This request always left me at a loss for words. It made me really uncomfortable. Most of the time I would just state basic facts: the city I grew up in, where I went to school, what my profession is. I wasn’t trying to be unfriendly…….I honestly had no idea how to answer this. I only recently realized why this was so difficult for me.
When you are raised by psychopaths, or in a relationship with a psychopath, the lines between their life and yours get blurred. They swallow you up like a sinkhole. Your desires, feelings, goals and interests no longer matter. If the psychopath likes something, you’d better find a way to like it too. If they think something is ridiculous, you’d better feel the same way. Individuality is not tolerated by psychopaths, because that would mean releasing control over you. Sadly, psychopaths simply see other people as vessels to get whatever they want, kind of like using a car to get from Point A to Point B. Then, one of two things happens: either they accomplish what they want and toss you out like yesterday’s trash, or there never is a “Point B” because the psychopath is fixated on controlling your every move. In my case, my parents were the latter.
After you’ve been manipulated by a psychopath for so long, you no longer have an identity. That is exactly how the psychopath wants it. The more they can consume you, the more content they are (as content as a psychopath can be, anyway). Looking back on my life, this “blurring of the lines” became a distinct pattern for me. Once I left my parents’ home and began my life as an adult, I still had no idea who I was. I subconsciously started molding myself to whoever my boyfriend was at the time. If he liked cars, I started reading Hot Rod magazine. If he liked golf, I studied up on bogeys, birdies and eagles. In fact, when I started dating my golf-fanatic husband, I drove the cart, practiced at driving ranges, and watched golf with him every Sunday. I thought I was being a “good girlfriend.” Truth be told, I hated golf. And I still do. But it wasn’t until many years later I found the courage to say “I’ll go in the other room and paint while you watch golf.” I knew my husband wouldn’t be offended, but daring to say “I prefer to do something else right now” was a massive leap for me.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t take interest in other people’s lives. That is still important, even if you don’t share the same enthusiasm for something. But there is a huge difference between caring about the other person and becoming the other person. That is where the lines get blurred when you are caught up with a psychopath.
If you are recovering from a life with a psychopath, embracing your individuality can be pretty scary. Your mind gets filled with a lot of “shoulds” and “should-nots.” The uncertainty and lack of confidence can be overwhelming. In my case, I relied on others to define my thoughts and emotions. I constantly needed reassurance: Is what I’m feeling okay? Am I doing the right thing? Is this normal? Pay attention to those thoughts, especially the ones concerning your feelings. Instead of questioning them, embrace them as part of who you are. Maybe you feel differently about something than other people do. That’s okay! No two people are on the same journey in life. This is YOUR journey and your feelings are part of who YOU are!
That has been a huge concept for me, because I’ve been “trained” to think that I am a non-person. I am in my 40’s, and I’m only beginning to develop my own identity. I still catch myself questioning, worrying, over-thinking. After being raised by psychopaths and exposed to their brain-washing for decades, the hypervigilance is hard to break. But this is what I’ve learned so far: We each have a unique contribution to this world that no one else can give, and it will never be revealed as long as our identity is always enmeshed with someone else’s.