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Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

The Psychopath in the Corner Office

Traits based approach for detecting corporate psychopaths

News Books Classification of Corporate Psychopaths Recommended Links  If Corporations Are People, They Are Psychopaths Analogy between corporate and psychopathic behavior
Office Stockholm Syndrome Corporate Psychopath Trait Enumeration Learned helplessness High Demand Cults Leaders Practices as a Model of Corporate Psychopath Behavior The Fiefdom Syndrome Abusive, Authority Based Relationships
Anger trap Manipulator Bosses Toxically Incompetent Managers Paranoid Managers Narcissistic Managers Workspace Bullies
Understanding micromanagers Fighting control freaks Documenting Micromanager Behavior Surviving a Bad Performance Review Groupthink Nikolai Bezroukov's Short Introduction to Lysenkoism
Communication with corporate psychopaths Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Quiz Humor Etc

In this page we will try to classify traits that are typical for corporate psychopaths. this is a very limited approach but it has certain value as a early warning system.  We also touch an important theme of connection of psychopaths in corner office and neoliberalism. As Paul Verhaeghe noted Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us

For a short introduction to neoliberalism we will reproduce fragments so the article Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems
 by , The Guardian,  April 15, 2016

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.

***

The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

Introduction


A la guerre, comme a la guerre

French proverb

"The main lesson I have learnt is that when dealing with a sociopath, the normal rules of etiquette do not apply. You are dealing with someone who has no empathy, no conscience, no remorse, and no guilt...It is a completely different mindset. Words like 'predator' and 'evil' are often used."

Field

Neoliberalism -- An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities  

Paul Verhaeghe

Neoliberalism is a social system that rewards and promotes psychopathic personalities. Among its results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now so to report to a psychopathic manager is no longer something extraordinary. Neoliberalism sees competition (as in the "law of jungles") as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. Attempts to limit "dog eat dog" competition between people are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimized, public services should be privatized. The organization of labor and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalize and reproduce neoliberal dogmas much like people of the USSR enslaved by Bolsheviks reproduced communist dogmas and did not view themselves as slaves.   The salaried employees begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Psychopathic managers prevent subordinates doing their jobs and prevent employees fulfilling their duties. Most employees in IT are competent and have both the desire and ability to do good work. What is missing in some organizations is an environment that encourages and enables the expression of that competence. In his book, Hall (1988a) states,

If we are to achieve excellence in our organizations and communities, we must be willing to reorient. We must make a presumption of competence in the workplace rather than incompetence, for high-level performance rests on the simple, yet not widely accepted, premise that people will behave competently if we will but let them. (pp. 29-30)

No matter what is precise classification all toxic managers are cruel with subordinates and created out of the work environment "living hell". Incompetent, dishonest but scheming they charm the higher ups and climb on the back of others to achieve power. But it is important to understand that toxic managers would never achieves their goals and climb up the ladder without the disorganization and willful ignorance of his supervisors typical for some large corporations (Enron is a typical example here). Fish rots from the head.

The condition itself has been recognized for centuries, wearing evocative labels such as "madness without delirium" and "moral insanity" until the late 1800s, when "psychopath" was coined by a German clinician. This condition can be studied by watching film that depict a large variety of psychopath and allow some generalization based on this experience (which is much better/safer method to get some level of awareness, then facing one in you own office).

But the term (and its later 1930s synonym that is more applicable to corporate environment, sociopath -- "socialized psychopath") had always been a sort of catch-all, widely and loosely applied to violent and unstable criminals who seemed. See Psychopathic corporation page for the exploration of connection between corporate psychopaths and modern government organizations and megacorporations.

The key feature of such people that do not treat others as humans, they treat them as animals. Later this condition was expanded to include certain type of managers that consistently demonstrate cult leader qualities and which became a standard feature of most corporation to the extent that we can consider corporations to be a breeding grounds for psychopathic personalities. Such "office cult leaders" like many high demand cult leaders need only followers and try to completely enslave their victims.

"The psychopath has no allegiance to the company at all, just to self,".... "A psychopath is playing a short-term parasitic game."

In 1980, Hare created a list of static traits, which, revised five years later, became known as the PCL-R. Popularly called "the Hare," the PCL-R measures psychopathic personality on a forty-point scale. Despite obvious shortcomings and severe limitations typical for any traits-based classification, once it emerged, it helped to make the meaning of the term more uniform. This is covered in more detail at Classification of Corporate Psychopaths

While the executive with sociopathic traits is pretty common most such individuals don't typically wind up in prison. They are called socialized psychopaths or sociopaths. In fact, many are promotes explicitly due to callousness and ruthlessness they demonstrate and wind up in the cushioned leather chairs of the executive office(Chain Saw Al):

In 2005, the business magazine Fast Company included Dunlap in the article 'Is Your Boss a Psychopath', noting he "might score impressively on the Corporate Psychopathy checklist." The magazine's editor. John A. Byrne, noted: "In all my years of reporting, I had never come across an executive as manipulative, ruthless, and destructive as Al Dunlap. Until the Securities and Exchange Commission barred him from ever serving as an officer of a public corporation, Dunlap sucked the very life and soul out of companies and people. He stole dignity, purpose, and sense out of organizations and replaced those ideals with fear and intimidation."

In popular literature, psychopath is often defined as someone who displays several distinguishing characteristics, such as deceitfulness, compulsive lying (lying even when they're is no real need to hide the truth), impulsivity and a lack of remorse. Compulsive lying and cruelty to animals in adolescence are two pretty reliable indicators of this condition. Right wing authoritarians (RWA) also display many similar traits, but in no way they are psychopaths. As The Washington Monthly noted

...their pure combined essence:

Female sociopaths are more dangerous then men

Typically sociopaths demonstrates a superficial charm, which they exercise ruthlessly in order to get what they want. In this sense women are a much more dangerous type of psychopath. That implies that working women, especially in IT have an enemy more formidable than men. Female psychopaths usually see everything in terms of competition and female aggression. They have zero respect for their own gender. Just the opposite, they often hate it. Statistics suggest that a woman is the target in eight of every ten cases of bulling. But, paradoxically, in six of 10 cases, it is a woman who is the bully. They despise and attack female subordinates and try to undermine their more successful/competent female peers.

In the latter case, they assume that they have achieved their success by using charm/sex/chicanery. They also use their gender as a bulletproof vest against males, claiming discrimination when it is convenient to them. This dirty trick of "fake victim" works wonders in modern bureaucratic organizations. Female-to-female aggression is also observable in primates. Dominant female try to suppress reproductive success of competitor females in various ways including subjecting them to constant stress via harassment and intimidation and/or attacking offspring:

Holmstrom (1992) summarizes his review by saying that indirect strategies were observed among female great apes during the following three circumstances:
  1. In the power struggle among females, by cannibalistically feeding on the competitor's offspring;
  2. against the male, in sexual contexts by refusal of cooperation to sexual access; also in competition for food, and feeding on the male's offspring;
  3. through the offspring, by rearing the young and transmitting models of behavior from one generation to the next. The female thus prevents and restrains certain kinds of action in the offspring, permitting and favoring others. Accordingly, the social intelligence of higher primates should not be underestimated. As Byrne and Whiten (1987) have shown, chimpanzees are also fully capable of faking nonverbal signals, in order to deceive competitors.

