By | November 8, 2009 250 Comments

When does bitterness become a disorder?

The damage done to strangers, lovers and family members by sociopaths includes physical, emotional, psychological, social and financial harm. Over the years I have encountered many people whose lives have been damaged in this way.

The victimization alone is very sad, but people suffer not only from the actual damage but from their psychological and emotional reactions to it. It is one thing to lose a large sum of money or time that you can’t ever get back. The losses happened and are permanently in the past. It is another thing for a person’s present to be occupied by that loss.

The Aftermath is often more extensive than the victimization itself

It is my observation that for many victims this aftermath lasts a long time and includes considerable dysfunction and this dysfunction causes additional damage. Many have used the label “PTSD” for these psychological, emotional and physical reactions to victimization. Although I agree that diagnosis may fit some, I have never been entirely comfortable with it applied to this context. The reason is that PTSD technically applies to only to situations that are “life-threatening.” PTSD is an anxiety disorder as opposed to an “adjustment disorder” and some symptoms that victims have are not based in “anxiety.”

Psychologist and Professor, Dr Michael Linden, of the Research Group Psychosomatic Rehabilitation, Berlin, Germany has proposed a new disorder be added to the DSM. This disorder, termed Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder or PTED describes the reactions I have seen in many people victimized by sociopaths.

I thought seriously about this blog for two weeks before posting it because suggesting there is such a thing as PTED is far from politically correct and sincerely, I would not want anyone to get the idea that I blame victims for their aftermath symptoms. On the other hand, I hope that those who have the symptoms Dr. Linden identifies will consider addressing them. I am also not in favor of the medicalization of common psychological reactions and so am not rushing to advocate PTED be declared an official diagnosis.

What is PTED?

Just as PTSD is thought to result from the threat of loss of life, PTED results from a different kind of threat. Dr. Linden states regarding PTED, “The core pathogenic mechanism is not the provocation of anxiety, but a violation of basic beliefs. This threat to deeply held beliefs, acts upon the patient as a powerful psychological shock, which triggers a prolonged feeling of embitterment and injustice.”

For victims of sociopath’s the sociopath’s behavior violates core beliefs about human nature and sense of safety. That theme is discussed over and over on this website.

Diagnostic and associated features

The essential feature of posttraumatic embitterment disorder is the development of clinically significant emotional or behavioral symptoms following a single exceptional, though normal negative life event. The person knows about the event and perceives it as the cause of illness. The event is experienced as unjust, as an insult, and as a humiliation. The person’s response to the event must involve feelings of embitterment, rage, and helplessness. The person reacts with emotional arousal when reminded of the event. The characteristic symptoms resulting from the event are repeated intrusive memories and a persistent negative change in mental well-being. Affect modulation is unimpaired and normal affect can be observed if the person is distracted”¦

Besides prolonged embitterment individuals may display negative mood, irritability, restlessness, and resignation. Individuals may blame themselves for the event, for not having prevented it, or for not being able to cope with it. Patients may show a variety of unspecific somatic complaints, such as loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, pain.

PTED is said to be a disabling condition and is very difficult to treat.

Additional comments

Although I read two of Dr. Linden’s papers (see below) I was disappointed that he failed to define what it means to be bitter. How does bitterness differ from other reactions like anxiety or grief? Bitter is not an emotion it is a taste. Is he suggesting that victims have an actual bitter taste in their mouths? In studying dictionary definitions I can offer that bitterness is unique in that there is an anger/hostility component- synonym resentful, hostile feeling.

Provided he can more precisely define bitterness, I think Dr. Linden may be communicating something useful here. That is the idea that we have to mobilize our resources to move beyond events that threaten us. Events that threatened core beliefs may be very traumatic for people. It is important for victims to examine their core beliefs in recovering from a relationship with a sociopath.

I am interested in your reactions to this proposed diagnosis.


Linden, Michael, Kai Baumann, Barbara Lieberei, and Max Rotter. 2009. “The Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder Self-Rating Scale (PTED Scale).” Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy 16, no. 2: 139-147.

Linden, Michael, Kai Baumann, Max Rotter, and Barbara Schippan. 2008. “Diagnostic criteria and the standardized diagnostic interview for posttraumatic embitterment disorder (PTED).” International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice 12, no. 2: 93-96.

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Ox Drover

This is one of the most thought provoking articles for me that have been presented on LF in the past year.

While not every behavior is or should be, I think, a “diagnosis” in the DSM the concept of “PTED” as a result of the devestation of such negative events in our lives as the losses suffered by victims is very interesting.

I noticed when I was working in family practice clinics the differences in how different patients perceived various levels of physical pain and in how the dealt with it. some patients would “cry” over a “paper cut” while other patients would “walk in on their broken leg”—why the differences? Cultural? Why?

I recently read that a GENE has been discovered for pain tolerance and there is a genetic difference in how people perceive pain. Of course there is “environment” and “training” as well, but there was an ANSWER to my wonderings.

I have also wondered why different people react so differently to the devestation caused by the trauma of the losses. Why some people never seem to “go on” with their life, but become “forever bitter” or “forever helpless”?

As Dr. Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” talked about how different people in the Nazi camps would just give up and turn their faces to the wall and die, and others would fight to survive. Hang on. Also how sxome when they were released became destructive, others became and stayed bitter, etc.

I remember the article you wrote about the “helpless mouse” and I wonder if there is something like that going on here.

I think the use of the term “PTSD” to describe the “state” in which some suvivors of psychopaths find themselves emotionally, is like you said, not “clinically” correct, but yet is “close” in terms of the reactions of the victims.

“The same sun that hardens the clay, will melt the wax” is a phrase I have heard in my family all my life. The meaning of course is that the same conditions that will act on two different substances get different results because of the make up of the substances themselves. The sun hardens the clay into brick, but melts the wax into a puddle.

So WHY does an encounter with a psychopath melt one person into a puddle of bitterness, and make another a warrior? (and all stages in between)

Making every action/reaction into an “offical” diagnosis I dont’ think is the answer to catagorizing every human behavior as an “illness” or “disorder” but the man has sure come up with some food for thought for victims and those who treat them or support them.

Thanks for this article, it will give me something to ruminate on for quite some time. As always, your articles are interesting, inspiring and thought provoking for application to our lives.



Wow, amazing, right on target article, again!

The 100% agree, the entire family can suffer from this ‘PTED’, as an aftermath of a sociopath. The direct victim, which iin our case is the person who married a sociopath, parents of this victim, (they are also victims) and extended family her brother and sister and law who, for whatever reason, allowed the sociopath to survive in their world. I am not being critical of their reasons because it has to do with manipulation by an extremely good con man. They have to be feeling anger, hostility and resentment after the ‘full mask’ was revealed and they know they have been conned by a sociopath. They were emotionally and financiall impacted by him.

And, it truely affected people like myself and my husband, who actually tried to warn them, identifying many ‘Red Flags’ and advising them to get rid of him. We feel bittter, first and foremonst, at the ‘sociopath’ but at the parents and extended family members who did not listen or chose to ignore the information that we brought to their attention. And of course, felt we were totally off base and cruel to ever think this guy was living a lie and using them.

