Say the word "Psychopath" and what comes to mind?
If you're like most people you're picturing a crazy person holding a knife with blood all over their face.
Or perhaps you're thinking of Christian Bale in American Psycho or Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men. Or maybe American serial killer Ted Bundy, or the legendary Jack the Ripper.
This is what Google seems to think a psychopath is:
But while this can be what a psychopath is, usually it's not.
FUN FACT: Researchers estimate that psychopaths make up around 1% of the world population. (What a nice thought that is..)
Which is around 76 million people worldwide.
76 million psychopaths walking around in the world? Surely not.
If you think this number is unrealistic it's because you're imagining 76 million knife wielding mass murderers running around the world.
This is not the case.
There is just one main characteristic that defines psychopaths: They have no empathy whatsoever.
They do not have a conscience.
SO WHAT IS LIFE WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE? WELL. ITS A GIANT CHESSBOARD.
A game to be won.
And these people are not fictional characters, they're very real. Walking amongst us. These people can ruin lives. They can cause chaos. Oftentimes they're never discovered for what they truly are.
Those that have had personal dealings with a psychopath will often talk about the false media representation that surrounds this condition.
The general public can't defend themselves against psychopaths because they don't have an understanding of them that is based in the REAL WORLD.
So how has the media confused you about these people that walk amongst us?
Well, for starters..
1. THEY DON'T LOOK LIKE THAT
Psychopaths do not wear clown masks. They do not wear blood stained shirts. They do not carry chainsaws. They don't even (necessarily) look particularly creepy. They might even look attractive. Or more likely, they might look completely average.
You can not tell a psychopath by their appearance. They look the same as everybody else.
And they have an amazing ability to act the same as everybody else. They will often imitate having empathy for other human beings incredibly well.
An estimated 1% of people are psychopaths. So it's almost certain that you've spoken to one. Heck, they might even be someone you know. And chances are they look just like a regular person.
This a list of the top 10 jobs that attract psychopaths the most:
1. CEO - One study estimates 1 in 5 CEO's are psychopaths
3. Media (Television/Radio)
7. Police officer
8. Clergy person
10. Civil servant
They could run your company, they could be in charge of your divorce settlement, they could even be the guy in charge of replacing your liver.
2. THEY USUALLY AREN'T KILLERS
Every single psychopath you've ever heard of was a serial killer.
Ted Bundy, The Zodiac Killer, Donald Gaskins. These are the news stories you hear because they're the most dramatic. As are most of those you will find in movies and TV
But this is not most psychopaths.
Take the story of this particular psychopath, lets call him Luke.
To Luke, "winning" simply meant finding somebody to leach off financially so he could just hang around the house and do nothing.
Sydney fell in love with Luke at thirty-three years old. After getting happily married Sydney became pregnant. After three months of pregnancy Sydney buys a crib for the new baby.
I remember it was on the day they delivered it, Luke came home and told me he'd quit his job. Just like that. It was as if he knew that now he had me. I was about to have a baby, and so I would definitely take care of things. I would take care of him financially because now I didn't have a choice.
He was just kind of there. Mostly he just sat around the pool, or when the weather was bad he'd come in and watch TV. When Jonathan (The new baby) cried Luke would get angry and demand Sydney do something about the noise. As if the baby were crying just specifically to create problems for him. Luke didn't so much as glance at Jonathon all day.
Not a single person guessed that Luke simply had no conscience and that this was why he ignored his obligations to his wife and his child.
Luke's behaviour did not fit with the media image of psychopathy. He didn't go around slaughtering people at night like you expect psychopaths to do.
Just like the general population, only very few psychopaths feel any need to be violent.
3. THEY'RE NOT ALWAYS SMART
All psychopaths portrayed in film are smart.
