By | October 26, 2009 432 Comments

Finding meaning in the betrayal by the sociopath

When we realize that we’ve been involved with a sociopath, and that person has callously betrayed us, we inevitably ask, “Why? Why did this happen to me?”

To help find the answer, one of the books that Lovefraud recommends is The Betrayal Bond—Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships, by Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D. The book explains the deep psychological wounds caused by trauma, and offers a way for us to identify and overcome abusive relationships that we may have experienced.

When I read the book, I was struck by what Carnes wrote on page 68:

My experience with survivors of trauma is that every journey of recovery depends on the survivor coming to a point where all that person has gone through means something.

I believe there is meaning in what we have experienced at the hands of sociopaths. Here it is: The object of the exercise is to force us to jettison mistaken beliefs about ourselves.

Promising to fill the void

When sociopaths come into our lives, they snag us by promising to fill some void. For most of us on Lovefraud, the void is our missing soul mate, but sociopaths can also promise career success, monetary rewards, spiritual enlightenment—any number of things. (Please note: This dynamic doesn’t quite apply when sociopaths are family members.)

Sociopaths are experts at identifying our vulnerabilities and exploiting them. So the question becomes, why do we have the vulnerabilities in the first place? Here’s where the mistaken beliefs come in.

We believe we cannot attract a fulfilling romance.

We believe people only want us when we do something for them.

We believe we cannot succeed through our own efforts.

We believe we aren’t good enough.

We believe we are unlovable.

We believe there’s something wrong with us.

We believe we cannot cope with life by ourselves.

We believe other people come before ourselves.

We believe someone will come and make all our troubles disappear.

These just a few of the erroneous beliefs that create voids within us. Where do they come from? Perhaps from abuse in our past, as outlined in The Betrayal Bond.Perhaps they come from simple misperceptions. In any event, the sociopath steps right in to fill them.

Feel free to add your own mistaken beliefs to the list.

Critical juncture

So the sociopaths make promises—and break every one of them. At some point we wake up, come out of the fog, and realize that our lives have crumbled into piles of debris. That’s when we ask why? Why did this happen to me?

This is a critical juncture. We can certainly blame the sociopath—they are evil, and they deserve to be blamed. We can say it was fate, or luck, which is sometimes true—there are sociopaths who randomly assault or kill people. But in most of our cases, we believed the sociopath, went along with the charade, for a period of time. Why did we do this?

If we can find the answer to this question, we can discover the meaning in the betrayal by the sociopath.

As much as I hate to admit it, I did benefit from the destruction wrought by the sociopath I married. I am not the same person that I was before him—I am wiser, healthier and happier.

Why? Because I found and released all those mistaken beliefs.

Yes, it was painful. Yes, it was traumatic. But by looking for the meaning and undertaking the healing journey, my life is now much richer than it ever was.

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Ox Drover

Dear Donna,

A wonderful topic and one I think we all must confront on our healing path.

Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” which he wrote after the ultimate “betrayal” of all the psychopaths in his world, the Nazis, had taken away his entire environment and replaced it with slavery and pain, and yet, he found meaning from this…..I think his book (along with the Betrayal Bond) was a turning point for me in seeing that there CAN be, that there MUST be “meaning” to this experience(s) and that it is finding the meaning in this that we GROW and BLOOM.

Thank you for this wonderful article!



Good post.

I think many of us end up controlled by a sociopath because our own conditioning was at the hands of controlling parents. I think “Betrayal Bond” has to be read hand-in-hand with “If You Had Controlling Parents” by Dan Neuharth. While “Betrayal Bond” does a good job of exploring how the bonds are formed, I think a reader needs to go a step further and seek out how the control took place. Neuharth’s book does a wonderful job of exploring how that takes place.


I believed that I needed to have excitement.
Excitement would replace the love I didn’t get and the thrills would cover my fear.

sharing the journey

I believed that there was something wrong with me because p’s seemed to spot me and make my life hell. I also spotted them.

I was also lonely in my marriage and was looking to find meaning with my unknown s husband what our 22 years meant together.

Peace and love

Great article, Donna.

I believed I just wasn’t good enough to be loved, if I didn’t acquiesce to other people’s demands.


I think for me it is that I had to give to get love. In the beginning he gave back…but slowly it was just me giving and him taking. By the time that happened I was so twisted up inside that I didn’t know what was right anymore…

My parents didn’t have a “great” marriage by any means. But I don’t blame them. I have never been one to believe in blaming anyone for their ‘issues’ and while I blame my ex for his role in what happened… I’m still at the end of the day the most mad at — MYSELF!! Because I didn’t do what needed to be done and I choose to believe him when I should have known better…. If not at the beginning surely after 6 months… The signs were clear… I just choose to shut my eyes and live in my dreamworld…

super chic

The whole thing pretty much sums up what I believed about myself. I’ve let go of a few of them, I guess. Oh, I believed I was ugly.



