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Hare estimates that 1 percent of the population — 300,000 people in Canada — are psychopaths.
He calls them “subclinical” psychopaths. They’re the charming predators who, unable to form real emotional bonds, find and use vulnerable women for sex and money (and inevitably abandon them). They’re the con men like Christophe Rocancourt, and they’re the stockbrokers and promoters who caused Forbes magazine to call the Vancouver Stock Exchange (now part of the Canadian Venture Exchange) the scam capital of the world. (Hare has said that if he couldn’t study psychopaths in prisons, the Vancouver Stock Exchange would have been his second choice.) A significant proportion of persistent wife beaters, and people who have unprotected sex despite carrying the AIDS virus, are psychopaths. Psychopaths can be found in legislatures, hospitals, and used-car lots. They’re your neighbour, your boss, and your blind date. Because they have no conscience, they’re natural predators. If you didn’t have a conscience, you’d be one too.
Psychopaths love chaos and hate rules, so they’re comfortable in the fast-moving modern corporation. Dr. Paul Babiak, an industrial-organizational psychologist based near New York City, is in the process of writing a book with Bob Hare called When Psychopaths Go to Work: Cons, Bullies and the Puppetmaster. The subtitle refers to the three broad classes of psychopaths Babiak has encountered in the workplace.
“The con man works one-on-one,” says Babiak. “They’ll go after a woman, marry her, take her money, then move on and marry someone else. The puppet master would manipulate somebody to get at someone else. This type is more powerful because they’re hidden.” Babiak says psychopaths have three motivations: thrill-seeking, the pathological desire to win, and the inclination to hurt people. “They’ll jump on any opportunity that allows them to do those things,” he says. “If something better comes along, they’ll drop you and move on.”
How can you tell if your boss is a psychopath? It’s not easy, says Babiak. “They have traits similar to ideal leaders. You would expect an ideal leader to be narcissistic, self-centred, dominant, very assertive, maybe to the point of being aggressive. Those things can easily be mistaken for the aggression and bullying that a psychopath would demonstrate. The ability to get people to follow you is a leadership trait, but being charismatic to the point of manipulating people is a psychopathic trait. They can sometimes be confused.”
Once inside a company, psychopaths can be hard to excise. Babiak tells of a salesperson and psychopath — call him John — who was performing badly but not suffering for it. John was managing his boss — flattering him, taking him out for drinks, flying to his side when he was in trouble. In return, his boss covered for him by hiding John’s poor performance. The arrangement lasted until John’s boss was moved. When his replacement called John to task for his abysmal sales numbers, John was a step ahead.
He’d already gone to the company president with a set of facts he used to argue that his new boss, and not he, should be fired. But he made a crucial mistake. “It was actually stolen data,” Babiak says. “The only way [John] could have obtained it would be for him to have gone into a file into which no one was supposed to go. That seemed to be enough, and he was fired rather than the boss. Even so, in the end, he walked out with a company car, a bag of money, and a good reference.”
“A lot of white-collar criminals are psychopaths,” says Bob Hare. “But they flourish because the characteristics that define the disorder are actually valued. When they get caught, what happens? A slap on the wrist, a six-month ban from trading, and don’t give us the $100 million back. I’ve always looked at white-collar crime as being as bad or worse than some of the physically violent crimes that are committed.”
The best way to protect the workplace is not to hire psychopaths in the first place. That means training interviewers so they’re less likely to be manipulated and conned. It means checking resumés for lies and distortions, and it means following up references.
Paul Babiak says he’s “not comfortable” with one researcher’s estimate that one in ten executives is a psychopath, but he has noticed that they are attracted to positions of power. When he describes employees such as John to other executives, they know exactly whom he’s talking about. “I was talking to a group of human-resources executives yesterday,” says Babiak, “and every one of them said, you know, I think I’ve got somebody like that.”
By now, you’re probably thinking the same thing. The number of psychopaths in society is about the same as the number of schizophrenics, but unlike schizophrenics, psychopaths aren’t loners. That means most of us have met or will meet one. Hare gets dozens of letters and e-mail messages every month from people who say they recognize someone they know while reading Without Conscience. They go on to describe a brother, a sister, a husband. ” ‘Please help my seventeen-year-old son. . . .’ ” Hare reads aloud from one such missive. “It’s a heart-rending letter, but what can I do? I’m not a clinician. I have hundreds of these things, and some of them are thirty or forty pages long.”
