healing shadow self

healing shadow selfOnce the toxic relationship with the sociopath or narcissist has ended, we don’t immediately tend to our healing and recovery needs. Why? For starters, we simply fail to recognize our need to heal and recover. Although, we are good at spotting desperation and unhappiness in others, we are either too proud or in deep denial about our personal need for care and attention.

When I escaped the sociopath in January 2011, I was numb. My mind was unable to clearly process what had happened to me during those three (3) short years with the sociopath. I was lost. I struggled to make sense of the chaos of my thoughts. I struggled with shame and blame. I struggled with nightmares and cold sweats. I struggled with discussing what had happened to me, what WAS happening to me.

I struggled.

In my struggle, I failed to grasp the severity of the abuse and its impact on me. I failed to ask the right internal questions about how I was feeling. I failed to see the signs that I had suffered serious mental and emotional anguish that needed attention.

I ignored my needs, because I was desperate to understand ‘him,’ and I couldn’t bare the additional burden of facing a broken self.

Instead, I read and re-read every blog entry and website page that discussed and detailed sociopathic and narcissistic behaviors. I had many ‘ah-ha’ moments about ‘him’ and the relationship but not about me.

In the aftermath of the toxic relationship, most of us who have left or been discarded by a sociopath or narcissist spend an exorbitant amount of time learning how to recognize the signs, behaviors and red flags of the sociopath and narcissist.  We do this for a couple of reasons:

  1. To make sense ‘the source’ of the mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation we experienced.
  2. To hopefully avoid falling victim to another sociopath, narcissist or Cluster B personality in future romantic relationships.

There is great empowerment in educating ourselves about ‘him,’ but we can’t forget about educating ourselves about us.

Although I was seeing a counselor immediately following my escape, I rarely spoke to my counselor about the toxic relationship or ‘him.’ I stuck to discussions about my current life and mending my broken marriage and re-establishing trust. I spoke to my counselor about my struggles with alcohol but never talked about why I chose to self-soothe, self-medicate with booze. It just didn’t seem important to me, I thought.

Now, I realize that I was in deep denial. I just wanted my hatred for ‘him’ and his behavior to magically disappear, so I didn’t have to talk about it. Little did I know that I was directly ‘damaged’ by the relationship and had to face that ‘damage’ in order to move past the destructive aftermath.

How did I finally see that I had to start paying more attention to myself? Probably because I was becoming a person even I didn’t like to be around. That was tough to admit. I hated who I had become. I hated being angry. I was always such a happy person. I was always dreaming and thinking about the future. I loved being alone with my own thoughts.

Suddenly, I recognized that I was no longer behaving like the ‘me’ I had grown to know. I didn’t like myself and certainly didn’t trust myself. How did I expect anyone else to love or respect or trust me? I couldn’t.

Because I didn’t want to lose my family, I was determined to find myself and to learn how to trust myself again.

If I had been more aware and honest with myself, I would have recognized the following red flags of depression and despair sooner rather than later and would have been equipped to tackle and beat these after effects of pathological love:

  • Feeling depressed.
  • Feeling numb.
  • Loss of friends.
  • Nightmares.
  • Cold sweats.
  • Destructive forms of self-soothing and self-medicating like eating too much, not eating enough, drinking alcohol, abusing pain killers, etc.
  • Loss of enthusiasm for activities that were once a substantial part of your identity and existence.
  • Feelings of inadequacy in your abilities, skills and job performance.
  • Constant rumination; reliving episodes of abuse and trauma.
  • Avoidance of certain people, situations and places.
  • Inability to control anger as a result of a threat, real or perceived.
  • Constant need for validation from others in how you are feeling.

Many who read this will think, “Everyone experiences these types of feelings at some point in their lives.”

That is true, but we aren’t talking about fleeting feelings. We’re talking about constant, chronic, never-ending feelings that just won’t go away, regardless of our efforts to make them vanish. We’re talking about feelings and emotions that lead to self-destruction. No kidding. Self-destruction!

When we recognize the recurrence and insidious nature of our thoughts and emotions, we must realize it’s time to start making a plan to help ourselves by seeking help from others.

  • Reading a book isn’t always enough.
  • Joining an online support group isn’t always enough.
  • Talking to a counselor isn’t always enough.
  • Joining the gym isn’t always enough.
  • Practicing yoga isn’t always enough.
  • Getting out and doing things for the first time isn’t always enough.
  • Taking medication isn’t always enough.

Healing and recovery is a unique and individual path. What works for ‘her’ may not work for you. What worked yesterday, may not work today. Getting to the bottom of ourselves in order to change and better ourselves is a long and sometimes arduous journey. The first thing we must learn to do is to be patient with ourselves. Baby steps are required. Just because you recognize the effects, doesn’t mean they can all be remedied overnight.

