Theophanes is a New-England-based blogger, traveler, writer, photographer, sculptor, and lover of cats.
When most people think of the word psychopath they have an image in their head of a serial killer or a monster of some other sort. It’s true, most serial killers are psychopaths, but more interestingly most psychopaths are not serial killers. In fact many psychopaths have no criminal record at all. In the US as much as 1-2 in every 100 people might be a psychopath and many of them make it high into the business world. A recent study actually claims as many as one in twenty-five business leaders might be a psychopath.
By the above description psychopaths don’t sound all that bad or at least not worse than other humans. So what is it that makes them psychopaths in the first place? For one they have a great sense of charm about them. They’re endearing, they’re enticing, they say the things you wish you could say or want to hear. In this regard they are supreme politicians. They like nothing better than to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone around them so they can manipulate them and use them for their own purposes. Indeed their complete lack of empathy leads them to believe that other people are just something to be used. They are often obsessed with power and money.
So where did I meet a psychopath? Within the ranks of my own family. She was my aunt and from the get-go there were problems. She was the third born child to one set of parents which soon after divorced before her mother went on to have two more children. One of these babies was my mom, the other my uncle, and because they bore the last name of a lower-class family my aunt instantly took a disliking to them, as if they were dragging her down somehow. From the time they were born she’d be maliciously cruel to them, try to take credit for whatever they did that was good, and made sure they knew they were somehow lower than herself. At one point she dared my mother to ride a horse she knew was completely wild. My mother mounted the feral creature which then broke into a dead run. It ran and ran and ran without taking any instructions from its rider. Finally when it exhausted itself my mother was able to safely get off it. My aunt was pissed. Not only did this not kill my mother it started a long and semi-successful training process in the horse which eventually only took orders from my mother, much to the chagrin of my aunt, who professed to be the family horse expert.
Things did not get better in adulthood. My aunt would invite her youngest brother to her big Christmas gatherings and lavish everyone with expensive gifts making sure he got absolutely nothing not only from her but from any of the other guests as well. She delighted in making him feel like shit. All the meanwhile she noticed that her elder sister was getting along fabulously well with my mother. They were close and she couldn’t handle that so for many years she’d make up lies and try to pit them against each other. It worked a few times but never shattered the relationship completely. Only death was able to accomplish that.
Her elder sister and my mom moved to another state and left her behind. By this time she’d already gotten knocked up twice – in her teens, and was raising a little boy and a little girl. The girl she doted on and gave the world to – the boy, her first, she all but ignored. He was a bastard you see while her precious baby girl was born into a proper marriage. Even though this was her doing she still felt it was appropriate to punish the innocent child. After he became an adult he all but disappeared. Rumors would be heard from now and then of a very emotionally shattered individual making bad life decisions and spiraling farther into a dark abyss. Even though I never met him I felt intensely empathetic and sorry for him.
My experiences with my aunt came early. She had horses. I liked to ride them, what little girl doesn’t? For hours I’d ride her horse Sheba around and around and around the little paddock. Sheba was a fantastic horse, an even tempered appaloosa that could put up with my aunt’s shit like no human could. Sheba was bred at some point and a little black baby horse entered the scene. This was the first glimpse I got of my aunt’s true nature because unlike Sheba the foal grew up to be testy, skittish, and mean. She bit, kicked, threw tantrums and was just generally an untrustable creature. As it turns out my aunt routinely lost patience with this animal whenever it did not do something she wanted it to do so instead of the gentle coaxing that is supposed to be used in training a young horse she’d smack it, kick it, or physically intimidate it – the guaranteed method of making a prey animal completely nuts! Sheba was the only horse my aunt ever owned that she didn’t emotionally destroy. All the other horses were traded for better trained ones which she’d make untrustable beasts before getting another one. I was very sad when Sheba eventually died of natural causes.
I was probably ten or so when I realized most of the people in my aunt’s life were under the age of twelve… unfortunate children from despairing backgrounds she’d “help” by allowing them to ride the horse or go on little field trips with. If she were a man we’d probably think she was a pedophile but it wasn’t this. The children were just the only people who could be so easily conned into believing she was the goddess of the world. She needed that adoration. However at the age of twelve or so I realized her bullshit, as did many of the other children, and we all left. By now all her praise of herself was falling on deaf ears.
