“Our default understanding of humanity is going be that everybody has some good in them. The research that Dr Robert Hare and Dr Martha Stout have done have really turned that around to say that 4% of human beings don’t have a conscience, they have no remorse for their behavior, and they actually look for opportunities to cause harm to others”
Jackson Mackenzie – see here.
This is a really thorny, tricky issue to even discuss, as modern western societies tend to hold themselves to general standards that all it’s law abiding citizens should be given a basic level of freedom and respect, which of course make perfect sense.
But what about the psychopaths/sociopaths in society? How should be deal with them? These people spend their entire lives breaking rules and causing harm to others, so do they in turn deserve the same basic level of respect that normal people do? Should they even be allowed free in society?
This issue is further complicated by the fact you can even split psychopathy/sociopathy in two. We can distinguish between the violent/criminal psychopaths who are already in some way dealt with by the legal/state system, and the non-violent psychopaths/sociopaths, who still have the same underlying personality, but have refined and sublimated their pathology to stay within the confines of the law and social norms, and instead seek to cause harm to others in more subtle, psychological ways that can’t so easily be detected and punished by law.
This second group needs as much attention on it as the first in my opinion, since this category of psychopaths/sociopaths represent the bulk of these pathological personalities in society (despite being the ones we see in the news, the violent psychopaths are actually only a small minority of all psychopaths. Most of them are more sneaky in the ways they cause harm in society).
However, I will argue for the benefit of everyone is society, psychopaths should be kept away from others as much as possible, since they see literally any interactions with others as an opportunity to manipulate, exploit of abuse them.
Given that psychopathy is not a personality disorder that can be fixed, if you want a peaceful, harmonious, well functioning society, you can’t have any of these people wandering around unrestricted, even the non violent ones who have blended in better to societal norms, but still have a compulsive urge to cause harm to others.
One particular environment that stronger policies are needed regarding pathological personalities is the workforce/world of work. This is one place these people cause arguably the most damage of all, and smart people in high places need to start having serious discussions about whether these people should even be allowed in the workforce at all once diagnosed.
Note – I don’t pretend to have any definite answers to this issue, and this article is just meant to be a conversation starter on this general issue. However, I do know this is an issue that needs seriously discussing and dealing with long term, given that these individuals ALWAYS seek to cause harm to others in some ways, even if psychological rather than physical.
Some General Rules Of Thumb Regarding Psychopaths
Any government policy for dealing with psychopaths/sociopaths in society needs to be drawn up with full awareness of the nature of the psychopathic personality, with ALL naive, power-blind assumptions removed.
Here are some general rules of thumb that MUST be understood, internalized and acted upon if society has any hope of effectively managing and controlling these individuals:
- The psychopathic personality has shown to be completely resistant to any kind of change or reform. Therapy does not work on these individuals, and can actually make them worse as they learn to deceive others more effectively. These people don’t change and can’t be made to change by sending them to “classes”, “educational programs”, therapy or “training”. It’s a waste of money even trying.
- One particularly naive paradigm that must be rejected when dealing with psychopaths is humanistic ideology, which maintains that all people are basically good and have some good in them. This is simply not true with psychopaths, who are malignant and toxic to the core and spend their entire lives manipulating, abusing and exploiting others for their own gain, fully aware of what they’re doing.
- For psychopathic individual, ANY and ALL communication with others is an opportunity for abuse, deceit, manipulation and exploitation. This is an iron law and holds true in the literal sense – they see ANY interactions as an outlet for their pathology. This is partly where the term Anti-social personality disorder comes from – the psychopathic personality is anti-social in that it’s dangerous with anything/anyone it comes into contact with, and goes against healthy norms that would and should keep society together and functioning harmoniously.
- Related to this, the Cluster B personalities in general (which includes psychopathy) are provocative and reaction seeking in nature. These people are constantly needing to feed off the emotional reactions of others, hence their compulsive drive to provoke others and cause trouble in any way they can. They NEED to do this, and in fact grow irritated, anxious and impatient if they can’t do this (another reason why they are so dangerous in group environments).
- There are never any truly innocent, agenda-free interactions with psychopaths/sociopaths. They’re always scheming, always “up to something”, always trying to gather information on people that can be used against them at a later date. There’s always “an angle”, always ulterior motives, an agenda with these people, all of which feeds back to the general rule stated above for these people – “ANY and ALL communication is an opportunity for abuse, deceit, manipulation and exploitation”.
- As a rule of thumb, if you place psychopaths/sociopaths into ANY group environment with others, in very short order, they will start “working” that environment, and seeking to manipulate, scheme, and invert reality to the benefit of themselves and the detriment of others (very important for workplaces especially).
- These people are also instinctively and automatically manipulative and deceitful, to the point where lying and manipulation of others has actually become their baseline, default state. This includes overt lying but also the more sneaky lying by omission. Therefore these people should not have ANY position of responsibility and trust afforded to them, in ANY context (especially workplaces).
