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Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Authoritarians and Corporate Psychopaths as Toxic Managers

News Books Recommended Links The psychopath in the corner office

Female Sociopaths

The Hare Psychopathy Checklist Borderline Psychopaths

Narcissists

Micromanagers Workplace bullies Incompetent Managers Authoritarians and F-scale Corporate bullshit as a communication method Surviving a Bad Performance Review
The Techniques of a Female Sociopaths Divorcing Borderline Psychopath Negative Politeness Tactful communication Rules of Communication Paranoid Managers Model of Corporate Psychopath Behavior
Understanding Micromanagers Surviving Micromanagers Office Stockholm Syndrome Mayberry Machiavellians in Office Steps for Decreasing Toxic Worry Large organizations Preventing Burnout
Stoicism  Learned helplessness Anger trap The Fiefdom Syndrome Fraud Caused by Social Pressures Workagolism and work overload Obsessive compulsive personality
Insubordination Threat Fake Sexual Harassment Claims Understanding Borderline Rage Analogy between corporate and psychopathic behavior Machiavellians Manipulators Tricks Diplomatic Communication Avoiding Anger Trap when dealing with corporate psychopaths
High Demand Cults Leaders Practices Sociopath attack methods Gaslighting Classic cycle of sociopathic relations (Evaluate-seduce-devalue-discard) Workplace mobbing Signs that you might be dismissed soon Projection
Groupthink Conformism Lysenkoism Psychopaths in Movies Quotes about Psychopaths Humor Videos
  "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark"

From Hamlet (I, iv, 90)

Introduction

Softpanorama Classification of Toxic Managers

Psychopaths are real aliens, "people without conscience"

Warning

Note: This is page devoted to all IT professionals who suffer from psychopathic bosses. Only those who already suffered or still suffering from one of those types can understand the level of pain as well as stakes involved in dealing with such individuals.

Introduction

According to some data sociopaths represent around three to five percent of our population. Most of them belong to so called non-violent, non-criminal type. But they are extremely socially toxic. The term psychopaths should probably be reserved for those sociopaths who are the violent, serial killer, ruthless predator types. The distinction line is fuzzy but still very important.  We will mostly be talking about sociopath, while not always adhering to suggested  terminology. Sorry about that.

If you are reading this page, you probably have problems with your boss or family member, or co-worker.  Now what ? Actually the situation is bad, and you are really trapped, but it is not inescapable situation. You can and should escape.  As old saying goes "Knowledge is power" and this is the area where this saying is literally true. Learning the ropes can help to find a way to escape, find way to defend yourself and your dignity, and to lessen the current pain.

It is important to understand that whose managers who produce living hell are not all created equal. But they have a common tendency to project their dissatisfaction with their life and emotional emptiness outward and ascribe it to others. If they succeed it is all them, but if they fail, it's your fault.  Such people are organically incapable of trust, because everything they do is a facade, a lie, a Potemkin village.  

The same Potemkin village as their family life, where wife and children at best are viewed as desirable possessions.   They have utter contempt for other people, although they will use flattery, deceit and other means to create a dependency while they are using them. And after that is done, you will be discarded like an empty cardbox. In other words they are real sharks, endlessly seeking the prey to fill their emotional emptiness with possessions, be they things or other people. And they are literally insatiable in their needs, and are highly focused in their pursuit of them.

There two large group of dangerous managers who typically make the life of subordinates a living hell. We will call them "toxic managers".

Both types are power hungry and have inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, etc.”  (see Understanding Borderline Rage), which serves as a vehicles of intimidation and can be carefully rehearsed. The key differential is the amount of deceit in daily interactions and about personal and family history.  Manipulation and deceit are hallmarks of psychopathic personality. They live life as actors acting different roles depending on what is profitable and what helps to achieve their goals. Much like cult leaders (which who they have a lot in common) socialized psychopath are masters of creating an "artificial past" inventing their personal histories (including education, achievements, etc ) and sometimes even relatives as well as keeping victims from escaping. See The psychopath in the corner office for the list of traits that you need to try to match with to confirm this diagnose.

As this is not a psychiatry manual, we will use an umbrella term  "toxic managers" for both corporate socialized psychopaths and (more numerous) authoritarian managers.  That term actually allow us to avoid nitpicking about whether particular manager is real psychopath/sociopath, or something else and concentrate of patterns of behavior many of which are surprisingly common to "real sociopaths".  For our purpose real psychological diagnosis is of secondary importance. It is methods to protect yourself from attack of such class of personalities that are of primary importance.  In this sense the most dangerous subtype are female sociopath, as they use their gender as bullet proof vest to deflect any counterattacks. See some information about Hillary Clinton  as guide

In this respect, what matter for us is the fact that both authoritarians and psychopath of various "denominations"  are really dangerous predators of corporate jungles in general and IT jungles in particular. And they blend extremely well into the current environment within government and mega corporations.

As all of them there is one important encompassing feature: predation. Most individuals in modern societies are caught up in the perpetual struggle of striking a balance between pursuing their own interests and respecting others' rights.  When their own pursuits take precedent over others, individuals typically feel some guilt or shame about their greed. But there is no such conflict inside sociopathic managers.  They do not need to rationalize their exploitation of other, they simply feel they are entitled.  Which makes them perfect predator of corporate jungles.  When in power, they typically use their animosity to keep others in line.  Often they create kind of cult of personality environment in which, like in Stalinist Russia, in order to survive, employees must identify with their aggressor or become one of the leader's victims (and please note that Joseph Stalin was a pretty charming personality in his narrow Politburo circle).

It goes without saying that presence of such individuals in the role of the manager puts a tremendous stress on his direct reports. Psychopaths are more that rare among general population and by some estimates represent over 1% of population and approximately 4% of managers. Authoritarians are more common and often constitute majority of middle managers in the corporation.  So both university students and regular cubicle dwellers should better know your enemy as they might need to deal with them in their first or next "manager-subordinate" relationship. They (especially Authoritarians) might be present among your immediate or extended family too.

Softpanorama Classification of Toxic Managers

With those reservations, we would distinguish the following non-orthogonal types based on a single,  dominant behavioral stereotype (for example all psychopath are bullies, but only bullies has this as a predominant feature). That's a crude and unscientific classification but it does has some practical value in dealing with this type of predators because our emphasis is of classifying and describing typical set of behaviors that those people use during "hunt" for prey.  It is valuable to knew something about what to expect if you are on the receiving end of such a behavior.  We will distinguish:

Authoritarians, quintessential kiss up kick down personalities

Authoritarians are more numerous and and while dangerious and toxic, they are less dangerous category in comparison with "real" phychopaths, especially micromanagers. If you boss fits the description you need to go to the church and light the candle. While your situation is bad and often justifiably can be called simply terrible, believe me it could be much, much worse (see below).

It is not always easy to detect authoritarian manager while not being his/her subordinates. Sometimes, like in romantic relations, it is quote difficult until it's too late. Typically authorititarian kiss up behavior can be polished to perfection and generally emogh equals he is often viewed as "normal" person. Trobles start only when you report to him.

Still there are som indicatins that are usful even when you are reporting to this jerk. In the latter  case indications are useless, because you are already cooked :-(.

One of the few good indications of authoritarian personality are extreme right wing views (see Double High Authoritarians). In any case as soon as this guy/nice lady become your boss, "kick down" side of his/her personality will be demonstrated to you in all glory and you will have zero problems with the detection. The only problem is that it's too late ;-).

Also it is not necessary that authoritarian boss should be incompetent. First of all, while there is correlation  between authoritarianism and low intelligence it is just a correlation. Some authoritarians are quite bright (for example, Bill O'Reilly -- a Fox News talking head to be more like double high authoritarian rather then a typical psychopath).

Another important trait that can be observed by outsiders and should warn you is that authoritarians tend to exhibit cognitive errors and symptoms of faulty reasoning. Specifically, they are more likely to make incorrect inferences from evidence and to hold ontradictory ideas that result from compartmentalized thinking. Moreover, they are typically unable to acknowledge their own limitations and assume responsibility for errors and blunders.  Here is a short but very useful list from Our Church Administration is Critically Infected « Another Voice

1.Illogical Thinking: The lack of independent, critical thinking.

2. Highly Compartmentalized Minds: Authoritarians’ ideas are poorly integrated with one another.

3. Double Standards : When your ideas live independent lives from one another it is pretty easy to use double standards in your judgments. You simply call up the idea that will justify (afterwards) what you’ve decided to do.

4. Hypocrisy: The leaders of authoritarian movements sometimes accuse their opponents of being anti-democratic and anti-free speech when the latter protest
against various books, movies, speakers, teachers and so on.

