By | May 3, 2009 483 Comments

After the sociopath: How do we heal? Part 8 – Waking up

This is the eighth article in this series about the recovery path, and it is about the second half of the path. This is after we have fully accessed our anger, and begun to grieve our losses and let go. This article may not necessarily be helpful to someone who is still reeling from betrayal and loss, or even someone who is still exploring righteous anger. However, it is part of this series because a growing number of people on LoveFraud are considering the influence of their histories on their relationships, as part of healing themselves and their lives. Please, take what is valuable to you, but if this one doesn’t make sense or, God forbid, makes you feel like you’re being blamed, it just means that you’re at another healing stage. Which is good. Every stage is necessary and good. Be where you are, love yourself and heal. That’s all that matters. — Kathy

In recovering from a trauma or extended trauma like a sociopathic relationship, we often discover that what we lost isn’t what we first thought it was. In fact, our very resistance to letting go — the thing that often keeps us stuck in anger or even bargaining or denial — isn’t exactly what we thought it was.

The traumatic recovery process, if we have the courage to see it through, turns out to be very different from the “he done me wrong” drama it first appeared to be. It’s not about unrequited love. It’s not about us not being good enough or smart enough. It’s really not about anything that is between us and our sociopathic opposite number.

It is really about us waking from a dream.

What is real?

An old friend talked to me recently about feeling so disoriented that she had difficulty finding her way out of her hometown airport. She was returning from her third trip to visit a man in another city. Based on phone conversations with him, she had become convinced that he loved her, wanted a future with her, and accepted her as she was. When she arrived, she discovered that what he wanted was “friends with benefits.” And by the way, would she please invest in his condo because he was having trouble making the payments?

As on the previous trips, he was cold, critical and exploitive, expecting her to pay for staying with him and pay for everything they did together. Knowing that he had less money than her, she did that willingly. She would have given the five-figure investment in the condo, except that her money was tied up in a trust. The one thing she could not do was casual sex, and she could not understand how or why he did not remember that this was a baseline truth with her. If she was in a sexual relationship, it had to be serious and committed. Of course, they had sex before his idea about “friends with benefits” became clear, leaving her feeling used and ashamed.

After the other trips, she had felt wounded and depressed. Half angry at him, half wondering what she had done wrong. This time was different. She finally understood that she had been deluded, and it didn’t matter if he had misled her or she had misled herself. She contacted me to ask me what to do about the feeling of disorientation. She didn’t know how she could have been so mistaken, and she didn’t know what was real anymore.

“I want my old self back,” she said. Then she thought a moment, and said. “No, I don’t. Not if it’s the old self that keeps doing this over and over.”

The broken part

My friend is not stupid, though she has a history of relationships with exploitive people. Listening to her talk about how ashamed she felt about the love letters she had written and her feeling that she was too stupid to live, I could almost see the broken cog in the machinery of her psyche.

With her, as with many of us, this broken part is not really about the exploitive people who take advantage of it. We feel like these relationships are “happening to” us. But what really happened is that a certain set of circumstances triggers something in us that I call a “state.” (Some psychologists call it a ”˜trance,” because it is a form of self-hypnosis. It may also be called a “fugue state,” after a type of music where a single melody line is repeated in many variations.)

A state is a reactive response with certain characteristics. One is a narrowing of focus. Everything else fades to lesser importance. Other, possibly unrelated experiences are interpreted through our intense involvement with this state and its triggers. The anger we have discussed in previous articles is a state. The disorientation of my friend and the distressed confusion of early-stage recovery are also states. Other characteristics of states may be reversion to childlike emotional behaviors — tantrums, outsized hunger for validation or security, confusing the feeling of relief with love.

Another characteristic of these states is often disassociation, or distancing ourselves from objective reality. “Inside” the state, we identify with it. It feels “right,” often passionately right, the truth about ourselves. A feedback loop can evolve. The state becomes magnified by our attention; so we pay more attention to it. If the state is painful, we may start looking for self-medication through alcohol, drugs, video games, shopping, work, etc. If the state provides pleasure, we may do more and more of what we think is creating the pleasure. As we pursue or avoid feelings, learning skills or living with the effects of our actions, the state’s structure evolves into more complexity.

So where do these states come from? Especially the painful ones. Anyone who has been reading this series of articles knows already. They are residue of unprocessed trauma. One of the simplest ways to grasp this is to ask, “When was the first time I ever felt this way?” We may not immediately remember the first time, but most of us can track the state backwards through events in our history.

My relationship with a sociopath was not the first time I’d felt completely subsumed by a romantic attachment. (It was just, unfortunately, the first time I’d done it with someone who felt no ethical responsibility toward me.) I realized, fairly early, that what was happening with him wasn’t “different,” but only a worst-case scenario of something I’d been doing my entire life.

Leaving Las Vegas

Few of us on LoveFraud would consider ourselves gambling addicts. But if we think about what gambling addicts really want, we might see a bit of ourselves in it. When a gambler is winning, the emotional payoff isn’t the money. It is the sense of basking in a kind of sunshine of divine acceptance, where s/he is magically doing everything right and being loved for it. The love may be expressed in financial winnings, but the thrill is that big, loving, supportive “yes” from the cosmos.

