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Faith After A Life With Sociopaths

Editor’s note: The following article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.

When you’ve been entangled with sociopaths for a long period of time, few (if any) facets of your life are left untouched.   Becoming a person of faith has shown me how deeply my upbringing  has permeated my adult life.

My sociopathic parents controlled my every move – dictating when I could bathe, eat, or sleep, what I could read, who I could be friends with (if any), what music I could listen to, what I could watch on TV.  Depending on how volatile their mood was, I’d have to ask permission to speak.

In her book Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman states “The damage to the survivor’s faith and sense of community is particularly severe when the traumatic events themselves involve betrayal of important relationships.”  (page 55).   For children of sociopaths, this couldn’t be more true.  Our parents set the stage for how we view authority figures throughout the rest of our lives.

This has posed an enormous obstacle for me in my spiritual life.  Faith of any kind requires placing trust in an authority bigger than yourself.  I am a Christian, so my trust is in Christ.   And trusting anyone of power is  scary after you’ve been raised by sociopaths!

Decades of abuse and manipulation have left me feeling inherently “different” than other people.  I sometimes feel discouraged seeing other Christian women exude joy on a daily basis, unfettered by life’s adversities.  I see women who can work full-time, cook, clean, raise their children, read their Bibles,  attend church every week, volunteer at charitable organizations…….all with nary a complaint.  Then there’s…….. me.

I am naturally a skeptic.  When good things happen, I wait for the other shoe to drop.  I don’t look at a glass as half full or half empty, I look at the spots on the glass and feel like a failure for being such a lousy housekeeper.  I’m not good in social situations.  In fact, I prefer to avoid them altogether. On good nights I don’t have nightmares.  On good days I can make it until breakfast without my anger management skills being tested.   Then I feel like I’ve failed God for not being like the other women.

Then I beat myself silly trying to do everything right so God will be pleased with me, much in the same way I used to beat myself silly trying to please my parents.  Only, I know my parents were evil, and God is not.

So how does a person reconcile faith in a Higher Power with a life that’s been scrambled by a sociopath?  The answer is………I don’t know. Last week I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about this.  She asked me, how is it that I didn’t grow up to be a hateful, manipulative person?  Logically, I should be.  I had no “healthy” role models at all.   But, by the grace of God, I didn’t.

I can’t explain how or why God works the way He does, but (to borrow Oprah’s quote), here are things I know for sure:

Going through hardship often gives us a softer heart for others who are hurting.  It allows us to relate to others in ways that other people can’t.  I am grateful for that.

I am grateful if I can comfort even one person by saying “I understand”, because they know I really do.

I am grateful my experiences have taught me resilience and resourcefulness.

Most of all, I know that God sees me as a whole, complete person when all I can see are the shards of destruction left behind by my parents.  I am definitely grateful for that.



50 Comments on "Faith After A Life With Sociopaths"

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  1. jm_short says:

    Shelby-

    We’re all as different as snowflakes. We have different chemistry, different moral codes, different values and different beliefs. Some of us are more religious than others. Some of us resolve our pain through physical activity while others tend toward a more cerebral or metaphysical approach.

    But what’s common in all of us is that we have all suffered terrible betrayal. The pathway to extricate ourselves is neither clear, nor easy. We were conned into the pretense of the relationship, and our very own brain chemistry can betray us by doing what it is supposed to do, cleave us to a loved one.

    The same steps to free oneself from addiction to alcohol can be applied to free oneself from addiction to a relationship, so Al-anon is a very good choice in escaping from a betrayal bond. Even though we know the predators in our lives are toxic, we are deeply compelled by the tug of memories and a moral code that provides hope that through contact we can create change.

    If the person were normal and reasonable, that would be the case. Sometimes, we have to succumb to the compelling tie with them enough times to firmly establish that no good will come of it. Whenever you break no-contact and get your heart bashed, yet again, you are that much clearer about what you need to do, and why…. and it gets easier to do it. It’s a process.

    Joyce



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  2. Stargazer says:

    Lipstick, I just read an article about why people go into anxiety after a break-up. It has to do with survival – when a relationship ends, to the inner child, it is like the abandonment of a parent, and there is a lot of fear that the child won’t survive. This is true no matter which party ended the relationship. It takes a little time for the inner infant/child to feel safe again.

    That is a very likely answer to your question, and I can’t believe it just popped up in my email from a newsletter I get about relationships. Yes, funny how we are all brought together and how we can all help each other!



