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Psychopaths as “snake oil salesmen”

By Ox Drover

The other night my son and  I went to a rodeo with a a couple who are our friends to watch another friend ride in the rodeo roping contest.

My friend is currently somewhat “down in her back” and will be going to a neurosurgeon for treatment this coming week. When we got up to go to the concession stand she asked me to go over and talk to this man who was selling some “pain relief patches.” She wondered if they would help.

We walked toward the man’s stand, where he had a sophisticated electronic display up and pamphlets to hand out. He immediately started his spiel and he started with the bouncing four-month old border collie pup I was holding on the end of a leash. “Do you want me to calm that puppy down? Here, let me put these on her face.” He reached down and took a couple of peel-and-stick patches, one on each side of her face, which of course did nothing to calm down the bored pup who wanted off the leash to go sniff and smell all the new and exciting things.

Then he started working on selling my friend this “new and exciting, scientifically proven” patch that she could put even on top of her clothing and it was guaranteed by “double blind studies” to raise the level of some “hormone” in her blood that would fix her pain in no time!

She looked at me and said “What do you think about this?” Well, being a medical practitioner (retired) I do “believe in” the placebo effect helping some ailments, and I do believe in some “alternative” therapies which are being recognized in real-double blind studies as helpful for various things, but what I do not “believe in” is “snake-oil salesmen.”

First , even if applying these patches to the skin would “raise the level of X hormone” (one I had never heard of by the way) in your blood, where is the evidence that that hormone would relieve your pain, or that it was safe for you? I remember back when I was a child they would X-ray our feet when we bought a new pair of shoes to make sure they fit and didn’t warp our feet. Well, obviously they stopped that practice because there are definite negative side effects of X-rays, and using them to size shoes correctly isn’t enough of a benefit to offset the negative effects of too much radiation on a kid.

Secondly, I saw no way that these patches, applied over the clothing, could have any effect on the hormonal level of the body, of either dog, horse or human.

He was giving a rapid fire speech on how these patches would eliminate my friend’s pain from her severely  pinched nerve (which will require surgery to correct and is scheduled for next week). I know my friend truly dreads the upcoming surgery (I’ve had that same surgery) and the associated pain from the surgery and the recovery, and she would love to grasp at any straw that she thought for even one second might give her some relief from the severe pain and disability she is having from the problem.

She looked over at me and I lip read her say, “What do you think?” I shook my head to indicate to her that I wasn’t buying a single thing he said as anything close to “scientific” or “double-blind” or pain relief. Then I turned to the salesman (one of the most pushy I have encountered) and said, “You know, if you are going to sell snake oil, you aren’t dressed properly, you need a black tuxedo and a top hat.”

The man was somewhat startled by my snotty remark, I think. He stopped in mid-sentence and said. “I resent that remark; I am offended.”

I replied, “Well, good, I actually intended to offend you.” His face looked almost like I had hit it with a bucket of cold water, because he was surely not expecting me to say this. I think he probably thought I would become defensive and say something like, “Oh, I didn’t mean to offend you, I was just joking.”

But I meant what I said. He was a “snake oil” salesman preying on people who are in pain, people who want an “easy answer” to their pain. To stop the pain they can’t control.

Psychopaths, just like this pushy salesman, seem to offer us this “guaranteed” and “proven easy way to fix our life’s pain.” They will offer us “surefire love” to make us feel better and immediately cure our loneliness. They will hold out to us the prospect of all our dreams of life coming true just like a fairy tale. There will be no pain in life, and they will take care of us.

Unfortunately, just like there is no peel-and-stick patch that you can put on your puppy to make it calm, or put on top of your clothing to cure your herniated disk pain, or no special cream that will get rid of your wrinkles and make you look 20 again, or a special pill that will let you eat all the junk food you want and still lose weight 15 pounds a week … there is no other person who can cure all your ills, make you happy, and keep you from being insecure or lonely.

Back when I was in family medical practice, people would come to me for diabetic teaching and many didn’t want to hear what I had to tell them, because there is no amount of medication, either oral or injectable, that can control diabetes and let you “eat what you want when you want it.” Caring for diabetes  is a combination of  diet and exercise at prescribed times in prescribed amounts, and/or medication. There is no easy way out. Yet, just today on a website I saw an advertisement for a web site that guaranteed to “cure diabetes in 30 days.” Gosh, I wonder why the American Diabetes Association doesn’t know about this remarkable “cure?” Maybe I should call them and inform them about it.

Psychopaths take advantage of our desires for an “easy fix” in selling us the modern day equivalents of “snake oil,” whether it is getting us to invest our money in their business schemes, or to buy patches for pain relief, or to give them our hearts and love. None of their plans work out for our benefit though.

