Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
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Eric Harris: Personality Profile
Eric Harris’s personality, as inferred from his writing, is consistent with the syndrome described by Otto Kernberg (1984) as malignant narcissism. The core components of this syndrome are pathological narcissism, antisocial features, paranoid traits, and unconstrained aggression. More narrowly construed, Eric Harris matches Theodore Millon’s (1996) description of the malevolent antisocial.
Primary Pattern: Sadistic
The Dominant pattern, as do all personality patterns, occurs on a continuum ranging from normal to maladaptive. At the well-adjusted pole are strong-willed, commanding, assertive personalities. Slightly exaggerated Dominant features occur in forceful, intimidating, controlling personalities. In its most deeply ingrained, inflexible form, the Dominant pattern displays itself in domineering, belligerent, aggressive behavior patterns that may be consistent with a clinical diagnosis of sadistic personality disorder.
Millon’s personality patterns have predictable, reliable, observable psychological indicators (expressive behavior, interpersonal conduct, cognitive style, mood/temperament, self-image, regulatory mechanisms, object representations, and morphologic organization). The diagnostic features of the Dominant pattern with respect to each of Millon’s eight attribute domains are summarized below.
Expressive behavior. The core diagnostic feature of the expressive acts of Dominant individuals is assertiveness; they are tough, strong-willed, outspoken, competitive, and unsentimental. More exaggerated variants of the Dominant pattern are characteristically forceful; they are controlling, contentious, and at times overbearing, their power-oriented tendencies being evident in occasional intransigence, stubbornness, and coercive behaviors. When they feel strongly about something, these individuals can be quite blunt, brusque, and impatient, with sudden, abrupt outbursts of an unwarranted or precipitous nature. The most extreme variants of this pattern are aggressive; they are intimidating, domineering, argumentative, and precipitously belligerent. They derive pleasure from humiliating others and can be quite malicious. For this reason, people often shy away from these personalities, sensing them to be cold, callous, and insensitive to the feelings of others. All variants of this pattern tend to view tender emotions as a sign of weakness, avoid expressions of warmth and intimacy, and are suspicious of gentility, compassion, and kindness. Many insist on being seen as faultless; however, they invariably are inflexible and dogmatic, rarely concede on any issue, even in the face of evidence negating the validity of their position. They have a low frustration threshold and are especially sensitive to reproach or deprecation. When pushed on personal matters, they can become furious and are likely to respond reflexively and often vindictively, especially when feeling humiliated or belittled. Thus, they are easily provoked to attack, their first inclination being to dominate and demean their adversaries. (Millon, 1996, pp. 483, 487)
Interpersonal conduct. The core diagnostic feature of the interpersonal conduct of Dominant individuals is their commanding presence; they are powerful, authoritative, directive, and persuasive. More exaggerated variants of the Dominant pattern are characteristically intimidating; they tend to be abrasive, contentious, coercive, and combative, often dictate to others, and are willing and able to humiliate others to evoke compliance. Their strategy of assertion and dominance has an important instrumental purpose in interpersonal relations, as most people are intimidated by hostility, sarcasm, criticism, and threats. Thus, these personalities are adept at having their way by browbeating others into respect and submission. The most extreme variants of this pattern are belligerent; they reveal satisfaction in intimidating, coercing, and humiliating others. Individuals with all gradations of this pattern frequently find a successful niche for themselves in roles where hostile and belligerent behaviors are socially sanctioned or admired, thus providing an outlet for vengeful hostility cloaked in the guise of social responsibility. (Millon, 1996, p. 484; Millon & Everly, 1985, p. 32)
Cognitive style. The core diagnostic feature of the cognitive style of Dominant individuals is its opinionated nature; they are outspoken, emphatic, and adamant, holding strong beliefs that they vigorously defend. More exaggerated variants of the Dominant pattern tend to be dogmatic; they are inflexible and closed‑minded, lacking objectivity and clinging obstinately to preconceived ideas, beliefs, and values. The most extreme variants of this pattern are narrow-mindedly bigoted; they are socially intolerant and inherently prejudiced, especially toward envied or derogated social groups. Some of these individuals have a crude, callous exterior and seem coarsely unperceptive. This notwithstanding, all variants of this pattern are finely attuned to the subtle elements of human interaction, keenly aware of the moods and feelings of others, and skilled at using others’ foibles and sensitivities to manipulate them for their own purposes. The more extreme variants of this pattern, in particular, are quick to turn another’s perceived weaknesses to their own advantage — often in an intentionally callous manner — by upsetting the other’s equilibrium in their quest to dominate and control. (Millon, 1996, pp. 484–485)