From the book “Leaving the Enchanted Forest: The Path from Relationship Addiction to Intimacy” by Stephanie Covington and Liana Beckett, here is a brief description of the progression of an addictive relationship:

1. Experiencing the euphoric high of a new relationship, which enables us to focus on another person, rather than dealing with our true emotional state
2. Seeking the positive mood swing, looking forward to it, being willing to make sacrifices to get it, suffering occasional feelings of dejection or jealousy or panic, but the pain is still manageable
3. Dependence, where focus on the lover crosses the line from choice to need, and life becomes narrow, unbalanced, unhealthy with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors
4. Maintaining contact just to avoid being in a state of chronic depression and emotional pain, because there is no more euphoria and the inner balance is in shambles

Is this a state? It actually sounds like a series of states with a common thread. If we return to the gambler, we can see a similar fundamental story. A pursuit of magical redemption in which we get the prize if Lady Luck smiles on us, or fall back into a kind of emotional hell if she doesn’t.

But is that a fair analogy? Games of luck depend on the random distribution of a shuffled card deck, the end of a wheel’s momentum, the way dice fall. The gambler is essentially passive, beyond risking the stakes. In our relationships, we do so much more, don’t we? We don’t just show up and hope. We go out of our way to be charming, agreeable, enthusiastic, compliant, understanding, tolerant and supportive, while we kiss, cook, make love, arrange our schedules, dress to please, help out with their finances, children, careers, leave behind huge chunks of our lives as they were before. We’re actively building, investing, sacrificing, trying.

Still, the gambling analogy holds, because of one thing. The success of it all is out of our control. All we can do is our best, and hope that we earn a happy ending. In sociopathic relationships, we learn several very tough lessons. But primary among them is this: if our happiness depends on something outside of ourselves, we are living a gambler’s life.

The crumbling foundation

A recent show on HDTV was about the crumbling foundation under a house. Contractors mortared cinderblock up against the old walls and dug trenches around the outside of the foundation to divert the water that had weakened the concrete. In all, they managed to preserve the rooms of the house above by shoring up the old foundation.

What we face in getting over a sociopathic relationship something like the same problem, although our solution may be quite different. Our “states” are like rooms built on the foundation of old coping responses we adopted when we faced an overwhelming event when we were younger. When I was very small, I learned that no one would protect me from my father’s unreasonable verbal and physical abuse, and in fact, I was responsible for keeping him happy. At three years old or so, I developed an immediate coping response that involved alterations in patterns of feeling, thought and behavior, designed to manipulate circumstances and myself in order to survive. All of it was founded on an awareness of impending danger. But it also included a memory of the time before the danger, a dream of a better time, when I was loved, safe and could thrive as who I was.

That is a quick illustration of the foundation under a “room” in my psyche. I developed through my childhood and adult life with that “state” ready to be triggered by any circumstances that seemed to “fit.” Through the years, I furnished this room with more experiences that supported its reality, learned more survival skills for a world of impending danger, and once or twice, learned that I could relax and be myself in certain circumstances, thinking I was making big progress in my life.

But the twilight-zone reality of this room, which began with the original decision about how to handle an overwhelming childhood event, is what allowed the sociopath to take residence in my life. A coping strategy that was designed to help me survive danger as a child turned into a vulnerability to tremendous danger as an adult.

My friend who kept going back to a man who is incapable of loving her and uses her for money isn’t trying to hurt herself. In fact, she is trying to help herself out of other circumstances in her life. Because of her family background, she has a life strategy of being very, very good and helpful, because love must be earned and the alternative is punishment. Her dream is that, if she earns love, she will be able to recover the lost state of being accepted for herself and the right to her own identity. In this “state,” she is vulnerable to interpreting small kindnesses or seductive behaviors as “love” and acceptance. Especially if the other person meets certain other criteria, like bearing psychological resemblance to her pathologically selfish father.

All of us have gone through these perfect-storm situations when the right stimuli and our old coping strategies come together to throw us into a “state” that seems exciting and redemptive. But for my friend, on her final encounter with this man, something new emerged from this relationship — a realization that she was deluded. She was understandably disoriented because this realization potentially affected not just this relationship, but the structure of her entire life. When she said “I don’t know what to believe anymore” or “maybe I’m just too stupid to live,” she is talking about cracks in the foundation. Not just in the way she understood the world, but even in her ideas about her own identity.

How much can we lose?

In dealing with the residue of a sociopathic relationship, we feel separated from parts of our identity. We talk about not being able to trust again or love again. We talk about the loss of ourselves as lovable or attractive people, as trustworthy to ourselves or others, as believers in the goodness of the world or in a benevolent deity. We have feelings — like bitterness, anger, vengefulness — that we fear or dislike in ourselves. It seems like our rules of social engagement, romance or personality integrity have become broken or unreal.

It is no wonder that many of us need time before we jump back into the world again. With so many basic realities up in the air, a larger question emerges. If the world is so different, if we are so different that what we imagined, then what is real? Or more importantly, is real about us?

As profoundly disorienting as this may be, it is also part of the grieving and letting go stage of trauma processing. Because as we start to allow ourselves to face irretrievable losses — like the loss of the person we loved and the loss of the dream that person represented — we often discover that those losses are just the superficial veneer over deeper losses we have not yet grieved and let go.

In my case, grieving the loss of this man also brought me to the realization that he, and all the other lovers of my life, were band-aids I used cover a very old wound. That was the too-early loss of supportive protection when I was a child. I saw how much of my life was constructed around my coping with impending danger, and especially in my search for safety and restoration of a sense that I belonged and was welcome in the world.

In healing, I had to revisit that child who still existed in me, who was still holding up the foundation of that now-dysfunctional room that welcomed my sociopathic lover as a savior. I had to grieve with her about the childhood she lost while I reassured her that I was taking care of her now. That she could drop that weight finally, stop holding together all those coping strategies like a little Atlas with the world on her shoulders.

