Lovefraud received the following letter from a reader whom we’ll call “Emilie”:
I won’t go into the long, boring details of my 7+ year relationship with the sociopath that invaded my life. It’s the same basic story as always and plus, I think there’s some kind of email size limit. 🙂
Ever since I ended the engagement over 3 years ago, and finally terminated the relationship itself another year after, I’ve made comments (in a lighthearted, self deprecating fashion) that, “if you’re going to treat me like crap, then I’m the girl for you!” Yes, it gets chuckles from the people I’m around, but sadly it’s true.
I was watching a movie last night and was judging the characters on their level of attractiveness, which was directly proportional to their level of emotional damage. It started off as a fun little game — and then it hit me. It’s really not a game. It really isn’t a flippant remark. I seriously cannot be attracted to someone unless they’re damaged! What. The. Hell!
It occurred to me while I was drifting off to sleep (what I call the “brain cleaning” portion of the verge of deep sleep), that even in my mid-twenties (am creeping up on my mid-forties now), my stepmother made the comment to me that I do that. Even then, I went for the boys that needed to be fixed or helped. It’s no wonder that I was such a perfect target for the two sociopaths that jacked up my life. Actually I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t been more!
Okay – back to my point. After so long of being alone, about a year ago I tried to be in a relationship. It did not work out well. He was a nice enough guy, but GOD was he clingy and needy! Holy crap! He was nice to play with for a couple of weeks, but I soon perceived he was trying to control me. I say perceived. In all fairness, he might not have been trying to control me, but it felt that way (constricting), so I got the hell out of Dodge!
So here I am. Alone. And basically okay with that. It’s much less risky to be alone, and to be honest, the very thought of entering into a relationship of the romantic persuasion scares the holy bejesus out of me. Like, it gives me real anxiety. But, damn — sometimes it’d be nice — PLUS the fact that, okay, so, you can’t help who you’re attracted to, right? I mean, isn’t that just biology or physiology or something?
Since I have this predilection to be attracted to the damaged, how can I break out of this? I can’t trust myself at all. At this point, I can only assume that if I am attracted to someone, there is something fundamentally wrong with him. I’m no expert, but that’s pretty morbid.
Is there a way to change this, or is this something I’m just going to have to live with being aware of?
Donna Andersen responds
You should congratulate yourself. You have just taken the first step toward understanding why the sociopaths, and other partners who treated you badly, have shown up in your life.
Usually there is a purpose for our nasty encounters with sociopaths. We hate to admit it. We don’t want to give these exploiters, these predators, credit for anything worthwhile. But generally the object of the exercise, the reason we’re involved with them, is to draw our attention to something within us that needs to be healed.
Sociopaths hook us by targeting our vulnerabilities. By identifying how they snagged us, we identify those vulnerabilities. And once we know what they are, we can work towards healing them.
So now you know. You have a “predilection to be attracted to the damaged.” The question is, why? Why do you feel compelled to rescue people? Why do you expect to give, while your partners take?
Looking for reasons
Sometimes the answer is in our family of origin. If you grew up with disordered parents, for example, you may have learned that your survival depended on taking care of them or keeping them happy.
Sometimes our upbringing and early life were fairly normal, but we still managed to absorb unhealthy beliefs. Maybe you have a deep, hidden belief that you must take care of other people, but you can’t expect other people to take care of you.
There is a vulnerability, a lack, a wound, within you, which the sociopath and other exploiters sensed. Now you have to figure out what it is.
Answers are within
How do you do that? You ask yourself. Your inner self, or higher self, knows the answer. You just need to ask, and listen.
You can do this as an exercise. Sit quietly with a pad of paper and a pen. Then ask yourself, “Why am I attracted to damaged men?” A response will pop into your head. Write it down. Ask yourself the question again, and another response will pop into your head. Write it down. Keep doing this, and you’ll get a whole list of reasons. Some may not be useful. But one or two of them will reveal your core unhealthy beliefs.
You can then explore those unhealthy beliefs further. Suppose one of your answers was, “I don’t deserve a healthy partner.” Ask yourself, “Why don’t I deserve a healthy partner?” Again, write down the response.
After a while, you may discover a whole list of beliefs that you didn’t know you had.
Releasing the beliefs
Now what? What do you do with all the beliefs? You release them.
Here’s a way to do it. State your negative belief as a positive belief. For example, say to yourself, “Of course I deserve a healthy partner.” As you do this, notice how you feel.
You may feel fear. Or disappointment. Or pain. If something inside you resists your positive belief, you know you’ve hit pay dirt.
Allow yourself to feel the resistance. Bring it to your awareness. Your objective is to feel the emotion that underlies your beliefs, and let it go. The emotion is the energetic charge that keeps the unhealthy beliefs alive. When you release the emotion, you can change your beliefs as well.
I’ve written on many occasions about making the decision to recover from your experience with the sociopath. This is what I mean. Actively go looking for those beliefs and decisions within you that have made you vulnerable. Once you find and release them, you’ll be on your way to recovery.
At some point, a healthy individual will be standing in front of you, and you’ll be ready.
Lovefraud originally posted this article on Sept. 9, 2013.