Mood/temperament. The core diagnostic feature of the characteristic mood and temperament of Dominant individuals is irritability; they have an excitable temper that they may at times find difficult to control. More exaggerated variants of the Dominant pattern tend to be cold and unfriendly; they are disinclined to experience and express tender feelings, and have a volatile temper that flares readily into contentious argument and physical belligerence. The most extreme variants of this pattern evince pervasive hostility and anger; they are fractious, mean-spirited, and malicious, with callous disregard for the rights of others. Their volcanic temper seems perpetually primed to erupt, sometimes into physical belligerence. More than any other personality type, people with this extreme variant of the Dominant pattern are willing to do harm and persecute others if necessary to have their way. All variants of this pattern are prone to anger and to a greater or lesser extent deficient in the capacity to share warm or tender feelings, to experience genuine affection and love for another, or to empathize with the needs of others. (Millon, 1996, p. 486; Millon & Everly, 1985, p. 32)
Self‑image. The core diagnostic feature of the self-image of Dominant individuals is that they view themselves as assertive; they perceive themselves as forthright, unsentimental, and bold. More exaggerated variants of the Dominant pattern recognize their fundamentally competitive nature; they are strong-willed, energetic, and commanding, and may take pride in describing themselves as tough and realistically hardheaded. More exaggerated variants of the Dominant pattern perceive themselves as powerful; they are combative, viewing themselves as self-reliant, unyielding, and strong—hard-boiled, perhaps, but unflinching, honest, and realistic. They seem proud to characterize themselves as competitive, vigorous, and militantly hardheaded, which is consistent of their “dog-eat-dog” view of the world. Though more extreme variants may enhance their sense of self by overvaluing aspects of themselves that present a pugnacious, domineering, and power-oriented image, it is rare for these personalities to acknowledge malicious or vindictive motives. Thus, hostile behavior on their part is typically framed in prosocial terms, which enhances their sense of self. (Millon, 1996, p. 485; Millon & Everly, 1985, p. 32)
Regulatory mechanisms. The core diagnostic feature of the regulatory (i.e., ego-defense) mechanisms of highly Dominant individuals is isolation; they are able to detach themselves emotionally from the impact of their aggressive acts upon others. In some situations, these personalities may have learned that there are times when it is best to restrain and transmute their more aggressive thoughts and feelings. Thus, they may soften and redirect their hostility, typically by employing the mechanisms of rationalization, sublimation, and projection, all of which lend themselves in some fashion to finding plausible and socially acceptable excuses for less than admirable impulses and actions. Thus, blunt directness may be rationalized as signifying frankness and honesty, a lack of hypocrisy, and a willingness to face issues head on. On the longer term, socially sanctioned resolution (i.e., sublimation) of hostile urges is seen in the competitive occupations to which these aggressive personalities gravitate. Finally, these personalities may preempt the disapproval they anticipate from others by projecting their hostility onto them, thereby justifying their aggressive actions as mere counteraction to unjust persecution. Individuals with extreme, malignant variations of this pattern may engage in group scapegoating, viewing the objects of their violations impersonally as despised symbols of a devalued people, empty of dignity and deserving degradation. (Millon, 1996, pp. 485–486)
Object representations. The core diagnostic feature of the internalized object representations of highly Dominant individuals is their pernicious nature. Characteristically, there is a marked paucity of tender and sentimental objects, and an underdevelopment of images that activate feelings of shame or guilt. For individuals with extreme, malignant variations of this pattern, the inner imprint of significant early experiences that serves as a substrate of dispositions (i.e., templates) for perceiving and reacting to current life events, are composed of aggressive feelings and memories, and images comprising harsh relationships and malicious attitudes. Consequently, their life experience is recast to reflect the expectancy of hostility and the need to preempt it. These dynamics undergird a “jungle philosophy” of life where the only perceived recourse is to act in a bold, critical, assertive, and ruthless manner. Of particular note, the more extreme variants of this pattern are imbued with a harsh, antihumanistic disposition. Some are adept at pointing out the hypocrisy and ineffectuality of so-called “do-gooders.” Others justify their toughness and cunning by pointing to the hostile and exploitative behavior of others; to them, the only way to survive in this world is to dominate and control. (Millon, 1996, p. 485)
