By | July 30, 2009 53 Comments

No Shame, No Gain

Unless your abusive partner can feel shame for his violating behaviors, he will make no gains. That’s why I say, no shame, no gain.

By “gain” I mean, of course, the permanent ceasing of his abuse.

This rules-out sociopaths who, by definition, will lack the capacity for shame necessary for personal reform. This is worth repeating, as basic as it is: the sociopath is beyond help, beyond reform. Only his victims can help themselves by escaping, and healing, from him.

And yet shame alone isn’t enough to produce gain. It’s what the abuser does with his shame that’s critical. If he projects his shame defensively into, say, “blame,” then he is going nowhere fast. And unfortunately, all too often this is the case.

And so yes, no shame, no gain. But maybe it’s more accurate to say, no “owned” shame, no gain. Or even more accurately yet, no “responsibly processed” shame, no gain.

After all, only when we own our shame can we do something good with it; only then can we learn from it, grow from it. And I want to be clear that I’m referring here to shame related to the perpetration of harm against others. I’m referring specifically to the shame of the perpetrator, not the shame his abuse engenders in his victim(s).

Notice that I emphasize shame, and not guilt. That’s because guilt, in my experience, is a less powerful change-catalyst than shame. Guilt can be an intellectualized, rote experience. It can also be expiatory, as in, “I did my guilt, I suffered my guilt, now I can start with a clean slate.”

This can be a “clean slate” from which to repeat further transgressions, only to expiate them with yet more guilt, before perpetrating yet new transgressions. Guilt in this instance becomes ritualized enabling, rather than deterring, of future exploitation.

As I said, responsibly processing shame is no easy task—not for anyone, let alone someone with an exploitative orientation. What is it that makes the experience of shame, let alone its responsible processing, so hard for so many narcissistic and, of course, all sociopathic personalities?

The answer, I think, lies in the “ego-syntonic” essence of narcissistic psychopathology. “Ego-syntonic” is just a fancy way of saying that you are comfortable with what you are doing. When what you are doing is consonant, not dissonant, with your concept of your“self,” it is said to be ego-syntonic. It follows that ego-syntonic attitudes and behaviors are unlikely to evoke shame because they aren’t clashing with, or violating, your internal values and self-concept.

Conversely, when what you are doing is clashing with your values and self-concept, it is said to be “ego-dystonic.” And ego-dystonic behaviors are thus likely to produce internal discomfort, including possibly shame.

And so the intractability of severe narcissistic disturbance can be attributed, I think in good measure, to its fundamental ego-syntonicity.

Severe narcissists and other exploiters simply aren’t sufficiently disturbed by their abuse of others for genuine shame to emerge as a potentially transformative experience.

In less severe expressions of narcissism which will fall short of the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (and, of course, far short of sociopathy), you can find individuals who’ve been extremely self-centered and even abusive, yet who do not want to be experienced as such (either publicly and, more importantly, privately).

In other words, others’ experience of them as abusive violates their self-concept (their self-concept disapproving of insensitivity and hurtfulness towards others). Your knee-jerk reaction may be that such individuals don’t exist, but they do. Even some chronic abusers, while in the minority, can reform.

But I reiterate that it’s not enough that such individuals can sometimes feel shame upon registering the vast discrepancy between their self-concept and others’ experience of them.

Only if, and it’s a big if, these individuals can face their shame and, as I’ve stressed in this post, not disown it, not project it as blame (or in some other toxic form), can their shame sometimes catalyze change.

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW)

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Wonderful post. Totally agree with the distinction between guilt and shame. The narcissiopath I was involved with said he felt guilt, and I think he did….at least he felt bad about all the money and status he might lose if found out….but never badly enough to sustain change, and I think with his malformed brain, he is incapable of sustained change. His guilt was more the guilt a sex addict feels after indulging in perverted pleasures that cause some guilt and they swear off it, but then they are right back at it, and with glee. His guilt was not about his impact on others, or about the exploitive nature of his acts, but rather on the possible negative impact on his future.

Ox Drover

Good information, Steve, and very relevent to all of our situations I think.

I also think the SHAME issue applies to the enablers and the dupes who feel lthe shame, but are NOT ABLE TO PROCESS IT, and deny the TRUTH to keep from facing the SHAME of having been duped. I think in many cases they are as IMPOSSIBLE to “fix” as the psychopaths themselves.

I think we ALL must face the shame of being duped, being involved with such a monster, and put it behind us. We must NOT assume the shame (or guilt) for the behavior of others even if we (for whatever reason) saw it and did nothing, or didn’t see it and were totally duped.

While we can feel shame and guilt, the person high in psychopathic traits has little, if any, ability to feel or process, or even understand I think, those feelings. Though I think they can “feel it” as Narcissistic INJURY when they are exposed, but I don’t think it is actual “shame” or “guilt” but more of a RAGE, for which they do their best to punish the exposer. OWNING their “shame” rather than projecting their BLAME and embracing the RAGE, I think is next to impossible for the majority of both psychopaths and their enablers.

Toxic enabling, I think, as in the cases of my egg donor and others I have observed, can be as DAMAGING as the psychopathic personality him/her self, and do as much damage to the victim, by allowing the psychopath to persecute or con the victim by PROXY—thus my term of “psychopath-by-proxy” describing TOXIC ENABLERS. The toxic enablers may actually feel the shame (of public exposure) but respond to it by projecting blame on to the victim, excusing the psychopath, and denying any responsibility for enabling the psychopath to abuse the victim further.

Thanks for this article, Steve.


