By | October 14, 2009 29 Comments

After the sociopath is gone: Leap before you look.

I work in a homeless shelter. It is a place where people are worn down by their stories, day in, day out. They carry the load like a weight upon their shoulders, sitting at tables with hunched shoulders, rounded backs. They walk with shuffling footsteps, backs curled into their chests, their hopes gripped in hands buried deep down into their pockets, forever fearful of coming up empty handed. And every day they wait. And wait. For someone to rescue them. For someone to deliver an answer. An escape. A way out. Another direction.

When you’re down and out, living below poverty, on the wrong side of easy street, sometimes all you’ve got to make yourself visible is the story you carry to mark your passing. It is all you’ve got to tell. The only thing that’s yours and yours alone. It’s all you’ve created in a life of despair. It is all you fear losing. You don’t fear death — this is a living death. You don’t fear rock bottom. You’ve already hit it. You fear, losing your story. Without your story, where would you be?

We all have a story. Doesn’t matter which side of the street we walk, we carry our story — sometimes, it will lift us up. Sometimes, it will drag us down. We decide when and where and to whom we tell our story. How often. How loudly. How softly. We decide if it is a rant or a song. A dirge or a symphony of joy, of hope, of love.

We decide.

Once upon a time, I had a story. It was the story of being abused. Of being a bit part in another man’s creation. I thought I was his leading character. I wanted to believe I was and so in my mind, I painted my story of our relationship with me as the heroine. Me as the lead actor. I was strong and loving. I stood by my man. I could, as he told me, make him a better man.

I became so attached to my story that I couldn’t see it was killing me. Dragging me down into the pits of despair. Pushing me under. Drowning me.

I couldn’t let go of the story I’d created because… well because I feared if I let it go I would be lost. Where would I be without the story of me as a super heroine of such astonishing power I could make a mere man a better man? Who would I be without this story of love awakening in the rosy dawn of his happily-ever-after? I had waited my whole life for this fairy tale to come true, how could I awaken from it now?

Terrified of being the victim of my own creation, I told myself I was his, forever more, forever and a day. Ours was a love committed ’til death did us part. How could I claim my own story away from my one true love when I had promised to help him be the man he’d always dreamt of being? How could I claim my own power when he had already told me I had all the power I would ever need over him. I was all he ever hoped for. I didn’t need empowerment. I only needed his love.

Stuck in the diorama of the perfectly false creation of our love story, I could not face the nightmare of what he was doing to destroy me. Afraid his lies were true. Afraid his deciet was real, I closed my eyes to the possibilities on the other side of our happy ending that never was. That real story where I claimed my place in the sun for me, myself and I. I didn’t want to claim my power because I had already convinced myself, and anyone who would listen, that this love, this relationship, this perfect story with him as my knight in shining armor was all I had ever dreamt of, all I ever needed, all I ever wanted.

See, I’d always held onto the notion, buried deep within me, that I needed a man to complete my story. I needed someone else to make my dreams come true. Convinced that story where I was completed by another was the only one I could ever write, I became lost in the land of make-believe, telling my story again and again hoping for a different ending. No matter how many prince charmings came riding through, or how quickly they swept me away, the story never changed in my telling because I held onto the notion of needing their kiss to awaken me to life beyond my wildest imaginings.

We all have a story and sometimes, our stories keep us in the victim’s place because we cannot let them go..

Your story will be different than mine. But it will be the same. You will hold onto it, drag it out, hang it out to dry when times are tough or you’re feeling down. It’s the story you tell to explain why you feel how you do, why you are where you are, why life is just not fair.

It is not a story worth keeping, or even telling. But tell it we do because sometimes, like those who sit at tables in the shelter and wait for a better tomorrow, we can’t let go of the story we carried so far we’ve lost sight of where we were going and where we want to be.

I’ve created a different story today than that sad tale of an abused woman too scared to admit that what was happening to her hurt like the dickens. That story was a sad tale of two people where the best of times were only a figment of my imagination. I kept grasping for the golden ring of what wasn’t there so that I would not have to see what was right before my eyes –I was living in the worst of times. I was refusing to claim my power to write the story of my lifetime just for me, myself and I.

