We have spent a lot of time on this blog detailing all the toxic behaviors psychopaths engage in, but can psychopaths ever do any good? Do they ever do generous deeds or good things for people? Do they ever behave well towards others in a way that is geniune?
Ultimately, psychopaths are perhaps the most self absorbed of all the personality types, and therefore anything they do is ultimately only ever self serving, even if it appears to be generous or “doing good” in the world. There is always an agenda to what a psychopath does and they never act kindly or do good for others for it’s own sake, because they couldn’t care less about this.
We can approach this issue from a couple of different angles – the interpersonal view of toxic relationships and the bigger view of psychopathic companies and foundations that appear to “do good” with “dirty money”.
It is important here though to separate outcome from motive or intention. Ostensibly kind acts may produce good outcomes and people may benefit, but that will not be the primary motive of the psychopathic person or company. Any goodness that psychopathic individuals or companies do appear to do is never for it’s own sake, and always has some kind of manipulative motive or agenda behind it.
Let’s look at the issue in more detail from these different angles.
Psychopaths Can Appear To Do Good….At First
On the level of personal relationships, psychopaths can appear to be very good to you when you first meet them. It is part of the glib charm and charisma they like project to take people in, and ward them off the scent of who they really are.
This is why so many people that got tangled up with a psychopath report that they seemed wonderful when they first met them. They seemed attentive, attuned, empathic, interested in their life and interests. They thought they had found a soulmate. Then after a while the mask started slipping and the real psychopath came out.
But at least initially, psychopaths are superb at projecting an image of the perfect partner, friend or business acquaintance. They are very good at guaging people, feeling them out emotionally and telling them what they want to hear to get in their good graces. This is all part of the act to gain their trust so they can betray it later on down the line.
However, this intial act of “playing the perfect match” takes in so many people, because it is so effective and convincing. Who doesn’t like to have someone who’s interested in them, strokes their ego, takes them out for fancy meals and trips, who “gets them” so well that they finish their sentences, and tells them what they want to hear?
We like to assume that ostensibly kind behavior towards us has good intentions; unfortunately with the psychopath it doesn’t. They are building you up psychologically so they can bring you down or betray you later on.
So in some cases psychopaths can appear to do good for others as part of the charade they like to play in the early stages of their relationships, but any acts of kindness are not authentic and for the sake of being kind, but will always have an ulterior motive or be part of wider game they are playing.
Psychopaths couldn’t care less about qualities like kindness and goodness for their own sake; they are self serving and a means to an end like anything else.
Psychopaths Can “Be Good” To Play Mind Games and Triangulate
This is really a specific part of the “perfect match” charade we mentioned just above that psychopaths like to play, but is worth mentioning as it often shows up in the devalue and discard stages of a toxic relationship, where the psychopath or narcissist is starting to undermine their target and move onto someone else.
In this way, they will often bombard their new target with the same warmth, charm, and kindness that they did with the first person, but will often also flaunt it in their victim’s face, making it clear to them they are cheating or have moved on to someone else. They take a pleasure out of this triangulation, where they love playing you off against someone else by comparison.
Such “in your face” manipulation often leaves a lot of emotional damage in the first victim, which is unfortunately exactly what the psychopath wants. Psychopaths know that so many people will start to question and doubt themselves after this kind of triangulation, thinking that there must be something wrong with them, otherwise the psychopath wouldn’t have rejected them.
The victim will often internalize these messages of shame and inadequacy, whilst the psychopath often rubs it in their face, broadcasting their new relationship proudly to their victim on social media or in person. So again kindness towards someone else is used as a manipulative tool to stick the knife in their previous victim, and not because they care about being kind for it’s own sake.
Another context in which this can occur is in work scenarios, where a particularly malevolent psychopath can isolate a certain person and make a scapegoat out of them, by being hostile with them (and them alone), whilst being seemingly warm and kind to everyone else. See our article on psychopaths and selective empathy for more on this.
Again it is a triangulation tool, designed to isolate and undermine someone emotionally, with the kindness shown towards others totally aimed at undermining their target and making them think there is something wrong with them. As usual with the psychopath, any positive traits displayed have an agenda and motive behind them are do not come out of any inherent goodness in them.
Some good examples of political scheming masquerading as philanthropy
This is another enormously contentious issue regarding psychopathy. There is no doubt that ruthless, psychopathic people have set up organizations and charities which appear at least on the surface to be doing good.
In America it has become something of an art form, setting up so called Tax Exempt Foundations, which on the surface appear to be charitable bodies, but are often used by elitists to exert political and economic influence. This has been going on for decades; see the video above for more on this. Of course not all of these foundations have bad intentions, but some do.
It is also true that there are plenty of “good” billionaires as well, extremely wealthy people who do want to “give back” to society once they have attained financial security and freedom for themselves. The old cliche “how much money do you need?” is true and many billionaires are well aware of this.
Their wealth is a product of their drive, work ethic, focus and vision, and if you took it all away tomorrow they would start again. The money is really not important to a lot of these people. It keeps the score of how hard working and focused they have been.
This is why most of the billionaires you see have set up some kind of charitable foundations and causes, and by no means are all of them evil psychopaths.Non psychopathic people like to give to others because of the nice feeling of giving back, and because it is part of being a human being to empathize with the struggles of others and help out if you can.
The motives and intentions for doing this differ for. For some it is a genuine desire to give back; for others it is a PR exercise, a way of avoiding taxes, or a way of exerting political influence in society. Plenty of psychopaths are wealthy, but not all wealthy people are psychopaths.
Similarly, another way of looking at this is to imagine corporations who engage in unethical activity and whose products or services prey off misery or cause suffering in the lives of others. What about corporations that exploit customers and treat their staff like dirt, yet still donate some money to “good causes” as a PR exercise, and some good does come out of it?
This does happen, and throws up a bit of a dilemma. What about a company that manufactures weapons and bombs which kill people donating to charity? What about a gambling company or casino setting up a foundation to help children, despite all the misery and financial ruin they might be responsible for?
Does the good they do balance out the bad they do? Would we feel clean taking such “dirty money” if we were potential beneficiaries? Different people will have different ethical views on this. Some people are pragmatic and just want a good outcome or result; others refuse dirty money on principle. Some people are desperate and don’t have the option of making ethical choices, even if they wanted to.
A large part of a psychopathic company’s agenda will be to project a good image out to the world, which will often involve a lot of ostensibly charitable activities.
An excellent quote which summarizes this issue brilliantly comes from Dr Ramani Durvasula on the excellent MedCircle podcast on psychopathy. When asked about whether psychopaths could ever use their condition to do good, part of her response was:
“Lets say you have a psychopath running an incredibly successful company corporation, but in order to launder money or distract people, raises tens and tens of millions of dollars for charitable causes and that money really does go to protecting people, feeding people, giving them healthcare…..so it’s dirty money, but people do get helped. Lets face it, that does happen.
So it’s money laundering to them, people benefit. I guess viewers out there can think about is it worth it if somebody gets helped who wouldn’t have got helped otherwise, but the money came from a really manipulative place”
Dr Ramani Durvasula