At some point in our lives, most of us have spent time with another human being, who at first seemed quite lovely and breath-taking, but later wanted to take our breaths away literally. While there might be some sort of attraction to said person or a deep case of sympathy, someone who is genuinely frightened or concerned by their significant other would make the hard choice of walking away. However, for those of us who were not the "psychopaths", we might've made the worst decision ever. Why? Well, you'll have to continue reading. You might just be surprised by what follows.
The problem with a psychopath (not just the person you call crazy, but the person you truly believe is crazy by factual evidence) is that there's a real lack of empathy. For instance, a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend might "wig out", as it were, over an unanswered phone call.
A true psychopath in this instance would seek immediate gratification and, consequently, seek retribution if the call went unanswered.
The person in the relationship who ignores the phone call or leaves it unanswered might have a good reason for doing so. A severe lack of empathy, though, might lead to a violent argument or some sort of revenge before both people can see eye-to-eye. In other words, one person might understand the frustration behind an unanswered call, but the caller might not understand or even have the capacity to understand why the call was unanswered to begin with.
As I mentioned before, most of us have been in such a relationship. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, you're quite lucky, but I would suggest finishing out this post just for future reference (god forbid).
Our natural instinct in the facetious example above or in a real-life encounter with a true psychopath is to run away as fast and as far as possible. Now then, the same person we're running away from might have a special gift we're not seeing. Take the following example from Cambridge psychologist Dr. Kevin Dutton:
You can read the deep psychological argument in Dr. Dutton's book or through this snippet, but in short, the average human being would have a real emotional dilemma. See, most of us would experience the deepest sense of empathy we'd ever encounter in our lives. Personally, I would have a hard time pushing the fat guy off of the bridge, knowing he would die, to save those on the train.
A psychopath, on the other hand, wouldn't hesitate They might even enjoy throwing the fat guy off of the bridge and towards the train. Their intentions might not be to save those on the train, and could quite possibly be for some sort of demented gratification, but nevertheless, they can make the toughest decision.
When we're on the train and trying to save the other five people, flipping the switch to change tracks would be a difficult, but not as difficult, choice to make. Most of us can be utilitarians in this case.
Now put yourself on a bridge next to the fat guy who can stop the train, and you might have a hard time making the least-worst choice. But a psychopath, who we would normally consider an antagonist sooner than a hero, could save the day.
In summary, the ex- you run away from might be the person you need to make the right decision. There's nothing truly emotional about such a decision, and that's why they're the right person. The point of showing you both facetious and plausible examples if for two reasons:
1.) This idea is fascinating to me, so I hope it's fascinating to you.
2.) This is a great concept for creating fictional characters.
In No-Injury Policy, for example, I tend to use anti-heroes and psychopaths to save the day. In some of the stories, the psychopath isn't looking to be a hero, but they make the toughest of choices. I strongly encourage other writers to utilize heroes who aren't normally heroes and for readers to indulge themselves in stories that aren't exploiting the same ol' protagonists and antagonists. For real-life use, though, maybe it's a good idea to step away from the psycho ex-, while staying on good terms in case you're ever one of the people on the train.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.