Oxy, agree, I had to face that shame. I had that in my post and erased it, as it began to feel like image management to me, because in truth I’m not quite over that shame. A therapist told me “the shame belongs to him, not you.” I realize that, but part of healing is realizing how we COULD have protected ourselves better (which is not a matter of shame for me, as it was a lack of knowledge) and how my own narcissistic tendencies (which IS a matter of shame for me) contributed to “buying into the dream”, at least in my case, and my willingness to not be more ethical in how I was trying to get my needs met (which is a HUGE source of shame for me.) But as my therapist said, the fact that I am in such pain over my role proves I DO have ethics, and I just need to stay IN my ethics now.


But no bad guy, no problem! I have to add that, not to defend myself, but to make sure anyone reading this does not sink into self-blame. Truly our traits of forgiveness, of wanting to believe the best about people, our willingess to give second chances…the things that get us in REALLY deep doo doo with the bad guys….are traits (in relationships with NICE and ETHICAL guys who really LOVE us) that are STRENGTHS. But we have to realize that not everyone is a good guy, and around bad guys those traits are HUGE liabilities.


Steve, thank you for clarifying my (earlier) position. There is much hope for the abusers who are capable of seeing the result of their actions and experiencing the hurt (inside and out). There is absolutely no hope for those who will do lip service and continue to engage in harmful behavior while blaming others for it and seeking only gratification for themselves. Our Ps have learned well the principle of “do as I say, not as I do”. They are a true example of shameless abusers (whatever chosen mode operandum).


I am up at 3.00am because i can’t stop trying to figure out if my south african friend is a psychopath or not. ( I don’t want her to be!)
” Though I think they can “feel it” as Narcissistic INJURY when they are exposed, but I don’t think it is actual “shame” or “guilt” but more of a RAGE, for which they do their best to punish the exposer”. In my experience this is spot on! This is “punishment” and being their scape goat is EXACTLY what has happened to me in every circumstance.
Oxy, do you think that the “psychopath by proxy” is really just another psychopath?


Because I do.


Is her behavior indicative of the criteria listed for PDIs? Does she meet one or many of the signs attributed to Ps/Ss/Ns? Have you known her for a long time or is she a recent acquaintance?

The reason why I ask is if you have known her for a while, you should be able to recognize by her consistency in good or bad behavior if continuing a relationship with her is toxic for you. Really, it is that simple. If she repeatedly hurts you with caustic, cruel, dismissive words/actions then yeah, I would think she is a person you shouldn’t hang with.

Remember, only accept good, kind people in your life at your invitation. You don’t owe anyone anything especially your blood, sweat and tears. Toxic people need to be shown the “Exit” sign before they do any more damage, imo.


Hi Tilly:
After reading your writings…..I would like for you to concentrate on YOU and you only! Head in the direction of what YOU need to do to get through…inside and out of school.
You do not need to caretake anyone else’s feelings, wonder ‘what’ they are thinking or such. It sounds as if you are now walking on eggshells with your SA ‘friend’.
You are not responsible for her learning, we all get something out of teaching people and seeing them blossom, but don’t translate your help into a caretaking position.
Do not make your emotions based on what others do or say. You are a good person and you are coping with a situation as best you can …….FOR YOU!
At this point in your life, you need to focus more on YOU… to learn to wade through these people in your life.
Your a giver…….give to yourself. Recognize when you are giving to much to others at your own emotional expense.
Stop trying to figure this girl out…..she will expose herself to you over time…..obviously there is a ‘gut’ feeling in you… just file it in the front file and beware. Don’t set yourself up for any more emotional harm or chaos from anyone.
Go with your gut and just observe, if she is a S, great… will see it…..if she isn’t, then fine too…..but your gut is telling you something. In the big picture, you just need to protect yourself from any toxicity from anyone….

If it was freezing outside and you only had one coat……would you give it to a stranger that was cold and die of frostbite yourself? I think NOT! That is not prudent.
Charity begins at home…….YOU TIL’S, continue to take care of you.
Your cold……keep your coat on. Maybe one day soon, you will be able to offer others a coat (but only when you have 2 to give).
Keep moving and ‘working’ your 12 steps,it was a good first day with your new strategy, so keep focused on that……you have a plan and stick to it…..don’t let others sidetrack you, because if it’s not her, it will be the guy in front of you, the administrator, your neighbor….Ya know?, complete your mission girl!!!! Stay focused on YOU.
Keep your strength and GO GET SOME SLEEP, your doing great!!!!!!

Thank you for another enlightening article, Dr. Steve.

You provide even more food for thought by dissecting the pathological personality disordered.

I would think most of us on LF have spent many hours educating ourselves to the fullest extent regarding PDIs in an effort to protect ourselves from future predation. I know I have and still do.

You continue to shine that bright light of awareness, truth and reality for all of us and I appreciate it immensely. Thnx!!


Well said!
Exit over here……Oh, and don’t let the door hit you in the ars……on your way out!



You need your sleep!!! Lets for the sake of saving you precious time, take eithr route and find the solution quickly!

If she is a P – what does that mean for you and how would you like to handle going forward so as to least disrupt you in your academics and at home…

If she isnt a P – things should settle down and your comfort level should return – but how will you proceed in class if she is acting oddly or making you feel uncomfortable.

Once you have an understanding of how you will handle both… you just need to decide what your boundaries are and whether or not she crosses them. Then you go with Plan A or Plan B.

We all wish our friends dont go haywire on us..or turn out to be something theyve misrepresented themselves to be. But with good awareness and a plan of action this can be handled so its not causing chaos in your days/nights…


Erin…. We were typing Tilly at the same time!!! We just need to get Tilly that tee shirt that says ” I Love Erin Brockovitch” so she can wear it to class and when they ask her why? She can say cuz she knows how to keep us women on the right track!!



(You crack me up!)