It was true – my aunt was an EMT, she may have saved lives but she wasn’t doing it from the goodness of her heart, she was an EMT for bragging rights wearing her EMT jacket EVERYWHERE and telling everyone within earshot what a wonderful job it was and how good it felt to be saving people and serving the community. The whole spiel was bullshit. She only wanted people to think well of her image and adore her and be envious of her. She stayed in college for twenty years, taking every course, telling everyone her next job was going to be the big breakthrough that’d make it all worthwhile. Of course she thought the perpetual student spiel also made her look smart, it didn’t. Who stays in college for twenty years?! That’s a waste of money and time and money was her one love in life. She’d do anything for money, no matter how underhanded it was. She’d take money from her own mother claiming to help fix up the house or buy new appliances. Although she did do these things she did in the cheapest crappiest way possible so that she could pocket most of the dough. She never told anyone this but it was pretty fucking obvious.
She found her true calling in the church where she ruled over everyone like she was the second coming of Jesus himself. I’m sure she felt she was this important. I’m sure she felt she had a right to judge everyone around her while hoisting up her own reputation to look like she was the most perfect human being on earth. The church held something even more seductive than money – power. There’s nothing a sociopath likes more than power – power over wealth, power over people, power for power’s sake. She was a tyrant. She goaded and manipulated people, made them feel like shit for not living up to her adopted Biblical standards and even instated a public humiliation routine in the church where she would first talk defectors into coming back before forcing them to stand up to the whole congregation and tell them in lurid detail their every sin that caused them to flea in the first place – including but not limited to who they got pregnant by out of wedlock and why. She persecuted them for the same mistakes she had made earlier in her life and she didn’t even feel the slightest pang of empathy for any of them. She was the exalted one – the most charitable church-goer, the successful businesswomen, the most educated woman in town but she lacked a heart and nothing of this meant anything outside the image she was trying to portray of herself.
The death of my grandmother was the last straw for me. My aunt went around telling everyone how great she’d taken care of the woman and how my mother just abandoned her to move out of state. In reality even though we lived out of state we visited often and did everything we could while we were there – everything from cleaning house, moving furniture, doing repairs, to really anything that needed to be done and we did it not for bragging rights but to make my grandmother more comfortable in her golden years. My aunt did live in town but did very little, only the minimalistic things that’d make her look good. In ten years she hadn’t moved the rooms over as she said she would, she didn’t even fix the light fixture in the living room or the leaky bathroom sink and I know she was asked to do these things. If this wasn’t bad enough she staged a coup between cousins that permanently fractured the family – all over some photos, some of which (the really old tin ones) she had already outright stolen from the estate. I was up for three days scanning the photos frantically into a computer knowing she was about to seize them. I needed more time. I gave the albums to my brother who was staying at a local hotel. My aunt told everyone that my bitch of a mother was trying to steal them and they should get them back so many of my cousins showed up at the hotel to boost the albums. When I had finally scanned everything my poor grandmother hadn’t even had her funeral yet. Still my aunt took the albums and proceeded to pass out all the photos to the family she considered worthy of it – completely excluding her two youngest siblings and their progeny even though they were far closer relatives than the distant cousins she was handing most of them out to.
She had my mother so stressed out during this time that she nearly caused her to skip her own mother’s funeral just to avoid her. Instead I brought her to the funeral home before services, told the attendants there what was going on, and they allowed us to say our goodbyes without this horrendous distraction. We never went to the actual services. I was so out of it I didn’t even cry and I feel sort of bad about that as I was close to my gram. I feel she deserved some tears.
It was only two days later we found ourselves in the sleaziest of lawyers offices. My aunt had either forged a fraudulent will or coerced my gram to sign something she had no idea of what it was. It was a poorly written up will and testament giving almost everything over to my aunt who was by this time not in the best graces of my grandmother. Should my aunt die it gave control to her almost equally aggravating daughter, not to one of my grandmother’s other surviving children but to a grandchild she hardly ever saw and didn’t appear to have much of a relationship with. If this wasn’t enough of a glaring inconsistency the fact my grandmother’s will listed her as “single” was. She was widowed, not single, and would have never written it out in that way, ever. My aunt went around telling people it was my mother pushing us to deal with the estate only two days after the funeral which was out and out bullshitting.
