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How a psychopath thinks

Ted Bundy once described the typical serial killer as possessing “ a consciousness which is comparable to a predator.” He said his behavior was not restricted by any “intellectual, moral, obvious considerations.” So what was he talking about?

“Predatory violence is not independent of the psychopathic process and, in fact, appears to be quite dependent upon psychopathy,” forensic psychologist Dr J. Reid Meloy explains in his book Violent Attachments. In recent years, criminologists have established that 95% of serial killers are psychopaths; so are up to 90 percent of serial rapists. To a psychopath, everyday life is a jungle. If he’s not dominating, manipulating and controlling other people, he is merely prey. And, he cannot allow that to happen. “Psychopaths say there are predators and prey. When they say that take it as factual,” states Dr. Robert Hare, who invented the Psychopathy Checklist, a diagnostic tool applied by doctors and criminal profilers around the world.

Psychopathy is a ‘personality disorder.’ It is estimated that one in 25 people are psychopaths. They are born, not made. Brain scans have shown psychopaths have little to no activity in the two areas of the brain that are connected to empathy and conscience. Answering the question of whether he felt guilt for murdering innocent people, David Gore said it was the opposite: “I actually thrived on killing.” The high Gore felt in taking away a life is a not dissimilar from the elation that a psychopathic businessman feels when he “crushes” the opposition. Both live for the “hunt.” They regard other humans as prey, and themselves as successful predators.

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How do sex predators see the world?

To protect yourself against serial rapists and serial killers, it’s a good idea to see them as they see themselves.   Ted Bundy claimed that he had “ a consciousness which is comparable to a predator”, and that consequently his homicidal behavior was not influenced  by any “intellectual, moral, obvious considerations.”  What was he talking about?   Bundy, a psychology graduate, was talking about how he saw life through the lens of a psychopath.

In recent years, criminologists have established that 95% of serial killers are psychopaths; so are up to 90 percent of serial rapists. To a psychopath, everyday life is a jungle. If he’s not dominating, manipulating and controlling other people, he will be prey, like those he victimizes. And, he cannot allow that to happen. “Psychopaths say there are predators and prey. When they say that take it as factual,” states Dr. Robert Hare, who invented the Psychopathy Checklist, a diagnostic tool applied by doctors and criminal profilers around the world.

Psychopathy is a ‘personality disorder.’ Brain scans have shown psychopaths have little to no activity in the two areas of the brain that are connected to empathy and conscience. Answering the question of whether he felt guilt for murdering innocent people, David Gore said it was the opposite: “I actually thrived on killing.”

Dr. Hare, widely regarded as the world expert on the subject, describes the psychopath as a “human predator” or “social predator. To a psychopath, compassion, sincerity and kindness are just weaknesses in other people that he can exploit. This perception is not rooted in mental illness. It’s in his DNA. Nothing happened to him during his childhood to turn him into a psychopath, he was born that way. “Predatory violence is not independent of the psychopathic process and, in fact, appears to be quite dependent upon psychopathy” writes Dr J. Reid Meloy in his book Violent Attachments (p293.)

The psychopath’s personality is selfish, aggressive, manipulative, deceitful and prone to cruelty. He regards those qualities as among his strengths. Because it is a personality disorder — not psychosis or schizophrenia— there is no medication a psychopath can take to change his behavior. And if one existed, he would be unlikely to take it. The simple fact is that psychopaths enjoy preying on other people. Nor do psychopaths improve with therapy. If they go at all, they play games with the therapist. On one occasion Edmund Kemper had a victim’s head in the trunk of his car, while inside his psychiatrist’s office, the disturbed 21 year old was found to be ‘rehabilitated’, and no danger to society.

Because of their rock hard refusal to submit to treatment, many doctors today refuse to accept them as clients. It’s a thankless task, they say when psychopaths have no intention of changing.

To avoid being targeted by a psychopath, one has to accept that there really are people —4% of the population— who see other people as prey, and then learn how to recognize them by their behaviors. Predators are good at reading people. We need to be equally good at reading predators.

