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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15 Comments on "Grounding techniques to recover from a sociopath"

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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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