Did you know that an estimated 4% of the population have no conscience? That means 1 in 25 people have no feelings of guilt or remorse, that thing that often keeps your behaviour in check. They also feel no love or empathy for others.
Apparently sociopaths (for me ‘sociopath’ and ‘psychopath’ are interchangeable terms) are masters of understanding and mimicking human emotions. So if a sociopath plays their cards right, you’ll never know that something is amiss.
Many psychopaths have a superficial charm and are good with words, things that make them seem very attractive. They also don’t feel fear, making them appear to be very calm even under very stressful situations. Every once in a while, you might notice a little discrepancy in their expression of emotions. Something just doesn’t quite feel right. They also can be deceitful, impulsive, parasitic and pathological liars.
Many people associate ‘psychopaths’ with those people who kill their mothers or are mass murderers. But killing isn’t every psychopath’s cup of tea (and even if it is, they wouldn’t feel guilty about doing it). Just like everyone else, psychopaths are individuals who have different wants and needs in life. Many will just want to live a normal life and work. Quite likely you already know some psychopaths but have no idea of what they really are. So what’s the problem if some people have fewer emotions than others if they’re not likely to try and kill you anytime soon?
There are many other potential issues bar imminent death, including financial issues, emotional issues and being taken advantage of. The problem is that many sociopaths will have no problem with manipulating others for their own benefit. Most people would feel guilty for using or manipulating someone, sociopaths will not. Manipulation can be subtle, you probably won’t even realise when it’s happening.
And it will especially become a problem in your life if you inadvertently end up in a relationship with someone who suffers no remorse or guilt. Like that poor frog being boiled in a pan, you won’t know what’s happened to you until it’s far too late. This kind of relationship is a form of emotional abuse and it will follow a pattern: love bombing, idealisation, devaluation and discarding. They’ll make you fall in love with all that charm and all the right words, love will be blind so nothing else in the world will matter, and then you’ll end up in a really weird alternate universe where the person you love obviously really loves you, except for all the lying and cheating… and you’ll find yourself wondering why you don’t just leave… but you can’t, because you’re convinced this is real love. In the mean time, your partner is probably eyeing up his next victim to take advantage of.
Anyway, my point was, that everyone should educate themselves on psychopaths. Unfortunately, I have been that frog in the boiling pan, and I wish so much that I had known about psychopaths before I fell in love with one. It didn’t even occur to me that there are people who fake their emotions and don’t feel guilt or remorse. As a normal human, you just assume that everyone has the same range of emotions as you do. That just isn’t the case.
Whether this behaviour is ringing bells for you or not, whether you think you might know a psychopath or not, my advice is the same. Find out more, and be prepared for the day a psychopath crosses your path. Ideally, you should just avoid these people and keep them out of your life. But if it’s a family member, your colleague or even your boss, avoidance might not be an option. So the next best thing is to know the score and try to keep an upper hand through awareness.
There’s absolutely loads of information on the internet. I also found the following books very helpful (with links):
‘The Sociopath Next Door’ by Martha Stout (very good overview)
‘202 Ways to Spot a Psychopath in Personal Relationships’ by Adelyn Birch (specific to relationships)
‘Psychopath Free’ by Jackson MacKenzie (aimed for those recovering from toxic relationships, but also very informative)
It’s also important to be aware of your personal boundaries, so you realise when someone is actually pushing your boundaries and potentially being manipulative. I found this book particularly helpful for that:
‘Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship’ by Adelyn Birch (also beneficial to avoid such relationships)
Wishing you a psychopath-free day!