So, bottom line, “if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.” BUYER BEWARE. Not all snake oil salesmen wear a top hat and black tuxedo!



31 Comments on "Psychopaths as “snake oil salesmen”"

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  1. pollyannanomore says:

    Hi One Step 🙂 How are things with you?

    Hi Erin! How’s your spath battle going? Winning the war I hope 🙂

    Skylar – thanks for that info .,.. I have read about those supplements being useful for muscle pain – I take magnesium at present but will look into the others. I’m also having trigger point therapy to loosen the knots.

    I have no doubt the stress with the P at a minimum contributed to the pain – it developed after 2 yrs with him. Chronic health conditions are awful =- you’re always searching for the right solution and putting your hopes in the next big cure. I have definitely been vulnerable to snake oil sellers in the past but now try to be more discriminating! Hope all is well with you – thanks for the good wishes 🙂 The pain is much less now the P has gone. I’m just trying to work out how to undo the last bits of it all



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  2. skylar says:

    Polly,
    I feel like there isn’t anything I haven’t bought and tried. in addition to the thousands of hours spent online researching supplements, tens of thousands of dollars went into buying supplements. I’d do anything to ease that horrible pain. I have closets full of supplements at my house, my BF’s house and more at my parent’s house. So I know what you mean about snake oil. Price is an issue so I shop online at Vitacost.com where they have the cheapest, best quality supplements I can find. Prices are equal to wholesale from Mountain Peoples Warehouse – where I used to shop, but no tax and $5 shipping is good. I also look online for coupon codes.
    What I find works best is taking 3 of each at a time. seems like alot but that’s the way I could tell right away if it was going to work.
    Magnesium loosens the bowels so it might be an issue for you to take that much –or not. I found that a loose bowel was actually what I was aiming for. Now that I know I was being poisoned, I believe that magnesium worked so well because it was eliminating the poison more quickly!



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  3. one_step_at_a_time says:

    sky and polly – check out: http://www.healthpursuitsgroup.com
    solid, honest people. lead is worth double her weight in gold – extremely knowledgable.

    polly – well ya know some things are better, my desire for vengence does not wain. am doing some work in that area. how are you? dating??? 🙂



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  4. skylar says:

    one_step:
    very nice website. thanks. it has recipes that are gluten-free too!

    sorry that you still have a desire for vengeance. Let’s rename it and call it JUSTICE. sounds less, umm socio. LOL.
    I’ve read many of your posts and you are a woman after my own heart and I have to tell you: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they shall have their fill.
    It is so f—ing true. We will.
    Sometimes, it is stated as “righteousness” instead of “justice”. It just means: what is right. morally, spiritually.
    That is what most people on LF hunger for even if they don’t want vengeance. That is what makes this blog different from other groups of people. Most of us were looking to live in a world that was good, not perfect, but good and compassionate. That is why we were perfect marks for the con. Now that we are wiser AND stronger, we will not be marks anymore; we will be vigilent but we’ll stay compassionate. And our new found wisdom gives us the tools we need to make that world we wanted to live in. It won’t be handed to us. We will need to be very strong. But we WILL have our fill of righteousness.

    For those times when you feel so angry at the P’s you can’t stand it, try to think of how your trials made you a better, stronger version of your old self.

    In my case, I’ve mentioned that I was poisoned and spent countless years studying alternative medicine. I went gluten-free, low carb, don’t eat sugar (use agave syrup instead, because it is low on the glycemic index), cook from scratch alot and take lots of vitamins – all because I couldn’t stand the pain I was in. This is compared to the average american diet of quick meals that I used to eat because I couldn’t cook and was too busy.
    Turns out that I AM allergic to gluten. Many celiacs learn the hard way: when they are dying of lymphoma after years of eating gluten because, like me, the symptoms of bloating, rashes and fatigue really weren’t bad enough to make the change. At that point it’s too late. Because my exP was poisoning me, I was forced to make these incredibly arduous changes in my diet in the early 1990’s and I’VE BENEFITED ENORMOUSLY FROM THEM. As have many friends and my family members who listen and have been converted. Now maybe I won’t die of lymphoma like my aunt did. And now, my BF actually pays me to keep him healthy by cooking like I normally would anyway and ordering his supplements for him and me. LOL. The sociopath saved my life in so many ways – he would die of envy if he knew. So I don’t want vengeance. But I do want justice.

    BTW, I don’t mean to describe myself like superwoman. I still have a long way to go (some pounds to lose) and could be better in so many ways. But I can choose which perspective I take when assessing what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained because of the sociopath.
    Today, I was thinking about how the sociopath completely destroyed my life – he did. But then I thought, “that’s ok, my life obviously needed destroying so I could rebuild it better than before with a more solid foundation.”



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