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Not So Rare: Combination Personalities - Excerpt From 'Dangerous Personalities'

Not So Rare: Combination Personalities - Excerpt From 'Dangerous Personalities'
Photo of Amazon web site presenting the book Dangerous Personalities.

By    |   Monday, 15 December 2014 08:20 PM

Excerpt reprinted from the book Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People by Joe Navarro & Toni Sciarra Poynter

From the Dangerous Personalities Checklist, you've learned important essentials about how to be alert to dangerous personalities: Observe the persons in question and note their behaviors, the things they say, how they make us feel, what's known about their past, and what others who've interacted with them have experienced and noted. As we'll discuss later on, this is part of doing due diligence: objectively assessing what you and others observe, looking for significant indicators that someone may be toxic, unstable, or dangerous. This is our responsibility, and it's both wise and judicious.

Now let's expand on this foundation by seeing whether the information we gather might be placed in more than one of the four Dangerous Personalities Checklists. In this way, we'll gain a better sense of the individual's personality type and his or her potential for danger.

For instance, suppose we note that Harry talks and acts as if he thinks he's really somebody special. That characteristic potentially fits in three checklists: the narcissistic personality, the paranoid personality, and the predator. But this is just one behavior. So we carefully continue to collect information (How does he treat us? How does he make us feel? What specific behaviors do we see?), and we place those actions or behaviors in the specific checklist that applies.

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Let's say we also note that Harry displays a need to control others and he has a nasty habit of being vindictive. These added behaviors narrow down his personality type further, and over time we may see a preponderance of features that fit the checklist for the paranoid personality as well as the checklist for the predator.

If, through enough interaction with him or through your observations, you eventually find that this fictional Harry has, let's say, 45 or more behavioral characteristics in each of two of the Dangerous Personalities Checklists, this is significant. A person who scores this high on the paranoid personality checklist and the predator checklist can be not just nasty but downright dangerous.

The key to a more complete picture is not to try to pigeonhole someone from the beginning, but rather to let the behaviors speak for themselves. Otherwise, you might find yourself blinded to important information--something that can happen even to professionals. And so as I have said from the beginning, we focus on behaviors, not on statistics or probabilities, and we allocate behaviors to the Dangerous Personalities Checklists wherever they may apply.

Suppose we meet someone who's charming, highly confident, and full of grand ideas and plans but who has accomplished little--and we quickly decide that he fits the narcissistic personality category. Okay, now let's step back and assess that decision for a moment. He may indeed have those characteristics, but slotting him too quickly into a single category may mean that we stop being alert to other information--such as his sudden appearance in town, his apparent lack of verifiable work history and credentials, his transient lifestyle, and his lack of discernible income--all things that fit the predator checklist and could point to a personality with the potential to do serious harm. It's that kind of mistake we want to avoid. It's what pilots call target fixation: They get so focused on one target that they miss all the other targets nearby, or they're so fixated on a particular task, landmark, or issue that they plow straight into a mountain.

There are, of course, all sorts of possible combinations among the four dangerous personality types. For instance, you can have someone who's highly intelligent but who is paranoid and narcissistic. Look at the behavior of John McAfee (founder of McAfee, Inc., the world's largest antivirus software company) in Belize; one wonders, is that what we're seeing? Someone who moves to a foreign country and, according to one interview, felt the necessity to clean up the place as if the gods had anointed him to that responsibility--that is a characteristic of narcissism. But he also irrationally feared the national police force and his neighbors--that is a common trait of paranoia. So we may be looking at narcissism and paranoia, but we can't be sure because we don't have all the facts. So we collect information and place it where it belongs in the Dangerous Personalities Checklist that applies, and we add to each list as information becomes available.

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Eventually, we begin to get a sense of who this individual is, based on his behaviors. Maybe a little of this, maybe more of that at this time, recognizing that the mix may change and vary because we're dealing with characteristics that apply to more than one personality type--we are, after all, dealing with humans. They may be more grandiose and self-centered one day, while another day, they display more of the characteristics of a predator. That is what makes humans interesting to study: We act upon life, and life acts upon us. We are never rigidly in one place, and neither are dangerous personalities.