- Related to this last point, psychopaths will invariably “toxify” any group/social environment they’re placed into, triangulating, playing politics, launching smear campaigns, gas-lighting and pathologizing others. ANY environment you place them in will become more toxic over time, with more negative, toxic traits/behaviors/values and less positive ones.
- Moreover, they don’t target everyone in a group environment; only those they see as being vulnerable or weak boundaried in some way. They are exploitative and scan for the ones who are vulnerable to bully. And anyone they don’t see as an easy target, they will instead seek to enlist and co-opt into their bullying and smearing of their target(s).
- They are also very good at manipulating and influencing others to behave in more toxic ways, even people who would normally know better. They seem very adept at getting others acting like them, thinking like them (toxically), gas-lighting like them, bullying like them. Environments controlled and influenced by psychopaths become much more cruel, harsh, and toxic.
- Summarizing the last few points, psychopaths are a poisonous and cancerous influence in any environment you put them in with other people. They have no creative impulse and are only destructive in their tendencies, seeking to undermine, invert or destroy anything that is good or could be good.
- Moreover, it’s also a general rule that pathological personalities attract other pathological personalities. This can be seen most evidently in toxic workplaces, whereby once a company allows some of these individuals into a company and crosses a certain threshold, a dynamic seems to form that takes on a life of it’s own and before long, this company will find itself infested with pathological individuals. I can think of a certain British bookmaker that’s a perfect example of this.
- The Cluster B disorders in general, including Anti-social personality disorder (psychopathy), are characterized by a sickness and inversion, whereby proper, healthy, sane, just values and scenarios are constantly sought to be inverted, distorted, subverted, perverted, twisted, by psychopathic individuals.
- Anything/anyone that is “good” is sought to be flipped and made “bad”, and anything/anyone “bad” made “good” by these individuals. They seek to invert and twist the outer world to match the sick inversion that exists in their own psyche. This includes perverting people, ideologies, philosophies, rules/regulations, scenarios, groups, information, workplaces, and so on.
- One example of this inversion is their uncanny knack in workplaces and other group scenarios to shift blame onto a (usually innocent) scapegoat or empath, co-opting apathetic bystanders to side with them against a conscientious, well intentioned person who calls them out on their inappropriate behavior. This is sometimes referred to as the sociopath transaction, and often leads to conscientious workers being smeared, pathologized and pushed out, whilst they, the real culprit walk off scot free (classical inversion of reality that pathological personalities are well known for).
- These people cannot create anything new, but they have an uncanny knack of taking something that does exist or is given to them, and perverting and twisting it for their own ends. This is one reason why workplaces multiplying rules and regulations to try and regulate or control these people sometimes doesn’t work and in fact makes it worse, as they take whatever new things are given to them and distort them for their own ends.
- Psychopaths are also power fixated and are therefore looking to move up in any social or workplace/power hierarchies as quickly as possible. This is why psychopaths are so prevalent in higher level politics and Western business.
“Custer B is the .. definition of reaction seeking or dramatic personality disorders. This is not ‘I want to go away and sit on my own in my room’, this is ‘I need to annoy you to live. I need to hurt you to feel OK. I need to cause chaos and drama wherever I go just to feel basically alright’”.
Once we fully internalize these rules (which I believe are so predictable with psychopaths, that they hold as strong as any scientific law), a lot of the naivety that will be found in the general population regarding humanity needs to be dropped to effectively deal with these people (“everyone’s got some good in them”, “anyone can be reached or cured if you know how”, “no one’s all bad” etc).
These people are a cancerous, toxic presence wherever you put them. They can’t change, and they don’t want to change either. They are sick individuals who believe there’s nothing wrong with them, and actually consider themselves superior to others.
Dealing With Criminal Psychopaths
I won’t spend as much time on this issue, as it’s already been pretty well documented. Some psychopaths have such poor impulse control and such contempt for social norms, that they resort to violent crime to get what they want, and end up in prison.
The goods news at least is this subset of psychopaths is known about and policies are in place to try and deal with them, but even here there are potential problems with how they’re dealt with:
- Criminal psychopaths still get released and go on to (very predictably) re-offend. If it well known that psychopathy is incurable, should these people ever be released once irrefutably diagnosed via the Psychopathy Checklist or other reliable criteria?
- A huge amount of money also goes into reform and treatment programs for criminal psychopaths in some countries. Again, if psychopathy has proven incurable time and again in studies, is this just a waste of money?
Documentary On Dealing With Criminal Psychopaths
And a good quote taken from this documentary that emphasises the importance of understanding, and formulating proper policies for dealing with, violent/criminal psychopaths in society:
“Critics and commentators have said in the past that to study 1% of the general population seems to be a waste of time. Why not spend our time studying criminals in general? There are a lot more criminals that there are psychopaths. Even when we get into prison, we are talking about maybe only 15-20% of the population , is it worth really paying attention to them?