Hare’s book opened my eyes, too. Reading it, I realized that I might have known a psychopath, Jonathan, at the computer company where I worked in London, England, over twenty years ago. He was charming and confident, and from the moment he arrived he was on excellent terms with the executive inner circle. Jonathan had big plans and promised me that I was a big part of them. One night when I was alone in the office, Jonathan appeared, accompanied by what anyone should have recognized as two prostitutes. “These are two high-ranking staff from the Ministry of Defence,” he said without missing a beat. “We’re going over the details of a contract, which I’m afraid is classified top secret. You’ll have to leave the building.” His voice and eyes were absolutely persuasive and I complied. A few weeks later Jonathan was arrested. He had embezzled tens of thousands of pounds from the small firm, used the company as a mailing address for a marijuana importing business he was running on the side, and robbed the apartment of the company’s owner, who was letting him stay there temporarily.
Like everyone who has been suckered by a psychopath — and Bob Hare includes himself and many of his graduate students (who have been trained to spot them) in that list — I’m ashamed that I fell for Jonathan. But he was brilliant, charismatic, and audacious. He radiated money and power (though in fact he had neither), while his real self — manipulative, lying, parasitic, and irresponsible — was just far enough under his surface to be invisible. Or was it? Maybe I didn’t know how to look, or maybe I didn’t really want to.
I saw his name in the news again recently. “A con man tricked top sports car makers Lotus into lending him a £70,000 model . . . then stole it and drove 6,000 miles across Europe, a court heard,” the story began.
Knowing Jonathan is probably a psychopath makes me feel better. It’s an explanation.
Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.
These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers.
But -- and here's the part that may spark some controversy and defensive discussion -- these traits are also common to American politicians. (Maybe you already suspected.)
Yup. Violent homicide aside, our elected officials often show many of the exact same character traits as criminal nut-jobs, who run from police but not for office.
Kouri notes that these criminals are psychologically capable of committing their dirty deeds free of any concern for social, moral or legal consequences and with absolutely no remorse.
"This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want," he wrote. "Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders."
Good grief! And we not only voted for these people, we're paying their salaries and entrusting them to spend our national treasure in wise ways.
We don't know Kouri that well. He may be trying to manipulate all of us with his glib provocative pronouncements. On the other hand ...
"While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government."
-- Andrew Malcolm
We are absolutely not seeking to manipulate Ticket readers by glibly saying with superficial charm that they are certainly among the world's most intelligent people. Nor do we seek to manipulate every one of them to click here for Twitter alerts on each new Ticket item. Or follow
Psychopathy is a personality disorder manifested in people who use a mixture of charm, manipulation, intimidation, and occasionally violence to control others, in order to satisfy their own selfish needs. Although the concept of psychopathy has been known for centuries, the FBI leads the world in the research effort to develop a series of assessment tools, to evaluate the personality traits and behaviors attributable to psychopaths.
Interpersonal traits include glibness, superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, and the manipulation of others. The affective traits include a lack of remorse and/or guilt, shallow affect, a lack of empathy, and failure to accept responsibility. The lifestyle behaviors include stimulation-seeking behavior, impulsivity, irresponsibility, parasitic orientation, and a lack of realistic life goals.
Research has demonstrated that in those criminals who are psychopathic, scores vary, ranging from a high degree of psychopathy to some measure of psychopathy. However, not all violent offenders are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are violent offenders. If violent offenders are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.
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Psychopaths are not sensitive to altruistic interview themes, such as sympathy for their victims or remorse/guilt over their crimes. They do possess certain personality traits that can be exploited, particularly their inherent narcissism, selfishness, and vanity.
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While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government.
June 26, 2007
As an Eastern European arriving in the United States initially for college, the corporate culture is even more inexplicable to me than to someone who lived in its presence from birth. A few years ago I had just a vague belief that “corporations are where the real economy and culture of America lies.” Right after college I started a job in a medium-sized corporation, and within weeks I was stunned by the abnormality of its culture.