What do I recommend?

Visit the website for The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education for free and low-cost therapy and recovery assistance.  Founder, Sandra L. Brown, has over 25 years of experience as a psychoanalyst with expert knowledge and understanding of helping men and women who have suffered trauma as a result of pathological love.

You are not alone. Don’t be ashamed. There is help and hope for you!


(image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/118289927683868545/)

abuse, Addiction, Alcohol, Bikram Yoga, Cluster B disorders, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Family, Fitness, Forgiveness, Friends, Health, Lessons, Love, Mental Health, mindfulness, Narcissist, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Sociopath, NPD, Peace, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychopaths, PTSD, Recovery, Relationships, Self Improvement, Sociopaths, Spirituality
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Join the conversation! 35 Comments

  1. Gender neutrality should be used instead of using the male descriptors as its not always men that perpetuate the abuse.


  2. I’ve learned from experience not to try to seek the truth from the psychopath. In doing so you remain a fly in the spider’s web. The truth will never come from the psychopath, the truth will only come from within you and is reinforced by recognising the same experiences other survivors share. Start trusting your own instincts again. If something does not sit quite right in your mind it probably isn’t, that’s the dissonance created by the lie/s. Separate your thoughts from them and focus on inhabiting your own mind, body and soul. Blessings.


  3. Sadly I can totally relate this experiences within my life and years long marriage to my ex wife.
    She i s a Sociopath & Narcissistic personality Disordered Character.
    Her inconsiderate Guerrilla actions and tactics totally destroyed most important aspects of my life and I ended with nothing left. I lost my
    profession, finances and my social life and my 3 children.
    Only years later into my marriage I discovered some of her previous statements to be a blatant lies I started to look carefully at the way she execute day to day operations. She totally relied on her charms and my full trust.
    More I looked more I got a grim picture of her Pathological character.
    (*Sadly at that time I didn’t know that those Conditions are incurable condition and I started to engage in lengthy discussions and tried to explain that what she is doing hurts me-financially or emotionally or that it is against best interest of our marriage or children or that it will lead us into problems (*but not her)(for her it was a fun or opportunity)….
    so finally THIS UNINFORMED APPROACH of discussing issues with her- advised from magazines and books on COMMUNICATION AND HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP,
    lead ME into trouble because:
    more I ceased to be A SOFT TARGET – and Assertive man,
    more she realized that her tactics does’t work any more,
    so logically she started to distance herself and children from me
    At first
    she applied easy come-easy go tactics (leaving and coming back)
    to push me back into submission…to warn me what is coming if I continue to resist her exploit
    Sadly I accepted her reunions /but at the same time I didn’t want to go back into “YES-man”position.
    I started to peruse her to stay together and try Therapy (we have 3 children together)
    As she realized that I definitely CHANGED…and “BLIND MAN” is NO more option WITH ME …then she started to portray me as a Problem in the Marriage and she used many Preprepared pamphlets for woman victims of domestic violence- that give her a script to spread around in her social circles.
    At her socialite meetings She portrayed me as someone who troubles HER FREEDOM… (*in fact she entered a Faze of Puling out form this Marriage, as she realized that she is put under a pressure to provide 2-way give&receive Relationship)
    this is very important to understand !!!
    because …the VICTIMS of Sociopaths in the process of living together become totally financially destroyed-AT THIS FAZE OF DEVELOPMENT !!! PARADOXICALLY a VICTIM-!!! insist on staying with a AKA’Partner,
    they see their “AKA-Partner as a ONLY Help to rebuild them lives back…
    BECAUSE: They see they AKA-Partner almost as a emotional and financial BANK in which they invested years of work and love, money and commitment. .
    Meanwhile a Sociopath-AKA-Partner through this Relationship significantly Financially and Socially empowered beyond recognition, and totally plundered Partner’s money, love, commitment, ad time to Fix her agendas.

    I did this above mentioned mistake, for NOT UNDERSTANDING that Sociopath didn’t approach me or marriage and 3 children in the first place to make give&receive relationship… BUT to take as much as she can
    and then run away with her booty and children.
    some of the Advice given in discussions can be easily Abused and used against totally innocent Man that are actually dealing with a Sociopath or/& Narcissistic WOMAN that wants to Escape from a Marriage that is not anymore her Playground for exploitation and Manipulative Coercive Control.
    many sociopaths and narcissistic women in blogs and internet discussions , will turn entire Life Stories upside down (*because they are enormously skilled Liars) and start exposing their life stories Exactly as they enter this *EXIT FAZE of AKA-Marriage withholding from public all information on her totally INCONSIDERATE and EXPLOITATIVE behaviors in the marriage-executed Behind the Closed Doors of Privacy.


    • Marko,

      Thank you for taking the time to write and share your experience. You bring up some very good points.