Morphologic organization. The core diagnostic feature of the morphologic organization of highly Dominant individuals is its eruptiveness; powerful energies are so forceful that they periodically overwhelm these personalities’ otherwise adequate modulating controls, defense operations, and expressive channels, resulting in the harsh behavior commonly seen in these personalities. This tendency is exacerbated by the unrestrained expression of intense and explosive emotions stemming from early life experiences. Moreover, these personalities dread the thought of being vulnerable, of being deceived, and of being humiliated. Viewing people as basically ruthless, these personalities are driven to gain power over others, to dominate them and outmaneuver or outfox them at their own game. Personal feelings are regarded as a sign of weakness and dismissed as mere maudlin sentimentality. (Millon, 1996, p. 486)
Secondary Pattern: Narcissistic
The Ambitious pattern, as do all personality patterns, occurs on a continuum ranging from normal to maladaptive. At the well-adjusted pole are confident, socially poised, assertive personalities. Slightly exaggerated Ambitious features occur in personalities that are sometimes perceived as self-promoting, overconfident, or arrogant. In its most deeply ingrained, inflexible form, the Ambitious pattern manifests itself in extreme self-absorption or exploitative behavior patterns that may be consistent with a clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
Millon’s personality patterns have well-established diagnostic indicators associated with each of the eight attribute domains of expressive behavior, interpersonal conduct, cognitive style, mood/temperament, self-image, regulatory mechanisms, object-representations, and morphologic organization. The major diagnostic features of the Ambitious pattern are summarized below.
Expressive behavior. The core diagnostic feature of the expressive acts of Ambitious individuals is their confidence; they are socially poised, self-assured, and self-confident, conveying an air of calm, untroubled self-assurance. More exaggerated variants of the Ambitious pattern tend to act in a conceited manner, their natural self-assurance shading into supreme self-confidence, hubris, immodesty, or presumptuousness. They are self-promoting and may display an inflated sense of self‑importance. They typically have a superior, supercilious, imperious, haughty, disdainful manner. Characteristically, though usually unwittingly, they exploit others, take them for granted, and frequently act as though entitled. The most extreme variants of this pattern are arrogant; they are self-serving, reveal a self-important indifference to the rights of others, and are manipulative and lacking in integrity. They commonly flout conventional rules of shared social living, which they view as naive or inapplicable to themselves. All variants of this pattern are to some degree self-centered and lacking in generosity and social reciprocity. (Millon, 1996, p. 405; Millon & Everly, 1985, pp. 32, 39)
Interpersonal conduct. The core diagnostic feature of the interpersonal conduct of Ambitious individuals is their assertiveness; they stand their ground and are tough, competitive, persuasive, hardnosed, and shrewd. More exaggerated variants of the Ambitious pattern are entitled; they lack genuine empathy and expect favors without assuming reciprocal responsibilities. The most extreme variants of this pattern are exploitative; they shamelessly take others for granted and manipulate and use them to indulge their desires, enhance themselves, or advance their personal agenda, yet contributing little or nothing in return. Ironically, the sheer audacity of all variants of this pattern, rather than being clearly seen for what it is — impertinence, impudence, or sheer gall — often conveys confidence and authority and evokes admiration and obedience from others. Indeed, these personalities are skilled at sizing up those around them and conditioning those so disposed to adulate, glorify, and serve them. (Millon, 1996, pp. 405–406; Millon & Everly, 1985, pp. 32, 39)
Cognitive style. The core diagnostic feature of the cognitive style of Ambitious individuals is their imaginativeness; they are inventive, innovative, and resourceful, and ardently believe in their own efficacy. More exaggerated variants of the Ambitious pattern are cognitively expansive; they display extraordinary confidence in their own ideas and potential for success and redeem themselves by taking liberty with facts or distorting the truth. The most extreme variants of this pattern are cognitively unconstrained; they are preoccupied with self-glorifying fantasies of accomplishment or fame, are little constrained by objective reality or cautionary feedback, and deprecate competitors or detractors in their quest for glory. All variants of this pattern to some degree harbor fantasies of success or rationalize their failures; thus, they tend to exaggerate their achievements, transform failures into successes, construct lengthy and intricate justifications that inflate their self-worth, and quickly deprecate those who refuse to bend to or enhance their admirable sense of self. (Millon, 1996, p. 406; Millon & Everly, 1985, pp. 32, 39)
