As you read the list of key symptoms of a psychopath, you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. Check, check, check — the individual who has been making you crazy has all, or almost of all, of the traits.
In shock, you realize that you have a psychopath in your life.
You’ve seen the individual’s glib and superficial charm, lack of empathy, lack of remorse. You knew he or she was deceitful, but now you suspect that every statement this person ever made may have been a lie.
“How can he do that?” you ask. “What was she thinking?”
Steve Becker, LCSW, a longtime Lovefraud author, has just come out with a book that explains what goes on in the mind of a psychopath. It’s called, The Inner World of the Psychopath — a definitive primer on the psychopathic personality.
It’s the best analysis I’ve ever seen of how a psychopath thinks.
Becker has worked as a licensed clinical social worker for 25 years. During his career, he says, he developed a reputation “for working skillfully with antisocial, aggressive, and manipulative male clients.”
So he’s seen lots of diagnosed cases of antisocial and narcissistic personality disorder, up close and personal. After years of dealing with this population, Becker has gathered a lot of insight into their motivation, behavior and attitudes.
Becker acknowledges that women can be psychopaths, but refers to males throughout the book. In Chapter 1, he identifies a core aspect of the psychopath’s personality:
“He doesn’t just want things; he feels that he has rights to go after what he wants. This means that if you have what a psychopathic individual wants, you are at great risk of his targeting you to take it from you — whatever it might be. But the psychopath won’t merely feel comfortable or justified taking what he wants from you; what cements his truly psychopathic tendency, as suggested above, is the indifference he will feel about the harm his taking from you or his violation of you causes you.”
Then, in a series of very short chapters, Becker describes different aspects of the psychopath’s thought processes as he goes about violating others. Here are some examples:
“The psychopath sees things along these lines: If you are vulnerable to exploitation or make yourself vulnerable to exploitation, then he isn’t to blame for exploiting your vulnerability. You are to blame for making yourself vulnerable.“
“The psychopath’s grandiosity is best expressed in his underlying faith that there is virtually no limit to what he can get away with. However advanced a manipulator he may really be, his grandiosity propels him to greater and greater risks, in a flaunting of his contempt for others’ boundaries and dignity.”
“The psychopath sees others as just so stupid, so naïve, so vulnerable, and so exploitable it’s almost funny, while perceiving himself to be just so smart, so canny, so clever, and so adept at playing the system and playing people it’s almost funny.”
Becker says psychopaths are profoundly lacking in empathy, and because of this, their transgressions against others are even more painful. Here’s how he explains this:
“Psychopaths routinely leave their victims with the double burden of having to heal from the original wound of their transgression and the subsequent wound of their shocking remorselessness.”
So how do you get over the pain inflicted by the psychopath? Understanding what the disorder is all about helps. That’s where Becker’s book comes in.
For all of us who are not psychopathic, it’s really, really hard to comprehend how these individuals can do what they do. We keep thinking that maybe therapy would help. Or maybe if we had behaved differently, the psychopath wouldn’t have treated us so badly.
Becker’s book makes clear that the psychopath does what he does because he wants to. No counselor, and nothing we do, will change who and what this person is.
The problem is the psychopath. By viscerally understanding this, we free ourselves.