Ox Drover

Tilly, I’m not sure—my egg donor is definitely an ENABLER, she tries to “fix” things, dysfunctionally of course, by controlling the OUTSIDE perception of the community about our family (i.e. KEEPING SHAMEFUL BEHAVIOR SECRET) of course this was started by her ancestors, her mother and grandmother and great grandmother and who knows how far back, ,by women protecting and enabling the family bad boys, their husbands and/or sons. Keeping them and their bad behaviior from being confronted first of all, tip toeing around them so as not to “set them off” into a rage. Walking on egg shells. in other words.

As far as my egg donor, she has always supported my uncle Monster, her brother, who continued his HORRIBLE ABUSE to his wife, his mother (held his elderly mother at gun point and wouldn’t let her sleep or eat for three days) He finally went to sleep and she called for help—he was drunk at the time, but I also think he was bi-polar as he would drink huge amounts of booze and stay awake for days on end while he raged etc. I went to rescue her (packing a pistol) and stopped by the sheriff[‘s office and told him my story and asked if he wanted to send a deputy with me, he said “No, but if you kill him, he is PAID FOR.” When I got there he was gone and I took my grandmother away from her home. That was the FIRST indication I had that there was ACTIVE and horrible abuse in the family, it was only after Uncle Monster was on his death bed that his children described many episodes of him holding them and their mother at gun point while he raged for days, threatening to shoot the mother if the kids didn’t do his bidding or threatening the kids if the mother didn’t do his bidding. I cannot even imagine WHAT THEY SUFFERED!!! THE FEAR–TALK ABOUT A TRAUMA BOND!

Anyway, back to the original question—my egg donor does NOT meet many of the “qualifications” of a psychopath like stealing, manipulating for gain, etc., though she is a bit narcissistic, (always right, always holy) However, she has the PROJECTION, the BLAME PLACING, LACK OF EMPATHY at least to ME, she DOES LIE (but hates others lying, but HER lies are always OK because you made her have to lie to you. LOL) She GASLIGHTS with the best of them. I saw NONE OF THIS until recently (last two years). She is VERY CAREFUL who sees her “mask” off—mainly I am the major one she shows her RAGE against….all, because, of course, I DESERVE IT.

She o nce admitted to me that she said some nasty things and accused me of things she knew were untrue BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO HURT ME.

This admission on her part was the first real AH HA moment I had that made me realize she was CAPABLE of doing things and saying untrue things to DELIBERATELY HURT ME. In the past, when she said things and did things that hurt me, I thought she just did them not realizing they hrut, now I can see that for my whole life she has done things DELIBERATELY TO HURT ME, to punish me (but of course, they were JUSTIFIED because I deserved it.)

Her admission of deliberately hurting me, started me being able to SEE more clearly what was actually going on rather than WHAT I WANTED TO SEE….it was probably one of THE MOST PAINFUL MOMENTS IN MY LIFE. Realizing that my own EGG DONOR could deliberately WANT to hurt me. WOW! Talk about an eye opener!

Of course after that I was not so devestated by her gasllighting, I did not blindly believe her lies any more, “the truth will set you free, but first it will PITH YOU OFF!” i KNEW THAT whatever her diagnosis WOULD BE, “clinically” that she was TOXIC for me. That I could NOT TRUST HER, and that I COULD NEVER TRUST HER, that she REFUSED to see the truth, even when presented with IRREFUTABLE EVICENCE and that she would always and forever be a danger to me because she would enable my P-offspring.

The ONLY HOPE I have of stopping this is if the minsiter I ran into the other day can make her stop, IN ORDER TO PROTECT HER IMAGE OF HER “HOLINESS”—even still she will have to be continually MONITORED for her life, because she IS SNEAKY, but I have figured out a way to do this if she will go along with it (again, the only reason she would go along with it is to protect her IMAGE with her church groups and old friends associated with the church.) I’m kind of SNEAKY MYSELF! LOL She prizes her IMAGE above all else, so I may be able to use that to MY ADVANTAGE.

They use OUR WEAKNESSES AND VULNERABLITIES to their advantage, so all I am doing is TURNING THE TABLES.

Tilly, about your “friend”—QUIT OBSCESSING ABOUT IT–either she is or she ain’t! TIME WILL TELL. In the meantime, you need to keep your yap shut about what you are doing with your P-teacher (turning the tables on her) or what your opinion of her is. After you get out of this class, maybe by then you will know about this girl, but don’t trust ANYONE enough to bare your soul or tell your plan to until you are out of this witch’s POWER!!! ((((HUGS)))) stay strong!

Elizabeth Conley

Thanks Steve. This was a brilliant and thought provoking piece. I’ll be thinking about it for a while. You certainly expressed many of the dynamics I’ve observed, plus a bit more.


Thankyou ErinB and JaneS ! It is so good to be able to get up at 3.00 am and have two of the strongest women on LF available to talk to ! WOW Do I need YOU BOTH! YESS!!!!
I went to bed confused because the strategy for coping with the P teacher had gone so well and my “friend” ( she started in our class from last March, who has been hanging/flying off my coat tails and following me everywhere suddenly displayed all the markings of a P.
This is when I put “Kathys 12 step” programme that she showed me to deal with my p teacher.
As soon as I put them into practise my “friend” shut down totally and became a total P herself. Only like one who has been knocked off guard. One that wasn’t ready for my ploy. She went into the “empty dress” pose, nothing to say, but trying to get in on all my conversations with people and also desperately trying to manipulate me into giving her all my attention and helping her with her work. She kept coming over when i was talking to some teachers and telling me “Im going now”.( normally I would go with her or include her, but I just sai “ok bye”. And she stood to the side and never left. She did that several times until it was time to go.
Then she questioned me non stop” what is your new strategy you talked about that you are doing with the teacher? What are you doing in this subject and that subject and how and when and where and what did they say to you etc etc”.
So I told her my new strategy is being a nerd up the back of the class and she seemed to know i was hedging and went silent again. Ominous deceitful silence.
It was then i realised she never “gives” only takes.
I don’t want to be right in this. I want to be wrong. But God is pointing me to yet another exit door. Looks to me like i will be moving at the end of the year, or sooner.
But I know how I can over react when a P is around, so I have been prayin to God to make it so that I am just paranoid and that my “friend” is not a fake.
But I woke up at 3.00 am. Feelings really depressed, because my gut says she is deceiving me, she is not capable og “giving” anything of her self,(no personality) and yes she is a fake friend.
The next thoughts were, ” I am going to try to finish this semester then i am definitely moving to a place a few hours drive away and I will change my degree. It will take longer to finish as i will have to transfer my credit points but it will be just as good a degree. It felt clear and right and not scarey. (Except for financially).
Then I thought “why wait unti then, why not do it sooner?” And then i decided i don’t have the emotional or physical energy to move right now.
Mind you all these plans could go out the window once the wps moves into action.
And maybe i am paranoid and she is not a P. She will be hard to get rid of.



