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It Must Be Me…

Thank you so much for all the kind comments following my last post… I’m glad that people are able to connect with what I am saying. It brings me great joy to feel part of this community – thank you for welcoming me so warmly.

This week I have decided to write about something that I’ve been discussing over the past couple of days with my great friend Beatrix, who was also married to a charming sociopath. She is, of course, part of the sister and brotherhood who’ve been there seen it and got the T-shirt. We’ve known each other for many years, and our conversations, quite naturally, often focus on our experiences and subsequent education about personality disorders. So last night we were discussing the common response that both of us had (as it seems have so many others) when faced with the petulant and deliberately crippling mood swings of a sociopath.

Like so many of us, she fell in love with a practiced charmer. A man who was the life and soul of the party, good looking, funny, kind and witty. A man who couldn’t do enough for her. A man who made her feel like a princess. Her friends thought he was wonderful, but it was only when she was alone with him that the mask would slip and the cruel tentacles of destruction and abuse wormed their way in to her soul. Again, like me, she just didn’t see it at the time. And, like me, Beatrix’s response whenever her husband did something ‘out of character’ was always… “It must be me! What am I doing wrong here? How can I make this better?”

From my experience, most targets are by nature caring loving souls who choose to nurture others. When we first meet the sociopath he or she seems to be “just like us” in more ways than we’ve ever experienced before. We feel in-tune with them. We understand them. And they understand us as well – it is like heaven on earth, and we feel more connected, more loved, more special than even our wildest dreams would have allowed us to imagine. How lucky we are to have found such a perfect match! They seem to mirror everything that is important to us – our deepest hopes and our highest values, as well as empathizing with our darkest fears. No wonder we fall in love so completely! No wonder that our in-built response when that same person appears to be suffering is to ask what we can do to help. I, for one, rarely questioned anybody’s motives, least of all the person I called my soul mate – why would anyone be showing me anything but reality?

There is a huge amount of truth in that old saying “we don’t know what we don’t know” – something  I now recognise as a trap that I fell for, hook line and sinker. Believing my eyes and ears to be fully open at the time, I simply could not comprehend or begin to imagine the true devious nature of the beast because that nature didn’t exist within ME – thank goodness.

Planting the seeds of self-doubt

Yet this presents us with a fascinating paradox. Because when the sociopath shows us the mirror – the care, the charm, the understanding, the love that we fall for, we naturally take it as read that this is who they really are – because that is precisely what they want us to believe. Yet on the other hand, when they show us their manipulative, devious, abusive true self, we automatically think “It must be me. I must be doing something wrong. What do I need to change?” because we are deliberately led to accept that we are somehow responsible. Their lies and manipulation, their denial and their blame of others mean it’s never their fault. So, not only are we trapped because we are caring people, we are also trapped by the deliberate cloak of deceit that is systematically and skilfully wrapped around us so that we don’t notice the hug turning in to suffocation. Because that hypnotic ‘hug’ starts causing us to question our self-belief, gradually and deliberately eating away at our confidence so slowly that we don’t realise it’s happening – until it’s too late. And all the time the smiling assassin purposely tells us that it’s never their fault… therefore, it stands to reason that it must be our fault… doesn’t it??

I’d like to make it absolutely clear that their ‘bad stuff’ is NOT who we are. The bad stuff is who they really are. It’s not a ‘bad hair day’ or a ‘hiccup’ or a ‘minor malfunction’ – no, on the contrary, it’s the true essence of what lies at the core of the facade they present.  They are not suffering from anxiety. They’re not grumpy, nor are they the victim of a deprived childhood. It’s not that you did something wrong, or that you simply don’t understand their pain enough. It’s none of those things.

When they use denial as a weapon, we start to question our sanity –  we’ll say to ourselves “well, perhaps I was wrong, perhaps I DID misunderstand or misread the signs”. When they choose blame we’ll likely respond with acceptance. “Perhaps they’re right” we might think. “How could I not have seen that, it must have been  be so clear. How could I get it so wrong with this person I love so deeply? I should have known better. I’ll try even harder” And so the twisted cycle of methodical asphyxiation continues.

Remember they are masters in their techniques of manipulation – they have had to become that way to appear normal. To live and breathe among us without being detected. But they are only techniques – they are not real emotions. The book “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding And Dealing With Manipulative People,” by George Simon, has been a huge help in helping both Beatrix and I to identify and understand these methods in more detail.

I remember when my ex showed his true colours for the first time a few years ago. When I found him out that time, he convinced me that he was in the middle of a breakdown. He persuaded me that he had felt unloved by me, and that as a result he had done things he bitterly regretted. For me, because his behaviour had been so out of character from the person I knew and loved so well, I decided to believe him. I’m no pushover, but I reasoned that he deserved a second chance – our ‘ideal’ marriage deserved a second chance. After all, everybody makes mistakes don’t they? Nobody is perfect all the time?

