Sociopaths do terrible things to us. I hear so many painful stories from Lovefraud readers — perhaps you have a similar experience:
- You may have had your heart shattered into a million pieces
- You may have lost your home, your job and all your money
- You may have suffered physical assault, illness, and emotional or psychological breakdown
- You who have lost your children, because the sociopaths got custody, poisoned the kids’ minds, or both
- You may who have lost years of your life, time that can never be replaced
Sometimes when I hear these stories, my heart just breaks. Because sometimes, as much as I would like to offer solutions, the sociopaths have enacted such total destruction that the chances of justice are very slim. The sad truth is that some of what was lost cannot be recovered.
When that’s the case, for a while all you can really do is endure. But if you can keep enduring, it paves the way for recovery. Here’s how:
- Staying alive
The first stage of endurance is resolving to stay alive. I know from Lovefraud’s surveys that about 30% of people involved with sociopaths feel so badly that they consider or attempt suicide. If you are in this dark place, ask for help. You may not be able to see it now, but you do have something to live for, whereas the sociopath will always be an empty shell. Do not give up.
The next step of staying alive is functioning. In the beginning, it may be all you can do to get out of bed. Make yourself get up and take care of your basic necessities. If you have a job, make yourself go to work, even if you have to go to the restroom frequently to compose yourself. Handle your responsibilities as best you can.
Yes, you may feel so numb that you are just going through the motions. But keep at it. Eventually the numbness will start the thaw, and then your recovery can begin.
The first step in recovery is acceptance. This does not mean that you are okay with what the sociopath did to you. It does mean that you accept the fact that the evil and destruction happened.
When you start to see the extent of the sociopath’s betrayal, if you’re like many people, you may be in denial. You want to believe the sociopath’s words of love and reassurance, and not the truth of his or her actions. You may burn up a lot of emotional energy trying to find an excuse or a reasonable explanation for the sociopath’s bad behavior.
Acceptance means realizing that yes, the sociopath hurt you, yes, it was on purpose, and no, the sociopath does not feel any remorse for what happened.
- Emotional healing
This may seem counterintuitive, but your emotional recovery can begin even while the practical aspects of your life are in shambles. The key is choosing yourself, deciding that you want to feel better.
How do you feel better? You give yourself permission to feel bad. Instead of trying to bottle up your internal turmoil, you allow yourself to feel the grief, sadness, disappointment, anger and pain.
This is not pretty — I spent hours curled up on the floor, crying. I also imagined my ex-husband’s face on a pillow and beat it until I collapsed. If it helps, you can work with a therapist, or use techniques like EFT tapping. The objective is to process the emotions, so you can be free of them.
- Letting go
To move into your future, you need to let go of the past. The money, house, job and whatever else you lost may be gone for good. You may have tried to seek justice through the law or the courts and failed, and it’s time to give up the fight.
You may have to end certain relationships — certainly with the sociopath, but possibly with other friends, colleagues and relatives. You may even need to end contact with your own children.
Letting go means releasing your emotional attachment to what you wanted to happen. It means allowing yourself to move on. But sometimes, a funny thing happens when you let go. When time has passed and you’re feeling better, some of what you wanted may actually transpire.
Although they are painful, entanglements with sociopaths are often valuable life lessons. You learn that some people can lie convincingly. You learn that some people have hidden agendas. You learn sociopaths exist — and now you know how to spot them.
You’ll probably learn valuable lessons about yourself as well. Perhaps you believed that you deserved so little that the sociopath’s lies and mistreatment were acceptable. Perhaps you now realize your parents or early romantic partners were disordered, and the damage they caused made you vulnerable to later predators.
You gain insight, and you can make future choices with wisdom.
Life changes. By enduring when things are really bad, we take incremental steps toward recovery. Then we let time work its magic. We probably won’t be the same person who fell for the sociopath, but if we allow ourselves to heal, we can be stronger, smarter and healthier.
By enduring, we can recover, and then we may be surprised by the new opportunities life presents us.