Sounds very convoluted …but describes what has been happening in our situation.

To me as long as any ‘bitterness’ stays with the family then the sociopath still wins the game. But right now we see no light at the end of the tunnel and try to have little to no contact. Because when we do have contact, it is always turned against us, blame, bitterness and attitude. And we are as quilty of blasting the people we think should let go of any bitterness toward us.

My reaction to this post is, ‘perspective’ – my optimism will be that some day a healthier perspective can exist among this small family of ours. However, if that does not occur, we remain encouraged that the sociopath is out of their lives and they can now move forward.

Thanks for the post!


This is the challenge for all of us – and for some, more of a challenge than
for others. Bitterness is something I know I have guarded against, it is
a negative force and road I don’t want to go down. So perhaps bitterness
is more about free will, we get to choose whether to be the clay or the
wax, like seeing the glass half-empty or half-full.

Thanks for investigating this in your article, Liane – it’s something that affects us all and can determine the speed and positive sense of effectively approaching our own respective futures.



Yes, I would love the anser to that question of why some people remain ‘bitter’ and isolated from the real world and others turn into ‘warriors’?

I know we can only work on keeping ‘our perspective’ more healthy, we can not control anyone else in how they deal.

Thanks to all you ‘warriors’ on this site.


excuse that over-verbose sentence, I ‘chose’ to be too wordy…

Ox Drover

Dear Inquirente, I ahve enjoyed your perspectives and also persephone’s. I think sometimes I have been both the “wax and the clay” alternately. Why? I’m not sure. sometimes I think I know myself less than others “know” me…self diagnosing why we do anything is very difficult because we only have our internal perspective. And frankly, I have not always been “honest with myself” (how many of us really are?) LOL Isn’t being honest with outselves and facing the truth wht Love Fraud is all about? What the journey we are all making is all about?

In fact, in our family we have a tradition of the “Eleventh Commandment” (in addition to the 10 that Moses got) and the “Eleventh commandment” is “THOU SHALT NOT FOOL THYSELF” I think that more people have violated that 11th one than ALL the other 10 put together! I know that I have.


Hi Oxy and Inquirente:

Oxy – that’s a good observation about sometimes ‘being the wax and the
clay alternately’ and I’ve done that too. But I think even that is just about
our being human, like being vulnerable at one moment and strong the next.
And these crazy relationships fragment us in ways that normal ones don’t,
right down to our being ‘waxy’ or ‘hard’. And neither is bad – you could
actually see being flexible or free-flowing as positive in some instances,
where being hard, or inflexible could be a detriment in others.

God gave us the capacity for so many emotions, we are masters of our
own incredible machine that is ever-changing and didn’t really come with
a set manual. That it is sometimes written in a language we don’t understand is part of the class we’ve all been (and are) attending.
It’s kind of like ‘Life for Dummies’ though we don’t have to see ourselves
as Dummies – I like the ‘Warriors’ label much better!



You’re right as well about the sociopath ‘winning the game’ if we choose
the path of bitterness and not realizing full, happy lives after our encounters with them.


Wow! This article was dead on for me. I have been through so much in my life in relationships and I have survived without becoming bitter.. until lately.. I have pulled into myself and I am sure am a bit depressed. I have lost the hope of love.. that there is man that knows what it is and isn’t just an act. I am trying to not lose my soft side, my feminine good stuff and that I will have it to be open to the right man that enters my life. I have been hurt more in my heart than with this last man but this last man took away something else. He was so contrived and orchestrated while he had little to nothing to offer me in the way of a life but his attention. But the attention that he agve to me was enticing. I have never had that much and now, I am finding the beginning of a normal relationship is strange and tedious. I have never moved fast into anything, but after he spun me in at lightening speed. It is like I have this imprint on me, that if it isn’t fast, it isn’t happening. THis last man confused me on a level that I haven’t felt before. Because his intentions appeared so good and worthy while being not so. And it was so one sided. He literally convinced me and I went dragging into it.. and now I am left feeling strange about it all. I am having this aftemath to experincing a relationship with a man that I was not sure that I wanted. He convinced me, he made it happend then I guess, I wanted what he said tobe real and true and it wasn’t so now am left with the after feelings.. Wondering..can I ever trust again. And I was thinking, I never really loved this man because I didn’t respect him. Innately, I didn’t have respect for him or his behavior or his talk, I found it interesting even fascinating. And he kept me spinning and connected to him. Now, I am disconnected and I feel a need to plug in ….it is very strange.. this feeling…And the realization that my instincts were accurate. His love is only if you fit his agenda, believe him and do has he wishes.. even to your spiritual beliefs… Thanks I am just getting my thoughts out.. I am processing.. I don’t want to carry bitterness.. and some on here from their posts are into revenge and I was for a bit.. but it soon passed.. revenge keeps you hooked in..
He’s the complete letting go that opens you up to opportunities of life.. armed with the knowledge gleaned from what was experineced, listen with your intisicnts and when you know what you know listen to yourself and not the con.


style1: Don’t give up – I’ve been feeling those same feelings you expressed lately, even with all I know about my man – in a way, I wanted him to call last night or even today, even if only so I could be forced to stay NC…but that feeling of actually not respecting them though hooked as if they are some kind of fascinating creature we don’t want to let go of…it’s sick. and I don’t want to carry bitterness either – or shame which hit me when I admitted the times I’ve paid, not him and I never did or had to do that with any other man or date in my life. Even Mother Teresa would have recognized that this was a con and to take your compassion elsewhere – that you’re leading yourself and this person as well down a road to ruin.

Let’s keep going, I like your posts – they’re full of your own innate depth and I think you know that about yourself through what you write here.
We don’t have to ‘fit their agendas’ anymore, we see how it goes. It’s
hard to be disconnected though, sometimes I do feel like I’m on Mars now…or just flew back from it.


Besides defining bitterness, normal negative life event has to be defined:

“following a single exceptional, though normal negative life event.”

What is an abnormal negative life event? What is a normal negative life event?

Would this “disorder” apply to people bitter about a disease that has crippled, them, for example? And is that different from someone who is bitter that a neighbor’s monkey maimed them for life? If nobody did anything about the owner who still has the monkey? And is that different than someone who is bitter because they lost all their funds to Madoff? (sp?) Does it matter if it is two weeks later? Two years later? Two decades later?

Does it matter if you are bitter but it doesn’t interfere with your sleep? Your day-to-day functioning? Where is the line?

Is is strictly a “disorder” of faulty cognition?

And how do you prevent this disorder from being used by P’s as one more tool to beat up victims with?


Can’t you just hear Chris Brown saying, “Yeah, I said I was sorry, I apologized on national television, I wrote her a song…but she has PTED and needs treatment. That’s why we aren’t together. I tell you, it is so hard to carry on, knowing she needs help but is refusing to get that help.”


