Yesterday I wrote about human emotions and the havoc they wreak in our lives. I gave you some points on how to manage your feelings but let’s face it, at some point the inevitable tidal wave will hit that no hyperlinked list or wikipage can fix. And that just pretty much sucks. It is during times like these that you may wish you didn’t have the capacity to feel emotions at all. Wouldn’t it be nice to go through life without fear, for example? Well if that’s how you’d like to live, then it’s simple. All you have to do is learn to think like a psychopath…

You think this sounds bizarre or far-fetched? Well think again. There is even a handy How-To guide written by psychiatrist Dr Kevin Dutton outlining the steps in The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success – How to use your inner psychopath to get the most out of life.

I came across a review of this book and was instantly curious. How can we possibly make use of the “lessons” the most morally corrupt members of society teach us? Surely the world is out of whack if we are selling the idea that losing one’s social conscience (along with a whole lot of other frontal lobe functions) is acceptable as long as the end goal is a heap of cash and glory?

As you can tell my immediate reaction was one of skepticism but I decided to read on in order to fully comprehend the “take home message” hidden within this offensive concept. To sum up, this is what you need to do to harness your inner psychopath. It isn’t that unspeakable, really. On a scale of 1 to Hannibal Lector, I would say we are talking about some really minor sociopathy, perhaps more along the lines of a garden-variety Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Beat Procrastination NOW

The key to thinking like a psychopath is having the ability to separate from one’s feelings. The two most significant ways this is manifested, is through the ability to live one’s life without fear and without caring too much about the impact your behaviour has on other people.

One of the ways our emotions impacts on our decision-making process, is that we get distracted by memories or activities that stimulate or excite us. This tendency is a key factor in procrastination, as we spend our time and energy on actions that are not necessarily goal-directed but rather make us feel good momentarily. If you want to have a psychopath’s ability to set goals and achieve them, without the need for those “feel good” moments along the way, then you need to stop procrastinating now. Remind yourself that pleasure is for the weak and that your daydreams are meaningless brain farts that only get in the way of your goals.

Set your goals, visualise the future, focus on achievement

A psychopath does not get bogged down by anxiety over the future or fear of the unknown. If you want to harness your inner psychopath, remember to fixate on an end goal with absolute focus and determination. You can’t let a little thing like short-term pleasure get in your way. You need to visualise the future and plan step-by-step how you are going to achieve your goals.

Charm the pants off of them

You’re not a good psychopath unless you can walk into a room and have everyone eating out of your hands. Use your looks, your wit, and your powers of persuasion. You are a not a man, you are a god. You are not a woman, you are a queen. They will bow to you. But if your confidence is not yet at Dexter level, try these cheats:

  • Smile – flashing a smile is a sure-fire way of getting noticed, liked and getting what you want
  • Make eye contact – people instinctively trust you more if you look them in the eye, to reach new psychopathic heights you must learn to lie while doing so
  • Use first names ­– it puts people at ease and helps them feel acknowledged and validated
  • Use humour ­– nothing disarms people as quickly and as thoroughly as a good joke
  • Touch – gently touching the arm of the person you’re speaking to will help them feel closer to you and they will most likely want to share more with you

Get the job done, right

For psychopaths, life is a game. It’s all about assessing each situation as if it is an international heist. You have to make sure all the outcomes are predicted and you have to have each piece in its right place. Over and above the Ocean’s 11 style planning that goes into any operation, you have to get your timing right. Each and every move is calculated to the enth degree.

Separate Behaviour and Emotions

This is a really hard task for those of us with functional personalities. Separating emotion and behaviour is like trying to taste without the sense of smell. Although I really discourage this, the guide to thinking like a psychopath would have you believe that it’s achievable in three simple steps. Perhaps it’s important to make a note of these if only to recognise what it takes to lose one’s humanity as a means to an end. To surgically remove emotion from any experience, ask yourself:

  • What would I do if I didn’t feel this way?
  • What would I do if I didn’t give a damn what other people thought?
  • What would I do if it just didn’t matter?

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Apparently, not all psychopaths are blood-thirsty murderers. Although we imagine that psychopaths are likely to become enraged when someone pisses them off, the likelihood that a psychopath will lose their shit in traffic or at a checkout counter is actually very slim. The reason for this, again, is that emotions don’t really come into play. If there is one thing we can try to learn from the psychopathic mind, it is that our emotional reactions do not have to be acted out behaviourally. Our brains are very quick to jump to emotional conclusions, and if you’re relatively normal then you are likely to experience a whole range of emotions from frustration to fear each and every day. A highly functional person can learn to take note of their emotional reactions while exercising some degree of agency and calmly executing another activity to distract or avoid the temptation to become enraged or freak out. At the very least, it is important to know which things deserve big reactions and which don’t.

Ultimately, I would like you to know that I don’t encourage the idea of turning to psychopathy to solving our human problems. I would far rather we all become more emotional and express our feelings more than go the other way. But if anything, this book is helpful in exposing how our world is shifting and how easy it is for us to be seduced away from thinking empathically. It’s a narcissistic world out there folks and there are more and more people who are going down this slippery slope towards psychopathy. Although I don’t believe any of us are capable of learning to become a true psychopath, many industries value those who embody these characteristics. It’s probably a good idea to sleep with one eye open these days (metaphorically speaking that is). Rest well, dear humans.

**this post was based on an excerpt from the book by Andy McNab and Dr Kevin Dutton

 

Some extra links:

Are you a psychopath? – Take the quiz

The wisdom of psychopaths – a review