It sure is. And the reason is, there may only be a small number of psychopaths in the population, but the damage they inflict in society is very widespread and in fact I would estimate that the 15 or 20% (of the prison population) I’m talking about are responsible for at least half of the violent crime in our society.
So we’ve got to understand this particular disorder.
Dr Robert Hare
However, I would draw a clear distinction between understanding psychopathy (important), and putting lots of time and resources into trying to cure it once it’s embedded in a person’s psyche (waste of time). It may be true that some may need to be permanently kept away from the rest of society for life, for the benefit of society as a whole. We already accept this with serial killers, but this may need to be extended to ALL criminals diagnosed as psychopaths, even if they haven’t progressed to the level of serial killing.
Therefore, this issue is important, but so is the issue of non violent psychopathy/sociopathy, which arguably causes just as big a harm in society.
Dealing With Workplace Psychopaths/Sociopaths
This is a huge area of psychopathy which does not have anything like the attention it needs, and for which there’s basically no regulation currently, nor even any proper understanding from most people. Psychopaths cause a huge amount of harm in workplaces, because in many ways the world of work represents the perfect setting for them to manipulate and cause trouble (large groups of people).
I don’t know what the answers are to these issues for sure, but here’s some conversation starter policy suggestions that could be considered to deal with this issue of psychopaths in the workplace:
Suggestion #1 – Lifetime Solo Work Orders – For diagnosed psychopaths, they cannot and should not be allowed to work in any group environment that would mean regular interactions with multiple people. They must only work in jobs which are predominantly or wholly sole or lone working. This leaves them no room to resort to their usual bag of tricks (triangulation, manipulation, scheming, lying, back-biting, deliberate mis-communication, creating “blow-ups” or disasters on purpose to set someone up, smear campaigns, malicious gossip, slander etc), that they will ALWAYS resort to sooner or later of you give them a group workplace environment which they can “work” or manipulate. Many countries already have workplace hiring restrictions in place (DBR/background check systems) for certain jobs; it’s not unreasonable to suggest this could be extended to stop diagnosed psychopaths getting into jobs where they can cause harm (which for them, is any group environment).
Suggestion #2 – Lifetime Job Bans – Some people might think suggestion #1 is too generous and naive, and think these people should be excluded from the workforce entirely for life. This is where psychology might well cross over into economic theory, since there is often talk about whether there is a natural rate of unemployment or a built-in rate of unemployment to western economies. If it is true that for western style economies to work well for everyone else, there has to be a small pool of unemployed people, than THIS segment of the population (psychopaths/sociopaths) are the segment that need to be kept out of the workforce, in order for the system to work harmoniously for everyone else in the wider sense of the term (not just economic). Of course, this incurs costs, as any society which believes in a humane “safety net” would need to provide for these people, but this already happens via welfare systems anyway. In my opinion, it’s a cost worth bearing to keep these people from causing so much of the damage they cause in workplaces – keep them out of it altogether. They’d be crawling the walls with boredom (since these people LIVE to scheme and cause harm to others, and get anxious and irritated if they can’t do so), but that’s their problem.
I’ll be the first to admit that there are problems with these policies. How do we identify and diagnose the psychopaths/sociopaths? How do we implement the policies thoroughly and accurately? How can we be sure that if we close off one avenue of trouble making off for psychopaths in the outside world (eg. workplace), they won’t resort to another? (i.e. locking them up is the only answer?). How would we stop this policy/system being “captured”, taken over and subverted by the psychopaths themselves, and using it on people they don’t like or see as a threat? And what about their close cousin, the narcissist, who might not be as outright pathological as a pure psychopath, but isn’t far off. If we start adding these to the mix, that percentage moves from 1-4% to possibly 8-10%, which is a lot of people to manage in society.
Perhaps another way of approaching this issue is to put a stronger onus on companies to provide all their workers with what I would call a “civilized work environment“, or some other similar clause. By this, I mean an acceptable minimum baseline work environment where one’s boundaries, self esteem and dignity are respected (since Cluster B disordered individuals always seek to erode these things in those they target). And companies that systematically fail to provide this to their workers should lose their licence to operate as a business. Current harassment laws are inadequate in this regards, as evidenced by psychopaths/sociopaths still swaggering about in many workplaces causing trouble just as easily as they always have. Workplaces in the Western countries especially continue to grow MORE toxic and infested with psychopathic people and toxic management ideologies, not less, as time goes on, despite all the employment law and regulation that exists already. So this entire issue of pathological personalities in the workplace needs a serious re-think by smart people in high places.
I don’t have all the answers to these issues, but I DO know that this issue needs to be seriously discussed if there’s any hope to create a better society for all in ALL areas of life, including the world of work. The damage these pathological personalities cause in the workplace has not been acknowledged or understood anything like to the extent it should have been. This is a conversation that needs having. These people should NOT be allowed or tolerated in any group environment, especially workplaces, if you want them to function well long term, and stay harmonious.