Sometimes we get trapped in our stories and have to give ourselves a shake and wake ourselves up, without waiting for the kiss of a prince of any name.

The secret to waking ourselves up is to step out of the characters we’ve created and ask ourselves, Is this truth or fiction? Am I the passive voyeur committed to watching the story unfold, letting it happen without my direction? Or, am I the active hero/heroine creating the story of my life as I direct each choice I make towards my goals, creating more and more of what I want in life with every passing day?

Recently, my twenty-three year-old daughter wrote,

“I want to race through the grass in bare feet,
and swim in the deepest part of the ocean,
and eat an apple right from the tree,
and fall recklessly in love,
and run with the bulls,
and find a cliff and dive!
No safety gear or parachute to break my fall.
Straight into the great wide open.
Sailing fearlessly into life.”

Within each of us is that place where we want to leap. To soar. To scream to the high heavens, “I am alive!”

I am alive, in spite of and because of, that relationship from hell. I am alive, in spite of and because, having journeyed through the darkness, I have found the essence of me. That wild woman willing to risk it all for one delicious lick at life lived beyond the comfort zone of my fears that I will be hurt, or bruised or let down by someone, something, somehow.

There will always be someone who hurts us. Who lets us down. Who somehow doesn’t measure up to our expectations.

We will inevitably hurt someone we love. We will let someone down. We will not measure up to our expecations. We will not measure up to theirs.

That’s life.

But to live life in the shadows of our fears, that’s sad. That’s giving up before we’ve even begun.

So, accept it. He hurt you. He betrayed you. He was a rat batzard to you.

What are you going to do about it?

Let that experience trap you in fear of ever stepping out of your comfort zone again?

Hold you back from living out loud? Keep you down because you fear…. Looking stupid. Being silly. Being self-conscious. Being free?

Or, are you going to leap. To grab hold of life and shake it up. To colour outside the lines using every single crayon in your box?

Within each of us is this knowing that there is a great big amazing world out there, beyond the comfort of our fears, beyond the lines we’ve coloured in so carefully all our lives.

In coming through Pdom, I have claimed my right to live outside my comfort zone. To be the heroine of my own story. To live large. To colour outside the lines in bright bold primary colours of the rainbow, including purple. I have claimed my right to rescue me — because I know, no one else will. No one else can.

Just for today. Try it. Do something you fear. Step outside your comfort zone and leave yourself exposed to creating a new story of your life unfolding like you dreamed it always would, with you at the centre of your sun, shining bright, fearlessly creating the story of your lifetime. Colour outside the lines. Speak before you think. Act before you stop. Leap before you look. And live! It’s great to be alive when there’s not a letter of the alphabet that can stop you from flying free.

Comment on this article

Please Login to comment
Notify of

Hi Louise; I’m still struggling to know the truth of my own story – it’s like
a picture out of focus slowly getting clearer. And after reading your beautiful post, I’m wondering what was your own tipping point – was there
a specific event that gave you final clarity or was it a culmination of your
own feelings about this person (and yourself) that made you take a different, separate path. I’m sorry if you’ve addressed this already – I’m
relatively new and have read many of your posts before but would you mind sharing (possibly again) how you arrived at such a strong, unwavering sense of self? Thanks.


What an awesome post … you have such a way of describing the nuances of these relationships and the aftermath we are left to deal with. These relationships force us to confront many lies – those we are told and those we tell ourselves in order to maintain the facade of happiness and not bely the agony and chaos within.

This idea of narrative is very powerful. We are using narrative as a learning tool with young children. Rather than observations we take snapshots of learning called Learning Stories and we look in them for evidence that the child has a sense of Belonging, of Wellbeing, of Contribution and Communication and of Exploration. We look for them trying on different identities and realities in their play – the term for this is ‘developing working theories about the world’. Story is hugely powerful for adults too. I ask my students to delve deep and write Teaching Stories – about times when they flew as teachers and about times when they crawled or struggled. If students have a block I ask them to journal using handwriting and a stream of consciousness approach – they usually find whatever was sticking their development dissipates when they pay full attention to it. It’s powerful stuff.

