By | April 26, 2007 46 Comments

ASK DR. LEEDOM: What about therapy?

A reader wrote in with the following:

I have a question for you related to the sociopath and the therapeutic relationship, and how to regain trust in the therapeutic process when it appears to have failed you during the relationship.

I have been in therapy with a therapist I trust and have bonded with for more than two years, as well as in group therapy, most of which was also parallel to the duration of my marriage to a sociopath. For a short period of time, the sociopath was in therapy with me in order to try work out the issues in our marriage.

I am currently struggling to regain my trust in therapy, when I view it as having eroded the very instincts that were telling me to get out of the relationship and away from the sociopath by teaching me how to work on “my issues” in the relationship, to be more understanding, less demanding, less needy, etc.

I do not blame therapy for my getting into or even staying in the relationship (as obviously no one could have known he was a sociopath if even I didn’t), but I’m having trouble continuing to recognize its value when I feel like it was a primary force in suppressing the red flags that were popping up everywhere screaming for me to leave him, because it had me focusing on “my issues” and how my past was influencing me to assume negative traits in him that were perhaps more tied to “my parents” or “family of origin” or to his natural family of origin issues.

I have tried to bring these issues and concerns up in my therapy, and am told that there is no way that anyone could have known, and that my rage needs to be directed towards the sociopath only.

But my point isn’t really rage or anger at her or the group for not seeing the truth, but really just in how to learn to value the process again, when in at least one case, it was reinforcing the same mind games he was playing with me.

I hope I’m being clear here and that this makes sense. I do honestly value and understand the necessity of therapy and would like to regain this trust, but am increasingly confused by how to do so given the doubts this situation has raised.

I would love some guidance or thoughts on this, or just to know if anyone else has experienced it and how they’ve coped.

Dr. Leedom answers

Thank you for taking the time to share your story and this important question. I have some very strong opinions about therapy and so forewarn you ahead of time.

First, I believe that anything offered by professionals, that is supposed to treat an illness, should have proven efficacy. In this regard, I hold psychotherapy to the same standard as I would medication. Psychotherapy should have proven benefits or it should not be sold. Sometimes people would opt to take a medication that does not have proven benefit because they feel good doing so. In that case, a doctor can tell the patient, “Here try this, it is not proven and may have side effects, but you might feel better.” In the same vein, if a therapist uses techniques that are unproven, he/she should be required to say, “This therapy may make you feel good but there is no scientific evidence that it works.”

Psychotherapy with proven benefit?

The above comment out of the way, there are psychotherapies with proven benefits. Therapy that works has goals and is of brief duration. If you are in therapy, work with your therapist to develop very specific goals. Wanting to feel better is NOT a specific goal. Specific goals often surround the symptoms of disorders. For depression, goals would be to improve sleep patterns, increase activities like self care and house work, and to decrease the dysfunctional thoughts that go along with the depression. Another goal for therapy could be to begin and maintain a satisfying friendship.

In regard to an intimate relationship, the goals of the therapy should also be articulated. The goal should be to increase loving behavior and to decrease negative behavior. If there is ongoing physical abuse, couples therapy is not considered acceptable. If there is psychological abuse, it has to stop before therapy can begin.

In general, therapists should not give advice. Then they are not responsible if someone stays in a relationship with a sociopath. That being said, having a vision for a functional relationship and a goal to attain function within 4 or 5 sessions should weed out sociopaths. Similarly, substance abuse has to stop before “therapy” can begin.

There are two specific therapies with proven efficacy CBT and DBT. DBT is a type of CBT.

What is CBT?

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy is devoted to the relief of human suffering using methods that have been shown to work. The latest in scientific advances are used to design personalized treatments in a culturally sensitive manner. In CBT the therapist and client work together to determine the goals for therapy, the agenda for each session, home practice between sessions, the usefulness of each intervention, and how long to continue therapy. In CBT the client does the work! The therapist is a facilitator.

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive treatment specifically developed for individuals with impulsive and self-harm behaviors. These behaviors can include binge eating, destructive relationships, self-cutting, frequent suicidal thoughts, urges, or attempts, and other self-destructive tendencies. Many individuals with these behavior patterns also meet criteria for personality disorders.

DBT combines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies with Eastern mindfulness (Zen) practices and involves both individual therapy and group skills training. Clinical research has consistently found DBT to be effective in reducing self-destructive behavior patterns and in optimizing ability to cope more effectively.

Some links:

Guidelines for choosing a CBT therapist.

Is DBT for you?

DBT Psychotherapy Network.

If you are in long term therapy and feel supported, and the therapy makes you feel good, don’t leave because of these recommendations. I have written this post for people who are questioning the therapy they are receiving. Most importantly, the joke about the light bulb is no joke. How does a psychotherapist change a light bulb? First it has to want to change.

