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The Mask of Sanity

Snakes in Suits — When Psychopaths Go to Work

Last week I picked up a copy of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work and found myself quickly immersed.

On the surface psychopaths appear normal, sane, and in control; in fact, many are quite likable. However, as The Mask of Sanity puts it, “the psychopath presents a technical appearance of sanity, often one of high intellectual capacities and not infrequently succeeds in business or professional activities.” So, in short, they are hard to identify. Even professional Psychiatrists have been duped.

Psychopaths do naturally what some politicians, salesmen, and promoters have to work hard to achieve: impress listeners with how they say something.

Understanding how psychopaths manipulate others is key to improving the odds you won’t get duped in the future.

While the specific details of each case may differ, the feelings, attitudes, behaviors, ad outcomes the victims described seemed to form a patter or process.

The general understanding of the process, roughly in the order they seem to appear: temptation (your curiosity goes up and your guard goes down), bonding (you believe you’ve found the perfect relationship), collusion (wanting to please them, you give in to their expectations and demands), self-doubt (you blame yourself for their unhappiness), abuse (you take what they dish out), realization (you see that you have been played the fool), shame (you feel too embarrassed to tell others or seek help), anger and vindication (you want to get even; you repair the damage done).

So are Psychopaths the result of nature or nurture? The book explains:

As with most other things human, the answer is that both are involved. A better question is “To what extent do nature and nurture influence the development of the traits that define psychopathy? The answer to this question is becoming much clearer with the application of behavioral genetics to the study of personality traits and behavioral dispositions. Several recent twin studies provide convincing evidence that genetic factors play at least as important a role in the development of the core features of psychopathy as to environmental ones.

Still curious? Try reading Snakes in Suits, Power Freaks, Without Conscience, and The Mask of Sanity.