Back to basics: a psychopathy checklist

From Profile of the Sociopath:

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
  • Grandiose Sense of Self
    Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
  • Incapacity for Love
  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
  • Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
    Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
    Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
  • Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
    Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.

I should integrate the concept of psychopathic throughlines with the checklist concept.  I’ll add it to my to do list.

In a rough way, I certainly do refer to check lists in my own thinking when considering possible psychopaths/sociopaths.   However it is a mistake to overly rely upon them in my opinion.  It is not possible to successfully follow a reverse engineering cookbook approach — ‘these are the ingredients, so this is the dish.’   I’m not arguing with Dr. Hare’s systemized use of PCL-R with trained raters in a prison setting.  However you will never catch an advanced SAP (socially adept psychopath) with one.  Basically I pay attention to psychopathic levels of arrogance/attitude and look for signs of severe arrested development, i.e., age inappropriate behaviors (even small behaviors), childish thinking patterns, etc.

Checklists can rise to the fore again however, when dealing with SAPs.  If behavior falls apart ( the “adult act” of psychopaths) under certain situations, checklist items can be of great help in recognizing psychopaths.  At one bank I worked at, we had a managing director who was ordered never to attend company parties, his behavior fell apart under the influence of alcohol.  (For those unfamiliar with corporate structure, managing directors are essentially standalone profit centers, they have to be rainmakers (profit-wise) for the company.)  This individual was widely considered to be a wild and crazy, fun guy.  Or sometimes psychopathic individuals will show their true character based on “food chain calculations” — when dealing with those they deem lower, their “inner psychopath” comes out; or when deeming themselves at the top of the food chain, the same occurs.

[A version of the first of the two above paragraphs was here earlier.  I have no idea what happened, perhaps I failed to save it correctly, perhaps there was a technical glitch, or perhaps . . . EGADS!  HAVE I BEEN GASLIGHTED BY A PSYCHOPATHIC HACKER?  “Why no, PW, whatever paragraph are you talking about.  You’ve been so stressed out lately, etc., etc.”  Psychopaths just love gaslighting campaigns, it gives them the “chortle, chortle” response that they cherish.  Gaslighting depends on the target not entertaining seemingly paranoid lines of thought.  Incidentally, I see my external links have disappeared.  I don’t know how that happened.]

At the bottom of the above factsheet, the author says “You may also find more at http://sociopathworld.com/.”  You certainly will, it is a psychopath website.

Finally the author says, “I . . . am not a psychologist and [claim] no special expertise in the subject.”  IMO, no special expertise is needed, or rather, anyone who has had intense emotional experiences with psychopaths does have special expertise.  Everyone needs to know psychopaths are out there and that they will interact with them.  If the so-called experts don’t tell us this, we have to inform each other.

Just came across another worthy checklist site:  The List of Psychopathy Symptoms: Hervey Cleckley and Robert Hare

Post Redux: Reflections on Josef Fritzl and Incest (5/23/08)

Fritzl, of course, is the Austrian accused of imprisoning his daughter in a cellar and fathering a family with her (three of the children also imprisoned, three raised in the aboveground household), BBC. All incest fathers are vampire fathers, they truly are draining the child’s lifeforce, but this is absolutely the most extreme case in my memory.

The question here is whether Fritzl is a sociopath.  Roughly what I do is check facts and behavior against an informal checklist and then attempt to flesh out the individual and understand his motivations.  For those interested there are well-thought out formal checklists for sociopathy.   The linked Mask of Sanity lays out a checklist in Section III, Clinical Profile, pgs 337 – 366, or see the Table of Contents.  Robert Hare, author of Without Conscience, has a formal diagnostic one, which can be used informally by anybody, in my opinion — not to diagnose, but in an attempt to understand behavior.  This seems to be a reasonable overview: PCL Overview. His own site is www.hare.org.

Fritzl certainly appears to be a sociopath.  There is no internal prohibition against incest for sociopathic fathers at all. Non-sociopathic incest fathers need to overcome their conscience and a very severe prohibition against such acts.  For sociopathic incest fathers it is merely childhood sexplay, as is all their sex.  They are absolutely, totally unaware of any “soul effect” on the daughter (or often, the son).  The sociopathic sense of entitlement is absolute — check.  Urge to dominate — check.  Lying ability — check.  Telling his wife the imprisoned daughter had run away and joined a cult.  Explaining three foundlings to the authorities and his wife (the three infants he brought up from the cellar).  This ability to lie while appearing totally sincere, with complete eye contact with the target to be duped is one of the key sociopathic abilities.  Self confidence — check.  Arrogance — check.  Optimism — check.  No remorse or guilt — check.

I understand he’s been complaining that his wife hasn’t visited him.  Sociopaths don’t understand the “beyond the pale” aspect of their extreme behavior.  For them it’s not beyond the pale, it’s not extreme.  Presumably they believe all of us are capable of the same behavior or would behave the same if we thought we could get away with it.  So now he’s hurt and perplexed that his wife doesn’t visit.

It’s reported that the possibility that he also molested his 19 year old daughter/grand-daughter, Kerstin, is also being investigated.  (It was the hospitalization of Kerstin that exposed the whole situation.)  It would be shocking if he hadn’t.