Psychopath meet psychopath
In one of my most recent articles, I alluded to being able to spot other psychopaths in a crowd. Let me tell you about a recent time when just that happened. I was going home on the tram (like a true European), and two students got on and sat opposite me. The one on the right was grinning foolishly, his head slightly bowed even though he was by no means too tall for the tram. The one on the left was sitting straight and confident, clearly not listening to the chattering of his friend. His eyes were scanning the carriage like mine had been moments earlier, and they narrowed slightly when they noticed I was watching. He stared coldly for several seconds, until his friend cracked some sort of ‘joke’ and briefly shut up, clearly expecting some sort of reaction. The psychopath smiled at him mechanically and even let his eyes crinkle to show ‘genuine’ pleasure. You could practically see the mental pat on the back he had given his friend and the cheering effect it had on the latter’s confidence. Once again the psychopath made eye contact with me, no longer bothering to keep the contempt from his face. I looked pointedly at the friend then back at him before miming a yawn and in response he smirked. Soon after was their stop and they left, the joker trailing slightly behind.
That what just a brief encounter. A silent, one-off meeting, with no further consequences. It is just one example of many moments of mutual recognition in my life, that are often followed by a mutual decision to keep a distance: “I’ll stay out of your way if you stay out of mine”.
But what happens when two psychopaths actually interact? Well, the internet has no doubt made a huge difference. Being a 90s baby, by the time I was seven or eight we had a home computer, so I don’t know how things went down before the internet, whether psychopaths would actually meet up to discuss being psychopaths, but since it doesn’t happen much these days I would assume probably not. By contrast, in 2015 there are several active online ‘communities’ of psychopaths that I know of and probably twice as many that I don’t. Psychopaths have websites and blogs that I visit on occasion; likewise other psychopaths sometimes stop by to comment here. This can have many mutual benefits; being able to communicate openly with like-minded people is one. Discussing things that only psychopaths would be interested in is another. Honing verbal sparring skills is one that is more personal to me. And yes, comparing notes on tactics occasionally plays a role too. One thing that is not usually a problem is staying out of each others’ way. We can tolerate each other precisely because we’re not targeting the same prey and do not pose a threat to one another’s existence. It can happen online, but not often enough to comment on.
However, despite the internet’s ubiquity in the modern world, real life still exists and real psychopaths still come into real life, prolonged contact.
In my second year of university, I shared a house with nine other people (it was a big house in a poor city, so really easy for a bunch of broke students to rent). Apart from me and the six normal neurotypicals, there was an autistic person, a neurotypical with depression, and another psychopath. We’ll call the psychopath “Matt”, because that’s his name. He is from a rich family, he was enlisted in a weird officer version of the army cadets (which, if he ever joins up for real will elevate him straight through the ranks to Second Lieutenant) and there’s not much more I could say. His personality was bland, but that might just be because I could see through the mask.
There was certainly some common ground, and we did team up to pick on the weaker members of the group on occasion, but we were both possessive over what each of us judged to be our house, our toys. To paraphrase a song, the house wasn’t big enough for the both of us.
From the start, I had the advantage. True, it wasn’t completely one-sided as Matt is just as intelligent as, if not more intelligent than, me. And he successfully forged a closer relationship to the autistic girl, Ginny, whom he tormented. But I was better at charming the group as a whole, am much less overtly anti-social (cleaned up after myself, involved myself in household organisation – really just a way of having influence over decision-making) and my nice guy mask was more firmly secured than his. Plus I had one significant advantage, I already knew what a psychopath is, and knew that was who I was, whereas he was either completely ignorant or just waking up. And he did stupid ‘I am obviously a psychopath’ things, like reading Machiavelli’s The Prince in the kitchen, talking openly about manipulating people and not taking much care to keep his ‘relationship’ with Ginny, and all its bizarre abuse, covert. In the end, he was his own undoing. Everyone in the house knew how he’d been treating the girl by the time I acted, orchestrating in a “worried about Ginny” meeting with the two most influential neurotypical housemates. All I had to do was casually mention I’d been reading about psychopaths and thought Matt fit the bill, and the rest clicked into place. Matt was immediately discredited among the entire house, and was forced to leave within days. I had won. The house was mine. Huzzah!
And on that bombshell (RIP), it’s time to end.