I’ve never thought I was that attractive either. People “say” I’m am, but I have never believed it. Plus, I’m overweight. I’m so not the size ZERO that is worshiped. I’ve come to like myself more than ever; still need to work on things but I accept I’ll never be a size zero; nor would I ever want to be… but I’d like to be more fit than I am now…


I never used to take photos of myself. I do now… All the time and it helps… To see yourself and know you aren’t ugly… Yes, we can all be unattractive after we cry, or haven’t gotten a lot of sleep… But I take pictures all the time… with and without makeup — it’s helped a lot about seeing myself differently.


Great post. There is no meaning until we FIND and create it ourselves.

You wrote: “I did benefit from the destruction wrought by the sociopath I married. I am not the same person that I was before him—I am wiser, healthier and happier.

Why? Because I found and released all those mistaken beliefs.”

I would say that the “why” means you did NOT benefit from the destruction, but rather what YOU did as a result. I think that is very clear to the reader, but something I have to underscore for myself. I did not benefit at ALL from the pain he caused me. All the benefit was because of what I did with that pain. The pain itself cause some irrevocable damage to my health especially. I’ve read that trauma leaves a mark at the cellular level. I wish there was criminal prosecution for causing such a mark. Maybe some day.

What is powerful about this post is getting each of us to focus on our mistaken beliefs about OURSELVES rather than our usual hyperfocus on what we mistakenly believed about about the P/S/N.

Agree, Betrayal Bond is a wonderful, must have book.


I know that how I was raised had a lot to do with what happened to me, I just need help putting the pieces together. so here goes my story, & anyone that can help me figure out how I was damaged, please help me.
From the time I was little, I remember not feeling like I was as good as everyone else. My dad was a typical blue collar worker, he always worked, he changed jobs when he wasn’t happy with the one he had, never seemed to have trouble finding work. He had a hell of a temper, he was the typical hot headed Irishman, reminded me a lot of Archie Bunker, was the physical discipliner in the family(chased me one time & tried to choke me ’cause I rolled my eyes at him), was the son of an alcoholic & abusive father. My mom was a secretary, the only one of five kids who went to school beyond high school, seldom lost her temper, always worked, I don’t know if she was happy being married to my dad, she died when I was 24. My dad could dissolve my mom or my younger brother to tears, just by his bellowing at them. it seemed my mom’s only defense was to just go silent, that drove my dad nuts. I remember putting myself in harms way & antagonizing my dad, just to keep his wrath on me, so he wouldn’t make my mom or brother cry. I never got into any trouble until I got older, like in high school. Then it seemed like both my parents began to think bad things about me, & accused me of acting like a street walker, etc. I guess at that point, I began to think that if they thought that badly about me, well, hey, I can be that bad & worse. I started drinking, smoking, doing drugs, everything they accused me of anyway. I still managed to get all A’s & B’s in school. As my brother got older(he was 5 yrs. younger than me), dad seemed to take less delight in tormenting him, & they actually got pretty close.Even though I felt like I could never do anything good enough to please my dad, we were closer than my mom & I were, & even though my dad & brother became close, I think my brother was actually closer to our mom. Fast forward to when I was 19. I managed to get involved with a guy, became sexually active, & did the unthinkable(back in the day), I got pregnant. If I wasn’t already a disappointment to my folks before, I sure as hell was then. I ended up marrying the loser at 19, had my daughter at 20, & was off & running in my 1st abusive marriage. He spent all our money on booze & dope, & was physically abusive to me. We were divorced by the time I was 21. I ended up moving back home with my folks, & they pretty much usurped my role as a parent. When I was 22, my mom was diagnosed w/ breast cancer, & under went a radical mastectomy. She had never been sick, other than a cold. I ended up being the one who took her to the city for her chemo & radiation, since dad was working. I remember trying to get her to eat a little bit of the lunch I made for her one day, & she got mad at me ’cause she felt so sick. She told me that day if she had to feel that bad to try & get better, she was done taking treatments. She seemed to get better for awhile, then 2 yrs. later, she started not feeling good. She went into the hospital for an exploratory surgery. The doctors opened her up, found out that her cancer had spread to her liver, & it couldn’t be fixed. She woke up in recovery long enough for the doctors to tell her that, & she went into a coma, & I never saw her awake again. I went to see her every day before work. The phone call came in the middle of the night about 10 days later. My dad woke me up, told me mom had just died, & to go back to sleep. Her dying seemed to dissolve the glue that held the whole family together. My brother started hating me for things I said while mom was dying, I tried my best to work full time at my job, take care of my 6 yr. old daughter, & try to keep the household running as well as mom had. She died in Jan. of that year, by April, my dad announced he was seeing a lady, & they would be married in June. I guess I didn’t do anything right. There was no way I could face my mom being replaced that soon, so I made the 2nd marriage mistake of my life, married a friend of my brother’s who I thought was a nice guy. We had 3 kids together over the course of the 20 yrs. we were married, I was diagnosed as suffering from depression, he was becoming more & more mentally & emotionally abusive to me & the kids, so I took the kids & left. It was a nasty drawn out divorce, & the kids suffered a great deal because of it. At that point in my life,the s appeared. I thought my life before was a living hell on earth. After 10 yrs., losing everything, here I am. My hells on earth just keep getting progressively worse.
I’m sorry this is so long. I just needed to tell someone.