Litmus test for a corporate psychopath

There is a not so obvious link of corporate psychopath and cult leaders. They generally demonstrate the same methods: they never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They dominate and humiliate their victims trying to convert them to slaves.

Surprising percentage of corporate psychopaths are women, They does not see others around her/him as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims and, in corporate environment, slaves.

List of common sociopathic traits which might help to alert you to the danger

  1. Compulsive, pathological lying. And due to this frequent self-contradiction especially about the fact of personal history; invented past and or excessive boasting about his successes (often of sexual nature); they are compulsive liars and lie even when there is no obvious need to it...
  2. Manipulative, arrogant, callous behaviour as a norm. Complete lack of remorse and empathy. as manipulative and cunning" as con artists. Their personality attributes typically include superficial charm, unreliability, untruthfulness, and insincerity. Pathological egocentricity, selfishness, and rejection of authority and discipline,
  3. Impatient/Impulsiveness/Exaggerated sexuality ( Impulsiveness is less common for corporate sociopaths; those prone to this are weeded early by corporate culture). But exaggerated sexuality is very common and is a good warning sign. They tend to be impulsive risk takers in life as well as in sex.
  4. Unreliability, untruthfulness, and insincerity. Please understand that betrayal is a typical behaviour for them, and they resort to it in situation were normal person would never do without any remorse...
  5. Prone to fly into rages. See Borderline Rage "natural emotion is consciously controlled and used as a sharp weapon.
  6. Inability to accept any responsibility for their actions. Typically they has little or no concern about the consequences of their actions. That actually make them very effective sexual predators as a side effect.
  7. "Courage under fire." In high tension situations they behave rationally and are not prone to panic.

Corporate America is a veritable hive of white-collar crazies. Identifying, defining, and diagnosing exact personality disorders your boss suffers from can be a tricky business. Still one sign is universal: the workplace in such cases quickly becomes overflowing with tension.

These white-collar psychopaths or sociopaths are "individuals who most often do not act out in a criminal way, yet can be just as manipulative and cunning" as a serial killer. Their personality attributes "typically include superficial charm, unreliability, untruthfulness, and insincerity, [a] lack of guilt, remorse, or shame, [and] a need to engage in thrill-seeking behavior," as well as pathological lying, egocentricity, selfishness, and rejection of authority and discipline, according to the authors. In short, they are corporate con artists. They're the tech administrators who over-order company laptops and hawk them on eBay, or employees who sabotage bosses' and coworkers' careers by appropriating their ideas and denigrating their performance to supervisors. They're the outgoing employees who act friendly to their colleagues only to stab them in the back at every opportunity.

Middle management may be the natural habitat of the white-collar psychopath: Psychopaths are known for their extroversion, their charm, and their polished social skills, and complete disregard of people while trying to achieve corporate goals. Such traits are rewarded within many organizations.

PPP pattern and the penetration in the organization

In Snakes in Suits, the authors argue that corporate psychopaths follow a "PPP" pattern that involves three types of players:

Their penetration in organization is usually staged in several phases:

If you are the target this is a permanent position

One needs to understand that being a target of a psychopath is a permanent position. One horrifying detail in the definition of personality disorders is rigidility and inflexibility of patterns of thought and action (a good example is compulsive lying -- a defining feature of a sociopath that distinguishes them from authoritarians) (Wikipedia ) :

Personality disorders form a class of mental disorders that are characterized by long-lasting rigid patterns of thought and actions. Because of the inflexibility and pervasiveness of these patterns, they can cause serious problems and impairment of functioning for the persons who are afflicted with these disorders.

Personality disorders are seen by the American Psychiatric Association as an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it. These patterns are inflexible and pervasive across many situations. The onset of the pattern can be traced back at least to the beginning of adulthood. To be diagnosed as a personality disorder, a behavioral pattern must cause significant distress or impairment in personal, social, and/or occupational situations.

Related term Antisocial personality disorder is defined as:

Antisocial personality disorder (abbreviated APD or ASPD) is a psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-IV-TR recognizable by the disordered individual's impulsive behavior, disregard for social norms, and indifference to the rights and feelings of others.

The World Health Organization's ICD-10 diagnostic manual uses [term] dissocial personality disorder instead.

Such people distort and change meaning for the most ordinary social interactions: A simple difference of opinion, for example, can quickly escalate into a major and violent conflict.

As insightful page The toxic manager in the office a guide to toxic managers and toxic management in a toxic work environment states "We've all encountered them. Moody, aggressive, unpredictable, incompetent, always blaming other people. A compulsive liar with a Jekyll and Hyde nature, the individual, male or female, is always charming and plausible when management are around." Unpredictable outbursts of hostility, conflicting demands, inconsistent orders, random decision-making, inability to plan strategically, inability and unwillingness to communicate and co-operate, obstructive ... the list goes on.

Any psychopath does not see people as valuable, but only tools to be used in his game. As such they are capable if immense cruelty.

After some conversations with corporate psychopath you feel like you left the ring after facing opponent twice heavier then you and not playing by the rules. Everything will be your fault. You have a "negative attitude", you're a "poor performer", you're "not up to the job", and so on. If you get as far as alerting personnel or human resources management, it'll be a "personality clash". In truth, this is a projection of the psychopaths own negative attitude, poor performance, and incompetence.

If you are targeted by one it is important to understand that that psychopaths completely lack empathy for other people. That means that their are oblivious to sufferings they inflict. Absolutely oblivious. They tend to be rigid and inflexible, have hidden agendas, and have an unusually hard time recognizing or respecting boundaries. They're weighed down by irrational beliefs such as "To be criticized means I'm a failure" or "If I follow orders, I'm weak". Disturbingly, individuals with personality disorders not only tend to dismiss the idea that they have a problem, but often see their unpleasant traits as strengths and take pride in them. For this reason, many such individuals respond poorly to therapy -- if they agree to seek treatment at all.

For example, do you have a manager who focuses so single-mindedly on rules, regulations, and productivity to the extent that actual real work grinds to a halt? Is she unsatisfied with any solution you proposed, work compulsively till all hours, avoid making decisions, and insist that her way of doing things is the only way? If so, your boss may be suffering from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. This is not the same as obsessive-compulsive illness -- you're not likely to see her obsessively washing her hands. The best defense strategy: find a transfer or a new job. If you need to stay avoid arguments, keep a low profile, and steer clear of conflicts that you'll never win.

If you think you work for one of these individuals, the authors say, don't be fooled by "props" like the ready smile and good eye contact. Instead, watch your back. Seriously consider switching jobs. Lock your desk, secure your computer password, keep your personal life private, and notify your coworkers and supervisors of any inappropriate behavior on the part of this colleague. As the authors caution, "Anything you say can and will be used against you."

It is very important to keep log of all your boss actions as it helps to see patterns. This one of few useful advices for anyone who is in danger of being victimized by a white-collar con artist.

Documenting the psychopath behavior

Documenting the psychopath behavior in your journal helps to view his behavior in historical perspective: suddenly you start to see patterns in attacks, outbursts and intimidation tactics used.

