DL Fowler's Blog

Earmarks of a Psychopath

One of my characters in Ripples is a psychopath. A retired CEO from a major financial services company.  His character evolves as he faces a series of personal tragedies, then has his nose rubbed in the worst trauma he ever endured.

I started by exploring the meaning of the term ‘psychopath.’  As distinguished from sociopaths, which possess personality traits that are acquired through trauma, psychopaths are born. Their personality traits are hardwired into their DNA.  And they are walking among us every day – about 1% of people are psychopathic. In real terms that means that there are about 3 million of them in the US. 

Among CEOs of major companies, the incidence is 4 times that of the population as a whole. Translated, that suggests that at any one time about 20 of the Fortune 500 companies are led by psychopaths.

Just in case you want to size up anyone you know to figure out if they fall into the population of psychopaths, here’s a chcklist of psychopathic personality traits I assembled from my research:

  • Superficial charm, glib.
  • Easily bored and turns most conversations to be about himself.
  • Egocentric, builds himself up by tearing others down.
  • Pathological liar.
  • Manipulative.
  • Easily frustrated.
  • Opportunistic and ruthless.
  • Appears cold and calculating, shallow emotions.
  • Unethical or dishonest.
  • Uses others for personal gain, relations tend to be superficial.
  • Lack of remorse or empathy.
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2 Responses

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  1. C said, on March 17, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    You should write a book about what I just went through. Been putting the pieces together for days. A female psychopath who is extremely beautiful, yet physically frail and exudes a high degree of helplessness. The stereotypical “lost soul” and “black widow” figure in one. The degree of calculated deception and manipulation I feel cannot be paralleled.

    I imagine Psychopaths as they have to adapt from a very early age naturally develop a very impressive skillset to act-out situations while they are in the process of manipulating. No oscar winning performance has anything on the day to day acts put on by this psychopath.

    Through the past 3 years of our relationship I basically taught this girl how to not be a narcissist and how to become a much better psychopath by my incredible amount of patience and love I had for her. It was completely as if being under a spell where I felt I had to help her at any cost and by doing so allowed her to learn what was and wasn’t acceptable as a maturing woman. Any information learned was then used to try to devour my soul.

    The depth and intricacy of the deceptions as well as to where her psychopathic interests were heading has turned my world upside down and truly frightens me. I am still in the throws of trying to deal with this situation. Although I realize first hand that psychopaths can make you think they are non-violent and after further research notice that psychopaths see themselves as just a different breed of people, not necessarily good or bad. I must say that out of my experience they are nothing but cold, calculating, remorseless, pure evil and that nothing good can result out of prolonged contact with one.

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    • DLFowler said, on March 18, 2012 at 10:47 AM

      I sympathize for your experience. I’ve known people like the woman you describe, and you’ve nailed it. For the walking wounded they leave in their wake, physical pain would be a welcome distraction from the emotional wounds. The difficulty in identifying one before you get too deeply involved is that they are experts at mimicing all the right emotions and behaviors to seem attractive. And, I don’t think their predatory nature is calculated. I think it’s just part of their nature. They don’t seek out people to hurt so much as they exploit opportunities that fall into their laps. Just a theory though.

      Anyway, I’ve been working on plot angles to spotlight the dangers of non-violent psychopaths. Your story can certainly fit in. In writing novels, psychopaths create two problems. First, they’re easy to fall in love with, and if your reader falls in love with someone who turns out to be evil, you piss them off. Second, many people don’t want to believe psychopaths are the way they are. So to be authentic, the writer has to suspend disbelief in something that is not only real, but they are a truth that readers don’t generally want to embrace. In spite of those two problems, I’m working on two stories that focus on non-violent psychopaths. One (I’m not convinced it works) features a psychopath that is shocked into changing fundamentally. The other is a fictional autobiography of Abraham Lincoln with one or more (Mary Todd being one) non-violent psychopath antagonists. Avoiding stereotypes is also a challenge in both stories.

      Thanks for your comments.

      DL Fowler

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