Does it matter which personality traits are strongest? Yes and no--it depends on the individual person and that person's traits. But keep in mind that we're not criminal profilers or researchers; we are merely interested in determining how dangerous this person really is. So if someone scores high (above 50) on two or more Dangerous Personalities Checklists, determining precisely which pathology is more prominent isn't essential compared to realizing that a critical threshold has been crossed, and we can say that this person is likely to be very toxic, very unstable, or even dangerous and a threat to you.

For example, someone who's highly unstable emotionally and highly paranoid is an extremely difficult person to live with: forever suspicious and lashing out with fearsome regularity. Whether the paranoia or the instability is driving the outbursts is less important than securing your safety.

A woman I'll call Amanda wrote me that her husband initially displayed "little quirks," as she called them. He'd lash out sometimes, especially if he'd had a bad day. Over the years, according to her, both the instability and the paranoia increased, for no reason at all. He became so hypersuspicious that he'd search her mobile phone for activity and would even check the message pad at home for latent indentations by rubbing a pencil across the surface to see what messages she had written down. Eventually he became "unbearable," especially when the violence toward her escalated from pushing to shoving to slapping to choking. Yes, choking.

So what was the predominant feature here--the unstable emotional side or the paranoid side? It's an intriguing question, and one that a researcher or a therapist might find of interest. But I can tell you this: Amanda didn't care, and neither do I--nor should you. We don't live in a laboratory where we can safely experiment, leisurely debate, or validate with absolute precision. We live in a world where spousal abuse is rampant, children disappear and are raped or killed, personal safety is an issue, time is of the essence, and our decisions need to be made quickly in the moment, based on what little information is available to us. In essence, we want to be accurate without having to be perfectly precise. If we have to wait to be perfectly precise, it may be too late.

Just as Amanda had to deal with her present reality of abuse and, as she described it, "the craziness" of her immediate situation, so we must deal with our own reality. Amanda's role became one of survival, not one of metrics, measurements, and experimentation. Her immediate concern was not "Is my husband 80 percent of this or 20 percent of that?" Leave such analysis to others, if they so desire. The most important question for you, as it was for her, was: Am I in danger? That is the sole purpose of this book and where the Dangerous Personalities Checklists will help.

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As you do your due diligence, remember that all of these personality types reside on a broad spectrum that goes from light to dark, low to high, irritating to impossible, difficult to toxic and even dangerous--and that their place on this spectrum can vary depending on circumstances, life stressors, opportunities, or moods. One way to think about this is to imagine a radio. Play it softly and the music may be almost unnoticeable. Turn it up slightly and you can hear the music more clearly. Turn it up loud and it becomes annoying; even louder and it's painful and almost intolerable to your ears. Turn it to maximum volume and you may damage your eardrum--it is, in fact, dangerous. That's one way to consider these dangerous personalities: How high is the volume right now? Down low, showing few signs? In the middle, annoying or irritating us? Or turned up high where they're dangerous to our well-being--a risk to our health?

But to hear anything, you have to tune in. It bears repeating: Most people who are toxic or dangerous live under the radar, mostly undetected, with limited or no contact with law enforcement and even less with clinicians. Usually, friends and family, lacking any road map for deciphering dangerous personalities, are clueless, don't know what to look for, or are biased in their favor. For example, when asked, a friend of Timothy McVeigh said, "If you don't consider what happened in Oklahoma City, Tim is a good person." And that says it all. There are people who refuse to see what is in front of them, or they're so biased as to be blind. Dangerous personalities thrive in that environment. In the end, there are two truths that you need to keep in mind about all dangerous personalities: We see only what we are prepared to see, and most people will mask who they really are.

From doing both criminal profiling and behavioral profiling on national security matters for the FBI, I know that personality types can be challenging to study, especially when dealing with someone who's a complex mixture of two or more personality types. This is where the Dangerous Personalities Checklists will be most useful, helping you to decipher what traits stand out, in which personality type, so you can more precisely understand whom you are really dealing with.

Excerpt reprinted from the book Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People by Joe Navarro & Toni Sciarra Poynter. Copyright (c) 2014 by Joe Navarro. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

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Former FBI profiler explains how anyone can identify personality types and protect themselves from predators Dangerous people are hiding in plain sight but people are reluctant to speak up even when someone seems “off” or “threatening.”
dangerous personalities, fbi profiler, joe navarro, toni sciarra poynter
Monday, 15 December 2014 08:20 PM
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