The company should have been named “the cult of John” since it was a sycophantic cult devoted to its mythical founder. The ultra-energetic recruitment person stressed to me at the interview that “John is a genius” and my manager found endless ways to phrase his devotion to “the big man.” The pecking order was painfully enforced with condescending remarks from superiors to subordinates, and through testosterone-filled meetings among upper management, each eager to outdo his colleagues with obscenities and back-slapping in front of the father of us all, John.
Work, which should have been plentiful, was forgotten under political moves and revolting inefficiency. My manager was “protecting us” from a higher-level manager who promised to “make our life hell.” Why, and how, remains a mystery. An employee from a different department triggered a small-scale war by asking for my help. The manager took each of his team to his office and individually shouted them into promising “never to help anyone without his consent.” I quit after realizing that the corporation is a complex game I was not prepared for.
I am young and I moved on, but the corporate world still lingers with me as an awkward absurdity. Inside windowless cubicles, fear, sycophantism, hypocrisy and selfishness reign free, leaving people both exhausted and humiliated. I find it perplexing that in a nation that prides itself on dignity and liberty, some employees let such abuses go on day by day in a “business as usual” manner. I kept hearing “that’s how managers are, you’ve got to let that insult pass by you” or “you need to pick your battles.” Most upsetting, it seems that almost nobody tries to keep a cool head when judging corporate culture. The problem is not so much something you can understand by looking at facts and figures, but by looking at the monsters the corporation creates out of its employees. And in the college medium, opinions are split between the “lefties,” continuously demonizing corporations to a caricature, and the “econ” students who have no qualms and expect to pick up the corporate culture “on the fly” in internships and jobs.
The resemblance of corporate culture with Soviet society is shocking. Soviet society too was based on fear, hypocrisy, double-talk and many lies. The important communist bureaucrats were masters at speaking with a “wooden tongue” — a style of talking that had no connection with the reality of governing. They were diabolically able to wrap very pragmatic actions in completely irrelevant Marxist-Leninist talk. The major difference from the corporation is that the generations formed in communist times are extremely cynical and bitter, while corporate U.S. keeps pushing credulity, self-blame and “a positive attitude.” Just like communism, the corporate workplace culture refuses to be aware of itself. It wraps a simple and pragmatic set of actions with a complex and irrelevant set of behaviors and justifications, all the while somehow mysteriously passing on the management wisdom over the years.
I have a message to add to my complaints: if you have to work in such a medium, always try to understand what is really happening around you. It is better to be aware of an unpleasant reality than to let your gullibility and insecurities make a victim of you. Be cynical and allow yourself to see through greed, backstabbing, abuse and absurd speeches. Try to connect and communicate with people you can trust. Think scientifically — science made the world evolve; cults always backfired.
Daniel, You triggered a few musings:
It occurs to me that your boss might have had psychopathic tendencies. The way he wanted to control your contacts with other employees is a red flag to me.
The management style now in vogue seems to me to more closely resemble totalitarian dictatorship.
With regard to internal economics, however, corporations have always operated in a manner similar to communism, which makes their genuflections to “free enterprise” seem rather rehearsed.
Daniel’s advice in his last paragraph is sound for every aspect of society. I’d say be skeptical rather than cynical, but the point is nearly the same — don’t “drink the KoolAid” or lose yourself in slavery to somebody else’s vision of their dream. Keep your own dreams alive. Work is just a place you have sold 40 hours a week to. If your own dream happens to be one that can turn a profit, start your own company and drink your own KoolAid.
"From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer's goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION," Jessen wrote. "Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel 'EVERYTHING' is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind."
Jessen wrote that cooperation is the "end goal" of the detainer, who wants the detainee "to see that [the detainer] has 'total' control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.)."
Jessen described the kinds of pressures that would be exerted on the prisoner to achieve this goal, including "fear of the unknown, loss of control, dehumanization, isolation," and use of sensory deprivation and sensory "flooding." He also included "physical" deprivations in his list of detainer "pressures."
"Unlike everyday experiences, however, as a detainee we could be subjected to stressors/coercive pressures which we cannot completely control," he wrote. "If these stressors are manipulated and increased against us, the cumulative effect can push us out of the optimum range of functioning. This is what the detainer wants, to get us 'off balance.'"
