Here's an enlightening view into the heart of darkness: the treachery of criminal minds, what tricks might be up a predator’s sleeve, and how to beat him at his own game.
The American Psychiatric Association has spent thousands of hours exploring what evil is, why some people revel in it, and how to prevent it. They have a "Depravity Scale" to gauge a criminal's degree of evil, such as depriving victims of their humanity, needlessly escalating a victim's trauma, humiliation, suffering, and terror.
Psychotic symptoms include delusions (“hearing voices” and/or seeing hallucinations), usually exhibiting unpredictable, often frenzied behavior, and not knowing right from wrong. They don't hide their crime thus are legally insane in most U.S. states – from the 1843 McNaughton ruling (a more recent exception: “unable to comply with the law by reason of mental defect”). Psychosis (or psychotic disorder) is a fundamental mental derangement, such as schizophrenia, characterized by defective or lost contact with reality.
(If they do try to hide their crime, that proves they knew it was wrong but did it anyway, thus they're not legally insane.)
According to Indianapolis police Captain Robert L. Snow, author of Protecting Your Life, Home, and Property, one extreme psychotic killed a cop then was shot nine times while still maniacally trying to kill a second cop until a tenth bullet shattered his pelvis and kept him on the ground.
One way for an unarmed victim to survive such an attack is to “outcrazy” the attacker. Fight fire with fire by unleashing your “animal within” (see Optimal Mindset). Fight with the utmost ferocity and the most brutal of Fighting Options, such as blinding and crippling him - then escaping.
That may sound preposterous, but what other tools do you have? Time and again, victims with no tools almost prevailed but their efforts fell just a bit short. Just in case, learn these simple but powerful fighting options. Even if you lose after all – going out with a roar rather than a whimper – at least you give yourself a fighting chance. Besides, you may well win. See Acting.Duke medical sociologist Dr. Jeffrey Swanson says, "Violence-prone people with mental illness are three times more likely to become violent when provoked, but most people with mental illness are not violence-prone.”
Though most rampaging mass-murder shooters are psychotic, mass murders are statistically rare. However, alcoholic or drug-addicted psychotics are four times as likely to commit a violent crime than the average person. In contrast, “clean” psychotics are only 1.2 times the average risk. Overall, they comprise less than five percent of all violent offenders. Most simply aren’t capable of the coherent cunning of a predatory criminal’s stealthy hunting and trapping.
News media often refer to the hothead who kills in a moment of passionate emotion. All humans are capable of doing so if pushed to the brink. Such a criminal is contrasted with the “coldblooded” predator who kills with little or no emotion – a small but significant portion of the general public – the psychopath:
Roughly four percent of the general public are clinical psychopaths and twenty percent are sub-clinical psychopaths. Most of them don’t commit actual crimes but do go through life abusing others without guilt. (There’s a far higher percentage of psychopathy among both violent and non-violent criminals.)
The world's foremost authority on psychopathy, Professor Robert Hare of the University of British Columbia, says that psychopaths don’t feel positive emotions – much like Mr. Spock or Data on “Star Trek.” Most conventional treatment for psychopathy, such as group therapy, only makes them worse; it teaches them how to better manipulate people and fake emotions.
Experts say that psychopaths, while having an extreme mental disorder, are legally sane – they know right from wrong but commit abuse or a crime anyway. By trying to hide their guilt, they prove they knew it was wrong – thus they are sane per the law's McNaughton Rule.
In a psychopath’s brain, the Limbic System (the reward center) is hypersensitive (and within that is the Amygdala – the fear center). But a psychopath has a dysfunctional Prefrontal Cortex (that’s the empathy center that regulates emotions, pro-social behavior, and moral judgement). There is diminished connectivity between the Amygdala and the Prefrontal Cortex (thus the primitive emotions of fear and pleasure-seeking aren’t being moderated by the “Executive Power Center”). A psychopath’s brain is hyper-sensitive to *his* reward and hypo-sensitive to the suffering of others – making a psychopath very dangerous.
Psychopathic symptoms include a core, aggressive narcissism and being psychically isolated from other people. They believe they’re entitled to do whatever they want (in a cool, calm narcissistic rage). Psychopaths lack compassion the same way someone born blind lacks eyesight. They lack a conscience, thus never feel guilt or loyalty. Without compassion for others – the essence of humanity – they easily deceive and harm those within the larger population of trusting folk.
However, not all criminals are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are criminals. Most psychopaths [a.k.a. malignant narcissists or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or pathological narcissists] don't have violent criminal minds, such as social or workplace bullies, swindlers, tyrannical bosses, promiscuously unfaithful lovers, and (knowingly) disease-infected sex partners. They wreak havoc but rarely go to prison.
