Chaos is the Sociopath’s Playground

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Someone once told me that they’d never seen a family like mine who was always engaged in some sort of self-induced chaos. She noted that we were like a soap opera by the way we would divide into teams and charge into battles of anger, distrust, rumors, gossip and lies with each other. Then, we’d all forgive each other and get back together—until we would suddenly divide into new alliances and launch another frivolous, stressful, unnecessary war with each other again. She commented that she’d never seen a family repeat this soap opera of chaos over and over and over again, year after year after year.

But that person, as observant as she thought she was, never took a close enough look at her own assessment. While it was true that my family was always breaking into teams to attack each other over everything from suspicion of favoritism, to who didn’t deserve what they had, to out-and-out thievery, there was always one common denominator—one single sibling—planted firmly in the center of each and every family battle. It was not by accident that she was always there in the center of all the repeated chaos because in hindsight, she was, pretty much without exception, always the instigator. The rest of us siblings, our parents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews were repeatedly tricked into going to battle, always per her plan.

The Socio-pathway to chaotic life

I share this story from my own upbringing because it is the perfect example of how sociopaths use chaos as a tool for their own enjoyment and personal gain. And believe me when I say that my family was not the only family to practice this. I hear stories from my friends and readers, all the time, about their own families who suffer the same battle scenes, year after year, and again at the direction of just one parent or sibling.

Statistically only 4% of people are born sociopaths. That’s the equivalent of 1 person in 25, or 2 people in any full city bus. So the one frustrating question that each of us must ask ourselves is; Why do we allow this 4% to keep the 96% of us good, peace-loving people in constant chaos and turmoil?

Getting back to what I know, from the many years I’ve spent in The School of Hard Knocks of which I am a graduate, I spent the first 50 years of my life under the spell of not only the sociopathic sibling herself, but of the entire family whose pressure on me to was constantly forgive the instigator for every evil she could propagate. In order to repeatedly forgive the instigator, I was encouraged to question myself by having to answer the age-old question, “Oh now, why would she say/do something like that?”

So why would he/she say something like that?

Have you ever been shushed or minimized after an atrocious attack by someone asking you that question? “Oh now, why would he/she say something like that?” Their question completely disarms you, leaving you vulnerable to the lies that were told and at the mercy of those who choose to believe that you are “making it all up in your head.” All too often, that question makes you look like the crazy person after you’ve tried to expose what the insane sociopath really, truly did say or do. This is Gaslighting. Too many people are driven crazy through the act of Gaslighting, not so much by the sociopath’s evil tricks, but by the scores of supporters that surround them and who transform the lies and gossip into a new twisted “truth” just because they choose to believe “He/she wouldn’t say/do that, now would they?”  The truth is the sociopath would do it and they did do it and they’re going to do it again. They are going to succeed again too, because their supporters are still firmly holding to their act of minimizing the eyewitness testimonies and, rather than help the victim, they choose instead to help spread the distrust, and the lies and half-truths.

My time in the Gaslighting trap lasted for fifty years, during which time any effort I’d ever made to remove this sibling from my life was met with an intervention in which our mother would set a trap to lure us into a room together so she could encourage me to forgive the sibling again, kiss again, and makeup again. Mom would put on her pouty face and whine “I just want all my children to get along.” In reality, her version of loving me was to tie me to a monster and shame me into accepting whatever dishonest torture I’d been subjected to. Siblings and cousins offered me no support and left me feeling as if I’d been ganged up on by the entire family until I “chose to be a nicer person to my poor evil sister.”

Just like any other victim of Gaslighting, I was not fighting the mental illness of my sibling, I was fighting the social structure of my entire family, which was centered around responding to the lies that oozed from one of our five sibling’s mental illness. My parents or other siblings would never stand together to make her behave with civility, so to avoid being kicked out of the family myself, I ended up having to forgive the monster thousands of times over the fifty years I’d stayed in that family.

Who else walks this path?

Does any of this sound familiar? Has it happened to you at home or at work? Has a sociopathic boss or cubemate repeatedly accused you or your teammates of wrongs that can’t be defended against, or have they planted seeds of distrust into each teammate so that the whole team can’t function anymore? If so, then you are one of the millions who has found yourself lost in the chaos of a sociopath’s playground.

When a sociopath starts a gossip storm, and accuses an innocent teammate of something, most teams tend to place the burden of proof onto the innocent person who has been falsely accused. Other teammates respond by shushing and minimize the testimony of the victim with questions like “Oh, now why would he/she say that about her/him if it wasn’t true?” Why? BECAUSE THEY’RE MENTALLY ILL!  THAT’S WHY! They will continue to commit bizarre acts on individuals until we stop trying to apply our dearly beloved rules of decency, honesty and civility onto their twisted manipulations of social trust and peace. They don’t understand civility the way we do so they don’t behave the way we would so we must stop trying to believe that sociopaths behave just like us. Their behaviors are nothing like ours.

Do you swim with alligators?

Sociopaths are humans also, so since we are all one body of conscious humanity, (What Christians call The Body of Christ) they too deserve to be loved and forgiven, but their motive and words are not to be trusted. I personally fear alligators, but I don’t hate them. I don’t want them to be punished for being alligators, but I keep a distance. I won’t swim in their pond, and I warn others to not swim in their ponds also. I feel this same way about sociopaths. I don’t hate them. I fear them. I recognize them as mentally ill evil-doers because that’s what they are. They were born with damage to the frontal lobe of the brain, where conscience exists for the rest of us. In today’s psychological world there exists no cure for them. I don’t hate them, but I recognize the dangers they intentionally pose for the rest of us. So I stay out of their reach if I can.

Bring healing to the world by trusting the victims more than the perpetrators

While not hating sociopaths, I have learned, through thousands of scars and bruises, to simply stay away from them. To not listen to them. To go a step further, I support their victims by more quickly trusting the rantings of their testimonies—as crazy as the rantings may sound. I know that sociopaths do things that sound crazy to the rest of us, so when someone who is at the end of their rope rants on to me about some insane thing someone did to them, I don’t shush or minimize their testimony. I give them the respect they deserve by considering they may be actual victims of insane Gaslighting—a fate I’ve suffered too many times to count in just my own lifetime. I go even one more step further and share what I know to the public, in hopes I can show others how to stay out of the pond with the alligators. I wish to convince my fellow humans to recognize the tricks and traps of the sociopath and to stay away from those sociopaths and to pray for them from a safe distance.

Sociopaths hate themselves. We know this because they hate us, and hate does not come from love any quicker than bananas come from apple trees. These 4% need to find self-love before they can give love out to others. But I can’t grant self-love to a sociopath any quicker than I can convince an alligator to not eat me, so, in both cases, I just stay away from them.

We all need to stop enabling the lies and tricks

My solution to the infestation of sociopaths in our lives is: Stop empowering them by believing their lies. You don’t have to mortally hate them. Just know that if they are speaking, they’re probably lying and that they’re dangerous and incurable. Chaos is a sport to them. They go home feeling energized by knowing they’d had the power to ruin someone’s life today. That’s literally the reason they do it! Sociopaths are miserable human beings with no self-love in their hearts. They get no joy out of watching us live happy, loving lives with families and friends who trust us, so to cool their burning jealousy they need a dopamine boost to make up for their lack of self-love. Causing chaos gives them the same adrenaline rush as does jumping out of a plane with a parachute. It’s exhilarating to them, and because it’s a dopamine addiction, it needs no other reason to happen but that it gives the sociopath the rush they need to get through another boring, loveless day. Once we stop believing their lies, they lose their motivation to keep lying to us and they move on.

Immeasurable cost to the innocent

On the largest scale I would be willing to bet that sociopaths cost families, corporations and countries more in money, cohesiveness, confidence and productivity than every other mental illness combined by first undermining a team’s ability to trust each other and then by forcing innocent teammates to stop being productive and organized, forcing them instead to spend days, weeks, months or years trying to build a defense against false accusations they are totally innocent of.

Gaslighting teaches us to not trust ourselves

For me, the 4th in a line of 5 siblings, two parents and a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, I had simply accepted the lifelong fact that, because of the repeated scenarios of lies and gossip, I would never be able to trust anyone in my family. Because of the whole family’s blind faith in the hateful speak of the demon at the center of all chaos, I never knew what any family member thought they knew about me. So even when I was talking one-on-one with one or some of them, I didn’t know if they were secretly viewing me as a liar or a thief or—just about any other bad thing you can imagine.

My sociopathic sibling knew how to plant seeds of distrust into each and every one of us, to the point that we were so used to not trusting each other that most of us didn’t even realize it was a problem. That’s Gaslighting. We all just thought that “all families fight” but I know many families who fight very seldom. Ours fought constantly and always over nothing. I can’t count how many times she and my brother, her closest ally, would randomly call me a liar to my face when they didn’t agree with whatever I was saying. And to them, I either accepted their word as pure gold, or, again, I was either stupid or a liar.

Disagreement wasn’t something they had enough maturity or self-love to handle. Having my elder siblings constantly calling me a liar, or stupid, for fifty years conditioned me to the point that after having been raised by them I didn’t know how to trust my own perceptions of life. That’s what Gaslighting is intended to do to its victims. First you lose faith in the people around you, then, after years of being convinced that you were wrong…or lying…or stupid…you lose the ability to trust even your own thoughts, memories or ideas.

Distance. The only cure

It became obvious at fifty years of age, that the only solution was distance, and from the whole clan. Almost everyone in my family or who knew my family had become puppets to the puppet master’s lies and tricks, so I truly couldn’t trust anyone. For my own survival, I finally walked away from almost all of them. I changed phone numbers, email addresses, and have never made a single attempt at talking to any relative who knew them. That was over ten years ago and I am happy to report that my life has been chaos-free for over ten years now. I’ve also learned to trust myself. Surprise, surprise, I’m not an idiot just because I don’t blindly agree with everything some uneducated sociopath blurts out of her uncontrolled mouth. Not one single person has called me a liar, or stupid in over ten years and I no longer question every thought or memory I have.

Why can’t sociopaths live in peace?

Peace doesn’t give a sociopath the unfair spoils that they crave. Sociopaths create chaos because following the rules of civility doesn’t allow them to steal and cheat with the ease that chaos allows. For example, a sociopathic boss or leader will fire people willy-nilly, so that the rest of us employees can’t trust that we won’t be next. Unable to trust that we will keep our jobs for another day by following the rules of truth and honesty turns our world to chaos. Once we are in chaos, and focused on daily survival, we change our priorities from doing what is fair and right, to doing whatever we hope will appease our sociopathic monster of a boss long enough to let us keep our jobs for one more chaotic day.

