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Charles Manson and Dale Carnegie : Lovefraud.com – sociopaths, psychopaths, antisocials, con artists, bigamists

Charles Manson and Dale Carnegie

While we’re talking about famous serial killers, how about a man whose name is synonymous with brutal murder Charles Manson? A new book on Manson, to be released next month, reveals that the criminal participated in Dale Carnegie training while in prison, before he became a cult figure. According to a pre-release book review:

In his new book, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, author Jeff Guinn credits Carnegie training with transforming Manson from “a low-level pimp” to the “frighteningly effective sociopath” who created a cult of killers in the late 1960s.

Read the review: Charles Manson’s turning point: Dale Carnegie classes, on Businessweek.com.

I haven’t read the book, but I am positive that Manson was a sociopath before he took the Dale Carnegie classes. Perhaps he learned tips and techniques, but he certainly had an innate ability to con and manipulate. He eventually became a cult leader, and I believe that cult leaders are simply sociopaths who take their manipulative behavior to a level far above run-of-the-mill predators. I wrote about this in a previous Lovefraud article:

BOOK REVIEW: Cults in our midst

By the way, Manson himself never killed anyone he manipulated members of his “Family” into committing murder. That’s how good he was at controlling people, which is truly frightening. Manson was convicted of conspiracy, and was held jointly responsible for the murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. He is still in prison.

Story suggested by a Lovefraud reader.

Manson: The life and times of Charles Manson, on Amazon.com.


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For me, the takeaway lesson from this story is that intent is everything. Training in effective communication or in relationship building is going to be used to pursue individual goals.

Someone interested in expanding his or her circle of friends may use it one way. Someone interested in thriving and succeeding in the workplace may use it another way. Some interested in being a better salesperson may use it another way. A sociopath interest in pure manipulation for the sake of control and “winning” will use it another way.

It’s the same information, the same techniques. All rely on understanding of other people’s basic motivations, feelings and responses. But what it turn into in different hands can be very different.

What the article in Newsweek doesn’t include is a basic fact that we know is true. Sociopaths, particularly in the early stages of contact with a target, are probing for information about the target’s values, historical highs and lows, and the “gaps.” The gaps are where the target is yearning — often associated with feelings of grief or loss — for something he or she does not yet have. That is the area of opportunity for the sociopath.

Ironically, this technique is also used by therapists in discovering the area of work with a client. The probing itself, if done skillfully, creates a sense of rapport. The object of the probing feels as though someone cares enough to listen and, especially in the gap areas, feels as though the probing person is treating him or her with compassion and respect.

It can be a tremendously powerful technique, especially with someone who is emotionally rocky or is suffering from big unmet needs.

And having this training does not make non-sociopaths immune or able to see it happening when they are the target. I’m a communication professional, and I’ve been through a number of courses like this. Of all them, studying neurolinguist programming (NLP) was probably the most helpful to me in managing my clients and staff when I owned a public relations agency. It also helped me develop very effective programs for my clients who needed to influence their marketplaces of potential customers.

But when a sociopath showed up at a difficult crossroads in my life, I rolled right over. Looking back, he probed intensely during the early part of our relationship. The questions he asked were personal, but also flattering. He started by asking how I learned to manage the massive and broad-ranging responsibilities I held. And then went on to look for areas in which I was having difficulty. At the same time he positioned himself as competent where I was weak and also needing help to reach his own goals.

By that point, he was moving from probing to grooming. Grooming is when they are preparing the target to accept the “deal.” The deal, of course, not only involves a tradeoff of value — I’ll do this for you if you do that for me. It also involves the target to agree to something that is outside his or her value system, or a challenge to his or her rules of personal survival. (This provides a win to the sociopath not only in breaching the target’s psychological boundaries, but also in destabilizing the target so it’s easier to extract more material benefits like sex, money and other trophies.)

In my case, he began to show disdain for the way I ran my life. Telling me I was too smart to live like this, that my failure to handle the problems in my life and get rid of their sources, was making me look like a fool. He started to distance himself from me, asking what was wrong with me?

