A psychopath – also called a sociopath – is an individual with no regard for ethics who displays little or no emotional response in harming others or being harmed. These individuals habitually lie, cheat, engage in antisocial and even criminal behavior. They also manipulate, exploit, betray and break hearts but feel no shame, guilt or remorse in the process.
Psychopaths are cold, callous and often chillingly clever. They may, for instance, take a spouse and even have children just to look normal, fit in to society and get away with depraved schemes. In espionage, this may also apply to hostile spies from another country who take an indigenous wife in their new country of residence to fortify their cover. Psychopaths often sense another person’s feelings but, unlike the empath, use their ability to manipulate and exploit.
According to Freud, the psychopath has a strong id and an overdeveloped ego, which together overshadow the superego. More recently, Declan Murphy and a team of psychiatric researchers in the UK suggest that neural activity in the emotional centers of the psychopath’s brain is minimal.
Many attribute violence in the media as a contributing factor that might push a borderline personality into full psychopathy. But psychopathy isn’t just about violent crimes. Participants in the Enron scandal, for instance, could be seen as psychopathic.
Some theorists associate psychopathy and hate but these two characteristics are not necessarily linked. Psychopaths simply don’t feel remorse, guilt nor shame. And it’s unclear whether this is caused by a deeply repressed hate that emerges in twisted forms or, on the other hand, some genetic trait that renders the psychopath callous and uncaring.
An article at www.abc.net.au claims that psychopath managers at the workplace are as common as 1 in 10.¹ We should remember, however, that the term psychopath is a concept, one not necessarily 100 percent present in reality. Some individuals, for instance, may exhibit many of the characteristics of a textbook psychopath 99.9% of the time but also display genuine caring 0.1% of the time.
Wikipedia reminds us that the concept of psychopathy has historical roots, has undergone changes and currently has different meanings:
The definition of psychopathy has varied significantly throughout the history of the concept; different definitions continue to be used that are only partly overlapping and sometimes appear contradictory.²
¹ “Corporate Psychopaths,” Catalyst, Reporter: Jonica Newby, Producer: Louise Heywood, Researcher: Jonica Newby, May 5, 2005.