This morning as I was doing the dishes I caught sight of something wriggly falling into the water.
What was that?
On closer inspection, it turned out to be a small, surprised scorpion who promptly drowned in the dishwater.
After my initial reaction of, “dear god, what am I doing in this god-forsaken place?” I actually felt sorry for the scorpion. I remembered a scene from the Princess Bride, when Wesley and Buttercup find themselves in the Fire Swamp. “It’s really not so bad,” he says, “once you learn how to live with it.” I have to admit that in my encounters with scorpions so far, here in southern AZ, the scorpions have, by far, had the worst of it.
Sympathy is such a curious thing.
Years ago, I had the misfortune of becoming involved with a sociopath. Of course, I didn’t know it right away. It was only later, after a lot of damage that I learned… sociopaths can be incredibly charming, charismatic, alluring.
What is a sociopath? Someone who lacks ordinary human feelings, such as compassion, fear, conscience. If you read such books as The Sociopath Next Door, you’ll learn several shocking statistics. Among them, the notion that as many as 1 in 5 of our fellow humans fall into this category. (I think the odds are more favorable in Yoga class.) As my therapist at the time explained,
Just as some people are highly sensitive, empathic, almost psychic, and others are less so, people with sociopathic tendencies fall somewhere along a spectrum from completely lacking in empathy and conscience, to having some capacity for feeling.
Because sociopaths do not understand the emotional resonance that motivates and enriches the lives of non-sociopathic people, such as you and me, they tend to gravitate toward using one of the most powerful human feelings in order to pursue their power games, whatever those games may be. In particular, they tend to use… sympathy. They manipulate and evoke it. They do horrible things, and then ask you to forgive them, to feel sorry for them, because of… well… their horrible childhood, or their streak of bad luck, or their addiction, or their depression, or their.. whatever. They learn fast what hooks you.
I have learned that it is possible to have sympathy for a scorpion.
I have learned that it is also possible to have sympathy for a sociopath. Truly. Even after you know.
But in the same way, I have learned that even in the face of that sympathy you must find strength of a different order. When it comes to scorpions and sociopaths, you must understand their nature in order to protect yourself.
Because your life is worth living, and there are people out there who truly need you. Not because they want to use you, but because you are needed in the world. And there are loved ones all around you who need you to love your life, and live your life, on its own terms, and do the work you came here to do.
You can’t do it well when you’re living in fear. And you can’t do it well when you’re caught in the hooks of some one else’s power game.
Live and let live works well, given enough space. Both scorpions and sociopaths must be removed from your living space in order for your life to thrive. It’s nothing personal. It is simply a scorpion’s nature to sting you if provoked. And being too close will provoke it, through no fault of your own. And it is a sociopath’s nature to take advantage of you in some way. Nothing personal. But if you encounter one, it’s time to set some boundaries, and if you don’t know how to do that, it is time to learn.**
Erin Menut, MA, E-RYT
Yoga, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Equine Facilitated Learning
**P.S. I may tell the rest of this story someday. In the meantime, I should add that what truly helped me transform my life and establish the space I needed to feel safe and to thrive, was my experience at Eponaquest doing Equine Facilitated Learning. It’s one of the many reasons I feel so passionate about this life-changing work.