We Need to Talk About Your But
Here’s a quick one and once you’ve really HEARD it, you won’t be the same.
I'm talking about your ‘but’.
Ready? Here we go. Anytime someone uses the word ‘but’, you can just erase the message that came before it. In other words, everything said before 'but' doesn't count. And here's why - the word "but" is used right before the justifying what people really want to believe/convey.
I want to see a therapist but it's just too expensive.
People like President Trump but that's just because the economy is good.
I know I shouldn't have given 100 bucks to my daughter who uses drugs but I don't want her kids to go hungry!
The word "but" is used right before justifying what people really want to convey/believe.
Ever been fired? It may sound something like this; “The company has really appreciated your efforts over the last decade…but with the economy downturn, we’re going to have to let you go.” See how what came before 'but' wasn't really the message they were aiming for?
Ever been through a divorce? Maybe you’ve heard something like this from a family member or friend: “I don’t want to sound like the jerk…but it's been over a year and you need to move on.” They really just wanted to tell you to move on.
And I could go on and on! How about this one: “I may have lied to you…but I didn’t think you could handle the truth.” “Hope for the best…but expect the worst.” The last one you've heard and there are more common phrases JUST LIKE THAT and you'v never noticed how bad they actually are - until today. See, your life is changed forever all because of awareness.
Wait, there's more! People even do it to themselves! “I’m pretty smart…but there are a lot of people who are smarter.” "Yea, I got a raise...but it wasn't as much as I wanted." Or, "I wanted to learn guitar...but never got around to it." You know you've either said this out loud to someone about yourself OR you've said it silently in your head.
RIGHT?! It’s just – not a good word at all. AND DON’T BE FOOLED WITH THE DISGUISED BUT! These words sound well and fine ‘but’ are just as nasty.
What do you do now that you know what ‘but’ is a bad 3-letter word? Answer: Use the GOOD 3-letter word, “AND”. The word 'and' connects the message rather than splitting things up! Using it will not only help your communication but you’ll also be speaking more honestly. Win-win. Yes, I recognize that I used the word 'but'...this implies that there are good ways to utilize the verbage as well. Win-win-win.
Anything said before “but” doesn’t count.
Anything said after “but” word is a justification of what people really want to convey or believe.
Thanks for reading. Now try and listen for this tricky trap in your daily communications! What 'big but phrases' have been laid out for you?! Leave them in the comments area if any come to mind.
If you’d like to learn more goodness, check out my blog and/or subscribe to the “Jed Says” YouTube channel found at www.meaningtolive.com.
Till next time!
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
Rats and Drugs
The term “sobriety isn’t the opposite of addiction – connection is the opposite of addiction” is becoming more and more prevalent. And you can thank this to a pretty awful experiment on rats or rather, how a pretty awful experiment on rats has been debunked.
In the 1960’s a Behavioral Psychologist at Harvard University came up with an experiment on rats – “The Skinner Box” – You’ve heard of this – rats in a cage with 2 bottles. 1 water, 1 heroin/cocaine and they pushed the drug laced water repeatedly until they died – REFUSING the ordinary water (life)
Remember the black and white commercial of a Rat banging repeatedly on a lever?!
“Rat Park” comes from psychologist Bruce Alexander (1970’s) who conducted a similar experiment as the Skinner Box experiment but gave the critters a park to live in rather than an isolated cage with nothing to do and nobody to do anything with. Rat park consisted of spin-wheels, tunnels, food/water, sex and friends (rats are social creatures…like humans). EVEN after exposure/addiction to drugs, every rat chose against the drug laced water. No deaths. Side note – they did occasionally drink the drug water (female rats mostly) but didn’t take in access and avoided completely if the behavior had negative effects on their life.
What’s the difference? Connection. Connection, connection, connection.
An example of this with humans can be observed with the returning soldiers from the Vietnam war. Statistics report up to 20% of our soldiers being on heroin…I think they called it “skag” back then. The country was dreading their return and how it would effect the nation but lo and behold, the soldiers stopped using shortly after coming home. How did they do it? Some articles point to the heroin in Vietnam being better vs. the US version not being as good (pure). Others say that it was harder to find or that you had to inject it to get the same effect (vs. smoking it back in the war) so it wasn’t as socially acceptable.
