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Characteristics Of A Psychopath And The Common Myths About Them

Characteristics Of A Psychopath And The Common Myths About Them

Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, Dexter Morgan in Dexter, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. They are all psychopaths.

Psychopaths are usually depicted as serial killers or villains in the entertainment industry. They are antisocial yet powerful, often display threats and put others at peril. How much of this impression is true under the definition of a psychopath?

Here are six characteristics of a psychopath:

  1. Lack of empathy: Psychopaths are callous and coldhearted. They lack the ability to understand and identify other’s emotions.
  2. Egocentric: They are extremely selfish. They live a “parasitic lifestyle”, meaning they habitually rely and exploit on others to maximize their own benefits.
  3. Shallow emotional investment: Without the ability to form emotional relationships, psychopaths only build artificial relationships to manipulate people to benefit themselves.
  4. Superficially charming: Despite an emotional deficiency, psychopaths are great actors. They can bring out the charm and trustworthiness to be likeable, to gain more relationships for further manipulation.
  5. Lack of morals and social consciences: Psychopaths rarely feel any guilt or remorse regarding their behaviors.
  6. Highly calculated: Their actions are well-planned, especially those with huge consequences, like a criminal activity. They tend to act in a way to minimize the risk they will encounter and ensure to not get caught, with multiple contingency plans in mind.

In short, “psychopath” is defined as an amoral person who is amoral with impaired remorse and empathy, and egotistical traits.

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Wait, so how often would I bump into a psychopath?

A research on psychopathic traits[1] results in a surprising yet daunting finding — 5 percent of the general population may possess psychopathic tendencies. Maybe your heart is pounding right now and you want to double check if someone’s lurking around with a machete or chainsaw.

Calm down, let me finish.

Contrary to popular beliefs, psychopaths aren’t always violent.

Yes, there are psychopaths who are criminals, killers, and madmen, like Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs. A psychopathic behavior doesn’t revolve around violence, but focuses on how psychopaths use their apathetic, manipulative, and selfish nature to get what they want.

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It’s time to debunk other myths and misconceptions of psychopaths.

I’m sure some of you are linking people you know while reading the traits of a psychopath earlier in the article. And you are probably eager to learn how to clearly spot a psychopath.

Psychopaths do not occur on a binary level. As much as everyone wants a rubric to separate psychopaths from the population, there are no concrete parameters to measure psychopathy, different than some antisocial behavorial personality like autism. The spectrum of psychopathic tendencies ranges from minor to severe.

There are no any brain imaging or biological test to diagnose a person as a psychopath. The most common device to identify psychopathic tendencies is the psychopathy checklist-revised (PCL-R). The test provides a 20-item list to evaluate the test subject, and will generate a maximum of 40 points with a cutoff at 30 (in the United States) to determine whether a person is psychopathic or not.

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Psychopaths and sociopaths are different.

Sherlock Holmes once said, “I’m not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath, do your research!” Both disorders are defined as antisocial and often amoral, but what are the differences between them?

Intrinsic vs. extrinsic causes. Researchers believe psychopathy is a genetic predisposition, as psychopaths lack parts of the brain responsible for emotional regulation. On the other hand, sociopaths tend to be stemmed and made by their environment, like childhood trauma, physical or mental abuse.

Well-planned vs. impulsive actions. As mentioned above, psychopaths plan their criminal actions cautiously to avoid bearing the consequences; but sociopaths often act upon their impulse and pay little attention to the risk or impacts of their actions.

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Charming vs. erratic. Psychopaths have the ability to mold themselves to gain trust and relationships. They are able to obtain a long-term job or even a family life, because these are all pieces and pawns for them to move around in the giant chess game. For sociopaths, they lack what their psychopathic counterparts have because of their impulsive and unpredictable actions.

Socially unconscious vs. conscious. As cruel as it sounds, psychopaths are not guilty of what they do. For example, their emotionless selves allow them to intentionally harm someone without holding any remorse. But for sociopaths, they are familiar with societal norms and they are just relatively less socially conscious than the general public. They know they shouldn’t harm someone but it’s not enough to stop their deviant behaviors.

There are female psychopaths too, but they express their psychopathic tendencies differently.

Most of the psychopathic characters you see on TV or movies are male. In reality, the ratio of psychopathic men and women is 20:1. So where are all the female psychopaths?

After numerous studies and experiments, researchers have found female psychopaths are just as dangerous as sociopaths. The main reason behind such discrepancy in gender ratio is because female psychopaths are harder to identify.

A research[2] suggests men and women with this disorder do not differ in the existence of psychopathic characteristics and traits, but the expression of these personality traits. Female psychopaths display manipulative, deceitful, impulsive characteristics in a way which is typically associated with other mental illnesses. For example, a woman with explosive outbursts, or constantly wants to be the center of attention, you may not immediately associate her actions as psychopathic.

Reference

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Frank Yung

Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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