A common theme throughout my book is that of passing. Passing is the act of successfully convincing another person that you are something that you are not. A transgender person passes when pass through spaces gendered according to their target gender undetected. A psychopath passes whenever others are not aware of his callousness or affective empathy deficit. Passing, of course, applies to other groups as well. A person seeking a promotion needs to pass as confident, regardless of any inner shaking. The father consoling his scared daughter needs to pass as fearless. Passing, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It is a mechanism for survival and for advancement that humans have adopted for millennia. As with all things, it can certainly be spun in an impure fashion, however.
The psychopath seeks to pass for two reasons. The first reason involves a direct willingness to embrace advantage and the second is necessitated by wanting to avoid conflict. At its heart, neither of these reasons are necessarily any different from any other group that wishes to pass. Returning to the example of the promotion-seeker, his faux confidence serves to get him something he desires by creating advantage. Considering the transgender individual seeking to pass, they also desire a lack of conflict. Passing is a neutral act.
Psychopaths are often at their worse when their victims are blindsided. Sometimes the affected are willfully blind to the actions of the psychopath, and sometimes the psychopath is so good at passing that the victim truly did not see it coming. A wolf that looks like a sheep is dangerous indeed. That is, if the psychopath can win the trust of his target and if he does not reveal his hand, he can do nearly anything he wants with his victim. For this reason, it is almost understandable that many paranoid individuals believe that psychopaths are in their midst whenever things go south. The only difference between wolf and sheep may be the teeth that are shown.
However, not all reasons for the psychopath to engage in passing are nefarious. There is a great deal of stigma toward those that lack affective empathy, and even the most seasoned psychopath may have difficulties in life if they were found out to be psychopathic. There is an implicit social contract that individuals care about each other – except for when they don’t – and this contract often carries stiff penalties if it is broken. I have lost acquaintances due to my own psychopathy and my family is best kept in the dark. While I may not be terribly concerned with any potential interpersonal loss, I recognize that it is simply easier and more convenient to appear as those around me do. People only question the motives and intentions of those unlike them. Therefore, it is in my best interest to remain hidden, though I am certainly strategic with those that I deceive.
Passing is not necessarily an immoral or deceitful act. There are plenty of reasons, some prosocial and some not so much, that one would engage in presenting an appearance counter to their true state. The psychopath, in particular, has a vested interest in passing. She needs to have an advantage when she wishes to engage in antisocial behavior and she needs a cover when she would otherwise prefer not to be discovered. Everyone engages in these dynamics. Sometimes the wolf bears the skin of sheep in order to feast and sometimes he’d rather not be shot.