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I just found out myself I have lived with a narcissist for 40 years, tried 5 different counselors in 15 years and none of them ever explained to me that people like this exist. Ten years ago couples therapy destroyed me, he won her over and I have never been the same since.At the time I knew I was living through something but I could not put my finger on what it was. I managed to pick myself up because of my kids and move on once again, like I always did thinking something was very wrong with me. I could only endure it for so long then I would fall apart again and be convinced something was seriously wrong with him, I searched on the inter net for answers. I found abuse sites, I was certainly abused, financially, verbally, emotionally, in the beginning physically, not in later years. I had not realized how the every day picking and pecking was abusive. nothing I did was right. So now we go for help again, he just needs sensintivity training and we’ll be ok. His duel personalities made it impossible for me to get anyone around me to believe how terrible my life was. Told therapist two years ago at another braking point, I had to understand my part in this and know exactly what was wrong with him because I could no longer try to live the way I was living.So I told my theapist, I needed to be with a group of abused women that felt the way I did, becasue no one understood what it was like.I realized that he had absolutely no empathy or feelings at all, that is why he could do all the terrible things he did, cried through a session about that. The following visit, she had a sheet printed out for me, 1- join the red hat society 2- volunteer at a homeless shelter 3- read books to kids in the library. I felt insane, and that she forgot why I was there. I told her I tried with everything I had in me to live that way and I could no longer do it.I did not go back to her. He was going to a psychiatrist at the same place but lieing as usual, not believing anything could be wrong with him. My point to all of this is ,I have no faith at all in the mental health field. I gave off so many red flags to every one I talked to, beginning with, so much abuse, what to do with all the memories, to the biggest clue, no empathy and no one ever said a word to me, no one even explained how abusive the relationship was, most of it, I was conditioned to, didn’t know it was abuse. I thought I was not saying the right words, And worse I am insane. I was saying all the right words, at the most broken times in my life, when I needed help, I got the worst counseling possible and he always walked away fine. I lost my sister last year that made me pursue what was wrong, For some reason I did not want to die not knowing what I lived through, he retired at the same time. He had no where to run. I tore down every excuse he had ever given me, I spent three months of hell and comming to the conclusion, that he is a narcissists, finding it on line. 40 years of marriage meant nothing to him, I meant nothing, he had no memories of the abuse or what he did to me, which every time we went for help, I thought he carried around in his mind, but no. I grieved the life lost, the messed up relationship with my kids becasue of his behavior, that was the most devestating part of it all, I could live with what he did to me, but as a family, he divided us all through the years, and there is no closeness as a family. My son is also abusvie to me, he learned well from his father. My kids always knew something was wrong with him, but he gets their empathy, he works it that way too. I tried to tell my kids that he has a personality disorder, they are upset with me that I can’t move on, they accept him, thats Dad, I have been in terrible shape and now he is being so nice to them both, that I look more mentally ill than him. I know I need help and support that I can’t get from anyone in my life around me. I can not simply move on with out my life and suffering being validated by someone. I did not deserve any of this, he gets a free pass, he has to do nothing. How do I find the right therapist and how do I get my kids to understand, they are narcissistic supply, he cannot love anyone. thank you for listening mamolie

also, many victims have PTSD because their relationship with the P and some therapists are really not qualified to treat or even understand PTSD from emotional & psychological trauma


Hi, Mamolie, my heart goes out to you for what has happened to you. You indeed did not deserve this. I hope that since you wrote this post you have received some validation, comfort and support. I, too, have been disappointed by therapists and made to doubt myself. I can feel the pain that you wrote about. I remember looking on the INternet seven years ago when my marriage ended and finding a few article on abuse, almost nothing on narcissism and sociopathy. And of course my therapist, while helpful in some respects, never used the words narcissist or sociopath. But lately there is a lot more informaiton available and I am feeling more hopeful. I have been told that the best therapists for dealing with these issues are psychodynamic therapists who deal with attachment disorders and who are experts in self psychology and object relations. I have not tried them myself; this is what I have read from other experts. So I will keep trying ot find the right therapist to relieve some of the pain. I hope you will try, too. I don’t believe the sociopaths and narcissists get a free pass; they are suffering, too; they have been crushed since children. But in their inability to deal wiht their own suffering they do the most horrible and cruel things to us, their victims, so the only choice we have is to get away from them and stay away. I do feel pity for them because they will never feel love or any real emotions. At the same time, I will stay away forever. They are not fully human and they are dangerous. Good luck to you and I hope you find hte support you are looking for.


Please don’t give up on therapy! I am a mental health therapist who married a narcissist and engaged to a sociopath. Due to my experiences, I am very knowledgable now on personality disorders and their impact on others. I have several colleagues who are educating themselves as well. It is so difficult because as therapists, you have to know a little about everything, and there are some people not well trained in dealing with this complex problem. From my experience, I think it is nearly impossible to do couples work, when one partner has a personality disorder because the reality is so skewed. Unfortunately, after years of the “unhealthy” one telling the “healthy” one (also called “crazy-making”) everything is his or her fault, that person enters the therapy arena with that presentation. It takes a very skilled therapist to differentiate. My advice is go to therapy alone and ask the therapist what their expertise is in. Trust is so hard in these situations, so give the therapist a shot, but if your gut tells you it doesn’t seem right, then find a new one. Just remember the jeans at Wal-mart do not fit like the ones at Target, so keep shopping!


Deep hurt and discovery. 5 years ago I got an email from James- he wrote to tell me how he had fallen hopelessly in love with my beautiful daughter- a wonderful letter asking us how to make her favorite food. We met many emails later. so charming and so good looking and polite, constantly telling us of his love for our daughter (who was and artist and mildly bi polar) but she was a raving beauty and becoming a star in the art world.He was very talented, and had many businesses -start ups, with some small sucess.(but he worked in a leaking studio) We were important in this media world. He had money, inhereted that he could not get his hands on, but bad credit,a great smile.. Our daughter asked us to co sign for some investment- she also put her money in their DREAM . We traveled with them often and worked on many jobs together- we gave him conections- and heard odd lies of how he had aquired the work- he used her contacts through her art contacts our family and all of our efforts to help him suceed. I guess we are luckier than most- as he paid us back most- but she spent months building a beutiful workplace for them to make their art in. her star started to fall-he started to tell her she was getting ill again. putting her down. days after he paid us back the 1st part of the “loan” he broke up with her when she returned home to visit a dying grandmother. Then he came to sweep her back- after a month of break up. We had heard him lie and to drop names to help him rise in his career- using our “name ” he started many buisnesses in the 5 years- all went by the wayside after a few months- we wondered if our daughter was one to go by the wayside soon- they started another business- and he quickly started to tell her she was mental ill nad would put her down. she had lost all friends over the 5 years except 2 girlfriends-he told her all of her friends were loosers- he was jealous if she went out with her friends.. we started to wonder where his old friends were. We had visited with his family many times. he had proposed lavishly to our daughter at a family christmas several years earlier. She adored him, but would mention he had a temper(that we never saw) we almost did not believe her- but now and then we saw it come out- he dumped her this year when she was home- over the internet- and…. got married to a woman(a famous star) 6 weeks later. He gave her the house for a while to organize her life and pulled several scare tactics- she held her ground untill he payed her most of her money . He had never said he was sorry- he took her name off of all their art- deleted all of their join efforts on the internet -said he was never engaged to her. Took the work space, the dog and swaggered away.He benefited greatly from her contributions .
It has taken me 6 months to come to the conclusion that the charleton who jilted my daughter is a sociopath. I never would have guessed it. It is so painful that for the 1st time I have gone to therepy- I have been married 35 years to a great guy- our daughter thought she had a great guy. His father deserted him when he was 4- his mom always said he never finished anything- He wants sucess and fame and fortune- he just married that- I find myself wanting to cause him harm. My daughter holds their break up against me for “helping ” them.Will my daughter ever recouver from such a jilting- will I???? Will my daughter and I become friends again? Well a guy like this ever suffer from the pain he causes. Oh – he called my husband a few weeks ago to tell us how In Love he is with the new wife- and how they are going to have kids.


