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If our emotions are triggered, there’s more pain to process

Lovefraud recently received the following e-mail from a reader—we’ll call her Sally:

It’s been almost four years since I left my ex psychopath. He almost had me take my own life through guilt, when it was him lying, cheating, committing fraud, you name it—a textbook case.

The reason I write to you today, however, is I am so sad and disappointed in myself yet again. Four years and I thought I was over the damage done by the psychopath so I stepped out of my comfort zone to contact an old friend I had not seen since before the psychopath came into my life.

I made a decision to visit my male friend and we had a nice time. When I returned I started analysing the situation. Was my friend just after one thing? He had made a few small promises that had not come through (generally that wouldn’t bother me too much). I felt like it was happening all over again. I felt cheated, lied to and manipulated by such minor matters.

The worst of all I let my friend have it by email. I was horrible, cruel and nasty; it was like my now lost friend was responsible for everything that happened four years ago just because he said a few things he didn’t come through with. So before I got hurt I lashed out and hurt him; I sabotaged something that could have been good in my life.

Now I just feel miserable. I was so nasty he will never speak to me again. I don’t blame him. My underlying intention was to get that result. I really thought I had recovered; obviously not. Now I am scared I will never be able to recover.

Time and emotional processing

Recovery from an entanglement with a psychopath/sociopath takes both time and emotional processing. The operative word here is “both.”

By emotional processing, I mean allowing ourselves to feel the deep disappointment, anger, hopelessness, rage, hatred—whatever painful emotions the involvement with the psychopath has generated within us. When we allow ourselves to feel these emotions—as uncomfortable as it is—when we are through, we can release them. The only way out is through.

Releasing the emotions is not an event, it’s a journey. No one can know in advance how many times we will be dealing with painful emotions, or how long it will take to release them. The amount of emotional processing required, and the amount of time required, are different for every individual.

Sally’s reaction

Sally’s involvement with a psychopath was so damaging that she contemplated suicide. This is serious. She probably needs a lot of time and processing in order to recover. In fact, if she was willing to take the step of contacting the man, she’s probably made a lot of progress.

Now, I can’t tell if Sally’s relationship with the man she contacted had the potential to be unhealthy. Was her intuition working, and the man was “just after one thing?” Or did she totally overreact?

The guy “made a few small promises that had not come through.” This could be a red flag—if not of a psychopath, than of someone who is inconsiderate. And a relationship where one party gets to be inconsiderate is at the very least, not fair to the other party. At worst, it could be the beginning of manipulation. So maybe Sally was justified in ditching the guy.

But she lashed out, and was then surprised and disappointed at the force of her own reaction. What happened? She experienced a “trigger.” Something in her encounter with the man brought up more of the pain from her experience with the psychopath.

Always more to do

This means that Sally still has more emotional processing to do. There is still pain within her that needs to come out. It may be directly related to her experience with the psychopath. Or, it could be related to some other deep pain or disappointment she’s carrying around—maybe from her childhood, or teenage years, or other relationships. I think Sally should view this incident as an opportunity for more healing, allow herself to experience the emotion, and release it.

If this man was truly a friend, Sally might be able to apologize, explain why she reacted the way she did, and he would understand and forgive her. But maybe the guy was a user and deserved whatever Sally said. If that’s the case, she should just move on.

Yes, Sally has more work to do. And she’s not alone.

In reality, we are never finished recovering. That’s because, whether due to the psychopath or other disappointments in our lives, we’re always carrying around some buried pain somewhere. But we can get to the point where the pain is minimal, and our lives are filled mostly with peace and joy. And that is the place we’re all journeying to.



108 Comments on "If our emotions are triggered, there’s more pain to process"

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  1. kim frederick says:

    Dear Alicia, I think you are suffering from a severe depression. I remember you from what?…6mos ago? I am saying this because I suffered a real depression 20 years ago, and I just couldn’t shake it….I was afraid that I couldn’t handle the pain that had a lhold on me, too. I hurt soooo bad I thought it would split me open….people would ask, “Are you okay?” and I would say, “NO. I”M NOT OKAY.” I was willing to go to any length, then to get better.
    I think one step gave you some excellant advise. Any 12- step group wwill be of benifit to you. It’s free and it’s positive, and it’s emotional support, and it provides a focus, a direction if you will, and hope.
    Do not take this as an asumption that I am saying you are addicted to anything….I only know you are grieving, but I don’t think, under the circumstances that it is progressing as it should. It seems to me that you are stuck. I am soo sorry and if I could take away your pain, I would. I think you need
    a support group, desparately, and I would agree that you seek one right away, either by finding a therapist or at the least, finding a 12 step group.
    12 step groups come in all sizes and colors. Some are as generalized as “emotions anonomous”. There are gamblers anon, over-eaters, anon, shopers anon, co-dependants anon, tc. etc. etc. There are love addicts anon, relationship anon, etc. You could choose anyone of these and still be treating the same thing.
    I think it was Tom Bradshaw who said something like, “the addict feels like he has a hole in his gut, with the wind ripping through it, and he is willing to stuff anything into that hole to stop that feeling of emptiness. Wow. Did I relate.
    Also, if you feel up to it, Kathleen Hawk has written an excellant series of articles here on LF about how we recover from these pathological relationships.
    Like others here have said, I think you should find help…put the alcohol on the shelf, maybe talk to a Doctor about anti-depressants, and try to find your faith in a higher power.
    Also, keep talking to us…Someone will be here.
    Remember that this also passes…



