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Why betrayal by a sociopath hurts so much

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal

BOOK REVIEW: Love and the mystery of betrayal, by Sandra Lee Dennis, Ph.D.

This post refers to spiritual concepts. Please see Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.

If you’re like most Lovefraud readers, you may find it difficult to put into words the depth of the pain romantic betrayal causes. Discovering that your romantic partner, the person who claimed to be your soul mate, proclaimed unending love and promised a future of golden togetherness, was lying all along and totally deceived you, causes indescribable agony.

Sandra Lee Dennis, Ph.D., has put your suffering into words.

I recently read her book, Love and the Mystery of Betrayal — Recovering your trust and faith after trauma, deception and loss of love. It is the best description I’ve ever read of the emotional, spiritual and even physical pain of romantic betrayal.

Author’s story

Sandra and the man she calls “Rob” in the book were engaged to be married. She has a doctorate in psychology and religion, and considered their relationship to be “enlightened” — they consistently “checked in” with each other about their feelings, and attended counseling together regularly.

Sandra wanted a small, intimate wedding, but Rob wanted a big wedding with all their friends and family. Sandra reluctantly agreed.

Then, six weeks before the big day, Rob, with no warning whatsoever, left her. Sandra writes:

For a long time, I could not figure out why, against my best efforts, images of Rob’s departure scene unnerved me day and night. I kept hearing his voice saturated with contempt, “I am dissatisfied with you,” … “I want a divorce,” … “bad for my health,” … “colossal mistake.” I kept seeing his arms stretched along the back of the sofa. I kept wincing at the memory of the slight smile on his face as he nonchalantly delivered the blow. Each replay threw my system into turmoil, like a nightmare that dogged me everywhere I went. It was as if I had been struck down with a debilitating disease of unknown origin — the voices in my head, the constant anxiety, the ache in my chest, the dizziness and disorientation. No matter what I did, and I tried many things, I could not stop this horror story from playing over and over in my mind. Later, I found out how the neurophysiology of shock contributes to these intrusive replays, but for the longest time I asked myself, “Why can’t I shake this?”

The unintended book

Sandra didn’t intend to write a book about her experience.

“I write when I’m distressed,” she said when I interviewed her. “When I first started writing, it was like a goddess speaking through me. I was in an altered state — like automatic writing. It was pouring out of me for the first year.

“Then I went on a trip, and decided to read what I had written. This was 200 pages,” she continued. “I’m learning so much — I feel responsible to pass it on to other people.”

The resulting book not only captures what so many Lovefraud readers have experienced, but offers what some may find to be new and healing ways to interpret the experience of betrayal.

Haywire

Along with describing her experience, Sandra offers psychological and biological explanations for her reactions. She points out, for example, that the need for attachment — ties to other human beings — is hardwired into our brains. Thousands of years ago, social ties were crucial for the survival of the species, and they still are.

That’s why our brains go haywire with the loss of a romantic partner — we feel like our very survival is in doubt.

But Sandra then moves on to explain that intimate relationships create discernible connections in the energy fields of two people, sometimes called the “subtle bodies.” Modern society and science may disregard these energetic connections, but energy healers and indigenous traditions recognize their existence.

Shamans, Sandra says, refer to harmful intimate ties as cords. She writes:

Cords are described as dense ropes of subtle materiality formed by fear-based relational attachments. Energetic projections run back and forth through these cords between people, often draining the energy of one at the expense of the other.

Spiritual healing

The trauma of betrayal is so great, Sandra says, that true recovery requires spiritual healing.

“I had rejected Christianity decades ago,” Sandra said when I interviewed her. “I focused on mindfulness, Buddhism, New Age approaches, psychological depth work. But it took my darkest days, my most broken moments, to find myself turning to prayer.”

She found solace, to her surprise, in Christianity.

“The transformation of suffering is the heart of the Christian mystery,” she said. “Life flowers and grows out of the torture of experience.”

In her book, she describes an afternoon when she was struggling with despair, and a small miracle happened.

A warm aliveness began to seep through the sensations of hollowness and desolation. A palpable presence moved inside my body, like thousands of tiny kisses. Starting precisely at the painful center of the now familiar ache behind my heart, a sweet substance began to fill me. Tenderly, “someone” whispered my name and enfolded me in warm, caring arms. And I was relieved, for the moment, of my bereft self. As I let myself fall into this sudden, light fullness, I began to feel the delicate fabric of my connection with the life all around me, and it breathed hope into my soul.

I still do not know from where the love came that penetrated through my despair. I could only call it grace.

This book is full of explanations and revelations that may help you work through your experience. I could keep quoting passages, but then I’d be reproducing the entire book.

