What is it Like to Only Eat Every Other Day?

Here's a man who talks about what happened to him when he ate whatever he wanted every other day, and on the other days, ate nothing at all.

Think Positively POSITIVELY

When a person thinks a negative thought and tries to get rid of it, that person is thinking positively negatively. Daniel M. Wegner of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, has conducted a long string of experiments that show the futility and actual danger of trying to get rid of thoughts.

In some of the experiments, Wegner told his subjects, “Try not to think about a white bear.” The subjects were then asked to say aloud everything that came to mind. Of course, thoughts of white bears showed up quite a bit. Trying not to think of a white bear produced a thought of a white bear between six and fifteen times in a five-minute period.

Trying not to think a negative thought will result in thinking it more.

Thinking is like breathing: It goes on night and day and you can’t stop it. But you can change it. You can breathe slowly and deeply or shallowly and quickly. You can breathe any way you want. But you can’t stop.

The same is true about thinking. You can say something stupid or depressing to yourself; you can say something intelligent or inspiring to yourself; but you can’t stop thinking entirely.

So when you find yourself disliking the content of your thoughts, instead of trying to stop yourself from thinking a thought, try to direct your thoughts.

And the way to direct your thinking is by asking yourself a question. A question gets your mind going in a new direction without suppressing what you’re already thinking. Ask yourself a question.

Of course, the kind of question you ask makes a big difference. If you ask “Why is this happening to poor me?” your answers won’t help you any.

The idea is to direct your mind by asking questions that put your attention on practical things, on accomplishment, on the future. If you find yourself worrying, for example, ask yourself something like this: “How can I make myself stronger and better able to deal with this?” Or “Can I get busy right now working on my goal — so busy I forget all about my worries? And if not, is there some planning I can do now that will save me time later?” Or even simply “What is my goal?”

When you find yourself thinking negatively about something “bad” that happened, ask yourself “What’s good about this?” Or “How can I turn this to my advantage?” Or “What assumption have I made that I can argue with?” Ask a good question.

When you decide on a question to ask yourself, ask the question and keep asking. Ponder it. Wonder about it. Let it run through your mind whenever your mind isn’t otherwise engaged. It will turn the tide of your thoughts and bring you into a new state of mind because you’re thinking positively positively.

- Excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan.

My Podcast (The Adam Bomb)

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Never Give Up

In the classic Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, the head angel calls an angel in training named Clarence and tells him, "A man down on Earth needs our help."

Clarence wants to know, "Is he sick?"

"No. Worse," said the head angel, "he's discouraged."

It is worse. Discouragement is like a slow-acting poison that saps our vitality, enthusiasm, and determination. This article is an antidote for that poison.

Before we get started, I want you to know I wrote this for both you and me. I wrote it for those of us who have heartfelt aspirations that mean something to us. I wanted us to have something we could read when we feel like giving up on what we really want to do.

We're going to read about the setbacks and heartaches of great and successful people, and it'll remind us that they doubted themselves at times, and they felt discouraged lots of times, and if we feel that way at the moment, it doesn't mean we're a failure. In fact, it probably means we've got guts enough to try to accomplish something out of the ordinary.

But I have some bad news. In the process of accomplishing your goal, you'll probably experience failure, criticism and ridicule. Some people may even try to stop you. And to top it all off, your goal will probably take longer to accomplish than you think it will.

That's both the bad news and the good news. It's bad news if these things haven't happened to you yet. It's good news if they have, because, as you'll be finding out in a minute, people who accomplish extraordinary things usually experience all of these. So if they're happening to you, you're in good company.

As Micky Rooney once said, "You always pass failure on the way to success."

Milton Hershey went broke twice before succeeding in the candy bar business. The Pepsi company went bankrupt three times. RH Macy started a department store that became world famous. But first he went broke six times.

You've probably seen M.A.S.H. — the television series about a medical station in Korea. It was one of the longest running, most popular television programs ever created. But did you know it was turned down by 32 different producers? They just didn't think the program would appeal to people.

Robert Pirsig's manuscript for his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values was rejected by more than 120 publishers. As of this writing, it is 17 years after its publication and it's still selling at the rate of a hundred thousand copies a year.

These examples are not unusual. They're the rule rather than the exception. People tend to pass failure on the way to success.

Lisa Amos, a professor at Tulane University's School of Business, says that, according to her research, entrepreneurs average 3.8 failures before they finally succeed. The same is true for writers, actors, salespeople, painters, and so on. People who succeed, generally speaking, experience failure and rejection and plenty of it.


SLOWLY BUT SURELY

When I went out for track in the eighth grade, I immediately set the school record in the long jump. I was thinking success was going to be easy, but then a strange thing happened. Every jump I made after that was shorter and shorter. The more I practiced, the shorter my jumps were.

I remember walking home from school one day after practice, a sad and worried little eighth grader, "How could this be happening," I wondered to myself, "I'm supposed to get better the more I practice. Is there something seriously wrong with me?"

I went to a doctor and after a thorough examination, the doctor looked at me solemnly and said, "Son, I'm afraid you've got Osgood-Slaughter's Disease."

"Oh my God!" I was thinking, "Osgood-Slaughter's Disease!" I was ready to ask him how long I have left to live when he explained to me it simply means I'm growing very fast and the long jumping is putting a strain on my knees and they aren't able to keep up with the speed of my growth if I keep long jumping. So I took the year off from track, and my knees glued themselves back together.

The next year I went out for track, the coach looked at me and said, "We need a high-hurdler. You're tall and lanky, so you'll be it."

Well I gave it my best shot and I was terrible. Sometimes in the Junior Division I was the only hurdler, and since it was a guaranteed 5 points, my coach made me run the race by myself. I was so embarrassing. All these people watching while the starter went through the whole ritual. "On your mark...set...POW! And I take off down the middle lane all by myself, awkwardly bounding over the hurdles, smashing into them, knocking them over, and generally making a complete fool of myself as the people in the stands tried not to snicker.

But one thing that usually characterizes the road to success is perseverance — to keep at it, to keep learning, and to never give up. The next year I was a little better. I kept studying about nutrition, exercise and muscle growth, and I kept practicing. And a little upon a little, I got better.

As a general rule, goals take longer to accomplish than we think they will. But if we persist, our chances of succeeding keep increasing.

By the end of my senior year of high school I had the school record for the high and low hurdles, and won the CIF championships for both the high and low hurdles. CIF is like a state meet for Southern California.

I learned something from that experience that I think is very important. When we first start anything, we're very likely to be awkward, uncomfortable, terrible at it and people will probably laugh at us. A lot of times we don't start things because we're afraid we might start out so badly. Well, we can cast aside our fear: I can put that worry to rest right now: We WILL start out badly. It happens to just about everybody when they start on something new. It definitely happened to a boy named Sparky.

In eighth grade, Sparky flunked every single class. He was the worst Physics student in the history of his high school, flunking it with a ZERO. He also flunked English, Latin, and Algebra.

He went out for the high school golf team. But at the only important match of the year, he lost. There was a consolation match, but he lost that one too.

He was very awkward with people when he was young — sort of a non-human to his classmates. That is, he wasn't either popular or unpopular. And in his entire Junior High and High School career, he never went on a single date. It was clear to everyone that Sparky was a loser.

He thought he was good at drawing, but no one else thought so. In his senior year of high school, he submitted some cartoons for the yearbook, but they were rejected. He still thought he was good, so he decided to become a professional artist. And he even took some action on this goal. He wrote to Walt Disney Studios and they wrote him back, saying, basically, "Make a cartoon out of this subject and send it to us, and we'll take a look at it."

Sparky worked hard on the project. When he was satisfied it was the best he could do, he submitted the material. And then he waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Finally he got a reply from Disney Studios. Sorry Sparky, another rejection.

So Sparky wrote, of all things, an autobiography! He made a biography of himself in cartoons. In the cartoons, he called himself Charlie Brown. Sparky, known to the world as Charles Schultz succeeded beyond his or anyone else's wildest imagination. He literally failed himself to success.

What about you? Do you think you have a talent but other people don't think so? The only way to find out who's right is to refuse to give up, to press on and keep pressing on, and when you get knocked down by ridicule or rejection, just get back up and keep moving toward your goal.

That's not to say, "Don't listen to anyone." Sometimes even painful criticism can be valuable information and can help you achieve your goal. Just don't be stopped by it.

Now that's easy to say and harder to do, am I right? I don't know about you, but when someone laughs at my idea or puts me down, sometimes it takes the wind right out of my sails. I start thinking, "Maybe it is a stupid idea. Why don't I give it up and quit beating my head against the wall. I haven't got a chance."

The truth is, anyone saying that to himself is probably not going to move ahead very well. Which is why I wrote this article. When you or I feel discouraged, let's re-read this article and get some perspective. Let it remind us of the lessons of history. Since the beginning, innovators and achievers and leaders have been ridiculed by the people around them, and it still happens today.

As Eric Fromm wrote, "He who has a conviction strong enough to withstand the opposition of the crowd is a the exception rather than the rule, an exception often admired centuries later, mostly laughed at by his contemporaries."

When we get discouraged, let's remember that Marconi's friends (remember Marconi — inventor of the radio?), his own friends had him taken into custody and tested in a mental institution. To them, he had obviously lost his marbles since he was going around telling everybody he had discovered a way to send messages through the air without using any wires.

When you and I feel that people don't yet appreciate our worth, let's remember Abraham Lincoln — the greatest president in history in my opinion. Two years before he became president, he went on a lecture tour. It was a miserable failure. In one town, not a single person showed up to hear him speak.

While Lincoln was president, the general of his army, George McClelland, once remarked that Lincoln "was nothing more than a well-meaning baboon."

In 1863, in a commentary in the Chicago Times, the Gettysburg Address was severely criticized. The Gettysburg Address! One of the most eloquent speeches ever delivered. It was summed up as "silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances."

We recognize great contributions in retrospect, but often, at the time, people don't understand it. They don't see it. Or they're envious.

John Adams once called George Washington "an old muttonhead." He said Washington was "too illiterate, unread, and unlearned for his station and reputation."


THE EXPERTS MIGHT BE WRONG

When you get criticized, remember that when Beethoven was being taught music, his composition teacher said, with an air of complete authority, that Beethoven was a hopeless dunce.

When Marilyn Monroe's contract elapsed in 1949, Columbia Pictures did not extend it or make a new one. Why? Because producer Harry Cohen thought Marilyn Monroe "lacked star quality."

Gilda Radner, one of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, once did a show called "Gilda Live." When it opened in Boston, the newspaper had a review with this headline, "Gilda Radner has no talent. Zip. Zilch. Zero."

Lucille Ball was on the chorus line of a road company when she was fired and told, "You're not meant for show business. Go home."

The first reviews of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales said, "Quite unsuitable for children. Positively harmful for the mind."

When Ronald Reagan tried out for the leading role in a film called The Best Man in 1964, obviously before he was a politician, he was rejected because, "he doesn't look like a president." Is that ironic or what?

Rudyard Kipling had already written what is now considered one of the best short stories ever written — The Man Who Would Be King — when he was fired from his job as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. His boss said, "I'm sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language. This isn't a kindergarten for amateur writers."

When Albert Einstein was in school, his Greek teacher told him, "You will never amount to anything."

Napoleon Bonaparte once listened to Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamship, and when he couldn't stand it any more, he interrupted Fulton, "What sir?! You would make a ship sail by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I pray you excuse me. I have no time for such nonsense."

Fulton wasn't fazed a bit. By this time he was used to people telling him it wasn't possible. In fact, the whole time he was building his steamship he didn't hear a single encouraging remark. People made fun of him and his crazy idea.

It turns out that steam power revolutionized the shipping industry. You can't trust popular antagonism to a new idea.

At the end of the sixth grade, Bill Cosby's teacher wrote the following criticism on his report card: "He would rather be a clown than a student, and he feels it his mission to amuse his classmates." She had no idea.

Winston Churchill was a rebellious youngster, and in school he did poorly in every subject except history. He hated school. He was late for class repeatedly. Different teachers at different times wrote the following descriptions of him on their school reports:

  • careless
  • a regular pickle
  • very naughty
  • troublesome
  • very bad
  • a constant trouble to everybody

Robin Williams was criticized by his elocution teacher in college. The teacher said to Williams, "You're mimicking people. Where is your voice?" His claim to fame, his amazing ability to imitate voices, was criticized. There he was, a nobody, a college kid, and "The Expert" is telling him that what he's doing is wrong and he should change. He should become more like everyone else.

WARNING WARNING: This is subversive material you're listening to. I'm encouraging you to be a nonconformist. I'm encouraging you to go against the tidal wave of forces that want you to be anybody but yourself.

Generally speaking, people don't want you to be what you are. They would rather you were more like what they want you to be. People want you to become "well adjusted," which means you should adjust to their values and biases. But, as Earl Nightingale said, "Advances don't come from happy, well-adjusted, well-integrated people. They come from non-conformists who refuse to buy the status quo."

J. Paul Getty, who was the richest man in the world when he died, said, "There are many pressures that try to force the young person of today to be a conformist. He is bombarded from all sides with arguments that he must tailor himself, literally and figuratively, to fit the current image, which means that he must be just like everyone else. He does not understand that the arguments are those of the almost-were's and the never-will-be's who want him as company to share the misery of their frustrations and failures."

As Herbert Bayard Swope said, "I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: try to please everybody."

Ferdinand Oliver was a woman who lived with Picasso for seven years. The whole time they were together, they lived in poverty. She didn't like Picasso's paintings. She especially didn't like the paintings he did of her. She thought they made her look ugly.

In 1912, after seven years of squalor, she moved out and never saw Picasso again. In 1966 she died, still in poverty. A few years later, one of those unflattering paintings of her by Picasso sold for $790,000.

Now what if Picasso had said, "All right Ferdinand, I'll paint it right," and then painted a picture to please her, a picture she would consider flattering? If he had tried to please her, we never would have heard of him. His greatness was in following his own way. He went against the forces that would make him be like everyone else.

If there's a certain thing you want to do — like Picasso, who wanted to make a certain kind of painting — and people tell you, "It's no good, it'll never work, it's a crazy idea, why don't you knock it off and do something productive, just say, as Edward R. Murrow used to say, "You may be right," and continue doing what you want to do. If you think you have talent and some person, even an expert, comes along and tells you you're no good, pursue your talent anyway, because they just may be dead wrong.