"The Detainer wants us to experience a loss of composure in hopes we can be manipulated into some kind of collaboration..." Jessen wrote. "This is where you are most vulnerable to exploitation. This is where you are most likely to make mistakes, show emotions, act impulsively, become discouraged, etc. You are still close enough to being intact that you would appear convincing and your behavior would appear 'uncoerced.'"
By contrast, in his devastating book and documentary, The Corporation, Canadian law professor Joel Bakan explained how the business entity termed a ‘corporation’ was legally transformed into a ‘person’ possessing its ‘own identity, separate from the flesh and blood people who were its owners and managers’. Bakan found that corporate behaviour closely matched the clinical definition of a psychopath, including: ‘callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law.’ (The Corporation, documentary, YouTube)Bakan quoted businessman Robert Monks, who noted that a corporation ‘tends to be more profitable to the extent it can make other people pay the bills for its impact on society. There’s a terrible word that economists use for this called “externalities”.’
‘The difficulty with the corporate entity is that it has a dynamic that doesn’t take into account the concerns of flesh-and-blood human people who form the world in which it exists,’ so that ‘in our search for wealth and prosperity, we created a thing that’s going to destroy us.’ (Bakan, The Corporation, Constable, 2004, pp. 70-71)
What follows below are characteristics of a cult leader. These are given so that the reader may understand what to look for in patterns of cult leadership. The text was excerpted from chapter five of Captive Hearts Captive Minds by Madeline Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich pp. 67-79, and is reprinted with permission of the author.
Psychopathy and the Characteristics of a Cult Leader
In general, charismatic personalities are known for their inescapable magnetism, their winning style, the self assurance with which they promote something, a cause, a belief, a product. A charismatic person who offers hope of new beginnings often attracts attention and a following. Over the years we have witnessed the likes of this in Dale Carnegie, Werner Erhard (founder of est, now the Forum), John Hanley (founder of Lifespring), Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, Shirley MacLaine, John Bradshaw, Marianne Williamson, Ramtha channeler J. Z. Knight, and a rash of Amway "executives," weight loss program promoters and body building gurus.
One dictionary definition of charisma is "a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader or military commander); a special magnetic charm, or appeal." (5) Charisma was studied in depth by the German sociologist Max Weber, who defined it as "an exceptional quality in an individual who, through appearing to possess supernatural, providential or extraordinary powers, succeeds in gathering disciples around him."(6)
Weber's charismatic leader was "a sorcerer with an innovative aura and a personal magnetic gift, [who] promoted a specific doctrine....[and was] concerned with himself rather than involved with others....[He] held an exceptional type of power: it set aside the usage's of normal political life and assumed instead those of demagoguery, dictatorship, or revolution, [which induced] men's whole hearted devotion to the charismatic individual through a blind and fanatical trust and an unrestrained and uncritical faith."(7)
In the case of cults, of course, we know that this induction of whole hearted devotion does not happen spontaneously but is the result of the cult leader's skillful use of thought-reform techniques. Charisma on it's own is not evil and does nor necessarily breed a cult leader. Charisma is, however, a powerful and awesome attribute found in many cult leaders who use it in ways that are both self-serving and destructive to others. The combination of charisma and psychopathy is a Lethal mixture - perhaps it is the very recipe used at the Cookie-cutter Messiah School!
For the cult leader, having charisma is perhaps most useful during the stage of cult formation. It takes a strong-willed and persuasive leader to convince people of a new belief, then gather the newly converted around him as devoted followers. A misinterpretation of the cult leader's personal charisma may also foster his followers' belief in his special or messianic qualities.
So we see that charisma is indeed a desirable trait for someone who wishes to attract a following. However, like beauty, charisma is in the eye of the beholder. Mary, for example, may be completely taken with a particular seminar leader, practically swooning at his every word, while her friend Susie doesn't feel the slightest tingle. Certainly at the time a person is under the sway of charisma the effect is very real. Yet, in reality, charisma does nothing more than create a certain worshipful reaction to an idealized figure in the mind of the one who is smitten.
In the long run, skills of persuasion (which may or may not be charismatic) are more important to the cult leader than charisma - for the power and hold of cults depend on the particular environment shaped by the thought-reform program and control mechanisms, all of which are usually conceptualized and put in place by the leader. Thus it is the psychopathology of the leader, not his charisma, that causes the systematic manipulative abuse and exploitation found in cults.
