The mind of psychopaths is such a fascinating concept for those that start to study it. We want to know what really makes them tick, and one obvious question is simply how do they view others and the world in general? What mindset and worldview do they take when living in the world and interacting with others?
Psychopaths lack the ability to experience true emotion or empathy, and as such they tend to view the world with a cool detachment, often curious that other people have these vulnerabilities and weaknesses we call emotions, conscience and remorse. They also see life and the world as a relentless power struggle, and are therefore looking to constantly assert their power over others, mastering others before they can be mastered.
One thing which becomes obvious to anyone who either studies psychopaths or has dealt with a lot of them in daily life is that there are differences there, and not all psychopaths and sociopaths fit neatly into one mould or pigeon hole.
There are differences in the way this disorder manifests in different people, though there are still common strands in terms of manipulativeness and lack of conscience which can still be pulled out. This is why we want to tackle this question from a couple of different angles, which may appear contradictory, but still draw on the more general traits of psychopathy and sociopathy.
Regardless of the context in which they show up in your life though, a couple of overarching characteristics will always show through, even though the way they manifest may differ:
- A lack of authentic emotional engagement, empathy and conscience, often covered up with a very convincing front act of glib charm and charisma.
- An obsession with power and control over others, in subtle invasive ways or more obvious control freak tendencies.
- A worldview which sees and values people, not as human beings, but as objects to be used and manipulated for their own benefits and gratification.
- An exploitative and shallow relationship with the physical world, again seeing it as simply a resource to be exploited. They rarely look after or cherish any physical possessions or gifts.
- A complete lack of interest in nature, vocation , or creating any kind of true meaning for themselves in the world. Life is simply a power struggle to them.
- Let’s run through some of the ways this psychopathic relationship with the world can manifest in these severly disordered personality types.
Psychopaths View The World With a Cold Emotional Detachment
The first thing to emphasize here is that the psychopath or sociopath has a very limited or absent emotional range. They struggle to feel emotions the same way others do, though their mind state is often characterized by extreme, relentless boredom, which they often seek to alleviate by creating drama and conflict for no reason.
They also have no ability whatsoever to empathize with others, in others words, put themselves in the shoes of another and comprehend their feelings. The absence of this crucial emotional brakecheck and failsafe is why they can treat others so poorly without flinching, since they cannot feel on an emotional level what they are doing to others, even though they may intellectually realize they are causing suffering.
These two factors combine to mean that a psychopath is wired fundamentally differently on an emotional level than normal human beings. Sooner or later they realize this, but instead of being concerned about it, actually begin to see it as an advantage which allows them to get ahead in the world.
See our article on whether psychopaths know they are psychopaths for more on this. In short, psychopaths realize this emotional stuntedness sets them apart from other people, and begin to cooly observe and mimic emotions in others, learning how to blend in and appear as other people do more convincingly.
This quote from psychopathy expert Robert Hare, taken from this documentary, perfectly sums up the psychopath or sociopath’s relationship with emotion:
The psychopath is using facial expressions, hand movements, body language that seems appropriate to an underlying emotional state, but it’s fake…The psychopath has learned that there are certain facial expressions, body language that is associated with what other people say is a particular emotion”
Dr Robert Hare
How Psychopaths Look Down on The World
Once psychopaths and sociopaths realize they have this fundamantal difference with others in that they don’t feel emotion the same way, they start to see they can use this to exploit others and get ahead in the world.
Human qualities like empathy, conscience, guilt and remorse begin to be seen as weaknesses, that they don’t have, and so they are at an advantage in just being able to do stuff without even thinking about consequences or effects on others, hence the impulsiveness of many psychopaths.
As such, they begin to see themselves as superior to the others and the rest of the world, inhabiting a lofty, detached position where they are not prone to the same weakness “these other people around me” with real emotions and morality are.
Here are some of the ways we can see psychopaths and sociopaths viewing others and the world:
- “I’m better than these people, I’m superior and detached.”
- “Look at all these pathetic people around me, with these things called “emotions” and “conscience”. I don’t live with these same restrictions.”
- “I don’t even get what these things called “emotions” are. Why do people get so upset about things? Why do they value and treasure other people so much?”
