Just checked out an interesting article, by one Robert Herritt, about an interesting book with the title: "The Wisdom of Psychopaths." Written by Cambridge research psychologist, Kevin Dutton, the premise of the book is that people with a Psychopathic Character Structure are not all "evil," and in fact, even have some admirable qualities.
Here's Herrit on Dutton:
"The book delves into the science of psychopathy with the hope of uncovering how we can all improve our lives by unlocking our inner Ted Bundy (you too can be a psychopath!). And while such a 'Chicken Soup for the Soulless' literary aim might seem macabre, first consider that the trademarks of this condition—coolness under pressure, determination in the face of adversity, bulletproof self-confidence, and easy social charm, to name a few—are all characteristics that we strive to acquire, at least to some degree. A number of U.S. presidents exhibited distinct psychopathic traits, with John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton leading the charge. According to the Great British Psychopath Survey, a project launched by Dutton, CEOs, lawyers, media professionals, and salespersons top the list of most-psychopathic occupations in the U.K. Other notable psychopath-heavy professions include chef, civil servant, and—you’ve got to love this—clergyperson. It’s hard to imagine that a similar study of American professions would yield very different results."
Indeed. In one of the classes I taught on psychopathy, I duly noted that most of those who society considers "heros" - soldiers, cops, political and business leaders (well, that's changing perhaps) and of course, fictional characters from Captain Kirk and James Bond to almost any role Kathy Bates has played - are all psychopaths.
What, you say? Defenders of our country, enforcers of the law, psychopaths? Well, yes, but here's why you may be confused. The stereotype of a psychopath is actually based on a sub-division of psychopathy - "sociopathy." Mass murderers, serial killers, and the empty suits in politics and business who can cause the deaths or misfortunes of others with impunity merely for perverse pleasure or inordinate greed, these are sociopaths. In other words, they are at the extreme psychotic end of the psychopathic spectrum. All psychopathic characters do have certain traits in common (see the FPL post on the Psychopathic Character Structure HERE), but the degree can vary greatly. Still, cops and soldiers do kill. They just do it for what society considers noble reasons, but they would not have a role if they didn't have counterparts in their villains and enemies.
To continue, while I would basically agree with Robert and Kevin, I would also refine their message somewhat.
Psychopathy, like every character structure, has at its core the Higher Self of the personality in question. No one in our time is without a character structure, true, but neither does a person exist who does not have a Higher Self underneath that character structure. The Higher Self that underlies each character structure is unique and imbued with qualities that we would all agree are positive. (See the FPL post: "All Our Higher Selves" HERE.)
The character structure itself, however, is fragile and dysfunctional, a frail conglomerate of defenses constructed by a desperate child to survive untenable circumstances in childhood. So when the authors describe the "coolness under pressure, determination in the face of adversity, bulletproof self-confidence, and easy social charm" of the psychopath, something should be made clear. If these apparent qualities are part of the psychopath's "mask," they are merely props, a persona covering over massive insecurities and fears in the Child Self. Provoked, the mask will give way to paranoia, rage and terror.
However, underneath the character structure and its mask, the Higher Self of the psychopath does indeed embody great abilities as a leader, but one who doesn't seek power over anyone, but rather offers his or her personal power to bring people together to accomplish positive tasks humbly and cooperatively in harmony. A true leader doesn't need adversaries to defeat, nor titles of recognition. He or she just leads because it is their calling to do so.
Thanks, Kevin and Robert. There is a positive core in everyone.