One common feature of psychopathic characters is a chronic suspicious they have of others. Whilst they can give off a superficial initial charm and seem to be a carefree easy going person at first, once you get to see their true colors you will see they are actually relentlessly suspicious of others. Where does this come from?
This chronic suspicion of others is just another giveaway for the extremely rigid closed off view of the world the psychopath actually has, despite the mask or persona they often try to project as being a normal person. This is often the result of being “found out” multiple times before, or else it may resemble the toxic environment they grew up in as children.
Psychopaths are commonly paranoid and often suspicious of others. They tend to create arguments and conflict very easily, and often assume the worst of others in terms of their motives and intentions. They tend to operate from a very cynical and exploitative worldview.
This suspicion can manifest in many different ways, but most commonly it just comes across as a lack of trust in people. Despite their ability to take people in with a superficial charm and charisma, psychopaths will over time generally reveal themselves to not be very agreeable or harmonious people to deal with and you will see that they actually live in a very rigid, tightly controlled world mentally.
Psychopaths Often Create Arguments For No Reason
One way this suspicion often manifests is in the psychopath’s tendency to make arguments out of situations when there is absolutely no need and when it was absolutely not your intention to start an argument. They seem to manufacture arguments out of nowhere.
In this way they tend to assume the worst of a completely innocent question and try to make out that you were somehow questioning or challenging them when you weren’t intending to do that at all. They then respond in an argumentative way and all of a sudden what was meant to be a simple conversation is now turned into a conflict and an argument.
This can be really frustrating as you feel that what should be simple, cordial discussions are repeatedly turned into oppositional arguments where they go on the defensive when you had absolutely no intention or desire to start an argument. They make it that way through the suspicious lens with which they seem to interpret totally innocent questions.
Some common things you may find yourself thinking (or expressing) when dealing with these kind of ubiquitously suspicious psychopaths could be things like this:
- Hey man, I wasn’t trying to start an argument there, I was just asking a question.
- I was just making conversation about xyz, I wasn’t attacking or accusing you.
- Why do you turn every conversation into an argument when there is absolutely no need?
- I didn’t mean anything against you by that comment. It was just an observation/joke.
- Why do you assume every question I ask means I am somehow questioning you or accusing you of something? I’m not!
There can be many variations around this theme but hopefully you get the general idea. Even if you had absolutely no intention of questioning them or accusing them of something, psychopaths always seem to take perfectly reasonable and well meaning questions or statements the wrong way, and from then on it’s an oppositional conflict that started from something entirely in their own head. Talk about twisted!
The chronic suspicion a lot of psychopaths have towards others is indicative of a deep paranoia many of them have about others and the world
Psychopaths as Paranoid People
This reveals a more general trait that some psychopaths have of being paranoid. They are often chronically mistrustful of others and this shows through in this tendency to needlessly turn even innocent conversations into arguments by assuming every question is somehow challenging them.
It can be exacerbating to deal with, especially if this person happens to be a manager or co-worker, as you feel even the simplest and most well intentioned inquiry will be turned into a oppositional fight regardless of your intentions.
You feel like you are walking on eggshells with this person as they over-react to everything and go on the defensive when there is no need.
This is also why the Cluster B personality disorders that encompass psychopathy/sociopathy are also known as the Dramatic personality disorders, since relationships with these people tend to be characterized by relentless conflict, drama and provocation.
The reasons and motives for this drama and conflict can differ. Some psychopaths live with a relentless feeling of boredom that they feel the need to relieve by creating conflict. Others pre-meditate conflict for the fun of it. But for sure, paranoia is another source of this, with psychopaths often being very suspicious of others, and frequently picking fights and starting arguments for no reason because of this.
This is part of a psychopath’s distorted worldview and the psychological armouring they have, where despite initial appearances, they are actually closed off to others and see the world as a very dangerous place, with threats and enemies everywhere.
See the Unslaved Podcast on psychopathy for a brilliant discussing of this “chronic armouring” many psychopaths have which drives this relentless suspicion and paranoia of others.
Of course not all psychopaths are clinically paranoid in this obvious way and in some toxic people these traits will be lessened or perhaps absent. But paranoia and constant suspicion of others is a common enough personality trait in many psychopaths for us to warrant mentioning it as something to look out for when identifying them.