If you had asked me five years ago who I am, I would have given you a list of all the characteristics I developed in that room. Hardworking, responsible, trustworthy, generous, tolerant, kind, polite, presentable — all “virtues” that were really highly developed skills to earn the acceptance and approval I needed to feel safe. If you had thought to ask me who I was underneath all of that, and I was feeling particularly honest, I would have told you I was scared and tired and alone. Chronically and unfixably, except for the temporary respites I got from diving into another relationship, winning some praise for my work, or buying or eating something that made me feel better.

Today, if you asked me the same question, I would just smile. The question doesn’t compute. I am my “states,” and yes, they still exist. I still have knee-jerk responses to the stimuli that remind me of my old “world of impending danger.” But increasingly, I recognize them as responses to trauma. I observe myself slipping in and out of these states, being tempted to behaviors that are band-aids for pain.

In getting outside these states, I stopped limiting my identity to characteristics based on arranging my life around impending danger. I freed myself to grow into a larger identity. It includes characteristics — like selfishness, undependability and anger — that were forbidden before. I am more fluid and accepting of myself and other people. But most important, I find that my center has shifted. It’s hard to describe who I am now, but it includes this “observer,” as well as more awareness of the world around me, and more openness to feelings of joy, awe, gratitude and compassion.

I let go of a lot of things. It wasn’t always easy. There was backlash from well-intentioned “rules” and critical voices designed to keep me safe in a world of impending danger. I had to feel my way along to discover what rules were reasonable and which were obsolete artifacts of coping with a scary daddy.

This process of letting go of parts of myself will, I believe, never end. But, to my surprise, it becomes increasingly enjoyable. I once grieved over the discovery that I was not always trustworthy and that, despite all the effort I put into it, I could not make everyone like me. Now, when some inner voice tells me “I have to” do something, my inner observer frequently pops up and decides whether that “state” is useful or whether we have better options. More and more, everything about me is optional, because every moment is new with new challenges and new opportunities that have nothing to do with my history or with some frightened little identity that is really just baggage from that history.

As far as impending danger goes, that’s another issue that we’ll discuss in a future article. Fear, the natural fear of the dangers of a random universe, is something we still have not addressed in this journey of recovery. Grieving and letting go paves the way for that next stage.

Namaste. The joyous awakening spirit in me salutes the joyous awakening spirit in you.


P.S. I owe a debt of gratitude to the writing of Stephen Wolinsky, Ph.D., for many of the ideas in this article. You can find his books on Amazon.

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Hello Kathy: Another great article guiding me in self-exploration! And it’s good to “see” you again.

I’ll be spending some time mulling over your words, but the “editor state” in me wonders if you meant to say “HGTV” when you introduced the concept of “the crumbling foundation.” Although, I’ll admit that much of my own processing of this experience has been in brilliant high definition!

Namaste, my friend.


Hi Kathy,

I got to the point where I use to dread waking up. It meant facing so much.. Hurt, pain, confusion…wanting to go right back to “Sleep” state…

Now, I am waking up again wanting to work through anything and everything that comes my way. Even the residual hurt, pain, confused, angry, “states”…. Because I realize it helps me become more awakened to who I am and who I want to be, to who others are and want to be or want not to be.

What has awakened me the most …is that it is so true…we all have choices. We dont get to choose what we awaken to each day, or who crosses our pathes each day…but we definitely get to choose how we want to handle it, how we protect ourselves from what we learned from red flags to more about our past and how we choose to peel away layers and lay more healthy foundations for ourselves as we go through life, or rather as we LET GO of our past, our old-self, and explore the rest of ourselves and our healing ways enabling us to live well, observing and making healthier choices for ourselves and with others. (run on sentences…how do you do it so you dont have any??!!!) lol

Waking up. Part 8 – ITS GREAT! Thanks Kathy! As Rune said its always good to “see” you!


Tremendous insight, Kathy. I recall a trance-like state early on, during our Honeymoon period and even told the S, that I’d been in a trance. He said “I’ll take you there again,” and did, many many times over that first year.

I was I escaping the pain of divorce that came out of the blue. Left for an OW and I was completely in the dark about it.

But this has me thinking it was deeper. My childhood was not happy, though only a few instances of physical abuse, it was all mental. In a nut shell, my mother always wanted me to be somebody else. And never takes no for an answer, has to keep going.

The S was EXACTLY LIKE THIS. Never could respect the word “NO” kept at me and at me until I gave in on whatever.

This is frightening. Need to ponder.

Thank you for the wisdom.


Kathy and All,

Thank-you for this spot on description of this part of the healing; for speaking to questions I don’t even know I am asking!

I have been talking with friends about how angry I feel about not being ‘able’ to jump into another relationship. How I feel like the drug I liked so well has been taken off the market, and I cannot find a suitable substitute, which in turn makes me feel (off and on) panic-stricken. I used to think I was strong for being able to pick myself up and brush myself off and dive headfirst into another relationship.

Now I understand that it wasn’t strength, it was a pattern, a complusion, to avoid the things I am feeling now.

Scared, alone, anxious, and confused about how to soothe myself. I have a hard time relating to this version of ‘me’. I feel like I am balancing on one leg, because I simply do not know where to put the other foot down. As the ‘place’ I would have put it before has disappeared, and there is no ground to step down on.

Without the real or false sense of security that I felt a relationship provided me I have a lot of fear about the danger that lurks in the world- which has only been compounded by a relationship with a S. And lately I have found this to be my biggest challenge- not feeling safe. My sense of danger seems to have become magnified, and feels out of balance.

