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After the sociopath, learning to trust again

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A Lovefraud reader posted the following comment awhile back:

I just have one question for everyone here. Does anyone trust people after these sick people did what they did to us? Unfortunately for me … I have run across a few of these sickos but NONE like my ex. Whoever I meet now I’m thinking to myself, who is this person really? Do they have a secret life like the Scott Petersons and Ted Bundys of this world? I don’t let my children out of my sight and I’m already training my kids and they all know the signs of a sociopath especially my girls. I feel like I’m in a prison sometimes in my mind as I try so hard but just can’t trust anyone.

Yes, it is possible to trust again. Remember, sociopaths account for 1% to 4% of the population, depending on how the personality disorder is defined. Let’s bump the number of disordered people up to 16% to include other exploitative manipulators, like narcissists and borderlines.

That still means that 84% of the population are not sociopaths, and may be deserving of our trust.

So how can we feel trust again? How do we determine whom to trust? I think there are four components to being able to feel trust, and deciding who deserves to be trusted.

1. Educate ourselves

One of the statements I’ve heard over and over again, through e-mails and phone calls from victims, is this: “I didn’t know such evil existed.” Well, now we know.

We’ve all learned, mostly the hard way, about sociopaths. Now that we know they exist, we need to educate ourselves about the warning signs, the patterns of behavior that may indicate someone is disordered. Lies, irresponsibility, vague answers to questions, no long-term friends, new in town, magnetic charm, lavish flattery, statements that don’t add up, flashes of violence—if we start seeing the signs, we need to put up our guard.

2. Believe our own instincts

Just about everyone who was victimized by a sociopath had early warning signs—a gut feeling that something wasn’t right, an instinctive revulsion, questions about what was seen or heard. Unfortunately, we ignored the signals.

We didn’t believe the signals for three reasons:

  • We didn’t have the empirical knowledge that evil exists (see above), so we didn’t know how interpret them.
  • We viewed ourselves as open-minded individuals, and believed that everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt.
  • We allowed the sociopath to explain away our questions and doubts.

Never again. We should never doubt our instincts. In fact, we should train ourselves to pay attention to our instincts. Our intuition is absolutely the best tool we have for steering clear of sociopaths.

3. Make people earn our trust

I had a blind spot. I am a forthright, trustworthy person. I would never think of lying to someone. Unfortunately, I thought everyone else was like me. Big mistake. My younger brother’s life philosophy is probably more useful. His rule of thumb: “Everyone is an a**hole until proven otherwise.”

The point is that we should not give our trust away indiscriminately. People must earn our trust by consistent, reliable and truthful behavior.

Important caveat: Sociopaths often appear to be trustworthy, dependable and honest in the beginning, while they’re trying to hook us. So if the good behavior slips, and bad behavior starts to appear, we must recognize the change as a big red flag.

4. Process our pain

I think the biggest roadblock to being able to trust again is our own pain. After an encounter with a sociopath, we’ve been deceived, betrayed, injured, emotionally crushed. We are angry and bitter, and rightfully so. But if we want to move on, we can’t keep carrying the pain around.

To get rid of the pain, we must allow ourselves to feel it.

I recommend that, either privately or with the guidance of a good therapist, we let the tears and curses flow. Expressing the pain physically, without hurting yourself or others, also helps. My favorite technique was pounding pillows with my fists. You may want to stomp your feet, twist towels or chop wood.

For more on this, read Releasing the pain inflicted by a sociopath.

Trust and love

It is important to be able to trust again. Doubting and disbelieving everyone we meet is a dismal way to live. If we cannot recover our trust in humanity, the sociopath who plagued us will have truly won.

The difference is that after the sociopath, we must practice informed trust. We know the red flags of a sociopath, and in evaluating a person, we don’t see them. Our intuition is giving us the green light. The person has proven, and continues to prove, to be trustworthy. These are the intellectual aspects of trust.

By doing the work of exorcising our pain, we clear away the roadblocks to feeling trust emotionally. It’s crucial to be able to feel trust, because that’s what paves the way for love.

Lovefraud first published this story on Dec. 8, 2008.



6 Comments on "After the sociopath, learning to trust again"

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  1. AnnettePK says:

    I also find it helps me feel more secure to know that I now know the red flags to look for when meeting new people, and that I don’t blindly trust everyone like I did before my ex psychopath experience. Instead of assuming that everyone is a nice person, I wait until I’ve had a chance to observe a new acquaintance interacting in different situations with a variety of other people. I don’t assume everyone is lying, but I am open minded that someone I don’t know may be telling me a lie and I withhold getting involved personally or financially until I’ve seen some corroborating evidence. Never again will I ignore the red flags of cognitive dissonance between something someone tells me and facts that contradict.



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    • regretfullymine says:

      Though I’ve been divorced for many years from my ex; I still doubt things even close friends or acquaintenances say to me, about me. I ask myself “are you pulling my leg? are you after something and flattery is how you’re trying to get it”? I DO pay much more attention to my intuition.



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  2. kmt1 says:

    Thoughts about how to trust people going forward…

    As my confidence in my ability to trust myself to take care of myself increases as a result of all that I am learning from some difficult experiences with a psychopath, so will my ability to trust people in the world.

    I had been learning to pay more attention to funny feelings that were coming up during my relationship with my ex-fiancee. I wasn’t always able to understand what the funny feeling was about, and in the past, I might have dismissed it if I couldn’t make sense of it. As a result of hard work I’ve been doing in therapy, I noted the feelings even if I didn’t know why I was having them.

    This was not the first time I’ve been in a relationship with someone who demonstrates narcissistic or antisocial traits. However, it was the first time I was in a relationship with someone who demonstrates behaviors of psychopathy to such a significant degree. The Lovefraud target quiz referenced traits of honoring commitments and being nurturing. While I can see that those traits might make me vulnerable, I was not realizing to what degree.

    I came across a youtube video of Sandra L. Brown, from The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education talking about her research on the traits of women who fall in love with psychopaths. The traits also reference loyalty and commitment to a relationship. I’m fascinated by this research and think it will help me learn more the traits I possess. That might help me strengthen myself to be less vulnerable to predators in the future.



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  3. Ria says:

    You are still the Beautiful person you always were. The Narc/Sociopath will always be a Fake. Truth always wins! Your Light will continue to shine to expose the toxic people who try to enter your life. Let your Light continue to shine and True Love will come to you. Love and Hugs xx



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  4. Ria says:

    Ladies take a look at Melanie Tonia Evans she is Amazing! She is the guidance all of us need during our Healing xx



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  5. Ria says:

    You are Not Alone with your pain! We stand together side by side with our Truth. Continue shining your bright light everywhere you go! Xx



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