How Psychopaths See the World and How They Gain Power.

“Princes and governments are far more dangerous than other elements within society.”
Niccolo Machiavelli

I recall a conversation I had with a young woman recently. She said she just couldn’t understand how journalists and politicians could be attacking President Trump so harshly. She noted that even really bad people have some redeeming attributes but these are being ignored by those who have declared a vendetta against him. I then noted to her that two professions with high percentages of psychopaths are politics and journalism and maybe a study of psychology might shed light on not only how the powers-that-be are treating Trump, but politics and media in general. 

I will describe psychopaths in detail in just a moment, and the picture presented in popular culture is often not accurate. They don’t generally hide in their mom’s basement cutting out newspaper articles, or lurk in the bushes to attack you. They are more often the people you see on TV in expensive designer suits and dresses. And they have always been the people who gravitate to power. In fact, in my latest science fiction novel set in the era of Noah I present two prototypical charismatic psychopaths: Ninhursag, the high priestess of a powerful order and Enlil, a corporate leader and head of his society’s secret police. ( "The Destiny of Our Past” Amazon link: ).  Point is, be it thousands of years ago, or today, there were and are many psychopaths inhabiting the most influential positions in society.  

As for modern-day American politics, winning means everything. The odds are stacked in favor of the most competitive men and women, those who do not take no for an answer, who can charm you one minute, and plot against you the next.  There are only a few true positions of influence in politics, and in top spots in the media, to go around and that is why we have the blood sports we do.  

This modern blood-sport is one that favors the men and women able to deliver the decisive blow to opponents yet maintain a cool and collected look, even after they decimate their foes on the field; and afterwards we don’t even see a drop of blood splatter running down their pretty cheeks.  So many dimensions of American “democracy” we could explore but why not get into these peoples collective minds and ask: How do such psychopaths see the world?

A psychopath is an interesting individual.  They of course have defining traits including:
  • Glib and superficial charm.
  • The ability to lie, or important in American politics, reconstruct the truth with creativity.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Lack of guilt.
  • A grandiose sense of self.
  • Easily bored and a need for higher-than-average stimulation.
  • Highly competitive.
  • And, ironically, they tend to be psychically attractive due to wanting to keep in shape and thus more appealing to others, or due to higher-than-average testosterone levels.
It is easy to judge the psychopath as some sort of dangerous individual, or even a monster. Yet this “monster” can elicit admiration from entire societies. That is why politics and journalism are the perfect worlds for them.

Okay, as promised though, how do they see the world?  As children they realize there is something different about them.  And no, they are not necessarily bullies – often they are the bullied. Why? Well, childhood can be very cruel, especially to those who do not react the same as others to emotional stimuli, or who question a bit too much, or are judged as arrogant because they can analyze the complexities of life even at a young age.  This leaves them open to being picked on, to being left out. However, they do not want to be left out; loneliness is rejection and psychopaths will not tolerate that. 

And what skills does a psychopath learn to use? At least the intelligent ones learn that even if they do not feel the same emotions, or at least at the same level as regular people around them, they need to master their environment – that means to learn how to show regular human reactions to tragedy as well as cheerful events. They also learn the art of communication, be it charm or more weaponized verbal skills.  As the saying goes the art of diplomacy is to have the skill to tell someone to go to hell, and them look forward to the trip.

Naturally the psychopath sees the world in an arrogant way. They cannot understand why they are able to make connections while “common people” are unable to. This causes them to see people as generally being stupid, and to most psychopaths the ability to manipulate them becomes a game.  If they go into marketing they see their job as selling a product – using any means to appeal to the masses. If they are politicians they will see themselves as the product to sell. And if anything causes fear in a psychopath’s heart it is losing. They absolutely will bend rules, tell the “truth” in creative ways (most people call that lying, but is it technically?) and while they form alliances to win it is akin to the alliances formed in “The Hunger Games” in which in the end the alphas will have to turn against each other. People are seen as sources of power and favor. This is how politics really works, and how politicians must behave to win.  So psychopaths are quite suited for this environment.

Of course psychopaths will believe all people think as they do, just as most regular people think that politicians actually have empathy for them and a desire to serve. Now before I go further I will note that psychopaths can internalize ethics. If they do they can become champions of worthy causes if they believe there is a wrong to be righted. So yes, there are anti-heroes akin to those Clint Eastwood movies where he rides into town and winds up saving it from some evil villains, but like the Eastwood character depicted in those movies he (or she) does not really feel compassion for those being oppressed the way regular people might.  Also important to note, the psychopath does not “feel” for the weak.  In fact, a psychopath would likely believe the way to make society stronger is for weak people not to breed.  In a Machiavellian sense, an aspect of psychopathy, the ends justify the means if in the end you can create a Utopia.

As noted, psychopaths project their own personalities so they see other people as possessing their own imaginations and motivations. Therefore psychopaths are more likely to support harsh treatment of criminals…they realize how easy it is to manipulate a social worker or psychologist and thus would never believe a violent criminal can be rehabilitated. So, ironically, as psychopaths hate to be told what to do or conform in any way, they may, once they gain power, seek to make sure the masses don’t cause problems. So the ultimate lone wolf of the psychological world may, if in charge, seek ways to monitor, manipulate, and punish the masses to keep them from realizing what the powers-that-be are doing to them.  And what of the people who will likely oppose them? Expect them to be psychopaths as well. Maybe this is why revolutions often eat their young first – the victors suspect their colleagues and fear their toppling them.

So in a way the psychopath lives in a world divided into sheep and wolves. Some will seek to feast on the sheep and fight other wolves for that privilege. Others will fancy themselves as sheepdogs, there to lead and control the sheep. Yet one must remember, the sheepdog and the wolf have the same origin, instincts, and diet, but the former at least sees the benefit of creating a certain level of order; protection so the sheep can go about their business, but at a price, an acceptable price, one even the sheep agree upon. So in a sense in elections you are often not voting between persons governed by empathy and warm and fuzzy feelings but between sheepdogs and wolves…psychopaths with ethics, or those without.

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