Grounding techniques to recover from a sociopath

Once you become aware of your emotional reactions to the sociopath through mindfulness [see previous article, Leaving the Sociopath: Gathering Strength and Losing Fear], it gives you more detachment from them. Instead of being immersed in a negative state (e.g. a state of panic created by your partner having a hostile behavior toward you, or perhaps your partner not coming home when they’re supposed to), you also become ­– in however slight a way — an observer of it. This will help you feel more of a sense of control over your emotion. Trying to get the sociopath to understand your hurt, loneliness, etc, or meet one of your needs, is an exercise in futility. Now that you have more awareness and detachment, rather than further engaging in a frustrating useless conflict with the sociopath, you can learn to make yourself feel better on your own.

That is where grounding comes in. Once you notice you’re in a bad emotional state, you can find a way to replace the bad state with a better one. This is done through the body, not the thought processes (rational thought shuts down in a triggered response), through grounding, releasing, calming exercises.

The point of these exercises in particular, even though many are similar to mindfulness/awareness exercises, is to consciously regulate/calm a negative emotional state. Once you become aware you are in a triggered emotional reaction, you mindfully with focused attention, use the following to regulate and calm the negative state.

Grounding techniques

Breathing/Centering — close your eyes and focus on your breath. Meditate/pray, use a guided meditation (free on YouTube); Awareness Wheel Exercise (as above)

Journaling — write out your thoughts and feelings. Just release anything that comes to you onto paper. You can always tear it up when you’re finished.

Creating — artwork, music, writing

Singing — releases energy and emotion, connects you to emotion, can be calming

Get Support — release your emotion by talking to someone, but the goal is to help calm yourself, not just obsess. If talking doesn’t decrease obsessing, it’s not helping.

Tapping — tap the parts of your body that are tense, or tap the nerve on the left side of your neck. Alternately, tap the palms of your hands

Drumming — use the palms of your hands to drum the edge of a surface

Massage or Body Work — therapeutic massage, reiki, energy work (by practitioners)

Routine Activity — something that takes steps you have to focus on, such as chores, organizing, planning

Screaming — releasing anxiety/fear tension or anger will ultimately calm you.

Exercise — walking, martial arts, yoga, stretching, dance. Again, some of this can be vigorous but the release will ultimately calm you.

Medication — can have a role in regulating depression and anxiety if they are interfering with functioning, sleep, or appetite, or if you feel suicidal. (Serotonin has been shown to aid in neuroplasticity, which can aid your ability to use therapeutic tools.)

All of the above will aid in the process of neuroplasticity, which is the way the brain creates new pathways. This focus on regulating our negative reactions increases neuroplasticity and actually “rewires” our brain to have different, more positive reactions over time. This aids in recovering the lost self and in healing. Every time you are aware of a triggered negative reaction and do one of the above activities to regulate, i.e. soothe/calm, the reaction, you are rewiring your brain! It builds connection, sense of self, strength, integration and healing.

You may notice in doing mindfulness exercises that the “Inner Child” is being triggered in an interaction with the sociopath. The more painful experiences of childhood will get triggered by the sociopath. To begin with, just notice if he or she “shows up” — in other words, you feel the child’s emotions in yourself presently. This is very good to notice, because the Child is showing up all the time in triggered reactions, and we are just not aware of it (with a sociopath it often takes form of a victim; notice what you do when you feel this way — withdraw, fight, feel hopeless, collapse into numbness). Coming to recognize the Inner Child showing up will give you great power in not only detaching from the reaction, but healing whatever leftover childhood wound you are reacting from. Next time I will go into exercises for soothing the Inner Child.


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Thank you so much, Mary Ann, for this excellent series of articles. I need tools, like these to take me through the worst moments, which still come frequently. I want to move through them, and not stay stuck in them. I still have a life to live, and I want to focus on myself, and not my experience with the psychopath and its terrible aftermath.

These are practical things that I can do for myself in almost any situation, and – as I move back into the world after several years of depression, complex PTSD, cognitive therapy, and self-exploration – I want to be able to offer myself support in healthy ways. Resources like this can help me to do that.