The Cult Leader as Psychopath
Cultic groups and relationships are formed primarily to meet specific emotional needs of the leader, many of whom suffer from one or another emotional or character disorder. Few, if any, cult leaders subject themselves to the psychological tests or prolonged clinical interviews that allow for an accurate diagnosis. However, researchers and clinicians who have observed these individuals describe them variously as neurotic, psychotic, on a spectrum exhibiting neurotic, sociopathic, and psychotic characteristics, or suffering from a diagnosed personality disorder.
It is not our intent here to make an overarching diagnosis, nor do we intend to imply that all cult leaders or the leaders of any of the groups mentioned here are psychopaths. In reviewing the data, however, we can surmise that there is significant psychological dysfunctioning in some cult leaders and that their behavior demonstrates features rather consistent with the disorder known as psychopathy.
Dr. Robert Hare, one of the world's foremost experts in the field, estimates that there are at least two million psychopaths in North America. He writes, "Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret."
Psychopathy falls within the section on personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the standard source book used in making psychiatric evaluations and diagnoses. In the draft version of the manual's 4th edition (to be released Spring 1994), this disorder is listed as "personality disorder not otherwise specified/ Cleckley-type psychopath," named after psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley who carried out the first major studies of psychopaths. The combination of personality and behavioral traits that allows for this diagnosis must be evident in the person's history, not simply apparent during a particular episode. That is, psychopathy is a long-term personality disorder. The term psychopath is often used interchangeably with sociopath, or sociopathic personality. Because it is more commonly recognized, we use the term psychopath here.
Personality disorders, as a diagnosis, relate to certain inflexible and maladaptive behaviors and traits that cause a person to have significantly impaired social or occupational functioning. Signs of this are often first manifested in childhood and adolescence, and are expressed through distorted patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself. In simple terms this means that something is amiss, awry, not quite right in the person, and this creates problems in how he or she relates to the rest of the world.
The psychopathic personality is sometimes confused with the "antisocial personality," another disorder; however, the psychopath exhibits more extreme behavior than the antisocial personality. The antisocial personality is identified by a mix of antisocial and criminal behaviors--he is the common criminal. The psychopath, on the other hand, is characterized by a mix of criminal and socially deviant behavior.
Psychopathy is not the same as psychosis either. The latter is characterized by an inability to differentiate what is real from what is imagined boundaries between self and others are lost, and critical thinking is greatly impaired. While generally not psychotic, cult leaders may experience psychotic episodes, which may lead to the destruction of themselves or the group. An extreme example of this is the mass murder-suicide that occurred in November 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana, at the People's Temple led by Jim Jones. On his orders, over 900 men, women, and children perished as Jones deteriorated into what was probably a paranoid psychosis. The psychopathic personality has been well described by Hervey Cleckley in his classic work, The "Mask of Sanity", first published in 1941 and updated and reissued in 1982. Cleckley is perhaps best known for his "The Three Faces of Eve", a book and later a popular movie on multiple personality. Cleckley also gave the world a detailed study of the personality and behavior of the psychopath, listing 16 characteristics to be used in evaluating and treating psychopaths. Cleckley's work greatly influenced 20 years of research carried out by Robert Hare at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In his work developing reliable and valid procedures for assessing psychopathy, Hare made several revisions in Cleckley's list of traits and finally settled on a 20-item Psychopathy Checklist. Later in this chapter we will use an adaptation of both the Cleckley and Hare checklists to examine the profile of a cult leader.
Neuropsychiatrist Richard M. Restak stated, "At the heart of the diagnosis of psychopathy was the recognition that a person could appear normal and yet close observation would reveal the personality to be irrational or even violent". Indeed, initially most psychopaths appear quite normal. They present themselves to us as charming, interesting, even humble. The majority "don't suffer from delusions, hallucinations, or memory impairment, their contract with reality appears solid." Some, on the other hand, may demonstrate marked paranoia and megalomania. In one clinical study of psychopathic inpatients, the authors wrote "We found that our psychopaths were similar to normals (in the reference group) with regard to their capacity to experience external events as real and with regard to their sense of bodily reality. They generally had good memory, concentration, attention, and language function. They had a high barrier against external, aversive stimulation....In some ways they clearly resemble normal people and can thus 'pass' as reasonably normal or sane. Yet we found them to be extremely primitive in other ways, even more primitive than frankly schizophrenic patients. In some ways their thinking was sane and reasonable, but in others it was psychotically inefficient and/or convoluted."
