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When there seems to be no escape from the sociopath …

Yesterday Lovefraud posted the story of “Billyjean” in an article called Alone. Exhausted. Lonely. Stressed. Stuck.

The headline pretty much sums up Billyjean’s position. This single mom had thought she found a man who loved her. She married him, became pregnant — and discovered he was cheating on her. Now Billyjean has a baby, no family support, and can’t afford to leave.

Plus, although her ex doesn’t want to be with her, he also doesn’t want to divorce her. He provides some financial support, and therefore feels entitled to show up at Billyjean’s apartment whenever he wants, supposedly to see the child — which prevents Billyjean from moving on in her life.

This man is displaying his sociopathic agenda: power and control. And Billyjean feels powerless to do anything about it.

Enduring and escaping

I’ve heard from many Lovefraud readers whose situations seem to be inescapable. These readers may be financially strapped, physically ill and isolated from anyone who can help. Time after time, I wish I could offer a concrete suggestion, but I can see that the sociopath has managed to weave such a tight web that there is no easy way out.

What can anyone in a situation like this do? Here’s a three-part plan for enduring, and hopefully, at some point, escaping.

  1. Stay alive
  2. Accept the reality of the situation
  3. Work on self-healing

I’ll explain each of these points further.

Stay alive

This is the most critical point — staying alive. If the sociopath is physically violent, the best thing you can do is learn to trust your intuition. As Gavin deBecker explains in The Gift of Fear, our intuition was honed over millennia to warn us of the presence of danger.

A more insidious risk may be suicide. Many Lovefraud readers have told me that the sociopath’s behavior caused them so much despair that they seriously considered ending their lives. Luckily, they were still around to write me the email. But I have heard from family members and acquaintances of victims who did take that step, and it’s truly, truly sad.

In fact, some sociopaths seem to want to provoke their partners to their deaths. It’s called murder by suicide.

Please find the strength, and do what you have to do, to stay alive. As the saying goes, where there is life, there’s hope.

Accept the reality

Typically, when you become aware that you’ve been deceived and manipulated by a sociopath, you spend a lot of time and energy wanting things to be different.

You want the sociopath to admit that he lied, recognize what she is doing is wrong, be a father to the kids, repay the money like she said she would, go for counseling, go to prison, etc., etc., etc.

You wish that you had never answered that online ad, never fell for his seduction, listened to your gut when you knew something was wrong, listened to your friends and family who didn’t like her, never gave him the money, etc., etc., etc.

In other words, you spend time wanting the sociopath to behave differently, and regretting that you didn’t behave differently. This is certainly understandable. But after awhile, it becomes counterproductive.

At some point, you need to accept the reality of what is.

Now, this does not mean you approve of what is. It does not mean that you want to stay in the situation.

It does mean you accept that what happened, happened, and you can’t change the past. It also means you accept that the sociopath is a sociopath, and he or she is not going to start acting like a normal person with a heart and a conscience.

Once you stop arguing with reality, you can begin to figure a way out.

Work on self-healing

When the sociopath has created havoc in your life — a divorce, child custody fight, fraud, losing your job, losing your home, whatever — it’s normal to think that you have to fix the problems before you can start your personal recovery.

Actually, this isn’t true.

When a sociopath upends your life, putting it back in order requires two journeys. One is the tangible journey of getting through the court case, finding a new job, dealing with the financial losses, taking care of the kids — everything you need for your material survival.

The second journey is the intangible but critical work of your personal healing. Because of the sociopath, you are feeling betrayal, disappointment, anger, fear, grief, pain and loss. You need to recover from the effect that the sociopath has had on your life.

Here’s the important point — you do not have to complete the journey of material survival before beginning the journey of personal healing. You can move forward in both journeys at the same time.

And more importantly, if you can’t immediately change your life circumstances, if the sociopath has blocked all your exits, you can still move forward in your personal healing.

Dealing with the emotion

This may seem impossible — how can you focus on recovery when you’re still trapped in the situation?

You can deal with the emotion of it.

Because of the sociopath’s actions, you’re feeling all of those negative emotions — betrayal, disappointment, anger, fear, grief, pain and loss. Getting the emotions out of your system is vital for your recovery. And the way you get them out of your system is by allowing yourself to express them.

Now, this does not mean expressing them to the sociopath. That’s useless, and possibly damaging. You want to express your emotions safely. If you have a trusted therapist who can help you, that’s great. But you can do it by yourself.

Cry, wail, scream, stomp your feet, hit a punching bag — let your emotions rip.

Releasing past pain

As you work on really feeling the pain caused by the sociopath, memories of some earlier pain in your life may come up — perhaps a prior relationship or a situation from your childhood. If this happens, know that you’re making good progress. You’ve probably discovered the vulnerability that the sociopath was able to target.

Everyone has vulnerabilities. Sociopaths are experts at finding them, and then promising to be the answer you are looking for. You, however, may not have been aware of the vulnerability. You may have buried the long-ago pain.

Becoming aware of old feelings, and processing them out of your system, can lead to a deep, fundamental change within you.

Shifting energy

In addition to purging your negative emotions, you can work on your personal recovery in other ways. You can eat healthy and get exercise. You can stop self-medicating through cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. You can meditate or pray, handing the situation over to your higher power. You can take advantage of every little opportunity to add joy to your life.

So if, right now, there is no apparent way out of your situation, follow these three steps: Stay alive, accept the reality, and work on self-healing.

The result will be a change in your internal energy. And shifting your energy may lead to an opportunity that you hadn’t even thought of or imagined. Someone may come into your life, or something may push the sociopath out of your life.

Or perhaps you’ll just be thinking more clearly, and able to see a way forward that you hadn’t seen before.