My first post – my first public acknowledgment of what happened to me. It’s hard.

The man who hurt me had cheated on his wife since the first years of their two-decade marriage and swore he could never do it again.

When she left him, he found a therapist suggested by a friend of hers. He was given a choice – one who was very business-like or one who would take him on a journey. He took the journey.

When I came into the picture two years later, I started going with him to his sessions at his request. I thought it was so that we could integrate what we were currently doing with what he was still learning. Part of my agreement with him was that he would stay in therapy while I was involved with him.

I had never been in therapy; I was completely unfamiliar with narcissists, sociopaths, or psychopaths. In my ignorance, I thought any of those would be so recognizable and repulsive I would reject them automatically.

I counted on the therapist to know the different personality disorders, though, and deal with them.

The therapist was kind and gentle and encouraged us to stay together. At one point, when I asked, he assured me this man wouldn’t cheat on me (his confident answer surprised me; the fact that the man did cheat months later must have surprised him)

He compared the man to a modern day Zorba the Greek who just loved and lived life to the fullest. He didn’t seem to see any severe disorder. So, he wasn’t prepared to look much deeper when I objected to certain behaviors.

For example, once when we were on a walk, we ran into a couple he and his wife used to know. He didn’t introduce me so I extended my hand to say hello and they barely acknowledged it. I stood silently by for at least 10 to 15 minutes while they engaged in conversation and not one of them made eye contact with me. I felt invisible and ostracized. They were so involved in their talk that when their dog started attacking one of his dogs, not one of them intervened. I had to break it up.

I finally just left and continued the walk we had started. Later he said he was so mad at me for leaving without saying goodbye that he waited an extra five minutes before joining up with me. I was furious at him for being so rude.

Later the therapist suggested, in a very gentle way, that perhaps I should have responded differently such as tapping him lightly on the shoulder and saying “honey, I’m going now.” Not only did this invalidate my instinctive feelings that his behavior was wrong, but also excused his behavior.

This wasn’t the first time something like this at happened; just the latest and it’s something my father does, too. I’ve never liked it and I wouldn’t do it to anyone else. It’s wrong.

I think the therapist should have asked him why he was so thoughtless or if he had a reason for behaving that way. I could only think that the man was just incredibly socially inept; I had no idea it could be a deeper problem.

I asked him myself months later and he struggled to define the feeling that prompted him to do that behavior. He finally said, “I think I don’t want people to think of me as attached.” That’s what a therapist should have uncovered.

I like Dr. L’s idea that a therapist can give a vision of a relationship. That’s what I needed. My internal compass was spinning madly and I couldn’t get my bearings on what was normal or not normal anymore.

My red flags were dismissed by well-intentioned friends and by his unprepared therapist. After a certain point, I couldn’t trust my own instincts and thought I might be expecting too much. I certainly was asking too much from a man who once said “just being in the relationship” was a big thing for him. He also told me he didn’t have to do anything the therapist suggested so it just became a matter of an hour-long chat session about him and feelings, no homework, no assessment, no accountability.

At the same time, apparently, he was on the phone with his friends disparaging me and getting their sympathy, another big issue the therapist didn’t pick up on.

I would want a therapist who could tell me if it was unreasonable to be treated that way in a good relationship and also what a good relationship would look like in comparison.

I’m afraid, though, I would be told “it’s what you think is unreasonable.” In my deepest despair, I needed someone who could anchor me in reality when my own compass wasn’t working because I couldn’t trust myself to know what reality looked like anymore.


This is an older article, but REALLY important. Therapy. Yes? No? Finding a counseling therapist that “gets it?”

Here is a link to an explanation of “shame core.” That simple phrase opened the door to my healing WIDE.


It’s interesting that it suggests it can trigger some peoples symptoms. When I had an episode of anxiety/depression approx ten years ago I had been reading RD Laing ….double bind effects. Never made the connection but am now wondering whether it was one of the reasons I went slightly over the edge at the time. Trying to sort through stuff I needed “help” with perhaps.

Thanks for the link, TS

Ox Drover

Truthspeak, thanks for posting that link….those are good concepts for us to think about.

We all have hundreds of these “core beliefs” that are wrong, things that maybe our parents may not even have intended to convey but did convey…and unless we start to examine these beliefs we don’t really even know that we are acting under their influences.

Good link, thanks again.


Strongawoman what are double blind effects? What connection?




The “double bind” theory of RD Laing. I began reading a book by him called “The Divided Self” …….it was a long time ago so I can’t remember much but he wrote of his patients who were undergoing psychotherapy for illnesses like schizophrenia and that there was a link between the mother and child relationship where mum says and does another. I think that’s right….you could google him. I was going through a bad time and trying to find reasons for my fragility. I do remember that it kind of mind farked with my head……even more than I was. I took it back to the library. Lol.

You know Athena, I think it was hens that posted today that sometimes we arent going to get the definitive answer. I suppose I want an answer. I want someone to say strongawoman there you go. Now you can be fixed and move on. And then I don’t really want to look to closely…’s a kind of guilt. I feel bad… I’m being ungrateful to my parents who were good and did their best despite their huge dysfunctional backgrounds. Too much analysing….makes my head spin.


And the connection was mentioned in the link that truth posted. That examining your past can actually trigger you. Sorry I’m not being very clear. There’s lots of shiat going on in my head at the mo.


You said….

“We all have hundreds of these “core beliefs” that are wrong, things that maybe our parents may not even have intended to convey but did convey”and unless we start to examine these beliefs we don’t really even know that we are acting under their influences.”

Amen to that.


I understand. I read that book a couple years ago too. I think there is a balance between going back and digging out old shiat, learning, and then putting it away for a while to do something else. Working too hard at it sometimes doesn’t help.

Bit by bit, day by day.




That’s a very kind, reassuring thing to say.

