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Help me understand: questions and observations in the aftermath

This past year, I began speaking publicly on domestic violence and psychopathy.  As many of you know, I feel that I have a bit of a responsibility to educate others on the matter.  As a result, from time to time, people contact me or put their friends in touch with me if they suspect I can somehow help them make sense of their experiences.  Some are in the beginning phases of understanding abusive personalities and/or psychopathy, while others have no idea what has rocked their worlds.

Last week, someone who was struggling to find answers asked me a series of questions.  Not only were they excellent, but they were ones that we have all probably asked.

“How did such an intelligent, strong woman get into this situation?  Am I flawed?”

I know.  This is the million dollar question.  “Getting into this situation” has little to do with intelligence, strength, or flaws.  In fact, sometimes, being aware, curious, and strong may make us more vulnerable.  Why?  Often, “thinking people” ask a lot of questions.  Strong individuals tend to take little lying down and resist “group think.”  When we introduce a combination of the two, we find people who are willing to work hard at relationships, take stands, and advocate for what is right.

On one hand, these attributes are not popular with abusive individuals.  On the other, they are irresistible.  Psychopaths do not like to be questioned or have their power and control threatened, but most cannot resist the challenge we present either, especially if we are useful in other ways, as well.  Therefore, they target us.  This does not mean that strong, intelligent women who find themselves in these relationships are “flawed” in any way.  Simply, we unknowingly provide a very rich “supply” for their manipulative needs.  They hit the jackpot when they find those of us who are willing to engage in their madness.  However, we don’t understand that it is actually madness we are engaging in.  Their mixed messages keep us confused and involved.

In the case of the individual asking this question, her only real “problem” was the fact that she was a decent, warm, caring, and trusting person, who had something her psychopath wanted to exploit.

“How do these sociopaths twist our heads around?  I have to keep looking internally to see what flaw it is in me that keeps letting the same behavior into my life. Any words of wisdom?”

As a matter of fact, yes.  We must stop looking inward for our “flaws.”  This person mentioned her “flaws” on several occasions.  Naturally, we all have them.  When it comes to recovery, looking inward is critical.  We must examine and come to know ourselves before we can truly change and heal.  We must recognize the traits we possess (even if independently they are positive) that made us susceptible to this special form of evil and then work to keep the unhealthy at a distance.

However, that is where we should stop the introspection, or at least the loathing and self blame for what happened in the past.  We did not do this.  We were dealing with dysfunction and disorder.

Not everyone will understand this.  Not everyone will understand the addictive, unhealthy bonds they created that kept us trapped for as long as they did.  We should try to surround ourselves with those who do.  Going forward, we should listen to our instincts, trust that they are correct, and pay attention to the red flags we encounter.

“I just don’t understand the mentality (in reference to the psychopath’s revenge.) I can’t wrap my head around it.  It’s like he had a breakdown of some kind.  He just snapped or something.  He lost EVERYTHING…and for what?  What’s he doing?” 

It is a tough pill to swallow, but he did not just “snap.”  Conversely, he finally allowed himself to clearly show through.  The cracking mask.  As masters of disguise, they become what they think we are looking for.  But who they appeared to be initially is as unreal as the thirsty man’s mirage in the middle of the desert.  “He” did not actually ever exist.  The mean, vengeful shell of a person is the only thing that ever really was.

As far as what they are willing to lose in pursuit of revenge, it’s fairly unbelievable.  This is another aspect that becomes almost impossible for those with little experience to digest.  If psychopaths’ main objectives include taking and destroying what they envy in another, their success at this means more to them than how they fare in the process.

They are often willing to lose or risk losing everything in order to harm their target(s).  For them, the true payoffs lie in demolition.  Additionally, they don’t view their “devastation” as their fault anyway.  We “did it” to them.  They do not feel that their demise reflects on them in the least.

As far as “what he is doing,” whether it be in regards to the revenge she is questioning or otherwise, we must eventually come to the place where we legitimately do not care.  With the exception being as it relates to our safety, how they live or what they do must not matter under any circumstances.

This all takes time to absorb and that is ok.  However, grasping and then accepting the reality of the situation is the key to recovery, even if it is incredibly difficult to wrap one’s head around.


