Lessons From A Mass Killing of 3 Women In a Gym – George Sodini

Lessons From A Mass Killing of 3 Women In a Gym – George Sodini

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss a controversial topic – the lessons we can learn from the tragic killings of three women in a US gym.

First a quick update:

“Your controversial comments”
Last week I wrote about the principle of letting go of one’s ego – the need to be right (“Why do you always need to be right?”) I was not, though, endorsing that you allow people to walk all over you, nor was I saying that you should not stand-up for your beliefs and causes. The key principle is to seek happiness and peace over vindication, and, ask yourself when you are about to argue over a topic “How important is this?” if it’s not important or critical, let it go. Add your comments here.

Now, let’s talk about the lessons from last week’s horrific mass killing in a gym.

On August 4, 2009, George Sodini, 48, entered a fitness club in Pennsylvania, USA. He walked into an aerobics class, turned off the lights and fired 52 rounds of bullets at the 20 occupants; he killed three women and injured nine others, before turning the gun on himself.

Sodini left behind a lot of information about his life and motives in the form of an online blog/diary, a note found at the gym and a couple of online videos. Read the entire text of his online blog/diary here.

His writings reveal a man that had hatred for the world. Sodini blamed everyone and found bad in everyone: his father, brother, mother, religion, church, right-wing people, and women. Sodini also claimed he had no one to help guide or counsel him, no one to tell him what he is doing wrong in his life. He hated women, religion and his life. He was jealous of young people and felt his situation was totally hopeless.

Sodini said his father was useless, never talked to him and they never had a real relationship; he said his brother was a bully and his mother, a vicious, vindictive woman who was into “a power and control thing.” Sodini believed religion had done the most damage to him and had controlled him for 13 years via guilt and fear. Sodini claimed he couldn’t find answers anywhere as to what was wrong with him and why women didn’t want anything to do with him. He openly recognized that he had a problem and that money wouldn’t solve it:

“I like to write and talk. Ironic because I haven’t met anybody recently (past 30 years) who I want to be close friends with OR who want to be close friends with me. I was always open to suggestions to what I am doing wrong, no brother or father (mine are useless) or close friend to nudge me and give it bluntly yet tactfully wtf I am doing wrong. A personal coach or someone who knows what he is doing would be perfect. Money is highly secondary for a solution…”

Sodini, it seemed was even looking for a moral compass but couldn’t find it – not even in his former church with chilling and ironic comments by Sodini:

 “Be Ye Holy, even as I have been Ye holy! Thus saith the lord thy God!” as pastor Rick Knapp would proclaim. Holy —-, religion is a waste. But this guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven.”

What most people have missed here, particularly the media in its reporting, is that Sodini felt that he was a victim, believed nothing would ever get better, felt he had no reason to live and, above all, he had no family of his own. If Sodini had a family, he might have learned to give love, protect and serve someone else rather than become wholly absorbed with himself.

Most of the media focused on Sodini’s hatred for women (a projection of his hatred for his mother) but he also hated his brother, sister, father, former Church Pastor, and even one of the church goers, Andy, whom Sodini described as a hypocritical idiot:

 “How can someone be cold, vicious, sarcastic and generally nasty ALL THE TIME and then make the claim about their church life and how good they are?”

Sodini couldn’t see the good in anyone or anything – he even made racial slurs on his blog.

Sodini did try to make an effort to learn about dating and attended a seminar but it seems that program did not focus on the truly significant elements of dating and relationships such as values, character, behavior, morality, forgiveness, service to others, real emotional connection, etc. No, the dating workshop Sodini participated in was typically focused on the external points: how to dress, what tie to wear and how to decorate your house to appeal to a young woman.

So what are the key lessons that we can learn from this tragedy.

First, Sodini felt like a victim but he wasn’t and he eventually became a narcissist who believed that he was entitled to take other people’s lives because he was angry and hated his life.

Second, during a radio interview I gave, I said that this is partially an indictment on a society where we ignore people as we rush about our everyday life. We say “Hi, What’s up? How are you?” but never stop to listen to the answer and we rarely show sincere concern for or interest in other people; we are so busy texting, emailing, twittering and facebook-messaging people who we usually only know by name and photo but almost never by experience or meaningful interaction. (Listen to the radio interview visit to GymKillers)

Third, we have become obsessed with the exterior, the external, the vanity. Sodini’s dating guru wrote books for men over 35 on how to date younger women and was quoted as saying women over 30 are “bitter.” And that was the topic of the workshop Sodini attended – picking up younger women.

