Many people have discussed Sarah Palin as a narcissist. Because we have had so many movies that portray psychopaths as almost mythical supernatural characters most people have no idea they are actually everywhere and not easily identified. Over the past few decades our country has been harmed by psychopaths in politics, corporations, the judicial systems, our regulatory agencies and religion who are using our resources to satisfy their selfish greed and sick agendas. We have to understand this to fix our problems.
It is very difficult to differentiate between a narcissist and a psychopath. One of the keys to telling the difference is to remember they have very different thinking processes going on in their psyches, but manifest some similar characteristics. The narcissist has a conscience, feels normal emotions and may be a person in a lot of emotional pain, even though some of them inflict a lot of damage on others. Some narcissists can also offer something positive to society. Life would not be as entertaining without comedians and actors who are narcissists trying to get attention. The psychopath has no conscience nor normal emotions. Psychopaths and narcissists have widely differing intentions that manifest in similar behaviors.
When all the new research began to be published about psychopaths I was not interested in it at first. I thought, what is there to know as I thought they were very obvious. I was wrong about that, the more clever psychopaths are not obvious at all, even to experts on psychopathy. Some have become politicians, religious leaders, CEOs and have taken other positions of power. As a country we have not been able to see behind their masks and have large numbers of people who are taken in by psychopathic politicians. The unsuccessful, not too bright ones get caught, but many are clever enough to fly under the radar of law enforcement. Look at Sarah Palin’s use of shyster lawyers at the Department of Law (attorney general’s office) and some in private practice to manipulate the law, intimidate and threaten people, or reinterpret laws to protect her. This allowed her to do illegal or unethical acts without consequences. Psychopathic politicians have networks, sycophants, financial backing, and advisers to a very alarming extent. They are charming, charismatic and tell people what they know they want to hear to win their support.
Sarah Palin is not as stupid as she appears. The intelligence of a psychopath is used for manipulation, fakery and game playing. They do what they enjoy. They do not like to do the drudgery of working to get experience or education, that is boring to them. Instead they use a cheating strategy. Having average to high intelligence allows them to navigate among the population as subcriminal psychopaths. Like I have discussed in the past with regard to workplace bully type psychopaths, rather than expertise at the job they are doing their skill lies in mimicking a competent employee to get what they want, so they undermine the real work and the real workers. Then when people who know they are incompetent and harmful start to balk they go after them. Psychopaths who are incarcerated are not necessarily the cleverest, most successful psychopaths. Just like most people I mistook psychopaths in my personal life for narcissists (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) for a long time. I even made excuses to myself for them.
Sarah Palin has a mental health problem, yes, but it is not what everyone thinks. Psychopathy is not considered a mental illness. The peculiarities about the speech of psychopaths and their inability to remember the massive lies they tell, along with the way they try to fake they are experts (such as a foreign policy expert) and make lots of odd mistakes make them look like they have a mental illness or dementia.
Keep in mind: “It is well known that psychopaths often convincingly malinger, fake mental illness, when it is to their advantage to do so”, From Without Conscience by Dr. Robert Hare.
Narcissists have deep feelings of inadequacy and are looking for attention or an adoring audience to make themselves feel more adequate, loved, or important. I am in no way saying Sally Field is a narcissist with this next video, she has many positive qualities and I know nothing about her other than she is an actor. It is just that this video demonstrates the inner motivation of a narcissist.
Psychopaths think they are fabulously wonderful the way they are…no, they don‘t think it, they know it as this character Jim Carey played demonstrates.
Dr. Paul Babiak describes the differentiation between Narcissism and Psychopathy in an article he wrote for the ezine, Business Coaching Worldwide:
Psychopathy vs. Narcissism: Two Personality Disorders Often Confused
Both psychopaths and narcissists, unfortunately, come across as self-absorbed, arrogant
and insensitive—making differentiation difficult. However, there are some clues to the difference that the coach can look for.
Anyone can use this information to help identify a psychopath in their life or to avoid voting for one.
The most obvious traits of the psychopath are charisma, charm and a grandiose sense of self-worth, all somewhat positive traits. Many people actually like and are attracted to psychopaths whom they have just met, only to discover conning, manipulation and deceit—the dark side of this disorder—down the line. Unfortunately, in business coaching situations, it is quite common to find a blend of these traits among executive clients—in the form of self-confidence, assertiveness and influence skills—and to misinterpret them.
Narcissism is a personality disorder, one of ten documented in the psychological literature. [The new DSM5 will have six personality disorders] The common understanding is that narcissists are 'in love with' themselves and see the world as revolving around their thoughts and needs. To narcissists, the world is their audience, and everyone they meet—and everything that happens—is centered on them. Thus, we describe narcissists as self-centered, selfish, demanding and self-absorbed; yet, they can also be quite charming as well, having learned how to please their audience. True narcissists make up only about one percent of the general population—the same base rate as psychopaths. They are drawn to careers that allow them to receive the attention and power they crave, and to exert influence over others, reinforcing their perceived self-importance, the same as the psychopath; hence, it is not surprising to find a large number of both drawn to executive-level jobs.
Clarifying Muddy Waters
How is the business coach to avoid the confusion? If you suspect your client has psychopathic tendencies, look for other signals. To separate the narcissist from the psychopath, one must go further into the traits and characteristics that they do not share. Of the 20 psychopathic traits and characteristics of the psychopath, those that can be gleaned in the context of a normal coaching session include:
Psychopaths can and will lie about many things, even those things you or I would not waste time lying about. Lying can often be uncovered through the many inconsistencies in their 'story' as it evolves over the course of a coaching engagement. If you tape record your sessions, try to follow their patter as it twists and turns in response to your questions and challenges. At some point, it no longer sounds like resistance, but rather game playing. While the psychopath will talk a good game about integrity and honesty, his or her behaviors will speak of pathological lying.
Emotional poverty: Psychopaths are unable to feel, express or even understand normal human emotions (there is physiological evidence supporting this). Thus, they will be unable to express the range of emotions (except anger and rage) you would find in others. Even though some successful psychopaths can mimic some emotion, they do not do a good job of it. Many display a very flat affect while describing events that others would be hard-pressed to discuss without some emotional display. Or, they will overact the emotion, going beyond what is 'normal' for any given emotional situation. Look for remorse and empathy; you won't find them in the psychopath. They are cold inside and have no conscience as we understand it.
This is a very common trait that becomes more evident as sessions go on. While most clients who blame others for their difficulties will eventually 'get over it' and take responsibility for their own actions, psychopaths will not. (Note: If they seem to, watch out for the lying and manipulation as noted above.)
True narcissists are more problematic, as helping them often involves delving deeper into the psyche. Underneath the bravado and attention-seeking, they are not all that self-confident or sure of themselves. Rather, they suffer with intense feelings of inadequacy with which their audience helps them cope. Because lack of self-confidence is not often a trait of successful executives, it is imperative that these feelings be hidden from peers, subordinates and coaches. The narcissist will find negative feedback demoralizing and exhibit emotional responses based upon the perceived challenges to his or her personality. Much coaching work will revolve around helping the narcissist resolve internal conflicts and regain the approval of his or her 'audience.'
The psychopath, on the other hand, while similar in appearance to the narcissist on the surface, is not plagued by such unconscious dynamics. Rather, psychopaths do not need an audience. They are, for all intents and purposes, their own audience. Seeking and demanding power and attention is not driven by a need for reassurance, but by a means to manipulate those in the surroundings; they are consummate game players. The psychopath takes the floor and arrogantly demands respect as a way to manipulate others.
Emphasis added by myself.