The Elusive Successful Psychopath : Conscience

Have you ever thought that something can exist, but is elusive purely because of its definition?

I’ve done a lot of reading recently about personality disorders prompted by my delve in to narcissism and gaslighting a few months back.  One of the things I read about then was “The Elusive Successful Psychopath”.

Just a few definitions so this makes sense to the casual reader.  Narcissists and sociopaths are both in the same spectrum.  A sociopath, for the psychology profession, is the same as a psychopath, but society tends to place a certain persuasion of criminality on the psychopath that it doesn’t on the sociopath.

So, what do people with a psychopathic personality disorder do? According to this article on LinkedIn comparing narcissists and sociopaths:

  • Both have charisma or charm that they use to get people engaged.
  • Both tend toward grandiosity – big ideas, big stories, big visions.
  • Both take credit when things go right and point fingers when things go wrong.
  • Both are self-serving.
  • Both lack empathy; narcissists are unable to see things from another’s point of view and sociopaths can see how they effect others but just don’t care.
  • Both exhibit a sense of entitlement.
  • Both have a total lack of personal insight into their emotional selves.
  • Both can skillfully re-craft the past to suit their own needs.
  • Both can speak of emotions, but their experiences differ from that of people with empathy.
  • Neither apologize when it would be appropriate to do so, although a sociopath might offer a fake apology in order to keep things moving along.

The difference is that a narcissist tends to be introspective – it’s all about them and the need for them to be admired.  They’re also not really aware of what they’re doing.

A sociopath will actually look more at destroying someone else on purpose.  They don’t necessarily look for the admiration, but just destroy others so that they are the best.  They do it on purpose too.

It’s also important to note that there are degrees of this personality disorder.  Someone may exhibit narcissistic or sociopathic traits without necessarily being a clinically diagnosed narcissist, sociopath or psychopath.

Still with me? Good.

So you look at those traits and it’s pretty easy to say that there may be such a thing as a “successful psychopath”, right?  You get the person with the big personality and no anxiety willing to do anything they can to get to the top of their profession or where they need to be in life.  It doesn’t matter who they take down, abuse or destroy to get there.  They have just enough of the traits to be successful without being able to be detected.

However, there is still a lot of debate about whether a successful psychopath is actually a thing.  Much of the conversation revolves around what success is.  Is the psychopath successful because of what they have achieved in business or relationships? Are they successful because they haven’t been caught?

Some people also question whether having adaptive features to psychopathy while maintaining that it is a “disorder” actually makes the very idea of a successful psychopath contradictory.  (This despite the fact there are a lot successful people famous for music and film who are bipolar.)

There’s an article at Psychology Today by Melissa Burkley Ph.D. entitled “Is Dexter a Successful Psychopath?” which sheds light on what might separate the successful psychopath from the prototypic psychopath (the serial killer!) and that’s conscientiousness.

In the personality literature, conscientiousness refers to the tendency to show self-discipline, the act dutifully, and to aim for achievement. People high in conscientiousness prefer planned, rather than spontaneous, behavior and are able to effectively control and regulate their impulses. Prototypic psychopaths are quite low in this trait, unable to put the brakes on their dangerous impulses and incapable of learning from their mistakes. Given this, it is no surprise that such individuals are often arrested and convicted for their heinous crimes. However, the personality ratings of the successful psychopaths depicted a dishonest, arrogant, exploitative person who nevertheless was able to keep their behavior in check by controlling their destructive impulses and preventing detection.

However, this still makes me wonder if such a thing as the elusive successful psychopath exists.  I’m still not sure if acting conscientiously is not the opposite of psychopathy.  If one has a conscience, I would have thought they would care about the people they ruin along the way despite their success.  For me, the effect that these people have on others is one of the main things that places them in the “disorder” bracket.

It got me thinking that maybe the definition is too tight for what is essentially a spectrum of personality traits.  I wondered whether two words have to be placed together like they are.  Given the difficulty in determining what success is and what a psychopath is, it seems to make more sense to look to see if someone is successful first, and then determine how they did it.

Love, it will get you nowhere
You’re on your own
Lost in the wild
So come to me now
I could use someone like you
Someone who’ll kill on my command
And asks no questions

I’m gonna make you
I’m gonna break you
I’m gonna make you
A f*cking psycho
A f*cking psycho
A f*cking psycho
Your ass belongs to me now

Are you a human drone?
(Aye, sir!)
Are you a killing machine?
(Aye, sir!)
I’m in control, motherf*cker, do you understand?
(Aye, sir!)

Your mind is just a program
And I’m the virus
I’m changing the station
I’ll improve your thresholds
I’ll turn you into a super drone (super drone)
And you will kill on my command
And I won’t be responsible

I’m gonna make you
I’m gonna break you
I’m gonna make you
A f*cking psycho
A f*cking psycho
A f*cking psycho
Your ass belongs to me now

Are you a psycho killer? Say “I’m a psycho killer!”
(I am a psycho killer!)
Scream it!
(I am a psycho killer!)
Show me your war face!
(AHHHH!)
You are a pussy! I said show me your war face!
(AHHHH!)

I’m gonna make you
I’m gonna break you
I’m gonna make you
A f*cking psycho
A f*cking psycho
A f*cking psycho
Your ass belongs to me now

Psycho by Muse

 

Comments 2

  1. I think part of it would also be determined on point of view. I’m sure the psychopath and sociopath view themselves as successful, but is it the same view as taken by an outside individual? Success is truly measured by whether or not the person feels accomplished in the act. A psychopath can feel justified and successful in the act of killing, although the majority of humanity would disagree. Does that make it unsuccessful? Probably not to the psycho or sociopath since neither one of them would care what we thought.

    So, what I guess I am saying is that both would probably assume their own success even if we don’t agree.

    • Ah, yes, excellent point! I hadn’t really thought about success from their point of view. Possibly opens another can of worms about how many people have to think you’re successful before you can call yourself that? I think this is going to make my head hurt!

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