Psychopaths Among Us Part 2

Today, I’m happy to present part 2 of my interview/conversation with the fabulous Diane Capri.  If you’re just joining us, I recommend you read part one of our conversation here.

Louise Behiel: Before we start, Diane, I wanted to congratulate you on Fatal Distraction being a huge Amazon Bestseller. Readers are really resonating with this book and I’m not at all surprised. As you know, I loved it!

Diane Capri:  *blushing* Thank you, Louise. Fatal Distraction opened at #3 on the Hot New Releases in Legal Thrillers. Since John Grisham was holding on tight to the #1 and #2 spots, we were pretty happy with that showing. *laughs*

Louise Behiel:  *laughs* I knew you were well adjusted! I’m a therapist. I can tell. *laughs*

Diane Capri:  *laughs* So we were talking about the psychopaths we encounter in our daily lives. Not necessarily killers. But those who cheat and lie and hurt us in less immediately lethal ways. It would be helpful if we recognized these psychopaths right away. But too often, we don’t until the harm is already done.

Louise Behiel: Many times, I’ve seen patients involved with psychopaths who don’t realize their nature. Based on how well you’ve written your villain, you’ve had that experience yourself, haven’t you?

Diane Capri: *laughs* I’m not here for therapy, Louise!

Louise Behiel:  Don’t worry. I won’t send you a bill when we’re done here. Tell me about the psychopaths you’ve known.

Diane Capri:  Once I learned that psychopaths are fairly common in the general population, I started arm-chair diagnosing several people I’ve come across over the years. As a student of human nature and a devotee of psychology, why people do what they do has always been intensely interesting to me. As a practicing lawyer, very often if I knewwhy someone took certain actions, I could resolve conflicts that were otherwise unresolvable or devise winning strategies for clients. Along the way, of course, I encountered people who were in it to win it, regardless of the rules or the morality of their actions. Many of these people are psychopaths, aren’t they?

Louise Behiel:  Absolutely. You’ve nailed the disorder perfectly. Psychopaths only care about what they want. Your wants, wishes or needs are irrelevant to them.  They give you as little thought as the mosquito they slap.  In the mind of a psychopath, your needs and that of the mosquito carry the same weight.

Diane Capri:  That is so hard to accept because we always want to believe the best of people.  But I know you’re right.

Louise Behiel:  It must be a challenge to work with a psychopath in a legal setting, since they’re not accustomed to telling the truth.  And the oath they take as witnesses is irrelevant to them.  Have you dealt with this type of person?

Diane Capri:  I’m sort of a Pollyanna and I generally give everyone too many chances to show their true colors. Often, to my detriment. I remember the first time I encountered a witness who lied after swearing not to do so. Lawyers are not ethically allowed to permit our own clients to lie and we can lose our license for that. But I won’t tell you it never happens. Unfortunately, it does.

Louise Behiel: How can the legal system function reliably when dealing with psychopaths?

Diane Capri: The system is reliable, but the operators within the system are fallible human beings, with all the flaws and faults other humans have. And this is one of the themes in Fatal Distraction, as you know. When humans subvert the system, some with understandable motives, has the system failed us? Or have we failed the system?

Louise Behiel:  In my experience, psychopaths come across as normal, nice even. Combined with the complete absence of a conscience, there is nothing they won’t do. I deal with the people they step on, because psychopaths don’t see anything wrong with what they’re doing or have done. You must meet more of them than I do.

Diane Capri:  Probably not. The psychopaths among us hide in plain sight. Often, they’re the most successful people in our society.

Louise Behiel: Why is that?

Diane Capri:  Because “success” is a lot easier when the psychopath completely ignores the rules that bind the rest of us. I knew a lawyer who told me he could “cry at will.” He used this, er, skill to manipulate people to his advantage. What normal person wouldn’t be moved by a man who cries in sympathy? People who scam others are often psychopaths. They justify their actions by saying, “Oh, he can afford to pay.” High profile psychopaths like Bernie Madoff, the man behind the largest ponzi scheme in history, didn’t care about people who lost their entire life savings so he could live large. The guy who cheats at cards; the woman who embezzles and then gambles the money away; the dude who attracts  women by praying on their insecurities and then exploits them; the man with two or three families. On and on and on.