Donna and All,

Donna said: I believe there is meaning in what we have experienced at the hands of sociopaths. Here it is: The object of the exercise is to force us to jettison mistaken beliefs about ourselves.

This is exactly where I have *finally* got to. And not ‘just’ from my experience with the last p, but as a place in my own life, all experiences included. But FOR SURE this last one was The One to catapult me into examining wrongheaded beliefs I have about myself.

I may not be ready to cut them all lose (which is why I am chosing, for now, to remain out of the dating-game). But I am encouraged to find that my salvation isn’t entirely ‘tied up’ in understanding something outside myself (impossible anyway!). But that it lies in SELF discovery. This wisdom has evaded me for so long……

Thanks, Donna, for an excellent and timely article.

Ox Drover


I just spoke with Lily, Gemini and others who know our sweet Lily. she is moved to a “speciality” hospital, which I am thinking is a rehabilitation facility or a skilled nursing home.

She has been very very sick, and I also think she has been very confused. She seemed to have lost track of time and any details of her medical condition but she is her sweet self and still depends on God to bring her through this. she did say that her doctor told her today that he thought she “was a gonner”—since it has been some time since she has answered her phone, I think she must have been very very ill.

She did report that she is unable to sit up in a chair, which to ome means she is not doing too well physically at all as one of the FIRST things they try to do for you is to get you up OUT OF BED and mobilize you to prevent complications like blood clots, but she said she IS getting physical therapy on her legs and also on her upper body twice a day. As ill as she has been though, I am sure her recovery will be very slow.

She does seem VERY happy with the staff and services at the place she is now and that encourages me very much.

She did say that two of the three daughters are calling her now and her son will talk to her if she calls him….so I guess she is still hoping to have some relationship with them in spite of the past. At this time, however, she does not seem in any emotional distress over it, which is frankly all I care about for her right now, as she needs all her strength to recover.

She said to thank each of you for your prayers and thoughts and it has been very very important to her peace of mind.

I also send my thanks to each of you who has prayed for and sent positive energy to this sweet little lady in her hours of need. (((((Hugs))))) and God bless you all!


I believed so many things: I believed I was insufferable. I believed I was only tolerable if I was ‘useful’. I believed I was only valuable if I gave everything and asked for nothing.

Ahhhh JAH, thank-you for that brilliant underscoring. I like what you say, that it is what we do with the pain that brings the meaning…

super chic

sstiles54… sounds like a very turbulent childhood, I am so sorry your mother passed when you were only 24. My sister and I have discussed our childhood and it sometimes it seems to us that they were just overwhelmed and we think our mother was depressed and they were just not able to give love and teach us life lessons because they didn’t know them themselves, they were not taught these lessons by their parents. Since you were not given the love and securitiy you needed by your father you felt neglected, not good enough, always trying to please men, get their attention. You did the best you could at the time because that is all you knew. Anyway, I’m not one to give great advice — I’m still trying to figure myself out, which I don’t seem to be very good at. Why did you write that things are getting progressively worse? I’m worried about you.

super chic

Oxy, thank you for the update on Lily. I hope she keeps improving over time and will be able to sit up soon. I am very happy to hear she is talking with 2 of her daughters and her son. She is such a sweet soul, some of the things she wrote reminded me of my own mother and how my mother would say them the same way.

Ox Drover

My ONLY concern is that Lily not be in pain, and that she be at peace—if that means that she talks to the vultures, that is OK with me. I know she was grieving so much over not communicating with them, and accepting that they really don’t care fo rher and have NC’d her for over 7 years when she was begging them to “love” her. I know when you are physically destitute of health it is a difficult time to cope with the grief of emotional pain and loss as well as the physical.

Lily has had so much pain, ill health, stress and grief over her children, I hope if nothing else she has PEACE even if it is based on a false belief that her children “love” her—right now she needs ALL her strength to cope physcally and she has no energy to spare grieving right now. There are times in this life that we must focus on physical survival and that is her state right now. Keep on praying for her recovery! and her peace. (((hugs))))


Other LF people described trauma and pain but you wrote the words “jettison”, “destruction” and “crumbled into piles of debris”. I’ve found that the words I choose are a result of the pictures/feelings my subconscience is perceiving.

Your words brought up the image of tearing down the old me so that a new me could be built. But the new me will be built with a stronger, more modern design, P-proofed and it’s going to be beautiful too. The list of vulnerabilities are like a list of the design mistakes or fractures built into the old me. The new me is going to be built without those errors.

