One question people curious about psychopaths want to know is whether they always have an evil feel or aura to them? Can we tell if something is a psychopath just by the “feel” or “vibe” we get off them?
The answer unfortunely is no. In fact, going off the initial “feel” and vibe someone gives you 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 marsipan 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 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 you will see the real evil traits come out, but they 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.
Some Psychopaths Do Have an Evil Feel to Them
Some psychopaths, it must be said, do indeed 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 feel to them. 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”. Interestingly Robert Redford also describes a similar experience meeting former US president Richard Nixon.
What demarcates those psychopaths who “feel” evil versus those that don’t is uncertain. Perhaps it is a vibe the more evil, murderous 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”.
Stefan Verstappen with some excellent advice on how to spot and defend against the psychopath
Most Psychopaths Don’t Feel Evil 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 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 on Amazon for a good breakdown of this.
The evil 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 evil. They have a glib, superficial charm and charisma that can very easily take people in. 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 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.
The Best Way to Spot Psychopaths
The best way to spot a psychopath therefore is not on the initial vibe or feel 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 marsipan 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 centred 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.