“In getting outside these states, I stopped limiting my identity to characteristics based on arranging my life around impending danger. I freed myself to grow into a larger identity. It includes characteristics ”“ like selfishness, undependability and anger ”“ that were forbidden before.”

I find myself discovering who I am outside these states- and sticking with it, not backing down to the dictates of being nice and amenable. And at the same time I am freaking out inside, at least some part of me, that I am going against the rules of conduct. This has got me feeling like I am bits and pieces, but not a whole integrated person. Different parts of me arguing and struggling, and ‘needing’ different things. Like I am trying to be all things to myself, and don’t know how.

Yoga, therapy, walking, sleep, trusted friends love and support help. But I look forward to having a gradual release from the grip of this much fear and uncertainty. A release that comes from within. I don’t know exactly how to get there, other than just keep walking, talking, living, paying attention, learning, and trying my best to empathize and love myself through it all.

Thank-you, again, for making the effort to research and write something SO validating and helpful. Namaste….



My brother & I were both raised in the same family by the same loving parents.

But we both have been in relationships with sociopaths. I got away from mine, but my brother married his. And my family & I have been suffering the consequences ever since.

Kathy is right. At some point, we have to take some personal inventory to see what it is in ourselves that attracts these predatory individuals to us.

My brother & I were raised to be “tolerant” of others. We were taught to “turn the other cheek”. We were told that it is gracious, even classy, to put other people before yourself.

That is all well and good, but you need to know where to draw the line for yourself. You need to know where your personal boundaries lie. Otherwise, the predators will come.

While we were instilled with the proper values/behaviors as children, no one taught us where to draw the line, or even that we would ever NEED to draw the line.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when YOU NEED TO DRAW THE LINE!

LIFE LESSON: KNOW WHERE/WHEN TO DRAW THE LINE!!!!!! (the earlier the better)


Hi, Kathy!

Thank you so much for your wonderful article. This process of accepting myself as I am is scary, and also an adventure! Even though I don’t like the feeling, it seems much of the anxiety I experience is like a giant arrow pointing straight towards the parts of my life that most need healing. Like your friend in the airport, these days I often feel wonky and off-base, but I’ve begun thinking of it as a guide to what in my life I need to pay attention to NOW. For the first time in my life, instead of running away from my fears, I am walking towards them to discover what it is they have to teach me.

Reading your article this afternoon, the first thing that popped into my head was, “GOOD MEDICINE!” Please keep writing!

Namaste and Lots of Love,



Good to hear from you. I was wondering how you were doing.

Now that I’ve pretty much gotten past the anger phase, I’ve been taking a good hard look at my life to see how I got here. I grew up with physical and verbal abuse raining down around me. The warped coping strategies I emploed for survival translated into completely self-abnegating behavior in order to focus 100 percent on the needs, wants and demands of my parents in order to try to keep being killed.

Last week I met wit my therapist and commented on this and then remarked that I can’t find the will or energy to start the job hunt. I realized that I have lived m whole life being reactive. Everything I did and every action I took was aimed at rectifying the short-term immediate problem or situation. That way of life culminated in S and the aftermath. I now see how I can’t life a life that is solely reactive. I need to get proactive.

He told me that I needed to sit down and start thinking about where I want my life to go — a big picture objective, if you will. I have to admit I’m coming up dry. Oh, I have my pie-in-the-sky moments, which are completely impractical. But, no real answers.

I am scared witless at the concept of finally focusing on me, myself and I for the first time in my life. I was so damned self-less with S that he mopped the floor with me. Mother Theresa was an admirable woman. She deserves sainthood for her selflessness. But, I’m no saint.

So, I’ve been shoring up my foundation. Now I’ve got to find the house that sits on top of it.


Matt, I just read your post to Kathy. So glad to see you working on Matt. The only thing to fear is fear itself! You will be blown away at what and who you find inside of you – you have lots of healthy selflessness inside you too! Balanced with a newfound healthy selfishness – you will find your way leaps and bounds in the upcoming year!

And I have really STRUGGLED in the process with the meaning of healthy selflessness and unhealthy selflessness. And healthy selfishness and unhealthy selfishness. I have come to the conclusion that Mother Theresa displayed healthy selflessness – caring and nurturing people who truly appreciated and needed her charity work. I displayed an unhealthy unnatural selflessness – that left me nearly lost and hospitalized by the time that journey was over. I lost myself, gave myself away, didnt take care of myself and I certainly wasnt giving to someone who appreciated it and respected it or actually needed it. Its good to learn and know the differences and be able to put them into action in your life!


Rosa: you said, “At some point, we have to take some personal inventory to see what it is in ourselves that attracts these predatory individuals to us.”

We also have to take a personal inventory to see what makes us tolerate their behaviors once they have started to reveal themselves.

I think both those issues are significant.

I also want to repeat the truth, though, that ANYONE CAN BE FOOLED when they’ve got their “game” going and they haven’t shown the real dysfunction.

We should be kind to ourselves as we also work on our own self-exploration.


Hey Matt: Before you hunt for that job, you want to know what job you should hunt for, right? I think your wise subconscious is guiding you to get clear on your direction before you start out again!

I have a suggestion, since you said you are “coming up dry.” Have you ever worked with a “dream board”? It’s a way of using pictures and a big white board to tell yourself what you really want, and it can help you clarify to your consciousness what your deeper self is wanting for you in your life. Get yourself a great big piece of posterboard. Then set yourself up with some music for the background and go wild with pasting on pictures from magazines, or writing notes to yourself — anything that comes up! It’s a non-analytical (unlawlerly!) way to process information that taps into creativity that may be damped down by your analytical busy brain.