I don’t want to build on top of that faulty construction, because it will be a weak me. I need all new construction with a design built on the wisdom that the old construction gave me.


I can see that I was desperate for someone to think I was a special person. My husband is a kind and honest man but he does not show emotion or affection a great deal. I think it was the the need for attention that I craved. Being brought up by my widowed mother, who had a personality disorder herself, meant that I always took the blame and I became someone who always tried to please others.
Without the P experience, I may never have realised these things about myself and although painful and traumatic, I have a much greater understanding of myself and that is a positive thing.

super chic

skylar, even though you comment was to Donna, I would like to say that I love your vision… “so that a new me could be built”, what a great idea! P-proofed… priceless!


I agree…..we gotta do what we gotta do to just ‘get by’…….she needs anything and everything she can get to divert her attention to her healing…..she is in a bad place, where the unnecessary ‘drama’ could be the last dagger!
I say…..put that dagger into the voodoo doll and forget about it, even if it is a false reality…doesn’t matter, she needs it to get through!
She is in fight or flight mode, and at this point the flight could be final and she needs the fight for herself ONLY!
Give her my love……and THANK YOU OXY for being such a loving and wonderful friend to our Lily!


you need to cry, first. this will help.
Read the lyrics here:
I know this because you have been trying to be tough your whole life. You carried all the weight on your shoulders and you were going to make it no matter what. But everytime you put your burden down for a moment, you were sabotaged. Yes, your dad was the original instigator. He is a P and he slimed you with hurt. He slimed your whole family. He did it because someone slimed him first.

You have to jettison what your dad did to you first. Then, one by one, you have to jettison each of the husbands who hurt you. They may not be around but you are carrying them still. Just like Donna said, we are “crumbling into piles of debris”. Get rid of the debris and start with a clean slate. Everything they made you feel was a lie. You can’t trust any of it. You can’t know what was real and what was a con.

LF has some of the blue print for your new building. You will find the rest as you go over the memories of where you were fractured.

I know it sounds contrary to say that you need to jettison the xP’s but also keep the memories. I mean to say that you need to jettison the slimey emotions they left you. But still see the history through curious eyes. Eyes that want to learn about you and about them and about humanity.

Kathleen and Stargazer gave me so much help the other day because I couldn’t sit by myself and think about how I was slimed by my P-parents. They got me to talk about it and reflect on it.

Maybe you might read this, if you haven’t already.


Hi everyone,
I have been mostly lurking this evening and not feeling like posting much because I feel a little anxious and depressed for various reasons. I’m just trying to sleep better and get some nutrients in my body. I’m really in need of a massage and trying to figure out a way to afford it. This is one of my issues, feeling like I have to give to others but there is no one to take care of my needs.

Thank you for telling your story. I have no great insights for you this evening, but I feel like I know you better. You’ve had a hard life, and it’s probably hard to trust that things can really get better. I grew up in a cloud of darkness so to speak, and I can relate to the unworthiness you felt as a child. I am really struggling to let myself be happy and trust that things will improve.

Oxy, thanks for the update about Lily. I am so glad she is having a temporary reprieve from the painful associations with her family. I’m sure the peace is good for her. I hope she pulls through this.


Shabbychic & Slylar,
I am just so tired of working all the time, & having nothing to show for it. I work 2 jobs, 1 full time, the other part time doing odd jobs like landscaping or cleaning rentals for my landlord to get a break on my rent. I also clean his & his wife’s house every 2 weeks, it’s big, so it takes me 6-8 hrs. to do it like she likes. Most nights, I’m lucky to stay awake past 9 or 10, then back up at 6 am to do it again. I’m just finding it more difficult everyday to feel hope or joy in anything. I feel like I’ve spent all my life trying to be good enough, & failing miserably at that. My kids are all grown, & out on their own, so they don’t much need me for anything. I have always hated asking anyone to help me with anything. That would be a sign of weakness. I was never allowed to say the words “I can’t” when I was growing up. You couldn’t show fear either. I even feel bad just saying those things about my dad, he thought he was doing the right thing. I’ve never told him how I feel. I think I felt sorry for mom for being married to him, & I was mad at her for dying & leaving me to take care of him. It’s weird, though, he is known by a lot of people in the small town we live in, he never met anyone he couldn’t strike up a conversation with, most people know me as his daughter, instead of just me. He is well liked, I am invisible. I hoped my life would mean something, that I would be good at something. How do I ever find out out who I am or what I want? I’ve been the rock for everyone for so long, & now that I need a rock,there’s none.

Ox Drover

Dear Star,

If you can’t afford a massage, take you a nice soaking hot bath and light the candles in the bathroom, and if you like fragrance, pour some in the bath (I love the smell but the oils irritate my sinuses so cant use them) but I had a great soak tonight, all hte way up to my neck, then meditated a bit to relax while I was in the tub and it was not quite as effective as a massage might have been, but it sure beat not doing it, I came out feeling like a new human being.

