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By February 27, 2008 29 Comments Read More →

Q: Can writing improve your health?

There is a form of writing which has been shown to have remarkable effects on research subjects’ well-being, social functioning, and cognitive abilities. The best-known of the scientists who study ‘expressive writing’ is James W. Pennebaker, chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas. Pennebaker and several others around the world have found that a short series brief exercises of this particular form of writing about emotional upheavals can improve physical and mental health.

An early study

In his accessible book Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions (free chapter here) Pennebaker describes an early experiment. Fifty students were asked to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Half were to write about superficial matters; the other half about a traumatic event. Blood was drawn the day before writing commenced, after the final session, and six weeks later. Results. 1. Compared to the superficial writers, the students who wrote about trauma reported feeling sadder and more upset after each day’s writing. 2. Those who wrote about trauma had improved immune function (T-lymphocytes). This was highest the last writing session, but persisted for six weeks. 3. The number of visits to the health centre dropped among those who wrote about trauma. (See below for other effects found in subsequent studies.)

This is likely to seem to be a claim of magic, so let’s go back a step. “Having any type of traumatic experience is associated with elevated illness rates; having any trauma and not talking about it further elevates the risk.” Many readers of Lovefraud have testified to this; they name multiple instances of physical and mental ailments which they date to their stressful and traumatic relationships with psychopaths. And they describe multiple ways of working through it all including participating in internet sites like this one. If non-expression is bad for one, expression might conceivably be good – but exactly what kind of expression matters enormously.

The method

Writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve physical and mental health. Although the scientific research surrounding the value of expressive writing is still in the early phases, there are some approaches to writing that have been found to be helpful. Keep in mind that there are probably a thousand ways to write that may be beneficial to you. Think of these as rough guidelines rather than Truth. Indeed, in your own writing, experiment on your own and see what works best.

Getting Ready to Write
Find a time and place where you won?t be disturbed. Ideally, pick a time at the end of your workday or before you go to bed.”¨”¨Promise yourself that you will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for at least 3 or 4 consecutive days.”¨”¨Once you begin writing, write continuously. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. If you run out of things to write about, just repeat what you have already written.”¨”¨You can write longhand or you can type on a computer. If you are unable to write, you can also talk into a tape recorder.”¨”¨You can write about the same thing on all 3-4 days of writing or you can write about something different each day. It is entirely up to you.”¨”¨

What to Write About
Something that you are thinking or worrying about too much.
Something that you are dreaming about.
Something that you feel is affecting your life in an unhealthy way.
Something that you have been avoiding for days, weeks, or years.

Researchers have found which aspects of this writing are vital and which can be varied – and by how much.

  • ‘Writing’ – It turns out that writing with pen and paper, typing on a keyboard, and even ‘writing’ without marking the page (e.g. with the nib retracted) each work fine. (Indeed, female participants do better with the latter method in that they feel freer to use curse words). Even speaking (in this free-form way) into a dictaphone while in bed helped participants to sleep. Importantly, thinking about the trauma showed none of the benefits – some form of expression is crucial.
  • Free expression – While the mechanics of the expression can vary, the form of the expression should not. The writing must be ‘free’ – continuous, unencumbered, uncensored. It is helpful to write with the intention of destroying the pages afterwards – if no-one, not even oneself is to read them one may feel more able to let go.
  • Frequency – Once a day on three consecutive days was as effective as once an hour for three consecutive hours all on one day. The crucial factors are the regularity (no more than 24 hr gaps) and a frequency of no less than three and no more than four sessions.
  • Duration – Writing sessions of not shorter than 15 minutes and not longer than 20 minutes work fine.

Some important Don’ts

  • Don’t do too soon after a trauma – It is very important to let one’s normal adaptive mechanisms (including rumination and obsessing) do their healing work. In other words, it is completely normal and even necessary to struggle somewhat after experiencing trauma or emotional upheaval. Only if the symptoms persist after 3-6 months might something like expressive writing be called for.
  • Don’t do for more than four days – this particular form of writing, says Pennebaker, shouldn’t be used in an ongoing fashion. It takes one down emotionally at first – one’s system must be given a chance to pick up again.
  • Don’t do if it seems too much to tackle – Expressive writing is meant to help not hurt.
  • “Despite the large number of promising studies, expressive writing is not a panacea.” — Pennebaker and Chung
  • Disclaimer – You will appreciate that I am not in a position to give psychological or medical advice in this forum. This post is not a recommendation but rather food for thought. If it makes sense to you, please discuss it with a mental health professional.

Write unhappy, think happy

The magazine Scientific American Mind summarises the field of expressive writing. It refers to a study which tested three forms of retelling an experience: telling it or writing it proved therapeutic, merely thinking about it, though, “created chaos: events, images and emotions became intertwined, leading people to relive the experience – with the danger of becoming lost in the misery all over again.” (I have referred to this phenomenon as rumination.)

It is noteworthy that ruminating about happy or good things makes one happier (ruminating about unpleasant things, as we’ve seen, is bad for one); conversely, writing about happy things somewhat spoils them (while writing about unhappy things is therapeutic). Note: this refers only to free-form writing.

Any comments? I’d love to hear them.