“Severe narcissists and other exploiters simply aren’t sufficiently disturbed by their abuse of others for genuine shame to emerge as a potentially transformative experience.”

Yet another great article !!! It addresses one of the most frustrating elements of a relationship with him –

Does this explain why the sense of ENTITLEMENT is so strong – because they feel no shame to keep their behaviors in check?

He is a major BLAMER for anything that he is questioned about.

No apology , no effort to change , no acknowledgement of your pain caused by his actions – all leaving us to feel like we are just dead to them .

If they have learned to fake emotions to hook us into the relationship – do they ever bother to learn how to get out of a relationship more graciously that devalue and discard??

I walked away from him last night in total frustration and disgust after arguing over non-payment of support – yet again.

And I say to myself – HOW CAN HE DO THIS? Here I am talking to him, his GF next door is coming out the door – my son is coming out of the house to go with him – we are arguing over the fact he HAS NO MONEY for support – it was so bizarre- just BIZARRE!!!

How does he sit there with his family on one side , his GF standing in the driveway , his son coming towards him and NOT FEEL LIKE HE IS IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE !!!

He doesn’t feel shame in front of my kids for his affairs, he doesn’t feel shame that he is not providing for them while he built himself a grand building, he doesn’t feel shame for any of the pain that he causes.

Yet, I seem to feel shame – or some other unidentified emotion – whenever I find myself now responding to his mistreatment in anger and disgust. I think the REACTING feeds into his drama.

His own composure pisses me off even more- I think he was enjoying my discomfort , anger and reacting. God, I have to find ways NOT TO REACT – but it is so hard.


You know, that last sentence pretty much says it all doesn’t it!



I can relate to what you write about, in terms of the shame of your own narcissistic, what I would call, ‘wounding’, and how it had you looking for a fantasy fix for your real life problems. I too have this experience, and it continues to be a real source of embarrassment (that I feel I looked like such a horses ass when I was hanging out with him: I am sure others could see what I did not want to, since I liked the fantasy), and shame (for me, that ‘I’ could treat myself so poorly, and that I wasn’t sufficiently disturbed over the abuse I was allowing).

Of course, I understand the role the badmen play. And I have been in a long-term relationship with a goodman. And I didn’t act out too narcissistically in that relationship, it really helped me grow. But for me there was, in the back of my psyche, a place for those badmen, and a kind of longing for them. The excitement and intensity. I have unwittingly sought them out for the very fact of their badness. As it has ‘fit’ with my own wounding.

What I didn’t understand is that:

1. They are personality disordered

2. I am not

I am different in the very fact that I can feel remorse, shame, regret, and true sadness over my unethical, and ‘out of integrity’ actions. When I understood who/what so many of my ex’s were/are. It was a revelation. I finally “got” that I didn’t actually belong to that club, and that I had a choice. Up to that point I didn’t feel I did. I felt ‘doomed’ to be attracted to men who ‘made me’ feel horrible, and that I was just as rotten as they were.

The narcissistic wounding that I experienced in my life, left me with some residual ‘bad’ narcissistic traits (selfishness, emptiness, self-hate/vanity, being insincere, lying to get my needs met, using others for immediate relief), that have taken time to recognize and shore up, and transform into healthier behaviors (recognizing my own needs and fullfilling them myself, being able to ask for something and accept no as an answer, accepting my imperfections, feeling genuinely liked by others–allowing myself to be loved, telling the truth and delaying gratification of my needs, etc…).

So, in some ways I can relate to what Steve is saying from my own ‘bad behavior’. I also understand that much of what attracted me to personality disordered people is that I felt we were equally ‘outcasts’ and ‘misunderstood’ and were birds-of-a-feather.

And I recognize myself as being one of those people who experienced the ‘ego-dystonia’ that Steve writes of. I did awful things as a youth and young woman (lied, stole things, was heartless toward men), but hated myself for it and was so terribly ashamed. Being able to experience shame and regret led me to therapy, and lots of personal work. As a result my life is so much more heart-centered and empathetic.

It is an ongoing process to recognize and process my feelings of shame, for I still act out of harmony, though rarely, with my own values. And thank God I don’t have the what-ever-it-is that could have had me develop a full blown personality disorder.

For me knowing I am capable of change, and that I have a choice, is a revelation.

Of course this is MY experience, and if this feels weird to any of you, me talking about coming to terms with my own level of negative narcissism, then just ignore. This is definitely not everyone’s experience.


