I recently had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Louise Delahunty, PG DipCOT, founder of Psychopathy Awareness and Harm Reduction Coaching (PAHRC). Louise is a mental health occupational therapist, coach and acupuncturist by background, trained under psychopathologist Sandra Brown M.A. in coaching survivors of psychopaths.
PAHRC works to raise awareness of the impact of partial/full blown psychopaths in the personal/ business realms in order to avert ‘inevitable harm’ or support you work through the aftermath.
What Was the Impetus For Your Business?
I think in many ways psychopathy is a subject that chooses you.
My first professional experience with a client I suspect was psychopathic was with ‘X’ who regularly featured in the local press as a WW2 hero and would actively seek this attention. Receptionists at my workplace would constantly remark how ‘lucky’ I was to be assigned this seemingly affable charmer who’d shower them with chocolates and compliments.
Yet I knew a different side to X. A lifelong gangster who at nearly 80 would charge into local pubs and attack people with his walking stick! Someone who would repeatedly say he wished the Germans had won the war (whilst courting the press, let’s remember, with an opposing persona). The last I heard of him was that he’d been arrested for an attempted rape in a residential home.
As with most mental health professionals I had had no training in detecting the signs of psychopathy…and spent hours pouring over what seemed unfathomable psychology to me. ‘How could X be so lethal, yet so adored? Who was he really?…Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?’
Once the penny dropped that I’d encountered a probable psychopath I began to question why the vast majority of us are in the dark about psychopathy – something that affects us all in one way or another. It was as if a handful of researchers and forensics professionals had exclusive rights to discuss the subject and I grew increasingly uncomfortable that such important information was in so few hands.
But it was the impact of psychopathy on other people that really gripped me. I found I couldn’t let go of it and began to research it prolifically. I took courses in the states and met and communicated with 100’s of survivors from India to America. Their stories were strikingly similar – whether they’d been involved in a cult or loved a fraudulent person. Learning about psychopathy in the hardest way possible forces a ‘paradigm shift’ in someone – the world is not how they thought it was and never quite will be again. Survivor’s stories are appallingbut their strength is phenomenal.
Who Primarily Uses Your Services?
This will surprise people, but primarily Mental Health Professionals (MHP’s) who have been victimized by psychopaths who may also be Mental Health Professionals! They are eager to avoid a re-run or to help others who’ve had this experience.
There are many erroneous assumptions that MHP’s should ‘know better’ ‘be able to spot psychopaths’ or ‘would never be psychopathic.’ It doesn’t work like that. I’ve spoken with leading experts in the field who’ve been victimised.
For me, this speaks of the power of this type of psychopathology and the capacity of people with marked psychopathic traits to manipulate and deceive. So I’d really urge people not to assume they are ‘immune.’ There’s not a psychopath ‘behind every tree,’ but they exist in every walk of life, more often than people think.
Is Your Business Similar to What Threat or Risk Assessment Professionals Do (i.e. highlight some of the potential problem people at an organization?)
In terms of our corporate coaching, our current focus is on advising on recruitment practices to minimise the risk of a business hiring their organizational downfall – prevention is far better than cure. It is also important for organisations to be aware of control tactics exhibited by those with psychopathic traits in order to understand what is going on and plan how to deal with it more effectively.
We are currently in discussion about working with a psychologist trained to screen organisations.
If Someone Believes That They Are Working With a Psychopath, How Do You Instruct Them To Protect Themselves?
Firstly most difficult and unreasonable people are not psychopaths (for the record nor are most criminals or psychiatric patients). Psychopaths are in a league of their own and I suspect most of them would agree with me on that. I once heard psychopaths described as ‘serial soul killers’ and think this is really what we are talking about, someone who effectively ‘wipes people out’ to inflate themselves across different contexts and across their life span.
Research the subject selectively – start with Babiak and Hare’s ‘Snakes in Suits’, and the documentary ‘I am Fishead’ https://www.fisheadmovie.com/
A psychopath’s optimal exploitation of people and organisations relies on others not seeing behind the mask, particularly those with the influence or power to do anything about it. Realising you may be dealing with a psychopath can be liberating (‘that explains it!’) and lonely at the same. Recognise those around you may stay dazzled by the psychopaths fraudulent charms. Confide only in colleagues with whom you have a long established, trusting relationship, or with people outside. Emotional support is vital – the impact is often severe.
Don’t let the psychopath know you’ve ‘seen’ them (they will see this as a threat or challenge which can activate their vengefulness). Stick to neutral conversations where possible and avoid getting defensive. Agree when you authentically can, leave a paper trail of everything and start looking for your next job unless you are very confident you can oust them (without using the ‘p’ word!) and have a lot of support. Change your passwords regularly and don’t leave your mobile lying about.
Has Anything Surprised You About Your Work Thus Far?
The surprises that fade least are these:
- Up to 1 in 25 lack conscience – a critical component of what, for most of us, it means to be human.
- That most people have encountered/will encounter a full/partial psychopath yet few will realise what has happened and that it wasn’t their fault. This often reminds me of a Steve Biko quote: “The greatest tool in the hands of the oppressor… is the mind of the oppressed.”
- That so few people can admit they were wrong about someone (this is a different thing from not realising it I think).
PAHRC’s next scheduled course ‘How Psychopaths Harm’ runs in London, July 21st. Visit www.dontbelievethemask.com to find out more.
There is a real need for this service. I would encourage you to check out PAHRC.
Have you been harmed by a psychopath?