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Breaking the compulsion to “fix” and “help”

Lovefraud recently 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

Dear Emilie,

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.

 

 


Comment on this article

16 Comments on "Breaking the compulsion to “fix” and “help”"

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Thank you, Emilie, for your posting. I can definitely relate to it…I feel the same way.

And thank you, Donna, for your message in response. That is definitely something for me to try, and I appreciate the “how-to’s” for this process of self-learning and healing.

Thank you both,Emilie and Donna,for posts that really got me thinking!

It took me a very long time to realize that I kept trying to “fix” my sociopath husband so that I could have the marriage I deserved and desired.But staying with him to “help” and “fix” him nearly killed me…he didn’t have to lift a finger against me!He simply denied me the closeness and communication that every woman craves!

Tomorrow,I have an appt with Legal Aid to file for divorce.As difficult as our marriage was,I do not expect this to be easy.But I know that I have to focus on the fact that he cannot love anyone but himself….and I cannot “fix” him.

blossom, I hear your comment, “…he didn’t have to lift a finger against me!He simply denied me the closeness and communication that every woman craves!” and I know what you mean. But I also know there must have been worse. They can put you down in such a cunning manner that you do not even know they are doing it. Cruel and cutting remarks come out disguised with a laugh or a soft soothing voice.

When I got my divorce almost 40 years ago, I said the same thing as you, “I have to focus on the fact that he cannot love anyone but himself”.and I cannot ‘fix’ him.”

I have two children with him so he remained on the peripery of my life for a long time and I watched other wives and other women come along to try to fix him. They were all lovely women whom I liked very much and I watched as they came and went from his life and I heard him blame each one as he walked over their integrity and self-respect. I slowly came to realize the depth of the depravity in these creatures in human form.

I could not see it so much when I was the target, not much was said about psychopaths back then. Then when I saw him doing his sly sneeky controled and deliberate damage consistently to my children, his subsequent wives and step-children, I became very much aware of the pure evil. It was and is much more than the inabilty to love and they cannot be fixed.

Be careful and watch your back until you get him as far as possible from your life. Blessings to you on your seeking freedom from a dangerous and hopless freak of nature.

Delores,
What do I have to do to convince a Judge that my husband could be a dangerous man?! Call in a psychoanalyst;someone from the FBI?!

No,there’s no evidence of physical battering,he never tried to strangle me or held a weapon to me.But he is impulsive,Bipolar and abused me emotionally and psychologically….doesn’t that count for something?!!

Bravo to this one!

I don’t know what’s wrong with me right now. I attract no one. Well, allow me to take that back. I attract only men that I am not remotely attracted to. I attract a lot of men who have a lot of issues in their past but I don’t give them the time of day. I attract men that have nothing to offer me. I don’t give them the time of day either. There is one man I’m attracted to. He seems like a genuine good guy with his life together. It appears to have a good character and I’ve heard so from other people. But he has an issue. He’s attracted to the obvious girl. And I’m not the obvious girl, I’m the subtle girl. I suppose I do need to try but right now I’m sitting home sewing. I feel that I have healed my wounds. I just haven’t been able to put myself out there. I just don’t feel motivated. The older I get the lower quality the men appear to be. That might be a topic for another blog. Xo Aloha

there’s a fantastic book to help you out of old habits and attracting healthier people. It is “how to get a date worth keeping” by Henry Cloud. It is actually guaranteed or your money back if you are not dating better people in 6 months. I’m watching someone go through the book and she is changing dramatically and having a lot of good opportunities that would never have happened before
best to you!

alohatraveler,
I’d have to agree with you,society in general,has made the dating scene very scary!From what we’ve learned here at Lovefraud,the guys who are charming and ready to whisk you off to a romantic honeymoon,ought to raise an eyebrow if not a couple of red flags!!!
So many people have “issues” and rather than seek therapy to work them out,they SUBDUE them with substance abuse,or by becoming workaholics or weekend party-goers.