5. Blindness To Themselves: self-righteousness.

6. A Profound Ethnocentrism: Ethnocentrism means dividing the world up into in-groups and out-groups…….in-groups are holy and good…out-groups are evil and Satanic.

7. Dogmatism: the Authoritarian’s Last Ditch Defense: By dogmatism I mean relatively unchangeable, unjustified certainty. Loyal followers obey without questions…..

I would put dogmatism higher as this is valuable test which works when this type of people report to you or are on the same level as you and the personality they present to you is their "fake", Potemkin village facade.

But other then that this is an excellent, simply excellent list. One missing, but important feature is that authoritarians are generally more favorable to punishment and control than personal freedom and diversity. When discussing political preferences, tor example, they are more willing to suspend constitutional guarantees of liberty such as the Bill of Rights. They also are more likely to advocate strict, punitive sentences for criminals, and they admit that they obtain personal satisfaction from punishing such people. See Authoritarians

Bullies or aggressive psychopaths

Aggression in inherent in psychopath as a predator in corporate environment, and to tell that a psychopath is a bully is just to tell that the water is wet. So this is a sure sign that the boss is psychopath, but it does not help in classification of the set of behaviors that distinguish this particular predator from others. But for some sociopaths this pattern of behavior serves is the most favorite tactics that they use systematically. Those psychopaths have a distinct a tendency toward sadism and derive perverse gratification from harming others. They do like to hurt, frighten, tyrannize. They do it for a sense of power and control, and will often only drop subtle hints about what they are up to (this is also typical of authoritarians).

At the same time they systematically polish their aggressive, domineering manner in such a way to disguise any intimidation as legitimate corporate behavior and avoid coming under HR scrutiny for their behavior. Such pathological personalities always seek out positions of power, such as teacher, bureaucrat, manager, or police officer. You can also distinguish several subtypes:

I would like to stress it again that direct or indirect aggression is inherent in sociopath (a socialized psychopath) and to tell that a psychopath is a bully is just to tell that the water is wet.

US National Center for Education Statistics suggests that bullying can be broken into two categories:

Indirect bullying is more subtle and more likely to be verbal, such as the silent treatment, arguing others into submission, manipulation, gossip, staring, and mocking. While women can be as aggressive or even more aggressive then men they usually are more indirect. I would like to stress that gender differences in aggression are subject to review; human society is too complex and direct projection from animal world, for example, from great apes is of limited value. See important paper by Kaj Bjorkqvist Sex Differences in Physical, Verbal, and Indirect Aggression: A review of recent research

Accordingly, one should not expect women to develop and use exactly the same strategies for attaining their goals as men do. If strategies for aggression and conflict resolution are learned, not innate, then women are likely to learn different methods than men. Important aspects are power and capacity, not only physical, but also verbal, and social.

Human beings have nonphysical powers which are far beyond those of any other animal. Accordingly, human aggression has faces and forms, inconceivable within the realm of animal aggression. Extrapolations from animal studies are, therefore, misleading. Aggressive styles are also subject to developmental change during the life course. As indicated, animal aggression is mostly physical. Also among young children lacking verbal skills, aggression is predominantly physical.

Verbal skills, when they develop, are quickly utilized not only for peaceful communication, but also for aggressive purposes. When social skills develop, even more sophisticated strategies of aggression are made possible, with the aggressor being able to harm a target person without even being identified: Those strategies may be referred to as indirect aggression (Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, and Peltonen, 1988; Bjorkqvist, Lagerspetz, and Kaukiainen, 1992).

There are good reasons to believe that, as far as adult interpersonal conflict is concerned, physical aggression is really the exception, not the rule. Other means are more likely to be used.

Burbank (1987) reviews anthropological research on female aggression. She finds females of different cultures having a large potential of aggressive means to use in order to get even with their husbands, such as, e.g., locking them out of the house for the night: she regards this as an act of aggression. Burbank (1987) found females seldom to resort to physical aggression against their husbands, but they did so, occasionally. The most common reason was that their husbands had committed adultery. Burbank found, however, that women are much more often aggressive towards other women than towards men.

Here is one type from popular literature that fits the pattern:

The Fearmonger Boss. People do what a “fearsome” boss says because they’re afraid of him, which actually encourages further intimidation. He always has a threat, and he constantly follows through with that threat in order to keep his employees acquiescent.

Often bulling behavior is combined with paranoia tendencies (paranoiac self-defense). Again this category is fuzzy.

See Bullies or aggressive psychopaths  for more information

Paranoids

Paranoid managers are psychopaths for whom continual mistrust and misjudgment of environment dominates other (often no less pathological) personality features. Wikipedia defines paranoia in the following way:

Paranoid personality disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis that denotes a personality disorder with paranoid features. It is characterized by an exaggerated sensitivity to rejection, resentfulness, distrust, as well as the inclination to distort experienced events. Neutral and friendly actions of others are often misinterpreted as being hostile or contemptuous.

Unfounded suspicions regarding the sexual loyalty of partners and loyalty in general as well as the belief that one’s rights are not being recognized is stubbornly and argumentatively insisted upon.

Paranoid managers are suspicious, touchy, typically humorless, quick to take offense and slow to forgive, self-righteous (Which makes them remarkably similar to authoritarians and micromanagers). They are often argumentative and litigious. They seldom show tenderness and may avoid intimacy; often they seem tense and brusque.

Paranoid personalities find causal connections everywhere; for them nothing is coincidental.

They are constantly on guard and are hypersensitive to critique. That means that they often take offense where none is intended. Often they have problems with understanding humor. They appear cold and, in fact, often avoid becoming intimate with others. Often pride themselves on their rationality, objectivity and fairness. Paranoid managers rarely come forward to seek help from subordinates.

Often paranoia combines with "toxic incompetence" as they cannot make decision on time (analysis paralysis), insists of creating tons of useless documentation and due to this skip important project milestones, etc. Fear of exposure of paranoid manager is blended into a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness. An inability to trust, doubts about others' loyalty, distortion and fabrication of personal histories, qualifications and facts, misinterpretation, and bearing grudges unnecessarily are generally hallmarks of the disorder. Pathological and instinctive aggressive counter-attack, the need to control others is also a prominent feature. They like to collect evidence of subordinates. Paranoid managers often can be classified as "raw bullies", as in relations with subordinates they prefer to rely on brute force and direct intimidation.

For more information see Paranoids

Micromanagers

Tendency to micromanage subordinates is often combined with paranoia and bulling in various (but of course lesser then those classified as bullies or as paranoid) degrees. It also pretty often demonstrate itself as a distinct condition close to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OSD).

Micromanagers are remarkably close to authoritarian personalities in patterns of behaviour and demonstrate typical for the latter category bouts of anger (Borderline Rage). Reverse is not true, some authoritarians avoid micromanaging. Micromanagers often have almost pathological neatness; the latter is especially typical for women. Often their hairstyle is distinctly refined.

Especially dangerous are paranoid incompetent micromanagers (PIMM) the type which we will study in more detail on a separate set of pages:

Micromanagers is one of the few areas were gender stereotyping might provide some survival benefits. Women tend to be more detail oriented, and female corporate psychopaths more often tend to behave like micromanagers. Female PIMM can be mean, evil, vindictive and quite petty.

If a female boss is insecure about her skills and abilities she is more likely to exhibit PIMM behavior. Female PIMM are usually more skilled in using indirect aggression, especially isolation. 

Level of paranoia is elevated and often micromanagers simultaneously can be classified as paranoid managers. Among common traits are complete absence of trust in the staff, pathological need for control, pathologic dissatisfaction with results, and recurring "tantrums."

Many of PIMM can be also classified as bullies but again they, especially female PIMM, prefer indirect aggression to direct. Usually, female PIMM cultivate spying on subordinates and encourage "little birds" to rest on their shoulders and whisper all forms of gossip. This, these minions believe, ingratiates them to their bosses.

For more information see Micromanagers

Narcissists

The narcissistic bosses are characterized by "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy," often evidenced as envy, taking advantage of others, an exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement, and arrogant or haughty behavior. There is not much hope for the poor shmacs toiling for the narcissistic personality-disordered boss who demands perfection, absolute loyalty, and 24/7 devotion to the job.

Narcissistic managers are not that different from other types and also suffer from compulsive need for control ("control freaks"). Narcissistic behavior is dominated by compulsive desire to project highly positive image  resulting in unstable behavior with emotional outbursts caused by insecurity and weakness rather than any real feelings of confidence or self-esteem.  One interesting feature of narcissists is that their behaviour in family environment is often more brutal and tyrannical then with subordinates of the office.  That makes they close to micromanagers.