Documenting the psychopath behavior in your journal helps to view his behavior in historical perspective: suddenly you start to see patterns in attacks, outbursts and intimidation tactics used.

Proper methods are well described in literature for psychological research. Limited amount of materials related to PIMM can be found at Documenting Micromanager Behavior page on this site.

Please note that psychopath in management position almost always have patsies: they try to create a group of followers organized as cult. Such cults are not religious, it's simply exploitative groups characterized by high level of manipulation and extreme dependency. So they try to create the situation what you alone face a group (there is strength in numbers).

The advice "watch your back" is prudent if you report to a psychopath, and one way to do this is a to keep journal that will help you see patterns that you may overlook otherwise.

Useful tips to documenting your boss behavior can be obtained by watching films that depict a large variety of psychopaths and allow some generalization based on this experience (which is much better/safer method to get some level of awareness, then facing one in you own office).

One of the simplest way of documenting behavior is correlating it with the list of traits that we present below.

Categories of behaviors that can you use in documenting psychopath behavior patterns

Like any other human condition psychopathy can be present in individuals in various degrees. Selection in corporate environment is such that psychopaths with too pronounced features, especially those who can't mask them are weeded off or are confined to the lower levels of hierarchy. So in a corporate environment we face a special "borderline" types with well above average adaptability. They also are not uniform as group, but still can be singles out by dominant stereotypes of behavior.

There were several attempts to classify corporate psychopaths into various categories. Most are naive and all (including presented here) are completely unscientific. We know way too little about this condition to have reliable scientifically based classification. But even unscientific is better then nothing as at least it provide some framework that help too deal with this phenomenon/

Please be aware, that many of self-help books represent Cargo Cult Science and vastly underestimate/misinterpret the danger. That actually is applicable to this page too as by and large it is a summary of available research interpreted through the prism of personal experience. While the author has training as a psychologist he never worked in this capacity. It goes without saying that good books on this topic are pretty rare. I have some book recommendations but they are of course far from being absolute.

Again this typology and characteristics listed ad defining each type are imprecise and unscientific; psychopaths are very variable and it is often difficult to fit your particular psychopathic boss into any of those classes. And you generally should not. This is exercise better reserved for modern "factories of illusion" (self-help books publishers) who are producing tons of low quality staff each year describing particular types although they are just facets of a generic psychopathic personality. In no way you should be blindly trusted either books or Web pages (including this one) in important career-affecting decisions.

Although you see manifestation of this personality disorder on your own skin, precise diagnostics is pretty difficult and you need to do your own leg work and collect evidence to understand what makes particular psychopath tick what are his favorite tactics. They key characteristic is the desire for domination and control. That's given. That's why there are often micromanagers.

You probably are better off consulting specialist and asking for a competent advice. At least you can enroll in community college and take course in criminal psychology: criminals and corporate psychopaths are just two sides of the same coin. Both this this page and relevant books should all be taken with a grain of salt. The author have spend more then seven years working as senior research associate in the psychology but like in programming that was a different area and this experience just ensured the knowledge of jargon, but does not guarantee talent or insight needed for this area.

Also few people have skills of clinical psychologists to correctly identify often complex blend of features in toxic manager. But you should try you best and keep log to detect the repetitive patterns. Mistakes are unavoidable though. For example sometimes it was looks like the manager is a bully, but more precise analysis of behavior can suggest that you are dealing with paranoid incompetent micromanager (PIMM) and the most prominent feature is not open aggression (bulling) but deep paranoia and obsessive control.

Here are categories of behaviors that can you used in documenting psychopath behavior patterns:

  1. Pathological Lying. This is a defining feature of a corporate sociopath. Like spiders they cannot live without spinning a web of lies, creating complex artificial reality. Usually can give such authors as Hemingway run for the money in the ability to invent stories. Has no problem lying coolly and easily "in the eyes" or even under the oath. Sometimes it looks like they cannot themselves distinguish facts and fiction. It is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Talented actors they can create, and get other caught up in a complex "artificial reality" with realistic but invented details of their biography and abilities. Extremely convincing and able to pass lie detector tests. Often lie about their academic achievements and pretend to have degrees that they never obtained. Compulsive, (using which corporate psychopath create "invented past"), was first described in the medical literature in 1891 by Anton Delbrueck. if has been defined as "falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, may be extensive and very complicated, and may manifest over a period of years or even a lifetime." The defining characteristics of pathological lying are that:

    1. The stories told are not entirely improbable and often have some element of truth. They are not a manifestation of delusion or some broader type of psychosis: upon confrontation, the teller can admit them to be untrue, even if unwillingly.
    2. This tendency is compulsive and long lasting; it is not provoked by the immediate situation or social pressure as much as it is an innate trait of the personality.
    3. There is an internal, not an external, motive for such a behavior: e.g. long lasting extortion or habitual spousal battery might cause a person to lie repeatedly, without the lying being a pathological symptom.
    4. The stories told tend toward presenting the liar favorably. For example, the person might be presented as being extremely devoted to "the cause", super-knowledgeable in some area, has tremendous success with women/men or having as friends some influential or famous people.
  2. Dominating and expect unconditional surrender. They are very harsh in testing loyalty from their devotees and expect them to feel guilt for their failings. Expects unconditional surrender.
  3. Complete, Absolute 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.
  4. 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. Their skills are used to exploit, abuse and exert power. Since most normal IT professionals cannot believe their boss would callously hurt them, they rationalize the behavior as necessary for their (or the group's) "good" and deny the abuse. When you became aware of the exploitation it really looks like "office rape" and corresponds to the behavior of serial rapist.
  5. Carefully hidden chronically unstable, antisocial, or socially deviant lifestyle; often have early behavior problems/juvenile delinquency. Often demonstrate aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, compulsive stealing, etc. Usually has a history of behavioral difficulties. Ten to "gets by" by conning others. Often has problems in making and keeping friends due to pathological lying.
  6. Glibness/Superficial Charm. Perfectly able to used superficial charm to confuse and convince their audience. Easily provide captivating invented stories suitable for the circumstances. Demonstrate self-confidence. they can . Very good in verbal confrontations, well trained to destroy their critics verbally or emotionally.
  7. Extremely Manipulative and Conning. Never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors permissible. While they appear to be charming to strangers, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They dominate and humiliate their victims converting them into office slaves.
  8. Grandiose Sense of Self. Feels entitled to certain things as "their legitimate rights." Craves adulation and attendance. Tend to creates and maintain group polarization, "us-versus-them" mentality. Systematically works on alienation of subordinates from the rest of the company and instilling the view of "others" as hostile and threatening.
  9. Shallow, Often Non-genuine 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.
  10. Need for Stimulation. Corporate psychopaths are not necessary living on the edge like regular criminals, yet they like testing subordinates reactions with bizarre rules, punishments and behaviors. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Verbal conflict is what replaces some of them sexual life.
  11. 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. Try to instill the belief that they are well-connected. Demonstrate no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
  12. Failure to accept responsibility for one's own actions. Irresponsibility/Unreliability. Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blame their followers or others outside their group. Blame reinforces passivity and obedience and produces guilt, shame, terror and conformity in the followers.
  13. Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity. Women frequently practice office promiscuity using sex as an instrument to climb the ladder. This is usually kept hidden from all but the inner circle.
  14. Lack of realistic planning, parasitic lifestyle. Tends to live by present moment, attempt to steal and provide to superiors as own ideas and achievements of subordinates. Highly sensitive to their own pain and health.

