[Masculine pronouns are used for the sake of simplicity. Women, of course, can also be sociopaths.]
You are feeling more desperate and miserable in this relationship with this person who you thought loved you. Over time you have experienced feeling less valuable, as you find your needs no longer seem important to him. Your feelings are not important. In fact, when you try to emotionally connect or bring up a hurt, a need, or a concern about something he did, it only seems to threaten him and make them act like a cornered animal. And, in the end, he acts victimized and you feel like the bad guy. There are many things about you or what you say or do that he cannot tolerate. You find yourself accommodating his wishes more and more to stop his negative reactions. You keep trying to figure out ways to get through to him, make him happy, save the relationship. You no longer feel safe and cared about. You don’t feel good about yourself anymore. You may feel victimized often. You probably feel anxious a lot, and perhaps even think you are paranoid about things that don’t seem quite right.
Perhaps you have already found out he has conned, deceived, played, or cheated you, or he has begun to abuse you. When you try to bring up the deception or the way he has hurt, dismissed, or abused you, he only gets enraged or turns it around on you or dismisses you again. Maybe you have walked away or threatened to walk away, after which he has turned into the lovestruck partner you had originally and wooed you back with sex and “love bombing,” convincing you to believe that you really are the love of his life and he needs you — only to go back to hurting and deceiving you in the same way once you’re securely tied to him again.
Maybe you’ve had enough and are ready to leave now. Or maybe you’re not to the point of being sure, but you are checking out the Lovefraud site for answers, wondering if you are with a sociopath. Whether you are near the point of being ready to leave or trying to get clarity about it, leaving is never easy to do. You have invested your heart and emotions, time and faith in this person. You’ve come to find your partner to be unpredictable, raging, even abusive. He has no regard for boundaries and yours are violated on a regular basis, so you are not sure what he is capable of once you decide to go.
Your conscience may give you hesitation. In examining yourself, you may be wondering where you haven’t been loving enough, good enough, desirable enough, etc. You may not be sure you have done everything in your power to make the relationship work. Breaking your loyalty, commitment, or vows probably goes against the grain of your convictions. And, then, looking beyond the relationship to life on your own, you have to deal with a tremendous loss — if not for the sociopathic person you have come to recognize, then for the dream you had for the relationship. You’d have to start over and be alone again, not knowing if you’ll ever find someone else. You may not have financial resources. You might even wonder if you can survive the climb to the other side.
Leaving takes losing your attachment to the sociopath so you are less affected by his manipulations and control. Leaving takes losing your fear of him, your fear of feeling loss and loneliness, and your fear of an unknown future. To reach that place of detachment and courage, you will need to get back in touch with your core self that got lost along the way. It’s a gradual process, but if you do some of the following exercises daily, it will help get you there. (These are abbreviated to get you started. Each category will be explained in more detail in future articles.)
With your arms, make an imaginary boundary around your person, as if you were creating an invisible shield. Make a conscious commitment to not let your self go beyond its boundary, not to let yourself “leak out” to accommodate your partner. Begin by just noticing when you do this. Notice what you feel in your body. Try to keep your self “contained” behind this barrier. Redo this exercise as often as you need to remind yourself.
Visualize an invisible shield between you and your partner that puts you in an observing stance. Step back and try to observe your interactions with him/her as if you were watching from the outside or from up above.
- Meditation/Prayer (guided or non-guided from Youtube.com, CD’s, or silently.)
- Body Relaxation — Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax each part of your body.
- Journaling your thoughts and feelings (you can always tear up or delete when you are done).
- Visualize yourself acting in protective ways, with strength.
- Positive affirmations about yourself daily (breathe them in).
- Breathe deeply. Locate fear in your body. Breathe in strength, breathe out fear.
- Acknowledge the things you do that feel good or that you accomplish each day.
- Appreciate something about yourself in the last 24 hours.
Awareness breeds detachment breeds change. Begin to be inside your body as much as possible. Notice what sensations your body feels, where your emotions are located in your body.
One Minute Daily Mindfulness Exercise: Close your eyes.
- Focus on the thoughts in your head. Just notice what they are, don’t judge them. Acknowledge them by saying something like, “That’s the way it is right now.”
- Focus all your attention now on your breathing. Just the breathing in and breathing out, either naturally or deeply. Keep your attention there for a few moments.
- Put your attention now on your body. Notice any sensations in your body. Notice what it feels like to be inside your body right now. Notice any emotions located in it. When you feel ready, open your eyes.
Pay attention to triggers: (You may need the help of a therapist in gaining awareness of the following, but perhaps you can begin to notice on your own):
Notice what negative emotional states and thoughts about yourself get triggered by your partner — try to recognize what is being triggered from your past. And notice what your reactions are — how you try to get nurtured or validated (and of course how useless it is!). Instead, practice ways of validating and nurturing yourself.
Notice when in interactions with the sociopath you feel like a “victim” (we all have one in us), and what you do when you feel it. Recognize your abused, abandoned, hurt, lonely, or neglected inner child there. Soothe and comfort the child. Tell the child s/he is safe, loved, worthy.
Release/Regulate Emotions (after you become mindful of them):
- Exercise (walking, running, dancing, vigorous, martial arts)
- Journal your thoughts and emotions
- Scream or punch pillows, a mattress, or punching bag
- Tap parts of your body that have tension with your finger, or the vagus nerve (left side of neck) — this helps calm an emotional reaction
- Tap alternately the palms of your hands with the opposite finger, or drum on something with the palms of your hands (as above)
Get Support: Start talking to family, friends, a religious cleric, a therapist, a counselor about what’s going on in your life in order to get clarity and strength.
- Do something nice for your body
- Pleasureable activities