Typically they are oversensitive to criticism and do not accept slightest criticism from below. They often can be simultaneously classified both as bullies and micromanagers. As they need to steal all the achievements of subordinates to built their image they are typically "gatekeepers" who try tightly control all the communications channels with the superiors'. Can be quite paranoid and react inadequately on any threat to their projected image.

For more information see Narcissists.

Manipulator bosses or Machiavellian boss ("wolfs in sheep closing")

Manipulative psychopaths are probably the smoothest of corporate psychopaths. Here we will mean a class of corporate psychopath who excels in manipulative behaviors including, but not limited to flattery and seduction. All psychopaths use this to a certain extent, but for this type this is a preferred tactic. Also they are typically talented actors and can wear their fake, "invented personality" with confidence and aplomb typical for great actors in movies and theater.

While manipulative behaviors including, but not limited to flattery and seduction are prominent, other features typical for corporate psychopath are usually present too. They are very similar to paranoid managers in their behavior toward subordinates, but unlike paranoids are capable to create a real smokescreen over their real personality by using flattery and seduction.

Unlike bullies they prefer indirect aggression to direct. They have tendency to play by the rules only as long as it suits them and break rules as soon as this is needed for achieving thier objectives. They are notoriously capable to exploit  "grey" area in their favor. This distinguishes them from paranoids. Like narcissists they fear becoming less valued, if their underlings get any recognition for exemplary work. Manipulator bosses are backstabbers who'll go to frightening lengths to look good to their superiors at the expense of denigrating subordinates.

Typically have a dual personality syndrome and behave completely differently with superiors then with subordinates. Here is how they are described in one of Monster career self-help articles:

The Manipulator Boss

Also known as the Machiavellian boss, this type is extremely intelligent and one of the most dangerous. The manipulator boss is highly focused, very motivated, and always has a secret plan. He looks at people as a means to an end. The world is a giant pyramid and the apex is his. People he touches or runs over on the way to the top are casualties he writes off. If you work for a manipulator, watch your back. Your best bet is to be open and honest with him. Volunteer information. Your boss, who has long forgotten what truth is, will be left impressed by it.

For more information see Manipulator bosses or Machiavellian boss ("wolfs in sheep closing")

Empty Suits (Aggressive Incompetent Managers)

We need to distinguish between normal and abnormal incompetence. Normal or institutional incompetence is inherent in large bureaucracies and in reflected on Peter Principle and Parkinson law.  In this case the manager was competent on some lower level of hierarchy but became incompetent after promotion or as often happens in IT due to loss of technical qualification in the current position. 

But there is also other, abnormal incompetence, when a person got to his position due to some "institutional lift" (for example being close friend or relative of  one of the higher level managers, or a secretary who is a mistress of the upper manager and was promoted to some technical position in IT department). This case  is also called pathological incompetence or colloquially "empty suits". 

It is usually quite toxic if such a manager is also aggressive. Unfortunately more often then not it is correlated with extreme aggressiveness as well as other personality problems -- most toxically incompetent managers are micromanagers or narcissists or bullies or some combination.   No substance and not much style. Just very sharp claws and elbows.

Such managers are more widespread that this is assumed in Harvard Business Scholl publications: in a large organization competence is not the primary value. Politics, connections, and clever tactics can compensate for incompetence. The sad truth that they are pretty typical in large organizations for reasons completely different from The Peter Principle.  In "bootlickocracy", the most incompetents are valued for "different reasons" and can easily propel themselves into a supervisory role.

Toxic incompetence is usually correlated with various other personality disorders and is prominent among corporate psychopaths.  Common clues include:

For more information see Empty Suits (Aggressive Incompetent Managers).

Psychopaths are real aliens, "people without conscience"

Psychopathic bosses are people that are so different from normal people that they can be truly called aliens. And those dramatic differences cannot be understood in terms of antisocial rearing or development. They operate using different set of assumptions, and it is the latter that makes them the natural "predators" of the corporate world, "criminals without criminal offences".

In corporate environment psychopath is the person who fails to recognize, much less to empathize with, the personal human dignity and rights of subordinates. That's why they are called "people without conscience".  They do not feel remorse at lying or manipulating, and they typically lie without limit creating an elaborate edifice of their fake past. This "addiction to lying" (and related inconsistencies in their descriptions of their past) is probably the most telling early warning sign about psychopath. Typically they "invent" their past. They have trouble with teamwork for the same reason. They will say one thing to one person, and something different to someone else.

As psychopaths are addicted to lying, they frequently contradict themselves. Typically they also enjoy harming and bullying others.  In young age they are often cruel to animals...

And it is difficult to understand how alien they are from "common people". To a certain extent they are insane. Please note that "sanity" does not mean perfection; it merely means sufficient engagement with the real world and society to allow us to survive both day-by-day and in the long term – thus “sane” individuals usually tend to obey traffic laws, learn from their mistakes and practical experience and, in the case of moral sanity, they recognize in others their worth and their capacity for joy and suffering.  Psychopaths are by definition reckless. This actions aren't merely misguided, but often are clinically dysfunctional. That's why they often self-destruct.

Furthermore, sanity implies an ability of introspection: capacity to critically evaluate one’s experience, to distinguish fact from fiction, and to tune behavior, to adapt to the real world. Insanity, by implication, suggests a significant level of detachment from reality and inability to change one behavior despite negative feedback from the environment.  For example, a psychopath not only can't recognize the human worth and the capacity for pleasure and pain in others, he does not recognize any value of that. For him treating people like objects is "normal" and any empathy is for suckers.  In this sense he/she is living in an "unreal", artificial world. Detached for reality world, the world were no empathy exits. It is often correlates with other psychological disorders such as paranoia.

The presence or absence of conscience and related lack of emotions is a deep human division, arguably as significant as intelligence, race, and closer then many would think to gender differences.

We don't know what makes psychopath ticks and how they acquire the set of behavioral patterns they demonstrate. So most of modern literature is limited to "traits based description". For  extensive list of traits see The psychopath in the corner office. This "trait classification" method that prevails in the literature is very limited and in general should be considered unscientific. As such, it overlaps with "popular urban mythology". Still even mythology is better then nothing and we do not have any other approach that is really better.

Warning

You need to understand that those description are pretty much ad hoc. Reality is more complex and does not fit well within this rigid scheme. Often traits are intermixed in a unique way that defy classification. That's why you need really put an effort into studying your particular type and documenting his/her behavior to get some real insights into particular beast you are dealing with. One important variable partially omitted is the level of intellect (also low IQ is reflected in Empty Suits (Aggressive Incompetent Managers) type).  Often psychopaths have high or very high IQ. 

There are probably several more important factors that were omitted. For example, gender differences are also very important and color psychopathic behavior in a unique way. See Female Sociopaths

Methods of attacks used by psychopathic bosses vary but one common is based on performance reviews. There are several traps there you can and should avoid.  See Surviving a Bad Performance Review

The simplest way to get some additional insight would be checkpoint list based on typical traits displayed by psychopaths. See The psychopath in the corner office

For psychopaths the office environment is a theatre of war and like in any war ends justify means. So dirty tricks are ok  as French proverb A la guerre, comme a la guerre  implies. They are typically used by psychopaths without any constrains (spreading dirty rumors is the specialty of female sociopath and those skills are usually polished since childhood to perfection.).  The greatest variety is observable from Machiavellians Manipulators but sophistication is typical for psychopath in general. See Machiavellians Manipulators Tricks.

You should remember  famous saying that "War is a continuation of policy by other means" and don't overreact.

First of all, like in real war, there is a "fog of war" over the whole situation (i.e., you are facing incomplete, dubious, and often completely erroneous information and high levels of fear, doubt, and excitement). Which complicate rational assessment of the situation so delays with the reaction and keeping your cards close to your chest might in many cases be not detrimental, but  advantageous.

Actually studying war tactics which were discussed, for example, in famous Clausewitz On War (available free from clausewitz.com.) and The Art of War  is not a bad idea. Among them (cited from Wikipedia):

There are several good books on the subject that you should definitely read. Stakes are so high that any additional ammo worth much more then its nominal cost. See a list of suggestions in  Toxic managers: The Problem of Corporate Psychopaths. But again, you should took information provided with a grain of salt.

Watching films that depict psychopath also provide some additional insight and this way of study should not be overlooked.  Unlike real events you can watch the film over and over again and that's enhance the understanding of specific tricks and attack methods. See Psychopaths in Movies. 

Some behavior patterns are really easier to study via movies. This is especially true about female sociopaths. For example there is certain logic in outbursts of anger used by psychopath. They are not completely spontaneous, but more of a sign that you entered the territory they already staked. Or they want something that you refuse to give. The same is true for authoritarians (authoritarian rage).  See Understanding Borderline Rage.