Persephone 7,
Thanks concerning my posts.. I am really trying to work through these feelings by reading others posts and writing about all this.
The energy and pace is slow here now, where it was once busy..I was preparing for his weekends visits and this constant attention and enerby. And this has been over for awhile but just now, I am feeling the depths of it.. I guess with the holidays approaching and my not feeling up to par psysically becasue of allergies.. I am quiet and to myself. Time I wished for while dating him. Now, I have it, an over abundance of it.
Occasionally, I have thoughts, his business deal happens, he comes to me and states that he realizes what he put me through and we try again. That is I guess the hope that he reall did love me on some level.. But, of course this will not occur. THere were too many other issues not related to money, his wierd spiritual obsession, his children, his controlling ways and his horrible voice when he is angered.. He is not what I want.. but some of him is.. his manners, his thoughtful and helpfulness and some of that attention.
I am wondering if I can feel a ‘normal’ man’s attention will be enough? This man torked my perceptions in a bizarre way.
When he would leave..I would dance around the house singing I am free! I am free! And now, like you wrote I feel like am abandoned on some strange planet.. My world seems less bright and a bit off.. Is it just the time frame. In that, it’s needed that I pull in..? I have done what the books say.. I go to movies alone, I work out.. I rearranged the house to be mine.. THat is another thing I shouted when he was gone.. this is my house,, mine! not yours! You have nothing to do with it. Yet he claimed it as his.. It like he just claimed mylife as his. And now that he is gone and I wanted him gone. It is strange now.. so what is going on? Just this timing of my processing.. clearing out or what? I know that I am attractive, intelligent and have things to offer.. I have a lot of love go give. I am ready to fall in love.. I never loved him. I never felt in love.. I felt manipulated and had the facade of it.. the facade of the marriage like interaction with no real basis except what he created, contrived, it was so false.. yet such a good imitation..

And never date a man that doesn’ pay.. men are supposed to care for women.. why do it all yourself .. I resented mine because, he lived in my house, yet he paid for things or I would’ve never been in it. If a man doesn’t have his own resources, I am not interested. THisman was the most down and out that I ever was involved with.

Ox Drover

I think our lives post-P have to be more than just that “P-episode” or be will stay in the bitterness.

I do believe healing is a life-long process of improving ourselves, but it is more about US than just “getting over” the damage that THEY did. If the P-experience prompts us to improve ourselves then in the end it has been a painful experience from which we gained insight into ourselves that allowed us to become stronger and better.

If we, post-P experience, just focus on THAT ONE part of our lives we will be bitter. STAY bitter, and stay stuck in that spot forever.

I was a person when I was born. That person grew as I did, but there were some weaknesses and even flaws in the person I became anew each day. Some of those flaws, misinformation, weaknesses, made me more vulnerable to Ps than other people might have been….plus, I was born into a family full of Ps and unknowingly passed on those genes to my own P-offspring, the coping skills I learned and adopted in dealing with my family of origin when I was a child were not ones that “played well” in adulthood (when I had a choice about which coping skills to use.) I wasn’t aware of that dysfunction in myself in my earlier adult life. NOW I AM aware, and I have CHOSEN to adapt to circumstances, to evolve my coping skills into ones that “play better” in my life.

This “evolution” of Oxy is no longer about THEM, but about me. I am MORE than my experiences with the psychopaths. They are not the defining moments of my life. NOW I have choices and I make choices about how to live my life, and how to set boundaries for others with whom I interact,

If I had stayed focused on the P-experience as a “loser” and “bitter” and “vengeful” I would have become as bad or worse than them actually, because they can’t/won’t change, but I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXERCISE CHANGE. If I choose not to when I CAN, then I have fallen lower than they are.

The Bible talks about a sow who was washed returning to the mud and a dog eating its own vomit….I think if we stay bitter after any experience, we are choosing to return to the mire, or to eat our own vomit. (sorry to be so graphic, but I figure if the Bible can I can too. LOL)

I FELT the need for vengeance early on, I WANTEd vengeance, and I THOUGHT ABOUT IT almost continually, but that was a stage I was in, I think, and I deliberately didn’t like the way it made me feel and chose to STOP it. I can imagine how these chronically bitter people fell because I have been bitter (for quite some time) but I feel much better since I decided I do NOT want to feel that way, to think that way.



Yep.. I got what you are writing.. they turn it on you..

Mine used to say, “You don’t trust me becasue of your past.”
and that was not true.. I didn’t trust him because of the wisdom that I had gleaned from my past and he wasn’t trustworthy..

In relationship, we all have our issues and places that we are.. manipulators use this to further their control and con..

Ox Drover

Wow, several of us posting on this at once! JAH, I love the “chris brown” quote! LOL I saw part of the 20/20 interview with her the other night and of couse I don’t think she “gets it” what he is. Also she said that her father used to beat up on her mother. which would of course predispose her to accept this treatment herself. I hope she continues to realize more about WHAT Chris appears to be –a P without remorse etc.

Very interesting conversations guys!


Oxdrover, agree..
to heal fully, we need to release the need for vengance…

and let it go.. so that we can go forward…


Mine would say ‘ why do you always have to bring up the past ‘ even if
it was from something that happened the day before…it was always me
who was being unreasonable, especially when I was looking out for my
own time and heaven forbid, my own ‘agenda.’ He would always say,
‘I’ll keep you posted’ or ‘this is my plan ‘ and then he’d never stick to it –
talk about a slippery slope!

So I’m so tired of bobbing and weaving…Style1, I feel ready to love again –
in a way – but I think we both need to give ourselves time to grieve our
relationships, however unhealthy they’ve been – and not be too quick to
get through the process of just being alone with all that entails with our
emotions coming up – as they are right now.



I saw that interview to, on 20/20. It was very interesting. Especially her mention of “the eyes”.

Much of the problem of being involved with the disorder/toxic individual is that they will use WHATEVER we have against us.
Both our strengths and our weeknesses.
And then to further confuse us their “projection” of their own behavior or irrational thinking is thrown back onto us as if it was our own.

I still have a big problem understanding the projection thing. I guess it is just another way for them to distort reality.


just saw a photo of chris brown and he looks SO much like my ex … the eyes really were almost identical. black as can be, devoid of humanity, but somehow beckoning. they are so dangerous … seductive, amphibious, charismatic, demonic.
while she may not get ‘it’ all, she’s off to a good start. she broke away.
throwing our girl, rhianna, a … Towanda!

Ox Drover

Witsend, did you see the UTUBE videos of fans’ reactions to the situation? the man who aid it was her fault? If she hadn’t “provoked” Chris then he wouldn’t have hit her. LOL I swear I thought I would have a hemmorage over that one! But unfortunately, that is the way many people do think. maybe that guy was projecting too, maybe he was also an abuser who was “prevoked” to hit “his woman.”


Wow. This article hits home for me. I would say the last year I was with my ex S, I had become very bitter…angry… many emotions…But he more I knew about him, the more bitter I became. My want for revenge was all consuming. Literally every moment was spent thinking about how to bring him down. But then I thought, doesn’t that make me just like him?? Cold, calous, calculating, bitter, angry… I don’t want to become him. So I’m trying to let that go. I sturggled with it for a year, hating him so much and wanting revenge.. and the longer I let it go on, the worse I felt. I don’t want to be bitter at the world like him. I want to be happy and more forward. Something that he will never have the capability to do! So I guess that’s the best revenge is just like you said Oxy…

“This “evolution” of Oxy is no longer about THEM, but about me. I am MORE than my experiences with the psychopaths. They are not the defining moments of my life. NOW I have choices and I make choices about how to live my life, and how to set boundaries for others with whom I interact,”

You summed it up perfectly. Thank you. It’s been almost a month with NC, and although we’ve gone much longer than that, this time around, acceptance has been a huge difference. I’m ready to accept and move on. I don’t think I was before.