Best to you!

Greetings, Kathleen!

I’ve also been wondering how you’ve been doing.

Haven’t read your current article yet, but I will. You always offer such excellent concepts, insights and remarkable theories that get my ol’ grey matter to buzzing!

Be well, lovely friend…xxoo…




I know I’m over analyzing this, but with the dreamboard, do you put up pictures that speak to you and in some kind of thematic alignment? I think it’s a good idea, I’m just trying to get the logistics straight in my mind.


Hi Matt: Yep! Get out that stack of old magazines — some source of pictures. Let your mind “wander.” Actually what you’re letting your mind do is go into the more creative, slower frequency alpha waves where you can think without words, down in the symbology of pictures. Use any source of pictures that come to you. Draw if you need to. Make notes if you don’t have a picture. But go ahead and be messy about this.

Having music around also can soothe you and encourage the creative flow. Don’t second-guess yourself. Let yourself have the freedom to just go with the first hunch. There is no right or wrong here.


Kathy, I was posting to Matt as you were posting. I see we agree about “dreaming big. Silly big. It doesn’t cost anything to dream.”

Funny how we have to go through the process of “Waking UP” to really be able to DREAM!



With your quick wit and sense of humor, you should write a screenplay about your life with S, and submit it to the producers in Hollywood. You would make big $$.

Or, you could go on the road and do stand-up comedy.

I would definitely come to your show!



I’d love to get together. I’ll shoot Donna my contact info to pass along to you.

The question of “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” resonated with me. Oddly enough, my therapist said I keep trying to tinker with my existing life, rather than thinking of where I want my life to go, because I keep trying to put a safety net in place. I need to find some way to stop putting the blocks in my way and start dreaming big, since, as you put it, it doesn’t cost anything to dream.




Maybe I should start by writing my dreams down. It’s funny, I don’t dream about S anymore. But, last night I did.

I dreamed I was in a restaurant having brunch with one of my siblings. S walked up to our table with his new victim and introduced by sibling, and then said and “this is…oh, I’m sorry what’s your name again?” I said “Matt. I know it’s a toughie to remember. Not easy like your’s — inmate 07-R1254.”


Start writing, Matt!!!!

Trust me, they cannot come up with this stuff in Hollywood!


I don’t know. I almost always agree with your posts Kathleen. And it is great that you used a bad experience in such a positive manner. But I think it was Dr. Leedom (and forgive me if I’m misquoting or misunderstood) who said that the relationship with a P/S/N is not that different than a good one, in terms of OUR behavior. I dated more than 30 men. There was one who tried to date rape me, but that was not really traumatic. I just told him to take me home immediately or I’d smear his name all over campus, he did, and then I went ahead and smeared his name all over campus anyway! 🙂 I’ve been the same person in all my relationships. ONLY ONE MAN/BOY REDUCED ME TO THE STATE WE ALL KNOW SO WELL. Like you, it was so painful it led to self-growth, and I’m now a much stronger person. I feel like I’ve earned a black belt in mental health! No one can hurt me like that ever again. NO ONE! But I’m 59 years old and only ONE PERSON ever hurt me that deeply in a man/woman relationship. My mom hurt me as a kid, I understand all that, etc, etc. etc. But I would not like my P/S/N to read the above article. He DID do me wrong. So what if I had had this mental health karate then, he could not have hurt me. He DID do me wrong. Sorry !

One man physically raped me. When I was 12. A stranger. Since then, other STRANGERS have attempted it in scenarios that were clearly not my fault! For instance, one time I was taking a shower in a hotel. Him breaking in was not me “asking for it!” But since that first time, no one has succeeded, so matter how close they got, because I have a WILL and DETERMINATION and KNOWLEDGE that I didn’t have at 12. But damn if I will ever say my problem at 12 was NOT the US Sailor in uniform who raped me but rather my lack of will, determination, the helplessness I had from being a kid compared to a man with a knife, etc. AND DAMN if I will say that the reason the P/S/N hurt me was my lack of whatever. I got hurt because he is a creep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Could he do it now? NEVER. Did he do me wrong? YES. Was it his fault. HELL YES!

Maybe you would agree, and I’m just reading wrong, but my personal bottom line is I made some bad, wrong, choices but never was I trying to hurt ANYONE.I used some damn faulty logic, rationalizations, ect but have since worked HARD to make amends to all parties. He was trying to hurt on purpose and he DID hurt me, terribly. He could not do it now. I’m strong. But HE DID ME WRONG!!!!!!!!!


Hi Matt-

I know we don’t know each other, but I went through a big job change last year, and was unemployed for several months- trying to figure out what direction to take. I struck on something kinda simple, that assisted me.

As an aside, just after broke with S, found that my new boss was another S, and I was forced out of my previous job (as an administrator) and my reputation impuned, bigtime.

I was having a very hard time organizing my thoughts around finding a new job- and if I was going to change, to what?

I kept trying to recycle my ‘old work’, feeling it was safe/familiar. But every time I went to an interview my guts would churn and I couldn’t take the jobs. BUT, I do have to say, for me just interviewing for a variety of positions helped me clarify what I wanted and didn’t: from a ‘lifestyle’ perspective.

Did I want to drive far? How many hours did I want to work? How much money? How many hours did I want for myself, my friends? Rather than “just” thinking about the job itself, I ‘felt into’ my own life and how it would feel to live it a certain way. I even wrote down what a typical day would look and feel like.

It was a learning for me to put my life priorities first, and then allow the other details to follow…instead of the other way ’round.

That’s my 2 cents!