So, yes, the pain and shame ran deep when I found him out the second time. When once again he demonstrated the same sickeningly callous levels of cruelty, and then just disappeared when he knew the game was up. I can assure you that my inner critic went in to full flow at that point! How could I have been so stupid? How could I have believed his lies? How could I not have recognized the truth the first time around? But the fact is, I couldn’t. I couldn’t because that way of being was (and is) alien to me. These days I have learned the hard way that not everyone comes from the same place of loving that I am proud to acknowledge I possess within myself.

Now, of course, I realize that the heartless creature I saw then was actually the real person. Now I understand that the man I loved so dearly was the fake one – but back then I didn’t know the difference. How on earth could I have even begun to understand that I was in the grip of a callous predator who didn’t give a damn about me or about my son? How could I possibly know that the practiced mask of love and kindness he showed so freely was just that – a mask. A skillfully crafted facade designed to fool anyone who crossed his path.

What about recognizing the positives?

Which brought both Beatrix and I to ponder the next question – how come both she and I only interrogated ourselves when our partners were behaving badly? True, we assume that the ‘bad stuff’ is a passing phase, because after all, that is not the ‘real’ person we fell in love with. But along with that, surely, comes a peculiar and fascinating wake-up call. How come we didn’t stop and ask ourselves the same set of questions to find out how we might be affecting all the loving behaviours? How was it that at no point did we think to ourselves “It must be me” when they were showing their good (false) side?

Because, the truth is, that WAS and IS us all along. All the sociopath can do is mirror who and what we already are – because we are everything that they are not. Which is what makes us so attractive in the first place. And from my current point of view (granted with the benefit of hindsight and a good deal of distance from the nightmare) I reckon that the person I was, I am, and always have been, must be pretty darned special. I’ve reasoned that if all I was seeing was a skillfully mirrored reflection of who I am, and if what I saw caused me to fall head over heals in love with the man who was reflecting me, then surely it stands to reason that I must be a good person?

If the reflected kindness, love and attention he showered on me was enough to mask his deception and manipulation for more than ten years, then surely it stands to reason that I have to a pretty strong character who has a whole heap of love to offer? Of course I recognise that I’m one of the lucky ones, because I am now coming from the place where I am free – so I understand that what I am saying may be somewhat tricky for anyone who is still feeling trapped to take on board. But I invite you to consider the following point because I believe it could be an important tool to help with escape and healing.

We can ALL heal

My point is this. I now believe that for all of us who are on this journey of recovery – whether or not we’ve yet managed to escape the nightmare in reality – a massive amount of strength can be gained by holding on to the assumption that ALL the good stuff we were/are being shown is indeed who we really are – it’s our soul, our essence, our being. The more we acknowledge that the sociopath doesn’t have these qualities, the more we can remember that they can only achieve them through reflection. I believe that by accepting the idea that “it must be me” whenever the sociopath shows us kindness, appreciation or love (and any number of other  ‘good things’) the more we can shift our responses and reclaim our power. Even now, I often choose to look back on my own experiences and I think to myself “Yes, he was often really kind, considerate, loving and caring. Oh ho! It must have been me! That’s the kind of person I must be!”

There are countless stories and informative articles on this site that aim to educate all of us about the dangers and real behaviours of sociopaths. So I am confident that, little by little, more people are waking up to the idea that not everyone plays by the same caring rules that come so naturally to the majority of us who are on this planet. Little by little we can begin to recognize that which we are not – and, little by little reduce the need for others to have to experience the pain before they understand.

Of course, I don’t know how easy my recommendation is going to be for anyone who is still having to deal with a sociopath on a daily basis – as I said, this particular realization only came to me after I had broken free. But I believe that every and any thing that helps us to reclaim our power is another step forward in liberty, healing and recovering our lives. I always say to myself and others – if it works, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Bit by bit we’ll find out what helps, and bit by bit we’ll re-connect with ourselves.

So here is my message. Every time you notice something ‘good’ in the sociopath, say to yourself that “It must be me” – because at the end of the day, we must be ourselves in order to become free. I am liking the mantra that is now running around inside my head:

“It must be me, because I MUST BE ME…!”

We CAN heal, we ARE healing, and by sharing our experiences with each other here, it means we’re in the right place. Right here, right now, we can become united in our experiences, understanding and support for each other.

I hope this is helpful – I welcome your feedback. With love and blessings to all.

 



27 Comments on "It Must Be Me…"

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  1. one/joy_step_at_a_time says:

    panther – there is a good line in an Adele song, ‘ i swam in dirty waters, but you pushed me in.’

    We are not to blame, and I will go as far as saying, nor even responsible for getting ourselves in trouble – when you don’t know what a spath is, how to tell?



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  2. miranda says:

    panther – thanks so much for that. It absolutely fits with what I’ve been saying to my counsellor. I feel I’m in a position now, with the experience of Spaths that I have, where I can spot the signs better and keep my distance and ‘protect myself’ so that I can’t let anyone with those traits into my life and thus get screwed over again.

    HOWEVER, what has been upsetting me so much is that I can look back and see that there was a pattern – that I seemed to “attract” these people but I have only ever just been me. I saw ‘good things’ in these people and they were just totally taking me for a ride and screwing me over the entire time and I didn’t see it until it was too late, every time. so I have been haunted by thoughts of ‘what was it about me that attracted not one, but several, horrible people to me and caused them to screw me over?’