And that Rhianna interview was intense. I wonder too if she knows what she’s really involved with. Last night on Larry Kind he interveiwed women about domestic violence and their reaction to Rhianna’s interview and Larry Kind pissed me off. He kept asking, “well WHY go back??” And the women tried to explain and then he responded by saying, “person comes home monday gets hit, comes home tuesday gets hit, comes home wednesday gets hit, comes home thursday…so who’s the crazy one??” What an ass. And Nicole Brown’s sister responded, “We need to change the question from, why go back? To why are they doing the hitting in the first place?” It was a good interview. If you get a chance, look it up.


just did a tad of research on PTED … seems more like a normal reaction to a very abnormal experience. but okay, i guess revenge motives lasting forever might be a problem.


I think that reaction although sickening is fairly common.

It is much the same as the “why didn’t you leave” question that interviews always ask to victims of abuse. It is even asked of children when their abusers are molesting them or abducting them.

I guess the MAIN thing the general public NEEDS to understand is that when anyone finds themselves as a victim in an abusive situation……Regardless if the abuse is physical, sexual, kidnapping, emotional….. WHATEVER….Along with the abuse comes the “mental conditioning.”

I do not understand why this is so hard for people to “get.”

People really underestimate the powerless feeling the victim has. Those “strings” that the abuser holds are very strong.



Nicole Browns sister brought up a very good point.
The QUESTIONS need to change on TV interviews BEFORE the publics response will change. These TV interviews are watched by millions of people. And has a HUGE impact of the general populations “opinions” of these matters.

Some of the HARD questions need to be asked to the abusers.


Dear Dr. Leedom –

Thanks for writing this post. Last night I spent a good deal of time rereading the differences that exist between PTSD and
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. CPSTD, I believe,
isn’t an included diagnoses in the DSM -IV, but what you are
describing, this embitterment diagnosis, seems to follow the same line as CPTSD.

PTSD refers to something that is life threatening and that can
occur in a single instance that threatens a person’s sense of
his/her bodily or wordly integrity being destroyed. For most of those who have had an “ongoing traumatization” by a sociopath or several at the same time, CPTSD is the result of a cascade of ongoing, repeated traumatizations, that not only can threaten one’s bodily integrity, but are likely to shatter all the beliefs/assumptions that they hold about their world and their safety in it, especially as it relates to the commonly held belief in the decency and fairness of other human beings.

Can this cause bitterness and is there a “universal” definition
of it that can be applied to every different individual who presents with symptoms of this proposed disorder?

You said bitterness is a taste in one’s mouth. This is true, but is it not also true that bitterness is also the filter, like that placed on a camera lens, that alters one’s view of the frame,
or in this case, one’s entire world view after repeated traumatization?

Charles Figley, reknowned traumatologist, and his peers did a study of VietNam veterans, those that did well, and others that suffered from PTSD after returning from the war. They wanted to know how to break through the sense of isolation that permeated the lives of these vets and how their suffering
led them into drug and alcohol addictions as well as outbursts of violence and anger that shattered their family lives as well.

In a way, this addresses one of the concerns that Inquirente brought up about how one person can devastate a whole family.

What Figley and his colleagues found was that the whole family system is affected by the PTSD because they are unaware of what is happening inside the vet. PTSD/CPSTD
is damaging when it is dealt with via silence. It doesn’t go
away. Many of the worst suffering vets suffered what is known
as “Sanctuary Trauma” upon return from the war. Their experiences were so alien to the everyday “normal life” pattern, that they felt no one could relate to them, thus feeling traumatized again by a colluded silence that family members, felt, would be the best way to let them heal.

Most survivors of sociopaths know exactly what this is. It is very hard to describe one’s shattered world view and life circumstances to another who has never been affected by their presence and the destruction they create and leave in their wake. Difficult to describe how it alters one’s daily pattern of living. Shabby Chic on another thread said she was
crumpled up into a ball on the floor upon the ultimate realization of what was happening to her at the hands of one in her life.

Whether it is happening in the workplace, known as “Mobbing”
or in the community, know as “Community Based Harrassment” or one on one as with a a single sociopath,
most of it can ultimately be traced to one or several bullies.

If you go to Tim Field’s website, I think it’s something like he gives an excellent description of these serial bullies and to my mind, his defining of them is completely in line with what we know of the traditional sociopath. Most people don’t realize what huge problems these
people are in society. Several countries have enacted legislation related to stopping them in their tracks before they
drive their victims to suicide, whether in the community or the workplace. He also addresses their impact upon the most
vulnerable population, children. Bullying at school, I believe,
is the place to stop these little monsters right in their tracks,
before they go on to shatter any lives in the future.

One can not grieve without the taste of bitterness or the filter of bitterness permeating life, at least for a time. OxDrover talked about the process in another post and how we all can go from one stage to another and cycle back again along the way. Before the grief becomes clean, we need to fully acknowledge the bitterness that has been created by them and grieve it thoroughly. This entails fully feeling your feelings, which can be scary for many survivors. It’s a powerful experience and sometimes best done with the aid of
a caring professional who understands sociopathy first hand
as well as PTSD and CPTSD.

WHEN THINGS FALL APART, a book written by the Buddhist Nun, Pema Chodron, helped me a great deal as my world began to shatter at the hands of sociopaths in my life. Adopting a Buddhist perspective regarding suffering can take you a long way into the process of accepting grief and bitterness, and learning to adopt the awareness that all things are impermanent in this transitory world, including grief and bitterness. She talks about not shying away from that which is painful and uncomfortable to deal with, but rather to, adopt an inquisitive nature into these areas and follow them to their source.

Ultimately, the message I got was to learn to cultivate
strength and fearlessness. Approaching that which brings hurt
and understanding its nature and letting go of what Kathleen
Hawk called “the story” can go a long way toward removing the taste and lens of bitterness.

Each person is constitutionally different in their strengths.
We all heal at different rates and times depending…


Keensight: I think Pema Chodron, the Buddhist Nun is one of the greatest
resources – she is very real and even funny, too in her talks about ‘Shenpa’
that uncomfortable place we find ourselves in, just a part of everyone’s life and ‘learning to stay.’ To just observe ourselves and the situation and not deny it or our feelings. Thanks for bringing her up as well as your whole message in your post. Another good one (and I like her audio cds as she is very personable and talks on them herself) is one
called “Getting Unstuck.”

Sometimes it seems I’ve read so many books, listened to enough tapes and cds – finally it does sink into your subconscious and you start to live it more, you do finally get it – from these outside sources and from as Erin mentioned in another thread – a good friend who stays with you, repeating the mantra of ‘you deserve more, you’re a fine person, just get away…’

Ox Drover

What wonderful and deep thoughts guys!

I watched an interview about the man who killed the soldiers at Ft. Hood. Of course (in retrospect) there were BIG RED FLAGS in his behavior BEFORE he took the guns and started shooting, that the military missed.