Thank you and hugs to you too 🙂

Ox Drover

Well, like for example, my inability to set boundaries with people “close” to me….I actually caught a friend stealing in the middle of the act, and I WAS CONCERNED THAT I HAD EMBARRASSED HER! My feelings didn’t matter, and no matter how I tried to set boundaries I couldn’t do it until I went BACK and undid those old “myths” that had been ingrained into my little girl’s mind…that my feelings didn’t matter. That it was not okay to “embarrass” someone by catching them in a bad act and confronting them. DUH?

No matter what I learned about boundaries, I couldn’t do it until I looked at, recognized and CONFRONTED my own core value of “my feelings don’t matter.” I realize now where that came from. Maybe my parents didn’t intend to give me that feeling (though I think my egg donor did, but my step father didn’t intend it) but until I confronted my own “myth” I coujldn’t fix the problem iin the NOW. So once I confronted the deep down problem, then I COULD set boundaries for ANYONE, even those I deeply loved. Even those that it hurt me deeply to confront, but I could now DO IT.

Like a couple of years ago when my son C lied to me. I confronted him…and am essentially NC with him because I can’t trust him. Sure he will not steal from me, or burn my house, but he is NOT trustworthy to the extent that I expect him to be, and that is to be TRUTHFUL to me under any and all circumstances.

I actually think he has repented of what he did, and he has joined a church and is an active member of it now…but he has NOT made any real attempt to apologize, accept responsibility for what he did, or to show any real remorse, in stead he is “pretending it never happened.”

Last summer when my husband’s grandkids came for a visit and wanted to see him, I actually called him and asked him to dinner rather than explain to them why he wasn’t here. Afterward, he seemed to think that “all was well” but I sat him down and informed him that all is NOT well, that I do NOT trust him, and that our only contact will be where it concerns the “family business” and his brother’s parole hearings.

Recently we had another family meeting that I invited him to that I did not want the family members to know there was any rift between him and me, he knew why I invited him. I actually also had him tell the family members that he was goin to come stay with me at night while son D is gone to camp for the summer because I did not want them to let anyone know I was alone over here in my hole in the woods. He understood why I wanted them to think that, and actually even offered to DO just that. However, I thanked him for the offer but declined it. I will NOT ask him a favor if I were bleeding to death. I will not extend him a favor if HE were bleeding to death. Not any more than I would have accepted money from the egg donor when she was practically trying to cram it down my throat…I will not be in the debt of anyone I cannot trust.


My eyes are now wide open when it comes to therapists.

First of all, it isn’t PTSD because as long as my Ps are still living, nothing is POST. They can come at me at any time for any absurd reason they can conjure up. Absolutely nothing that they do is based on “normal” behavior, thinking, or reasoning.

One therapist told me that I haven’t gotten over the abuse because the abuse hasn’t stopped. You can’t get over what is still going on.

Facts? What do facts have to do with anything? My S mother told me once, when I protested that she was making sound like an idiot, that I make too big a deal about things. She changes stories about me because she thinks they sound more interesting in her version.

“My part in this?” That has a place up to a point, but where are the therapists stepping forward to explain that you can’t mend all fences, that there are relationships that will never be healed no matter what, and in some cases, there is no hope?

Where is that sheet of paper explaining how and when therapy won’t work?

As long as they get paid, I believe therapists can con themselves that they are doing some good.

Some good? They have kept me in situations that I should have never been in because I didn’t know I was being abused. Who are they to decide it is OK that I stay in an abusive situation because I am “working through” something? Why didn’t they ever tell me that I had a choice to get out or leave? No, they encouraged me to “keep working at it,” meaning keep trying because things might turn out peachy keen eventually. They can stuff their peachy keen down the garbage disposal.

I can still hear the therapists telling me that “Well, it might not necessarily be abuse. People have different ways of doing and thinking about things.”

Some good? My last therapist eventually told me that her spirit guides indicated to her that my son’s therapist and I were meant to co-parent my son, and she told that therapist that is what I wanted. I didn’t even know what co-parent meant.

When I erupted and pointed out that I have been saying all along that I wanted to keep as far away from that man as possible because there were issues there, her answer was, “I don’t know why I didn’t hear that. I’ve had other clients who have fired me because they said I wasn’t hearing them either.” Who do you think my son’s therapist believed? Me or her? What a mess!

She told me she said that because she thought he and I made a nice couple. I won’t even start with what was going on with him regarding me.

Where are the information sheets explaining why people become therapists in the first place? Such as they want to rescue people, fix the world, or deal with their own personal stuff vicariously through their clients? How ethical is that?

Nobody ever told me that therapy should have stated goals and be short term. I thought it was something to my credit that I could maintain a long-term relationship with a therapist. I thought I was making progress.

And God forbid that I would ever have to leave to start with somebody else to tell my story all over again.

They do judge you. Most of them think that you’ve made no progress whatsoever and know nothing when you start with them.

I was such a lamb. I was told you can trust a therapist.

They are no different than anyone else and because of their motives and underlying issues, in some instances, they are much worse.

Ox Drover


You had a very unfortunate relationship with a therapist (Peter) for your son, and the other therapist and her “spirit guides” telling her what to tell you. DUH!? That one actually blew me away! Wonder if she went to Hogwort for her degree?

There are and have been therapists Ii have been to that HAVE gotten it…that have helped me, that I think without their interventions Ii would have floundered longer and deeper. The “abuse” continues in my case too, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have PTSD because there is PAST /Post abuse and your traumatic stress is to that, the fact that there is continuing attempts at abuse, like in my case with him coming up for parole every few years, and me knowing that at some time he WILL get out Sure that is continuing trauma to a degree, but I am determined to not let it ruin my life….I’m gonna cope with it. Maybe with some triggering, but still I’m gonna cope with it. Do what has to be done to minimize the dangers and contacts.

I think part of it is HOW WE LOOK AT THE CURRENT EVENTS…if we don’t RE-ACT to them, but rather ACT as necessary then we diminish the effects on us, the stress on us…the damage to us.

I won’t say I’m 100% there yet, but I’m sure working toward it. As my braiin clears from the FOG of the pneumonia and just feeling bad, Things are starting to clear up. Keep the faith!

I’m sorry you got a hogwort’s graduate for a therapist!
I know it’s not funny but you did crack me up when you said, “as long as my Ps are still living, nothing is POST.”

so true.

The only thing we can do is stop feeding them. The strange part is that they feed on our facial expressions. Mine plotted for 25 years just to see my face when life was so horrible that I killed myself. You would never imagine that anyone would do that. It makes no sense to us, but to them, well sense has nothing to do with it.