“ANYONE CAN BE FOOLED when they’ve got their game going…”


I have watched my brother’s wife “operate” within my family. And I would think in the back of my mind, “DAMN, SHE”S GOOD. SHE IS A MASTER MANIPULATOR.”

Not so much anymore, though. The family is “waking up”.


Thanks Kathleen. I don’t want to let go of the anger, ever. I feel my heart is open. I’m full of joy, I feel I have achieved a depth of intimacy that is so real with my husband and I have so many, many dear and long term friends. I see blessings and strengths that have poured into my life that would not have, had it not been for what happened in my past. But I’m very comfortable with anger. I’ve helped put bad guys (gals) in prison. They may not be to blame for what they did….genes, their past, mom’s drug use, etc etc….but they are RESPONSIBLE, in that they are the being who did the dirty deed….and I have no trouble being angry about child abuse, animal abuse or the N/S/P who targeted me. I love anger now! And I feel ALL healed. Maybe someday I will look back and say it was just a stopping spot in the healing….but I really, really, really don’t think so.


PS I don’t experience anger as eating me up. It fuels me! It keeps me strong! My professional life is dedicated to fighting abuse and cruelty and anger about what is done to innocents FUELS me, makes me stand straight, makes me proud. And I laugh at the drop of the hat, so I think I’m just fine!


Maybe the difference is I don’t feel angry about things I can’t change. I’m very much focused on today and the future. Regarding the P/S/N, I’m still helping his family, I’m still warning his next targets (successfully I might add), but about ready to hand the job off …well, in fact I have, into very capable hands. I’m focused on felons, some in the news lately, and bringing them down! Towanda! But in case you can’t tell….(grin)…..I’m rather passionate about anything that even hints at blaming the victim, even when that is not the intent. I get sick and tired of hearing defense attorneys singing that song!



I just spoke to a friend about good healthy doses of outrage. About the idea that stifled outrage/anger turns to self-doubt and depression.

She has been working with an Israeli woman to experience her anger and learning to harness it and use the energy of her anger to mobilize her growth and creation of self-loving boundaries.

I wonder why some of us can connect to our anger, while others (and I would put myself more in this camp) have a difficult time experiencing a healthy sense of outrage?



Not sure. And some who fight abuse never were abused themselves, they just fight the good fight anyway! Like Irena Sendler. Like Jane Adams. Both had fathers who urged them to think of others, and modeled it.

ANYWAY I GOT ON TO say HEY STARGAZER!!!!!! I saw an Arizona Black rattlesnake today! Up close and personal! Rattling. My husband and his dog stepped right by it, not seeing it. Then my dog spotted it (our dogs are on leashes, always on these hikes), about the same time I was thinking “gee, that almost sounds like a rattlesnake! ” Then I saw it too. Nice guy though. While his tail was up rattling, he was not coiled to strike but rather was on his way to slithering into the rocks. Fairly good sized. My husband said “Shall I kill it?” and I said Of course not, this is his home and he is not being aggressive at all, quite the contrary. But we did turn around and go home at that point….enough hiking adventure for one day!



In my case, although I grew up with two fonts of fury, if I showed even the remotest hint of anger, I was beaten. I think I learned to suppress my healthy sense of outrage and didn’t learn how to constructively express my anger, instead turning it against myself.




As I’ve said before Matt, I too was not allowed to show anger. Maybe that is why I experience it as a positive force now. My husband says I’m like the English, who will start out in a public forum, thanking the previous speakers, calling everyone sir and madam ….and then launch into a devastating, dead-on- attack, just flatten everyone with the absolute speaking truth to power….and then very politely and graciously thank everyone for listening to my point of view and sit down. LOL!


But these are BAD GUYS I try to flatten. Clearly, clearly, clearly doing bad horrible things, like starving innocents to death, etc. and pocketing the money, etc.


Matt and Justabout,

LOL, I can feel myself in the audience, the hot wind of your admonitions blowing through my hair. YES, to flattening the bad guys!!!!

My friend who brought up the anger conversation was instructed by her body worker to move this outrage ‘through her heart’. That is what I hear you saying, Justabout, even in your humor…that you move this energy through your heart/compassion/empathy/truth so that it comes out as a blast of healing for those who have ears to hear it.

I think Matt, like any of our false beliefs and inabilities, we learned them when we were young. And when you are raised in an abusive family/environment it is absolutely necessary that we begin, early on, to believe in our abusers and ‘the lie of them’. This certainly did not include me being able to express anger, neediness. insecurity. I do remember that those were intolerable to my mother, as they brought all her shortcomings/fears forward. And she was only 16 when she had me, very little tolerance for much.

And can I just say THANK-YOU to everyone on the blog for their generous postings. Thank-you for taking the time for sharing your experience, wisdom and humor.

I am so grateful to have found this place! Slim


“It is really about us waking from a dream.”

But this dream isn’t about her, no the dream was mine. A dream that was never to be because the reality of a dream is to always awake from it. Then we can start to see the true self and it’s true reality. To face one’s own true self. To know one’s true self with all it’s faults. It’s sad to awake from a dream and how perfect it was. But only when we awake from this state can we began to live in the real world accepting all our faults and still being able to love that person. The hardest thing for me to do was once awaken from my dream was to see myself and see it maybe even for the first time. To accept all the damage done to me by others but also that which I have done to myself. Never can blame be given to just one thing event or person. No, it’s taken years of aloneness abuse and denial from this abuse to collect from others but also from myself. That’s is why the dream was so important, because with it came all my answers and all my hopes. But still it was only my dream, a dream. Until the day came to be awaken from my dream only then can I now know myself fully and truly. There are days that I want and wish to return to my dream. But each day each new experience and each new discovery I know this can never be. I know who I am now and love that person, why would I want to bury that person again in a world of dreams?


powerful post James – thank you.