If one truly desires to seek companionship by dating,I suggest you start by looking for someone you can be good friends with.Someone you feel secure with.Someone who treats you with dignity.You may not be physically attracted at first.But the “love at first sight” is usually just infatuation anyway…or else we’re back to the red flags!Love grows,and along with that,physical attraction grows.

But,whether one dates or not,they should learn how to be happy with themselves.

Yep, Im the FIXER too, thats me! I have to fix everyones problems and help everyone out or I am just not happy it seems! Then the ones that cannot be fixed at all, well those are just a challenge to try to fix. Then when I get myself away from the biggest spath ever, why did I go find him yesterday after not being with him for 10 months to offer him my help? All the “being tough” went down the drain and I was putty in his hands. Fortunately for me, I am not so memorable to him as he is to me and he didnt even call me for a thanks today. I have tried dating and dating sites to try to meet someone new, but as friend alohatraveler noted the older we get the less chances or choices we have. The fear of being alone forever paralyzes me, and makes me want to run to him and the security of his emotional slavery. I wonder what the suicide rate is for us “victims” of sociopaths? I bet it is way high, and I can relate.

A therapist friend of mine once told me that you could put 998 “normal” people in a room and 2 “damaged” ones at, at the end of the night, the “damaged” ones will end up together. Much like the lady in the e-mail that seems to be the case with me. Much like her, I have completely retreated and live my life in solitude because only psycho/sociopaths “damaged” ones find me so, knowing that, I pre-emptly stay away from anyone that seeks me out. Coincidentally, this syndrome applies not just to guys and romantic relationships but friendships and employers as well. As a child, my parents used to call me “bush lawyer, defender of all those without a cause” and that must be why. I guess they were wiser than I thought or, perhaps, they deliberately raised me to be bait.

Quantum,

As a fellow do-gooder, I can emphatically attest to the fact that your parents didn’t raise you as bait, but rather as a kind, empathetic person. Unfortunately, people will easily abuse someone with empathy. In fact, predators are exceptional at sniffing empathy from miles away. We clearly give off the signs that we’re empathetic as they approach, and that’s why the bad-boys in the room will sniff you out.

As we speak of ourselves or others, we express ourselves in a loving, caring way. We emote concern. A predator will instantly size up the depths to which you are forgiving and how much of what goes wrong you will blame yourself for before you figure them out.

I’m not saying you should not be kind. What I’m saying is know what predators look for. When you meet someone, instead of focusing on expressing who you are, pay careful attention to who THEY are. Do THEY express kindness? Do THEY live a life in which kindness toward others is important to them? If they’re all about impressing with their car, their power, their job, their money, they are driven by testosterone, not empathy.

By grasping that high levels of testosterone, and high levels of oxytocin can’t exist in the same person, you’ll be more aware of the message you’re receiving and become more interested in someone with better balance. The balanced person may not have the dynamism that clubs you over the head in an instantaneous spark. That’s just your brain chemistry at work.

JmS

JmS, I totally agree with you! I have seen guys (and women) who want to impress with their money or position….and they usually seem like “controllers” to me. You made some very, very good points!

I don’t date much now, but when I do meet someone, I do try to watch for signs of kindness and empathy (especially towards others, not just me). There are so many people, men and women, who seem to be very selfish. I attended a Divorce Care class years ago, and I remember the lady leading the class telling us “Don’t marry a selfish person!” I think this is very wise advice! Selfishness is a huge red flag!

Something here was said that feels like a 1,000 pounds of bricks just fell on my head. I am cancelling my afternoon to sit here in shock. I have tried to figure out what makes me want to find these sociopaths to fix and reading here I realize that the way that I pleased my parents as a child was to take care of everyone, Dad included. I came from a large family and always volunteered for chores for attention. The way that I got attention was fixing broken things, broken siblings, a broken Dad. The Dad I resented so much, I continue to look for men just like Dad. I have had no hope in recovery from my poor choices in men. Today I feel hope. It goes so much further back than I was looking. Thank you for this forum so that we may learn from one another.