The Damage They Do.

“It is very likely that at some time in your life, you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological and financial well-being, it is crucial that you know how to identify the psychopath, how to protect yourself, and how to minimize the harm done to you.”
(Dr Robert Hare, “Without Conscience; The Hidden World of the Psychopaths Amongst Us”)

Who would knowingly set out to exploit other people? To ruin reputations with lies? To play mind games with vulnerable people? To stalk an ex partner?

Malice is beyond the comprehension of most normal people are concerned, but then psychopaths aren’t normal people. They think differently to us. It makes them feel powerful to cause suffering. Their personality is disordered.

The majority of domestic abusers, con artists, stalkers, rapists, serial killers and child molesters are psychopaths. That’s why recognizing and avoiding them is essential to a happy life.

However most people behind bars aren’t psychopaths. Most prisoners are capable of rehabilitation. In fact only one fifth of those in prison are psychopaths. But, as criminologists point out, the psychopathic inmates commit predatory crimes, like rape,serial homicide, preying on children, and stalking.

As one forensic psychologist Dr J Reid Meloy writes: “predatory violence is not independent of the psychopathic process, and, in fact, appears to be quite dependent upon psychopathy.”

But whether they end up in jail or not – and plenty of them are doing very well on Wall Street instead- researchers conclude that psychopaths in their every day lives have a hard wired predatory mind-set. They are ruthless and willing to disregard the social and moral contracts that the rest of us abide by. They have a contempt for normal law-abiding citizens, whom they are quick to exploit.

Given this mindset, there is no psychopath who is harmless. In relationships. a psychopath leaves a trail of human wreckage and broken hearts wherever he goes. Does he feel bad about this? Psychopaths don’t experience remorse. The opposite is true. Psychopaths enjoy an aggressive satisfaction at making others suffer.

Psychiatrists estimate 80-% of psychopaths are male, and the majority of them are heterosexual.
Psychopaths are said to be 50-95% of stalkers (estimates vary between experts) , 50% and upwards of domestic abusers, 100% of con artists, 95% of serial killers and between 50 and 90% of serial rapists.

Trained hospital staff has observed that male psychopaths are able to dupe and manipulate females more easily than males. Most men sense there is something ‘off’ about them. But females are often charmed. The same is true with female psychopaths. Other women see through them more easily than men do.

There is always a high cost when an individual lets a psychopath into his or her life. Embarking on a relationship with a predatory individual with no conscience and a lot of aggression… isn’t going to lead living happily ever after. That’s because psychopaths are unable to relate to another human being without using them. Every intimate relationship inevitably becomes a power struggle, and psychopaths are obsessed with being the one in control.

Because psychopaths enjoy playing mind games, anyone who works in close contact with psychopaths over a prolonged period of time is vulnerable to developing PTSD . As former head of Quantico Roger Depue tells it “sometimes, no matter how hard the best profilers tried to avoid it” the psychopath got through their defense systems.

For that reason most psychiatrists today refuse to accept psychopathic clients. Also, because many doctors have been stalked by psychopathic clients.

But what about family members, who usually don’t even know about psychopaths until the damage has been done, and they are sitting in a psychiatrists’ office? Why weren’t they taught to recognize this disorder, so they could make an informed choice when it came to choosing an intimate partner?

Many women –and men- have had their lives destroyed by a psychopath.

In my upcoming book. ‘The Girls Guide to Predators’ I survey the personality traits that indicate a dangerously disordered personality. I will give you a brief run down on the history of psychopathy, what the term means, and how to recognize when you are being conned.

One of the tell tale signs of psychopaths is pathological deception, so I will provide a list of red flags indicating you are being lied to. Another is extreme narcissism. There’s a chapter on that.

What about the danger of making a false identification? It’s my view that if someone has the red flags of psychopathy, you don’t want to have an intimate relationship with them anyway.

If you have just left a dangerous relationship I will tell you the precautions to take if you are being stalked. If you are trying to divorce a psychopath, I will explain the common tactics the psychopath will try to use to financially avenge himself upon you.