During the time that we are in this trap, psychologists call us “Flying Monkeys.” As we recall, when Dorothy melted the Wicked Witch of the West, the Flying Monkeys, who had been willingly performing the acts of her evil for her, cheered. It was then discovered that they’d hated the witch all along but did as she directed anyway. The Flying Monkeys were her power. The sociopath is the Wicked Witch who breaks all the rules and creates chaos and fear where there is ample space for peace. Why? Because through chaos and fear, the rules of productivity no longer apply. To us, the rule becomes eat-or-be-eaten, rather than work together toward team goals and company profits.

All’s fair in love and war

In my novels I call this technique “crisis rules” or “the rules of crisis.” In the rules of civility, I would be punished for pouring water on your brand-new couch. But if that couch were on fire—or in crisis—then I would be praised for pouring that same water on that same couch. Sociopaths know this better than we do. They know that if they want to take something from someone who earned it fairly, they need to create a crisis, which creates fear, which prompts us to take drastic measures. They know the old saying “All’s fair in love and war” better than we do and they’ve learned how to use it to their advantage.

An example of how chaos benefits the liar

A man married to a sociopath, might one day find out that she had been running up credit cards behind his back or had somehow gotten him into a financial bind so severe that he was now, suddenly, willing to cash in his 401k to pay off the crisis. He had been following the rules of civility by properly saving for his retirement, but because of the crisis his spouse had gotten him into, he was now willing to do what he’d promised himself he’d never do, leaving him to start over on his original plan from ground zero. But that’s okay, right? All’s fair in love and war, right? It was a crisis, so he did what he had to do. By giving up everything he’d worked for, he became the hero who saved the day. What a clever manipulation!

The problem is that the sociopath had created the crisis intentionally just to get him to release his grip on his own future and give it all to her. And, to go a step further, if he didn’t divorce her over it, he might as well prepare for it to happen again. Sociopaths know the tricks but they’re not as intelligent as we give them credit for. They’re driven by raw primal instinct to do whatever it takes to get what they want. They say evil things like “the ends justify the means.” What I’m trying to say here is, it worked, so like little robots they’re going to do it again, exactly the same way, as soon as an opportunity arises. They know we’ll eventually forgive them and then put ourselves right back into the trap just like before.

When will the 4% of people who are sociopaths stop controlling the 96% with their evil?

When we stop listening to them.

We don’t need to hate them. We just need to stop listening to their lies and clever war cries. Sociopaths have but one single power, words. Not the words they say, but their words that we let ourselves respond to. The Flying Monkeys far outnumbered the Wicked Witch, but for some social reason, they let her jerk them around until the day came that someone else stepped in and removed the Witch altogether. Why did they obey the sociopath in the movie? Why do we obey sociopaths in real life? Are we the cause of sociopathic rule in this world?

My family collectively allowed one single sibling to destroy the entire clan, and for no reason more complex than to appease the daily addiction to chaos that gripped one single person.

We allow sociopaths rule us by not turning off their mic, or rolling our eyes and moving along whenever they speak lies. On deep levels, we usually know they’re liars and thieves, but we would rather say “Oh, now why would they say that?” than tell them to behave themselves like adults.

Everyone Knows? A Sociopath’s Attempt at Baffling with BS

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You might be a sociopath if: You start any sentence with “Everyone knows.”

Why do sociopaths think “everyone” knows anything at all? That’s easy: It’s manipulation instead of honesty. A sociopath wants to divide you out and make you feel alone and isolated so they can convince you of something they know isn’t true. A sociopath knows they are outmatched enough to fail at convincing you of anything with actual facts, so instead they use verbal tricks, which are lies. In reality, it’s impossible for “everyone” to know anything at all. It’s also impossible for the sociopath to know what “everyone” knows. So they start their feeble attempt at convincing you of something that is not true by using the lie, “Everyone knows” to make you feel outnumbered right from the start.

Remember the old saying “if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bull$4lt.” Starting a sentence with the lie “Everyone knows” is a sign someone is trying to baffle you with BS to make you believe something that isn’t true. People only manipulate when they know honesty won’t get them what they want.

WARNING BELL!: How to NOT follow the socio-path: When you hear “Everyone knows,” heed the warning bell: You are likely being manipulated by a sociopath. Whatever they say next is probably a lie or a pathetic attempt to get something from you that they know they aren’t smart enough to get with honesty. Just don’t engage. Don’t listen. Or even better yet, wish them “have a nice day,” turn and go find someone to talk to who loves themself enough to be honest and forthright with you. If you want to help the sociopath, don’t engage with their non-brilliant tricks. Go and pray for their soul. They’re someone to feel sorry for. They are wallowing in self-hatred. Only a person who is filled with self-hatred can spew hatred and lies. A person who is filled with self-love can only spread love. Remember, from my other tips; bananas don’t grow on apple trees. Whatever you are inside (self-love or self-hate) is what you give to the world around you. If someone is lying to you with words like “Everyone knows” remember, lies don’t come from a place of self-love.

Summary:

Rule 1): Heed the warning bell: “Everyone knows”

Rule 2): Don’t engage

Rule 3): Don’t engage

Rule 4): Don’t engage

Once your sociopath can learn to love themself, they’ll find the capacity to love others enough to learn how to participate in intelligent conversation with honest communication rather than having to manipulate the words of their sentences with lies like “Everyone knows.”

As Always: Be the love you want to receive: Show them tough love by not engaging in their verbal circus. If they get what they want through today’s lies, they’ll just lie again tomorrow. Pray for them. Maybe one day they’ll learn to love themself enough to show respect back to you. It’s a win/win if that happens.

Is Learning to Love Ourselves the True Meaning of Life?

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Self-love Just May Be the Single Most Important Lesson for All Humanity to Learn

Loving yourself empowers you to love others. Loving yourself also enables others to love you in return. If there is meaning to life, then I believe it is for each of us to regain complete love for ourselves. I propose that self-love is the single most important lesson for all humanity to work on as individuals and together, overshadowing every other reason we live at all. If everyone alive loved themselves enough to love everyone around them, then pretty much every other problem in all of human existence would vanish.

Here is a short list of just some of the negative side effects we suffer with by not fully loving and forgiving ourselves:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Suicidality
  • Anger
  • Nightmares
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Road rage
  • Politics rage (Polarization of the Americans who don’t love themselves, so they hate others too)
  • Loneliness, even when in a crowd (Isolation)
  • War
  • Greed
  • Blame
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Success
  • Repeatedly making friends with, (or marrying) the wrong people
  • Never reaching our own full potential
  • Etc.

Before we begin, let’s not confuse self-love with narcissism. Anyone who truly loves themselves WILL love the people around themselves. Narcissists don’t love anyone around themselves. If they are kind to us it’s so they can get something in return. If they are filled with love then they can only give love. If they lash out in anger or whining, then they are filled with anger and whining. If bananas don’t grow on apple trees, then anger, jealousy, depression, bullying, stealing, lying, gossiping, name-calling, lack of conscience or remorse, polarized political rage, road rage, etc cannot grow on the tree that loves itself wholly. Anyone who lashes out, is lashing out from whatever ingredients are within them to lash out with. If they lash out in anger, then it’s anger, not love, that’s within them.

Healing the Side Effects Doesn’t Fix the Problem for Very Long

The side effects of poor self-love listed above are just some of the negative side effects that we all have to deal with when we don’t fully love ourselves. True healing doesn’t come from healing only the side effects. True healing comes from also identifying and eliminating the root-cause of those side effects in the same way that killing fruit flies doesn’t solve our fruit fly problem. Fruit flies are a side effect of keeping rotten fruit in the kitchen. We can kill all the fruit flies today, only to find another swarm in our home tomorrow. Throwing out the rotten fruit fixes the fruit fly side effect permanently. (It also fixes the kitchen odor side effect at the same time).

Why Most of Us Lack Self-Love—The Root Cause

One major reason for this imbalance makes sense when we consider the whole picture of human child rearing. Most of us were raised by parents, teachers, ministers, friends, siblings or peers who seemed fixated on our shortcomings and mistakes, calling us brats, and clumsy, and helping us to settle for less because they didn’t think we could handle the success of the potential they couldn’t see in us. As a child, my peers pranked and ridiculed me every time they felt the need to feel as if they were better than me. Meanwhile parents and teachers would ask me “What is the matter with you?” whenever they were angry or embarrassed at the fact that I was just a child who still needed to be taught social and mathematical skills. So as an intelligent boy I tried to find the answer to the question they had just asked me. What was the matter with me? Of course the only answer is “I’m human” But that answer wasn’t allowed to be given to my parents or teachers. So by not having an acceptable answer, it proved that I was just simply incompetent in a world where other kids my age weren’t. My parents and teachers would say with words that they had faith in me, but their actions didn’t match those words. Their actions proved that I was incompetent at making my own decisions or finding joy in things that they didn’t think I needed to find joy in. An example from my own life is: As a boy, I wanted so badly to play piano or any other musical instrument that I repeatedly asked if I could join a school program or take lessons. My parents scoffed at that and refused to allow me to join any musical programs at school or anywhere else, saying “if we buy an instrument, you’ll just quit and we’ll be stuck with an instrument we don’t need.” It didn’t matter how many times teachers or parents would use words to say that they believed in me, their actions always told the absolute truth of what they truly thought of me. As a child, I learned to believe their actions, not their words.

So, like most of us, I grew up knowing that verbal compliments or verbal support didn’t prove anything at all. So just telling me to love myself today isn’t going to motivate me any more than telling me to jump across the ocean. I know I can’t do either. It’s been proven through thousands of actions over my lifetime that when it’s time for real support, most people will back down and prove that they have no faith in me at all. So I learned not to have faith in myself either. I can’t fully love myself if I have no faith in me.

Self-love and Self-forgiveness Go Hand in Hand

I grew up struggling to love myself because I could never forgive myself for being the incompetent child my mocking peers, or unsupportive teachers proved to me that I am. In this way, Self-Love and Self-Forgiveness are synonyms.

I find it helpful now to identify one memory each day that identifies a time when someone taught me I was someone who couldn’t be forgiven. Then, each day I can begin the task of finding forgiveness for that person, and then for myself. I submit that the truest daily goal each of us should focus on is to identify the scores of places in our lives where we learned to NOT love or forgive ourselves. From there, we can begin to work on accepting the truth, one tiny piece at a time, that we really can forgive those things about ourselves.

Over the period of my childhood, I systematically lost love for myself because I kept adding to the list of things I couldn’t forgive myself for. I eventually took over all my teachers’ roles to become my own personal self-deprecator. I learned to close my eyes, slap my own forehead and say “I’m so stupid” every time I did something that didn’t go well. Bananas don’t grow on apple trees, so those of us who truly love and forgive ourselves for being normally flawed humans, aren’t going to call ourselves stupid. So what is this automatic act and chant “I’m so stupid” honestly telling me about myself? If I’m automatically calling myself stupid, then something within me believes it to be true. Now I’ve identified a place to work on and forgive myself for. Once forgiven, I can love myself.