As usual she ended up with anything she believed was of any monetary or emotional value. Some months later we were staying at my grandmother’s house (which was owned by all three living siblings until my mother could buy the other two out.) We were holding a bachelorette party for a friend and had all the usual accoutrements. She burst into the house to see what we were doing, accusing us of thievery. Our pet cockapoo who has never growled in his life snarled and lunged at her before she bolted into the living room where I was making a wedding gift. She tried talking to me. I just sat there looking down at my project knowing that if I looked into her eyes even for the scantest second I would leap up and start beating the shit out of her. She wouldn’t know what had hit her! All this from me, an extreme pacifist who has never wished to hurt anyone, and yet I knew I would if I looked up. I could feel it within myself, a silent intense homicidal rage. I was capable of murder that day. She stormed into one of the bedrooms still trying to figure out what was going on. It was there she found a box with all the decorations, props, and party gags… an assortment of hundreds of tiny plastic and paper penises. This apparently shocked and horrified her enough to get the hell out of there and fast. I was relieved.
As soon as the house thing was settled my aunt ditched her husband of over 20 years and left the state to live with another man with her new horses. It was if she was just waiting for her mother to die so she could flee into the life she wanted. She had tormented this man and after she left a funny thing happened. All my life I had known him as the town drunk but as soon as she left he sobered up overnight. He was a changed man! Still his new found freedom wasn’t to last. My aunt got cancer, refused treatment, and was now dying. Now she felt it’d be worth it to torment the man once more, guilting him to her deathbed so he could watch her die. This wasn’t all she did. Inflicting pain and misery on an old victim was great but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to cause more strife so she incited her daughter to start a FaceBook war with my mother. What was it over? Apparently she wanted to ban my mother from her own funeral! Even in death she could not release her hold over power. My mother never attended the funeral but it wasn’t because she was banned, it was because she felt no desire to say a meaningful goodbye to someone who had tormented her her entire life. My aunt remains the only person today that I feel deserved every long painful moment of suffering she felt before she died a wasting death. Since her I have come to pick up on sociopathic behaviors right quick and whenever I see any of them I run for the hills. I have an immense empathy for humanity in all its variations but I struggle to see sociopaths as even being human. I like to believe that my aunt was switched at birth in the hospital because to admit a genetic relation to that thing is most egregious.
In our world today psychopaths can climb the corporate latter like no one’s business, not because they are necessarily good at what they are doing job-wise, but because they have that superficial charm and manipulation that can make themselves look like great job prospects. Why allow your own weaknesses to bring you down when you can coyly blame it on others? Why compete with two other employees over a job opening when you can just pit the other two people against each other to make yourself look like gold? It’s pretty obvious the damage they can do… especially since they are often attracted to jobs of money and power. Wallstreet and banking threw us into a depression, was it because of sociopaths making their own interests and wealth of more concern than the economic health of the rest of the country? I think so. Also politicians can say whatever you want to hear but they too might only be operating for their own self-interests, especially if they’re already self-serving sociopaths and many voters are none the wiser, voting for them based on their glibness and charm and the way in which they can spin anything. All accusations of them just boomerang back to the accuser and hit them on the head, after all if they’ve done anything wrong it’s your fault, not theirs. Always. No exceptions. And if money isn’t their thing perhaps control is. I can think of no better place for this than to become a priest. With that job comes automatic authority and adoration of the people. A whole flock to manipulate for your own desires. Perfect. They are everywhere.
I, Psychopath (A documentary following a self-proclaimed psychopath)
If you found this article interesting you may want to tr reading others by Theophanes.
A Teenage Hypocrite's Speech on Teen Life (written years ago by a very young Theophanes. AWE.)
