changeQuestion left on my blog by a reader:

“I have a question for this community. So now that I’ve identified the narcissistic sociopath in my life (husband) and have even identified the relationship in my life that started this cycle of my choosing (mother), how do I identify myself in this scenario? What kind of person am I that has “lived” in this relationship for so long (30), what is my behaviors and how do I change them and discontinue making the same selection? How do I change this dependency to this kind of behavior that I have allowed to develop? I am taking full responsibility for the rest of my life.”

My response follows, but I would really like anyone out there who has some approaches to healing and words of wisdom to please share. Namaste!

Paula’s response:

You’re three steps ahead of most: 1) you’ve identified that you were in an abusive relationship; 2) you identified the perpetrator for what he is; and 3) you recognize you are accountable and must look within to change and transform your conditioned/habitual dependent thinking.

If you haven’t already done so, find a trusted counselor to help guide you through your self-discovery journey. This person, ideally, understands trauma as it relates to symptoms of women coming from domestic violence situations and who understands that “violence” means any type of control wielded over another in the form of physical, financial, emotional and/or spiritual abuse. You don’t want a counselor who will minimize your emotions because that will make your inner journey a journey of self-blame rather than self-discovery and acceptance. You blame yourself enough already, I suspect.

While in counseling, start doing something, anything, you have always been interested in doing. Learn to cook, bake, sew or kayak. Learning a new skill ignites our cognitive thinking side of our brain and allows us to get out of the emotional side long enough to start appreciating ourselves again. Set mini goals for yourself. Understand your triggers and ask your counselor how you can work through them to minimize the negative effects of those triggers. Some may be harder to work through than others but understanding the source empowers us to control them rather than having them control us.

Join a gym or dust off those workout DVDs you collected over the years. Or simply start walking. Anything to activate your endorphins, which will naturally make you feel good about yourself. Feeling your heart beating and reminding you that you are alive and that you matter. Physical activity isn’t just for losing weight and looking good on the outside. It provides invigorating benefits to our internal systems as well.

Think about stuff you consume that makes you feel miserable about yourself. Salty foods, too much caffeine, alcohol, sodas…you get the idea. Pay attention to the things you put inside your body and how they make you feel. Try eliminating those things that make you feel crappy and increase the consumption of those things that make you feel good. Keep a food journal.

Surround yourself with people who love you and believe in you and who won’t coddle you but who will call you out (in a gentle, caring and non-shaming way) and help you when you need help. You don’t want anyone’s pity but you deserve to be understood and for your feelings to be shared without judgment.

Most of all, be patient, hopeful and positive. Allow yourself to have setbacks. They happen. Don’t be rigid in your recovery journey. You may think something will work for you, later to discover it just doesn’t have the same helpful benefits the same activity had for someone else.

You’re not going to recognize yourself. It’s a frightening thing. Other people aren’t going to recognize you either. Some may even ask where the old you went, especially those who have leaned on you for support over the years while you ignored your own needs. Don’t feel guilty about that. Let them know you still care, empathize and have compassion for them but you are your first priority and your happiness is most important, because if you’re happy and satisfied with yourself and love yourself, there’s more love to share with others…real love, not the co-dependent care you felt obligated to give to everyone who reached out to you and left you drained and wondering when someone was going to help you.

Well, the time has come for you to help yourself. After all, you were always so good at helping others, right? You’re going to be a great personal coach for yourself.

I hope some of this was helpful.


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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Last week I wrote some random advise on FB. You have also mentioned it several times – never, ever tell anyone (that you have known for less than 10 years) your greatest, darkest fear, nor your greatest love. I also added “and never do your taxes together – married or not!”.

    I am saying this because the phase I am currently in is the plunging of the knife as deep as possible – attacking the love of my life – my children, isolating, drug addicting, financially raping, manipulating them individually….. knowing that they were my one true love, that they alone were heir to our family estate. And I have exhausted absolutely everything to stop it.

    Thank you Paula for everything that you do, from the bottom of my heart.


    • I’m so sorry. Going after our children is the most despicable thing these monsters do. Innocent children we love more than anything attacked out of jealousy, hatefulness and greed, just to see us lash out, get angry only to be then accused by the monster of overreacting and acting crazy.


  2. All great, sound advice Paula. The only thing that I’d add is something that worked wonders for me: a true memory list. This was quite painful to do, as it meant writing down every bad thing I could remember about my abusive relationship.

    But, when those rose-tinted spectacles wanted to fall onto my nose, the list was a soul-saver! It helped give me perspective at those dark moments when I wanted to believe that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and perhaps I should give him another chance. It helped keep me strong.


    • Oh, yes. Writing everything down is a great way to 1) purge ourselves; 2) recall specifics we had stuffed into our subconscious; and 3) to remind us when we are in that bargaining phase of grief and contemplate going back to or falling for the psychos pity, begging and shaming games. But doing so can be triggering, like it was for me, and should be done slowly and with care and patience. 🙂


  3. Hi Paula,

    There seems to be several phases a victim goes through in order to fully recover from an abusive relationship such as this. Are these “phases” listed anywhere that you know of?

    The normal lifecycle of any relationship is usually always the same. That being said, the lifecycle of an abnormal relationship, such as a conscious human and a sociopath is so different. In my situation I have found that every phase is more exhausting than the last. One thing is clear, the fear of the unknown seems to be a consistent tactic that the sociopath uses on their victims, and at every phase. I am wondering how many more phases are there to this madness? The only people that can shed light on this would be survivors such as yourself.

    Please shed or purge some light on this… (I use humor to release my tension, so pardon me)


    • There are the general stages of grief when the relationship ends: denial & isolation, anger, bargaining, denial and acceptance, but each of these stages are two-fold in toxic relationships/abusive relationships. Not only do you grieve the loss of the relationship, you are also grieving the loss of a person you THOUGHT you knew. You have betrayal, trauma and lots of shame and blame to work through. Some may need to go back to their childhood or somewhere in their early adult life that could be a source of other insecurities long before the toxic relationship began. It’s very different for each of us. Stages and phases repeat and some of us get stuck in a certain phase and fail to release ourselves and let go of victim thinking to embrace survival empowerment. So the phases and stages of recovery are not definite and specific. They overlap and fuse and spiral back on each other if our minds allow them to. 🙂


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