————————————-

Some other research findings

Here are some illustrative points from a 2007 review of the field by Pennebaker and Chung:

  • significant drops in physician visits among relatively healthy samples
  • beneficial influence on immune function in beneficial ways, including t-helper cell growth (using a blastogenesis procedure with the mitogen PHA), antibody response to Epstein-Barr virus, and antibody response to hepatitis B vaccinations
  • skin conductance levels are significantly lower during the trauma disclosures
  • systolic blood pressure and heart rate drops to levels below baseline following the disclosure of traumatic topics but not superficial ones

In short, when individuals talk or write about deeply personal topics, their immediate biological responses are congruent with those seen among people attempting to relax. McGuire, Greenberg, and Gevirtz (2005) have shown that these effects can carry over to the longterm in participants with elevated blood pressure. One month after writing, those who participated in the emotional disclosure condition exhibited lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) than before writing. Four months after writing, DBP remained lower than baseline levels.

  • attitude, stereotyping, creativity, working memory, motivation, life satisfaction, and school performance all changed for the better
  • students who write about emotional topics evidence improvements in grades in the months following the study
  • senior professionals who have been laid off from their jobs get new jobs more quickly after writing
  • university staff members who write about emotional topics are subsequently absent from their work at lower rates than controls
  • self reports also suggest that writing about upsetting experiences, although painful in the
    days of writing, produces long-term improvements in mood and indicators of well-being
    compared to controls

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29 Comments on "Q: Can writing improve your health?"

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I completely agree that writing is extremely helpful after going through something traumatic. I have always used it as a coping mechanism. When I have experienced the death of people close to me, I always spent time writing–usually poems. It is no different now in the aftermath of the sociopath, except I do not feel as free to journal. This was a secret relationship and I have not shared it beyond this blog. That makes it even harder and the need to write even greater for me. The following is a poem I wrote. It describes the obsessive and confusing feelings I have about the relationship and the overwhelming and annoying need I have felt to keep checking for e-mail messages from him and reading over old ones for clues about the relationship.

Gardening has always been a passion of mine–a means of escape and creative expression. During the affair, I told him I was going to plant a red garden to remind me of him (his favorite color–of course!) I’ve decided that I will still plant it–for different reasons:

Secrets

I admit that I still come here ….
A secret, virtual park bench, the only place where I can safely
look back on the last six months and collect my thoughts.
Anywhere else, and it feels like my imagination. I know I will be alone here–
that both calms and saddens me.

I have been spending my time among the defrauded and the monsters of
this world–a self-imposed pity party that I remain on the fringes of.
My reality has been shaken to its core–all my basic beliefs about
human nature have been challenged in one fell swoop.
If they are to be believed, people can exist who are beyond redemption–
parasitic monsters in human form, walking among us, their purpose: manipulation,
power and self gratification with no remorse or higher consciousness.
Why can’t I wrap my brain around that? It defies my understanding
of the general goodness and oneness amongst our kind. No matter what,
my glass must stay half full. I will not give in to it completely. I will not
let it ruin me.

Do I come here looking for closure? I wonder. What would that be?
Validation that I’ve been deceived, manipulated, worked over?
Or do I want the comfort of compassionate words– would I believe them? I want to.
I read of the days past, and wonder why I wouldn’t allow myself to read between the lines.
What made me need to believe so badly–what was so broken in me that
could only be repaired by someone else’s words?

I need to go home to the sea. I need to throw this out into the waves. Just like
all those days years ago of skipping school and giving everything up to the ocean.
The sand and salt washing me clean, carrying away my secrets. Instead, I will spend
the next month scrubbing and organizing and rearranging–trying to put some
order back into my thoughts. To scrub my mind clean. To rid myself of the need
to come here everyday to think. To make it go away somehow. To put what happened
in some kind of order. To have it all make sense in the grand scheme of things.

For now, I stay here in this secret place, thinking disordered thoughts, not yet
ready for the spring cleaning. Spring is in the air, I can smell it sometimes, and I can see
it in the way the light has changed. Soon my hands will be covered in warm
soil again. I will remember how cleansing the dirt can be. I am desperate to feel
the warm ground under my feet. To be caught up in the busyness again. To be fully occupied
by something purposeful.

My red garden, the plans have been made. The gestation nearly complete. It will be born this year.
Now standing as a symbol for me, of knowing myself more, of acceptance and neediness,
passion and longing…of understanding. Of wariness, betrayal and secrets. Of all the
paradoxes of human nature. Of mystery and faith. The birds and butterflies will
carry it’s secrets skyward, setting me free again.

I started my current blog on narcissism, psychopaths and evil primarily to write this horrible experienceout of my life. To learn something and share it.

It seems every day I have new epiphany and I get closer to better.

I type fairly well and fast, and writing has always seemed to me a way to “think” rationally and it seems that putting the “truth” on paper somehow makes it more real for me, whether it is “free form” writing or poetry, it seems to take the rancor out of my heart.

While I write and form words with my fingers it seems that the ideas I put on the paper somehow are “spontaneous” and open. I can type without the words going through my brain (typing off something I am reading) some how they go from my eyes to my fingers, bypassing conscious thought, but when I type from my brain to my fingers, it somehow gives my feelings and my thoughts validity and focus and helps me problem solve.

Wow, great article!! YES, writing does help! It’s cathartic, keeps you in touch with your own soul on a daily basis AND it’s fun. I’ve blogged since 2004 or 2005 on every subject meaningful to my own heart and found that, during this period of time and while away from Mr. Not-Wonderful back then (a term coined by the guy I’m sort of seeing now), I found something truly terrific in the process: ME.

It kept this round with Mr. NW at a level where I could almost navigate, could bounce-back much better than in the past, and properly place him and his antics in perspective. Not perfectly in perspective, as I ended-up with romantic shellshock or PTSD for awhile still, but much better than ever before in our joint history.