Slimone….thank you for your honesty. I had to face that if my mother was a narc, my brother a narcissiopath, and my sister a narc, what were the chances I had escaped entirely? Just today, my husband (a good man) and I realized that when I had an affair was when I was living with my mom about 1/3 of the time, and that it is so easy to start absorbing THEIR values and THEIR projections and lose yourself and that was another reason I lost my way. Not to put the blame on her, but to realize that being around her (or any narc) is not healthy for me and fosters my worst traits that I normally don’t display. All of us have “worst traits” that we healthfully avoid. I need to carefully keep myself around healthy positive people and put in place strong emotional insulation when I have to deal with a narc or narcissiopath and be on the outlook for people wanting to exploit me. I too, am capable of deceit. After all, I had to hide who I really was to survive as a kid. But I think the reason I escaped from being a total narc myself (just exhibited a few of the bad traits which I know really have overcome) was the strong influence of Sunday school on me, though I’m not a religious person today. But I really think that is what saved me.

For awhile I channeled my ability to deceive into a good cause, doing undercover work to bust really sick abusive people, but I have given that up, realizing it subjected me to more trauma and practicing traits I really don’t admire, even for a good cause. A little of that work goes a long way. I don’t think anyone should do it for very long. One undercover guy just told me that it is hard for him to be real in a relationship now, because he is so used to turning off his feelings and acting. It is a real danger.

anyway, I’ve sort of wandered off topic, but again, appreciated your honesty. You are a good person.


Please DO keep writing. you have no idea how often I click on Steve Becker and just start rereading all your posts. The Emotional Rape book, the Betrayal Bond book and your articles really have pulled me through the worst of this, more than even a great therapist. Maybe it is because a therapist never knows the whole history, but I do, when I sit and read. The blog that helped me the very, very most was your one on radar for the wrong person. And I used it to make a chart of all the red flags I either missed, or saw but minimized, and then for each red flag, under the column “missed” or “saw but ignored”, I wrote the reason I did miss it or ignore it. It was very helpful to me and empowering to feel like I won’t ever do that again!

At times I feel all recovered, then there is a slide back. I feel my biggest hurdle right now is really embracing the fact that my past does not have to define who I am today.


Thankyou! Awesome article! Well said and I agree absolutely! Once when I was seeing a “psychologist” who was a “level 5″ narcissist”, I told him that i had returned to my P boyfriend. He bellowed across the room, “HAVE YOU NO SHAME????” Then he went on and on about it for a whole hour. (AND I had to pay him for it!). Anyway, I felt FULL OF SHAME, but ran back to my p boyfriend as fast as i could. (At least i would never get a lecture on shame from the p boyfriend…just a belt across the face, which I PREFERRED I can tell you!).
Because MY P PARAPLEGIC MOTHER spent her whole life SHAMING ME>(in reference to her being in a wheelchair).. “THIS IS YOUR FAULT!!”… ( I was five at the time i saw my P father break her neck).
On top of that my P father and my P brother had a wonderful time shaming me for my entire life, as i was “the scapegoat”.
Once when I was a kid, a catholic girl said to me, “you can steal those lollies, all you have to do is confess later and you still go to heaven”.
My mum sounds just like yours and she is a full blown psychopath. Once I had to stand there watching her as she grabbed a tree and tried desperately to riggle out of her chair and tip it up. I couldn’t work out what she was doing. When she was nearly out of it, she started yelling “help! someone help!!” A neighbour and my father came running out of the house. Next she pointed at me and said, “shes trying to rob me!”. She did it totally at random, i didn’t see it coming.
I ran away (which made it look worse, but i had no choice). And i immediately went NC for TEN YEARS.
My P daughter manipulated me back eventually after the ten years.
But I went NC for ten years and made my kids go NC. I was totally on my own and she used to send her other grandkids ( from my P brother)to my door on Xmas day asking to come in (no presents of course). So I told them to tell her where they could all go.
And sure enough, who should walk into my life then? Just when I am short of a psychopath? In walks the P solicitor.

your mum is exactly like mine except mine is more psychotic and in a wheelchair. I feel really sorry for you that your mum is within “coooee” of you on the farm. Even though you can’t see her it is still way too close.
You are totally right about me obsessing over that girl in class. I just can’t believe that another one pops up right under my nose, straight away. is there no end to this?? I get so angry that there are so many. And everyone in class already knows how i feel about the P teacher. Yesterday the P teacher said “Tilly, do you know who it was that went to the convenor and tried to boycott me?’ ( she cornered me as i was coming out of the toilet). Then she told me a whole exagerated story of someone trying to have her kicked out. I wonder who that was?? Not a very nice person aye Oxy!
I have become paranoid again. I am presuming the worst of my fake friend…that she will do the worst and bla bla.
I’m so sorry to have to dump all this rubbish on you. I know the answer is Kathys 12 steps and “don’t presume a problem” but I am so used to everything always going wrong. I’m trying to stop the disaster before the disaster happens again.

Thankyou for hearing me Oxy and everyone.
Thankyou for another brilliant article Steve.
I hope I can be here for others again soon, anyway, I am still painting so thats the main thing.
Tilly. xo(((((((OXY))))))hugsx0


P.S: Since I was seeing less and less of my kind hearted son ( as his p girlfriend sucks him into her vacuum), I had become more “friendly” with my fake friend. I was beginning to look forward to seeing her in the class and I thought we were a secret team against the monster. No such thing, is there!


I am only being honest Steve, keep writing you are brilliant!



Once again, your insight is so thought provoking for all of us here. I go back and read your articles over and over because there is so much to absorb and process from them.

Each behavior or topic you choose identifies yet another experience we have had and gives us reason to pause and understand more of what has happened to us.

You go deep into the psyche of an N/S and bring to the surface so much of what we dealt with yet could not readily identify. Your writing style is so personal yet filled with facts and concrete knowledge – confirmation that while OUR experience is SO personal – the many stories here have so many common threads binding people together in recovery.

