Dark Triad is a personality type characterised by three traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy. The world has seen, in the antics of Meghan Markle, how they behave.
Individually, two of the traits in Dark Triad, Machiavellianism and Narcissism, can actually be positive, in appropriate measure. But when combined with the third, Psychopathy, they become dangerous.
Psychopaths have no empathy for others, even though they may be good at giving the impression they do. They have no moral restraints at all. This is the classic baby kissing politician who cares not a jot about the babies, but about getting their parents’ votes and making himself appear human. But in the right circumstances, a psychopath can kill without compunction, even on the grand order.
No brake on behaviour
Most psychopaths, thankfully, are at the Nixon end of the scale. But it is important to realise that the brake on their behaviour is not those moral restraints that the rest of us feel, but simple fear of punishment. If for any reason that fear is diminished, they are capable of being monsters.
Life for a psychopath is a constant numbers game, as they weigh the benefits to themselves of any action, against the potential cost. The disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose reputation was destroyed when it was shown that he used drugs to cheat, later said in interview ‘I would do it again.’ He showed no remorse for his actions, only irritation at having been caught. This is psychopathic mentality.
Narcissists always put themselves first; indeed, Dr Sam Vaknin, a leading authority on the condition, describes them as being in love with themselves. They adore themselves, put themselves on a pedestal, or perhaps an altar, for mere mortals to worship before. They are desperate to be liked and will go to extravagant lengths to gain popularity.
Altruism is not part of the deal, however. Every act of kindness has a price and woe betide he who sees through the superficial largesse. He’ll be denounced as a traitor, a betrayer, faithless, a cheat and so on.
Nearly all actors and most artists are narcissistic but again, alone or in combination with positive traits, this can be a good thing, or at least, a manageable one. Narcissists can be the life and soul of the party, because their need to be loved is so powerful; but they can also wreck it and will, if they feel under appreciated. It is when their moral compass is compromised that they are most dangerous — and nothing compromises morality quicker than a dose of Psychopathy.
Machiavellianism is named after Niccolo Machiavelli, a Renaissance writer. In fact his subject was Cesare Borgia, a ruthless despot — but Niccolo’s name stuck. Machiavellianism is the manipulation of others to one’s own purposes. It is sometimes described as believing that the end justifies the means and again, in combination with lighter traits and a positive moral compass, this can be useful. These people will move heaven and earth to see the job done, although they won’t care if toes get trodden on doing it or, for that matter, a few bodies get buried in the woods.
Often they believe themselves to be highly principled and acting for ‘the greater good’ (which they define and understand better than anyone else.) However, when their empathy or reasoning fails they too can become problematic. Greta Thunberg would be an example as would Nicola Sturgeon, but there are plenty of males too: Tony Blair is a classic, as is Peter Mandelson. Need I mention Josef Stalin?
The Classic Dark Triad
When all three combine in the individual, these traits form the classic Dark Triad. The presence of Psychopathy in the mix is especially toxic. Lady Macbeth, Julius and several other Caesars, notably Nero, Kurtz in Heart of Darkness and Humbert Humbert in Lolita, are all Dark Triads. They are typified by a complete lack of moral restraint, an obsession that their will — and theirs alone — must be done and that they are always right. They display a ruthless willingness to crush any opposition, insensitivity to any harm or hurt they may cause and a total failure to comprehend the nature of truth; for Dark Triads, truth is just whatever they say it is.
(As an aside, beware anyone who talks about ‘their truth’. This is an attempt to elevate opinion to something that cannot be challenged, indeed, that challenge itself is fundamentally an accusation, a suggestion that the speaker is lying. Truth is not subjective and can always be substantiated. It is the same for everyone, so always suspect those who use forms like ‘my truth’ are liars trying to pre-empt discovery.)
Unburdened by integrity or empathy and completely amoral, Dark Triads will make the lives of those around them hell. They manipulate the weak to do their will and anyone who tries to help the person so used will become an enemy, to be defamed and destroyed.
Dark Triads will have either a dysfunctional relationship with their families or they will dominate them completely. Those who dare to stand up to the Dark Triad will be attacked, but not usually physically. Triads may use the courts, public opinion and slander to silence or destroy them; or they may shower them with gifts and profuse apologies for any wrong they may have done. Of course, the Triad does not recognise such wrongs but considers the offended person too valuable to lose — just yet.
Triads who marry will soon engineer a rift with their new families. Little by little their spouses will be isolated and so lose the strength of familial support. They will become the Triad’s puppets, as intended all along.