This woman newsaster asked the male newscaster, “so you think all the stress that is being put on the military personnel is what caused this? (the killings)” “This man was obviously sick, why didn’t someone HELP HIM BEFORE THIS WENT THIS FAR?”

Like the fault for this was the Army not “helping” this poor man. I don’t know what his “problem” was or “why” he did what he did, but he obviously was BITTER against the government, and also reportedly using alcohol in excess, but to automaticallty ASSUME that anyone who does anything is because they were “pushed to it” by some thing or other and that apparently all evil is because they were stressed.

Sure, some people at some times do things because they are insane (in the legal sense) and some things do things like this because they are just simply mean, bitter, etc. but until our society starts realizing that people have CHOICES and that there is TRULY evil in this world, truly evil people, how will we ever be able to help victims.

The true victims are the soldiers who were killed and their families, not the shooter.

I’m not saying why this man did this, but at the same time, HE is not the victim, and no matter what was done TO HIM by anyone, or how he was “provoked” by the Army because they would not let him out (after paying for his medical education for an agreement to work for the army afterwards) he had no right to kill these totally innocent victims. So unless this man was truly out of touch with reality (and I don’t think he was from what has been published so far) HE was not the victim, and that news commentator pithed me off with her comments and “concern” for the SHOOTER.


Persephone 7, After being with the guy that I was with the word Buddhist makes me ill. But yes, just sitting with ones self and feeling and letting the thoughts come and go. Today, I am doing things around my house, changing sheets, etc.. I recall my guy would complain because one of my sets of sheets isn’t as long as he is used to…he would go on and on about how sheets are supposed to be. This from a man that doesn’t own a bed and when I met him was sleeping in a child’s single bed with mickey mouse sheets or some such and he had a Buddhist type altar in the room.. I thought it creepy then and do now.. of course, he had explanations for why this was and of course, I accepted them as they were a set of unfortunate circumstances that led him, the wonderful, Mr. Perfect to this place.. and it was because of the women in his life and just bad luck…
But then, he moves into my large king size bed and complains.. about any little thing that isn’t up to his standards.. laughable, huh? I bet, that he never lived in a house as nice as mine and with as many gorgeous things.. I saw where he lived..and empty, large non-descript rental house.
Then if he was saying what he was eating say for lunch, he would say.. It’s a gorgeous ham sandwiche.. way over description for a ham sandwiche… and he would describe his hotel rooms as being huge with a huge king size bed when it was just a room at the Marriot.. and my house was a billion times better…
So irriational optimism as it relates to himself..
but me not quite up to his lofty standards…
Bitter …? Just reflecting back at what a bamboon he was.. and why did I put up with it..

I did say.. if you don’t like the sheets go buy some others and buy another bed. To which of course, I go no reply.



Bitter? I think getting riled up in the memories is normal in the process in the healing. I am a decorator my house by any standards although small is nice.. and I moved my clothes out of one of the closets into the garage so his clothes could be hung up .. and after he moved out. he told me that he wouldn’t have moved in that cracker box had he not loved me.

This from a man whose credit is so bad that he wouldn’t qualify for an apt.. so, he moves in with family friends that don’t run a credit check. So first, you are used for what you have then critized becasue it isn’t more or up to their lofty standards..
It’s just amazing when I look back… he wanted my life as my friends told me and he was jealous of me. So, he put me down..
and his accusations after it’s over.. that I almost destroyed his family… make absolutely no sense.. yet that is one of his accusations.. He didn’t see his family but once in over a year.. and I only met one of them.. so how does anything about his family have anything to do with me? It doesn’t.. but they way that they say things makes one look at themselves.. it is a ploy to get you to doubt yourself and to be more controlabel by their manipulation into their agenda.. He wants a woman to come in and take care of his family… so he was doing mind games on me…but by that time, I saw the fool for what he is…

Bitter.. no me… ! LOL… Angry at me for doubting me…


And thinking the person who harms as the victum makes us all messed up in the head. And gets us to feel sorry for them and be further controlled and manipulated by them.



Of course, there are scumbags who use any kind of religion or philosophy and give it a bad name, just because they use it for their own aggrandizement – like alohatraveler mentioned being so burned out on the new age spiritual hippie-types in Hawaii (or anywhere) who were just classic flakes…at least the b.s. meters get more finely tuned after you’ve had a run-in with these people.

I watched the Rhianna interview little bit ago – for such a young woman,
she gave such serious, heartfelt and intelligent responses – she seems
like she already has such an understanding of him and above all, what
really happened to her – let’s hope she holds on to that emotional scar like it is a kind of pearl – one that has set her free.

Ox Drover

Dear Style1,

It was because he was SO ENTITLED TO THE BEST, I’m just so sorry you didn’t measure up! Well, that’s just your loss for not measuring up! ROTFLMAO Yea, you “lost out on” him!!! Thank you Jesus!

I knew a woman P who lived in her car (everyone else’s fault of course) and she too was used to “only the finest” and it was always the rotten people in her life that took from her what was rightfully hers. Well, you know, I was fortunate it didn’t take me long to figure out that the WORST P in her life was HERSELF. Any other Ps she had dealings with was just coincidental, she was teh biggest P of all. Fortunately, I saw this rather quickly.

Any time I run into anyone who has “nothing” but keeps on talking about what they “used to have had” I get leary and keep my eyes open. First, because people who seem to regard THINGS and money as what makes you important or not are suspect to start with, but those who live in the past of “what I had” and so on will never march into the future.

Many people have financial ups and downs in our life, and I’ve had my share, but fortunately, I have never been one to think that money bought worth or respect. Usually, the people who DO think that way are, rich or poor, not “nice” people. If theya re rich they want to lord it over you, if they are poor, they want to tell you what they “use’ta have” and/or suck up to you so they can get what is yours.

By “belittling” what you had that was nice, he was trying to make himself feel superior to you, and you inferior to him. Glad it wasn’t successful.


All of this is good insight. I am the type, when I feel bitter toward someone or recieve a ‘belittling’ note from someone, I try to over analyze it. I try to explain myself better or express anger toward that person in being so negative and off base. I think with those particular individuals that push my buttons NC should be the approriate action. Instead of reacting with bitterness back.

I feel that is what our niece is doing toward us, possibly. I congratulate her for that even if it means she and I and her Uncle have no relationship, or we remain uninvolved in helping her come back to her other family and past friends. This may be the only way for her to cope and survive today.

I am not a direct victim of this sociopath/con man lke she has been, so really can not know exactly how she feels or what may be appropriate for her recovery. I just can be hopeful and if she reaches out to me, I will be there and respond.

This sight has helped me gain that insight and to know that i can only be responsible for myself and how I react.

I want to be a warrior in the fight against these manipulative sociopaths who reek havoc on so many, however. So I do tend to keep my radar up and want others to know just how easily it can happen to anyone no matter what your education, socialization or status in life!


