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By November 19, 2015 56 Comments Read More →

When You “Lose Yourself” Due To A Sociopath, Recovery Is Hard—Really Hard

Tsunami

If I hear one more reporter or talk show host ask a victim of partner abuse, “Why did you stay?” and not really listen to the answer or not try to understand the psychology of how emotional, psychological, financial, and/or physical abuse can rewire your brain and murder your soul, I will scream.

I want to scream because I don’t think the interviewer is really looking for an answer.

We Are Strong, They Were Weak

Instead, it’s as if the questioner is seeking to label the victim as “weak” and “not like us.” This creates a sense that the victim is different, and that perceived difference creates the comforting illusion that it could never happen to us or someone like us.  After all:

  • We are strong, they were weak,
  • We are savvy, they were naïve,
  • We are smart, they were stupid,
  • We are self-assured, they had no self-respect.

But this is wrong, false, naïve, and downright irresponsible.

It can happen to almost anyone, and our only defense against it is accepting this inconvenient reality and being alert to the signs that someone with whom we are emotionally involved might be a sociopath—a sociopath who will blind us with love and the fulfillment of our dreams while leading us down the road toward self-destruction.

Emotional Erosion

Sociopaths are real and frighteningly common. They will present themselves as Prince Charming, poison us slowly, transform into the devil, and then feed on our souls, all the while making us feel so emotionally weak and confused that we stay on the “What am I doing wrong?” treadmill, unknowingly sowing the seeds of our own destruction.

If you haven’t experienced the emotional and psychological erosion at the hands of a master puppeteer, it’s probably hard to comprehend how profoundly your life can be altered by living with such subtle but chronic toxicity. Your strength is sapped, your confidence in your ability to perceive, decide, or “be” is all but gone. You cannot will it back to life with overused clichés like:

  • “Buck up,”
  • “Get back on the horse,”
  • “Get on with your life,”
  • “Don’t give him power over you,” or
  • “Just think—GIRL POWER.”

I Was No Longer “Me”

Your strength is not hidden in a box that you simply have to discover and reopen.

Even if you find the box and pull back the lid, it will be all but empty. Confidence and strength have to be remade, rebuilt, and coaxed back to life from all that is left—dust. There is no quick fix once you are so depleted. The road back is long and hard.

Over the years of consistent and discretely worded criticism that devalued my many roles (e.g., mother, wife, professional) and being gaslighted, I was no longer “me.”

How does one “just get over” that?

Drowning in Despair

To capture what it feels like to be so broken, so no longer “me,” so engulfed in despair, I wrote the following passage for an early draft of my book Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned (available via Amazon.com).  Although I didn’t include this passage in the book’s final version, it captures how I felt in an already depleted state, when my ex waged constant emotional, psychological and financial attacks, not to mention making veiled threats to my physical safety during our separation.

For all of us who’ve been told to “just reframe it,”  “just be glad he’s out of your life now,” “just get over it,” “just be you again,” we all know you can’t just snap your fingers and make everything right when you feel like this…

The Tusnami Strikes

 As I contemplated the total sham and betrayal of my past, “Paul’s” emotional assault that was my present, and the financial wasteland that might lie ahead, it was as if a rogue wave swelled above me.

I braced myself as it crashed down, pounding me into submission, almost smothering me with its force, and pulling me down, down, down into a dark lonely sea of despair.  I wanted some other worldly force to rise up and stop the wave.  Where is Poseidon when you need him?

Once triggered, the gigantic wave was unyielding, and Poseidon mere myth.  Some days, the hopelessness knew no bounds, and I fought to breathe.  I feared the despair would never end, leaving me trapped forever in a desolate sea of gloom and hopelessness.

A  Spark Of Life

But, there was still a tiny part of my psyche and my soul that had not been obliterated by Paul.

That faint flicker of “me” wanted to live and held on with surprising ferocity.  Still, the crushing wave of blackness visited frequently.  I knew I could not stop it, so I found another solution.  I learned to surrender to its power and to accept the searing emotional pain it brought.

I held onto the belief that if I did not panic, the despair would pass…eventually.   Eventually I would break through the darkness.  Eventually I would feel warmth and light.  Perhaps one day I would even experience hope again.  Who knows how many days, weeks, or months or even years that might take?

No matter how massive the wave of despair, no matter how long it held me under, I had only one job—not to drown.

Find Support From Those Who “Get It”

When the world as you know it has shattered, your confidence in yourself has evaporated, you realize all that you thought was true was a lie, and when your  physical safety is precarious, how on earth do you just “get over it.” Moreover, being told to “just get over it,” made me feel even worse—as if everyone else in the world could do just that.  Hence, I must be uniquely weak in my inability to do so.