Writing made me find my self-worth in ways I’d never before realized, even with a degree in journalism and a portfolio full of articles since age 20. It was the personal writing, rather than professional, that made me awaken to every facet of my own being and understand my own worth as a human.

There’s something about transferring your deepest thoughts, good or bad, to a page, particularly one that can be read by other people, that screams: here I am – take me as I am or leave me…but I accept that this is me, warts and all.

i am a writer by trade – working as a newspaper reporter for most of my life…

and i don’t think we need a scientific study to know that writing helps us.

it is well understood that after suffering a trauma that people have the need to tell their story – that’s why reporters have an easy time interviewing a witness to say, a car accident, fire or even the world trade center tragedy.

in 20 years of experience, everyone who witnesses a trauma wants to talk about it – it is almost universal. it provides ‘therapy’ to the person.

i believe that even a child who suffers horrendous abuse can survive it – as alice miller offers – with the help of a compassionate, sympathetic witness.

all it takes is one person who believes in the child and the child can survive.

that it is not so much the abuse, or the trauma – but the absense of a sympathetic witness that leaves us damaged.

if the child has no one to believe him, he turns the blame on himself and suffers for a lifetime. he has no one to say ‘you didn’t deserve what you suffered.’

unfortunately for us, we haven’t had any witness to our trauma, no way to ‘tell our story.’

we have no microphone in our face, or sympathetic aunt with the insight and courage to validate our experience and offer a soft shoulder to cry on.

no one believes our story.

the trauma of life with a psychopath keeps us alone in our suffering.

maybe people will get mad at me for saying this, but sometimes i wish the trauma i suffered was more visible, maybe i could have been a spouse of a fireman who died in the WTC.

it would have been i think, easier, because as horrible as the loss would be, i wouldn’t be alone.

my husband would have been a hero. my nation and community would have reached out and supported me. i would have been asked to tell my story.

i would have professional counselors knocking on my door. neighbors would bring casseroles. my child would have the love and support of other men, maybe fellow firemen, who promised to fill in as his “dads.”

it is amazing to me that today, as my psychopath is working and working me to get back with him AGAIN – i really have no one to reach out to. i am isolated.

how can i tell my friends what i am going through AGAIN? they twist their faces when they look at me.

but here i am, writing. i am writing to you, virtual strangers – who have now become my sympathetic witnesses!

now, i get to tell my story and have it received and validated. i know i will heal. i will resist his manipulation.

years ago, people traumatized by psychopaths couldn’t reach out to each other through the web. they couldn’t do a YAHOO search on “manipulation.”

five years ago, i had no idea what a narcissist was. psychopaths ate human flesh.

now, through my writing, through others’ writing, available to me on the internet, i have told my story. i have seen my story in others. my reality is real. it is validated.

i no longer have to carry around the trauma inside me, because – you see – i write….

Wow to all the comments here and, distraught, I loved your poem.

I mentioned in another thread (at least I think I did; the past few weeks have been so overwhelming for me; I started writing two or three different comments that I never completed and posted) that I have definitely found writing to be helpful. What I do is write the minute I wake up. As soon as I realize I’m awake, I think: ugh, I don’t want to sit up and write, and then I sit up, grab my laptop and start writing anyway, and I do it for at least ten minutes.

I don’t necessarily focus on the trauma in my life. I write about anything that comes into my mind. But, of course, the trauma almost always comes up.

Some mornings I find myself resisting writing about it. I am tempted to write about the weather or what I did yesterday or the mundane chores of the day. At times I allow myself this avoidant behavior. Other times I push myself to face the pain and I allow myself to write about it as fast and as freely as possible.

I remember a line I read long ago. Can’t remember who wrote it or even what kind of book it was in, but it went something like this: Don’t trust any thought arrived at sitting down.

Can’t say I’ve always heeded that wisdom, but I think it’s good advice. And even though writing would technically involve sitting down, I think free writing is active, a combination of physical and mental. Right-brained thinking, hand or fingers moving. Maybe the combination of the mental and physical is what makes it so helpful.

lilyGirl,

You hit on a very important aspect of your suffering is that it is “invisible”—and we don’t get community support for it.

When my P son murdered the girl that he killed, I would gladly have traded places with the mother of the girl, and had my son in a casket and her kid in prison for doing it.

She got community support, and I had to keep my pain “secret” (can’t let the neighbors know!) I locked myself in the house for 3 months, crying like a “gut shot dog” not eating, not sleeping, probably needed to be hospitalized if the truth were known.

It was only when I was able to write this down, and then later, when I went to work in a psych hospital for adolescents, most of which were NOT mentally ill, but were budding psychopaths, that I realized I was NOT ALONE IN MY PAIN, or shame–not that I blamed myself for what he had done, but I realized that my son was a monster and had done the unthinkable.

Yet, even after this he SUCKED me back into his web, and convinced me and his brothers and my mother that he had “repented” and learned something in his years of incarceration—but the mask dropped again, and I saw the “Charlie Manson” eyes, and while his mask was down, he let it slip that he is PROUD OF HIS CRIME, proud that it was “more horrible than even the cops know” (HIS WORDS) and the chilling realization went to my bones that he was NEVER GOING TO CHANGE, he would always be a danger to society, and especially to his family.