And of course, this corresponded perfectly with my sense of being overwhelmed and afraid that everything was getting away from me. (At the time, my agency was hugely successful and I was dealing with the challenge of too-fast growth and a partner who was crumbling from the pressure and weaknesses in her own psyche.) Up to that point, despite being pressed far beyond my level of experience to manage and make hard decisions, I was doing well in most areas — expanding business, happy clients, great employees. But his words were like a verbal hook bringing my insecurity up to the surface. My fear and my problems become more real in my mind, as he become larger in my life as the solution, the white knight.

So began the most hellish five years of my life. I bit and bought his deal. It was expensive financially, heartbreaking personally, and it is the only time in my life I’ve done things — big things — I’m ashamed of. I gave up at least part of my values and sense of self-preservation to his leadership. And in the course of the relationship, he milked me and the situation for every kind of benefit to himself that he could think of.

So back to the technique. Yes, he used it. But so does my doctor, my therapist, my accountant and even the best and smartest of my clients. But all those other people use it to make our work together go more smoothly or to reach goals that are constructive, not exploitative and toxic to one of us.

People use each other. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. If anyone who reads this post gets something useful from it, they’ve used me for their own benefit. I’ve used Donna’s platform (and therefore Donna) to do it. My clients, employees, family and friends have used me at one time or another, and I’ve used them. We all have needs and objectives that we can’t achieve alone. This kind of everyday sharing of energy, attention and resources is the social commerce that builds community.

The difference with sociopaths is that they truly don’t care what it costs the other person, and they are entirely focussed on getting something for themselves. When it comes time for repaying or behaving with concern for another person’s needs, they not only don’t perform but see no reason why anyone would. In their world, that’s just the behavior of people who are too stupid to watch out for themselves, and who deserve to be used. The only time they “give” is when they’re probing, grooming or trying to keep a target from escaping the deal.

It comes down to intent. With socioopaths the intent is one-way use. Charles Manson got a kick out of turning troubled people into puppets and watching them create bloody chaos. This was his form of control and winning.

He could have learned the same techniques from a therapist, if he wanted to learn them. His goal is what shaped the outcome. Not the education.


Hi Kathleen,

Nice to ‘see’ you here. I really appreciate your insight. It’s not the tool, it’s the user of the tool, and their intent, that determines the outcome.

I also felt flattered by the probing phase of the psychopathic seduction. I felt seen and heard and empathized with. That the relationship would be a real opportunity for mutual support to become our best selves.

The exact opposite of the truth, as it turned out.


Nice to see you too, Slim. There aren’t a lot of familiar faces now. Have I been gone so long?

And thank you from the bottom of my heart for that brief distillation of what I was trying to say. I wish I could be so concise.

Ah flattery. That’s why I don’t pay attention to other people’s opinions of me anymore, either compliments or criticism. Usually I just agree with anything because I can see their point. But it doesn’t affect what I think of myself. After the sociopath, it took a long to put my identity back together (or maybe just figure out what I hadn’t known in the first place). Now I protect that as my greatest treasure.

I hope you’re very, very well.



I acknowledge it a bit too much for me to read your post. I’ve been going through a little dip lately. Today I read a headline “Prosecutor: Ohio kipnap victims kept diaries”. When I think of those girls, I cry and cry. I understand them, understand that they went to that survival mode, enduring, hopeless, and yet a small kernal of hopefullness that someday they would be free. It makes me sob like a child, that they kept diaries, proof of his abuse.

Did anyone else keep a diary? I did. I kept journals. I only started writing things down b/c it got so confusing. My exhusband would swear conversations/agreements never happened, ridicule me for making up problems. So I just wanted to be able to read a date and know that on that date, I recorded what was said, the circumstances. Proof that I wasn’t dreaming b/c I was SO afraid that somehow I dreamed up arguements/discussions. I have a bankers box of my journals. I looked at them only once during my divorce. They were so pitiful, the tranformation of a confident woman into one so numbed by bomb after emotional bomb, no security, being played, having my life be controlled b/c he held control of what I held most dear, my children.

I quote you “I gave up at least part of my values and sense of self-preservation to his leadership.”

That’s it. You identified it exactly. I’ve been thinking I was all better now and then something as simple as a headline wakes me UP, and I fall sobbing into reality, that I have still MORE to process and Heal.