Dear Dr Leedom, thank you so much for your dead on article. Food for thought as always! I personally think that embitterment is a possible end stage of being a victim. No hope at all. In German there is a clear understanding what “embitterment= Verbitterung” means. It has nothing to do with bitter taste but it is a state of the mind, and it is very difficult to describe. For me it is not translatable, as it is a specific state of the mind that is sour, cynical, negative, depressive and somehow aggressive and accusing and seeking for culprits, outspoken, unforgiving. It has nothing to do with anxiety, because the person got insulted and is entiteld to feel embittered, and they let the world know how unjust they have been treated, without any attempt to change. It is written in their face. The expression is not sad, not grieving. More aggressive, sour, bitter, like they have always something very distasteful in their mouth.

I have a German patient who has lung cancer and has never smoked, and she feels heavily insulted by the disease, having worked her whole life at an organic veggies health food plant, and she was very much “verbittert”. Even having to show up in our clinics was a big insult to her! Her little grandson succeeded at last at dragging her out of the embitterment, and lately she expressed some kind of gratitude of the outcome so far. (the chemo worked very well; it does not always need a P/N/S to be “embittered”)

I looked up the synonyms for the German term “Verbittert” in English, and maybe these are different aspects of the term you native English speaker might get out something of. My English is not so good to discern the different meanings of the words.

rancorous {adj}
acerbated {adj} {past-p}
jaundiced {adj}
embittered {adj} {past-p}
acrimoniously {adv}
bitter {adj} [embittered]

I also think that we at LF are NOT embittered but try to get out of that corner of being a victim and find our way back to life, joy, sweetness, light, hope, future. Have you all a wonderful week! (((((Hugs))))) TOWANDA!!!


Ox drover.. yes, his behavior was the entitlement deal with him.. he thought he was a King..
And it was always what he was going to do for me when his ship comes in…
Meanwhile..he lives in my house, etc… and yes.. I have had my ups and downs.. once lived in a huge house..but now, I have what I have and am proud of it.. and take good care of it..
He didn’t care for his things well.. his rental house was run down… the garage full of boxes full of stuff from his past and a neighborhood woman cleaned it out for him… and we sold all the stuff … I helped him clean up his life.. he was looking for me to do so..
and now, he is probably out there looking for another woman with a house..

When he moved out, he kept making comments about how nice and big the place is where he is living.. i said great send me photos.. never got any ….

Then once when he was visiting me in anger he said it was because of you I moved out and now I don’t have the amentities like I do here.. amentities..? Like my house is a hotel…
yep in the end when his act was cracking .. I saw the real him..


Hi Persephone7,

Your last post on the other thread was full of beautiful thoughts and imagery. Thank you.

I’m sorry for what you have gone through. I know what it’s like to have people move through your personal life and leave an indelible mark that’s not beneficial. It hurts and the loss can feel overwhelming at times.

You’re absolutely correct. Pema is very accessible. There’s
something so beautiful and practical in the simplicity of timeless logic or good sense. She conveys it beautifully, doesnt she? Wisdom of the ages coming out of human experience centuries old and very practical in its application. What people struggled with day to day centuries ago would still be comparable to what we struggle with today, regardless of the modern conveniences we have.

I agree, things become second nature upon repeated practice,
listening, reading and experiencing.

I really do believe that the message You’re A Good Person,
You Deserve More, Just Get Away is a valid one for all of us.
We who have survived what is unacceptable treatment and
behaviors for so long are grateful that our”Teachers” appear
when we are ready to learn the lessons. I know Pema showed
up in my life at the beginning of huge life changes.

As far as getting away, sometimes the only way to get away
is THROUGH feeling. As uncomfortable as it is to “learn to stay” it makes more sense than throwing ourselves headlong into a new relationship, until, as you said, we’ve absorbed the lessons of the one that caused the feelings that made us want to run away in the first place.

I hope I have, as you yourself discovered, an unending stream of books, tapes and cds that help me to better myself regardless of whether or not “The One” shows up. We are all worthy and worth attracting the kind of positive healing energy
to our lives that we so richly deserve. Like this website and books of Pema’s and all of the healing people here sharing what they know to help others, especially OxDrover, for sharing so much of her personal pain and growth, the living
examples of healing in action, provide solace for those hurting
so very much. The love of this ripples outward bringing healing to others reading this blog that we may never even be aware of having been touched. Synchronicity and grace in action to have our prayers answered is something I could never be grateful enough for.

Oxy –

Regarding the shooter at Fort Hood and what you had to say
about it: You’re right! There were plenty of big red flags about

What I want to know is why this man was placed in a position to “witness” the suffering of these brave people, sometimes serving three consecutive tours of duty, and what they’ve been through. First, the danger of CPTSD was there. Second, the huge inner conflict he had to be struggling with, listening to the horrors of untimely death and maiming of people, ours
and theirs knowing he would be sent there.

As far as the religious factor goes, he never should have taken the oath to serve if there was a conflict for him. From what I read he wanted out since 2001 and his reasons were

It’s wrong to say that others might do the same as he. It sounds like he flipped out at the prospect of having to go.
His actions were evil, end of story. There are no excuses
for killing defenseless people. It was cowardly. I won’t
speculate as to why anyone does anything. Crazy is crazy.
Some said he showed calm. Calm doesn’t equate to SANE.

None of us know what it’s like to witness the reexperienced
trauma of human beings who have participated in or experienced war and all its attendant horror. The human being
is hardwired not to kill others. They can be “trained” to do so,
but that doesn’t negate how it changes them and what is lost
in the process. Hearing and viewing this day in and day out
from a place of dispassion so as to provide proper treatment
for them isn’t a job any of us would cue up for. That plus
the fact that he wanted out since 2001 should have been taken
into account and wasn’t.

There needs to be some type of assessment for these professionals as well, after logging so many hours of this.
Regardless of religion or ethnicity it is a highly stressful
function, one that needs respite care and supervision because
of the trauma it entails.

No excuse will ever absolve the taking of life of defenseless

Elizabeth Conley

I understand how bitterness is different.

The cluster Bs in my life have altered my feelings of security. Yesterday I got 2 flat tires simultaneously on the interstate while traveling alone with my daughter. They were both full of nails and punctures. Heckifiknow how that happened. Just lucky, I guess.

I knew exactly what to do and how to do it. I was taking care of business, but the good Samaritans really held me up. A full half dozen thoroughly decent men stopped to help. (At least, there’s a high probability that each was decent.) Each gentleman’s arrival forced me to get back in the car, lock the door and as politely as possible request that he leave. Each did, although a bit slower than I would have liked. It really dragged the task out, having to deal with them.

If I was bitter, I would have resented those good Samaritans, and perhaps treated them badly. I’m not bitter, I just don’t take unnecessary risks with strangers any more. I fully understand that they were almost certainly good people trying to do the right thing. I don’t bear these people any malice, I don’t fear them and I don’t hate them. I simply won’t risk dealing with them.

The problem with the tires was somewhat thorny, but nothing that couldn’t be solved with the tools at hand, a call for a cab or a friend, and a trip to and from the local Treadquarters. No need to trust in strangers.

If I had truly been in a situation I couldn’t handle, I would have asked for the help of the state police. They stopped, but left as soon as it was apparent I had it under control. They were very understanding about my disinterest in assistance. I think the run into people like me quite a bit.

What is, is.