Other Related Qualities:

General Recommendations

The first and foremost recommendation is to keep up your guard. Nitpicking may not only drive you crazy but could be harmful to your career as if you overreact it exposures you to the to the threat of being fired for insubordination.

Avoid taking the toxic bosses actions personally and remind yourself that you are not stuck in a hostile work environment. Take actions for self-protection and establish personal boundaries rather than to change the other person. Remember that all of them are "Mayberry Machiavelli" and are ready to stub you in the back.

Try to set boundaries, making clear when it's inappropriate for to intrude on your work. You also may need to remind your boss of your accomplishments if you find an obsessive-compulsive boss is undercutting your work. You may want to divide up your work, so your obsessive-compulsive boss can obsess freely over some parts of the job while you can concentrate on the tasks at hand. You can scale down you works activities and try to attend the university courses at the evening to enhance you marketability at the job market (which you need to enter sooner or later).

In any case, learning to cope with psychopathic manager is a difficult tasks as many "features" of this type of persons became known only after painful personal encounters. It is one thing to read the page like this and another to encounter this animal at the close range. That's why you should stay only as long as absolutely necessary and should try your best to transfer to another department or other company. Remember you can't change this type of individual. Among possible defense moves we can mention to stick to your agenda, documenting every step and pointing abrupt changes of direction as well as providing feedback about projects you involved with.. Try to avoid getting sucked into his or her unreasonable demands. You don't want to end up being emotionally blackmailed.

The problem is that "toxic managers" are really toxic: they instantly destroy trust and tend to infect their departments with bad attitudes. It's really like a disease: they spread despair, anger and depression, which show up in lackluster work, absenteeism and turnover. They are also a major course of workplace burnout: toxic burnout. Coping with a toxic boss can take a severe toll on your life. It is like living with an abusive parent or husband; there are periods of calm where they are happy and not picking on you, but you always know that at some point it will start again.

The price of putting up with it is high. Researchers in Finland found that workers who felt they were being treated fairly on the job had a lower incidence of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in Western societies. [ABC, Oct. 26, 2005]. Often there is little you can do except to keep your head down and stay away from that manager as much as possible.

The best is to understand your tradeoffs and work not so much for the company as for improving your marketability for the next job. Forget about loyalty in such situation: set strict limits for yourself and stick to them. Stop working overtime, don’t take on extra tasks, never work through lunch. Have outside confidant: a person outside the company to listen to you, support you and, ultimately, to help you get out. The fact that they severely cripple the organization to which they belong is well known fact and does not require additional commentary.

Toxic behavior of superiors create level of anger when revenge became to sweet and pain that strips people of their self esteem and that disconnects them from their work too severe. Never go this road. Still for some people urge of revenge proves irresistible. That's why toxic managers are probably the leading causes of sabotage in modern organization (competing with outsourcing/Offshoring). "Fish stinks from the head!" and the higher toxic managers is, the more widespread is the damage he/she causes. Often large badly managed companies and government agencies attract such managers as due to their incompetence they simply would not survive out in the startup business community.

The best defense is finding a new, better job. You should start working in this direction immediately as this increase your psychological comfort. If job market is good it might be easier then you think.

Psychopathic bosses are really dangerous to your health (being chased by a wolf in a fenced space is not an experience one can endure for a long time, no matter how fast you can run), but don't struggle alone. Books, friends, church can help...

Try to set red flags for upper management and HR indirectly, otherwise be ready that your boss will retaliate against you.

Protect your privacy

Create a plan to counter the damage to self-esteem:

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[Dec 06, 2016] Life as a Nonviolent Psychopath

Notable quotes:
"... No. Don't do the selfish thing or the self-serving thing ..."
"... I don't care what happens to the world because I'm getting even ..."
"... Someone who has money, and sex, and rock and roll, and everything they want may still be psychopathic-but they may just manipulate people, or use people, and not kill them. They may hurt others, but not in a violent way. ..."
Dec 06, 2016 | www.theatlantic.com
The key question is whether he is a charlatan wanting publicly or a honest reseracher? If I were him I would make a second scan in othe demical instition befor jumping to conclution, That fact that he did not do even this completly undermined his credibility. Also phychopath is not medical diagnisis. Jan 21, 2014 | http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/life-as-a-nonviolent-psychopath/282271/ | Judith Ohikuare
Neuroscientist James Fallon discovered through his work that he has the brain of a psychopath --[and he might be wrong -- NNB]

You used to believe that people were roughly 80 percent the result of genetics, and 20 percent the result of their environment. How did this discovery cause a shift in your thinking?

I went into this with the bias of a scientist who believed, for many years, that genetics were very, very dominant in who people are-that your genes would tell you who you were going to be. It's not that I no longer think that biology, which includes genetics, is a major determinant; I just never knew how profoundly an early environment could affect somebody.

... ... ...

While I was writing this book, my mother started to tell me more things about myself. She said she had never told me or my father how weird I was at certain points in my youth, even though I was a happy-go-lucky kind of kid. And as I was growing up, people all throughout my life said I could be some kind of gang leader or Mafioso don because of certain behavior. Some parents forbade their children from hanging out with me. They'd wonder how I turned out so well-a family guy, successful, professional, never been to jail and all that.

... ... ...

I found out that I happened to have a series of genetic alleles, "warrior genes," that had to do with serotonin and were thought to be at risk for aggression, violence, and low emotional and interpersonal empathy-if you're raised in an abusive environment. But if you're raised in a very positive environment, that can have the effect of offsetting the negative effects of some of the other genes.

... ... ...

After all of this research, I started to think of this experience as an opportunity to do something good out of being kind of a jerk my entire life. Instead of trying to fundamentally change-because it's very difficult to change anything-I wanted to use what could be considered faults, like narcissism, to an advantage; to do something good.

... ... ...

I started with simple things of how I interact with my wife, my sister, and my mother. Even though they've always been close to me, I don't treat them all that well. I treat strangers pretty well-really well, and people tend to like me when they meet me -- but I treat my family the same way, like they're just somebody at a bar. I treat them well, but I don't treat them in a special way. That's the big problem.

I asked them this -- it's not something a person will tell you spontaneously -- but they said, "I give you everything. I give you all this love and you really don't give it back." They all said it, and that sure bothered me. So I wanted to see if I could change. I don't believe it, but I'm going to try.

In order to do that, every time I started to do something, I had to think about it, look at it, and go: No. Don't do the selfish thing or the self-serving thing . Step-by-step, that's what I've been doing for about a year and a half and they all like it. Their basic response is: We know you don't really mean it, but we still like it.

I told them, "You've got to be kidding me. You accept this? It's phony!" And they said, "No, it's okay. If you treat people better it means you care enough to try." It blew me away then and still blows me away now.