It really is like a game to them. For them, your emotions add up to nothing more than the expression on your face. Without empathy, they can’t feel what you feel, they only know that THEY WIN!

I know that you can’t possibly relate to that mentality, but do try to keep it in mind if they ever try to mess with you again.


Part of the problem, too, is that most therapists do not understand about Ps. They think they are all the Hollywood stereotypes.

I spent far too many years recovering as an adult child of an alcoholic (my father) when the issue was more accurately an adult child of a P (my mother.) NOBODY ever recognized that my P sister was an issue, although there were a few who did think the relationship between her and our mother was weird.

Oxy, I had one therapist, dripping in gold jewelry with his BMW parked out front, tell me, “I’ve never dealt with adult children before, but maybe you could teach me.” I’m supposed to teach him? Isn’t he supposed to have the knowledge and skills to help me? When did I become his instructor? This guy was clearly in the field only for the money.

I had another therapist say to me, “Don’t you people have something called a Higher Power?” You people?

And don’t forget the therapist, a former oncological nurse, who was so sure that I was a pathelogical liar that she called my parents into her office to see if my P sister had really put me through what she did when she threw me out of her house for not being supportive of her distress over my being diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant and if the medical providers really did what they did to me. My parents reassured her that everything that I was saying was the truth.

Then there was the social worker in my son’s first psych hospital who told him that he could decide for himself when he grows up if alcoholism is an issue in the family. After I had spent years getting both of us help because of that very issue. Those mental health experts didn’t count? Ms. Social Worker knew our case better and had more expertise than them?

And the psychologist in the second psych hospital who wanted to march my son in front of a judge to be declared a wayward child because “there was nothing else to do in his case.” Over my dead body. My son ran away overnight (it turned out to stay a friend’s) because he couldn’t cope with what was going on. The kid was suicidal out of fear over what the Ps had told him (scared him into) that would happen. That was the solution? Declaring him a criminal? We were paying how much for this?

Then there was my son’s therapist going from “we’ll take your son through to graduation together” one weeK and then having my son look through school catalogues for emotionally disturbed children then next AFTER I told him that my P’s sister’s daughter had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Then there was the outpatient place that refused to answer my questions about why my son’s therapist did that, which I had asked them to find out, and we walked in for a 11 AM appointment to be told by that shrink that my son’s therapist was terminating with my son at 2 PM that day. And spirit guide lady saying, “Don’t go there! Don’t show up! I don’t know what else your son’s therapist might do to your son.”

Know what happened? Exactly what I predicted. My son was reacting to catalysts. Take the catalysts (the Ps) away, and he’s a normal kid. OMG. I explained to him what they were, why they were doing that, and after going no contact with them (getting a restraining order on my P sister,) our lives calmed down. We THRIVED. Imagine that? Now my son has just finished his first year at his univesity with a 3.5 and was chosen to be a Resident Assistant (RA) next year.

I have had some decent help. One of the best told me not to trust a lot of therapists until I got to know them very well because at least 50% of them have never dealt with their own issues. They go into the field hoping to fix themselves through others.

I met another online who went through all the documents and emails pertaining to my son’s therapist and what my P sister and S mother did. She was a great help, seriously. She thought what my family did was “horrific” and what the others did was “unconscionable.” She got it.

Sky, I have been no contact with my family for about four years now. That takes care of them reading any emotions on my face although I wouldn’t mind if they saw what I was doing with my middle finger. 😉

And Oxy, yes, there have been singular events that are post and I have gotten help for those.

But as Dr. Leedom pointed out in her article, these people shouldn’t be making promises about what they can do without goals, guidelines, and definitions. And they shouldn’t be promising more than they can deliver. They are not the end all and be all.

Ox Drover

Grace, what I meant about being “Post trauma” is that even though they may be lurking out there in the shadows and could conceivably pounce on us, we can’t let that knowledge of “there is a P out there that would like to get me” keep us in CONSTANT TRAUMA…that hyper allert state that won’t let us find peace and relax.

We can’t control their thoughts, plots or behaviors, but we can live in caution, NOT TERROR. The difference may be subtle but it is a big difference I have found.


Oh, I wasn’t looking it at that way. I agree with what you said, Oxy, 100%.

I don’t live in terror, I definitely live cautiously, but I get triggered easily when it comes to wondering about the safety of my son. That’s not the worst thing in the world. At least I care. I know my S mother wouldn’t care if something bad happened to me. She’d probably gloat over it.

The bottom line is I took back my life for me. And my son. He needs an emotionally healthy mother.

It was a legacy from the Ps that I was so easily dominated and looked to others for their opinions about my life.

My mother wouldn’t even take an opinion straight from me. She’s always add, “How do you know that? Did you get a professional opinion? What does so-and-so say/think about it?”

Of course this is invalidating me, which I could recognize. I just didn’t bring it far enough along. What I was failing to recognize was that this was also conditioning me to never trust my judgment and to always believe that somebody else had a better perspective on my life than I did. I do believe this how those who dominate gain control.

I wonder how many people even question why they would do that? Meaning let others tell them what to do as opposed to know that was conditioning left over from people who like to dominate and control?

I suspect that is an awareness that doesn’t come easily.

Ox Drover

G1S, I suggest you read one of my favorite books if you have not read it “Games People Play” by Dr. Eric Berne. Berne talks about the internal states, the “internal parent” the “internal adult” and the internal Child. The parent is made up of two parts, the good and the bad, the critical and the nurturing. Some people have 90% critical and 10% nurturing and some vice versa…but the things the parent tells us “wash your face before you go to bed” help us to live life without having to think about and decide about every tiny thing we do each day. We just do it without examining why, it is just how things are done.

However, the critical tapes that the critical parent gives us of “you are no good” or “you are fat” or “you are stupid” are there in the back ground and they help form our view of ourselves and the world. We must get those tapes out, examine them with our adult minds, decide if they are valid or not, and if they are NOT valid, then we must hit the MUTE BUTTON.

Lots of my parental tapes are about “your feelings don’t matter” so that set me up to let others walk on me. Your tapes are different from mine but they are those background noises that we have to BECOME AWARE OF and then decide if they are valid or not. “Wash your face before you go to bed” is okay, I’ll keep that, “your feelings don’t matter” is NOT valid, I will mute that tape.

