Authenticity – After The Sociopath, Finding Peace In Being Real

This week I’ve been thinking a great deal about how we move back to authenticity after having lived in a false reality with a sociopath. After all, like so many of us here, when I was in the grips of that particular relationship, I believed that everything was real at the time. More than real in actual fact — it was all my dreams come true! So now, I’m wondering, how do I know — really know — whether I’m living in an authentic way or once again falling in to a contrived existence that is nothing more than imagination or self-deception? Yes it’s true that I am physically free from him (and have been for nearly three years thank goodness) but am I really free from the thought patterns that had me trapped for so long? Can I really trust myself to distinguish the differences between make believe and reality?

Well, I’ve been given the opportunity to find out for sure. Four weeks ago I discovered a rather suspicious lump just under my left arm. Hot and cold shivers shot through my body the second I found it, instantly triggering memories of my mother who died from breast cancer at the age of 44. Luckily, I happened to be on the telephone to a friend when I found it. A friend who witnessed my shock and also recognized the fear in my voice. A friend who let me know that it was real. That I wasn’t imagining it. And that it was something I couldn’t ignore or pass off as being just something I’d made up — I couldn’t kid myself that it was nothing to get excited about. Nothing to worry about. It was a red-flag, and this time (unlike so many other kinds of red-flags I had pushed aside or explained away when I was married to my ex) I was jolly well going to do something about it.

The Witness

Having a real-time witness to my shock discovery played a huge part in what happened next. Looking back, I believe now that the very fact that another human being heard my instinctive response at the very moment it happened, helped me to stay focused and real and do something about it. Because regardless of whether or not the lump was anything dangerous, the fact that I was scared was enough to prompt action. I went to the doctor the very next day.

This made me think about how different my actions had been when I was living and believing the lie. Each time something shocked or hurt me, I would argue in my head that it was nothing serious — repeating the same old excuses that “He didn’t mean it” “He’s stressed and tired” “This isn’t what he’s really like” and probably the most harmful excuse of all “You’ll be ok, you can handle this — you’re fine, it’s nothing, ignore it”

The thing is though, whenever anything like that happened it would always be in private. Or if in public, the put-down would be so subtle that nobody else would notice, and I would question whether or not it had actually happened in the first place! I became used to rolling with the blows — emotionally and spiritually, I never had to deal with physical abuse — and numbed myself to the shocks.

I believe that for a long time since discovering the truth, I still kept myself numb. It was a useful survival tool. “Comfortably numb” became a way of ”˜being’ that got me through the bad days and gave me the strength to fight the never-ending stream of seemingly impossible battles. Without him in my life, though, the numbness was helpful and directed purely at finding a way through for me and for my son — when I lived with him the numbness was, quite literally, senseless.

Too Sensitive?

Over recent months I’ve sometimes wondered whether I’ve lost some of my fighting spirit. I seem to buckle and smart at the smallest things that in previous years I would never even have noticed. I am much more willing to start a conversation and raise my point when I feel hurt or upset. I am also paying much more attention to the way I respond to situations — and asking whether it is a real or learned reaction. Do I really mean that particular response? Is it a genuine emotion? Or is it just because I’m afraid, or unsure?

What do I mean? Well, for example, I sometimes find myself prickling or bristling at the tiniest innocent comment — only, incidentally, when the comment comes from a close friend. So then I start to wonder whether I’ve become a big softy? Have I become too vulnerable? Have I just lost the plot when it comes to reality”¦? No. I think the answer is something much simpler than that. I think the fact is that in the wake of the sociopath, my inner guidance system is now so highly tuned that I pick up on the tiniest words or gestures that could possibly cause upset. In the ”˜bad old days’ I would have deliberately ignored those signs. These days I’m acutely aware of so much more — and far from being a bad thing, I think it’s a very good thing indeed. I believe it’s another step in the healing process.