We Have No Reason to Feel Shame About This

I don’t want anyone, anywhere, to feel ashamed of themselves for not fully loving yourself, because absolutely everybody on earth needs to work on their self-love also. It’s probably the “original sin” we’re all said to be born into, meaning that lovingly learning to forgive ourselves is the reason we are here at all. Almost no one has it handled, which explains why so much harm is done through jealousy and a thirst for personal power. Almost all human life struggles with self-love and almost all social problems, from health and health care, through global hunger, global warming, corporate bullying and political dishonesty, are caused by too many individuals who can’t love themselves enough to feel satisfied that their lives are wonderful just the way they are, or in the belief that their own personal goals for happiness aren’t worth pursuing, so they take their lack of self-love out on others instead. This is why people hurt each other. Looking into another’s soul is like looking in a mirror. If someone looks into my eyes and hates me, they are really looking in a mirror hating themselves. We’re all connected. We’re all fragments of the same global consciousness. What affects you affects me and vice versa.

Self Love and Self Forgiveness Go Hand in Hand

If you were to meet you today for the first time, would you like you? A lot of us feel like we wouldn’t like the person we met if we met ourselves. Maybe it’s because we each know the skeletons that we’ve hidden in our closets, so we think we’re not the person others see us as. I can’t count how many times friends have said something like this to me “If you really knew everything about me you wouldn’t like me.”  A lot of us have friends who like us more than we like ourselves, or, I should say, we have friends who love us more than we love ourselves. The whole scenario is out of balance. I should be capable of loving myself as much as you love me, or as much as I can love anyone else, because I’m here to tell you that everyone has skeletons hiding in their closets. Everyone has made mistakes that they don’t talk about. Everyone is equal in this scenario. Why would I need to be harder on myself than I am on them? Bananas don’t grow on apple trees. If you are a person who can love yourself no matter what, then you are a person who can love anyone no matter what.

So since we were not born broken, but were taught that we were broken, too many of us grew up to become who we were raised to be more often than who we were born to be. If this, in any way, describes you, then the good news is that you need not feel alone with the devalued self-love that we are all suffering with. Devalued self-love happens to the vast majority of us, in every country, in every social class, every day. The even better news is it is fixable, and, even better yet, the fix is completely within our own control.

How We Almost Get It

Only a few people have taken on the challenge of learning how to achieve self-love. Billions of us have turned to various different religions and belief systems, many of which were originally designed to teach self-love, but somehow their follow-on teachers have since morphed the beliefs into systems of rewards and punishments and majestic steeples and how to fill collection baskets or go out and recruit more tithers. In Christianity, their mutated version of the original message actually creates more shame and more self-hatred because the message they teach is that our “salvation” depends on our physical acts of putting others first. They drive into our minds that we were born as sinners, and they raise us in childhood bible classes, with a constant reminder that we are born bad and have to atone for our inner evil, even claiming that because of our own inner evil, their Jesus character was forced to die for us. Yeah. Like I can really love myself after digesting that message. Calling a child a sinner in Sunday school is exactly the same as calling her or him a brat at home. As children and teens, our nature is to learn who we are through our teachers and protectors. If they say we’re sinners and brats, well, then they’re giving us the inner voice that will permanently guide us through our entire adulthoods.

Too many churches have watered down the message, which is Love your neighbor AS yourself. I used upper case on the word “AS” because it is the key word in that sentence. According to their own teachings, their Jesus taught us to love ourselves AS our neighbors, but our Sunday School teachers have instead taught us to love others while feeling ashamed of ourselves. As a result, we grew up as they taught us to, leaving too many of us trying to love our neighbors instead of ourselves, or more than ourselves, but when it comes to forgiving the mistakes we ourselves make, we can’t seem to do that. So we live, not in a sense of peace, but of inner rage, anger, disappointment and self-sabotage. Those misguided self-images leak out onto the people around us, leaving us unable to love them no matter how hard we try to. We’ve missed the one, single most important goal that the religion or the belief system originally intended to teach us. I am a human being, created equally in “God’s image.” I really am AS valuable AS any other human being. By loving and forgiving others while not loving or forgiving myself, I’m still not balancing my love for life itself, nor for others as well. By not loving myself I’m accusing God of being a screw-up who created a flawed human.

We’re All Connected: When We Don’t Love Ourselves, We Don’t Love Anyone

I can tell you from experience that when I’m unhappy with myself, I’m unhappy with everyone. On the other hand, during those rare times in life when I feel like things are going my way and I’m not wallowing in self-guilt or defeat, those are also the times when I can successfully forgive anyone for anything. When I’m feeling good about myself and my neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking, I can smile and just turn on some music to drown it out. But when I’m unhappy with myself, or feeling defeated and ashamed, I want to scream “SHUTUP!!!!” at that d##m dog as loudly as I can and start looking for ways to get revenge on the neighbor.

In nearly all my writings I refer to the fact that we’re all connected, and this connection helps explain the reasons for why I’m able to love and forgive everyone around me when I’m feeling love and forgiveness for myself. I’m a person just like you are. If I hate you, it’s because I hate myself too. If I hate you because you disagree with me in politics or religion, then I’m putting way too much of my self-worth into that political party or that pastor. My ability to love myself is not my political party or religious body’s fault. It’s mine. Even though I was given a poor self-image by my culture, it’s my problem now, which gives me the power to begin the healing process.

Imagine You’ve Achieved It

When I was a badly bullied young boy in the Christian Schools, the stress of all the hatred around me would drive me deep into my own imagination. Today’s bullied kids can hide in video games where they can kill anyone they want to without remorse. But video games didn’t exist for me in the 1970s, so I had to hide inside my own mind to find relief from “the cruel real world.”  I found it by imagining that I’d somehow sailed to an uncharted island that no one knew about and where the natives were all like me. In my fantasy, they accepted me. They fully understood me. I never had to explain myself or make excuses or accept my failure at being good enough for them. The imaginary island, which was filled with people who didn’t judge or dislike me was my happy place. The physical relief that these fantasies gave to my body were enough to calm my nerves and allow me to fade off to sleep each night.

Try an Imagery Exercise

What would it feel like to experience a life of pure self-love?  Stop for a moment, right now, and imagine yourself feeling as if you’ve achieved total forgiveness for every silly or clumsy or mean thing you’ve ever said or done. Imagine that the hand of God has touched your forehead and magically wiped out all memory of any of your past mistakes. The hand of God has wiped your slate clean once and for all. Today is a new day and you are now totally and completely accepted for who you are. Imagine that every human being alive now loves you unconditionally for who you are. Your parents, your pastor, your neighbor, siblings, workmates all smile a loving smile when they see you. No one wants anything from you. All they want is to chat over a morning coffee with you. The hand of God has touched them too, and they’ve all become enlightened and they all love themselves as much as you love yourself. Imagine this for just a moment and check in with your body. Does this bring you any peace? Can you imagine maybe someday going off your anti-anxiety meds if this were to become your permanent way of life?

Now Begin the Journey of Your Lifetime

Naturally this exercise can’t make other people love themselves AS they love us, but the wonderful news is that today, we can begin our journey of learning how to love and forgive ourselves, with or without their permission. The trick is not to fall into the trap that religions have fallen into: Don’t fixate on the end goal of living a perfect life someday in Heaven with no self-doubt, but DO agree to begin the journey toward that “Heaven/Zen/Shangri-La” state and then enjoy the journey itself.

As we learn more and more ways to adopt a tiny bit more self-love and self-forgiveness each day, we become less and less concerned with how we’re treated by others. In fact, while we can’t control others, remember we are all connected, so as we become more and more at peace with ourselves and with our own existence here on this earth, we become a positive influencer to those around us. Kindness spreads. Forgiveness spreads. People take notice. SOME of those people will learn by our example and maybe even one or two will finally ask us what our secret is and will ask to learn from us.  Like the old saying teaches, we can “be the change we want to see in the world.” Will we change the whole world? Who cares? If we’ve become more satisfied with who we are, the world’s problems won’t feel so bad, and yes, as forgiveness spreads, more of the world’s problems will begin to fade off. Again, don’t fixate on the world’s problems, focus on your own self-love and let the world’s problems fade when they fade.

The Goal Is to Enjoy the Journey Itself

To become totally and completely self-loving, is pretty unattainable, so we can’t let ourselves become defeated by thinking we have to achieve it totally. Think of it this way; People don’t take Cruise ships as a means to get to a location, they take the cruise to enjoy the food and the scenery and the entertainment of the cruise itself. Think of the journey toward self-love as the cruise ship you want to ride on for the rest of your life. Think of how fun it would be to learn one more thing every day that helps you love and forgive yourself and those around you even better today than yesterday, all the while knowing that tomorrow you’re going to get even better at it than today.

Don’t Fixate on the End Result

Once we fixate on the end result, we lose our love for the journey. As an example, I ride my bicycle to the market almost every day. I have a perfectly good Jeep I could drive, but I ride my bike for the exercise and the feeling of the wind blowing across my face. Sometimes on the journey I get frustrated that I’m not there yet. While I’m riding toward the market, I sometimes find myself wishing I’d driven the Jeep because if I had I’d be there already. But then I catch myself and remind myself, WAIT! I’m riding the bike for the bike ride! I don’t even want to be at the store yet because I’m still enjoying the free feeling of wind on my face and being able to say “hi” to people as I ride past them. I’m exercising my legs and my lungs while feeling a bit like a kid again. The journey, not the destination, is the goal. The destination is the target I’ve chosen to give myself an excuse to take the journey.

So How Do We Learn to Love Ourselves More?

The tricks and tips and methods for building upon our own ability to love ourselves with each day are too numerous to mention here in this blog. Also, the reason for not needing to list them here is that they are available in millions of therapists, teachers, coaches, posts, classes, books, podcasts around the globe.  My goal with this blog is to show that self-love is worth pursuing, and then to send us all off to pursue it.