 


Posted in: Donna Andersen

7 Comments on "When there seems to be no escape from the sociopath …"

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  1. slimone says:

    My Gosh Donna! This is such excellent and clear wisdom and guidance. I can say I did each of these things on my journey of healing. And, like you said, I did all at the same time. I didn’t recover financially BEFORE embarking on my personal healing. I did all of it.

    Each of us feels ‘trapped’ in some way (emotionally, financially, etc), though Billyjean’s case is especially, and in concrete terms, confining and limited. My heart just feels her sense of helplessness. I feel incredibly sad for her, and her children. But I also, from a different point of view (as a survivor), feel hopeful for her.

    My situation was not nearly so fraught with entanglements, and I was able to get away in a pretty reasonable amount of time. YET, I can so relate to Billyjean’s feelings of sorrow, despair, devastation, and hopelessness. That sense of the world just dropping out from under my feet. No sense of connectedness, with anyone. Even those who reached out to me seemed so bloody far away! I couldn’t seem to bridge the distance, emotionally.

    These devastating feelings are one way we become ‘internally’ trapped, regardless of the practicalities our entanglements. Our body chemistry is changed by these heavy feelings. Working through, and with them is essential. Not burying them, or trying to talk ourselves out of them. They really cannot be denied. They have to be felt and released (generally over and over….layer by layer).

    I want to say one part of this is harder than another. But I found all 3 to be significant work. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or care for myself very well. So, the staying alive part was a challenge. I kept at it, slowly adding healthy habits where I could. Counseling and two close friends helped with the personal healing; as well as yoga, walking, READING everything I could get my hands on, and coming to Love Fraud.

    Accepting reality might represent the hardest part, by a small percentage. I spent a lot of time trying to renegotiate (bargain) reality. I did not want to admit that this person, and multiple other abusers I had been involved with, were mentally and morally ill. It meant looking at SO much I had done, said, and believed that it was really hard. Plus, MANY other people, who had the good intention of helping me couldn’t accept the reality of personality disorders either; thinking it was some kind of psychological mumbo-jumbo, because they couldn’t ‘treat’ them and cure them. WRONG. Acceptance really SET ME FREE. I didn’t have to take 50% or more of the responsibility for what had happened, when I really understood that the other person was behaving with the total intent of deceiving me.

    Understanding and accepting that helped me re-frame some pivotal and painful experiences in my life. It really accelerated my healing.

    These 3 elements certainly do represent our best hope of escaping the abuse, and finding a new way forward.

    Billyjean…..sending much heartfelt compassion for you as you find your way on your healing journey.

    Slim



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    • undertheradar says:

      Slim

      Your response was just as informative as the post so thanks!



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      • slimone says:

        You are welcome! I will say that after being out of the abusive cycle for so many years, and having moved on in my life, I worry that what I post may not be useful…maybe too removed from where many people are when they first find themselves on LoveFraud.

        But the truth is there is the possibility for healing, for a life that feels true, full of integrity and good/kind people. I have one. I fought very hard for it. I made some real sacrifices (didn’t go after the money I was owed, lost many possessions/friends/activities).

        It was 100% worth it. I didn’t get poop from the sociopath. He taught me NOTHING. But, I chose to learn from the EXPERIENCE. When we let our experiences teach us, even things we don’t want to learn, our lives are enriched.

        Peace,
        Slim



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  2. Eden says:

    “Once you stop arguing with reality, you can begin to figure a way out.”

    Indeed. Most profound…



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  3. NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

    What a valuable summary of my journey!
    After years of constantly having the rug pulled from under me, I found my feet ONLY when I realized (and stopped arguing with myself) that my now X husband IS a sociopath.

    The only part of this article that is not valid for me is “Dealing with the Emotion”. Wailing, stomping, punching pillows did nothing to release my pain and made me feel worse because I knew it worked for others but wasn’t working for me which intensified my pain. I was even incompetent at being incompetent! Instead I had to try many forms of releasing Emotions before I found something that worked for me. (Nature. Walking. Long distance walking in nature, no city concrete. I could be the slow version of Forrest Gump?)

    Accepting reality and finding a path to resolution… after that, things did fall into place. I got “ME” back. And weirdly, it wasn’t until I found “ME” that I realized I had lost sight of “ME”. And I stopped hurting when I found myself again.

    “To thine own self be true.”
    It means two things:
    Don’t lie to yourself. AND
    Honor yourself. Be faithful to YOURSELF.



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  4. cherith10 says:

    Thank you for a very excellent article. Several good friends have advised that I just move far, far away from my spath husband, leaving a 17 year old son, mother, grandchildren, and other adult children behind. I couldn’t do that. The husband (who should have been an ex husband long ago) uses my youngest son and a grandchild as the means of maintaining contact with me. Otherwise he would have little interest in them. In fact, through our many children he has a firm hold upon my life. I realize that he communicates with me through the children. When I read your first point, “Stay Alive”, I didn’t think that it would apply to me as I am not physically in danger. But when you wrote of murder through suicide, you had my attention. Yes, the first goal is to stay alive.



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  5. Bluefinch says:

    Hugs to “Billejean”. I’m in a similar situation. SP husband who kept coming to my apt to (supposedly) see son. Only stopped him coming here a few months ago, when I felt strong enough by starting my healing and gaining lots of knowledge and advice from Love Fraud! Also issued divorce proceedings and that is all being done through court. I’m pulling myself back together and regaining life for myself and my son bit by bit. You will too. One thing I did was put very obvious CCTV in my apt. That way I felt safer (he didn’t know at the time from him!). Turns out I got some very useful evidence from it. There’s so much practical information and support on this site. I’m so grateful to Donna and to everyone who shares here 🙂



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