By | January 18, 2009 658 Comments

After the sociopath: How do we heal? Part 1-The Path

A relationship with a sociopath is a traumatic experience. The definition of physical trauma is a serious injury or shock to the body, as with a car accident or major surgery. It requires healing.

On an emotional level, a trauma is wound or shock that causes lasting damage to the psychological development of a person. It also requires healing.

To some degree, we can depend on our natural ability to heal. But just as an untreated broken bone can mend crooked, our emotional systems may become “stuck” in an intermediate stage of healing. For example we may get stuck in anger, bitterness, or even earlier stages of healing, such as fear and confusion.

This article is about my personal ideas about the healing path for full recovery from the emotional trauma caused by a relationship with a sociopath. I am not a therapist, although I have training in some processes and theories of personal and organizational development. My ideas are also the result of years of research into personality disorders, creative and learning processes, family dynamics, childhood development, recovery from addictions and trauma, and neurological research.

After my five-year relationship with a man I now believe to be a sociopath, I was physically and emotionally broken down. I was also terrified about my condition for several reasons. In my mid-fifties, I was already seeing evidence of several age-related diseases. But more worrisome than the premature aging was my social incapacitation. I was unable to talk about myself without crying, unable to do the consultative work I lived on, desperately in need of comfort and reassurance, unable to trust my own instincts.

I had been in long-term relationships almost my entire life. My instinct was to find another one to help me rebuild myself. But I knew that there was no safe “relationship of equals” for me now. I was too messed up. No one would take on someone as physically debilitated and emotionally damaged as I was, without expecting to be paid for it. Likewise, I was afraid of my inclination to bond sexually. The only type of person I could imagine attracting was another predator who would “help” me while draining whatever was left of my material and financial resources.

My challenge

So, for the first time in my life, I made a decision to be alone. Knowing that the relationship with the sociopath had involved forces in my personality that were out of my control, I also decided that my best approach to this recovery was to figure out what was wrong with me and fix it. At the time, I did not understand my role in fostering this relationship, except that I couldn’t get out of it. But I knew that what happened to me with the sociopath wasn’t just about him. It was also about me.

I also made a decision to manage my own recovery. I made this decision for several reasons. One was that no one else really understood the mechanics of this relationship. My friends offered emotional support, but they were as confused as I was about his hold on me and why I could not extricate myself. Second, I found no meaningful assistance from therapists who seemed unable to grasp that this was a traumatic relationship. Third, everyone I knew wanted me to get over it and get on with my life, which was simply impossible to do.

So I was not only alone, but proceeding on a path that no one else supported. I’m not sure where I found the certainty that it was the right thing to do. But I was certain, and I held onto that certainty through the years it took. Today, when I’m essentially at the end of the process, except for the ongoing work on myself that has little to do with the sociopath anymore, I look back at it as the greatest gift I ever gave myself. It was the hardest thing I ever did. And in its own weird way, the most fun.

Here is where I started. I knew that I wanted to discover and neutralize the causes of my vulnerability. I knew that my vulnerabilities pre-dated the sociopath, although he had exploited them and made them worse. I felt like my battered state and particularly the sharp emotional pain gave me something to work with that was clear and concrete, and possibly the emergence from my subconscious of a lot buried garbage that had been affecting my entire life. Ultimately, I did engage a therapist to assist me in uncovering some childhood memories, and then went back to my own work alone.

My personal goal may have been more ambitious than others who come to this site. I not only wanted to heal myself from the damage of this relationship. I intended to accomplish a deep character transformation that would change the way I lived. Before I met him I was superficially successful, but I was also an over-committed workaholic with a history of relationship disasters. Except for a lot of unpublished poetry and half-written books, I had made no progress on lifelong desire to live as a creative writer. I wanted to come out of this as a strong, independent person who could visualize major goals and manage my resources to achieve them.

Because I had no model for what I was trying to do, I did things that felt very risky at the time. For example, I consciously allowed myself to become bitter, an emotion I never allowed myself to feel before, because I was afraid of getting stuck there. I’ll talk about some of these risks in future pieces — what I did and how it came out. I learned techniques that I hear other people talking about here on Lovefraud, things that really helped to process the pain and loss. Some of them I adapted from reading about other subjects. Some of them I just stumbled upon, and later learned about them from books, after I’d begun practicing them.

Though not all of us may think about our recovery as deep transformation work, I think all of us recognize that our beliefs, our life strategies and our emotional capacities have been profoundly challenged. We are people who are characteristically strong and caring. Personal characteristics that seemed “good” to us brought us loss and pain. After the relationship, our challenge is to make sense of ourselves and our world again, when what we learned goes against everything we believed in.

What I write here is not a model for going through this recovery alone. I say I did this alone, but I recruited a therapist when I needed help. I encourage anyone who is recovering from one of these relationships to find a therapist who understands the trauma of abusive relationships, and that recommendation is doubled if, like me, you have other PSTD issues.

The healing path

Given all that, this article is the first of a series about the process of healing fully. I believe that Lovefraud readers who are far down their own recovery paths will recognize the stages. Those who are just recently out of their relationships may not be able to relate to the later stages. But from my experience, my observations of other people’s recovery, and from reading the personal writings on Lovefraud, I think that all of our recovery experiences have similarities.

Since my own intention in healing was to figure out what was wrong with me and fix it, this recovery path is about self-healing, rather than doing anything to or about the sociopath. However there is a stage when we do want that. We want to understand who we were dealing with. We may want recognition of our victimization, revenge or just fair resolution. There is nothing wrong with feeling that way. It is a stage of recovery, and an important one.

My ideas owe a lot to the Kubler-Ross grief model, as well as to recovery processes related to childhood trauma, codependency and addiction. I also owe a great deal to the writing of Stephen M. Johnson, whose Humanizing the Narcissistic Affect and Characterological Transformation: the Hard Work Miracle provided invaluable insights and encouragement.

Here is the path as I see it.

1. Painful shock
2. Negotiation with pain
3. Recognition with the sociopath
4. Anger
5. Measurement of damage
6. Surrender to reality of damage
7. Review of identity after damage
8. Rebuilding life strategies
9. Practice

The words here are very dry, and I apologize for that. The experience, as we all know, is more emotional than intellectual, though it taxes our thinking heavily.