In the end, Sandra suggests that romantic betrayal, as harsh as it is, may serve an important purpose. It may be a catalyst for the collapse of the false self, and an invitation to grow closer to source, love or God — however you conceive of your higher power.

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal may help you understand your reaction to an intimate betrayal, and find deep, transformative meaning in the experience.

Love and the Mystery of Betrayal is available on Amazon.com.

 



26 Comments on "Why betrayal by a sociopath hurts so much"

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  1. BeckyR says:

    I find this to be an amazing work, although I have yet to read the book. It was so difficult for me, personally, to grasp the utter decimation of my spirit and the bottomless pit of confusion over the alien approach to my beliefs and ideas about humanity.

    I like the premises that modern psychiatric arenas may not understand the sense of devastating loss from betrayal. Because it toes strip layers frm the spirit.
    Thank you for bringing this book to your readers, Donna.



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    • sandralee says:

      Dear HurtTerribly, words won’t do it, but please know, I am so sorry you can relate to “the crushing emotional trauma” I do my best to describe. It is terrible, terrible, It makes you question the nature of good and evil, everything you thought you knew about human nature, God, existence…I guess that is the good and bad news. We have to go deep, yes, into Spirit to find a force powerful enough to confront what I have begun to call ‘Archetypal Evil’. If we try to ‘do it ourselves’ without ‘Archetypal Good’/God to me, we have little chance.

      Listening to the voices…yes, and beginning to discriminate, to know which ones to trust and which are coming from the shock/trauma…has been an important change in my inner world too. Thank you for your comment.



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      • HurtTerribly says:

        SandraLee,

        I’ve followed your path, in very similar ways, and in truth, only started the spiritual healing very recently. I could not turn to God because I carried the stigma of guilt, and shame, so deeply, it was the only mantel I wore.

        Slowly I began very deep meditations, reaching into parts of me I could not identify with, because they were buried for so long. I feel ancient, and like an infant, at once. I wonder if you relate to that.

        During a hypnosis session, the deepest feelings at my core, were feelings of shame and regret. I regretted so deeply I couldn’t live properly.

        When I finally began to pray, I was very cautious at first! God, are you sure you want “ME” back? I am the one who let that man destroy my life and ruin my relationships with my family, hurt my children, and torture me. Me, me, me……..All the guilt went squarely to me. I am able to differentiate now, which is a HUGE help. And God loves me. I feel very good about that, so reading this, will be painful in that I am so sad someone hurt you like this, but it is amazing, after we separate the wheat from the chaff (sp), who we really are, who we have become and how strong and unshakable our faith is.

        Love and light to you,
        HT



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        • sandralee says:

          HurtTerribly,

          You are right, you describe the ‘going down’ spirituality I too have been led to. Waking up to the shame and guilt takes courage opens the door to grace. More than anything I have found that cultivating tenderness toward my own ‘ancient infant’ has been healing. The terrible suffering she has been through, is not just ‘my’ suffering, but something that I believe now is part of the human condition. What an initiation into compassion and faith this has been…

          With affection,
          SandraLee



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    • sandralee says:

      Becky, I hear you. I began to understand what had happened to me as “soul loss”. The trauma shocked the best parts of myself/ my soul — love, faith, trust, joy, appreciating beauty— into hiding, and I was left in a desert struggling to find a meaning to live. Who wants to acknowledge or believe such a thing could happen due to the callous behavior of another human being, much less one we loved and trusted? It turns your world upside down, but opens the door to new light, love, compassion, entering the heart, a harvesting “soul retrieval” that might never have happened otherwise. I hope you find the book helpful in your healing/recovery from such devastation.



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  2. elizabethbrooks says:

    The physical/supernatural experience that Sandra described is something I’ve experienced many times. I believe that is God, and he’s done it for me many times, and spoken to me directly. Since I first experienced this at age 8, it’s something that was very normal to me. Thru years of bible studies, I’ve come to see that not many people feel like they know when God speaks to them. My BFF recently was able to describe God “speaking” to her like this: As she prayed about an issue, and answer was immediately put in her mind, very abruptly, and it was the opposite of what she would have thought or said. I recently begged God for clarity on an issue, and my answer was “You don’t need to know this.” God has lately been showing me more and more firmly how I need to let go of fear and stress, and just trust him. This has been, honestly, worth the years of hell my ex-Soc has put me through. Right now, he is robbing me blind, and each month, my situation looks more and more hopeless, yet I have grown strangely more and more, radically, peaceful. It’s almost like I’m medicated. I know God has gifted me with this, to survive the un-survive-able. I post this hoping someone will find it helpful. My suggestion is to just open the bible. I can’t put into words how it has helped me. It has caused me to become certain that it is God’s infallible word/truth. If you believe in the supernatural, see what God will do for you supernaturally.



