I remember being fascinated when I read psychologist Kevin Dutton’s 2013 book, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.” In the book, Dutton discusses that the traits found in criminal psychopaths are indeed the same traits found in some of the most successful professionals in the world. In fact, many Fortune 500 CEOs are what Dutton calls, “Functional psychopaths.” The difference between, a functional psychopath and their murderous counterpart, is what drives the two different psychos and how receive satisfaction.
The murderous psychopath engages in violence and murder out of a desire to satisfy psychosexual pleasures. In essence, the sense of power and pleasure that the murderous psychopath gets, actually comes from the act of killing. Therefore, the murderous psychopath, cannot succeed in mainstream society, because what makes them feel in control and gives them pleasure, is far beyond the bounds of what is acceptable in society.
The murderous psychopath has no remorse for human life and lacks conscience for their violent actions. In essence, death of another is merely an ends to a means for them to be successful.
On the other hand, the functional psychopath is capable of not only existing, but also flourishing in society. The functional psychopath, possesses all the same traits as their violent cohorts, including having detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities. The major difference is what gives the functional psychopath pleasure and de facto the object that they seek. The functional psychopath is power driven like the murderous psycho, however, they gain pleasure by having power in society, or by possessing the appearance of status and social importance.
When it comes to achieving social power and status, the functional psychopath possesses the same degree of callousness and disregard for human life as the murderous psycho, however, they get no inherent pleasure from causing death., because unlawfully killing someone lowers their status in society.
The only reason the functional psycho doesn’t kill people, is because it isn't advantageous to the pursuit of their ultimate goals. However, the functional psycho has no problem laying-off 500 employees before Christmas if it means that it will benefit their social status, or appearance in the eyes of society’s stakeholders.
Now, if laying off 500 people, makes some families homeless, or even causes death due to lack of health insurance, the functional psycho could care less. However, it isn’t the death and suffering they desire. That is just a side-effect.
Ultimately, as a result of his research Dutton develops a theory that everyone possesses the ability to have psychopathic tendencies.
We all can be provoked into having complete careless disregard for other people, which indeed can include their lives, provided the reward is significant enough to us.
Now, many of you reading this may think that it would be a long shot for you to make the leap into being a full blown psychopath; however, as Dr. Phillip Zimbardo demonstrated in his 1971, “Stanford Prison Experiment” the allure or perception of power can cause one to rather quickly begin to engage in sadistic and psychopathic behaviors.
Dr. Zimbardo termed this propensity to become evil towards other people, provided the conditions were right, “The Lucifer Effect.”
Zimbardo’s study demonstrated, when it comes to behavior, situational influence is stronger than biological influence. The Stanford Prison Experiment, affirmed the same conclusion as another seminal psychology study, Dr. Stanley Miligram’s, called “Miligram Experiment.”
In his book, Dutton points out an alarming fact. Modern societies as a whole are more conducive to producing psychopathic behaviors than ever before.
Functional psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused- all qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century.
In fact, the traits possessed by functional psychopaths, are often attributes that modern society finds appealing and even encourages or celebrates.
If a functional psychopath is in the public eye, and they say things that a particular member of the populous supports or wants to hear, even if what is said is at the expense of potentially a large portion of the population, the supporting members, not only will support what is said, they will celebrate it.
In this regard, society as a collective is demonstrating their propensity towards possessing psychopathic traits, by demonstrating no regard for other people who may be hurt by the functional psycho’s actions. Rather, they consider those in society to express hurt to be “weak” and deserving of hardship or pain. Term "snowflakes" anyone?
Now, one might be asking, "What’s wrong with supporting someone who says what I want to hear? Why should I feel bad for people with opposing views, when they get their feelings get hurt?"
"Why is that exhibiting psychopathic traits or what about that makes me support functional psychopathy?"
Well, it comes from the aspect of taking pleasure in putting someone or entire other groups of people down, in support of something you encourage. This demonstrates a failure to recognize the communal aspects that bind us together as we expand outside our personal purviews.
Take for example, when Kim Jong Un threatens to unleash a “Hail of fire on America."