      Yes, we make the misinformed mistake of thinking these people will change if we point out that their words, actions and behaviors hurt us. Doing that only encourages them to find new ways to control and hurt us more. They want us submissive, not challenging. When we are a challenge, we are considered “out-of-control” and a problem.

      And even after we clearly see that the person we once thought we knew and who we once thought was a person who could learn and grow, we repeatedly seek their approval and validation. Why? Because we’re suffering from so much confusion and cognitive dissonance because of being misinformed by those books and magazines and relationship “doctors” who urge us to “work it out” and that love is hard and relationships deserve our time and effort.

      Unfortunately, these messages only allow for us to be further destroyed and for the sociopath to be further fueled.

      It’s been 2 years since I started writing about narcissists and cluster B disorders and sociopaths. I was fooled by sociopaths playing the victim on a few occasions. I had even aligned with one on FB who had an amazing following of victims/survivors. It took me 12 months before I listened to my gut and had the courage to walk away from her. It’s shameful to think back on the red flags that I glossed over, but I did and must accept it and hope ill be able to see things more clearly the next time I’m approached.

      I do wish more men would come forward and share their experiences. However, I understand and respect why they don’t.



  4. I hope someday I can pay it forward and help someone the way you’re helping me, Paula. Your validation, empathy and wisdom are truly life-saving. My gratitude is immeasurable. Thank you.


  5. My wife and I separated just before Christmas. I find myself at the beginning of the end of a relationship where I had loved my wife like no other before her. Over the past 5 years I have endured threats, lies, and more encounters with law enforcement than I ever had before meeting her. I still love her despite the things she’s done. It’s a long story as I’m sure most of them are. Suffice it to say that when I met her I owned my own home, had a great job with great pay, nice vehicles, etc. Everything I could have wanted. Today, at this very moment that I type this, I have my computer and a few clothes that I took with me. I filed for divorce on January 8th of this year. Our anniversary. I’m saddened by the thought that she may never know what she is and never find true happiness in her life. Though I know I can’t and shouldn’t, if she were to come to me now and say she was sorry, I may be tempted to take her back. I hope that this site and sites like it can help me get through this difficult period in my life. I apologize as I am no writer and my thoughts are a little jumbled right now.


    • Don,
      I hope this site and others like it can help you, too. This is very fresh for you. But you know what is healthy and what isn’t. Going back would simply prolong the pain and confusion and lead to further abuse and violence. You can love the idea of her from a distance. You don’t have to hate her. You just have to learn to love yourself more. 🙂


    • give yourself a chance to taste life without her you may be surprised you may find a whole new enjoyment of life but you will need to be strong and never look back but it will take time, time well invested, watch your self talk, you sound like you are already talking yourself into taking her back if the offer was there……. Be careful you are not giving you a chance to find a better more fulfilling experience of this life give yourself that opportunity but it won’t happen for you, you need to make it happen…….it’s worth it believe me Don!


    • Thank you, Alex. Great advice for Don. 🙂


  6. I have my eyes open now, for two and a half years I have had a sociopath in my life, didn’t realise, thought it was me, or she had problems I could help her. Lastest instalment was I helped relocate her, stayed with me, my husband and my 11 and 10 year old, got her a great job in my team. This life I had built up through huge efforts and illness, my previous work place I gradually became isolated etc etc people had liked me, I did a good job, couldn’t understand what had happened, then I made my new life. Massave mistake helping this lady who had been in my previous work place, no one really liked her there, I was warned she was dangerous, chose to ignore this feeling sorry for her. So I got her a job in my new life. Two months after having her in my new life and her establishing herself in my work team I am homeless, can’t work due to her threats, been granted a protection order, have debts I can’t pay, living in friends houses in hiding, children keep telling me how this lady had been telling them she intended to stab them to death behind my back when she had been living wit us, they don’t do pretty butterfly drawings anymore, they draw crime scenes with lots of blood. We have been telling everyone what has happened, our immediate community is extremely supportive, I dread the nights when my mind starts……I am permanently frightened, so are my kids, I watch if I’m being followed, I am terrified most of the time, this lady is bitter with life, has nothing to lose and clearly we could be the targets for her grand finale of her career as a narcissic sociopath. I have been surprised at ow many people I have met whose lives have been destroyed by these people, society needs to be more aware, trouble is these people rarely go above the radar until they do something to physically harm people and end up in prison, they are the murderers of society. ……………god bless this log and others lets keep hi lighting this disturbing problem we have that wrecks life’s, one thing though I will NOT do the same again!


    • Alex, I am with you! I really wish more of us had our eyes open to the sociopaths in our midst. I don’t know if it’s because we’re too busy trying to find happiness or that we just don’t want to be bothered to get involved, but more of us need to take a stand and realize our potential for happiness erodes the more we look away from the misdeeds of these vampires.