From what I’ve experienced and seen, some of these stages may occur simultaneously. We may feel like we’re in all of them, but working particularly in one stage more than the others. In my case, I often found that I was “going around and around the same mountain,” returning to a previous stage but at a higher level than before.

There is no specific mention of depression in this list. This is because I regard it as a kind of brown-out of our emotional system, when we are simply too overwhelmed by facts and feelings that conflict with our beliefs and identities. Depression can happen at any time in this path, but feelings of depression are most likely to occur in Stage 6. Terrible as depression may feel, I believe it is evidence of a deep learning process, where our conscious minds are resisting new awareness that is developing at a deeper level.

This path is a model of adult learning. It would be equally valid in facing and surmounting any major life change. If you are familiar with the Kubler-Ross grief model which was developed to describe the challenges involved with bereavement, this model will look familiar. It is essentially an extension of Kubler-Ross into a post-traumatic learning model. The trauma may be the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a job loss or change, or any of the major stressors of life.

This is all about learning and evolving. If the path is traveled to its end, we emerge changed but improved and empowered. We have given up something to gain something more. The fact that this change is triggered by trauma may cause us to think that it’s a bad thing for a while, but ultimately we come to realize that we have not only recovered from a painful blow, we have truly become more than we were before.

What drives us to heal

The future articles in this series will explore the stages, their value to us and how we “graduate” from one to the next.

Our struggle to get over this experience involves facing our pain, which is the flip side of our intuitive knowledge of we need and want in our lives. Those needs draw us through the recovery process, like beacons on a far shore guide a ship on a stormy sea. To the extent that we can bring these needs up into conscious awareness, we can move through the path more directly, because it programs our thinking to recognize what helps and what does not.

Here are a few ideas about where we think we’re going. I hope they will stimulate some discussion here, and that you will add your own objectives to the list.

1. To relieve the pain
2. To release our unhealthy attachment to the sociopath
3. To recover our ability to love and trust
4. To recover confidence that we can take care of ourselves
5. To recover joy and creativity in our lives
6. To gain perspective about what happened
7. To recover the capacity to imagine our own futures

Finally, I want to say again how grateful I am to be writing here on Lovefraud. As you all know, it is not easy to find anyone who understands our experience or what it takes to get over it.

I have been working on a book about this recovery path for several years. The ideas I’m presenting here have been developed in solitude, and “tested” to a certain extent in coaching other victims of sociopathic relationships who entered my life while I was working on my own recovery. But I’ve never had the opportunity before to share them with a group of people who really know and understand what I am talking about.

I respect every stage of the recovery path — the attitudes and voices of those stages, their perspectives and the value they provide to us. So if you find me more philosophic, idealistic or intellectual than you feel right now, believe me that I have been through every bit of it. If you had met at different places on the path, you would have found a stunned, weepy, embittered, distraught, outraged or depressed person. I was in the angry phase for a very long time. I had reason to feel that way, and it was the right way for me to be at the time.

I believe the stages are a developmental process that builds, one stage to the next, to make us whole. I also believe that this healing process is natural to us, and what I’m doing here is describing something that has been described by many people before me, but not necessarily in this context.

Your thoughts and feedback are very important to me.

Namaste. The healing wisdom in me salutes the healing wisdom in you.


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Just half an hour ago someone asked me if it was possible to heal from this. I couldn’t give him a definitive answer.

The most important thing you may be saying here is that YES it is possible to get through this, and to even be better for the experience. I look forward to the discussions here, and to your coming material as well.

Ox Drover

DEar Kathy,

Excellent article. I first came into contact with Kubler-Ross during nursing school, and I have patterned my healing on her “grief process” as well. I very much like the expansions you have made on this.

I am so much farther down the healing road than I was a year ago even and starting to acheive joy and peace in my life. My recent brush with my mother and the stress it caused made me realize that I HAVE come a long way down the road.

I also conceptualize my “strengths” as a reserve, much like a bank account that has continual deposits and withdrawls. We must keep a positive BALANCE in our “account” so that when the sudden emergency comes along we will have sufficent “balance” in our “strength account” to cover it.

When I first started healing, I had a large DEBT load and was in a negative balance, so that ANY even TINY stressor would dig me deeper into the HOLE. As I started to pay off my DEBT and get into the positive balance in my account, I still didn’t have much in RESERVE to call on and frequently even small things would put me back into the debit catagory, but as time moved on and I made consistent deposits into my strength and healing, with less “withdrawls” the account started to accumulate a reserve and that reserve began to grow.

Just like you worry about “money” when your bank account is low, and don’t worry so much when you have a little “pad” in your account, in my strength account, I worried daily, hourly, if my account was low because I knew that any little expenditure of “energy” would deplete my tiny reserve. Now that I am increasing the balance of my account, I am not so terrified that I will need reserves I just don’t have.

A day that goes by with peace and calm and a tired satisfaction from a day well lived as you crawl into bed at night adds to your balance. As each day goes by in which you go to bed satisfied with that days activities and how you handled them keeps on adding resources to our energy/strength accounts.

I have noticed a difference now in that when I have a “bad day” like the one the other day, even if it draws out a pretty good sized chunk of energy to pay that debit, I have enough reserves that within a short time I am feeling good again, rather than a tiny expenditure making me “in the pits” for days or weeks.

Today when my sons and I were cutting up and processing the meat, we worked 9 hours straight. It has been a while since I have stood on my feet basicly in one place for 9 hours and I started to get really tired. As time for dinner approached, I asked son D to drive and get us pizzas for supper because I realized I didn’t have enough physical energy left to fix food for dinner and I didn’t have any left overs for us to warm up. (conserve physical energy)

WE left a heck of a mess of bones and meat scraps in the processing room, bringing in and washing only those items that would be harmed by the blood etc. We will get the rest tomorrow.

We have a finite amount of energy, both physical and emotional, so we have to conserve and prioritize how we spend it to “get the job done.” Today was NOT the day for me to decide to start a jogging program, I needed ALL the energy I could muster for the job at hand. Today was NOT the day to decide to put on a seven course meal for dinner.

Emotional energy must be conserved and spent well just as our physical energy is. I think in the past I have gone “bankrupt” of emotional energy with the involvement with the psychopaths. I am learning to manage my emotional energy as I have tried to manage my finances and STAY OUT OF DEBT. Keep the positive “net worth” and conserve it as much as I can. Plan wisely in order to keep down emergency expenditures that are preventable.