Louise Behiel: You gave me a great fictional example a couple of hours ago. What was that again?

Diane Capri:  Right. A woman meets her soul mate at her mother’s funeral, but fails to get his phone number. After the funeral, she tries to find him, but can’t. But she really wants to reconnect with this guy. So she kills her father. Her reasoning is that if her soul mate attended her mother’s funeral, perhaps he’d attend her father’s funeral, too. The woman is a true psychopath: without a conscience.

Louise Behiel: I’ll say!

Diane Capri:  What can people do when they find themselves involved with a psychopath?

Louise Behiel:  I always tell people to watch behavior – and not pay so much attention to words.  Psychopaths will say or do anything to ‘win’, so a person in relationship with a psychopath will constantly be buffeted between what is said and what is done.  For the partner it’s crazy-making because the psychopath will always find a way to make the conflict their partner’s responsibility.

So pay attention.  If you’re frequently told that you’re wrong, you misunderstood, or you’re crazy, start making notes.  Keep them private and secret.  But keep them.  Note dates, times and behaviors. And of course outcomes. It never takes long to see a pattern of lies.  The problem for most of us is that we try to talk to the psychopath, to communicate so that they’ll understand that their behavior is incongruent with their promises.  This conversation is predicated on a belief that the psychopath cares.  But they don’t.

An old truism is important to remember in our relationships: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”. Because psychopaths are charming and loving, we disregard their behavior and assume we misunderstood or didn’t hear right.  Or ‘it’s no big deal’. In a normal relationship, that’s true but not with a psychopath who don’t have a conscience. They are free of all the stirrings of guilt, shame and remorse that affect and direct the rest of us.

Diane Capri:  Family Ties, your current release, doesn’t deal with psychopaths at all. What about future books?

Louise Behiel:  Family Lies will be out in June. The heroine discovers that her recently deceased husband had a secret life – one populated with private jets, jewels from Tiffany’s and bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, all while living a typical upper-middle class life with her.  I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but he was a psychopath – he wanted what he wanted when he wanted it and would do anything to get it, all the while looking like a loving husband and father.

Diane Capri: Hmmmm. Personal experience, Louise?

Louise Behiel:  *laughs* Not really. But I do think we often forgive and forget some atrocious behaviors in our friends and families – even when it isn’t warranted.

We’re going to wrap it up here. We hope you’ve enjoyed our conversation about thePsychopaths Among Us.  You can buy or download a sample of Diane’s Fatal Distraction by clicking HERE.  You can buy or download a sample of Louise’s Family Ties by clicking HERE.

About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
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68 Responses to Psychopaths Among Us Part 2

  1. Wow. You have just described my ex-husband. For the first 2 years,he made me crazy because his actions made no sense. Took me a while to figure out something was wrong with him. I am in the process of writing about our relationship…anonymously, of course!…to try to warn others.

    Can’t wait to read your books!!

  2. Wow. You have just described my ex-husband. For the first 2 years, he made me crazy as I tried to make sense of what was going on. Finally realized it was never going to make sense andI needed to get out of there! I am in the process of writing a book about my experience to try to help other women recognize these monsters and run! (Anonymously as he has threatened to kill me many times.)

    Can’t wait to read your books!

    • Sally I’m so glad this post helped you make sense of your life with him. and I’m glad you got out – there is no winning with a psychopath. Take his threats seriously – they can’t stand being thwarted. thanks for sharing with us today. I appreciate it.

      • Like Louise, Sally, I’m glad you ended the relationship. I’ve seen so many of these relationships that go on until the normal partner is reduced to emotional rubble, often accompanied by financial disaster and sometimes, physical damage, too. Never believe a psychopath cares about you. They don’t. No matter what they say.

  3. Such a creative way to hit up valuable topics with each other and enlighten us in one fell swoop! Great wrap up comment, Louise. Love, even non-romantic, really can be blinding. And Diane, Fatal Distraction sounds awesome. Congrats to both of you for your awesome success!

  4. Heidi says:

    I’m forwarding this to my best friend, who has had a year in recovery from a social psychopath. Thanks for this.

  5. dianalayne says:

    Let’s take a story like Family Lies. Why would a person live a double life? What is the benefit of having an “upper middle class” family when he had money and another life elsewhere? This sort of related to my question the other day-can a psychopath love blood relations? Would the father be hanging around in his upper middle class life because he had some modicum of feeling for his children? I find these people very confusing. Thanks for the interviews!

