Thursday, December 14, 2006

Predators Among Us

The jury is still out: not all narcissists may be psychopaths, but all psychopaths are definitely narcissists. In view of the disappearing distictions between NPD and APD in the literature, you should find this article in Psychology Today, Predators, by Dr. Robert Hare helpful. It is so valuable that I quote extensively from it (adding a couple inline comments, followed by my initials - KK), but I urge you to read the whole article because of the examples it gives:

There is a class of individuals who have been around forever and who are found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. These often charming—but always deadly—individuals have a clinical name: psychopaths. Their hallmark is a stunning lack of conscience; their game is self-gratification at the other person's expense.


Not surprisingly, many psychopaths are criminals, but many others manage to remain out of prison, using their charm and chameleon-like coloration to cut a wide swathe through society, leaving a wake of ruined lives behind them.


To put it simply, if we can't spot them we are doomed to be their victims, both as individuals and as a society.


Psychopaths are often voluble and verbally facile. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a clever comeback, and are able to tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming.


Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their own self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, justified in living according to their own rules.


Psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the effects their actions have on others, no matter how devastating these might be.


Many of the characteristics displayed by psychopaths are closely associated with a profound lack of empathy and inability to construct a mental and emotional "facsimile" of another person. They seem completely unable to "get into the skin" of others, except in a purely intellectual sense.

They are completely indifferent to the rights and suffering of family and strangers alike. If they do maintain ties, it is only because they see family members as possessions.


With their powers of imagination in gear and beamed on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility—or even by the certainty—of being found out. When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they seldom appear perplexed or embarrassed—they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so they appear to be consistent with the lie. The result is a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener.

And psychopaths seem proud of their ability to lie.


Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. At times they appear to be cold and unemotional while nevertheless being prone to dramatic, shallow, and short-lived displays of feeling. Careful observers are left with the impression they are play-acting and little is going on below the surface. [Yup - KK]


Psychopaths are unlikely to spend much time weighing the pros and cons of a course of action or considering the possible consequences. "I did it because I felt like it," is a common response. These impulsive acts often result from an aim that plays a central role in most of the psychopath's behavior: to achieve immediate satisfaction, pleasure, or relief.


Besides being impulsive, psychopaths are highly reactive to perceived insults or slights. Most of us have powerful inhibitory controls over our behavior; even if we would like to respond aggressively we are usually able to "keep the lid on." In psychopaths, these inhibitory controls are weak, and the slightest provocation is sufficient to overcome them.

As a result, psychopaths are short-tempered or hotheaded and tend to respond to frustration, failure, discipline, and criticism with sudden violence, threats or verbal abuse. But their outbursts, extreme as they may be, are often short-lived, and they quickly act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.


Although psychopaths have a "hair trigger," their aggressive displays are "cold"; they lack the intense arousal experienced when other individuals lose their temper. [I bet that's why they can turn it off like a switch if you surprise them by getting right back in their face instead of backing down -- KK]


Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement—theylong to live in the fast lane or "on the edge," where the action is. [Reminds me of Hitler unable to keep himself from provoking war with Great Britain, while terrified of the risks at the same time - obviously tempting fate for nothing but excitement at Munich! - KK]]


Obligations and commitments mean nothing to psychopaths. Their good intentions—"I'll never cheat on you again"—are promises written on the wind.

Horrendous credit histories, for example, reveal the lightly taken debt, the loan shrugged off, the empty pledge to contribute to a child's support. Their performance on the job is erratic, with frequent absences, misuse of company resources, violations of company policy, and general untrustworthiness. They do not honor formal or implied commitments to people, organizations, or principles.

Psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions mean hardship or risk for others.


But not all psychopaths end up in jail. Many of the things they do escape detection or prosecution, or are on "the shady side of the law." For them, antisocial behavior may consist of phony stock promotions, questionable business practices, spouse or child abuse, and so forth. Many others do things that, though not necessarily illegal, are nevertheless unethical, immoral, or harmful to others: philandering or cheating on a spouse to name a few.

The most important part of this article is the last part, the "survival guide":

Know what you are dealing with. This sounds easy but in fact can be very difficult. All the reading in the world cannot immunize you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, conned, and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone's heart strings.

Try not to be influenced by "props." It is not easy to get beyond the winning smile, the captivating body language, the fast talk of the typical psychopath, all of which blind us to his or her real intentions. Many people find it difficult to deal with the intense, "predatory state" of the psychopath. The fixated stare, is more a prelude to self-gratification and the exercise of power rather than simple interest or empathic caring.

Don't wear blinders. Enter new relationships with your eyes wide open. Like tile rest of us, most psychopathic conartists and "love-thieves" initially hide their dark side by putting their "best foot forward." Cracks may soon begin to appear in the mask they wear, but once trapped in their web, it will be difficult to escape financially and emotionally unscathed.

