Continually picking at the ‘psychopathic scab’ won’t give the wound a chance to heal

Editor’s Note: Sarah Strudwick, based in the UK, is author of “Dark Souls Healing and recovering from toxic relationships.”

By Sarah Strudwick


verb \ˈhēl\

: to become healthy or well again

: to make (someone or something) healthy or well again

This week I had to have two teeth out, which turned out to be pretty painful. I also ended up with an infection. I’ve had wisdom teeth out before many years ago but didn’t necessarily want to remind myself of how uncomfortable it was. Despite the pain and infection, I know in time the gums will heal, albeit they may feel and look a little different after.

We get hurt

When we fall in love or become victim to a psychopath, often our hearts and/or minds become broken, albeit temporarily. It can take time to heal old wounds. It doesn’t mean the scars will vanish or the pain will never go away, but sometimes we are able to forget about the original trauma and make a decision to move on. Just because something is damaged or has been broken doesn’t necessarily mean you have to keep on reminding yourself of it all the time.

Five years ago when I split up from my ex, I wrote an article called “How Long Is a Piece of String,” referring to the time it takes to get over a psychopath. I cannot speak for others, but my own journey has involved putting as much energy as possible into helping myself overcome any patterns or self destructive behavior that might encourage me to go back into ANY kind of relationship with a disordered persons.

Sharing the hurt

During the time when I first started blogging and writing books about it, I was in contact with a number of other targets, many of whom had had similar experiences. Some were fellow bloggers and writers; some ran support groups. My own journey also included not spending an inordinate amount of time around other victims who were not prepared to move on.

Enough is Enough

There came a point at which I decided enough is enough. No more regurgitating and picking at old wounds. When I wrote the second book, “The Phoenix spirit,” I touched briefly on the reasons some targets remain stuck in the mode of the victim. I was quite shocked at the amount of people who want to keep others in victim mode with subtle suggestions that it’s not possible to ever get over a psychopath.

Time to fix

My personal view is for someone to want to remain as a victim for too long is not necessarily healthy. Why would anyone want to be talking about pathology for more than a couple of years? Talking about it for a couple of months is bad enough, but then it’s time to start looking within.

First of all, no one really wants to listen anymore. Then victims get stuck in this syndrome that my brother aptly called, “my leg is more broken than your leg.” This is where victims share stories and no one actually ends up really listening to the other person’s stuff. They’re just talking about what happened to them. There is a fine line between sharing stories, empathizing and literally regurgitating all of our stuff.

Fixing requires a  journey of independence

As a result, I decided to ask my friend and fellow author, George Simon, about his own thoughts on victimhood and forums, and his reply was as follows:

The non-aggressive but fiercely assertive, independent life is undoubtedly the healthiest, but also without a doubt, the most daunting. To take the truly independent path means parting company with everything that we’ve become accustomed and attached to, including all the junk baggage we’ve lugged around for most of our lives. But in the end, every journey down the independent path begins with a from-the-gut firm and irreversible “goodbye.” Some folks simply wallow forever in the fear of that first step. And sometimes the forums you speak of and even therapy itself only “enable” that paralysis.

Focused on healing

So it came as no surprise when the other day I came across a very long post from a fellow victim who was still going on about how much pain she was going through and how hurt and wounded she felt. This was the very same person who had gotten extremely angry with me when I moved on, and told me that it was not possible to ever heal from a psychopath because you always PTSD. At the time I decided to disengage from this person, and it enabled me to focus on the rest of my “healing.”

The word “healed” has many connotations. I prefer to use the description “to become healthy or well again.”

If you use an analogy of a scar or a scab that has replaced the original wound, knowing what is underneath is the key to real healing. You may well be who, or what, caused your injury in the first place — be it an emotional or physical pain — that may have kept you stuck in the past.

The wound under the scab

For example, if you had a scar on your leg, would you constantly keep telling someone how you acquired it? Scars from being with a psychopath run deep. Many are invisible to the naked eye. However, in order to let it “heal” properly, there comes a point at which you need to stop constantly picking that invisible scab off as your way of validating yourself to others. You may need to put your injury in the past and no longer discuss it.

Stop picking the scab

Acknowledging and processing the pain from the past is one thing, but constantly picking off scabs and checking what’s underneath is, in my opinion, not always going to help. If you needed therapy and have done all the necessary work on yourself, such as dealing with your own crap, then there is often no need to keep on attending the wound.

When you run into people and situations that differ from your reality or experiences, citing things such as you can “never be healed” or that you “will always be damaged,” is disempowering, to say the least. Not only does it take away that hope that got you far enough in your journey that you feel better, or are happy, it puts you back into a place where you may feel that your experiences were all your fault all over again.

