On Psychopaths

Do you know what a psychopath is? It’s worth knowing because they do exist and can be very skilled at pretending to be the opposite of what they are. Callous, selfish, insincere, lacking in empathy and acting without remorse, psychopaths can be very charismatic and put on a great show of caring for others. I don’t know how common they are but I’ve definitely met at least two.

One was a work colleague who pushed me into a world of extreme anxiety and serious illness. She took unusual pleasure in seeing me struggle to breathe when the episode culminated in acute pneumonia. Nobody else noticed. A very intelligent woman, she seeped charisma, confidence and conviction. Something that should have given her away was the fact that she was a pathological liar. She would lie so often, and about the silliest things that it’s surprising nobody else noticed. If several people were talking about a film they liked that she hadn’t seen, she’d jump straight into the centre of attention waxing lyrical about how much she loved it, too. Deeper discussion would reveal that she didn’t just have a vague memory of some parts – she knew nothing about it. How could somebody like this go undetected if anything more than superficial discussion would reveal this so often that the pattern would be impossible to ignore? As with most things, I don’t know. One mistake I do think I made was to consider everybody to be basically decent. I transferred my thoughts and feelings into this person and thought I was empathising with her. I may as well have looked for humanity in the eyes of a snake. Before this experience I thought the character Iago from Othello was a preposterous impossibility. How could so many people believe all of his lies and stories? Sara the snake is still at large and, as far as I’m aware, nobody knows her true nature other than herself and myself. A psychopath will stop at nothing to get what they want. Once she knew that I knew, this meant trouble for me. She could make up any story and many would believe her without a shred of evidence. Present evidence proving that she was not only dealing in untruths, but she was deliberately lying and many still didn’t care. People believe who they like. I don’t know how to deal with this kind of person.

Back to the present day and another psychopath has presented herself. This time I had the misfortune of getting very close to her. I fell in love with her. We went on holidays together. She had invited me to China with her for a month. I was delighted as it was my opportunity to prove my reliability, unwavering dedication, patience and love. Unfortunately, I was only asked along because she was hopelessly unprepared for the trip. Near the end of the holiday and once the difficult logistics were sorted out, I was given my marching orders. She had asked me why I was so patient with her on occasion. It turned out that when she decided to ask me to come with her, she had planned to use me and get me to break up with her by serially mistreating me. She openly admitted this. The trick to getting away with doing this kind of thing to people is to simply lie about it afterwards.  How could a beautiful, charismatic woman with that smile, conviction and confidence ever lie? I don’t know what to do other than what I did the last time – walk away. It was easier then – even though it was my livelihood, I really didn’t like the job. She offered to do the walking but when I took her up on it she didn’t honour it – a bluff to make her look “nice”. If psychopaths like this are so good at acting like nice people, why don’t they just follow through and be that way below the surface? This person openly admitted to me that she likes to get what she wants from others without any commitment to return the favour. Use, discard, move on. A hunter-gatherer. Dorian Gray with a demonic portrait buried where nobody else will see it. Perhaps the important thing is not to be the only one who knows?

Gosia is about the most remarkable woman many could ever hope to meet. She’s also a callous, selfish, arrogant psychopath who’s completely transactional and only sees others as a resource to be tapped. Would you feed an animal that would bite the hand off you?

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