At the same time, being reserved is very important. One of the tactics used is to  provoked you into a burst of your own impulsive behavior as this way psychopath can play victim, while being actually an aggressor.  See Anger trap

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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[Dec 07, 2016] Puzzling People The Labyrinth of the Psychopath

Notable quotes:
"... this book is the first I have seen that really, truly provides answers and healing for victims. ..."
"... I believed I had brought this misfortune upon myself. What is worse, unless someone has been through what some of us have, they can't understand, and so one is left feeling adrift, lonely, confused and misunderstood. It is also very easy to turn to non-constructive ways to block, drown or diffuse the anguish one suffers after a relationship with a psychopath ends. ..."
"... I now understand what happened to me, and I now realize, through the power of the words and insights in Thomas Sheridan's book, that it was NOT my fault. I was targeted. I was intentionally used in the most despicable ways. And I am not alone. ..."
"... The term for these people who have no empathy, conscious and who prey on vulnerable, decent caring people is PSYCHOPATH. If any of you out there are having trouble recovering from such an ordeal you are not alone. ..."
"... I was a strong, intelligent and happy person until I was targeted by a female vampire..idealized, devalued and thrown in the garbage like a used napkin. It nearly brought me to suicide. But guess what....didnt happen...to bad for the psychopath...thats what they want ..."
"... I found them to be very useful despite the fact I had already encountered psychopathic people before, my first (to my knowledge) being in a relationship in 1997. When it collapsed, so did I. Why had someone been so cruel, dishonest and manipulative toward me? I didn't deserve to be treated this way. I then went on to learn a lot about psychopaths. ..."
"... There is a section on the psychopaths that are at the highest levels of government and corporations, and the methods they employ to keep people in their grip. ..."
"... In addition, he explains the psychopathic organizations. He discusses individuals in politics, in religious organizations and possibly the person sleeping right next to you. ..."
"... The title of the Introduction summarizes the way we cannot stop being used: Know thyself - Know thy predator. ..."
"... They were good books, but this was the first that acknowledged and accurately articulated the emotional devastation from the victim's point of view. ..."
"... It was the book that convinced me that my tormenter is a psychopath. It also helped me free myself from the shame and self-blame, the feeling that I was weak or stupid for getting drawn into the crazy-making web of a parasite. Also, I was accepting of the fact that I needed to go completely no contact. ..."
"... Finally, it put to rest any impulses I had to try to get even with or expose this person. I've realized that it's pointless and probably dangerous to do so. I know I've already been trashed to our mutual acquaintances. I can only hope the people who've seen through this monster won't believe what they've been told. But if they do, I suppose it's their loss. ..."
"... A Good Place to Start. If you have only just cottoned on to the existence of psychopaths and the trouble they bring into your life this book is a good place to start. If you've been the target of a psychopath it will help you understand why. It will also help you plan your escape, survival and recovery. If you want to learn more after reading this book look at books by Jon Ronson, Martha Stout and Robert D. Hare. ..."
Dec 07, 2016 | www.amazon.com
Catherine Lewis on June 14, 2011 Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finally - a book that truly helps victims of psychopaths

This is an amazing, life-changing book for anyone who has been a victim of a psychopath. I was in a relationship with a psychopath for over five years, and while I had read other books that were very helpful (including check lists that made my blood run cold) this book is the first I have seen that really, truly provides answers and healing for victims.

I had spent the last seven years feeling that I was only partly healed from my experience. I still felt a big part of myself was missing and I was deeply depressed. I had come to accept that I would never be the same - that I would always bear a large amount of damage to my psyche, my self esteem and my sense of who I was. I felt that a big part of me had been taken, but more importantly, I believed that I had ALLOWED it to happen, and that it was ALL MY FAULT.

I believed I had brought this misfortune upon myself. What is worse, unless someone has been through what some of us have, they can't understand, and so one is left feeling adrift, lonely, confused and misunderstood. It is also very easy to turn to non-constructive ways to block, drown or diffuse the anguish one suffers after a relationship with a psychopath ends. This book saved my life. I read it within about 3-4 short evenings, and it has completely changed the way I perceive what happened in a way that is highly empowering. I am re-claiming my fundamental spirit and joy.

I now understand what happened to me, and I now realize, through the power of the words and insights in Thomas Sheridan's book, that it was NOT my fault. I was targeted. I was intentionally used in the most despicable ways. And I am not alone. There is help, there is hope, and you can regain what you lost of yourself. They say there are no magic bullets for curing deep trauma, but I am here to tell you, this book is that magic bullet for survivors of psychopaths to not only recover, but emerge stronger, more whole and more joyful than ever before. Read it. Learn it. Get your life back.

9 Comments 70 people found this helpful.

tim on September 11, 2012
the very best work out there..author under attack from cult leader

Let me start out by saying that Thomas Sheridan's brilliant work about the world of psychopaths in both personal relationships and in society at large...is currently being subjected to a smear campaign by a disgruntled cult leader....hense as you can see after sometime in mid August there appears on Amazon numerous one star reviews denigrating his book. Prior to mid August you will see that the book is universally raved.

Enough of that. Let me tell you my opinion having had the mis fortune to be in a romantic relationship for six months with one of these soul rapers.

First off only people who had been involved with these entities will truly understand how helpful and extraordinary Seridens work is in helping them make sense of what happened to them. Personally, I spent the last six months studying narcissist personally disorder, borderlines etc...its all nonsense. The term for these people who have no empathy, conscious and who prey on vulnerable, decent caring people is PSYCHOPATH. If any of you out there are having trouble recovering from such an ordeal you are not alone.

I was a strong, intelligent and happy person until I was targeted by a female vampire..idealized, devalued and thrown in the garbage like a used napkin. It nearly brought me to suicide. But guess what....didnt happen...to bad for the psychopath...thats what they want. To murder you and get away with it.

Sheridans work is brilliant and I've read everything in the world that is out there. If you've been targeted by one of these creeps read Sheridan's books.. you'll feel 100% better and you will come to understand the dark , empty, lying subhuman demon that passed trough you life.

There's nowhere to go but UP from there and on to becoming the loving, caring beautiful and now knowledgeable empathetic human you are. Do not pass go. Get both books you won't regret it. Pay no attention to the negative reviews by the psychopaths online trying to smear his timely, brilliant and important work. 2 Comments

Lucas Biddle on March 25, 2011

Upon recently breaking up with what turned out to be a psychopath, I found the YouTube channel of Thomas Sheridan. There, he posts videos pertaining to the subject of psychopaths in our society.

I found them to be very useful despite the fact I had already encountered psychopathic people before, my first (to my knowledge) being in a relationship in 1997. When it collapsed, so did I. Why had someone been so cruel, dishonest and manipulative toward me? I didn't deserve to be treated this way. I then went on to learn a lot about psychopaths.

This is the third book I've read on the subject. It is written in a very easily understood language, rather than using too many clinical terms that are encountered in books written by authors who are admittedly in possession of a PhD. I don't believe the lack of a piece of paper makes Puzzling People any less valid. After all, anyone is capable of making a study of people and documenting their findings, and perhaps go on to publish those findings.

I finished the book off in two days. The various key traits of the psychopath are outlined. Often I would laugh upon reading some of the paragraphs. That's because they resonated so strongly with my own experiences. Admittedly I did not learn anything startlingly new from this book, since I have previous experience with psychopaths and have read other books, but this book is useful to read nonetheless. In fact it might be useful to remind oneself now and then of this unfortunate type of person. The psychopath is a shell that houses an entity unlike most of us. It has no conscience. It is devoid of the wide range of emotions the rest of us have. It can do what it wants to you and me and it can sleep at night. It is sub-human.

There is a section on the psychopaths that are at the highest levels of government and corporations, and the methods they employ to keep people in their grip.

The book concludes with ways to regain your life and energy after an encounter with a psychopath, and reminds us to close the door on them and never ever open it again.

The only complaint I have with the book (and you can call me pedantic if you like) is that it really ought to have been proof-read before publishing because it is, unfortunately, littered with typographical errors. At times I found that a little distracting. However, it doesn't take away from the fact that it's a good read on a subject more people really need to be aware of.

Steven Haackon December 8, 2015

Know thyself - Know thy predator

This book is a must read for every adult. Sheridan opens up the inner world of the psychopath. The psychopath has no conscience; they are experts at manipulation. They cannot be changed. In addition, he explains the psychopathic organizations. He discusses individuals in politics, in religious organizations and possibly the person sleeping right next to you.

The title of the Introduction summarizes the way we cannot stop being used: Know thyself - Know thy predator.

