American Psychiatric Association

The Female Psychopath II

“She will choose you, charm you with her words, and control you with this presence. She will delight you with her wit and her plans. She will show you a good time, but you will always get the bill. She will smile and deceive you, and she will scare you with her eyes. And when she is through with you, and she will be through with you, she will desert you and take with her your innocence and your pride. You will be left much sadder but not a lot wiser, and for a long time you will wonder what you did wrong.”

– From an essay signed, “A psychopath in prison,” Particular Characteristics of Female Sociopaths Vs Males


Of course, many of the severest forms of abuse do not mean that the woman is a psychopath. There are many forms of pathology. The most likely culprit in our 21st Century culture at this time is narcissism of varying degrees which includes compensatory narcissism (hypersensitive, fragile, vulnerable, “poor me”) and more overt narcissism (forms of grandiosity, brashness and obnoxious behaviour). Both require the projection of a false self onto the world at large to reinforce and maintain the illusion. Nothing exists outside that mirror of themselves as they would like to be. If you get sucked into that mirror and create a crack in its shine – watch out.

At the extreme end of the scale, even children can be abused, neglected and intentionally harmed to service that image. In fact, pathological narcissism is probably another variant of psychopathy, especially which it  involves the physical and sexual abuse and even murder of children to sustain their own delusions. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP) is an example, where a parent, guardian or caregiver “deliberately exaggerates, fabricates, and/or induces physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in those who are in their care.” [1]  It is clear to me that what we have here is not a new disease but a collection of pathological disorders which amount to a feminine form of psychopathy.

Perri and Lichtenwald highlight the fact that in the context of female psychopathy and the law courts, syndromes are open to abuse to an extreme degree. This is particularly true for psychological syndromes like MSBP which ensure the diagnosis of criminal conduct is invariably obscure. Moreover, many people with MSBP are in complete control and are not suffering from psychosis. They are often able to plan meticulously and with premeditation. However, the detection of MSBP psychopaths is fraught with difficulty in that “… the deaths can be staged, victims might be too young or too old to not rule out a medical explanation, there are no outward signs of foul play, no marks, no weapons, no struggle, natural death is plausible, and no outward signs of caretaker stress…”It is a perfect combination for psychopaths who are more than capable of coping with stressful situations without showing any signs of emotion, because there are not any emotions to deal with in the first place. When a suspect is abnormally calm and stress-free this should be a sign in itself that something is wrong.  After all: “The mother of a dead child gets a lot of attention from the ambulance crew, the emergency-room folk, the doctors, the nurses, the social workers, and then she gets attention from family, friends, neighbors, the funeral home, and clergy. Then when the excitement dies down, she starts the process all over again.” [2]

Women who kill friends, family members and anyone with whom they have created a close personal relationship are usually and fittingly referred to as “Black Widows”. One example of an alleged sufferer of MSBP was Mary Beth Tinning currently serving a 20-year sentence. After experiencing the natural death of her first-born she quickly realised that there was lots of attention to be had and it wasn’t long before she had murdered all eight of them. [3]

Dr. Geoffrey McKee, forensic psychologist and clinical professor at the University of South Carolina, School of Medicine analysed and evaluated hundreds of murder defendants. McKee published his findings in his book Why Mothers Kill (2006). Whether psychotic, depressed, abusive, neglectful or psychopathic, mothers kill their children due to multiple behavioural reasons. For those women who exhibit MSBP, Dr. McKee found a consistent presence of narcissistic and psychopathic traits. He stated: “few of us can imagine someone who could deliberately and repeatedly injure a child and then deceptively thwart the well-intentioned efforts of medical personnel to successfully treat the highly vulnerable victim.” [4]

As we shall see, there is disturbing statistical evidence that hundreds of infants and young children have been killed by their mothers, with new born babies abandoned, neglected and abused. Though many women convicted for such crimes will show signs of mental illness some may well be psychopaths or have psychopathic traits.