Keep your guard up in high-risk situations. Some situations are tailor-made for psychopaths: singles bars, ship cruises, foreign airports, etc. In each case, the potential victim is lonely, looking for a good time, excitement, or companionship, and there will usually be someone willing to oblige, for a hidden price.

Know yourself. Psychopaths are skilled at detecting and ruthlessly exploiting your weak spots. Your best defense is to understand what these spots are, and to be extremely wary of anyone who zeroes in on them.

Unfortunately, even the most careful precautions are no guarantee that you will be safe from a determined psychopath. In such cases, all you can do is try to exert some sort of damage control. This is not easy but some suggestions may be of help:

Obtain professional advice. Make sure the clinician you consult is familiar with the literature on psychopathy and has had experience in dealing with psychopaths.

Don't blame yourself. Whatever the reasons for being involved with a psychopath, it is important that you not accept blame for his or her attitudes and behavior. Psychopaths play by the same rules—their rules—with everyone.

Be aware of who the victim is. Psychopaths often give the impression that it is they who are suffering and that the victims are to blame for their misery. Don't waste your sympathy on them.

Recognize that you are not alone. Most psychopaths have lots of victims. It is certain that a psychopath who is causing you grief is also causing grief to others.

Be careful about power struggles. Keep in mind that psychopaths have a strong need for psychological and physical control over others. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't stand up for your rights, but it will probably be difficult to do so without risking serious emotional or physical trauma. [See the example of the Game Player on the main site -KK]

Set firm ground rules. Although power struggles with a psychopath are risky you may be able to set up some clear rules—both for yourself and for the psychopath—to make your life easier and begin the difficult transition from victim to a person looking out for yourself.

Don't expect dramatic changes. To a large extent, the personality of psychopaths is "carved in stone." There is little likelihood that anything you do will produce fundamental, sustained changes in how they see themselves or others.

Cut your losses. Most victims of psychopaths end up feeling confused and hopeless, and convinced that they are largely to blame for the problem. The more you give in the more you will be taken advantage of by the psychopath's insatiable appetite for power and control.

Read the rest.
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At 10:34 AM, Anonymous GH said...

Oh, please, please, please don't start with the political stuff again!

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Right on gh.

@ deleted anynymouse,


Okay, I dissed Adoph Hitler. Sorry.

But anyone with a bad case of Bush Derangement Syndrome can go somewhere else. Or perhaps listen to the pleas of President Bill Clinton and Senator Barrack Obama for rabid partizans to stop the character assassination already.

By the way, that's one of the signal behaviors of a narcissist. And N's always get suckers to believe their most outrageous lies about those they calumniate. The outragious allegations flying around about him are not legitimate criticism: they are outright lies, believed by people woefully uninformed, simply because the lies are repeated like a broken record one billion times.

Which doesn't make them true. For example, those claiming that the Constitution has been "assaulted" show by their words that they don't know the first thing about the issue or even about the structure of our government and its system of checks and balances: they are just parrots who might as well be squawking "Polly wants a cracker."

Such people do no credit to the administration's legitimate and fair critics.

Just because you disagree with someone, doesn't mean they are evil. Demonizing their opponents is another signal behavior of narcissists. Why? Because they can't debate the issues the legitimate way.

And if you are catastrophizing that this country is going to hell, get help.

This is no place for politics.

And I will not publish anonymous character assassination to ambush ANYONE by name publically. Not your husband, your mother, your sister, or any other identifiable individual.

Mr. Bush is a human being, and he has a right to his good name.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Anna Valerious said...

Thanks, Kathy, for again taking a stand against ignorant political rants on your site. I read his/her post and rolled my eyes and surfed away. I didn't trust myself with a civil retort. You handled that part excellently! I appreciate and agree with your comments to anynymouse. *grin* By the way, you get a pass on your comments about Hitler. Hitler has been established by history to be an evil psychopath and has no moral claim on a good name. May he fry in hell.

At 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something interesting about Hitler...he was addicted to meth amphetamine which produces a manic state. People in the throes of mania are highly narcissistic.

Just an interesting tid bit...

Anonymous, Pam

At 1:38 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

That I never heard. I do remember reading in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" eye witness accounts of his demeanor during the Munich thing. He treated the diplomats rudely and then went off and seemed extremely excited and terrified that his insolent demands were going to provoke war. Like he had to push the envelope, because he'd then go right back into the meetings and push it it some more. He astounded even those of his side who knew him - with his daring in making demands as if determined to make one too insufferable for Chamberlain to swallow. And when the Brits caved in to this wild act, everyone was astonished.

Whatever...the story is consistent with an addiction like that.

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

Love Love LOVE Hare's work!!!

Ever read the site & blog at Might interest you KK

At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the original nick names for meth is Natzi Marching Powder and that is because of where and how it originated.

It is very consistent with his behavior.


