One question people curious about psychopaths want to know is whether they always have an evil feel or aura to them. Do psychopaths always give off a general aura of toxic energy that we identify them by? Can we tell if someone is a psychopath just by the “energy” or “feel” or “vibe” we get off them?
The quick and safe answer unfortunately is no, not always, but the issue is quite complex and mixed:
Psychopaths cannot always be identified going off the initial “energy” or “vibe” they give off. Doing this can be very misleading, since psychopaths are perhaps the most adept of all personalities at coming across as very charming and warm at first.
This is the marzipan they are laying on top to con and deceive their victims and gain their trust. It is a tried and trusted tactic by psychopaths and needs to be watched out for.
In short, psychopaths can initially come across as the very opposite of evil. They can appear to be the perfect friend, partner, employee or business acquaintance. They can shower you with warmth, affection and charm and make you feel ten feet tall. This of course is merely to take you in and set you up for what is coming down the line.
Later on, when the mask slips, you will see the real evil traits and toxic energy come out, but this often won’t have been apparent at first.
In fairness, some psychopaths do in fact have an odd feel to them even at first. These tend to be the more unhinged psychopaths, often violent ones. We will discuss these just below. However, for the vast majority of psychopaths we will meet in everyday life, they will not reveal themselves at first and so need to be spotted by observing a specific set of character traits over time.
All the reading in the world cannot immunize you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, conned and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone’s heart strings”
Dr Robert Hare
Some Psychopaths Do Give Off Toxic Energy
Some psychopaths, it must be said, do indeed give off initial toxic energy or bad vibes, do have an evil aura or feel to them. Most psychopaths learn to some extent they must put up a somewhat charming persona or mask of sanity to the world to come across as normal, but some do not erect this facade so well and can come across as “off” or “wrong” to people straight away.
This can often be the more unhinged, violent types of psychopath; the sort who can immediately put people on edge and have an evil or odd energy to them to. This is sometimes reported by people who met the more extreme serial killers such as Ian Brady and Peter Sutcliffe
Detectives and psychologists will often report a feeling of evil that comes off these people which immediately puts them on edge. Professor Jeremy Coid, who interviewed Ian Brady in 2003, said of him “You feel yourself in the presence of a human being who isn’t really quite human”.
However, this kind of “off” energy vibe can also come off other people you meet from time to time. Interestingly Robert Redford also describes a similar experience meeting former US president Richard Nixon. He describes, as he briefly interacted with him up close as a youngster, how he felt an energy coming off him that was “frighteningly dark and inauthentic”.
Another interesting example of this is how Emma Thompson describes how the now exposed predator and clear psychopath Harvey Weinstein always gave off “an appalling aura” whenever she was in the same room as him.
I’ve in hindsight made a very similar observation about a former line manager I used to work for, who later turned out to be a clear example of a workplace psychopath. When I initially went for the interview, I remember noticing on some level how he seemed to give off a really toxic vibe or energy, a really bad, poisonous aura, observing him from afar. It is however important to pay attention and heed these warnings in terms of the toxic energy we sense of them, something I didn’t do and still regret.
What demarcates many of those psychopaths who “feel” toxic and evil to others right away, versus those that don’t, is uncertain. Perhaps it is sometimes a toxic vibe the more evil psychopaths give off, where they have so irreversibly crossed the line in terms of the horrible things they have done that their whole body and being starts to radiate a kind of evil aura that normal, feeling people immediately identify as “wrong” or “off”.
Most Psychopaths Do Not Give Off Toxic Energy at First
The reality however is that most psychopaths we will meet in our daily lives, especially the non violent ones, will not come across as evil or toxic at first in terms of the energy they give off. In fact, with psychopaths, they will often seem like the very opposite of this at first.
This issue was well summarized by expert psychologist Matthew Logan, who has interviewed well over 100 psychopaths. He describes it like this:
“A lot of the (psychopaths) I’ve known don’t have an evil appearance or an evil feel to them. They’re out to con and manipulate you so they’re very charming and they come across as extremely easy to like, most of them”
Anyone who has experienced a psychopath in a relationship will confirm this. Initially they will come across as the most charming of people, intelligent, witty, tuned into you, walking and talking in rhythm with you – the perfect match. This dynamic of creating the manufactured soulmate has been well described. See Jackson Mackenzie’s Psychopath Free (link in books section) for a good breakdown of this.
The evil and toxic energy only starts to leak out later. In the initial stages they are trying to be as charming as possible to gain your trust. They are trying to come across as the opposite of toxic.
They most often have a very charming front act that can very easily take people in. Here are some examples of this:
- A glib, superficial warmth and charisma the psychopath appears to exude, at least when you first meet them. Designed to get you captivated by them.
- A “slickness” and “coolness” that can easily take in more materialistic and shallow people especially. A social ability to “chit the chat” and seemingly do and say all the right things at the right time. Will often appear to be very engaged and engaging socially.
- A sense of “perfection” and smoothness that is a little unusual for anyone with a realistic view of human imperfection. “Being with them can seem like you’re in some cool, slick movie”, as Dr Ramani Durvasula puts it in the excellent MedCircle podcast on psychopathy.
- Their charm is often characterized by a total lack of shyness, self consciousness, humility or self doubt. It is brazen and not afraid to approach or say anything.
