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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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Psychopathy and its Relationship to Serial Murder

I came across this recently.  The FBI Symposium happened in 2005 but its findings are just as relevant today.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation hosted a multi-disciplinary Symposium in San Antonio, Texas, on August 29, 2005 through September 2, 2005. The goal of the Symposium was to bring together a group of respected experts on serial murder from a variety of fields and specialties, to identify the commonalities of knowledge regarding serial murder.

Attendees at the Serial Murder Symposium agreed that there is no generic profile of a serial murderer. Serial killers differ in many ways, including their motivations for killing and their behavior at the crime scene. However, attendees did identify certain traits common to some serial murderers, including sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity, the need for control, and predatory behavior. These traits and behaviors are consistent with the psychopathic personality disorder. Attendees felt it was very important for law enforcement and other professionals in the criminal justice system to understand psychopathy and its relationship to serial murder.

In  my first book The Girls’ Guide to Predators; the Games Some Men Play I recommend something similar: that women who are being stalked, learn all they can about the characteristics of psychopathy.  These guys actually do seem to play by the same rulebook, so it can’t hurt to Know they enemy!   Estimates vary among the experts but the general consensus is that between 50 and 90 percent of men who stalk women are psychopaths. (So that’s somewhere between half of them, and almost all of them!)  If she understands how a stalker thinks and behaves, a target will be better able to anticipate his next move and take precautions, rather than being caught off guard. One excellent resource is the Love Fraud website, which is run by Donna Anderson.

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.