I say it was because they were reunited with connection. Isn't it amazing how impacting ‘meaning and purpose’ can be to life.
What does disconnect look like? In most cases, it’s not difficult to uncover (trauma, molestation, abandonment/rejection, alcoholic/high caregiver, etc.) but in other cases it’s less obvious and looks a lot like ‘contingent acceptance’. In every client I work with, there’s a blaring belief of “I’m not enough”.
The most frightening aspect of this research is the fact that it’s largely ignored. For some insane reason (I’m guessing financial), our culture is rejecting the idea that we have the answer to ‘stop the epidemic’ and are refusing to pick it up! Instead, we throw legalities at it (further disconnecting ‘addicts’ - looking at you 'criminals'). Instead we throw labels at it (I’m looking at you ‘diseased’) while throwing away any chance at being fully ‘recoverED’ - even the notion that it's something that can be cured offends some people. Instead we try to cover it up with ‘medication assisted treatment’ (looking at you Suboxone...Vivitrol shot – you’re in the clear BECAUSE YOU DON’T CAUSE PHYSICAL DEPENDENCE LIKE OPIOIDS…and suboxone).
As a society, our culture is becoming more disconnected, anxious and depressed – I’m looking at you social media. You are a wolf in sheeps clothing feigning to be a ‘friend’ but lacking in all connection that an actual friend displays. You’re a big tease, promising fulfillment and leaving all who look at you feeling more alone.
It’s no wonder drug use in skyrocketing.
Playing Chess with a Sociopath
It's nice to know the rules when playing any game...nicer to know when other players don't play by the rules. Continue reading to gain awareness on the "sociopath" (I refer to them as "no-rulers").
If you don’t know already, there are quite a few people walking about that don’t feel much guilt or shame. WELCOME to the world of the sociopath. Sociopathy falls under the umbrella of "antisocial personality disorder" or ASPD and makes up an astonishing 4% of the population (16% if looking at CEO's and Supervisors). In other words, 1 out of 25 people are unable to feel guilt or shame. Brrr - did you just get a chill? The other 96% of the population have a normal range of empathy and emotion so are able to connect with one another on an emotional level. To the sociopath, this ‘connecting’ idea is as foreign as your idea of you being blind (I’m assuming you’re not blind if you’re reading this). You don’t really understand what it's like to be 'blind' even though we could probably fake it if we had to. It's the same with humans with APD (sociopaths or psychopaths) they don't understand what 'feeling' is like...but can sure fake it when they want to.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...probably a sociopath. In other words, they've learned to fake it - emotions, that is. Like the magnificent coyote thrives in their ever shrinking natural habitat, the sociopath learns to adapt behaviorally. Just like you would figure out a way to blend into a heavy metal concert by going in bouncing your head up and down to the beat (and occasionally joining a mosh-pit or punching the dude beside you), sociopaths mimic the behaviors of other people in order to blend in.
Oh! And this is important. The difference between sociopaths and psychopaths is merely the sociopaths ability to feel a wee little thread of feeling. Sociopaths can connect a little bit, with family (kids, spouse, parents, siblings) – a little bit. Psychopaths have no feeling of shame or guilt – none – zero – nada. Every psychopath is a sociopath but not the other way around.
Isn’t that fascinating?! Seriously, this should be taught in school. Why? Well, imagine if all you did was play chess. Chess, chess, chess to the point that you’re a master chess player. All of your life, you’ve learned different ways to excel in the game. Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone standing on the side reaches over to the opponents black piece and jumps over your castle, taking your queen. “You can’t jump over people in this game”, you say but they CAN because they are allowed (by their lack of conscious) to play the game with a different set of rules. It sure would be good to know that 4% of the world plays by a different set of life (chess) rules, wouldn’t it?
Now that you know that the player is out there, you’d probably be interested in knowing how to spot him or her (yes, women aren’t immune and shame on you for assuming they were). And that’s the issue…they're extremely difficult to spot. Luckily, some Sociopaths have offered insight into their world to the point that we now have more intel. This understanding began with people who were incarcerated (only 20%). Recently, (with the help of online anonymity) higher functioning…those who were smarter and less likely to get caught for their crimes, have opened up about their alternate lives along with the behaviors that come along with a muted sense of right vs wrong.