Mood/temperament. The core diagnostic feature of the characteristic mood and temperament of Ambitious individuals is their social poise; they are self-composed, serene, and optimistic, and are typically imperturbable, unruffled, and cool and levelheaded under pressure. More exaggerated variants of the Ambitious pattern are insouciant; they manifest a general air of nonchalance, imperturbability, or feigned tranquility. They characteristically appear coolly unimpressionable or buoyantly optimistic, except when their narcissistic confidence is shaken, at which time either rage, shame, or emptiness is briefly displayed. The most extreme variants of this pattern are exuberant; they experience a pervasive sense of emotional well-being in their everyday life — a buoyancy of spirit and an optimism of outlook — except when their sense of superiority is punctured. When emotionally deflated, their air of nonchalance and imperturbability quickly turns to edgy irritability and annoyance. Under more trying circumstances, sham serenity may turn to feelings of emptiness and humiliation, sometimes with vacillating episodes of rage, shame, and dejection. All variants of this pattern to some degree convey a self-satisfied smugness, yet are easily angered when criticized, obstructed, or crossed. (Millon, 1996, p. 408; Millon & Everly, 1985, pp. 32, 39)
Self‑image. The core diagnostic feature of the self-perception of Ambitious individuals is their certitude; they have strong self-efficacy beliefs and considerable courage of conviction. More exaggerated variants of the Ambitious pattern have an admirable sense of self; they view themselves as extraordinarily meritorious and esteemed by others, and have a high degree of self‑worth, though others may see them as egotistic, inconsiderate, cocksure, and arrogant. The most extreme variants of this pattern have a superior sense of self. They view themselves as having unique and special qualities, deserving of great admiration and entitled to unusual rights and privileges. Accordingly, they often act in a pompous or grandiose manner, often in the absence of commensurate achievements. Some of these individuals may exhibit a messianic self‑perception; those failing to pay proper respect or bend to their will typically are treated with scorn and contempt. (Millon, 1996, p. 406)
Regulatory mechanisms. The core diagnostic features of the unconscious regulatory (i.e., ego-defense) mechanisms of Ambitious individuals are rationalization and fantasy; when their admirable self-image is challenged or their confidence shaken, they maintain equilibrium with facile self-deceptions, devising plausible reasons to justify their self-centered and socially inconsiderate behaviors. They rationalize their difficulties, offering alibis to put themselves in a positive light despite evident shortcomings and failures. When rationalization fails, they turn to fantasy to assuage their feelings of dejection, shame, or emptiness, redeem themselves, and reassert their pride and status. (Millon, 1996, p. 407)
Object representations. The core diagnostic feature of the internalized object representations of Ambitious individuals is their contrived nature; the inner imprint of significant early experiences that serves as a substrate of dispositions (i.e., templates) for perceiving and reacting to current life events, consists of illusory and changing memories. Consequently, problematic experiences are refashioned to appear consonant with their high sense of self-worth, and unacceptable impulses and deprecatory evaluations are transmuted into more admirable images and percepts. (Millon, 1996, pp. 406–407)
Morphologic organization. The core diagnostic feature of the morphological organization of Ambitious individuals is its spuriousness; the interior design of the personality system, so to speak, is essentially counterfeit, or bogus. Owing to the misleading nature of their early experiences — characterized by the ease with which good things came to them — these individuals may lack the inner skills necessary for regulating their impulses, channeling their needs, and resolving conflicts. Accordingly, commonplace demands may be viewed as annoying incursions and routine responsibilities as pedestrian or demeaning. Excuses and justifications are easily mustered and serve to perpetuate selfish behaviors and exploitative, duplicitous social conduct. (Millon, 1996, pp. 407–408)
Subsidiary Pattern: Antisocial
The Dauntless pattern, as do all personality patterns, occurs on a continuum ranging from normal to maladaptive. At the well-adjusted pole are adventurous, individualistic, venturesome personalities. Exaggerated Dauntless features occur in unconscientious, risk-taking, dissenting personalities. In its most deeply ingrained, inflexible form, the Dauntless pattern displays itself in reckless, irresponsible, self-aggrandizing behavior patterns that may be consistent with a clinical diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.