Most psychopaths (both the full-blown clinical and the sub-clinical) succeed in the military, business (salespeople, lawyers, corporate CEO's), or politics – or anywhere cunning, ruthless ambition thrives. Those who rise to the elite classes also wreak havoc in various ways but rarely go to prison – and in fact essentially rule the world.
[To clarify - the above occupations have more psychopaths than usual but still, most folks in those occupations are not psychopaths.]
To a lesser degree, everyone is necessarily self-centered but the psychopath is the ultimate selfish brat grown up into a pitiless, cold-blooded adult.Beware of workplace psychopaths – your boss or a coworker, the New Scientist magazine warns. They may not be violent but their predatory personalities help them rise in rank. Professor Robert Hare says that workplace psychopaths are ruthless, manipulative, and charming – the very traits that help them rise in rank but can also harm those companies. They also make coworkers miserable with their rages, blaming others for their mistakes, and taking credit for others' work.
Dr. Robert D. Hare, of the University of British Columbia in Canada, is the originator of the Psychopathy Check List (PCL). It has 20 questions and scores answers at 0, 1, or 2 points – with 40 points maximum. Serial killers score in the 30-40 range and are considered “true” full-blown clinical psychopaths. Most violent prisoners score above 20. Ordinary people score 0-5. Scores of 6-29 are considered “sub-clinical psychopaths” (who comprise up to 25% of the general population - and are also not to be trusted).
Psychopathic killers often find great pleasure in torturing victims. Some scientists consider them evil - in that their diabolical savagery has no psychological explanation. Dr. Hare said, “There are some who are psychopathic, sadistic, and sane – for whom evil acts are no big deal.”
The 20 traits assessed by the PCL-R score are: glib and superficial charm, grandiose self-worth, need for stimulation, pathological lying, cunning and manipulativeness, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness), callousness and lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, poor behavioral controls, sexual promiscuity, early behavior problems, lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, failure to accept responsibility for their own actions, many short-term romantic or marital relationships, juvenile delinquency, revocation of conditional release, criminal versatility.
The psychopaths who are violent
– from battering spouses and petty thugs
to serial rapists and serial killers – score somewhere between 6 and 40
on the PCL.
However, though all psychopaths
are ruthless to varying degrees and in various ways, most who score between 6 and 40
on the PCL are not violent criminals and instead harm innocent folks in non-violent ways, oftentimes “legally.”
Psychopaths seem to have another shared quality, though it's not on Dr. Hare's PCL nor can it be measured. Their eyes are different. The extreme psychopath's gaze has often been described as creepy, cold, empty, reptilian - not quite human.
Psychopaths cannot feel compassion or guilt. They can charm when needed, and they can ruin people's lives on a whim as easily as killing a fly. They're extremely selfish. They cannot change and can actually control psychotherapists trying to diagnose and change them. For instance, Paul Beart was convicted in England of a brutal rape and sentenced to five years. He quickly convinced prison staff that he was fit and was released two years early. He soon raped and murdered Deborah O'Sullivan, a random stranger.
The traditional nature/nurture theory says that your behavior is roughly a 50/50 mix of nature (your genes) and nurture (your parental/societal influences and/or lifelong nutrition).
Sociopathy is caused by poor parenting and life influences - defective nurturing. Psychopathy is caused by genetic flaws in the brain’s amygdala and prefrontal cortex - defective nature (which is sometimes made worse by defective nurturing).
Basically, sociopaths are made ruthless. Psychopaths are born ruthless - and they can never become compassionate; their brains aren't wired for it.
Psychopaths comprise up to 25% of U.S. prisoners, and up to 4% of the general population. Those are the extreme, “clinical” cases in the 30-40 PCL range – but many more are in the still-treacherous 6-29 “sub-clinical” PCL range.
Since a psychopath’s main defect is “concealed” – with an absence of easily readable signs – its diagnosis is controversial. Thus, psychopathy isn’t included as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. Instead, the more general Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) diagnosis is often applied to criminals who blithely commit a broad range of aggressive crimes.
Sociopaths (often confused with psychopaths) have a criminal's attitude, behavior, and moral code shared by their social group – usually a street gang, ethnic faction, religious sect, cult, political group, or element – that rejects the laws and morals of the larger society in which they reside.
The new science of neurocriminology is not an EITHER/OR choice of nature vs nurture, but a more complex nature AND nurture mix of how our genes and brain structures interact with our social environment. This is called epigenetics, the way our environment affects the expression of our genes and our brain’s structural defects.
Some idealists argue that psychopathic criminals aren’t fully responsible and therefore deserve to be locked up only until they’re “cured” rather than being locked up forever as a permanent danger to others. But realists argue that there’s NO guaranteed “cure” for violent psychopaths – it’s impossible – though they’re master con-artists who often fool the examining psychiatrist.
