Have you ever known a psychopath? I have, and I’m not using the term flippantly. While I’m certainly no expert in the usual sense of the word, my experience was up close and personal, for an extended period of time. With that and several years of intense personal research, I am reasonably certain about my ‘diagnosis’.
I have attempted on several occasions to write about my experiences, but I’ve never been able to do so coherently because this person’s behavior was so utterly bizarre that it seemed impossible to convey the full impact of it with mere words.
Psychopaths have no conscience and are incapable of feeling compassion or empathy. They are smooth operators, master manipulators and liars; the one I knew lied like healthy people breathe. They live exclusively for themselves, and no-one — no-one — else matters. They are the center of the universe, and everyone else exists solely for their benefit and pleasure. They are entitled to take whatever they want, including but not limited to your sanity, often for no reason apart from their own personal amusement.
You may be wondering how any normal, decent person could become involved with such a deeply defective and disordered individual. I’ve asked myself that a million times. Keep in mind, though, that psychopaths don’t start off being abusive. They are highly skilled at laying their traps, and they know all about using honey for bait. I’m sure we’ve all heard the boiling frog story which serves as a perfect analogy for how many psychopaths torture their victims. It’s often so gradual that victims don’t notice the increasing intensity, and sometimes only realize it in retrospect once removed from the situation.
In Without Conscience, Robert Hare writes:
What makes psychopaths different from all others is the remarkable ease with which they lie, the pervasiveness of their deception, and the callousness with which they carry it out.
These predators are abusive by nature. They can be physically abusive, but they also often engage in psychological and emotional abuse. The one I knew had a particular fondness for gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It involves an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to the subject, having the gradual effect of making the victim anxious, confused, and less able to trust his or her own memory and perception. A variation of gaslighting, used as a form of harassment, is to subtly alter aspects of a victim’s environment, thereby upsetting his or her peace of mind, sense of security, etc.
It has been nearly three years since my last contact with this individual, and I still occasionally experience anxiety when I recall it; I have also been diagnosed with PTSD and received treatment for it. I’m much better than I used to be, but I don’t know that I’ll ever be completely cured, if that’s even possible (some say it is, others say it isn’t). I also struggle with depression that tends to come in waves, some more intense than others. I’m just glad to have a loving, understanding and patient husband. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
I will leave you now with an excerpt from a research project performed at the Quantum Future School. I cannot vouch for the reputation of the school or the general credibility of the authors of this report, but it did match a lot of my own experiences. Hopefully it will shed some light on the subject for those fortunately less familiar:
Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.
And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.
Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.
You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.
In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.
You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences will most likely remain undiscovered.
How will you live your life?
Those of us who have had experiences with psychopaths know that the language of the psychopath is two-dimensional. They are, as someone once said, as “deep as a thimble.” An analogy is given of the psychopath as a color blind person who has learned how to function in the world of color by special strategies. They may tell you that they “stopped at a red light,” but what it really means to them is that they knew that the light at the top means “stop,” and they stopped. They call it the “red” light like everyone else, but they have no experience of what “red” really is.
A person who is color blind who has developed such coping mechanisms, is virtually undetectable from people who see colors.
Psychopaths use words about emotions the same way people who are color blind use words about colors they cannot perceive. Psychopaths not only learn to use the words more or less appropriately, they learn to pantomime the feeling. But they never HAVE the feeling.