By | May 4, 2012 140 Comments

Comparing our losses to the losses of others

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

One of the things I have heard from victims of psychopaths here at Lovefraud, seemingly over and over, is that people compare their losses to my losses and Donna’s losses and Dr. Liane Leedom’s losses, etc. and think that their losses don’t “count” because they haven’t lost X, Y, or Z and we did. They seem to think that because I lost a child, or Liane lost her medical practice, or Donna lost a quarter of a million dollars, that they are not entitled to feel as injured as we were/are.

The people expressing this somehow seem to have “survivor’s guilt” about feeling so devastated when their losses were somehow “less.” Or they feel that we are somehow “super heroes” because we survived “big losses.”

I felt that way too when I was reading Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Dr. Frankl wrote the book after his years in a German Nazi concentration camp, in which he lost everything except his life, and barely retained that.

Pain is like gas

I felt that my own losses didn’t compare to Dr. Frankl’s losses, and that somehow I should feel guilty for feeling such great pain and desperation. Then I read Dr. Frankl’s explanation of how pain operates like a gas.

In science, we learn that a gas, because it has atoms that are far apart, will expand until it completely fills an empty container. It will also compress easily so that a larger amount of the gas can be put into a small container. In any case, the container is full. It is totally filled.

I realized upon reading this that my pain was just as “total” as Dr. Frankl’s, and that my losses were just as “big” (or “small”) as his were. All pain and all loss is total. If something is important to us, we value it and when we lose it, we grieve for that loss. We feel pain, which is what grief is.

Grief process

The “grief process,” as Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains it, is an emotional process where we come to grips with loss, and eventually come to acceptance of that loss.

Dr. Kubler-Ross’s grief process consists of denial, bargaining, sadness, anger and acceptance. These five stages of grief are not processed in a linear 1-2-3-4-5 formula, but in alternating steps, more like 1-3-4-2-3-4-1-2-4-5. Eventually we come to and stay in the last stage, which is acceptance of the loss.

A baby who drops his pacifier is totally in misery and pain. He cries from the depth of his soul’s loss that his grief is total, his pain is total and his life is ”˜ruined,’ because he doesn’t have his pacifier. Of course we know that his life is not ruined, he will recover, but he doesn’t know this at that time because he doesn’t have the knowledge and experience to know he will come to acceptance of his loss and recover.

Pain is proportional

When we lose something that we care about, our pain is in proportion to how much something means to us. If we drop a penny, usually we will not be devastated. We know that we will still be able to buy lunch, pay the mortgage and go on with life. But if we drop the bank deposit for our business and lose it, it is another matter entirely. Now we may not be able to make payroll and things will get very bad, so our loss is bigger and we grieve over the problems this will cause, the bigger loss.

When we are devastated by the loss of a “great love,” or by the betrayal of someone we trusted, depended on and cared for, we have suffered a great and grievous loss that rocks our world. It isn’t anything we can put a dollar value on; it is an emotional attachment that has no price. How do you quantify “love?”

When we have lost something that is of utter value to us, whether it is something that we can quantify, or whether it has no monetary value, only value of the heart, the soul, then we must realize that our grief is total. We must not compare our losses to what someone else has lost and feel that their loss is “greater,” because it isn’t greater. The pain isn’t greater. It is all TOTAL LOSS. The pain is total.

So if you start to feel that your loss is nothing compared to someone else’s loss, Stop! Realize that your loss, your pain, is your loss and pain. No one else’s is more or less.


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Thank you Oxy. It is so true – all of our pain is valid. And if we are to move forward, we need to find a way to accept what is.


Thank you, Oxy, for a very important article.

It’s also important to remember that when we compare ourselves to others, what we are doing is comparing our feelings to what we see about and around them. We have no way of knowing what they are really thinking or feeling, unless they tell us. In other words, we are comparing our insides to their outsides.

In reality, we have no idea what somebody has been through. We have no idea of the physical or emotional harms that they have suffered in life.

We have no idea what is behind their smiles or sorrows. We don’t know if they are on their way “up” in life or are coming “down” from what some would think is a better place. We don’t know if they have been in a particular place on all sorts of levels for years or if they just arrived there yesterday.

We don’t know if the smiles are forced. We don’t know if somebody at home is super controlling and is watching for anything in the controlled that will expose that unacceptable behavior. We don’t know if they’ve just lost a child and are totally numb inside.

There are people who don’t know how to get in touch with their feelings. Part of crazy making and denial are constant messages of, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” “That never happened,” and “You don’t mean that.”

Some people are taught to stuff feelings, ignore what happened, or get over it because the people in their lives who they turn to for support aren’t supportive; they don’t want to deal with that person’s pain for all sorts of reasons.

Feelings don’t go away if we ignore or stuff them. They fester. They stay there until we can bring them into the light of day to be examined, acknowledge their existence, and processed. That is when we can let them go.

In keeping with the gas expansion example, sometimes we can’t feel happiness until we have unloaded the painful feelings to make room for the happiness to move in.

