The following infamous strongmen might have all come from different corners of the world, but they all displayed several of the same psychopathic characteristics, including charisma, narcissism, lack of compassion, and even sadism.
The amygdala is a part of the brain that plays a central role in mediating “animal instincts” including fear and rage. Psychopaths and individuals with poorly developed amygdalae can end up with extreme dependencies, meaning that what satisfies a normal person can’t satisfy a psychopath. In turn, they become addicted to the highs of drugs and alcohol, or even more extreme actions like power and murder in the case of dictators and serial killers.
Another major characteristic that sets psychopaths apart from regular people is a lack of empathy. Psychopaths are unable to view empathy on a one-on-one basis, but they might superficially display it toward a larger group. Dictators, for instance, will display a nationalistic sense of empathy.
Now let’s take a look at what was going on in the minds of some of the worst dictators in history….
Although the Khmer Rouge was only in power in Cambodia for four years, Pol Pot managed to commit one of the worst mass murders in history. Millions of people were forced to leave their homes and work on communal farms in the country. Entire families were executed and sent to prisons to be tortured and/or executed.
Vlad III Dracula, or as more commonly known, Vlad the Impaler, was a ruthless Romanian strongman during the 15th century. His nickname came from his habit of impaling his enemies - both international and domestic - and leaving them to die.
It’s believed that Bram Stoker based the character Dracula off of Vlad the Impaler.
The Kim family is quite possibly the world’s most notorious dictator family, and for good reason. The eldest Kim made use of concentration camps, disappearance and public executions to silence opposition.
Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, says, “The man is dead, but his brainwashing and horrific abuses live on. Kim Jong-Un is following right along in his grandfather’s footsteps.”
Stalin’s name means “man of steel” and it’s really no wonder why. His attempts to streamline agriculture lead to around 5 million famine-related deaths in the Soviet Union, and anyone he felt vaguely unsure of within his own party was murdered.
He abused his wife so badly that she committed suicide in 1932, but he mandated that her death was to be broadcasted as caused by appendicitis.
This Spanish dictator was known for staging a successful military rebellion that overthrew the democratic republic during the Spanish Civil War. The class divide in Spain at the time was very prominent, and Franco apparently had a deep hatred for those of lower class than him. Many peasants at the time were so hungry that they would steal acorns from pigs’ troughs.