But treating everyone the same isn't necessarily a bad thing, is it? Is it just that the people close to you want more from you?

Yes. They absolutely expect and demand more. It's a kind of cruelty, a kind of abuse, because you're not giving them that love. My wife to this day says it's hard to be with me at parties because I've got all these people around me, and I'll leave her or other people in the cold. She is not a selfish person, but I can see how it can really work on somebody.

Related Story The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence


I gave a talk two years ago in India at the Mumbai LitFest on personality disorders and psychopathy, and we also had a historian from Oxford talk about violence against women in terms of the brain and social development. After it was over, a woman came up to me and asked if we could talk. She was a psychiatrist but also a science writer and said, "You said that you live in a flat emotional world-that is, that you treat everybody the same. That's Buddhist." I don't know anything about Buddhism but she continued on and said, "It's too bad that the people close to you are so disappointed in being close to you. Any learned Buddhist would think this was great." I don't know what to do with that.

Sometimes the truth is not just that it hurts, but that it's just so disappointing. You want to believe in romance and have romance in your life-even the most hardcore, cold intellectual wants the romantic notion. It kind of makes life worth living. But with these kinds of things, you really start thinking about what a machine it means we are-what it means that some of us don't need those feelings, while some of us need them so much. It destroys the romantic fabric of society in a way.

So what I do, in this situation, is think: How do I treat the people in my life as if I'm their son, or their brother, or their husband? It's about going the extra mile for them so that they know I know this is the right thing to do. I know when the situation comes up, but my gut instinct is to do something selfish. Instead, I slow down and try to think about it. It's like dumb behavioral modification; there's no finesse to this, but I said, well, why does there have to be finesse? I'm trying to treat it as a straightaway thing, when the situation comes up, to realize there's a chance that I might be wrong, or reacting in a poor way, or without any sort of love-like a human.

... ... ...

In some ways, though, the stakes are different for you because you're not violent-and isn't that the concern? Relative to your own life, your attempts to change may positively impact your relationships with your friends, family, and colleagues. But in the case of possibly violent people, they may harm others.

The jump from being a "prosocial" psychopath or somebody on the edge who doesn't act out violently, to someone who really is a real, criminal predator is not clear. For me, I think I was protected because I was brought up in an upper-middle-class, educated environment with very supportive men and women in my family. So there may be a mass convergence of genetics and environment over a long period of time. But what would happen if I lost my family or lost my job; what would I then become? That's the test.

For people who have the fundamental biology-the genetics, the brain patterns, and that early existence of trauma-first of all, if they're abused they're going to be pissed off and have a sense of revenge: I don't care what happens to the world because I'm getting even . But a real, primary psychopath doesn't need that. They're just predators who don't need to be angry at all; they do these things because of some fundamental lack of connection with the human race, and with individuals, and so on.

Someone who has money, and sex, and rock and roll, and everything they want may still be psychopathic-but they may just manipulate people, or use people, and not kill them. They may hurt others, but not in a violent way. Most people care about violence-that's the thing. People may say, "Oh, this very bad investment counselor was a psychopath"-but the essential difference in criminality between that and murder is something we all hate and we all fear. It just isn't known if there is some ultimate trigger.

... ... ...

,,, For personality disorders it's not really known when they will emerge because it's very understudied. People will say, you can't do anything about it, it's locked in and there seems to be almost no treatment. Whereas, for things like depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, you can do something about it. There are drugs, or things you can do with brain stimulation and talk therapy, so that's where Big Pharma and the whole industry goes.

...A lot of kids, most kids, get bullied and they may get pissed off, but that doesn't create a personality disorder. But there are 20 percent of kids who are really susceptible and they may ultimately be triggered for a personality disorder in puberty. If we know these children can be helped by making sure that they aren't abused or abandoned-because you've got to get there really early-well, then, that would be important to do. I don't mean to preach.

... ... ...

It means, for example, that if you have to go to war, and sometimes you probably have to go to war-I'm not talking about a belligerent country starting war or fomenting discord, but if you have to go to war and to engage infantry-you do not send 18-year-olds into it, because their brains aren't set. They don't know how to adjudicate what's happening emotionally and hormonally with the intellectualization of it. When you're 20, 25, it's a different matter because things gel a little more. Our emotions don't get away from us as much in terms of what is happening. Other factors, sociological ones like what soldiers return to, are also important, but we're not going to get rid of war any time soon, so we might as well engage in a way that does the least amount of damage.

In terms of legal action, you've been used as a researcher for court cases-not to determine guilt or innocence, but for sentencing. Do you think there's a moral boundary for that since we don't have enough knowledge on this field yet to determine guilt or innocence?

We don't have enough research. You can't just take genetics-even though I'm a big proponent of it-or imaging, and tell if someone's a criminal or a psychopath. If you put together all that information, you could explain a lot of behavior and causality and early abuse-but we don't know enough.

So, when I get a case to look at, first of all, I don't accept money-and it's not because I'm a nice guy. It's because I think I'd be biased. I don't accept any payment and I don't want to know who the person is. We all try to create a story or narrative, and I'm just as weak as anybody. I'll tell the defense attorney, or public defender, or whoever it is to just send me scans, maybe with normal scans to try to throw me off, and then I'll look at them and discuss what the traits of the person might be based on the lack of activity in certain areas or not.

I can usually say, "Oh, this person might have a language problem," or "This person might have trouble with impulsivity." After all of that analysis is there, we can look at their traits and see what they've done.

... ... ...

Some people have this psychopathy or are almost psychopaths, and they get into trouble and go right to jail and end up in the prison system as 18-year-olds. It's awful because they get unlucky and they don't have enough impulse control to pull it back at the last instant. So, what is that edge where somebody's got these traits, and they are impulsive? What puts one guy on a pathway to becoming an attorney or successful in general, and the other one has life in prison? We just have to find out what that edge is. I think we will have parameters to work with, but it's not the same for everybody.

  • tim305 3 years ago
    I am looking forward to the sequel, where he learns that he really isn't a psychopath after all. His brother switched the MRI's as a practical joke to get back at him for the African incident.
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    Bluestocking 3 years ago
    In my lifetime I've known 2-3 people like Fallon - fully functioning, non-violent psychopaths. It didn't surprise me that his friends and family were not surprised. It did surprise me that he did not see these qualities in himself.
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      kmihindu Bluestocking 3 years ago
      What would be very interesting would be to hear his wife's perspective. What attracted her to him? When did she realize he was a psychopath? Why did she stay with him? What is marriage to a non-violent psychopath like?
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        Bluestocking kmihindu 3 years ago
        I just read Sam Smith's comment (above) and I imagine that goes some way towards answering your question. The individuals I knew were psychically attractive and quite charismatic. They functioned very well in group/social situations, but when it came to one-on-one a lot of people (myself included) wanted nothing to do with them because they were manipulative and used other people as a means to an end. 'What is marriage to a non-violent psychopath like?' A great question. One of the people I knew was a room-mate for about a year. It was appalling. You do begin to question your own sanity. It was only after the experience that I was able to see what had really been going on, and I can't imagine how much more intense it would be if you were also in a sexual relationship or a marriage.
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          kmihindu Bluestocking 3 years ago
          I had a mentor in grad school that I would armchair diagnose as a non-violent psychopath. He was so manipulative, that while working for him, you would begin to question your sanity. He didn't know how to manipulate people in a positive manner (because he made promises and never kept them), so he would resort to threats. He once defended a threat he had made to me (to kick me out of his lab with no degree for failing to discover why 2 proteins of unknown function were interacting fast enough) by saying, "You should have realized that I didn't mean it. I tell my kids all the time that I don't love them when I'm mad at them, but I don't mean it." All I could think was, "Thank God, I'm only his student and not his kid."
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          KateH Bluestocking 3 years ago
          I'm pretty sure my dad falls into this category - handsome, charming, completely self-centered and manipulative.