- For Jobs/Tenancies etc. – They put up a front that can be so charming and engaging that we are easily taken in by them, to the point where we forgo common sense precautions and just let them into our lives (“ah, just give him the job, we don’t need to get references, he’s alright”, or “ah, he’s a good laugh, I’ll let him move in with me, I don’t need to check his past or get references”, stuff like that). Psychopaths are brilliant at charming their way in like that. (Reality check – you definitely DON’T want to let a psychopath move in with you, nor do you want these people in your companies).
- A superficial ability to appear interested in and attuned to other people, especially in romantic relationships. May show an initial interest in your hobbies, passions and pursuits. If you look more closely though, their interest or apparent empathy has no real signs of true empathy or interest in others. It is shallow and simulated.
- A mirroring effect, where the psychopath initially seems to walk and talk in rhythm with you, mimicking your every word and gesture. They are robotically creating a manufactured soulmate, in the words of Jackson Mackenzie. See also our article on psychopathic mirroring.
- A emphasis on fun and “good times” only, without any kind of deeper side or awareness of suffering. They often appear unsullied or untouched by the suffering of the world, which may appear attractive at first but is actually not a good thing if you look into it more carefully.
Of course once people have been through this experience they are usually more cautious and not so easily taken in by this glib charm in the future.
Of course, when the devalue and discard phases of the psychopathic relationship start, then you see the evil energy in full force. The emotional abuse, gas-lighting, identity erosion all leave long lasting damage to victims. They can also turn on a dime and their aura can become toxic if their behavior is ever confronted; however they go to great lengths to hide this at first.
When Psychopaths Give Off Toxic Energy (Devalue-Discard)
However, it is true that once the initial “honeymoon” idealize phase has ended, or once they realize you are on to them, you will start to see the more toxic and poisonous side of psychopaths, both in terms of their personality and the energy they give off.
This is often known as the devalue-discard phase, and it’s when the charming mask or front act the psychopath had been putting up initially to woo someone in, comes crashing down, and they start to reveal who they really are psychologically – a toxic, disordered, chaotic mess.
In fairness, the more obvious aspect of this mask slipping will seem more psychological than energetic, with a sudden onslaught of obnoxiousness, abusiveness, projection, gas-lighting, provocation, conflict and other toxic things that will leave you wondering what on earth happened to the initially charming person you met a few months before (hint – that person was a myth and never really existed).
However, whilst this is all real and true and extensively covered on the site and others, it’s also very true that there’s an energetic component to the abuse a psychopath inflicts on victims in relationships.
More specifically, what we’re referring to is the the psychic or energetic component of projection, whereby a toxic/disordered person will often “offload” or “dump” their energetic as well as psychological garbage onto victim (sometimes referred to as psychic or energy vampirism).
This is an aspect of pathological personalities not covered by mainstream or even most alternative therapists or healers, but a very real phenomenon. Put simply, these people can often sense when someone is on to them, and will often attempt to discharge much of their own energetic as well as psychological garbage onto victims before the final breakup or discard.
The toxic energy of the abuser often remains clogged in the victim’s body long after the relationship is over, and can be very difficult to remove. See the psychic vampirism website for an excellent resource on this topic, including tips for removing this psychic garbage.
This is the crucial instance of when psychopaths can and do give off toxic energy, although it won’t usually be obvious in the early stages of a relationship when the charm act is in full swing, but will come out later once the relationship turns more toxic and confrontational.
The Best Way to Spot Psychopaths
The best way to spot a psychopath therefore is not on the initial “vibe” or “feel” or energy they give off, since this is most often designed to lure people in like bees to a honeypot. Occasionally a less sophisticated psychopath may give themselves away by having an “off” feel to them, but many won’t.
The best way to spot them is over time by observing a predictable and consistent set of behavior patterns and character traits which will always give them away, no matter how much marzipan topping they have laid on in the form of their glib charm and “funny guy” persona.
We have covered this in more detail in our article on how to spot a psychopath. You are looking for contradictions between this persona or mask of sanity they have been presenting to you, and their actual character and behavior towards you and others. Look for some of these:
- Contradictions and inconsistencies start to become apparent between what they have said and what they do, or their version of their life and the version you hear from others.
- A glibness and superficiality which doesn’t go away. Over time you see there is no depth or substance there.
- No morality or care for the world. Any “care” is surface or froth to take you in and is not genuine.
- Treats others (and eventually you) poorly in work and personal settings.
- No vocational traits.
- Shallow, materialistic mindset.
- Egotistical, self centered personality starts to become apparent once you see past surface charm.
- Patterns of manipulation and emotional abuse, such as gaslighting start to appear in the relationship. You are starting to question yourself more and more in a way you didn’t before.
- Increasing boundary violations and identity erosion. You start tolerating more and more unacceptable behavior from them.
- There may be the odd leakage of toxicity, perhaps flashes of anger and an “off” feel you get from them as their real self they have been hiding so well leaks out. Some are better at controlling this than others.
- When openly and clearly confronted, many psychopaths will most definitely turn ugly and you will sense a real toxicity to their vibe. As Stefan Verstappen puts it: “they can turn a shade of ugly you haven’t seen before” and this is when the mask really drops and you see the real person underneath. This is kept cleverly hidden in the initial stages of a relationship.
- See our Checklist page for more traits to look out for. The Psychopathy Checklist is also a good resource.
See also our Resources page for more books and videos to help with spotting and dealing with psychopaths.