There is also research that writing out pain helps to minimise the possibility of post traumatic stress disorder as people process their trauma and integrate it into their framework of identity and history.

You are dead right though that our stories also have the power to hold us in static positions. Many years ago I undertook the Landmark Forum, which has a lot of controversy around it. I recall a couple of things related to story though that were particularly important. One statement was
“The only thing stopping you from getting what you want is the story you tell yourself about why you can’t have it.”

Landmark also recognised that some stories were fake ‘fronts’ for other underlying issues. For example if someone was always moaning about not being able to lose weight, then there was definitely a pay off to the person for saying this all the time – being a victim absolved them of the need to take any constructive action about the weight and allowed their overweight self to be lazy and inert. However the cost to the person of carrying the unwanted weight was awesome – it might cost them self esteem, potential relationships, their overall health and ability to engage in things. The story told over and over could be anything but it is something a person consistently moans about.

I at times wondered if my moaning about my relationship was a racket or a front – it allowed me to stay a victim and in an unhappy space. I am glad though now that I understand relationships with the personality disordered are WAY more complicated than that! The idea never quite sat right with me … but at the same time I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t just leave this person who was treating me so badly 🙂 Now I have more understanding of the dynamics that were happening.

Several theories helped me to understand – betrayal trauma theory, shattered assumptions theory, the small kindness, altered states, brainwashing processes, learned helplessness, loss of identity and most of all perhaps loss of self efficacy. Self efficacy is a term that describes our sense of being able to impact and effect change on the world by exerting effort. A P or S or N relationship takes away that sense of personal agency and ability to change things and that has a huge, lasting and horrible impact.

Many thanks for this post. In the wake of recovering and trying desperately to avoid this in the future, it is also good to remember our playfulness from before we were hurt. You are a wonderful writer and your words are food to the wounded 🙂 Arohanui 🙂

kim frederick

I loved this article. Most 12 step recovery groups have meetings intirely devoted to listening to one member tell his story. The member attempt to tell, “what it used to be like, what happened, and what it’s like now.” It is enormously healing to do so. But, if you notice, it is a three point process, and is also helpful to the members listening.

Unfortunatly, many people get stuck in the, “What it used to be like phase, and never move on…………

It’s interesting that I woke up to this article this AM, because, I was thinking,last night, that if I allow myself to re-experience some of my most traumatic memories, I end up FEELING almost as hurt, abandoned, sad, helpless, hopeless, wounded, unlovable, as I did two years ago, when I recieved the final blow from the P I thought I loved.

If I focus on anger, I get stuck in anger….( which I had been for most of the relationship, and at least a year after it was over.) I feel I’ve worked through the anger, now and it’s time to move on………..

For me that is the hard part. I hit rock bottom in that relationship, and have sooooo much repair work to do, in all aspects of my life.

I have found that if I focus on how crazy the relationship was, I can experience gratitude. I’m grateful that it’s over, that I’m not curled up in a fetal position, feeling like my insides have been torn out, wondering where he is….when he’ll be back, and how on earth will I be able to survive another round.

Focusing on the crazyness also allows me to see my complicity. It allows me to see my denial, my desire to and belief in my ability to controll him, fix him, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

I sometimes feel literally sick to my stomache when I remember the craziness.

Now, I need to work on me… this never, never happens again.

I wouldn’t say I’m in a joyful place, yet. But I’m in a hopeful one.

Thanks again, Loise. Great food for thought.

kim frederick

Loise, Yes this is the joyfullest place I am today, and I’m pretty happy with it! Thanks, and God bless.


Make it a good day!

kim frederick

Thanks, EB, and right back at ya!xxxx

Twice Betrayed

Oh…I really like this!
Yeah, take big steps, laugh loud, and be free. Here I go armed with my purple crayon to enjoy life! Thanks…..