When people ask if it was so bad, why didn’t I leave sooner, I would joke that I had stockholm syndrome. Why did I make such fun of it? The degrading control that I accepted as a tradeoff that he would not cut me off from my children (they chose HIM if we got divorced.). My God. My exhusband was very much a cult leader. He encouraged others to do TERRIBLE things. I wasn’t locked in a room, but I was locked in a life, and SO numb that I didn’t see it was “that bad” until looking in restrospect, still unable to read my own words, in my journals what was DONE TO ME.

That’s why your post was hard for me to read. You wrote truths that I needed to face. That’s why the headline of those girls managing to keep diaries has thrown me for a loop. I am STILL grieving. and Angry at myself that I can’t seem to move on from the life I lived with my sociopath exhusband.

Thank you for peeling back one more layer for me, a layer that I didn’t realize I still had. It’s painful but as I learned, the only way is THROUGH it.

ps You are SO correct, the goal shaped my exhusband’s interests. He didn’t read a book and THEN think about what it meant to him. Rather, he CHOSE ONLY materials that moved him to a goal of covert control.


I read How to Win Friends and Influence People many years ago and I did not like the concept at all. It seems so cold and calculating even by a person who is not a psychopath. The acceptance of this kind of manipulation has become rampant in our society, especially in sales and it helps hide the real psychopaths who use the same methods with evil intent, not merely profit motive as the book suggests. Win Friends, I hardly think so or he did not understand the meaning of the word except as potential sales targets. Manipulation is manipulation and it sucks!

Using people is similar to abusing as opposed to teaching, helping, cooperating sharing, etc which are simbiotic. Using is more parasitic. IMHO


My favorite prayer in the whole world is the prayer of St Francis….And in my little chat with whoever’s listening I always ask to be used in HIS way and for HIS purpose. I have no objection to being used as an instrument of good and to be able to lend a hand….
Kathleen I agree… it is only when we get used to be exploited that the deal sours.

Divorced from Gaslighter

It’s been decades since I read How to win friends, etc., but self-help books of that nature ARE useful to people to grew up in families with no social life. Many of the “skills” being taught (making a huge effort to remember names, always double-checking the spelling of someone’s name when you write them a letter, etc.) are really just the sort of thing that the “carefully brought up” have already mastered by the time they started high school.

I agree that a Carnegie-type course could be used by a sociopath to upgrade his ability to scam people, but the typical sociopath usually has better-than-average abilities in this area to start with.

A Carnegie-type course can change the life trajectory of a person who grew up poor and socially isolated. Just knowing how to introduce yourself and others can be a big boost to self-confidence, etc.

A lot of sociopaths use Bible quotations and phoney spirituality to sucker their marks. The only thing that works is to spend enough time with the person to spot them for what they are BEFORE you get hooked into marrying them or lending them money.


Dear Divorced from Gaslighter,
Thank you for your comments, they appy to me. I self identify by admitting I am the Queen of Self Help books. That’s why I am here on LF, too!

I grew up in a family of sociopaths and isolated in a rural area. I did not have the friendships that were normal for others, I was not allowed friends. When I first left home, I learned most rules of society from the school of hard knocks. So yes, a book about Winning Friends? Was like a Godsend to me, it taught me how to appropriately communicate what I felt in my heart. Other books helped me to recognize that I was married to an abuser (since he didn’t HIT me, I thought I was just a crazy woman over-reacting to his comments.)

It seems to me that people take whatever book meaning resonates with them. My exhusband would never read a self help book, but he was really into books on Hitler/Goring/Hess. He especially enjoyed Hitler’s Willing Executioners. The news reports that the #1 requested book by the GITMO prisoners is 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve read old posts here on LF about the 48 Laws of Power, no book has described my sociopath exhusband’s behavior as well as that one. Yes, I felt sick to my stomach (literally) realizing how he played me, but I also learned how to cut his power supply. I find NO shame in learning that skill! I do think it telling that this article notes that Charles Manson did not personally murder others, he convinced others to do it. That skill describes my exhusband in a nutshell.


Hi donna, reading your review of Cults in our midst saddened me. the dr. was obviously ostracized, harassed and discredited for her views, and ultimately could only write about spathy, by not using the word. this is the way of the world…

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