UPDATED FOR 2020
A Lovefraud reader who posts as “LadyA” sent Lovefraud the following email. At the end, I suggest how she can recover from the sociopath.
I’ve spent a lot time thinking about my experience with my spath, and how it affected me and the people around me. I have read article after article, story after story. I now fully understand what spaths do and how they do it but I didn’t understand why I don’t feel any better about it. What was I missing?
When I left my spath it was a fairly dramatic experience. He had just been sentenced to serve jail time on the weekends for an obstruction of justice charge. My mom flew into town and in one swoop we packed up everything we could get in the car and left the province to go back to my hometown. I had to quit my job over email and send a goodbye text to all my friends.
I am thankful every day for what my mom did for me. I sure wasn’t happy about it at the time but I knew I needed out and this was my chance. What I didn’t know is how much moving back to my hometown would affect me emotionally. I had originally planned on only being back for six months. Just long enough for him to move on and get me out of mind, but it has now been just over three years and I still haven’t moved back. I got settled in a new job, new friends, and a new relationship. Even after all of this I haven’t been able to figure out why I’m not happy. Until three days ago.
Pride. I was proud of myself for the life that I had built. I moved 1200 km’s away from home right after high school to a big city. I was on the fast track to a strong career in a competitive field. I had a brand new car, paid all my bills on time, and was saving to buy a house. I was independent, reliable, strong, caring, and had a really great outlook on the world. Not many people can say that at 22.
All of that was ruined by a six-month “whirlwind romance.” I’m no longer proud of myself. I feel like I have failed because I came back home with my “tail between my legs” to my mommy. I no longer have a new car because it was repossessed as soon as I got back here. I am jaded, I don’t trust people easily, and I am no longer as strong as the face I put on the outside. I’ve gained weight because deep down I just don’t care anymore. My career is now on a plateau due to the location where I live. I don’t have one reason to be proud of myself right now.
How do I get my pride back when I know what happened? I want to feel proud of myself for my life but I just have zero idea where to start. I’ve thought about moving away again, but I don’t really know if that’s the answer. How can I be proud of what has happened in my life? I’m really honestly just so ashamed.
Donna Andersen responds
I am so sorry about your encounter with a sociopath. Although this is not a normal breakup, the good news is that you can recover from the sociopath.
Right now, however, it does not seem that way. Why? I can see two reasons.
The first is that betrayal by a sociopath is a huge emotional injury. In the beginning of your email you said that, after all your reading, you now “fully understand what spaths do and how they do it,” but you don’t feel any better.
Understanding is a critical first step to you to recover from the sociopath. But understanding is an intellectual process, something that you do with your mind. The wound you experienced is also emotional. It needs to be dealt with emotionally.
How do you do that? You allow yourself to feel the pain of the injury.
This means letting yourself cry. Letting yourself scream and wail. Letting yourself experience anger — I’m sure there is anger — perhaps by working it out on a punching bag.
This isn’t pretty, and you probably want to do it privately, because other people often have difficulty being around this. Or, you may have a good therapist who can help you.
One way or another, any bottled up emotion you have within you needs to come out.
Underestimated the injury
Next you wrote that you identified the reason that you’re not happy as “pride.” But it seems like you are regarding pride as something bad, like one of the seven deadly sins.
You had every reason to be proud, because your pride was based on your achievement. And the sociopath took this away from you.
Here is what I think has happened: You have underestimated the scale of the injury, and the severity of the betrayal.
LadyA, you were building a life for yourself. You went out on your own; you started building a career; you were moving forward.
And some manipulative, deceitful parasite, who did something bad enough to end up in jail, ruined it for you.
Not only did he cost you money and hurt your career, he corrupted your outlook on life. You’re jaded; you don’t trust; you don’t care. You are not the young person you once were all because of the sociopath.
Recognize that this was not a normal breakup after all, you had to flee your home, job and friends.
Your life was shattered. Your psyche was deflated. This is a massive shock to your system. It’s no wonder that you are still struggling.
Drain the emotion
So what do you do? In my opinion, you do exactly what I suggested earlier — allow yourself to feel the pain now, knowing that the pain is bigger than you originally thought.
So you cry. You stomp. You imagine him standing in front of you and yell at him. (Do not, however, attempt to confront him in person. This would be counterproductive.)
The idea is to drain off the negative emotion.
As you drain the emotion, a void will be created within you. It’s very important to fill that void with joy.
This may sound preposterous to you, like you have no reason to be joyful. But don’t look at the totality of your life right how.
Do any small thing that makes you happy: Go for a walk. Play with your pets. Have lunch with a friend. Listen to music.
To recover from the sociopath, it may require many rounds of draining off the negative and replacing it with positive. But with time, you’ll find that your entire outlook will change, and you’ll be able to get back on track.
Importantly, with the wisdom you gained through this experience, you’ll never fall for a sociopath again.
Lovefraud originally published this article on May 12, 2014.