I am like you, Kathy, I am at a point now that I really am not interested in a “relationshp” because the energy necessary for a relationship investment is not available right now. I need to build my reserves before I consider “investing” in another relationship. Right now, it is just like a new Mercedes, it might be nice, but I CAN’T AFFORD ONE! LOL


Oxy: I love your story of an honest day’s work, and I know the feeling of being staggeringly tired. The P drove me to that point on a regular basis. But it was OK because I knew my effort was putting “money in the bank,” creating the reserves that would pay back later. Except his agenda was different, and I had no clue.

I’m not just bankrupt on every level, I’m in a deep deficit, with no replenishment. How to heal from this position? How to even kickstart my creativity to begin to imagine a better future?


Hello Kathy: If you would care to review a case history, I would point you to “Love’s Executioner.” The first chapter of the book is available on Amazon. When I read it, standing in the psychology row at B&N, I thought I would get some insight into what sort of freight train had hit me. The title had caught my eye, and I read the first chapter. I was not comfortable with it, and over the past year I’ve thought about it many times. I think the story addresses some important issues about where we are in the process and what it takes for us to move forward.

BTW, I do not feel that the author knew what he was seeing.

Ox Drover

DEar Rune,

Bankrupt doesn’t begin to say how I was at the beginning. I was so far in the hole I couldn’t even see the light at the top. I was buried in a coal mine as far as how I felt. It was slow.

The effects of the stress effects on our immune system and the accompanying infections I got put me further down the coal mine as well.

The old saying “when you are in the hole, STOP DIGGING” is a good piece of advice.

NC (physical no contact) is the FIRST STEP I think. It gives you some room to breath wihtout digging deeper into the hole. As you progress, you start to make a bit of upward progress and you eventually get to a level where you are EMOTIONALLY NC. At least I did anyway.

I no longer obscess over the loss of my son, my mother, or my X BF-P. Of course I didn’t have a loving relationship with the other Ps to start with so there was no “love lost” there which helped. They screwed me but they didn’t betray me, I never trusted them much.

I tried to conserve my physical energy while still getting enough exercise to burn off stress hormones (very important) but things that were not NECESSARY to life I didn’t do if I didn’t feel like it. Leave the dishes until you feel like doing them. Even if the house gets a mess, that’s okay.

Right now my house IS a mess because we have been busy with the killing and butchering the cow and bull calf. Tonight we left the butchering room a mess, but it won’t hurt a thing and we will get to it tomorrow. Haul off the tubs of entrails to feed the coyotes and scrub off the tables etc. No sense pushing past the point of “staggeringly tired.” Emotionallhy tough it was a wonderfully satisfying day, working together with my sons at a task to benefit us all, and one that needed doing when the weather was at least acceptable.

So even though we worked ourselves physically “into the ground” we still ended up the day with a very satisfying feeling, and tomorrow we will do only the most pressing things, after we sleep in until we feel like getting up. Do the rest the next day or the next. Tonight I did a couple of loads of wash after I woke up from my 4 hour nap, but felt good enough to do it so thought, “why not?”

Building back your emotional energy account I think is pretty much like Aloha has described building back up her own financial status after the Bad Man experience. She is working very hard at it, using her income well by keeping her “living expenses” low and paying down on the debt.

I think the emotional energy account is the same way. Keep your expenditures at a minimum. This may mean cutting out people who are emotionally draining if at all possible, or limiting contact with them. I had to do that with my OCD ex-friend by setting strict boundaries. At first to set boundaries “cost me” emotional energy, but once I had learned how to do it, it became a NET GAIN as I am not having a continual drain on my account from associating with this woman.

Look at anything in your life that drains “emotional energy” from you, cut it out if you can. Look at things that give you positive energy deposits and do those things more often.

You have to “budget” carefully I think, since you are so far in the RED. I actually started to keep a journal of “energy credits” and expenditures so I could sort of keep up with it.

Stressful things are expenditures, and good things are deposits. Just like I mentioned in the Holmes and Rahe stress scale. A good day without undue negative stress is a + and a day with high stress is a withdrawl. I suggest that you go to my article and click on the link to Holmes and Rahe stress scale and give yourself a check, then use those figures as a guide to your “account” balance or deficit. 300 points over a 3 yr period put you “at risk” for effects of stress (illness or accident) so what you are working toward is a (IMO) a period of 3 years that is more positive than negative. I am about a year to a year and a half into the three year period, so I know I will remain vulnerable until my score is below say 150 for the previous 3 yrs. It may take me 5 years to get to that point but as long as I am making progress I know I feel better. That one stressful episode made me realize that I HAVE BEEN DOING WELL and not having that washed out and wrung out feeling ALL the time for quite some time.

Rune you are a smart cookie, and you are getting there, I can see the difference in your posts over the last little while. Hang in there my friend! It will take a while, but you are getting there, I think we all are!!!! ((((Hugs and God bless you))))


First allow me to thank you for taking the time and effort for this article….

As my personal healing and learning progresses I see that it really has more to do with me then my past S/P…

In a way I see it as an island or strange land that I once visited. Other then some pictures and memories (Emotional Memories) that I took when on this island is all I have to recount the time I spend there. But like all of our travels the more time passes the less I remember. The culture of this land. The many rituals of this place. The society of it’s people and it’s form of government. In short I spend less and less time thinking of my past visit there. For now I try to spend all my time and effort on another island or place of consciousness.

This is my home my land and my place of being. This land I call self-reality. And the more time I spend there the more I learned of this place. I see building that need to be fixed or torn down. I see open field to be cultivate and seeded and then other fields with poor dirt and that will bring forth no crop. Roads that need to be build and some in need of repair. Still other roads I put up signs that warm of it as a dead end. The more time I spend in my land the less I remember that place I once visit called sociopathic-reality. I still hold pictures and memories of my visit there but these too become fainter and fainter as I build my own land and my society of self-reality.


Kathleen Hawk: Since you’re on line right now, I’ll blog this to you. For the last few days I’ve been getting hang up calls. The phone rings once, and of course my caller ID isn’t picking up the number. It happened again last night around 5:30 p.m.

Someone definitely is trying to tell me something?

Coincidence that attorney won regarding my complaint to the Georgia Board?

If calling long distance … and you let the phone ring a couple times on your end … by the time it reaches my state … it’s one ring and they hang up. Of course, I don’t hover around my phone seeing if a number is coming across the caller ID…. so if it is him, I know and he knows he’s a sick freak!


