For most people when the word psychopath is mentioned, what comes in their mind is a criminal, a serial killer, or a very violent person. Of course it’s true that most psychopaths have those evil qualities but since they don’t exhibit those qualities every time, it would be wrong to understand a psychopath only as a criminal or a serial killer.
Psychopaths are among the most manipulative people, they can be charming and interesting that you would never suspect them of having an evil mind. That’s why it’s important to understand their overall thinking style rather than taking them just as criminals or violent people.
Psychopaths Lack Social Feeling
A person who has a social feeling usually tries to reach his goals while putting others into consideration. On the other hand, a person who lacks a social feeling will do the opposite. He will try to reach his goals regardless of how it affects his fellow men. For example, if two students wanted to prove that they are smart; the student who has a social feeling will try to prove so by working harder to improve his grades. On the other hand the student who lacks the social feeling may try to prove his smartness by being deceitful.
We all strive for superiority unconsciously in different ways. A normal person usually tries to reach superiority by striving to excel at something useful to himself and others. On the other hand a psychopath can try to achieve superiority by torturing a victim or dominating a person he perceives as weak. This does not have to be physical torture but emotional torture as well.
A psychopath may not necessarily harm you physically but they will do their best to know your weaknesses and use them against you. For example if you were desperate to please a psychopath boss, he may always put you down to make you feel incompetent.
Life Problems can Activate Psychopathy
Life problems can not only put someone’s social feeling to the test but they can also test his overall mental health. A person is less likely to be cruel when he is in favourable conditions even if he had psychopathic tendencies. On the other hand, when a person is facing hardship they are likely to suppress even the little social feeling they had in order to get what they want. In the articles “do narcissists ever feel guilty” I said that narcissists usually shut off their empathy when they are in the defensive mode. A person whose social feeling is not that strong can also shut it off along with empathy when he is facing hardship.
This does not mean that life problems can turn a normal person into a psychopath. People who lose their social feeling as a result of life problems are those who were already mentally sick.
How to deal with a Psychopath
A psychopath will not try to harm you or manipulate you before he understands well your weaknesses. Once you realise that the person you are dealing with has psychopathic tendencies, you should be careful not to reveal your emotional weaknesses to him, so that he won’t use them against you.
It’s also very important to understand your own weaknesses and how they can be used against you. For example if you have low self-esteem, you will probably be sensitive to criticism. A psychopath may realise that you hate criticism and use it as a push button. On the other hand, if you understood well that the psychopath is trying to use your low self-esteem to control you, it would be harder for him to do so. That’s why self understanding is always important. (See also: why are some people so manipulative)