Thanks Kathleen. I will reread and reread what you have written. Because I’ve always learned so much from you in the past, the thought nags at me that I’m missing something here I need to learn. So know that I will be rereading your writings and thinking…

For anyone who IS struggling with self-blame, the book When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself does an excellent job of explaining interactions with a narcissist and how they are different than normal dating/love relationships, without making you feel anything is wrong with YOU. And a sociopath or a psychopath fits the description in the book too.

Emotional Rape is another excellent healing book that does not blame the victim AT ALL!!!

And then the Betrayal Bond IS about yourself, and after working through the exercises many times, I felt I earned my mental health karate belt that I had to earn to protect myself from n/p/s. Yes, Kathleen, a lot of self-reflection. And the author of that book states “survivors cannot afford to blame others. The path of awareness brings them ultimately to acceptance of what their reality is, including their own part, and ….they have to take action”

But at least for me, part of the acceptance of the reality is “these actions of this guy were BAD and reacting with anything but anger was part of the problem….and that is a problem I’ve let go of.” At the same time though I let go of any hope of ever changing him or anyone like him, but did my best to help empower OTHERS to contain him. That mission is over….on to new felons!


Wonderful article as usual. The hibernating in your cave has paid off. I do understand and felt as though I was sitting in the audience of my life story being played out. At times I have felt like an impostor in my own life. I have been the do-gooder and try to fill my “acceptance” need to my detriment. My Father was so charming and a great story teller everyone outside my family loved him. He loved outside people easily but was unable to have any deepth of love for us. He was a periodic alcoholic, and a time-bomb with no set time to go off. I was always good because I didn’t want to set him off. It didn’t matter. I am aware that I am a “care-taker”, problem-solver,pleaser-if you will. I am aware that I am the only one who sets boundaries for myself. I am aware that I will help others but not to the detriment of myself. I AM AWARE! I have been awakened by the devastation of my relationship with the S. It was my first and my last. “DEVASTATION DOES NOT BUILD CHARACTER, IT REVEALS IT”. Take care and Thank You for your words of growth and wisdom.


I posted an earlier post about a “vision board” and focusing on your dream daily. What do want your life to look like is the question? It is difficult to find the answer. I would suggest volunteering in an area that you find joy. Healing comes in giving back and also makes wonderful connections with caring people. You won’t find an S actually doing any work- so you should be safe there. If you want to go after Comedy- go volunteer at a (ours is called the Peace Center) and we have all kinds of famous performers. You can volunteer and see Free shows! It is a great way to make connections! You have to get out there and try things out and see what it is you love! As always, I wish you the Best!
P.S. Great Book: Live the Life You Love, Barbara Sher. She has a great web-site too!


I have been away for a while myself- but it is because such great things that are happening in my life. Despite the fact that I am not divorced yet and still paying the S debt. I have made great progress. I am healing and still have days, but mostly healing. I feel that I have been restored and have taken positive “action” toward my healing. I have suffered through and been reclusive as well. You have to- it is part of the process. But I have GREAT NEWS! I just finished my Masters +30 in Literacy! I have been focused this year and have completed 9 grad hours on-line since the Fall. Akitameg- at almost 51 yrs. old. Go for it! No one can take away your education. It is empowering! I had never taken an on-line course before. It was a new challenge and one that I accomplished! My pay increases! I also have a new job next year in the same school- I am the new Literacy Coach! I will be teaching other teachers and working with students to help improve reading! I have worked hard for this position and was told that with the budget cuts that it would not exist. I let go but continued to work toward the education and dream at the same time. I envisioned it. I will be conducting presentations and professional development! It was such a surprise! YiPEEEE!
My son is cancer-free and is going to work toward becoming a Physical therapist. My older son is traveling with a job that he loves! Life feels real and so much better! I am living a “healthy selflessness” as you mentioned,LTL. Not selfish- Self Aware! “TOWANDA”! as Oxy says 🙂


Holy smokes, that was some powerful knowledge you kindly shared with us.

I do appreciate you taking the time to research literature focusing on such a complex subject as Psychology, incorporating your own life experiences, relationships into the material and sharing with us.

Your tireless effort geared towards helping others as well as yourself, means so much to me.

But oh MAN….I will not lie and say that this particular essay was easy breezy for me to read and process.

I was decidedly uncomfortable, a little sad many times, and nodding my head in a wry fashion because I could see myself in almost every word you wrote.

Yes, it hurts which resolutely confirms for me that my earlier words written on here stating I’m healed and all better now were either hints at false bravado, or me still lingering in denial, or quite possibly completely unaware of my situation until you helped to spell it out for me.

How can I truly understand the depth of my own “broken cog” if I am unwilling to take as many steps as I need, viewing myself objectively and my unhealthy patterned behaviors and actions? I simply won’t be able.

I must confess to you all that exposing my soft underbelly, exposing my fragility and vulnerability to people is THE most terrifying thing I can do.

I’ve always been the “strong” one, the “capable” one, the “resilient” one….or so I’ve been repeatedly told or led others to believe. But in reality, I fall down so very many times that it takes every ounce, fiber of my being to even want to get back up again.

I thinks it’s obvious, by the tone of my writing, that I’m gloomy today. This is the first time on LF that I’m actually commenting when I’m in this “state” of mind. It is so scary for me to openly express myself to you all but I’m never going to move forward if I continue to nurse my heartache wounds, continue to be haunted by my past painful involvements with friends and lovers.