At age 18, Anita Baker almost gave up on her goal of being a singer when a record executive, after he had listened to her sing, told her bluntly, "Anita, you have no talent."

Even Jack LaLanne, a man now respected and admired all over the world, had a hard time at first. When he opened a health club, people thought he was ought of his mind. Really! His was the very first health club ever opened in the US. He was trying to convince people that daily exercise was a good idea. What a nut, huh? He was labeled a charlatan and a quack. But he didn't give up. He himself was thoroughly convinced of the benefits of healthy living. So he built a gym in his back yard and started working out. After awhile, other people wanted to use it, so he let them. Then he started charging a little fee for people to come use it, and eventually he opened his health club.

At the time doctors actually warned their patients not to go to Jack LaLanne's club. "You'll get a heart-attack," they said, "You'll get hemorrhoids. You'll lose your sex drive. If you're an athlete, you won't be able to throw the ball."

He wasn't stopped by these criticisms. He was a non-conformist. He followed his own way and pioneered our present respect for exercise. And he is living proof that the old status quo was wrong and needed to be changed. At 77 years old he was breaking records he set when he was 21.

Speaking of health, have you ever heard of a man named Paracelsus? He did a very good thing for you and me. In the year 1500 AD, the doctors in Europe studied the work of a man named Galen. His works had been respected for 1300 years. That's an incredibly long time. You talk about well established! What he wrote became like sacred doctrine. If Galen wrote it, it was so, and that's all there was to say about it.

Now a lot of the things he wrote were accurate. But a lot of it was garbage. For example, supposedly inside each person were what were called the Four Cardinal Humors. Humor comes from the Latin umor meaning fluid or moisture.

The four Humors were Phlegm, Choler, Blood, and Melancholy. In order to be in good health, so the theory went, a person had to have a proper balance between these humors. The whole thing sounds pretty humorous, don't you think? But if you didn't have enough of one of these humors, or if you had too much of one, then you were sick. That's what disease was. So to make you well, the doctor's job was to restore the balance.

Galen also believed that each person had a certain balance that was just right for that particular individual. Therefore, each illness in each person was unique.

So the doctor, with his special knowledge, might find you had, say, too much of one of your humors, like blood for example. And he would treat you by making you bleed for awhile. One of their techniques was to attach leaches to your body to suck out some of your blood. And then you would be well. Now this sounds like a good Monty Python gag, but here were well-respected authorities, diligently studying for years to get their "Doctor of Physic" degree so they could go out and make people sweat and purge and bleed and vomit, and thereby supposedly make them healthy. A lot of the time, as you can probably imagine, the treatment killed the patient. But after 1300 years, this was a very well-established status quo.

Then along comes a rebel by the name of Paracelsus, who came up with the scandalous idea that something from outside your body, like smoke or germs, could make you sick. What a radical! He was viciously attacked by the medical profession so he never stayed in one place very long, and he lived his life in poverty.

But he never gave up. He felt pretty sure he was right, and he knew if he was right, it would have an enormous impact on the health of everyone.

Since he had no Doctor of Physic degree, he was never allowed to publish his ideas — including his studies of people who worked in mines who all seemed to die of the same thing (now called Miner's Disease) which seriously put in question one of Galen's "sacred" ideas that all diseases were unique.

It wasn't until a couple of decades after Paracelsus died that his work became known and published. He turned out to have been right, and although he never knew what he did, he opened up the way for a whole new approach toward disease, and doctors dramatically increased their effectiveness because of that persistent rebel.

Now some people might consider themselves a failure if they lived a life like Paracelsus — in poverty and scorned and all. But there are more important things in life than just winning or getting everyone's admiration, or collecting and spending a lot of money. Nothing wrong with these things. Not at all. But there's at least one thing that's more important: Being true to your own aspiration.

If it stirs you, if that vision captivates you, if the ideas for that invention haunt you and won't leave you alone, if you have a goal that may even seem petty to others, but it's something you feel is good and right, and you want to try...then do it, no matter how long it takes or who thinks you're a fool. Never give up on something that matters to you.

Go ahead and give up on other things, but never let your dream die. Did I say go ahead and give up on some things? Hey! What's going on here? In an article called Never Give Up I'm saying go ahead and give up?

You bet. As Joshua Leebman wrote, "Every person who wishes to attain peace of mind must learn the art of renouncing many things in order to possess other things more fully."

Or as Dr. Michael Broder put it, "You can have practically anything you want, but not everything you want."

I've never met anyone who doesn't want more things than they have time to pursue. There's an important principle in writing and public speaking that translates well into life: Cut out the unimportant and the important becomes clearer and better.

Now most people don't live so simply. There are a lot of people trying to "have it all," and even more who have completely given up on, or forgotten, the goal that really means something to them. And one of the ways we human beings know how to behave and what to do is by looking around and seeing what other people are doing. You won't see many people trying to renounce some things in order to possess their dream more fully.

So when people see what you're doing, they will probably have something to say about it. They will comment on your life.


FAMILY SUPPORT

If you do something remarkable, people will remark about it — especially your family — and most of them will have only negative things to say. As William Thakary put it, "If a man's character is to be abused, there's nobody like a relative to do the business."

When Winston Churchill was young, his father concluded that Winston was "Unfit for a career in law or politics" because he did so badly in school.

Barbra Streisand's mother told her directly that she wasn't pretty enough to be an actress and she would never become a singer because her voice wasn't good enough.

Conrad Hilton, who created a business empire with his Hilton Hotels, once overheard his father say to his mother, "Mary, I do not know what will become of Connie. I'm afraid he'll never amount to anything."

When Charles Darwin wanted to go on his five year expedition on the Beagle — the voyage that began his rise to fame and secured his name in the highest rank of scientific achievement, his father was against the whole idea. All he could see was that his son was drifting into life of "sin and idleness."

How many discoveries and accomplishments have never been realized because so many people listen to the criticisms of their relatives? That may be the most significant statement in this article.

The Native American tribe, the Osage, had a saying that if you want a place in the sun, you'll have to leave the shade of the family tree.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger discovered weight lifting, he started working out 2 hours before school and 2 hours after school every day. His parents thought he was out of his mind. Arnold wanted to be the best built man in the world, and then he planned on going to America to be in movies.

When his parents found out that was his goal, they seriously talked about sending him to a psychiatrist. How was he able to keep going even as a young man in the face of the opposition from his parents? One time when he was fifteen years old he'd had a particularly grueling workout, and at the breakfast table the next morning he was so stiff and sore, that when he tried to take a drink of his coffee, he spilled it all over the table.

His mother came over to the table and looked at him. "What's wrong Arnold? What is it?"

"I'm just sore," he said, "my muscles are stiff."

She yelled out to Arnold's father, look at this boy! Look what he's doing to himself!"

In his biography, after relating this incident, Arnold makes a comment that reveals the attitude that allowed him to continue in the face of the opposition. He wrote, "I couldn't be bothered with what my mother felt."

He was so intent upon his purpose, he just couldn't be bothered with it. He didn't fight it, he didn't try to change her opinion. He simply went about his purpose. A lot of people would have stopped what they were doing to try to make their mother happy. That's one way aspirations die.

George Washington's mother was a harping, complaining, self-centered woman. She put down Washington's accomplishments, and didn't show up to either of his presidential inauguration ceremonies. She was always whining when her children neglected her, and she was especially enraged when her son George ran off to command the army for the American Revolution! She honestly believed it was George's duty to stay home and take care of his mother. I'm sure glad he didn't think that was his duty.

In the sixteenth century there was a young man named Tycho Brae. His parents had money, and sent him off to a prestigious school to study law, but he wasn't interested in law. The love of his life was observational astronomy. The only problem was, there was no such subject as observational astronomy. So he studied law during the day to keep his parents happy, but at night he went out and watched the movements of the stars and planets, and kept records of these observations.

It was the records that eventually made a difference in the history of science. But his parents didn't like him wasting his time stargazing, and insisted he concentrate on his law studies. They hired a tutor to keep him focused. But while his tutor slept, Tycho Brae was out observing the stars.

Had he obeyed his parents, history would have been different. But he followed his own star, so to speak, and eventually found himself teaching others his methods and findings. Among these students was Jonas Kepler, who studied Tycho Brae's huge collection of recorded observations, and then, based on these, created the Three Laws of Planetary Motion, which brought into being an entirely new science: Physics.

And all this came about because Tycho Brae followed that deep impulse, against the wishes of his well-meaning parents.

There's a moral to these stories. Don't try too hard to please your parents. They have goals for you that may not match your goals for you, and it's your goals that must be satisfied by your actions. If your parents have goals, it's their job to accomplish them, not yours. Your job is your own goals.

In his youth, Leonard Bernstein, one of the most talented and successful musicians in American History, was continually pressured by his father to give up his music and do something worthwhile, like help out in his family's beauty-supply business. In Bernstein's early days, his father was disappointed that his son was so interested in music.

Later, when his son became famous, he was asked about that, and he said, "Well how was I supposed to know he was the Leonard Bernstein?"

Let this be a lesson to us, both as parents, and as children. If you're a parent, your child might be the Leonard Bernstein, or the Picasso, or the Tycho Brae, and if you're a child, and you have a goal your parents don't support, take heart! They don't know that you are who you are, and they won't know until you've done it.

Most of us want our parents to approve of what we're doing. But disappointing them, at least for awhile, might be something you'll have to live with. Sometimes they don't want you to pursue your goal because it's risky, and they don't want to see you suffer failure. And since you don't want to fail either, their arguments against your goal can be very persuasive, because failure is, apparently, the worst thing that could happen.

But maybe it would actually be worse to not even try. "Many people die," said Oliver Wendell Holmes, "with their music still in them." That's tragic.

Failure is a possibility. No doubt about it. And it wouldn't do much good to ignore it. Maybe your manuscript will get sent back. Maybe you won't get the job. Maybe your idea will be a flop. Maybe the thing you fear will actually happen. Since, when we begin anything that requires any skill or creativity at all, we're going to be making mistakes right and left, the only road to accomplishing our goal is through making mistakes, is through failing. What a bummer, huh? But not really. Because after awhile you kind of get over the bummer of making mistakes, and you begin to see the value that's there.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner wouldn't miss." Or as Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld wrote, "There are no circumstances, no matter how unfortunate, that clever people do not extract some advantage from, and none, no matter how fortunate, that the unwise cannot turn to their own disadvantage."


FAILURE AND SUCCESS

"When I was young," said George Bernard Shaw, "I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work."

Winston Churchill said, "Success is going from failure to failure with great enthusiasm."

Buckminster Fuller said that parents kill off the genius of their children by making them afraid of making mistakes. When you're afraid of making mistakes, you initiate fewer actions, and when you initiate fewer actions you don't fail as much, but you also don't learn as much. Being afraid of making mistakes prevents you from becoming as good as you could be. That must be why Thomas Watson said, "The way to succeed is to double your failure rate."

Watson was working for a company called National Cash Register, otherwise known as NCR, when he was fired. This was a failure. But he vowed that he would develop a company that would dwarf NCR some day. He went on to create a company called International Business Machines, otherwise known as IBM.

Watson once gave some advice to a writer who was discouraged because so many publishers had rejected his manuscripts. Watson told him, "You're making a common mistake. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. Every one of those manuscripts was rejected for a reason. Have you pulled them to pieces looking for a reason? You've got to put failure to work for you. Go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember, that's where you'll find success — on the far side of failure."

"Fear nothing," said Katherine Tingley, "for every renewed effort raises all former failures into lessons, all sins into experience." Every time you pick yourself up and try again, you transform your failure into a lesson. Remember that quote as you listen to an ironic true story of a clergyman in his fifties.

One of the major goals of this clergyman was to get his manuscript published as a book. He kept sending it to publishers, but all he got back were rejection notices. One day he finally had it. He gave up. In defeat, he threw his manuscript in the trash.

His wife knew how much that manuscript meant to him, so she reached into the wastebasket to pull it out. "We've wasted enough time on it," he told his wife, "I forbid you to take it out of there."

The next day she was thinking about it and she got an idea. She took the manuscript, still inside the wastebasket, to another publisher on her own. The publisher was intrigued by this unusual way to bring in a manuscript, so he read it. And he published it. And boy is he glad he did! The book sold 15 million copies and is still selling. The clergyman is none other than Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. The book is The Power of Positive Thinking. Good thing for Norman his wife used the power of positive thinking and didn't give up.

I'll tell you about another person who didn't give up. He was a man who wanted very much to be an actor. But he was turned down by hundreds of agents. Now, rejection has got to be one of the hardest things in the world to take. But he took it, one day at a time, and although it hurt, he didn't let it stop him.

Nobody wanted him as an actor, so he bought a book on how to write a screenplay and wrote his own movie. His plan was to sell a package deal: You want the screenplay? I'll sell it to you if I get to play the leading role. But again, nobody was interested. He was rejected again and again, but he kept at it.

Then a company made him an offer just when he desperately needed money. His wife was pregnant, and they had less than a hundred dollars to their names. He was offered two hundred and sixty five thousand dollars for the script...on one condition: That he wouldn't star in it. They wanted someone like Burt Reynolds or Warren Beatty.

But he wrote it, and he thought his movie would make him a star — but only if he starred in it. So he bit the bullet and refused to sell out.

Boy that must have been tough. And you know, no matter what your goal is, it will probably be tough. It's important that you make up your mind to be willing to sacrifice some comfort for the sake of your goal, because it will be necessary for your goal's achievement.

An interviewer once asked Ray Bradbury about the sacrifices he made early in his career. "Wasn't it hard to make sacrifices? Didn't you have to give up most of the things people feel they have to have?"

Bradbury said, "Well, it depends on what you have to have. You can get along on a very small amount of money." Then he talked about not going to the theater, giving up movies, not buying clothes, and eating lots of macaroni and cheese and cans of soup.

You know what kills a lot of aspirations? Impatience. People don't want to sacrifice the nice car and the stylish clothes and the great stereos and all those other luxuries that seem like necessities, so they buy them, and then they're in debt, so they don't have the freedom to do what they want. They don't have any money to finance their goal, so the goal gets shoved aside. After awhile, they forget it's even there.

