Lovefraud recently received the following e-mail from a reader—we’ll call her Sally:
It’s been almost four years since I left my ex psychopath. He almost had me take my own life through guilt, when it was him lying, cheating, committing fraud, you name it—a textbook case.
The reason I write to you today, however, is I am so sad and disappointed in myself yet again. Four years and I thought I was over the damage done by the psychopath so I stepped out of my comfort zone to contact an old friend I had not seen since before the psychopath came into my life.
I made a decision to visit my male friend and we had a nice time. When I returned I started analysing the situation. Was my friend just after one thing? He had made a few small promises that had not come through (generally that wouldn’t bother me too much). I felt like it was happening all over again. I felt cheated, lied to and manipulated by such minor matters.
The worst of all I let my friend have it by email. I was horrible, cruel and nasty; it was like my now lost friend was responsible for everything that happened four years ago just because he said a few things he didn’t come through with. So before I got hurt I lashed out and hurt him; I sabotaged something that could have been good in my life.
Now I just feel miserable. I was so nasty he will never speak to me again. I don’t blame him. My underlying intention was to get that result. I really thought I had recovered; obviously not. Now I am scared I will never be able to recover.
Time and emotional processing
Recovery from an entanglement with a psychopath/sociopath takes both time and emotional processing. The operative word here is “both.”
By emotional processing, I mean allowing ourselves to feel the deep disappointment, anger, hopelessness, rage, hatred—whatever painful emotions the involvement with the psychopath has generated within us. When we allow ourselves to feel these emotions—as uncomfortable as it is—when we are through, we can release them. The only way out is through.
Releasing the emotions is not an event, it’s a journey. No one can know in advance how many times we will be dealing with painful emotions, or how long it will take to release them. The amount of emotional processing required, and the amount of time required, are different for every individual.
Sally’s involvement with a psychopath was so damaging that she contemplated suicide. This is serious. She probably needs a lot of time and processing in order to recover. In fact, if she was willing to take the step of contacting the man, she’s probably made a lot of progress.
Now, I can’t tell if Sally’s relationship with the man she contacted had the potential to be unhealthy. Was her intuition working, and the man was “just after one thing?” Or did she totally overreact?
The guy “made a few small promises that had not come through.” This could be a red flag—if not of a psychopath, than of someone who is inconsiderate. And a relationship where one party gets to be inconsiderate is at the very least, not fair to the other party. At worst, it could be the beginning of manipulation. So maybe Sally was justified in ditching the guy.
But she lashed out, and was then surprised and disappointed at the force of her own reaction. What happened? She experienced a “trigger.” Something in her encounter with the man brought up more of the pain from her experience with the psychopath.
Always more to do
This means that Sally still has more emotional processing to do. There is still pain within her that needs to come out. It may be directly related to her experience with the psychopath. Or, it could be related to some other deep pain or disappointment she’s carrying around—maybe from her childhood, or teenage years, or other relationships. I think Sally should view this incident as an opportunity for more healing, allow herself to experience the emotion, and release it.
If this man was truly a friend, Sally might be able to apologize, explain why she reacted the way she did, and he would understand and forgive her. But maybe the guy was a user and deserved whatever Sally said. If that’s the case, she should just move on.
Yes, Sally has more work to do. And she’s not alone.
In reality, we are never finished recovering. That’s because, whether due to the psychopath or other disappointments in our lives, we’re always carrying around some buried pain somewhere. But we can get to the point where the pain is minimal, and our lives are filled mostly with peace and joy. And that is the place we’re all journeying to.
Lovefraud originally published this story on June 30, 2008.