No matter how well intentioned the advice was, it was not helpful—not at all.  Seek support from those who truly understand, from those who have lived it, from those who will help you start healing by listening to your story and validating your experience.

(Identifying names, places, events and characteristics of “Paul” and others I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect their and my identity.)

 



56 Comments on "When You “Lose Yourself” Due To A Sociopath, Recovery Is Hard—Really Hard"

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  1. Hearts in Clovers says:

    To emtuoba – reading your comments was like reading my autobiography. I can relate to everything you wrote. Like you I am at the “cry at the drop of a hat” stage. It takes so much energy to put on a happy face all the while I feel such emptiness instead. It’s as though I have experienced the unexpected death of someone close to me. One day he was there and the next day he was gone. No goodbyes. No closure. Nothing. And yet I find myself waking up and hoping today will be the day that he texts or calls me to say hello. I know I am supposed to be mad (at least that is what everyone tells me) but I push away the anger and focus on my memories that I have of us. I guess I am still wrapped up in his spell.

    Know that you are not alone!



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    • emtuoba says:

      Oh sweety you break my heart. Every day is another beginning. It’s almost like everything I learned yesterday was forgotten in my sleep. I wake up thinking he is in the house some place. Maybe in the garage ? I check for a text a call. I check the day and time of the last text. Then check all texts. When did he say last that he was coming home ? When did he say last that he loved me ? How could he say he lived me just 10 days ago. How could he make plans with me for the 5 year plan just 10 days ago ?
      Oh god how could this be happening ? How can he just block me from his phone and never think of me again. We have had 5 years. How can he be playing happy family with someone else for Thanksgiving. What the hell happened ? Oh now I remember. We had a conversation about his long hours away from home. He said I was stifling him. Didn’t I realize he just bought a new business. He has to have time to make this a go. Bammmmm. GONE. NO CONTACT FROM HIM. NO EXPLAINATION OTHER THAN. ITS IVER BECAUSE YOU SUFFOCATE ME. WHAT ?
      It amazes me how similar all our stories are. I am still in shock that people like this exist. I just don’t want to believe this about him. I was once a very proud strong woman that would have thrown his ass out the first time I caught him cheating. Now I wake up in a panic. I come to this site as soon as I wake up looking for Hope, looking for answers. And then I go to sleep and I wonder where he is and I wake up and it starts all over again.



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  2. Teresa says:

    Therapists and healers told me he was so bad for me and that I would lose everything. They told me just to walk away and no one got it that I couldn’t because I was so addicted to him. This included counselors who are trained about sociopaths.I Used Emotional Freedom Technique and Matrix Reimprinting each time he triggered me which went back to traumas in my childhood that I was then able to heal. I am now repelled by sociopaths and narcissists after attracting them my whole life and only attract caring and respectful people.I have been set free. I have now trained in this and help people around the world to do the same. My clients who are involved or have been involved with sociopaths say to me that other therapists have given up with them and don’t get them. They say no one has ever got them like I do. Each time I think to myself I had to go through all this pain and trauma so I can help others.I now feel grateful for it because my life has transformed and I have never felt so good. It is not something I could have ever learned from a text book without experiencing it, going through the extreme emotional pain and coming out the other side. You can come out the other side. Never give up.



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  3. kalina says:

    This spiritual healing, my journey, is everything I have read here and more. Keep centered and learn to re center. I have discovered a discipline. I call it, “centering”. Just yesterday I was getting ready to hire a painter for my house. I came across somewhat perplexed about this or that color. The painter, Victor, started tearing a part every detail I had installed in my house. “You should not have done this, or that. It looks like you gave this house no thought. Just haphazard. Leave it to me. We could add brick, wall paper, redo the ceiling. Use different shades of color etc.”. By the time our meeting was over, I was completely deflated. I had lost all confidence in my judgement and felt I had misperceived my entire project, making one mistake after another. It was not until the next day, when I went over our meeting, that I realized this guy was trying to totally dominate me for his own interests. When he repeated that “I have plenty of work and don’t worry I,m not greedy”, I started to feel confused. Cognitive dissonance, actually. I went over the whole exchange. Unbelievably warm and charming. Came on strong to challenge my inexperience. Before I realized what had happened, I had surrendered my judgement completely to him.
    This is such a tiny incident on a small scale, but so reminiscent of sociopathic strategies. Had I not learned to self reflect, “What just happened? How did this guy make me feel?” I was in the moment unnerved and deflated. So familiar an experience. But, now armed with insight I knew to put up my guard. In an evening I came to my senses. This guy is “playing” me. Good buy, Victor. You just lost yourself a client!
    Not an important story in the scheme of things, but a relevant one anyway. Sociopaths are all around us and they feed off our insecurity!! Yup, another lesson learned. Kalina



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  4. Canuck says:

    Thank you for this kalina.

