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Uncovering the Shadow Self: The Truth Behind the Dark Triad

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Human Psychology and the Dark Triad

Heraclitus, one of the founders of philosophy, said that "day and night are just two sides of the same coin." By this, he meant that opposites are identical. This same principle can be applied to human psychology. Human psychology can also be seen as two sides of the same coin, one side being light and the other being dark. And the representation of the same can be seen in our quotidian nature. But what’s interesting about the same is a study which states that 1% of the population is accountable for 63% of all violent crime convictions. Studies have also shown that this 1% of the population possesses traits that, in psychology, are classified as the "dark triad."

From Lewis Goldberg to Sigmund Freud, psychologists strived hard to comprehend human behavior and personality. In this article, we won't be discussing the traditional theories of personality. Instead, it will shed some light on the dark facets of the human psyche that have led to many atrocities throughout the ages.

Delory L. Paulhus and Kevin M. Williams's theory, "The Dark Triad" describes three notably offensive but non-pathological personality types. These personality types are narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

What is Narcisissism and why should you be concerned about it?

Narcissism is a personality disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of their importance, is too focused on getting praise, and has a hard time understanding how others feel. People often use Adolf Hitler as an example of a person in history with narcissistic traits.

Hitler was known for his high sense of self-importance, desire to be in charge, and lack of care for people's lives. Even though his actions were bad for the world, Hitler saw himself as the savior of the German people and thought that they were necessary for the greater good. His high opinion of himself and inability to care about others are classic signs of narcissism.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder marked by a lack of empathy and remorse, impulsive behavior, and a tendency to do illegal or antisocial things. The Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan, who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries and was responsible for massacres, genocide, enslavement, and sexual violence during his reign, is an example of a historical figure with psychopathic traits. He was known for using brutal methods and not caring about the lives or well-being of the people he conquered. He was also good at manipulating people and using charm to get out of tough situations.

Machiavellianism and Human Psychology

Machiavellianism is a political philosophy or way of thinking that says the best way to get power and success is to be smart, manipulative, and use other people. People often use former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin as an example of a Machiavellian figure. Stalin became the leader by using a mix of political maneuvering, propaganda, and harsh repression. He was known for being smart and sly, and he used these qualities to get rid of his rivals and increase his power. Under Stalin's rule, there were many violations of people's rights in the Soviet Union, such as forced labor camps, political purges, and mass executions. During the 1930s, he was in charge of the Great Purge.

During this time, between 700,000 and 1.5 million people were killed or sent to work camps, and millions more were imprisoned. Stalin also oversaw the forced collectivization of agriculture, which caused a lot of people to die from famine and led to the forced grouping of farms. He also made it hard for people to speak, write, and practice their religions freely, and he put strict rules on the media and other forms of expression. These actions show how brutal and cruel Stalin's rule was and how Machiavellian, his way of running the country was.

The Dark Triad idea may be seen philosophically as an investigation of the negative aspects of human nature and the repercussions these tendencies have on both individuals and society. The article focuses on how these characteristics might lead to harmful behavior and outcomes. This begs the issue of whether or not humans can be trusted to behave in a moral manner and whether or not people should be held accountable for their choices and the harm they do. The text may also be seen as a criticism of persons in positions of authority and the methods they use to get to it and remain in such positions, as well as the accountability they have to the people they rule.


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