Louise: Thanks for your reply and encouragement – I couldn’t get online
last night or today so still wanted to respond to your kind words! I’m doing all right, not ready to really express myself tonight – reality of everyday life setting in and my own situation of staying afloat with finances and being available to other people and responsibilities – while staying optimistic and leaving room for being creative and re-inspired to do new work – and to just do it! Put together large package of work and mailed off yesterday to former customer so pray I get a nice new re-order. Time to just accept what is and deal with it the best way I can. I’m going to have to just be busy and creative in my solutions to some daunting challenges ahead but not overwhelm myself with the big picture – put it out little fire by fire.

Is nice to come back here for some juice and to give it back when I can. Thanks to everyone, and hope Lily continues to recover in a happy way – have not checked all threads to see about her progress – she’s still in my prayers and will be.


There is your question, Louise – without my story, where would I be?

Well…I’d be like a hopeful, inquiring kid again – very open to life, drawing
all the time, experimenting and not putting limits on myself as an artist or
person. I’d be less sarcastic, more authentic and sincere. I’d try more new experiences – and be able to, because I’d have the money I earned
by doing what I love. I wouldn’t be sad or depressed unnecessarily anymore – I’d spend more time seeking out other fulfilled, happy people
as well as spending more time alone being selfishly quiet, reading or
being in nature, writing a long letter to a friend, walking a beach, learning a new language.

I’d put to rest my own limiting ideas about what I’m good at or not, or where I fit into the scheme of things with my family’s past image of me.
I’d dress more like I draw, be more expressive with color and pattern.
I’d find out more about places that have always intrigued me and make
goals to go there, one by one.

I’d make more time to be with people who would like to share more time
together on a hike, going to a movie, dancing dinner, whatever…

I’d feel less guilty about eating ice cream when I feel like it.

And I’d not worry about being loveable – I’d be having too much
fun on my own to even think about that and would be meeting many people
who would be available for love – in all kinds of relationship, not necessarily just a romantic one.


Oh Cor Persephone!:)x What an amazing post:) And Louise your reply is another inspiration:)xx There is some REALLY good stuff going on here today:) Thanks xxx

Ox Drover

Louise, you are wonderful! And Persephone as well!!! Thank you both for your above posts!!!! ++++++++++++++ (((Hugs)))


Thanks Louise, blueskies, Oxy! Getting ready for work – Louise, I’ll take
your advice and put it in the present tense. It is all about self-esteem and
our own image as well, isn’t it – and not letting old stories, past and present people in our lives define us. And knowing when we are telling ourselves a story about what we’ll accept as ‘love’, and being able to be ‘creative’ about that by rewriting our own plot and characters.

And I’ll try doing the vision map – it will be the theme for new work.
Have great days, Everyone!

(And I’ll accept that my posts go all crazy in their own linear fashion even when I think I’m doing it right!)



I just had a thought. I wonder if one reason you were able to go straight to the very positive approach of just refusing to focus on the P was three fold (besides the fact that you are just amazing! Truly!)
1) You had very strong outside confirmation that he was a “bad man”
2) He was being punished
3) He was in a place (being arrested) that was going to make a positive resolution impossible to arrive at for a very long time and NC was pretty much forced on you.

If so, it seems a positive step in therapy might be for therapists to STRONGLY validate that this is a BAD MAN and to really urge NC. The punishment part is pretty much out of our hands, and while normally, it is a good idea NOT to send that last letter or email really telling them off, it might not be such a bad idea with a P or N, if at the same time you make it clear that you WILL contact the police or whatever if they EVER contact you again, and charge them with stalking or whatever. I suppose it depends on the situation. But rereading that last email where I forever burned the bridge and made it clear that a) I knew he was the lie and b) that there would be legal ramifications if he ever came near again…..well, it brings me a lot of peace!

Anyway, one reason I think that there are so many paths to healing is that we each got out in different ways….which really impacts the path to healing I think.


Thank you Louis answer. And a good thing to ask of ourselves at anytime. (Does this get me, harmony and joy, or pain and sorrow. Does this get me peace of mind, or anger and discord?)