Hannibal Lecter from the film Silence of the Lambs (1991) is smart enough to deduce a person's character just by looking at them. He's smart enough to take down two prison guards and escape from jail using an elaborate, detailed plan. And he draws detailed works of art of monuments in his jail cell "From memory"
HOLLYWOOD LOVES TO TURN PSYCHOPATHS INTO IMPOSSIBLE SUPER GENIUSES.
But like the rest of the population, they actually have a full range of IQ's
Some of them are smart, some are average and some are remarkably stupid.
Introducing, "Stamp Man".
Stamp man was a psychopath from the 1970s who had slightly less ambitious goals. His main focus in his life was to steal postage stamps from the United States government. He didn't want to keep them or sell them. He would simply rob the post office and then sit and watch from a distance where he could see the frenzy of the first employees that arrived in the morning.
After easily being caught for the crime he would happily go to jail and serve his sentence, only to do the EXACT SAME THING after being released. And he would repeat this cycle over and over again.
Stamp man was skinny, pale and mouse like. Not exactly a threatening figure.
He had no desire to kill and had no intelligence to manipulate anyone or achieve very much.
He simply wanted to watch the post office workers run around in panic after he had watched them. In the mind of Stamp Man, this was "winning".
Because Stamp Man was a stupid psychopath.
4. THEY'RE NOT CRAZY
Think of the crazy split personality of Norman Bates in Psycho (1960) Or Christian Bale's crazy killing rampage at the end of American Psycho (2000).
Neither of these are accurate representations of psychopaths.
People will often confuse the word psychosis with psychopath. Those with psychosis will experience a loss of contact with reality which may enable them to cut somebody in half with a chainsaw in the middle of the street or spray machine gun fire into a crowd.
Psychopaths however have a firm grip on reality.
PSYCHOPATHS ARE NOT CRAZY, THEY ACT WITH INTENT.
They know exactly what they're doing and why they're doing it.
They are legally sane. If their mental health were to be tested they would pass without a problem. They do not hear voices or experience hallucinations. They know the difference between right and wrong. They just don't care about other people.
A crazy person could never become a CEO of a major corporation. But they could use their ability to charm, seduce and intimidate people to climb the corporate ladder, whist having no limitations on hurting others in their attempts to get there.
5. THEY'RE NOT USUALLY CREEPY (AT FIRST)
If you come across a psychopath, don't expect them to be a weirdo.
On the contrary, you might find them to be incredibly charismatic and magnetic.
The psychologist of Jeffery Dahmer, who killed 17 victims and actuallt ATE a number of them, remarked that Jeffery was "amiable, pleasant to be with, courteous, with a sense of humor, conventionally handsome, and charming in manner. He was, and still is, a bright young man"
Ted Bundy, the psychopath who had been convicted of the murder of 30 women, received hundreds of letters from adoring female fans while he was on trial, including many marriage proposals.
THOSE THAT COME INTO CONTACT WITH PSYCHOPATHS OFTEN REMEMBER SOMEBODY WITH SMOOTH SOCIAL SKILLS AND AN IRRESISTIBLE CHARISMA.
Once again, not all psychopaths are charming, but there's a good chance they're not going come across as awkward and werid as the psychopath portrayed by Javier Bardmen from No Country for Old Men or as unnerving as Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs.
Richard Ramirez, killer of 14 people, attracted a large following of female fans. Many describing him as "Funny and charming"
Of course, anybody who has the misfortune of being around a psychopath for a long period of time will begin to get very, very creeped out as they get to know them more intimately.
Let's go back to the psychopath Luke and his wife Sydney from earlier.
After many years of being in a relationship with Luke, Sydney says:
"And then Luke looked at me, looked me right in the eyes, and it was as if I'd never met him before in my life. He looked that different. Those were the creepiest eyes I've ever seen, like beams of ice-it's really hard to explain.
And I realised, all of a sudden, that in Luke's mind this was all some kind of control game. And I had lost, big-time. I was stunned"
Psychopaths. Just one more subject in which the media has accidentally warped public perception.
Don't talk to strangers kids.