    • These people ARE very confusing, Diana! Don’t feel you’re missing a piece of the puzzle. I’ve known two examples of men who lived double lives like this. In both cases, my opinion was that the women knew about his double life, although they claimed they didn’t. In one case, the man was a judge. He had one family in the county where he presided and another family in a nearby county. When he died, the two families professed to be so shocked to find out about their opposites. But how is that possible? The man was a judge. He had to stand for election. There is, in my view, no way everyone was unaware. In the other case, again, the two families lived near each other. The kids were about a decade apart, but they attended the same schools. When the older wife died, the younger wife and everyone surrounding the situation — including the teachers!! — claimed to be unaware of the second family. So what this tells me is how ruthlessly clever these psychopaths are AND how clueless their supporters can be. Because we wear blinders when we love someone. And it can be fatal.

      • I think psychopaths live double lives for a number of reasons. 1) to get away with it. Remember their goal is to win at all costs, so … if a second life proves I’m smarter than you, so be it. I win. And 2) because they ooze charm and sincerity and want to maintain that image, they will go to any lengths to protect how they are seen. In the case of Family Lies he had an upper middle class lifestyle when the opportunity to do more and win more came along. He took it. and then he got to ‘get away with it’. And fool everyone – the police, his wife, children and partner.

        As far as loving someone goes, psychopaths will give the impression of loving others. but thier ability to love is, as in a selfless act, is really limited by their ability to put someone else first. That is then juxtaposed, in their mind, by how their behavior appears to other.

        there is no hard and fast rules, for any of this stuff, Diana. The Psychiatric manuals say “if this happens more than 3 times in a 4 week period and…” it’s always a judgment call. But if you are around someone who always makes you wrong, who seems to always come out on top (we say they can fall in a barrel of poo and come out smelling like a rose) then you are probably dealing with a psychopath.

  6. dianalayne says:

    Second question–so the difference in a narcissist and a psychopath would be the degree of selfishness? A narcissist will occasionally bend? Thanks!

    • I’ll leave the narcissist question for Louise, the expert. But what I would say is that the narcissist does have a conscience. For the narcissist, it’s all about him/her. But on some level, s/he knows she’s ignoring others, behaving badly, causing harm — and on some level, feels some concern about that harm. A psychopath doesn’t. A psychopath always, always, always believes the other person’s feelings are totally irrelevant.

      • Heidi says:

        That is key. Thank you. I had the same question.

        • I totally agree with Diane. A psychopath has no conscience so there never is any shame or guilt. a Narcissist, while always putting themselves first, to the exclusion of all others is capable of feeling guilt and shame – they just don’t feel it very often.

          and my thought is that there are intersecting areas of these 2 disorders where the diagnosis could go either way, so don’t get too twisted up about it. Avoid them both

          • dianalayne says:

            Good advice. But I bet people who grew up with a narcissist or psychopath have the tendency to attract them…

  7. Roxy Boroughs says:

    Another fascinating post, ladies. So interesting that there are individuals who lack a conscience. Are they just born without one? Or does life experience contribute to their evolution?

    • No definitive answer as yet, Roxy, but current wisdom says this is a birth problem that can be exaggerated by family life. But we don’t know if a strong family life can mitigate the biological deficiencies. Much more research is needed.

      • Personally, Roxy, my feeling is that it’s genetics and really can’t be altered much. But it doesn’t matter when we’re dealing with anyone over the age of about 12. Perhaps certain environments can help or harm the psychopath at younger ages. But by the time they’re stealing, lying, hitting, refusing to concern themselves with others in the family, they are what they are. Which doesn’t mean they can’t change their behaviors. As we said, not all psychopaths are killers. But they can’t be forced to consider others because it simply does not come naturally to them, so they have to want to do it – and they usually don’t want to. It’s as simple as that.

  8. Elena Aitken says:

    What an interesting and yet, disturbing, conversation.
    Just reading this, I can think of at least one psychopath in my own life. Strange, because I’ve never thought of it that way. Normally I think that psychopaths are murderous crazies. BUT…it seems they can walk among us…scary…

    • it is scary. and they’re more common than people with eating disorders! I believe that everyone knows at least one psychopath. and some of us know more than one. I worked for one, once. Scary lady. but not murderous.