Berne’s descriptions of these “games” people play and the tapes that we have as back ground noise is very intersting. I recommend it to anyone seeking to better understand themselves and the results of our parental conditioning.


Very good advice. “live in caution, not terror” what I have found hard is dealing with the spath on a regular basis. It’s so hard not to live in terror knowing my three little angels are in her hands.


Will do, Oxy! That book sounds like it might be a big help to this brain that has to always know the reasons why and what is happening.

Ox Drover

G1S You will see a lot of the 12-step wisdom in some of the “games” he describes and the triangle—victim/persecutor/rescuer stances—good ways of looking at how interactions between people can be classified as “games” with people trying to get a pay off of some kind. It may be a simple past time of “hello” and expect someone to respond “How are you?” but it may be more, and more and deeper pay offs and manipulations.

We have to keep from being caught in the games and keep from being either the victim, resucer or persecutor.

I had a therapist tell me one time “the ONLY legitimate “rescue” is to pull an unconscious man from a burning bujilding” and that is so true. I wish I had listened to her.

She told me once that I had the “thickest pair of rose colored glasses she had ever seen” I think she was right.


Hi all. A little off topic but very confused and hoping for advice. I know there is a lot of collective wisdom here.

P.s. I used dyingdad but have changed my name as I later realized, (thanks to the wise people here) it may not have been a wise choice in name.

Anyway, my dilemma.
I have had many problems with my ex and believe without a doubt she is a sociopath. However, our children live with her. I’m so sick of being used and taken advantage of by her. So recently, I decided to stop acting like everything was ok, like she always thinks it is, and go as close as I could to no contact with her. I told her I no longer wanted to discuss anything on a personal level with her, and to only discuss issues about the children. ever since then, she has once again resorted to using the children as pawns by restricting access and telephone access. I pay for her phone btw, for that purpose. Agreed to it in court when she asked the judge, under that condition. Now, for the last couple of days, I keep getting text messages from her. She wants to talk about “US”. This presents a couple of problems.
1) She is so manipulative. Especially at getting information out of people. She has a way of cornering you in a way I’ve never seen before. Within a couple of sentences, you end up stuck with admitting it, or dating nothing which is still admitting it. it truly is incredible. Trouble is, there are things I don’t want to admit yet. Luke my knowledge of her and aiming to get custody.
2) I would again be supply. I would again get a little more access, butt this would mean doing her countless favors. And even setting boundaries presents problems because when she encounters them, she will retaliate by using the kids. Access.
3) I know there is no way in hell she could manipulate me back into a relationship with her, but I am afraid of how all the negative emotions I have toward her may affect me. I truly hate this woman. Also, I’m afraid of how she will react when I reject her. (if that is her intention)

Any suggestions welcome. Thanks everyone.
God bless


W8ing4change – waaay better screen name.

you have a court order – if she is in contravention of your access agreement is this then a matter for the lawyers/ judge?

do you know about ‘our family wizard’? recommeded by many posters on lf:

figure out that you deserve NOT to be manipulated, and remove your ego from it as much as you can. it can feel kinda delicious to know we are going to try to fight back – but it can also make us want to show the shiny secrets. become a wall…no cracks, impervious.


W8ing4change aka dyingdad

First your # 1 is what I refer to as having a conversation while sticking your head in a blender. Your words go in, making complete sense, then they get chopped up and spit back out at you. Pretty soon you actually end up apologizing for something she did to you. – Sound right?

#2 & # 3 – look up Sky’s gray rock technique – study it carefully – I think it is perfect for situations like yours – It is something like the Jerry Seinfeld show – a lot of talk about absolutely nothing – she will have your attention, but you will not supply her with anything – you will be so boring you won’t have to set boundaries because she won’t want to have much to do with you – she will retaliate less and less using the kids because you won’t let her know she is bugging you by using them – you will turn her attention towards something else that you “pretend” means a lot to you (your new shiny thing – whatever you decide it is)

You won’t show negative emotions because you won’t show any emotion at all. You don’t need to be afraid of how she will react when you reject her because you are going to let her be the one that ultimately rejects you.

Don’t tell her you “no longer want to discuss anything on a personal level” – just don’t, change the subject, talk about some meaningless dribble, usually about her, what she is doing etc.

Try to make her believe that it would benefit HER if you spent time with the kids, how tired she must be and how much she could use a break. In other words hand her a load of BS directly to her ego.

Sky explains the whole idea behind this and how to accomplish it. It takes some practice, but at least for me it works like a charm. Look up her article here on LF, see what you think.

Good luck

Just read one step – our family wizard is a great tool


W8ing4change – following on what milo said, you can’t treat these people like they are normal, so don’t broadcast your intentions, just do what you are going to do. broadcasting gives them waaay too much info and they will leverage that for control. it’s not like she’s going to respect your boundaries…quite the contrary.

Ox Drover

I absolutely agree, Gray Rock is the ONY way you can deal with a biatch like this that wants DRAMA…NO DRAMA at all. Nothing she says makes you mad. No matter what it is you must PRETEND IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU MAD. She calls you a prick, you say “I’m sorry you feel that way” she tells you she is going to file rape charges against you, “well hun, you have to do what you think Is right”

Nothing makes you happy, your face is a blank wall, you don’t laugh you don’t cry, you don’t scream, you just are BLAHHHHHH.

She will keep trying to get a reaction, she will keep trying to push your buttons but eventually she will become bored and look for another victim. BORE HER TO DEATH.


W8ing4change – oh, and if you can REALLY bore her to death, let me know….it would be the ultimate weapon. i would consider reconnecting with the spath i thought it would put her in the grave.


Thank you all so much for your advice. I have become very familiar with the gray rock technique, and agree that it works well. I found out I was already using this technique even before learning what it was. Lol. Now, having it explained improved on it.
I don’t however feel that she is looking for drama. I think she had finally noticed that her hooks slipped, and wants to try to re-engage the honeymoon phase. To get info and supply. Her man supply had run a little low. Lol.
As you can imagine, she is very good at operating within the law. When she’s happy, (I submit to all her demands) she allows me more than ordered access. This is what she takes away. I tried to rectify the phone access problem through court, denied
Joy, I love your idea about the ultimate weapon! Roflol.
Thank you all again. God bless.