Curious about someone you know and feel like answering 13 questions? https://www.psychopathfree.com/test/1
Look For these 15 signs:
1. RARELY flustered or at a loss for words; This is a skill that has been honed over years of practicing the art of lying. Even when caught 'red handed' this population will have excuses, reasons and justification that flows easily from their tiny lips. All of this adds up to you believing what they tell you because you think to yourself, "someone lying wouldn't be able to come up with a reason that fast."
2. They're not dumb: This is a characteristic that allows them to adapt and manipulate others. There are, of course, less intelligent sociopaths out there and the higher IQ ones are likely annoyed that they are giving them a bad name by the sociopathic blunderers. A sociopath might say, “a good sociopath doesn’t go to jail, let alone stay in jail.”
3. Lack of empathy: Asking a sociopath questions related to feelings are akin to a asking a therapist questions about calculus. It’s pretty fuzy and in both cases and in brain scans, the same area of the brain will light up in confusion. Go ahead and laugh, it’s funny. They're especially ignorant in their younger years but they learn the right things to say as they get older (have had more time to study you).
4. Secretive: Sociopaths don’t share intimate details unless it’s to manipulate in their behalf. They tell half-truths and the half they tell you will prop up their image. Or, they will utilize 'triangulation' as well, splitting people against the other, making themselves look better while you're non the wiser. They are masters of character assassination. Gossip is their friend and they'll always use it to prop themselves up in your eyes.
5. Charming: This is a skill they develop to attract people into their game so they can excel in life. You'll shake their hand and match their smile and then you'll walk away thinking, "what a great lady" ('or guy' depending on the sociopaths gender). They are clever and funny, always seeming to have the right thing to say. Fun part is - they've said the same lines over and over to hundreds of other people. They fine tune their lines over time figuring out what works and what doesn't work...old sociopaths are the best at it.
6. Sexually deviant: Since they lack guilt, remorse, and (much) emotional attachment, sociopaths tend to have affairs along with having questionable sexual activity (some studies have shown a higher level of testosterone in both male and female sociopaths). Beauty part is - they're so good at lying and avoiding (bad) exposure that the affairs are rarely proved although often suspected. If their secrets do come to light and they are confronted, the sociopath will eventually 'win' when it comes to convincing others that they're not to blame...they may even go as far as to say that they are a good person and they could have done a lot worse - so you should probably thank them.
Fun fact: Sociopaths (male and female) are reported as having higher levels of testosterone which correlates directly to deviant desires (along with aggression and criminality). Remember, the main reason they don't take away your life is because of potential negative consequences. On this tangent, I imagine that the military with the most sociopaths will have an advantage in war - not only would they be immune to feeling bad/nightmares/PTSD, they would also be able to think clearly and calmly in high stress situations because...they lack the emotion of fear. Sometimes my mind wanders but the notion feels valid, nonetheless.
7. Master Manipulators/lying - a lot: Psychological triangulation and splitting are sharp tools utilized by sociopaths. Lies of all shapes come easy to the sociopath…they can even FEEL genuine and look you straight in the eyes while telling you whatever they think you need to hear that will help them win the game. They could rob your house and then convince you that you owe them 8,000 dollars for helping you identify how someone could rob your house.
8. Sensitive to criticism: Here’s a fun one – somehow the sociopath needs admiration of others. It may be that 'looking good' or their ‘image’ is the most important aspect of their lives. They'll lie as easily as they breath in an effort to continue being seen as honorable, creditable, respectable, saintly even.
9. Calculated and patient: A good sociopath is in no hurry and will play the ‘long-con’ like a professional in order to get what they want which may even be to take away what someone else has...depending on their mood at the time - or how many side cons they have going on at the time.
10. Criminal behavior: This is just a gimme in the sociopath world. Why NOT be a criminal as long as you don’t get caught. White collar crime, here they come! Of course, it's not just one type of crime but I imagine that most sociopaths would have less boredom and more esteem when focusing on financially motivated crimes committed by businesses. It's easy to be dishonest if you don't have a conscious.
