Editor’s note: Lovefraud received the following email from a woman who is herself a mental health professional. Names have been changed.
The sociopath has an amazing ability to determine who can be manipulated or is vulnerable. When I separated from my sociopath, I had to recognize how I was conditioned as a child to be trusting and compliant. I was rewarded when I took care of others; my parents wanted a kind child. Their shaping was successful and I care very well for others. What I lacked was the ability to care for myself and to discern who deserved my care, who would return the love and respect that I gave. Lack of this discernment exposed me to many abusive personalities. I became a magnet for abusive personalities and I did not know how to transcend betrayals of abusive people. My upbringing induced a delusionary state that if I were kind, this kindness would be returned. After I left my abusive marriage, I was completely vulnerable and kept attracting more exploitive and abusive personalities into my life. I was shocked at the level of predatory behavior I encountered in landlords, therapists, accountants, attorneys, judges, magistrates—people who wanted to profit from my pain and vulnerability.
I was angry, confused and hurt that I had very little support. I appeared as the angry torn soul to the court system, and my ex was the funny, successful guy. My behavior was from the trauma of war I had endured and the frustration of trying to leave. I had learned to live with my sociopath, but I had no idea of how to deal with the corporate sociopaths: the legal system.
My marriage to an abuser
I married a successful man. The typical wine, dine and travel occurred before our marriage. After our marriage, the lies about his first wife, the lies of his divorce and extramarital affairs, and on and on, began to take a toll on my spirit. I became angry and defensive. My husband became repulsive to me. I didn’t want to bring healthy friends to my home, because I didn’t want to defend or admit to the shame of what I felt. I covered my shame with anger. My anger helped me cope and I was afraid if I faced the shame, I would crumble. I remained in the denial state for protection and to keep an appearance of a family for my stepdaughter. My sociopath would traumatize me further by making the home a chaotic environment. He had to keep me in this state to remain in control. My life was enviable to the outside world, but I was tormented and tortured by financial, emotional, verbal and in the end, physical abuse.
My therapist supported me, but he did not know how to help me. There were times when I wondered if I would be able to work again. I didn’t know where to turn or how to help myself. I tried spiritual healers; they also took my money with little support or help. Some even blamed me stating, “You stayed too long.” I found that professionals who were treating me wanted to project the cause of my emotional state upon me. Thankfully, my anger carried me away from these individuals and I did find those who could help me process, explain and understand the tools of the abuser.
The false self
A healing concept I discovered through Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Parents is the false self. This concept of a false self is purposefully reinforced by a dysfunctional parent or in my case, my abusive partner. Others call the process brainwashing. This false self kept me in a state of helplessness. My ex would shape this false self by stating, “You need to be on medication,” “I don’t mind if you are fat, all my women gain weight,” “You are always so negative,” “You are so uptight,” “No one will love you like I do,” “There should never be a dish left in the sink.”
My childhood shaping of kindness and respect left me with very little skills. I had been taught to ignore dangerous red flags and make excuses for mean behavior, work harder to fix it and to please others to gain their respect. Without protective emotional skills, I developed an internal numbing when I experienced these betrayals. In this numb state the abusive words and comments began to shape my own opinion of myself, feeding the false self. This false self had a constant internal message that I wasn’t enough, didn’t do enough, wasn’t pretty, wasn’t perfect, etc. Abusive people know how to pick a flexible, vulnerable soul. With each assault, my false self continued to grow, like a cancerous tumor. The strength that I had when I came into the marriage disappeared. The daily assaults of chaos, verbal, mental and emotional abuse, feed the monstrous false self, which echoed his words and thoughts that I was damaged goods.
Isolated by shame, without support of friends and family, feeling damaged, I began to go deeper into my state of denial. My ex would also gather his tribe of admirers who would reinforce his comments and behaviors. Sociopaths also have the ability to coerce friends and family members who are similar to them, to join them and inflict more harm on the mate who is vulnerable. When I left, I stumbled upon an email written about me by one of his friends. This friend had never met me, but stated in his email, “Gary is a nice guy, he just has a crazy wife.”
When I began to see that the relationship was doomed, he would not change and that I was in danger, I had no support group. I listened to a few who said, “Get out before you die.” If I had known of Lovefraud, I would have read that you must have a plan and save money before you get out. I slept on so many couches, lived in my office and cried daily because I was so vulnerable. I often wonder if it was the legal system or my ex who wounded me so deeply. I believe it was the legal system. I could leave my ex. The abusive legal system hit me by surprise and there was no help or way out of it. I knew that my ex was damaged and would never change, but I thought I lived in a country dedicated to justice and there was a just legal system that would protect the vulnerable, especially when they were paid so well. These sociopaths tried to put the last nail in my coffin instead of upholding the law of the land.
Peeling away the layers
Part of my healing involved peeling away the layers of anger, shame and guilt I had plastered around me. The criticism of my ex, his friends, his family, judges, magistrates, accountants, the words of therapists, healers, jealous co- workers and neighbors haunted me. I knew this wasn’t me. I began to understand this is their tool to inflict injury. I learned to ignore them and to practice positive self talk when I sensed I was absorbing their energy. I would not allow myself to focus on the pain, but instead on the goal I wanted to bring into my life. I listened to motivational speakers. I could not listen to music at first and I gradually began to reintroduce music back into my life. I drew my inner being and then drew layers around her and began to identify how these abusers had thrown their hatred upon me and how I had absorbed it. This drawing exercised helped me to understand my personal triggers and I was able to consciously recognize these triggers when they were being used by abusive people. When I exposed these painful memories, I would ask God to remove the pain. I listed all who had harmed me and how they had harmed me. I prayed for the ability to let this go and to forgive. Amazingly, the pain would lessen. I worked with a doctor who practiced biofeedback and neurofeedback (another important tool to release the emotional pain), chiropractic medicine, and acupuncture. These techniques were necessary and I did not need to talk about the pain, which would trigger my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I was not judged by anyone.
I have had to be gentle on myself. I left when I could, and did the best I could. I have to forgive myself for getting into such a mess physically and financially. I am aware of the parasitic sociopaths and can recognize much earlier when I am being manipulated or a boundary has been violated. I also listen to and ask for opinions of friends if I feel confused about a person or situation. I recognize that I am an easy target because of my nature and I continue to keep my eyes open and leave relationships where I am not valued. I continue to peel away layers of self doubt that were cast upon me by disordered abusive people who berate and punish the vulnerable.