© infrakshun

Given that psychopaths have an inability to bond emotionally with others it makes sense that abandonment or neglect of biological children may be indicative of narcissistic or psychopathic women. Dr. Geoffrey McKee explains how these tragedies evolve:

In a deceitful way, the mother destroys the child that supports the myth of motherhood in order to satiate her narcissism. During the pregnancy, the mother is the center of attention and the need for narcissistic attention is fed; but once the child is born the attention shifts to the well-being of the child, and the perceived benefits of motherhood, the attention, are replaced by the realities of parenthood. Thus the mother attempts to project the myth of the nurturing and care-giving female by placing herself in the role of the heroic mother who saves her child. Placing herself in the role of the mother-hero garners the narcissistic approbation she craves by usurping the myth to her benefit at the expense of the child who was simply a means to an end. For these women, children, like a commodity, are objects to be used for self-gratification. The value of the child is dependent on what they get out of them; if they are more valuable alive, then they are kept alive, but if they happen to die, they can always have another without remorse. It was never about upholding the myth of motherhood; the myth was a guise for their narcissism because these mothers never formed any real attachments/bonding to their children in the first place, symptomatic of psychopathy. [5]

Another example was given by the authors from the November 1997 edition of the Journal of Pediatrics, where doctors had published the results of a “terrifying experiment” conducted in UK hospitals. The covert videotaping of 39 parents was undertaken, most of whom were mothers and who had been under suspicion by medical personnel of “bringing their young children to the brink of death.” The results were horrifying:

In 30 of the 39 cases, the parents were  observed intentionally suffocating their children; in two they were seen attempting to poison a child; in a third, the mother under surveillance deliberately broke her 3-month-old daughter’s arm. Many of the parents seemed as methodical and as brazen, as scoured of fear or conscience, as any serial killer. ‘Abuse was inflicted without provocation and with premeditation, and in some instances, involved elaborate and plausible lies to explain consequences’…. For example, one mother claimed that she had suffocated her son because of stress related to his crying and continually waking her from sleep. However, if this excuse wasn’t bad enough, under surveillance, the mother was seen, with premeditated planning, to suffocate her infant when he was deeply asleep. The majority of other cases showed attempted suffocation when the child was asleep or lying passively on the bed.

The disturbing feature was that these were women (and a few men) who masqueraded as good parents, the sort who rushed their children to the emergency room when they had trouble breathing and stood by them with fortitude and devotion while the doctors puzzled out what was wrong. They were conning; they could give the appearance of the concerned mom the minute a doctor or nurse walked in the room, enjoy the social prestige of a mysterious disease, the proximity to powerful medical professionals, they liked the attention and the drama—the wail of the sirens, the adrenalin rush of the emergency room … With further investigation, it turned out that the 39 patients under surveillance, ages 1 month to nearly 3 years old, had 41 siblings, and that 12 of those siblings had died suddenly and unexpectedly. [6]

Regardless of MSBP and other syndromes, this has been a constant and telling statistical fact in the majority of analyses in stark contrast to the percentage of male perpetrators of abuse.  61 percent of all child abuse is committed by biological mothers while 25 percent of all child abuse is committed by natural fathers. [7] The expression, type and variability of traits involved may differ considerably. These statistics from 2003 research data of the US Department of Health and Services, Administration for Children and Families division stands up to considerable scrutiny.

Where mothers only were responsible for deaths of their children the figure is at 30.5 percent. Stats have fluctuated until 2007 where “… 56.5 percent of the perpetrators were women, 42.4 percent were men, the latter showing an even more dramatic increase. Despite similar variations of marginal increases and decreases the same female dominance in the perpetrator relationship to abuse and related financial and custodial data, while child victims of parental status of perpetrator once again has mothers at the highest at 40.8 percent. (An illustration of these trends is shown from a two 2003 DHHS reports in graph form below).

In January 2005 the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCANDS) and the DHHS provided findings on Male Perpetrators of Child Treatment and found that: “Of all reported cases in the State data set, slightly less than one-half of all perpetrators were male. Of these, about one-half (51 percent) were biological fathers, an additional one-fifth occupied some other parental role (adoptive fathers, stepfathers, mothers’ boyfriends), and about one-quarter were in non-parental relationships (including relatives, foster parents, day care providers, or friends) to their victims. In comparison, among female perpetrators, 86 percent were biological mothers.[8]

Most child sexual abuse is committed by men but abuse in general committed against boys and to lesser extent girls, is carried out by mothers. Which begs the question why there is a category and document for “Male perpetrators of Child maltreatment” but not a “Female Perpetrators of Child maltreatment”?