Fourth, as Depeche Mode said in their song, “everything counts in large amounts.” Sodini’s life and the subsequent tragedy were the result of lots of small seemingly unrelated incidents, experiences and aspects of Sodini’s life:

No close connection to family; no family of his own, no children to raise; no love or friendships, no meaningful connections to other human beings, no meaning or purpose in life, no desire to serve others, no guidance, no belief in anything other than self-gratification, isolation, no hope, no physical connection with a woman (in over 20 years) and; rejection, resentment and hatred of one person after another.

The above list is our list of lessons – the things for which we need to watch out, and to ensure that we do the opposite in our lives. And for whatever reason, Sodini never learned, or possibly was never taught, the lessons of love, forgiveness and compassion for all of the people in his life – including his mother, father, brother, sister. And he was never taught how to take responsibility for his life and his results.

It’s never too late to change!

If you would like to comment on this newsletter, click here. If you have received this newsletter as a forward and would like to receive all of my newsletters please enter your email address on the home page.

I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Leta Calvert says:

    First of all Patrick I thank God for your wisdom and passion and compassion when it comes to love and humanity. When ever I see tragedies of this nature I immediately wonder what happened in the persons life that caused him to go over the edge. Our 1st response is to see him as a monster and by no means what he did was horrible. But once his past started being revealed then the depth of his pain of rejection and not feeling loved or accepted by his flesh and blood took its toll. We were raised to believe as children that sticks and stones will break our bones but words can never hurt us. However a many of people have killed others and themselves due to words. As far as the church goes I hope that ministers read what I read on your blog and recognize that we must live what we preach and teach. There is two sides to every story then there is the truth. Not hearing his parents side of the story as far as how he was raised and treated remains to be seen. there are so many things that he said that spoke volumes to me concerning how people are hurting and just need someone to talk to and to feel loved and understood. I recently watched another documentary on charles manson and what he orchestrated was beyond words. However when you discover his upbringing and how his mother would take him to the bar and offer him up for a pitcher of beer Im sure was the beginning of his disconnect. There are those that have horrible upbringings and bounce back and to those I truly admire but I also feel mercy and compassion for those that werent so fortunate.

  2. Avatar
    Alli says:

    In reading all of this, I guess I’m going farther into the topic…

    are we being too fair with someone like George Sodini, trying to explain away the progression of factors that did him in, or is it true that someone can be irrevocably mentally ill and that no matter what good factors come his way, he’ll still be mentally ill? I know it’s not a compassionate way to think about a human being and it’s easier to slap a label on him like psychiatrists do, but when is crazy, just crazy? I guess that’s what I’m trying to grapple with.

    Can’t it just ever be that someone’s just mental? How do we know the difference if someone is within our help and salvageable?
    I just think maybe someone like George S. was beyond a counselor’s/psychologist’s/psychiatrist’s help. We can give someone good advice or a book of proverbs to read, or introduce them to a mentor or something, but I mean isn’t there a point where other people are actually in danger when trying to counsel someone who’s carrying explosive mental baggage that no one can see.

    I found it interesting about having children would’ve possibly given him meaning in his life. What I wonder is if someone like that is so incomplete psychologically, how can they raise normal children? What can he teach them? Aren’t the kids lives and other lives still in danger the day he gets fired from his job or some hockey coach kicks his kid off the team?
    That’s the problem I have with unprepared people getting married and having kids. I’m not even talking about crazy people, but there’s a lax attitude about what it all requires and then these people have dysfunctional kids and continue this cycle of kids(in the sense of being incomplete adults) raising kids… it seems like no one is growing up in the end.

  3. Avatar
    Patrick Wanis says:

    Dear Alli,

    thanks for the compliments. And yes, the media loves to choose one aspect or element of a story that will make it much more controversial and appealing. The media omitted many elements and aspects of George Sodini’s life and motivations. I still feel that the media was immature in its assesment of Sodini, ignoring the significance of the lack of family. Again, when we only focus on ourselves, we can become more screwed up and lost and eventually become narcissistic. If Sodini had children he would have reason to think beyond himself and he would have had more meaning in his life – not because of the children but because he would have learned the lesson and importance of serving others and he would have had more purpose and fulfillment as well as greater significance. He would also have found some form of an emotional connection with other human beings that he was so lacking yet craving!

