, 1997: “ ‘Culture’ and ‘meaning’ are central to anthropology, but anthropologists do not agree on what they are. Claudia Strauss and Naomi Quinn propose a new theory of cultural meaning, one that gives priority to the way people’s experiences are internalized. Drawing on ‘connectionist’ or ‘neural network’ models as well as other psychological theories, they argue that cultural meanings are not fixed or limited to static groups, but neither are they constantly revised or contested. Their approach is illustrated by original research on understandings of marriage and ideas of success in the United States.
[2] Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare, Published by The Guilford Press, 1999 | ISBN-10: 1572304510.
[3] p.104; Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend By Barbara Oakley, Published by Prometheus Books, 2007.
[4] op. cit. Hare (p.4.)
[5] ‘Psychopathy (PCL-R) as a predictor of violent recidivism among criminal offenders with schizophrenia.’ By Tengström A, Grann M, Långström N, Kullgren G. Law Hum Behav. 2000 Feb; 24(1):45-58. Karolinska Institutet, Division of Forensic Psychiatry, Stockholm, Sweden. / Psychobiology of personality by Marvin Zuckerman Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 390. ISBN 0-521-35942-2.| See also: ‘Psychopathy and violent recidivism’by Grant T. Harris, Marnie E. Rice and Catherine A. Cormier. Law and Human Behavior Volume 15, Number 6, 625-637, DOI: 10.1007/BF01065856, 1991.
[6] ‘Psychopaths: Born evil or with a diseased brain?’ By Matthew Taylor, BBC News, November 15, 2011.
[7] The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, 1941. Fifth edition, published by William a Dolan; 1988, ISBN-10: 0962151904.
[8] Ibid.
[9] p.32; The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. Published by Three Rivers Press, 2005 | ISBN-10: 0767915828.
[10] p.145; Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us By Robert D. Hare; 1999 |  9781572304512.
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7 comments

  1. I have been told that much of the current material on ponerology is not as valuable as material that existed pre 1960 in the US, or pre 1975, particularly pre 1959 in the former USSR.

    An interesting exercise would be to compare the Mask of Sanity, 2nd edition from 1950 (which interestingly, is difficult to obtain) to the fifth edition, and look for mis/dis-information.

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    1. Hi Guy,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Well, if you are talking about ponerology a term coined by Andrew Lobaczewski and his harsh experiences that he and his colleagues endured and which gave rise to this particular analysis of pathology, then I know for certain that there is no disinformation on that score, having personally worked with those who published his book. I even had the privilege of meeting the man whom I found to be extraordinarily gentle and wise, though at that time very frail. He must have suffered a great deal.

      That is not to say that there may indeed be other studies available equally valuable as Lobaczweski’s work -or indeed more valuable – in terms of a more scientific appraisal of the data, bearing in mind that much of Lobaczweski’s statistical and number crunching data was lost. (He was forced to write the manuscript four times as I recall). Perhaps such material may find it’s way into the world, but I doubt it, knowing how hard it was for Lobaczweski to finally get it published. If it weren’t for Red Pill Press and their integrity regarding the handling of the text, it would never have seen the light of day.

      As to the ‘Mark of Sanity’, Cleckley certainly didn’t have the whole banana and wasn’t aware of the nature of ponerology. He was trying to grasp the almost unfathomable nature of the psychopath and its dynamics and had a great deal of trouble trying to fit current psychological theory into a coherent and workable framework. He did an amazing job for the time.

      A comparison of the two editions may be instructive although I think as long as one has as a constant companion to all studies on psychopathy a copy of ‘Political Ponerology’ this will act as the foundation for clarification and discernment for the layman and expert alike.

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      1. Thanks for sharing your experiences. You are correct- Lobaczweski’s education into psychopathy proceeded before the time periods I mentioned. Shortly after, the emphasis of the study of psychology shifted in the USSR, but by then Lobaczweski had already retained what he learned. We are fortunate he has carried that information through the years and that it has been brought to light. It makes one wonder how much of history has been suppressed.

        Political Ponerology and Mask of Sanity also provide an excellent primer in offering a wider perspective before reading books like “The Grand Chessboard” and those authored by other greymen.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Indeed.

          On the idea of the suppression of history you may be interested to read a few books on that very subject which are extraordinary to say the least. These are Dr Prof Anatoly Fomenko’s trilogy ‘History: Fiction or Science?'(2007) and Laura Knight-Jadczyk’s ‘Secret History of the World’ (2006) a more metaphysical journey which includes Formenko’s ideas and places them in a wide-ranging synthesis. Both authors’ extensive research has been unjustly maligned, although one would expect it. Very much recommended.

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        2. Thank you for the recommendations- I will certainly check them out. I am currently making my way through a large volume of material and hope to get to the works you’ve mentioned soon. Getting to the truth has been a difficult journey, requiring the sorting through of endless amounts of obfuscation and disinformation. Given the ramifications that the truth entail, it is no wonder there would be an active campaign to suppress it. But because the lies and deception are now becoming so common and so obvious, more people are beginning to question the narrative.

          Regards

          Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Cleckley called this inability to process normal language and meaning as “Semantic aphasia’

    No, he didn’t.

    He likened the psychopath’s outer shell or Mask of Sanity to the superficial construct of speech in Henry Head’s description of semantic aphasia. He uses semantic aphasia as an analogy.

    ‘It might be said that the very severe inner disorder of language in semantic
    aphasia is to a considerable degree masked by the mechanical production of a wellconstructed but counterfeit speech carried on in some degree of independence by an undirected outer apparatus which has become virtually disconnected from inner
    purpose. Like real speech, it appears to represent the inner human intention, thought,
    or feeling, but actually it is an artifact. Behind the superficially good (clear, grammatical) speech there is little or nothing to be symbolized and conveyed. This stands in contrast to the gross superficial disorder of communication in verbal aphasia in which inner purposes can still be intelligently formulated and, however awkwardly and indirectly, are often communicated with some degree of success to another.

    Semantic aphasia, according to Head, is “characterized by want of recognition of the ultimate significance and intention of words and phrases … loss of power to appreciate or formulate the general conclusion of a connected train of thought.” The person with semantic aphasia “may understand a word or short phrase and can appreciate the various details of a picture but the significance of the whole escapes him.”‘

    ‘In Henry Head’s interpretation of semantic aphasia we find, however, concepts of neural function and of its integration and impairment that help to convey a hypothesis of grave personality disorder thoroughly screened by the intact peripheral operation of all ordinary abilities. In relatively abstract or circumscribed situations, such as the psychiatric examination or the trial in court, these abilities do not show impairment but more or less automatically demonstrate an outer sanity unquestionable in all its aspects and at all levels accessible to the observer. That this technical sanity is little more than a mimicry of true sanity cannot be proved at such levels. ‘

    ‘Just as meaning and the adequate sense of things as a whole are lost with semantic aphasia in the circumscribed field of speech although the technical mimicry of language remains intact, so in most psychopaths the purposiveness and the significance of all life-striving and of all subjective experience are affected without obvious damage to the outer appearance or superficial reactions of the personality. ‘

    ‘What we take as evidence of his sanity will not significantly or consistently influence his behavior. Nor does it represent real intention within, the degree of his emotional response, or the quality of his personal experience much more reliably than some grammatically well-formed, clear, and perhaps verbally sensible statement produced vocally by the autonomous neural apparatus of a patient with semantic aphasia can be said to represent such a patient’s thought or carry a meaningful communication of it.’

    Like

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