Many years ago, I attended a workshop presented by Patricia Sun, a pioneer of the self-awareness movement. One of the things she talked about was shifting our views about making mistakes.
We tend to fear making mistakes, and when we do make mistakes, we berate ourselves. But in reality, mistakes are a part of life. There are no instruction manuals for most of the choices we make. Life, therefore, is a series of decisions made mostly by trial and error. We never progress in a straight line towards out goals. We have false starts and detours, but with time and persistence, we get to where we want to go.
Patricia Sun talked about viewing mistakes as opportunities to make course corrections. The energy associated with making a mistake, she says, should be that of a learning opportunity, an indication that a change is required to achieve our goals.
Mistakes with sociopaths
What would happen if this were how we viewed the mistakes we made with sociopaths? Instead of feeling like a chump, like the biggest idiot on the planet, what if we looked at our encounters as identifying needed course corrections?
Here are 10 of the lessons we’ve learned. Can you add any to the list?
- Wow — I sure don’t want that kind of a partner.
- I had no idea people like this existed.
- Yes — some people can look me right in the eye and lie.
- I knew something was off — I have to listen to myself.
- Some people are not capable of being a loving parent.
- I deserve better than this.
- When I see this type of behavior, I have to run, and run fast.
- Certain people cannot be trusted and will not change.
- When I’m vulnerable, I need to protect myself.
- When some people say, “I love you,” they mean, “I want to use you.”
Best decisions at the time
None of us intentionally signs up to be exploited by a sociopath. What happened was that we didn’t know what sociopaths looked like, and we met someone who deceived us.
If the sociopath was a romantic partner, at first, he or she seemed like the person we’d been waiting for all our lives. It was only later, once we were hooked into a relationship, that the person’s true character was revealed.
The involvement was a mistake. But mistakes are apparent only in hindsight.
So I think we should cut ourselves some slack. Then we should look at the experience, figure out what we learned, and apply the lessons to the rest of our lives.