I thought I could “fix” a poor pitiful guy with great “potential” who was thrown out of his apartment for raping his roommate’s girlfriend in college. How bad is that? I fell for his pityiful feigned remorse and found out much too late that he was only sorry that he got caught. Red flag #1, rape. Red flag # 2, wallowing in self-pity. Red flag # 3, NEVER marry potential.

This article helped me realize that when the above psychopath made a minion of my daughter, I tried to “fix” her too. I tried to stop her from being maniplipulated into being like him and to encourage her to be her true self. I failed. He lead her to believe that I was controlling her against her own will and identy. I was only trying desperately to prevent her from being brainwashed and controlled by him. He played the exact opposite of reality and won again. I never would have tried to control my daughter, she did not need it; but she did need protection to save her from losing herself and becoming his minion and clone. She did not see his control, she saw my protection as control and she cut me out of her life.

I will never ty to “fix” anyone every again…well mabe I will keep working on the toilet seat issue with my perfectly imperfect but not psychopathic husband. They do exist but having been burned by a psychopath gives us little faith even in the good but imperfect ones.

I’ve always tried to fix and mend ever since I was tiny. Creatures that were injured or hurt, would be brought home and cared for. The kid at school who wasn’t popular and I’d be there. My mum and dad were the same. I was always went out of my way to be kind to people and for many years that worked fine. Know one really took advantage, some people weren’t particularly nice, but nor did they pretend to be, so at least you knew where you stood.lol
Then I met him, the most damaged person I’d ever met. Of course I had to help him, I felt so sorry for him. His many, many tragic tales, his poor start in life, how he was horsewhipped. Boy did he go all out with the pity play and lovebombing.
I was with him for 23 long long years. I’ve been on my own for 3yrs now and its great. I was angry for a long time, but I finally figured that wasn’t helpful. I’ve worked on myself, I’m still kind, but now I’m assertive too.

This post and the comments are so helpful ! My mother was difficult and demanding and got worse as I became a teenager. My father was kind but so quiet it was hard to “hear” his voice and now years later I have to work at remembering his unconditional love.

I was literally trained to sacrifice myself whenever there was a more dominant person present – good, bad or ugly. Now that I know I am a survivor of abuse, my paradigm is changing.

The “how-to” steps listed by Donna are really scary for me as I like to live dissociated so I can just get through each day. BUT – baby steps are possible (I keep telling myself) and I have learned so much the past 4 years. It’s the emotions I am afraid of but I know they are there. The observation that the emotions are what keep us tied into the beliefs is so helpful. I never realized that before but it makes perfect sense.

What keeps me “in the game” of life and learning are articles like this and posts from others who are choosing to heal and walking that path and showing me HOW. These healing ideas are so different from what we were allowed to know during our “captivity” aren’t they ?? Thank you !!

Whew, this is a great article, thank you!! Will take a while to fully process it and everything recommended here, but thank you so much for publishing this. I really, really appreciate it. Thank you so, so much. I’m in the midst of making all my local vipers and their friends really angry by speaking the obvious, not using The Inflammatory word/s but simply requesting non-abuse. My requests for kindness are on the shelf for now, and the requests for non abuse, seem to be hitting many on the head. That should really tell me everything I need to finally emotionally move on. I am looking deeply into using stress as a motivator, and positive psychology. Highly recommended, for laughs, and inspiration. I would love to recommend some; see Happiness Advantage, also Rick Hanson, and Timeless Healing, the Power and Biology of Belief. They are all really wonderful. I feel fairly good that folks -here- can appreciate these in spite of the local Vipers mocking my enthusiasm for one of them recently pretty relentlessly, during some children’s induction to this so-unhealthy psychology recently, kids joined in the mocking, eesh. Gosh, thank you again, soooo much for this article.

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