Rune: I lost everything to due to anti-social personalities. I lost my career, I lost getting my degree (I was 3 classes away from graduating, 2 electives … swimming and aroebics or some type of physical exercise and my last programming calls (COBOL). My fiance did me in financially … due to taking advantage of my PTSD … I wasn’t paying attention to my bank statements, didn’t think I had to with him … totally trusted the loving and so kind and considerate man (PUKE) … now I now the truth … after he kissed me goodbye and told me he be back from his business venture (he was supposedly starting a business … and I had to find out, I was his business). Sorry to repeat the synopsis of my life … but, as for the healing process.

I believe in God. Truly, believe in God. I was like everyone else … went to church when I was a kid … and just normally said “yeah, I’m a Christian, I believe in God” … and didn’t think much more than that … until all this with the anti-socials.

Anyway, I wrote before how I read the Bible cover to cover while going through the lawsuit with my bosses … it helped keep the stress down … because they made sure I was stressed out to the max every day of the week and trumped up more charges that they blamed me with on Friday … yup, you guessed it, so I’d have a rotten weekend. It was overload to say the least on the stress level … which was their game plan … have me so stressed out I’d quit, or give up … or jump off a cliff.

Then I found out 2 1/2 years what my fiance did to me financially … plus, he was taking thousands of dollars out of my bank account slipping my bank card out of my wallet and going to the ATM … that’s neither here nor there now … so when I found out about my fiance I gave it up to God. Immediately I said to God … “this is too much for me to handle, this double whammy in my life, I don’t know why it’s happening, nor do I care, just get me through this pain ASAP, cause I can’t go another 6 years stressed out and in pain.

Instantaneously, like that … the pain stopped. I then had to realize in that moment … what I thought life was about … going to work, collecting and saving what you could out of your paycheck, college degree, savings for retirement, my retirement home in GA, my upcoming marriage, my life with my fiance … was all man made concerns. Superficial man made concerns that we buy into because we are living this human existence. We are not just humans experiencing this life and what we do with it … is over and done with when we die. We are spiritual beings, experiencing life … and for us not to focus on God in all we do … we’re fooling ourselves.

Basically, no matter how horrific our situations are on a human level and what our human conscious tells us it is … go deep into what your spiritual level is and stop clouding your mind with the superficial human existence stuff … and you will heal. Our lives may not be what we thought they would be … but, every time God closes a door … he opens up a window. Know this and believe this.

I hope this makes sense to you.



Kathleen Hawk……..

Your blog post is a very exciting topic, not only in terms of the presentation you have crafted, but also in terms of the wise responses from others. Thank you!

Dear Rune,

Some initial random thoughts. Kathleen wrote……”. And the outcomes that you envision will pull you forward.” I think this is critical. You have to believe you have a future; you have to know you can be the architect of that future even though there will be times it might not feel that way.

I find healing is an organic process. It will not be a consistent straight line UP. We will stumble and fall on our faces. We will have times of running in circles and getting nowhere. We will go down dead ends and follow rabbit trails. We will go through seasons of change with times of dormancy when everything seems barren and hopeless, and we don’t see or experience the slightest sign of life or recovery.

Julia Cameron writes that success comes in clusters and I think this might be true of progress with healing too.

As for the financial losses that are so devastating, this is a bitter blow and hard to accept. I am right there with you in that boat. I will not be able to retire. But, do you know what… forces us to redefine “net worth” and what is necessary for our happiness and personal fulfillment. As first I was mad as hell, now I see it as a gift and I am grateful for a simplified focus in life that enables a less complicated approach.

My friend, the grief counselor, says there is a zombie stage in recovery………numbness and confusion, along with anger and the struggle to accept the loss as a life-changing event. She says the depth and duration of the zombie stage depends on the suddenness and the acute nature of the shock to the individual. She developed a recognition about the zombie stage from her own experiences, when she talks of having been a zombie for two years following her daughter’s sudden accidental death, and before she could begin to recenter and find a new direction using the intensity everything she had experienced to energize her days and her goals.

Julia Cameron also says we must we midwives for one another’s dreams. We must be believing mirrors.

A simple little book on friendship says ” My friend sings to me the song in my heart when my memory fails.” That is what we must do for one another here at LF. Everyone’s journey will be different. There is not a universal map out of the pain and loss. The road to recovery is full of obstacles; it is slow and painstaking, yet one thing does lead to another.

You have what it takes, Rune, and until you can find it within yourself to know that without question, we will keep holding up the mirror to all who need that assurance and affirmation.

I believe in you and in everyone here that we can all become self-actualized and rebuild successful lives that are S-free and that enable us to bring our gifts to the world!

Towanda! Let’s go for it!! 🙂


For those who wonder what in the world is “Towanda”, a word which several of us have used, this will help explain! It’s from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes” starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy. It’s meant in fun, but the point is important. Enjoy!


Referring to the You Tube link I posted above, did y’all notice that when the punk almost knocks down Evelyn (Kathy Bates), in the grocery, she says “Excuse me” as though she was the one at fault?

Did you notice she keeps asking the punk “why are you being so mean to me?”

I think “Towanda” is a mntra for sense of one’s personal power to take action.

That’s what we have to do. “What action can I take?” Something! Anything! The point is to develop the HABIT of making decisions and taking action on our own behalf even if it’s cleaning out a drawer. It does not have to be great sweeping career changing dramatic progress. The idea is to get past being a victim once we are able to do so. There is no timetable. If someone’s zombie stage takes two years or longer, that’s what it takes.



Thank you for this article. I may be at stage 7 or 8 in the process realistically but some days I feel as though I regress, like anyone here. Since I have been reading and posting here the last few months, I feel so grateful for the therapist I found last february. More than anything, in this process, I needed to feel protected. It’s what my x husband was supposed to do but never did. It’s what the X S/P promised to do but did more damage than anything. I am finding that capability in myself now. My friends (except for one) didn’t get it. Everyone was/is frustrated with me still.

My therapist was that one person who I felt protected me. he understands disprdered individuals. He understood and treated people with PTSD. I needed to feel protected in that someone got the hurt I felt and knew how hard it was to heal form this. No one understood that this was not a normal breakup.

I have learned so much about myself int his process. My life has changed completely in the last three to four years. I am 48 and had also been in long term relationships before I met the S/P. I was/am devastated emotionally by what had happened. I was almost financially devastated as well. I was lucky. I ditched him before I sold my home and gave him any money. I was lucky to find some of the resources who helped me to investigate him to learn the truth. I can’t forget that either.