          It's the ability to manipulate that wins the psychopath sex and friends, at least in the short term. Apparently my dad was only violent while he was young - he did a stint in prison and then 'got religion', but the manipulation was how he got what he wanted the rest of his life.

          His third wife seems to have been happy enough with him, but I don't really see how. I wanted nothing to do with him and I'm his child.

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          emikoala Bluestocking 2 years ago
          The hallmark of a psychopath/sociopath is that they make everyone around them feel crazy, because they show no evidence of doubt in their own rightness...and normal, well-adjusted people will always leave room for doubt, so when faced with someone who repeatedly and adamantly insists that the sky is 100% green by every measure, normal well-adjusted people will begin to think, "Well, maybe it IS green..."
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            Sönke Zürner emikoala 2 years ago
            Also known as self-righteous types. So why the clinical nomenclature (I ask this of all people who moralize--articulate normative judgments--in the guise of scientific objectivity)? It doesn't make your evaluation (disapprobation) any more consensus worthy. Self-righteous types are generally disliked and always have been. Especially when they are right. We just prefer self-deprecation and the constant refrain: "that's-just-my-opinion" to obviate "friction" (= envy, resentment, irritation). The sort of arousal activated by the sympathetic autonomic system.

            Feeling crazy is our problem. It's not other people but our perceptions of other people that induces 'craziness.' We may feel crazy in response to non-pathological behaviors. What constitutes the feeling of craziness? Contempt? Aggression? Resentment? Envy? The self-righteous is not least of all labeled anti-social because he inspires "anti-social" responses. But this just means that we project our own momentary derangement--a by-product of our 'empathy.'

            We are responsible for our reactions. What we find unforgivable (blameworthy) in "sociopaths" (boors) is the sense that they do not have the same scruples we do--they do not feel the same sense of responsibility about their reactions because they are busy ACTING. Then we retaliate for feeling diminished (put in a passive-reactive position) by calling them psychopaths. Clinical psychology lends itself to such exercises in retribution.

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              lora120 Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
              Wow, you put a lot of effort into blaming the victims.
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              EllieS Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
              As someone else said, psychopathy and self-righteousness are two different things, as are sociopathy and boorishness. Clinical nomenclature (naming) allows for diagnosis and treatment (pills and stuff). While the terms are thrown around at times without actually meaning the clinical disorder, they do have value.

              But isn't there a reason in any event for disapproval (disapprobation [evaluation]) when something causes harm? If a child kicks another child (taking a foot and mashing it into some part of the other child's body), are we not going to reprimand them? So if an individual is causing psychological harm to another, wouldn't we see that as negative?

              You remind me of a roommate I once had who said that if I was crying because he threatened to put my dog out on the street, that was on me; he wasn't _making_ me cry. No, he was not forcing me to cry, but he was taking an action that was cruel, and my being upset was a justifiable (completely understandable and okay) reaction.

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                Sönke Zürner EllieS 2 years ago
                You seem to have a rather glib view of what "disapproval" entails in the case of a diagnosis of psychopathy. The harm caused, retributively but also by the sheer act of categorizing individuals based on some perceived pattern of behavior, may outweigh the offense.

                Given that there is no consensus on the construct of psychopathy and the devastating consequences it has on the lives of those labeled psychopaths, we need to be very careful about diagnosing and medicating 'disorders' whose existence is a matter of conjecture. Diagnosis is a question of interpretation, which basically makes it an art. But unlike a doctor of medicine, who can rely on established etiologies and facts, psychiatrists must rely on hypothetical constructs legitimized by consensus.

                We obviously need to treat people who suffer as well as to disapprove of and punish them. But when the stakes are so enormous as in the case of diagnosing so-called psychopaths it is useful to remind ourselves of the theoretical nature of our constructs and to proceed with due caution (skepticism) about what we think we know.

                Clearly self-righteousness and psychopathy are "different things." But the same behavior may be labeled as evincing either characteristic. The behavior has to be interpreted. That means an explanatory/decriptive paradigm must be selected. So my question is, what are we doing when we categorize (select) a behavior as psychopathic? How do we avoid not presupposing what we imagine ourselves to be "discovering" (avoid confirmation bias)?

                Ultimately what the clinician and layperson are both doing is judging a behavior, and the guidelines for such evaluation are ultimately moral and political rather than strictly scientific. The fact that it is consenus that establishes whether a disorder obtains is further clue that clinical psychology functions as a form of applied ethics (the social enforcement of morality).

                P.S. Your room-mate was right. You should have more control over your feelings. On the other hand, having too much control (or not having any feelings) may obviate suffering at the cost of putting you at risk of cold-heartedness. Your room-mate seems to have enjoyed manipulating you because you were gullible.

                Being vulnerable, trusting and compassionate is good-within reason. It's a judgment call. His point was that you should be in a position to make it, to decide how to respond, and not be led around by your reactive-self. It may be less warm and fuzzy, but it's pro-active and reality-syntonic.

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                  wiseaftertheevent Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
                  Yeah, yeah, yeah. A standard narcissistic psychopath technique is to interject themselves into this kind of debate and make it so confusing to figure out who is a psychopath they can skate under the radar. Those of us that are vampire hunters are on to you.
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                  EllieS Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
                  Certainly there are problems with the diagnostic tools available to the medical community. And absolutely there are issues with labeling. However without diagnosis, individuals would not get the proper care. I was misdiagnosed as having depression for years (see below before you think this proves your point). I don't feel it my duty to share on here what my actual diagnosis is, but being properly diagnosed has allowed me to have a functioning life. The diagnosis of mental disorders may also save an individual from the death penalty.

                  And diagnostic tools are improving. If you read the article above, brain scans were used to uncover an individual's psychopathy. While these tests are not done routinely, they do exist. And diagnosis is not strictly "conjecture." The behavior patterns aren't "'perceived." They're observed, both by the doctor and the patient. I hid my true feelings and behavior from my doctor and that is what contributed to the incorrect diagnosis. When correctly diagnosed, medicine and therapy has been proven to help treat mental disorders. I bear the stigma of mental disorder every day, but I'll take that labeling if it means I can function.

                  However, your assertion that I and others should not be upset about things that would justifiably be reasonable is illogical. I love my dog; putting her out on the street when I was out of town would result in the loss of my dog. If I had not been upset about this, had I not cared, I would not have argued against his doing so, which would have resulted in harm to my dog. So the emotion that resulted from his threat has value, just as being frightened by a bear has value in that it would save your life. Your argument also removes culpability from a individual who is behaving in an unacceptable manner and places it on the victim. This means we can act however we want and consequences be damned. Emotional abuse is real. It's a purposeful attempt to harm another person, the same as if someone used physical force.

