Michael J. Salamon

The psychopath in our family

A couple of things have happened in our family that have come to light in recent years but more so in the last few weeks so I have decided to try to explain in broad terms just what is going on. First let me be clear – by our family I mean “OUR” family – all of us are members of the family. I have been stopped, and questioned, called, and E-mailed, by dozens of people over the course of the last week about these things. The concerns are legitimate, the questions are mostly sincere, there are of course a few yentas who ask for details they will never get, but for the most part people are shocked, unnerved, and upset. They are seeking some insight to allay the upset feelings. So am I. This piece is an attempt to help with that process.

Health professionals have a diagnostic system that allows them to categorize certain individuals that they may refer to as having an Antisocial Personality disorder. People with this disorder are exploitative, repeatedly break the law, and show no signs of guilt or remorse. They are charming and witty, disregard the safety and well-being of others, lie and steal, are at turns angry and arrogant and may have substance abuse problems. Many people believe that the Antisocial Personality disorder category is interchangeable with the term psychopathy. Some believe that psychopaths are actually worse, if that is even possible. If they are indeed worse, it is because they have a complete lack of gratitude, sincerity, a general poverty of emotions; they can be vulgar and rude and have no clear positive plans for their future; in their pathological minds, there is no reason for such plans. They actually believe that they can get by on their charm, wit, and manipulative abilities. They never accept blame and they use these skills to get whatever their impulsive wants drive them toward. It could be money, sex or public attention or a combination.

According to Eric Barker, an interactive marketing specialist, psychopaths are most likely to have jobs in the following professions: CEO, work on Wall Street, lawyer, media/television, sales, surgeon, journalism, police, and clergy. Psychopaths are most often in these particular jobs because they can get by with their lack of emotions and manipulate others from their professional positions. The professions least likely to have psychopaths are, not surprisingly, the more caring ones such as nurse, beautician, charity workers, teachers, doctors, accountants, and therapists.

Famous psychopaths are often serial murderers but most psychopaths do not kill, they simply use people and discard them when they are finished mistreating them. They are predators who know what they are doing, truly believe that they can and should continue their activities, and justify their abuse of others by blaming everyone but themselves. Even after they are caught and confronted, they absolutely refuse to accept responsibility for their misdeeds and are so good at their deception that others may believe them at the expense of the people that have been exploited. Moreover, the psychopath gets additional pleasure from knowing that others are further harming their victims by disbelieving them.

So, who are the psychopaths in our family? There are several well-known ones. The sex predators who, from their positions of power as clergy members or as CEO’s or administrators of schools choose victims to manipulate into sexual servitude. There are also several psychopaths who have made the news as embezzlers, stealing money from charities, the government, and individuals. They all deny their guilt placing blame on others, charging them with absurd actions in an attempt to distract everyone from their own sins. The problem is that too many people fall for it. That is why so much is swept under the rug. We too often buy the psychopaths stories. After all, they are often people in a position of power – and do not forget just how charming they can be.

Our family attempts to deal with these individuals by giving them the benefit of the doubt repeatedly, for years, even decades. We find it too hard to believe that they may use their own family tragedies as an excuse to raise money for their own selfish needs or seek out confused and needy teen girls to abuse. Until finally someone says enough and reports the individual to the authorities psychopaths will simply continue to employ their destructive trade. This is where we continue to fail ourselves. If we do not report psychopaths as soon as there is an indication of the harm they cause, if we continue to excuse their manipulations, if we continue to allow them to make excuses for the harm they are causing, we are in fact giving license to them and others who wish to emulate them the ability to harm our family.

About the Author
Dr. Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is an APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and Netanya, the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications), "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America) and "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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