Big obstacles didn't kill the dream. Impatience did.

A friend of mine told me the other day she's tired of the fashion industry and she wants to do something meaningful with her life, but she doesn't know what that would be.

"If money wasn't an issue," I asked her, "what would you love to do?"

Oh!" she said immediately, "I've always wanted to work with troubled kids."

"Well there's your answer," I said, "How about getting out of the fashion industry and working with troubled kids?"

She looked at me as if I was unbelievably naive. "There's no money in it," she said. And with simple statement, slammed the door on something that may have made her life satisfying.

She has charged so much money for clothes on her credit cards, she couldn't realistically get into another line of work that pays less for at least a couple of years. It would take that long to pay of the cards. That would be hard. She could do it. But it would be hard.

Being willing to sacrifice, being willing to delay gratification, gives you power. We may not like driving the old car. We may prefer to have all the nice things everyone else has. And if we sacrifice and keep pursuing our goals, we'll probably be able to have those nice things. But for sure we'll have something that's way more valuable: We'll be satisfied with our life.

So what happened to our would-be actor and screenwriter? The company offered him $265,000 but he refused because he wanted the leading role. He went back to knocking on doors and finally a company took a risk on his movie and his acting. But they lessened their risk by paying him only a little bit up front and then ten percent of the profits.

The movie was Rocky and it won academy awards for best director and best picture and made an unknown man named Sylvester Stallone into a star. Four other Rocky films were made, grossing more than a quarter of a billion dollars.

Stallone, the actor and screenwriter, had the courage to keep trying. There are millions of people who would like to succeed but very few of us are willing to suffer and sacrifice and keep going because it's tough, it's discouraging and to keep going we need that rare and precious quality: Perseverance. As Samuel Johnson said, "Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance. He that shall walk, with vigor, three hours a day, will pass, in seven years, the circumference of the globe."


PERSEVERANCE

Case in point: John Johnson, the richest African American in the country, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazine, owner of a multi-million dollar cosmetics and insurance empire, and a man with formidable perseverance.

He started out dirt-poor, barefoot, and living in a tin-roofed shack in the deep South. His first publishing venture, when he was 24, was a little magazine called Negro Digest. He went to get a loan to start his business, and they laughed in his face. The assistant to the assistant was the only person he could talk to at the bank and he told Johnson, "Boy, we don't make any loans to colored people."

No banks were willing to invest any money in his enterprise, so his mom let him put her furniture up for collateral on a $500 loan. He wanted the African Americans in the South to read his magazine because a lot of them thought they were inferior people. They had been suppressed for generations. They needed to be inspired, and Johnson knew his Negro Digest would do that.

The problem was that the police in the South were hostile to black-oriented media. So Johnson got clever. He had his agents board a bus and secretly sell the Digest, working from seat to seat to the next stop. Some of these agents were caught, beaten, and jailed. But they kept at it, and Negro Digest became a success.

When Johnson started Ebony Magazine, he had a hard time getting companies to advertise in it because nobody wanted their advertisements in a magazine for blacks. He sent letters and made phone calls. He personally made 400 phone calls to a single CEO. The car industry was the hardest. As Johnson said, "We sent an advertising salesman to Detroit every week for ten years before we broke our first major account." Now that's perseverance!

John Johnson got his accounts, kept his magazines going, and inspired millions of people in the process.

Perseverance isn't a single, massive effort. It's constant effort over a long period of time. For example, in the Guinness Book of World Records, there's a man who ate a bicycle. Yep, swallowed a whole bicycle.

If you think about doing that yourself, it sounds pretty difficult, doesn't it? And when you and I hear about the successes of others, and we think about doing it ourselves, it sounds pretty difficult too. But if you watched the bicycle-eater perform his seeming miracle, you would recognize that you could do the same thing...if you wanted to.

And that's also likely true about the successful people we know about. If we followed them around night and day, week after week, after awhile we'd realize that we could accomplish the same thing if we wanted to.

The secret of the successful people, and the bicycle-eater is to do what you can for today, and keep it up most every day.

The bike-eater had his entire bike ground into a fine powder, and every day he added a little of this powder to his meals. It took him awhile, but he eventually ate the whole bicycle. Pretty easy. Yes. And that's the point. There may be things along the way that are difficult to stomach. I'm sure it wasn't easy for John Johnson to be rejected so many times. But he didn't try to get every company to advertise in one day. And the bicycle-eater didn't try to swallow the whole bike's worth of powder in one day. It would have killed him.

They did what they could each day, and kept doing that most every day for a long time. By the way, I told a little fib. The guy who ate the bicycle didn't really eat a bicycle. He ate ten bicycles. His name is Michel Lotito. He lives in France. Since 1966, he's eaten ten bikes, a supermarket cart, seven TV sets, six chandeliers, and a low-calorie Cessna light aircraft.

A little every day adds up to a lot.

We just need to do a little today, and a little more tomorrow. The effect will accumulate. Sometimes what we do will be successful, and sometimes we'll make mistakes. But as the Japanese proverb says, the secret of success is "Fall seven times, stand up eight." That's what Jimmy Yen did. He isn't Japanese, he's Chinese, and you've probably never heard of him. Most Westerners haven't. But a jury of distinguished scholars and scientists, including Albert Einstein and Orville Wright, thought enough of him to vote him one of the top ten modern revolutionaries of the twentieth century.

What did Jimmy Yen do that was so astounding? He taught Chinese peasants to read. Big deal, huh? But for four thousand years, right up until this century, reading and writing in China was only done by the Scholars, and was considered beyond the ability of the peasants. Everybody knew, including the peasants themselves, that peasants were incapable of learning.

That belief, that thoroughly ingrained, four thousand year-old belief, was Jimmy Yen's first so-called "impossible" barrier. The second barrier was the Chinese language itself, consisting of 40,000 characters, each character signifying a different word. The third barrier was the lack of technology — even the lack of good roads. How could Jimmy Yen even reach the 350 million peasants in China?

Impossible odds. An impossibly huge goal. And yet he had almost attained it when he was forced, by Communism, to leave his country. Did he give up? No. He decided to teach the rest of the Third World to read! Practical reading programs, like the ones he'd developed in China started pumping out literate people like a gushing oil well in the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Columbia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India — people became literate. For the first time in their entire genetic history, they had access to accumulated knowledge of the human race.

For those of us who take literacy for granted, I'd like you to consider for a moment how narrow your world would be if you'd never learned how to read, and there was no access to radios or TVs.

Chinese peasants were hired by the Allied Forces in World War One, as laborers in the war effort, 180,000 of them. Most of them had no idea — not a clue — where England, Germany or France was. They didn't know what they were being hired to do. And they didn't even know what a war was! Try to grasp, if you can, the vacancy, the darkness, the lack that existed in those people because they couldn't read. Jimmy Yen was a Savior to them.

At one point he published a little newspaper for the Chinese peasants working there in Europe, where he started his literacy program, when he received a letter from one of his former students. The student wrote,

"Ever since the publishing of your paper, I began to know everything under the heavens. But your paper is so cheap, and costs only one centime a copy, you may have to close your paper down soon. So here please find enclosed 365 Franks which I have saved during my three years labor in France."

Now get this: The Chinese peasants in France were being paid one Frank a day — the equivalent of 20 cents. And this poor laborer sent his entire savings, more than a year's pay, to Jimmy Yen! How much would something have to mean to you for you to voluntarily, happily, give away more than a year's worth of your income out of sheer gratitude?

What was the secret of Jimmy Yens success? He found a real need and he found in himself a strong desire to answer that need. And he took some action. He tried to do something about it, even though it seemed impossible. He worked long hours. And he started with what he had in front of him, gradually taking on more and more.

Thomas Carlyle said, "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."

And that's what Jimmy Yen did. He started out teaching a few peasants to read. He had no desks, no pens, no money, no overhead projectors. He started from where he found himself and did what was clearly at hand.

Each time a new class started, there were more people in it, and he got better and better at teaching them. And as time went on, he received more and more help.


OPPORTUNITIES

What's clearly at hand for you? Do you have a tendency to dream big, to try to figure out in advance what lies dimly in the distance, ignoring the opportunities for a small beginning right here right now?

"Nobody has made a greater mistake," wrote Edmund Burke, "than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."

Everyone has heard of Mother Teresa. But do you know how she began her great mission? She started by simply doing the little task that lay clearly at hand. She was a 21 year-old teacher at a convent high school in Calcutta, India, looking out her window one day at the slum on the other side of the concrete wall. This wasn't the kind of slum you and I normally think of, though. This was a slum that would make the poorest of poor Americans shudder. Open sewers, rampant disease, widespread famine — it was horrible.

After school, Sister Teresa went into the slum and brought those people medicine and bandages. She did what she could, from where she was, with what she had. She discovered her mission: to help the poor while living among them. She left the area to get a little more education, then came back to the slum and went to work.

The kids needed to learn to read and write, because without those essentials, they could never rise above their condition. But she had no resources. So she wrote letters in the dirt with a stick, with at first only five or six children. That was her school. The dirt on the ground. A stick. And a few children.

But of course the parents of the children saw what was happening, so pretty soon some tables appeared. Then eventually benches and a blackboard. And the word got around, so more and more children were showing up for class.

She saw a need, and she tried to fill that need directly, doing what she could with what she had, a little on a little, no matter how small it seemed, and by following that simple strategy, she became a world leader of sorts, an inspiration to millions of people, and in 1979, received the Nobel Peace Prize.

What's your mission? You can dream as big as you want to dream. Just realize that you can only do something about it today. Yesterday is already gone, and tomorrow isn't here yet. So everything you'll ever accomplish, no matter how big, will be accomplished one day at a time. So go ahead and get in your mind whatever it is you want. But then bring it down to a focus by asking yourself, "What can I do this day to advance toward my dream?" Now do that. Today. No matter how hopelessly impossible the big goal seems to be, no matter who thinks it's a silly idea, no matter how many times your idea has been rejected, take one step forward on it today.

This is the Path of Progress, and the Way to Happiness. It's the way to the achievement of your mightiest aspirations. It's the way Sylvester Stallone and Mother Teresa and Jack LaLanne and every achiever accomplishes their goals. And it's also the way Paul Rokich achieved his goal.

When Paul was a boy, growing up in Utah, he happened to live near an old copper smelter, and the sulfur dioxide that poured out of that refinery had made a desolate wasteland out of what used to be a beautiful forest. When a young visitor one day looked at this wasteland and saw that there was nothing living there — no animals, no trees, no bushes, no birds, no anything but fourteen thousand acres of black and barren land that even smelled bad — this kid looked at the land and said, "This place is crummy."

Paul knocked him down. He felt insulted. But he looked around, and something happened. Paul Rokich, in that moment, made a vow that someday he would bring back the life to this land.

Many years later, Paul was in the area, and he went to the smelter office. He asked if they had any plans to bring the trees back. NO was the answer. He asked if they would let him try to bring the trees back. NO. They didn't want him on their land.

He realized he needed to be a lot more knowledgeable before anyone would listen to him, so he went to college to study botany. At the college, he met a very inspiring professor who was an expert in Utah's ecology. Unfortunately, this expert told Paul that the wasteland he wanted to bring back was beyond hope. He was told that his goal was foolish because even if he planted trees there, and even if they grew, the wind would only blow the seeds forty feet per year, and that's all you'd get because there weren't any birds or squirrels to spread the seeds, and the seeds from those trees would need another thirty years before they started producing seeds of their own. Therefore, it would take approximately 20,000 years to re-vegetate that six-square-mile piece of earth. His teachers told him it would be a waste of his life to try to do it. It just plain could not be done.

So he tried to go on with his life. He got a job operating heavy equipment, got married, had some kids...but his dream would not die. He kept reading up on it, and he kept thinking about it. And then one night he took some action. He did what he could with what he had.

This was an important turning point. As Samuel Johnson said, "It is common to overlook what is near by keeping the eye fixed on something remote. In the same manner," he said, "present opportunities are neglected, and attainable good is slighted, by minds busied in extensive ranges."

Paul stopped "busying his mind in extensive ranges" and looked at what opportunities for attainable good were right in front of him. Under the cover of darkness, he sneaked out into the wasteland with a backpack full of seedlings, and started planting. For seven hours, he planted seedlings.

He did it again a week later. And every week, he made his secret journey into the wasteland and planted trees and shrubs and grass. But most of it died.

For fifteen years he did this.

Freezing winds and blistering heat, floods and landslides and fires destroyed his work time and time again. But he kept planting.

One night he found a highway crew had come and taken tons of dirt for a road grade, and all the plants he had painstakingly planted in that area were gone. But he just kept planting.

Week after week, year after year, he kept at it, against the opinion of the authorities, against the trespassing laws, against the devastation of road crews, against the wind and rain and heat, even against plain common sense, he just kept planting.

Slowly, very slowly, things began to take root. Then gophers appeared. Then rabbits. Then porcupines. The old copper smelter at first gave him permission, and then later, as times were changing and there was political pressure to clean up the environment, the company eventually hired Paul to do what he was already doing, and they provided him with machinery and crews to work with. Progress accelerated.

Now the place is fourteen thousand acres of trees and grass and bushes, rich with elk and eagles. And Paul Rokich has received almost every environmental award Utah has.

He says, "I thought if I got this started, when I was dead and gone people could come and see it. I never thought I'd live to see it myself."

It took him until his hair turned white, but he managed to keep that "impossible" vow he made to himself as a child.

What was it you wanted to do you thought was impossible? Sure gives a perspective on things, doesn't it?

The way you get something accomplished in this world is to just keep planting. Just keep working. Just keep plugging away at it, one day at a time, for a long time. No matter who criticizes you, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many times you fall. Get back up again and just keep planting.

- Excerpted from the book, Slotralogy, by Adam Khan. 

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Direct Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

It's YOUR Mind: You Might As Well Use It For Your Own Good

When you think, you do it with words and pictures — mental words and pictures. Usually when you're trying to change your thoughts, you try to think different thoughts. But have you ever tried thinking the same thoughts in a different way?