Since I have initiated NC with him, I have written and written and gotten the pain out of my heart, and for that I no longer need to write “free flow” about my feelilngs and emotions concerning the loss of my “fantasy” son, the son he could have been but isn’t. MY SON is dead—he died at about age 12 or 13, and the body that keeps walking around and breathing is not my son, but some malignant alien life form that resembles my dead son’s looks.

I have grieved for the loss of my son, the death of his soul, though his body is still mobile, and I no longer believe I can “reach” my son any more than I can pretend that my late husband will be home for supper tonight.

The medical research that is being done about psychopaths, and about our own healing is confirming most of the ideas that I have from “observation.” Once we get past the malignant hope that we can help them, change them, make them see the light or that they will ever change or become “human” we can move on with our own healing.

Thank you Dr. Steve.

I find writing to coalesce the jumble in my mind.

OXDrover- Your situation is hell. I think psychopathy is torture for survivors, friends and family b/c they ( the Psycho) are alive but NOT for all intents and purposes. I couldn’t ever get a real reaction or answer- it was an un-fun house experience.

But there they are playing at remorse…and we want, need are dying for remorse. And what is so disturbing for me is the fact when I see my P I see
the disorder. The mask is hanging, frayed and it has gotten to the weird point they make odd facial contortions when no one sees them…I remember the looks before, but then I thought it was body language, now it’s like someone looking around a corner at me “seeing” them.

OxDrover…

i am sending you my homemade macaroni and cheese casserole right now….you didn’t deserve to go through this…

your friend,
lilygirl

The “invisible” pain, and without the support of the community as in other “tragedies”—or even with the censure of the community—“Well, after all if you had been a good parent you would not have an evil monster for a son” —etc. makes the “writing it down” one of the few outlets we have for our emotions.

I felt trapped—how could I go out and tell my friends “Hey,guess what, my kid just murdered a girl”? Of course my two or three closest friends knew, and were supportive, but I had I felt to “keep up a face” in public.

Keeping up my own mask of “everything is okay” was very energy comsuming and during the first three months when I effectively locked myself in the house, writing it down was the only outlet I had.

Now I go back and read those writings, and it doesn’t seem like it is “me”–but the plot of some movie I saw or some book I read—the painful emotions are no longer there, I can look at it more from an “outside” position as far as my son is concerned now.

Having dealt with several Ps within my close family, as well as having dated one after my husband died, it does not matter what the relationship to the P is–whether it is your son, daughter, mother, father, sibling or S/O, the con is the same, the pain is the same. They hold out the “carrot” to you, and when you are hooked, they start with the “stick.” But it is all about CONTROL and deceit.

If they don’t kill your body, they surely kill your soul, or try to. Setting boundaries and sticking to them, defending them with your life if necessary, is the only way to keep them at bay. They are predators and their blood lust is never satisfied. Some are more viscious than others, more willing to do physical damage or financial damage, or to break the law than others, but they are all evil.

Since I am retired, I don’t have to work around the ones at work, or tolerate their games. In my personal life I have gone NC with every single last one of them. It is the only punishment that you can give them is to totally ignore them. Ignoring them, refusing to give in to their manipulation is the only thing in the world that frustrates them and “drives them up a wall”—especially ones like my son, who are so rage-filled at anyone who “has their number” that if he were out he would be a serial killer and/or stalker.

When you have been around them (especially multiple ones) it seems to me that the closest analogy is that you are literally swimming with the sharks and crocodiles. No matter which way you turn, there is no safety.

When my husband was killed I and my step dad was dying with cancer at the same time (I was his primary caregiver) I had so much community support, and I recalled the time with my son when my grief was at least as deep, my sense of loss as much, and I had NO community support. I was ALONE, even my wonderful husband (who was also devestated) could not comfort me. WRiting it down let me put it in perspective I think, let me put the jumble into some sort of order.

I think because we have looked Satan himself directly in the eye, our view points have changed from before we really understood just how evil “ordinary” people can be—it doesn’t have to be a third-world dictator, or a Hitler, they are just Ps on a larger scale—but having seen the evil, we are forever changed, but at the same time, it can make us more sensitive to other’s pain and increase our compassion for our fellow human beings who are still trapped in pain.

This is my first post although I have been reading this site for a while and it has really helped me understand better what happened to me.
My stepmother is a sociopath and as a child for about 13 years after my father married her, I had to deal with her constant attempts to humiliate and psychologically abuse me. I know how everyone feels when they say they suffered in silence. I couldn’t say anything about the situation because the rest of the family, including my father, denied that anything was wrong. I was the oldest and bore the brunt of her abuse but I didn’t have a soul to turn to who could understand the extent of what was happening to me. I used to tell close friends in school that my stepmother was “very bad” but as a child I had no idea what sociopaths were and thought I was the crazy one, and that it was all in my head.

I could tell them all the little things that she did, but that wouldn’t even begin to descibe the way the sociopath’s mind works and how they plot every single moment how they are going to manipulate the victim.

I feel that for the first time I am beginning to understand what she is and I have finally been able to overcome the depression that has been plagueing me for years after what this woman did to me. From reading all of your posts and the articles on this site, I can’t tell you how much I have been able to heal. I have started to write in my journal about my experiences with her, even those that happened years and years ago, and it is like a weight is lifted from my shoulders. But the biggest stride I have made is writing about it to my dad and having him finally acknowledge what happened. I really feel free and validated after that. Thanks so much for being my sympathetic witnesses and keep posting, this counts as writing too! 🙂

OxDrover…
I so agree with your comment about looking Satan in the eye. I just said to a friend yesterday, ‘once you look directly into the face of evil, you are never the same person again.’

