"All Psychopaths are Narcissists, but not all Narcissists are Psychopaths" Dr. Robert Hare and others

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 Psychopath
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.

The Narcissist
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:

Pathological lying:
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.

Blaming others:
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.


dmoreno56 said...

WOW, just spent a great deal of time doing more research on this topic and want to thank you for doing the article. Every single character trait listed for psychopath had a picture of scara's face posted as an example--kidding, of course, but truly amazing how many traits she displays and how many traits those who have worked with her have witnessed. Joe Mc's book very carefully shows her pathology and he did a great job showing us how sick this women really is. After her big kerfuffle in SKorea and knowing what we know about her, she needs to be wrapped up in a nice big red, white, and blue straight jacket before she causes any more damage.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this most excellent post.

You have so clearly delineated the significant differences between narcissists and psychopaths there is little I can add, except to emphasize that narcissists, for all their faults, are people, whereas psychopaths are predators wearing human masks--and all the rest of us are prey.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I read "Snakes in Suits" not too long ago, and although this book focuses on psychopaths in the corporate workplace, Sarah Palin immediately came to mind. Her constant lying, even when there is no "need" to lie, plus her utter lack of empathy are the two key clues.

And then of course, the trail of discarded patsies she has left in her wake.

Anonymous said...

The other night I was watching a TV show on the Food Network called Chopped. The episode featured runners up, people who had almost but not quite won earlier competitions on the show.

There was a guy among the cooks who was clearly identifable as a psychopath. Here are some of the behaviors he displayed:

1)Excessive use of talking, rambling, to psyche out the other cooks (they cooked right next to each other and he was purposefully trying to distract them and put them down)

2) Blaming - when the judges critiqued his work he was quick to deflect by blaming others or criticizing the other cooks instead of taking any responsibility for his mistakes; also he had zero grace or humility
and no ability to analyze himself
--almost like no emotional depth perception

3)Was hostile to other contestants and when he did do ONE nice thing for another contestant (she was having troubles opening a can) he was clear that he was only helping her because she had been nice to him, and he was quick to puff up and almost congratulate himself for doing something nice --whereas a normal person wouldn't draw attention to themselves for doing something nice

4) Was socially awkward and unable to related or truly talk with other contestants back stage; everything he said was either talking his position, talking about how great and superior he was, or being openly hostile and condescending

5) Also when another contestant was favored on one phase of the competition, backstage he immediately went paranoid on her and suggested she was getting special favors, that there was a conspiracy to keep her on the show

6) When he ended up being eliminated his comments afterwards were "They said I have to go," not "I didn't please the judges or my food wasnt' quite good enough" it was all a blaming of the judges for not seeing his obvious magnificence!

What's weird is the guy is a personal chef....who on earth would hire this psychopath?

But the whole thing to me just showed how, what is it, one of out 25 people is a psychopath? They really are everywhere. This guy was universally disliked because he was so nasty, but he seemed stumped about why, totally clueless about how his behavior was perceived by other, and extremely angry all the time that he wasnt' constantly being worshipped. So he was a narcissist, too!

I think the psychopath's constant rage is the real problem because it DOES make them abusive, emotionally at the very least, physically at the worst. We have to learn how to root out these creatures from every place where they hide. I remember encountering some as a young woman -- even dated one for a while -- and it was an excellent lesson. People around you, outside the relationship, dont' always pick up on the person's pathology, but as part of their "inner circle" you see the behavior on full display.

Anonymous said...

Very insightful, post. Thanks for the research and clarifying Psychopaths and Narcissists.

I tweeted your,post. I hope that you don't mind. It is directed back to your website.

Elizabeth said...

I have some training in psychology. One key I've found useful is to see the results of their behavior. Some of these folks are very slick and convincing. I was drawn in by a guy who had a PhD in Psychology. In fact, I almost became a student of his, and was flattered by his attention. Then I started seeing the human wreckage that followed him everywhere. Now, that's the first thing I look for when I meet these kind of folks.

Anonymous said...

Not having seen the Food Network program that Anonymous describes, I'm in no position to pass judgement on that particular contestant's mental condition.

What I will say, however, is that the most distinguishing characteristic between psychopaths and the rest of us folk is their inability to feel empathy or love or concern for others--even those one would normally consider nearest and dearest to them.

In short, they are missing the most vital part of ourselves that makes us human.

They cannot feel others' pain; they cannot feel guilt or regret no more than a color blind person can know what red or green looks like.

Given the absence of all kindness and compassion, they are no more human than a praying mantis

Anonymous said...

Excellent. I believe Elizabeth's comment about the human wreckage in their wake is also very helpful. See Mrs. Palin.

Celia Harrison said...

@ Elizabeth Oct. 14th, 12:30PM, Thank you for sharing this insight:
"Then I started seeing the human wreckage that followed him everywhere. Now, that's the first thing I look for when I meet these kind of folks."

Anonymous said...

I have read a lot about narcissim. But now I am not sure anymore, I think he may be a phsycopath. The heading of this article is perfect to describe this dilema. If I had to read your article independently without considering other information I would say he is definititely a psychopath, especially when it comes to the pathological lying. But I have read that about narcissists too. I'm probably complicating the matter in finding the truth, but at the end of the day the solution is the same whether narc or psychopath - these people are sick and can't be cured and should be avoided for one's own sanity sake.

Celia Harrison said...

Annonymous Oct 5th 4:49 AM, Narcissists and psychopaths are on a continuum. Many people, even mental health professionals think many psychopaths have narcissistic personality disorder due to the DSM-IV being inadequate and other lack of education. Many, especially females are misdiagnosed with borderline personality disorder or another PD when they are actually psychopaths due to stereotypes. It has only been recently that we have had good information that describes them in detail to help us identify them. There is a book called “Almost a Psychopath” by Ronald Schouten and James Silver
which rather than be really specific about the diagnosis discusses the psychopath-like characteristics so people can identify those they need to stay clear of or that have pathological personalities.

Anonymous said...


I have been reading about psychopath and some of the traits match mine.


I scored 29 in this test.Should I consult a psychologist.

Celia Harrison said...

Anonymous March 11, 2013 at 9:51 PM, you should seek some help with interpretation of this test. A psychologist who fully understands psychopathy and sociopathy could give you some insight. You may be interpreting your behavior wrong. Make sure you find one with an excellent reputation.