Michael Harrison October 18, 2015

Must read for anyone in the corporate world

Absolute required reading, to survive and thrive in our world...Sheridan will help you understand the world, and help you to understand how to relax,. and thrive.

Artist on March 10, 2014

Good and bad, but mostly good

This book is tremendously comforting for anyone who's emerged from a relationship with a psychopath. I've read Robert Hare's and George Simon's books on, respectively, sociopaths and manipulators. They were good books, but this was the first that acknowledged and accurately articulated the emotional devastation from the victim's point of view.

It was the book that convinced me that my tormenter is a psychopath. It also helped me free myself from the shame and self-blame, the feeling that I was weak or stupid for getting drawn into the crazy-making web of a parasite. Also, I was accepting of the fact that I needed to go completely no contact.

Finally, it put to rest any impulses I had to try to get even with or expose this person. I've realized that it's pointless and probably dangerous to do so. I know I've already been trashed to our mutual acquaintances. I can only hope the people who've seen through this monster won't believe what they've been told. But if they do, I suppose it's their loss.

The only problem I had with the book was that it went off the rails about three-quarters of the way through, turning into a screed against "institutional psychopaths" in popular culture, government, etc. I understand the author's passion, but his points could have been made more succinctly and with more restraint. As they stand now, it sounds like ranting.

William Heagueon January 31, 2014

A Good Place to Start. If you have only just cottoned on to the existence of psychopaths and the trouble they bring into your life this book is a good place to start. If you've been the target of a psychopath it will help you understand why. It will also help you plan your escape, survival and recovery. If you want to learn more after reading this book look at books by Jon Ronson, Martha Stout and Robert D. Hare.

Hoosier Hayseed January 21, 2014

Extremely helpful advice

Following an episode with a family member which absolutely left me dumbfounded that anybody could be so cold and indifferent to the needs of another human being - even a relative - I looked for any books I could find about psychotic behavior.
I found one, "The Sociopath Next Door," which was excellent, and then, later on, I began to see other books on the subject, and bought several of them.

But Thomas Sheridan's book has been, hands down, the best of the lot, and probably has satisfied my need to search for any more information on the subject.

He really covers all the bases about psychopaths, and explains many things - some of which I already knew, and others that I had surmised on my own, but there were many other things which were completely new to me, which I found invaluable to learn about.
His humanity, and his love for the other members of humanity simply shines through, and he makes a couple of very profound comments, which offer much encouragement for anybody who has ever been subjected to one of these freaks.

One is the observation that once you learn what a psychopath is all about, you are probably, from that moment, safeguarded from ever being fooled by one again, which is extremely comforting to know.

The other thing is his conviction that, as bad as they are, they are always doomed to failure, and that we will ultimately win, is very encouraging.

But one thing that still confounds me is just trying to understand exactly what they are. They appear for all the world to be human, and you may know for a fact that they came from human parents - maybe even your own family - but they act like aliens, or anything but someone of this world.

I had thought that the only answer was that they were simply evil, and that may be the ultimate verdict.

But if the problem is that their brain is actually defective - missing the genes that account for empathy and compassion - then it stands to reason that they simply are not "playing with a full deck," as it were, almost literally.

But whatever they are, they are a living nightmare for anybody to encounter, and even worse than that, if you happen to be so unfortunate as to find yourself married to one.

[Dec 07, 2016] Our Gaslight Economy

charleshughsmith.blogspot.com
Correspondent Jason H. alerted me to the work of author Thomas Sheridan ( Puzzling People: The Labyrinth of the Psychopath), who claims to have coined the term gaslighting.

As noted yesterday, gaslighting has often been used in the context of personal relationships to describe a manipulative person's attempts to undermine and control their romantic partner.

In a larger context, these manipulative techniques can also be applied to our perception of the entire economy:

  1. Questioning, belittling, discounting and undermining our experience of economic "animal spirits" and general conditions.
  2. Overwriting our memory of the economy of the past, again by undermining, questioning and belittling our memories.
  3. Discrediting and marginalizing our definitions of economic well-being, in favor of the manipulator's definition of our well-being.
  4. Using authority and "experts" to disqualify and discredit dissenting views.
  5. Denigrate and deny our lived experience of economic conditions by repeating the institutionalized authority-approved narrative of "what actually happened."
  6. Disorient, discredit and destroy dissent with a torrent of false statistics, false narratives, false accusations and false claims of our errors.

[Dec 06, 2016] Life as a Nonviolent Psychopath

Notable quotes:
"... No. Don't do the selfish thing or the self-serving thing ..."
"... I don't care what happens to the world because I'm getting even ..."
"... Someone who has money, and sex, and rock and roll, and everything they want may still be psychopathic-but they may just manipulate people, or use people, and not kill them. They may hurt others, but not in a violent way. ..."
Dec 06, 2016 | www.theatlantic.com
The key question is whether he is a charlatan wanting publicly or a honest reseracher? If I were him I would make a second scan in othe demical instition befor jumping to conclution, That fact that he did not do even this completly undermined his credibility. Also phychopath is not medical diagnisis. Jan 21, 2014 | http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/life-as-a-nonviolent-psychopath/282271/ | Judith Ohikuare
Neuroscientist James Fallon discovered through his work that he has the brain of a psychopath --[and he might be wrong -- NNB]

You used to believe that people were roughly 80 percent the result of genetics, and 20 percent the result of their environment. How did this discovery cause a shift in your thinking?

I went into this with the bias of a scientist who believed, for many years, that genetics were very, very dominant in who people are-that your genes would tell you who you were going to be. It's not that I no longer think that biology, which includes genetics, is a major determinant; I just never knew how profoundly an early environment could affect somebody.

... ... ...

While I was writing this book, my mother started to tell me more things about myself. She said she had never told me or my father how weird I was at certain points in my youth, even though I was a happy-go-lucky kind of kid. And as I was growing up, people all throughout my life said I could be some kind of gang leader or Mafioso don because of certain behavior. Some parents forbade their children from hanging out with me. They'd wonder how I turned out so well-a family guy, successful, professional, never been to jail and all that.

... ... ...

I found out that I happened to have a series of genetic alleles, "warrior genes," that had to do with serotonin and were thought to be at risk for aggression, violence, and low emotional and interpersonal empathy-if you're raised in an abusive environment. But if you're raised in a very positive environment, that can have the effect of offsetting the negative effects of some of the other genes.

... ... ...

After all of this research, I started to think of this experience as an opportunity to do something good out of being kind of a jerk my entire life. Instead of trying to fundamentally change-because it's very difficult to change anything-I wanted to use what could be considered faults, like narcissism, to an advantage; to do something good.

... ... ...

I started with simple things of how I interact with my wife, my sister, and my mother. Even though they've always been close to me, I don't treat them all that well. I treat strangers pretty well-really well, and people tend to like me when they meet me -- but I treat my family the same way, like they're just somebody at a bar. I treat them well, but I don't treat them in a special way. That's the big problem.

I asked them this -- it's not something a person will tell you spontaneously -- but they said, "I give you everything. I give you all this love and you really don't give it back." They all said it, and that sure bothered me. So I wanted to see if I could change. I don't believe it, but I'm going to try.

In order to do that, every time I started to do something, I had to think about it, look at it, and go: No. Don't do the selfish thing or the self-serving thing . Step-by-step, that's what I've been doing for about a year and a half and they all like it. Their basic response is: We know you don't really mean it, but we still like it.

I told them, "You've got to be kidding me. You accept this? It's phony!" And they said, "No, it's okay. If you treat people better it means you care enough to try." It blew me away then and still blows me away now.

But treating everyone the same isn't necessarily a bad thing, is it? Is it just that the people close to you want more from you?

Yes. They absolutely expect and demand more. It's a kind of cruelty, a kind of abuse, because you're not giving them that love. My wife to this day says it's hard to be with me at parties because I've got all these people around me, and I'll leave her or other people in the cold. She is not a selfish person, but I can see how it can really work on somebody.

Related Story The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence


I gave a talk two years ago in India at the Mumbai LitFest on personality disorders and psychopathy, and we also had a historian from Oxford talk about violence against women in terms of the brain and social development. After it was over, a woman came up to me and asked if we could talk. She was a psychiatrist but also a science writer and said, "You said that you live in a flat emotional world-that is, that you treat everybody the same. That's Buddhist." I don't know anything about Buddhism but she continued on and said, "It's too bad that the people close to you are so disappointed in being close to you. Any learned Buddhist would think this was great." I don't know what to do with that.