We don’t know if the sad story that we is listening to is a pack of lies coming from a P with no truth in it whatsoever.

I feel an extremely important part of any recovery is realizing that we are equal with everybody else. That means my feelings and experiences don’t get shoved to the back because somebody else’s experiences may appear more extreme or sensational.

If it hurts, it sucks.

When I first got into Al-Anon, people used to tell me that I was very brave to be there. I’d always answer, “Bravery has nothing to do with it. I just want the pain to stop. I am willing to do whatever it takes or address whatever needs addressing so I am in control, not the pain.”


This is a great post Oxy, thank you. I think it’s such an important point, especially when the media will only cover certain types of abuse/suffering, while others remain untouched, undocumented, unacknowledged.

I think everyone’s experience of suffering is equally deserving of sympathy, compassion and healing.

For instance, in my recent research I’ve found references by experts in the field of traumatology that state that not only is physical abuse as damaging as sexual abuse, but they also acknowledge that emotional/psychological abuse can be as damaging as sexual abuse, in some aspects worse because the person has no physical evidence, and the majority of people still think along the lines of ‘sticks and stones…’ and feel entitled to humiliate anyone ‘only’ complaining of psychological abuse. The only type of child abuse which seems to get ‘validation’ by the public (and in social services) is sexual abuse and yet, in a recent Justice Canada report, sexual abuse constitues ~ 3% of all reported child abuse cases (but garners – so a social worker told me – ~ 80% of the funding). Of course, there are many more examples of ‘politically incorrect’ suffering than just the distinction between sexual, physical and emotional abuse…

I’ve found that for those victims whose suffering doesn’t fall within the ‘socially sanctioned’ definition of acceptable abuse victims, their experience of suffering is so boxed in that they literally look like compressed people, in their carriage, their attitude, their lack of willingness to speak up about what they’ve experienced, etc… I believe that it’s this experience of feeling that they’re not entitled to feel suffering or pain, or to healing or assistance, that does even more harm than their original traumas.

Thanks for a great article that gives those people hope.


OxD, thank you SO much for the affirmation that “Loss” is “Loss,” regardless.



Thank you so much for this article. I think this is such an important part of healing/recovery and you explain it so well.

For me, juxtaposing Dr. Frankl’s losses with a baby losing a pacifier and then explaining how gas “completely fills an empty container” makes it clear that whatever loss we experience, the pain fills us completely. We each have different losses, but the pain fills us completely. And, we should not feel shame or guilt because someone lost more than we did. Whatever our loss is, our pain fills us completely.

“All pain and all loss is total. If something is important to us, we value it and when we lose it, we grieve for that loss. We feel pain, which is what grief is.”

This idea helped me to stop second guessing whether I had the right, the justification, to feel the pain of my loss. Until Oxy presented this concept, I minimized my loss & felt shame over feeling my pain: My loss wasn’t as bad as X’s loss, so I am wrong to complain. NO! I have every right to feel my loss and the pain, but, of course, I want to move out of pain and not dwell there. And yet, it’s hard to move out of the pain if we believe our pain is unjustified. IMO, if we cannot acknowledge, face and accept our losses, we cannot fully heal, recover and move forward.

Another very important point you make is that grief is not linear: One step forward & 2 steps back.

Most importantly:
“We must not compare our losses to what someone else has lost and feel that their loss is “greater,” because it isn’t greater. The pain isn’t greater. It is all TOTAL LOSS. The pain is total.”

Amen. Great article, Oxy.

Ox Drover

I just thought of some other points too in this vein. While our losses are ours alone, and big or small depending on the value that WE put to the loss, rather than what the community sees, when we are invalidated by the community by them telling us to “get over it” or “it is time for you to move on, it was just a break up” we are DOUBLY betrayed.

While the stages of grief as defined by Dr. Kubler-Ross are the way we “should” grieve and come to acceptance, many people never complete the cycle and instead continue to piing-pong between the bargaining, sadness, anger, denial and do not come to acceptance. If grief is not fully processed, it will destroy our lives.

Dr. Frankl mentioned in his book which was about the emotional turmoil suffered by the victims of the Nazis some victims that had been through the same trauma that he had exprienced just gave up and literally turned their faces to the wall and died. Others became angry and bitter, hurting their fellow men because they felt “entitled” to be angry and vengeful because of the losses they had suffered.

I know from my personal experience that I have “struck out” at others when i was in deep pain after my husband’s death. One of my son’s friends had driven 7 hours to be here for us after my husband’s death, and she was so upset that she was very anxious and nervous and she kept talking and talking one night when I needed to sleep, and I kept asking her to please stop talking, in her own anxiety and inability to stop talking, she was irritating the ca4p out of me. I became so upset that she would not stop talking that I literally threatened to knock her block off. I told her if she did not shut up that moment, if she said another word I would hit her. I deeply wounded this young woman, but at the time I was in such deep pain that I felt justified in doing whatever I had to do to get her to hush. I had no compassion or understanding of her deep pain and anxiety.

