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Personality Disorders

Ask Dr. Dombeck
Ask Dr. Dombeck
Psychotherapy and Mental Health Questions

Please explain how it is that psychopaths can manipulate people if they have no empathy

I have no trouble relating to the notion psychopaths lack empathy based on my own personal experiences with someone I believe is one. But I guess I just don't have a firm enough grasp on how their brains differ from the 'normal' or how they think and perceive the world. An example of my confusion is how are psychopaths able to be such masters in manipulation without empathy? Empathy means having the ability to relate to how another is feeling. Wouldn't you need to be able to anticipate someone's feelings or reaction to be able to even begin to put it into motion let alone pull it off with any success? I also have a hard time understanding which emotions psychopaths are actually able to experience and to what depths and which ones they completely don't. I just have a hard time understanding how they are able to pretend so convincingly to be experiencing something they completely have no real awareness of such as love. It's been of my personal experiences with John that I've noticed anger and happiness to be the only emotions he seems to be able to easily and genuinely express. All the others in between are either not at all present or didn't seem sincere. Whether he is incapable or unwilling to demonstrate compassion, empathy, or consideration for others still remains a mystery for me.

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