I know how you feel… but only when I want to.
Psychopath: our go-to “crazy guy” word, our favourite label for the deranged and the raving running amok, tainting our perfectly sane society. Do you ever wonder why we could let psychopaths out in the open? Why they’re allowed to even exist? Thing is, you’d be surprised if you knew which people were actually psychopathic. It might be your boss, or that nice guy down the street, or that charming girl at the store, or… even yourself.
Ever since the idea of it came to the minds of man, psychopathy’s been tossed back and forth from definition to definition, constantly changing as researchers and psychologists make new tests and discover new attributes to this “illness.” Originally classified as a terrible affliction of madness, psychopathy’s gone from being a big yes-or-no label to an entire spectrum, ranging from “just a little kooky” to “lock this guy up.” Seriously speaking, psychologists have been able to identify a vast myriad of attributes and facets to psychopathy, many of which can easily apply to average people like you and me.
Maybe psychopathy isn't as rare as we think it is. Maybe everyone is at least a little bit psychopathic. One of the key attributes of a psychopath is the lack of empathy, which is the ability to feel what others are feeling. However, findings say that psychopaths can be empathetic, but they can choose when to be. Sound familiar? Remember that time you watched that super sad movie, but you decided to cut off the sadness to show off how cool you were? If not, you might want to check yourself for pathological lying or amnesia.
The study looked at a sample of actual psychopaths, people that have been formally diagnosed with psychopathy, and compared them to a bunch of normal people. The study looked at brain scans of these people as they watched videos of “emotional hand interactions.” When the researchers asked the psychopathic participants to try to relate to the videos they watched, brain scans actually showed activity in the same areas as the normal people, whereas before, there wasn't any activity at all. The psychopaths were actually able to switch on their empathy!
We’re pretty familiar with the ability to regulate your emotions. We see it happen all the time. Medical professionals like doctors often need to emotionally distance themselves from their patients in order to perform their jobs properly. Law and justice officials need to see things objectively without emotion getting in the way. Even normal people have to keep their emotions in check every day, or else we’d burst into tears every time we see a baby cry.
So the question now is this: is psychopathy really as bad as we think it is? Despite what the scientific field has uncovered about it, psychopathy is still seen as this terrible, life-ruining disease that only the craziest crazies have. However, many psychopathic tendencies are seen to be very normal, and actually very beneficial to workplace success. “Corporate psychopaths,” one of many names, are people with just enough psychopathic attributes to achieve success in life. Psychopathy allows them to manipulate people and situations without their own feelings such as guilt and regret getting in the way of their climb to power. Now, I’m not saying that psychopaths are at all great employees or colleagues, but it seems like they can thrive pretty well in a workplace environment.
So, maybe psychopathy is actually a good thing. At least, in moderation. To be able to absolutely control your emotions is almost like a super power in today’s ever increasingly sensitive world. Wouldn't it have been interesting if the researchers in that experiment asked the normal people to try emotionally distance themselves from the videos? I mean, we all have the ability to cut off the feels, don’t we? Or perhaps I'm just one of the crazies…