Here's the bottom line to all this psychobabble: The age-old but accurate diagnosis of “moral insanity” for violent, predatory minds has been discarded in favor of the modern but slippery terms of psychopaths, sociopaths, and APD's. Yet to their victims, these monsters are monsters and evil is evil – the end result is the same no matter the name. Their depravity leaves you with the same Victim’s Options.
Many compassionate Pollyannas make the foolish mistake of “Mirror Imaging” – projecting their own values and beliefs onto predatory minds, believing that violent predators are merely helpless victims of tough lives who simply need a helping hand (and that they can reason with or compassionately connect with a monster).
Yet most people who’ve had tough lives have not chosen to be violent predators (such as the siblings of serial killers (raised in the same household) or those born with the same biological illness or brain defect). Being dealt a lousy hand in life may help explain why callous predators have twisted minds, but excuses nothing. A tough life simply is not a valid excuse for committing a crime, otherwise millions more people with hard-luck stories would have an excuse to wreak havoc. Most poor people and most people who’ve had a troubled childhood and most people born with the same biological illness or brain defect do not commit violent crimes.
A criminal – knowing the difference between right and wrong – still chooses to do wrong. It's not the fault of society's laws; it's the fault of the lawbreaker.
Furthermore, anyone who has once chosen to be an evil monster can never be trusted to be free ever again among the general public. Freeing a proven monster is gambling with the lives of innocent people who didn’t volunteer to be guinea pigs.
Though all criminals prey on others, only a minority of them choose to become violent predators. They are not to be pitied – their victims are. They blithely choose to inflict harm on others, either for personal gain or for the twisted thrill of a godlike power of life and death.A veteran New York City undercover cop said, “There are predators who're thrilled by their victims' pain and crying and begging. They love it.”
Cruelty to animals eventually leading to cruelty to other humans has been well-documented for centuries. Professor Frank Ascione's studies at Utah State University have shown that most violent and sexual offenders had a history of childhood animal abuse.
For instance, Australian serial killer Paul Denyer's childhood progression from slashing his sister's teddy bears (destroying something that someone loves), to a kitten's throat, to his eventual murders as an adult was a classic case of animal abuse escalating to serial killing. Vets in New Zealand and Britain are legally allowed to report animal cruelty but Australian and US vets cannot.
Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Anyone who can be cruel to an innocent human or helpless animal that provides unconditional love – is beyond troubled, they are evil.
Serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson said there wasn't much difference between killing a cat and killing a person, except it was easier to kill a person – they fought back feebly. He said when you have your hands around the throat of a puppy, cat or human, you get to be God. There was no greater thrill for him than that.
Russian serial killer Alexander Pichushkin said he didn't take money or jewelry from his victims. “I didn't need it. I took the most valuable thing, human life. I felt like God.”
These devils-in-disguise are the fiends and monsters of legend. Chameleon-like, they manipulate their prey to gain life-and-death control over them and delight in their victim’s begging for mercy and cowering in fear.“It cannot be called ingenuity to kill one’s fellow citizens. By these means one can acquire power but no glory.”
- Excerpted from The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli – 1513
A predator commits appalling crimes, but always chooses easy targets and uses sly lures to his traps, then launches sneaky attacks. He ensures his total domination by leaving little, if anything, to chance.
Sure, he may seethe with anger and even welcome token resistance to further his sadistic pleasure, but nevertheless he carefully avoids any real challenge to his total control over a defenseless victim. “They never go after weightlifters,” said former FBI agent Robert Ressler - co-author of Whoever Fights Monsters and an expert on the twisted minds of serial killers. A truly brave man is too proud of his self-image and respected reputation to behave so cowardly by choosing easy targets.
Ultimately, the psychological profiles of predators are much like the pugnacious yet fainthearted schoolyard bullies who've grown older, bolder, and more treacherously evil. And therein is the key to surviving a life-and-death confrontation with them.
You must prevent anyone from getting near you – or isolating you – in a secluded location (as described in Outdoor Safety - Overview). You must act to escape his trap by explosively attacking him (preferably before he attacks you – as described in When to Fight).
Far from a superman, he can be badly injured or even killed by your self-righteous fury and the fighting methods in Fighting Options - Overview. You must “go animal!” on him. Adopt a rabid pit bull attitude – imitating the most vicious dog you've ever seen – and become his worst nightmare by attacking him with a maniacal ferocity. When it’s time to “do-or-die,” you’d better do – your will to survive must surpass his will to kill you.
Besides, what other choice do you have? When someone’s trying to kill you, your best bet – your only chance, your only hope – is to not whimper, but to fight with the utmost ferocity. See Optimal Mindset and Self Defense Techniques.