Psychopath by Another Name—Predator
Now we come to the psychopath. Here is where definitions and terms get a bit tricky because there is little agreement between Robert Hare (the premier expert in the world on psychopaths), criminologists, and mental health professionals. Compounding all of this, for the average person seeking to educate themselves or help, the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th revision) and the World Health Organization’s ICD-10 (The International Statistical Classification of Diseases, 10th edition) are frankly no road maps to understanding these individuals, who habitually live by taking advantage of others physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, or financially, without remorse.
That is why when I wrote Dangerous Personalities with Toni Sciarra Poynter, I avoided using the term “psychopath,” choosing instead to use the term “predator.” I felt that for the average person, this term was easier to understand than all the other terms upon which there was little agreement, such as sociopath, psychopath, habitual criminal, or anti-social personality. If the objective is to keep the public safe — and that is certainly mine — far better to have a term that people can understand and can put to use.
In talking to victims of social predation for more than 35 years and in doing research for various books, I found that victims don’t care whether the person who held a knife to their throat or who took their life’s savings is a psychopath or a sociopath. The only thing they care about is recognizing what these individuals are like, so they can avoid them or deal with them effectively.
Unfortunately, predators have always been with us, in one form or another, and they’ve been called many things. In the Bible, there are more than 600 entries dealing with “evil.” Past or present, when people speak of someone who is evil or who has done something evil, what they’re generally talking about is social predation. Victimizing others without a conscience defines Cain in the book of Genesis, as well as the serial rapist in any university town today.
Social predators live by taking advantage of others. They come in all varieties, shapes, and forms, from every level of society. Some live lawlessly on the streets, mugging people, or worse. Others have respectable jobs where they transact mayhem. They see themselves as unrestrained by rules or laws. Morals and ethics, to them, are mere words. They have little or no regard for others, and what’s more, they will take advantage of them, finding exploitable weaknesses or the right opportunity.
No matter how safe you think you are, social predators will undermine and get around whatever safety mechanisms you have in place. They lack the ability to be introspective or to restrain themselves from doing harm to society and are quite content violating human rights.
What predators have in common is a gross disregard for the sanctity of others. For them, the most important priority isn’t living according to a higher social standard, but rather not getting caught. The Ted Bundys, Bernard Madoffs, and Jerry Sanduskys of this world are impervious to decency. Human lives are something to prey upon in their own chosen way, and they have absolutely no regrets about what they do. They are evil, yes, but more specifically they are predators, and as such, they need a human to take advantage of.
Unctuous, beguiling, deceptive, mendacious, amoral, cold, degenerate, Machiavellian, malevolent, sleazy, uncaring, wicked, and unfeeling—that is who they are. They differ from the narcissist in that taking advantage of others is their most prized objective in their life.
From talking to predators over a quarter of a century, as I have, one learns a few things. Here are some chilling, eye-opening quotes from them as to how they feel about themselves, life, and their victims. If you need a trigger warning, this is it—a medieval-sized trebuchet trigger warning.
How the Predator Thinks
1. I could care less about human rights—what about my rights?
I have to take care of me first.
2. Laws and rules are meant to be broken.
There is always a shortcut—there is always a way around the rules.
3. Most people are dupes—they should have seen it coming.
I can’t help it if they can’t defend themselves.
4. Women deserve to be treated the way they are—look how they dress and lead us on.
You think they don’t know what they are doing to us?
5. Cheating? Everyone does it; everyone is out for themselves.
I am no more of a cheat than a bank.
6. So what if I lie, what’s the harm? Everyone lies.
In any case, I needed to.
7. Law and rules are meant to be broken—they are stupid rules, anyway.
The trick is to not get caught.