I think I have told this story before but maybe some of you have not heard it.

If yiou had a little dog that you loved and it loved you and it was hit by a car, and lay with a broken leg in pain. You went to pick the pup up, and it was in such pain it reached out and bit you. You would not hold it against the dog because you would recognize it was not trying to hurt you it was just in such pain it struck out at you. We do the same thing sometimes, and strike out at those we love just because we are in such horrible pain.

That was what I did to my son’s friend that night, I struck out at her reaching out what she felt was a “helping hand” because of my own pain.

Thank you Annie and G1S and donna for your comments.


These are verbatim from my childhood:
“Part of crazy making and denial are constant messages of, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” “That never happened,” and “You don’t mean that.” Bleh!! Stockholm Syndromed and brain washed. I didn’t have the right to feel what I felt. My feelings were wrong. I think this is one of the most detrimental things that a parent can convey to a child.

In my upbringing, there was always comparison with other people:
X has better grades, X is thin, etc. Bleh!

Since this stuff was embedded in my brain since childhood, it’s no wonder that I fell prey to personality disordered people.

Ox Drover

Clair and Truthspeak, we posted over each other….clair you are so right and I am glad that you are able to see that your pain, your emotions are JUSTIFIED because you suffered LOSS.

Part I think of the worst pain we feel is that our pain and our loss is INVALIDATED by the community, our friends, by others. It helps to have someone say “your loss and your pain is valid” but so many times we get the opposite effect instead, making our loss DOUBLED.

A joy shared is doubled, and a sorrow shared is halved.

When someone discounts our sorrow instead of sharing it, validating it, we are doubly hurt.

Back when I didn’t realize my egg donor was gaslighting me, back when she was telling me what I thought and how I would have behaved (to justify her own lies) I begged her to believe me, and she scorned me, which was so painful in itself that I cried and cried, literally got on my knees begging her to believe me. I think that was the worst pain I experienced in my life. I wanted her to believe me so much. her scorn and sneering hurt me to the bone. later, when she refused to acknowledge it, and said “let’s just pretend none of this happened” I realized I was NO LONGER WILLING TO PRETEND THAT SHE HAD NOT HURT ME to the core.

Sometimes we must experience that hurt I think in order to come to the point of saying STOP! This pain is more than I am willing to bear. I will no longer allow this person to invalidate me.


My P/N/A/S mother-in-law, as well as some other P/N/A/S I know do the exact opposite. They claim their pain . . no matter how minute or inconsequential is equivalent to yours. For example I told to my mother-in-law about a friend who had lost her entire family (over 40 grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces nephews) in the holocaust because they were murdered by the Nazi’s. Her reply was, “Well, we had to ration butter”. It stupified me!
Also in relating this same story, about the women (left without any relatives) to an N/P/S/A (that used to be a) friend, she said “I don’t have any relatives either”. When in fact.. She has 2 children, 2 sisters, their husbands, and 4 nieces and nephews.
My x-husband (a true N/P/S/A) refused to pick me up from the hospital when I gave birth to our son because he said it was INCONVENIENT. PS…The hospital was 10 minutes away from where he was, and it was his first born son.
My point is . . . if you find that a person is comparing their slightest pain or trivial inconvenience to a huge loss, as if they are in any way equal . . that is a BIG RED FLAG. They are Psychopaths/Narcissists/Sociopaths/Anti-social and IDIOTS!


Oxy, are you sure that she didn’t believe you?

Is it possible that she was just saying those things because she was getting off on how upset you were getting and/or she enjoying the lengths that you were willing to go to “convince” her?

I ask because I eventually realized that is what my P sister and S mother had been doing to me.


Thank you for making that excellent point. I was thinking along the same lines myself. I was specifically thinking about Donna’s page on the main site “How to Spot a Con: The Pity Ploy”, and wondering how much of this ‘community-invalidation’ damage happens as an incidental byproduct of manipulative people who ensconce themselves within victims’ organizations and spend all their time crying “Poor me!” with no intention of trying to help themselves or others – there just to soak up attention and create drama.

I’ve done a lot of researching over the years – I’ve conducted information interviews of quite a number of victims groups. I’m astounded at the fairly high percentages of narcissism and self-centredness in some of them – people who only seem to want attention for people with ‘their’ kind of suffering, and seem to have attitudes of “hang the rest of you – get your own attention”.

G1S, re: your question for Oxy; I was wondering the same thing.

Great article Oxy,
I especially always enjoy the baby and his binky analogy.
When we are hurt, we become self-centered. We are nursing an injury. We become like babies and narcissists. Perhaps it is appropriate to do so in the first stages of an injury. We should attend to the wound. It is our wound and our primary responsibility is to ourselves or else we are no good to anyone else.