A certain percentage of the population is parasitic/predatory. It’s not that these people are out to get me personally. It’s just that they’re out to get whatever they can from whomever they can. In a way, I’m lucky. I’ve got no illusions left.

Bitter is taking the abuse of cluster Bs personally for the rest of your life. It ain’t personal. It just feels that way at first.

Elizabeth Conley

PS –

“Red Flags”

The Fort Hood shooter was a walking red flag. So were “balloon boy’s” wacky, tacky parents.

Sometimes I think we’re a nation of morons. There really needs to be a better public understanding of the nature of personality disorders.

Ox Drover

Dear Elizabeth,

Sorry to hear that happened to you. You were totally right not to “trust in strangers”d—not today anyway!

Two things I never leave home without and one is my cell phone, and you know what the other one is. That little friend saved my life on 3 occasions over the past 30+ years and I don’t take any chances either. the major of little rock’s daughter broke down on a river bridge and got into the car with a stranger and a few miles up the road she threw herself out of the car to her death, the man has never been caught though there was a descripton of the vehicle. It happens. I might not be sitting here now if I hadn’t had my “friend” with me one night 30+years ago when I broke down on the freeway either. It discouraged the man from driving around the forth time and encouraged him to leave immediately.

No cell phones in those days, but even today no guarentee it will not be in a “dead zone.”

About the guy at ft. Hood.

The state of Arkansas will pay the medical school costs and living costs for a med student but they must work in designated “low medical care” areas for 4 years in exchange and if they don’t do it, they cannot get their medical license EVER and they cannot reimburse the state and skate free either. I’m not sure how the army does it but apparently he agreed to the deal and the army wasn’t going to let him out of it.

I’m not sure what his “poor review” was all about previous to being transferred to Ft. Hood. One witness said he was saying that the Muslim man (American) who killed 1 and wounded 1 at an induction center in Little Rock, AR a few months back was “doing good” and that all Muslims should do this.

I don’t understand why the person who heard him say this didn’t report it THEN. I agree in “freedom of speech” but that is like a cop saying after the death of another Policemen “I wish all Baptists would kill cops” WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? Isn’t there something wrong with attitude of a man who would say this?

What about the people he worked with? I think the Army must have missed some BIG red flags in this man’s behavior being “off”—-I think somehow there was more going on than we know right now. But, no use speculating about it.

My heart goes out to the families of the slain and to their friends and comrades in arms. I know there is more than enough stress involved in war, going to war, leaving your family behind, etc. My (step) Grandson is in the Army now, and I have other friends whose lvoed ones are in the service. ALL VOLUNTEERS, not a conscript in the bunch, but even still, I know it is stressful, and potentially lethal, but no one in our country is made to join the army or move to Canada.

I lived through the Viet Nam war and the protests and all that went on with people leaving for Canada. I lost friends in combat, and friends who moved to Canada never to return. I won’t go into my personal opinion of war or our Government’s pollicy(ies) but i always told my sons, if you choose to join it is up to you, or if you would be drafted and you wanted to go to Canada I would be behind you either way, unless we needed to shoot out from the windows of our homes, and in that case, I’ll pass the ammunition and you do the shooting.

EC, glad you liked my “balloon” analogy! ha ha


Hi Elizabeth Conley,

Sorry to hear about your two simultaneous flat tires on the interstate highway while driving alone with your daughter.

How the heck were you able to replace both? Do you carry
two spares in your trunk?


This writing wound me up. I wrote several responses and didn’t post them as upon reflection they were too bitter 😛

I definitely believe there is such a thing as CPSTD from these psychologically and emotionally unsafe relationships. The anxiety felt by a mugging victim is a one time event, but targets in pathological relationships can suffer that sense of foreboding and terror and stress several times a day for years and years – it has an impact definitely. For many of us the stress blows out into the physical body in the form of chronic migraine, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus and so on. Whether the stress alone causes these syndromes or just makes a gateway for infection to enter is unsure, but stress definitely contributes to their development.

Ongoing stress can permanently rewire the brain – the amygdala and the autonomic nervous system. It alters the chemical cascades and can even permanently alter our genetics. Anyone interested in this should check out a doco called The Ghost in Your Genes (google video). Researchers measured the stress levels (salivary cortisol) of women who were in New York during 9/11. Those who were in their third trimester of pregnancy when it happened gave birth to infants who showed abnormal levels of cortisol despite the fact they weren’t even born when the event happened and were not old enough to understand and process the significance of what happened.

This knowledge has implications for all of us who have a history of being treated unfairly. My father was an unavailable man so that means more than likely I was born with elevated stress hormones, which elevated even further with each witnessed argument and the strain of the split up of their marriage. That altered response to stress would have hit me each and every time I went through something stressful … so I was already at a disadvantage in terms of being able to process this.

I am quite useless at explaining it but the theory is called Kindling and comes from neurologist and psychiatrist Dr Scaer who wrote a book called The Body Bears the Burden. Basically a history of trauma weakens the defences and makes developing PTSD far more likely. The theory is outlined by a far more articulate writer than me here

You might also like to examine her explanation of how humans are programmed against violence and killing. She has looked through Army research to find data for post traumatic stress disorder.

And from psychopathy research we know that bullies can spot vulnerable people from their very walk without them opening their mouths.

I think all these factors come together and none of them are a conscious decision to remain ’embittered’ or to even think that way. Being bitter after all the hurts is natural – it is amazing we have strength to continue moving towards light and healing after such experiences. It would definitely be easier to remain at a low place.


Well for the last couple of days..I was feeling ‘verbittert’ …interesting post Libele..

and after working around the house all day.. I went to the sunbed.. and then the grocery.. and I turned heads.. I felt good again..I felt like me… I needed a bit of that male energy coming my way… bitter not me.. I’m hot..
I haven’t lost it.. I’ve found it! LOL!b


From where I stand, there is NOTHING normal about the event and / or events caused by psychopaths. In my case, my life was physically (verbally) threatened, and I know so many bloggers have noted the same. So, in my particular case, PTSD seems to “fit” better.

I am not in favor of the PTED, though, because it suggests just that: normalcy of the absolutely astonishing experience that resembles PTSD quite a lot. PTSD is diagnosed in rape victims and in victims of incest and in war and trauma survivors. Have we not survived a war? have we not continued to try and explain to peers just how and why our situation is different from “normal break-up” and even “normal abusive relationship”. Ok, there is nothing normal about an abusive relationship, but I think it was Donna who said in one of the articles that the sole significant qualifier that unites all of our perpetrators is pathological lying and manipulation. This has threatened me to the core of who I was, and it turned out to be life threatening not only on a physical but especially on an emotional level.
When I read some posts, I almost wish I can report that I was beaten up, screamed at, ignored… This we can feel and experience as evil… Nope, I lived in a perfect lie.


Dear Pollyannanomore –

Thank you so much for this last post about CPTSD that you wrote. It validates so much of what I was trying to convey
about it in a much more descriptive and succint way. Thanks for the link!

As regards abortion, I hope for the day when there is never any need or desire to terminate a life, based upon the premise that we care enough about human beings to educate and nurture them so that they will never find it necessary
to contemplate that as a choice.