                  And you seem to be arguing for compassion for those who have mental disorders. That is admirable. But then why wouldn't you have the same compassion for those who are affected by the deeds of others?

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                    Sönke Zürner EllieS 2 years ago
                    Whether things (one's reactions) are "justifiably reasonable"is precisely what is in need of determination. Reacting emotionally has "value" if and when it is accompanied by a judgment (evaluation) and a course of action. Being upset per se has little value except as spur to taking action. In and of itself it is passive-reactive. My point was that gullible types set themselves up for manipulation by those without scruples, on the assumption that your 'friend' was in fact jerking your chain. You did not mention that you had argued about his threat in your original post. Since you confronted him, your upset reaction was instrumental, therefore valid. I'm the last person who would question the cognitive significance of affect.

                    My larger point is that sensitivity as well as objectivity vis-a-vis feelings, which inform the empathic process, are both valid up to a point. They exist, as does the human personality generally, on a continuum. But too much reactive affectivity is as problematical as the objectivity of the "cold-blooded." And not being able to turn off empathy is not the hallmark of optimal mental health some doctors of the soul would have us believe it to be. We are all potentially "psychopathic" under the 'right' circumstances. There are any number of social roles whose discharge would be unduly complicated by the kind of empathy we value in a friend, family member, or co-worker.

                    Brain scans are indeed used, but there is no consensus on what they mean in relation to personality disorders. They yield correlations subject to interpretation by fallible specialists. That would be problematical enough, but add to that mix the controversial nature of the clinical entity some call "psychopathy" (among other disorders) and what you wind up with is very much a process of conjecture. Granted, some conjecturing is more informed than others, but that doesn't change the basic nature of the process.

                    Read up on the controversy surrounding DSM-5 revisions for a sample of just how divided the field of psychiatry is.

                    If you found relief from your suffering through medication and therapy more power to you. That's your bottom line, and I respect it. But bear in mind some people find relief taking placebos. The human mind is profoundly suggestible. Perception creates reality. And that's very much a double-edged sword.

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                  Goaty McCheese Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
                  You are not communicating the message you think you are communicating.
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                  Taylor Sönke Zürner 5 months ago
                  Yo this is one of the best things I've ever read, cheers bro
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                  allannorthbeach Sönke Zürner a year ago
                  Not forgetting that there are many psychopathic psychiatrists about who deliberately misdiagnose psychopathy just for the 'hell' of it, and Dr. David Rosehan proved just how incompetent psychiatrists and nursing staff can be when it suits their hid_den'igrating agendas.
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              Erica_JS Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
              Psychopathy is not at all the same as self-righteousness. Psychopaths lack empathy and a sense of right and wrong - completely different thing.
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              wiseaftertheevent Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
              You're probably a psychopath, pal. Psychopaths do lots of things, but one of the key things is mess with people's sense of time, which makes folks feel nuts. The other thing you keep repeating is the individuality of response -- and psychopaths are big on the idea of an isolated sense of self.
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              Isonomist Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
              Ever thought of having an FMRI?
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              RichardMahony Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
              Psychopaths are not also known as self-righteous types. Nor are psychopaths 'crazy' in the way that, say, schizophrenics are 'crazy'. I suggest you do a little reading before opinionating on something about which evidently you know very little.

              Start with 'The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-called Psychopathic Personality'; Hervey Cleckley, MD; Fifth Edition: private printing for non-profit educational use; Emily S Cleckley; Augusta, Georgia (1988) http://www.cassiopaea.com/cass...

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                Sönke Zürner RichardMahony 2 years ago
                My comment mainly addressed OUR reactions ("crazy" was emikoala's term) to so-called psychopathic
                behaviors. Try reading comments in context. My point was that any trait ascribed to a so-called psychopath, taken by itself or in combination, can be variably interpreted. The only people helped by the patholigization of behaviors are prosecutors, the criminal justice system, pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

                The problem of "opinionating" is not my problem, it's the problem of clinical psychology as a whole, as witness the controversy surrounding the process of devising DSM criteria. There is no consensus about what constitutes psychopathy, as a cursory glance at the Wikipedia page would inform you:
                (" no psychiatric or psychological organization has sanctioned a diagnosis titled "psychopathy.") It is an interpretation, a construct, regarding which the only fitting scientific attitude to assume is one of skepticism. There is no place in science for true believers.

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                  Jillita Hunter Sönke Zürner 2 years ago
                  Maybe not ALL traits...but what about a person who has a desire to kill people, strangers or known, just because they think it would be fun? One who feels joy from lighting animals on fire? A person who literally feels no regret, remorse, or guilt about anything in life (even things that cause fatal harm to others and ruined lives)? One who simply doesn't understand when others are upset, for whatever the reason, because they themselves have no such feelings. I know I am just a regular person but to me, those are pretty psychopathic traits no matter how interpreted.
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                    Sönke Zürner Jillita Hunter 2 years ago
                    They are "psychopathic" because you use that concept to summarize the traits you enumerated. But there is no necessity in doing so. You could simply describe such individuals as lacking compassion and being cruel. Either way you express moral disapprobation and signal a threat. Which is the whole point of this exercise in applied ethics (clinical psychology).

                    For me the interesting question is: how often does one have to lapse in one's sympathizing and abstention from violent aggression before one becomes "a psychopath?" What day of the week are we talking about? which hour of the day? We are all capable of selfish, aggressive behavior and of not giving a damn.

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                  allannorthbeach Sönke Zürner a year ago
                  You neglected to list psychiatrists amongst the prosecutors, the justice system etc...but Dr. David Rosenhan didn't.
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            NotApologizing Guest 2 years ago
            Why do you believe that "their percentage," that is, the percentage of people who are psychopaths, is increasing? Do you have data on this?
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            bobthechef Guest 2 years ago
            Your emotionalized appeal here is really disordered and contains a mish-mash of two orders, the moral and the biological, and a bunch of question begging. What you're left with is moralizing. Considered in purely "evolutionistic" terms, what you have are populations of humans which can possess considerable variation in principle. Adaptive advantage can come in various forms and so to say that human beings are intrinsically "social" (psychopaths are social, just not in the normal sense) and then presumably define morality as something that is a function of some tendency which happens to be common though not absolute seems rather relativist and arbitrary. I am reminded of Nietzsche's slave and master morality. The lambs define their morality in terms of their own interests and then universalize it (how conveniently self-serving) in order to condemn the birds of prey that hunt them. The birds of prey, being of a different nature, find it all amusingly petty-minded, bearing no grudge against the lambs, for to them the lambs are tasty.

            So in the end, the weak shall often maintain their morality (what is good for us and not in itself or for itself; instrumental morality masquerading as intrinsic morality) and the strong their own. The difference is that the strong act in good faith, that is, authentically while the weak act out of ressentement and jealousy and thus through disingenuous ulterior motives.

            And then there's the story of the frog and the scorpion...