 DHHS1DHHS report 2003, Fatalities by Perpetrator

DHHS 2DHHS report 2003 Victims by Parental Status of Perpetrator


In a study as far back as 1997, 103 female jail inmates were evaluated using precise scores from an extensive semi-structured interview for the assessment of personality disorders. A substantially different “factor structure” for women was found than had been previously found for male psychopaths. The report concluded that: “For women, interpersonal traits were notable for lack of empathy or guilt, interpersonal deception, proneness to boredom, and sensation seeking. Antisocial factors of strongest link were early behavioral problems, promiscuity, and adult antisocial behavior. Female offenders manifested substantial loadings on two items not found in male populations: promiscuous sexual behavior and lack of realistic long-term goals.” [9]

Yet, it is also true that female offenders do have “gender specific adversities” which include higher rates of sexual abuse in childhood as well as a higher incidence of sexual assault than male offenders [10] This may account for the higher rates of sexual promiscuity linked to socio-economic status parallel to a “man’s world” mentality that will inform the sub-culture in which they often live. The study also found in their sample which was small, that there was definite connection with psychopathy and Histrionic Personality Disorder though they did not elaborate as to whether that was indicative of psychopathy or merely psychopathic tendencies. Interestingly, they found that the “patterns of results strongly supported the relationship between psychopathy and aggression.” [11]

Though not necessarily related to psychopathy or narcissism, a 2010 study from United States Harvard Medical School poked a large hole in the assumptions that women are less violent than men. Their findings showed that:  “When the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70 percent of the time. Men were more likely to be injured in reciprocally violent relationships (25 percent) than were women when the violence was one-sided (20 percent). That means both men and women agreed that men were not more responsible than women for intimate partner violence. The findings cannot be explained by men being ashamed to admit hitting women, because women agreed with men on this point.” [12]

Joan Arehart-Treichel of the American Psychiatric Association backed the Harvard Medical School study after publishing her own study which confirmed the results.  In her paper she wrote: “When it comes to non-reciprocal violence between intimate partners, women are more often the perpetrators.” [13]  If this is yet another statistic brushed under the carpet one wonders how many others there are and how they may relate to the female psychopaths which may be riding high on the cover that a lack of awareness provides. The statistics so far, may be the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

One reason why psychopathic behaviour from women may be misunderstood and misdiagnosed is due in part to the fact that abusive behaviour by female offenders in general continues to be unreported. Darlene Barriere, a Canadian violence and abuse prevention educator offers the background to why such states of affairs exist:

  • Children are reluctant to report the person they depend on.
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour is often masked in bathing, dressing or comforting the victim.
  • When boys are the targets of female offenders, they are less likely to disclose.
  • There is denial of the existence of sexuality in females.
  • Females who sexually abuse undermines feelings about how women should relate to children.
  • People find it difficult to understand how women could sexually abuse.
  • Children and adolescents who disclose sexual abuse by female offenders are often told they are fantasizing.
  • When the victim is a male adolescent, often times the sexual abuse goes unreported because of the perception that sex with an older female is a ‘rite of passage’ ”. [14]

As with most abuse consensual or otherwise, this may be highly damaging to the young child or adolescent at sensitive stages in his emotional, mental and sexual development. Barriere also lists several psychological effects such acts of abuse can lead to which include: self-blame; low self-esteem; problems in sexual functioning; avoidance of sex; sexual compulsivity; substance abuse and crime.

While it can be argued that because women traditionally spend far more time at home with children then fathers and male partners, the percentage of abuse will logically be higher and that women generally get paid less than their male counterparts (which is hotly disputed in the US and Europe) there is little credible critique of the statistics themselves.  It is also true that poverty, absence of community and the extended family including a lack of support from the male and the consequent broken homes that result, play a huge part in the final data. However, the consistent pattern overall is that fathers are given little incentive or practical support to be at home even if they wanted to. They are doomed to fulfill a role that is the summation of economically and culturally determined pathways within a very limited spectrum of choices. The devaluation and confusion of gender roles is an inevitable consequence of a vicious circle of competition and unyielding state bureaucracy underpinned by a daily erosion of community values. This inevitably sees a desperate inversion of female traits leading to the abuse of the “wired in” nurturing role of motherhood and abandonment of the spouse, a profound loss of male identity and emasculation on the side of the father. [15]