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    • jm_short says:

      Break-ups with psychopaths are a bit more “abandonment” laden than other separations. In normal breakups, the chemistry of love wanes over time, enabling us to more readily adjust to the change. Breakups with psychopaths, however, are breakups of “betrayal” and “betrayal” is a form of “abandonment.”



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  3. shelby333 says:

    Dear Lipstick 1961; Thanks for the note. I know I’m not alone here, but I’m alone in my head. My revenge did not have to be made up. I reported him stalking me to his employer. I remained anonymous but I don’t think he is smart enough to know it would be me. He is on every single social media site there is. I had no idea – he even has followers on twitter. I thought that was pretty funny as if he thinks he is prolific. He talks to so many people I doubt he remembers who he said what to. But, I feel I lowered myself and now I need to leave it be. The organization said that they would contact me if they had a plan of action. But, at this juncture there is nothing more I want to do.

    I never hated him like I should have, but his behavior towards me is filled with such contempt and abuse – I just (still) don’t get it, but maybe I’m not supposed to because I don’t think the way he does.



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  4. roylupton says:

    Wendy
    Thanks for the article, the heading really grabbed my attention as I deal with the same issue. Mine came later in life instead of parents. The issues that have really turned me off is not God or the scriptures but I see much to clearly the false interpretation and ideas the many Christian denominations apply to life. I would remind you that Christianity is related as a pilgrimage meaning no one has “arrived”. Please don’t let other peoples progress on their pilgrimage negatively affect yours, you have different trials and tribulations for them and your understanding is going to be different. Someone who genuinely loves Christ is noticeably happy, so cheer up and enjoy your life.

    Roy



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  5. hgg522 says:

    This article completely validates everything I have been feeling…that God has abandoned me, that I was never good enough, that none of the men in my life ever had my back so how could I ever think God, that I cant see would have my back…cuz I am not worthy. Strict religious affiliation left me further abandoned, as I did not line up with their legalisms. Ahhggg. One day I will thank the S/P that I divorced for coming into my life, teaching me indirectly to establish boundaries and teach my kids so they dont have to go through what I went through. The generational curse stops here! I can totally relate to this article. Thank you



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  6. hgg522 says:

    I met people in the church, claiming to be christian, thinking they were the only ones who were saved, that discarded me and my children as soon as we question the particular belief. Jesus said when He came, He fulfilled the whole law, we are no longer bound by the law.And Galatians says that if we are going to live part of the law, we have to live the whole law, otherwise we are a curse…this means fulfilling 600+ old testament laws. God is love and something that we can never fully wrap our heads around. If we could understand Him fully, we would self-com bust. I have grown to appreciate people more, my children more, God more…even though I cant understand, I have become more patient toward others as a result…I am a better person now and a better mother now as a result of the devastating experiences I was forced to survive at the hands of the S/P…and my children are stronger, more independent, and man…do they have intestinal fortitude:)



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    • HopingToHeal says:

      hgg522,

      What encouraging words to hear about you and your children. In the midst of the turmoil and pain, it’s difficult to believe that we can grow from such evil, but God provides the path to freedom and leads us. I’m learning to lean more on Him as you did and I appreciate my blessings so much more! Gods love IS all consuming. I wish more people understood that.

      I’m sorry for the pain you family has borne but glad to hear God is working it for the good!



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  7. Stephanie says:

    First of all, you rock. Thank you for sharing your heart and your faith. You got me thinking, enough to post a few thoughts/insights about this process of recovery. I’d like to come up with a better word than just plain old “recovery.” I’m sure there is some German word out there that does the job, but one that means “I’ve recovered from a tremendous evil and I have changed and I am glowing because I finally feel connected to God and I am protected always.”

    First I think of God and how much I love him. Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado is amazing for the work we are all doing. Whether you have placed your faith in God or some other source – love this message: God reweaves evil into good. This immediately refocuses us on the good.

    Next I just read an interesting article about the science of recovering from trauma:
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/05/19/140519fa_fact_specter
    If you don’t subscribe to the New Yorker, the gist of the article is that in dealing with trauma (which we all are), science is finding that it is best to live, and relive the experience, to cry and get it out of your system. “As people work through the story again and again, they learn to distinguish between remembering what happened in the past and actually being back there.” Granted, this needs to be done in a therapeutic setting when the PTSD is severe, but in some ways that’s what LoveFraud is, we are reading each other’s stories, and reliving our own, and finally separating the trauma memory from the fear that s/he is actually knocking on our door.

    God is reweaving my life into good every day. Today he reminded me that “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Charles Chaplin
    Have you laughed today?



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