When is a Psychopath not a Psychopath?

Honestly, without testing there is no way for someone to know for sure that anyone is a psychopath, sociopath or narcissist. Unless they walk up to you and say: “Hey, nice to meet you, I have been tested and I suffer from psychopathy! What’s your story?” And, if you have ever been in contact with one of these toxic people, you know one thing is for sure, that is never going to happen. (Unless they think telling you will get them something they want. Truly toxic people do nothing without a motive.)

What do all toxic people have in common? Toxic traits and behaviours that leave their intended target in shambles. I used the word target on purpose because that’s all the person is to them, a target. They leave the target severely emotionally wounded and in lots of cases physically wounded. Just like when I was in the military, our goal was to leave the targets wounded or dead; so I feel this term fits.

My practice is built on three healing principles “Compassion, Understanding and Forgiveness.” I do have compassion; and I do have my own understanding of why they do what they do. Forgiveness may be harder to do; as each time forgiveness is required it seems to be a little different. In some cases when I have been taken advantage of by toxic people, what I needed most to fully heal was forgiveness, not for the act but possibly for the person and definitely for myself. (Forgiveness is such a huge topic it has hundreds of books on the subject, getting into it here is likely not efficient.)

On a personal note as it comes to understanding and compassion. In the beginning of my studies I wanted to prove their was horrible people, bad people, people who chose to be a psychopath. But, what I ended up proving is that no one wanted to be born this way, no one looked up at their caregiver and said: “please abuse me! I want you to make my life so rotten as a child that I don’t trust anyone and all I want to do is hurt them so they may know one fraction of the pain I feel.” They have not fully discovered what causes psychopathy, nature or nurture but the links to childhood neglect or abuse cannot be denied. No one is certain why one brain switches in an abusive situation and another brain holds to compassion and kindness.

No one asked to be this way and in some ways they have no choice; as they do not believe in choices. For them, their life has always been controlled, their life has likely always been abusive, they as children have been manipulated so for them choice is simple. Manipulate and betray or be manipulated and be betrayed. People who suffer from these personality disorders did not ask for this life, just like someone did not ask for cancer or some other physical disease. I do feel that these traits are not something that they asked for, however those of us who have been impacted by them did not ask for it either.

With research, with personal experience and with stories from clients I have compiled a list of people who may have something else going on where these traits or behaviours can be seen and maybe misinterpreted to be an anti-social personality disorder. For efficiency this is not an exhaustive, so feel free to add any one else you think needs to be added in the comments.

Number One on my List is Addicts. I once heard Dr. Gabor Mate speak and state that: “Not everyone who has trauma has addiction but everyone who has addiction has trauma.” (Mate, 2016) The addict themselves are suffering some deep emotional wounds. They chose the addiction likely based on a soothing behaviour, it calms them, it makes their world feel good, at least in the beginning. However, they come to a point where being in that addiction starts to cause them or others pain. They will do anything to sooth their emotions. That includes hurting those they love with lies, deceptions, verbal and or physical attacks.

In all 12-step programs that I am aware of steps 8 and 9 recognize the damage that an addict does. We are told to go through our addictive life and make a list of everyone we had harmed and prepared to make amends. We are expected to make amends unless doing so would cause more harm. Addicts in 99% of the cases hate themselves for what they are doing to others, for what they are doing to themselves they just do not seem to know a better way of making the pain stop. Toxic traits are a constant in most addicts life but a truly toxic person would never make authentic amends.

The second group of people that may show traits of toxic people from time to time is “Everyone” else. At some point and time in our lives most of us have displayed self-serving hurtful behaviour. None of us are immune to acting out in pain.

If someone journeyed with us on our worst day, our most depressed hurting self and that is all they saw maybe they would consider us to be one of these labels. The difference between 90% of us and the others that fall into the diagnosable categories of Sociopath, Narcissism and Psychopathy is that we will hopefully recognize these behaviours and work at making the changes we need to heal the wound that caused this behaviour. The other difference is that when we do something wrong we “FEEL” bad, we authentically apologize (maybe) and we take steps to try and make sure that it won’t happen again (I hope).


Keep Chasing Those Cars….

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With Love, respect and Admiration



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