With compelling statistics linking fatherless homes with high incidence rates of suicide, behavioural problems, rape, absentism at school, time in juvenile detention centres and prison, the role of the father must be seen as equally vital in parenting as the role of the mother. [16] If these statistics are in any way accurate and in combination with the inflicted pathologies we are now witnessing in the West, the involvement of the father, the extended family and the role of women in society in general must be more important that we have ever realised. Stand this against the presence of the female psychopath and we may see that psychopathy could operate as an ironic ratio of gender equality, where male psychopathy gravitates towards hierarchical dominator positions (government, business, institutions) whereas the female psychopath – while undoubtedly drawn to the same positions of power – may be expressed in less obvious ways. They might be found in what was once the traditional setting: in the home and community, masked by myths and the lack of statistical data that goes with it. Rather than forming the bedrock of stability, they seed themselves in the home and community settings in order to create situations that foster the exact opposite. Meanwhile, sandwiched between the two are normal people desperately trying to make sense of their lives.

The tide is beginning to turn in favour of applying the same principles to the investigation of male psychopathy. However, there are some distinct differences between the two genders in how this pathology is expressed. And it is here that many of the problems have traditionally been found.

Let’s also not forget that the existence of female paedophiles and abusers of every kind is as much a reality as the male version but has traditionally slipped under the radar for the very reasons stated previously: it is not culturally excepted that such thing is possible. In other words, its another taboo from which the female psychopath/narcissist takes full advantage. Indeed, from 2009 statistics, UK police say that were over 64,000 child sex offenders and the numbers are rising. Psychologist Dr. Joe Sullivan who lectures worldwide on the prevalence of female abusers in our society, determines the percentage of female is highly variable – between 5% – 20% due precisely to the cultural and cognitive bias. [17] Donald Findlater, director of research and development at Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) a child protection charity said: “… results indicated that up to 20% of a conservative estimate of 320,000 suspected UK paedophiles were women.” He said further that: “The problem is far bigger than conviction rates and, if you look at survivor studies, you end up with a very different story about the scale of the problem of female sexual abuse.” [18]

See also: Sex, Lies and Society II: Paedophilia and Crowd Control III: Mixed Messages (2)

 


Notes

[1] MBP Definitions,Maltreatment Behaviors, and Comments by Louisa Lasher | http://www.mbpexpert.com/
[2] op. cit. Perri & Lichtenwald; (p.61)
[3] ‘Marybeth Tinning again denied parole: Now 68, child killer next eligible in January 2013’. The Daily Gazette. Schenectady, NY. February 8, 2011.
[4] op. cit. Perri & Lichtenwald (p.61)
[5] Quoted by Perri & Lichtenwald from WhyMothers Who Kill: A Forensic Psychologist’s Casebook by Dr. Geoffrey R. McKee, Oxford University Press, 2006.
[6] Op.cit; Perri & Lichtenwald (p.61)
[7] 2003 DHHS report on Nationwide Child Abuse.
[8] Male Perpetrators of ChA ild Maltreatment Findings from NCANDS, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation January 2005.
[9] ‘Female Psychopathy: Equal but Distinct’ The Forensic Echo, Vol. 2, No. 2,  31 Dec 1997.
[10] Female Offenders: Critical Perspectives and Effective Interventions.By Ruth T. Zaplin. Published by Joan & Barlett Publishers, 2008.
[11] Ibid.
[12] ‘Domestic violence: Not Always One Sided’ Pri-Med Patient Education Center, http://www.patient-deu.org, Harvard Medical School. (The entire Harvard Medical School study can be found  in the May 2007 edition of the American Journal of Public Health.  Volume 9, 5th Edition, pages 941-947.)
[13] CDC study by Joan Arehart-Treichel, in the publication of the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News, August 3, 2007 Volume 42 Number 15 Page 31 : ‘Men Shouldn’t Be Overlooked as Victims of Partner.’
[14] By Darlene Barriere | http://www.child-abuse-effects.com
[15] ‘Modern men feel emasculated, study claims’ By Sarah Womack, The Telegraph March 26 2008.
[16] 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census; 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes; – Center for Disease Control; 80percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes – Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 14, p. 403-26; 71percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes; – National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools; 70 percent of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes  – U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report Sept., 1988; 85 percent of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home; – Fulton County Georgia jail populations & Texas Dept. of Corrections, 1992.
[16]’Up to 64,000 women in UK ‘are child-sex offenders”By Mark Townsend and Rajeev Syal, The Guardian, 4 October 2009.
[17] ‘Female paedophiles more prevalent than conviction rates suggest, leading forensic psychologist says’ ABC News Australia,
By David Lewis, 28 Apr 2015.

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.