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119 Comments on "Help me understand: questions and observations in the aftermath"

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Hello again, I’m wondering if any of you have experienced becoming paranoid and have difficulties making decisions after an encounter with a spath?
I never used to have conflicts about this, but now I do. If anybody may ask something of me that might be ment as a good thing, I may find it controlling or threatning and I become very defensive. I have this idiotic thought that they are only after controlling or hurting me, but it’s not the case. I am very jumpy about how people perceive me nowadays and terrified I’ll be attacked. I havecatastrophic thinking, worst case scenarios running through my mind. This is something that’s been growing on me lately and now becoming an issue.
I need to find a way to ressolve it. Any advice?

Hi Sunflower,

Yup. That sounds about right. Don’t know how long you have been out of your spath experience, but feeling vulnerable and afraid of being abuse, controlled, or otherwise marginalized is a pretty normal response to the betrayal you experienced. Likely you have a touch, or more than a touch, of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When we have PTSD we walk around in a kind of hyper alert and hyper vigilant state. We are expecting the charging rhino or the Tsunami to hit ANY second. Our nervous systems have been nearly demolished by the persistent abuse of the spath.

It takes time. Sometimes lots of time to stop feeling like the sky is falling. Resolving it seems to come, from my experience, from taking all the needed steps in overall healing. There are lots of articles here…I found Kathleen Hawks series on healing particularly grounding and calming.

Firstly let it be OK. You are wounded. Your nerves are shot. Your body is over reactive. It’s OK. It’s really and truly ‘what happens’. You are not alone in feeling this way. Try to ride the waves. If you find yourself ‘over reacting’ be cautious. Try to self monitor so you don’t find yourself saying or doing things that you will come to regret. Take a deep breath, a walk, step away from what is upsetting you, and then be kind to yourself.

Look at the thoughts and do your best to let them go. If someone or something bothers you enough, avoid it until you feel better. Eventually, as your body calms and your emotional system does too, you can sort out who and what you want to keep, and discard.

All sorts of people who have experienced trauma, either man made or natural, have these feelings of hyper excitability.

It is a process, over time, of doing many small and large things that helps us down the path, and to a calmer more centered place. You will need to find your way through this process. It may include counseling, exercise, sleep, journaling, meditation, screaming in a private place (releasing energy), learning to soothe and communicate with our more underdeveloped parts (reparenting ourselves)….all kinds of stuff.

But I never found a magic key, that made it go faster, or got rid of isolated symptoms.

Keep coming here, though. Keep reading and, if it feels right, getting support from this community. We understand.

Take care, Slim

Thanx Slim. Well, it’s been 1,5-2 yrs now. First now, this has accelerated. I’m in therapy and got the lovely PTSD.I’ve been in therapy all along, how come this happens now?

Sunflower, healing does not run in a straight line…

I find callmeathena’s comment:”a SOCIOPATH is misleading ”“ he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing” to be interesting and true.It truly explains how evil can be so well hidden from us until the mask starts slipping.

I know in my own case,that I was a target because my husband knew that I would work hard to make the marriage work,besides the fact that I was naive and had low self-esteem.He knew that I wanted to get married.And he has used religion.

I don’t doubt that he will show his vindictiveness or show his rage at some time.Because he is limited due to health and financial reasons,I expect “it” to come most likely in the form of trying to “murder” my reputation;humiliation.

Yikes. Sociopathworld …..not for the faint hearted.
Gives insight into the mind of the spath I suppose but approach the site with caution if you are easily triggered

Sunflower, the PSTD happens when it does. There’s no way to predict when it starts, why, etc. – it just does and it’s a physiological reaction to trauma. That you are engaged in counseling is going to be priceless. Ask your counselor for tools and techniques to manage the triggering and the hypervigilance – don’t wait for him/her to offer! LOL

Yes – it can become crippling if it gets out of control. I’m experiencing this, as well, and I’m not involved in counseling – dammit. Lately, it’s the nightmares and hypervigilance that has gotten me undone. Well, that and the spontaneous crying. I’m not sad, but I’ll just burst into tears, sometimes, for no reason! UGH!!!!

So, Sunflower, be good to yourself – be KIND to yourself, more to the point. Healing and recovery goes as it goes with no set schedule or pattern. Keep practicing the techniques that your counselor has given you and ask for more information. For me, if I understand (academically) WHAT is happening and WHY, I can understand why certain techniques are more effective than others. So, question your counselor, frequently.

(((HUGS))) Brightest and most sincerely supportive blessings

where do I find Kathleen Hawk’s articles on healing? Please help
: )

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