“The Dark Triad” is as creepy and grim as it sounds. It’s a term that refers to three personality disorders that, when combined, can make a person incredibly dangerous and destructive. The three disorders that make up the Dark Triad are: Narcissism, Psychopath (now called Antisocial Personality Disorder), and Machiavellianism (although this one is not a formally recognized personality disorder).
The differences between the three personality disorders are that Narcissists are ego driven, self-serving, and lack empathy and remorse; Psychopaths often enjoy inflicting pain (sadists) as well as have a disregard for the law, and tend to be loners; and Machiavellianists are highly manipulative. Generally people that have elements of “The Dark Triad” cause severe emotional, financial and/or physical trauma if they are in a person’s life for any length of time, and many of which live a life bouncing in and out of prison, although the really skilled ones are never caught. Yikes.
To get an idea of how dangerous a person is who exhibits character traits of the Dark Triad, a “Dirty Dozen” scale was developed by psychologists Jonason and Webster. Simply rate each statement on a 7-point scale as you think it applies to this person. (Of course, you can also rate yourself on these qualities to see how you measure up):
- I tend to manipulate others to get my way.
- I tend to lack remorse.
- I tend to want others to admire me.
- I tend to be unconcerned with the morality of my actions.
- I have used deceit or lied to get my way.
- I tend to be callous or insensitive.
- I have used flattery to get my way.
- I tend to seek prestige or status.
- I tend to be cynical.
- I tend to exploit others toward my own end.
- I tend to expect special favors from others.
- I want others to pay attention to me.
The total score can range from 12 to 84, but you can also break down the scales into the three traits as follows: Machiavellianism= 1, 5, 7, 10; Psychopathy= 2, 4, 6, 9; Narcissism= 3, 8, 11, 12.
To give you an idea of where others rate, among the college students tested in a later, validational, study by Webster and Jonason (2013) reported an average of about 36, with most people scoring between 33 and 39, meaning that anyone scoring upwards of 45 would be considered very high on the Dark Triad total. Keep in mind that just because a person hasn’t shown violent or sadistic behaviors, doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of them. Many Narcissists have gone from charming to murderer in the blink of eye (think Scott Petersen, or Ted Bundy.) Any one of the personality styles that make up the Dark Triad are incredibly dangerous and destructive, and you would be wise to distance yourself from them as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
If you have a Narcissist or a Sociopath/Psychopath in your life, especially if you feel they have strong features of the Dark Triad please try to get away from them as much as possible. Ideally go, “No Contact“, or if you have to keep them in your life for some reason consider going “Gray Rock“.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.