I’m a six

Published 10:59 am Saturday, November 9, 2013

Earlier this past week, I came across an article that put me in my place. As I long suspected, I could be a psychopath. That idea’s a touch unsettling to me.

More specifically, I found online stories that have referred to and quoted from psychologist and author Kevin Dutton and his book, “The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.”

Oh, let me digress for a moment to state this column is not an endorsement. I’ve neither met the man nor read the book.

What stands out for me in those articles is the psychologist’s finding that the following careers seem to attract the most psychopaths:

1. Chief executive officer

2. Lawyer

3. Media (Television/Radio)

4. Salesperson

5. Surgeon

6. Journalist

7. Police officer

8. Clergy person

9. Chef

10. Civil servants

So now you see the reason for both my headline and slight concern. First, I work in a profession that’s included on this list. Second, it’s in sixth place. How do those people in TV and radio merit a higher rating?

Like most of you, I tend to think of psychopaths in quite a negative way. My edition of The American Heritage College Dictionary describes them as people “with an antisocial personality disorder, especially one manifested in aggressive, perverted, or criminal behavior.”

Dutton, however, reportedly eschews the one-phrase definition. Instead, he notes that such people have qualities useful to their line of work. Having a strong ego, being manipulative and lacking empathy are some examples. Which, when you think about it as you watch television programs such as “CSI,” “Grey’s Anatomy” or “The Food Network,” makes sense. The characters in those related professions need said characteristics to get the job done. The same could be said of journalists.

Personally, I don’t think I have such an overwhelming ego, but I have been called out in the office as devious. Nor am I immune from people’s distress. Yet, I have long said before my blood runs a little cooler than most folks I know. Perhaps that comes more from a distaste for too much sentimentality rather than indifference.

Naturally, there’s Dutton’s list of jobs where psychopaths are not as likely to be found, but that could be a column for another time.

So while I’ve got a place in the world – at least in Dutton’s view – you’ll never see me laughing maniacally as I wave a butcher knife or pistol at some one. For one thing, that’s too much mess to clean up. For another, I don’t need such weaponry when there’s already a keyboard and monitor before me on my office desk. There’s where you’ll find me laughing maniacally as with a series of keystrokes I write my stories and columns.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is the staff writer at The Tidewater News. He’s never been committed to an asylum (that we know of). He can be contacted at either 562-3187 or stephen.cowles@tidewaternews.com.