Even if we can’t have “perfection’ or the “preferred” thing, we CAN do some nice things for ourselves to make us feel better and cheer us up—when your muscles are tight you know how rotten that makes you feel, I bet! I also back up to a door frame and “massage” myself some too.

((((hugs))) do something nice for Star!


Donna- Everything on your mistaken belief list described me. I can remember saying ” I only seem to attract loser’s”, the truth was I was only attracted to loser’s. I never felt good enuff or deserving enuff to have a winner, why would a winner want me? I have failed at so much, one mistake after another. But as you say, it happened for a reason. I am not saying the S was not to blame for what he did. He did appear as my long lost soulmate, the one I had always dreamed of. But when the mirror cracked I felt like a fool. I think this is a wonderful article – thanks again for saving my life Donna Anderson.


sstiles – The movie director Oliver Stone once said he could take anybody off the street and make a movie about their life. Everyone has a story, he said. sstiles. my heart breaks for you, I wish there was someone to bring some joy into your life, someone to hold your hand and help you and be there for you. I have that empty nest thing happening too me. That is one of the reasons the xS fell in my lap. I am nobody if I am not taking care of somebody. Now sstiles I am going to take care of me, I am going to be my rock. Thanks for sharing your life here at LF.


🙂 Oxy, I take baths every day. Maybe I need some epsom salts though.


Star, can you trade massages with another practitioner?
Do you want to talk about what’s bothering you? My finances are my biggest worry. Seriously, I can’t seem to get a handle on it. I’m so used to living in fantasy land that whenever I even think about money, I think of the P.

Henry, I’m with you on that. I need to take care of others, but I think it’s so I don’t have to focus on my problems.

your dad is an N and the root of your problems. My P-parents are so well loved by everyone they know. When I meet their acquaintances (notice that they don’t actually have any FRIENDS), they GUSH about how wonderful my parents are. Everyone loves them. They have no idea that we’re the Adams family. They have perfected their veneer. The only way to judge some P’s is to look at their damaged children. Every single one of us is messed up ROYALLY.

Please consider your ability to work 2 jobs as a gift, not a curse. I don’t have the good health you do, so I envy you.


Sky, I’m backed up on trades, and I’m too tired to do any more until I get some bodywork myself. I’ve been eating brownies, which is aggravating my sinus infection that never went away from August. The antibiotics didn’t work but probably also took their toll on my body. Physically, I’m just feeling “not right.” A good back massage and a chiropractic adjustment would do me a world of good right now. But I’m also triggered into resentment about not being able to get my needs met. Thanks for your offer to talk about the other stuff. I would take you up on it if I wasn’t so tired and fading right now. Maybe tomorrow night. Lots of stuff on my mind. I’ve been flying high on getting my mortgage stuff worked out. Seems like I can never get too happy; I always crash afterward. I’m just trying to watch my mind and my thoughts to see how I create all of this internal drama.

I am going to squeeze some grapefruit juice, cuddle with my snakes, and go to bed.

super chic

sstiles, I am going through a lot of the issues you have. Please do not feel invisible!! I would love to have the small town experience, I live in a big city, I never see anybody I know. I am looking for a new job, and I feel like a dinosaur. My daughter lives 3000 miles away. I started taking Lexapro again, didn’t want to, but I feel no desire to do anything. How is that class “Battlefield of the Mind” going? I really like Joyce Meyer, she is smart and funny! I wish we could all live in a big house together… and talk and laugh, and argue about the remote control.


If we all lived in a big house, you guys would get to deal with my 5 and 6 foot snakes and the needy Siamese cat that doesn’t shut up till he’s sleeping in someone’s shirt. XD


Star, I’m very curious how do your cat and snakes get along?


I don’t know your full story and how long you have been on your healing journey from your X s. But if you have been at this for awile and “peeling” back the layers of your relationship with him and trying to figure out your role in all of this painful history…..
Invariably it almost always leads to coming face to face with your childhood pain.
No matter how painful your experiences have been so far, generally for most of us facing those childhood demons can be the most painful of all. These are the “burdens” that we have carried with us into adulthood and have been with us the longest.
As painful a process this might be it is one that is worth the effort to get through as it is really what can redefine the rest of our lives.
Sometimes what you can do to help you say what you would like to your father (without actually saying it face to face) is to write him a letter. Even if you never intend to send it. Just write it to get out your feelings. I had a therapist who suggested this to me many years ago. I found it to be helpful because I no longer had to bury those feelings once I got them out on paper.

Dealing with all of this is very painful. You must be kind to yourself if you are going to go through this. Even if working 2 jobs takes up much of your time you need to take some “down time” for yourself and do something you enjoy. Even if you have to make yourself do this in the begining.
It is the begining of learning to love ourselves and take care of US.

super chic

Star, as long as it’s not the snakes trying to snuggle in my shirt, I’m ok!!!!