Because, if something ”˜prickles’ now, I have choices that I never allowed myself before. These days I can decide whether or not the gesture/comment was deliberate. If it was, then I can choose whether or not to highlight it and talk it through with the other person, or work it through myself. If it wasn’t, I can decide whether I’m actually ”˜upset’ by what happened, or instead perhaps just feeling fearful that another person is so close to me that a tiny thing can cause me to recoil? Does that level of closeness and trust make me once more vulnerable to the deliberate manipulation that my ex used against me? No, of course it doesn’t — because first of all my ex was nothing like any of my friends. They are real, he is a sociopath. And secondly, because now I am so keenly attuned to what helps me grow and what squashes my soul, I’m sure I will never again succumb to the ways of anyone who wishes me harm.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the past four weeks have provided a wonderfully fertile ground for seedlings of doubt and fear to take root. And this time, rather than push them away or ignore them, I decided to share them with people who were around me and who could help. I also chose to share my discovery with my son — thanks to the advice given by a very wise friend. I hadn’t wanted to tell him anything, on the assumption that the lump would turn out to be nothing at all. “And then what?” she questioned gently “Do you want to do the same thing to your son as happened with your mother? She kept it from you until it was too late. I think you’d be wise to trust him and share your concerns”

Share The Truth

So I told him. We hugged. We cried. We said it would all be ok. And we also acknowledged the fact that the truth was out. Nothing was hidden and the trust between us grew even stronger.

I’ve learned that it’s ok to share feelings. It’s ok to share fears. It doesn’t pay to keep things hidden away. I’d done that for far too long. There is far more peace in just being real.

The medical examination was on Friday of last week. Regardless of the results, I’d decided that we would have a celebration in the evening. A delicious meal with family and close friends, to celebrate the next part of this adventure called life — whatever it may mean.

At just gone 16.30hrs I received the news I’d been waiting for. The lump is benign, and I am clear and healthy. Tears of relief rolled down my face, and my shoulders finally relaxed. They, along with my neck, had been held tight over the previous few weeks — more so than I had realised. Now I could let it all go”¦ and I did.

My son? Well, along with the huge bear-hugs and tears, he thanked me for telling him in the first place, and for giving him the opportunity to share and to care.

I’m truly blessed to have such wonderful people around me. I am lucky to have so many opportunities to grow my spirit. And now, now that I have another ”˜all clear’ I feel lighter and clearer than ever before.

Have I lost my fight? No”¦ far from it in actual fact. Now there is no need to fight — in it’s place there is a desire that I now know for sure springs from love and acceptance. It’s a desire to reach out and to share. To join with others who have survived their own battles. To say ”˜enough is enough’ and to slowly and gently move back to authenticity. Slowly and surely shining as each of us reclaim our loving, beautiful, innocent selves. After all — that’s who we all really are, isn’t it?

With extra love, blessings and gratitude. Thank you.

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28 Comments on "Authenticity – After The Sociopath, Finding Peace In Being Real"

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Dear Ox,

The difference between what I have been doing and what you are describing is clear to me. What I have not done in the past, but intend to start learning how to do, is actually have that discussion where you say to the person that they hurt you. In 100% of my cases, the people never saw it coming, it was just BOOM it’s over. Phone number deleted (or screened) and no response from me to any form of communication, literally they might as well be dead. That’s my only regret, is that I have not been mature enough, or grounded enough, to have that adult conversation where I’m saying, knock it off, or I’m gonna have to delete you.

Dear Heart,

I ONLY do the conversation with people who have been or are important to me…and if they do not respond in an appropriate manner then it is ONE AND DONE.

A year ago this past January a friend of 30+ years snarked me for the last time…I had set some limits about 3 years before and she seemed to respect them and had stopped the snarky comments. This last time her comment to my confrontation was “well that’s what best friends are for, to fight and then make up” My response was “NO, that is NOT what best friends are for, best friends do not treat each other like this.” I haven’t heard a word from her since then. Oh, Well. It’s a shame, because she lost a friend, but I don’t think I lost anything except my own fantasy.

