The Psychopaths among us

I was reading a fascinating article yesterday about an interview with Professor James Fallon. You may have heard of him. He is a neueroscientist who turns out to have the brain of a Psychopath, as well as the genes of a Psychopath. He credits good parenting that stopped him becoming a killer.

The article discussed the signs of Psychopaths and the prevelance among the general population and among leaders. This is what was most shocking for me. For Psychopaths, who manage to avoid a criminal life, are people who have the qualities companies and countries seek in leaders. They are ruthless, can take hard decisions without letting emotions get in the way, and actively seek the limelight, and there are more of them than we think.

The signs of psychopathy are:

Glib and superficial charm;
Grandiose sense of self-worth; narcissism; seeing the self as the center of the universe; feeling “no one else is human, only I”;
Focused self-advancement without losing any energy on others except as stepping-stones;
No moral taboos or inhibitions as to methods, aiding career success until caught;
Need for constant stimulation, action, and new ways to avoid boredom; typical actions of the psychopathic child include a) torturing animals, b) the deliberate setting of fires and 3) urinating in one’s own bed (though young children may do this rarely, and accidentally, they do not do this alongside setting fires and animal torture)
Lying as an art form to fine-tune and a source of pride;
Targeting and manipulation of the gullible;
Enticing people they do not love to naively love them;
Skill at faking emotions, including love, sincerity and regret;
Doing good work and good deeds solely to advance oneself;
Ruthlessness and “stopping at nothing”;
Enjoyment of the power to coldly end close relationships;
“Getting” others back as a peak experience;
Desire for vengeance when spurned;
Pleasure in firing or ruining people. In the U.S., where highly profitable firms routinely cut good employees to boost stock values, there are professional terminators who roam the country cutting staff and personally firing them;
Abuse and literal torture of living creatures;
Humiliating others physically, verbally, emotionally, psychologically or sexually;
Denigrating one’s own child or mate;
Callousness; lack of empathy and compassion;
Shallow or no feelings for others, even mates, children and friends;
No ability to feel remorse or undergo inner repentance;
Regret solely at being caught, embarrassed or punished;
Incomprehension of the angry reactions of those they hurt;
Underestimation of their own anger;
No sense of responsibility for one’s actions;
Parasitical world view: living by scams and not hard work;
Contempt for those who “play by the rules”;
Criminal talent, energy and innovativeness;
Warlike courage far above the norm;
Playing on the sympathy of others.
To this one might add—in the purely subjective, non-scientific eye of many beholders—a curious dead look in the eyes of a psychopath, and that is the chilling part. Others speak of looking into such eyes and “having a feeling that nothing is there.”

In history several world leaders have been diagnosed as having strong psychopathic traits including: Theodore Roosevelt, JFK, Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Adolf Hitler, Arian Sharon, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe – i could go on.

Having a CEO who is a Psychopath is bad enough, but to have a world leader as one causes vast misery and suffering. Today we have Putin and Bashar al-Assad who are clearly demonstrating to me how dangerous it can be when a psychologically instable person is in charge. To me they are both clearly Psychopaths, outwardly charming, but with eyes that are dead, and being without remorse. They are totally ruthless in persuing what they see as their purpose. This is a bit ironic following from my last post about flourishing in April and finding your purpose. World domination was not what I was thinking about.

Professor Fallon is of the opinion that a violent psychopath cannot stop himself, and also cannot be cured. What does this say for trying to negotiate with leaders who have strong psychopathic traits? They cannot be trusted, they cannot be reasoned with. It is a scary thought.


Mind you, some people think that Assad is not a psychopath, merely a good man caught in a bad system. If that is true then he could be reasoned with, if you can get him out of the system. I am not so sure though

There are several interviews with James Fallon on youtube if you want to have a look.