Here’s a small beginning list of some techniques we can use or remember to love ourselves a little bit more today than we did yesterday:

  • No one is perfect: Accept that everyone hides skeletons in the closet, so we’re not the one bad person on this earth just because we also hide past mistakes in our memory files.
  • Begin to forgive those who gave us wrong information: Accept that we were likely taught by someone else to dislike ourselves. We can work to grasp that this was their own lack of self-love that they taught to us because that’s what devalued self-love does—it spreads. The more we work to forgive them for what they taught us, the more we forgive ourselves for having learned it.
  • We’re all connected: You can’t love/forgive yourself if you don’t love/forgive others: The definition of love is a sense of connection. We love people we feel connected to. And we’re all connected. No one can hate you if they love themselves. Likewise you can’t hate anyone else if you love and fully accept yourself for who you really are. We’re all connected. For the science minded, “together, we’re the single consciousness of the Universe.” If you’re Christian, then “together we’re all the body of Christ, each of whom was created in God’s image.”
  • Bananas don’t grow on apple trees: If you feel pure, uncomplicated love for others then it proves you feel pure, uncomplicated love for yourself. If you feel raging anger at others, know you need to focus on your own sense of raging anger at yourself for a few minutes. And if you see people not loving others, remember bananas don’t grow on apple trees, and hate doesn’t grow out of love. If you see hatred on any level, you are witnessing the physical fruit of self-loathing within someone.
  • We’re on a journey that improves us a tiny bit every day: Don’t fixate on the final goal of total enlightenment or total love. You’ll defeat yourself and go back to your old self-destructive ways. Enjoy being on the hypothetical cruise ship each day, knowing that today you can work to achieve one more tiny inch toward loving yourself more than you did before you started the journey. Enjoy and savor each bite of the feast that is the reward of learning something new today. Enjoy knowing that tomorrow, you will have the chance to learn even one more new thing and you will love yourself even more tomorrow. If you so choose, you can stay on this journey every day for the rest of your entire life.
  • Explore the teachers of the world: Some psychologists get it. Others don’t. So shop around for a good therapist if you can. Find one who believes that we’re all connected, and that self-love is the true goal. Also, the internet and the bookstores of the world are filled with the writings of people who have the very message we each need to hear to get us from self-loathing to self-loving. Just be cautious, as you choose who to listen to, that their message stays pure; that loving yourself equals forgiving yourself equals forgiving others equals loving others. As soon as the expert you’ve sought out starts to fixate on the end goal, they’ve gotten off the cruise ship and are treading water right where they got off. Teachers are plentiful and you have the right to go find another teacher so that you can stay on the proper journey toward self-love. Those who are treading water will eventually find their way back onto the ship if they so choose. You don’t owe them anything.

Why do we admire and support toxic people?

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According to science, religion and psychology we humans are all connected. Many of us (empaths) know that to be true while many of us (sociopaths) can’t seem to grasp the fact. But like the knowledge of a round earth, believing in, or hiding from any indisputable fact is your personal choice.

Fact: Most of us are born and raised with the knowledge that we’re connected. How we practice that connection is accomplished through a natural human practice called projection. Those of us who are good people will choose to not hurt other people because we know what pain and betrayal feel like, so through projection, we conscientiously become unable to hurt or betray others. We “treat others how we want to be treated” because “we know how it feels when it’s done to us.” We cringe at the sight of another’s bloody wound because we project our own pain memories onto them and cringe because we believe we know what their pain feels like. We also celebrate the successes of others because we believe we know what their success feels like.

But in truth we can’t possibly know what another is feeling inside their own body, heart and head. However, we can believe we do by projecting our own experiences onto them, leaving us able to believe that we know exactly how the other person feels. This projection gives us empathy which then gives us physical connection to one another. And a feeling of physical connection with another human is the very definition of love.

Is it refreshing to be lawless?

But like with anything, projection also works against us. Being a good person is exhausting. Some of us really want to cut loose, break the rules and get away with it. WooHOO! Party! And this is why so many Americans worship toxic people. Projection. “I want to be like him or her so I admire them for being what I want to be or for taking what I wish I could take. I project what I believe it feels like to be them onto myself and I get a dopamine rush that I call refreshing.” Toxic people (sociopaths, psychopaths and narcissists—anyone with anti-social personality disorders) blow up the rules with every chance they get. When a toxic monster that we admire takes something none of the rest of us can have, we celebrate with them because we project ourselves onto them so we can pretend we get to feel what they must be feeling with their ill-gotten reward. Toxic people don’t follow the rules of decency and aren’t, in the least, bothered by that. Oh my gosh, how fun would that be?

Bond. James Bond

James Bond steals cars and motorcycles and kills anyone who gets in his way. Rather than feeling remorse, he seduces a supermodel and downs a half dozen martinis, usually in a swanky multimillion-dollar hotel in some exotic city. Who wouldn’t want to live their lives free to be as dangerous and racist and rude as they want to be without ever feeling accountable? The good news for the slow-witted is: You can feel the freedom he or she feels by just allowing yourself to project his or her “success” into your own heart and pretend you are as happy as you believe he or she is. Call it refreshing if you wish. It’s a dopamine rush just like the rush any other toxic drug gives you.

But what does this say about you?

If you decide to pretend the toxic, lying, steeling, raping, abusive, bully monsters in your life are “strong leaders” really ask yourself why you want to be like them so badly. Why are you willing to close your eyes to what they really are? Monsters. Maybe you wish you could feel as free as they appear to feel. Maybe you’re so afraid of them that you’d rather be on their team than be their victim. Maybe you think you can share in their spoils, or inherit their cash when they die. Or maybe, deep down inside, you get excited that you could maybe do like them and take anything you want from anyone without the bother of an annoying sense of remorse afterward. 

What would you do if you woke up one morning to find everyone on earth was gone except you? If you answer “I’d find a Farrari and drive as fast as I want to” then you are experiencing a brief moment of the same release that others feel when they project themselves onto toxic people who live that way already.

Devil on one shoulder, angel on the other

There’s a toxic sociopathic devil inside all of us. But there’s also an angelic Christlike intelligence that knows we share this world with the rest of our species. What defines people as good or bad is how hard we each work to give ourselves over to the angelic voice rather than the devil. Our angelic voice teaches us to help the survival of the whole species by loving and sharing and helping each other. Most of us have embraced that voice as we allow the ugly selfishness of our primal instinct to shrink away. Friends, we are each evolving at different speeds from being the nasty sociopathic cave-animals we once were to becoming the cooperative celestial beings who will soon be traveling the universe in the vessels that we’re creating in teams and launching into space right now.

Toxic people are toxic. Not happy

They act happy. They puff their chests with self-pride and haughty arrogance. They tip their noses up at us from their yachts and Porches but make no mistake, they are filled with toxic anger and poisonous hatred. It’s what drives them to be so prideful. They know they cannot have love the way a compassionate person does and that enrages them. It’s often why they choose to hurt you for no apparent reason. Jealousy. Human beings are created to be social creatures. The cruelest torture known to man is solitary confinement. How have toxic people not created their own version of solitary confinement by buying friends with gifts and favors? They surround themselves with untrustworthy friends who will turn on them the second the well of free gifts runs dry. When toxic people laugh at you it’s not out of joy, it’s out of jealousy and hatred. It’s all they know.

Hell is not reserved for bully victims

Heaven is not a reward and Hell is not a punishment. They are the dream or the nightmare you’ve chosen to set yourself up for when you leave your body but keep your soul. Hell isolates the isolators; Heaven connects the connectors. If you have any spiritual beliefs of any kind, then think about this: If we create a life of selfless love and connection with others, then we’ll eventually leave the earth riding the wave with the momentum of that selfless love and connection. But if we pave our road with selfish anger and hateful opinions, or with the screaming voices of FOX news, CNN and the distrusting BS of conspiracy websites, and if we shun the good people and praise the sociopaths who we admire for behaving like rude and selfish 3-year-olds, then that’s the nightmare we will pass into after we leave this world. It’s the Heaven or Hell of our own making. Heaven is a place for love and connection, and it’s reserved for people who’ve given themselves over to love and connection. Hell isn’t reserved for bully victims, my friends, hell is crowded with the bullies themselves. Sure, these toxic “winners” win their daily selfish battles and get the snacks and the sex and the cash that they want on any given day, but in fact, by isolating themselves and refusing to project love and connection, they lose the whole war. There won’t be any money, sex or Porches in the next life, so whatever they’ve built or stolen stays here and they are left with what they created inside their hearts; Anger, revenge, selfishnes, isolation. They slide into the afterlife on the wave and momentum of the loneliness they supported and taught. Hell may be crowded with these monsters, but it’s a lonely place where each resident burns in the lonely lives they’ve built for themselves by choosing to not connect with the thousands of people they came in contact with when they had the chance. They got what they wanted and now they don’t have to share it with anyone because, by their own design, there’s no one to share anything with at that point in their miserable nightmares. Don’t admire these people. Don’t try to emulate them. They’re to be pitied.

How can White Progressives help the fight against racism in America?

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Three weeks ago I had my obligatory meltdown. My employer began encouraging “open discussions about racism” to be held in all our staff meetings. Those discussions were oddly upsetting to me. All my core beliefs, about how I have always been such a nice guy to everyone of every race were challenged just by the fact that we were even being forced to have the conversations.

I assume you all know what happens to any human when any of our core values are challenged, right? Our first reaction is to become defensive and offended. It happens to all human beings any time a core value (religion, race, politics, health, relationship) are challenged and called out. We become defensive. We close off. We stop listening. Three weeks ago, by forcing me to participate in open discussions about racism, my values were challenged, and I became defensive, offended that I was being called racist.

I’m not racist…am I? I am a White Progressive. A White Progressive is someone who believes that since we’ve never done anything to offend a person of color that we are an awesome white person. We have black friends, so we think we’re awesome. We march once in a while, so we think we’re awesome. We honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, so we think we’re awesome. And we proudly tout these facts to anyone who will listen just to prove how “woke” we are.

But for us White Progressives in America, I have a challenge to present. We need to ask ourselves if we’re truly as awesome as we want to think we are. We need to open up and examine our position. We need to go ahead and experience our little defensive, offended childish meltdowns, but then clean ourselves up, stand up like adults, and ask ourselves, exactly how are we fixing this problem in America? The difficult pill to swallow is that just by being nice to everyone doesn’t make us a part of the cure for Racism in America. American culture is still a racist culture and we are each members of the whole American culture. So the difficult pill to swallow is that if we’re not part of the American cultural cure, then we’re still part of the problem. No matter how nice we are to our friends of color, we’re not actively fixing anything with them if we’re just sitting back “being nice.”

Being a White Progressive is good, but it’s not enough

I’ve been a White Progressive my whole life. The abuse I took early on in life as a badly bullied Catholic school boy proved to me how horrible it feels to be unfairly bullied by almost everyone because of an unfair socially accepted opinion. So I grew up always being more empathetically drawn into friendships with people who are vulnerable to bullies. I’ve enjoyed friendships with some of the most amazing people in the world because of my openness to befriend anyone based on who they are, rather than what they look like. My difficult childhood really did make me into a better man, always making friends with whomever was willing to be friends with me in return, regardless of color, race, height, weight, age, gender, sex, or sexual orientation.

So I’ve always figured I was part of the cure in American racism. So gee whiz, aren’t I a great guy? Should I ask for an award of some kind for being such a great white guy?

But guess what. That’s not enough. I see it now. My blind spot is becoming illuminated. All White Progressives need to search their souls for a bit. It’s good that we aren’t bigots. Bigots say degrading things to people of another race. Bigots follow people of color around the store hoping to catch them steeling. Bigots call the cops every time they see a person of another color in their neighborhood. Bigots hurt people of other races. White Progressives aren’t bigots, so in that respect we’re ahead of the game and I do thank God that at least I was born with a good heart and an IQ higher than dirt so that at the very least I did not grow up to be a bigot.

Racism is different than being a bigot.