      • Elena, I actually find this sort of knowledge liberating. Because, as I mentioned, I tend to be a bit of a Pollyanna and I give people many, many chances. This is not the way to deal with a psychopath. The thing to do is to recognize what they are and then behave accordingly. Some psychopaths are actually useful to us in our lives. They tend to be power hungry, but some use their power for good, too. (Not that they care about others, but they do want to preserve their egos and public image.)

  9. Stacy Green says:

    Such an interesting series! We often associated psychopaths only with murderers, but they truly are among us. I’ve always believed my sister was a narcissist, but she also has some psychopathic tendencies as well. Hence the reason we’re estranged. Thanks for such a great post!

    • with that combination, Stacy, best to stay estranged (no offense intended). That’s an ugly combination of disorders and will steam roll anyone in her way. Glad you enjoyed the series.

  10. susielindau says:

    Great interview and congrats to Diane! I am not sure if I have known a true psychopath, bi-polar, yes and they can be very self-centered as well. I will have to read this!

  11. Another stellar post. Loved it. Fascinating and interesting and a little creepy. I’m going to be examining people around me more carefully. LOL!!

  12. Jill James says:

    Wow! I could write so many books just from this conversation. We knew a psychopath. He left his family. Found out the grass wasn’t greener, then wanted to come back. When she wouldn’t take him back he blamed her for his life sucking, because she wasn’t willing to let him come back. What a jerk!!!

    • sounds like a true psycopath. No sense of anyone else’s needs or desires.

      Glad you enoyed the series, Jill. and yes, I think many books can be written with a psychopath as a villain. My next book actually has a psychopath as a character but it’s his wife and partner who are left to deal with his betrayal.and he looked good – until the truth came out.

  13. Shannon Esposito says:

    This is a great series, Louise and Diane! So informative, I really feel like I need a shower. Bluck.

    • Exactly. And yet, when we’re in the room with these people, we often feel really, really good because they are soooooooo charming and they know just the right things to say to flatter us and butter us up so they can get us to do what they want — over and over.

      • they ooze charm and sweetness. It’s weird how they know what to say and the tone to say it in so that other people are moved to behave in ways that serve the psychopath. It’s like they are excellent at reading your motivation and needs and say they’ll meet them. scary

  14. Coleen Patrick says:

    Great series–fascinating (the comments too!). I’ve come across people who seem to live without a conscience. Very disturbing, especially b/c it’s so easy in the beginning to think they will change!
    Thanks Louise & Diane!

    • Yes, that belief that if we just explain to them with clarity and honesty that their behavior hurts us, is the single greatest myth out there when dealing with psychopaths. Because they’ll likely agree with you but then go on and do their own thing anyway. OUCH

      • Exactly, Louise. Maybe we should have touched on how the psychopath responds to us. Here’s an example from my real life. I worked with a guy who liked breakfast meetings. I am not a morning person. So I told him, over and over again, that I would prefer to schedule meetings at 9 or later. Each time he’d say, “Of course. I understand. Sure, we’ll do it at 9 next time.” And then he’d schedule the next one at 7. Finally, he did this one time too many. So I went to the meting, but I told him that I would never, ever attend another 7 a.m. meeting; that he could have the meetings at 7 if he wanted, but I would not be there until 9. He was furious. Then cajoling. He spent 30 minutes trying to persuade me, using all sorts of manipulation. But I said no. He professed to understand. Then he scheduled the next meeting at 7 and I didn’t go. He acted as if he was shocked. Who knows?

  15. Hi ladies, great job! I wanted to add a snippet that I heard from a police psychologist. There’s a theory that psychopaths are created genetically, that mother nature, for some reason, has created psychopaths as a natural human predator, and I’m guessing this is to thin the heard. Very interesting idea. He also mentioned that the really successful psychopaths never talk about themselves, in a conversation they focus on you, asking you about yourself. They are mining you for information to figure out how to manipulate you. Also, that when interviewed, people who have been exposed to psychopaths fall into three catagories 1) who knew there was something wrong the minute they met the guy, 2) are on the fence, not sure they can believe they were dealing with a true psychopath, and 3) people who don’t believe a word you are saying and think he is a great guy. So even presented with the truth, a psychopath still has two thirds of his victims convinced he’s a nice guy.