Annie, it might be that you are noticing this aspect of human nature. Or it could be that the person who is wounded just can’t look outside themselves anymore because of the constant wounding. My study of shame has enlightened me on that. Shame tends to focus our attention on ourselves. It feels like the whole world is observing and judging us, we are in the spotlight. Though it is actually only our own spotlight and our own internalized judgement.

That’s what I like about sublimation as a defense mechanism. It takes the focus off of ourselves and says, “ok, this hurts, how can I make it less dangerous to others?”

oh crap. he’s back again. just got an email.



Oh, no. What did the email say?


Deep Breath.

Delete is an option…..

It’s a pity ploy. He says he dreamt that I was being held prisoner and he couldn’t rescue me. He really really wants to know if I’m ok.

lies, he wants a response. MOFO.


Block email. Change email address. Use pretend name. I did.



You have been here a long time now. So you can recognize a pity play for what it is… he doesn’t really care. He just wants access.


Aloha :O)

yep. whatever he wants most is what he’s NOT going to get: Contact. I HAVE THE POWER!

Ox Drover


Dr. Frankl mentioned in his book that when some of the people returned from the camps and told what they had experienced, the German people said the same thing “we had it hard too, we had to ration butter.” LOL You are right, it is a HUGE RED FLAG.

Many, repeat MANY “victims” who present themselves as the victims of psychopaths or hard luck or whatever, are in fact themselves PSYCHOPATHS presenting with the pity ploy.

I have been duped a “million:” times by the pity ploy of a psychopath who was on the con. they are good at it.

We have even seen it here on LoveFraud, and someone will come here posing as a victim when in fact, they are just the loser in a battle between two psychopaths OR they are the psychopath whose victim got away and so they pose as a victim. I dont know how many of you remember the guy whose victim GF got away and he wanted us to help him write a letter to get her back….LOL and in the end he admitted it was so he could CONTROL her.

It is difficult on LF or any other blog to “spot” them but they usually out themselves eventually. We’ve had others show up here and Donna eventually had to ban them because they would not give up and they were attacking other posters. That’s why we have the “report abusive comments” link over on the right side of the screen.

People who are in pain also sometimes present as “testy” on the blog and see offense when none is intended so it takes time and patience with other bloggers to see what is going on with them, but the pseudo-victims (psychopaths using the pity ploy) out themselves eventually or just go away because they don’t get what they want here.

In real life we are able to see more of the red flags than we can on the blog. On the blog we take people at “face value” and if they say they are a victim, we accept that they are. In medicine the doctors and nurses used to decide what pain a patient was feeling and if we suspected that their pain wasn’t “legitimate” we would label them a drug addict and refuse to give them narcotics. This has changed now and pain is considered a ‘vital sign” just like blood pressure or heart rate. so when you go to your doctor the nurse will ask you if you are in pain and for you to rate it on a scale of 1-10. Your pain will be addressed by your physician and YOUR perception of YOUR pain will be treated, not your doctor’s or the nurse’s perception of YOUR pain. That may not mean you get narcotics but your pain will be addressed and treated.

Ox Drover

Sky, I realize that your X is VERY dangerous, and I also realize that you want to know if he is trying to contact you so you have some idea at least what is happening with him…it is one of those lines where you have to decide if the danger is more if you block him, or if you let him e mail you but don’t answer. (Sigh)



IF your spath is telling the truth (I say IF), don’t you think it may mean something that you are both dreaming about each other?? Hmmmmm…

he is not telling the truth.
If he is dreaming about me, he is dreaming of torturing me. Or he is worried that I’m going to show up at his annual helicopter con job where he makes thousands just sitting on his ass.


Likely it means he is having fantasies (not innocent dreams) about PUTTING Skylar in some horrible predicament; NOT that he wants to save her from one.

Drama King!




Years ago, when I was just starting here at LF I was feeling SO anxious and pathetic about taking up anyone’s time here, because I thought my losses were trivial compared to so many other’s here. I felt selfish and conspicuous in my neediness.

Thank Goodness you have posted this ‘gas’ idea so many times. It literally freed me the first time I read it, and has given me permission to further love myself by validating what is meaningful to me. It has enabled me to acknowledge even ‘day to day’ losses.

I think we ignore far too many hurts and losses, and that if we could acknowledge them and give ourselves permission to have a moment and a feeling, we would find ourselves WAY less stressed out and sad.

I still haven’t read the darn book though.




“many people never complete the cycle and instead continue to piing-pong between the bargaining, sadness, anger, denial and do not come to acceptance. If grief is not fully processed, it will destroy our lives.”

Is there a tried and true way to get to acceptance? I know that we are supposed to feel and experience every other stage of grief first, but I can’t seem to get to acceptance yet. Maybe with more time…

anam cara

I think I have not fully processed my grief at my Mum and Dad’s sudden deaths.
I bought the family home (30 miles away) a year ago, but it lies empty (2 years now) as I cannot make the move or a decision about it. I procrastinate and I don’t know if this is PTSD or my nature? The house is now costing me money and in need of repair. Why can’t I make a decision? It doesn’t make sense.
Spathzilla put me through hell, but I didn’t know about spaths then and was in shock. I fell into all the traps and nearly went insane trying to work it all out.
I’ve lived in the city for 30 years but my house is too small yet I can’t make myself move to the country and a larger house. Why not?

