by Chester Connell
(Dec. 15, 2015)
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. The traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. 1 Peter 5:8-9 New International Version (NIV)
“When you [encounter psychopaths] its crucial to recognise the red flags” – National Geographic.
Who or what is a psychopath? Are some of our Caribbean political leaders psychopaths?
The term “psychopath” is used so generally today by the public and in the media that the clinical has become cliche. Say the word “psychopath” and images of Hollywood-generated axe-wielding killers persist. The definitive truth of psychopathy is, therefore, dissipated and the essence of the word, “psychopath” and an understanding of its effects, remain largely within the offices of psychiatrists and their patients. This is unfortunate. Steep is the price to pay for not being aware that a psychopath is in your midst. Catastrophic are the consequences for not comprehending the dangers wrought by a psychopath on the lives of the people among whom he lives, moves and has his being.
It is crucial to our spiritual, mental, and physical well-being to recognise the fact that there are among us influential persons afflicted with this dangerous condition. And here is the danger: These individuals with serpentine souls — psychopaths — gain large acceptance in public and private even though they constitute a grave and present danger to everyone else. Why and how psychopaths gain this acceptance from family, friends, colleagues and the larger community must be understood in the interest of all concerned. This writing on the wall forewarns and forearms us so that we are prepared to defend ourselves from the disturbing intentions and actions of a psychopath on the prowl. This knowledge, and the application of it, is key if we seek to live sane lives in relative joy and peace.
Recognising the psychopath
Is it possible to tell whether a person is left-handed or right-handed, simply by looking at them? One would have to observe the individual at a more interactive and responsive level. For example, throw the person a ball. Ask her to write. The truth will become clearer: that person will automatically use the hand accustomed to carrying out his day-to-day life functions. As an added twist, the individual may be ambidextrous — and this fact could also be hidden by the individual if she/he knows she/he is being studied.
So, too, with psychopaths — one cannot recognise a psychopath simply by superficial observation. To detect a psychopath it is necessary to continually study the individual without his being aware that he is being observed, over a period of time. What does one seek in this study? One particular behaviour: how the individual responds to situations where she is required to have a conscience. The psychopath has no conscience. The study of psychology reveals that a psychopath is not capable of empathy, that inborn ability of most humans to inwardly feel emotions — one’s own emotions or those of another human. For example, a man who is a psychopath (psychopaths are usually men and statistically form 1 per cent to 2 per cent of a country’s population) will attend a funeral of a close friend but will feel no sadness. He will, however, imitate the behaviour of normal persons and will pretend to be sad, complete with tears. This psychopath would simultaneously also have no problem, while at the funeral, making openly sexual overtures to the grieving widow.
Psychopaths do not look mad; do not act as if mentally deranged. On the contrary, psychopaths have mastered the art of appearing normal. They DO know right from wrong but lack empathy and remorse. Psychopaths are pathological liars and are exceptional at manipulating others. Dr. Richard Hare, professor emeritus, former forensic psychologist at the University of British Columbia, Canada, is recognised as the world’s foremost expert on psychopathy. Dr. Hare developed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist for law-enforcement organisations across the globe. His checklist shows a specific bundle of traits that only psychopaths exhibit. The name of his acclaimed, trail-blazing book, Without Conscience, The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, says it all. These two words, “Without Conscience”, explain the mind and world of the psychopath, succinctly. Quite simply, unlike the 98-99 per cent of the rest of the population, the psychopath has absolutely no conscience. Without Conscience, The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, available on Amazon, is described thus:
Presenting a compelling portrait of these dangerous men and women based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, Dr. Robert D. Hare vividly describes a world of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life. Are psychopaths mad, or simply bad? How can they be recognised? And how can we protect ourselves? This book provides solid information and surprising insights for anyone seeking to understand this devastating condition.
Dr. Hare says Psychopaths are predators. To the psychopath, he is a cat and everyone else is a mouse. The University of British Columbia Professor Emeritus says, “Depending upon the environment you’re brought up in, how intelligent you are, how good-looking you are, if you learn to dress and speak properly and you’re attractive, you’re devastating; if you’re psychopathic, [you’re] deadly. They make decisions that impact upon a whole society and they do this without any particular concern, remorse, no empathy for the population.”