Ox Drover

Great Article Mary Ann, very affirming and good techniques. Working on learning our own “inner selves” and calming that “inner child” is very helpful I believe. Comforting ourselves with the same amount of nurturing we would comfort our own child if it were in a panic I think is important. Learning it is OK to comfort ourselves is a big part of it for me.

Thanks again.


Mary Ann, thank you SO much for the techniques – we do a LOT of discussion on what happened – what HE/SHE did and we often trigger from reading another poster’s experiences, etc….What is so desperately needed are techniques into recovery. DESPERATELY needed.

I am looking forward to more articles on recovery, especially techniques that assist in the “letting go” of the fantasy.

Thank you so very much for sharing your expertise!

Brightest blessings

Mary Ann,
my inner child thanks you! She also said she can’t wait for you to write the next article on soothing her.

raggedy ann

Is there any reason to avoid an on line journal and stick to a paper notebook?

I feel like I am at constant risk of having my job taken from me because of what my last companion succeeded in doing. I work under someone who was duped by him. My particular version of leaving him was complicated and conflicted, and resulted in retaliatory accusation from my boss. This particular damage is still a part of my life and I don’t know how recovery from precarious footing works.

Thank you Mary Ann for posting grounding techniques.The article goes along with everything my counselor says,with some additional ideas. And I look forward to reading techniques for soothing the Inner Child.My husband knew things from my childhood that were ‘buttons’-and he knew when and how to push them effectively!


So, that’s who has taken me over! Bad Inner Child!

And I thought that I was simply losing my mind.

And here’s a twist: When I was growing up, what did bad, misbehaving and annoying children get from adults? They got the ‘strap.’

Maybe I am beating myself.

Re-read the thread: “Leaving the Sociopath: Gathering Strength and Losing Fear,” and found Ox Drover’s comments on-the-mark and the story of “IAmTitanium” something that I can relate to.


Fixerupper, I’ve posted with regard to my own “inner child” experiences, at great length, and I firmly believe that my personal shame-core issues are directly related to that damaged inner child.

There is a book by John (?) Bradshaw titled, “Healing The Shame That Binds You” that specifically, honestly, truthfully, and directly discusses this concept. I would caution anyone who considers reading this incredible book to strongly consider the assistance of an individual counseling therapist to help them through this process of identifying and managing (for lack of a better term) this inner child. The “work” associated with healing via this concept is gritty, hard, painful, and grievous, on every level. I grieved for a solid week after introducing myself to my inner child – seriously grieved. And, the subsequent work is an ongoing process.

When we’re doing “the work” with the inner child, it’s not a strap that we take to this personna, but unconditional love, acceptance, approval, and nurturing that was absent during our most formative years. Yes, there are times when I must speak sternly with my inner child, but it is always done so without anger or accusations.

There are so many facets to the concept of “inner child” that it requires hours and hours of work and introspection. Tough work, too – hard, mean, and painful. But, as the recovery and healing progress, it’s empowering, enlightening, and absolutely critical (for me, personally) in developing strong, high, thick, and permanent boundaries. Always a work-in-progress for me. 😀

Brightest blessings!


Thanks, Truthspeak!
I gotta go see a couple of customers.
See you all later.


I’ve not been in here for a while now, after feeling pretty much attacked by some members on this forum. I did follow Raggedy Ann’s posts which I must admit is very much right in her comments from my point of view, regarding the judgement of others in here. I was dissapointed in how some of you could act like bullies. I had absolutely no trouble following her analytical point of view and understanding the difference in what she ment.

From my own experience I was actually pretty upset of what happened in my case and felt I lost the one place where I could find any form of comfort and support. I understand how some of my post must have been received by others, I am sorry I don’t have the skills of expressing myself properly in a second language over screen.

Either way, Still I end up back here, reading and searching for some kind of peace.

I do not mean this as critic or pointing my fingers at any of you, sometimes we have different world views that collide and that is ok as long as we can respect eachothers standpoints. Today I just needed to clear my heart out.
I’m having a very hard time. The trauma caused by the spaths in my life is fully triggered where I still doubt my own perception.

This article is very good on how to gain perspective again, especially when triggered.