    • fascinating info, Rachel I think you’re right about all of this – psychopaths are master manipulators and to be successful they have to ‘hear’ you to know what are you buttons. and because they’re so good at it, many people stay in relationship with them much longer than is wise or safe. aren’t they fascinating? thanks for stopping by.

      • I think all of this is true, Rachel. The psychopaths I’ve known absolutely do use this manipulation technique. And you’re right that every victim I’ve ever talked about this with fell into one of those categories. There should be a 12 step program for “People who trust too much!” Thanks!

  16. I loved this. It’s so true that psychopaths really do not care about anyone but themselves and what they want. I’ve seen them make all kinds of excuses for abusing children or their significant other. I’ve seen them do anything they could to try to “win” in court. It wasn’t about the child they were trying to get custody of (because honestly the kids were just a pawn to them) but about screwing the other person and “winning”. They didn’t really want the child. Absolutely horrible to witness the affect this has on the kids.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Wanted to jump back in and ask this question: psychopaths made or born? There’s an argument among armchair psychologists (and some professionals, so I’ve heard), that state bad kids aren’t just born, they’re made. But there are so many stories out there (some I’ve profiled) where no triggers seem to be present. I’d love to know your thoughts, Louise and Diane (and when I say psychopath, in this sense I’m talking about the serial murder profile).

      • the latest research I’ve read suggests that this disorder is likely a brain disorder from the get go. A person born with mild brain disorder may have it ‘softened’ by a good family or totally worsened by a bad one. but that information is very preliminary.

    • yes it is totally destructive – and that’s why I say I doubt their ability to love unless it’s about winning. thanks so much for adding your wisdom Rhonda. Much appreciated.

      • I think maybe I answered a similar question a few comments back? But my view, based on the research I did for Fatal Distraction, is that Psychopaths are born, not made. While it is possible to alter genetics slightly, there is no evidence I’m aware of that suggests a “normal” person can be “turned into” a psychopath through anything environmental. Which is not to say that a person on the edge can’t be turned into a serial killer. Remember that not all psychopaths are killers and not all killers (even serial killers) are psychopaths. Here’s a fictional example: Arsenic and Old Lace. Remember that story? Cary Grant starred in the movie. Two sisters, little old ladies, killed a bunch of men. They weren’t psychopaths. They thought they were doing good in the world because the men were lonely. Dr. Kavorkian was a multiple killer, but not a psychopath (as far as we know). And so on.

  17. Kourtney Heintz says:

    Thanks for this insight into psychopaths. Gave me chills. I have known one or two people that were like this. Always trying to win, words never matching actions. It’s weird to read this and go Ahhh, so that’s what the problem was.

  18. SJ Driscoll says:

    Excellent series! Thanks, Diane and Louise. Have either of you ever read Dr. Stanton Samenow? His research with criminals is fascinating.

  19. Debra Kristi says:

    You ladies are absolutely fascinating! I love that you got together and did this. Soaking it up and learning. Getting so much out of the comments as well. Thank you.

  20. Thanks for the kind words, Debra. Glad you found it fascinating! Me, too!

  21. Karen McFarland says:

    Honestly Louise and Diane, this has got to be one of the best interviews!

    Truly a fascinating, but dark subject. Louise, I know you know your stuff. But Diane, I am totally impressed. You really show how important it is to do your homework as an author! What a great example for us newbies.

    I apologize for being late to the party, as they say. I read both posts together in order to get the most out of your conversation. Very well done! 🙂

  22. Hey, Karen, Thanks for stopping by and for the comments here and on my blog, too.

  23. Pingback: Weekend Writer: Are you a Veggie, an Egg or a Coffee Bean? | Louise Behiel

  24. 4amWriter says:

    This was a difficult post for me to read, but I really appreciate everything said here. For some time, a few members of my family and I have wondered about another family member. We’ve been through yet another breakdown in relationships and your information really helps me raise some questions that I can’t ignore any longer. Thank you so much.

    • Psychopaths wreak havoc on everyone who care about them. I’m so glad this simple post has been helpful to you. Questions are always good. thanks for letting me know that this post was valuable.

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