Of course, I have more good days than bad days where I feel serene, joyful, content and excited to be alive. Today ain’t one of those days.

I’ve been involved with 5 men in the past 3 years and I feel like such a slut for even admitting that to you all. I recently split from a fella that I was regularly seeing for about 3 months.

Compared to the mentally damaged dudes before him, I thought I had hit the jackpot (another appropriate gambling analogy, Kathleen). He is a good man, don’t get me wrong, but as Kathleen wrote up above, I was just trying too damn hard.

Trying to please him in my way, not really carefully, cautiously observing him and listening deeply to what he was saying to me, just….being my overly enthusiastic, nurturing, generous self. Too much of a good thing can overwhelm a person and that’s exactly what I did.

I believe he began to take me for granted, to not appreciate me like I appreciated him, and I could intuitively feel him withdrawing from him. I told him I just couldn’t do this anymore. That I instinctively felt he wasn’t interested any longer and that can’t be good for me and I won’t settle for crumbs, or to be treated like I’m insignificant.

I told him I was sorry and to please not call me again. It’s been a week and he hasn’t. In the beginning I was super satisfied with my decision as I was angry and disappointed. Now…I’m not so angry any longer and I hurt, I’m sad.

This too shall pass, but it sooo sucks, doesn’t it? 🙁


Thanks you Henry and Kathleen Hawk,

When I read this one line I really didn’t need to read the rest, but I did. This came from my heart and sure all that read it will know that. But thanks again for putting it in print. I do know how hard something like this can be when trying to write it. Not really sure if I could ever do it myself. But all that you stated was “right on point”. The hardest part of our recovery is looking at self. Not only is it so hard but so scary at times. All our monsters that we once thought were gone turn out to be alive and well inside of that inner child’s world that you speak of. I am trying to help my inner child understand that it’s alright to be mad and sad because it changes nothing and I will always be there for him and both must learn to love and care for each other.


I’m not concerned with the length of your posts. What interests me is the content and if they need to be long…so be it!

After spilling my guts to the cyber-world and then rereading what I had written (1,2,3 times..)..I actually FEEL much better.

How’s that for resiliency? Or I would prefer to define it as being mercurial rather than having erratic mood swings…haha.

Thank the LORD above for giving me my goofy, practical humor. It has kept me from flinging myself off the nearest sidewalk curb in frustration and disgust!

My heart and mind are still in serious conflict right now, but as you said grieving is not only beneficial to us but also necessary.

I don’t discount nor disregard nor invalidate ANY of my emotional reactions, processes. They exist. They are what they are and to me….they are vastly important and crucial to my well being.

I’m beginning to put into practice what LTL so eloquently describes as…”a healthy selfishness”

Makes good common sense to me.

Thank you LTL and thank you again, Kathleen.



Thank-you for sharing your vulnerable down-girl with us. I really appreciate getting to know everyone here, and it helps me on my journey to see as many parts as people feel comfortable sharing.

Your description of being in this last relationship sounds like a chapter out of my relationship novel. I SO relate. It’s interesting that we can give ‘too much’ in relatively healthy relationships, and have that not work to our benefit, or the longevity of the relationship. I think, in a way, when we don’t ask enough from an intimate partner (an normal intimate partner, I am not talking about the personality disordered), and we rush in and overplay our role, we disable them a bit.

I have wondered about this. If it is demasculinating, or inhibits some men from giving fully of themselves when they are attracted to large and in charge, super-giving women. Or if that IS the attraction, because they are relatively lazy or ambivalent. Hmmnnn.

I have chosen to be alone (for the first time since I was 13, and I am 48!), for the last 20 months. I posted early on in this thread about how I simply cannot DO relationship since the s experience. And how much that aggrevates/frustrates certain parts of my personality.

And, if your’e too worried about your sluttiness….we should grab a drink some time and I’ll make you feel downright virginal by telling you about some of my periods of sexual freedom and relationship usage!

Again, thanks for giving it up to us…


Kathleen Thank you again. It is people like you and this site that have helped me heal. It is the connection and understanding of the insanity that we have all experienced with the S. I read your long posts with much pleasure and fortitude. It is what you say that is important and you have brought it home for so many of us. It is letting go of things we can not change. I have clung to the Serenity Prayer during this healing and your post reminded me of it so much.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

You have the wisdom and now know the difference in your acceptance and letting go. Take care!


JaneSmith, thank you for sharing. It is a safe haven here for any kind of day we are having and you will find the love and encouragement that you need to make it through. You are brave to make the decision that you made for the better of yourself! TOWANDA! You do deserve better and need to up the ante! I am not dating at all since I am not divorced yet and I have spent more time trying to get a divorce than I was married (1 year)to the S. He was a wonderful guy only he lived a dark second life that slowly unfolded. I knew that I had to pack him up and divorce him before it got worse. It was the most painful experience. It was like the hiker who’s right arm was caught by a falling boulder and he had to cut it off with his pocket knife because he knew it would be the death of him if he did not. It is a crazy making situation! We all want to put a band-aid on it with something or someone else. It’s just that we need to take inventory and see how we want things to be from now on. It is great that you are making changes. You are the only one who can make those choices. You let a guy know how to treat you.
I read a book that I bought myself for Valentines Day, “how not to date a LOSER (a guide to making smart choices) by Georgia Schaffer it is a great guide! Also just finished Act Like a Lady-Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey and it was humorous and so true! These were helpful but nothing prepares you for the dealings of an S. Take care Girl!

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