The psychopath’s effect (criminal variety)

Have you ever encountered criminal psychopath?

I say ‘criminal’ because, as I’ve pointed out before, not all psychopaths are criminals (and not all criminals are psychopaths). Psychopaths make excellent salespeople, for example, because of the pleasure they get in getting one over another. The criminal psychopath

breaks societies laws and values to attain goals
is isloated (i.e. law-breaking revolutionary groups are not psychopathic)
has a confusing array of effects on others

One of the most frightening examples I’ve seen is in the movie ‘Bundy‘ where the serial killer is driving along in his VW, sees something, swerves across the traffic to a motel where – in broad daylight – he loads two enormous pot-plants into his car and drives off without a care in the world.

Effect 1. Collusion
The criminal psychopath will do anything and everything to get what he wants and people often respond by complying. (I say ‘he’ because there are fewer female psychopaths than male.)

People collude through fear. The psychopath overtly threatens, or covertly hints, or his reputation precedes him. Whatever, the psychopath gets what he wants because people give it to him.

People also collude through despair. By this I don’t mean they despair because of the danger they’re in or because they’re breaking their own values. They despair because very deep down the psychopath despairs. He will not recognise his own despair, though – it would lead him to suicide – so he causes others to feel it. The psychological term for this is projective identification.

Example 1: “You’re the only person who can help me; there’s no other hope.” The other becomes convinced of this, goes against his or her own better judgement, and in a flash the psychopath is on his merry way.

Example 2. In his memoir ‘Experience‘ Martin Amis discusses the murder of his cousin Lucy Partington by the serial killer Frederick West. Along the way Amis mentions West’s “beseeching face.” No doubt it was this that lowered his victim’s resistance.

Effect 2. Disbelief
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, people often repsond to the psychopath by refusing to believe that he committed this or that outrage. This is because of the famed psychopathic charm.

Example: Many people cannot accept OJ Simpson’s guilt because he is such a nice guy.

Warning: beware foiling the nice psychopath. The niceness will be replaced by revenge, sooner or later.

Example:  ‘The Sporanos’ character Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri several times on this short video turns nasty on a dime.

Effect 3. Rejection
A third effect the criminal psychopath has on people is condemnation. Because the criminal psychopath is bad, it’s easy for us to attribute all badness to them and regard them as the dregs. What’s missing from this is the acknowledgement of our own badness.

Example: Carmela Soprano won’t condemn Tony because “there are far bigger crooks than my husband.” In other words: I’m a good person, he’s my husband, therefore he must be a good person – it’s the others who are bad. (This formula is flawed from the start – she is not a good person. Who is?)

The confounding thing about the criminal psychopath is that all three of the above effects will be produced by the same person. As a consequence, an unintended effect of the criminal psychopath is to destroy group functioning.

Effect 4. Acceptance-as-is
This, the psychoanalyst Nevile Symington says, is the correct position to take when treating a psychopath. It means acknowledging one’s own sadism, etc. without disbelieving the psychopath’s far greater sadism; it also means not colluding with or rejecting him.

A TV example: Harry Morgan, Dexter‘s adopted father and a former homicide detective, was first to spot Dexter’s passion for human vivisection and helped his son channel his homicidal impulses in a more constructive pursuit: delivering vigilante justice. (Fun but unlikely, don’t you think?)

One could accept the crimimanal psychopath as he is. Or one could just keep well away!


12 thoughts on “The psychopath’s effect (criminal variety)

  1. Hello Evan – I can see where you’re coming from. But don’t give up hope, bro! One of the things about the psychopath is that he generates fear and paranoia because of how dangerous he is and also because of his own inner dread and emptiness – (about which he knows nothing). When you and I read, write, think, talk about psychopathy we sooner or later become afraid and despairing. So it’s a tricky one – some of our bad feeling is ‘correct’ (psychopathy is a dreadful social problem) and some of it is ‘projected’ (put into us by the psychopath – even the thought of a psychopath).

  2. I know you are describing the criminal variety sociopath. But I am amazed at the sync-up to the pathetic, emotionally abusive, emotionally & sexually exploitive, simply-without-conscience variety.
    To have been taken in by that….

    BUT.. What you are giving me here is KNOWLEDGE and therefore preventative ‘ammunition’ from ever letting another sociopath get the best of me! All the more to recognize the slime.


  3. terraflora – Glad to be of help! The awful thing is that knowing about this stuff can make one cynical and suspicious about regular folks which is unfair.
    (Incidentally, I’m not familar witht he expression ‘sync-up’ but like sound of it. What’s it mean?)

  4. Actually Steve… words failed me at that moment and that is what emerged from my brain. But I was trying to say I was amazed at the alikeness, the alignment, the correlation (AH, there’s the word) … 🙂 I get creative at times. Sometimes it works.

    BUT – I do want to say about the potential cynicism: Boy did I stare THAT one in the face! I really saw the likelihood that I would NEVER trust anyone again. Thank God for the grace (the mysterious good) I have experienced in my recovery because I feel now better informed and therefore safer in the world!!

  5. Something like 1 % of the world’s population are psychopaths . There is some differentiation between low intelligence and high intelligence psychopaths . Psychopaths experience and process emotions differently . High intelligence psychopathy can be seen in world leaders both totalitarians and democratic systems , the aristocracy the concept of master and serf a psychopathic invention . Low intelligence psychopaths can be seen in people like Ed Gain , I regard him more as being mentally ill . I think you should be quite clear on your definitions and understanding of psychopathy .
    Are psychopaths bad for human civilisation ? Answer probably not , except the few who inflict suffering on others .
    Most psychopaths are well adapted and live normal lives and are amongst our most “gifted” . There have been many benevolent dictators and Kings who put their people first and had the ability to do that yet were clearly psychopaths .
    In times of crisis it’s usually the psychopath who causes the crisis or is the hero and saves the day .

    My belief is that psychopaths are perhaps a subspecies of homo sapiens . Is there a genetic element to psychopathy? , certainly look at the aristocracy for instance .
    My real Question is where is the concept of Good and Evil . Is there a good psychopath ? and we all know the cliche evil psychopath . What makes a psychopath or a normal person do what they do ? Self gratification or is there a higher purpose in these things? What are the metaphysics of a psychopath .
    I know psychiatry very well yet their are many gaps and misunderstanding with regards to this field .

  6. Salman,

    There is no pscyhopath that puts other people first, I’m sorry ure wrong on this.

    Your other thought – p being subspecies – very interesting thought that is not unlikely to be correct. These guys (mostly) are very different, also, it seems, wrt their brain wiring. See similar stuff among chimpanzees. Also the difference horse-sebra (look very similar, very different pscyholgoical makeup).

  7. I disagree , i believe ther e are two types , I take Aristotle over anyone you can muster . There are two types , perhaps the concept of good and evil has something to do with it .

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