Thank you so very much for the expertise and compassion you bring to us – it is very precious and much appreciated!!!!!

Someday, I hope to see all these many writings and those to come in a published book – it will be the best one I’ve ever read !!!!!!!



Not to ride too hard on Tilly’s coattails, but I agree. I love your articles. They slice to the heart of it, and I am always taking away so much to think about.

Write on!


You are welcome. Your post really brought this all bubbling out of me….thanks for the inspiration. I too have a highly n mother. Though, happily, I can report she has mellowed with age, as she is not personality disordered. So, like you, I experienced my own n wounding. Accompanying that was a rather deep uncertainty about ‘who’ exactly I was. That does make one a sitting duck for the projections and influences of others. So, again, I relate to what you say about your affair, when you were living with your mother.

Your description of the undercover work, in a kind of sideways way, gave me a sense of how I lived most of my early, to mid-adult, years. Pretending, to the point I didn’t know what was real. It was like exisiting and not exisiting at the same time. And then, when life called on me to ‘get real’–what hard work finding how to do that.

Being raised with abuse, as many of us have, can force us to shut down our feelings and instead put on an ‘act’, as we don’t have access to our heart-center, from which to authentically live.

Then, for me, finally coming to a place where I was ready to connect with what was in my heart, and to FEEL, was initially, and intermittently still, SO painful. So much in there to grieve. But that is the only way for me to come back into myself. To let myself grieve and let go the past.

And thanks to all of you on LF the journey is not so lonely.


“Pretending to the point I did not know what was real” That really rang true for me two, New Lily.
I had gotten to the point where I felt uncomfortable with almost any interaction with others, even strangers, store clerks, etc. Most of it came I believe from years of “acting” like I was fine, when inside I was a bundle of stress and insecurity. Most of this probably came from the inner conflict of trying to make an empty hollow marriage be right. I realized early on that my needs were not being met, but that seemed ludicrous. After all didn’t I have a perfect husband and a great life?? A few blips maybe, but such is life.

Only well after my going NC did I start to unravel the nest of lies I had lived in, and begin to understand the true nature of the abuse I had endured (unknowingly at the time).

My P was not physically abusive, or verbally for that matter.( although he did undermine me constantly in subtle ways you couldn’t really call him on) He was calm and cool and coldly distorting my world and gaslighting like crazy Mine did it by constantly claiming we were in huge financial distress, down to food insecurity etc., that he was the only one that could fix it, and that I was helpless to change anything about our constant bouncing from one crisis to the next.( this while we lived in a mansion, looked like millionairs)

Only over the last year have I discovered that ALL of it was manufactured. He was playing a sick con. There were three levels of deceipt, !) I had to “pretend” to the outside world and my kids that all was hunky dory. 2)I had to secretly cope with what I thought was the mess we were in. 3) I felt needy and useless, toally stressed and weak as I watched him stoically (I thought) carry on without a hint of stress.

So for many, many years, I lived in my own little bubble, thinking EVERYONE else was better adjusted and “normal”, while I was a mess inside. I coped by drinking way too much and then felt the guilt and shame over that. Mission accomplished for my P.

A little off topic, but I cringe now when I remember complimenting him once for his ability to “change”. Of couse he could “change”. All of his outside persona is fake, so no trouble making a few adjustments if it was to benefit whatever his sick mission was. Uuugh.

Anyhow, I think that a lot of the damage came from my subconcious “knowing” that something was very wrong with the picture, but the ego continued to make believe. That is an exhausting way to live.

I am now fully comfortable with my interactions with people, and marvel at how easy it is to “be myself”, now that the P is just a nasty memory.

But the subconcious is a powerful thing, and wants to be heard. When I was still with the P, I ended up getting deeply involved in reading about all manner of conspiracy theories, corruption and propaganda ( official and corporate lies). I became an activist and co-founded a Not for Profit etc in an effort to facilitate some change.
Only much later did I realize that my subconscious was pushing me in the right direction, only the lies were right under my nose and in my bed.

Near the end my P said that he had learned a lot from me about how the world works. Ya right, run by people like him.

I believe a lot of our denial comes from wanting to make the thing be what we want it to be, what we were told it was. A normal happy union. And until the very end, I still believed that my P was deep down a “good man”. I felt guilt and shame for wanting out. Just like he wanted.
Now I am in real financial distress, and it is stressful too, but nothing compared the the gaslighting years. I feel whole, integrated. Broke, worried about my future, but essentially happy.
Happy healing to all.


ErinB—The problem is I DO give my coat away when it is freezing. Literally, I can remember a time I did that. LOL!!! And just recently when we hit terrible turbulence, I mean horrible…and a flight attendant was knocked out behind me, all I did was try to get to her to help her, while everyone else, I later noticed, were making calls on their cell phones, etc. afraid. I don’t even recall being frightened, I just wanted to help her!

I have it BAD.


That is one reason it is so hard to NOT go after the P with everything I’ve got, and try to help his wife, his kids, etc. . I really feel it comes from my compassion, not revenge…just realizing how horrible he is and wanting to stop him. But NC. Sigh. And I’ve done all I can.



Im with you on having it BAD! But at some point we need to have compassion for ourselves!! Just taking care of the most important being to ourselves — ourself…

I remember being in Singapore visiting friends during the Tsunami and one persons recollection of trying to save his wife in the waters amongst many who were literally drowning around him — he had to remove their hands from his arms, legs in order to save himself. It was the most horrific experience in his life ever — he knew he would drown trying to save others…

We must not give our coat away to save others (unless we have a back up one… or we will lose ourselves. We can help others in need but not at the expense of our own livlihood and mental stability and sanity.

That no longer becomes heroic or good — it becomes an unhealthy selfless… at least thats what Im learning about the healthy limitations of “giving”

Ox Drover

Dear (((Tilly))))

It IS so disappointing when we think we have found someone to trust and turns out they are trying to use/ambush us too!

