Q. What experience have you had dealing with sociopaths or other disordered personalities—personally, professionally, or both?
A. In my professional experience, sociopaths and disordered personalities are usually brought into therapy by a significant other, or by the court system for domestic violence or other charges. Since they are incapable of insight or empathy, they may engage initially in therapy to get validation or support, blame their partner, and/or show what they are willing to do for the relationship. When therapy becomes emotionally threatening, they tend to drop out. If they have a desire to be different than their defended MO, I will see if they are willing to connect with themselves in order to learn empathy, lay out what are appropriate boundaries, and work directively with their crossing of boundaries and taking responsibility for their actions. I have so far not encountered one willing and/or able to do this.
I was involved with a narcissistic personality/sociopath who was leading a double life, and kept his narcissism hidden for a long while. I had tried to make sense of his odd behaviors and worked tirelessly to help a relationship that just got difficult over time. I ignored my body’s distress and my intuition, which made me the perfect partner for someone like him. I had been a confident person who had worked through issues in therapy, but as his subtle control chipped away my sense of self, I regressed into a helpless victim. In working to heal the damage, help the marriage, and in the end to get out, I experienced renewed strength, emotional healing, and spiritual connection to myself.
Q. How do you go about helping clients who have tangled with a sociopath?
A. Since those who have tangled with a sociopath have been traumatized (i.e. threatened, controlled, abused, betrayed) they experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — which can include not feeling safe, a feeling of loss of control, helplessness, obsessive thought patterns. They also experience a loss of self over the sociopath’s exerting his/her need to feel in control. The therapy work is done primarily through attunement with the body where trauma is stored. It includes identifying emotions felt in the body and learning to regulate them through the body, grounding, boundary work, reconnecting with the core self, self-care — there are many ways to accomplish these things. We also can use EMDR and hypnosis, which can expedite significant shifts in the healing process.
Q. What, in your experience, is the biggest issue or problem that people who have been betrayed by a sociopath need to overcome?
A. Forgiving themselves for losing themselves through another’s control, and being in the situation. When love turns out be a fraud, it throws everything into question — identity, judgment, trust and safety. People blame themselves and feel humiliated. It takes time to rebuild the self.
Q. What’s one tip you can suggest for helping Lovefraud readers recover from the betrayal of a sociopath?
A. It’s not your fault! The love you offered deserved love back. So, surround yourself now with loving, supportive friends and Lovefraud support.