According to Oldham and Morris (1995, pp. 227–228), the following eight traits and behaviors are reliable clues to the presence of an Adventurous style:
Nonconformity. Live by their own internal code of values; not strongly influenced by the norms of society.
Challenge. Routinely engage in high‑risk activities.
Mutual independence. Not overly concerned about others; expect each individual to be responsible for him‑ or herself.
Persuasiveness. “Silver‑tongued” charmers talented in the art of social influence.
Wanderlust. Like to keep moving; live by their talents, skills, ingenuity, and wits.
Wild oats. History of childhood and adolescent mischief and hell‑raising.
True grit. Courageous, physically bold, and tough.
No regrets. Live in the present; do not feel guilty about the past or anxious about the future.
Millon (1996), in examining the developmental background of so-called “socially sublimated antisocials” (p. 462), asserts that their experiential history is often characterized by secondary status in the family. He writes:
It is not only in socially underprivileged families or underclass communities that we see the emergence of antisocial individuals. The key problem for all has been their failure to experience the feeling of being treated fairly and having been viewed as a person/child of value in the family context. Such situations occur in many middle- and upper-middle class families. Here, parents may have given special attention to another sibling who was admired and highly esteemed, at least in the eyes of the “deprived” youngster. (p. 462)
Millon’s personality patterns have well-established diagnostic indicators associated with each of the eight attribute domains of expressive behavior, interpersonal conduct, cognitive style, mood/temperament, self-image, regulatory mechanisms, object-representations, and morphologic organization. The diagnostic features of the Dauntless pattern with respect to each of these attribute domains are summarized below.
Expressive behavior. Dauntless personalities are typically adventurous, fearless, and daring, attracted by challenge and undeterred by personal risk. They do things their own way and are willing to take the consequences. Not surprisingly, they often act hastily and spontaneously, failing to plan ahead or heed consequences, making spur‑of‑the‑moment decisions without carefully considering alternatives. This penchant for shooting from the hip can signify boldness and the courage of one’s convictions as easily as it may constitute shortsighted imprudence and poor judgment. (Millon, 1996, pp. 444–445, 449–450; Millon & Davis, 1998, p. 164)
Interpersonal conduct. Dauntless personalities are rugged individualists, not compromisers or conciliators. They take clear stands on the issues that matter, backed up by the self-confidence and personal skills and talents to prevail. Though generally jovial and convivial, they become confrontational and defiant when obstructed or crossed. (Millon, 1996, pp. 445–446, 449–450; Millon & Davis, 1998, p. 164)
Cognitive style. Dauntless personalities are original, independent-minded, and unconventional. At their best, these personalities are enterprising, innovative, and creative. They are nonconformists first and foremost, disdainful—even contemptuous—of traditional ideals and values. Moreover, Dauntless personalities shirk orthodoxy and typically believe that too many rules stand in the way of freedom. (Millon, 1996, pp. 446–447, 449–450; Millon & Davis, 1998, p. 164)
Mood/temperament. Dauntless personalities are untroubled and easygoing, but quickly become irritable and aggressive when crossed. They are cool, calm, and collected under pressure, restless and disgruntled when restricted or confined. They are tough-minded and unsentimental. They display their feelings openly and directly. (Millon, 1996, pp. 448–449, 449–450; Millon & Davis, 1998, p. 164)
Self-image. Dauntless personalities are self-confident, with a corresponding view of themselves as self-sufficient and autonomous. They pride themselves on their independence, competence, strength, and their ability to prevail without social support, and they expect the same of others (Millon, 1996, pp. 447, 449–450; Millon & Davis, 1998, p. 164)
Regulatory mechanisms. Dauntless personalities are unconstrained. They express their impulses directly, often in rash and precipitous fashion, and generally without regret or remorse. They rarely refashion their thoughts and actions to fit a socially desirable mold. (Millon, 1996, p. 448)
Object representations. Dauntless personalities are driven by restive impulses to discredit established cultural ideals and mores, yet are skilled in arrogating for themselves what material spoils they can garner from society. They are fundamentally driven by self-serving motives. (Millon, 1996, p. 447)
Morphologic organization. The inner drives and impulses of Dauntless personalities are unruly, recalcitrant, and rebellious, which gives rise to unfettered self-expression, a marked intolerance of delay or frustration, and low thresholds for emotional discharge, particularly those of a hostile nature. (Millon, 1996, p. 448)
Additional Traits: Paranoid
The Distrusting pattern, conceptually a decompensated, structurally defective extension of primarily the Dominant, Dauntless, Ambitious, and Conscientious patterns, has no normal variant. According to Millon (1996),
it is hard to conceive [of] normal paranoids. Although a number of these individuals restrain their markedly distorted beliefs and assumptions from public view, at no point does their fundamental paranoid inclination manifest itself in an acceptable, no less successful personality style. (p. 705)
The Distrusting pattern occurs on a continuum ranging from maladaptive to markedly disturbed. At the relatively adaptive pole are overly defensive, sullen, quarrelsome, highly suspicious personalities. In its most deeply ingrained, markedly disturbed form, the Distrusting pattern manifests itself in provocative, irascible, inviolable, paranoid behavior patterns that may be consistent with a clinical diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder.