I am getting pretty picky about people who are CLOSE to me, in my “circle of intimacy” and I dont’ want people who are dishonest, hateful, users, or abusers and if people want to behave like that, I don’t need them in my life. My rolodex is pretty thin, but that’s okay.

Sure I know lots of folks that are “acquaintances” that I enjoy being around some, but those people are not the kind of people I would want in my “innermost circle” of people to trust when the chips were down. For those in my inner circle, I want honest, kind, caring, good people that I don’t have to watch my back. I can just be myself and enjoy being around them. Trust them with the keys to my house and the keys to my heart.

I’m the same way as you. Looooong fuse.
I don’t react, I observe. patiently.

No, I don’t have to say anything to them and wait for them to come back with an apology/explanation/excuse, because their actions spoke much louder than their words ever will. And because I gave them lots of time for them to speak with their actions. LOTS of time. I’m VERY patient.

When you are patient and forgiving you don’t owe anyone an explanation for cutting off contact. It wouldn’t help anyway, an abuser doesn’t care about what you want, they’ll just look for a new way to abuse you.

Thanks for sharing… it really does make me feel better. I guess you’re right, it’s highly unlikely that confronting them would change anything.

Thank you, Mel for this honest article. Glad to read that it was benign.

I recognize the “sensitivity”, although in some ways it makes me less “sensitive”… Likewise, I notice much clearer what is “offensive” and yet do not take “offense”… that sounds strange, almost paradoical. What I mean is I am more aware and cued in to insensitivity, offensiveness, crossing boundaries, but my response to it (inner and outer) tends to be a calm one where I distance myself.

I see it more and more when I’m teaching. I hardly take anything personal anymore, and yet am much better in indicating a crossed boundary and make people respect it. I ignore less, and yet it costs me less energy. It has at the very least made me a better teacher. So, I think it’s a good thing!

Little example… yesterday some pupils had a math test, it was the last hour of the day. The class enters my classroom, and it turns out there are 6 not present, of which according to several only 2 are “really” sick (they hadn’t been in school all day). I was kinda startled and inquired why the others weren’t sick then according them… Turned out they had been present all day until 5 mins before that, but disappeared after the bell rang to signal change of classes. I just took note of it, gave them a 0 (an F) on their test, and passed the info to the secretary afterwards, mentioned it to colleagues. This morning by the third hour, two of them (hypocritical girls imo… fawning, sweet talking, but acting as if they feel they can permit themselves more than others) knocked on my door: the eyes were swollen and red with one of them, the other spoke and came to give her “apologies”. She said that they had “forgotten” by accident they had an 8th hour. I told her calmly that I didn’t believe that (they’ve had an 8th hour since September). She insisted and tried to discuss it and explain how she was just coming to apologize… I smiled, “Doesn’t matter what I believe or not. You won’t “forget” anymore, will you now?” And that was it, I started grading tests of pupils again, and they left feeling even less relieved I think than when they came in. The third guy, I came across in the staircase. First he passed me, said hello politely, then stopped and “apologized” too, with the same excuse. I looked up at him and said, “As I told the others, I do not really believe your reason, since you’ve had an 8th hour all schoolyear already.” He wanted to insist too, but I stopped him and said, “You know, if you were honest enough to admit you tried to skip school and a test with an interim teacher you expected not to return after the easter holidays (but I will be returning), but got caught at it, I’d at least have some respect for it. Your excuse makes the apology worthless, but I’m fine with whatever you say. It’s not really my problem. And just like the others I’m sure it won’t happen again.” I was calm and friendly all the time. I even smiled when he said what I had been counting on one of them trying to ask, “So, do we get a new chance on the test?” I smiled and said a short, “No.”

I do believe they tried skipping school thinking they could get away with it because of the reasons I told him. Last year that would have made me feel defensive, insulted, angry, and burning with desire to prove myself. Now, I jut shrugged it all away emotionally, but kept the consequences for them to deal with. They crossed a boundary, so it’s their problem to deal with the consequences of it. They just saved me time in grading 4 tests.

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