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  2. robxsykobabe says:

    Hi everyone:

    So a couple of things are going on for me recently. First, Im having some pretty significant anxiety about whether or not ‘princess’ will be contacting me this month as he will either be eligable for his full driving license back or a conditional one. Either way, Ive found myself becoming more and more anxious as the days go by with wondering when his court date is and what type of license he’s going to get.

    I also am having anxiety over whether or not he’s dating anyone. I hate that I am saying that, although it is very real and very confusing. I repeatedly remind myself of the lies and all the bullshit I feel Ive gone through and ask myself then ‘why are you concerned with it?” The truth of the matter is this…I want him to be miserable….and I know that sounds seriously immature. I tell myself over and over again “you did the right thing by him..HE didnt by you” yet I wonder if he misses me ever.

    I have started seeing another man recently and have found myself being SO hypercritical of what he says to me that IM starting to annoy MYSELF! This is the first person Ive dated in 4 months, since our NC. It is very flattering all he says, however, I find that he says things almost word for word the same that ‘princess’ said. Now, this guy I went to high school with many moons ago and has a reputation as being a ‘good guy’ with a ‘huge heart’. I can see that. I am like a skiddish cat thought trying to figure out if what he’s saying to me is coming from a genuine place and can be trusted or if he’s feeding me another line of bullshit. I sorta feel bad for this guy as I feel like he’s being genuine, although a bit upfront…but not in a ‘you’re waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy too good to be true sense’ like it was with ‘princess’. This new guy is rugged and raw, where (as I know now) ‘princess’ was very calculated in what he said and how it was said.

    Im confused and beginnign to beat myself up again for having these crazy thoughts….anyone, anyone?



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  3. silvermoon says:

    Rox-

    Its one thing to get back in the saddle again, but any good horseman knows you need to focus on what you are doing….

    If the new guy with a huge heart is real, you will see that in time. Take it slow and take time to see what you really think about him and whether huge heart or not, you’re really a good match.

    If he’s real and you are, then you have some other decisions to make. But no point getting the cart ahead of the horse, now is there?

    If you are still looking over your shoulder at your previous relationship with an S/P, then that suggests maybe taking a look at where you really are in the healing process.

    Kathleen Hawk’s articles here seem to be good compass points. Maybe they will help you understand what your feelings about you last relationship are telling you about where you are in the process of letting go.

    You don’t have to settle for anything. You do have to make the choice to understand and pursue your own best happiness.

    What has the decision between two people really have to do with that? A person can’t make you happy. Not any more than they can turn you into a toad with a tree branch. But, to be happy in a relationship with another person, you have to be present in that relationship- don’t you think?

    I don’t judge and won’t answer, but I will ask whether you feel skiddish about the old or the new? Why, really? Is it how you feel or how you feel around them or away from them?

    What do you think is the right thing to do so that you can be comfortable and at ease with whatever decision you make about that?

    I bet it is hard. I’m so confused by all that just happened to me I can’t even imagine four months out from now, so your question is very relevant and I wish I had an easy answer.

    How about a little Shakespeare?

    And this above all else
    to thine own self be true
    for it must follow then like night the day
    Thou canst not be false to any man.

    Polonius to Laertes- Hamlet



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  4. ptsd says:

    Thank you to whoever brought this article back to life!

    The first few and last few posts resonated…big time with me.

    I confess I did some snooping today. Got a friend invite from someone from facebook that I didn’t know. (at least I don’t remember them and asked for details)

    This lead me to search the X(dare I say the word sociopath–why not–I already have)SSSSS! I’ll let my heavy heart and fingers do the talking.

    I’m feeling more of a collective “we” as I read and empathize with the people at LF. And some empathize with me. I admit I am not good at reciprocation right now. I am hyper sensitive and mistrusting. The similarities in our circumstances(not that it is circumstantial)are what helps me see my circumstance for what it must be. I flip flop like we all seem to do. That is until we heal for real and move past as best we can.

