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By June 3, 2009 Read More →

Diagnosing the problems correctly

By Ox Drover

I flashed on something a while back. I know a man who went into the navy at age 16. When he was 18, he was on shore leave and met a young girl, rapidly fell in love with her, married her, set her up in an apartment and went back to sea for nine months. When he got back to shore, she was gone. He couldn’t understand why.

Later, when he was 22, he met another girl when he was on shore leave and married her as well. Lived with her a couple of weeks, during which time she got pregnant, and then left her and went back to sea for a year. When he came home, his wife and baby daughter were gone.

At this time, he started thinking about “what had gone wrong” with his two marriages and decided that the “problem” was “American women can’t be trusted.” He had no inkling of the real cause of the problem, which I had no problem seeing. First, both he and these girls were very young; he had only spent a few weeks with them (less than 30 days) before he married them and then left for months and months. During the time he was gone, the very weak bond between them failed and the girls moved on. The fact that they were American girls had nothing to do with the failure of his two marriages.

Foreign woman

Going on his false premise of what caused the failures of his marriages, he decided to marry a foreign woman. While he was on shore leave in the Philippines, he met a bar girl there who had two illegitimate daughters. After he left the Philippines, he wrote to this woman for two years, then returned and while on shore for a week, married her. She was, at the time he married her, working, and living with 26 other family members, including her two young daughters, in a two room shack, without indoor plumbing. The total cooking facilities for this family (or should I say “tribe”?) was a Coleman camp cooking stove bought for her sister by another serviceman.

After the wedding, he brought his wife and her daughters back to the US to live. He educated the two daughters and then the couple had one more daughter. By the time the second daughter was 12 years old and he had retired from the service on a half-pay pension, and was going to college himself, the daughter became “conduct disordered” and “ran wild.” His wife decided it would be better if she and the daughter stayed in the house they owned and that he should move out. She told him that when the daughter moved out at age 18, that she and he would move off and “live happily ever after.” As the girl’s 18th birthday approached, she gave birth to an illegitimate son. The man went for a visit to his family for his and his wife’s 20th wedding anniversary, taking a very expensive pair of diamond earrings to his wife, and so looking forward to the day, coming soon, he believed, that they would leave the daughter and live “happily ever after.”

Taken for a ride

Of course, that didn’t happen, and they were divorced. They hadn’t lived together the last six years of the “marriage,” but he had sent money to his wife and daughter during that period.

What is wrong with the above situation? The man was totally wrong about what the problem was with all three of his marriages. He was operating on bad information, so he could not fix the problem.

He was taken for a “ride” by his Philippine wife for over 20 years. She had been looking for a “meal ticket” and a “green card” eventually leading to US citizenship out of a horrible crushing poverty in the Philippines. I can’t say as I “blame” her for looking to take any way out of her situation. However, he had not the slightest clue what was going on, so he could not fix the problems with his choices and decisions.

Correct diagnosis

I realized, in going over this man’s stories, that I too had had difficulties in making good decisions and solving my own problems because I had not clearly defined what the problem was.

When I was in nursing school, we were taught to define the problems in order to make a correct diagnosis and find a solution. Without clearly defining what the problem was, there could be no correct solution.

In my own difficulties in dealing with psychopaths, and people with agendas that were clearly different from mine, I didn’t correctly define the real problem.

I would hit a snag and be abused and used, just as my navy friend had been used and abused, and I would (as he did) grieve over the losses that resulted from the situation. I would try to find what happened, as he did. However, like the man, I came up with the wrong solution because I didn’t correctly define what the real problem was.

With each of the psychopaths that I encountered, starting with my biological father, I defined the “problem” as me not being able to adequately communicate my love for them. If only I had loved them more, tried harder, somehow I would have gotten through to them how they should have treated me. I thought that somehow I must have precipitated this unholy abuse and pain. Obviously, I allowed it to continue for a long time until the pain became so bad I fled in terror from this monstrous man, but still I didn’t see that the real problem was that he was unable to love, and that my own lack of self esteem and boundary setting was what allowed this abuse to go on.

More psychopaths

After years of floundering around, going through the grief process, my pain totally invalidated by anyone, even my mother, I worked through the process to where I could function again in life. At least I thought I was functioning adequately.

Encountering more psychopaths however, in many roles, some in my family, some as bosses, some as subordinates, one as my son, and eventually one as a “significant other,” I still didn’t “get it” that there was a problem with me! That the problem with me was that I didn’t recognize that they were unreachable, unchangeable, unfixable, that no matter how much I loved them, how much I gave to them, how much I forgave them, how much I “pretended that they had not deliberately hurt me,” I was a sitting duck waiting for the next psychopath or disordered person to get the “benefit of the doubt” from me, to get the “second chance” to screw me over, to use me, to abuse me, to lie to me.

Seeing the light

Finally in 2007, I fled for my life, leaving my home and everything I held dear behind except for my personal papers, one son, and my dogs. I finally “saw the light.” I finally made a correct diagnosis of the problem. I finally saw that I could not change them, that no matter what I did to try to placate them, they were toxic. I could only change my own reaction to them.