11. Narcissism: The sociopath will have a STRONG love of self along with a really grandiose image…they think they’re the cat’s meow. Some say that this stems from an overcompensation of having low self-esteem during childhood. Others say that their self awesomeness image stems from a deep seated anger developed at an early age from rejection. Don't feel sad for them, though - remember - your pity is their best tool against you.
12. Entitlement: The sociopath will believe that others owe them. You OWE them. And they’ll carry on and on about the debt, or title, or praise, etc. until they get it with complete belief that they are entitled to it (whatever it may be). Having no guilt or shame could easily come across as confidence which would be a powerful way to get something even when you haven't earned it.
13. Bored: A sociopath gets bored with a life of no/very little emotion (think of eating the same meal everyday for the rest of your life - bleh!). Because of this, they seek out risk – they exhibit high adrenaline behaviors. This tendency plays part in many aspects of their lives including criminality, immorality, fighting, entering conflict easily (legal battles, etc), drug use, etc and can also play out in constant high adrenaline activities.
14. Selfish. Not a team player: Because sociopaths don’t connect, they often will burn relationships readily including partnerships. This antisocial characteristic is a direct result of not being able to connect and doesn’t mesh well with typical workplace environments as a 'worker bee'. Often, you’ll either see sociopaths who are in high levels of management (where they don't have to take orders), have their own businesses (where they very typically engage in fraudulent activities) or have no employment at all (live off of others, inheritance, etc.), criminality, etc.
15. Victim: Sociopaths utilize pity to manipulate you.. If you know someone who never does anything wrong – or who throws accountability out the window – has an excuse for everything – doesn’t do what they say they’ll do – etc. Remember, when you hear something and can insert the 2 words, "poor me" after it, you're listening to a victim. Of course, they're not really the victim - but it's a powerful way to manipulate. Maybe the most powerful and they'll use it relentlessly.
Side note: Victim stance is the #1 thinking error I come across in therapy so not all people who utilize VS are sociopaths.
16. Staring: Sociopaths will stare at you. Creepy, right? Some call it a 'predator stare' because they look at you like you're an object - something to use - much like a predator would. This behavior has been reported as "tantalizing" when the person being stared at is the identified sexual target. Others can sense the danger behind it. As humans, 'staring someone down' indicates a challenge especially if you are the leader of the group. When a sociopath stares at you, humans tend to feel it; it's meant to be an intimidation. This often leads to others having an almost subconscious 'curiosity' for the sociopath which positions the predator well for whatever game they're after. In the animal world, it's a sign of danger. Trust your inner animal.
For fun, try catching the eye of someone across the room and after they notice you, don't look away. It's an odd thing - unless you're a cat. Those things will stare anything down because they are generally evil...laugh, this is meant to bring up your awareness, not to scare the crap out of you. Cats though...
Isn't this fascinating?! Kind of freaky, yes but awareness is necessary in order to climb out of chaos. The sociopath feeds off of chaos. Why? because confusion is a handy tool for manipulating (sensing a theme here?...). For socio and psychopaths, chess pieces don't have specific rules on the way they move. For this shameless population, chess pieces can be moved anywhere they want, in order to get what they want. They'll use pawns to move like a queen. Kings to move like a queen and if that doesn't work, they'll blow up your house and blame it on someone else. Remember, they aren’t playing by the same set of ‘consciousness’ rules as the rest of the 96%.
Eventually, after a few years (or many years, God help them) people around the sociopath gain awareness and are able to see the truth and when that happens, the sociopath simply move on to the next ignorant group that may not be so insightful in order to start another game. Or, if they're particularly invested in the place, will hunker down and play nice in hopes that time will forgive them in the eyes of the ones they've wronged. After all, humans have a very short memory and are easily distracted.
Once upon a time, I was in a game with a sociopath. Of course, I didn’t know it and for YEARS I was lost in their game. Years. Ignorance was not bliss. Words won't describe how that time of life felt but I can easily recall the powerful moment of realizing that someone had toyed around with my life and the life of my family (kids included) for a long, long time – why did they do it? Did they simply want what I had? Was it to distract themselves with some form of amusement? Or, was it just because they wanted to see if they could? I don't know. However, I do know that the experience almost broke up a family. Almost - but not quite.