    Yesterday my friend and I accidentally met an acquaintance, whom I have not seen since my move earlier this year. When she asked how I am I told her happier than have ever been. To that she said I need to go back to school because education is important, as if I never had an education. Told her am 61 hears old and went back to school as a mature student decades ago. She said I am very bright (felt like a backhanded compliment) and that she got her masters when she was forty. Tried to change the subject and she started going on about my shoes not being warm enough. My friend and I were sitting on the bench in front of my building so it would take a second to go inside if my feet got cold. Equilibrium was off for the rest of the day.

    She has invited me to her annual Xmas Eve gathering at her house, and I was going to go. She also said she needs to take me out to eat for my birthday next week. Remember her telling me last year how much she hates these obligation dinners. When I give her gifts she never graciously accepts them. Makes me take them back! So I keep trying harder. When can’t these people accept well thought out gifts?

    Thank you for this kalina because I now realize her approach has nothing to do with concern and everything to do with control and putting one on the defensive against the universe. Removing us from the source.

    Why can’t these people accept us as grown up? What gives them the right? Last year I lied and told her I have the flu for her Xmas Eve party. Was thinking of going again because the distress I felt the year prior is a distant memory. Think shall need to do some Facebook purging as a New Years resolution.

    Have removed a lot of toxic people from my life yet some are extremely good at disguising their toxicity. Easy to see these exchanges as friendendship material -as something precious. We children of psychopaths need to keep up to date continuously so we do not get sucked in by these clever demons.

    Also why do their gifts and invites and parties suck? A few years ago she invited me to her cottage, just the two of us. The only time I was at peace was when I was in the water away from her. It was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. A lot of unasked for advice. Much comparison of her wealth and my lack of cottage and property as if that have her the right to give me the criticisms and unsolicited advice. … Thank you for this kalina.



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  5. jm_short says:

    Canuck-

    Most of our parents read “Little Red Riding Hood” to us. And we also learned about the “Wolf in Sheeps’ Clothing” from fables. We grew up being told that there are big bad wolves out there. But our brains don’t assimilate “experience” until it actually happens to us.

    Once we understand that this phenomenon truly exists, we can better see it play out in real life. And we’re amazed at how many wolves surround us.

    Joyce



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    • Canuck says:

      Thanks Joyce,

      These people look damn good to those whose twisted wolf parents did not even bother to don sheep’s clothing. And therein lies the crux of the matter.

      We do not want to let go just in case these wolves deserve the benefit of the doubt. Because we do not want to give up the possibility that this person may actually care as our parents never did therefore do not want to hurt their souls. By the way this woman is old enough to be my mother, but she is very independent and tough. Unbelievable for an eighty year old – one would never guess. She has never needed anything or anyone. Have put up with her out of respect for our history and being older and have suffered greatly by the things she says but because she is older did not confront her about her cruel mouth. So when I back off she plays the critical part as if she cares till she reels me in again then she starts cutting my spirit and heart to shreds. I seem to have replaced a cold narcissist for my cruel psycho mother. Men can’t get to me anymore but the twisted can sense what I really missed in life. Have known her since I was a preteen in an institution for emotionally disturbed kids where the children’s aid put me just prior to my mother taking off to Germany with my younger siblings. This woman was the area supervisor of this institution and that is what makes it so difficult to let her go. Sort of gives her license to abuse and treat me like a child. She is the last abusive acquaintance I need to rid myself of and I seriously don’t know how. Many mixed feelings when I try. Doubt myself and do not have what it takes to tell her to get lost but after she runs me through I feel awful for a long time and practice in front of a mirror what I should have said. She really is scary not just to me but also other ex kids on Facebook from the place. Have been unfriended by ex kids because she is a Facebook friend. I am kind of soft spoken so she pretends there is something between us. In realty what there is me scared and pretending the bullying isn’t what it is. It’s been an ugly dance for a long time. I lost touch with her for over 40 years and thanks to Facebook. And yes have asked her to stop numerous times but she has selective hearing. She is very intelligent and as an adult now it is apparent to me that she chose to work with kids because like a pedafile she loves abusing those who have nobody to stand up for them and will not stand up for their rights because where the kids came from they never learned that they had rights. She never had kids or was married, that is how independent or difficult to get along with she is. I want us to get along but she makes it so very difficult. She even gets angry with me and for not reacting to her cruelty. Says I am angry and should express my feelings as if am doing something wrong by not reacting in front of her, by not giving her the satisfaction. Am at a loss of how to handle this because of our history.

      Thanks again Joyce



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