I grieved the “loss” of the illusion that my psychopathic son would ever “reform.” No matter how he promised, he was, in truth, a monster who wanted me dead. The loss of the illusion that my mother was my loving mother, instead of a toxic enabler, almost a psychopath-by-proxy because she would do anything to protect my son from the consequences of his actions, was another huge loss that I grieved intensely. I also started to realize that I had great difficulty in setting boundaries for the way that people treated me, and that there were others in my life who used me as “foot wipes.” When these people would lie to me, steal from me, and otherwise mistreat me, I was afraid to “upset” them and confront them, or to “make a scene.”

I started looking back at my life, and at the beliefs that I held to be true, the beliefs that influenced the way I allowed others to treat me. I then realized that like my friend the navy man, I had diagnosed the problems with these people incorrectly. These people in my family and my life did not respect me, but wanted to control me for their own benefit and I had allowed this to happen, over and over and over. When I had gotten to the point each time that the pain was unbearable, I had given in to their desires for control. I had paid dearly for “peace at any price.” They had done the bad deeds, and I had paid the price for their peace, but there was no peace for me, only pain.

My reactions

Having again gone through the grief processes over the losses I suffered—the fantasy that my psychopathic son would change, the fantasy that my mother was not a toxic enabler, and all the other losses—I now see that the problem was not just with the psychopaths, but also in my reactions to them.

I realize now that I cannot deal with them safely, in any way, shape or manner. The only choices I have are to have no contact with the toxic people in my life, no contact with anyone who is not honest, caring and kind. As I continued to stay on the “road to healing” I realized that in the past, when I had gotten over the initial grief of the losses suffered from dealing with psychopaths, I was still vulnerable to the next psychopath because I had not learned to set boundaries without feeling great guilt over “upsetting” someone who had abused me. I realized that no matter what the relationship with a psychopath is, no matter how close the blood ties, or any other ties, that these people will always behave as psychopaths behave, and that is abusively.

Now that I have made changes in myself, made changes in the way I react to abusive behavior, now that I have refused to blame myself for their abuse, and refuse to let abusive behavior continue, I am on a much more solid footing on the road to healing. I also realize that I must stay on this road, that I must guard myself with caution in dispensing trust to anyone in my life, and set solid boundaries for myself. I don’t feel that I can ever declare myself “totally healed” again, as I have in the past, only to try to “fix” the next psychopath that comes into my life. I will always to some extent be vulnerable to the psychopaths, more vulnerable to some than others, but I now watch for the “red flags” that indicate pathological disorder in people I deal with. I no longer trust blindly.



84 Comments on "Diagnosing the problems correctly"

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  1. justabouthealed says:

    Done, I had a similar experience with an earthquake that gave me a perfect “excuse” to call. But thank god, I had no urge to do so…well, just a tiny one…. and I didn’t. I have a few horrible things that he said to me ready to play in my mind when necessary that quickly jolt me back to earth and realize what he is…..a brain damaged sociopath. Redundant wording (brain damaged and sociopath, though it is special kind of brain damage).

  2. passer-by says:

    Matt says: “the reason we all see sudden fawning interest from somebody as a warning sign is because it is”

    From my point of view it is a warning sign, no more and no less. If you mean this then I can agree. If you mean something more hostile I should disagree.

    Matt says:” As a matter in fact, we were manipulated just the way you are manipulating your victims”

    The only place you watch me is here. Are you my victims? Am I manipulating you, I mean anybody on this site? What can I get from it? It’s possible to get only three things by posting here. First is some general information. Second, you can feel validated. Third, you can be attacked. I’ve got the first and the third. The third was an unpleasant experience.

    Yet you assume that I want to exploit you. Excuse me, but how could I really do it?

    I think the truth is, people stayed for long time in the relationships that damaged them because they had very serious reasons for it. You may call it ‘deficiencies’ and agonize over them. You may think I’m attacking you by pointing out those presumed ‘deficiencies’. But I don’t see them as deficiencies. I call them unmet needs. That’s the difference. It’s OK to be you just as it is OK to be me (or anybody else for that matter).

    Matt says:”all people are presumed assholes until proven otherwise. Translation: trust must be earned”

    Do you trust people on this site (well, except me – I understand that you don’t trust me)? Do you really know them? Yet you don’t probably think they are assholes.

    JaneSmith says: “Not all people on this planet are manipulative and want what they want or else!”

    Not all people are prepared to get what they want by any means necessary. That’s all I can agree with. I don’t think that you or anybody else are completely free from hidden agendas. I’ve never ever interacted with anybody for long time without watching him manipulate other people. I’ve been manipulated myself. I’m sure I’ve manipulated others although it’s much harder to notice when you are doing it yourself.

    But of course I may be wrong and you may be right. Maybe there is a person out there who is absolutely not manipulative and has no hidden agendas. I’ve heard there was one. Alas, as far as I know he was crucified.

    Well, the last paragraph was manipulative. You can hear such manipulative things all the time. That’s the way people talk with each other quite often. Probably you say something like that yourself. The truth is, I didn’t want to concede that I may be wrong here. All I wanted to say is that it is ridiculously unlikely.

  3. Well, we’ve had a reminder. In the interest of preventing things from getting ugly, I think it’s time to stop this thread.