- “Why do people just do kind stuff for others, without getting anything back off them? I don’t do anything for anyone unless I get something out of it. Who cares about people for themselves?”
- “”Emotions”, “conscience”, “morality”, “ethics”, “guilt” – these are weaknesses. I’m glad I don’t have these things holding me back. I can just do what I like.”
- “I’m gonna use this difference I have with others to my own advantage. I can get ahead so much more easily because I can see what makes people tick, but I don’t “feel” stuff myself.”
- “I don’t care about other people. If I can get something out of them, then cool. If not, I’m off.”
- “Other people who have emotions and conscience are so easy to manipulate. I can just play on their good nature all the time and it works! Ha!”
- “Look how easy it is to manipulate people. I’ve got 99% of people covered, because they are so easily influenced and taken in if I just play “normal” and tell them what they want to hear.”
- “If I want something done in the world, I don’t care about rules or morals, I’m just gonna get it done. Morality is for these weak “other people” around me.”
- “It’s so much easier to get things done and get ahead in the world when you don’t have these limitations that other people do, all bothered by “conscience” and “morals”.”
- See the books Confessions of a Sociopath from ME Thomas on Amazon for a personal confession of how a former sociopath views other people and the world at large. You will find this cool, detached mindset very prevalent in her account.
Psychopaths See The World as a Very Frightening Place
Everything we just said above points towards psychopaths as being largely fearless – just doing things without fearing consequences, punishment or retribution. On a surface level this is certainly true – psychopaths do project an image of outrageous, brazen confidence, not appearing frightened by anyone.
However, psychopaths and sociopaths are still terrified people under the surface, since they know on some level they are not like others and could be exposed at any moment.
They just realize that to convincingly get away with it, they need project onto the world a very well put together facade or mask of sanity to convince others they are normal. The best way to sell a lie is to sell it repeatedly, often and with outrageous, brash confidence, and this is what the psychopath has to do, every single day of their life.
They appear very confident and well put together because they have to; it is the only way for them to survive undetected. A deep fear and terror is still going on underneath though, and to a very extreme level.
The psychopath is just shut off from it because they are shut off from their own emotions and have no empathy for others, but also no empathy for themselves. They are driven by fear, and are very frightened people at the core, but they just don’t feel it consciously, and they don’t get aroused physiologically in the “fight-flight” response way that normal people do.
Psychopaths and sociopaths also often come from very troubled backgrounds and upbringings. This, combined with a constant underlying fear and dread of exposure, leads psychopaths to indeed see the world as a very frightening place, hence the constant need to manipulate, dominate and control others before they can be “found out”.
This mindset leads psychopaths and sociopaths to become disciples of power and control, not equality, mutual respect or trust. Here is a brilliant quote from the Unslaved Podcast which sums up this chronically suspicious, paranoid mindset they have:
“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”
This perfectly sums up the obsession psychopaths have with power, as opposed to more evolved traits like equality, harmony, vocation and empathy. A psychopath couldn’t care less about these things; they just want power over others in a kind of replaying of scenarios earlier in their own life where they were denied power and humiliated.
See also another great quote here from the same podcast on how this fundamentally frightened mindset leads them to be chronically guarded and suspicious of others:
Without this openness, the autistic mind of the psychopath then thinks that all of life is a threat, and so one thing you can check for is armoring. Look at the routine they have, look at the daily life they have….look at the way they relate with others.
Are they sponatenous? Or do they see the whole external world as filled with demons and beasts and threats. There’s always enemies (for them).
Paranoia is always indicative that you’re dealing with a psychopath, where they’re always unneccesarily suspicious….these people are just ubiquitously suspicious of other people. They’re chronically armoured.
This is why they look upon the world with such a suspicion and paranoia, and are constantly seeking to “move up the ladder” in political and corporate environments, dominating others before they themselves can be dominated.
However, regardless of the area of life in which they show up, these common drives for power and control will always be there, though sometimes more cleverly concealed than others.
Regardless of outer charm and veneer, a psychopath or sociopath sees the world and human interactions as a brutal, dog-eat-dog, mistrustful, power game, that they always need to win before they get “beaten”. Hence the exploitative, manipulative and insincere nature of these personalities.