My naivete is gone, and I am grateful for that because I am becoming so much more compassionate towards other people and their problems. I believe this has been one of my life lessons all along… perhaps I could have learned it in a bit of an easier way?? Or maybe this was the only way I would have learned it.

I write and write and write every day. For now, I feel it is my biggest outlet. I write about the memories, the pain, the craziness, all that I am feeling. At some point, my writing will diminish, and I hope that this is the point where I will be able to finally let it go and attempt to move on.

Ariadne… sometimes I have to stop myself when telling friends/family some of the things he’s done to me, because it sounds foolish and they just don’t understand that someone could actually think in such a manipulative way. But, all of us on this site understand that these people truly do plot every moment about how they will proceed with their manipulations. I have been feeling frightened lately just imagining what must go through their minds.

Life will go on and we will all be stronger and more compassionate people. We have to believe there is a reason this has happened to us. It is so hard to be alone with our pain. It would have been much easier to have witnesses and people that publicly acknowledge our pain. Since we do not, I will keep writing until I get it all out, if ever.

Adriane,

Having your father finally VALIDATE the truth of your abuse I am sure must be very healing for you.

I think one of the worst pains for me is that my enabling mother has never validated the pain that my biological father (a first class violent P) put me through. Even though she will say about him “he will lie when the truth will fit better” she choses to believe him and to call me a liar for telling her what he did to me. For so many years I so wanted her to validate my abuse at his hand, just to “believe me” would have been enough.

The last night I saw my NM when the light finally went on in my head that I could not deal with her, that she had as twisted an out look as the Ps, she looked me in the eye with THAT P-LOOK that I have only seen before on my P-son’s face, and on my Biological P-father’s face, and on that photo of Charlie Manson that is so famous, and I realized that she is just as disordered as they are. Maybe she doesn’t meet the “check list” but she is just as incapable of seeing what her behavior and manipulation is doing to her family, or to me.

Recognizing that LOOK, and going NC with her finally, has given me the first true peace I have had in my life. I am no longer trying to please the unpleasable mother, and I went NC with the P-bio-father 40+ yrs ago, so though my biological family is now reduced to my one bio-son and my adopted son, but it is enough. I don’t need anyone in my life that is TOXIC any more than I need a cancerous organ in my body spreading toxins throughout my soul.

Though I wish my mother had validated me, but I realized that I don’t NEED HER VALIDATION to make it true. What is true is true, even if I am the only one that belives it.

I am sorry that you suffered at the hands of this P-woman, but maybe now you are at a place where you can heal and put this behind you. Though I would never “wish” a P on my worst enemy, at the same time, I thnk there is gain to be had by surviving the encounters, in spite of the pain it causes, and taht in the end, we come out better and more understanding people for having suffered through it and survive. God bless you.

Free:

“I have learnt that life is a masquerade. People hide who they really are. I no longer believe that what you see is what you get. Masks cover pain and loss and masks cover evil.”

I would bet, though, that you do not think you are that way. Am I right? Do you feel pretty unfiltered, direct, very “what you see is what you get”? Was thinking about the mask versus the ‘no poker face’ personalities out in the world. People do seem to wear them and I am awful with that kind of thing. Are you able to do that regularly or only when having to deal with something so difficult?

Is that maybe what draws N’s — our lack of ability to comfortably wear any masks?

Maybe we need to look for people who wear less masks, whose masks are lighter and easier to remove than the N’s. Because the N’s mask is like one of those Russian nesting dolls…underneath is just another mask, and another, and another, with nothing at the core.

I got into to trouble by being too open. I don’t advocate being someone you are not, but I know I need to erect huge boundaries.

I just assumed admitting where one is, what is going on would help, would be honest and be received well.

Well, no….when I was lucky the person I spoke to or was open with did not use my confidences against me—when it went bad, well…HERE I AM : )

I hate to be cynical, and cold but I have come to believe GOOD true friends re few and far between. I have to be satisfied where I am and who I am…or else….I can’t go through that again or put those closest to me through that again–including me.

The hardest part for me, this is so freaking shocking to me, is realizing…
I was willing to put up with damn near anything to have friends

I still I have vestiges of malignant optimism, but I realize even the Psychos in my life would be shocked I did considering what they did, one in particular.

What I am tying to say–is I am just coming to terms with the fact I thought it was OK for someone else to mistreat me in sadisitic ways.
And I would forgive w/o them having asked…over and over. When I should have counter-attacked.

Something did eventually snap and I drove them off in a manner the only way they could get in again is me. And I am growing in strength with all the knowledge I getting here.

Just tonight I realized a particular psycho was/is as cold as a man profiled on TV for murdering his wife, chopping her up and recalling in a
jovial manner sending her body parts down a hill in their child’s sled.
That’s how depraved one psycho who victimized me is, shallow emotions, hollow and cold.

Be careful these creatures do objectify and would kill if it suited their need. We know they do.

Oh, Free I was not meaning to come across as grilling you or questioning your need for that type of mask, to mask pain. Apologize so much if that is how it came across in writing. I am so sorry. Sometimes I am not clear enough.

What I was saying/asking in a roundabout way is that maybe some of our magnetic pull from S’paths has to do with the fact we are so open and honest as people and don’t wear masks well or happily, as they do. I was wondering if you would have classified yourself as someone who despises having to hide your emotions, usually.