I found that rather than focus on keeping busy or filling my life with other men I could date, that it’s OK sometimes to feel sorry for yourself and go to bed early on a saturday night. My priorities other than my teenagers are to 1. find the good in my work and stay focused because it has and does create a nice lifestyle for me and my kids. 2. Prioritize extracurriculars like working out, socializing with friends…. I work out at the gym 4 times perweek. 3. Eating healthier and feeling better about myself….. 4. Finding things of interest or things I normally would not do to meet other people and create some diversity in my life. I started doing dance class. If any southerners are familair with “the shag”, I was doing that for a while. This week i start salsa.

it takes time to find pleasure in all the things life has to offer. It takes time for the fog to lift and for it to become perfectly clear that life with the S/P is and always was disordered and continues to be that way. THere is no room for improvement there. It takes time to forgive ourselves. Which is more important than ever forgivng the S/P. i will never forget. But I will be OK.

The part I am stuck on is number 3. Recovering our ability to love and trust again. i think that will come in time. I just don’t want to have so little tolerance for error that i miss a good opportunity, but I think that will come in time as well.

I liked being married and I want to again. i am good at relationships and maybe one day I will have someone in my life who will protect and care for me. But I have to be good at it myself first !! PATIENCE>………..



Thanks for a very helpful article. I’d like to add, for those who are just beginning the process, that victims can face several cycles of these healing stages. In fact, the worse your S/P is, the more cycles of revelation and shock you might have to process.

As it stands now, the only thing left in my case is to discover that he was a serial killer. I have taken to calling this level of shock my “Mrs. BTK” feelings.

Because the perpetrators are who they are, and do the things they do, victims should remember that there is never really a place of “closure,” of “certainty.” You might be hit by fresh shocks once you have cycled through the healing process. I know I was.

I took me several years to process the initial shock and pain at discovering that my ex was a fraud, a liar, a con man. Once I had regained my footing somewhat, I was hit by revelations from my children that he was also a child molester and rapist. And so began the stages of recovery once again. For this latest series of shocks, recovery includes trying to heal not only myself, but my entire family. It is an incredibly steep mountain to climb.

It has been less than a year since the child molestation disclosures, and I find myself in the rumination/obsessive thinking stage, as my mind processes this new information and re-frames all my experiences of the past 20+ years. Because of articles like yours, Kathleen, and places like Lovefraud, I now understand why my mind must cycle through this stage. And I accept that, for the immediate future, I will be in this stage again. When it is complete, I will be stronger, smarter and better able to help others, and my children in particular.

Having a place like this is invaluable.


Thank you all for your generous compassion. I’ve been practicing the “envisioning the future,” and watching every large and small envisioning also sputter and die out.

Wini said: “Basically, no matter how horrific our situations are on a human level and what our human conscious tells us it is ” go deep into what your spiritual level is and stop clouding your mind with the superficial human existence stuff ” and you will heal. Our lives may not be what we thought they would be ” but, every time God closes a door ” he opens up a window. Know this and believe this.”

Wini, I feel your certainty. Several more doors slammed shut in the past few days. I’m looking around for that window.

Thank you all for sharing the extremity of your situations. It helps to not feel alone in this.

Ox Drover

Again, I say WOW! What wonderful insights to ponder. I so agree with Kathy that EACH STAGE is essential, and anger, being one of those stages motivates us and gives us adrenaline surge to take action.

The Zombie stage for me hit after the break up with my X-BF-P about a year and a half after the sudden death of my husband and a year after the death of my beloved step father. My son D and I both stayed in that stage for nearly a year before the “chit hit the fan” with the increasing demands from my mother, and the P-attack, which knocked us to our knees at the weakest point.

For me that Zombie stage was one of inaction, inward-focused attention, playing 1000s of games of solitaire on the computer to just NOT THINK. It was also depression, deep deep depression with no concern for my own needs at all. ?Didn’t eat, didn’t get out, didn’t interact with anyone except my house mate son D but even then most of the time he was in his world, I in mine. Minimal physical self care, and about the only thing either of us did was to feed the dogs.

I didn’t have suicidal ideas, but I had no love for living. Even on heavy doses of antidepressants, I had no energy to do it if I had had the desire to kill myself. I was as close to GIVING UP completely as I have ever been. I have seen that stage in prey animals when they are “caught” but actually not injured, and they COULD get up and run again, but they give up, they “self pacify” and go into shock so deep that they actually do not feel any pain as the predator starts to consume them, while they are actually still alive. This is a fortunate thing that prey animals seem to have the ability to do when their expectation of suffering becomes too much. I think I must have reached that stage, what ever got me going I don’t know, but I am grateful to God that something did! I came so close to lying there and dying—

Looking back and thinking about it, it WAS MY ANGER that the Trojan HOrse P had lied to me. ANGER, ANGER!!! TOWANDA for anger!!! (a little ah ha moment there!)


Rune, Kathleen and others:

We’re all smart people and we’re all grappling with failure.

Last night I was bracing myself to go into work today and got more and more depressed. I’m in one of those situations where you KNOW you are being set-up to take the fall. Even though you have emails, files and everything else under the sun proving you are right, you know it doesn’t matter in the end. You hear the rifles being cocked and know you’re a goner.

About 2 in the morning I awoke suddenly and saw what I term the gargoyles of failure sitting at the foot of my bed. You know what I’m talking about — the my career is washed up, I’m never going to get hired again, what am I going to do about money etc, etc, etc.

While I was lying there staring at the gargoyles and feeling my panic and fear build, I suddenly remembered a book that I read about 20 years ago called “When Smart People Fail.” My copy is long gone and I realized I need to replace it. But, I think this book would be helpful to a lot of people on this site who, obviously, are smart people and are all grappling with failure.

The book was invaluably helpful to me 15 years ago. It explores the failures of people who, as the title implies, are smart. Who did everything right. And who still failed due to various circumstances ranging from drawing a wild-card (ie getting involved with a S) to bad bosses (ie working for an S), to having their business wrecked by an employee (ie hiring an S) to financial failures. The works.

The book is really good in helpful in that it discusses the emotional process we got through in grappling with a failure — or multiple failures at the same time. It also had some really good coping strategies for getting beyond the failure. Sort of a playbook for recovery.