Ox Drover

Slim I am glad that concept (of the gas-like properties of pain) helped you as much as it did me. It gave me a freedom I don’t think I wouldhave had without it.

Anam cara, You probably have NOT processed the pain of your parent’s sudden death….and holding on to the house, yet unable to move is a symptom to me that you have not processed it.

I would give it a MINIMUM of 3 years to process it, though of course NO ONE can set a TIME for grief to be processed. But it isn’t something you can do in a week or a month or a short time. It was a BIG loss.

Abbri, I’m not sure how long ago your grief started or how big it was, only you can say for sure how “big” or how deep the pain, but it does take time. Also I finally figured out you will come to acceptance then go back 2 steps, then get to acceptance again and back 3 steps then get there and back 1 step, but eventually you “get there.” So don’t give up!



That was a great article. I’ve noticed a few posters who seemed to express this idea they had less right to their pain because they lost much “less”. While I thought they lost the same important things that anyone else of us lost – the belief in the good of everyone, the belief in the growth potential of everyone, and we all experienced how our beliefs and goodness, our ability to love another human being was used against us like a weapon. To me it’s a humanitarian loss and hurts deeper than the amount of money, assets we lost. The material losses and betrayals is the evidence trail that leads to the realisation of the humanitarian loss.

This thread also has an interesting discussion about the pity ploy, revealing a seeming contradiction… First we accept that another one’s pain is total for whichever loss, and on the other hand spaths make these glaring outrageous comparisons. But a give-away imo is the kind of experience that can be expected… A baby’s pain for losing its pacifier is total and absolutely normal. A spath claiming pain for having to pinch on the amount of butter to buy years back in comparison to someone having lost their whole family might also be total but not normal anymore. It shows they’re still stuck in the baby-stage of losing their pacifiers, while eventually babies will learn that losing the pacifier is either not permanent or at some point don’t need it anymore.

It’s also why we get a misunderstood response from people who have never experienced a spath up close and personal. They see the material betrayals and a break-up and expect us to be at an experience level in life to get over a break-up like any other break-up. They don’t realize the loss is about seeing the foundation of your world view collapse.

For me acceptance came when I realized that my new forced-hand life is one that I really like and I otherwise would not have chosen, AND that I see the loss of my old beliefs of humanity as a gain, rather than a loss now.


anam cara,

I was thinking the same thing as Oxy posted. Procrastinating about the decision is a sign that such a decision implies an acceptance of loss to you and you don’t feel ready for that yet. It’s a sign that you still need to grieve.

Ox Drover


I have been hooked by the pity ploy of a psychopath pretending to be a victim more than any other way. My son has used it on me, my egg donor has used it on me, people wanting me to do things for them, people wanting to scam me….all used the pity ploy “I NEEEEEED your help, you are so wonderful and strong and you can help me….” Then of course when you help (enable) them it is never to their satisfaction.

When the Pity Ploy is being utilized it is never to their satisfaction. You just didn’t do it right so they will find some reason to be disappointed in your help.


Hi Oxy,
Thanks for writing this article. You did a great job of explaining loss, pain, and greiving. Very helpfull

You know I’m pulling your leg (the good one, not the one in the cast)with mailing me the white cat!

Have fun tonight at your Cinco de Mayo celebration!

ps. I’ve BEEN to Barney’s Beanry about thirty years ago!!


Oxy, you have mention about pain being like a gas so many times, and I completely resonate with this and your entire article. My massage client that I mentioned in the other thread has not had anywhere near the horrendous life experiences some of us have had. And yet her grief over the break-up with a guy a year ago (who wasn’t a spath) caused her immense pain, to where a year after the break-up, she was still being triggered into acute grief. I watched her completely fill up with pain. She became the pain until it passed. Pain is pain.

I think the danger of being the victim of a sociopath is that it is tempting to become identified as such. We develop an entire identity around it and it is then who we become and how we relate to the world. I have not done this with the spath because he was just a blip on my radar screen. But for most of my life, I identified as a victim of an abusive family, and this has dictated how I have perceived the world for so many years. And it’s dangerous, because it goes against the natural life process which has nothing to do with identities and forms.

I think there is real emotional pain and then imagined pain. Real pain can be felt and processed in the present moment when it comes up. It is like the clouds in the sky – they well up, rain, and then dissipate. Emotions are the same. They may only “appear” to linger because we are too afraid to really feel them. Once we address them, they change.