For example, if you are criticizing yourself using words in your head, what tone of voice are you using? If it's a harsh tone, if you are kind of yelling at yourself, then try saying the same thing only with a kinder, softer tone of voice. Does that change the way you take it? Sure it does. You respond to the way you say something to yourself just like you do when someone on the outside speaks to you. It makes a difference if I command you, "Get me a glass of water!" or if I ask politely, "Would you mind getting me a glass of water?" You feel differently in response to different tones of voice.

A man named Richard Bandler came up with this idea. The first book of his I read, Using Your Brain — For a Change, hit me as a revelation. It had never occurred to me to change the details of a thought (tone of voice, volume, etc.) rather than the thought itself. I've experimented with it, and it does indeed make a difference. If you feel bad, try to discover if right at that moment you are making pictures in your head or saying something to yourself. Then notice how it is being done.

If you are saying something to yourself, for example, try to discover the details and then try changing them one at a time to find out if it makes a difference in how you feel. Turn up the volume. Notice how you feel. Turn it down and notice how you feel. Try saying it with different emotions. Try different peoples' voices: A wise old person, a person of the opposite sex (saying it seductively), your best friend, etc. Try putting a sound track in the background. Try to determine where the voice seems to be coming from. Then imagine it coming from somewhere else. Imagine your thumb saying it to you. Imagine a spirit sitting on your shoulder saying it to you. There are endless possibilities. Some won't make any difference. Some will change the way you feel.

The hardest part of this is noticing what you are picturing or what you're saying to yourself in the first place. Those thoughts tend to go by "unconsciously," that is, you don't really notice them much of the time. You're paying attention to what's happening on the outside, and you notice your feelings and it seems like the stuff happening on the outside directly causes your feelings. But there is something in the middle that determines what you feel: your thoughts.

Those thoughts may be "unconscious." It is not that the thoughts can't be conscious. It's just that you don't usually pay attention to them. You don't notice them. It works the same the other way too. Haven't you been reading a book while there are sounds going on around you that you didn't notice? You were busy listening to the voice in your head as it was reading the words, and perhaps you were making pictures in your head about what you were reading. At times like those, you have so much attention focused on your internal words and pictures, you don't really notice what's going on in the outside world.

The same thing happens in reverse: when you're paying attention to what you're seeing and hearing and feeling, your internal thoughts go by unnoticed. And that's fine for the most part. If you were always paying attention to your own thoughts, you might miss what people were saying to you or you might not see a car coming.

But when you are feeling a negative emotion and it's interfering with your work or your relationships or something important, then pay attention to what you're thinking. And experiment with it.

NOT JUST NEGATIVE USES

You can also make nice things better. For example, you can increase your enjoyment of pursuing a goal by making your thoughts about it more motivating and pleasant. Take a weak voice talking to you positively about your goal and make it deep and strong and powerful and a little louder. Add energizing or inspiring music to the background.

If you hear thoughts about how maybe you won't succeed or maybe you don't have what it takes, make those thoughts small and weak and squeaky (like a little mouse is saying them).

When you experiment and find things that work, use them often. After a while, just like anything else you repeat, you will start to use the new changes unconsciously, without even trying. Over the long run, this will make you more effective and put you in a better mood.

All this goes for pictures in your head, too. There might be even more things you can change visually than there are with sound. You can make a picture brighter or dimmer, smaller or larger; you can make it a movie or a still picture, color or black and white; you can look at the same picture from a different point of view, in focus or fuzzy, and so on.

Usually when you think, you are probably making pictures and talking to yourself, so you have lots of room for creativity. Make a picture of your goal bright, colorful, and vivid. Bring it up close. Make it a wide, deep, three dimensional, moving picture. Bring in an inspiring soundtrack and say things to yourself in a confident and inspired tone of voice. You'll be up and working, feeling confident and motivated.

MEMORIES


You can also change the impact of memories. If you have a memory that makes you feel bad whenever you think of it, try making the picture a little smaller or move it away a little bit, make it black and white, maybe even make it a still picture. Now add a narration from the future describing what you learned from that experience.

Everybody is different. For some people, when you take a painful memory and make it black and white, the pain is less intense. But for some people it will make it more intense. You'll have to experiment with it. The reason I didn't suggest you make the picture disappear is because we learn things from experiences, maybe even especially painful ones. You want to retain the memory so you can retain what you learned. But if you can make it less painful and still retain the information, why not?

I used to have a problem with criticism, for example. It really bothered me. But I knew if I could take it better, it would be very useful to me to be able to listen to criticism without feeling as bad. I would be able to gain what was valuable from the criticism.

Here's what I did: Whenever someone criticized me, I imagined I was in a fort. I imagined an impenetrable fort guarded by the meanest, toughest guys I could imagine. I was in the fort, completely safe. And I was looking at a little TV monitor of the scene, only I wasn't looking from my own eyes. I imagined the camera was in an upper corner of the room looking down on me so I could see both me and the person who was criticizing me. I could see us, and I had a little printer there spitting out a transcript of what the person was saying.

I did it this way because I have found the thing that caused my feelings to be hurt was not so much what someone was saying, but the tone of voice they used when they said it. So by imagining reading it, I was only reading the information without the emotional impact of their tone of voice.

I tried to practice this when someone criticized me, but I felt terrible so quickly, I wasn't able to do it. So I practiced with my wife. We spent an hour or so practicing. She would think of a criticism, and then I would imagine I was in my fort, looking at the little monitor and the printer, and then she would tell me the criticism (and she used real criticisms). We practiced it over and over. I got pretty good at it. As soon as I suspected I was about to be criticized, I yelled to myself (not out loud), "Into the fort!" and there I was, safe and protected, watching what was happening from a point of view other than my own (from the corner of the room) and then I read what was being said.

It was probably too elaborate. I was determined to be able to listen to criticism without feeling bad, so I went to the extreme. But it worked. And it changed my relationship with my wife drastically. It also improved other areas. I used to feel bad when people criticized my writings, so I was hesitant to let anyone read it. Of course, it would be hard to make a living as a writer not wanting anyone to read what I'd written! 

I sometimes feel a little twinge when someone criticizes my work, but for the most part, I don't feel bad. I listen and wonder if the criticism is worth anything. If it is, I use it. If it isn't, I have an attitude of, "Well, that's your opinion, and you may be right, but I don't happen to agree with you."

That attitude about criticism was a big change for me. The main things I changed were the visual point of view from which I saw the situation, and the tone of voice (when I read the printout of what the person said, I used a calm, distant, neutral tone of voice).

This insight (that you can not only change what you say to yourself and what you picture, but how you say it and picture it) opens up a whole new area for experimenting. And since you spend a good deal of your waking hours picturing things and saying things to yourself, you have lots of opportunities to experiment.

I was out on a walk once, feeling depressed, feeling hopeless about one of my goals, and I thought it was a good time to experiment. I imagined people singing. I imagined the park I was walking through lined with people I know on either side of the walkway, singing to me. It was an inspiring gospel tune, but I changed the words. They were singing, "Don't give up! You can do it, we know you can!" Within five minutes, I had tears coming down my face and was feeling thoroughly inspired!

You can imagine hearing and seeing things any time you aren't actively engaged in some project. You can experiment endlessly and find new ways to change how you feel. Does it sound like a weird thing to do? Going around imagining people are singing to you? Seeing pictures and hearing things that aren't there? Isn't that kind of psycho? It's kind of funny that it seems like a weird thing to do when you think about doing it intentionally to feel good. It's funny because we do it all the time unintentionally to feel bad.

Worrying about something means hearing and seeing upsetting things that haven't happened. People make themselves angry and depressed and afraid regularly by imagining they see and hear things. But that isn't done on purpose. They are usually just old mental habits from childhood and the mind just seems to keep working whether you try to direct it or not. It even works while you're asleep.

But just because you imagine seeing and hearing things automatically that make you feel bad doesn't mean you couldn't deliberately imagine things that would make you feel good. You can still worry. That's all right. It is a useful thing to do once in a while. But when it's pointless, when you're feeling bad and it isn't helping anything, take control of what you're thinking by deliberately imagining seeing and hearing things that might help you. It's your mind, after all. You can do whatever you want with it.

A few years ago I was coaching a friend of mine. He asked me to help him change his thoughts. He had difficulty walking up to women he was attracted to and meeting them.

"When you look at an attractive woman, and she looks at you, what do you think?" I asked him, "Are you picturing anything? Are you saying anything to yourself?"

"I imagine her saying something to herself," he said, "She says something like, 'What a dork.'"

"Gee, I wonder why you don't want to go up and meet her?"

"Yeah," he said, looking sheepish, "why would I want to go up and have her reject me like that?"

"I want you to try something," I said, "Close your eyes and imagine seeing an attractive woman. Imagine she is saying something to you mentally. Imagine she is telepathic and she is projecting her thoughts into your mind. You can hear her voice clearly in your head. Her voice is soft and inviting. Alluring. She says, 'I want to meet you. Come talk to me.'"

His eyes were closed, but he had a smile on his face.

"Now imagine a different woman you find attractive," I said, interrupting his reverie, "And imagine that she is also telepathic. You can hear her voice, lovely and inviting. She says, 'I want to know you. Please come and talk with me.'"

We did that a few more times to make it a habit, or at least to make it a mental option when he is attracted to a woman. He said he felt different about meeting women. He didn't feel afraid. But the real test was yet to come.

A few weeks later he told me "that little thing" we did made a huge difference. He had no problem walking up to attractive women and talking with them, and he had gone out with several of them. It is now five years later and he is happily married to the "woman of his dreams."

This stuff is powerful. Try it. Experiment. I think your future is looking brighter already. Doesn't that sound good?

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot

Common Everyday Sociopaths

When you say the word "sociopath" most people think of serial killers. But although many serial killers are sociopaths, there are far more sociopaths leading ordinary lives. Chances are you know a sociopath. I say "ordinary lives," but what they do is far from ordinary. Sociopaths are people without a conscience. They don't have the normal empathy the rest of us take for granted. They don't feel affection. They don't care about others. But most of them are good observers, and they have learned how to mimic feelings of affection and empathy remarkably well.

Most people with a conscience find it very difficult to even imagine what it would be like to be without one. Combine this with a sociopath's efforts to blend in, and the result is that most sociopaths go undetected.

Because they go undetected, they wreak havoc on their family, on people they work with, and on anyone who tries to be their friend. A sociopath deceives, takes what he (or she) wants, and hurts people without any remorse. Sociopaths don't feel guilty. They don't feel sorry for what they've done. They go through life taking what they want and giving nothing back. They manipulate and deceive and convincingly lie without the slightest second thought. They leave a path of confusion and upset in their wake.

Who are these people? Why are they the way they are? Apparently it has little to do with upbringing. Many studies have been done trying to find out what kind of childhood leads to sociopathy. So far, nothing looks likely. They could be from any kind of family. It is partly genetic, and partly mystery.

But researchers have found that the brains of sociopaths function differently than normal brains. And their brains function in a way that makes their emotional life unredeemably shallow. And yet they are capable of mimicking emotions like professional actors.

Sociopaths and psychopaths are the same thing. The original name for this disorder was "psychopath" but the general public and media confused it with "psycho" and "psychotic" so in the 1930s the name was changed to sociopath. Recently the media again caused a misperception that sociopaths were always serial killers, so now many call the condition "antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)."

But some experts think ASPD includes many things like narcissism, paranoia, etc., including sociopathy. And others think ASPD is the same thing as sociopathy, but the diagnostic criteria used to describe and diagnose ASPD is different than sociopathy, so for the purposes of this article, we'll stay with the term "sociopathy."

Sociopaths don't have normal affection with other people. They don't feel attached to others. They don't feel love. And that is why they don't have a conscience. If you harmed someone, even someone you didn't know, you would feel guilt and remorse. Why? Because you have a natural affinity for other human beings. You know how it feels to suffer, to fear, to feel anguish. You naturally care about others.

If you hurt someone you love, the guilt and remorse would be even worse because of your affection for him or her. Take that attachment and affection away and you take away remorse, guilt, and any kind of normal feelings of fairness. That's a sociopath.

SO HOW COMMON ARE THEY?

Some researchers say about one percent of the general population are sociopaths. Others put the figure at three or four percent. The reason the estimates vary is first of all, not everyone has been tested, of course, but also because sociopathy is a sliding scale. A person can be very sociopathic or only slightly, and anywhere in between. It's a continuum. So how sociopathic does someone have to be before you call him a sociopath? That's a tough question and it's why the estimates vary.

But clearly sociopaths are fairly common and not easy to detect. Even when the evidence is staring you in the face, you may have difficulty admitting that someone you know, someone you trusted, even someone you love, is a sociopath. But the sooner you admit it, the faster your life can return to normal. Face the facts and you may save yourself a lot of suffering.

Most of the information in this article (and more) can be found in two excellent books I strongly recommend: Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, and The Sociopath Next Door.

The first book is by Robert Hare, who has made his career out of studying sociopaths. He's one of the leading, if not the leading expert on the subject. His insights and examples are compelling. But because Hare has done most of his research in prisons, sometimes his book seems a little removed from everyday reality. We don't very often run into rapists and cold-blooded killers.

The second book, by Martha Stout, brings it to the everyday level, describing the kinds of people we are likely to meet in ordinary life.

HOW TO SPOT A SOCIOPATH

The big question is, of course, how can you know whether someone is a sociopath or not? It's a difficult question and even experts on the subject can be fooled. If you suspect that someone close to you is a sociopath, I suggest you read both of the books I mentioned, and also read the comments on the comments page, and think hard about it. Compare that person to the other people in your life, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you often feel used by the person?
  2. Have you often felt that he (or she, because women can be sociopaths too) doesn't care about you?
  3. Does he lie and deceive you?
  4. Does he tend to make contradictory statements?
  5. Does he tend to take from you and not give back much?
  6. Does he often appeal to pity? Does he seem to try to make you feel sorry for him?
  7. Does he try to make you feel guilty?
  8. Do you sometimes feel he is taking advantage of your good nature?
  9. Does he seem easily bored and need constant stimulation?
  10. Does he use a lot of flattery? Does he interact with you in a way that makes you feel flattered even if he says nothing overtly complimentary?
  11. Does he make you feel worried? Does he do it obviously or more cleverly and sneakily?
  12. Does he give you the impression you owe him?
  13. Does he chronically fail to take responsibility for harming others? Does he blame everyone and everything but himself?

