Pathological heartlessness characterizes the most malignant narcissists among us. And it goes right along with their egomania most of the time. So, it’s worth more deeply exploring both of these aspects of extreme character dysfunction.
Heartlessness in one form or fashion is a bigger problem these days than one might think. And there are many reasons for this. Some folks have been so traumatized by one thing or another that they find it hard to care anymore. To care simply hurts too badly. So they find it safer not to care so much. And perhaps that’s the most damaging fallout from truama. It attacks the very core of our humanity. So, we sometimes harden our hearts. But there are other, more subtle and troubling reasons for the heartlessness we see these days. Character dysfunction is widespread. And its prevalence has desensitized us. So much self-centered, heartless behavior surrounds us that even the most sensitive souls can question what the point is in caring.
While heartlessness in general is more common than it should be, pathological heartlessness is another matter entirely. The most malignant narcissists (e.g., psychopaths, sociopaths) severely lack empathy. Some are completly devoid of the capacity to care. Others simply choose not to care, especially when convenient. That’s right. They have the uncanny ability to close off or “compartmentalize” any caring capacity, especially when they want to prey upon someone. Such selectively heartless predators are perhaps the most dangerous characters of all. That’s because they can seem so benign – deceptively human at times. That draws you in. And you rarely understand how they preyed on you until you’ve been used and discarded.
We all need healthy egos to get through life. The world is a crazy place. And we have to learn how to navigate through it with minimal bruising. That’s precisely why we need an ego. Moreover, folks who lack a strong ego tend to get bruised a lot, and unnecessarily. So, we need ego, but a healthy one is a matter of balance.
An ego can get pathologically bent out of shape. And folks with inflated egos see themselves as “special,” or “above” the rest of us. Some even believe they’re superior precisely because they’re not encumbered by characteristics most of us possess and value: caring and conscience. In our hearts, most of us answer to some sort of “higher power.” Egomaniacs answer to no one. They recognize no higher power. (See: Egotists: “Above” the Need for a Governing “Higher Power”)
Most decent folks let their conscience and capacity to care temper their behavior. They simply won’t let themselves do certain things, even though they may be sorely tempted at times. Because they care, and because they would feel awful about doing certain things, they hold themselves back. But malignantly narcissistic folks stop at nothing. They have neither the conscience nor the caring to hold them back. And that enables them to engage in all manner of ruthless behavior.
Egomanical folks are often quite proud of how different they are. They easily disdain those with a heart and a conscience, considering them both “weak” and inferior. Seeing themselves as superior creatures, they feel entitled to use, abuse, exploit, and otherwise victimize at will. Their egomania, when combined with pathological heartlessness makes such folks humanity’s most dangerous predators.
I’ll be having more to say on pathologically heartless egomaniacal types on the upcoming episode of the “New” Character Matters program. You can find the podcast here and a link to it on the Archives page of the blog.
To find more in-depth information on todays, visit:
Character Disturbance: pp. 121-127