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What Vulnerability Looks Like to Psychopaths, Monks and the Rest of Us

Ironically, both psychopaths and Tibetan monks detect deep emotions that are invisible to others.  Psychopaths are much better at recognizing “those telltale signs in the gait of traumatized assault victims” notes The Wisdom of Psychopaths author, Kevin Dutton.

Tibetan monks, steeped in meditative practice, are also especially adept at reading feelings that are hidden from the rest of us, Paul Ekman discovered. Ekman, is the preeminent expert on lying and on the six universally expressed emotions in the face — anger, sadness, happiness, fear, disgust and surprise.

Scarily, psychopaths score especially high on the Hare Self-Report Scale of psychopathy in seeing those core expressions, especially the ones that make us most vulnerable, fear and sadness, according to Sabrina Demetrioff.

Another astounding finding was that, in lab tests, a Tibetan monk had no startle reflex reaction to “a gun being fired just centimeters away from the ear: the maximal threshold of human acoustical tolerance,” reports Dutton. Ekman, and his co-researchers, Robert Levenson and Richard Davidson, concluded, according to Dutton, that “practicing a relaxed state of mind” is conducive to “keeping a cool head at one time or another.”

Yet it appears that psychopaths don’t need that meditative practice to stay calm under pressure and or to be inordinately observant, especially of weaknesses in others.

Psychopaths feel little or none of the arousal reactions (heart beat, sweat, blood pressure, etc.) that others have when viewing “a series of horrific, nauseating and erotic images,” found Dutton. Like the monks, psychopaths have greater self-mastery of their emotions. Unlike the monks, however, they seem to be born with this capacity to not feel nor react. They don’t need to practice.

That may not be the most surprising conclusion from Dutton’s book however. See the rest of my post at my Connected and Quotable column on Forbes.

Categories: behavior, Book, Caring, Conflict, Connecting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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