Racism is word that simply describes the social inequities that, because of race, some of us enjoy the high side of the inequities while others suffer beneath them. So it seems to be true that I absolutely am a part of a racist-challenged community. So now it’s time to ask; as a member of this imbalanced community, what am I willing to do to improve on it?

Not being a bigot doesn’t take me off the hook. Being a White Progressive still doesn’t mean I’m part of the cure. I’m still part of the problem. I’m still living in a predominantly white country that allows people who look like me to own a nicer home than the average person of color can own in America. I have a better chance at better jobs, better education and better health care than most people of color in America. I don’t have to teach my children how to avoid getting shot by a bigot just for jogging down the street or sitting in a coffee shop. So as I enjoy these little perks, tell me now; How am I part of the cure for the socially rampant inequities against my fellow American Citizens—many of whom are my friends?

So here it is, it’s today, and I’ve had my three weeks of core-value-defensiveness, complaining about how I’m not the problem here. I’ve belched out dozens of stories from my own life that proved I’m an awesome friend to people of color and sexual orientation. Blah, blah, blah, etc, etc, etc. Waah waah waah. I’ve made an ass out of myself in some cases with my rants about how I’m not part of the problem.

But as mentioned above, I’m also a person with a big heart who has survived an abusive past to learn a lot about the value of introspection and of climbing up out of ruin to find the strength of survival within myself. So, true to form, this week I’ve pushed my way through my defensive tantrum to turn my eyes inward and start asking myself if it was true. Am I part of the problem in America? The answer, once I got over my entitled sense of defensiveness is, well I’m certainly not doing anything to cure it, am I? Just being nice to people is more like I’m being neutral. I’m not fighting for equality for anyone, I’m just telling the people closest to me that I believe we should all be equal. Not hurting…but also not helping.

Here are some first steps in how we White Progressives can start to help:

Take a side: In this battle, as with so many battles on earth today, there has come a time for all of us to actively take a side. We are either pro-equality or just-fine-with-the-current-level-of-inequality. Period. It’s a binary choice. And if we’re neutral, we’re sitting back letting it happen, so that means we’re not on the pro-equality side. We’re spectators. We’re sitting back letting the world happen however it’s happening. I now see that to be the wrong side to be on.

Get past our own shock: It’s time for all of us who think we’re all “woke” about racism to have out little temper tantrums about being offended that we’re being called racist. So have the tantrum, get over it, and get on the right side of this fight. Because while we’re just sitting back being nice to our black friends, they’re still being followed around the stores by security guards. We aren’t helping them fight off the daily humiliation of insulting microaggressions like these.

Read up on the subect: Here’s a good place to start: Every White Progressive who thinks they’re not part of the problem in America needs to pick up a book called White Fragility by Robin Diangelo and give it a read. It’s not a terribly long book, and it might make you feel defensive when you first pick it up, but if it’s true that you truly believe Americans need to become equal and that all Americans deserve the right to pursue happiness, and that you agree with the Constitution of the US which specifically states that we believe all Americans are created equal, then at least google Robin Diangelo and listen to a few minutes of her words. Buy the book and read it. It’s not expensive. She’s not gouging us, she’s trying to get her message out. There are ways we can be more than neutral in this fight for equality. We White Progressives need to find ways to support our friends of color with more effectiveness than just telling people how great we are for not being bigots.

Be Accountable: As for me, going public with this admission of my lifelong blind spot is my first baby-step to trying to help change the world for the better. I don’t know where to go from here, but opportunities always present themselves to those of us who are watching for them, so something will present itself as long as I keep my eyes open for opportunities to help. My first step is to apologize to my friends of color for having lived behind this blind spot for so many years. Just living my white life not being followed around stores by security guards hasn’t been enough. By politely letting others live their lives of color in America wasn’t helping anyone, and for that I am truly sorry.

Be proud you’re not a bigot, but consider that you still need to do more: To all my fellow White Progressives, thank you for being kind and not being a bigot. It’s certainly better than being one of those dimwits who still thinks one race is better than another, or who burns crosses or who videos black people shopping. Also though, thank you for considering this challenge to become willing to examine your core values, and considering the reality that there is still more we need to do than just be nice.

Being white gives us a unique chance to help make changes: White people still have more political power than people of color in America, so White Progressives have more power toward fixing this than anyone else does. If White Progressives don’t take a stand, all the fighting for rights in the world won’t get the traction it needs to make any lasting changes for our fellow Americans. Our friends and coworkers and neighbors of color need us to stand with them and actively insist on equality for everyone.

Learn more–do more: At first I felt bad for being a White Progressive who wasn’t doing anything to be a part of the cure. I was also very, very afraid of saying anything “offensive” in our open discussions at work. But then I found out that these same fears are happening to most of us White Progressives who are in this same boat, so instead of feeling shame and guilt, I’m now feeling a pull toward making a change.

Let’s stop hiding in neutral and let’s fix this. I’m being shaken out of my slumber to see that a lot of work still needs to be done.

Rather than just be ashamed of myself–which accomplishes nothing, I’ve found strength in the words of the immortal Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

To all of us White Progressives; let’s do better.

The Beautiful Wisdom of Feeling Pain for Others

As a nation, why do some of us feel so much pain these days?

Some of us can’t ignore the problems facing our fellow human beings. We see and feel the problems that affect not only ourselves, but the people we share this planet with. It’s been said that wisdom brings worry. Wisdom is burdensome. By looking directly at the problems around us we feel the weight of those problems. By contrast, it’s also said that ignorance is bliss, which means that if you don’t want to feel the burdens of others, just don’t look at them. Ignore the problems of the world. It’s blissful and it releases you from believing that you might have to step up and help.

So I guess, in summary, we can say that if you’re feeling burdened, then you’re expressing wisdom and a desire to help. And if you’re not feeling burdened, then you’re expressing the opposite of wisdom—which is foolishness. The fool’s head is buried blissfully in the sand where no urgency is driving a need to help, while the heads and hearts of the wise are alert and are looking directly at the problems that need fixing. The pain is from wanting to help but not knowing how.

This world is undeniably in trouble. Collectively we are suffering the opiate epidemic, social injustice, political infighting, the disgusting greed of billionaires, the rising instances of wildfires, bigger hurricanes, more frequent tornadoes, larger floating continents of garbage, and a host of other unresolvable problems. Because of these overwhelming issues, many of us are hurting in ways we had hoped we would never have to hurt. The pain of hopelessness is manifesting its mayhem through a rise of suicides, mass shootings, and through unprecedented numbers of citizens on antianxiety medications. Even if we ourselves are not hit with any major troubles, we still feel pain as we helplessly witness these troubles impact our loved ones, friends, and fellow human beings. For those of us who are wise, we feel our human connection with those who suffer. We know the threats are real, even if those threats haven’t yet struck our own homes. But for those of us who are fools, well…we choose not to feel anything, and we don’t care about those who do.

Pain is a biological mechanism meant to bring about change. My fingers hurt when I need to let go of something hot. My foot hurts when I need to shake out a pebble. If my chest hurts, I may need to see a physician and navigate some changes in my stress, diet, or exercise. When my heart hurts for fellow human beings who are being treated unfairly because of their gender, or their color, or their mental health, or an addiction to a drug, or their financial misfortunes, it hurts me also. Why? because I’m a good person who excels in wisdom and emotional intelligence. It means I understand that we’re all connected and I carry with me a strong conscience that I can use to make a change that will help someone. As a person with conscience, I want for you the same things I want for myself; Happiness, Health, Comfort, Safety, Peace. My anxiety rises not because I’m broken, but because I feel as if the problems before me are too big for me to change. I feel impotent. Helpless. The wisdom of who I am drives pain which is supposed to drive change, but since I can’t fix the problem from my limited circle of control, the pain becomes anxiety and ultimately depression.

Even though it hurts, I am not sorry that I feel the pain. It’s proof that I’m not ignorant. I’m not a sociopath. It’s proof that I am maturing into wisdom. It proves I’m not a fool.

If you, like me, are feeling pain and anxiety because of these huge, unresolvable issues, don’t let it defeat you. You feel the pain because you are a good, wise person. If pain’s purpose is to promote change, then relieve your pain by finding some small way to become part of the cure. Even if you feel it’s a tiny contribution to a huge problem, something is better than nothing.

“Love not put into action is only a word.” —Mother Theresa.

Your contribution doesn’t have to be big enough to fix the world. You alone cannot change the leadership of your country. You alone cannot stop global climate change. But you alone can influence your community. Your neighborhood. Your office space. If pain is telling you to change something, then change something. Relieve the anxiety of feeling helpless by becoming helpful. By knowing you’ve done what you can to help bring about a positive change within your own small circle of influence, your body will respond positively. You can relieve some of the anxiety in your own chest. You can’t fix the world but you can do small things that improve the lives of one person or one family within arm’s reach of you. You can strike up a conversation with someone who feels utterly alone. You can donate $25 to a charity that feeds kids on the weekends in your own neighborhood’s public school. Feeding one hungry person is a huge gift to them even though it’s a small act to you. If you really need a boost, join a community group that does good in an area that you feel personally drawn to. Spend an hour helping clean a park. Donate the shoes you don’t wear anymore. Donate a can or box of food in a drop box. Work in the food bank one day a week. The opportunities to help, large and small, are endless.

The pain you’re feeling for others sets you above those who don’t feel it. Narcissists and sociopaths who feel no connection to others fake joy for you to see, but don’t be tricked into believing they are happy on the inside. They feel no connection to others and therefor they live a life alone with a dry and dark heart. Anything they do for another is nothing but a momentary transaction usually meant to get something in return. They feel absolutely no connection to any person–unless they want something from that person. As soon as they get what they want, the connection is broken. You are the lucky one who feels pain because you feel your permanent, soulful connection to other human souls–whether you want something from them or not. You’re better than the average person and your body is calling on you to make a small change somewhere. Don’t ignore the calling, and above all, don’t let your pain become a point of empty suffering. It’s a calling from your biology, from your inner wisdom, to become a tiny voice for a small change that is needed for someone near you. It’s something for you to be proud of. Use it to contribute, in any small way, to making this a better world for the people you love, even if those people are strangers. Even if the pain doesn’t completely subside, it will improve. It will be worth it when you see that someone benefitted from your willingness to respond to your body’s calling.

~ James F Johnson

Which is better? Empathy or Sympathy?

Empathy is the modern-technical term for what our ancestors called “walking in the shoes of another.”

Some experts believe empathy is only possible when a person has experienced what another is going through now. Empathy cannot happen in a person who has never experienced what another is experiencing.

Sympathy can happen though. I can sympathize with a hungry child, but I’ve never been a hungry child, so I can’t feel it, but I can still give money. I can still be a good person.

Empathy happens when we’ve already experienced what another is experiencing now. A person who has been hungry as a child can do even more for hungry children than I can. I can send them money or food, but the empathic person has a super-power to truly speak to that child in ways that can bring deeper comfort to the fears and anger and hopelessness that I can only imagine might be present in a child who doesn’t know if he or she is going to live through the week.