But I swear nothing I wrote was meant as an attack. We share a lot of similar bad events in our history. The masking of pain begins early in those situations, because it is impossible to accept living in an environment dangerous to you when you are too young and vulnerable to remove yourself physically from that environment, and the people responsible for hurting you are supposed to be the people who love you.

Understand the need to mask pain, because society doesn’t know how to deal with a person in pain. Even those of us who are empathic sometimes have trouble with finding the right way to help or the right words to say.

Anyway, I’m sorry for the way I phrased my questioning.

I have trouble with erecting boundaries that don’t feel like masks sometimes. That was all.

You are free , Free !! That’s the amazing silver lining of going through this…when you finally break away, regardless of how it’s done, there’s an exhilarating rush involved, a sudden, intuitive understanding that help is on the way. In the form of YOU, the you that’s been sublimated and scorned for so long, that’s carrying around shame that doesn’t even belong to you.

What happened to us as kids is not anything we should feel ashamed of, ironically enough. The people who did what they did, they do not feel the shame. We take it on, though…and then when we meet an N, we take on their garbage, too. It’s a temporary exchange: they suck out our light, deposit their darkness. But it never lasts, because a person cannot change their intrinsic goodness or badness, so when we get away, eventually our light comes back and they…well, I don’t know what they do, actually. But our selves return to us. The fog clears and we start feeling things again – starting, usually, with a lot of pain.

Sometimes it feels like we try to take on another’s sorrow and shame because we feel so much empathy in general, but that’s not the same as deserving or owning it.

No need for you to apologize, to me or anyone else. Rereading my late comments last night, I realized they can be read in any tone and they were not at all clear.

You’re incredibly strong to have gone to work, soldiered on while going through this roller coaster life with a S’path. Some days I could not even get out of bed. And even now, months later, I know in my heart that I still have feelings for him — but when we were together, it was clear only one of us was going to survive and thrive in that relationship and it wasn’t going to be me.

So, I choose me. And yet I can’t make myself stop caring about him, despite all I know. Just like I couldn’t stop caring about my family, despite what they did.

It’s ok. It really is ok. We’re only human and we do the best we can with what information we have at the time…we need to give the ownership of the bad behavior back to the people who earned it.

I have been keeping notes since my N started acting up (he has gone now). I was looking back on them last night because at the time, I didnt know who he was and what he was up to and my notes have all the raw information without the label to tie it all together. Here is some of it..

‘I feel neglected and vulnerable, not feeling enough affection, feeling unworthy, undervalued and unsupported. Feeling I hold everything together, while he receives/takes. He wants everything on his terms. He makes overt sexual tease so it all goes into my head and then he cuts me dead. I dont feel exclusive or special, I feel dispensible. He doesnt seem to be interested in me as a person. He never says sorry for anything. he rigidly sticks to his viewpoint and when I bring somethng up he withdraws – punishes. He only cares about me when things are calm. I dont feel special, he keeps telling me about the hints/sexual innuendoes he has made to female work mates and it is annoying. When he text me that he realises what I am worth to him – I got the shudder – he doesnt say what I mean to him – so he is looking at my worth. I am spending considerable time worrying about his activities and whether he is genuine.

Sometimes, I think he does and says things to make me jealous and play on my reactions. If he cant be honest about what goes on in his background, we can never be a couple. He acts like he is number 1, but he doesnt look after himself, so it is not self esteem. He keeps things to himself and I am left wondering why he hasnt revealed himself. I feel like he is living with a part of him in shadow. He is always living in debt. He has a stubborn and unforgiving attitude. Overly responsible at work, is fully committed to that. His way of dealing with things is slow, he bides his time. I want to face problems, but he walks away. I am not getting my needs met on every level.

He doesnt keep me in the picture – I say to him ‘I know you’, he says ‘you dont know me at all’ – what does he mean? He doesnt keep me in the picture. He feels important when in demand by other women and I feel i could be easily replaced. I dont want to invade his privacy, but expect him to discuss, but he doesnt. He is very mistrusting of women, and is very particular who he gets involved with, he seems to have many women as ‘mates’ is that normal? He seems to be tired all the time and doesnt want a complicated relationship and needs alot of space, so his companion must make no demands on him, other than the basics and she must not have a complicated life or ups and downs with children.

He can be a good listener, but doesnt communicate and is emotionally closed and heavy to be with at times. He is exhausting to be with and is not worth the effort. He lies bout things and spends most of his time alone. Even when we get together he demands to be apart for some reason or other. I feel neglected and unwanted. He regulates when he contacts me and leaves days inbetween contact why does he do that? I get anxious and over react and he walks away. I see signs he is not committed and I have doubts about trusting him. Instead of supporting me, he punishes me. Sometimes I feel he is manipulating me, making comments and insinuations to gain the upper hand. He keeps telling me that women are looking at him and it makes me jealous, because I think he is in demand and could leave me.

He says I am good for him, but when I express myself he doesnt accept my differences. I am not convinced that I am the special person he says I am – when we are together he wants to be apart – what is that about? He makes himself the ‘jewel’ in the relationship, like I have to earn the right to be with him by behaving ‘well’. He says I am confrontational and is hinting he can live without me. He tries out different women, like he wants perfection in one person and I dont seem to tick all his boxes, especially when I over react to things he has done. he has strict views about people and doesnt accept people’s imperfections. I allow myself to be hurt by constantly taking him back after a fall out. I give too much without boundaries. I put my needs to the back which allows him to think that he is the kingpin.