Another researcher described psychopaths in this way These people are impulsive, unable to tolerate frustration and delay, and have problems with trusting. They take a paranoid position or externalize their emotional experience. They have little ability to form a working alliance and a poor capacity for self-observation. Their anger is frightening. Frequently they take flight. Their relations with others are highly problematic. When close to another person they fear engulfment or fusion or loss of self. At the same time, paradoxically, they desire closeness; frustration of their entitled wishes to be nourished, cared for, and assisted often leads to rage. They are capable of a child's primitive fury enacted with an adult's physical capabilities, and action is always in the offing." Ultimately, "the psychopath must have what he wants, no matter what the cost to those in his way."
The Master Manipulator
Let us look for a moment at how some of this manifests in the cult leader. Cult leaders have an outstanding ability to charm and win over followers. They beguile and seduce. They enter a room and garner all the attention. They command the utmost respect and obedience. These are "individuals whose narcissism is so extreme and grandiose that they exist in a land of splendid isolation in which the creation of the grandiose self takes precedence over legal, moral or interpersonal commitments."
Paranoia may be evident in simple or elaborate delusions of persecution. Highly suspicious, they may feel conspired against, spied upon or cheated, or maligned by a person, group, or governmental agency. Any real or suspected unfavorable reaction may be interpreted as a deliberate attack upon them or the group. (Considering the criminal nature of some groups and the and social behavior of others, some of these fears may have more of a basis in reality than delusion!) Harder to evaluate, of course, is whether these leaders' belief in their magical powers, omnipotence, and connection to God (or whatever higher power or belief system they are espousing) is delusional or simply part of the con. Megalomania--the belief that one is able or entitled to rule the world--is equally hard to evaluate without psychological testing of the individual, although numerous cult leaders state quite readily that their goal is to rule the world. In any case, beneath the surface gloss of intelligence, charm, and professed humility seethes an inner world of rage, depression, and fear.
Two writers on the subject used the label 'Trust Bandit' to describe the psychopathic personality. Trust Bandit is indeed an apt description of this thief of our hearts, souls, minds, bodies, and pocketbooks. Since a significant percentage of current and former cult members have been in more than one cultic group or relationship, learning to recognize the personality style of the Trust Bandit can be a useful antidote to further abuse.
The Hidden Evil
Psychopaths, also called sociopaths, are categorized as those who exhibit superficial charm and intelligence, and are absent of delusions or nervousness. Their traits include:
- Frequent lying
- Deceitful and manipulative behavior (either goal-oriented or for the delight of the act itself)
- Lack of remorse or shame
- Antisocial behavior
- Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
- Incapacity for love
- Poverty of general emotions
- Loss of insight
- Unresponsiveness in personal relations
- A frequent need for excitement
- An inflated self-worth
- An ability to rationalize their behavior
- A need for complete power
- A need to dominate others
Psychopathy is basically an emotional disorder. The book, The Psychopath, by James Blair, Karina Blair, and Derek Mitchell, states, "The crucial aspect of psychopathy is ... the emotional impairment." According to Dr. J. Reid Meloy's book, The Psychopathic Mind, although psychopaths don't feel emotion in a normal sense, they do experience boredom, envy, exhilaration, contempt, sadistic pleasure, anger, and hints of depression.
Generally, those who believe it's caused by environmental factors use the term sociopath, and believers of the biological theory use the term psychopath. Psychopathy closely resembles Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD or APD) or Conduct Disorder (CD) as outlined in the DSM-IV. These disorders are detected using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revisited (PCL-R), the DSM-IV, and other diagnostics.
These character types, comprise about 4% of the population and span every level of society. Psychopaths can be found in every race, culture, profession and class. Because the term psychopath has been used to describe APD types and sociopaths, in this chapter I'll use it as a universal label for these three character types.
Later when I'm explaining how psychopaths always mask themselves when seeking positions of power, it will help to remember the following: If a rational person tries to apply their logic while trying to understand the reason for an objective or act of a psychopath, they will fail. This will be explained in more detail later. Likewise, when a rational person hears of the possibility that a massive lie has been told to a population by a trusted leader, and they attempt to use their logic to determine weather or not such a lie is possible, they will usually not believe the truth (that they have fallen for a huge lie).