In relationships with psychopaths, the “victimization goes far beyond trying to take advantage of someone on a date or during a simple business transaction.

The victimization is predatory in nature; it often leads to severe financial, physical or emotional harm for the individual. ”
(Dr Robert Hare and Dr Paul Babiak)

Teenage violence

Sixty years ago, Doctor Robert Lindner, warned of an epidemic of teenage predatory behavior to come. Dr. Lindner discussed his fears in a best-selling book called ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, which was turned into a film starring James Dean. To say that the message of the book – a call to arms- was lost in the Hollywood treatment of the material is stating the obvious.

The fact is today we seem to be living in the middle of that epidemic. Young psychopaths are violently acting out more than ever before, and in greater numbers. Gang rapes are up. Bullying is commonplace. One in five high school girls has been sexually assaulted. More teenagers are also killing their teachers, or their own families. Following the massacre at Columbine, school shootings are more frequent.

Predatory violence directed at younger children – sexual assault then murder- has also become more widespread.

‘I just wanted to see what it felt like to kill’, is often the only motive offered by teenage psychopaths.

Doctor Robert Hare, the inventor of the Psychopathy Checklist, the diagnostic tool used in hospitals and prisons, gives lectures around the world on psychopaths. Author of the book ‘Without Conscience: the disturbing world of the psychopaths among us, ‘ Hare has observed that eastern societies manage to contain their psychopaths better than we do in the west.

The medical profession believes that psychopaths are born not made. Nevertheless, environment exerts an influence in the kind of acting out they do, and the behavior they think they can get away with. With the lifting of any kind of restrictions, psychopaths respond by increasing their antisocial behavior. This is why when a dictatorship topples, all the psychopaths come out of the woodwork and start looting, raping, committing home invasions, and setting fires.

Psychopaths are basically amoral. Brain scans have shown no activity in the areas of the brain governing conscience or empathy. Lacking internal controls, they will always do as much as they can get away with. That means that as society forbids less and less, young psychopaths push the envelope more aggressively. And once a psychopath embarks upon violence as a teenager, it isn’t possible to rehabilitate him as an adult.

Teenage predators take their cues from adult society. And adult society at this moment in time not only shows little respect for victims, it applauds outrageous behavior, the kind that is shown on reality TV. Society also will defend the rights of the aggressive individual – to read violent pornography, to collect semi-automatic weapons, to play graphically violent video games, which depict females as sex objects – above the rights of the rest of us to feel safe.

Now most women and girls are not interested in collecting assault weapons or pouring over S and M pornography. And it’s women and girls who are the most at risk from predatory violence. So is society defending the rights of men above the rights of women and children? No, it’s worse than that.

Most men don’t collect semi-automatic weapons or read bondage pornography either. Most men are just as concerned as women about the level of violence in our society. No, the males whose rights our community defends to collect assault weapons and violent pornography, are the disturbed ones, the predators.

Is that really the message we want to be sending teenagers?

Discovering Ted Bundy

      “When confronted with the rare extremes of human perversity, we are forced to re- examine our attitudes about ourselves and our species”

                                                                 (Dr Robert Hare, ‘Without Conscience: the disturbing world of the psychopaths among us’ p 121’)

When I was younger, I shied away from violent films featuring psychopaths. I had walked out of ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ Because Hannibal Lecter and Wild Bill disturbed me too much. I detested Tarantino bloodbaths. Yet, my aversion to such personalities had not protected me.

After a psychiatrist told me the man who had stalked me was a psychopath, I realized I needed to find out more about the nature of my opponent. Why? So I’d make better relationship choices in the future.

At the true crime section of my local bookstore, I found a book of interviews with a diagnosed psychopath, serial killer Ted Bundy. It was by New York Times journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth, and their book is where I started my education into psychopaths.

