Editor’s note: The following article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.
When you’ve been entangled with sociopaths for a long period of time, few (if any) facets of your life are left untouched. Becoming a person of faith has shown me how deeply my upbringing has permeated my adult life.
My sociopathic parents controlled my every move – dictating when I could bathe, eat, or sleep, what I could read, who I could be friends with (if any), what music I could listen to, what I could watch on TV. Depending on how volatile their mood was, I’d have to ask permission to speak.
In her book Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman states “The damage to the survivor’s faith and sense of community is particularly severe when the traumatic events themselves involve betrayal of important relationships.” (page 55). For children of sociopaths, this couldn’t be more true. Our parents set the stage for how we view authority figures throughout the rest of our lives.
This has posed an enormous obstacle for me in my spiritual life. Faith of any kind requires placing trust in an authority bigger than yourself. I am a Christian, so my trust is in Christ. And trusting anyone of power is scary after you’ve been raised by sociopaths!
Decades of abuse and manipulation have left me feeling inherently “different” than other people. I sometimes feel discouraged seeing other Christian women exude joy on a daily basis, unfettered by life’s adversities. I see women who can work full-time, cook, clean, raise their children, read their Bibles, attend church every week, volunteer at charitable organizations…….all with nary a complaint. Then there’s…….. me.
I am naturally a skeptic. When good things happen, I wait for the other shoe to drop. I don’t look at a glass as half full or half empty, I look at the spots on the glass and feel like a failure for being such a lousy housekeeper. I’m not good in social situations. In fact, I prefer to avoid them altogether. On good nights I don’t have nightmares. On good days I can make it until breakfast without my anger management skills being tested. Then I feel like I’ve failed God for not being like the other women.
Then I beat myself silly trying to do everything right so God will be pleased with me, much in the same way I used to beat myself silly trying to please my parents. Only, I know my parents were evil, and God is not.
So how does a person reconcile faith in a Higher Power with a life that’s been scrambled by a sociopath? The answer is………I don’t know. Last week I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about this. She asked me, how is it that I didn’t grow up to be a hateful, manipulative person? Logically, I should be. I had no “healthy” role models at all. But, by the grace of God, I didn’t.
I can’t explain how or why God works the way He does, but (to borrow Oprah’s quote), here are things I know for sure:
Going through hardship often gives us a softer heart for others who are hurting. It allows us to relate to others in ways that other people can’t. I am grateful for that.
I am grateful if I can comfort even one person by saying “I understand”, because they know I really do.
I am grateful my experiences have taught me resilience and resourcefulness.
Most of all, I know that God sees me as a whole, complete person when all I can see are the shards of destruction left behind by my parents. I am definitely grateful for that.