Interestingly, there are certain occupations and professions that attract psychopaths: The top ten are: 1 — CEOs, 2 — lawyers, 3 — media (especially radio and tv ) 4 — salespeople 5 — surgeons, 6 — journalists, 7 — police officers, 8 — clergymen 9 — chefs, 10 — civil servants. (With the number of persons in certain of these professions in SVG, combined with the general lack of critical thinking across large swaths of the population, could this be a fat factor for SVG being in the spiritually-distressing, mentally-traumatising, psychologically-shackled, politically-destructive, economically-dire, socially-declining and disturbing state it’s in?)
When it comes to women, a male psychopath is the ministrative seducer prime. Sandra Brown, co-author of Women Who Love Psychopaths, says, “These men are anything but boring and women find that extremely attractive, his power, his dominance, his success.”
Psychotic VS. Psychopathic
Many erroneously conflate psychopathy / psychopathic with psychosis and psychotic. Psychotic is an umbrella term used to describe the mental state of becoming unhinged from reality. Depression, sleep deprivation and other issues can cause one to become psychotic. However, psychopathy, the subject of this article, is a personality disorder which expresses itself in the individual psychopath as a lack of empathy along with impulsivity, recklessness, scrupulousness, callousness, and lying. The psychopath is not psychotic. The psychopath is very well-aware of what he or she is doing, constantly preparing, planning and plotting, constantly analysing the risks and benefits with the ultimate goal of reward for himself or herself.
Many also assume that psychopaths are found within the lower economic brackets or that these persons are uneducated, are from, or that they form, crime-ridden environments. The opposite is usually true. While psychopaths are found throughout all socio-economic levels, most psychopaths are rich. Many psychopaths are found in the upper echelons of large, powerful corporations or at the head of governments. The environment of the corporate world — where one person is accorded overall power as chief decision maker or in government where the prime leader exerts overarching — and often overreaching power — is a perfect environment for the psychopath to carry out his unconscionable actions — literally actions that do not pass through the conduit of a conscience because no conscience exists in this individual. Within the highest circles of power and wealth a lack of pity and remorse is practically a prerequisite to success and only the psychopath can truly thrive in that diseased environment.
Are some Caribbean political leaders psychopaths?
The chief tool or weapon of the psychopath is the lie. Lying ensnares the psychopath’s victims whether they be individuals, thousands of customers of a company, hundreds of millions in larger countries or tens of thousands of citizens in a smaller country. Lying, to the psychopath, is as normal, natural and easy as breathing. If a psychopath is caught in a lie, he rolls right on with more lies without skipping a beat — literally: the psychopath’s heartbeat does not increase as with normal persons telling a lie. The psychopath uses lies to carry out his usual scheme: taking articles or ideas of no intrinsic value and inflating the perceived value to sell it to the victims — women, men, clients or citizens of a country — and then run, denying any culpability whatsoever. The Caribbean has courted and is witness to this in many scenarios, from the near-legendary Papa Doc and his son Baby Doc in Haiti, to less infamous psychopaths, some of them also of the father, son and unwholesome spirit political trinity, many of them in the Caribbean corporate world. The politics of small island developing states is not exempt from political psychopaths. A relative few tributaries of their river of misdeeds, exploitation and abuse trickle through and are recorded by the media, although these individuals may not have been identified as psychopaths.
Dr. Paul Babiak, co-author of Snakes in Suits – When Psychopaths Go To Work, a seminal work of psychopaths at the apex of the corporate climb, explains that there are several types of psychopath. “There is the bully who is crass. When he can’t con, he’ll use dominance and force to get what he wants. Then there is the con artist. “He’s verbally fluent, manipulative, a good reader of people, he can tell them a good story. He’s often entertaining and he’ll mix a lot of falsehood with truth, you can’t tell where one stops and the other begins. He gets people to do things for him by conning them. And then, there’s the puppet master. He is the maestro of them all. The puppet master has a wide repertoire of psychopathic traits and also gets other people to do his dirty work”.
The most common form of psychopath is the narcissist. There are two types of narcissist. Israeli writer, author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, Shmuel Ben David “Sam” Vaknin explains that, “Narcissists are either cerebral or somatic. In other words, they either generate their narcissistic supply by applying their minds or by applying their bodies…
“The somatic narcissist flaunts his sexual conquests, parades his possessions, exhibits his muscles, brags about his physical aesthetics, youthfulness, sexual prowess or exploits, and is often a health freak and a hypochondriac. The somatic narcissist uses other people’s bodies to masturbate. Sex with him — pyrotechnics and acrobatics aside — is likely to be an impersonal and emotionally alienating and draining experience. The partner is often treated as an object, an extension of the somatic narcissist, a toy, a warm and pulsating vibrator”.