Sometimes the truth is not just that it hurts, but that it's just so disappointing. You want to believe in romance and have romance in your life-even the most hardcore, cold intellectual wants the romantic notion. It kind of makes life worth living. But with these kinds of things, you really start thinking about what a machine it means we are-what it means that some of us don't need those feelings, while some of us need them so much. It destroys the romantic fabric of society in a way.

So what I do, in this situation, is think: How do I treat the people in my life as if I'm their son, or their brother, or their husband? It's about going the extra mile for them so that they know I know this is the right thing to do. I know when the situation comes up, but my gut instinct is to do something selfish. Instead, I slow down and try to think about it. It's like dumb behavioral modification; there's no finesse to this, but I said, well, why does there have to be finesse? I'm trying to treat it as a straightaway thing, when the situation comes up, to realize there's a chance that I might be wrong, or reacting in a poor way, or without any sort of love-like a human.

... ... ...

In some ways, though, the stakes are different for you because you're not violent-and isn't that the concern? Relative to your own life, your attempts to change may positively impact your relationships with your friends, family, and colleagues. But in the case of possibly violent people, they may harm others.

The jump from being a "prosocial" psychopath or somebody on the edge who doesn't act out violently, to someone who really is a real, criminal predator is not clear. For me, I think I was protected because I was brought up in an upper-middle-class, educated environment with very supportive men and women in my family. So there may be a mass convergence of genetics and environment over a long period of time. But what would happen if I lost my family or lost my job; what would I then become? That's the test.

For people who have the fundamental biology-the genetics, the brain patterns, and that early existence of trauma-first of all, if they're abused they're going to be pissed off and have a sense of revenge: I don't care what happens to the world because I'm getting even . But a real, primary psychopath doesn't need that. They're just predators who don't need to be angry at all; they do these things because of some fundamental lack of connection with the human race, and with individuals, and so on.

Someone who has money, and sex, and rock and roll, and everything they want may still be psychopathic-but they may just manipulate people, or use people, and not kill them. They may hurt others, but not in a violent way. Most people care about violence-that's the thing. People may say, "Oh, this very bad investment counselor was a psychopath"-but the essential difference in criminality between that and murder is something we all hate and we all fear. It just isn't known if there is some ultimate trigger.

... ... ...

,,, For personality disorders it's not really known when they will emerge because it's very understudied. People will say, you can't do anything about it, it's locked in and there seems to be almost no treatment. Whereas, for things like depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, you can do something about it. There are drugs, or things you can do with brain stimulation and talk therapy, so that's where Big Pharma and the whole industry goes.

...A lot of kids, most kids, get bullied and they may get pissed off, but that doesn't create a personality disorder. But there are 20 percent of kids who are really susceptible and they may ultimately be triggered for a personality disorder in puberty. If we know these children can be helped by making sure that they aren't abused or abandoned-because you've got to get there really early-well, then, that would be important to do. I don't mean to preach.

... ... ...

It means, for example, that if you have to go to war, and sometimes you probably have to go to war-I'm not talking about a belligerent country starting war or fomenting discord, but if you have to go to war and to engage infantry-you do not send 18-year-olds into it, because their brains aren't set. They don't know how to adjudicate what's happening emotionally and hormonally with the intellectualization of it. When you're 20, 25, it's a different matter because things gel a little more. Our emotions don't get away from us as much in terms of what is happening. Other factors, sociological ones like what soldiers return to, are also important, but we're not going to get rid of war any time soon, so we might as well engage in a way that does the least amount of damage.

In terms of legal action, you've been used as a researcher for court cases-not to determine guilt or innocence, but for sentencing. Do you think there's a moral boundary for that since we don't have enough knowledge on this field yet to determine guilt or innocence?

We don't have enough research. You can't just take genetics-even though I'm a big proponent of it-or imaging, and tell if someone's a criminal or a psychopath. If you put together all that information, you could explain a lot of behavior and causality and early abuse-but we don't know enough.

So, when I get a case to look at, first of all, I don't accept money-and it's not because I'm a nice guy. It's because I think I'd be biased. I don't accept any payment and I don't want to know who the person is. We all try to create a story or narrative, and I'm just as weak as anybody. I'll tell the defense attorney, or public defender, or whoever it is to just send me scans, maybe with normal scans to try to throw me off, and then I'll look at them and discuss what the traits of the person might be based on the lack of activity in certain areas or not.

I can usually say, "Oh, this person might have a language problem," or "This person might have trouble with impulsivity." After all of that analysis is there, we can look at their traits and see what they've done.

... ... ...

Some people have this psychopathy or are almost psychopaths, and they get into trouble and go right to jail and end up in the prison system as 18-year-olds. It's awful because they get unlucky and they don't have enough impulse control to pull it back at the last instant. So, what is that edge where somebody's got these traits, and they are impulsive? What puts one guy on a pathway to becoming an attorney or successful in general, and the other one has life in prison? We just have to find out what that edge is. I think we will have parameters to work with, but it's not the same for everybody.

  • tim305 • 3 years ago
    I am looking forward to the sequel, where he learns that he really isn't a psychopath after all. His brother switched the MRI's as a practical joke to get back at him for the African incident.
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    Bluestocking • 3 years ago
    In my lifetime I've known 2-3 people like Fallon - fully functioning, non-violent psychopaths. It didn't surprise me that his friends and family were not surprised. It did surprise me that he did not see these qualities in himself.
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      kmihindu Bluestocking • 3 years ago
      What would be very interesting would be to hear his wife's perspective. What attracted her to him? When did she realize he was a psychopath? Why did she stay with him? What is marriage to a non-violent psychopath like?
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        Bluestocking kmihindu • 3 years ago
        I just read Sam Smith's comment (above) and I imagine that goes some way towards answering your question. The individuals I knew were psychically attractive and quite charismatic. They functioned very well in group/social situations, but when it came to one-on-one a lot of people (myself included) wanted nothing to do with them because they were manipulative and used other people as a means to an end. 'What is marriage to a non-violent psychopath like?' A great question. One of the people I knew was a room-mate for about a year. It was appalling. You do begin to question your own sanity. It was only after the experience that I was able to see what had really been going on, and I can't imagine how much more intense it would be if you were also in a sexual relationship or a marriage.
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          kmihindu Bluestocking • 3 years ago
          I had a mentor in grad school that I would armchair diagnose as a non-violent psychopath. He was so manipulative, that while working for him, you would begin to question your sanity. He didn't know how to manipulate people in a positive manner (because he made promises and never kept them), so he would resort to threats. He once defended a threat he had made to me (to kick me out of his lab with no degree for failing to discover why 2 proteins of unknown function were interacting fast enough) by saying, "You should have realized that I didn't mean it. I tell my kids all the time that I don't love them when I'm mad at them, but I don't mean it." All I could think was, "Thank God, I'm only his student and not his kid."
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          KateH Bluestocking • 3 years ago
          I'm pretty sure my dad falls into this category - handsome, charming, completely self-centered and manipulative.

          It's the ability to manipulate that wins the psychopath sex and friends, at least in the short term. Apparently my dad was only violent while he was young - he did a stint in prison and then 'got religion', but the manipulation was how he got what he wanted the rest of his life.

          His third wife seems to have been happy enough with him, but I don't really see how. I wanted nothing to do with him and I'm his child.

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          emikoala Bluestocking • 2 years ago
          The hallmark of a psychopath/sociopath is that they make everyone around them feel crazy, because they show no evidence of doubt in their own rightness...and normal, well-adjusted people will always leave room for doubt, so when faced with someone who repeatedly and adamantly insists that the sky is 100% green by every measure, normal well-adjusted people will begin to think, "Well, maybe it IS green..."
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            Sφnke Zόrner emikoala • 2 years ago
            Also known as self-righteous types. So why the clinical nomenclature (I ask this of all people who moralize--articulate normative judgments--in the guise of scientific objectivity)? It doesn't make your evaluation (disapprobation) any more consensus worthy. Self-righteous types are generally disliked and always have been. Especially when they are right. We just prefer self-deprecation and the constant refrain: "that's-just-my-opinion" to obviate "friction" (= envy, resentment, irritation). The sort of arousal activated by the sympathetic autonomic system.

            Feeling crazy is our problem. It's not other people but our perceptions of other people that induces 'craziness.' We may feel crazy in response to non-pathological behaviors. What constitutes the feeling of craziness? Contempt? Aggression? Resentment? Envy? The self-righteous is not least of all labeled anti-social because he inspires "anti-social" responses. But this just means that we project our own momentary derangement--a by-product of our 'empathy.'

            We are responsible for our reactions. What we find unforgivable (blameworthy) in "sociopaths" (boors) is the sense that they do not have the same scruples we do--they do not feel the same sense of responsibility about their reactions because they are busy ACTING. Then we retaliate for feeling diminished (put in a passive-reactive position) by calling them psychopaths. Clinical psychology lends itself to such exercises in retribution.