One story I recall, for some reason, made me think of you, Rune. It’s about a woman who by a fluke found herself in the real estate business — in her case specializing in the conversion of apartment houses to condos.

She was in the middle of a big conversion when a huge plumbing problem surfaced. She went back to her investor group who said no more money. For them they were cutting their losses. For her, she was personally on the hook and went down in financial flames. In her eyes she had failed on every level.

The point of her story, and everybody else’s story in the book, was that she finally had to learn to forgive herself. She did, and filed for bankruptcy. Her priorities changed radically. I seem to recall that now (at the time of the book) she got involved with real estate projects that had some social good.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense. I guess what has stayed with me all these years from the book, which I am going to hunt down and reread, is that:(a) things happen to us which we couldn’t have foreseen — the sociopaths; (b) we have to go through a grieving process to get past the failure; and (c) we have to learn to forgive ourselves.


Oxy: Depression is anger turned inward.



Rune: Pray (which is really talking to God) and ask God to guide you to see the window. This way, you are paying your respects to our creator that you love and respect him … and then the window will be clearly visable.

Keep the faith.

Healing Heart

This is great article, Kathleen. Thank you!


Wini, KH, Matt, Ox-D: Thank you for your loving words. I know that we amplify the power for manifestation as we share our thoughts: “Where two or more are gathered together in My name.” I know that as we wish the best for each other here in our LF community, we are acting in “prayer,” no matter what form we follow in our spiritual practice.

I’m going to wipe my eyes so I can be better able to see that window of opportunity.


Rune: One of my windows was finding the LF community.

I’ve never met more compassionate people gathered in one place in my life.

I said this to Donna months ago… that she was doing God’s work by putting this site together.


Healing Heart

Kathleen – this article is really terrific, and particularly helpful for me as I wonder “how” to heal. I threw my S out of the house in March, but didn’t start NC until the beginning of August. I think I’ve really only TRULY been on the healing trajectory since then.

And, the first part of my “healing” involved me declaring a Gloria Gaynor “I will survive” status, determined not to let him, and the relationship, cause one more bit of pain in my life. I wanted to close the book and move on. Buh-Bye.

But I’ve realized that you can’t walk away, you can’t close the book without doing the work. You can’t just declare yourself “done” and “better” and “it’s over,” you have to go through the pain. If you want to come out better for the process, and not worse, you need to feel all the pain, do all the grieving, do a great deal of painful reflection on your entire life, and heal, or soothe, the wounds of childhood.

God, I want just to walk away. But I see that there is a real opportunity for incredible growth here. Your article was great in conveying that, and giving hope as to a tremendous light at the end of the tunnel.

I look forward to getting there. I’m not loving where I am now – it hurts. And the fact that he is off right now – in the throes of “new love” is just so painful. It just feels incredibly unfair. Though I know in the long run, and in the big picture, I will be much, much, happier and fulfilled than he could ever be.

Ox Drover

Amen, Wini!

I think the “entertaining angels unawares” has happened to me so many times in my life. Son D had not read a lot here on LF (though son C has) and today I had him read the new blog by Liane about the terms for psycho/socio-paths being used too frequently.

He read it all and then said “I now know why you are addicted to that site! They are sharp folks and able to express opinions on a subject in such a nice manner, disagree even, but sometimes even in their “disagreements” they are seeing two sides of the same coin.

We are sort of resting today after two days in a row of hard manual labor (even my hands were swollen this morning after my 12 hours of sleep and rest) so just doing laundry and a bit of housework that is non strenuous and spending lots of time here on LF. (my laundry is attached to my office so I can multi-task LOL)

I too found a comforting group of companions for my journey toward healing here at LF. I had previously been on another blog but some of the moderators were so unreasonable that if you even mentioned that you were a Christian they would threaten to toss you off “since some people have been religiously abused” but if you were Wicca and wanted to preach that philosophy to everyone as their salvation, that was OK…so I figured I needed to move on, I didn’t want to be in a place that was so “controlling” that only the ideas of the moderators could be expressed. There were frequent flames, and name calling, etc.

I did learn a great deal from articles on the site, but the interactions between the managers (which would be conflicting depending on who was on the site at a particular time) and the bloggers was one of One-up-man-ship and in my opinion just more “game playing” in the name of healing, but little real healing going on. It is a shame, as it is a popular site.

It is strange too, as I sit and post to a newbie who comes on here, giving the “basic advice” of “welcome, and come here and read and learn and get your power back” and at other times I am giving my answer to a question someone has asked, or a comment to someone, I GET THE AH HA MOMENTS that apply to me. I see something in myself I haven’t seen before. So by trying in my own way to support and help others, I think I am helping myself MORE than I have ever helped others here.

Jesus said that if you give a “cup of water” in His name you will receive your reward. I do think that when we give a “cup of water” or a compassionate hand to someone who comes here suffering we ARE DOING GOD’S will by helping someone who is suffering, AS WE SUFFERED. We are PASSING ON the blessings we have received, plus, we are receiving even more blessings by doing so. That’s why I am still here.

I am still here after over a year (I think over a year, can’t remember exactly when I came here) and after blogging probably a “million” words here and reading another several million, I still get blessings daily from this site and a day without LF is a “day without sunshine.”

I have seen other bloggers come and go, some probably well on their way to being healed, some probably back to the X or on to another new bad relationship, and everything in between I guess. It makes one wonder when people just “go away” without saying “bye.” Some have come back and said “I screwed up” and stayed around for another while.

But just as in the parable of the “Sower” that Jesus gave, you sow the truth, and sometimes it falls in the road, where birds eat it, sometimes on stony ground where it springs up quickly but doesn’t have enough root to sustain it and quickly withers, and other times among thorns which choke it out, and sometimes it falls on good, fertile soil and gives an abundant harvest of fruit.

I think our “sowing” here of the words of truth and compassion frequently fall on various soils, but I also think there is one other aspect I would add to Jesus’ teaching. Som3times the seed goes dormant if it doesn’t have proper conditions to sprout.

Crabgrass seed is one of those seeds that can lie dormant in the soil for up to 15 or more years, waiting until the proper amount of heat and moisture to sprout.

When people come here to read and learn the truth, it may not find the properly receptive so in in their hearts and minds, but I firmly believe that in many cases that seed is NOT LOST entirely, that it will lie dormant and await a better time.