Oldham and Morris (1995), with their Vigilant style, attempt to describe an adaptive version of this pattern:
Nothing escapes the notice of . . . [people who have a] Vigilant personality style. These individuals possess an exceptional awareness of their environment. . . . Their sensory antennae, continuously scanning the people and situations around them, alert them immediately to what is awry, out of place, dissonant, or dangerous, especially in their dealings with other people. Vigilant types have a special kind of hearing. They are immediately aware of mixed messages, the hidden motivations, the evasions, and the subtlest distortions of the truth that elude or delude less gifted observers. With such a focus, Vigilant individuals naturally assume the roles of social critic, watchdog, ombudsman, and crusader in their private or our public domain, ready to spring upon the improprieties — especially the abuses of power — that poison human affairs. (p. 157)
This style, essentially, is equivalent to the less maladaptive, suspicious variant of the MIDC’s (Immelman, 1999; Immelman & Steinberg, 1999) Distrusting pattern. In addition, the portion Oldham and Morris’s (1995) description pertaining to hypervigilance (“scanning the people and situations around them”) overlaps with the “insecure” variant of the MIDC’s Reticent pattern, whereas the reference to the crusader role in society incorporates aspects of both the Conscientious and Dominant patterns.
Drawing from Blaney’s (1999) catalogue of traits associated with paranoid conditions, paranoid individuals — particularly those who also have a strong narcissistic orientation — over time are likely to become increasingly mistrustful, suspicious, and vigilant; thin-skinned (hypersensitive to perceived slights and easily enraged by narcissistic injury); vengeful (determined to “balance the books” with respect to what they perceive as past wrongs); dichotomous (“us versus them” social perception); self-contained (impervious to corrective action in response to advice and new information); self-righteous (arrogant and acting with a sense of entitlement); and self-justifying (viewing their own transgressions either as a defensive necessity or as “payback” for the malevolence or wrongs of others).
Millon’s personality patterns have predictable, reliable, observable psychological indicators (expressive behavior, interpersonal conduct, cognitive style, mood/temperament, self-image, regulatory mechanisms, object-representations, and morphologic organization). The major diagnostic features of the Distrusting pattern are summarized below.