Time heals the scab and the wound

There’s an old expression time heals everything. When it comes to getting over a psychopath, pick away until such time as your body says enough. Eventually you will get better and your battle scars will be a subtle reminder as to why you don’t ever want to keep on picking away. Whilst I feel deep empathy for the woman who is still clearly suffering, I’m also relieved that I am no longer in contact.  I might still be stuck as a victim, believing that I, too, can never get over my experiences.

In my humble opinion, I believe eventually you will come to a point, as I did recently, when someone asked me what happened. Whilst they sat jaw dropping listening to the story, I continued in a matter of fact way, without being triggered or getting upset. I reminded myself that evening, with a moment of clarity, that I never really want to talk or discuss what happened ever again.


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28 Comments on "Continually picking at the ‘psychopathic scab’ won’t give the wound a chance to heal"

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I WAS truly ‘Stunned” when I first found this life-saving site and I’m certain I’d still be in my isolated pit of despair if I hadn’t read the many pearls of wisdom you all shared; And I thank you from the bottom of my mostly- happy heart! I too have had less need to check in here as I’m very ‘over’ thinking about the ghoulish s’path I let into my life; Thoughts of him are now like an old fading nightmare.
I do however, still have periodic bouts of very deep sadness, despair & self-loathing over my losses because of ‘The Evil One’…especially the heirlooms from my beloved Grandmother and most of my savings. But It dawned on me one day about a year after my s’path skipped town and I’d spent billions of hours reading LF, going to therapy and learning all I could about s’paths, that I really, truly DIDN’T give a rat’s patoot about that disturbed, sick man and that I was actually starting to feel gratitude for what I Did have, that I was finding joy in every day again, and new confidence in me.
I realized that the ONLY time I ever thought of s’path was when I had to handle some money crisis caused by the financial nightmare he left me with. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever recover from financial ruin; I’m 61, have a career I love that pays very well, but I’ll be broke at month’s end for much longer than I can handle the grueling mental & physical demands of the job. I’m going to have to neglect necessary dental work, and abandon forever my dream of owning a small home of my own or retiring to finally enjoy family and friends.
While the ‘Disturbed Evil One’ did Not crush my spirit or confidence, he absolutely DID crush the hopes
I had for this last chapter and robbed me of all my choices in life, for the rest of my life; I can’t NOT think about that reality as it’s in my face every day….and that’s where I do get stuck feeling rage &grief.

In reading the comments here tonight, it seems like it’s those of us ‘targets’ who are older and were devastated financially, who appear to be having the hardest time recovering and ‘moving on with our lives’.
Perhaps it’s not so much that we’re ‘stuck’ because we’re picking ‘scabs’ and ruminating about emotional pain inflicted by our disturbed ‘others’ but rather, the grim reality of the financial consequences they caused for us rips open our scabs, kicks us in the teeth with $ crises that drain our energy every day and reminds us that we HAVE NO PLACE to ‘move on TO’ to escape the sheer terror of having no money, no (or few ) choices, and no time left to fix it that keeps us stuck in sadness, anger and hopelessness. Just my take on it…what do you think?

StunnedBrokeSad, I so hear this!! Im a little younger than you (55) and have nothing (except a scooter which I love and a cat who drives me crazy but is soft and warm)I too have a career I love but find working 40-50 hours with an hour commute each way every day EXHAUSTING. In my future I thought by now I would be working part time and have grandchildren to bounce around with. Ohhh I long to work part time and do some things I never get time for now. Uh uh Thanks to my ex I have nothing of value financially, on good days I think that’s kind of lucky, nothing for anyone to take so people only hang with me because they like me. Sometimes though it scares me witless
That’s when the only dealing with NOW is good (for me anyway). I don’t know what will happen next, I might win lotto, I might get knocked off my scooter, anything might happen.
Ive learned home is within me, where ever I am that is ‘home’ The day before Christmas I learned I have a serious health problem that changes how I live the rest of my life, the week before that that my father has end stage terminal cancer.
So Im just appreciating now and all that I have now
The one thing I do know from my spath experiences is that I can survive nearly anything, that gives me a heap of confidence.
That said, on bad days I do cold panic sweat it and have fear tornados tearing through. But I get better at dealing with those all the time (way too much practice!) and I could out bitter unripe grapefruit. Those days I am very very kind to myself… because I deserve at least that.

Dear Stunned, I also concur with what you say. Being 76, disabled and abandoned, it’s hard to think positively about the future.

Oh sweetheart “stunned” – your story is my story.

I lost everything after my psychopath husband walked out to be with his younger girlfriend. Actually, he had some help from me after I drove over to her house and THREW his clothes and toothbrush on her porch. Then I banged so hard on her glass door that I am surprised I didn’t put my hand through it!

