When we think of mental disorders, we often imagine a person bound in a straitjacket wildly thrashing in a room with reinforced walls. However, this image only corresponds to a very small part of the relatively rich sphere of mental illnesses.
One of the most serious disorders in this sphere are personality disorders. They are often referred to as disorders that affect the structure of the personality and thus have an impact on a person’s behavior, experiences, and thinking.
People with a pathological structure of personality, commonly called psychopaths, are characterized by a set of traits that deviate them from what we call normality. Defining normality, like defining pathology, is very problematic in psychology and psychodiagnostics. It is often extremely difficult to draw a line between what is still within the norm and what requires psychological or psychiatric intervention.
That’s why only a fraction of people with personality disorders live in psychiatric facilities. The rest live among us. Should we be afraid? In the vast majority of cases, definitely not.
It is often difficult to spot such individuals in a regular conversation. Sometimes they may stand out with their quirky behavior or unconventional language or thinking. However, in many cases, they are people with enormous charisma, who attract attention, have strong leadership skills, and are excellent at manipulating others without resistance. It is precisely in connection with such personality types that the charm of psychopaths is mentioned.
Listening to and observing such people is fascinating. They often have a life full of various experiences and captivate others with their opinions, which the surroundings quickly adopt. They are capable of giving accurate compliments, and what is most interesting, people are willing to tolerate them much more. They come across as very original individuals who literally charm others. Often, it is primarily narcissistic behavior, but even borderline personality types can be very charming.
The charm of psychopaths can be particularly appealing to empathic personalities, who tend to be more tolerant and able to rationalize their behavior for a very long time. Especially problematic situations arise when a person succumbs to this charm in a romantic relationship. There are several signs that indicate that something is not right. The reality is, of course, much broader and not always will a single signal reveal the truth about the person’s entire personality. So how can you avoid falling for the charm of psychopaths?
Look at your conversations “from above.”
If you come to someone with the intention of talking about something important to you but eventually don’t get to the point, the topic probably changes very quickly. Especially when it comes to an unpleasant topic or pointing out a failure, the conversation can turn against you. You stumble on details, explain your words, or present evidence that is challenged – and after a while, you don’t even know what you were discussing. The charm of psychopaths receives a very strong blow here, and so a person tries to defend against it in every possible way. Often to the point that you leave the conversation as the one who apologized.
Be very careful about what the goal of your conversation is and keep repeating it during the conversation. Return the conversation to the point and don’t let yourself be sidetracked. Stay mentally present, don’t react to insults or accusations.
Don’t let yourself be criticized for trivial things, especially when it comes to transgressions from the distant past. The charm of psychopaths is often fueled by the apparent inability of those around them to see through their behavior. Criticism flies in all directions except one. Often, it also reaches you, at first very unnoticed. In an effort to please and maintain favor, you first adapt in small things, and later you give up even your own principles and values.
In particular, in romantic relationships, excessive criticism signals incompatibility or inability to accept each other. Of course, in a relationship, it is necessary to seek the good of the other person, but denying oneself and showing kindness to the other person is different from denying oneself in order to transform oneself. The result of working on oneself should be an improvement of who you are, not an adaptation to someone else’s demands.
Don’t believe every compliment
People like to hear compliments. Sometimes they even receive them with false modesty in order for the person to repeat them:
Compliment #1: “You look great today!” Doubt instead of thanks: “But you’re just saying that.”
Compliment #2: “Seriously! You have a great hairstyle!”
However, it is not always wise to believe everything that another person says to us. It may be more difficult for our own ego, but it helps to maintain healthy self-confidence and, most importantly, healthy relationships. Charming psychopaths use compliments as a tool to gain favor. People want to keep that favor, so they hope for more compliments. However, over time, it is often revealed that these are empty words or a type of “ego food” with which such a person feeds their supporters.
So examine whether the compliments from people around you are based on reality, and whether their authors only want to draw attention.
Create balance in a relationship
The charm of psychopaths often relies on our own desire for recognition and acceptance. Just like compliments, excessive focus on a single person cannot create a balanced relationship. If the other person knows everything about you and you lack basic information about them, you have a very unbalanced relationship.
It is therefore appropriate to ask what caused this imbalance. If even when asked directly, the other person is unable to answer, but rather turns the conversation to something else or to you, there is likely a problem somewhere.
Distinguish between charisma and worship
The world is full of charismatic people, but no person is perfect. After a few weeks or months of knowing someone, you should be able to name at least a few “imperfections” or characteristics that prevent them from being a deity. It doesn’t necessarily have to be serious criticism. Just admitting that you are dealing with a human being is enough.
If, despite a longer relationship, you cannot uncover flaws in the other person, or justify or attribute them to “characteristic personality traits,” it is appropriate to ask how such an idea arose. It is likely that you have created an image of a demi-god in your eyes.
The charm of psychopaths has one key feature that sends a clear signal as to whether it is good to create a relationship with a particular person – charm puts its wearer in the foreground and their admirers in the background. If you constantly find yourself in the background, it is appropriate to start asking if you have fallen under the charm of a psychopath.