The Compensated Psychopath**
The famed Swiss psychiatrist Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig, Jungian author of The
Emptied Soul, believes that many psychopaths (a.k.a. sociopaths) who walk
among us are often those who hold upstanding positions in society. Adolf
Guggenbühl-Craig calls them "compensated" psychopaths. Unfortunately,
psychopathy showing up in places other than a prison or mental hospital is
an extremely serious and all too common social problem, partly because just
one compensated psychopath can so adversely affect the lives of so many
unsuspecting, trusting people.
These psychopaths can be economically and emotionally (if not physically)
"socially dangerous" — capable of unbelievably appalling acts. In 1941 Dr.
Hervey Cleckley discussed the "partial psychopath" when he talked about
"incomplete manifestations or suggestions of the disorder" in psychiatrists,
physicians, businessmen, etc. "Compensated" psychopaths were described as
the subclinical psychopath or subcriminal psychopath by the famous Dr.
Robert Hare. These doctors are all talking about the same problem —
psychopathy. Pure psychopaths really do exist, but even so, they are very,
very rare. It is the vastly more common so-called compensated, or partial,
psychopaths (Adolph Hitler is an extreme example; see link 3, below) who are
the far more insidious, and pervasive, social problem.
Hervey Cleckley (best known for co-authorship of The Three Faces of Eve), a
pioneer in the field who provided the first coherent, thorough description
of what he called the "psychopath" (and the "partial" psychopath), wrote:
Although they occasionally appear on casual inspection as successful members
of the community, as able lawyers, executives, or physicians . . . . [t]he
true difference between them and the psychopaths who continually go to jails
or to psychiatric hospitals is that they keep up a far better and more
consistent outward appearance of being normal.
Regardless of whether they are characterized as compensated psychopaths,
partial psychopaths, subclinical psychopaths or subcriminal psychopaths,
these psychopaths cause others to suffer immeasurably from their own
psychopathy, and conveniently for them they do it without a trace of their
always nonexistent conscience. Dr. Robert D. Hare, the world's foremost
expert on the psychopath, has described psychopathy as “a socially
devastating disorder defined by a constellation of affective, interpersonal,
and behavioral characteristics."
Particularly characteristic of the psychopath are shallow emotions, the
utter absence of empathy, guilt, or remorse, glibness/superficial charm,
manipulativeness, inconsistency, deceitfulness/lying and a grandiose sense
Lacking any genuine remorse, psychopaths also lack the motivation to change.
It's generally thought that not only do psychopaths not get better with
treatment, they actually get worse because they learn how to better
manipulate the system, as well as the clinicians who try to treat them.
According to Robert Hare, "Administrators actually took it to mean that not
only are they not treatable, but if they're going to be worse, let's do
everybody the service of not treating them." Dr. Hare believes in developing
a good treatment plan; there just isn't one yet.
The term Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) was originally meant to
replace the charged (and not clearly distinguishable) terms psychopath and
sociopath to describe psychopathy, but Dr. Hare argues convincingly that
ASPD and psychopathy are in reality, by their actual definitions, describing
different disorders. The incidence of ASPD has been estimated at 3% in males
and 1% in females, while the rate of psychopathy is about 20% to 50% of the
rate of ASPD. With 300 million people, the United States therefore has a
range of roughly 1.2 to 3 million psychopaths within it's borders in 2006,
and because there are fewer than 100 (clearly dangerous) serial killers,
this suggests that about 1.2 to 3 million other socially dangerous
psychopaths, existing on a continuum of varying degrees of severity, are
wreaking their havoc in countless other devastating and socially dangerous
The Psychopaths Are Winning
Psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley, in his seminal work The Mask of Sanity (1941),
which first put together the characteristics of psychopaths, noted that
psychopaths are "apparently sane, often dynamic . . . almost always
seductive . . . impress others with their sincere motives and positive
intentions and wind up causing great institutional and personal harm. With
an unexplainable capacity to engender trust, even in experienced and cynical
observers, these people create chaos . . . The single most powerful
diagnostic test was his own willingness to cash their checks . . . Charm, a
quick sensitivity to the unspoken needs of others, and a certain flexibility
with the truth are woven into a personal charisma that entrances."
As psychiatrist A. J. Mandell noted, "Cleckley speaks of the psychopath's
immunity from anxiety, extraordinary poise, sense of well-being, and
Psychologist Robert Hare, in his classic book Without Conscience: The
Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (1993), states:
Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow
their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered
expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in
feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they
please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense
of guilt or regret. Their bewildered victims desperately ask, "How can we
Dr. Hare notes that the psychopath "can use words any way he wants. If you
catch him lying, he'll just shift gears and go on as though nothing had
To explain why people are so easily taken in by these superficially charming
and socially adept, but socially dangerous, psychopaths, in Without
Conscience Robert Hare quotes from William March's The Bad Seed (1954):
Good people are rarely suspicious: they cannot imagine others doing the
things they themselves are incapable of doing; usually they accept the
undramatic solution as the correct one, and let matters rest there. Then
too, the normal are inclined to visualize the [psychopath] as one who's as
monstrous in appearance as he is in mind, which is about as far from the
truth as one could well get . . . These monsters of real life usually looked
and behaved in a more normal manner than their actually normal brothers and
sisters; they presented a more convincing picture of virtue than virtue
presented of itself - just as the wax rosebud or the plastic peach seemed
more perfect to the eye, more what the mind thought a rosebud or a peach
should be, than the imperfect original from which it had been modeled.
Robert Hare recently said, "The majority of people and therefore workplaces
are easy prey, because we still want to believe that people are inherently
good. We don't really want to believe that such people exist." So it is that
Dr. Hare, the world's best-known expert on the psychopath, concludes that
the ultimate problem is — "Us!"
By contrast, writer Henry Lloyd-Roberts concluded by re-framing the issue
from the opposite perspective in "How to Spot the Office Psychopath":
. . . These ‘qualities’ are fundamental in helping them [psychopaths] climb
the corporate ladder:
They can be manipulative, arrogant, callous, impatient, impulsive,
unreliable, superficially charming and susceptible to flying into rages.
Further redeeming features include a fondness for breaking promises and
blaming colleagues when things go wrong. It is their single-minded focus,
however, that helps them to achieve their corporate goals.
According to Professor Hare, who led the research:
“Wherever you find money, prestige and power you will find them. The most
important thing is to be aware you are working with a psychopath. Then you
are in better position to deal with them.”
The fundamental characteristic of all psychopaths is having no conscience
and consequently lacking any empathy with their fellow man. Small wonder
then that they seem to particularly thrive in industries where a little
ruthlessness goes a long way, namely business, law, politics and the media.
A Garrison Keillor-type might call such people well-compensated psychopaths,
but like I said, they're winning!
Intro To Psychopathy: Links
Click the links below to learn more about compensated (partial) psychopaths
& psychopathy generally: