By | September 16, 2011 74 Comments

Injuries from psychopaths are like burns

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (Retired)

I was thinking about 9/11 and the horrible burns experienced by some of the victims who did recover. Being a registered nurse practitioner with a wide variety of clinical experience, the burn units had always been the one place I did not want to work. The terrible pain experienced by the victims of burns always tore at my heart, and even my professional distancing from the pain of my patients could not keep me from “feeling” their pain.

On the day the U.S. mourned the fall of the Twin Towers, I started thinking about the analogies of those 9/11 attacks and how they are so much like the attacks on our lives by the psychopaths, and the injuries we suffered are so much like those burn victims.

Bad sunburns

The physical wounds to the body and skin caused by burns are classed as first-, second-, third-, and fourth-degree. Most of us have experienced first-degree burns when we got a sunburn that turned our skin red and hot. Many of us have also experienced second-degree burns when we got a sunburn that peeled our skin, blistering up the top layer of skin into weeping blisters. Few of us have experienced third degree, though, in which the entire thickness of the skin is burned, and fourth degree is where the underlying fat and muscle is burned

The damage done in each of the first two levels of a burn are extremely painful because the sensitive nerve endings are injured and “scream” in pain. In some third- and fourth-degree burns, there is only numbness because the nerve endings themselves are injured in such a way that they can’t send signals to the brain, which is where pain is perceived.

I see how our emotional injuries in the aftermath of the psychopath’s attack are like the burn victims in the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers. Some of us are like the victims of a large sunburn. We are not severely injured in terms of medical danger, but the pain is extremely acute. There is no way we can lie down and not lie on that sensitive, burning skin. Only by standing in a cool shower can we receive any relief from that pain, but it will pass in a comparatively short time without much injury to us, except a memory that encourages us not to repeat the same behavior that got us burned in the first place.

With burns a bit more severe, maybe from staying out in the sun all day and being tender skinned to start with, we get a second-degree burn that blisters up our skin. We are in acute agony for days and days, maybe even in some medical danger if the burns are large or we get a subsequent infection. When they do start to heal, the new skin forming under the blisters is tender and raw, unable to stand pressure from lying down or even a cool shower. If a large enough area experiences second degree burning, the person may have to be in the hospital or require expert medical and nursing care for treatments.

Third-degree burns

With third-degree burns, the entire integrity of the skin is ruined, and it requires that the damaged skin and tissue be “debrided” from the wound as it starts to heal. The dead tissue must be carefully removed as the wound starts to form scar tissue to replace the burned skin. This kind of healing takes a tremendous amount of time, and depending on the depth of the wound may require skin grafts to diminish the scarring.

Many victims of psychopaths are I think like the victims of the third degree burns ”¦ we require the debridement of the dead tissue of our charred selves. We are very raw and tender as we start to heal, and sometimes the “treatment seems worse than the injury,” as we are required to experience the healing debridement of digging out the burned debris of our former selves from the wound. The people who are invested in helping us to recover prescribe the “treatments” such as No Contact, but we don’t want to listen because those treatments are painful. Since we only experience immediate pain from those treatments, and no perceived immediate benefit, we don’t want to go through those daily treatments. We want an “instant fix” to our pain. We want the pain to end NOW! We want to be restored to health and a pain-free life NOW! The caregivers of people who have been burned know that without the daily, or even hourly, treatments, the victims of large burns will become infected and die. Yet those very treatments that will ultimately save them are incredibly painful.

The debridement and cleaning out of our old ways of looking at things, the debridement of our most cherished memories of our love for the psychopaths and the way in which they betrayed us, tore at our core selves, are so incredibly painful in the now, but necessary to our healing and our very survival, in the long run.


There are some things that cannot be “rushed” or “speeded up,” no matter what we do. You can’t get a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant, and you can’t speed up the healing from burns, they both take time for new growth to be accomplished. We also can’t “speed up” the healing process from the damage done to us by the psychopaths, and some of that healing does require the painful debridement of damaged emotional, financial, and even physical damage to ourselves.

As we peel off each layer of damage to our emotions, our finances, and even our physical selves, the pain is intense, and the new skin underneath is tender and raw, barely tolerating any touch at all. We may become angry at those who reach out to help us; we may not want to listen to therapists or friends who advise us. Yet, that new growth in our spirits, our finances, and our physical selves will be the thing that sustains us, allows us to grow and recover.

There may be scars left that are visible with the naked eye that others may see when we walk down the street, or our the scars may be covered by our exterior clothing, only to be seen by those intimate enough to see us without (emotional) clothing, or they may not be visible at all, only felt by ourselves, not seen by even the most intimate significant other. Our bodies, minds and spirits may forever be changed by the experience of our painful injuries and our even more painful recovery, but by surviving, even with the changes in ourselves, we are demonstrating that we are stronger than the attackers, that we will recover and grow again.

We had no choice about being attacked and injured. It was the choice of the attackers to injure us, but we have the choice to heal, to recover, and to endure the painful treatments to remove the dead tissue of our old selves so that the new tissue of healing can grow!

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this speaks to me because I still haven’t cleaned out the house of all its ghosts. It’s been too painful, but I’m starting the process.

Ox, beautiful article, and I think we must be somehow on a similar wavelength today. I was just thinking today something along the lines of, “Why is this actually more painful than when I was with him? Healing hurts like hell!!!”

It absolutely does hurt more right now. I was “numb” while I was with him to most of this pain. I realize that I spent many days absolutely catatonic, sometimes weeks. There was one month in particular that I was so catatonic for so many days at a time that I forgot to eat….so much that my stomach shut down and my veins collapsed. I went to the ER and my stomach was bloated out and full of acid and the nurse couldn’t push up a vein in my arm (she told me they had collapsed…). I didn’t even realize until I was in that state what was happening to my body. I didn’t feel hunger. I couldn’t ever remember when the last time was that I’d eaten. Was it this morning? Was it yesterday? Have I eaten at all this week? I had no idea. I couldn’t feel anything.

Now that I’m out….oh my…..I feel.

The only thing that makes it worthwhile is that every moment, every day since I started healing, I feel like I am seeing a little more of someone I lost touch with long, long ago, someone I used to know very well: myself.


This is a great analogy Oxy. We do recover from the relationship we had with a spath but we are forever scarred.

I can remember a friend of mine said, “you didn’t know him long enough before you said I do.”

I had only known my spath under a year before we married but he was love-bombing me and I had never had so much attention from a man before. I just thought I had met my perfect soul mate.

After my experience with him I was so scarred it took me a few years to heal. I almost didn’t marry again but I believe heaven sent my current husband to me and sent me the very best man after I had been to hell and back with the worst.

Ox Drover

Glad you liked the article guys. I think sometimes the healing is worse than the initial injury, and it just hurts so much to clean that tender wound out, but without cleaning out the wounds of all the debris there isn’t any way for the new growth to fill in the holes.


That’s right ox!! Fantastic article. Thank you.


I LOVE this analogy. As a nurse (and I was a burn nurse for 4 years), this is really spot on, and ‘speaks’ to me on a deep knowing level.

The things we need to do, in fact HAVE to do, to heal from the injury of being in a LIE, from start to finish, is painful. I think that after the realization that we have been completely bamboozled and nearly destroyed, we want quick relief. And it doesn’t come. The effects of betrayal are long lived and deep. This generally depresses us, makes us mad as hell, and leaves us with feelings of shame. Because, initially, we take the blame.

It is NOT our ‘fault’ that we were perpetrated upon. But we do have the RESPONSIBILITY to do the work of healing. However painful. And it does require further difficulty.

It appears the real legacy of a spath is the prolonged suffering of the victim. The painful and slow layers of repair that require so much from each of us. Looking at our childhoods, our false beliefs, our self-loathing, our guilt over every slight that has come our way, our pretending to be something we aren’t…so many things we have to face about ourselves. When we didn’t even do anything WRONG.

Oh, that is why it is SO important to go NO contact. We need to quit picking at the scabs. Every time we connect with a spath they ‘burn’ us.