  7. Exactly what I needed to read. Thank you for your open and honest sharing!


  8. Thanks for this. Right now my main goal is getting my kids out of this marriage safely. But I also need to tune into myself now so that I am not destroying my own body with stress in the process. Great timing for this post, along with lucky googling…


  9. People try to help me but they can walk away and forget all about my problems and continue with their happy lives. Im not a selfish person, I always put others before myself. I cant find a happy confident woman because I don’t think I ever was. I was bullied at school for being fat and had an unloving father. I know people have had far worse than I have but there is nothing in this world I want anymore. I know im depressed but cant get the help. Susan


  10. This is me 19 months after my husband left the children and myself. Ive just had the house repossessed this week and have had no choice other than move into my mother’s house. So there is my mum, 19 year old daughter, 12 year old son, myself, dog, cat and 2 rabbits squashed into a 2 bed house. I have nothing left. I have all of those symptoms and am only alive because I don’t want to hurt my son. My plan is to get him to 18 and then take my life. Im ruined and feel I cant mend. Sue.


    • Susan, you know hurting yourself is not the answer. There are many of us who care and don’t want you to feel lost and alone. Most of us have been where you are. It does get better. It does. Is there someone you can talk to? Please call this number:
      Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90



  11. […] The Aftermath of the Sociopath and Identifying Signs of Abuse and Trauma in Yourself (paularenee.wordpress.com) […]


    • I was with the guy who did this to me for 3 years and its like I’m awake now but wen I was with him or around him it was like he had some kind of power over me I felt weak and physically and emotional drained I knew he had some kind of mental illness because being with him was an emotional rollercoaster… Just weniI would be strong enuf to pull away he let me only to pull me back in with the pretend caring and romance the whole 3 years I was to think that if I fixed this I would deserve his love but wen I fixed that there would b something else he needed me to do in order to change the way he acted and treated me there was always something I needed to fix or change in order for him to be all in and he pretended everything nothing was real none of it but omg was he good @ pretending and wen he did choose to give me a lil bit just to keep me hangin on I would b so hooked again he gave me just enuf …. But now I see wat happen to me and it hurts so bad heused evereverything iI said and did against me now i hate him iI either want him to suffer or just iI want to b emotion less like him and play his own game against him I don’t know if this is safe or if I will b able to damage him the way he damaged me hours and hours of emotional abuse put downs to the core and if I hung up and didn’t listen to it he would threaten to come to my house and make me pay this is by far the most incredible thing I have ever endured and now I hate myself for being so fearful of him but after he started the physical abuse shortly after the relationship started I was scared of wat he really mite be capable of the intimidation would send me into a panic always high anxiety never knowing wat I mite say or do to put him in that dark place he would say his was in didn’t last long and I would not ever talk about it and it was like he totally forgot it happen I mean he had me so confused @ wat was happening I felt crazy and now I even feel more crazy I don’t know wat to do now I feel lost almost like I need him he is in jail but I’m so afraid that wen he gets out he will come back for me I have not accepted any of his calls and I kno that is pissing home off he wants me to bond him out but I just feel like if I give him the slightest thought that I care that just gives him a reason to continue to torment me ….. I truly don’t know how far he will go with the whole physical abuse could he kill me Idk this scares me I still can’t sleep @ night even tho I know he can’t get to me right now because he is in jail but is he plotting a plan I’m beyond fearful I feel like it has to b him or me this is crazy and my thought scare me I’m seeing a counselor but no one can save me from him I feel helpless and very very scared I’m in fight or flight as I have been since bout 4 months after meeting him


    • Keep rejecting his calls. If you were to bond him out, he’d use that, and once out, wouldn’t be there for your emotional needs.The confusion would simply escalate and become more layered and harder to reconcile. Make today your end date/starting point to become deconstructing the confusion so you can piece together a new reality absent of his influence. The sooner you can detach the better. Do you have family whom you can lean on and share your fears?


  12. […] The Aftermath of the Sociopath and Identifying Signs of Abuse and Trauma in Yourself (paularenee.wordpress.com) […]


  13. Hi Paula, my comment has nothing to do with this post but I wanted to show you this. I often take free on-line courses (MOOCs) via Cousera and when I saw this particular class (that I’m debating on signing up for), I thought of you.
    check it out: https://www.coursera.org/course/moralities



  14. Ugh – so reading my mind again! Lol. I was trying to have this rocking pity party and your post is in my in box! Lol. So unfair. 😝😱😉. I forget about the human being I am, not the human doing!! Thank you!! I will check the link out! Have a great day!


  15. Great post. I like Sandra Browns work too. 🙂


  16. Beautiful awareness… you have no idea how much this helps 🙂


  17. Thank you. This is exactly where I am right now!


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