The Psychopathy Spectrum
All disturbed characters on the psychopathy spectrum are significantly impaired in their empathy capacity. But exactly where a person lies on the spectrum depends upon just how devoid of empathy they are and what other problematic traits they also possess. Psychopaths:
- lack empathy
- are extremely decietful, manipulative, conning
- possess a certain glibness, and can be smooth-talking, even charming
- lack conscience
- exploit, use and abuse others without compunction or remorse
Psychopaths have the most malignant form of narcissism. They see themselves as superior creatures. And in their extreme haughtiness, they feel perfectly entitled to prey on those they regard as inferior. (See also: Malignant Narcissism: At the Core of Psychopathy and Malignant Narcissism Goes Beyond Haughtiness.)
Psychopaths differ from antisocial personalities (i.e. chronic major social norm violators) in many ways. But the simplest and most accurate way to draw a distinction is this: antisocials are generally the “hot headed” rebels who resist conforming, whereas psychopaths are the “cold hearted” predators among us. They senselessly, callously, and remorselessly use and abuse others without compunction or remorse. (See also: pp. 38-44 in In Sheep’s Clothing and chapter 3 in Character Disturbance.)
The Empathy Dimension
Empathy is the capacity to identify with the feelings and experience of another. In short, it’s the ability to care. But it’s caring a particular kind of caring. It’s caring with an understanding of and appreciation for what another might be going through. Folks who care empathetically often feel what others feel. They rejoice in someone’s happiness. And they’re saddened by another’s unhappiness. In large measure, we regard empathy one of the main qualities of being human.
Psychopaths lack empathy in the extreme. Some have no capacity for it whatsoever. Others have very limited or restricted capacity. Some psychopaths understand empathy at an intellectual level. They can tell you what it is and recognize it when they see it. And while they might also be able to mimic it, that doesn’t mean they can actually experience it. Everything that’s dangerous about a psychopath stems primarily from their lack of empathy. But that’s not all of the problem. Empathy deficits characterize some other more socially benign conditions, too. The other critical variable is the malignant narcissism. And how devoid of empathy and malignantly narcissitic someone is largely determines where they lie on the psychopathy spectrum.
There’s considerable evidence that the brains of psychopaths don’t work like most brains. The neuronal structures and interconnections that allow most of us to moderate our behavior based on our capacity to care simply aren’t there. In some cases, those structures were never there and could never develop because of unusual biology. In other cases, trauma (i.e. physiological, psychological, disease-induced, etc.) prevented the development of such structures and interconnections or caused once existing structures to disappear.
Psychopaths are inherently very dangerous. Their lack of feeling allows them to victimize without compunction or compassion. They’re nature’s only known intra-species predators. But psychopaths can have other disturbing traits in their personalities that make them even more dangerous. For example, psychopaths possessing sadistic traits often do more than exploit. They enjoy the pain they inflict. And placing and witnessing others others groveling in great disadvantage makes them feel even more powerful and superior. As a result they’re responsible for some of the most cruel and heinous acts and crimes you’ve ever heard about.
Understanding the psychopathy spectrum can give you power. And this is extremely important because some psychopaths are really adept at the art of the con. Somehow, they lure you in before the decimate and destroy you. Some of us have an intuitive gift of fear that signals us that we’re likely in the presence of a predator. But not everyone has this gift, and sometimes even someone with the gift will hesitate to heed their inner warnings. Most of us simply hate to think that heartless predators even exist. So, unfortunately, we only come to accept it after suffering victimization.
In upcoming posts, we’ll continue looking at the wide spectrum of character dysfunction.
7 thoughts on “Understanding The Psychopathy Spectrum”
I know of someone who committed suicide and I truly believe the narc in their life brought them to that point during a very vulnerable time in the life of that person, and I think it was done very intentionally. Very sad.
My daughter was living with a narcissistic abuser for 10 years, she had a breakdown which ultimately led to her taking her own life. We had no idea what was going on and she was blind to his abuse and manipulations, he broke her spirit 🙁
I’m so sorry, Sue. How devastating. I was married to a psychopath who did his absolute best to make sure I suicided. It was a daily thing, “Why the fuck are you still breathing?!” “Kill yourself!” and so on it went.
I’m so very sorry you lost your daughter to a predator. God will repay him for his evil.
They make it so suicide seems to be the only escape and for some, it is. The murderer. So sorry for your daughter and for you.
Thank you for your kind words. We have just had the 10 year anniversary, we are seeking legal advice as he is interfering with our daughter’s memorial, he goes there purely to hurt us. He married our daughter’s so called “best friend” and has a child. So sorry to hear what you went through with your ex.
You’re very welcome. How awful for you, Sue. I’ve thought about you since I read your post.
He interferes with your daughter’s memorial? Probably gets murderous narc supply from it. And him going and marrying and having the “best friend” birth him a child? Wow.
Murderous, predatory trash. Getting a thrill out of hurting you, the bereaved parents.
Not sure if a restraining order would work for you, as the legal system is almost invariably for the abusers and there are plenty of psychopaths in the legal field. Rife with misogynists, too. Lawyers are almost always predatory abusers as well.
Legal nightmares ensue for so many victims and abusers fare extremely well in the corrupt court system. Lawyers may advise you to seek legal action that will be even more painful for you, just to line their own pockets.
Careful with the legal system as it is stacked against victims. Abusers are catered to in the corrupt courts. Justice is a sickening joke at the victim’s expense.
Your experiences may differ. I hope so, but he might welcome a legal battle and use it as a chance to hurt you more. The courts don’t care about women and although they might say otherwise, in practice, women matter little, and men are catered to and misogyny is deeply embedded into the system.
But whatever happens, God knows what he did to your daughter and what he is continuing to do to you. Short of repenting (fat chance), he’ll be repaid when his life is over. God is a God of justice.
I suspect many suicides are actually murders of sorts where an abuser, narc, or psychopath has harmed the victim to such a degree they eventually suicide. I’m certain they do it intentionally. I had a psychopath or two who did their very best to ensure I suicided. I still waver back and forth to this day.
I’m sorry for your loss, kat.
There have been a few suicides where the abuser has been arrested. Our digital era affords more evidence collection. Most abusers are very, very careful, but some do leave traces of evidence. I’m so happy whenever I see someone attempting to successfully prosecute an abuser who pushed his victim to suicide. It seems to be quite the thrill for abusers. To murder someone without getting one’s hands dirty. To cause another such anguish and devastation you induce their suicide. For evil abusers, it’s quite the trophy.
I miss you on the air, Dr. Simon, and I miss our conversations. Do you know when you will be back on the radio, or, even better, television or Internet?