Have you ever had someone in your life, or the lives of loved ones or friends, who left devastation and wreckage everywhere he went, a chronic liar anHave you ever had someone in your life, or the lives of loved ones or friends, who left devastation and wreckage everywhere he went, a chronic liar and con-artist, manipulative and completely without empathy or concern for anyone else, who made a shambles of people's lives for no particularly good reason? If so, that individual might have been a psychopath.
Most people regard psychopaths as cold-blooded, conscienceless murderers of the sort that increasingly star in movies, television programs, and news headlines. Names come to mind: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeff Dahmer, to name some of the most notorious and dramatic examples among them. Individuals with this personality disorder are usually fully aware of the likely consequences of their actions -- and don't care. They know the difference between right and wrong -- and consistently choose the wrong. They are terrifyingly, malignantly narcissistic, remorseless, and devoid of any concern about the feelings of others. But even more frightening, they often seem completely normal, even charming and attractive, to unsuspecting people that they have selected as targets.
In Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (http://www.amazon.com/Without-Conscie...), Dr. Robert D. Hare, presenting a detailed portrait of such dangerous and, often, deadly men and women based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, vividly describes a large population -- at least 70 million strong, globally -- of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life. Are psychopaths mentally ill, or simply evil? How can they be recognized? How can we protect ourselves from them? In Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us Dr. Hare answers these questions and many more.
Dr. Hare created the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) in the 1960s. This checklist, which has since been paired with a shorter checklist used for screening for people who are likely psychopaths and should be evaluated more deeply, includes the following symptoms:
Emotional/interpersonal: glib and superficial; egocentric and grandiose; lack of remorse or guilt; lack of empathy; deceitful and manipulative; shallow emotions.
Social deviance: impulsive; poor behavior controls; need for excitement; lack of responsibility; early behavior problems; adult antisocial behavior.
Those who score high on this checklist -- 75% of the total possible score or higher -- are very likely psychopaths. But, as Dr. Hare points out, great care has to be taken to avoid labeling someone a psychopath who turns out to have other, different problems, such as those who, like Jared Loughner (who tried to assassinate Representative Gabby Giffords in 2011 and did succeed in murdering several others present that day, including a 9-year old girl), are mentally ill and don't know the difference between right and wrong at the time they commit their crimes. As he says, most criminals are not psychopaths, although the percentage of bona fide psychopaths among prison populations is higher than it is among non-criminals. Nor are most psychopaths violent criminals, though many of them have had run-ins with the law a number of times concerning non-violent misdemeanors and felonies.
If you suspect that you are or have been the victim of a psychopath, you should seek out professional counseling that can help you sort out your experiences and learn how to avoid becoming victimized again by a psychopath and/or get out of a relationship with one with minimum physical and other risk to yourself. Psychopaths impact those they become involved with in terrible ways, leaving their victims confused and bewildered about why the mess their lives have become due to a psychopath has happened, whose fault it really is, and what to do about it. If the first counselor isn't helpful, keep looking until you find someone who can really help you sort things out and regain something of your sense of self-worth, which is one of the first casualties of an interaction with a psychopath. Be careful, though, especially if you enter counseling with the psychopath in question as a co-client -- psychopaths are capable of charming the scales off a snake and knots off a log, and can manipulate therapists and counselors into believing that they themselves are victims of the real victims, and that the latter are mentally ill or even psychopaths themselves. Above all else, if you are involved with a violent psychopath -- a spouse-beater or child abuser, say, or other physically violent individual -- strongly consider leaving that person and even finding a shelter to take you in and protect you from the one who has been victimizing you. Find safety first, if at all possible, then decide whether you want to involve the police and get counseling to help you deal with the trauma you have suffered.
As for non-violent psychopaths, they, too, can wreak havoc on their victims, though the modus operandi they follow involves such things as fraud, identity theft, theft of their possessions, trolling (i.e., on the Internet, haunting people's blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter pages, and other avenues of expression and leaving their victims at their wits' end because of it; they may also use phishing schemes, spoof websites, loosing of Internet viruses, worms, trojans, and so on to get what they want), and other non-violent forms of crime and torment of innocent people. If you or someone you know have been a victim of such people, get help in getting them out of your life and cleaning up the mess, emotional as well as financial and otherwise. In either case -- whether you or someone you know has been victimized by someone who is likely a psychopath, research the condition and what its impact is on everyone around the psychopath. Reading Dr. Hare's book is a great start at just that. Another is Dean A. Haycock's Murderous Minds: Exploring the Criminal Psychopathic Brain: Neurological Imaging and the Manifestation of Evil (http://www.amazon.com/Murderous-Minds...).
Somewhere between 1% and 4% of humanity -- 70 million to 280 million people, worldwide -- are bona fide psychopaths. Whether you have ever had to deal with psychopaths are not, learning as much as possible about them is a good idea for the rest of us. We need to learn how to spot and avoid them before they can invade and ruin our lives, or, if we have been victimized by them, how to rid ourselves of and protect ourselves against them. Almost all of us, at one time or another in our lives, will be impacted by psychopaths. If nothing else, many of those holding positions of real power in the world -- world leaders, legislators, senators, media titans, and others who are in a position to move and shake nations and the world as a whole -- are very likely psychopaths, since power attracts people, and the utterly unscrupulous have a strong drive to rise as high in life as they can by any means possible.
The world needs to become familiar with the syndrome of psychopathy and apply the knowledge it gains about their behavior and personality structure in ways that can minimize the deleterious impact they have on all those around them and reduce the likelihood that they will invade people's lives and parasitize them as much as possible. Reading Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us is a good start at that. Persuading others to read it is even better. We can't deal successfully with the problem and mystery of psychopathy unless we ;earn as much as possible about it from experts in the field. Dr. Hare has long been considered the Grand Old Man of the field of research into psychopathy. He is a superb writer, and Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us is a real page-turner. I could hardly put it down. Rather than reading like a dull collection of facts and statistic, it closely holds one's attention to the very last page. Just don't read it late at night. :-)...more