Sometimes we come across sociopaths in our very own families. Sometimes they are a boyfriend we dumped in college. Sometimes they appear as Lotharios when we are in middle age - intent on enticing, seducing and duping us for money, sex or pleasure.
It's not that we're fools. It is that they are skilled at the con. We can all be hoodwinked and suckered into their charm. There is no shame in that. We get to be human.
You don't see them coming. They are not branded or carrying signs or festooned with horns. Then again, they are so good that even if they wore a big ol' sandwich board sign saying, "stay away from me, I will play you, I cannot help myself," we'd still fall. hard.
They will outwit, outplay and outlast you, unless. . .
Experts on anti-social personality disorder advise that the best way to protect ourselves is to "know our vulnerabilities." The sociopath has an uncanny ability to read you - identify your vulnerabilities - and use them against you. They advise us to "realize our own potential and maximize our strengths" so that our insecurities don't overcome us. Because a sociopath is a chameleon who becomes "an image of what you haven't done for yourself."
Words to live by, even if you never meet a sociopath.
What is your potential? Are you living at your potential?
What are your strengths? Are you using them to the fullest everyday?
What do you want for yourself that you have not yet done? What baby steps can you begin to take now that will get you there eventually?
(Definition of sociopath from ehow.com: Sociopaths have little regard for the feelings of others and manipulate others in order to get what they desire. The term "sociopath" is no longer used in psychology and psychiatry, and the disorder is now called "antisocial personality disorder." People who have this disorder often have no sense of right or wrong and many only receive treatment when forced to by the judicial system, an employer or family member. The disorder is relatively rare, with approximately 0.6 percent of Americans affected, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.)