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What We Can Learn From Psychopaths

     Charm. Coolness under pressure. Self-confidence. Courage. Resilience to stress. These are all traits that tend to be found in psychopaths, who also rate high on traits of ruthlessness, fearlessness, and absence of empathy. A "good" psychopath might employ these traits to make tough calls on the field of battle - whether that is saving a comrade-in-arms, a company on the brink or a manipulative, out-of-control addict - while a "dysfunctional" psychopath will definitely use them to manipulate others and make their lives a battlefield. Some very successful people - very successful, with positions of great authority like CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, politicians and priests, rate very high on the scale of psychopathy, according to new research discussed in a new book, The Good Psychopath's Guide To Success: How To Use Your Inner Psychopath To Get The Most Out Of Life And
by Jude Treder-Wolff
according to these researchers, some of those traits are worth cultivating and used for positive purposes. 

    Its possible to develop greater levels of confidence that promote courageous risk-taking necessary for innovation and change, and the kind of rational psychological strength we need to set serious boundaries that are essential for healthy relationships. And when we do, we are much better equipped to spot and deal successfully with what co-authors Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab label a "dysfunctional" psychopath, the bullies, abusers, power-mongers who will hurt, use, and discard other people with neither compassion nor conscience. In an interview with The Telegraph researcher Dutton - who also explored this subject in his book The Wisdom of Psychopaths: Lessons In Life From Saints, Spies and Serial Killers - reports that he "wanted to debunk the myth that all psychopaths are bad. I'd done research with the special forces, with surgeons, with top hedge fund managers and barristers. Almost all of them had psychopathic traits, but they'd harnessed them in ways to make them better at what they do." 
The same skill a con man uses to take all your money is in many ways the same as a hostage negotiator. Psychopaths are kind of like highly-skilled poker players, but the game is real-life and the winnings often power over others' fate. They are able to get into our lives - and into our heads - by an ability to pay close attention to what is important to us and to conceal what they are thinking. We can raise our own game by developing skills in listening to what others are communicating not only verbally but through behavior. If the words a person says are not consistent with actions, the actions tell the truth. Spotting a psychopath can be as simple as recognizing that everything about them looks and sounds good while something about them feels fake. Maintaining our own emotional distance and detachment when we observe this can keep us out of unnecessary drama and in extreme cases protect us from irreversible loss. Our own emotional intelligence and the awareness of our own emotional vulnerabilities and triggers can be key to playing on the same field with people who are really good at exploiting them.  
   Like most of life's difficult realities, psychopathy is not one thing. According to this research in neuroscience and brain scanning, there is a continuum of traits along which all of us are situated. We can learn to avoid the traps and tricks of what Dutton refers to as "dysfunctional" psychopaths, in whom the negative aspects of these traits are turned up to a maximum. One "dysfunctional" psychpath - who is serving a life sentence for multiple murders - put it this way to Dutton: "Its not that we're bad. Its that we've got too much of a good thing."

Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP is a consultant/trainer and writer/performer. She is host and creator of (mostly) TRUE THINGS storytelling slam.


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