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By July 14, 2008 Read More →

8 steps to recovery from the betrayal of a sociopath

Lovefraud received the following e-mail from a reader; we’ll call her Lisa. In one short paragraph, Lisa conveyed the betrayal, rage, pain and hopelessness that we’ve all felt:

If a stranger broke into my house and stole all my valuables and then burned the rest. If I was left homeless and broke. I would be angry. I would be damaged. But I would recover. The person who did this slept in my bed and held me tight and told me he loved me every day. He told me that we were moving overseas and that everything should go. Stop paying the mortgage. Sell your furniture for cheap. Burn the rest. I did it. He disappeared with my jewelry and cash. I feel that I cannot recover. I am devastated. I am bitter. I am obsessed with my hatred and can’t smile or laugh. I need a psychiatrist. I dream of stabbing him. I am a loving and forgiving person that can’t find grace. I try to forgive and recognize my own fault. I fail. I need help with this.

Had an unknown criminal ransacked Lisa’s home, she would be justifiably outraged, and perhaps afraid for her safety. But the man who plotted and schemed to crush her was a man that she trusted, a lover who talked about their exciting future together in a faraway land.

It was cruelty beyond belief. It was the shattering of trust.

A few months back I wrote about a book called Legal Abuse Syndrome. The author, Karin Huffer, writes, “the most profound loss is loss of trust.”

That is what makes these experiences so painful. We trusted someone with our hopes, our dreams, our love. That person probably spoke eloquently about trust to us, in words full of shining promise. And it was all a lie.

Now we don’t know whom we can trust. And we’re pretty sure that we cannot trust ourselves.

So how do we recover?

8 steps for recovery

Huffer provides an outline for recovery in her book. Although the steps are geared to helping people recover from the outrages of the legal system, which has a tendency to make our bad situations even worse, I think the steps are useful for anyone recovering from the betrayal of a sociopath.

1. Debriefing. That means telling someone what happened, and that person listening without judgment. This is what we try to do at Lovefraud. We all listen to your stories, and we know what you’re talking about, because we’ve all been there.

2. Grieving. Grief is usually associated with the death of a loved one. But as Huffer points out, it is legitimate to grieve the loss of possessions, or our lifestyle, or our place in the community. Sometimes well-meaning friends or relatives say, “Oh, it’s only money.” This isn’t true. As Huffer writes, “Possessions are the outward manifestations of our inner identity.” We didn’t just lose things. We lost part of ourselves.

3. Obsession. Lisa is obsessed with her hatred of the guy who violated her. Her feelings are certainly justified. The problem with obsession, however, is that it wears you out, and interferes with your ability to regain control in your life. Huffer suggests coping with obsession by compartmentalizing it—only allowing yourself to dwell in it for specific periods of time. “Schedule your way out of it,” she says.

4. Blaming. This means putting blame where it belongs: on the perpetrator. We often feel guilty for allowing the situation to occur in our lives. But we have nothing to be guilty about. We were normal, caring, loving individuals who were deceived. The guilt, anger and rage needs to directed towards the person who deceived us.

5. Deshaming. Before our encounter with the predator, we had certain beliefs, such as “there’s good in everyone,” or “if someone asks me to marry him, he must really love me.” Unfortunately, the dreadful experience has taught us that some beliefs are false and need to be changed. When we do this, we also change our attitude, from “I was a fool” to “I’ve been wronged.”

6. Reframing. The first five steps of the process must be accomplished, Huffer writes, before a person can move on to reframing. At this stage, you can look at your experience, define it differently, and then articulate the wisdom you’ve gained.

7. Empowerment. At this point, you feel focused energy. You take ownership of your problems, determine how you are going to cope with them, and go into action.

8. Recovery. With recovery, you are able to move forward in your life. Sometimes recovery involves forgiveness, but Huffer says it is not necessary. It if far too early for Lisa, who wrote the e-mail quoted above, to attempt forgiveness.

The long journey

There is no expected timetable for moving through the recovery process. We all have different personal histories and face different circumstances. We’ve all had different levels of violation.

Anyone who has been targeted for destruction by a sociopath must understand that it was a profound assault, and it will take time to recover. You may slide back and forth among the stages. So be gentle on yourself, because the journey may be long. If you keep going, in the end you will find peace, built upon new depths of wisdom and understanding.