Imagined pain is the story we create around what happened to us and who we think we are. And then if someone else comes along and challenges that identity, we get mad at them. The story is just that – a story. The more we become identified with our story, the less we are actually living in the present. And the more pain and drama we will create for ourselves. This is why I observe a lot of people who just don’t heal. It’s not that they don’t WANT to. No one WANTS to suffer. It’s just that they are so entrenched in their identity as someone who suffers. And (here is the important part) THEY DON’T REALIZE THEY ARE DOING IT. It is not that actual identity that is so painful. It’s that they can’t let go of it and be in the present moment. In order to get peace, you have to let go of the identity. It can be hard to give up. It’s like the monkey with his hand in the cookie jar. He can’t get his hand out because his fist expands while he is grasping the cookie. The only way to get his hand out of the jar is to drop the cookie. And so this is how we all are with our egos (the part of us that who we think we are). We just won’t let go.

This is why you will always hear that healing happens as fast as you are willing to let go of the past and future. When that happens, you can be present. When you are present, any unresolved emotions will spontaneously arise and pass away without all the story and the drama.

Oxy, thanks for your article.


“It is not that actual identity that is so painful. It’s that they can’t let go of it and be in the present moment. In order to get peace, you have to let go of the identity. It can be hard to give up.”


I like what you’re saying & perhaps I’m getting into semantics, but, here goes: When I realized and felt I had been betrayed/duped by someone I loved very much, I felt like I lost my identity. Who really was this person that I loved? Were they BSing me all the time? Some of the time? If so, when, as I reviewed in my mind so many moments I had spent with them? How could I not have seen the truth? Was I an idiot? Who was I? What was I? How could I have been so blind?

So, what I’m saying is that in the aftermath of discovering someone I loved was an N/SP, I felt like I had lost my own identity. It took some time for me to rebuild myself and forge a new identity. Once I was able to create my new, post-N/SP self & identity, it became easier for me to live in the present moment. But in that interim period of post-discovery of the N/SP & pre-creation of my new self/new identity, it was very hard & painful to live in the present moment. The present moment was full of pain. So, I basically agree with you, except for that interim period.


Oxy, Thank you for your article. I really agree with you.

The other day, skylar posted a link to this article somewhere and I really think it’s worth a discussion.

It is a very scholarly article, but full of insights and references.

A quote….

“Consciously FELT emotions (OF THE PSYCHOPATH) include excitement, frustration, rage, boredom, envy, dysphoria, and shame….Psychopathic men typically modulate affect like 5-7 year old boys…..What is emotionally absent in the psychopath is most important……..These include anger, fear, guilt, depression, sympathy, jealousy, gratitude, empathy, remorse, sadness, loneliness, and reciprocal joy”“emotions that are broad, deep, and complex. Instead, the emotional life of the psychopath centers on envy and shame (Kernberg, 1984)”.

Yes, that was a mouthful. So the author says the sociopath is clearly all about envy and shame.

I never saw any of the more complex emotions in my spath. Never joy, never lonliness, never sadness. never gratitude, or remorse. Isn’t it shocking when you think about it? I think of my spath and he is SO FLAT emotionally. I *DO* see the mirror – how he pretended to be like me – but all these rich emotional elements were missing.

This should be read, and read again, by those of us on here who wonder if their spath’s new mate has it any better. They don’t.


Ox Drover

Athena, I disagree with Kernberg that the only emotions they feel are envy and shame. I think as we discussed in another thread that “shame” must be felt as a response to guilt and guilt and shame must come AFTER remorse and since a psychopath can feel little or any remorse or guilt, how can they feel “shame.?”

I have seen and experienced the RAGE and ANGER of a psychopath..and they are two emotions I have FREQUENTLY seen and experienced in psychopaths. When they do not get what they want (what they envy) they fly into a full fledged rage and anger state.

kim frederick

I don’t think that shame is related to guilt. Shame is the conviction that I am lacking in the very core of my being…that I am damaged goods, or that I am inherently flawed….and I can see how a spath or a narc can experience this as a core emotion. just my not so HO. 🙂

I guess I need to read the article before I add any more to this post.

you agree that they project, right?
What is projection and what do they project?

We end up feeling slimed, after an encounter with a spath. That’s because they have projected their slime into us. That slime is shame. It had to come from somewhere in order for them to project it.

There are many studies and all professionals agree that shame is very often bypassed. In other words, it cannot be FELT at all. It can only be seen and often is shows itself as rage.

Helen Block Lewis was the researcher who first documented this after painstakingly researching hundreds of case files. Narcissism, the root of psychopathy, is about bypassed shame.

in my not so HO, you are right.
guilt and shame are actually direct opposites. Shame is about who you are at your core and guilt is about what you have done.

Shame takes away your power. It is a feeling of being powerless. the psych term is “agency”. Someone who feels shamed is naked, lacking, unable to defend even their exposure. There is also the feeling of being judged as unworthy and “less than in comparison”.

When you are shamed you are no good. Therefore, you can DO no good. you lack the power to do good and be looked well upon.

So what do you do? How to get rid of this powerless feeling?

Do BAD. Now you have your agency back . You are an agent of evil. You are guilty. You cross boundaries and shame others, but you don’t care. You FEEL no shame. You know you are guilty and you don’t care. You are no longer powerless. You HAVE POWER and it comes from your rage. You proved you have power because you DID something. A powerless/shamed person couldn’t do anything.