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    • AnnettePK says:

      The Bible contains valuable information on the romantic and committed relationship between a man and a woman. For those who believe that God created humans as men and women for the purpose of coming together in a committed relationship that was intended to last a lifetime, the instructions and admonitions given in the Old and New Testaments about how a man and woman in a relationship ought to treat one another make sense for the purpose of having a happy relationship.



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      • sandralee says:

        Annette, your comment caught my attention. Because I believed we were ‘spiritually married’ and because of the depth of our sexual/emotional connection (at least on my side!) I struggled with the aftermath, experiencing a deep visceral bond to this man for years. It made me question whether a bond can truly be dissolved without the death of one partner. I believe now that it is possible, but only with a lot of prayer, grace and self-forgiveness. I tried my best to express this in the ‘subtle body’ chapters of the book.



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        • elizabethbrooks says:

          Thank you sandralee, for your answers to me here! My ex was a real full-blown sociopath, according to our (great) counselor, and all my closest people… we all agree that he fits it hugely. Also is narcissistic for sure, but loathes conflict. So I understand about them falling on a continuum. So much of your story matches up to mine (“Molds himself to be your perfect person”), love bombed, etc. I just wanted to tell you that we had the most amazing sex life. I don’t like to talk and think about it, because it kinda makes my skin crawl now. We met as college athletes and had a very explosive physical connection. It never waned in 26 years. Sex actually got better every year. I found this amazing and was so thankful for it, really thought God had made us for each other. It was a great part of my life. It was one of the huge rip-offs, to me, because I did not leap into another relationship, and am not in one now. I thought it was so unfair for me to be robbed of that, but was not willing/interested to have just a sex buddy. Good news is I got used to it quickly. He, of course, immed went to hookers, then moved out finally, once he had another victim lined up. He’s bed hopped and gotten herpes and now has a fiancee. So he gets to have sex, but I don’t. ha ha, she laughed bitterly. 🙂



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          • sandralee says:

            OMG, Elizabeth, I know what you mean about the amazing sex life making your skin crawl in retrospect. Very similar to my experience, though yours was a much longer relationship—yes, really amazing. How do you make sense of it?! Sex is such a deeply meaningful bonding experience for us, how can they just walk away from it.
            Did you ever see “In the Company of Men?”
            In doing a lot of depth body work I discovered that much of what I thought was so fabulous registered deep in my body as a kind of sexual assault (because of the deception). So much grief and anger lodged down there, and tapping into a ‘collective’ stream of women’s voices; it took longer than anything to clear from my system.
            I also know what you mean about how ‘unfair’ it seems. My former partner has been in 4-5 relationships, and I have not entered another. I had not been ready, but in the past year, I started to spend time with a couple of men, but am still not willing to get sexual….the vulnerability is great. Take good care…

    • sandralee says:

      I had exactly this experience, elizabeth, how difficult it is to put into words how much it helped me. I was so bewildered and in pain after this abandonment/ betrayal, searching for something/someone to help me understand what was happening to me.I read and researched mostly in vain until one day when I was visiting a friend, I opened a Bible she had on her shelf. “Randomly” I opened to the story of Job! I could not believe it — finally, I found something that validated and resonated with the sense of unjustness, pain and confusion I was experiencing. I went on to the Psalms, which express I believe every possible emotional and mental state of suffering— especially those associated with the pits of despair, revenge and loss of faith. This experience showed the powerful medicine



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      • elizabethbrooks says:

        Yes, Job’s story, and also Joseph’s… I remind myself often that sometimes God needs these things that feel terrible to us, to happen for us, so we will be better off. I do have this concrete reminder: just 3 years before I discovered my ex was a fraud, God let me experience my first sociopath, a close friend. I was so mystified by what was wrong with her, and her abominable lack of consideration of others, etc. that I began to research online, and figured her out. I ended the friendship, and she then stalked and harassed us for another year. She even went to the same hotel as us, on fall break, in another town.

        At that time, I asked God, Why? Why was I having to go through this with her?

        When I discovered that I was also married to one, I soon understood that God had let me go through it with that friend, to prepare me for this. If I had not done all the reading and understood No Contact, etc., it would definitely have taken me years to separate emotionally from Ex. I had been deeply in love. But because I understood the Soc when it happened, I was able to cut the ties right away, although I reeled in shock for a bit. I am positive that God helped me tremendously through that.