Lots of powerful statements above!


I meant “Louise for this answer.”

to innocent to know

I have to say, This is the first day I have woke up and that pain in my heart is not there!!! I have waited for this day, I rejoice. It has only been 5 months since we officially broke up, but he has had all the signs and got engaged 4 weeks after our break up. I thank God every day that he was protecting me. I hope she comes out of it ok.


to innocent to know,

To wake up and the pain in your heart not be there, that is wonderful!! It does feel good to know you’ve finally made it that far. I still have it jump back once in a while but it’s not everyday anymore, thank God.

I don’t know your story but I just wanted to say I’m very happy to hear your great news, it’s hard when your suffering the mornings with heart ache so I know how great it is,,,that first morning that I woke up and my heart not aching was a God send and I was so grateful to receive it! so I hear you, God bless!


Dear too Innocent to know, I just want to say, I understand you so well! The last few weeks, thank God, the terrible pain of knowing that not only my ex husband, and both my brothers and my two daughters are ALL narcopaths, especially the pain over my two Girls, the fog and the pain and anguish are lifting! The joy of waking up in the morning with a light heart! Not to dread every phone call unless its my older daughter! I will have been no contact for a year with her, on 8th dec. this year.I dont miss her any more. Whats to miss? the lies, the con tricks, the crocodile tears, the hints for me to offer her more money? the worry as to how shes coping?Since I set my boundary with her by letter at th e end of june this year,[an apology for all the bad things she has done},I havent heard from her, by phone or email.Im getting to see my Grandkids with my son in law.Im getting my life back. Im standing up for myself at last.Like you, my heart is not aching any more,it used to feel like it was broken in a million tiny pieces.Love, and {{HUGS!!}}} Gem.XXPs Ive forgiven her but as for closure? Forget it, aint gonna happen.!



I’m so happy to read your last post. You sound great!
God bless!!

to innocent to know

The story can change, we can make it change. Why keep someone in your life that continually hurts you. I gave my whole heart, life, soul over to my S/BPD. He took it and eventually stomped it into the ground, right in front of my eyes. For over 3 years, I told myself the fairy tale story, stayed in the fog, made excuses about him to my friends and family. But deep in my heart I knew what he was, I just didn’t know the name to put to it. LF has helped me to overcome so much. Thank you everyone for your stories.


Good read..

to innocent to know

Thank you Heavenbound and Gemini,
Healing is a wonderful thing. This is the best web site. Everyone that tells me their troubles about S/P/N/ and BPD’s I tell them to come here to help with the healing! You all are great!!!!

to innocent to know

Sorry Gem about your daughter. I know it’s hard to deal with the S’s in our lives. I just wish I would have listened to my instinct’s The very first time I broke up with him. I kept getting Hoovered back in. My daughter still has nightmare’s about him. He wasn’t violent, but abused prescription drugs and was very manipulative and controlling. Messing with our minds. It’s better to have them out of our lives. My prayers are with you and everyone here.

to innocent to know

keep up the good work, I have to say it is getting easier all the time, the more distance the better. Hugs to you all

Ox Drover

Dear Louise,

Let me say again what a lovely article this is….so self affirming. DO WHAT IS GOOD and AVOID WHAT IS BAD. Simple, it seems. Making those choices isn’t always easy, but as I get more healthy they become easier to do.

Easier to maintain the NC because the “needs” for contact are diminished or gone. the “desire” for the last word or to hurt them is no longer there. The delusion of fixing them is long gone.

The caring for myself has grown, so that I am taking care of me first, and only using any excess energies I have after having cared for myself to help or encourage others. ME FIRST is not a bad thing. How can I help others, how can I maintain good relationships if I don’t treat myself as well as I expect others to treat me. My relationship to myself, to truth, must be first and foremost, taking care of my needs. Not “starving” myself to the point I am cutting pieces of my own flesh off to throw to some two-headed dog which is demanding more from me to try to placate that monster.

I’m so glad you are here Louise and I always look forward to your articles. Thank you for sharing them with us.

Send this to a friend