SC, that’s how I feel too. As much healing as we’ve accomplished on a blog, can you imagine what we could do together in person? We all have the problem of needing to help others and putting others before ourselves. It would be heaven on earth. Each of us would be bending over backwards to to more and more for each other. Eventually our self-esteems would be saturated with love and compassion. I have a 2 acre property on an island,near a beach and statepark. Sometimes I fantasize about how nice it would be to have a retreat for LFers there.


I feel ALL of those things that Donna said. Mostly I need to feel USEFUL. I cannot just ‘be”, I have to be doing something for someone or making lots of money. My ex told me I am ‘unlovable’, so I have believed that too. He said it so many times and so vehemently that I believe it, still. Also my brothers said that to me. When that many ppl tell you something, it is hard to not believe it.


ann, my exP told me that no one would ever want me. HA.
getting people to want me is no problem – everyone wants sex. he should have said, “no one will ever love you”. I might have believed that. But he screwed up and lost his opportunity to slime me. LOL.

super chic

skylar, that sounds wonderful and your property sounds sooooo beautiful!!

The S once said to me (when I was wearing jeans and was standing in front of him) “You used to have a nice ass, what happened?” I swear this is true, it’s so stupid… so transparent, I’m laughing!! What a jerk!


I probably shoudnt be saying this, and I know its not the recognised way to think, re recovering from a serious illness, but, I have to be honest and say, that in a way I hope that God takes Lily quietly and peacefully in her sleep. Even if she recovers from the huge trauma of such major surgery, she still has to deal with the fact that her P children and P sisters and P brother dont really give a rats behind about her. I feel this is an emotional wound which will go on bleeding without end, and I think God knows shes suffered enough in this lifetime. I really hope that He calls her home. I dont feel she has the psychic stamina for any more torment from her family.There Ive said it.She is desperately lonely, not well off financially,weak from the surgery, I feel her torment will never end till Jesus takes her to Heaven.. Sorry, but its what I think. Love, Gem.XX



I’m amazed at everything you’ve done in your life! My family often treats me like I’ve accomplished nothing — but I wrote down all things I have done, and it was an eye opener.

I used to believe the entire list of things Donna wrote in this article was true about me — but I no longer do. I heard that it’s beneficial to visualize a “split screen” when one has these painful feelings as an adult: on one side of the screen you see your present situation and feeling, and on the other side of the screen you see how you were treated as child that brought up this feeling. It took a while but by following the feeling, I was able to remember the origins of most of my negative feelings about myself.

I discovered I was TAUGHT to think badly of myself (and most likely, my parents were taught similarly) and when I made my inventory of what I’d accomplished, I discovered that I’m a human being who like most people has had failures and successes. Not so bad really. I realized that much of my sorrow came from the way I was still treating myself — just as my alcoholic parents had — and that I can change that. I could change the way I spoke to myself in internal conversation.

When I began speaking to myself like I would my dearest friend, I began to value and respect myself. That was an awesome discovery — that I was growing self-respect from the inside out! I’d peal another layer of the onion, remember more trauma, and support myself through it. It takes time, tons of reading (I love this site! So many people here have written things that saved my bacon! I really like a site called because though she speaks a lot about substance abuse recovery, the focus is really spiritual and emotional recovery. She is a gifted writer and her attitude is positive. As always, take what you need and leave the rest).

I have a long way to go, but I have discovered that healing is possible, has massive rewards along the way — and you get to meet fantastic people who have come through really tough times and grown stronger, wiser and more compassionate. Lots of them on this site!

You have done so much for so many people, so now, you take some time to take care of yourself and find your answers. This can be challenging if you’ve believed your worth came from what you did for others — but if you can do for others, you can learn to apply that knowledge and ability to making life better for you. I find this challenging, but it is very possible to learn to do it.

Try to take some time every day and read at least one thing that uplifts you! If you find yourself at the bottom of your list, do some rearranging — understand that this is just an old habit, something you were taught and required to survive as a kid, but no longer need. If you can’t think of positive things to do for yourself, think of what you’d do for one of your kids or a dear friend — then do it for you.

What I hold onto when I’m stuck is this: “Do the next right thing.” It’s hard to go wrong when you’re thinking this way, and it helps me to keep from falling back into old habits of treating myself like I don’t matter, and only other people can be on my list. A much healthier equation is “Others and Us” – it offers better balance. Try not to isolate – it seems we’re often alone just when we most need some companionship. For instance, I recently started going to Al-Anon since both of my parents were alcoholics. I’m going for me, to help heal my life so that I can make better choices in the future. It helps to be in a place where people mostly talk honestly about their lives, then it’s easier to see yourself as a human being among human beings. Even when I’m bone tired, a meeting can really help. I’m not pushing that organization, but I am saying that connection in a non-threatening environment with others can help with healing.

There’s lots of solidly good advice to be found on this site. Writing here helps me more than I can say, and I’ve been amazed at how supportive, kind and open people are here.

I very much hope you find your answers soon. Be patient and tender with yourself – it really does help.