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  3. elizabethbrooks says:

    Now, I have a question. I experienced the abrupt discarding from a guy whom I did not believe to be a sociopath. He didn’t fit the characteristics. But something has got to be wrong with someone who can Discard like that. He had an abusive mother. I knew he had issues and needed healing. I know I’m looking for an explanation, and that’s probably not the right tack. Can anyone enlighten me on this? Who can Discard like that?



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    • AnnettePK says:

      How long did you date this guy and how formal was your commitment to one another and to your future together? Did you get to meet and spend enough time with his family to be able to corroborate his perception that his mom was abusive? Do you know anything about his past relationships, especially from people other than from his perspective? Knowing the context would make a more accurate discernment of his callous discard.

      Keep in mind that his callous discard probably has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. For whatever reason he lacks tact and kindness in dealing with people. He may or may not be a spath, but if he hurt your feelings, he’s not the man for you.

      If your subconscious is telling you that it’s ‘probably not the right track’ to spend your valuable time and energy looking for an explanation of his hurtful and unexpected behavior towards you, it’s worth listening to. On some level you know what’s best for you.

      If you suspect he is a spath, you may well be right. If you’re feeling analytical you might consider looking back on your relationship and see if there were any ‘red flags’ or weird or ‘off’ behavior on his part that now makes sense in light of his choice to unkindly discard the relationship.



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    • sandralee says:

      Elizabeth, one of the reasons I do not use the term ‘sociopath’ directly in this book is because my guy did not exactly fit the profile either. But there are many variations and degrees of “Cluster B” personality disorders (narcissism, anti-social, borderline, sociopathic). I think of these empathy-challenged, consciencelessness conditions as existing on a continuum. We all have a bit of each that can appear in highly stressful situations, but for some people, these insidious, hurtful behaviors become a way of life, their m.o.

      It can take a long time to accept that the person we trusted so deeply could have been manipulating, using, deceiving us. We just don’t want to believe it. It is a grievous process, but eventually it helps cut the final cords to realize at the very least anyone who will do this is “not normal”.



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  4. Jay Anthony says:

    Highly sensitive individuals are certainly going to suffer from shock among other deep emotional symptoms after dealing with a psychopath.

    I was raised in a highly dysfunctional Italian family so the ability to rebound has helped tremendously in adult life. My childhood was a sink or swim situation of whose lessons I’ve carried into adulthood. This has made it much easier to overcome the experiences I’ve personally had with psychopaths/sociopaths (and there has been more than one)

    Because lets face it my family suffered from nearly every Cluster B personality disorder known to man. There was without a doubt psychopathy in the family as well. Surviving that with ones mind left intact deserves an award of some kind lol.

    I would like to share with those here some information that I’ve gathered over the years in coping with these types of people. Experience is extremely important and I have it in this case
    (too much of it really)

    I would be honored if you would allow me to share some of this information out of care and concern for my fellow human beings.
    I believe it’s imperative that we stick together. We are survivors afterall.

    1. It is important that we build a strong resistance to the plague that is the psychopath and cluster B individual. However giving them such a powerful label isn’t the way to go in my opinion. In reality they are just another human being with vulnerabilities.

    They are not all powerful, God like beings completely impenetrable and untouchable. No, not even close.

    I learned very young how to allow insanity to roll off of my back. This is a learn-able trait and can save you months even years! of heartache. The thing to tell yourself frequently and this is a mantra by the way:

    “It’s their problem, period. This does not mean I’m broken, undesirable or hopeless. This simply means I must watch my back because human predators do in fact exist.”

    2. If they didn’t love you they didn’t love you. There is absolutely nothing you can do about that. You MUST love yourself first and foremost. Once you sincerely love yourself being a victim of these types of people becomes less and less. Why? because you’re not an ideal target any longer. They love vulnerability, shame based mentalities, self doubt and low self esteem in general. They require these characteristics to be alive and kicking within their victims.

    ‘Faking it to make it’ doesn’t cut it in these scenarios. Those four issues put a large and highly visible target on your back.

    Also Psychopaths will take those adults who hopelessly crave and literally thrive on attention (similar to needy children) and bury those individuals alive. They realize what a phenomenally vulnerable trait this is and they exploit the living hell out of it.

    3. You must learn to become consciously aware of what you truly feel as a human being: what you feel about yourself, about others, about the world in general. If you are not a mindful person overall you are a psychopaths dream victim!

    You must know yourself deeply and be willing to stand up for YOUrself no matter what. Psychopaths want an easy target not a self aware, assertive, perceptive and emotionally strong individual. You MUST become a self aware, assertive, perceptive and emotionally strong individual.

    4. The signs ARE there. You must pay close attention, listen with your gut (not just your ears), intuition is your friend.

