Psychopaths r not us

The closest we will probably ever, knowingly, meet up with a psychopath is reading the fascinating interviews in . . .

The Wisdom of Psychopaths – What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success by Kevin Dutton

Psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless and focused – qualities found in brain surgeons, fighter pilots, lawyers, fire fighters. CEO’s and meditating monks.

In this fascinating book Keven Dutton, a British psychologist, combines neuroscience research, interviews with psychopaths, psychological studies and his own mind-altering experience to explore the mind, motives of people identified as psychopaths or psychopathic tendencies.

We found the accounts of his encounters with psychopaths, those locked away, those fully functioning within and outside the “norms” of  society both chilling and intriguing.

One of the interesting interviews was with a U.S. Special Forces instructor for Navy SEALs (The guys who took out Bin Laden).  The instructor describes how they tests recruits to to break them using “torture tactics”.  The object is to determine if they are tough enough to qualify to be a seal (who, to a person, score high in  psychopathic traits).  Here’s the interview:

We did everything we could to break this guy.  He was orphaned at eleven . . .looking after his younger brother and sister by living on his wits. Stealing. Wheeling. Dealing . . . when he was sixteen, he beat someone up so bad they went into a coma.

White noice.  Sleep deprivation.  Sensory deprivation. Water. Stress positions .. . We threw everything at him.  Finally, after forty-eight hours, I removed the blindfold, put my face within a few inches of his, and yelled:

“Is there anything you want to tell me?” . . . he said yes.  There was something he wanted to say.

“What is it?.  ‘I asked.

“You want to cut down on the garlic, dude,” he said.

. . . It was the only time, in fifteen years as an instructor, that I let my guard slip.  Just for a second, a split second, I smiled.  I couldn’t help it.  I actually admired this guy.  And you know what?  Even in the disgusting, state he was in . . ., the son of a bitch saw it.  . .. he called me back closer to him.  And there was a look of sheer, I don’t know, defiance . . in his eyes.

“Game over,” he whispered in my ear.  “You’ve failed.”

“What?  I was meant to be saying that to him?  It was then that we realized he was one of what we call the “unbreakables.” The toughest of the tough . . .” And if he DID have a conscience I never saw it.  He was cold as ice.  At either end of a weapon.  Which actually, in this line of work, isn’t always a bad thing”

Research in the lab has shown that it isn’t so much the case that psychopaths don’t feel anxiety in certain situations, but rather that they just don’t notice the threat.  Their attention is focused purely on the task at hand, and extraneous distractions are ruthlessly filtered out. 

The psychopathic traits that most of us recognize are:

  • Failure to conform to social norms
  • Deceitfulness, repeated lying, conning others for personal profit or pleasure
  • Impulsivity, or failure to plan ahead
  • Irritability and aggressiveness
  • Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  • Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations
  • Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to, or rationalizing, having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Dutton describes a scale of “madness” along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, he explains that “functional psychopaths – different from their murderous counterparts – use their detached, unflinching and charismatic personalities to succeed in society. 

Furthermore, there is an overlap of traits shared both by those who have psychopathic traits (Narcissism, impulsivity, lack of conscience, manipulativeness, pathological lying, coldheartedness) and those who have spiritual traits (love compassion, gentleness, humility, faithfulness, trustworthiness):

  • stoicism
  • mindfulness,
  • fearlessness,
  • mental toughness,
  • openness to experience,
  • utilitarianism,
  • focus/altered state of consciousness,
  • energy,
  • creativity,
  • non-attachment

FASCINATING!

Here’s a synopsis, straight from the internet promo:

“In this engrossing journey into the lives of psychopaths and their infamously crafty behaviors, the renowned psychologist Kevin Dutton reveals that there is a scale of “madness” along which we all sit. Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.”

“Dutton argues that there are indeed “functional psychopaths” among us—different from their murderous counterparts—who use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more “psychopathic” people are, the more likely they are to succeed. Dutton deconstructs this often misunderstood diagnosis through bold on-the-ground reporting and original scientific research as he mingles with the criminally insane in a high-security ward, shares a drink with one of the world’s most successful con artists, and undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation to discover firsthand exactly how it feels to see through the eyes of a psychopath.”

“As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused—qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century. Provocative at every turn, The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a riveting adventure that reveals that it’s our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success.”