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

How much detail should I go into, how much proof of sociopathy should I offer?

A comment (https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/the-psychopathic-personality-and-human-evolution-and-why-cant-women-recognize-psychopaths/#comment-1108) got me thinking on this topic.  After thinking about it my answer is ‘not much.’

As I see it, my problem is similar to proving that giraffes live in every town square (assuming of course that they did).  The question wouldn’t be one of proof but rather why couldn’t the majority of people see the giraffes — no “proof” would be sufficient.  My task would be to work on what was stopping individuals from seeing those giraffes.

In the past people, who think they have never known a sociopath and don’t expect to during their lifetimes, have asked me to prove that a mutual acquaintance was a sociopath.  And I have tried to do so.  I wouldn’t bother again.

In this blog I’m trying to “infiltrate” the reader’s thought processes, to plant a seed that may lay dormant until the reader needs the problem-solving knowledge and thought processes that I am offering.  My aim is to get readers thinking about sociopaths, to enable them to recognize the flavor of sociopathy and eventually to get them to develop the tools to recognize them.  But there is no 4-step method to do it, no 1-2-3-understand technique.

In western society we basically believe everything understandable is understandable by everybodyThis is not a bad thing, it has given us the scientific method for example.  But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.  It is narcissistic (which is another trait of western society, particularly anglo-saxon) to imagine that dry reason will take us into the depths of the human soul.

In a comment of mine (https://pathwhisperer.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/welcome/#comment-1110) I used the phrase “shiny arrogant faces” and described instant “OMG, that person’s a sociopath” recognitions.  Later I was wondering how that would strike readers.  Well if the reader already relied on flash insights in their life, that would encourage them to continue to do so.  If they did not, I’m trying to tell them that they actually aren’t deaf, dumb and blind.

As a professionally trained non-professional actor (call me a hobbyist if you wish) I believe the power of the human mind is in the subconscious.  In acting you understand your character’s motivations, you give him your soul and life experiences and then you get out of the way.  What makes art art is the expression of truths that can’t be put in words.

Narcissists (those who overvalue the mind/words over the soul/emotions) generally think they are superior to the emotionally driven.  However often they are seeking to simplify their world and avoid the complexities of the soul and human motivations.  Thus they often insist that everyone else should be as deaf, dumb and blind as they are.  I am trying to crack that somehow.

In a sense recognizing sociopaths is akin to blues aficionados stating who they consider to be blues singers and who merely singers of blues songs.  There is nothing democratic or formula-istic about it.  If one is not a blues fan one has no opinion of any import.  In the end the lists will overlap but not to a hundred percent.

Some may object to this comparison on the grounds that it’s not scientific — and absolutely it’s not.  Well if you want science go to brain structure and DNA.  Recognizing sociopaths is a “soul task” — particularly if you wish to be able to sometimes recognize SAPs (socially adept psychopaths) who could never be caught by checklists and/or questionnaires.

The idea that checklists and delineated behaviors could identify sociopaths (particularly highly-intelligent passing or successful SAPs) is akin to asking for rules to know when another means the words, “I love you.” It’s not going to happen (and, as they say, if you have to ask you will never know).  It’s also akin to the judgment-impaired asking for rules to recognize the trustworthy.  Again, an impossibility.  I do pay attention to behaviors and rough checklists but in the end I have to “feel it” to believe that someone is a sociopath.  Actually there are many areas to pay attention to — any sign of arrested development, which covers anything from personality development, sense of humor, to small behaviors and physicality.  But the “flavor of sociopathy” is essential (and I cannot define it) for we all have our child selves still within us and these selves will sometimes come forward.  And finally, certain arrogances, a coldness belying humanity, certain weird eyes, etc.

I think it’s worth mentioning that many of the things I look for as signs of possible sociopathy, I actually often noticed throughout my life.  But if I could go back and talk to my young adult self, my younger self would remain unconvinced.  My younger self would say, ‘I see what you are talking about but why should I believe they mean what you say.  I think they are just relatively minor traits but you say they are signs of a dichotomous form of humanity without a conscience.  I just don’t see it.’