The reason for this is that although most of us can identify with small lies, we find it difficult to conclude that such a massive lie is possible. When I use the term massive lie, I don't just mean a complete falsehood regarding a major event, but also the scope of its influence (global) and the amount of people that have fallen for it.
In his book, The Mask of Sanity, Dr. Hervey Cleckley, says that even during the most "solemn perjuries" they show "no difficulty at all in looking anyone tranquilly in the eyes." He adds that that they will "lie about any matter, under any circumstances." He explains that it is difficult to express how completely straightforward they appear when telling a blatant lie.
"The great masses of people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one."
"Lying, deceiving, and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths," agreed Dr. Robert Hare, in his book, Without Conscience. "When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed--they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie."
Psychopaths are always able to justify their actions, no matter how brutal. They have, "an ability to rationalize their behavior so that it appears warranted, reasonable, and justified," says Dr. Cleckley. Dr. Hare added, "Psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others. Often they are completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they have no sense of guilt, [and] are not sorry for the pain and destruction they have caused," which, says Dr. Hare, "is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalize their behavior."Psychopathy is usually untreatable. Most therapists won't work with them because they often end up damaged in the process. Dr. Hare explained, "Such counseling would be wasted on psychopaths." Some of them will even reflect the wishes of the therapist and pretend to be getting better.
In his book, People of The Lie, psychiatrist Dr. Scott Peck had this to say: "Among themselves therapists will not infrequently refer to a patient's psychopathology as being 'overwhelming.' We mean this literally. We literally feel overwhelmed by the labyrinthine mass of lies and twisted motives ... into which we will be drawn if we attempt to work with such people..."
Wikipedia describes that, "traditional therapeutic approaches actually make them, if not worse, then far more adept at manipulating others and concealing their behavior. They are generally considered to be not only incurable but also untreatable." Basically psychopaths are the way they are for life. In most legal jurisdictions they are considered sane. So technically, they're not mentally ill, just different.
Dr. Scott Peck concludes, "I have learned nothing in twenty years that would suggest that evil people can be rapidly influenced by any means other than raw power. They do not respond," he says, "to either gentle kindness or any form of spiritual persuasion with which I am familiar with."
Where Are They?
When people hear the word psychopath, most think of the famous serial killers locked away in prison. However, most don't end up in prison or mental hospitals. Dr. Cleckley wrote, "The true difference between them and the psychopaths who continually go to jails or to psychiatric hospitals is that they keep up a far better and more consistent outward appearance of being normal."
"This outward appearance," says Dr. Cleckley, is essentially a mask, which, "may include business or professional careers that continue in a sense successful, and which are truly successful when measured by financial reward or by the casual observer's opinion of real accomplishment."
"Many psychopaths never go to prison or any other facility," agreed Dr. Hare. "They appear to function reasonably well--as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, business people, writers, artists, entertainers, and so fourth--without breaking the law." He continued, "Their intelligence, family background, social skills, and circumstances permit them to construct a facade of normalcy."
"Corrupt and callous politicians, social or career fast climbers, authoritarian leaders, abusing and aggressive persons, etc., are among them" wrote Dr. Renato Sabbatini in his article, The Psychopath's Brain. "A common characteristic," says Dr. Sabbatini, "is that they engage systematically in deception and manipulation of others for personal gain. In fact, many successful and adapted non-violent sociopaths can be found in our society."
Most of these people are not just right in your churches, schools, charitable organizations, and workplaces, but by their very nature, they are likely running them. It is a core trait of the psychopath to place themselves in positions of influence, not for public service, but for power. "The experience of pleasure is not reciprocal for the psychopath," stated Dr. Meloy, "it is available only through sadistic channels of power and control." Achieving power for the sake of having power is the nature of the psychopath. "They love to have power and control over others," agreed Dr. Hare.
The need for absolute power over others and the wish to inflict pain for the enjoyment of watching others suffer, are almost never apparent to the casual observer. The reason for this is that another core trait of the psychopath is disguise. So unfortunately, these individuals usually mask themselves as good-natured people. If they have tremendous wealth, you can bet that they'll create charitable organizations as part of their mask.