He keeps trying to reassure me that he really loves me, but when things go awry, I become suspicious and think the worst. he fuels my fears by his non communication and he guards his privacy . I have tried hard to adapt but I feel starved of affection and I adapted because I love him. I dont know whether he is pushing my buttons and trying to teach me a lesson on purpose. He keeps saying I am his ideal woman, but he doesnt treat me like I am. I find him very secretive and very hard work. I want trust, but he doesnt tell me things about his background – he keeps saying he doesnt have to justify anything. I keep picking up on things and it seems like he is settling for me as giving him security – possibly whilst he has others behind my back. He makes excuses and avoid intimacy. He keeps saying things to me that leave me wondering what he means. I have been too compliant, he seems to control me and keep me at a distance, exalting his presence – like I am privileged to have him. He takes advantage of my kindness and when I put my foot down, he walks out.

He seems to want everything on his terms and regulates how much he puts into the relationship. What does he do and where is he? I make alot of allowances for him, but he doesnt accommodate me. I cant work out whether he is being sneaky or private. He glosses over explanations, doesnt give me the full details. ‘Going for a drink with a MATE’. Not sure if he is genuine or keeping me at arms length. I cant trust him, his explanations. He asks me to pay for drinks – he never has money, spends large amounts with accounting for it. I go to a cleaning job in the evening to make money and I see that he is sitting in the pub. He detaches and doesnt get too close but occ. reassures me, I think he is controlling me. He keeps himself well but he is rather vain. After a break up we get close and then he closes down really quickly. i didnt want to sound controlling, so I didnt put in boundaries about things he was saying that really hurt me. i sit back and watch his behaviour but I am giving him the impression everything is ok. I trusted him to manage his boundaries, but when I find womens phone numbers on his phones, I dont believe the excuses he keeps feeding me’. Why has he got 12 phones?

I have edited out some of it – but it was all there – the red flags – his manoeveurs – his control – his detachment – his punishing me to conform – his witholding details – his creating confusion – his narcissistic qualities. Sorry this is so lengthy, but may be of use to newcomers looking for raw material.

Wow Beverly. This is amazing to look back at isn’t it? Maybe you could submit this to Donna for a Post. This would be a very powerful BLOG entry for new people to come across. It might get lost in the blog comments after a month or two. There is so much here to read.

When I first found this site, I was able to read everything and get up to speed but now it has grown so much it would be a daunting task. I have trouble keeping up as it is.

BTW, I have read that it is a normal reaction for victims of the disordered to start taking notes and tracking their behavior. This is because we are trying to determine a pattern so we can find a way to “fix” what we are doing that might be causing that… because as adults, we are aware of cause and effect. This is why the question “Why” never get’s answered… because the answer is not what we are expecting. We are expecting there to be some sort of cause and therefore a solutions.. something we can fix. The answer is because they are sociopaths or borderlines or Narcissists. etc.

Why do lions eat gazelles? Why can’t the gazelles stop doing whatever it is they do that makes lions eat them. Hmmmm?

I would call your notes, “Notes on a Sociopath” or “Portrait of a Sociopath.” I am amazed when I look back at all the behaviors of the Bad Man. After awhile, I knew something wasn’t right but I just didn’t know what it was.

It is sad to think that right now, there are so many people out there that are asking themselves all these same questions you had about someone who told them they loved them. It’s funny what we will do for “love” isn’t it?

Thank God we are out! Thank God.

Beverly, the “you don’t know me at all” comment is very telling with Ns and Ps.

You are right, the “red flags” are there, but I discounted them. I didn’t want to believe them when I dated the P, or with my son a P as well–

Keeping “notes” on the uncomfortable things in the relationship may also help a person to see the “pattern” whereas we tend to “forget” some of the things that make us uncomfortable or strange feeling.

I didn’t keep notes with my son, but was able to go back and read and reread some of the letters he wrote to me, and they were ALL there as well…and when in person he “dropped his mask” and told me “you wouldn’t like me so well if you knew the truth about my crime, it was much more horrible than even the cops knew” (he was trying to frighten me I think because he was frustrated that I was no longer allowing him to manipulate me.) Later I read in a letter he wrote to someone else BRAGGING about how “horrible his crime was” so I KNEW then, the red flags had been waving and I knew that I had been ignoring them. I instituted NC right then—but it was so difficult because I watned to “tell him off” in a letter. I wrote it 100 times, but tore the all up, I never mailed it.

Our family is NC now for 8 months with him. If there was a way to punish him, this is it. He is driven “crazy” with not being able to manipulate and control the family and no contact, and nothing he does or says gets a response of any kind. I guess if there is ever a punishment for a P it is NC. Which is sort of nice I guess in a perverse way, it punishes them by taking away their CONTROL and makes us strong.

Beverly — that’s AMAZING to view and digest in one sitting, isn’t it? I did the same thing – journaling every day on the weird, mean things he would say, the lies that wouldn’t add up, comments about people being “replaceable” (huh??? that was near the last straw to me) and the withholding: sex, affection…opinion. Who, when they make a comment and are asked to elaborate on that comment, explain it – not asked threateningly, but nicely, for advice – refuses to answer? Won’t say they’re sorry ever, or says it in a fake condescending abrupt way (like they are the opposite of sorry)? Who keeps mentioning other women and changes the goal posts of your relationship?

An S’Path. An S’Path does all of the above we’ve experienced…and MORE, if you let them.

I’m…stunned. All over again.

