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Breaking the compulsion to “fix” and “help”

Lovefraud recently received the following letter from a reader whom we’ll call “Emilie”:

I won’t go into the long, boring details of my 7+ year relationship with the sociopath that invaded my life. It’s the same basic story as always and plus, I think there’s some kind of email size limit. 🙂

Ever since I ended the engagement over 3 years ago, and finally terminated the relationship itself another year after, I’ve made comments (in a lighthearted, self deprecating fashion) that, “if you’re going to treat me like crap, then I’m the girl for you!” Yes, it gets chuckles from the people I’m around, but sadly it’s true.

I was watching a movie last night and was judging the characters on their level of attractiveness, which was directly proportional to their level of emotional damage. It started off as a fun little game … and then it hit me. It’s really not a game. It really isn’t a flippant remark. I seriously cannot be attracted to someone unless they’re damaged! What. The. Hell!

It occurred to me while I was drifting off to sleep (what I call the “brain cleaning” portion of the verge of deep sleep), that even in my mid-twenties (am creeping up on my mid-forties now), my stepmother made the comment to me that I do that. Even then, I went for the boys that needed to be fixed or helped. It’s no wonder that I was such a perfect target for the two sociopaths that jacked up my life. Actually I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t been more!

Okay – back to my point. After so long of being alone, about a year ago I tried to be in a relationship. It did not work out well. He was a nice enough guy, but GOD was he clingy and needy! Holy crap! He was nice to play with for a couple of weeks, but I soon perceived he was trying to control me. I say perceived. In all fairness, he might not have been trying to control me, but it felt that way (constricting), so I got the hell out of Dodge!

So here I am. Alone. And basically okay with that. It’s much less risky to be alone, and to be honest, the very thought of entering into a relationship of the romantic persuasion scares the holy bejesus out of me. Like, it gives me real anxiety. But, damn … sometimes it’d be nice … PLUS the fact that, okay, so, you can’t help who you’re attracted to, right? I mean, isn’t that just biology or physiology or something?

Since I have this predilection to be attracted to the damaged, how can I break out of this? I can’t trust myself at all. At this point, I can only assume that if I am attracted to someone, there is something fundamentally wrong with him. I’m no expert, but that’s pretty morbid.

Is there a way to change this, or is this something I’m just going to have to live with being aware of?

Donna Andersen responds

Dear Emilie,

You should congratulate yourself. You have just taken the first step toward understanding why the sociopaths, and other partners who treated you badly, have shown up in your life.

Usually there is a purpose for our nasty encounters with sociopaths. We hate to admit it. We don’t want to give these exploiters, these predators, credit for anything worthwhile. But generally the object of the exercise, the reason we’re involved with them, is to draw our attention to something within us that needs to be healed.

Sociopaths hook us by targeting our vulnerabilities. By identifying how they snagged us, we identify those vulnerabilities. And once we know what they are, we can work towards healing them.

So now you know. You have a “predilection to be attracted to the damaged.” The question is, why? Why do you feel compelled to rescue people? Why do you expect to give, while your partners take?

Looking for reasons

Sometimes the answer is in our family of origin. If you grew up with disordered parents, for example, you may have learned that your survival depended on taking care of them or keeping them happy.

Sometimes our upbringing and early life were fairly normal, but we still managed to absorb unhealthy beliefs. Maybe you have a deep, hidden belief that you must take care of other people, but you can’t expect other people to take care of you.

There is a vulnerability, a lack, a wound, within you, which the sociopath and other exploiters sensed. Now you have to figure out what it is.

Answers are within

How do you do that? You ask yourself. Your inner self, or higher self, knows the answer. You just need to ask, and listen.

You can do this as an exercise. Sit quietly with a pad of paper and a pen. Then ask yourself, “Why am I attracted to damaged men?” A response will pop into your head. Write it down. Ask yourself the question again, and another response will pop into your head. Write it down. Keep doing this, and you’ll get a whole list of reasons. Some may not be useful. But one or two of them will reveal your core unhealthy beliefs.

You can then explore those unhealthy beliefs further. Suppose one of your answers was, “I don’t deserve a healthy partner.” Ask yourself, “Why don’t I deserve a healthy partner?” Again, write down the response.

After a while, you may discover a whole list of beliefs that you didn’t know you had.

Releasing the beliefs

Now what? What do you do with all the beliefs? You release them.

Here’s a way to do it. State your negative belief as a positive belief. For example, say to yourself, “Of course I deserve a healthy partner.” As you do this, notice how you feel.

You may feel fear. Or disappointment. Or pain. If something inside you resists your positive belief, you know you’ve hit pay dirt.