And does he do these things far more than the other people in your life? If you answered "yes" to many of these, you may be dealing with a sociopath. For sure you're dealing with someone who isn't good for you, whatever you want to call him.

I like Martha Stout's way of detecting sociopaths. She wrote: "If ... you find yourself often pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to one hundred percent that you are dealing with a sociopath."

WHAT DO THEY WANT?

This is an interesting question. Of course most of our purposes are strongly influenced by our connections and affections with others. Our relationships with others, and our love for them, give us most of the meaning and purpose in our lives. So if a sociopath doesn't have these things, what is left? What kind of purposes do they have?

The answer is chilling: They want to win. Take away love and relationships and all you have left is winning the game, whatever the game is. If they are in business, it's becoming rich and defeating competitors. If it's sibling rivalry, it's defeating the sibling. If it's a contest, the goal is to dominate. If a sociopath is the envious sort, winning could be simply making the other lose or fail or be frustrated or embarrassed.

A sociopath's goal is to win. And he (or she) is willing to do anything at all to win.

Sociopaths don't have as much to think about as normal people, so they can be very clever and conniving. Sociopaths aren't busy being concerned with relationships or moral dilemmas or conflicting feelings, so they have much more time to think about clever ways to gain your trust and stab you in the back, and how do it without anyone knowing what's happening.

One of the questions in the list above was about boredom. This is a real problem for sociopaths and they seem fanatically driven to prevent boredom. The reason it looms so large for them (and seems so strange to us) is that our relationships with people occupy a good amount of our time and attention and interest us intensely. Take that away and all you have is "playing to win" which is rather shallow and empty in comparison. So boredom is a constant problem for sociopaths and they have an incessant urge to keep up a high level of stimulation. Even negative stimulation — drama, worry, upset, etc. — is more tolerable to a sociopath than boredom.

And here I might mention that the research shows sociopaths don't feel emotions the same way normal people do. For example, they don't experience fear as unpleasant. This goes a long way to making their inexplicable behavior comprehensible. Some feelings that you and I might find intolerable might not bother a sociopath at all.

HOW TO DEAL WITH A SOCIOPATH

There is no known cure or therapy for sociopathy. In fact, some evidence suggests that therapy makes them worse because they use the therapeutic interactions to learn more about human vulnerabilities they can then exploit. They learn how to manipulate better and they learn better excuses that others will believe. They don't usually seek therapy, unless there is something to gain from it.

Given all that, there's only one solution for dealing with a sociopath: Get him or her completely out of your life for good. This seems radical, and of course, you want to be fairly sure your diagnosis is correct, but you need to protect yourself from the drain on your time, attention, money, and good attitude. Healing or helping a sociopath is a pointless waste of your life. That's not your mission. It's not your responsibility. You have your own goals and your own life, and those are your responsibility.

If there are children involved, that complicates the issue, of course. You can read more on that here.

In Hare's book (Without Conscience), he says before you diagnose someone as a sociopath, he recommends you get a full clinical diagnostic, including an extensive interview with the sociopath by a qualified psychotherapist, plus interviews with the sociopath's bosses, co-workers, friends, and family. Uh, yeah, right. Good luck with that one. I agree, that would be ideal, but if you can get a sociopath to submit to an interview, I would be astonished. So you'll have to do the best you can with whatever information you can get.

I don't recommend you tell anyone you've diagnosed him (or her) as a sociopath. In fact, I strongly urge you not to. I don't even know if it's a good idea to tell anyone about your conclusion. Just get the sociopath out of your life with as little fanfare as possible. The only exception I would make to this rule is if the sociopath is making someone else's life a living hell, it seems wrong to leave her to the wolves while you slink off. I don't recommend you try to convince your friend she's dealing with a sociopath. I recommend that you simply say you got a lot of insight from this or that book or whatever, and let your friend draw her own conclusions. Maybe even buy your friend a book. But it's not your mission to save your friend, either. Tell her what you know and if she ignores your warning, that's her problem, not yours. Because you said something, she may figure it out eventually.

If this all sounds cold or heartless, maybe you're not dealing with a sociopath, or maybe she or he hasn't driven you to the point of madness (yet). But remember what the solution is; you may need it some day.

And besides, the point of all this dismal information is so you no longer need to think about such negative things and so you can turn your attention to positive, life-affirming, uplifting goals of your own.

You may also want to check out a support group for people who are in a relationship with a sociopath:

LoveFraud.com

SafeRelationshipsMagazine.com

Abuse Recovery: For Survivors of a Relationship with a Narcissist or Psychopath

If you have a sociopath in your life, you should take it seriously. For more resources, look in the sidebar of the comments page (click here). Learn what you need to learn, and if you're pretty sure you have correctly identified one, do what needs to be done to protect yourself and your non-sociopathic loved ones. Then get back to your own life. Accomplish your goals. Nurture your relationships. Learn and grow and enjoy yourself.


Here's a summary of Common Everyday Sociopaths:

They make you feel sorry for them.
They make you feel worried or afraid.
They give you the impression you owe them.
They make you feel used.
Sometimes you suspect they don't care about you.
They lie to you and deceive you.
They take a lot from you and give back very little.
They make you feel guilty (and use that to manipulate you).
They take advantage of your kindness.
They are easily bored and need constant stimulation.
They don't take responsibility, but place blame elsewhere.

UPDATE:

I've been reading and writing about oxytocin lately (see the article, Peace, Love, and Oxytocin) and came across an interesting experiment. Paul Zak, one of the primary researchers in the field, found that when you give someone a dose of oxytocin, they tend to become more generous.

"Interestingly," wrote Joyce Gramza, "Zak found that oxytocin had no effect on two percent of the participants and that these students fit the personality profile of sociopaths."

Oxytocin is a naturally-produced hormone that creates feelings of closeness, comfort, relaxation, empathy for others, and trust.

As I said before, the estimates given in the research on sociopaths are that one to four percent of the population is sociopathic. Now with this study, coming from an entirely different field, maybe we can be more specific and narrow it down to two percent. One in fifty. If you know more than fifty people, chances are you know a sociopath.

COMMENTS

I've gotten so many comments on this article, I've created a blog just to handle them all. Read the comments and make your own comments here: Sociopath Article Comments.You can also make comments below.

I had received quite a few comments before I started the comments blog. Here are the original comments: Original Comments Page.


MORE RESOURCES:

As I find new resources, I've been posting them in the left sidebar of the comments page. If you know of other support groups for people who are dealing with (or have dealt with) sociopaths, please post them on the comments page, and I will add the resources to the sidebar. Thank you.

Early Comments on the Sociopath Article

The following will be comments on the article, Common Everyday Sociopaths. We now have a comments page dedicated to comments on the article. To leave a comment, go to Comments on Sociopath Article.

Adam Khan (author of the article) wrote: I received two emails in a row about the fact that throughout the article, I speak as if only men can be sociopaths. The two people who wrote to me said they had personal experience dealing with women sociopaths. That's what made me decide to start this comment page.

A woman wrote this:

I just wanted to say that your article may have saved my life. The particular person I am involved with a man and his is a classic socialpath. In fact, I believe is a Master of his Character as he even has his counselor fooled. Or perhaps the counselor just is not very good at his skill...........At any rate I am a woman and I am trying to effectively distance myself from this particular individual. This article provided the validation, encouragement and some suggestions I would not have thought about that may help me through this unfortunate situation. Thank you for taking the time to try to educate people about the seriousness of this infliction.

A woman wrote this:

Your website is fascinating and helpful. I have been the victim of a sociopath who is married to my nephew. I got her out of my life, but she is affecting the rest of the family, which affects me.

M met my nephew R when he was happily married and had a beautiful little boy age 3. She got him to subscribe to her illness which didn't exist. She told him she only had a few years left, and that she was dying of cancer. He left his wife, and his son. That was 16 years ago. She never really left her husband who did divorce her, but she kept him in the background and was caught giving him money that R gave to her.

R worked for my insurance brokerage firm and did well making six figures per year. He convinced us to hire M. We did. She managed to force R out of the business with her lies. Everything anyone said to her about anything, grew arms and legs. She informed my sister , R's mother, that we were treating R badly and that we fired him, hated him and set him up. We adored R, he lived with us at one point when he left his wife, and we treated him like our own son. We financed his financial recovery, even bought him a car. We trained him in the insurance business and he had a great future. After he quit his job, he bought into her deception and he opted for a job in NC. She demanded us to believe that she was not joining him there, until we got a call from him and he told us her ticket was already purchased and she would be leaving in two days. When I approached her, she claimed he was lying and that she would NEVER go there. The following day she brought her ex husband to the office and told us he would be replacing her, as she "didn't want to leave us hanging. And that R was forcing her to go to NC and that she was afraid of him because he abused her."

I come from a very close family. We adore each other, including R, which seemed to upset her greatly. When she observed any display of affection toward R, it was as if we were holding a crucifix up to Dracula.. she has always reacted with extreme hysteria shortly after the gathering, or any celebrations, including holidays.

When she was done with the destruction of my family's trust in me, she began to work on my sister. My sister came back to me and told me what she had said about us, and why she hadn't spoken to me in two years. I was floored! I was angry at my sister for not rising above that, and for forgetting who I am and my history with her through out my life. I asked her why she didn't rise above that. Her answer, "She had me totally convinced!"

During those two years my sister financed several of M and R's moves and almost deleted her resources. She used her house as an ATM machine, as R has not worked for more than 2 months during the past 16 years. We all wondered why R has not been able to get M out of his life. The answer? She has him totally convinced that he is useless, stupid and owes her a living, which my sister finances.

She convinced my sister to let them move into her house. My sister has been taking care of my paraplegic brother for over 20 years. They have a beautiful home with handicap facilities and on one half of the house there is a specially designed living quarters for my sister. She promised that she would pay half the mortgage and R and M would take care of my brother's needs. She was so convincing that my sister did it and ended up renting a cottage nearby because the sociopath was horrid to live with. She has to go to tend to my brothers morning care every day because M does not. Everything my sister signed up for, never happened. M even convinced my sister to sign for a loan for her son to buy a car and also got her to register.. she's gooooooood!!!!

R now blames my sister/his mother for all of the problems in the family. R and M haven't paid rent in a few months. My sister is losing her mind and my brother is close to losing the only home he's ever known. R and M are unemployed at this time. My sister feels she cannot evict them. Yesterday she went to her home to tell them to leave and M said, "This is not your house, it is my house, so leave us alone and get out of here. I'm tired of your controlling bitching ways and you cause more problems than your worth. Now give me a hug because I need a hug." Her fit was basically due to the fact that R's brother's wife just gave birth to a baby with physical defects and my sister is focusing on that sorrow right now. M hates when the lights are off her and on anyone else.

My sister fell apart, called me in tears and asked me what to do. I told her to go back to the house and ask M and R how fast they can pack. What ever they respond is not negotiable. I have no problem with M because nothing she says to me is negotiable and she hasn't affected my life in many years. If my sister cannot get rid of M, I will not be able to help her because it will infect my life. M is a monster and quite insane as far as I'm concerned. I expect M to leave and return to her home state when my sister is dead from a heart attack or stroke because that's what she wants. She wants to win. My sister loves her son too much, and therein lay the problem.

Thanks for letting me vent.. it was very cathartic.. and it was the tip of the iceberg of my lessons with M.

A woman wrote this:

www.saferelationships.com

We run a treatment program for survivors. Am author of How to spot a dangerous man and Women Who Love Psychopaths.

Sandra L. Brown, M.A.,
The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction &
Public Psychopathy Education,
A Collaborative Effort To Change How Psychopathy
is Viewed

A woman wrote this:

I knew that a coworker had mental disorders, but now I know one of them is sociopathic behavior. I ended up quitting a great paying job over this woman. Her lies to the boss (who I have concluded is also a sociopath) accusing me of everything that she was guilty of resulted in no comment or discussion from the boss. I just walked in to work one day and was told by the boss to train this woman to do my job. I refused and told the boss I did not feel that I cared to train my replacement, and resigned on the spot. That was the wisest decision I made after suffering her hostility and lies for over 5 months since she started work there. And I was accused of creating a hostile work environment!

A woman wrote this:

Your article was very important and explanatory to me. I have looked and read some stuff on other web sights, an intend to do more research into this. I believe my boyfriend is a sociopath. I have been seeing him for a year and have become increasingly anxiouse about some things that have happened lately and his reactions to them.

This is not all but a short overview:

1). He lost his job and did nothing to get another one, he is now working where his mom works at min. wage
2). He was using my car (to keep the miles off his & I had gas in mine) and his got reposessed at my house while I was here! He did not warn me and in fact yelled at me "How was he to know that was going to happen"?
3). A neighbor got stuck in my steep driveway and he wouldn't go out to help - he said that was their problem. I have always gone out and tried see what I could do, it happens alot.
4). He explodes alot, but is quite
5). His contributions to food at my house is the frozen food of his parents where he lives at 41, that he has stole or at least helped himself to
6). He told me that he once found a wallet and kept all the money and the person had their password in it he cleaned them out with their debt card. This is after earlier that day I expressed how low I thought that would be to do. He said it kindof emotionlessles with a hint of pride.
7}. He is quite charming to strangers as he was to me at first.
8). He has one friend that he speaks of from childhood.
9). We have never spent money on anything except for stuff concerning his daughter, he gave me an earing for my birthday but it was his daughters.
10}.I got his mother a plant for mothers day and he gave it to her acting like it was from him. I couldn't then say anything to her that it was from me!
11.) He spends money he doesn't have and is an impulsive buyer.
12). Doesnt seem to care a bit about my tight budget
13). Has done illegal things
14). His parents put him in an rebah place when he was a teenager - don't know much about it but he indicated that it was someone's fault, principal or a friend? Can't remember.
15). Has allowed me to buy him stuff, but never has done the same for me.
16). Just last night his ex called 3 times before he picked up at my urging as his daughter was with her.


In fact his ex thought daughter was having an appendix attack and was takinig her to the hospital. He just said call me if it is anything. And rolled over and went to sleep!