In some languages, the word for woman is the same as the word for shame. Why? because they let themselves be f*cked. They let men cross their boundaries and merge with them inside. Men are the guilty party, crossing the boundary but the woman is the one synomous with shame.

It’s a sick world out there.

kim frederick

I had this experience at work a week or two ago: The restaraunt filled up in about 5 minutes and I went from zero to eighty in about thirty seconds. I had been completely at rest and then was thrown into high speed. It can be a bit discombobulating!!! A man was sitting at the counter behind me, as I put on a fresh pot of coffee…but, I forgot to put the pot underneith it…no huge catastrophe, I caught it before more that a cup of coffee had spilled out onto the work surface, but I was embarrased, and I’m sure I showed it…I apologized for my ineptitude by saying…I’m trhying to do tgoo much at once. He smiled, seemed understanding, but I believe I showed a vulnerability and a narc saw an opportunity to move in for the kill….

Our building is very old and needs a lot of repairs. There is a place under the lunch counter where there is a kind of a hole that has been jerry rigged to not be obvious…he caught sight of this and latched on like a bull dog…he forced the issue and continued to try to make me ashamed of it…ie, he tried, with all his might to slime me. My boss is well aware of the problem and she has taken it to the owners, repeatidly. Theu don’t want to spens any money. Is it a problem? Sure…but it’s not my problem. I’m a waitress for God’s sake…hjow much influence do I have? But this guy would not let it go. I politely told him that my boss was aware of the situation but was not getting any cooperation from the owners, but he kept trying to get me to react with shame or embarrasment. I just gray rocked him. So then he tried to triangulate. He brought another man at a nearby table into it, yo collude with him to make the lowly waitress feel ashamed. I gray rocked the both of them. Finally he shut up and I warmed up a bit to him, but as soon as I did, he made another attempt. After he left, I comented to his accomplice that the man was a bully who needed to push around the little people to feel important. His acomplice blushed. Ha.
This is absolute narcissism and I know it like I know the back of my hand. If it ever happens again, I’ll give him the number of the owners and be done with it. Comments?

kim frederick

You know what? I would go so far as to say that whenever I feel shame, and I stop to take a look at it and determine that it’s NOT related to guilt or remorse or something that I am responsible for, then that is a huge red flag and I need to remove myself from the situation, ASAPThis is almost always a power play and an attempt to put me in the one down position.
this is the kind of situation that causes my gut to turn over and now days, my blood to run cold. I go all popcycle on em…have no reaction or emotion at all.

yeah, I got a comment!
spaths sit around diners A LOT. Denny’s is a favorite. The all night places are their favorite hang outs.

My exspath told me that he and H, his sidekick, were at a restaurant. The waitress came up took the order and left. Spath started to put her down in front of H and call her a c**t. Within a short time he had H hating this woman’s guts for no reason and calling her a c**t behind her back.

That’s what spaths do. They seed hatred. You did the right thing by gray rocking them. Once that is done, do not warm up to them again. BE BORING, until they are gone. A tip is not worth the spath’s attention.

My spath got the nicest man I’ve ever met, to start hating his own innocent vaccuum cleaner so much that he took it up in an aircraft and dropped it from altitude, just to see it smash. Then they landed and did it again. several times.

They called the vaccuum cleaner names and spouted venom at it.

He did the same thing to my BF. Made him shoot an automatic rifle at a car that had been a reliable (though ugly) source of transportation for years. Nothing wrong with the car. He could’ve sold it. Instead it got riddled with bullet holes, and sat abandoned in shame, on the property for years.

Spaths love to seed hatred. It’s weird what they can convince us to FEEL.

kim frederick

Yeah, I agree they seed hatrid, but their minions are cowards and wimps. They are so hungry for communion and acceptance they trip over the scandilon and sully themselves. Spaths and narcs have a way of knowing who they can gather into their lair.


I got a lot out of the article, Skylar. Thank you for posting it.

What really hit me was the description of the P needing to control the mother, which is exactly what happened with my P sister and S mother.

My P sister had to rein my S mother back in. My S mother had committed the unpardonable sins of liking and admiring me, and frequently praising my son.

Compounding those insults was that people were telling my sister that her daughter, who eventually was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder, needed help and she needed to get her under control. Whoa, baby! This was all my fault. Nobody was saying that about my son. Everybody loved him.

My P sister resolved that I was doing down and S mother was going to see just how horrible I am. She was going to make sure that the world was ordered according to how she thought it should be.

I was so glad to see the psychopath described in the summary as, “He remains a frightening member of our species, present in all walks of life.”

The Kernberg quote is from 1984. In terms of knowledge in the psychological field, that’s somewhat dated. “Shame” may not have been defined to the degree that it is today.

I agree with Oxy that shame comes after feeling remorse. However, I wonder if shame used in that quote meant feeling different from others, as I understand that many Ps are aware that they somehow differ from most.