    Finally, you touched on a key teaching of mine.

    “We do not need to learn anything new. We need to unlearn everything we have ever learned – the lies and BS about who we are and what we are capable of. We need to unlearn all the negative programming, all of the limiting beliefs and all of the self-doubt, self-loathing, and, all of the judgments we have made about ourselves and others.”

    We have twisted our definition of God into we are not worthy! And yet, if we accept the story of Jesus and the purpose of his death, then we are saying something along the lines of “God, you are wrong! You say that you loved us so much that you gave us your only son but we are telling you that you are an idiot; we know better and you are wrong because we don’t deserve it. ” How stupid is that belief. God says you are good enough and you say, “No, I am not!” And then we go out and preach that God is all-knowing and perfect but he got it wrong with us…
    And then we wonder why we feel weak, helpless and hopeless!


  4. Avatar
    Alli says:

    Thanks for putting it all together and making sense of it. The media singled out the fact that this guy hated women. And, that’s all that stuck out in every news story. I was able to catch some psychologist in a brief tv news interview who focused on this whole young women issue and said that it shows his lack of maturity. There was no mention of the big picture! I think the narrow focus caused quite a bit of anxiety in women out there.

    It’s truly amazing how many seemingly small factors are important to keep us grounded. It annoys me greatly that some/much of adulthood is spent just unlearning a lot of things. I realize many people who I thought were “authorities” and “knew what they were doing in life” didn’t know better themselves.

    To bring in religion for a minute, I heard one of Patrick’s archived radio links, and he mentioned that the people who yell the LOUDEST AGAINST something are usually the very same people engaged in it. How is that so? I found myself seeing that with some of the very religious people in school when I was younger… I’m not here to denounce those that are very religious (not radical), but I really wonder how is that people can be so blind to what they’re doing and yet so focused to scorn what someone else is doing???
    I also found something else, when I was very religious for a while as a young adult, I found that some people, even those who weren’t religious at all, would use my very religiousness to manipulate me…that is, if they were abusively nasty to me, they would cite the fact that I’m religious to be forgiving and not get so upset. This is why Joel Osteen is giving the kind of sermons people need to hear. I’m not going to say he’s a substitute for religion, but he gives us a way of processing religion so that we understand that we are good enough as we are. I think that’s what’s wrong with how religion is distributed today; it’s always pointing out what’s wrong with us, so that we feel that we’re never good enough for G-d to be our ally.

  5. Avatar
    Patrick Wanis says:

    Dear Pablo,

    thank you for opening up and being vulnerable. It is obvious that you are hurting. You mentioned that you feel hopeless, but the situation is not hopeless; simply you have not found the solution.

    So, let me begin by saying you have conquered step one – awareness – becoming aware of what you are feeling and experiencing.
    You have also indentified where most of your pain stems – your family.
    When religion is functioning properly, it teaches forgiveness, compassion, love and acceptance. And yes, that is what you need to do with your family and yourself. You also need to learn at a subconscious level that whatever your parents did or did not do was never about you! There is nothing innately wrong with you.

    George Sodini made the mistake of looking outside of himself for the answers – you are not. I don’t know what your situation is, but even with a phone session with me, I can help you. https://patrickwanis.com/blog/PhoneConsultations.asp If your budget is tight, still please ask and we can work something out to help you!

    Also, please contact me via my contact page on my site and I will give you as a gift a couple of products of mine that can help.

    Most important of all, reach out and ask for help.

    All the best,


  6. Avatar
    Pablo says:

    I think it’s true that we can learn lots of tragedies, but I think that we should learn how to prevent. Personally I’m a person that is suffering large amount of problems and I could identify my self with this guy except for the religion. I guess that this point is what has prevented me from falling over the edge, but still I feel hopeless and that my Mom is not a great image nor my father that has a new family and never watched over me, all my life I have been criticized and now I feel like I’m just hiding away from monsters that don’t exist. In this situation and thinking of what you say that we are “a society where we ignore people as we rush about our everyday life” How is it possible for a person with these problems get out?, I know that mostly it’s determination, but what happens if you’ve already lost it? Where can you get it? The society isn’t going to do it unless you get luky.

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