Perception is everything. We look at certain occupations and classify people as desirable or not without looking at the individual. When was the last time you thought “philanthropic, warm-hearted person” when the letters ‘CEO’ were mentioned? When was the last time you thought “child-molesting thief and scoundrel” when the word “firefighter” was uttered? We put a connotation on swaths of people without even bothering to look inside in the least. Other times, we let the actions of a few change our preexisting notion of a group as with the Catholic sex scandals that have rocked the world over the past few decades. Even the Abrahamic god many worship, being the ultimate in holiness, gets a free pass over his Old Testament actions which make most psychopaths look like saints. We want to use a cursory association of group and selected actions in order to judge people without looking inside the individual.
It is to the advantage of every person to project an image that is clean and desirable. People will often forgive the “sins” of those that they believe to be respectable human beings. People will often seek the harshest in punishment and retribution for those that they believe to be heathens or “evil”. At no time are people actually looking closely to see whether their conceptions are justified or not.
I’ve often wondered if that was the reason I was taught of God’s love before God’s vengeance in Sunday school when I was much younger. If the presentation is such that this deity is full of compassion and warmth, would I be more likely to not question the obvious disconnect between the words uttered by my preacher and the actions listed in the Bible of “angry God?”. We speak of holiness as the ultimate in good and charity and sinlessness, but then the individuals we attach that to can present the opposite. The take home point is that we’ve established conceptions based on association with traits we admire and that we often lose the insight we could gain when we see a disconnect.
I may be using piousness and holiness as the metaphor here, but these ideas certainly extend to the psychopath. If the impressions we give are open and warm, then few will doubt whether we are genuine. When we “sin” against them, they will be readily to forgive, thinking that our actions must be an aberration.
I remember one time in which I was having a falling out with a friend. I was trying to explain to him the revelations of the months preceding in which I had been diagnosed as a psychopath. The diagnosis made sense to me and seemed to clear up a lot of inconsistencies in my life. I wanted to be honest with him and let him know that at times my behavior was less than moral and that he should be aware of what our friendship really meant to me. He had already constructed a vision of who I truly was, however. He wanted to create many other explanations for my behavior that did not have such a connotation as he had already set in stone his conceptions of my “piousness”. He could not resolve his preconceptions with reality and ultimately he chose not to reconcile the two for a long time.
So what does this mean for you, dear reader? If you want to play the game at its best, the meaning is simple. Present an image early that sets you apart as a pleasant and respectable or desirable person to be around. Be more like the firefighter than the CEO in the eyes of your acquaintance. Since people are slow to resolve their conceptions with reality, this will give you greater room to “slip up” should you choose to manipulate or deceive. It will give you easier forgiveness and a quicker blind eye if you display your true self when you didn’t mean to.
I’m not advocating that you necessarily be an ass simply because you can get away with it. I am advocating that you take advantage of the human inability to quickly reconcile connotation with reality, though. Many fear the psychopath. I am not convinced that it is not in their best interest to do so. From a self-preservation standpoint, however, we must use any tools we can to stay in the shadows. Being perceived as someone to respect and to admire is certainly more beneficial than being perceived as one to avoid. To go back to the metaphor I’ve been using: be seen as like the god of the new testament and think or behave however you want. Should you choose to flood all around you, they’ll think of it as a anomaly than as actuality.