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              lora120 Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
              Wow, you put a lot of effort into blaming the victims.
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              EllieS Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
              As someone else said, psychopathy and self-righteousness are two different things, as are sociopathy and boorishness. Clinical nomenclature (naming) allows for diagnosis and treatment (pills and stuff). While the terms are thrown around at times without actually meaning the clinical disorder, they do have value.

              But isn't there a reason in any event for disapproval (disapprobation [evaluation]) when something causes harm? If a child kicks another child (taking a foot and mashing it into some part of the other child's body), are we not going to reprimand them? So if an individual is causing psychological harm to another, wouldn't we see that as negative?

              You remind me of a roommate I once had who said that if I was crying because he threatened to put my dog out on the street, that was on me; he wasn't _making_ me cry. No, he was not forcing me to cry, but he was taking an action that was cruel, and my being upset was a justifiable (completely understandable and okay) reaction.

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                Sφnke Zόrner EllieS • 2 years ago
                You seem to have a rather glib view of what "disapproval" entails in the case of a diagnosis of psychopathy. The harm caused, retributively but also by the sheer act of categorizing individuals based on some perceived pattern of behavior, may outweigh the offense.

                Given that there is no consensus on the construct of psychopathy and the devastating consequences it has on the lives of those labeled psychopaths, we need to be very careful about diagnosing and medicating 'disorders' whose existence is a matter of conjecture. Diagnosis is a question of interpretation, which basically makes it an art. But unlike a doctor of medicine, who can rely on established etiologies and facts, psychiatrists must rely on hypothetical constructs legitimized by consensus.

                We obviously need to treat people who suffer as well as to disapprove of and punish them. But when the stakes are so enormous as in the case of diagnosing so-called psychopaths it is useful to remind ourselves of the theoretical nature of our constructs and to proceed with due caution (skepticism) about what we think we know.

                Clearly self-righteousness and psychopathy are "different things." But the same behavior may be labeled as evincing either characteristic. The behavior has to be interpreted. That means an explanatory/decriptive paradigm must be selected. So my question is, what are we doing when we categorize (select) a behavior as psychopathic? How do we avoid not presupposing what we imagine ourselves to be "discovering" (avoid confirmation bias)?

                Ultimately what the clinician and layperson are both doing is judging a behavior, and the guidelines for such evaluation are ultimately moral and political rather than strictly scientific. The fact that it is consenus that establishes whether a disorder obtains is further clue that clinical psychology functions as a form of applied ethics (the social enforcement of morality).

                P.S. Your room-mate was right. You should have more control over your feelings. On the other hand, having too much control (or not having any feelings) may obviate suffering at the cost of putting you at risk of cold-heartedness. Your room-mate seems to have enjoyed manipulating you because you were gullible.

                Being vulnerable, trusting and compassionate is good-within reason. It's a judgment call. His point was that you should be in a position to make it, to decide how to respond, and not be led around by your reactive-self. It may be less warm and fuzzy, but it's pro-active and reality-syntonic.

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                  wiseaftertheevent Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
                  Yeah, yeah, yeah. A standard narcissistic psychopath technique is to interject themselves into this kind of debate and make it so confusing to figure out who is a psychopath they can skate under the radar. Those of us that are vampire hunters are on to you.
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                  EllieS Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
                  Certainly there are problems with the diagnostic tools available to the medical community. And absolutely there are issues with labeling. However without diagnosis, individuals would not get the proper care. I was misdiagnosed as having depression for years (see below before you think this proves your point). I don't feel it my duty to share on here what my actual diagnosis is, but being properly diagnosed has allowed me to have a functioning life. The diagnosis of mental disorders may also save an individual from the death penalty.

                  And diagnostic tools are improving. If you read the article above, brain scans were used to uncover an individual's psychopathy. While these tests are not done routinely, they do exist. And diagnosis is not strictly "conjecture." The behavior patterns aren't "'perceived." They're observed, both by the doctor and the patient. I hid my true feelings and behavior from my doctor and that is what contributed to the incorrect diagnosis. When correctly diagnosed, medicine and therapy has been proven to help treat mental disorders. I bear the stigma of mental disorder every day, but I'll take that labeling if it means I can function.

                  However, your assertion that I and others should not be upset about things that would justifiably be reasonable is illogical. I love my dog; putting her out on the street when I was out of town would result in the loss of my dog. If I had not been upset about this, had I not cared, I would not have argued against his doing so, which would have resulted in harm to my dog. So the emotion that resulted from his threat has value, just as being frightened by a bear has value in that it would save your life. Your argument also removes culpability from a individual who is behaving in an unacceptable manner and places it on the victim. This means we can act however we want and consequences be damned. Emotional abuse is real. It's a purposeful attempt to harm another person, the same as if someone used physical force.

                  And you seem to be arguing for compassion for those who have mental disorders. That is admirable. But then why wouldn't you have the same compassion for those who are affected by the deeds of others?

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                    Sφnke Zόrner EllieS • 2 years ago
                    Whether things (one's reactions) are "justifiably reasonable"is precisely what is in need of determination. Reacting emotionally has "value" if and when it is accompanied by a judgment (evaluation) and a course of action. Being upset per se has little value except as spur to taking action. In and of itself it is passive-reactive. My point was that gullible types set themselves up for manipulation by those without scruples, on the assumption that your 'friend' was in fact jerking your chain. You did not mention that you had argued about his threat in your original post. Since you confronted him, your upset reaction was instrumental, therefore valid. I'm the last person who would question the cognitive significance of affect.

                    My larger point is that sensitivity as well as objectivity vis-a-vis feelings, which inform the empathic process, are both valid up to a point. They exist, as does the human personality generally, on a continuum. But too much reactive affectivity is as problematical as the objectivity of the "cold-blooded." And not being able to turn off empathy is not the hallmark of optimal mental health some doctors of the soul would have us believe it to be. We are all potentially "psychopathic" under the 'right' circumstances. There are any number of social roles whose discharge would be unduly complicated by the kind of empathy we value in a friend, family member, or co-worker.

                    Brain scans are indeed used, but there is no consensus on what they mean in relation to personality disorders. They yield correlations subject to interpretation by fallible specialists. That would be problematical enough, but add to that mix the controversial nature of the clinical entity some call "psychopathy" (among other disorders) and what you wind up with is very much a process of conjecture. Granted, some conjecturing is more informed than others, but that doesn't change the basic nature of the process.

                    Read up on the controversy surrounding DSM-5 revisions for a sample of just how divided the field of psychiatry is.

                    If you found relief from your suffering through medication and therapy more power to you. That's your bottom line, and I respect it. But bear in mind some people find relief taking placebos. The human mind is profoundly suggestible. Perception creates reality. And that's very much a double-edged sword.

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                  Goaty McCheese Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
                  You are not communicating the message you think you are communicating.
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                  Taylor Sφnke Zόrner • 5 months ago
                  Yo this is one of the best things I've ever read, cheers bro
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                  allannorthbeach Sφnke Zόrner • a year ago
                  Not forgetting that there are many psychopathic psychiatrists about who deliberately misdiagnose psychopathy just for the 'hell' of it, and Dr. David Rosehan proved just how incompetent psychiatrists and nursing staff can be when it suits their hid_den'igrating agendas.
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              Erica_JS Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
              Psychopathy is not at all the same as self-righteousness. Psychopaths lack empathy and a sense of right and wrong - completely different thing.
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              wiseaftertheevent Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
              You're probably a psychopath, pal. Psychopaths do lots of things, but one of the key things is mess with people's sense of time, which makes folks feel nuts. The other thing you keep repeating is the individuality of response -- and psychopaths are big on the idea of an isolated sense of self.
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              Isonomist Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
              Ever thought of having an FMRI?
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              RichardMahony Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
              Psychopaths are not also known as self-righteous types. Nor are psychopaths 'crazy' in the way that, say, schizophrenics are 'crazy'. I suggest you do a little reading before opinionating on something about which evidently you know very little.

              Start with 'The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-called Psychopathic Personality'; Hervey Cleckley, MD; Fifth Edition: private printing for non-profit educational use; Emily S Cleckley; Augusta, Georgia (1988) http://www.cassiopaea.com/cass...