More by this Author:
Catching Marbles - A New England based travel blog
Tales from the Birdello - For all homesteading and farming matters
Deranged Thoughts from a Cluttered Mind - For funny personal anecdotes
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 27, 2020:
The startling thing: books and famous TV psychologists talk about these disorders, but more people don't seem to recognize psychopaths. Hopefully, your article sheds more light on this topic. I've encountered several of these sick individuals, and often, I stay clear of them if possible. Great information. Well written article.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 10, 2018:
Besarien: Yes, there is a lot of overlap between those disorders. Unlucky for me I got to learn that up close and personal with other people in my life. UGH. With that being said it is unfortunate. Although there isn't much anyone can do that doesn't excuse the bad behavior and the best any of us can do is RUN THE OTHER WAY when we notice these things happening around us!
Laura Arne: So sorry i must have missed your comment. I will definitely see what you have written! :)
Besarien from South Florida on February 09, 2018:
I am sorry you had one of these people in the family. From what I understand psychopaths really can't help themselves nor can they seek treatment because there is none that works.
I was struck by how much your aunt seems to have in common with someone suffering a classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They also tend to do well in business or politics BTW. Maybe these are really just two names describing the same condition? Or two separate disorders that often overlap?
Ultimately it doesn't matter. The best thing to do in any case is to distance yourself from them as far and often as possible.
Laura Arne from Minnetonka, MN on February 18, 2017:
Great write up of sociopath/psychopaths. I married one and could not figure out what the hell hit me. After 13 years I left. You should read my stories too. Great job. Now when I meet a socio or psychopth, I run the other way.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 15, 2017:
I am sorry to hear that Deborah, twenty years is an unbearably long time. Happy you are free of it now.
Deborah Reno from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on February 15, 2017:
Interesting article. I found myself married to a certifiable sociopath for about twenty years. It took me that long to plan an escape.
Thanks for writing.
Violet Dancy on January 15, 2017:
I must agree that Kyle J sounds like someone who hasn't had to deal with a sociopath.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 08, 2016:
You are entitled to that opinion as I am to mine, though you sound like someone who has never had to deal with a sociopath. I sincerely hope you never have to. I have had to deal with other mental illnesses in my inner circle and I have found saving graces in the individuals who suffered from them even when they did infuriating things. My aunt on the other hand.... nothing.
Kyle J. on February 01, 2016:
I think you wrote this with one eye open to psychological mainstays and one eye blinded by an inability to look beyond a disorder and see that it does not define someone to a totality. Your aunt sounds distasteful, truly detestable, but this comes across as a diatribe against a disordered person, and not the disorder itself.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on October 03, 2014:
Interesting article. Thank you for that.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on May 20, 2014:
Yes, she was... a horrible person. My mother's contact with her was very minimal in adulthood although she felt her bad feelings shouldn't interfere with me having a relationship with her as a child so I did interact with her before the age of 12 when I too cut off nearly all contact with her. Having to deal with her at my gram's funeral was almost too much to bear. And now in my own adulthood it's been me who has educated my mother on why my aunt was the way she was - psychopathy! I think this has given her comfort - she says the only thing she ever wanted from her sister was an answer. "Why? Why did you treat me like shit all these years?" When she got cancer she didn't even tell my mother, had to hear it through the grapevine. She took this answer and many others to the grave with her.
There are a lot of others in my family who just don't see it the same way. They admit she did a lot of shit things, but she's family... and blood is thicker than water, right? Plus she was part of the church, the church my mother permanently defected from and left making herself an outsider, a black sheep, an easy target for hostilities. Some still feel the things she did was really for their benefit like she'd often say it was. And since she was never officially diagnosed with any personality or mental disorders it's not like we could point to that and say, "Seeee! I told you she was off!" Though I must admit other people in town, the horse people, family friends... all of them eventually avoided her like the plague. The new boyfriend she got after my gram's funeral didn't even last her until her own death two years later. That's saying something....
Thank you for commenting! Hopefully some of this can be a real eye opener to someone. :)
Suzie from Carson City on May 20, 2014:
Theo.......Pretty horrifying old bag, your Aunt was. I have a difficult time trying to understand why everyone didn't simply ignore and avoid her at all times. Refuse to interact with her or even acknowledge her existence.
I know for certain, I surely would have kept far away from her, any way I could and most of my family would not put up with the likes of her for one moment!