No one stops and says, “Ummm excuse me, by all America does that include Dallas Cowboys fans? Because I don’t really give a s*** if you are talking about Philadelphia Eagle fans, but if you mean Cowboys fans, what you said really pisses me off.”
Nooooooo… we don’t do that.
When he says, "Hail of fire on America" he isn't talking about only Republicans, Democrats, Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Christians, Jews, or even Muslim-Americans.
He is fairly specifically and unambiguously saying, “All of you Red, White, and Blue; Uncle Sam; Apple Pie; Red Blooded, Bald Eagle Loving Americans!"
In fact, you cannot even say that you don’t give a s*** about the feelings, thoughts, or opinions, of those who differ from you when it comes to how to deal with North Korea saying they want to indiscriminately kill Americans.
Because, let’s say you support sending the military to engage in all out warfare against North Korea. If you say the you support this, you are this is because it is the because method of keeping America safe and saving American lives.
Remember, Americans. All of them… red, white and blue… you know the rest... Americans.
So there are only two options:
One, you base your opinion on the fact that indeed you feel that going to war is the best way to defend and protect all Americans.
Two, You are indeed a murderous psychopath and you derive psychosexual pleasure from killing other human beings. Defense of the nation is merely a bonus that saves you from killing your fellow Americans.
Basically, your primary concern is either protecting all Americans, including those who's opinions differ from yours. Or your primary concern is you just love killing.
Thank goodness you can point your violent lust at an enemy that shares the same ideology as you...
HEY! Wait a minute! That's right!
If you do enjoy killing for pleasure or domination of another group that actually make you JUST LIKE NORTH KOREA, or ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc.! So clearly, that cannot be it, right?
Now, does all of this mean that all Americans should just go ahead and sign up for a universal “American way of thinking” and everyone agree on everything?
Heck no! In fact, debate and difference is what actually drives civilizations forward. It is also the exact reason that the founders of America framed the country on the beliefs of free speech and freedom of expression. They recognized the innovative thinking that emerges from diversity, including disagreeing amongst diversity. They wanted to make sure there was always a free market of ideas in America.
It does, however, mean that we should never go so far in our freedom of divergent thought, that we lose sight of the overarching commonality that binds us together.
Even if you actually, truly only desire to go to war and fight an enemy for the sole purpose of defending you, your family, or like-minded, like-race, like-religion, and like-cultural persons... you actually don’t have that ability in any way shape or form.
Because… to recap, the enemies of the U.S. do not desire destruction and death to one group of people…
It’s all for one and one for all.
So at the end of the day, we should all stop and consider that even if we “think” at any given moment that a segment of the population’s opinions, thoughts, and behavior is so contradictory they're an enemy. Are they truly our enemy?
Do you actually honestly, not care about that group of people? So much so that you wouldn’t defend them if someone wanted to kill them because they were also American?
If you do feel that way, does that make you a very good American? Are you exhibiting the principled beliefs that the nation was founded on?
Most importantly, if you were at risk of losing one of your family members or your life, are you going to stop and ask the doctor before they try to save a life, “Wait! Are you a Democrat or Republican? What is your religion of preference? Do you engage in sexual relations with a member of your own gender?... etc.?” OH COURSE YOU’RE NOT!
Why? Because we all possess the capacity to shift our perspective of what is right or wrong, provided the reward or pleasure system is great enough! We actually covered that, remember?
So to some degree we should be willing to be comfortable with the positive traits of functional psychopaths, because as Keven Dutton suggests, there is some wisdom in psychopaths. Their ability to have courage and take risk, when the perceived rewards are worth it, can be hallmark attributes of good leadership.
Remember, however, what drives the functional psychopath is power by being viewed in high regard in society. Therefore, it is not the functional psychopath that is in control.
Rather, it is the populous that controls the functional psycho, because we dictate what we approve and disapprove of, or what elevates or decreases one’s status and view in society.
Unless even if you just flat out refuse to consider or acknowledge it, you indeed actually can, do, and should care about all your fellow Americans.
Let’s work on that, and remembering the unity amongst us, as Americans. Then we can work on expanding out from there, with the whole, all of us are human beings thing after that.