Expressive behavior. The core diagnostic feature of the expressive acts of Distrusting individuals is their defensiveness; they are distrustful and overly suspicious, firmly resistant to external influence and control. Individuals with the most extreme manifestation of this pattern are extraordinarily vigilant; they scan the environment for potential threat, perpetually alert to, anticipating, and ready to ward off expected deception, derogation, and malice. (Millon, 1996, p. 701)
Interpersonal conduct. The core diagnostic feature of the interpersonal conduct of Distrusting individuals is their quarrelsomeness; they are polemical, argumentative, disputatious, and fractious. Exasperating and truculent, they do not forgive insults and carry grudges. Individuals with the most extreme manifestation of this pattern are acrimonious; they are abrasive and vexatious. Prone to harassment and provocation, they precipitate anger and hostility with their persistent testing of loyalties and their intrusive, searching preoccupation with hidden motives in others. (Millon, 1996, pp. 701–702)
Cognitive Style. The core diagnostic feature of the cognitive style of Distrusting individuals is suspicion; they are highly and unreasonably mistrustful of the motives of others. Individuals who display the most pronounced variant of this pattern display an unequivocally paranoid cognitive style; they characteristically construe innocuous events as signifying hidden or conspiratorial intent and reveal a pervasive tendency to magnify tangential or minor social difficulties into proofs of duplicity, malice, and treachery. (Millon, 1996, pp. 702–703)
Mood/temperament. The core diagnostic feature of the characteristic mood and temperament of Distrusting individuals is their sullen demeanor; although they may attempt to present themselves as unemotional and objective, they are fundamentally humorless, quick to take personal offense, and primed to respond with anger. The most extreme variants of this pattern are utterly irascible; they are incorrigibly churlish and thin-skinned. Characteristically cold, sullen, and fractious, they seem constantly on edge, consumed by jealousy, envy, and resentment. (Millon, 1996, pp. 704–705)
Self‑image. The core diagnostic feature of the self-perception of Distrusting individuals is their formidable view of themselves; they lack self-doubt and are pridefully independent, which makes them reluctant to confide in or accept advice from others. Highly insular, they experience an intense fear of losing their identity, status, and power of self‑determination. The most extreme variants of this pattern harbor a self-perception of inviolability; they have persistent ideas of reference and self-importance. Frequently perceiving character attacks not discernible to others, entirely innocuous actions and events frequently are considered personally derogatory and scurrilous, if not libelous. (Millon, 1996, p. 703)
Regulatory mechanisms. The core diagnostic feature of the unconscious regulatory (i.e., ego-defense) mechanisms of Distrusting individuals is projection; they actively disowns undesirable personal traits and motives and attribute them to others. (Millon, 1996, p. 703–704)
Object representations. The core diagnostic feature of the internalized object representations of Distrusting individuals is their inalterability; the inner imprint of significant early experiences that serves as a substrate of dispositions (i.e., templates) for perceiving and reacting to current life events, constitute a fixed and implacable configuration of deeply held beliefs and attitudes. Unyielding convictions are aligned idiosyncratically with a fixed hierarchy of tenaciously held, but unwarranted assumptions, fears, and conjectures. (Millon, 1996, p. 703)
Morphologic organization. The core diagnostic feature of the morphological organization of Distrusting individuals is its inelasticity; systematic constriction and inflexibility of undergirding morphologic structures, as well as rigidly fixed channels of defensive coping, conflict mediation, and need gratification, create an overstrung and taut frame that is so uncompromising in its accommodation to changing circumstances that unanticipated stressors are likely to precipitate either explosive outbursts or inner shatterings. (Millon, 1996, pp. 704)
Summary and Formulation: The Malevolent Psychopath
With his core sadistic personality pattern, infused with antisocial and narcissistic features and a possible overlay of incipient paranoia, Eric Harris appears to be a close match for a malignant personality composite that Millon (1996, pp. 453–454; see also Millon & Davis, 1998, pp. 168–169 and Millon & Davis, 2000, pp. 112–113) has labeled the malevolent antisocial.
Millon (1996) describes the malevolent antisocial as follows:
This subtype epitomizes the least attractive of the antisocial variants because it includes individuals who are especially vindictive and hostile. Their impulse toward retribution is discharged in a hateful and destructive defiance of conventional social life. Distrustful of others and anticipating betrayal and punishment, they have acquired a cold-blooded ruthlessness, an intense desire to gain revenge for the real or imagined mistreatment to which they were subjected in childhood. Here we see a sweeping rejection of tender emotions and a deep suspicion that the goodwill efforts expressed by others are merely ploys to deceive and undo them. They assume a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, a readiness to lash out at those whom they distrust or those whom they can use as scapegoats for their seething impulse to destroy. Descriptively, we may summarize their traits with the following adjectives: belligerent, mordant, rancorous, vicious, malignant, brutal, callous, truculent, and vengeful. They are distinctively fearless and guiltless, inclined to anticipate and search out betrayal and punitiveness on the part of others. The primary antisocial characteristics of these individuals may be seen as features that blend with either or both the paranoid or sadistic personality, reflecting not only a deep sense of deprivation and a desire for compensatory retribution, but intermingling within them an intense suspiciousness and hostility.