They are well aware that their mental makeup is drastically different from the majority. They have a sixth sense for detecting and exploiting any weakness you may have. At a very early age they learn that they can inflict mental and emotional harm on others with ease. They also learn how to detect others like themselves out of a crowd of normal people. Beginning in their childhood, most of them learn to mimic normal emotional reactions in order to blend in with society.
An article on Dr. Hare's website called, Psychopaths Among Us, by Robert Hercz, describes how Dr. Hare was contacted by Nicole Kidman, who wanted his advice on how to play the part of a psychopath for her film, Malice. Dr. Hare uses the anecdote of a psychopath who had just witnessed an accident where a mother watched her child get killed by a car. There's blood all over the place, and the psychopath experiences no emotion, but instead, is trying to avoid getting blood on her shoes. The psychopath notices the mother's emotional reaction to the accident and is fascinated. She goes home, looks in the mirror, and begins to mimic the facial expressions of the mother. "That's the psychopath," revealed Dr. Hare.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, states that, "any emotions which the primary psychopath exhibits are the fruits of watching and mimicking other people's emotions." They are adept at, "using their charm and chameleonlike abilities to cut a wide swath through society and leaving a wake of ruined lives behind them," Dr. Hare warns.
"More often than not," says Dr. Cleckley, "the typical psychopath will seem particularly agreeable and make a distinctly positive impression when he is first encountered. Alert and friendly in his attitude, he is easy to talk with and seems to have a good many genuine interests. There is nothing at all odd or queer about him, and in every respect he tends to embody the concept of a well-adjusted, happy person."
"Psychopaths are often witty and articulate," concurred Dr. Hare. "They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming."
Remember, most of them don't psychically hurt people, so this is about mental and emotional domination. To accomplish these objectives, they will use their mask of sanity to place themselves in positions within your community. These positions may include school boards, charitable organizations, churches, politics, law enforcement, or any position which they believe will offer them power over others. These are the places where most psychopaths end up, not jail.
Nov 19, 2010 | Forbes.com
One out of every 25 has no conscience or sense of right or wrong. What to do when you work with one.Evil in the office. If you think about it, you'll probably realize you've seen it play out at least once in your career.
All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.
What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.
More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. And when you start to explore, you find that, though the person may look and act apparently normal -- even charming -- all those around him or her are suffering.
Four percent of the global population is made up of sociopaths, Dr. Martha Stout, psychologist and clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, tells us in her book The Sociopath Next Door. That means one out of every 25 human beings has no conscience, no sense of right or wrong, no empathy, no ability to understand emotion--no soul. Worse, while they can mimic emotion, they see other humans as mere pawns or saps, to be used for their benefit or amusement, or both.
Add that to the fact that science now is questioning whether there is any difference at all between sociopaths and psychopaths, and that those with narcissistic personality disorder also have some of the same characteristics (an inability to care about anyone but themselves), it means that "evil" is all around us, even at work.
Do these characteristics sound familiar?
- Superficially charming, even warm
- Extreme intimidation of others, especially behind closed doors
- Impulsive behavior
- Manipulative and controlling
- Lack of remorse, and even apparent satisfaction or pleasure, after harming others
Yes? Then you possibly have been, or currently are, working with a corporate psychopath.
Contrary to popular perception, psychopathology is not always about murderousness. It is defined broadly as 'callous behavior without normal feelings of empathy or guilt'. And there's a surprising amount of it about.
According to a recent report on the ABC's Catalyst program, one woman in 200 is classifiable as a psychopath, as is one man out of every 50 - overall, approximately one person in 80. This means that every large organisation has several of them; chances are, you have several psychopaths in your building.
Worse, many companies are unwittingly selecting in favour of psychopathology, especially when recruiting executives. Their charm, fearlessness and "whatever it takes" attitude can win over even experienced interviewers, and with rapid job turnover they can march up the ranks at great speed.
Consequently, the chance of psychopaths holding senior positions in industry and government is disquietingly high. We only have to consider the great wars of history, acts of national aggression in our own lifetimes, and examples of extraordinary corporate self-interest, to see the power of the pathology that we have allowed to slip past the sentries. Criminals in neckties.
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