Allow yourself to feel the resistance. Bring it to your awareness. Your objective is to feel the emotion that underlies your beliefs, and let it go. The emotion is the energetic charge that keeps the unhealthy beliefs alive. When you release the emotion, you can change your beliefs as well.

I’ve written on many occasions about making the decision to recover from your experience with the sociopath. This is what I mean. Actively go looking for those beliefs and decisions within you that have made you vulnerable. Once you find and release them, you’ll be on your way to recovery.

At some point, a healthy individual will be standing in front of you, and you’ll be ready.

 

 



16 Comments on "Breaking the compulsion to “fix” and “help”"

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  1. Delores says:

    I thought I could “fix” a poor pitiful guy with great “potential” who was thrown out of his apartment for raping his roommate’s girlfriend in college. How bad is that? I fell for his pityiful feigned remorse and found out much too late that he was only sorry that he got caught. Red flag #1, rape. Red flag # 2, wallowing in self-pity. Red flag # 3, NEVER marry potential.

    This article helped me realize that when the above psychopath made a minion of my daughter, I tried to “fix” her too. I tried to stop her from being maniplipulated into being like him and to encourage her to be her true self. I failed. He lead her to believe that I was controlling her against her own will and identy. I was only trying desperately to prevent her from being brainwashed and controlled by him. He played the exact opposite of reality and won again. I never would have tried to control my daughter, she did not need it; but she did need protection to save her from losing herself and becoming his minion and clone. She did not see his control, she saw my protection as control and she cut me out of her life.

    I will never ty to “fix” anyone every again…well mabe I will keep working on the toilet seat issue with my perfectly imperfect but not psychopathic husband. They do exist but having been burned by a psychopath gives us little faith even in the good but imperfect ones.



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    • contentnow says:

      I’ve always tried to fix and mend ever since I was tiny. Creatures that were injured or hurt, would be brought home and cared for. The kid at school who wasn’t popular and I’d be there. My mum and dad were the same. I was always went out of my way to be kind to people and for many years that worked fine. Know one really took advantage, some people weren’t particularly nice, but nor did they pretend to be, so at least you knew where you stood.lol
      Then I met him, the most damaged person I’d ever met. Of course I had to help him, I felt so sorry for him. His many, many tragic tales, his poor start in life, how he was horsewhipped. Boy did he go all out with the pity play and lovebombing.
      I was with him for 23 long long years. I’ve been on my own for 3yrs now and its great. I was angry for a long time, but I finally figured that wasn’t helpful. I’ve worked on myself, I’m still kind, but now I’m assertive too.



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  2. OpalRose says:

    This post and the comments are so helpful ! My mother was difficult and demanding and got worse as I became a teenager. My father was kind but so quiet it was hard to “hear” his voice and now years later I have to work at remembering his unconditional love.

    I was literally trained to sacrifice myself whenever there was a more dominant person present – good, bad or ugly. Now that I know I am a survivor of abuse, my paradigm is changing.

    The “how-to” steps listed by Donna are really scary for me as I like to live dissociated so I can just get through each day. BUT – baby steps are possible (I keep telling myself) and I have learned so much the past 4 years. It’s the emotions I am afraid of but I know they are there. The observation that the emotions are what keep us tied into the beliefs is so helpful. I never realized that before but it makes perfect sense.

    What keeps me “in the game” of life and learning are articles like this and posts from others who are choosing to heal and walking that path and showing me HOW. These healing ideas are so different from what we were allowed to know during our “captivity” aren’t they ?? Thank you !!



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  3. newstepmom says:

    Whew, this is a great article, thank you!! Will take a while to fully process it and everything recommended here, but thank you so much for publishing this. I really, really appreciate it. Thank you so, so much. I’m in the midst of making all my local vipers and their friends really angry by speaking the obvious, not using The Inflammatory word/s but simply requesting non-abuse. My requests for kindness are on the shelf for now, and the requests for non abuse, seem to be hitting many on the head. That should really tell me everything I need to finally emotionally move on. I am looking deeply into using stress as a motivator, and positive psychology. Highly recommended, for laughs, and inspiration. I would love to recommend some; see Happiness Advantage, also Rick Hanson, and Timeless Healing, the Power and Biology of Belief. They are all really wonderful. I feel fairly good that folks -here- can appreciate these in spite of the local Vipers mocking my enthusiasm for one of them recently pretty relentlessly, during some children’s induction to this so-unhealthy psychology recently, kids joined in the mocking, eesh. Gosh, thank you again, soooo much for this article.



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