Dreading that others may view them as weak, or may manipulate them into submission, they rigidly maintain an image of hard-boiled strength, carrying themselves truculently and acting tough, callous, and fearless. To prove their courage, they may even court danger and punishment. But punishment will only verify their anticipation of unjust treatment. Rather than being a deterrent, it may reinforce their rebelliousness and their desire for retribution. In positions of power, they often brutalize others to confirm their self-image of strength. If faced with persistent failure, beaten down in efforts to dominate and control others, or finding aspirations far outdistancing their luck, their feelings of frustration, resentment, and anger will only mount to a moderate level, rarely to a point where their controls give way to a raw brutality and vengeful hostility, as is seen in the tyrannical sadist. Spurred by repeated rejection and driven by an increasing need for power and retribution, their aggressive impulses will, however, surge into the open. At these times, their behaviors may become outrageously and flagrantly antisocial. Not only will they show minimal guilt or remorse for what they have done, but they are likely to display an arrogant contempt for the rights of the others.
What distinguishes the malevolent antisocial from the tyrannical sadist is the former’s capacity to understand guilt and remorse, if not necessarily to experience it. They are capable of giving a perfectly rational explanation of ethical concepts, that is, they know what is right and what is wrong, but they seem incapable of feeling it. We cannot ascertain whether this experiential deficit is constitutionally built in or consequential to deficiencies in early learning. Nevertheless, there appears to be a defect in the capacity to empathize with the rightness or wrongness of their actions. As with the tyrannical sadist, these antisocials may come to relish menacing others, to make them cower and withdraw. They are combative and seek to bring more pressure on their opponents than their opponents are willing to tolerate or to bring against them. Most make few concessions, are inclined to escalate as far as necessary, never letting go until others succumb. In contrast to the tyrannical sadist, however, [malevolent] antisocials recognize the limits of what can be done in their own self-interests. They do not lose self-conscious awareness of their actions and will press forward only if their goals of self-aggrandizement are likely to be achieved. Their adversarial stance is often contrived, a bluffing mechanism to ensure that others will back off. Infrequently are actions taken that may lead to a misjudgment and counterreaction in these matters. (pp. 453–454)
Millon and Davis (2000) describe the malevolent antisocial as follows:
As a blend of the antisocial and paranoid or sadistic personalities, malevolents are the least attractive antisocials. Belligerent, rancorous, vicious, malignant, brutal, callous, vengeful, and vindictive, they perform actions charged with a hateful and destructive defiance of conventional social life. Like the paranoid, they anticipate betrayal and punishment. Rather than merely issue verbal threats, however, they seek to secure their boundaries with a cold-blooded ruthlessness that avenges every mistreatment they believe others have inflicted on them in the past. For them, tender emotions are a sign of weakness. The goodwill of others is never genuine, but instead hides a deceptive ploy for which they must always be on their guard. Where sadistic traits are prominent, they may display a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude and a willingness to confirm their strong self-image by victimizing those too weak to retaliate or those whose terror might prove particularly entertaining. When confronted with displays of strength, malevolents are experts at the art of posturing and enjoy pressuring their opponents until they cower and withdraw. Most make few concessions, and instead escalate confrontations as far as necessary, backing down only when clearly outgunned. (pp. 112–113)
Blaney, P. H. (1999). Paranoid conditions. In T. Millon, P. H. Blaney, & R. D. Davis (Eds.), Oxford textbook of psychopathology (pp. 339–361). New York: Oxford University Press.
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Kernberg, O. F. (1984). Severe personality disorders: Psychotherapeutic strategies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Millon, T., & Davis, R. D. (1998). Ten subtypes of psychopathy. In T. Millon, E. Simonsen, M. Birket-Smith, & R. D. Davis (Eds.), Psychopathy: Antisocial, criminal, and violent behavior (pp. 161–170). New York: Guilford.
Millon, T., & Davis, R. D. (2000). Personality disorders in modern life. New York: Wiley.
Millon, T., & Everly, G. S., Jr. (1985). Personality and its disorders: A biosocial learning approach. New York: Wiley.
Oldham, J. M., & Morris, L. B. (1995). The new personality self-portrait. (Rev. ed.). New York: Bantam Books.
Indirect Evaluation of
(April 30, 1999)
Eric Harris: Developmental Considerations
Dylan Klebold: Personality Profile
Commentary on Dave Cullen’s “The Depressive and the Psychopath”
Exorcising the Pain (By Betsy Streisand and Angie Cannon, with Joannie M. Schrof, Jeff Kass, Ben Wildavsky and Susan Gregory Thomas; U.S. News & World Report, May 2, 1999)
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