Empathy is why recovering addicts are also the best recovery councilors. They not only know the science behind addiction, they know what the addict is thinking and feeling.

PTSD survivors should stick together

People with PTSD really need to connect with other people who have PTSD. No one else can really share in the experience in ways that can help the survivor feel connected to someone of like-mind. People who don’t have it, may truly want to help, but really only know that PTSD is a condition that makes people react to things. Their ability to help is there–but its limited. Those who have PTSD may personally know the ghosts who are now attacking another PTSD survivor, and therefor can share in the experience and can work with those ghosts in helpful ways. PTSD survivors have experienced the fears of PTSD, and know first-hand what the sleepless nights feel like, and how the triggers come from nowhere—even years or decades after the trauma. Only PTSD survivors have ridden the PTSD-Bi-Polar-Coaster and know the inner workings of the out-of-control mood swings that people who don’t have it absolutely can’t grasp.

How to be a good person

In my world, good is defined as anything we do to connect people with the social fabric of all God’s souls, while bad is defined as anything we do to hurt, humiliate or isolate people from the social fabric of all God’s souls.

Mother Theresa used say “Love not put into action is only a word.” Either way, empathy and sympathy are both good, as long as they produce in us a desire to do something helpful for someone else.

So challenge yourself to love someone today. Go on line and donate a few bucks to a reputable charity that feeds kids in your town. Smile and say hi to someone in a store today just so that person knows he or she is not invisible today. And if you have a heart for any specific issues, maybe because you are a survivor of some undesirable event, then consider using your empathy as a tool for individual or social healing. Consider giving of yourself to others who need to know that you know what they are feeling.

Every day brings another opportunity to give something simple to someone in need. So each of us can do something good every day. Whether its rooted in empathy or in sympathy, connecting with others is the root definition of how to be a truly good person.

Even the Happy Struggle

 

True happiness is said to be found in people who feel equal to their peers. True happiness is seldom found in people who are rich. If you know many wealthy people, you probably know them to be suspicious and competitive, or perhaps even condescending and cruel. Same with overly attractive people. The wealthy and the beautiful have a lot more to lose than normal people do, which causes them more stress and fear. For most of us, equality and the ability to trust the motives of our equal peers makes true inner-happiness much more achievable.

As my 40th high school graduation approaches, Facebook is lighting up with posts from people I haven’t heard from in forty years. By their Facebook posts, many of them appear happier than me. Wealthier than me. More active than me. It makes me feel smaller, (or maybe I should say “fatter”) than I really am. But then I take a look at my own Facebook posts of the past several years, and I realize that even I myself, appear to be a lot happier, and wealthier, and more active than me also.

I guess it’s because we post what we want people to see, and we see what people want to post. So now I need to remind myself not to compare my real, daily life to others’ photographs of exotic vacations. When the cameras are put away, we’re all a lot more alike than we are different. We all have bills.

I know it is appropriate for all of us to post the pictures of our happy times, like our travels and bicycle trips, and our sailboats, and our parties. Those times aren’t fake. They really happened. I post those pics just like everyone else does. I post photos of my grandsons climbing on me, laughing. That’s what I want to show people so I can share the fact that my grandsons love me. I don’t show the pictures of me pulling my hair out an hour later when they wont’ stop fighting with each other. But know that it’s a part of my life that is also true.

For all of us, these great photographed moments of joy are spattered amid the vast playing field of real life. Normal life. The life that makes us all equal with each other. The struggles of loving our jobs on some days and hating them the next. I myself am known around my circles as a particularly happy person. I smile a lot. I inherited a sense of humor from my mother’s bloodline. I tend to find a lot of humor in daily life. It’s part of the reason I’ve survived real life for this long. But I don’t smile all the time. None of us smile all the time. When I drive in Seattle traffic I seem to show signs that I have Turret’s Syndrome. I love driving. I hate traffic. I think I’m pretty normal in that affliction. I’m not proud of it. And I won’t post pics of myself cursing another driver. But I still do it. Pretty much all of us deal with a myriad of things we aren’t proud enough of to take pictures of so we can share the entire story of who we really are.

People post photos of their bicycle trips in fancy-colored stretched Lycra, but they don’t show which complicated relationship they were ignoring, or avoiding, that day by going off on a bike trip by themselves. People show selfies at the Washington Monument but don’t post the credit card debt that they ran up for the trip. People show pictures taken by waitresses, of themselves and some friends laughing and toasting at a dinner table, but neglect to point to which friends or family should have been in rehab that night instead of at the bar drinking.

I guess my point is that it’s fun to show the party pics, and it’s fun to view them, but it is also wise to keep in mind that when we view each other’s happy posts, we are not seeing someone who is intrinsically happier than ourselves. The fun times and the hard times are as real for each of us as they are for each of the rest of us.  We are all more alike than we are different. Don’t anyone be fooled by a stacked deck of joy-photos, into thinking your peers are all having better lives than you are.

As for me, I am generally happy. But I cringe whenever I discover that my peers think it’s because I’m luckier than they are. I never want my own life to make another person’s life seem small. Six years ago, when I began writing Disaster Island, a novel in which I disclose a lot of the truth about my past and the pasts of some of my peers, and about the lasting effects of hidden trauma on many otherwise normal-looking people, I also began sharing in conversation with peers, the true story of my upbringing. I was shocked when I discovered they were shocked. All those years of my trying to look happier than I was worked. It turns out I’d fooled a lot of people who, frankly, didn’t deserve to be lied to by my façade. People that I liked would hear my stories of abuse and say “I never, ever, would have expected to hear that happened to you.” Then, to my even greater surprise, many of them then went on, “Can I tell you something I’ve never told anyone before?” Then, as they shared their own stories of struggle and trauma, I learned that it is a very blessed thing to feel the great honor of being someone they can finally open up to.

My Facebook posts of smiles and boat trips, and my humorous personality, and my tendency to look for the joy in each day fools people into believing that I’m luckier and happier than they are. For that I apologize. In some cases, because they think I’m luckier than them, some good people don’t believe they have a chance at being happy also. But when I share the rest of the story, about the horrific abuse I took as a mob-bullied, suicidal child at Catholic School in the 1970s, or about the elder sibling/narcissist that tormented me for fifty years, people stop feeling separated from me, and begin to bond closer with me. They say things like, “Oh my gosh. My family had one of those in it too.” or “I was treated just like that when I was young too.” While they  come to realize that they were not alone in their struggles, I come to the same realization that I wasn’t alone either. That moment of breaking down the wall, and of sharing a real trauma that was previously locked up and festering inside someone, is a moment of healing. The healing sends a wave of true happiness through me.

All the hell I went through with churches and family becomes the road that was worth traveling. Not ignoring the difficulties of my past is liberating. I wouldn’t want to relive Catholic school, or my own family, but I am proud to have survived them and I’m proud to share my life with those who need to know they are not isolated by their own past traumas.

Ultimately, we are all connected in this human experience. To think we need to compete with each other is thinking that perverts our connection and isolates us. Then it undermines our own happiness while it tries to undermine the happiness of the people we are actually connected to. The truth is, being vulnerable isn’t so bad. Being open begins the road to true, honest happiness.

 

The Supernatural Power of Unconditional Forgiveness

Forgiveness, if done right, summons miracles that transcend human understanding. With it, people have broken life-long curses, have washed themselves with inner peace, have gained better careers, have secured quieter homes, and have been party to countless other solutions to otherwise unfixable life problems. The results of practicing Unconditional Forgiveness are three-fold; psychological healing, physical healing and miraculous changes.

Psychological Healing
Beginning with the obvious, holding grudges or fear brings the opposite of mental peace. Non-forgiveness becomes judgment when we believe someone is bad. Judgment then becomes a grudge. In more extreme cases, grudges become hatred. Hatred morphs into obsessive thoughts that haunt. The person you can’t forgive does not haunt you, but your own obsessive thoughts about that person haunt you through sleeplessness and bad dreams. If you could bring yourself to accept complete forgiveness for whomever is haunting your psychological mind, you will lose those obsessive thoughts. You will become free to focus more time and thought onto happier things. Life inside your mind will improve.

Physical Healing
Hate, which is the opposite of forgiveness, can feel like a burning acid in your heart or gut. And as it turns out, the reason it feels like burning acid is because that’s exactly what it is. Years of churning the bile of non-forgiveness in the esophagus, the heart, throat, lungs, adrenals and immune system bring diminished quality of physical health and in the worst of case, premature death—not to the person you chose not to forgive, but to you, the one who didn’t practice forgiveness.

NEWSFLASH! Miracle Making
Mystical benefits transcend understanding when practicing the art of Unconditional Forgiveness launches inexplicable miracles. I can find no better way to explain it than to list a few of my own experiences.

First Example: Forgiving myself brought companionship

  • At twenty-three, and after two years of mind-numbing loneliness, I forgave myself for being unable to trust a loving relationship and I stopped looking for a woman to keep me company. Every frustrated molecule of my body found release from the new belief that I could be very, very happy to live alone as a single man. One week later I met Colette. Four weeks later we married. We’ve been married now for thirty-three years and are both hoping for many more to come.

Second Example: Forgiving an obnoxious neighbor quieted the neighborhood

  • Two months ago, I stopped hating the noisy, arrogant neighbor who had lived across the street from me for eleven years. “City life is city life” I said. It worked. I began to feel the relief of release around no longer obsessing about his behaviors. I could sense that my forgiveness of him actually took hold in my inner life, and I had come to finally accept him for everything he just was. I never spoke to him. I changed nothing except my inner feelings. To my utter amazement…One week later…he moved!

Third Example: Forgiving a childhood enemy broke a curse and stopped a repeating story

  • At fifty, I forgave my childhood best-friend-turned-arch-nemesis, after he had lived in my nightmares for forty years. In 1970, after establishing himself as my closest friend, Anthony surprised me with an overnight switch. From that day forward he used everything he knew about me from our years as best-friends to turn me into a target for several years of atrocious mob-bullying, separating me from my entire class at Catholic school, and leaving me suicidal and unable to trust anyone I loved. Like a curse over my life, I spent the next forty years being attacked again at least four more times by other friends-or-family-turned-enemy, almost as if it was the theme of my life.
  • At fifty, I asked a friend, “What is it about me that keeps attracting this same kind of villain over and over and over?” That friend asked me to share the entire story of how the original betrayal went down. She saw, with amazing clarity, that Anthony did what he did because of his own pain and shame. She helped me to understand why he became the monster he became. I immediately began to love myself and him again just as I had before the betrayal. Forgiveness washed through me like warm milk.
  • Then life-changing miracles began to fall like dominoes. First, psychological relief released me from the lifelong nightmares. What happened next was impossible to explain in any way other than as a miracle from above. Within only months of my unconditional acceptance of Anthony, all the friends and family who were behaving as badly as he had done, left my life. All for different reasons, all at once, and all permanently—as if by magic. For the first time ever, I can honestly say that I can trust and love everyone who is in my life right now. I had apparently learned my lesson and was myself forgiven from having to endure any repeats of that betrayal ever again. I forgave Anthony, and then somehow enjoyed a new peace when other people like him stopped repeating the betrayal.

