In order to answer the question 'do psychopaths know what they are doing?' it's useful to clarify what they actually do.
At the start of relationships they are known for presenting themselves as the ideal partner so that the victim falls in love with them very quickly. This involves behaving in a certain way for weeks or months on end, including compliments, doing nice things, spending lots of time with the victim, giving gifts and also making a good impression on family and friends. The psychopath presents themselves as happy, carefree, friendly, helpful, compassionate and loving.
Later on in the relationship, after some level of commitment on the part of the victim, the behavior of the psychopath changes. There are insults, put downs, criticisms. These are typically aimed at the person themselves rather than at behaviors or opinions.
They will often continue to be this wonderful person in public while behind closed doors they have turned into a tyrant.
They will criticize their victims and others around them but will be intolerant of criticism of themselves.
Psychopaths are always right, they don't accept responsibility for mistakes and will blame others for anything bad that happens,
So do psychopaths know what they are doing? Let's look at each of these items in more detail.
The psychopath plays the role of the ideal partner for as long as it takes (and no longer) to convince the victim to make some firm commitment in the relationship. Considering that the psychopath does not have emotions, that's a lot of acting! They remember to play nice the whole time during the honeymoon period, acting out the role that they have taken on. How do they know what this role is? They have previously sized up their target, deliberately working out the likes, dislikes, fears, weaknesses and strengths and then they use this information to pretend to be the soul-mate. It's not possible to say that this is random. Rather it is all thought out, purposeful and done with intention.
How does the psychopath know when they can start with the bad behavior? They know because they recognize the signs of dependency in their victims. They have created this strong bond in the first phase and they recognize when it is strong enough that the victim cannot easily leave when they are treated badly. Oftentimes the first few episodes of bad behavior are tests, the psychopath pushing to see how far he or she can push the victim.
If the psychopath thinks that the victim has been pushed too far, they will apologize and promise that it won't happen again. This 'apology' is a lie because the psychopath goes right back to doing the same nasty things again. Apologizing is simply another manipulation technique.
As well as criticizing others on a regular basis, they won't tolerate any criticism from you or anyone else. Again, this is not a random thing. Every single time anyone disagrees with them or criticizes them, there is retaliation.
It's the same thing with accepting blame or admitting to a mistake. In normal circumstances people will accept responsibility some of the time. Not so with the psychopaths. Anything that goes wrong anywhere near them has nothing to do with them and they are very quick to shift the blame to someone else. They never forget to blame others and they don't accept responsibility every now and then. Whenever someone tries to pin something on them, they deliberately generate excuses and justifications.
When the psychopath is in public they remember what role they need to play. When at home, they remember to shout and scream and generally abuse you. They never mix these situations up, do they? They don't forget that they are in public and let rip at someone or suddenly treat you very pleasantly at home. No, they are usually acutely aware of where they are and they act accordingly.
All these things indicate that the answer to 'do psychopaths know what they are doing?' is a resounding yes.
Have you noticed that when you mention things that your psychopathic partner has done, they claim amnesia, 'I don’t remember that!'? But about things you may have said or done, they have perfect recall? This is not a random thing either. The failed memory thing is deliberately trotted out only when it's for the benefit of the manipulator.
Has the psychopath repeatedly done things that upset you, even though you have let it be known that these things are upsetting? Why would someone do that unless it was to intentionally annoy you?
When you are happy or have good news of some sort, does the psychopath do something to ruin the moment? Every time?
Have you been isolated from family or friends? That takes time and effort to achieve. It doesn't happen by accident.
Is there one set of rules for you and another set for the psychopath? Does the psychopath do things that you are not allowed to? Who put those rules in place?
None of these things are coincidental or random. They are all done with intention by the psychopath.
So do psychopaths know what they are doing? Do they know they are controlling and manipulating others. Of course, they do.
All these things also apply when dealing with sociopathic cult leaders, too. Their livelihood depends on their having control over others.
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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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