    I HAVE TO BELIEVE WE CAN…THAT IS MY NATURE TO BE STRONG!!! I think we are all strong that come forward and post honestly. Otherwise how would we ever do it?? It is easy to hole up and lick our wounds. It takes strength to verbalize our hurt, confusion, anger, love, forgiveness…

    RBabe: I haven’t even read all your post and I apologize if I’m totally off base here…

    My trigger today made me wonder all kinds of things too…my poor guy is ….. NOT A POOR GUY!! I was there easily thinking he was…but why would we discount ourselves/our intuition/our hard earned benefits for someone who has no real drive/conscience/”ability” to appreciate and contribute to a decent life???

    If you are so very anxious about the new romantic possibility and yet hopeful….I always…always say speak your truth Babe…if you aren’t able to or he can’t understand when you do…then go really…really…SLOW or take a breather…or just stop it.

    Having said all that…and you might not even read this…keep reading as they say and let it all hang out…it really does seem a safe place to vent….venting is a stage to move forward from…YA Ya

    PS….no beating yourself up allowed here!!!



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  5. angelforyou says:

    Hi Babe,

    8 months NC from mine, I am just now finding out and learning what happened to me.

    You sound like you are not healed from your previous relationship. . If he does miss you. GOOD. Because he can’t have you! I do understand the feelings though and the questions you have.

    But, I am here and I feel your frustration. How DO you know the difference if he is using the same words?

    And good for you for asking and taking time to think about this, instead of going into the new relationship blind and trusting. If not, what have you learned. You are stronger.

    Whoa. I would be so afraid to date in this short of a time after NC. 4 months is way too little time for me anyways.

    However, if you must date so soon, this sounds like a nice guy to pick, from what you describe. I would say no way don’t date right now. But, I am wounded, healing, recovering. You have to decide what is right for you right now.
    .
    I do not blame you for being watchful and anxious. I think that would be common going into a new relationship after involvement with this stuff.

    Is there anyway you can keep it casual and get to know him for a while longer? Don’t rush or let him rush you. Watch for red flags or lies. What have you learned here that will help you? Have you read the articles? What has he been doing lately or for the say past 6 years? I would want major details. What is his work history? Get to know him.

    I might be way different from alot of other people, but I don’t think it would be fair to you or him to go into a relationship if you are not fully healed. You have to make the right decision for you.
    You may be a superwoman if you can do it. You may feel you are healed. And darn it he sounds like a nice guy!

    Go carefully Babe.

    Angel



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  6. robxsykobabe says:

    PTSD:
    He is able to hear what I have to say and listens. I have told him in very clear language that Im not giving him the benefit of the doubt, nor will I rush into anything…and hes cool with that.

    Angelforyou:
    Thanks for the acknowledgement that 4 months is NOT that long of time when we dated for 3 plus years. I started my ‘healing’ process about 10 months before we actually broke up and it was very very slow. That may be why this has not been SO totally devistating. I mean, I funtion day to day still, but not without strong effort.
    Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if ‘princess’ called and we met…and then I remember why I went NC cold turkey and the thought fades. I am scared this new person will be disengenuine and Ive told him that.
    Thank you two…



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  7. ptsd says:

    With a bit more information from you…I think you are doing a stellar job at NC….If you are still wondering about the SOB like it seems you are… With the new interest….I would take my time as I said and others too….why???because you are raw still or the “trigger” would not have gone off….my trigger today showed me just how raw I am still….not that I should expect anything less….My NC has been 5-6 weeks…only because he is in jail, I’m sure that is why.
    Bulletproof told me(and I didn’t quite get it at the time–apology to her now)(at the time I thought she was a male with no clue–truth be told)trust your gut…impending disaster usually shows it’s coming(onslaught)prior to manifestation(ha..calm before the storm??)…such strong and crazy words.

    So RBabe…we do the best we can…how trite is that??? Really…I am not the one to counsell…but I feel your twisting/turning/tumultous..indecisiveness…I totally get it….



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  8. ErinBrock says:

    RBabe:
    I’ve dated a few in the last 2 years….emphasis on few!!!
    Each time, I learn more and more about myself……

    Take it slow…..and keep your wits about you…..don’t be hurried…..if it’s right….it’ll still be right…..
    I think you’ll uncover things as you go along….about what you’ll accept and what you’ll not accept….so…pay attention and keep your eyes open….
    It’s NOT others opinions that count….IT”S YOURS…..
    So…..if he’s a nice guy…..you be the judge of that!
    Everyone thought the S ex was a nice guy…….see that point?!

    If your not loving yourself…..no one (good or bad) will be able to love you either!

    Take good care of YOU.

    XXOO
    EB



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  9. knowledgeempowers says:

    Alicia, are you here today? I am very worried about you. Please post and let me know how you are doing.



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