We need to turn our attention to real, but painful, personal exploration.

So don’t give them ONE SINGLE moment of prolonged knowledge of your suffering. We may have to struggle. But they sure as hell don’t need to get ANY satisfaction from it. And we need not feel one shred of shame from our suffering. Be PROUD. Walk away. Cut them off!

We may not have the capacity, initially, to live a life that FEELS better. But the thing is we have the ability to do it. That is HUGE. We can, over time, change our lives and create something so perfect for us, that the pains of our experience are no longer our motivating force.

Instead love, real love, will motivate us. Not fear and suffering and ‘treatment’ of our wounds.

NO matter what, don’t give them any knowledge that you are suffering, beyond what is absolutely necessary (ie, divorce proceedings and child custody). If you have no reason other than HUGE sums of money or children, CUT THEM OFF TOTALLY.

Even then, if you can, let it go. Escape. Decide, now, to give them NOTHING of yourself. You have suffered enough.

Heal in private, with those you totally trust and who love and nurture you. Take strength in LOVE, with real and true friends, family, and like-minded helpers.



Thank you so much for this article.

Everyone here is a blessing.


Ox That was a great article. I dont think anybody that get’s tangled intimately with a sociopath get’s away without some scar’s. And slimeone is so right, the best revenge is living a good life.


Ox-that was a great article. My first burn patient was a 95% body surface area and it brought me back. I do feel like it has been like burns-with these N people in my life. Maybe now I am debriding myself.

Ox Drover

Slimone, thank you for that wonderful and thoughtful response. I admire you so much for working with burn patients, they are one of the few kinds of patients that gave me difficulty emotionally.

It only takes an instant to get burned, but may take months or years to recover. I do see the analogy with our association with the psychopaths….some of them come on slowly, like a sun burn at the beach, they “sneak up” on you without you feeling the damage as it occurs, but then that night the blisters errupt and the real pain starts. Or the burn may be sudden, like an explosion that disrupts your entire life, and burns you to the core.

It has amazed me how much I have had to examine, as you said, Slimone, “The painful and slow layers of repair that require so much from each of us. Looking at our childhoods, our false beliefs, our self-loathing, our guilt over every slight that has come our way, our pretending to be something we aren’t”so many things we have to face about ourselves. When we didn’t even do anything WRONG. ”

Getting to the place where my life is no longer DEFINED by the “burn” has been a slow and painfull process, but well worth the trouble to do it right!

super chic

Thank you very much for a wonderful article.

I really needed to hear that it’s ok to recover slowly.

Facing myself is one of the toughest parts.
I sure wish I could get back all that wasted time.

God Bless. xoxo


Thank you Oxy for this wonderful article. And also Slimone, so spot on! Thanks!!

It is my firm belief derived from my own painful experience that the literary “Thick skin” (Wikipedia definition: “ability to withstand criticism”) is a healed scar that has to be worn as a “Badge of honor”. And you have to be nice and gentle to your scars, even after they are “healed”: you MUST be attentive to them and put on softening ointments and perform continuous gentle massages and stretching so that they remain soft and flexible so that they let you move freely. Sometimes you need pressure bandages so that they do not get too thick. Some get so thick that they restrict movements and it becomes impossible to move and you are confined to a strict hide/scar/shell (!!). Well the longer I think of the more appropriate the analogy becomes!
Have you all a wonderful weekend and let us be nice to ourselves :-). (((((Hugs)))))


Ox Drover,

An amazing article, being really good.

slimone and libelle,

Your posts are helpful to read. May we all heal in time. Sometimes, I feel like healing will never come, but I keep pushing on.


Oxy ~

This one took me awhile to comment on, it hits close to home. Hubby was badly burned while fighting a house fire years ago. Second and third degree burns to his shoulder, neck and arm, he even lost a small portion of the top of one ear.

It is very similar to the experience of having a psychopathic child. The pain is unbearable, the healing takes forever and the scars really never heal.

Thanks for writing this.



Really good analogy. I like how you can turn life experiences to something tangible, something we can relate to in our relationship with a spath.

With you are burned this deeply, it just takes a lot of time. Much of the burn is hidden under our clothes and it takes another burn vicitm to understand the depth of our pain. Thanks why lovefraud is such a blessing, even though I am moving on and healing, this is the place I come back to for some salve to ease my pain and slather on my scars.


Hi Oxy, sky, schic, Libelle,
Dear Oxy,
excellent article. how are you. thank you for the constant sharing of your wisdom.

HI Schic, and skylar,
All is fine at my end. I sure hope you are doing well.
we do need to spend a lot of time with “ourselves” and pay attention to “us”

Hi Libelle,
so nice to see you back on LF. I was asking Oxy about you and she said you would surely be back and as we all know “Oxy is always right” (smile)
I did manage to escape from the mental clutches of my jerk.
was not easy at all. took lot of pain and courage to do so. however, the pain of being with him and once again going on the rollercoaster ride with constant thoughts of when he would cheat on me, was so unbearable, I had to cut all strings.

thanks for your advice when I was crazy.

best wishes


Hi Petite,
You sound very grounded now. It’s so good to know you moved past the denial. Spaths are everywhere, so keep focused on seeing clearly.

Hi Chic,
Good to “see” you. I thought of you 2 days ago when I was at Costco. You wouldn’t believe what they’re selling: the American Girl Dolls!! They are so creepy! These are miniature 6 inch versions, each with a different name and they each come with 6 books, each tells a story about a little girl with that name.

As it turns out “Scripted Play” is what kids are into these days. They no longer have to use their imaginations. So many toys are based on TV shows, so the scripts are set up for them. Other toys, you buy and go online to read stories about them, so you know “how to play with them”.

I want them to come out with a Skylar doll. The stories would be titled, “Skylar Meets a Spath”, “Skylar Gets Poisoned”, “Skylar’s Car Is Sabotaged”, “Skylar’s Soul-Mate has Madonna/Whore Syndrome”, “Skylar Loses All Her Money”, “Skylar Discovers her Soul-Mate is a Psychopath, Bisexual, Pedophile Conman”, and lastly, “Skylar Discovers her Entire Family are Psychopaths who have hated her since she was born”.

This would be an opportunity to educate little girls on what real life is about and what they can expect to encounter as they maneuver to stay alive.




Excellent chapter Constantine, I’ll be sure to add that. Little girls need heroines.


LOL! We might as well add “Barbie & Ken got screwed by Skipper”

What an eye opener that would be for lil girls. Much better than that american girl doll crap. Imagine a seven year old girl saying to another “you have a lot of red flags, I don’t want to play with you no more” LOL YaY!


I always mistrusted that Skipper girl. Seemed like she was trying to usurp Barbie’s territory. Or maybe it was Ken, who was triangulating…


You crack me up. Don’t mind me I’m looney from working 6 days straight…

GI Joe=Don’t ask Don’t tell
Raggety Andy and his crack ho, Ann
Chatty Cathy is a snitch!

I like the ending to your doll story though!! 🙂


i saw this poem today in a book about Nauman’s art. I found it very evocative.

Consummate Mask of Rock
Bruce Nauman

1. This is my mask of fidelity to truth and life.
2. This is to cover the mask of pain and desire.
3. This is to mask the cover of need for human companionship.
4. This is to mask the cover.
5. This is to cover the mask.
6. This is the need of cover.
7. This is the need of a mask.
8. This is the mask of cover of need.
9. Nothing and no
9. No thing and no mask can cover the lack, alas.
10. Lack after nothing before cover revoked.
11. Lack before cover
paper covers rock
rock breaks mask
alas, alack.
12. Nothing to cover
13. This is the
13. This is the mask to cover my infidelity to truth.
13. This is the mask to cover my infidelity to truth.
(This is my cover.)
14. This is the need for pain that contorts my mask conveying the message of truth and fidelity to life.
15. This is the truth that distorts my need for human companionship.
16. This is the distortion of truth masked by my painful need.
17. This is the mask of my painful need distressed by truth and human companionship.
18. This is my painless mask that fails to touch my face but floats before the surface of my skin my eyes my
teeth my tongue.
19. Desire is my mask.
(Musk of desire)
20. Rescind desire
cover revoked
desire revoked
cover rescinded.


One Joy,
Wow, that is really good. Where did you find this poem? It so fits. Hope all is well with you.




hi ana – the stupid blog is doing that thing where it diasappears posts…
so i had to do a post of ……………. to make you post appear again.

it was in a book about bruce nauman’s work. i didn’t want to pay for the book, and really hoped that it would be online, and it was.

it is really evocative and i felt it should be here.

i have to start writing again.

i hear you have a bday soon! how old will you be?




Hi One Joy,
I’ll be 25 again…OK I’m lying..52 LOL.


Ana, you must have strong hands. Mine hurt just thinking about it.


sky – your hands hurt just thinking about what?


Ana – 🙂

I would have believed 25 (again) because of the lightness of your spirit, but 52 made me SMILE.


Hey guys,
My hands don’t hurt cause I’m used to it! My left shoulder hurts from using my elbow..and my right wrist…lawdy!

Hey One Joy,
I’m glad I made you smile 🙂

Thanks for the compliment!


hey anna – what have you been doing that you are physically hurting?


Ana said she worked 6 days in a row. But apparently her hands are ok.

Ana, I used to babysit a 5 year old girl. I would have her walk on my back because her hands were too tiny. She thought it was great fun to jump up and down and stomp on me! I liked it though.

Too bad you can’t walk on your clients.


6 days i a row at (almost) 52! ana, you are a fucking rock star!


Ah, the pole massage! What a relief it would be. There is a training one can go thru. You hold onto the poles above your head while you work the clients with your feet and toe toes. 🙂


what a great career you chose. There are so many variations.

For someone like myself, who likes their back muscles really massaged HARD, a foot massage is just right.

The spath’s poisons required intense and deep therapy.


I would imagine you would need a lot of massage for the stress and poisons, to get them out of your system. Plus the lactic acid build up..hope you have a good massage person to take care of you!


Goodnight Skylar & One Joy!

Ox Drover

Dear Libelle,

Thanks for the additiion to the analogy with the post about the scars. I wish I had thought about that, but you are SO RIGHT! Those scars CAN restrict our movement and become a shell around us that is continually tender. ((hugs))

And Milo,

I still have trouble sometimes reading books that describe burns, or seeing a film that depicts someone being burned. The WORST moments of my life were when I saw my husband burned, and knew he would not survive, but could NOT SEE my son and the two others who had also been in the plane and I thought “I cannot live if they are still inside the plane.” Actually, I was LOOKING RIGHT AT THEM but could not see them, my son D later told me.

The EMDR therapy did help me a great deal in dealing with the emotional scars connected to the burns and the plane crash. More than any other “talk” therapy etc.

I did the out-patient burn debridement and dressing for my son D and for the other man in the plane daily for the three months it took them to heal. The 16 yr old young man spent 5 months in Children’s hospital and has had many many surgeries to release scars (as Libelle described) but is doing really quite well. He had to wear whole body compression bandages for years but his face was spared from the burns which was very good. He has now finished college with a degree in aviation science and has a commercial pilot’s license and works as a deputy sheriff for a small county.

My son D has no visible physical scars from his burn, but does have PTSD from the combination of the crash, my husband’s death and from the attack by the rest of my family and the Trojan Horse psychopath. I am very happy and proud of his recovery though both physically and emotionally.

Ana, I had my friend who is a massage therapist come over yesterday and work on my son D’s shoulders (old injuries from the plane crash) and it has helped him a great deal. Plus she gave us some exercises to add to his PT regimine that I hope will give him some help as well.

Ox Drover

Petite, my dear, I’m so glad to hear you are doing well and getting over the jerkface. He does not deserve anyone as marvelous, beautiful, successful and smart as you! (((hugs)))


Dear Oxy,
so many lovely adjectives for me – I ran to the mirror to find them (smile)
you are just so kind,
Has Gem arrived.
I wish I was there.


Dear Oxy, it was NOT my intention to “ameliorate” your text! The concept of the “Thick skin” aka withstanding criticism as being a scar resulting from injury is in my thoughts for years, as I was always being “the one with the far too thin skin”, “taking it personally”, “too sensitive” and so on. With the processing of these injuries I was able to “grow thick skin” and become “less sensitive”.

Like in spring when I was a child and walked barefeet, first I noticed every little pebble and it was quite unpleasant, but with some time it was a real pleasure to walk in the grass and being tickled by pebbles when the skin on the sole gets a certain thickness. Nowadays I am a lady and do not walk barefeet anymore of course 🙂

Dear Petite, thanks for your welcome! You sound definitely getting over the jerk. Sometimes we have to revisit to REALLY find out that we are right, isn’t it? We are humans after all.

I also had my share of “repeating the cycle” once more, not going back to the old one but finding yet another basement stash to clean and get rid of. And I am questioning my role as being the scapegoat I seem to look for and applying for. This is my newest discovery 🙁 Also I am more and more uncomfortable with the role of the “rescuer” that seems to be very strong in my subconcious that brings me into trouble time after time, although I SHOULD KNOW BY NOW. Another problem is that I now have great difficulties telling people “bad news”, which is my daily business; when I was “pre-spath” I could do it quite uninvolved; now I FEEL it and it becomes more and more painful, and finally I understand why most of the people I know could not do it and think I am brave. I was not posting here because I thought that I have to sort out things for myself first. I am also now seeking professional help to bring some order in my life.
I wish you all a very fruitful week!

Ox Drover

Dear Libelle,

I thought your comments ADDED so well to my own analogy! Yes, I see what you mean about the scars as well. Sometimes they can be so think that they limit our movements (like the boy who was in the plane and burned so badly, had to have many operations to release the scars so he could move) I think my own scars sometimes limited my movements, as well as like you said about walking barefoot, enabled me to endure the walking barefoot. So maybe the scars have both positive and negative effects on us.

I know that at first for me the new healing emotional “skin” was so tender it almost can’t stand touching, but as the healing continued, it has served me as a shield from the “slings and arrows” of life.

How are things going for you now Libelle? Are you still enjoying your now home and new job? I hope that things are going well for you. (((hugs)))


Hi Libelle,
new home, new job, that is exciting. where are you now, I mean the country, if you cannot tell, that is fine.
Sky has my email – if you want to you can write to me.

It was very interesting to read your post, as being in the medical field, I also have to break bad news at times. why do you think “you feel” more after spath, as compared to pre-spath.
I also feel as if I “feel more” after the jerk.

Denise Guiney

And these people are like dragons, fire breathing dragons with fire you cannot see and that is why they burn. The lies they breathe out are toxic and caustic.


Oxy –

Thank you for directing me to your article. Your comment of “As we peel off each layer of damage to our emotions, our finances, and even our physical selves, the pain is intense, and the new skin underneath is tender and raw, barely tolerating any touch at all. We may become angry at those who reach out to help us; we may not want to listen to therapists or friends who advise us. Yet, that new growth in our spirits, our finances, and our physical selves will be the thing that sustains us, allows us to grow and recover.” is exactly what I was referring to.
I had been using a band aid to cover the wound, but not cleaning the wound which caused more of an “infection” to my life.
Now that the wound has been completely exposed, I can see how much debris I need to clean out before it can fully heal.

Your kindness and words are truly a blessing to me at this time.



Thank you for this fantastic analogy. I always thought of getting to know a person was like peeling the skin off an onion, you do it one layer at a time to get to the core….but never thought of the reverse affect when we are burned by the psychopaths.

I have recently attended some spiritual healing work shops in which the message that I got the most peace from is that we can re-write our story. Thinking in terms of burnt skin….We can look at the horrors of burned skin and re write it to see that the burned skin we shed, will be replaced it with new tender but stronger skin that we add one layer at a time (in our healling process) to our core onion layers…….


Thanks for your story, it’s all so true only the survivors know of the healing we all go through. You so describe the way our emotions are so well, God bless..

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