Thank you so much for posting your experiences. Seeing them and feeling like someone else was reading my own thoughts is just further confirmation. I’m CONVINCED we would not have noticed these things so overtly, because they happen over time and ambiently, slowly, stealthily, had we not been writing it down and keeping a record of it.

I even wrote myself a note which said ‘if he tries to come back after the next break up – remember that he is punishing-deceiving, manipulative, rigid, unforgiving etc etc. Guess what, I over rode my own note to myself and I went onto take the final and worst part of the relationship.

A few months prior to ending it, a friend told me she had seen him leaving a pub with a girl. I wrote him a letter, he sent me abusive texts denying it, I went to see him in anger, he refused to talk to me so I pushed him over and he threw me out. Six weeks later, he wooed me back and everything was good. But little did I know that he had got me back to punish me and teach me a lesson for pushing him over. I think by then he had realised that I wasnt a ‘push over’ and in his mind he had written me off, so had nothing towards me.

I also started keeping a diary of his patterns, what nights he cancelled, what his excuses were, so that I could be sure of my facts when questioning him and because i was checking up on him. He lived at the top of my road for 4 months and then moved out of the area, presumably because then I couldnt keep an eye on him.

Beverly , not to keep singling you out but our experiences are just so similar sometimes, it’s eerie to me. Also, we seem somewhat similar as people. Definitely “too nice” in many ways. What you said here:

“But little did I know that he had got me back to punish me and teach me a lesson for pushing him over.”

Mine did the same thing! We got back together for a very brief period in November/December of last year. Of course, he did not want to talk about things at all, but superficially everything was ok…for a few weeks. Next meeting he attacked me for every comment not related to either the poker game on the tv at the bar (I’d said we should call it an early night because I was tired but he had this evil glint in his eye and said, “Oh, the night’s young….I had a weird feeling at that moment).

Finally, he took great glee with a big smile in saying over and over, “But I don’t love you….I don’t…I don’t….” and then pretended I wasn’t even in his apartment. We’d been drinking and I couldn’t drive home, but we hadn’t really been fighting. I did cry when he said he didn’t love me like that. It was like some big “reveal moment” for him….TADA, Sucker! Look what I got you to believe for a year!”

It’s really ok that he didn’t love me. What wasn’t ok was the joy he took in inflicting pain on me through this disclosure. The smile on his face, more like a sneer. Pretending I wasn’t there.

He’d done smaller versions of this in the past. Looking back, I have no idea how I stayed and so, very little trust that I’m at the place in life where intuition would kick-in enough to get me out of a similar situation very early on. It’s also quite painful to even type this.

He really delighted in hurting me, even as far back as 12 years ago when we met. And I never understood why until 2007, finding these N and P sites. It just seemed unfathomable that anyone could take pleasure out of hurting someone they were intimate with…it just wouldn’t compute in my brain. It wouldn’t even register. Think I blocked it out or dissociated from it the times he’d been like that in the past, the “accidental” shoving doors in my face, etc.

Wow. Is it a pathetic feeling to recount this. Part of me reading it while typing is saying “Hey, — why didn’t you RUN immediately?”

The short answer is that I loved him. Your love in your posts is apparent, too, even though we both know they are poison. My love for him has really faded, but the horror of what he did seems to keep growing, as I remember little by little.

I wrote down my nightmares for a long time and then began writing before I went to sleep. This article reminded me that this writing helped me significantly. I am going to dig out one of my notebooks and begin writing again tonight. I am continuing to use the Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness CDs when I wake up and it also makes a difference. Little things like this can make a big difference and help me appreciate who I am as well as have empathy and love for others going through so many things.

Writing on the Lovefraud blog really helps me get my feelings out.For some reason,I have a hard time doing this on my own.Probably has something to do with having to keep my feelings to myself so so very long that now I have trouble expressing them unless prompted.

Beverly and LilOrphan sound so much like me!

After 3 appointments, my therapist told me to write to him between appointments. That was 3 years ago, November. I still write to him all the time. Does he read them? Many of them, yes. He even writes back and talks about them in our sessions.

He recommended that I find a more apropos board for me to become active on, as opposed to the divorce board I was following.

I never had a diary, never kept a journal during my mom’s handicap. It would have put a lot of things in perspective.

Seeing thoughts ‘on paper’ helps me see things in an orderly fashion. I need order in my life. I only wish I wrote years and years ago.

I found the intensity of my nightmares went down when I wrote about them. They are intensifying again and I am hopeful I can get them managed down by writing them down. It is such a good way to release things out of our hearts and brains.

Lost: Do you see your spath treating you differently…applying himself to the therapy? I am very curious about that. I would never be able to show the spath what I wrote and feel emotionally safe and I wonder what your therapist is doing to make him learn how to work at this without it negatively affecting you.

I wrote for years about my feelings concerning the pain and heartache over my only child. It helped some but what helped most was turning it all over to the Lord and letting it go. I stopped looking at his myspace (at that time myspace was the big thing and that is how I discovered his lies, dual life, etc)and his facebook (as well as other family members and friends who condoned his lifestyle). For the last several years, I have had intense pain in my heart, abnormal racing and fluttering,it would wake me up at night, baffling the doctors. I can honestly say I know what a broken heart feels like. When I stopped the torture of reading the lies, manipulation, deception, etc.(which I had no control over nor could convince anyone of what he is)and released it all, my heart pain immediately stopped. I do not have to continue to torture myself with knowing every detail nor remind myself that my family and friends have not supported us but betrayed us in siding with him.

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