The cerebral narcissist is a know-it-all, haughty, an intelligent “computer”. He uses his substantial intellect, or knowledge (real or pretended) to secure adoration, adulation and admiration. To him, his body and its maintenance are a burden and a distraction. Both types are auto-erotic (psychosexually in love with themselves, with their bodies and with their brain). Both types prefer masturbation to adult, mature, interactive, multi-dimensional and emotion-laden sex.
The cerebral narcissist is often celibate (even when he has a girlfriend or a spouse). He prefers pornography and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing. The cerebral narcissist is sometimes a latent (hidden, not yet outed) homosexual.
It is a mistake to assume type-constancy. In other words, all narcissists are BOTH cerebral and somatic. In each narcissist, one of the types is dominant. So, the narcissist is either overwhelmingly cerebral — or dominantly somatic. But the other type is there, lurking, waiting to erupt.
The narcissist swings between his dominant type and his recessive type. The latter is expressed mainly as a result of a major narcissistic injury or life crisis.”
Dr. Paul Babiak explains that, “those that we found who rated high in psychopathy were rated very high in communication skills, charisma, visioning but they were also rated extremely low on performance productivity factors. Psychopaths are what I would call parasitic predators. They find a target, a victim organisation, (this could be a corporation or an entire country and its government administration) they latch on to it and suck everything out of it”. The psychopath always takes credit for another’s idea and often absents himself when there is a deadline or something for which his attention is needed.
And so the more competitive the environment, the more opportunities exist for the psychopath to be his worst — or from his perspective — his “best” self. The more society creates rules, the more the psychopathic mind invents ways to bend and break them to cheat the system for his own psychopathic purposes. A psychopath delights in using his influence to have what she wants through or outside the corporate, political and legal structures, purely and only to fulfil his own selfish desires and aims. The more society creates and implements laws in the name of equality and integrity, the more ruthless and useful a cheating strategy becomes to the psychopath. In fact the psychopath as leader of government may cause laws to be implemented, or may manipulate existing laws, for the sole purpose of serving her sick needs even though he will candidly create a canvass of care on which he paints a picture which most admire, thinking it is for their benefit.
Nowhere is a psychopath more effective than in business or politics — or both — because both are exceedingly competitive arenas. Because psychopaths are incapable of empathy and cannot feel emotion, they possess an almost unassailable advantage over other humans — psychopaths simply do not care how another person feels because the psychopath lacks the emotional, pyscho-spiritual mechanisms that most humans carry by nature and create by nurture, mechanisms which allow us to care for another person or animal. As part of their mental toolkit, the psychopath is also a natural world-class actor and always compensates for his lack of empathy by pretending to be a loving and caring person — only because it serves his psychopathic purpose so to do.
The political psychopath deserves special mention. History is full of infamous political psychopaths. From a clinical point of view, Stalin, Idi Amin and Ghaddafi all had the characteristics of a psychopath: they all suffered from the violence, humiliation and lack of a father — or proper father-figure, that they experienced as children. (Gaddafi had a father but he regarded his father as weak).
If from your reading the preceding you have not gleaned who in your midsts is a psychopath here are a few guidelines. How do we recognise a psychopath:
- If it sounds too good to be true it probably is, psychopaths promise the world with no hesitation – that’s a red flag.
- Don’t be fooled by props, appearances, stagecraft and performances: the winning smile, oratory – the eloquence and skill in speeches and conversation — all of these blind us to the psychopaths true intentions.
- Enter new relationships with eyes wide open, ask lots of questions. Go with your gut feelings. See what they’re like when angry before you commit
- Know yourself, be aware of your vulnerabilities
- Set firm ground rules, set your boundaries, get professional assistance if you need help to respond to the psychopath. They are unusually dangerous.
If you’re married to a psychopath, get a divorce. If you’re employed by a psychopath, find another job. If your child shows anti-social behaviour and callous unemotional traits early, professional intervention is helpful. If the leader of a country is a psychopath…
In the final analysis, psychopathy is a brain disorder, a dysfunction — or at best a brain irregularity. The solution thus far, remains with individuals, families, organisations, communities and the citizens of countries to educate ourselves and be aware of the psychopath within our midst.
Author’s Note: Information for this article, in addition to the published books and quoted authors, was condensed from documentaries on Psychopathy, in particular, National Geographic’s: The Psychopath Next Door.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].