After writing this stuff out even if he is not a sociopath, he is not someone that is good for me.
I have doubted my feeling because I myself suffer from panic disorder; but is just a plain fact that I have been increasingly reliant on my anxiety meds over the past few months. My bestfriend's son's father and possibly her son are sociopaths and some of the things I have been telling her reminded her of the guy she was involved with so yesterday I googled the word and then talked with her about it. I am worried about how to get out. He has not even met my family but has firmly installed me in his familly and his 6 year old daughter's life. I took this to be a compliment, but in fact it may be a way of controlling and sucking me into his domain. He exhibits most of the signs listed to a pretty solid degree of that personality. To complicate matters even more, he is the first person I have dated since my recent divorce to my exhusband whom abused me bad; my ex would fit into the "Malignant Person" I read somewhere else. I had a few restraining orders on him then attended for about 2 years a local chapter of Women of Worth. After 2 years then I started dating this guy! I do understand that they are hard to detect and I didn't even come to realize this until yesterday. Imagine my shock after all the information and reinforcement I gained for WOW to discover that he may suffer from this personality disorder which from all the information I am gathering, it seems I need to figure out a way to get out, final. Shut the door. I do not believe him to be dangerouse but I am not in a good place emotionally. I have a phsyciatrist who manages my disorder and will speak to him and my next appointment with him. I have tried to get my boyfriend to go to a phsyciatrist in the past, not knowing why, just a vague feeling that he needed help. That went knowwhere of course. And all info. is saying there is no cure for this type of person. I just needed to jot this down to actually see it in black and white. I am just astounded with all my recent support & insight and knowledge that I could get involved with this man! And I saught him out! I was impressed that he did not drink and that he has his daughter every weekend. But he stays stoned to deal with her and then has injected me into taking care of her. I guess it should be fairly easy to get out as he doesn't seem to really care. Thank you for this opportunity to get my feelings out.

I asked her if I could post her comment and she wrote this:

Sure, Adam, I don't see how it will help anyone as I am not sure what is going on, but please post it annonymousely. I was with WOW and know him well enouph to know that if I were thinking this it might not be a very good thing for me. I was crafty enouph to get away from the Malignant Personality ex; where I lived and all my belonging's were - I believe I can get out of this safely too, but he can not know what I am thinking about him.

I have joined the group posted on line to get insights on some of this stuff - how to deal, how not to make anything escalate into a more dangerous situation, etc... In Women of Worth, we never went into detail of these personalities, but a majority of the abuser's where afflicted with them and they were all harmful in various degrees obviously.

A woman wrote this:

My ex son-in-law is a sociopath and I can confirm how one person can cause such pain. The divorce was 7 years ago and he is obsessed with destroying my daughter through their two children. He has held a good job with the same company for 10 years - hard to believe! Reading the book "The Sociopath Next Door" and your online information has helped me to understand what is going on. I could never understand why other people didn't see the dark side of him but I guess he can hide it. Most of all I did not know how he could do some of the hurtful things to my grandchildren and my daughter even to this day. He is sick! The courts have given him generous visitation (he says all the right things) and he does pay child support. Life could be pleasant but he turns everything into a win and lose fight and if he loses watch out....... As the children are getting older he is spending a lot of time blaming their mother for not cooperating when he doesn't get his way. His definition of cooperating is getting his way no matter how unreasonable it is. He has caused so much pain and I see no end. I pray my grandchildren grow up OK - time will tell.

signed: A concerned Mother and Grandmother

A woman wrote this:

Thank you Adam for making your blog. I find comfort in knowing I am not alone. The more I learn about Sociopath's the more shocked and horrified I am by my knowledge. I found a website today www.peepsheet.com. All of us who have been taken for ride by a Sociopath need to complete peepsheets to help others from being hurt.

My story: I was 27, just build my own home, owned a brand new car and was doing very well with my career. I was chatting on yahoo messenger with a girlfriend who lived out of state when I was im'd by him. He was immediately charming and after chatting for an hour had to 'go' and created an urgency about meeting him because we hit it off so well. I followed all of the safety steps on meeting in a public place, a girlfriend called to check on me, people knew were I was etc... He was charming. We hit it off and he had himself moved into my house within 60 days I was feeling sorry for him, taking care of him and providing for him. He had no car and worked near me so we carpooled. No bank account so I cashed his checks, when he didn't have the money to pay his debts, I paid them. Everything I knew about this man I found out to be a lie. He was a con man. He conned every friend he ever made, stole money from business prospects and never delivered a thing. He lied cheated and stole from his parents, even his own brother. Now 4 years later I have figured him out. We have 2 children 2 years and 4 months. I have cashed out my retirement, been through bankruptcy, lost most of my friends, quit my job, luckily was able to keep my house renting it out, but now live with my parents and I am still in debt because after the bankruptcy during our first separation he struck again, convincing me to get back together with him, buying a car I couldn't afford on my own and having our 2nd child. Of course every decision I made he convinced me was the right one and for some reason I had a hard time finding my backbone through the guilt and the pity he made me feel for him. I was abused mentally by this man and am still horrified knowing that I was just a little toy for him. I took him back after finding out he was cheating, I let him get away with lying, I made excuses for him and his behavior because I thought I was doing what was best for my son. Now I know different. I am trying to keep him out of our life. Luckily he is now living with his new girlfriend so he has someone else to manipulate and spend time torturing. I tried to warn her, she didn't listen. I have no idea what kind of horrible stunts he will pull in the future, I pray he slithers away to another state. I have learned in dealing with him that a little bit of sugar goes a long way. I play with fire a little. I make him think he is getting his way so he will go away. I have recently decided that I don't want contact with him and I don't want him to have contact with the kids in fear he will ruin their lives. I am in therapy to deal with my pain and rebuild my life. If you have readers in the Portland, Oregon area, I would love to start a support group for those of us affected by these horrible creatures. It is impossible to understand the depths of pain these people cause unless you have been through it yourself. I had no idea how commonplace Sociopaths were. And I pray I never cross another one in my lifetime.

A woman wrote this:

Thanks for writing your article. I actually dated a sociopath and eventually told him to leave me alone. He was more of a narcissist and so my safety was not at stake! I work with a woman (it is not just men) who is severe sociopath. It is disturbing to know that someone does not have the ability to feel empathy but I definitely believe it to be clinical since this woman has expressed time and time again why others do not like her. She can’t understand the pain she causes others. It is amazing actually. A normal person would understand but she is missing the “empathy” chip. I won’t go into details. I tend to attract these people because I feel sorry for them. I end up trying to befriend them and lend helping hand. Then they grab my arm and start pulling!!! But you know what, you never know and can’t predict what people are like until you get to know them. So, hard to say sometimes. I think trusting your gut at first meeting is key in avoiding these people. In every instance, a voice told me, stay away from this person!! Hope my advice helps. Thanks!

Adam adds:

A good book on trusting your gut is Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear.

A man wrote in with this:

Thank you for the great article, and here is another great resource that is kind of hard to find but I think worth a look: http://www.sociopathicstyle.com/index.htm. I hope you like it, I think it has the potential to help many people.

A woman wrote:

Oh my gosh, My heart rate increased as I read this. I am having so much trouble with a co-worker that used to be a friend. Once he alluded to something a Dr. said to him (but didn't say what) that he didn't like and I feel like maybe he was diagnosed as a sociopath. Everything I just read is true of him. He has work convinced that I'm up to no good and I know this is all a game that he is intent on winning which to him may mean that I leave my job or get terminated. How could I have been so naive to get in to this?

Adam wrote to her saying it is not so much naivete but the inability of a normal person to even conceive of what it would be like to have no empathy for others. She wrote back with this:

And how true your comment is. I am very empathetic and I can't imagine someone not being, even though it's true of many people. When reading about this kind of personality the word evil comes to mind.

A woman wrote this note:

I LOVED THIS WEB PAGE!!

MY QUESTION IS WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE PERSON YOUR DEALING WITH IS A CHILD?

MY 14 YEAR OLD STEP SON HAS BEEN THREW 2 DIFFERENT THERAPIST OVER A 2 YEARS PERIOD. HE HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED A SOCIOPATH. I DON'T KNOW HOW TO AVOID HIM WHEN HE LIVES IN MY HOUSE AND I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF HIM.

MY HUSBAND IS DISABLED DUE TO A HEART TRANSPLANT AND SEVERE NEUROPATHY AS WELL AS EPILEPSY AND MY STEP SONS MOTHER IS NOT IN THE PICTURE SO THAT LEAVES ME TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS BASIC NEEDS ETC.

I HAVE BEEN IN HIS LIFE FOR 12 OF HIS 14 YEARS AND HAVE ALWAYS TREATED HIM AS MY OWN. HOW DO I KEEP MY GIRLS (15 AND 7 ) FROM GETTING HURT AND MYSELF AND HUSBAND WHEN HE LIVES IN OUR HOME AND IS DEPENDENT ON ME?

THANK YOU SO MUCH !

Adam says:

Anyone who has a suggestion for her can write to email@youmeworks.com and I will publish your answers here.

Someone wrote in with this answer:

I'm writing in response to the woman who posted a comment about her sociopathic step son. Antisocial Personality Disorder is the diagnosis that applies to those called socipaths or psychopaths. Children displaying these signs are typically diagnosed with Conduct Disorder. Personality Disorders cannot be diagnosed in childhood because these traits are not yet set in stone, and a child's patterns of thought and behavior are still developing. It sounds like there have been a lot of stressors in your life which have inevitably affected your step son as well. An intensive in-home family therapy program, if available, could help you learn how to most effectively handle your child's challenging behaviors and give him the tools and insight necessary for him to learn to relate to others in a meaningful and appropriate way. There are no guarantees, but children are resilient, and giving him as much guidance, structure and support as you can will give him his best chance at growing into a healthy adult. Don't give up!

A man wrote this:

Hi. I read your article. I should say up front that I am a Sociopath. The one thing your article didn't elaborate on is how victims are chosen, if not by random chance.

Sure it varies but mostly it's because there is contempt for the other person and a lesson they need to learn and who better to teach them that life lesson? They deserve what's coming to them. To knock their ego down a few pegs or to humiliate them in front of people they boast to.

But for potential "people" in public. Let's take a scenario.

The sociopath is at, say Barnes & Noble and we eye a pretty woman sitting at the cafe section. As you browse through the books you keep a glance on her as she sits, reading a book. After 30 minutes you pretty much know her life story by assessing how she is dressed, her hair, her nails right down to the shoes and how she holds the book.

An insecure woman tends to have longer hair that can partially cover her face. In this time I would be able to tell that she has no children, is not in a relationship and doesn't have a lot of close friends. How? Easy. As she sits she never glances at her watch. Most women with children keep an eye on the time to go pick them up from school or the sitter. But most women with kids wont be sitting at the cafe for they have too much to do. No cell phone calls or text messages. So she's not keeping in touch with someone like a boyfriend nor does she have a lot of friends that's texting or calling. For the average person, especially on their day off how often do they go 30 min without a phone call or text? Also, if they have a bluetooth device they tend to be on the phone more. So if they don't have one, then that's another indicator.

Then there's her body language. A woman there to hopefully meet the right guy will glance up more than normal to make eye contact with men that pass her by to show that she is approachable. You can tell the kind of man she is interested in by her facial expression. Young, middle-aged, facial hair or clean shaven right down to how the men are dressed, whether she likes casual, preppy or professional men.

It would take far too long to delve into all of it but you pull all these things together in a short amount of time and you can tell a lot about a person. Right down to the book they're reading it'll show if they are in college or what interests them. It's a start for a conversation.

But you are right in your advice that you don't want to humiliate a socio/psychopath or "expose" them. It's best to move on quietly unless you've done something where you are a personal mission of theirs. But even then, for women who upsets a guy like this they will get great revengeful pleasure in pretending to be you online and making you out to be a whore in chat rooms and the like. But readers can't go by psychologists for warning signs. First, chances are the psychologist is being deceived and also how a socio/psychopath interacts with you is custom tailored to the individual involved.

A woman wrote:

Here is my situation. I was married at 18, to a man who made me feel needed me to help him get over his issues, a man who played on sympathy(knowing I came from a good family and was a compassionate person) on my 19th birthday I discovered my husband to be a sociopath. I went againt the psychologists orders(stupid me) and not wanting to believe it, and wanting to be a wife with no secrets and help my husband, I asked him if he were one. He played it just as I was warned, and had me manipulated back to square one….I dropped the sociopath thought and kept living (in hell). Around 20 years old, after too many things (almost everything) pulling me back to the “sociopath “ thought, I began reading about them again, and realized how he fit the bill to perfection. For the last 1 ½ years of our marriage I recorded outbursts, abuse, everything that would link me and reaffirm my conclusion of him………it didn’t fail me, it scared the shit right out of me. I was married to a sociopath.

I managed to leave with the help (instruction) of a womans shelter, and mental health phone line. It has been 5 years since my divorce, He has been in and out of jail 4 times, Is currently serving a sentence of 5 years (till 2011). He is a BAD man….I have 2 kids with him, and NOW……after 5 years of no contact, he is taking me to court cause he wants me to dismiss the $42,000.00 he owes for child support (which I would have never enforced, but I had to to get help with subsidized housing), he wants me to also pay his lawyer fees.

I want him to give up parental rights in exchange for me erasing the money owed……………

TODAY (Sep 10/08) I talked to him for the first time, to discuss my terms……I am so scared for my kids. My ex-husband (I don’t think will let up) and hand off parental rights……….and I don’t know how else to deal with him. I have lost practice, and I feel the way I used to when I talked to him. I felt swallowed into HIS sorrows, and pity…..I lost my backbone……How can I talk to him (how SHOULD I talk to him) so that I can fight against the abuses he is planning. My son remembers the abuse (my son does, daughter was too young), he remembers quite a bit, and after 5 years of redirecting him from following in the fathers footsteps, he is now such a wonderful young boy…………I DON’T WANT THEM TO KNOW THEIR DAD>>>>>>>>>>IT WILL MESS THEM UP………………….HELP ME…………….How do I deal with this man? I need someone to put on their smart cap and let me know how to approach this man.

Adam adds this comment:

I told her I'd publish her comment and let others write in with help. Do you have any suggestions for her? Write to email@youmeworks.com and I will publish the answers right here. Thank you.

