Not long ago, I heard from a woman whom we’ll call “Rochelle.” When Rochelle was in her 50s, through a high school reunion, she reconnected with the first boy she ever loved. Rochelle had a crush on him when she was 14. They dated for almost five years, although he always seemed to have an eye out for other girls. When they broke up, Rochelle was heartbroken, but she moved on, married, divorced, and life was reasonably good—until that first love came back into her life.
He poured on the charm, and Rochelle felt like finally, after more than 30 years, she had her chance to be with the guy she always wanted. Rochelle left everything to move out of state with him. They eventually married.
Well, he lied, fabricated, manipulated, accused, took her money, ruined her credit, filed for divorce behind her back, and left her with nothing. It was the type of behavior we all know so well—sociopathic behavior.
Rochelle realizes that the guy is disordered; she was exploited; he never loved her. Still, she wants him. Yet she also realizes that she’s in love with a person who does not exist.
She asks, “When does it get to the point where he stops taking up space in my brain?”
Scope of the question
The first thing to understand is the scope of this question. “Getting the sociopath out of my head” is the ultimate goal of everyone who has been betrayed by one of these predators. Once you’ve achieved it, you’ve achieved full recovery.
So cut yourself some slack. This individual probably crashed through your life like a battering ram. Your emotions, finances, home, health and/or psyche may all be in splinters. This is going to take time to repair. If anyone says to you, “Just get over it,” this person has no idea what you’re experiencing.
Understand what happened
You were probably blindsided by this experience, so in order to move forward, you need to understand what happened. We have lots of material here on Lovefraud to help you. Many people have told me that my two books, Love Fraud and Red Flags of Love Fraud, were especially helpful.
Here are some key concepts:
- Sociopaths exist. They are social predators and they live their lives by exploiting people. They do not feel remorse for their actions, and they will never change.
- The sociopath never loved you. You were targeted because you had something he or she wanted. It could have been money, sex, a place to live, business connections or cover for his or her secret life. Or, the sociopath messed with you simply for the fun of it.
- There is nothing you could have done to make the sociopath treat you any better. The involvement was always about exploitation. You were probably targeted because you were good, caring, giving, responsible, and in some way, vulnerable.
- The blame for what happened rests squarely with the sociopath. This person lied to you, manipulated you and betrayed you. You were guilty only of being human.
Recovering from sociopaths is a process. The key to the process is accepting what happened. This does not mean that you excuse what happened, or that you try to forgive and forget. But you must believe that yes, he or she did it, and yes, the sociopath knew what he or she was doing.
You can’t make time go backwards. You can’t take back the things you said or did that enabled the sociopath to become part of your life.
Once you come to terms with the fact that yes, it did happen, you begin the healing process.
In the case I described at the beginning of the article, Rochelle said that she still wanted the sociopath. This is not quite accurate. The truth is that she was addicted to him.
Relationships with sociopaths are highly addictive. They actually cause chemical and structural changes in the brain, similar to what substance addictions do. Therefore, you need to treat leaving the sociopath like kicking an addiction.
The way to do this is to have no further contact with this individual—no phone calls, no email, no text messages. Certainly do not meet the person. Don’t even go to the individual’s Facebook page.
If you must have contact with the individual for some reason—like you have a child together—do your best to implement Emotional No Contact. That means you remain absolutely neutral in any interaction. Sociopath love to get emotional reactions from their targets, and will do whatever they can to engage you. Do not take the bait.
Staying away from the sociopath can be really difficult. But the longer you stay away, the stronger you’ll become. If you give in and have contact, you’ll have to start all over again..
Processing the pain
This was not a normal relationship, and it’s not a normal break-up. Even if you weren’t physically or sexually assaulted, you suffered massive emotional and psychic injuries. You have losses that need to be grieved, including your loss of trust.
I believe that you must allow yourself to feel the pain of the experience, although you may not be able to do this right away. In the beginning you may just be numb. This a protective measure taken by your psyche, because the injury is just so massive.
Eventually, you need to let yourself feel it. You cannot bottle the pain up within you. It will either poison your life, or it will make you ill. You must get the pain out of your system.
Cry your eyes out. Stomp you feet in anger. Take up boxing and hit a punching bag. It’s scary at first to face your own anger, embarrassment, rage, humiliation—whatever the sociopath caused. But allow yourself to feel the emotions, honor them, and then let them go.
Let joy into your life
Draining the negative emotions will leave an energetic void within you. How do you fill the empty space? You allow joy into your life.
Any kind of joy will do: Enjoying a sunny day, letting your pets comfort you, having coffee with a friend, letting a waitress be nice to you. Soak up any joy and pleasantness that you encounter.
As you drain the negative emotions, and replace them with instances of joy, you’ll slowly change your perspective. Gradually, you’ll find that the sociopath is no longer renting space in your head. And that’s what you want to achieve.