“Shame” may have been the term that Kernberg ascribed, but it may have been an off-the-cuff or perhaps Kernberg didn’t go deeply into considering that might not be the best description and another term would better describe what Ps feel. Don’t forget that we really didn’t know a whole lot about psychopaths then.

I don’t know anything about Kernberg. The first time I saw the name was in that article. For all I know, he may have meant it another way. I’m just thinking out loud, again.

Maybe we haven’t come up with a term yet to describe this particular feeling of Ps, i.e., knowing that they are different from most and feeling disconnected in the sense that they do not belong. I can see how that might be unsettling, disturbing, and upsetting, but do these collectively amount to shame? I don’t think so.

Maybe there is more than one definition for shame. I’m going to stick with the one that requires remorse.

Skylar, I’m pretty sure that “projection” has a different meaning in psychology than what you described. When it comes to Ps, I don’t think the slimed feeling you described is projecting. I would say that is feeling manipulated or used. In other words, I wouldn’t say that they “projected slime” on us because that isn’t my understanding of projecting.

As I understand “projection,” it is when one person refuses to admit to a certain feeling and ascribes it to another person. It’s a defense mechanism, because the person doing the projecting doesn’t want to admit to the feelings or thoughts. Rather than owning those feelings or thoughts, the person will say that the other person has them.

For example, if I am afraid that Person X might reject me, I might tell (either Person X or another person) that “Person X is afraid that I might not think that Person X is good enough for me.” It relieves my anxiety because it puts the subject out into the open without it being obviously related to me. I’m fishing for a reassurance. If I am lucky, I’ll get back, “Person X thinks very highly of you. Person X is glad to know you and values your relationship.”

That’s projection as I know it, i.e., throwing (projecting) my feelings onto somebody else in the hopes that my secret fears will be addressed without me needing to state them.

That sort of projecting Ps do.

I know that my P sister told lots of people that I was jealous of her. I wasn’t jealous at all. I thought she was totally screwed up and wouldn’t exchange my life for hers for anything, even though she is obviously much more successful financially than I am.

I felt I had the things that really mattered in life, e.g., the ability to love, friends, caring, and kindness. I thought she was very jealous of that.

I think Ps project, often, when they make excuses for their behavior, like “I had to beat up the guy because he had an attitude” or “I took the money because it was going to be gone anyway the way that guy was handling it.”

I don’t see the above as a defense mechanism. I see it as bad excuses for bad behavior. But I can see how the Ps are projecting their thinking onto somebody else in those cases.

I’m pretty sure that homophobia is a form a projection. The person puts down gays and has all sorts of derogatory thoughts about homosexuals because the person secretly fears he or she is gay and feels these feelings are what people would say about him or her if that ever came out.

Another form of projection, I think (not sure,) is when somebody can’t admit to mismanaging something so he or she blames others for the failure. Of course, things can fail for many reasons. Blaming a business failure on the economy wouldn’t be projecting. It could be the real cause of the failure.

I guess what I should do is ask you what you mean by projecting.

kim frederick

Oh I think they are masters at projecting shame. They don’t want to feel the shame of less than ism…or of being damaged goods or of being not good enough, or of being defunct, or of NOT BEING GOD. They project this same feeling of shame on others, believing that everybody is ashamed that they aren’t GOD and because they know this shame intimately, they know how to work it…they project their short-comings onto others.

kim frederick

Oh, and I forgot to add that projection allows the projector not to feel what is projected….so that when a spath or narc, slimes you, they have effectively not felt their own shame….that would be annhilation to them,,,to feel their lack and their difference and their less than ism….they must be GOD to survive.

the way my spath projected was: You are evil, you have no limits, you have no EMPATHY, nobody will ever want you.

These are descriptions of shameful BEING. it describes rotten inside and it describes HIM. But he was telling me that I was these things. It came out of the blue.

So he must KNOW his own rotten core.

Again, I don’t think people are getting that they don’t FEEL shame. To them, it doesn’t exist at all. But the fact that they choose these words to describe US means that they are projecting those things on to us because it is there inside them.

Seriously though, I’m not telling you about my opinion. Many professionals have spent their lives studying shame. Read about it and learn from people who have dedicated decades to this topic. I think it’s important if you want to understand spaths.

kim frederick

Skylar, I think we’re on the same page.

Yeah Kim,
we are. shame is like dirt. If you have it on you, the best way for other people not to notice it, is if they ALL have it on themselves too.

spread the slime around. Then we’re all in the same hell.

What I’m figuring out is that there are lots of things going on under our radar. Shame is the biggest one. We can only see it in it’s disguises because nobody wants to admit to being ashamed. It’s too shameful. Shame is recursive.

kim frederick

The thing is, though, that victims DO feel it. They take it on. I don’t know why, exactly, but real people do feel shame….they feel authentic shame that they own, but they also feel projected shame…maybe because humility won’t destroy them. but humility is anethama to spaths.

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