30 November 2012

Could a "High Functioning Psychopath" Be Elected US President?

Psychopaths usually don’t want to commit themselves to a long course of study. They want to get results quick. So we could wonder – would they be attracted to politics? You can be a career politician without much preparation. And you can promise your consituents what they want to hear. And once in power, you have power over where large quantities of money goes – and some of that power can direct money to you. _Snakes in Suits
Psychopaths do not have to be serial killers. In fact, most of them have probably never killed anyone, and live lives that to an outside observer may seem rather normal. And some psychopaths function well enough to reach high levels of management in government, the private sector, and in other organisations such as labour unions and quasi-criminal groups -- some of which may not be particularly violent.

Psychopaths seem to have in abundance the very traits most desired by normal persons. The untroubled self-confidence of the psychopath seems almost like an impossible dream and is generally what "normal" people seek to acquire when they attend assertiveness training classes.

...Cleckley (Mask of Sanity PDF download) ... gives grounds for the view that psychopathy is quite common in the community at large. He has collected some cases of psychopaths who generally function normally in the community as businessmen, doctors, and even psychiatrists. Some researchers see criminal psychopathy - often referred to as anti-social personality disorder - as an extreme of a "normal" personality dimension (or dimensions). _Psychopath

It is possible to identify psychopaths, using a number of different tests and probes.
Hare and his colleagues continued this research to learn more about the brain's involvement in psychopathic behaviors. They used whole brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see if there were neurological manifestations of the way psychopaths process different types of words. When non-psychopaths processed negative emotional words (e.g., rape, death, cancer), activity in the limbic regions of the brain increased. For psychopaths there was little or no increased activity in these regions. Curiously, however, there was increased activity in other areas. In short, the emotional word does not have the same limbic implication for psychopaths that it does for normal people. _Studies in Psychopathy

It is often difficult to see past the mask of sanity which many psychopaths have learned to wear. Here are some things to look for to determine if someone is a psychopath:
...Psychopathy is characterized by such traits as

  • lack of remorse or empathy
  • shallow emotions
  • manipulativeness
  • lying
  • egocentricity
  • glibness
  • low frustration tolerance
  • episodic relationships
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • persistent violation of social norms
_Studies in Psychopathy
From the outside, a psychopath may not display all -- or even most -- of these traits. But the more you learn about such persons, the more of the traits they tend to reveal over time.

The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth. _The Psychopath
It would be bad enough to be working for someone like this. Imagine having them as your chief of police, or even president. Imagine being married to a psychopath, but being afraid to tell anyone.

If he really feels anything at all, they are emotions of only the shallowest kind. He does bizarre and self-destructive things because consequences that would fill the ordinary man with shame, self-loathing, and embarrassment simply do not affect the psychopath at all. What to others would be a disaster is to him merely a fleeting inconvenience.

...they can imitate feelings, but the only real feelings they seem to have - the thing that drives them and causes them to act out different dramas for effect - is a sort of "predatorial hunger" for what they want. That is to say, they "feel" need/want as love, and not having their needs/wants met is described as "not being loved" by them. What is more, this "need/want" perspective posits that only the "hunger" of the psychopath is valid, and anything and everything "out there," outside of the psychopath, is not real except insofar as it has the capability of being assimilated to the psychopath as a sort of "food." "Can it be used or can it provide something?" is the only issue about which the psychopath seems to be concerned. All else - all activity - is subsumed to this drive.

In short, the psychopath - and the narcissist to a lesser extent - is a predator. If we think about the interactions of predators with their prey in the animal kingdom, we can come to some idea of what is behind the "mask of sanity" of the psychopath. Just as an animal predator will adopt all kinds of stealthy functions in order to stalk their prey, cut them out of the herd, get close to them and reduce their resistance, so does the psychopath construct all kinds of elaborate camoflage composed of words and appearances - lies and manipulations - in order to "assimilate" their prey. _The Psychopath
A psychopath who wanted to be president of a country might without hesitation break many of the rules that ordinarily govern a campaign or an election. His own predatory need for power would provide him all the excuse he needed to violate any laws or customs standing in his way.

And if such a person had the support of the country's news media sure to give him a good public face, and the less public support of a solid and unscrupulous political machine willing to work behind the scenes to do whatever it takes -- he has a good chance of winning the prize.
It should be emphasized that psychopaths are interesting as all get out - even exciting! They exude a captivating energy that keeps their listeners on the edge of their seats...

...psychopaths DO have .... an ability to give their undivided attention to something that interests them intensely. Some clinicians have compared this to the concentration with which a predator stalks his prey. _The Psychopath
Much more information is available in the free PDF download of Hervey Cleckley's seminal work on psychopathy, The Mask of Sanity.

In many ways, a high functioning psychopath would be "made to order" as president for today's news media -- like an actor who is perfect for a role, from a particular point of view.

And as long as powerful interests felt as if they could get what they wanted from such a psychopathic president -- without being hurt themselves -- they might be prone to support such a person, regardless of the costs to others.

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Blogger neil craig said...

lack of remorse or empathy
shallow emotions
low frustration tolerance
episodic relationships
parasitic lifestyle
persistent violation of social norms

OK You're thinking of Obama but who was the last President who doesn't fit that profile moderately well? I'd say the last 3 don't apply to Reagan but I may be biased. I'd also say Clinton is the poster boy for the lot, moreso than Obama.

Thursday, 06 December, 2012  

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