W8ting, love the name change – now, consider an even MORE positive ID: M8kingCh8nges! LOL

I thoroughly understand your concerns – they are valid, and based upon facts. Having been through a similar situation with the first exspath, I learned “how things work” by making irreversible mistakes.

“Grey Rock” is the most perfectly sound approach, and I wish that I had known about this about 18 years ago. The second exspath isn’t just a grey rock – he is non-existent. He does not exist in my world. Now, having said that, we don’t have children together, so it’s far easier for me to walk away, not look back, and try to piece my life back together.

With regard to her isolating the children from you, there is one possible legal remedy, but it’s another march through the Family Court system, and liable to amount to nothing. “Show Cause” is when someone fails to act in accordance with a Court Order. “Alienation of Affection” is a legal term that refers to one parent turning children against another parent, by word or deed.

Alienation of Affection is a tool that spaths use to a degree that is so damaging that it cannot be calculated. It’s also a horror to attempt to prove to Family Court. Most often, children are Court Ordered to attend counseling and make their decisions based upon the counselors’ recommendations. THIS can be result in positive AND negative outcomes. You’ve read in these many articles that even educated Professionals “don’t get it” where sociopathy is concerned, and this unfortunate Truth goes forth with Court-appointed counseling, as well.

For the time being, W8ting, you’ve been offered some spot-on suggestions by Milo, OneJoy, and OxD. The most difficult challenge that you may be facing is putting “Grey Rock” into practice. Giving nothing away – no emotions, no instructions, no warnings of consequences, etc., – is a difficult challenge. We’ve had our boundaries trampled through coersion and deceit, and (if anyone is like I am) we feel compelled to define boundaries and tell these rat-shit people about themselves. Well, if we give them a “heads up” on what we will and won’t tolerate, they’ll simply (and, effectively) figure ways around those boundaries.

Did anyone watch (or, read) the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy? Rohan’s great fortress of Helm’s Deep was a solid defense and had only one weakness – a culvert which was easily exploited with explosives. So…..recognizing that ANY boundary can have the tiniest vulnerabililty is probably as helpful as any stone laid in that boundary wall. A sociopath will find a way around any boundary, if they can. And, if they have a clear definition of those boundaries, they can begin scoping out vulnerabilities.

For instance, a conversation begins with the children’s welfare – school reports, physical needs, etc. Pick one, and watch the spath work their way around that discussion – milimeter by milimeter – and turn it into whatever topic that will serve them, best. It’s not about the children’s welfare, and it never WAS. “It’s all about THEM,” so I am with Milo on this: no verbal declarations of what you will, and will not, allow. Begin teaching yourself to hear white noise whenever the spath speak, EVEN if the words seem to focus on the best intersts of the children.

Yes, a sociopath is adept at drawing out information from their targets. It’s a natural ability that we all have, but spaths simply use that ability for their own purposes. It can be almost mesmerizing to watch a spath work, can’t it? It’s like watching David Copperfield make a 747 jet disappear. But, remember: Copperfield is an illusionist, just as spaths are. The illusion is to present care, concern, and false empathy, and very nearlly 100% of the time, they will give themselves away in due time. Fascinating, to be sure, but thoroughly malicious.

Hang in there, W8ting! Practice visualizing the exspath as a grey rock that makes a noise come out of a fissure in its face. “Beware the Voice of Sauruman!”

Brightest blessings


Milo, “head in a blender!” ROTFLMAO!!!! That phrase just struck me as hilarious, as awful as that may sound. I got this visual of Saturday Night Live skits with the “Bassomatic,” and it morphed into the “Sociomatic.” LOL Sorry….it’s not funny, but it is – if that makes any sense. 😀


W8ting, I meant to ask if you were engaged in counseling therapy. I know there’s a lot of opinions about this issue, and finding a counselor that “gets it” can be a true challenge, but I was very, very lucky to find a good, strong counseling therapist (and, I VERY much miss our sessions), and she GOT IT, straight from the gate.

If you aren’t already engaged in sessions and you’re wanting to find a counselor that “gets it,” you can call your local domestic violence hotline or “mental health” referral service and specify that you need the names of several counselor that are familiar with PSTD and domestic violence/abuse. The DV hotlines keep a list of superb counselors that often provide their services at no cost to victims of domestic violence and abuse. If you have health insurance that covers “mental health” services, you can also get a list of candidates from them, as well. Just keep in mind that choosing the right counselor is like trying on every style of Levi jeans – some are going to fit better than others. And, don’t commit to the first counselor that you meet with, either. Observe how the counselor moves into topics and ends the sessions. If you walk away feeling confused or misunderstood, then the counselor isn’t hearing you. If the time in sessions seems to drag on, then you’re simply taking up space in the schedule. Strong counseling, IMHO, should consist of validation and suggestions on how to manage the issues – triggers, feelings, perceptions, beliefs, etc. When I walk out of my counselor’s office, the time has flown by and I have literally taken notes on techniques to practice. I “feel” as if I have been given goals and the tools to meet those goals.


One/Joy, you made me laugh! 🙂

MiLo, loved “having a conversation with your head in a blender.” Doesn’t that say it all?

I agree with this one, “You won’t show negative emotions because you won’t show any emotion at all. You don’t need to be afraid of how she will react when you reject her because you are going to let her be the one that ultimately rejects you.”

W8ting, I am not sure that therapy with the two of you together is going to do anything except maybe help a therapist to see why you keep getting hooked.

Thruthspeak, my state legally does not have “alienation of affection” because I wanted to go that route with my family and was told that I couldn’t since the law wasn’t on the books.



That was such a wonderful post at 8:35AM. I saw my spath do this…it wasn’t about his son at all. He had been separated from his wife for a year and I think wanted to go home. I think he was lonely and tired of living in a crummy apartment instead of this big house with all the amenities that he was used to having. Sooooo, his son apparently gets into just a little trouble at school (this is a good kid) and he tells his wife that we should get back together because I feel like the son is getting in trouble because we are separated and he needs his dad. HA! See, it wasn’t about his son at all; it was all about HIM and what he wanted, but he spun it to look like it was in the best interest of the child. PLEASE!!! And the wife fell for it, but she probably wanted him to come home, too so it worked out for all!


G1S, excellent reminder: Family Law varies from State to State.

I also agree 100% that counseling therapy for W8ting WITH the exspath would be an exercise in futility! I’m all for individual counseling with the “right” counselor.