Bless you all!....UP+++
Luvtoo Write from Chicago, IL on February 21, 2014:
You have my sympathies. No one should have to go through this at the hands of another. A first, I had the impression that she was a sociopath, but after I finished reading the article, I am convinced the woman was definitely leaning towards psychopathic behavior.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on February 08, 2013:
The family can be the most maddening part of all. My mother and myself never understood why no one seemed to see my aunt for who she really was - a lying, cheating, manipulative SOB. I gave my mother a documentary to watch called I, Psychopath (which I will attach to the bottom of this article seeing as I can't post links in the comment section anymore) and that seemed to help her a bit, although she was never able to get anyone else to understand. It's all in the past now but I feel for anyone going through this. I used to think sociopathy was something that arose from neglect and childhood torment but my aunt lived the same childhood her four siblings did and none of them were even remotely sociopathic. they grew up in poverty and had their challenges but as far as I know none of them were particularly abused. I have to concede it might just be a glitch of genetics, which to me makes it all the worse!
I will wish you the best of luck. It'll be difficult but you do need to get that person 100% out of your life. No good will come of it keeping him in there. I usually don't tell family members to give up on each other in such a fashion but in cases of psychopathy it's the healthiest option.
Thank you for commenting!
Sphinxs Sanctum from Southern United States on February 07, 2013:
I am beyond certain that I have a psychopath, sociopathic personality, Antisocial personality disordered, A-Hole in my family as well! His cunning & charm have been manipulating my family for as long as I've been alive & the behaviors & misdeeds have now reached a boiling point that I'm battling; alone. They've all seen him beat multiple women, use his young son to deal drugs & lie to police, yet the denial that is soo pervasive in my family in regards to this sick-twist is allowing him to continue & flourish, keeping control over everyone. Everyone except me that is, which is why I've had my truck keyed & a tire destroyed in the last 2 months! Anyhow, I enjoyed reading your story. Not the pain that you & your family suffered but the story of how it unfolded was well written & it helps me to see that there are a great many families out there dealing with Sociopathic members.
Wish me luck in my battle to save my Grandfather from his little Psychopath! I wrote a poem/hub about it called: Disruptive Entries Not Invited or Accepted please Leave. (Denial)
Voted UP & Useful!
moonlake from America on August 25, 2012:
I guess we've all met psychopaths at one time or another or have them in the family. Interesting story. I wonder where your aunt is now I bet I can guess. Voted UP.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on August 25, 2012:
Oh don't be sorry, I find it flattering I can evoke emotional reactions with my writing. Granted most of my hubs are more on the interesting or funny side rather than the knee jerk side. :)
hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on August 25, 2012:
Oh sorry! It was a very interesting hub; I guess that was my knee jerk reaction to it. It's good to know that there are those types of people out there, and you definitely should share your story! Voted up.
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on August 25, 2012:
Yes, well I seem to be a magnet for people with personality disorders... had another just delightfully fun episode with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. That was actually scary at points and I have other stories about other peachy individuals as well. In any event I felt I could write this without too much problem since my aunt had already died. I hope it helps someone realize some things. Sociopaths are TOXIC individuals and we're all better off without them.
I had never heard of Alexithymia. I'll have to go check it out now! Thanks for the comment and the new subject to learn about.
Daniel M. Appel from Philadelphia, PA on August 25, 2012:
Thank you for sharing your experience. It is very frightening that many of the people running the world have no ability to empathize and no regard for the emotion of others. If the statistics on Psychopaths and Sociopaths weren't frightening enough, there are other disorders like Alexithymia and Narcissistic Personality Disorder that are also prevalent. Alexithymia is the inability to experience emotion subjectively. Many of these disorders result from unusual wiring or lack of development in the Prefrontal Cortex and neurotransmitter imbalances in the Limbic System. Because the diagnosis of Psychopath is technically a personality disorder, there are very few good methods of treatment. Scary stuff, but thank you for spreading awareness!
Theophanes Avery (author) from New England on August 25, 2012:
Well as long as you can take something from my story I guess it's all good. Sorry for the discomfort!
hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on August 24, 2012:
Holy...crap. I'm so sorry that this monster was in your life. I felt physically ill just reading about it. The human mind is such a mystery, sometimes a horrific one. Wow.