I’m in the process of reading a book written by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare, named: ‘Snakes in Suits‘.
I have found several passages that I would like to take up here for various reasons which I will explain as I do so. This article is the first of two parts, but there’s likely to be more since there’re so many topics and issues I want to address.
‘Snakes in Suits’ is an interesting read – informative in many ways that are not unlike Robert Hare’s first book: ‘Without Conscience‘ – and even though it is written in an easy style that avoids psychiatric jargon, is mainly popular and thus kept in a language meant for a wide public, it does give you valid information – which I’ll say is the trademark of Robert D. Hare. It fits his claimed intention which is to inform the public.
This book (‘Snakes in Suits’) addresses a more wide range of psychopathic practices – opposite Hare’s ‘Without Conscience’ which were basically about the sub-group among us who are both highly criminal and highly violent and hence who also does a good deal of jail time, generally speaking.
It also uses the interesting style of switching between passages of regular information and passages that pertain to a story of fiction which progresses throughout the book, describing the kind of scenery that can typically take place in a firm who unknowingly hires a Psychopath. We follow this individual’s actions and psychopathic impact upon the firm as a whole as well as upon individual people working in/for the firm.
Thus, the group of psychopaths this book focus on are often not clinically diagnosed, they fly under the radar, so to speak, and for various reasons they do so successfully… These reasons pertain more to the Psychopath’s individual background than to anything else which is often the upper middle class or even the wealthy. – That said, there is obviously also an individual difference in temperament, personal tastes, likes and dislikes, and preferences in general which have an influence upon whether or not one is more like to become a White Collar Psychopath or right out chooses to go clearcut Criminal and Violent.
However, that is not what this article is about. I wanted to mention what the book mainly focuses on in terms of psychopathic groups in society, and it this group has been dubbed ‘White Collar Psychopaths‘. The association is obvious.
Today I was reading the beginning of Chapter 3.
It is about how Psychopaths manipulate, and most of us have heard these things before – and even if we haven’t, we know them by heart, since we’re using these techniques on a daily basis.
The new in this case is the way Babiak also explains why – in his understanding – we are capable of carrying through with these manipulative schemes, whereas normal people are not.
The one thing that runs through his explanation is the Psychopath’s inability to feel Empathy. But it is also more than that, for he doesn’t merely state that ‘Psychopaths can’t feel Empathy, period!’. He uses examples, and today I came upon such an example which had me react in two ways.
As an illustrative example of this he describes how Robert Hare once coached Nicole Kidman when she was preparing herself for her role in the movie ‘Malice’…
Practice Makes Perfect
Hare consulted with Nicole Kidman on the movie Malice. She wanted to let thew audience know, early in the film, that she was not the sweet, warm person she appeared to be. He gave her the following scene: “You’re walking down the street and come across an accident at the corner. A young child has been struck by a car and is lying in a pool of blood. You walk up to the accident site, look briefly at the child, and then focus at the grief-stricken mother. After a few minutes of careful scrutiny, you walk back to your apartment, go into the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror, and practice mimicking the facial expressions and body language of the mother.”
When I read this my immediate reaction was:
“Yes! That’s how it is! This is how I do it! This is what I’ve always done, and there’re still so many emotions I haven’t yet learned to express!”
The difference between how I feel – about the fact that this is how it is, that this is what I do and is what I’ve done since earliest childhood – and how Babiak sees it, is that in his understanding we all do this only out of malicious motivation.
Altought psychopaths do not feel the range and depth of emotions experienced by most people, they do understand that others have something called “emotions”. Some may even take the time to learn to mimic emotions so they can better manipulate their victims.
When I did this as a 6 year old kid, I had no ulterior motives, I had no thoughts about how this could be used to make others believe I was feeling something I wasn’t. There was no ulterior motive whatsoever, I was merely being curious and exercising my inherent drive to learn. – I believe it is normal for all children to want to learn – at least to some extent – and those who chooses to can keep learning also when they’ve become adults. I am one who chose to keep learning, and I am still practicing in front of the mirror on occasion!
Even now as an adult, when I do it, it is more of a way for me to try and somehow relate to those people as they feel these emotions.
And this brings me to the second passage that just hit right home, which follows in this article’s part II.