26 April 2017

Snakes In Suits - Predators Among Us

“They often make use of the fact that for many people the content of the message is less important than the way it is delivered.

A confident, aggressive delivery style - often larded with jargon, clichés, and flowery phrases - makes up for the lack of substance and sincerity in their interactions with others ... they are masters of impression management; their insight into the psyche of others combined with a superficial - but convincing - verbal fluency allows them to change their personas skillfully as it suits the situation and their game plan.

They are known for their ability to don many masks, change 'who they are' depending upon the person with whom they are interacting, and make themselves appear likable to their intended victim.

Psychopathic workers very often were identified as the source of departmental conflicts, in many cases, purposely setting people up in conflict with each other. The most debilitating characteristic of even the most well-behaved psychopath is the inability to form a workable team.

Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, Snakes in Suits

"I may have made an error in judgement— but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up to leader of a people of almost 80 million.  His success alone proved that I should subordinate myself to him."

Adolf Eichmann

A psychopath according to the latest research is both genetically and physically predisposed, through a cluster of characteristics, to being unable to form bonds with other people, even on the most basic level. In addition, certain aspects of their upbringing and environment seem to contribute to their deficiency or predisposition, to turn it towards what would be considered as malignant ends.

Most simply, a full blown psychopath is someone who is 'born without a conscience.'

Psychopathy is not categorical. It is not a black and white linear measure, wherein one crosses a single numeric score and can be diagnosed.   Rather, as Hare frames it so well in his revised checklist, there is a range of psychopathic predisposition that is more qualitative except at the extreme.

The neuroscientist James Fallon has a very amusing series of lectures in which he discloses how in his work he discovered that his own brain was wired in the same manner as a large profile of criminal psychopaths. And yet he is a high functioning and personable professional and family man.  And he is a remarkably entertaining speaker, and has a number of videos on youtube. So a mere physical disposition of some degree is not enough. There are clearly other factors.

And finally, and I must caution this most strongly, trying to diagnose someone at a distance and without proper testing and training is not possible.  And even for a professional is somewhat irresponsible. One may speculate on someone's behaviour, but it is generally skewed by their own biases and access to information, except in the most extreme behavioural examples.

Hitler, for example, never inclined himself to the psychiatrist's couch, but enough is known of his life and his actions to permit some analysis to be made even at a distance.  Dr. Fallon touches on some of this sort of thing in the second video where he looks at 'the Mind of the Dictator.'

The concentration of psychopathic and sociopathic personalities in positions of power, whether it be in the workplace or in political areas, emphasizes the need for balances of power, transparency, and the rule of law. What better place for a high functioning predator to find advantage over victims than in positions of power?

In general utopian designs for social organization that rely on the perfectly rational and natural self-governing of individuals is not very practical. But when one introduces the fact that for some percentage of the population, from one to five percent, the lack of a conscience is a very real factor in their own behaviour, knocks down flat anarchical frameworks where reliance is placed upon some assumption of 'natural goodness' of everyone. Quite clearly, not everyone is just like everyone else.

Put more simply, there is a reason why throughout human history good people have found it necessary to organize themselves for their own protection. Not everyone is good, and government provides for the protection of the weak, the vulnerable, and the innocent from the predators among us.

Psychologist Frank Ochberg has a different, practitioner's take on psychopathy. He doesn't care whether someone has gotten to their state of being either by nature and nuture, or just nuture. In other words, he makes no distinctions between the sociopath and the psychopath, which he calls 'splitting hairs' (or Hare's? lol Frank I hope that pun was intended). His major field of study is PTSD, and he is very, very good at it.   But he brings up some interesting points about the subject of psychopathy.

And for something utterly and completely different, here is a presentation by someone who I assume is a motivational speaker, who describes in some fairly colorful ways his own marriage to a female psychopath. I found him to be informative and entertainingly sincere, with caution on language. It is a good reminder that some psychopaths wear skirts. Marrying Medusa: How to Survive a Female Psychopath.

He also makes an observation that I found to be important. In his talk he notes that he most often would view people who did bad things as being merely 'stupid.' That is in line with the saying 'never attribute to bad intent what can be attributed to stupidity.' He says that he found out the hard way that there really are some people who are calculating, determined, and probably what one would call 'evil' because of their intent to harm others for their own gratification. And there is some merit in that. I have found this out as well in a different and much more boring, non-sexual venue in my own corporate career, and it was a shock to me.

This is based on Robert Hare's revised psychopathy checklist. Probably the most important distinction is the lack of conscience, because of a lack of empathy and connection with others. It is not a hatred of others, not in the least. It is more like the type of relationship that a fully functioning person might have with a basketball, literally. The lack of emotion is key, not from suppression or hardness; it is just not there.

1. Look for glib and superficial charm. A psychopath will also put on what professionals refer to as a 'mask of sanity' that is likable and pleasant. It is a thin veneer.

2. Look for a grandiose self perception. Psychopaths will often believe they are smarter or more powerful than they actually are.

3. Watch for a constant need for stimulation. Stillness, quiet and reflection are not things embraced by psychopaths. They need constant entertainment and activity.

4. Determine if there is pathological lying. A psychopath will tell all sorts of lies; little white lies as well as huge stories intended to mislead. Psychopaths are gifted or dull, high functioning or low performing like other people. An untalented psychopath may harm a few; a highly talented psychopath may lay waste to nations. The difference between the psychopath and others lies in their organic lack of conscience and empathy for others. The sociopath is trained to lack empathy and conscience. The psychopath is a natural.

5. Evaluate the level of manipulation. All psychopaths are identified as cunning and able to get people to do things they might not normally do. They can use guilt, force and other methods to manipulate.

6. Look for any feelings of guilt. An absence of any guilt or remorse is a sign of psychopathy. They will often blame the victim.

7. Consider the level of emotional response a person has. Psychopaths demonstrate shallow emotional reactions to deaths, injuries, trauma or other events that would otherwise cause a deeper response. Other people are satisfaction suppliers, nothing more.

8. Look for a lack of empathy. Psychopaths are callous and have no way of relating to others in non-exploitative ways. They may find a temporary kinship with other psychopaths and sociopaths that is strictly utilitarian and goal-oriented.

9. Psychopaths are often parasitic. They live off other people, emotionally, physically, and financially. Their modus operandi is domination and control. They will claim to be maligned or misunderstood to gain your sympathy.

10. Look for obsessive risk taking and lack of self-control. The Hare Checklist includes three behavior indicators; poor behavior control, sexual promiscuity, and behavioral problems.

11. Psychopaths have unrealistic goals or none at all for the long term. Either there are no goals at all, or they are unattainable and based on the exaggerated sense of one's own accomplishments and abilities.

12. Psychopaths will often be shockingly impulsive or irresponsible. Their shamelessness knows no bounds. You will ask, what were they thinking? And the answer was, they weren't because they did not care.

13. A psychopath will not genuinely accept personal responsibility. A psychopath will never admit to being wrong or owning up to mistakes and errors in judgment, except as part of a manipulative ploy. They will despise and denigrate their victims once they are done with them. If they have any regret it is that their source of satisfaction supply has ended and they must seek another.

14. Psychopaths lack long term personal relationships. If there have been many short term marriages, broken friendships, purely transactional relationships, the chances the person is a psychopath increase. Watch especially how they treat other people in weaker positions and even animals.

15. Psychopaths are often versatile in their criminality. Psychopaths are able to get away with a lot, and while they might sometimes get caught, the ability to be flexible and adaptable when committing crimes is indicative.