Louise, the saddest and most painful Truth about spaths is with regard to their children. Why they reproduce is beyond me, because they don’t want the hassle of raising a human being, they only want something that they can use. And, the children don’t have a choice as to whom they will have as parents. To visit such damage upon human souls that have no choices is just vile.



I agree 100%…very sad. I asked mine if he wanted kids (I don’t have any) and he said yes. Of course he did…he knew they would be extensions of himself and he wouldn’t have to take care of them…that is all up to the wife. Nope, don’t want the hassle at all and at least in my spath’s case, I can see that he wanted children as an ego booster…spreading his seed. Yes, I feel so sorry for those kids (there’s a daughter also)…they didn’t have a choice…they are only here because the wife wanted them and the spath wanted them as possessions. Tragic.



My son’s P father has six children – that we are certain of. We suspect that there are more.

He wants absolutely nothing to do with them. He’s walked away without even a second thought on four of them.

When we were getting to know each other, I asked him what the names of his kids were and it took a few minutes for him to remember. When he finally did, he still had trouble coming up with their names.

I was so shocked that I dismissed the lapse. I figured he had a momentary brain freeze. I was guilty of, “Who ever heard of a parent forgetting the names of his children? A nice guy like this would never do that.”

Only later did I find out that he did everything he could to reject and abandon his children.

He even told my attorney it was her legal obligation to make me have an abortion.

His mother told me that he completely ignored #6 to the point of not even acknowledging her existence when she came into a room, and he barely had the time of day for #5.

What #5 and #6 have is a mother with a substantial trust fund.

That’s why Daddy Dearest sticks around. It ain’t because of the kids.


Truthspeak, I am in therapy. I just started and have only seen her once so far. She doesn’t totally “get it” as in she lacks the necessary facts about psychopathy. She does however understand PTSD and is very open to learning. I got the impression she is the type who had been learning all about psychopathy since our last meeting, so as to be much more informed for or next session. She seems like a good therapist and is very goal oriented. We will see.
In regard to having children, I think females are far more inclined to want to have children than male spaths. For several reasons.
1) Just as you put it, to make a “mini-me”.
2) Extreme financial gain. Especially if there are several children. Given the bias of the courts and their manipulative abilities, they are virtually certain they will get custody. Which means child support, spousal support, child tax benefit, social security, etc.
3) Facilitator of their “pity-ploy”. Poor single mom, abandoned by dead beat dad for the new “skank”, left to raise the children all alone. Even if you didn’t like her and would never consider giving her a penny, you’d change your mind if her kids were starving and living on the street…
4) The ultimate tool for manipulation. Both to manipulate the dad aswell as new potential targets. “look at me, the world’s greatest mom”. It’s one of the things that hooked me.
5) Keeps “supply” close. Family, for example, who would otherwise walk away, keep feeding her wants and needs because they can’t just walk away from their grand children, nieces, nefews.
And the list goes on. It’s the perfect con and completely legal. And in the case of the female spath, it’s not really much of a burden. First off, when they have them in their care, they are usually neglected, being raised by themselves or T.V.
Second, They were likely smart enough to choose a perfect target. One who is a great father, who will do anything and everything to make sure his children’s needs are being met.
While my ex and I were together, I took on the entire responsibility of taking care of them. She would occasionally bathe them, and occasionally make them dinner. I took care of doctor appointments, play time, walks, etc.
Now that we’re seperated, I still have all their responsibilities. I’m only paying her child sport to feed her drug and alcohol habits. A substantial amount, I might add. I still have to buy them clothing, and pay for their activities. She refuses to work. Shit! Why the hell would she??? She makes almost twice as much money as me!

In regard to your comment G1S, I see the same behavior.
Ie. She’s on facebook, one of the children want something. “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy… It’s as if they don’t even exist. So sad.
Also, the oldest who will be nine in a few weeks, already shows many traits. She is so brain washed. Believes her mom is the greatest mom in the world. Even fabricates stories about the things mommy does for her. Has anyone else seen this extreme “halo-effect” in their children?


W8ing4 ~ Have you ever considered that your oldest daughter “believes her mom is the greatest mom in the world” because she desperately needs to believe she has the greatest mom. She may fabricate stories about the things mommy does for her because she has no real stories to tell.

Yes, I have seen extreme “halo-effect” in children and it is often caused by the NEED of the child to have a parent that cares rather than rejects.

Be aware of this and be kind to your daughter. Deep down she knows, she just can’t accept. Let her do what she has to do.


Thank you MiLo.
I too have considered this as a possible explanation.
The other thing I should mention is my long concern about this little girl.
First of all, she isn’t my bio child. I met her when she was 22 months old, and have been her father since. I knew when she was only two there was something wrong. The way she acted was unusual, and she had a very difficult time learning. She started talking at a young age, but struggles with alot of things especially recognizing symbols. Numbers, letters… She also has very low attention span. Many other things. In short, I faught with her mother for yearsto get her evaluated and to find out what we could do to help. Her mother always refused, and would be furious with me for even mentioning it. Eventually the school intervened and suggested she get some extra help. I though maybe she suffered with ADHD, but that alone didn’t write explain what I was seeing. Until recently, when I finally figured out her mom is likely a sociopath. Suddenly, it made sense. I’ve observed this little girl being downright mean to other children. She has tried to kill her little brother several times. The first when he was just a baby. She pushed him over a twelve foot flight of stairs. Shoving him hard enough that the first step he even touched was about eight feet down. She nearly killed one of her classmate in a similar incident. She is very sadistic. She never shows any remorse for her actions. She has no empathy whatsoever. I mean absolutely none. She started stealing when she was only four. She lies constantly, she always plays the victim, and always instigates. She CANNOT and WILL NOT take responsibility for anything she does. She is just like her mom but worse. It doesn’t help that her mom is validating her behavior. And even teaching her the behavior. It’s phoque ing SICK!!! So yes. This girl needs alot of love and attention. Now that I have joint custody of her, I’m also going to try to get her some therapy.
It’s pretty scary what she may do to her brother and sister. Especially her brother. He’s the scapegoat. She at least says she loves her sister but has told me she hates her brother for “ruining her life”. I asked her what he did to ruin her life, and the best answer she could come up with was “being born”. I feel much pain for this little girl, and really hope I can help her.

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