    Ask questions ALWAYS. If you’re receiving lame brained, oddly eccentric, neurotic or strange answers in general red flag!

    So your mother, father and siblings didn’t offer you enough love? That means you allow just anyone to schmooze their way into your life? No, absolutely not.

    5. New love interests asking to: borrow things like money, your vehicle etc., asking to use your hard earned resources in any way, asking to use your hard earned network of people, asking to take care of you. Really? I’ve just met this person! No, absolutely not. Your standards for those you allow into your life must be high. Morally, emotionally, and spiritually. Anything less is unacceptable.

    If they seem like an odd duck in these areas Beware! Hold yourself accountable for who you allow into your life and why.

    6. They have it all. They want to take you around the world baby! They want to take care of you in only the very best of ways. They want to change your life for the better sweetheart. Really? You’ve only just met this person two weeks ago. Who are they? What causes you to fall so easily? This is not your family this is some stranger who ignited neurons in your brain. Mindfulness! Self Control! Imperative.

    7. Body language. Even the very best of psychopaths are off just a bit. Pay close attention. Learn it, live it, abide by it! I’m not kidding this can literally save your life. Body language.

    8. Perfection. Really? Red flags to the moon and back. Nobody is perfect nobody. Those attempting to be or attempting to convince you that they are should be labeled as emotionally suspicious immediately.

    He/She rarely if ever makes mistakes. Seems too good to be true. Seems to consistently know exactly what to say, when and how to say it and to most everyone. Does not take kindly to mistakes being made by others.

    Not good not good at all!

    Healthy people are imperfect. Healthy people have others who they innocently or purposely at times rub the wrong way. Healthy people are not supposed “masters of the universe” and they do not expect others to believe that they are. Healthy people don’t require sycophants, followers and flocks of any kind. Healthy people don’t require that absolutely everyone trust them. That’s obscene. That’s sick.

    Imperfect, self aware, capable of taking NO for an answer and often, sincerely apologetic when necessary and genuinely humble is perfection in this case. Can psychopaths fake these traits? Of course they can! Not for very long.

    Moving in with, marrying or having children with someone you’ve only just met or you’ve only just begun to get to know? Are you insane? It was nearly 4 years before I married and attempted to have children with my first wife. We were together for 20 years after that. Healthy people have some patience.

    9. Your afraid to say NO? Expect to be exploited. You should consider saying NO from the very beginning. The sooner you do the better off you are. Say NO early and often enough to a psychopath and they’ll drop you like a hot rock!

    I’m not suggesting that you say NO to things that you feel otherwise about. I’m suggesting NO be in your vocabulary and frequently enough to test your potential partner very early on. Anything less can be dangerous.

    10. We helped create this! Our cultural beliefs helped create this epidemic. Sincere Love and healthy discipline absolutely is where it’s at. Until we get back there somehow expect things to become worse.

    These suggestions are not a cure all however they can help quite a bit.

    Much Love to all of you,
    Jay



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    • Bev says:

      Wow!

      Holy…thanks Jay!

      Fantastic.



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    • sandralee says:

      Thank you, especially for this, Jay —”Also Psychopaths will take those adults who hopelessly crave and literally thrive on attention (similar to needy children) and bury those individuals alive. They realize what a phenomenally vulnerable trait this is and they exploit the living hell out of it.”

      It isn’t easy to unearth this shame-based part of ourselves. Healing from a serious encounter with one of these people gives us an unparalleled chance to feel and heal our own narcissistic wounding (deep need for attention, appreciation and love; along with belief we are unloveable, defective). Usually this level of vulnerability is under layers and layers of protection. Being discarded by a heartless person under whose spell you have fallen? — talk about a crash-course in self-knowledge!



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  5. Jay Anthony says:

    Please insert the word Sociopath where I mistakenly wrote Psychopath … thank you everyone.



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  6. HurtTerribly says:

    Makes me cry….just cry……because she gets at something we miss sometimes, in our effort just to be heard. The crushing emotional trauma, when the cord is cut. Birth, death, love…..all entertwined. Spiritual healing is so so so important. No matter what your faith, you have to learn to trust in the universe, and that is HARD to do. All that regret and recrimination, and self doubt. To be tortured, then to accept being tortured for a lifetime, to be a prisoner, to live in dissociative (sp) cognitive reasoning and accept the behavior as normal, and then? To be cut loose in an instant.

    The healing process is also ongoing, as well, the acceptance of the self, for all of the self, not just the shiny parts. Listen to your voices, they are like children, and they when they come to talk, don’t shut them out. Just listen, some of those voices, and thoughts may never integrate, but they are you.

    I have to get this book.



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