Anyone who sees through the Triad’s lies and manipulation will be denounced. The Triad will literally try to erase them and such are their powers of persuasion, their eloquence and their acting ability that they will often succeed.
A Dark Triad will always play the victim, the long-suffering abused. They are always complete innocents, decent, if misunderstood people surrounded by the most evil individuals imaginable, against whom they need your help; and if you refuse to give it, you too will become one of the enemy. Triads pick their victims carefully and may invest a great deal in grooming them, but people are always disposable, to be unceremoniously jettisoned when their usefulness runs out.
Identifying a Dark Triad
In 2010, Dr Peter Jonason, then assistant professor of psychology at the University of Western Florida, and his co-author, Gregory Webster, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Florida, developed the “Dirty Dozen” rating scale, or a 12-item methodology, to measure Dark Triad traits.
Jonason and Webster’s measure asks people to rate themselves against these questions:
I tend to manipulate others to get my way.
I have used deceit or lied to get my way.
I have used flattery to get my way.
I tend to exploit others towards my own end.
I tend to lack remorse.
I tend to not be too concerned with morality or the morality of my actions.
I tend to be callous or insensitive.
I tend to be cynical.
I tend to want others to admire me.
I tend to want others to pay attention to me.
I tend to seek prestige or status.
I tend to expect special favours from others.
Do these seem consistent with Markle’s reported behaviour? I think on balance and from what is known, the answer must be resoundingly affirmative.
The Race Card: today’s Ace of Spades…really?
Markle has also played the race card to protect herself, in a double backstop strategy, though frankly, few Britons would consider her ‘black’; she looks like an Italian. But that trick was for the US American audience anyway, and it worked. She knew how powerful this tactic is there and that it would encourage many who know nothing about her to believe her and see her as the hapless victim who can do no wrong. As always; a Dark Triad inhabits victimhood and uses it ruthlessly.
If Markle is Dark Triad and it seems probable that she is, then Harry is in deep trouble. He lacks the will to resist her; just like Macbeth, he is putty in his wife’s hands. He was already weakened by the tragic and public death of his mother, Diana, and his father’s scandalous betrayal of her. Charles used her as a breeding cow while maintaining an affair with a married woman, Camilla Parker-Bowles (now the Duchess of Cornwall).
Both William and Harry have every right to be critical of their father’s behaviour but William has, in public at least, handled the trauma of parental infidelity and death well, while Harry is a basket case hanging together by threads. And those are exactly the targets that Dark Triads seek out.
Harry clearly suffers Childhood Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). He’s none too bright either, so his emotional and intellectual toolkits are depleted, leaving him weak and easily manipulated. He loved military service, because he is an institutional character. Without the peer support and the discipline he had in the forces, he’s a rag doll, directionless and drifting. He has completely lost control of his life. We Scots have a word for such personalities: fushionless. They are perfect prey for a Dark Triad.
Harry would be wise to separate from his Triad as soon as he can and make peace with his own family. He would lose custody, of course; we already know how persuasive Markle is and no Triad would hesitate to put her children through the meat-grinder of court, especially when she could blame everything on the man who failed her and his racist family. This would be especially hard for him, because he is reliving his own shattered childhood through those of his children, using their love to repair himself. He feeds, like a wraith drained of love, on their positive energy. But that just gives Markle even more power over him.
Moving to the States, where she knows the courts would be sympathetic, hardly counts as a surprise: it was a classic Machiavellian gambit, lining her ducks up so that when she needs them — and it is when, not if — they will be in a row. Markle is preparing for the next stage of her life already, the one without Harry. She intends for it to be as she has planned it.
Harry’s own children will be used against him; he will be another evil man who betrayed the most perfect princess, whether he leaves or stays. Whatever he does now, he has broken the most important promise, the one he did not make but Markle assumed: to make her the glittering fairytale princess. That this failure is entirely of her own doing is not something that any Triad could ever accept; it must always be someone else’s fault.
There is a price for Harry’s folly and one way or another, he will have to pay it. Typical Triads, after extracting all they can from their victims, will move on, either through divorce, in which their partner’s remaining reputation will be trashed, or through sequential affairs that they will make no effort to hide.
Why would they? Their purpose is not sexual pleasure or romance, but the gaining of a new victim, new powers and the schadenfreude of embarrassing further the partner who failed them. Meanwhile, that partner, for whom the Triad once expressed such love, will be abandoned. Many sink into the pits of depression, alcoholism or substance abuse; others quietly hang themselves.
The smart move, for Harry, would be to take it on the chin and separate now, because things will only get worse. The trouble is, I don’t think he has the strength to do it.