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                Sφnke Zόrner RichardMahony • 2 years ago
                My comment mainly addressed OUR reactions ("crazy" was emikoala's term) to so-called psychopathic
                behaviors. Try reading comments in context. My point was that any trait ascribed to a so-called psychopath, taken by itself or in combination, can be variably interpreted. The only people helped by the patholigization of behaviors are prosecutors, the criminal justice system, pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

                The problem of "opinionating" is not my problem, it's the problem of clinical psychology as a whole, as witness the controversy surrounding the process of devising DSM criteria. There is no consensus about what constitutes psychopathy, as a cursory glance at the Wikipedia page would inform you:
                (" no psychiatric or psychological organization has sanctioned a diagnosis titled "psychopathy.") It is an interpretation, a construct, regarding which the only fitting scientific attitude to assume is one of skepticism. There is no place in science for true believers.

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                  Jillita Hunter Sφnke Zόrner • 2 years ago
                  Maybe not ALL traits...but what about a person who has a desire to kill people, strangers or known, just because they think it would be fun? One who feels joy from lighting animals on fire? A person who literally feels no regret, remorse, or guilt about anything in life (even things that cause fatal harm to others and ruined lives)? One who simply doesn't understand when others are upset, for whatever the reason, because they themselves have no such feelings. I know I am just a regular person but to me, those are pretty psychopathic traits no matter how interpreted.
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                    Sφnke Zόrner Jillita Hunter • 2 years ago
                    They are "psychopathic" because you use that concept to summarize the traits you enumerated. But there is no necessity in doing so. You could simply describe such individuals as lacking compassion and being cruel. Either way you express moral disapprobation and signal a threat. Which is the whole point of this exercise in applied ethics (clinical psychology).

                    For me the interesting question is: how often does one have to lapse in one's sympathizing and abstention from violent aggression before one becomes "a psychopath?" What day of the week are we talking about? which hour of the day? We are all capable of selfish, aggressive behavior and of not giving a damn.

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                  allannorthbeach Sφnke Zόrner • a year ago
                  You neglected to list psychiatrists amongst the prosecutors, the justice system etc...but Dr. David Rosenhan didn't.
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            NotApologizing Guest • 2 years ago
            Why do you believe that "their percentage," that is, the percentage of people who are psychopaths, is increasing? Do you have data on this?
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            bobthechef Guest • 2 years ago
            Your emotionalized appeal here is really disordered and contains a mish-mash of two orders, the moral and the biological, and a bunch of question begging. What you're left with is moralizing. Considered in purely "evolutionistic" terms, what you have are populations of humans which can possess considerable variation in principle. Adaptive advantage can come in various forms and so to say that human beings are intrinsically "social" (psychopaths are social, just not in the normal sense) and then presumably define morality as something that is a function of some tendency which happens to be common though not absolute seems rather relativist and arbitrary. I am reminded of Nietzsche's slave and master morality. The lambs define their morality in terms of their own interests and then universalize it (how conveniently self-serving) in order to condemn the birds of prey that hunt them. The birds of prey, being of a different nature, find it all amusingly petty-minded, bearing no grudge against the lambs, for to them the lambs are tasty.

            So in the end, the weak shall often maintain their morality (what is good for us and not in itself or for itself; instrumental morality masquerading as intrinsic morality) and the strong their own. The difference is that the strong act in good faith, that is, authentically while the weak act out of ressentement and jealousy and thus through disingenuous ulterior motives.

            And then there's the story of the frog and the scorpion...

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          Isonomist KeysoverCO • 2 years ago
          That would be an interesting question if it were in fact a simple, heritable genetic trait, like blue eyes or lactose tolerance.
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        Terenc Blakely kmihindu • 3 years ago
        Women have a hard-wired attraction to bad boy, alpha male types. I'm sure a psychopath has enough of those traits to attract many women.
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        Sparks13 kmihindu • 2 years ago
        I'm more curious how someone like that falls in love and marries. Do they have to do so before that gelling he speaks of? The one that I knew the best laughed about the fact that the only reason his wife was still with him was because as a Catholic, she didn't believe in divorce. I know perfectly well he had been mentally and emotionally abusing her (and their children), if not physically too. How do I know that? He abused all of us unfortunate enough to be trapped in his company, whether it was as family members, co-workers, or fellow parishioners.
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        happykt kmihindu • 2 years ago
        I always thought my older brother was a psychopath when I first heard the definition around the age of 12 (over 35 years ago), and this article only confirms it. My brother has always been supremely narcissistic, manipulative, has bouts of violence, is quick to anger, is very charismatic, is an alcoholic (he uses it to calm himself down), everyone is always wrong and he's always right, and most of my family tries to stay away from him.

        He's completely exhausting to be around because everything is about him, and to hell with anyone else and what they think or feel. He's my go to guy if I want to feel like a pile of dog poop.

        My brother is about to turn 54 and I am dreading wishing him a happy birthday.

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          kmihindu happykt • 2 years ago
          Wow. It was hard enough to deal with a boss like this for 7 years, I can't imagine the pain of having a family member like this. I'd say not to let his comments get to you, but in my experience, they smell out vulnerabilities like sharks and blood. They can also compliment you (if they want something), but their compliments are so insincere and manipulative as to be worthless (My boss once compared a painting of mine to Van Gogh - clever in that it was influenced by Van Gogh, but seriously?)
          If there are people you know, who know you and your brother, and understand the situation, probably the best you can do is to talk with them afterwards, so you don't let any of his ideas or criticisms affect you. I know for me, the biggest help was when I talked to another member of my committee after my boss had just sabotaged me behind my back, while claiming to me that he had fought for me, to no avail. She asked what he had told me happened during the closed portion of the meeting. When I told her, she paused and the looked straight at me and said, "I was there and that's not how I remember it." Having confirmation that he was sabotaging me and lying to me was such a relief, as their manipulation can leave you doubting your own sanity.

          Best of luck.

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        Falcon D. Stormvoice kmihindu • 3 years ago
        It depends on the person.

        Psychopaths are still people who make decisions in life. They can choose to be good. They have an inherent ability to be charismatic and intelligent, and that is surely attractive. Once actually in a relationship, things can go quite badly. But they might not. Especially not if the spouse knows or intuits that they are married to a psychopath, and can offer assistance.

        For the majority of cases, sometimes it is hell on earth to be married to a psychopath, and other times it is bliss, depending on the ups and downs of the disease.

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      cbartley17 Bluestocking • 3 years ago
      A lack of insight is common in most psychiatric disorders.
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      marcellus2 Bluestocking • 3 years ago
      Good question. Because in a flat world without intelligent narcisists we would still crawl on 4 legs.

      The question is - what would we do without them? They serve a purpose. The trip to the caves - normal - danger was there. But nothing out of the normal. The chances to get killed or sick are rather small. We evolutionized in excactly that environment and anyone who did this knows how natural and invigorating a night in the bush is. So maybe something is terribly wrong with his brother and todays society? Riskaversion did not get us anywhere. Time to think and start nurturing those intelligent beeings.

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      mtbr1975 Bluestocking • 2 years ago
      I don't think many people would willing admit they're a psychopath without some serious evidence.
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      KimCraigNeeDay Bluestocking • 2 years ago
      What you knew were not "fully functioning, non violent psychopaths" as there exists no such beast in the realm of science, Blue. Those who you characterize in this manner may have been basic jerks, those with a compromised sense of ethics, morality or common decency, but to refer to them as "psychopaths" in any context is simply inaccurate and has no basis in science, unless one counts the pop-psychology practiced by the likes of attention whores like James Fallon as science - and woe to the fools that do.
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    Sam Smith • 3 years ago
    I heard this guy on NPR, fascinating stuff. He also talked a lot about his appearance and the fact that he was a jock. In retrospect, he thinks he got a way with a lot of his bad behavior due to his looks and school status.
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    Sheryl • 3 years ago
    Good article, but I've got to take issue with the comment about Buddhism. Buddhists are not equally indifferent to the well-being of all people. In fact, the Bodhisattva ideal is to put the well-being of all sentient beings before one's own--hardly a trait of the psychopath. Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice have become so trendy and so terribly misunderstood of late, and popular journalism seems psychopathically indifferent to its role in perpetrating these misconceptions.
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      SugarSnap108 Sheryl • 3 years ago
      Yes, the characterization of Buddhism (from the 'science writer') bothered me. I'm not aware of anything in the Eightfold Path that says, "Treat your wife like a stranger in a bar."
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      ande Sheryl • 3 years ago
      It's that whole detachment thing. Having known Buddhists with the tendency to use the religion as a vehicle to detach from feelings, as well as to absolve themselves from personal responsibility to others, it resonated with me.

      You have to admit, there's not even a considerable charitable tradition in Buddhism, in contrast with other world religions: non-attachment to the world's suffering.

      I still appreciate the philosophy, but feelings are part of the human experience for non-psychopaths. Maybe psychopaths, with their detachment, are just further along the way to Nirvana.

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