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418 Comments on "8 steps to recovery from the betrayal of a sociopath"

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  1. OxDrover says:

    Dear Mimib,

    Welcome here to this healing space. I am also a widow, though my husband was older than I am sure yours was, he died suddenly in an airplane crash that I witnessed. I too was lonely and vulnerable and fell for a psychopath–like a drowning woman grasping at a what she thought was a raft, but turned out to be an alligator!

    You are right, as devestating as the loss of our spouses was, the devestation of losing what we thought was our “life raft” was wound upon wound, grief upon grief.

    Knowledge=Power and strength, please continue to read and learn so that you can “get your head around” what these predators are, why and how they prey upon us, and how our grief and lonliness makes us “PRIME PREY” for their attacks.

    LIke most predators in the wild, lions, tigers, snakes, etc. they aren’t perfect in their attacks, and we have to learn how to “spot” them, because unlike the lion or the tiger, we can’t just look at them and see what they are, they disguise themselves as “humans” so we have to learn about their behavior that “isn’t quite right”–we here call these things “red flags” and they are seldom so perfect in their disguises that there are not one or two red flags visible early on in the relationship.

    I completely understand your feeling that “it might happen again” and in my case, it has happened with a constant string of psychopaths, not all “significant others” but many relationships from bosses, to co-workers, to a son, my biological father, etc.

    By learning how to spot the red flags, you can protect yourself so that the chances of it ever happening again are slim. That is why KNOWLEDGE=PROTECTION & POWER.

  2. natogin says:

    I am at lost. My ex was in town last week and I ran away. I have been staying with my parents since I kicked him out, and last week he rolled back in town and stayed at a friend’s house in my parent’s neigberhood. My parents were afraid that he will try and contact me wanted me to go away so I did, but I did it because I was afraid that I will be to tempted and would go over to see him. The whole week I stayed away and cried. God I even cried at work in front of my boss that was embarrassing.
    My Dad’s cousin is in contact with him, they are friendly with each other. He has been making my life so hard. He told me that me ex is willing to pay me back (isn’t he generous) and that he wants my forgiveness. I don’t’ want to give it to him but I am told that I must that seeking revenge it going to make me sick. I can’t stop thinking about him. Why can’t I stop thinking about him? I think of him holding me late at night, of him hugging me. Why can’t I stop think about him.
    I told my dad’s cousin that he is getting away with it. That I am the only one paying the price. He told me that I am wrong that he is paying a price he is going around begging people to get us back togehter. Of course he wants us to get back togehter who wouldn’t want their own personal ATM?
    My mom and brother keep telling me that I must let of the hatred and just stop thinking about him. How do I stop thinking about him? How do I stop and go on with my life?

  3. OxDrover says:

    Dear Natogin,

    I hear your pain and am so sorry that you are going through all of this.

    Your x is trying to regain control of you by using proxy people to come to you with his message. I suggest that you set a SOLID BOUNDARY with these people, all of them by saing something like “John, I am not intersted in discussing X with you. My relationship with him is MY business and I have made my discision and I will NOT discuss this with you.” If they will not abide by this boundary, then tell them to leave or you leave their presence.

    As far as “forgiving him” and going on, you will come to that SOMEDAY but right now you are injured, and hurting, and now is NOT the time you have to work on forgiving him, what you need to work on is gettin ghim out of your heart, mind and soul, and HEALING YOURSELF. There will come a time I think that you will be able to “forgive” him, but forgiving him does NOT MEAN THAT YOU WILL TRUST HIM OR WANT HIM IN YOUR LIFE, it simply, to me, means that you quit being bitter within your heart about the injury he has done you.

    Anger is a normal and natural part of being injured. It is the response we have when there is injustice. It should not, however, last forever, and when the TIME IS RIGHT you will be able to get over it. NOW is NOT that time, though, you are still in too much pain.

    Soon, but not now, you will start to hurt less and to want him less, but right NOW your feelings are normal and to be expected. YOU loved him, but he does NOT LOVE you. THAT HURTS! You would be just like him if it didn’t. YOU ARE NOT LIKE HIM, you are not mean to those that y ou love, you are not hurtful to those you love.

    The feelings sometimes of wanting “revenge” are also normal, but they will not last either, they will resolve. However, we know that you will NOT ACT on them. He can act on them. He can freely hurt those he CLAIMS to love, but does not love, because he is NOT CAPABLE of loving. YOU ARE.

    Take back your strength and your power and your control, and tell these proxies for him that you will not listen to them and to (((hugs)))) BUTT OUT!

  4. Thank you for all of your comments on this thread. I’m going to shut it down now – only because there are so many comments that the thread is having a hard time loading.

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