At 5:29 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

The story about the meth reminds me that you often see in the literature that a drug or alcohohol addiciton is very common in narcissists. "Co-morbidity." In fact, it's what generally brings Ns to the attention of therapists. When they do present for help, it is usually for that, not because they are willing to admit they have a serious psychiatric problem. Which raises the question about Hitler - What came first? The addiciton or the narcissism?

At 6:27 AM, Blogger Louise said...

Excellent post, KK!

Very interesting question: addiction vs. narcissism. I've looked into that and no definitive conclusions.

Maybe it comes down to the individual. When drinking, I was very selfish and drove drunk frequently- so fortunate that I never hurt anyone. Getting sober gave me a chance to reclaim my life and try to be a better person. I feel so lucky!

Lil Sis was, I think, BORN with NPD. Was very disdainful of drugs and alcohol growing up. (FURIOUS when I admitted my drinking problem to her and denied I had one!) Then she injured herself as a nursing student in college, lifting a large patient. She was given painkillers for the first time at age 19- she's been on them off and on for over 20 years. HAd repeated shoulder surgeries, then started inventing reasons to "doctor shop".

While she is a master of controlling people normally, the Darvocet addiction has been her undoing. Her life is filled with hiding from creditors, calling police to intimidate those who cross her, a never-ending round of lawsuits (3 separate ones in her state's Supreme Judicial Courts, as well as over a dozen in small claims/civil)- she also has ripped off family for thousands. All of this has recently come to light and she is FURIOUS that I know and have investigated her activities. She knows her base of familial victims has shrunk dramatically and her lies have been revealed.

Boy, they hate light/truth as badly as vampires...

So I don't know. Both of us had/have addictions, yet one admitted it and took steps to fix her life- the other denies it to this day, even though it is ruining hers.

At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That can also be said about many narcissists in reguards to chemical embalance, which I beleive can be as strong or stronger precursor to how the personality develops as the presence of abuse. Also, chemical embalance in children is more apt to produce the brain deformities that can result from a long term embalance.

It recently occured to me that my feelings of emotional numbness towards my narcissistic father must be the way he feels towards everyone. That would lead anyone into substance abuse.


At 2:33 AM, Blogger Louise said...

Lil Sis died on Monday. Not sure if suicide or accident. I'm finally crying a bit; hardly slept for 3 days and been helping parents with arrangements and details. Just got back; glad to be able to be "Momma" again and be with my husband and girls. My mom is visiting after Christmas and that will help us all, too.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Louise,

I'm so sorry. I know your feelings must be confused right now. My dad is dying and I also have confused feelings. I think that is the earmark of a relationship with a narcissist, confusion. Be easy on yourself and know that none of us can be responsible for how we feel and there is no right or wrong way to feel it.


At 2:20 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Louise. I don't think it's so hard with a parent. You didn't grow up with them and know them all their lives. So, you didn't know the little child inside the monster ate. So, many just feel nothing when that semblance of a parent dies. But with a brother or sister it's hard. Your feelings are conflicted. And you feel what a tremendous waste of a human life it is to spend it the way Ns do.

Like anonymous said, you just feel what you feel. It ain't a sin. You probably feel contradictory things at once. That's what Ns put people through. It's almost dealing with a multiple personality - Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, except Mr. Hyde killed Dr. Jeckyl long ago. It's hard to resolve such conflicting feelings as that. I'm so sorry this happened.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Louise said...

I'm sorry it happened, too, Kathy and Pam- it is a waste and I will mourn the girl I knew rather than what she became. The past few months, as hard as they have been, gave me the time to find out what in the world was going on and try to make some sense of all of this.

THANK YOU ALL for sharing your own stories, as well as advice and support. You have helped save my sanity. Knowing about NPD has helped me know how to better handle and prepare for this time.

The story of her death (in a house fire) was sordid enough to make the headlines in her city for 3 days running, with lots of speculation, gossip, and comments on the online sites. It occurred one day after the second anniversary of her husband''s burial- the media has had a field day. So we put her obit in our local paper rather than there and are making arrangements quietly to bring her home for burial in our parents' plot and trying to handle the estate/probate as best we can, before the holidays, here on phone- will have to go there soon.

And sure enough, already having people we've never heard of calling the local police, claiming to be related to her as to access the house and contents. Maybe Ns DO attract Ns!

Have a wonderful holiday with your families as best you can and I hope you all find some peace and joy. I'm counting my blessings and thanking my lucky stars for good folks...virtual homemade fudge and cookies to you all!

Andi aka Louise

At 6:20 AM, Anonymous gh said...


How much you must have to deal with right now. My heart goes out to you. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that, as much pain as N's inflict on others, it ultimately stems from the pain they themselves can't handle. The situation is chaotic and horrible, but she is now finally at peace and you, too, will find peace in the days and years to come.

Happy holidays to you!


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