Years ago, one of my closest friends gave me a little book entitled “When Lovers Are Friends” by Merle Shain. It’s a short book, only a little over 100 pages but packed with wisdom about life and relationships.

In the beginning of the book Merle Shain (MS) makes a powerful point that I would like to share with all of you. By way of background, she begins the book by telling about the year she spent pouring her heart out to her friend about the man she loved and how he was deceiving her. Long after he left her and they were divorced, MS learned the man who had been her love had been her friend’s lover too. She writes….”And while I know most would say she stole my man from me and took advantage of my trust, and that the sin was hers, not mine, still part of me knows you can be guilty even when you’re innocent, and that I am as much to blame.”

MS continues…….”and one never really knows when you start up with someone whether you should open your arms to them or shut them firmly out.”

I think this is the powerful part for many of us for it can be applied to many situations…..”Love is short, forgetting is long, and understanding takes longer still. And sometimes it is hard to know what someone has given us, or even what we have given them, until a long time after the event. But if I’m to tell you everything there is to tell, I have to tell you this — the friend who shared that man with me taught me about myself, and I have that today while neither of us has him. So who is there to say she was not my friend or that all friends must be safe? Maybe it’s only important that we love and learn.” Merle Shain

I will post more from Merle Shain when I can.

Healing Heart

Wow. That’s really terrific…I particularly like the last paragraph. I’m struggling a bit today with sadness. I really do hope that I will have “understanding” about this relationship and the emotional wreckage so that some day I can see it as a gift. It’s hard right now. I’m alone in my office (though I had a highly social weekend with family and friends) and wishing I had a partner to go home to, and envious that the ex S has someone madly in love with him right now. I’m jealous of them both and remember the high of that tremendous “masked man” period. Though the poor woman, boy is she in for it.


My point in posting the above excerpt is that there can come a time when we realize our suffering has been our healing in a strange sort of way, for it has been the basis for re-centering and reforming a self that would have been less without it.

For those still in great pain, I understand fully how hard it is to even imagine such a thing especially when feeling you have been kicked in the chest by a horse, or blindsided, and trampled beyond any shred of hope.


Healing Heart,

You are still in the early stages. Deep sadness is normal as is deep sensation of hurt, IMO. You don’t need therapy because you feel it.

I keep talking about my friend the grief counselor, but I don’t know how else to identify her. The death of her daughter happened over 30 years ago and she still has her days and her moments of going through the entire cycle of “why”, and feeling sad as she marks her daughter’s birthday and other life events.

The call about the accident came at 2 a.m. She and her husband still unplug the phones at night even after all this time because they cannot stand the memory a ringing phone in the middle of the night holds for them. So, some sensitivities that are deep and personal never really heal. They remain tender and easily inflamed. It’s all just not quite as intense in terms of day to day coping.

May you have a gentle and peaceful evening.

Healing Heart

Oh, EyeoftheStorm, that was really helpful, thank you. I feel disappointed sometimes when I realize that I am just in the beginning phases of healing because I feel like I have been in pain for the past 12 months, and feel like I am due for home happiness, dammit. But I get the message from you, and every one else, that I NEED to go through this grief.

It just feels very heavy at times. And unfair. But I like that people keep posting that they come back together “better” for it. Sometimes that feels so tangible to me, while at other it feels very far off, and perhaps like wishful thinking – or a place that I, personally will never arrive.

Thank you for sharing your friend’s story. Losing a child – my God. I can’t imagine a worse loss. And how do you ever make sense of that?

“Gentle and Peaceful” is perfect. That is what I should be aiming for – that it what I need right now.


HH: I understand that pain of loneliness. But I also know that the loneliest place I’ve ever been was when I was “with” someone who I knew was not really present. I now know that I married a sociopath when I was 18, and stayed married for 6 years. I didn’t have a name for his control, jealousy, lack of love, lies, etc., etc. But I know that late in the marriage I got to a point where I couldn’t sleep without having one foot hanging out of the bed and touching the floor. (One foot on the floor, one foot out the door?) I would have unbidden thoughts of getting a room somewhere, anywhere, where I could just be alone — knowing that I would be less lonely in that room than in my marriage.

With the help of the LF team, you know this man was not really present for you, and you even have a psychological framework for what he is. I know it’s a challenge to teach your heart and your body this truth, but it can be done.

Celebrate your freedom and the fact that you’ve cleared him out to make space for your own self and for your better future. And cast a moment of pity for the new target that he’s defrauding emotionally right now.


Healing Heart,

I was going to post this tomorrow , but I will post it now for you especially. It is another excerpt from Merle Shain’s book “When Lovers Are Friends”. It’s about trust……..

“It is very difficult to accept the fact that there are no guarantees in life, no guarantees that life will progress as it should or that the people you care about will love you back, or even that they will treat you right. But trust in life does not mean trusting that life will always be good or that it will be free of grief and pain. It means that somewhere inside yourself you can find the strength to go forth and meet what comes and, even if you meet betrayal and disappointment along the way, go forth again the very next day.” Merle Shain

Did you see the Kathy Bates video above? Remember there is always TOWANDA!

Healing Heart

Thank you EyeoftheStorm, and Rune. I get frustrated when I have bad days after feeling okay for a stretch. Thank you for the support. And those Merle Shain quotes are great – I should get the book. Definitely.

The loneliness is frustrating. But its a good point that I felt more lonely in a horribly pain-stricken way, when I was in a relationship with a man who was rejecting me. I was sick with hurt and loneliness. It was much worse than now, when I think about it. And I don’t want that man back. My experience with LF has solidfied that he is a sociopath, he will never change, and the best course of action for me is NC. He is a monster.

I just feel frustrated when I think that right now he is with another woman, and the two of them are happy right now. Hugging, kissing, giggling, making love, feeling on top of the world, texting, emailing, loving……And I’m miserable. I do pity her, though. And I feel frightened for the world that he, and all other sociopaths, just keep doing what they do. The ball of destruction moves onward. It’s so unfair to the rest of us. Maybe not though, maybe this is a gift for all victims. Though I get the sense many of us don’t come out alive (literally and figuratively) We, at LF are the strong ones, the survivors.

At times I think that I should find a new boyfriend – but I know that is not what is right for me. That is exactly the kind of quick fix that got me into this situation to begin with.

LF has been incredibly helpful to me. The supportive and loving and understanding community is a lifesaver.


I’d rather be alone than wish I were!