A “professional” who is SUPPOSED to get what Ps are all about (this one has written articles etc about Ps) but who I THINK does not get it about Ps and wouldn’t spot one in the wild if it BIT HIS ARSE, told a friend of mine who has (like you and me) had MULTIPLE situations with Ps, he said to her, “It is SO STATISTICALLY UNLIKELY that you have encountered THAT many Ps.” How about THAT for a “nice way” to INVALIDATE SOMEONE AND CALL THEM A LIAR?

This woman has had a set of N/P parents, married a P at age 18 who put a gun to her head, raised a P son who (as an adult) robbed her and left her DESTITUTE, then she had other Ps in her life as significant others, bosses, business partners, etc. It was like she was a P-MAGNENT because she is so sweet and trusting and didn’t see the red flags, or if she did she still didn’t know what she was dealing with until the D & D hit her like a baseball bat. she is now learning, but she is so hurt, so devestated, so tired, so just worn out and distrustful now that recovering will be a long torturous process.

LTL’s above post addressed to JAH is SO RIGHT ON, we must have compassion for OURSELVES. We must stop giving away the very life blood of our hearts to others. If we don’t preserve ourselves, how can we even live to HELP OTHERS?


Thankyou again Oxy,
Yes it is devastating when people belittle what we have been through and don’t believe our hell that we went through. It always makes me wonder if they are just a narcissist themselves. More often than not they ARE.


I may be way off with my interpretation of what my ex S is doing to convince Biddy (his current wife…the woman he left me for) that his is “trying to change” but here’s his deal.

According to her, he tells her that he feels terribly guilty and ashamed of the way he treated me. She says that she feels that if he ever bumps into me anywhere that he’ll apologize. Okay…after she learned of his past behavior with ALL women proceeding her including myself and even after cheating on her and giving her the STDs, he tells HER how ashamed he feels and how sorry he is for what he has done to other people. To my knowledge, not once has he ever offered an apology to his victims for his actions. He tells HER that he is sorry for what he has done to his victims. I may be dead wrong, but I think he ONLY says he’s sorry for what he’s done to others just to keep her where he wants her. If he was truly sorry and ashamed, wouldn’t he feel compelled to offer a direct apology to the victims themselves. He can tell HER he’s sorry all day long for the way he treated other people and it doesn’t do a darn thing to make those other people feel better. BUT, it DOES make her feel better enough to continue to believe in him and keep her snagged. Does it sound as though I’ve got him pegged correctly where his “shame and guilt” is concerned?



As far as I am concerned, you have been right-on about this guy all along, and I am sure you have “got him pegged correctly where his ‘shame and guilt’ is concerned”, too.
It’s unfortunate that Biddy cannot see this.

I also understand the stage that Biddy is in right now, because I was there once myself. And the more people tried to convince me that the man I was involved with was “all wrong for me”, the tighter I would cling to him.
I know that state very well.
I think all we can do at this point is pray for Biddy, because she does not seem to be listening to reason.

This man says he’s sorry, and that he wants to change and be a better man? That is very attractive. Women love men who are trying to change for the better, and many of us will “ride it out” with a man who is trying to change.

If this is the case, then is there actually any REAL change taking place in this man? And if so, how long will it last?

I guess my big question would be is there any authentic change taking place in this man?
Or, is this remorse/”promise to change” just some lyrics he pulled out of one of his songs. He plays in a band, right????

P.S. You really are a Guardian Angel to Biddy through all of this. It is tragic that she is unable to see it clearly.


When there is no shame the torture goes on and on. I have done almost everything right since he left 15 months ago. It is not enough he had affairs, was on sex sites, phone relationships with women he never met and now the SKank next door again. It’s not enough that after 22 years I had to find out who my husband and father of my children really is through divorce records.

Now, after 15 months of lawyers back and forth we are still nowhere and now over the last 10 weeks he has wothdrawn support for the kids. HE opened his BBQue and deliberately let his construction business crumble. He is underemploying himself to lower his income and bring down his earning average of the last 5 years for the support calculation.

Now, I am arguing with my own lawyer who doesn’t seem to get it afterall.

My son didn’t go with his father this past weekend because of a big fight over money. This is the first time it has happened and I get scolded harshly for letting it happen. I am supposed to be above reproach. And my lawyer feels the need to YELL and remind me that the economy is bad and my husband is arguably being effected? That he has a defense for not finding work??? Then why do the guys he laid off have work so easily. Why is my lawyer not understanding MY position? NH has steady customers that he has worked for for years – plant -factory types that ALWAYS have maintenance work to be done. This is DELIBERATE SHAMEFUL FINANCILA SABOTAGE!!!!!

And of course he is claiming the BBQUE is not doing well since it is new -so no money there. So if the economy is bad -which it is – don’t they see how reckless and selfish it was to jeopardize his family’s welfare by opening another RISKY business venture? It’s not like he had money to do this – he put us in deep debt for it. And now his bills are not getting paid and there is no money for support -and MY OWN lawyer thinks he can present a good defense?

IT is summer here, I took off weeks to be with my kids and avoid addition camp costs. Now, without support , I can’t even give them a decent summer . We’ve been lucky enough to get some free tickets to some amusement parks, but I have to watch what I spend on gas and eating out. I have been packing lunches and using coupons where I can.

But I had planned to get in the car and just go. Even the shore house he owns has the gas and cable turned off. We make it through a couple days there – but I still need money to do that – we can’t just sit in the house all day.

How can their father do this to his own kids while he runs around with his SKANK and has his own good time???

Looking at his past activities he NEVER gave a crap about our kids- he preferred spending it with other women and their families.