Everyone is on their own path to healing. Recovering from such a disordered relationship is like a death. We all go thru the five stages of grief. Some get “stuck” at some stages but hopefully most of us make it to the “acceptance” part of our recovery.

My sister was “stuck” for about 8 years. She also married a psychopath and he kicked HER out of their home after a 25 year long marriage. My research has shown me that many of the these women that are stuck have underlying depression disorders that keeps them trapped in a vortex of pain. Sadly, some will never have the capacity to “move on”.

After three years I am finally in a better place. My finances still have a dismal outlook, but I am now realizing that God pulled me out of that marriage and saved my life. I was speaking to a young woman the other night about her recent break up with an obvious psychopath and I told her that she had just dodged a bullet. She was saved. I truly believe that while all of us are devastated with the realization that we were deceived and lied to by someone we trusted we should rejoice in our freedom.

Embrace it my friends. Enjoy your tuna fish sandwich and smile.

We are the winners in this battle.

“Anything we truly accept, changes us.” Eckhardt Tolle

Dear Stunned, when I started making trips to Costa Rica in 2010 (on a shoestring budget), I realized that poverty is all relative. Compared to much of the world, even the poorest of us are very rich. This is one way I was able to stop thinking about my own poverty.

I can still relate to how you feel because for many years I felt my parents robbed me of so much of my childhood that I lived at the mere survival level throughout adulthood. It was difficult for me to even work because I didn’t have the tools to process all of the psychological conflicts with co-workers. I was depressed, diagnosed as BPD, and I couldn’t afford decent therapy (and still really can’t). It cost me a lot to fix my teeth from all the neglect and violence of my childhood.

When I let go of the resentment toward them, my life improved dramatically. Though I am not rich and likely never will be, I have enough, and I feel constantly grateful for the simple things I have. I made a choice to give up some things I couldn’t afford. I don’t have a TV, Iphone, Ipod, or any fancy technology. I just got my first cell phone, and it doesn’t text – it’s just for emergencies. I’m actually happier without all this stuff. Strange as it sounds, I feel grateful to have the parents I did, because without the hell I went through and the things I learned from it, I would not be the person I am.

I derive much of my joy these days from giving to others. Taking the focus off myself helps keep me from going down the path of self-absorption and self pity. I am 53. I too would like to have a place that is more than 624 square feet and a decent car to drive that is newer than 17 years old. But I am extremely grateful to have these things. Many people around the world would kill to have the luxuries I have. I feel like it’s a very well-kept secret that by being grateful for everything I have, it actually makes me happier than many people who are financially well off. I laugh and smile much more than most of the people at work who have much more than I do. Heck, for that matter, the people in Costa Rica radiate a joy from within that makes you happy just to be around them. And they have nothing! They even have a national phrase “pura vida” which is a greeting and blessing and expresses their deep inner joy of being alive.

I read a news story about a couple who are also tapped into this secret. They gave up a beautiful home and two cars to live in a sparse apartment. They each allowed themselves 50 personal items and no more. That includes clothes, pots and pans, etc. Their only vehicles are bicycles. So what do they do with all their extra money? They give it back to the community by helping disadvantaged kids. And they are much happier than they were in their former lives!

If these people can be happy with next to nothing, why can’t I? That is the question I asked myself over and over until I decided to just change the way I think about having material things.

Ironically, there are several men in my life who are very interested in me. All of them are very successful and could offer me a nice home and secure life. And now I’m actually having second thoughts about whether I even want or need those things.

Breaking free from abusive sociopathic people has made me question every premise in my life. This is a good thing. I feel like I’m free to choose whatever I want to value and free to believe whatever I want to believe. And I’m not stuck believing I need the house in the suburbs, nice car, or Ipod in order to be happy.

Did any of you ever see Life of Pi? The message to me was extremely profound, if you watch to the very end. What I extrapolated from that movie is that “we get to believe whatever story we want to.” And that is the story upon which we base our happiness or unhappiness in life. If you believe you can create your own happiness in any situation except this one, then you have just written your own story. And it will be an unhappy one.

Stargazer, I think you are right. Its like we cant always choose what goes on around us or to us but we can always choose our attitude or how we see it?
Its kind of freeing having nothing in a way
I remember a colleague talking to me one day and I was really really down, quite sick actually and got caught up in a sense of uselessness and failure because I seemed to just keep falling over, I was disgusted with myself. She said to me, Caro, you are one of the strongest bravest people I know. I looked at her in utter amazement, I mean wth?? And she said- you keep getting up, you keep trying and you keep your humour.
In that one statement she took this thing about myself that I was SO ashamed of and made it into a bright shiny treasure.
Ive never forgotten it and all it was, was a change of perspective
One conversation, one time. Changed my life for the better forever.


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