Why Ted Bundy? I was confronting my fears. I figured if I could learn to recognize the personality of a Ted Bundy, I’d feel a lot safer in my life. After all, he was the most frightening example of a psychopath I could imagine. Frightening not just because of what he had done – murdering upwards of 38 young women, some estimates are 100 – but because of the invisibility of his predatory nature. The guy was a chameleon.

For example look at any photo. The face, the hair, and the eyes? Ted Bundy was good-looking, but he was also fun to be around. He seemed to like and respect women. He helped his fiancée Liz Kendall raise her young daughter. He was close to his mother and two half sisters. He had women friends, some of whom were colleagues, like Ann Rule, the crime writer, whom he partnered while a volunteer answering phones at the Seattle Crisis Center, and Carol Ann Boone, whom he met while working at the DES, and later married on Death Row.

All his friends believed in his innocence, until the evidence against him in court proved overwhelming.

What struck me from the interviews was how articulate Bundy’s answers were. He was intelligent, and personable, and he went to pains to appear sincere to his interviewers, as he dodged, manipulated and deceived. By that time of his life of course, he had dragged a lot of people into his web of lies, including police interrogators. Detective Robert Keppel, traumatized after days of interrogating Bundy, referred to him as a ‘black hole’.

Meantime I went over the interviews with a fine toothcomb, trying to learn what I could about psychopaths. I could see Ted Bundy, a college graduate with an honors degree in psychology, was sophisticated and intelligent. His answers were thoughtful. Was he crazy? He didn’t seem to be. His crimes may have appeared to be the results of a deranged mind, but he seemed sane.

He sounded quite reasonable as he discussed his horrific murders, mostly keeping it theoretical. He was controlling, deciding how much information to release. He was shaping the direction of the interview.

What would give him away? I was testing myself.

Well, for a start, he was extremely narcissistic. The more I read his words, the more I could see how he reveled not only in being the focus of his interviewer’s attention, but that of his readers to come. It was a performance. He was also highly manipulative.

Bundy’s relentless egocentricity, his gamesmanship, his verbal dodging and his tendency to play the victim card were characteristic of any psychopath’s conversation.

Chillingly, Ted Bundy said he had no remorse for the rapes and murders of young women. He was simply a victim of his compulsions. He slept well at night. Yes, the serial killer was completely unrepentant.

That sealed it for me: no empathy, no remorse, no compassion, and no guilt. And above all, no conscience. He was a psychopath alright. Ted Bundy was worth future study.

One in 25 People

    “It is very likely that at some time in your life, you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological and financial well-being, it is crucial that you know how to identify    the psychopath, how to protect yourself, and how to minimize the harm done to you.”

                                                                     (Dr Robert Hare “Without Conscience”, preface x11.)

Dr Hare is widely regarded as the foremost authority on psychopaths. His Psychopathy Checklist is applied by doctors all over the world as a standard test for psychopathy. Hare describes psychopaths as ‘social predators.’

Psychopaths are sane, but ruthless, dedicated to achieving power and control. They are personality disordered, but not mentally impaired. They pride themselves on a strong will. They manage to get their own way through a combination of charm, manipulation, deceit, violence, intimidation, bullying and cunning. Hitler was a psychopath. Ted Bundy was another. Ariel Castro is another recent example of remorseless psychopath. As you’ll remember, he kidnapped and sexually enslaved three young women in his house in Cleveland.

As they age, psychopaths move along a spectrum of violent behavior, triggered by the normal upsets of life. Their violence always moves forwards, never back. As criminal expert Robert Keppel points out, the difference between an insecure, angry, domineering spouse and a serial killer like Ted Bundy is just one of degree.

One in 25 people is a psychopath. That’s an awful lot of people.

Scientists have recently discovered that psychopaths think differently from the rest of us. Their recorded brain activity is not like that of non-psychopaths. Theirs is a genetic inheritance. Though it can be severely worsened by poor upbringing, head injuries, sexual and physical abuse, none of those factors caused a person to be a psychopath.