Where this comes from it is difficult to be certain of but there are a couple of logical explanations. Firstly, psychopaths live a frightful existence, where they have to constantly keep up a pretense or a Mask of Sanity as Hervey Cleckley put it (click to view the book on Amazon).
This is a persona or facade they present to the world to make them seem normal, well adjusted, moral human beings just like everybody else. It is designed to conceal the reality of who they really are – toxic, malevolent, manipulative beings with no ability to experience emotions, empathize or connect with others.
Psychopaths realize on some level that these traits are not desired or respected among the general population so they must constantly exert enormous energy to keep this mask up and avoid detection. This constant act they must keep up must also make them chronically suspicious or on edge that they could at any moment be exposed or “found out”.
In fact many psychopaths do get found out as the mask eventually drops and people start to see them for who they really are. Often times when they are exposed to a large number of people they have to leave an area altogether a start again somewhere new, where no one knows of their real character and past. Thus they attempt to blend in somewhere new and the act or pretense starts all over again.
Having to do this all day, every day for their entire lives must in a sense drain and exhaust the psychopath, as well as leave them chronically afraid of being found out (again) for who they really are.
This may go some way to explaining the world of constant fear and paranoia they live in; they know that at any point their act could be exposed and they would have to start all over again fooling a new set of targets.
Add to this the fact that many psychopaths probably grew up in a home where there was a lot of suspicion and mistrust and you see that it could also just be a replaying of an unpleasant childhood environment, where no one could be trusted and everyone was seen as a threat.
If these are beliefs that were hardwired into him from an unpleasant upbringing then he will take this mindset out into the world with him and assume the worst of even completely well intentioned people and interactions.
As we said he may cover this paranoia up with a superficial charm that will fool people at first. Some psychopaths can even initally come across as carefree, hedonistic fun lovers, but if you observe them carefully after a while you will still see a kind of armoring and suspicion of others that permeates their relationships.
It will show up more obviously to those that interact with him on a longer term basis and find arguments being manufactured for no reason and an illogical mistrust of completely innocent questions.
“There is no doubt that if (the psychopath) had come from cold, indifferent, unloving parents, who kept on using the will to power to destroy and humiliate him, then he’s very likely to be forced into submission, and then become a disciple of the will to power.
He may become a disciple of the master-slave dynamic, because he’s trying to find the power that he was denied. He’s trying to exercise it on other people. He’s trying to be the master before he can be mastered. You’ll read this in numerous books on the subject….these specialists are always telling you that these guys want to kill before they’re killed. They do see the world as a very frightening place…..
….these are people who really want revenge on the world, because they think the world has hurt them. And in many cases maybe they’re right”
Michael, Unslaved Podcast
Psychopaths Always Assume the Worst of People
Another offshoot of this chronic suspicion that psychopaths have is that they are always assuming the worst of people and second guessing their intentions in a negative way. They take a very cynical view of the world and others, always assuming people are doing things only for their own benefit and never out of just a genuine kindness.
Put differently, psychopaths cannot understand altruism, defined as people doing something purely for the benefit of others with no personal gain or agenda involved. They can only ever see the world through a purely selfish, egoistic lense, where people are only out for themselves and will never do anything for someone just for the sake of kindness.
This is the way they live and they make the mistake so many people do of judging others by their own values. Because they only ever do things that benefit them, they assume others must only ever do the same. They will often shoot down acts of generosity or kindness with some kind of accusation : “Aah, you’re just doing that because you’ll get xyz…”
They cannot conceive that someone would do something kind for someone or help them out just for the nice feeling it gives us to because we value someone as a friend and want to help them. Psychopaths cannot relate to either of these things because they are mostly empty emotionally and see people only as objects to be used or manipulated.
It is for this same reason that you will never find a psychopath undertaking charitable or vocational activities, and you will also very rarely find them in these types of jobs. Rather they tend to permeate the world of soulless, purely commercial or corporate jobs where profit is the only concern and there is no higher purpose in the line of work.
Psychopaths are disciples of power and nothing else. They never find any higher purpose in life and concepts like charity, vocation, higher meaning and selflessness are completely alien to them. It is strictly about dominating and controlling others, particularly in a work setting, and their chronically suspicious nature can often make them very frustrating to deal with.
See our Resources page for more books, videos and articles to help you spot these kind of people in your life and develop a strategy to deal with or escape from them.