The Monsters Among Us
Whenever we watch a scary movie, or a police drama, much is made of mad serial killers who stalk victims leaving a trail of blood in their wake. And in the last five minutes of the drama, police sum up the killer’s motive by explaining that he is a psychopath who has no conscience.
However, while mental health professionals disagree on exact percentages, most do agree that those with significant and permanent personality disorders are much more common in the population.
When these words are bandied about, we think about serial killer Ted Bundy or global monsters like Adolph Hitler. But we don’t think about the girlfriend who always makes a pass at our boyfriend or the co-worker who takes credit for our hard work, places blame on us for their mistakes and walks over us for the best promotions.
Author Richard Hare, thought by many in the psychology field to be today’s preeminent expert of psychopaths, claims upward of 10 percent of the American population suffer from a several form of personality disorder, Anti-Social Personality Disorder, which leaves them without a conscience.
Personality disorders are a form of mental illness in which symptoms are displayed through behaviors rather than as physical manifestations such a rash, pain or fever.
Some personality disorders like narcissism create a personality who thinks only of themselves regardless of the situation. Others, with compulsions, are unable to eliminate repetitive behaviors. Borderline personality disorders can be highly excitable, erratic and emotional. All personality disorders are hard to treat, tend to be denied strongly by those afflicted and wreak havoc on the individual’s relationships, both personal and professional. While studying for my master’s degree, one of my professors once noted that the most difficult thing about treating personality disorders is getting them into the office. Most see their problems – those created by their disorders – as actually being to blame on the circumstances, people and luck around them. They never find themselves at fault.
But while most seem to be missing a small part of their personality that allows them to engage fully with others, antisocial personality disorder sufferers see others two dimensionally. They are incapable of seeing the world through another’s eyes.
And despite exaggerated dramatizations on television and in the movies, most conduct themselves in ways in which they interact with us daily.
Most are small time thieves, taking office supplies, shoplifting, “borrowing” items they never mean to return. While the most successful make the nightly news, the slacker who always seems to be at the boss’ elbow is may be one.
The four-times divorcee who never takes responsibility for her actions, playing the field, spending lavishly while her spouse works, neglecting her children for her own benefit may be one.
The office embezzler, whether big or small, who explains away his or her actions with a laugh, while stating that the company underpays, he is over worked, and that makes it alright, most likely is one.
The disgruntled worker, who does a poor job on a regular basis and then blames management for being too tough and unfair, may be one.
In Hare’s book, “Snakes in Suits,” he profiles such employees, stating that they see the world divided into three categories: those they need (supervisors); those they use (subordinates and colleagues who do the heavy lifting); and those who simply have no reason to exist.
And while they are most likely of high intelligence and quite able to mimic conventional behavior so as not to stand out at work or charm a likely victim, they have no feelings for their victims.
So they next time you find yourself looking at the smiling colleague who just took credit for your all-nighter, look behind the smile, for the monsters among us.