Psychopaths are born devoid of conscience and empathy. Since childhood, they have adapted by imitating normal people. But as they pretended to have a conscience or values, and faked empathy, they despised those they manipulated. By adulthood, these imposters are skilled at blending in. Because they have been brought up alongside normal people, they also know how non-psychopaths think.

Thus they have an advantage over most people. They can fly under our radar, camouflaged by an appearance of normalcy and respectability.

They have been pathological liars and manipulators all their lives. These days most psychiatrists concur that psychopathic patients are untreatable. In fact many are refusing to take them on, citing not only the waste of their time, but also their own need to protect their mental health.

Not only do they have no intention of changing, psychopaths delight in outwitting medical staff.

When we don’t have a clue about what makes them tick, the advantage is definitely with the psychopaths, from white collar psychopaths like John Grambling who remorselessly defrauded people of their life savings, to serial killers. Because as John Douglas, a former FBI profiler and an expert on serial killers, warns psychopaths are “expert in assessing people.”

The odds are strong that you have encountered many psychopaths, also known as sociopaths, and anti-socials, as you went about daily living. The more successful you are in broadening your life, the more of them you will encounter. Some of them could just be an annoying irritant. Others might rob you of your savings, your spouse, your self-confidence, your job, your reputation, even your life.

Dr Hare. “Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought.”

My message is a hopeful one. We can significantly improve our odds, by learning to recognize the red flags of psychopathic behavior.

Psychopaths are Social Predators

              “Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought.”
                                                                      Dr Robert Hare “Without Conscience”, preface x11

Psychopaths are, as Dr Hare describes them above , ‘social predators.’ They harm us at every level of our lives: governmental, societal, financial, domestic, emotional. They are ruthlessly dedicated to achieving power and control over others, which they do through charm, manipulation, deceit, violence, intimidation, bullying and cunning. Hitler was a psychopath. Ted Bundy was another. So was Bernie Madoff.

Psychopaths move along a continuum of antisocial behavior. Their behavior always gets worse, never better. As criminal expert Robert Keppel points out, the difference between an insecure, angry, domineering spouse and a serial killer like Ted Bundy is just one of degree.

One in 25 people is a psychopath. That’s a lot of people.

Scientists have recently discovered that psychopaths think differently from the rest of us. Their recorded brain activity is not like that of non-psychopaths. Theirs is a genetic inheritance. Though their acting out can be severely heightened by poor upbringing, head injuries, sexual and physical abuse, none of those factors caused a person to be a psychopath.

Psychopaths are devoid of empathy. Brain studies have revealed there is little to no activity in the parts of their brain governing conscience and compassion. In childhood, they adapted to social standards by imitating their peers.

They have been pathological liars all their lives, even as kids.. By adulthood, ‘nature’s con artists’ have become are skilled at blending in. They fly under our radar. Having grown up alongside normal people, they also know how non-psychopaths think. Thus they have the advantage over those they dismiss as ‘Normals.’

To defend ourselves, we have to learn how they think. Because we don’t have a clue about what makes them tick. Yet as John Douglas, a former FBI profiler warns, psychopaths are “expert in assessing people.”

These days most psychiatrists concur that psychopathic patients are untreatable. In fact many are refusing to take them on, citing not only the waste of their time, but also their own need to protect their mental health.

The advantage historically has been with the psychopaths, from the white collar psychopaths like John Grambling who remorselessly defrauded people of their life savings, to serial killers.

The odds are strong that you have encountered psychopaths, also known as sociopaths, malignant narcissists and anti-socials, as you went about daily living.

The more successful you are in broadening your life, the more of them you will encounter. Some of them could just be an annoying irritant. Others might rob you of your savings, your spouse, your self-confidence, your job, your reputation, even your life.

“It is very likely that at some time in your life, you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological and financial well-being, it is crucial that you know how to identify the psychopath, how to protect yourself, and how to minimize the harm done to you.”
(Dr Robert Hare “Without Conscience”, preface x11.)

My message is a however a hopeful one. I believe we can significantly improve our odds in the predators game, by learning to recognize the red flags of psychopathic behavior.