According to Dr. Anne Salter, each of us operates by a set of positive personal illusions. These illusions include a common tendency to "soften the world, ignoring and minimizing its bad aspects and overgeneralizing its good ones." (Salter, p. 160). Positive personal illusions are the truths we tell ourselves about others that provide us with a feeling of personal safety. They include a naive acceptance of what individuals tell us as absolute truth. Some of them might include:
- Bad things happen to people other than me--people of color, people who live on the wrong side of the track, people who like XYZ, people who are ABC, people who do MNO, etc.
- People are basically good and are trustworthy.
- I'm a good deception detector.
- What you see is what you get with almost everyone.
Approximately 25 percent of the population are sociopaths, that is they do not have a conscience. For those of us who do have a conscience, it is unfathomable that individuals could lie without batting an eye, use and abuse people, including children. The inept ones are already incarcerated but that doesn't mean that we are safer. The really competent sociopaths are still walking among us and we have to become more aware and practice defensive living. Part of our defensive living strategy should include:
- Suspect flattery: "Compliments are lovely, especially when they are sincere. In contrast, flattery is extreme and appeals to our egos in unrealistic ways." Predators will use flattery to lower your defenses and gain an entrance in order to exploit. "Peek over your massaged ego and remember to suspect flattery." (Stout, p. 158)
- Avoid conscienceless people (i.e. sociopaths): Avoid him, refuse contact and above all, don't worry about hurting his feelings. "Strange as it seems, and though they may try to pretend otherwise, sociopaths do not have any such feelings to hurt." (Stout, p. 160)
- Don't pity too easily: pity should be reserved for "innocent people who are in genuine pain or who have fallen on misfortune." The predator will "campaign for your sympathy" but is engaged in a pattern of hurting people. (Stout, pg. 160)
- Do not be afraid to be unkind or even unfriendly: predators often are void of conscience and are incredibly dangerous. They do not respect boundaries and they do not take "no" easily. Be kind and friendly to people who deserve that treatment.
- Do not try to redeem the unredeemable: conscienceless individuals are unredeemable! If you are dealing with a predator, cut your losses and walk away.
- Do not fall prey to the "you owe me" guilt-inducing tactic to ensure your silence: Predators will do their best to silence you; to guilt you into letting them off the hook. "'You owe me' has been the standard line of sociopaths for thousands of years, quite literally, and is still so." Another perfect line they commonly use is "You are just like me." You are not--don't forget it! (Stout, pg. 162)
Two excellent resources quoted above:
- The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout, Ph.D.
- Predators Pedophiles, Rapists & other Sex Offenders, Anna C. Salter, Ph.D.