I am so mad I let this go all these years. Mad at myself for believing his lies. I have no control over my life right now and I think I am getting severly depressed. I am off from work and it’s an effort to get out of bed. I should be cleaning or gardening but I can’t go outside with HER right next door.

The law lets him get away with everytrhing he has done but
I have to hand over my son to this wingnut and not think twice about how he will twist up my childs head and heart.

He was never here for the kids when he lived here and I mcan prove it by his credit card statements now – but does it matter ? NOT ONE BIT!!!!

So here we sit – summer – not being able to do much – because he HAS IT ALL!!! Well if he is in financial trouble it is his own greed that got him there.

I guess I am in a pity party today – but truly – how do we get ahead of these monsters ???

I can’t take much more…..



Have you read any of Bandura’s moral disengagement theory? I am in the process of doing so and wonder to what extent narcisists (at least at the lower end of the spectrum)are simply better than the average person at rationalizing their abuse. It would be fascinating to do an fMRI while one of these creature is thinking through their dehumanization of the victim, blaming, etc.

Are those at the lower end of the spectrum capable of experiencing ego dystonic feelings if the flaws in their rationalizations are exposed?

As always, thanks for the thought provoking post.


Hi Rosa,
I’ve hit the wall. I am melting down its periphery and about to dissolve into the liquid of life. I’m not angry, not mad, a little sad but definitely SICK and extremely tired. You will have to sit in for me for a while girl. xo



How ironic your tnewman is like “the new man”.

HE is not a new man. Like I told the bad man I knew, if you are sorry, prove it. Reimburse me $2K for my therapy!!!

It was funny to see how quickly (2 seconds) he decided he had done nothing wrong to me after all!




I think you are most likely SPOT ON. The spathole I knew did the same thing. TOLD ME what he had done to other women, and how regrettable it was, and that he wanted it to be different. Then he did some version of the same thing with me. All smoke and mirrors. No substance…….

It is manipulation plain and simple.


Do get well Tilly…..I love your posting (how selfish of me, huh?). But more than anything just hope you feel well, soon.


Hi Tilly,

I am so sorry that you are sick. Please rest and take some time to recover from your illness.
I know you will re-fuel and come back with a vengeance, because that is YOU, Tilly.
If I am making bets, my money is on you, EVERYTIME!

I read the other thread about the P teacher and the P fake friend. They don’t matter. In fact, it sounds like they are jealous of your talent.
Keep your eyes on the prize, your EDUCATION (easier said than done, I know).
By the way, making jokes at a sick person’s expense is classic P (my opinion).

Tilly, we are just 2 skinless cats trying to get our skin back on! (But, we still have our claws, right?). 😉

Get well soon, Tilly.


Thankyou Rosa!
My claws are all shiny and my teeth are sharp but there is no skin to keep my gizzards in.
Yeah, you are right the classic P’s are doing classic P things all around me in the class.’
Everyone picks there own theme in the art class and i have picked “psychopaths” for this subject and “criminals’ for the other.
So i figure i will do a big mural of the teacher and my fake friend sitting on the toilet.


Thankyou slimone! wish i was slim too…sorry, forgive me, i’m sick at the moment.

Ox Drover

Dear Tilly, I left you an IMPORTANT POST on the Trading places book review. Please read it!!! Love Oxy



You’re funny when you’re sick! No apologies necessary. Just get well. Give yourself some time to rest and heal. We need your kickassedness, 100%.


New Man! That’s so funny! Newman is his last name…I now have a new last name but joined under this name a long time ago and just haven’t taken time to rejoin under a new name. What is even more ironic is that my maiden name is Goodman. LOL!

At any rate. The name comment prompted me to remember something. His father actually has a personalized tag for his car that reads “New Man”. He now faithfully attends church and professes to be a Christian. By his own admittance, the father displayed the same behavior when he was younger. Cheated with one woman after another and was even accused of molestation of two young girls…although he spent some time in jail…he was supposedly released because it was later determined that he was innocent. My ex also says that he molested him. I have NO idea if these things are true but that was the family story regarding the father.

One thing that I did notice that was very similar about father and son was that they both married women who were 8 years older than themselves and already well established. Of course, I was the one that was 8 years older…now he’s with someone 10 years younger. I also remember that he didn’t work and anytime there was a family crisis and he was asked for financial help, he always said that he didn’t have any money and that all the money was his wife’s.

I remember my ex used to get really upset because he said that his father kept telling him that he had the same “problem” as he (the father) did. His father claimed to become a Christian while in prison and then tried to encourage his son to seek help. After I divorced me ex, I had an opportunity to visit with the father and stepmother. I told the father that my counselor firmly believed that his son was a sociopath. His father said he didn’t know about that but he believe that he was JUST a sex addict like he, himself, had once been. His father also told me that he believed his son’s behavior would improve, as his did, when he got to be around 40 years old. If my math is correct, the father claimed to be a “New Man” a good while before he turned 40. What do you all think of this story? I’ve heard that sociopaths become less active as they get older simply because they don’t have the stamina that they did when they were younger but that they don’t suddenly develop the ability to love or grow a conscience.

Another thing, I never quite understood was that my ex spoke of how he had forgiven his father for molesting him. And, from time to time would talk about the “horrible” things he witnessed seeing his father do when he was young. Then, he pretty much displayed the same exact behavior beginning in his teen years! However, if anyone said anything about him being like his father, he got extremely ANGRY! And, he used to get physically sick when his father was coming to town for a visit.

Does anyone have any ideas about what all this father/son stuff was really about?


Totally agree Steve and this concept relates to your current post on the ‘big picture’ of the abuse and exploitation. The SNP wants victims to stay in the present moment without ever referring to past transgressions that definitely make up a clear pattern of abuse. Awesome!

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