How to Bring Miracles through Unconditional Forgiveness
To use forgiveness correctly is more of an art than a science. Simple forgiveness is just a word. It becomes a superpower when it is practiced as Unconditional Forgiveness. Its lesser version, Conditional Forgiveness, is little more than the act of saying “I’ve judged you as bad  and now I’m giving you my grace and tolerance because I’m better than you.” Unconditional Forgiveness blows the doors off of that by reaching a place of absolute, pure acceptance of another person for being who that person has always been, already is, and will probably always be, whether I like it or not.

In the amazing movie, “Ender’s Game,” Orson Scott Card writes;

  • “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.”

― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

To me, to destroy an enemy is not necessarily to hurt that person, but to destroy the role they play as an enemy in your life. By converting a person to a friend, you have essentially destroyed them as an enemy. I have lived this quote and that’s why it spoke so loudly to me as I watched the movie.

True, Unconditional Forgiveness is an art that requires practice. I tried to forgive the three people I mentioned above many times before it finally took hold. Whenever I try to force forgiveness, especially when I misinterpret it as little more than bestowing the grace of my tolerance onto a person that I have judged as being bad, it doesn’t physically change anything. It doesn’t produce a positive result. It’s just a noisy string of words. It doesn’t actually work. I could say “I forgave him/her” but obviously by the fact that I still haven’t seen a miracle, the evidence says that I have not completely accepted who they are. It says that I have not yet decided to live my life my way and let them live theirs their way. For me, once I can successfully reach a point of complete acceptance, that is when the miracles fall like refreshing spring rain upon my life.

This blog post isn’t meant to teach the art of forgiveness. Others have already written those books. My message is simply that Unconditional Forgiveness is worth practicing because it brings miracles. Books and articles teaching the art of forgiveness are all over the bookstores and the internet, but be cautious of who you learn it from. Scores of religious sources teach as if it is nothing more than gracing a bad person with your righteous tolerance. These religious zealots forget that their God calls us equal and that none of us are qualified to judge another as bad. So how can we grace them with our Godly forgiveness if we’re no better or worse than them? For these religious teachers, forgiveness is little more than a kind word that brings no physical miracles to life. They’ll tell you it does, but in practice you’ll be able to judge your own results.

The reason Unconditional Forgiveness launches miracles is because Unconditional Forgiveness is the practice of Unconditional Love. It is the physical act of reuniting and bonding souls. Hate and judgment are the act of separating. Isolating. Anthony isolated me from my peers. I connected myself back in when I unconditionally forgave who he and I both are. Miracles respond to love (connection), not to judgment (disconnection). Divine connection happens to be the reason we’re here in this life at all. We’re not six billion isolated souls. We are six billion connected fragments of one soul.

Ultimately, I happen to know that I am as bad and as good as anyone I’ve ever needed to forgive. If I can love myself, I can love you. If I hate you, I hate myself. I recommend learning Unconditional Forgiveness from the perspective of learning to accept all life as equal life.

The word itself is called for-giveness, not aft-giveness. To for-give is to accept equality first, and deal with offenses later. Aft-giveness better describes the act of first believing a person is bad, and then gracing them with your benevolent tolerance because you believe you’re better than them.

Once you for-give unconditionally, you will give yourself the amazing gift of living a life connected with the very love that you’ve helped create.

Interview With an Emotional Character

Ever heard of “the boring, creative type?” Me neither. If anything, creative people are more often called eccentric, non-conforming, one-of-a-kind, “out there,” expressive. At times we are accused of being high maintenance, emotional, fickle, excitable.

To that, I say “Good!” It makes life fun.

But I admit it can be challenging at times for those of us who can’t just sit quietly, but who need to express ourselves through creative outlets. We may struggle from feeling a lack of respect from the “strong, John Wayne stoic types,” or like we have a target on our foreheads so others can more easily make fun of us. We may witness more than occasional eye-rolls from people who see expression as frivolous or “silly.” We may even fall prey to our addictive personalities more quickly than do others. But all in all, in the day of a creative person, a lot happens to make life exciting. For me, the benefits most certainly outweigh the struggle.

A Fiction Character’s Interview with His Author

If you could interview your Creator, what would you ask?

In the following interview, I, the writer of Bullies & Allies, am the overseeing author of Kyle Rickett’s teenage life. I am in 2015 while for him the year is 1978, and his coming of age story has just reached its conclusion. I am armed with the clarity of hind-sight as I reach back in time to discuss the outcome of the story I wrote him into. He has questions for me, his creator, and since I know his past, present and future, I’m able to answer him openly.

In this interview, a slightly irritated eighteen-year-old Kyle wants to know why his life couldn’t have been easier and less confusing. As his creator I have good reasons for how things worked out for him and am able to overlook his irritation.

The Following Interview is Fictitious

    Me: “How are you, Kyle?”
    Kyle: “I’m an emotional basket case, thanks to you for creating me that way.”
    Me: “You’re welcome.”
    Kyle: “I wasn’t being funny.”
    Me: “C’mon, Kyle. You’re important.”
    Kyle: “You could have written me as a lucky lottery winner who gives millions to the poor. I’d have been important then too.”
    Me: “Now you are being funny. No one needs to read about a lucky millionaire. You’re important because of the intensity with which you feel things. A lot of people are emotion-based, and they need a character like you to show that it’s okay that you are so.
    Kyle: “Well I don’t always feel like it’s ‘okay that I am so.’”
    Me: “Trust me, you’re okay. In fact you’re better than okay.”

    Kyle: “Okay? I have PTSD for God’s sake. I work hard to be stronger than average, but when the tiniest stress comes my way I shiver and shake like a feeble old fool that needs tranquilizers. It’s not fair. It makes me look insane in front of my friends…in front of girls! Do you know how hard it is to live with something like this?”
    Me: “Of course I know how hard it is. But I see your situation differently. You’re standing up to a world that tells boys like yourself that because you have emotions you shouldn’t be taken seriously. To make your message even more impactful, your emotions have been maliciously tampered with so as to make you appear broken and out of control. You, sir, are the poster-child for showing that men with emotions can not only be okay, but can rise beyond it all and become better than okay. I did you a favor by writing you the way I did. I gave your life a noble purpose. PTSD is not the end of the world, but it’s seen by the public as something only women and soldiers can suffer with. As it turns out, you are not the only civilian boy who has it. I created you to be a voice for a lot of real people that need to be heard. Not everyone gets that honor.”
    Kyle: “Well it sure has caused me a ton of grief.”
    Me: “At first, maybe. But in the end, you were given a lot to be thankful for.”
    Kyle: “Ah the ‘be grateful card.’ The boobie-prize for people who have to find a reason to be glad they have a disease or a broken arm or something. So for your information, Mr. author/creator, your decision to make me this emotional nearly cost me my life. So, gee—thanks.
    Me: “C’mon, Kyle, I saved you before things got too unbearable. The ‘gratefulness card’ isn’t just for people who’ve been in accidents. Everyone needs to remember to be grateful, and accidents serve to remind us of that. Gratefulness is an important perspective to everyone, no matter what. Now that you’re on the mend, I’m sure you can see that a lot of good came from your experience.”
    Kyle: “Sure something good came from it, but with all due respect, that was thanks to Tuck, not you. He’s the one who showed me how to trust people again.”
    Me: “Um…I wrote Tuck also you know. I made him close enough in age for you to feel like he could relate, but gave him seven years on you so he could fill in for the less-than-honorable older siblings you couldn’t trust. To get him ready for you I put him through two grueling years of college that he didn’t want to go to, just to teach him the right things to say to you. I made him do service work at Crisis Intervention so he’d see and recognize your own Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I saved him from dying when he was fifteen so he’d be empathetic to your own near death experience (NDE) at fourteen. That poor guy went through hell so he’d be ready for you. So again, you’re welcome. And he’s a good guy. I’m glad you liked him right from the start.”
    Kyle: “Well we started out a bit rocky, but yeah, he’s the best friend a guy could ask for. You sure took your own sweet time with him. You could have avoided a heck of a lot of my grief if you’d have introduced us a few years sooner.”
    Me: “On the contrary, if I’d have introduced you two sooner, no one, not even him, would have been able to save you. You were sliding too confidently down a slippery slope, growing complacent—too comfortable being uncomfortable. You had adapted too well to your overshadowing troubles to recognize your need for someone like him. You thought your life was normal but it was far from it. You needed to be brought right to the bleeding edge of life and then to be shaken at the core to wake up and see what was happening. You needed to be shocked out of your comfortable journey to hell.”

    Kyle: “What’s so wrong with being comfortable?”
    Me: “Comfortable people don’t change. They soak, like dumplings in slowly heating water until cooked. It takes discomfort, or all-out-pain, to drive change. And from my author’s perspective, people who don’t change don’t have stories I can write about.”
    Kyle: “That’s why I was torn open in an accident? To shake me up?”
    Me: “Damn straight. You needed a physical crisis—one with real blood—to wake you up from a bad dream you didn’t know you were having.”

    Kyle:“Oh, so you had to make me miserable so that I could become happy? My story is about how I changed?”
    Me: “Aren’t all good stories about transformation? Learning? Overcoming? If you’d have met Tuck before your life had degraded into crisis, you’d have shrugged him off as just some nameless busy-body wedging himself into your complacent life. You’d have let him slip past you, unwittingly avoiding a sorely needed rescue. Then the only story I’d have had to tell would have been about another mysterious teen suicide that didn’t appear to make any sense—even to you. I’d have talked about how everyone had thought of you as happy, energetic and likable. I’d have called your death a senseless tragedy that shouldn’t have happened. No one would have ever figure out why such a promising, cute youngster took the ultimate way out.