HH: They are NOT happy. She thinks she is, which is only the setup for her future pain. And he isn’t, because he isn’t really capable of “happy” unless it’s the thrill he feels when he’s manipulating someone else.

This may sound harsh, but I’m handing you the understanding I came to that let me NOT imagine and obsess in the way you are now. I know — if this had been a normal relationship (and part of you still wishes it was) it would be justifiable for you to feel those twinges and hold jealousy. But remember, this wasn’t EVER a normal relationship. God help you, at least you’re on this side of the shock and pain. She thinks she’s in a blissful honeymoon place, but he’s really tying her to the railroad tracks with his charm so he can run over her with that giant freight train of truth, sometime in the future.

Celebrate your understanding and your freedom.



Thank you for the article! I look forward to reading more about healing.

Healing is possible. It takes time, support, and effort. Unfortunately, as an adolescent I met a different sort of psychopath (the criminal kind) who almost destroyed my life. There were times I would scream at my mother that I wanted to be dead because the emotional pain was too much. I coped by engaging in many harmful activities. But I took back my soul. Many people helped me during this process. And I was able to develop my intuition about men who might be physically dangerous. I pay attention to those signals.

Now I’m recognizing the incredible intuition I have can be used to see with greater clarity the red flags in relationships with those psychopaths who steal the mind. Michael was my first long-term relationship after a 20+ year marriage.

I don’t like what has happened. It is shocking. The only other cruelty I have ever experienced resulted in a lengthy prison sentence for that man. He’s now serving life without parole. But he was a stranger to me.

Michael was a man who used me for 21 months so he could move to the city in which I live. Once he was in his house he discarded me (as I’ve written about on other blogs). The fact that he didn’t exist except in my mind shattered my world. I will never be the same person. I don’t want to be the same person. I want to learn more about myself and strengthen my boundaries. I never want to tolerate disrespect again from a man. I want to act at the first sign instead of excusing it, being blind to it, believing lies that don’t make sense and then reacting to cruelty.

I don’t expect relationships to last forever. But next time I’m going to follow this proverb: “Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”

Michael may never understand in this lifetime how he devastated me. But part of healing is acceptance of what has happened and letting go of my anger which seems too much like hatred to me. I am at a place where I can do this because of the work I have done from the previous traumatic experience.

Everybody is in a different place because our life experiences are different. But we do share the fact that someone in our life–who said he loved us–has caused pain on a scale that is off the charts.


I know I’ll see Michael again. I’ll ask for Divine guidance in what to say.

All I know is I’m tired of images of him running through my mind. I’m changing the images to what I want in life. I don’t want him. I’m going to put my imagination to work and the Universe will provide other opportunities that are good, kind, generous, loving.

Healing Heart

Thank you Kathy. You’re right, it doesn’t do me any good to ruminate on where he is and who he is with. That is NOT part of necessary pain of healing. That’s getting stuck.

It’s hard for me to turn off the word machine – and I’ve been working on that issue for while, and long before the S. My brain has been my most realiable asset over the years – and thinking and talking and writing have taken me a long way. But it doesn’t help in matters of the heart and healing, and it gets in my way.

I’ve actually been praying for help with this – to feel more than think. But these feelings suck. Words at least I feel like I can have some control over. These feelings – Yikes.

Your advice is good. I’m just trying to feel okay about being in a place where I don’t feel great, and NOT trying to fix it, change it, or think my way out of it. In some ways I am proud of myself – and this sounds ludicrous, for feeling all the pain I have in the past year. Normally I attempt avoid pain through work, sports, men, booze, and any other distraction. Not that there’s anything wrong with work, sports, and even men 🙂 What’s wrogn is that I would use them as a way to distract from pain.

But there was no way of avoiding this pain. It’s a mack truck of pain. No distracting from this one.

Healing Heart

Oh, just read your post Rune – thank you. I don’t know why I’ve been ruminating about him…I haven’t done that for a while. Both you and Kathy have been good to remind me that this is not helping me. I don’t know why that’s popped up today.

And you are right – he will never be happy (enough about him) and she, poor thing, is in for the worst pain of her life. I hope she finds her way here. (now enough about her)

I’m just trying to remember that I am on a journey, and that its not supposed to feel good all the time, and that this pain is indicative of growth.

I had a few good days and was feeling excited about “getting better,” but today has been tough. I take two steps forward and then get knocked back. This is a humbling experience.

Thanks for your words, Rune. I connect with so much of what you say. I’m sorry you had to go through what you did to get here – but I’m very grateful that you are here.


I guess I swam to this island after the shipwreck. I thought I was alone. Are we putting together a colony? HH: I’m glad I can offer you a glass of lemonade; it helps me to know I can help.


KH: About the advice to “shut off the words”: a friend of mine pointed out that we experience our connection to Source in a pre-verbal place. As we bring more and more words into our being — as we learn to talk and interact with society — we can get further away from our ability to connect to Source. Remember the advice that we must “become as little children.”

Neuroscience indicates that anxiety and busy words exist in the same brainwave frequencies. Curiously, when we pray with words we can also continue to tie ourselves to those faster frequencies, but when we just drop into the experience, the feeling, and let go of the words, we are dropping into the slower frequencies where our nourishing intuition can reach us.

Wini had some good advice earlier today about connecting with God by relaxing in a dark room before falling asleep. She’s right — whether the practice is Buddhist or Christian or Lakotan or a relaxing technique developed out of neuroscience. It’s part of learning to go deep within to find the truth.


KH: Hale Dwoskin describes this in his CD series of “The Sedona Method.” He developed his work out of the teaching of another wise person who I believe found what you have described. In his work, Hale describes how when people use his techniques they can have amazing experiences where long-term drug-resistant pain just evaporates once the person is willing to “go into it.”

If we can just internalize these techniques and make them part of our breath and being.

One of those doors that had slammed shut earlier opened again.

Healing Heart

Thank you for sharing that now, rather than later, Kathy!

I’ve heard that expression” getting inside the pain,” before, but I’ve never understood it as I do today. It feels like a relief to imagine just accepting the pain and sitting in it, or sitting with it, rather than trying to get away from it. So many people (not on LF) have said to me, “get over it,” “move on,” and other such phrases, it feels good to be encouraged to respect and experience the pain.

And that feels like the right thing to do. I guess I should stop looking forward to the pain being over, and instead, get inside of the pain.

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