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          Isonomist KeysoverCO 2 years ago
          That would be an interesting question if it were in fact a simple, heritable genetic trait, like blue eyes or lactose tolerance.
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        Terenc Blakely kmihindu 3 years ago
        Women have a hard-wired attraction to bad boy, alpha male types. I'm sure a psychopath has enough of those traits to attract many women.
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        Sparks13 kmihindu 2 years ago
        I'm more curious how someone like that falls in love and marries. Do they have to do so before that gelling he speaks of? The one that I knew the best laughed about the fact that the only reason his wife was still with him was because as a Catholic, she didn't believe in divorce. I know perfectly well he had been mentally and emotionally abusing her (and their children), if not physically too. How do I know that? He abused all of us unfortunate enough to be trapped in his company, whether it was as family members, co-workers, or fellow parishioners.
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        happykt kmihindu 2 years ago
        I always thought my older brother was a psychopath when I first heard the definition around the age of 12 (over 35 years ago), and this article only confirms it. My brother has always been supremely narcissistic, manipulative, has bouts of violence, is quick to anger, is very charismatic, is an alcoholic (he uses it to calm himself down), everyone is always wrong and he's always right, and most of my family tries to stay away from him.

        He's completely exhausting to be around because everything is about him, and to hell with anyone else and what they think or feel. He's my go to guy if I want to feel like a pile of dog poop.

        My brother is about to turn 54 and I am dreading wishing him a happy birthday.

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          kmihindu happykt 2 years ago
          Wow. It was hard enough to deal with a boss like this for 7 years, I can't imagine the pain of having a family member like this. I'd say not to let his comments get to you, but in my experience, they smell out vulnerabilities like sharks and blood. They can also compliment you (if they want something), but their compliments are so insincere and manipulative as to be worthless (My boss once compared a painting of mine to Van Gogh - clever in that it was influenced by Van Gogh, but seriously?)
          If there are people you know, who know you and your brother, and understand the situation, probably the best you can do is to talk with them afterwards, so you don't let any of his ideas or criticisms affect you. I know for me, the biggest help was when I talked to another member of my committee after my boss had just sabotaged me behind my back, while claiming to me that he had fought for me, to no avail. She asked what he had told me happened during the closed portion of the meeting. When I told her, she paused and the looked straight at me and said, "I was there and that's not how I remember it." Having confirmation that he was sabotaging me and lying to me was such a relief, as their manipulation can leave you doubting your own sanity.

          Best of luck.

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        Falcon D. Stormvoice kmihindu 3 years ago
        It depends on the person.

        Psychopaths are still people who make decisions in life. They can choose to be good. They have an inherent ability to be charismatic and intelligent, and that is surely attractive. Once actually in a relationship, things can go quite badly. But they might not. Especially not if the spouse knows or intuits that they are married to a psychopath, and can offer assistance.

        For the majority of cases, sometimes it is hell on earth to be married to a psychopath, and other times it is bliss, depending on the ups and downs of the disease.

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      cbartley17 Bluestocking 3 years ago
      A lack of insight is common in most psychiatric disorders.
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      marcellus2 Bluestocking 3 years ago
      Good question. Because in a flat world without intelligent narcisists we would still crawl on 4 legs.

      The question is - what would we do without them? They serve a purpose. The trip to the caves - normal - danger was there. But nothing out of the normal. The chances to get killed or sick are rather small. We evolutionized in excactly that environment and anyone who did this knows how natural and invigorating a night in the bush is. So maybe something is terribly wrong with his brother and todays society? Riskaversion did not get us anywhere. Time to think and start nurturing those intelligent beeings.

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      mtbr1975 Bluestocking 2 years ago
      I don't think many people would willing admit they're a psychopath without some serious evidence.
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      KimCraigNeeDay Bluestocking 2 years ago
      What you knew were not "fully functioning, non violent psychopaths" as there exists no such beast in the realm of science, Blue. Those who you characterize in this manner may have been basic jerks, those with a compromised sense of ethics, morality or common decency, but to refer to them as "psychopaths" in any context is simply inaccurate and has no basis in science, unless one counts the pop-psychology practiced by the likes of attention whores like James Fallon as science - and woe to the fools that do.
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    Sam Smith 3 years ago
    I heard this guy on NPR, fascinating stuff. He also talked a lot about his appearance and the fact that he was a jock. In retrospect, he thinks he got a way with a lot of his bad behavior due to his looks and school status.
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    Sheryl 3 years ago
    Good article, but I've got to take issue with the comment about Buddhism. Buddhists are not equally indifferent to the well-being of all people. In fact, the Bodhisattva ideal is to put the well-being of all sentient beings before one's own--hardly a trait of the psychopath. Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice have become so trendy and so terribly misunderstood of late, and popular journalism seems psychopathically indifferent to its role in perpetrating these misconceptions.
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      SugarSnap108 Sheryl 3 years ago
      Yes, the characterization of Buddhism (from the 'science writer') bothered me. I'm not aware of anything in the Eightfold Path that says, "Treat your wife like a stranger in a bar."
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      ande Sheryl 3 years ago
      It's that whole detachment thing. Having known Buddhists with the tendency to use the religion as a vehicle to detach from feelings, as well as to absolve themselves from personal responsibility to others, it resonated with me.

      You have to admit, there's not even a considerable charitable tradition in Buddhism, in contrast with other world religions: non-attachment to the world's suffering.

      I still appreciate the philosophy, but feelings are part of the human experience for non-psychopaths. Maybe psychopaths, with their detachment, are just further along the way to Nirvana.

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        SugarSnap108 ande 3 years ago
        Having known Buddhists with the tendency to use the religion as a
        vehicle to detach from feelings, as well as to absolve themselves from
        personal responsibility to others

        Then they were misunderstanding and/or misusing Buddhist philosophy as an excuse to be jerks. That's not what non-attachment means.

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          bridgetarlene SugarSnap108 3 years ago
          exactly! there are as many denominations of Buddhism as there are of Christianity or of any other major religion that has evolved across languages and cultures. the Buddhism I "subscribe" to emphasizes loving kindness, which translates to compassion towards those who are suffering. it also reminds me that being kind toward myself helps me to love others, while being kind towards others helps me to love myself. where the "no attachments" thing comes in is that there is simply no difference between the fabric of myself and the fabric of "the other" - only the illusion that I am separate from everyone else. as a Buddhist teacher I am fond of put it, "separation is the ego's calling card." so I see the idea of non-attachment being aligned with psychopathy - even in practice only - as a deeply problematic one.

          to use a different example, depending on which brand of Christianity he or she subscribed to, one person could believe that Jesus' message was the meek will inherit the Earth and Jesus loved to hang out with and try to elevate poor people...while another person could believe in the social gospel and the idea that "God helps those who help themselves." they are simply different interpretations of a similar faith that often are not even at odds with one another so much as they are merely two sides of the same coin.

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        Guest ande 3 years ago
        In addition to teaching "detachment" or non-attachment, Buddhism also teaches non-violence, compassion, kindness, introspection, finding inner peace, striking a balance in life, and various methods of calming the mind. More psychopaths should defintely study it and follow it, as well as non-psychopaths.
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