A man wrote:

My wife's ex is turning our lives upside down legally and is threatening to destroy the life we've built up for ourselves over the last nine years. At the center of the problem is the 10 year old son they have in common, who has been in our primary care since he was a baby.

My wife and I have been very committed parents to both the boy and our own five year old daughter, much of it motivated by the broken homes we both sprang from. No two people could have been more committed to 'doing it right', to learning from the mistakes of our respective parents and step-parents, than the two of us. And no two people could have made it easier for my wife's ex to work effectively and constructively regarding his son. Yet for all these years this guy has made the situation a nightmare, to a point where there's been times I've felt like strangling the guy out of sheer frustration, exasperation, mental exhaustion, and simple anger at the way he's acted towards all of us.

In just about every way imaginable this guy fits the bill as an out an out sociopath. He's extremely manipulative, disingenuous, and one of the most unconscionable liars I've ever met. The man doesn't know the meaning of remorse, never apologizes for his atrocious behavior, never accepts responsibility for his actions, and has played on our good intentions and sympathy for years, knowing full well about our convictions and our determination to make it work with him for the sake of his son. He also fits the bill perfectly when it comes to possessions, and is one of the world's greatest misers, though he'll happily and impulsively squander money on himself when the mood takes him. Problem is he can't do the same for his son, who he frequently short-changes when it comes to birthdays and Christmas. He's a master at turning situations around to make my wife — or his son — look the guilty party when he's been the transgressor, and will mount the most elaborate lies and play out parts like some demented method actor living out a scenario in real life. My wife has told me often that during their marriage he was about as emotionally distant and cold as one could imagine, completely arrogant and patronizing to her in private, and virtually asexual when it came to their sex life — after the pregnancy he never touched her again for the remaining two years of their marriage. From what we have seen since the breakup of their marriage, and what my wife knows of his past, he exhibits the typical trait of sociopaths in that he can't sustain relationships at all. And there haven't been many for a guy who's now in his early 50's — all have lasted 2 - 3 years at best.

Friends have been few and far between through his life, and in fact he uses his son to meet people, including the latest lady in his life, who he met through the scout troop he forced his son to join against his will. We've noticed that he seems to have a proclivity for befriending strong-willed women with weak husbands, which may or may not tie in with something else my wife discovered towards the end of their marriage, a taste for cruising S & M sites on the net.

The only trait he doesn't exhibit as per the usual pathology of sociopaths is a violent or aggressive nature — he's anything but. My wife and I have half-joked for years that he's the ultimate poster child for passive aggressive behavior. And he has managed to hold down a job for quite some time, contrary to the usual stuff I've read about sociopaths not being to hold down a job. He's an architect who works for the state government.

The point to all this is that we are currently embroiled in a legal issue that threatens to destroy our family. My wife, who has been paying for the boy to go to a private school for 7 years without a cent from the ex, asked him earlier this year to start chipping in, which he refused. He also refused a request to raise the amount of money he pays her in child support, which only represents about 10% of his income. He again refused, hardly surprising given his reluctance to part with money at all. When my wife suggested mediation, he countered by mounting a law suit against her claiming everything and anything, all of it lies. He has no compunction at all about destroying all that we have tried to accomplish for the last nine years, and has exhibited his usual tendency to completely manipulate the situation to victimize my wife and paint himself as the victim, all the while lying his face off.

In the midst of it we got reports from the boy that the son of his ex's fiancee, a boy of his own age, has been sexually abusing him and indulging in a lot of bullying. The timing was unfortunate, but we had to do the right thing and sent the boy to a psychologist to ascertain if he was okay. My wife was specifically told that she had to be above board with the whole thing and make sure that the ex was present throughout. They both had to fill out reports, give their own private views, and so on. My wife did what she was supposed to do, the ex turned the whole thing from being about his son and perverted it into being about himself. We discovered later that he'd held private meetings with the shrink, had set about discrediting his son and all that the boy might have to say about him by claiming the boy was manipulative and a liar, that he'd witnessed me being physically abusive towards my wife and the boy, and that drugs were an issue in our household. We also started getting reports from the boy that he was being pressured by his father to reveal what he was saying to the psychologist, obviously a cardinal sin that ran against everything we had told him about opening up to the doctor in the full knowledge that all he had to say was confidential.

To give you an indication of just what a persuasive liar this guy is, the psychologist fell for his garbage hook, line, and sinker, and issued a report painting the boy as unreliable and in need of therapy, and my wife as manipulative and in need of therapy herself. It was so far off base as far as the truth was concerned that it was like describing Mother Teresa as a whore or the Jews as the true culprits of the holocaust who had victimized the Nazis.

This is all about money, and for the sake of it the ex will destroy his son, the environment we've worked so hard to create for him, and the close relationship he has to a little sister who adores him.

The psychologist report has really hurt our case, and the only chance we have is to thoroughly discredit it. We have had one psychologist look at it so far and snort his disgust at its findings, and we are also trying to line up another one with the kind of cache that may persuade the judge to really see how much the ex compromised the process. But we really feel that the best chance we have is to try and show the judge what we've been dealing with as far as the ex's personality is concerned. We can state he's a sociopath and an unconscionable liar till the cows come home, but obviously we'll be laughed out of court. As you know something of the subject you know well how persuasive and charming sociopaths can be, and this guy is an expert at adopting whatever mask is most appropriate to a given situation.

Are there such things as experts in this field, people who can hear us out and come forward on our behalf to testify, at least so far as the effects it's had on us? That might persuade the judge that there is indeed something wrong with the ex that may need further evaluation - hell, my wife and I would both volunteer to go through evaluation ourselves if it would get him tested as well. Obviously we can't force the ex to undergo evaluation, and I'm not sure an expert psychologist could even detect his pathology if he's prepared and determined to go through a process with flying colors. But we need some kind of help desperately, otherwise my stepson's life will be irreparably harmed if his father gets the equal custody he's after. The boy doesn't want to go, and we fear for his mental well-being if he's forced to spend any more time with his father than he has to.

You said yourself that the general idea with people like this is to just run, but because of the boy we can't. The thought that we have to put up with this guy for another 8 years, until my stepson reaches the age of 18, is an appalling though to consider. After 8 years of putting up with everything and anything, turning the other cheek constantly, we've just reached a point where we need to find some way of keeping him at a distance while still allowing him access to the boy. I don't know how we can do it, or if there's light at the end of the tunnel for us with what we're going through at the moment. We just feel caught up in a vortex beyond our control, one that we can't believably or readily explain to others.

Adam asked him if he wants to publish his email address so people could write to him with advice, and he responded with this:

My note may have given the impression that we're pushovers with this guy. There's certainly been times when my wife has yelled at him in anger, and there's also been times I've let fly at him in exasperation at his behavior. We've done everything to work with him, and have forgiven him a lot, but we've also been fairly firm with him most of the time. That's where the passive-aggressive crap comes out, the controlling and manipulation.

There've been times I've even threatened to have a restraining order put on him because of the way he kept harassing my wife while I'd be away on business trips, particularly after one occasion when he started giving her a hard time only a matter of days after we'd lost a baby five months into the pregnancy.

Yelling does no good though, he just freezes up and uses it to play the victim, and right at this moment I'm playing it very quiet so that he can't turn around and use any of my behavior against us — I'd only have to say 'boo' to the guy and he'd claim I'm threatening him. The lawyer he has representing in his lawsuit is about as nasty as they get, real viperish.

I haven't written anything to to the support groups, nor to the comments section. You're more than welcome to put my note on there, though I'd appreciate it being anonymous, mainly to avoid spam. I get enough of it as it is from people who trawl the net looking for any sign of addresses to bombard. If you can change the address you're more than welcome to put an old email address in, which is wildepuzzles@msn.com. We seldom use it these days, except for high risk messages that will almost certainly attract spam. I sift through it once a week to see if there's anything relevant amongst all the garbage.

Yeah, we are in a tough spot, and we've got until the end of October to try and sort something out before the next hearing. I wish we could make the guy disappear, but with the psychologist's report up his sleeve it isn't going to happen. She took all the information she obtained from the boy and the father about how poor the relationship is between them and blamed it on my wife, then went on to state that she believes the boy needs to spend time with his father to overcome their problems and bond! We have spent YEARS trying to tell the guy to pay closer attention to the boy and stop making him feel marginalized with every new relationship he jumps into. Now the psychologist, thanks to all the bull and Sad Sack behavior she's received from him, wants to claim that we've been responsible for the problems!

We have since found out that my wife couldn't have taken the boy to a worse group of psychologists — 6 lawyers have told us so! The head of the group is very big on fathers rights, which is all well and good under normal circumstances, but you can't apply that kind of cookie-cutter psychology to this situation, which is what they're doing. And the findings came after only two sessions with the boy, and no one-on-one sessions with my wife. My wife spent the entire weekend in bed sobbing when she saw the report, so devastating was its findings, and so inaccurate.

As with everything else, the ex did the damage on my wife's dime. He was supposed to pay for half of the costs for the boy's sessions, yet after each occasion, especially the last one when he apparently skulked around to have a few private words with the lady, he shot out when it came his turn to pay and left my wife to pick up the tab. Months later she's still chasing him for the money.

Anyway, we'll see what we can do. There has to be a solution for all this somewhere.

Adam adds:

Anyone have any advice for this couple? You can send it to email@youmeworks.com and/or write directly to them at wildepuzzles@msn.com.

A woman wrote:

Hi there, I would like to make my comments but I am still in a very traumatic situation with not one but two people who fit most of the criteria for Sociopath.

I think my situation is all the more poignant because is has taken me over 40 years to realise these symptoms actually exist in these people. I sympathise with the 'Moth to a flame' comments too as my own experiences have led me to not only fall into an abusive relationship with another Sociopath but also to 'create' sociopathic symptoms in someone else (although I hasten to add he was not actually a sociopath).

My Mother has always kept me close to her from childhood and as a result I always felt great affection for her but also an overwhelming sense of duty. My Father died when I was 19 and I assumed his role through a sense of obligation which had been nurtured over a number of years. I know that many people will say that anyone would feel the same and I used to think so too. Mum would 'do' things for me and then bring them up later as a 'stick' for me to toe her line. She is fiercely religious and terribly pious but her attitudes are tainted with hypocrisy.

Mum would 'interfere' with my relationships with boyfriends and convince me to dump them. All the time I believed I was making my own mind up but recent events have caused me to re-evaluate these actions. I eventually married at the age of 25, a marriage which was to be short lived due to his abusive nature (both physically and mentally) and of course Mum was there to 'pick up the pieces'. She never failed to tell me how much she had done to help me.

Several brief relationships followed and while they were not serious Mum did not interfere. Then I met my ex-husband and when she realised the relationship was serious she blew her top and told us both we were unsuited. My ex reminded me recently that when we started our relationship I had said to him that I had an obligation to my Mum and that she could be a bit difficult and I hoped that it would not be a problem to him. For 10 years Mum constantly undermined our relationship and caused problems wherever she could but she was very careful not to make it look like it was down to her. She was always very observant and used the problems within my relationship with my ex to make it look like he was the one being unreasonable. Her manipulation grew stronger when my daughter was born and my ex had an overwhelming feeling that Mum wanted her and me to herself. The break up of our marriage was not as a direct result of my Mum's interference but it certainly made things more difficult. I found myself making excuses for my Mother's behaviour to such an extent that my ex started to display the same selfish characteristics of my Mother.

When I had decided that I wanted a Divorce my Mum suggested I move back home with my daughter. I thought this was an act of love but I couldn't have been more wrong. My ex was right all along she wanted control of my life and that of my daughter's. When I moved back it all started, of course at first she made it look like it was out of concern for my welfare but she took great pleasure in demonising my ex husband and telling me she was right all along. I felt I was not getting support or a fair evaluation of the situation so I confided in a male friend who was experiencing the same difficulties as myself and I received a far more objective view on things from him.

Of course, sharing thoughts and feelings with someone leads to an emotional bond and over the next few months we had discovered that we were falling for each other. When we started seeing each other the first person I told was my Mum and at the time she seemed fine about it.... Until a year into our relationship I went out for the day with him and his children and my own daughter. This of course triggered the 'jealousy' in her and the nastiness and manipulation started. She started 'making things up' to cause arguments and then when I retaliated she would use my retaliation as a weapon. Some of her arguments sounded very plausible and I gave in and gave in until the only thing she would accept was.... yes you guessed it dumping him!

This went on for six months. All this time she would spend slagging me off to my extended family and she can be very plausible. Then the worst thing in the world happened. My brother returned home! You might think what is the problem with that? Well my brother is even worse than Mum. He 'skids' through life. One broken relationship after another and it is NEVER any fault of his. He always returned home from time to time, always with a sob story and broke! I can't count the number of times when some woman or other has 'ripped him off' and he has a debt to pay which is nothing to do with him. Every time either Mum or I would bail him out. I have never heard him say thank you!

Anyway, Mum enlisted my brother into her 'witch hunt' and now if I say even one thing that they disapprove of World War 3 breaks out. My brother uses abusive language towards me and Mum takes his side. I pay all the bills and they call me a scrounger!!! He has taken over my daughter's bedroom without any remorse. I should say that when I moved in I invested a very large sum of money in getting the property extended and my Mum put half the property in my name (her idea). I am now being told that I have robbed my Mum.

Mum insisted in taking my daughter to school and picking her up and now this is used against me. I suggested on one occasion to alter my working hours so that she did not have to do this and she lost the plot. I am a prisoner of my own making. I believed my Mum did what she did out of love and my heart is breaking as I realise that she did what she did for her. I am also finding it very difficult to get rid of my feelings of obligation to her. She has even said to my daughter (who is nearly 6) 'I am good to you and your Mummy and Daddy get all the Thanks'.

The one thing I can never get to grips with is their inability to say Sorry. It is such a small word but I get the distinct impression that if either of them were to utter it they would spontaneously combust.

They have also forbidden me to talk about the situation to anyone else!!!

I know this is long but it is still only a precis of events. I could write a book!!!!

