He’s our favorite spy, played by seven actors over 26 films notably, the late great Sean Connery.  But is James Bond a psychopath? 

Maybe.  Ian Fleming’s swashbuckling secret agent is supposedly based on British WWII spy Forest “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas, known to Nazis as the “White Rabbit.”  Like Bond, he was known for his daring, ruthless exploits and ability to seduce beautiful women.  Both Yeo-Thomas and his fictional counterpart, 007, would rank high on the trait known as “fearless dominance,” a hallmark of the successful psychopath.

There may be a fine line between a hero and a psychopath in real life.  Whether in wartime or everyday life (say, the guy who leaps onto the subway tracks to save someone who fell), heroes are often bold, impulsive, yet cool under pressure.  Stirred (to action), but not shaken, like Bond’s martinis.  Bond killed without hesitation or regret.  If he weren’t doing so in the name of king and country, what would we call him? 

What are Successful Psychopathic Personality Traits?

A successful psychopath may end up at the top of his profession, instead of in a jail cell.  Like the anti-social personality disorder psychopath, he is charming, charismatic, cool, fearless, ruthless, and callous.  He’s devoid of guilt and empathy.  But the successful psychopath learns to control his destructive impulses and channel them into more socially acceptable outlets (making a killing on Wall Street, ala Gordon Gecko, or running for high office, like…well, a number of famous people).   

Anti-Social Characteristics of a Psychopath

When they do behave in anti-social ways, successful psychopaths manage to escape detection.  Consider another fictional character – Dexter, the hero of Jeff Lindsay’s best-selling novels and the popular TV series.  By day a crime scene technician, Dexter is a serial killer by night.  But a sympathetic one.  Besides possessing the psychopath’s glib charm, Dexter channels the violent impulses of his inner “Dark Passenger.”  Following the code he learned from his cop foster-father, he kills only killers (and gruesomely).  In turn, Dexter imparts his code of ethics to his own stepkids, a pair of budding psychopath kids.  Fiction, yes, but the Dexter story is supported by research showing that positive parenting can serve as a buffer, decreasing antisocial behavior in at-risk kids.

The Psychopath Career List

Other than in fiction, you may be wondering where to find successful psychopaths.  Lots of places, it turns out.  For instance, which of the following professions would you guess makes the top ten psychopath career list?

Lawyer?  Surgeon?  Clergy?  Chef? 

All of the above?  Bingo!  

Each made the psychopath career list of those most popular with psychopaths All those lawyer jokes started for a reason (the stereotype of the lying, cheating, money-grubbing attorney).  Lawyers rank second only to CEO’s in having psychopaths among their ranks. 

Chefs?  They are notoriously tyrannical, driven, and self-important (ever catch some of those contestants on Chopped?)  As for clergy, consider the child sex abuse scandal and cover-up, or just about any televangelist you can think of.  And surgery is a specialty that allows you to coolly eviscerate people.  No wonder it attracts some pretty abusive and arrogant folks (picture Alec Baldwin’s grandiose surgeon character in Malice).  

So remember, it’s the failed psychopaths who land in jail (like Hannibal Lecter from the best psychological thriller movies, “The Silence of the Lambs”).  The smart, successful psychopaths may be all around us.  Or even us


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