Some people have a belief that what doesn't kill them makes them weaker. I've of the opposite opinion and, looking back, I’m thankful that it happened. I learned a lot about sociopaths and psychopaths but more important, I learned a most significant truth about myself - I discovered that my perceived value and identity - my whole foundation of happiness, even my ultimate goal of having an ETERNAL FAMILY could be stolen away...and I - would - survive.
From that experience came a level of independence that I didn't even know was missing. I experienced true freedom as everything I placed value in vanished, leaving me with nothing but myself to live for. The result; I can do a lot more now. I'm no longer SO AFRAID of losing external parts of what I value which results in living confidently. So, in that regard, thank you Mr. sociopath or psychopath or whatever you are - come think of it, I'm hoping they don't demand payment for wrecking my life investment. Haha, get it? Let me explain; because sociopaths are entitled and lack the ability to empathize with emotional pain, they'll believe that the end result: my awareness and new-found inner strength - was all because of them! Naturally, they'll take credit for me being innately resilient and could argue that I owe THEM. And if I don't pay a lump sum, they'll get to play victim! Brilliant! A win-win for them.
Sincerely though, I imagine a sociopath would be quite pleased to know depth of the chaos and destruction they cause in other peoples lives – they're are fond of thinking they're on someone’s mind. It strokes their ego in the best way. What they are not fond of is…negative exposure. NEGATIVE EXPOSURE. Bad publicity. UNFAVORABLE PERCEPTION - they definitely don't want to be known as the town JERK.
Having a good reputation is the ultimate goal for a psychopaths life-game.
For more info and if you want to take a look at the thoughts of an anonymous, well-known (yes, those two are dichotomous) and very intelligent sociopath, check out their website www.sociopathworld.com Spoiler alert – the sociopath and founder of the website is active LDS (or ‘Mormon’) paying a full 10% of their income to the religion and teaching in Sunday School. See?! It’s fascinating! Especially since I'm also active in the LDS religion and, come to think of it, at it's core the religion teaches compassion and forgiveness - the perfect environment for any psychopath.
Now the question you have to ask yourself is, if you've ever known a sociopath (and you definitely have), how much of your chess game being messed with?
Thanks for reading and make sure to check out and subscribe to "The Jed Said” YouTube channel found on youtube.com/meaningtolive
Till next time - awareness up.
Jed Thorpe, CMHC
RED FLAGS of a Bad Therapist
Do you have a good therapist? Read on and find out.
It saddens me to say this but it’s true – there are a lot of sick therapists out there. Now, when I say ‘sick’, we’re not talking about physical ailments, anxiety, depression or about people who enjoy purposefully harming their clients (yes, they exist)…I’m talking about emotional health. I’ll never forget a conference I attended last year. As conferences go, this was much like the others and included down-times when we all had an opportunity to make connections. It was in once such moment when the other therapist mentioned how they believed that Therapists (themselves included) were in the field mainly because they felt broken somehow and thought that being a behavioral specialist would help them figure it out.
I believe they are partly right. Partly wrong as well. From what I’ve observed, there are some common reasons people become therapists. Let’s list them!
1. They are caregivers. The ‘health-field’ is full of these people and typically the behavior is a learned one (not a personality type – sorry!) growing from being raised in an environment of conditional acceptance. That, or they grew up in a home where caregiving behaviors were reinforced somehow; typically praise or acceptance or compliments…
To spot a caregiver turned Therapist – Listen for the phrase, “I’ve wanted to be a therapist for as long as I can remember.” That statement just screams, “I’ve found validation through taken care of unwell people for as long as I can remember!" If you don’t hear that, look for relentless coddling by the therapist. Side note: there are actually whole therapeutic models founded on not confronting, or JUST listening. In my opinion, this approach is great when the therapist needs to make his BMW payment. The last warning sign to look for is this - IF you start feeling like you ‘need’ the therapist to be ok: RUN. Not a good therapist. I remember hearing a co-worker once say, “the only reason I’m even here right now (meaning ‘alive’) is because of my therapist!”. Just not good. Another sentence I heard sounded something like this, “I can’t imagine NOT going to see my therapist. I’ve seen her for years.” Also, not good and a huge sign that your therapist is not as emotionally put together as you’d like to think.