Take care!


I had a similar conversaton with my Auntie Yesterday….about life/death/living.
My uncle is in poor health, but still able to travel around. He went to europe for 2 weeks last month with wife/SIL/BIL.
He broke his hip, has parkinsons etc….the flight home was horrid…..for my aunt…..he was yelling about terrorists being on the plane etc… can imagine the horror. He halucinates. Thank God they didn’t land the plane and restrain him…..EESSHH.
She is feeling trapped for him…..he was always a person who lived life, now he is sitting in a chair, cant’ see a tv, can’t hear a radio, can’t walk to the terrace to see the world go by…..just sits and waits.
I blurted out…..that I have given this alot of thought and if I had another stroke that took me ‘down’… my age, I would NEVER want the kids to change diapers, turn me every two hours, and have to care for me for the rest of my life…..NO WAY IN HELL!
Walking my journey with all the serious medical crap i have dealt with, if things looked bleak for me…..if the cancer came back……stroked out or whatever…….DO ME IN!!! If I can’t live a life that can offer some pleasure of living…..I sure dont want to affect the kids living either.
It’s a decision I believe we all should have a right to make…..
I understand your feelings of not wanting Lily to suffer, and I know that if it’s her ‘time….then it will be her time.
There is a reason she fights on……
I know at 39…..I could have given it all up…..easily…..but look at me now…..
Kicking ass and taking names! It wasn’t my time.
She’s had a nasty hand dealt…..and i’m sure we will all learn from lily’s journey.
We all want peace and healing for Lily…..whatever form that is supposed to come in.


lostnsad said:
“I never used to take photos of myself. I do now” All the time and it helps” To see yourself and know you aren’t ugly” Yes, we can all be unattractive after we cry, or haven’t gotten a lot of sleep” But I take pictures all the time” with and without makeup it’s helped a lot about seeing myself differently.”

I think that’s a great idea! I’ve been a photographer since I was about 14, and I am especially good at portraiture. There is so much you can learn about yourself by really looking carefully, seeing how your image changes in time and in relation to various events in your life. We are not static beings, and we are not only capable of change but we are also incapable of NOT changing. We can be conscious of this or not, and using photographs in this way is a healthy step toward full awareness of who we are in relation to the world.

It’s also important to see ourselves through the eyes of others who care about us. Maintaining just a few strong and healthy life-affirming relationships is very important.


“We believe other people come before ourselves.”

I don’t think this is necessarily an erroneous belief. Being a Christian, this is, to me, a desirable trait. The problem is that it needs wisdom to temper it, and many of us (myself included) get involved with the sociopath before we’ve had a chance to gain that wisdom.

It’s an unfortunate side-effect of being a selfless person that selflessness attracts selfishness.

One part of the healing process I’m going to have to go through is learning how to be selfless without being taken advantage of. It’s difficult to learn to trust again. It means I will most likely be alone for a long, long time (if not forever, which I suppose isn’t such a bad thing when you’ve got a small child and can’t risk bringing a stranger into her life), because no one wants to hear that you’re going to make them wait a year or two before you’ll trust them even a little.


My eyes was wide shut when it came to the S, I wanted a man to come in a take some of the pressure off of me, to step up an be the man in my life. Ive been a single parent since 1994 its been so hard doing it all alone. I had a monkey on back so strong that it was breaking me down, in the beginning he love me so right I felt the monkey let loose. I just need someone to love me again and be there for me. I gave him control and he used the situation to his favor. I’m mad at myself for believeing it was real, I mad at myself for trust and loving a liar. He let the monkey out the cage and he chocking the hell out of me right now! but this time I have a broken heart!!!!!!!


Funny, I’ve always hated having my picture taken but as I started to contemplate leaving the N I started doing self portraits. I think it helped me to finally see myself, literally and figuratively, as a separate person.

I learned that I chose emotionally distant men so I wouldn’t need to reveal myself fully. Also difficult men so I could be so busy with all their needs, problems, etc that I could ignore my own issues. I spent years of therapy hammering away at all his stuff–everything would be fine if he would just straighten up and fly right. Now I see it was just so I wouldn’t have to face myself. Thank gawd for the therapist I have now, she’s been able to really help me break through that.

I’m terribly scared of intimacy because some deep part of me doesn’t feel I’ll be loved if the whole truth be known. I busy myself being competent, showing what I can do, what a great partner I can be, at the expense of not looking at what kind of partner I’m facing. I can see that I still do the former but at least now I’m also heavily evaluating the other side of it too.

One of my big goals is that when someone I trust asks me how I feel I’m able to answer straight from the heart, without all the fear and hesitation I have now about being that truthful. That will be a big step towards intimacy for me.

sstiles54. your family dynamic was very much like mine. Big charming, explosive Irish father, better educated but more reticent mother. I too was the oldest, and from a young age took it upon myself to protect my mother and my silblings.