A man wrote this:

The summary at the bottom, my ex-girlfriend exibited 4,5,6,7,9, and 11. Is that enough to be at least a low-level sociopath? And, the article seems to be worded that only men are sociopaths. Everything mentioned seems to be "him", and the woman being the victim of the situation.

The relationship was probably wrong from the start, as she decided, being a work-driven woman, to leave her husband and her two small children, and she claimed she wanted me. Her ex-husband was the stay-at-home dad. She was the worker.

After two and a half years, as her two daughters grew to be 5 and 8 years old, she began to miss being with her two children everyday, or nearly everyday. This led to her pulling away from me, not explaining why to me, just changing her behavior toward me. Very painful for me. Then the symptoms I listed above began showing more and more.

Is that being a sociopath, or is it just reacting to making a decision to leave her family's home, and then finding that she did not like the decision she had made? She seems to have emotion, as she will cry at sad parts of movies. But other than sad parts of tv shows and movies, she seems very hard or cold otherwise.

Thanks for the great informative web site.

My answer wasn't much, I'm afraid:

You're welcome. As far as determining whether or not your ex is a sociopath, it is hard to say. It's hard for even expert diagnosticians to say. All you can do is make your best judgment and act accordingly, which it sounds like you have done.

A woman who wanted to remain anonymous sent me this address: lovefraud.com. Later she wrote back with this:

I actually noticed that someone else also wrote about the website in the 'comments' section. It seems to be the most helpful site that I, and all of the other bloggers, have found. An author will post a main message, article or email and we comment about it and to each other. It has been a lifesaving support group. Names are anonomous, and the bloggers are very understanding, nurturing and loving. It takes place wherever you happen to be on the internet...
Definitely post this for others who haven't found the site yet.

And thank you for the info you have provided. Thanks and God Bless.

Anonymous wrote:

Hi, my name is (we'll call her Anonymous) and I am pretty sure my stepson in sociopath. He has been on crystal meth for about 15 years, but even before he got into drugs, he would lie just to be lying. He has been in and out of jail for drugs, non child support more times than I can count. His dad or someone always got him out. Till this time. He makes his mom feel sorry for him so she is sending him money each week or two. She is having a hard time making ends meet, so he is trying to get her to go behind my back and get money from his dad. He won't pay child support, (has 4 kids) but he feels like his parents sure owe him.

I have never met anyone that even when caught doing something will try and deny it till he reaches the end of the rope where he can't and then makes up excuses. He once told us he had a job helping clean chicken houses. We wondered why he never had a penny. He was very convincing, till one day I found out he didn't have that job and never did. He is a good worker but can't keep a job even as long as a year. Does this person sound like to you that he is a sociopath?

Sincerely, Anonymous

P.S. He will use anyone he can. When my son was 19 years old, he moved out and as soon as my stepson found out, he was in the apartment with my son. He never paid one dime, but yet told everyone that would listen that he bought groceries and that my son would eat them up. How in this world can you do that when you won't work?

Adam wrote:

Hello Anonymous,

He sure has put you through the wringer! Would you mind if I published your note on the comments page of the sociopath article? I could do it anonymously. I think it would help people.

Anonymous wrote:

No, I don't mind and yes, he has and still is putting everyone that will let him. Right now, his mom is trying to have the tough love, but it is so hard on her. He is in jail now for drugs and they want him in another county for drugs, plus he is almost 100,000 dollars behind on child support. His case worker says he will have to have $25,000 to get out. Anyway, be my guest, but doesn't he sound like a sociapath to you? He has like seven out of ten that I read.

Another anonymous writer wrote:

Hello Adam,

My name is (Anonymous) and I found your website on Google and I looked up the word sociopath. I was completely blown away because I was looking it up because I strongly believe my boyfriend of 6 years is one. I copied all these feelings that you posted that one might be feeling and I said "yes" to all of them.

I just recently found out that he has been with someone else for the last 2 years while he was with me. He is an excellent liar and can be very charming. When I found out what he was doing he did not apologize or even look for me to see if i was okay. I cried for 2 months. I kept replaying all his behaviors in my head and just could not understand how he could not feel bad that he had done this to me. No apology. No nothing. As a matter a fact I got the blame for it.

First of all I have never cheated on him. Never. He blames me. We have a 2 year-old together and he fits all the personality traits that it says here. He always made me feel guilty. He always compliments himself and says"I'm a catch"about himself.

Your article opened my eyes because recently he tried to get me back and sweet talk me and all this...but when I read your article, it was a relief because just that little bit of information help me see why he is the way he is and that he is no good for me. He has put me through so much in the last 6 years and I am only 25 years old.

My brother pleaded with me not to take him back and told me: " He is a liar and a narcissist," and at first I could not understand what that meant and my brother says "He loves himself only." WOW. I guess I never really knew him. But answering YES to your questions blew me away because I feel strongly about all of the questions. He was always saying, "I need your attention babe, I'm bored." I would work harder to make him happy but he was never happy. Never.

Thank you for your article.

1. They make you feel sorry for them.

2. They make you feel worried or afraid. all the time

3. They give you the impression you owe them. When he would buy me something, I felt like that.

4. They make you feel used. yes

5. Sometimes you suspect they don't care about you. all the time

6. They lie to you and deceive you. he did all the time

7. They take a lot from you and give back very little. yes, and made me feel as if I dont give anything

8. They make you feel guilty (and use that to manipulate you). all the time

9. They take advantage of your kindness. YES!!

10. They are easily bored and need constant stimulation. always says he is bored

11. They don't take responsibility but place blame elsewhere. Never says Sorry.



1. Do you often feel used by the person? Yes

2. Have you often felt that he (or she) doesn't care about you? yes

3. Does he lie and deceive you? yes

4. Does he tend to make contradictory statements? OMG!! all the time

5. Does he tend to take from you and not give back much? YES

6. Does he often appeal to pity? Does he seem to try to make you feel sorry for him? YES

7. Does he try to make you feel guilty? I always feel gulty

8. Do you sometimes feel he is taking advantage of your good nature? YES

9. Does he seem easily bored and need constant stimulation? yes

10. Does he use a lot of flattery? Does he interact with you in a way that makes you feel flattered even if he says nothing overtly complimentary? YES

11. Does he make you feel worried? Does he do it obviously or more cleverly and sneakily? YES

12. Does he give you the impression you owe him? all the time

13. Does he chronically fail to take responsibility for harming others? Does he blame everyone and everything but himself? YES



Adam wrote:

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for writing. You're welcome for my article. Would you mind if I published your note to me on the comments page of the article on sociopaths? I think it would help others. I could publish it anonymously of course.

Adam



She wrote back:

Hi Adam,

Please do. Maybe it will help someone else. I hope it does, because sociopaths can really damage a person and make your life hell. I am ready to start a new life and be happy again.

Thank You,

Anonymous

A man wrote in:

Hi, I came across your page on Google and thought I would thank you for making it.

I met a sociopath when I was 12, 7 out of the last 9 years I have known him in close terms. I was his ‘friend’ or rather a mutual object of amusement.

He was very intriguing and very very quiet when I first met him. Over the years I watched him evolve and steal personalities, back stab his ‘friends’ who by the way are still faithfully attached to him and blissfully unaware of his true identity. Never once did he show one single emotion in the 8 years I was around him. Fascinating, chilling, disturbing.

He ended up becoming one of the most popular kids in school by our 12th grade year.

And no one had a clue.

I have to say that he was and still is an anomaly to me. Now reading that there is no known cause, no treatment, and no answers to this sort of condition is all the more perplexing. I think that everyone should at least meet a sociopath once in their lives, and know what sort of creature they are looking at when they shed their fake smiles on you. Every emotion they ‘display’ is scripted for their own amusement. They are more like machines in living flesh.

I’m happy to say that I once knew a sociopath, and saw through the sheep’s wool he was covered in.

They truly are fascinating. As a study of course.. ;)

A woman named Tia P. wrote:

I am the daughter, ex-wife, sister and mother of one. Like a moth to a light, my experience with my own mother has lead me to the inspiration to write a book about them.

Anyway, I joined this new website called lovefraud.com. It is a great resource. Hope it is useful.

Sincerely,

Tia P.



I wrote her back to ask for permission to print her note, and she added more:

Let me elaborate, my moth to a light just shows the damage that a sociopath can do to its own child, which is why I fell in love with one, so please further elaborate on that in the message.

Another great resource is: The Family Compass (866) 490-3666. They have boarding school programs for sociopaths (um, correction because we can't call them that until they turn 18, but we know what they are), I mean children with Anti-Social Personality Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

You wouldn't believe how I defended my daugther at an early age when they told me that something was wrong with her in her school district. I got lawyers involved, filed lawsuits, humiliated school district counsel. I had to return to every one of them when I found out what my daugter was. I overlooked her eyes, which totally tells the story that she is without a soul, there is nothing there, just empty. It's like a monster glancing at you from behind a mask, same with my mother and my ex-husband.

I could tell you stories about all three of them that would make you cry, perhaps soon you will read about it in a book. I'm not out to become a bestseller, but if I can reach Oprah and let the world know about them and identifying what they are, I believe the world would be a better place. I personally think that they should all be branded. Thanks Adam.

Another woman who wished to be anonymous wrote:

First let me just say thank you for your article...I have been dealing with a sociopath for the past 16 years. We dated, lived together, married, have 2 children and divorced. I have been in Family Court, Supreme Court and Criminal Court for about 10 years.

He has completely ruined my life to where I no longer have any sort of savings, do not have our children, lost 2 homes, I'm now trying to file bankruptcy and I'm on my 2nd divorce...not to mention all the other little things he has done and continues to do to me (breaking into my home, water in my gas tank, ruining my husband's boat, tapping my phone, questioning my children, filling my children's head with negative and false things about me, will offer money to me for sexual favors and state he is helping me out ... I could go on and on).

My son has ADHD and have done alot of reading regarding neurological disabilities and at one time a couple of years ago came upon reading about ASPD (Antisocial Personality Disorder) ...and knew without a doubt that was my husband. I had tried to get the three different lawyers that I had to understand what I was and have been dealing with... the law guardian...the foresonic psycologist ... nothing...I had gotten an Order of Protection and received an extension due to a Violation in Criminal Court...He was investigated (I know he did do it) for raping a 15 year-old neighbor and when she was 16 she had gotten pregnant he took her for an abortion. The police gathered evidence and brought it to the Proscecutor but she felt so much time had gone by she would not get a conviction so she did not pursue the case. That is just one story I'm telling....I have many more.

No matter how I have tried to protect my children and the record he has I was never able to keep him from them. I have spent all my money. And since he has married someone who comes from much money...

I could probably write my own book and just might but for now ... I'm again very fustrated ... I have no family ... no money... if I could fight him or knew a way too I would. I have since read many articles on ASPD and when you said it is all about the game and will do anything to win...well that explains why I fought and fought and just kept hitting a brick wall. Now he has had the children for almost 4 years...my Son is 15 and is hurting because he abuses him probably more in a emotional way then physical and it is effecting him. He has finally opened up to me ... (last year he went through panic attacks) and it is killing me. I also believe and looking back believe because he has money has been able to and goes out of his way to find "those" type of people who he can payoff. It has been extremely fustrating. I no longer trust lawyers, the courts and to be honest sometimes I wonder because I never have given up and have continued to fight him to what extent he would go to.

I just would like to end this by saying reading your article made me feel I'm not crazy ... it gives me strength to keep going on those days I just want to go in a corner a cry.

After I responded, she added more:

Let me lst start off by saying thank you for taking the time to read my story and respond. Of course you are welcome to publish my story.

Right now my main concern is for my 15 year-old Son...he so badly wants to come back and live with me. When I gave up residential custody (long story) almost 4 years ago, my Son said he did not want to live with his Father (I have lived with that guilt everyday). My ex lives in a very "wealthy" Community and my Son was classified and has been in Special Ed since 1st Grade. The Special Ed Program he now attends has been very good for him. He lives in a million dollar home and has a live in nanny/housekeeper and tutor to help him with homework. This is what has been keeping me from going crazy.

But the last couple of months I repeatly was noticing my Son becoming angry, unsociable, would not communicate with me, and he almost seemed depressed. About a year and a half ago he was going through panic attacks and got him help (again finding out it was his Father that was causing all the stress) I would say to him that I do not recognize the child I raised. I was so relieved when he opened up to me on how he was "feeling" and how his Father has been affecting him. I pray to God that both my children will continue to know that they can come to me with any problems or information (especially if it involves their Father) and know I will believe them and will be there in anyway I can.

My current "obstacle" is: I have no money. Even if I fight him I'm always put before the same "supervising judge in Supreme Court" and lose. I'm afraid if my Son convinces my ex to let him come back and live with me what he will do to make our lives a living hell (which I can guarantee he will do!!). Or what he will do to my Son for trying to leave him. My Son is getting older and because he has ADHD (on medication) but also has a short temper and is impulsive I'm afraid of the confrontation that may happen when he finds out that my Son wants to come back to me. So when you ask me what I'm going to do...I really do not know yet! But one thing you can count on is that I have not given up and never will...I love my children more than anything in this world...they are and will always be the only thing that matters to me.

Another woman said:

As an educator in the field of special education, I think I must encounter little sociopaths regularly. Having been in the field for over thirty years, I could make a short list of students who easily meet the criteria. What is an effective way to deal with these students? As a teacher, you can't get away from them and, from my experience, they make it their mission to gain control over the teacher. When I was in a small classroom, I developed a "behavior chart" system that offered tangible rewards for positive behaviors, and that worked somewhat, as long as the rewards were satisfying; i.e., computer free-time, toys, etc. I can see now that competition could be a motivator, but the teacher would have to be the opponent, rather than an innocent classmate.

In a later message, she added:

One thing I should clear up right away is that I am no longer teaching -- now I am a special education diagnostician, so I test children who are suspected of having special needs. In that venue I have definitely met students who probably fit the criteria. Typically, regular classroom teachers try to get those kids out of the classroom, but they go to the specialists like I used to be. Also, many end up in special schools. This is a vast topic and it may be okay to put it out there on the comments page. I just don't want to sound like an alarmist who needs an immediate solution, so perhaps I should rewrite my inquiry and get back to you with it.

Thank you so much for responding. Since I started reading Stout's book (The Sociopath Next Door) I have thought of little else.