    Kyle: “I admit, I was pretty confused at one point.”
    Me: “Yeah well, I knew it was coming. I spent four years preparing Tuck to intervene at your crisis—and trust me when I say that after everything I did to him, he needed your friendship as badly as you needed his. I couldn’t let all his suffering be for nothing. He saved you (and you saved him) at exactly the right moment, and he helped us show the world a deep truth about how secretly defeated you felt and how you’d come to be so distrusting of your own allies.”
    Kyle: “What’s weird about that is how I didn’t realize that I didn’t trust people. I thought every family was like mine and that love included having to watch my own back. They were my family. I thought it was morally wrong for me to question their motives.”
    Me: “The whole family wasn’t to blame. Certain antagonists had spent many years covertly, but tenaciously undermining your self-image and quieting your screams for help. It was they who confused you so that whenever you did try to reach out for help, you’d sound crazy and no one would take you seriously. You needed Tuck, but first you needed to know that you needed him. When you became aware of how desperate your own situation had evolved you became ready for me to introduce him to you. That’s when you would allow him to reach in to your insanity for a rescue. Seeing how close you were to your own demise prompted you to reach up and grab his hand.”
    Kyle: “Thank God for that. Okay, I’m starting to figure this out. I’m another bullied character in another novel about being saved from suicide by another caring person?”
    Me: “Don’t minimize this, Kyle. You’re a complex character in a story about being seriously overwhelmed by a sense that you aren’t acceptable to the world. In order to feel as alone as you tend to feel, you needed more than just a sense of confusion. You needed villains.”
    Kyle: “Villains? Plural? Since you’re an author, shouldn’t you stick to the rule of simplicity and have only one villain so you don’t make the plot too difficult to track with?”
    Me: “Normally that is a good rule to follow in novels, but, Kyle, this is more of a true story that’s meant to resonate with a sense of being involuntarily confused and alone in a busy world. I’m kind of annoyed by normal bully stories that don’t address how hard it really is to stand up to enemies you can’t identify—especially when you yourself have been convinced of being too crazy to know what’s going on. If there was only one bully then all you’d have to do is stand up to him. That’s how most novelists do it. They name the one obvious dragon so as to depict you as a hero when turning to face it. But Kyle, real life isn’t always so simple for everyone. Telling a person to ‘stand up to their bully’ isn’t going to help someone who is too confused to identify exactly who that even is. One easy-to-spot antagonist isn’t enough to tear you down the way you were torn down. You actually thought that you were born flawed and that the entire world would see your shame if these extortionist bullies exposed you. How does a boy stand up to that?”
    Kyle: “I guess I really couldn’t.”

    Me: “I needed to put my readers inside your head, so they could experience with you, your true belief that no one understood you. You were that kid whose allies didn’t see your pain because they mistakenly saw you as having a great life. You’re cute, intelligent, close to your parents, cousin Scooter and your amazing best friend, Connor. You worked tirelessly to pretend that you were doing fine in life, and unfortunately for you the ruse worked. By outward appearance you had what a lot of people thought they wanted, so they didn’t look any deeper. People needed to get inside your confused head and experience how you came to the place where you actually saw your own allies as your bullies and subsequently lost your ability to trust anyone.”
    Kyle: “And so one villain wasn’t enough to do me in?”
    Me: “Nope. Not in one blow. You’re too strong for that. You were whittled down slowly by a mob. You looked out to the world for help, but they didn’t respond so you assumed they were part of the mob. In a social structure peppered with various bullies and allies, you didn’t know which was which. Kyle, you represent a category of real people who feel relentlessly overwhelmed by humanity. You’re not the only emotional person out there. As an emotional teen, you look for acceptance in people who don’t understand how to give it to you. You believe criticism much more deeply than you can accept praise. You feel outnumbered and outmatched, even though you aren’t. Your life in Bullies & Allies is a representation of a boy who was driven ‘crazy’ by three key people who had one thing in common: They wanted something from you and didn’t care how they got it. They each made way into your heart so that you’d be too bonded with them to fight back. Your kind spirit and compassionate spark made you an attractive target. Once they had your respect they put their sins on to you and you took the punishment. They used common manipulations to isolate and trick you into believing the whole world was on their side rather than on yours.”
    Kyle: “So my only three bullies were Fran, Andreo and Dr. Krieg? Everyone else was—”
    Me: “—Everyone else was just minding their own business. But when they didn’t announce themselves as being part of your solution, you lumped them together as part of the problem and you became overwhelmed. The true antagonists were three disconnected individuals, each exhibiting a different variation of a single anti-social personality disorder.”
    Kyle: “They were meanies?”
    Me: “They were sociopaths. People who, without the annoying burden of conscience, can say or do anything they want without having to feel bad for it. Fran represented a family member with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) who used divisive gossip and lies to trick unsuspecting family members into a permanent war-like state of defending themselves against each other. Andreo was your former best friend who was fighting with demons of his own. Demons which he eventually transposed onto you and then coldly attacked you for. Dr. Krieg was a common pedophile, empowered by his sociopathic ability to see the world as a playground to feed his obsessions. But he was a family friend and a community pillar, and you were not a fool. You saw the risk of being hated by everyone if you had been the one small boy who’d tried to expose that disgusting mess.”
    Kyle: “And this is supposed to be like a real-life story? Do real people usually have three sociopaths trying to get something from them?”
    Me: “Usually? No. But if you were to go out into the city streets and interview enough runaway teens, you might find that your fictitious story of being manipulated when you were too small to fight back is lame compared to what some of them have been through in real life. Your story is not in any way a far reach from normal life for some. Your life wasn’t violent—which made your abuse a tad more difficult to notice.”

    Kyle: “Whoa. That hit home. I almost became one of those runaway teens, remember?”
    Me: “I remember. Your case was a real eye-opener. You were a normal, middle-class fourteen-year-old with no bruises, but still you believed that the pain of staying with your family was greater than any fear of trying to make it on your own. I guess we humans tend to move away from the greatest perceived pain. The fact remains that evil strikes all classes, and kind-hearted, peaceful, creative, sensitive people become targets for sociopaths a lot more often than the general public can see.”

    Kyle: “But three? How real is that?”
    Me: “You’d be shocked to find that a general rule of thumb in crisis intervention is that people are seldom targeted by bullies only once in their lifetimes. For some reason, no one is sure why, it seems like abuse either never happens to someone or it happens multiple times.”
    Kyle: “Like having the proverbial ‘target on my forehead.’”
    Me: “Exactly.”

    Kyle: “This is making me nervous about my future. As my creator, can you tell me…do I still have a target? Am I cursed for life?”
    Me: “Yes and no. One thing I want you to understand is that life isn’t always so much about miraculous cures as it is about gaining control through awareness and acceptance.”

    Kyle: [heavy sigh] “I’m always going to have PTSD, aren’t I?”
    Me: “They’re going to be working on finding a cure for quite some time, yes. And men without war experience is going to be the last group to be readily acknowledged.”

    Kyle: “Crap.”
    Me: “It’s okay, Kyle. Things work out well for you. I’m thirty seven years in your future and I’ve seen how things turn out. You’ve got a long, exciting, sometimes bumpy ride ahead of you.”
    Kyle: “Is it worth it?”
    Me: “More so than I can even describe. You’ll marry someone who finds you worth the effort it takes to put up with your PTSD episodes. Your kids and grandkids are going to love the two of you because of how attentive you’ll be to making sure they’re never bullied like you were. They’re also going to love you because you’re never going to fully grow up. Neither is Tuck. He’s going to be their favorite uncle and a friend for life that will never stop mentoring you. Oh…and when you’re thirty-six, your sense of humor will make you into a successful stand-up comedian.”
    Kyle: “Woo-HOO! I’m going to be famous?”
    Me: “Mmmm. Not necessarily.”
    Kyle: “Oh.”
    Me: “It will be by your own choice not to pursue show business. For someone like yourself, who struggles with interpersonal trust issues, you’re going to find yourself too uncomfortable by what you’ll call ‘a lack of integrity in the back-stabbing show-biz community.’”
    Kyle: “Oh! Ha ha! I’d feel like I was back with my siblings again?”

    Me: “Exactly! Ha Ha! Also, you’ll find it much more difficult to connect one on one with ‘regular people’ during the time that you are seen as a professional entertainer. You’re all about connection and trust, so you’re gladly going to allow yourself to fade from the public’s eye. On a positive note, what you learn from your year on the stage is going to give you an edge when you become a writer and a public speaker on the topics of mob-bullying and non-military men with PTSD.”
    Kyle: “A writer versus a comedian? Isn’t fame fame?”
    Me: “Not necessarily. Being a writer is much more discrete than stage-work in this star-struck world. You’ll be able to reach out to your audience while enjoying the anonymity of walking around unnoticed in public.”

    Kyle: “Will it make me rich?”
    Me: “Not with money.”

    Kyle: “Again, one of those things you say to someone to make them feel better about being poor?”
    Me: “Trust me on this one, Kyle. You’re an expressive soul. Finding your voice and your perfect fit in life is worth far more than cash. All too often, money-rich people go to bed each night fearing that someone will steal it all. You’ll live in the peace of knowing that no one will ever be able to take this from you. Becoming the man you are meant to be really is going to be better than having money to spend on unneeded luxuries. Excessive money can actually separate you from other people. Being rich sets you apart from a predominantly middle-class culture. You hate feeling alone, so for you, excess money does not bring happiness.”

    Kyle: “I hate to say this, but your reasoning actually sounds pretty realistic.”
    Me: “It is. But be aware of the fact that your ability to connect with others will always be a double-edged sword, making you a ton of friends, both good and bad.”

    Kyle: “Both good and bad? It can’t get easier?”
    Me: “It’s life, Kyle. It’s that way for all of us. Being forewarned is being forearmed. When you make a ton of friends a certain percentage of them are going to be less than honorable—it’s simple math. As a giving person, you will attract a large number of people over the coming decades. Some will seek to take from you. The gift you received by being enlightened at eighteen was that you became able to fully appreciate the trustworthy people, while gaining the ability to heal quickly from the selfish ones.”

    Kyle: “But all in all, I’m going to be okay?”
    Me: “You’ll struggle but you’ll enjoy a deep richness you’d never appreciate if life had been easy. You’ll have times during the year—every year—where you can’t seem to get away from the trauma memories. But you and your family will call it ‘the flu’ and deal with it appropriately. On the nights you can’t sleep, which will be many, you’ll quietly go downstairs and write the things that you learned from your struggles. You’ll never get over your hyper-anxiety, but it will make you into a harder worker among your peers while giving you and your friends an endearing humor around your overactive sense of panic. Like always, you’ll make the best from the hand you were dealt. You’ll have trust issues with everyone you ever meet, but over and over again you’ll work through them. You’ll learn so much about the art of trust that you’ll write books about it. Meanwhile, you’ll be there for people. You’ll give a lot of money and help to friends who need it, but you’ll also give a lot of money and help to people you’ll wish you’d have never fallen victim to. Being gullible will frustrate and often embarrass you, but you’ll brush off the dust and move on.”

    Kyle: “Good God. I’m in for a ride.”
    Me: “A good one, Kyle. You’re in for a good ride. You’ll come to understand that a good life isn’t defined by what is done to you, but by how you choose to grow from it. You’ll find help. Your friends will see that you’re worth their patience. You’ll find a therapist that grounds you. You’ll stay with him for life. Good, steady therapy is sort of the right medicine for someone with your level of trauma-driven anxiety.”

    Kyle: “So…I really am crazy?”
    Me: “Not by a long shot. Just by saying you are…you aren’t. Truly crazy people don’t know they’re crazy. Only sane people have the wisdom to question their own sanity.”
    Kyle: “Then I must be really, really sane…because I feel really, really crazy.”
    Me: “Congratulations on that, and welcome to the club.”