Tea Light

Sunflower, when I first came here in December you wrote me some very kind and supportive messages and I’m very grateful as I was in a terrible state. I’m glad to see you back and very sorry that you are having a very difficult time. Always willing to listen if it would help. Peace and love sunflower x


Sunflower, I am very glad to “see” you and I’m sorry that you felt bullied. I AM glad to see you back here.

I’d like to suggest something about what some of us might perceive as a mob rule or bullying with regard to my own recovery. Sometimes, I would come onto this site looking for pity for my situation. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice, but it was a motivation. When I didn’t get what I believed I “needed” at that time, I often felt ignored or bullied because some of the responses were hard-as-stone and difficult for me to accept. It “felt” like criticism, if that makes any sense.

Over time, I learned to take the high emotion out of the words that I read. For my entire life, I’ve run on high-octaine emotion and allowed for my “feelings” to make the decisions and choices instead of “facts.” Some of the facts regarding my recovery aren’t pleasant. In fact, some of them are downright embarassing. BUT – for me to tackles these issues, I have a choice to either stop and listen (and, this went with counseling, too) and process, OR RE-act and let my feelings run rampant.

This, of course, is about me – about myself. And, sometimes, I still RE-act. I’m working on it! LOL

As far as other readers go, we all have a responsibility to remember what this site is for and the damaged people that visit here, daily, in their efforts to recover. Some of us are still so raw that ANYTHING is a trigger. Others are pretty solid in their recovery, but can still be triggered – we will forever be open to this sad fact, I’m afraid. So, given that this is a community IN recovery, I have to take my words into consideration before I click on the “Post” button. I need to make sure that I’m clarifying what I mean. Even then, I can be easily misunderstood.

So…..I’m very glad to “see” you back and I hope that you can find something helpful, here.

Brightest blessings


Well, I didn’t feel bullied, I felt judged to be something I’m not. However, I choose not to dwell over that. I hold no grudges. Thank you for your comments.


I discovered a grounding technique by accident. I bought a Rosetta Stone program to learn another language and discovered that when I used the program, I was so immersed in learning a new language that any spath triggering flashbacks dissipated much more quickly than I’d experienced before.

Maybe it’s because learning a new language mid-life requires so much more focus than if I were younger learning it? All I know is I find it very grounding to do the interactive Rosetta Stone program. I engage in the other activities, and more, mentioned above, but there’s something about learning another language that offers a nearly guaranteed grounding for me.

I also find myself frozen in a flashback sometimes, but I no longer berate myself for that happening. Now, I tell myself it’s okay and natural that happens sometimes — and I remember it happens less often as time goes on. Reminding myself about positive (albeit slow) evolutions like that is grounding too.


Hi swimmingupstream: Thank you for bringing up this article. It is very helpful to me for several reasons. I think your reminder that focusing intensely on someone positive and new is good for the brain. Learning a new language is building new neurons in your brain. Learning a new language, crossword puzzles, or getting your brain to do anything different rebuilds the good part of the brain after trauma.

I felt sad for sunflower when I read her/his comments. I have felt the same way concerning some subjects. I have to remember that just as there is a spectrum of sociopath behavior, there is also a spectrum of victims. There is an article in the archives about empathy. It states that empathy is on a 1-6 scale level, so on any website, or anywhere we go, there are 1’s.

People here with higher levels of empathy have helped me a lot by telling me about things like “gray rocking.” They told me that is when I can just go around a comment I find inappropriate, but is still nothing more than free speech in they eyes of “the forum” at lovefraud. I can ignore it. I am higher on the empathy scale than some others.

I have found an official place to get a booklet that covers Tracking, Grounding, Resourcing, Resource Intensification, and Shift and Stay. This a new system for PTSD called the Trauma Resiliency Model (Elaine Miller-Karas and Laurie Leitch). I got it at the Trauma Resource Institute. They use the decades of research by the great Dr. Peter Levine and they put together a system to go through or get a friend to help you go through when a PTSD attack occurs. I have found it very helpful.

Great article and congratulations, swimmingupstream, for learning a new language and changing your focus.

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