Until that time arrives, I pray that people are more aware of
the dynamics underlying what to some is only a divisive issue.
Reading about young mothers disposing of newborns or infants like trash is very distressing.

Addressing the underlying causes for this that you mention in this post are precisely what is needed to bring about awareness and change. Great post!


A perfect lie can be so much more damaging, because it is hidden within your being. And when anyone tries to point it out to you, based on what outsiders might see, it is masked and there are no physical injuries to point to.

That is frustrating for those who see it and can’t get thru to the one being abused.


Thank you for your validation. you are so right, Inquirente

THank you, Dr. Leedom for a thought-provoking article.

I think that the a problem exists with the formal definition of PSTD, if it requires a “life threatening” situation as a trigger. I’m not sure who would be the arbiter of that definition, since a lot of things would fit that category from a psychological level, if not necessarily a legal one. For example, anything that a child feels is a threat of abandonment would be perceived as life-threatening, just as the loss of a job to a person who is living at the edge of homelessness might also be perceived that way.

My own perspective on trauma has been that it is a breach of boundaries that is felt so profoundly that it 1) causes the person who experience it to lose their previous identity or orientation in relationship with the world, and/or 2) to lose control of their emotional reactions.

That leaves a lot of latitude, and it includes very “minor” things as well as life-threatening ones. Personally, if I’m in a situation where circumstances a person’s behavior drives me to tears, rage or fear that overrides my reasoning ability, I feel like my boundaries have been insulted and I immediately start protecting myself from that person or circumstance. (It’s the reason I basically avolid movies by Stephen Speilberg, after E.T. made me feel so emotionally jerked around.) To group this kind of experience with traumas may sound trivial, but I think it keeps me aware of the mechanism of trauma and more alert to more significant threats.

As far as bitterness goes, my take on it is that bitterness is old unresolved anger. Which means that the trauma processing stopped at a relatively early stage.

Again to go back to my own case, I was bitter all my life, although completely in denial about it. Because my trauma processing stopped at denial. Things that happened to me “didn’t matter.” My recovery strategy was to ignore them and keep forging on. As a result, I had most of the symptoms that Dr. Lindman describes, but I think this is because unprocessed trauma has two main effects. One is to keep us preoccupied with the details of the denied threat, and the other is to keep a level of background anxiety running pretty constantly unless we’re in the “relieved” aspect of the addiction cycle.

When faced with research efforts such as this, I sometimes feel like a bit of a broken record when I keep referring to the stages of trauma processing as a model for understanding these symptoms. And I understand the scientific research model for identifying a symptom or cluster of symptoms and then trying to correlate it with something. But I still get a little frustrated.

The Kubler-Ross grief model, adapted to experiences that threaten identity or fundamental beliefs about the nature of the world, makes sense of the experiences of trauma processing — from the first blow to the ultimate resolution. Bitterness, obsessive thinking, regressive fugue states, chronic distrust or defensiveness, and all the other states that are so commonly represented here on Love Fraud, are symptoms of progressive trauma processing.

That said, I do think that bitterness can be a sign of an extremely difficult therapeutic situation. That is, people who have a level of distrust or despair that discourages them from seeking help to resolve traumas that are causing major life dysfunction.

I have an observation that doesn’t qualify as a theory, but seems to keep popping up in my mind. That is the divide in post-traumatic types between the kind that have fast access to anger vs. the type that have fast access to fear. In a way this is the shark vs. carp divide or the dependent vs. independent personality disorders or the addictive vs. codependent differential. I think that bitterness is an isolating symptom, and to the extent that a person experiences it, they will retract from dependencies and intimacy.

At the far extreme, that may mean sociopathy. But bitterness can also be found in codependents like me, who expect little and give much, but also maintain a private scorecard of all the ways I’ve been wronged by the person I’m involved with.

For me, getting out of denial about my foundational traumas gave me a chance to resolve them and the patterns of bitterness pretty much dissolved along the way. But of course, first I had to elevate bitterness to an acceptable response, instead of something I didn’t admit to, and then get righteously angry. That is, go through the angry phase that is so pivotal to our healing.

As others have mentioned, the definition of bitterness in this research is not clear. The symptoms listed look more like PSTD in my expanded definition of trauma. The reference to a “normal” trauma is particularly odd. If it shakes our world, it might be normal to someone else, but we still have to process it to get back to center and move on. We might be able to process a little insult in a moment, but if it rattles us, we still have to go through resolving it so we’re not carrying it in the future.


Thanks Keeninsight 🙂 I don’t think I am articulate at all but did some research into PTSD over the last few years and found the links incredible. I wonder how many of us actually stayed longer because of these triggering symptoms and what that told us about who we were at that time ie not strong enough and can’t cope alone.

PInow – you said “Have we not survived a war?” AMEN – that sums it up perfectly. We have indeed survived a war waged for many years with adversaries who pretended to be our friends and lovers – how can you possibly win in that kind of war, when the enemies are not even clearly identified but instead function as Trojan horses – gifts with death inside them?

You also note the difficulty we have in telling our stories to others – they don’t understand why we couldn’t just leave and why it bothers us so much compared with other breakups. It’s the betrayal I think. Betrayal makes the difference.

Inquirente – I like your pointing out that our wounds are invisible – this makes it incredibly difficult to explain to others. I actually at one point begged him to just hit me so “I have a reason to leave you.” I equated danger with physical violence and didn’t understand about worse dangers than that. The danger he inflicted damaged my soul and my core – bruises heal with time but I don’t really know how to heal these hurts except by talking it out and writing out my story to understand it and by learning as much as I can.

Kathleen – I understand what you are saying. I am finding the same – that all the hurts I thought I had mourned and come to terms with are bubbling up from the past and demanding attention and salvation. It is both a gift and a curse. I didn’t want to have to deal with them, but also recognise that because I hadn’t dealt with them I married a dangerous man. I don’t have a choice now. It is agonising to realise all the ways I have been abandoned over the years but also extremely freeing – I was so worried about him abandoning me and he did it every day in hundreds of little ways. I was avoiding the original abandonment and I can’t avoid it anymore. Thirty years of avoidance is enough – time to look at what lies beneath and admit how much it hurts still.

Thankyou everyone for your acceptance, listening, validation, understanding and encouragement. This is such a hard journey to take after everything else.


You wrote: “This is such a hard journey to take after everything else.” I just want to say that it’s hard, but fascinating and rewarding and joyous.

I’ve never felt in my life the way I felt when I got serious about healing myself. I still can’t describe it, except it was something like those old adventure stories about a safari into deepest Africa. Tough and harrowing, but wildly exciting and rewarding, and every step of the way I became more convinced that I was capable of more than I’d ever imagined. And like those great adventurers, I know that I’d come home completely changed, relaxed about things that made other people flap, insightful about things that used to fog my mind, and just somehow broader in all my perspectives. And that’s actually the way it turned out.

So what I’m trying to say to you is, even though you may not be i the mood for this right now, you will be once you get started, I promise.

And if you haven’t got a good therapist already, go looking for one who deals with PSTD or childhood abuse issues. They know this path.

Namaste. The healing spirit in me salutes the healing spirit in you.


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