“We are all human.”
Some people are not human in that sense.
Psychopaths. They don’t feel shame, they don’t feel fear, they don’t feel love. But from the outside, they look just like us. Sometimes they behave like us. They are fooling everyone. How can we learn to recognize them? What are the signs that you are dealing with a psychopath?
The first thing to do is listen to your intuition. You probably know a few people that give you a strange feeling but you can’t put your finger on the exact problem. They are funny, charming, maybe a little odd but you think hey, who doesn’t have a flaw? So you try to be understanding. You try to have some kind of a civilized relationship with that person. But all you notice is that your energy level plummets with each encounter. It’s as if the person is sucking you dry, leaving you powerless and confused. And hurt.
Listen to your gut feeling.
Do not get confused with the terminology psychopath/sociopath. Some psychiatrists prefer one term over the other, and some consider sociopaths to be a subcategory of psychopaths. Essentially, for an average person trying to protect himself in day-to-day situations, it doesn’t make any difference.
Let’s look at the main characteristics of a psychopath:
1. They are charming.
The first impression is almost too good to be true. Usually they take good care of their physical appearance. They are well-groomed and they are usually in great physical shape. They also seem to be very friendly, trustworthy and wanting to bond with you fast. Picture a salesmen who wants to gain your trust. But with a salesman you know he has a product to sell so you are kind of reserved, you don’t jump into friendship with him right away. Now think about that same salesman but no product. You would trust him more. But you wouldn’t know about his secret agenda.
Psychopaths make great salesmen. They also make great leaders-cult leaders, political leaders, gang leaders. They are usually very good entertainers. Sometimes they are funny.
Do not let their beauty, wit, friendliness or humor fool you.
2. They are narcissistic.
Their self -esteem is over the top. Of course, they rarely say that they are better then everyone else. But somehow their confidence has a huge impact on others on the subconscious level.
In public speaking, psychopaths perform really well especially because they feel no anxiety. They are relaxed and their self-confidence creates a magnetic aura that the audience just loves. I am mentioning public speaking because it helps me to spot when someone is a psychopath. If someone seems too good to be true, I picture him/her in an auditorium. I watch for the unusual dramatic pauses and just a feeling of speaking to an audience.
“Humans” are shy because we are self-conscious. When we meet someone for the first time, we usually worry about what the other person will think of us. A healthy self-esteem needs constant reassurance from others. We are social beings, we need that. Psychopaths do not. They do not really care about other people. They think only about their own needs.
Be aware of this. Is someone’s confidence too overpowering? Watch for the red flags: taking too many photos of themselves, too comfortable with receiving compliments, talking about themselves too much and having a very subjective point of view.
3. They are liars.
They will not only look you in the eyes when they are telling the most extraordinary lies, but they will do it even if they (should) know that you already know the truth!
Their lies are sometimes so uncalled for that people believe them just because they think it would be too much work to make it all up. A psychopath I know will go on and on about something she did that day and create scenes that are totally unreal, but very funny. If I didn’t know her that well I would probably think that she is hilarious and that her life is incredibly interesting.
Watch for the non-verbal signs that they are not telling the truth. If they are talking about being sorry with a straight face, crying without tears, etc. Also, pay attention to the fact that they might turn things around and blame you for lying instead. They are very manipulative.
4. They are manipulative.
Psychopaths enjoy playing with human relations. They like to have power over others, and they will use a wide range of different tactics to achieve it. Some use their power or money to subdue their victim, while others pretend to be victims in order to get power over others. If that seems confusing, it is. Psychopaths often crate chaos around them, pinning one person against the other, creating stories and starting rumors, just to get each person on their side and away from the others.
What to watch out for: be careful if you notice that they are aiming for your most vulnerable spot. People that mean well will not try to make you hit rock bottom before they offer their help. Also be wary if they try to demonize a lot of other people around you.
5.They have “no problems sleeping at night”.
Meaning that they feel no remorse or guilt about anything. Whatever they did wrong, it was another person’s fault. Even if their own life didn’t go the way they planned, it was the fault of their parents, their teachers, their partner. An alcoholic psychopath might blame his family for the reason he has turned to drinking, or that he hit his wife because she was actively provoking him and asking for it.
Nowadays it is popular to live by the “have no regrets” rule. Of course, a person should be able to forgive himself and let go of the bad choices he made in life, but guilt and regret are very healthy roadsigns that help us stay on the right moral track. For a non-psychopath, even little things like forgetting someone’s birthday can make us feel horrible.
Learn to become a good observer. Did he come and say “sorry” just because he needed something from you? How does he feel about his failures in life?
6. They are egocentric and lack empathy.
Imagine living in a world where other people are like a backdrop for any given situation. How lonely that must feel! It is a two dimensional world, it must feel like being in a computer game. You are the only player, you are the only one that matters, your opinion is the only one there is. With people becoming more and more detached from the community this trait is gaining prevalence, so you probably know a few egocentrics. Did you notice how your words don’t really get through to them? You can’t make them see your point of view? They are in no way willing to compromise?
Watch out for “my way or the highway” attitude.
7. They have shallow emotions. (Or none at all)
Psychopaths do get frustrated, irritated or angry. But it is mostly because something or someone is in their way. Imagine a two-year old when he doesn’t get what he wants–he is frustrated and hysterical one minute, but soon he won’t even remember it.
What a psychopath doesn’t feel is the physiological response to human emotion: heart beating faster; “butterflies” in the stomach, sweating, weakness in the knees , etc.
And, of course, he does not feel the more complex of emotions like love, gratitude, sorrow or shame. At all. When you are not sure if the emotions you see are real, watch more closely: are there tears in his eyes? Is his body language a little off? Do his actions speak louder than words?