    From reading this article I think now that I didn’t do anything wrong – at least, I’m starting to move towards that mindset. But like you panther, I am trying to work out what it was that attracted these people to me in the first place. My counsellor has said that from everything I’ve told him, he views me as an inherently good and moral person and that I didn’t do anything wrong and most certainly didn’t deserve everything that happened to me – but I do wonder can Spaths see that ‘good’ in us and know that they can exploit it? And if so, is there any way of protecting ourselves? I don’t want to change who I am, I think I’m a good person, but if it makes me ‘safer’ then maybe it would be helpful?



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  3. justus5 says:

    Panther-I love your comment to Miranda about cats. Wow!!



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  4. justus5 says:

    Miranda-Maybe we don’t have to change who we are, maybe we just have to protect ourselves. Even if we do run up to everyone we meet wagging our tails, maybe we just need to remember we have teeth and it’s ok to nip and back people off if they pull our tail. Does the real you say it’s ok if someone pulls your tail?



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  5. skylar says:

    Miranda,
    I think they look for people who want to help others. Remember Ted Bundy used to work the pity ploy with a cast and crutches, so that girls would carry his books and he would hit them over the head with the crutches.

    This is an excellent metaphor for what all spaths do.



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  6. blondblueeyes says:

    raed from top to bottom of this page, Its very hard to come to terms that why, the charmer, the person that was nice to us in everyway, is just a user, abuser, manipulise, and at times dam right dangerous, they are a spath a montster. And we are all left with coming to terms with why? what did I do? how could a person ever treat another person like this. I think we are left with still the love we had in are hearts for them, but maybe its not love, its just you got used to being with a loving lier, and your lonely, with all the hurt to come to trems with, I wasnt to blame, the manipulising was so they could get any thing from you, stay with you because you kept them, they use are love, to screw you everyway possable. get ontop of it all, and tell yourself your proud of yourself, cos if you can get him out your life, your happyness will slowly come back. you will cry now and again, its not love your felling, its the pain of what he did, remember that. I have to, I think it will take along time before Im totally over it all. love to all you beautiful woman, we desarve only the best, if there is ever going to be another man.



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  7. woundlicker says:

    Oh, wow, I have to comment on this article.

    Going through all of them, I can say Mel Carnegies have been so helpful in my journey to recovery. This one in particular was PROFOUND. I get excited when I read something profound.

    ….”the good things we saw in the sociopath was a reflection of US”. How insightful and healing! I have been thoroughly confused about that very point, why was he (rarely) good to me, just enough to keep me bound? I couldn’t find a satisfactory explanation until now. I can BELIEVE this reason because it is the truth.

    When the ex spath hung around other losers, he was a bastard, a loathsome, cruel subhuman. When he was around me for a while I’d start seeing glimirs of kindness.

    Thank you, Mel, for helping me take some big steps forward.



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  8. gillpen says:

    Mel,

    Thank you for these comforting thoughts.

    Speaking of mirrors, I told numerous friends and family: “it’s as if he’s the male version of me!” referring to how effortlessly we got on and all that we shared in common: interests, values etc.

    He felt so familiar, as if I had known him all my life; I thought we were two peas in a pod. His sudden change in behavior was so perplexing — frightening, actually, in hindsight.



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  9. newlife43 says:

    A very good article, Mel! Thank you.

    I came to this conclusion myself the other day BEFORE I read your article. But I questioned myself. Could it possibly be true, that when he was holding the mirror up to me and hiding his evil self behind it, that what I saw and FELL IN LOVE WITH, was myself? My true self. How conceited was that?! I always had such a problem with self-love and of course, no problem with self-loathing (not a trait he shared with me! He thought he was swell exactly the way he was!!) But was it possible that when he was rarely showing me goodness and kindness, it was simply reflecting me and who I was? And I mistook it as coming from him. Why, that must make me a loveable person! Talk about a new concept!

    To finally even consider the fact that I am a loveable person, with attributes and talents that HE wanted, but didn’t have and never could have, well, that is mind-blowing! Was I the good, kind, loving person in that relationship and he, in fact, was evil personified (as I found out later)? I used to call him the most amazing person I had ever met…but what if, I AM the most amazing person I’ve ever met, because he was simply mirroring me, showing me who I really was? And now, what if he’s gone and all that pain, trauma and drama with him, and I am left with only me? I USED to think it was a bad thing, a terrible lonely thing when we ended it, even though I had to get out. I kept thinking about that saying, “no matter where you go, there you are!” And finally I can say, “Thank goodness for that! Thank goodness I still have me, perhaps the most amazing person I have ever met!”

    So thank you, Mel, for validating this new & interesting concept for me. It is a novel way of considering my situation. Hopefully, I’ll get used to it. According to Jesus, there are only two great commandments:

    Love God with your whole body, mind, soul and heart. AND love your neighbor as yourself. Think I’ll give it a try.

    PS He took the mirror with him when he left, but WHAT he was mirroring is still here with me, with all of us. He couldn’t take that and he never will be able to. Those abilities belong to us, they are us, and thank God we’re still here.



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