2. They are traumatized. This professional has an intimate personal history in whatever specialty area they choose. And because of this deep scared knowledge of being raped, or living through the death of parents, or homosexuality, or an addiction, or (insert tragic past here) they gravitate towards the clientele struggling with the same thing. THIS PART IS NOT THE ISSUE and can be a great asset to connecting with others. But it’s HUGELY dangerous when they haven’t worked through their own stuff. If the therapist briefly discloses about themselves in order to connect with the client – that’s just fine. If a therapist uses his own life experience in order to explain a therapeutic concept – that’s also fine. But remember, this isn’t supposed to be about the therapist. It’s supposed to be about you, the client so the vulnerable info coming from the therapist needs to stay at a minimum.
To spot a trauma-based person turned Therapist – look for the conversation being more about themselves than you. “I remember when I was going through that, I’ll never forget when…..” Or if they go on AND ON about their own struggles or past trauma, it’s time for you to ABORT MISSION. Whenever a therapist starts talking more about themselves than you – you are now the one doing the therapy. And you should probably charge them. Not kidding.
There’s an epidemic of trauma-based therapists in the field of addiction. The issue being that people thing they NEED to be working in the field to maintain their sobriety. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for this place” or “that place saved my life and I owe them”. If a therapist says that – know that they haven’t worked through their own stuffs. If ANYONE says that, know that they haven’t worked through their own stuff. Whenever I have a client tell me that they want to work in a treatment center, I always say to them – “if you feel any different after entering the property than you do before you get there, you’re screwed.” Well that’s harsh! Why are they screwed Jed?! Let me tell you – because if that happens, they’re relying on something other than themselves to stay sober which never works for the long-term. Live on your own for a year and then work in the field and yes, I may be ranting a bit. Let’s get back on point.
3. They are in their second career. This happens for many of us and in my (probably) biased view – is the best category to be in. This type of therapist has an interest in people so they pursue a high level of education in order to be a licensed clinician. They aren’t working through trauma (otherwise known as charging money to other people while they through their own stuffs). They don’t have a ‘need’ to be caregiving in order to feel ok about themselves. They are just interested in people so they become a therapist. Believe me, if I could have made money playing video games or hiking around the mountains or looking for alligators with my best buddy, Jon – I would have. But there are just too MUCH BETTER gamers than myself and let’s face it, if treasure could be found wandering around the mountains or inside of alligators, everyone would be doing it. Miss you Jon. And I think it’s pretty lame of you to get on to the next adventure so ahead of me! Punk. Disregard the last 2 sentences - those were inside jokes meant for me.
Simmer down, readers – We’ll discuss how awesome it is when friends pass away in another post.
The gist of it comes down to this: I want you to be safe. I want to bring up your awareness. I want you to be independent. I want you to be aware. I want you to live and am hoping that if you know the red-flags of a bad therapist, you’ll have a better shot at working through whatever got you in therapy to begin with. The unexpected truth is that there are well meaning yet ignorant therapists out there who do more harm than good. They don’t know it but it’s the truth. Therapy is intended for you to grow. It’s meant to better your life. It's meant to help others.
A couple of last things: A therapist doesn’t have to HAVE a therapist in order to be a good therapist. Therapists are great but not intended to be a constant emotional crutch - even for another therapist. Also, if your therapist is your friend – they are not being effective. If a therapist is not confronting your shit – they are not being effective. If you aren’t uncomfortable with therapy – you are not in therapy. Being uncomfortable is when you grow the most and remember, your life isn’t getting any easier, you’re getting stronger. If you’re therapist is keeping you in therapy for years when your life is fine – you’re being used to fund the therapists car payment. A great way to keep that payment coming in - if you’re in the field of addiction - is by teaching your clients who are struggling with addiction that they have and will always have an incurable DISEASE - thus, they’ll always be in recovery.
Remember the story about the therapist at the conference? Well, She almost fell over when I didn’t agree with her statement about why people become therapists. Not all of us are troubled. In fact, I just had 3 come to mind so if you want a referral, I'm here to help.
Thanks for reading!
Jed Thorpe, CMHC.