At least it seems I may have some of the qualities of a psychopath. The good news is that does not mean that I am destined to be the next Jeffrey Dalmer. In fact, it turns out there are many of us living successful lives, inside the bounds of the law, who have some of the qualities of psychopathy. Functional psychopaths. Interesting? If you think so, I highly recommend reading Kevin Dutton’s latest book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.
What exactly is psychopathy? The American Heritage Dictionary defines psychopathy as “a personality disorder that has been variously characterized by shallow emotions (including reduced fear, a lack of empathy, coldheartedness, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and a parasitic lifestyle.” When many or all of these traits come together in one individual, be afraid, be very afraid. Thankfully, the convergence of enough of these traits to create a Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy is relatively rare.
In his fascinating book, Dutton weaves just enough anecdotal information into the clinical discussion of these traits, and the types of individuals that have some or all of them, to make the book an entertaining and educational read, particularly if you have an interest in psychology. If you are an executive or attorney and you have not taken an interest in psychology, you should. An understanding of why people make the decisions they make is invaluable in the courtroom and the boardroom. Acccording to Dutton, CEO’s and lawyers are the number one and two proofessions that test positively for psychopathic traits. There may be more psychopaths among us than we know.
Think of how some of the traits must be present in some of the most admired members of society. Read Dutton’s book and discover the close link between psychopathy and heroism. The hero who runs into a burning building, the pilot that remains cool in the face of an impending plane crash, the bomb disposal experts with heartbeats that actually slow down when disarming a bomb that could explode at any second. All of these individuals have some of the characteristics of psychopathy, as Dutton creatively explains throughout the book.
Read at your own peril because you just might learn some things about yourself. I have spent quite a lot of time wondering why I behave certain ways under pressure in many professional, as well as personal situations. In fact, I have often surmised that there must be something wrong with me for not exhibiting the intense reactions to impending tragedy and high risk that others around me exhibit. It turns out, I may just be wired that way when it comes to risk. While this is not the most desirable quality when being berated by my wife for “not caring,” it has served me well in the high risk area of the law where I have chosen to practice. An area where the jury’s verdict can make the difference between enormous rewards and equally enormous losses.
While this may sound like a “bad” character trait, think about it. Have you ever found yourself saying something like this: “I don’t waste time worrying about things I can’t control”? If you have, you may very well share some qualities with psychopaths. If you read Dutton’s book, he will also identify some tests you can find for free to see how much of a psychopath you really are. Fortunately, I failed the tests for true psychopathy. While I may have some useful psychopathic traits, I am not a true psychopath so you can all stop thinking about unfriending and unfollowing me now and breathe a sigh of relief.