Here’s the thing. You and I grew up with two problems. One was a tolerance for fear and brutality (because we had to become used to it). The other was an inflated sense of our own responsibility and power to change things for other people. We literally became the sacrificial lambs of the family. And in going out into the world, our ideas of our own limits were completely warped. We thought we could live through too much. We didn’t recognize impossible situations and dangerous people. In our understanding of survival skills, we had no training to recognize that respectful relationships, self-love, peace of mind, decent pay for work, and other things that were simply out of the question in our family homes were actually necessary. Not luxuries but necessary.

And now you feel like you’re burning out. Welcome to the world of the sacrificial lambs. If we don’t get completely destroyed by users who recognize that we don’t have healthy boundaries, we burn out. Because of the way we were trained as children, we basically structure our lives as self-abusers. We don’t ask for anything. We don’t expect anything. We give too much. We don’t feel like we deserve more.

Donna wrote this post about extracting meaning from abusive relationships. You’re still working on this. And right now, you’re at the confused, self-hating phase. Where you can’t understand why these things happen to you, but you’re still trying to take responsibility for everything, which means that you are the problem.

On a certain level, you are the problem, but it’s not what you think. It’s not that you’re too stupid to live, which is what I used to say about myself. It’s that you were trained in childhood to survive in an environment of fear and brutality.

It took me a long time to get mad at my father. I didn’t want to be an angry person, and I didn’t want to get lost in blaming. So I’m not suggesting that you need to do that right now. But what you do need to do is take your feelings seriously. Don’t wish you didn’t feel like this. Try to understand why you do. This isn’t the first time in your life you’ve felt tired and hopeless. Go back in your memory and start listing those moments. Go back as far as you can to the first time you ever felt that way, and look at what those moments have in common, what was going on.

You are a good, strong human being. The fact that you survived the difficult life you’ve had speaks volumes about the fundamental strength and hope that exists inside you. I know at this point that you probably feel like a pack mule, and I know what that feels like. I’ve been there. But you are more than that. Inside of you is the bright, happy, confident person you once were, the person who believed in her own dreams, and trusted that she could achieve them on her own efforts and the help of people who cared about her.

That is the truth about you. The rest of this is the burden you’ve been carrying since you first abandoned your natural state as a child and began taking care of your family.

You’ve gotten some advice here to make time for yourself. I know that’s hard when you’re tired and you just want to rest or distract yourself when you’re not slogging through the daily responsibilities. So I’m going to make a suggestion that’s almost the same, but a little different. Make time to get to know yourself. Write here or write in a journal. If you draw, make pictures of yourself in all the environments you can remember. Give yourself the gift of time to begin to take care of yourself in the way that other people haven’t. Search inside of you for what you wished other people had seen and understood. Speak up for yourself, if it’s only to yourself.

Sacrificing yourself for the good of other people may have made sense at one time. But when you get the the point where you’re sacrificing yourself for your own good, you’ve crossed the line into self-abuse. You need someone to be kind to you, to appreciate you and to tell you what a good job you’ve done. Because you really have. So start taking care of yourself in this way. And later it will make it easier for you to ask for help from other people, and to place a higher value on your time and work.

If there is a single thing that changes our relationships with other people, as well as our prospects in the world, it is coming to value ourselves and believe we should be appreciated and supported. I know it’s not an overnight thing to develop this capacity, if we were trained to be sacrificial lambs. But if you can look at this as a goal, a belief that you want to develop in yourself, you will begin to move toward it. You can change, and your life will change as you do.

Love —



I like this, it sums up exactly how I feel about my own life. “I’ve been the rock for everyone for so long, & now that I need a rock,there’s none.”
We are there for everyone, giving and giving and they are taking and taking. All of a sudden WE are in a position where WE need someone to help us, and everyone scatters like cockroaches when you turn the light on. This is depressing as hell for me right now. Took care of both of my parents when they were sick and died, my brothers were no where to be found, and now the brothers are ‘mad’ at me and have disowned me, because I did not do it all quite right. They actually wanted my mother in a nursing home and mom and I had talked and she dreaded being put in a nursing home, so I took care of her in my home. THAT made my brothers mad. They wanted her in a home. THis makes no sense to me, I would think it would be the other way around. After she died, I had a much needed back surgery, a big surgery. They completely ignored me, did not even acknowledge the fact that I had surgery. These are the same brothers who said my husband was a “good man” and that he did NOT ‘beat me up’ if I did not end up in the hospital. I took it all personally and felt like everything was my fault. I am just NOW beginning to see (after reading this site) that my brothers are assholes.
You are in a difficult place in life, I feel for you. I agree with Donna, is there SOME way you could quit one of your jobs? Doing that stuff for your landlord, you probably feel that will be hard to get out of. But you need to look out for YOU, as I have learned, NO ONE ELSE WILL. You need some well deserved time off to just rest, read, piddle. Don’t worry about what the landlords will think, worry about what YOU think!! That is taking care of yourself!

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