Freedom is key: Reaching a place of strength and acceptance in order to let go #personalstory #healing #yoga

Nicole opening her heart in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana.

Nicole opening her heart in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana.

(The following was written by Nicole Polizois and is shared on this blog with her permission.)

FREEDOM IS KEY

This is a story about domestic violence, not the type on the news in recent days, not flashy sexy TMZ worthy blows to the face, and not the COPS version assuring braless hysteria.

This is a story borne out of an early childhood fantasy, one that lingers with me even now– about appearing perfect so I could be rescued by a man.

I found many men, but I married George. An abusive man, in other words, but not just any abusive man. George was the handsome, charming and successful man who declared his love for me on our first date. He always called, sometimes 35 times a day.

A child of Greek immigrants, abandoned at age ten by his abusive father, leaving George and his brother alone with a depressed and helpless mother. His childhood memories blank, too brutal to recollect. He grew up on food stamps and worked as a busboy. He had a paper route. He went to college on a full tennis scholarship.

He didn’t knock me unconscious in an elevator like Ray Rice did to his fiancé. However, he did spit on me in an elevator while I was eight months pregnant with his son on our way to Lamaze class (a waste of his time).

He spat in my face and then came the usual rhetoric:  “You’re a waste product.” You’re a shitty wife.” “You’re a piece of shit.” “Aren’t you embarrassed to go out in public looking like that?” “You look disgusting.”

Nothing I didn’t already feel.

No blow up preceded this incident. No alcohol or drug use. This was just George with no cameras to see, I had no evidence. No one would believe me. George kept his demons for only those who could never leave him. Everyone loved George, including my father.

The story is textbook. It escalated from there as it always does. It doesn’t ever get better. It doesn’t go away.

George would say, “I don’t have to OJ you, I’m going to get you to kill yourself.” I heard this so many times, as if recited out of a manual he carried along with his secret cell phone. His threat, if I voiced thoughts of leaving him.

I know why women “don’t just leave.” He picked me because I needed him like a drunk needs a drink. I needed him to take care of me. I believed him when he said, ”no one else would ever want you.” “You are going to be homeless.” “I’m going to take your son away from you.”

I am a statuesque blonde. I am educated and cultured. I have traveled. I speak languages. I roam with the best breed of cattle.  I have appeared on the cover of magazines.  We lived in a home overlooking the Pacific. I practiced yoga. The Harbor Day room mom. Stella McCartney’s top client. I drove an oversized black Benz. I helped raise millions for Oceana. I attended the lunches and Galas for Human Options. It didn’t matter.

There are few resources available. The law enforcement officers explained, “The Burden of Proof”–so unless the abuser is foolish enough to leave his handprints or is video taped, there is nothing they can or will do. Restraining orders are tough to get, and even when I had one, and he violated it, I was the one who begged the officer not to do anything. The last thing I wanted was to get him in deeper trouble. I still wanted to protect him. Attorneys, even the ones that advertise to be experts on Domestic Violence, will do nothing without a large retainer. They don’t, or won’t understand that the abuser has the financial power. The only accounts my name appeared on were the one checking account I had before our marriage and the $1 Million line of credit he extracted from our house.

His threat to leave me destitute was carried out, and no one could stop him. Forensic Accountants are a joke. The Family Court system is a dog and pony show.

FREEDOM IS KEY.

The moment I let that seep in, I really started to let it all go. I sold my belongings. I ached for the loss of my Mercedes, I still cannot drive by my former home. I remind myself it’s okay. It’s only stuff.

FREEDOM IS KEY.

I have discovered who I am without all of the things that hid or I thought was my identity. I became more than a fancy address and apparel. I stayed on my yoga mat even on the days I thought I couldn’t breathe. I started teaching again.

“Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going on. Not against: with.” ~ Robert Frost

While I practiced my yoga on a hot September morning two years ago, George lay on a garage floor. He shot himself in the head.

It isn’t the typical ending of a fairy tale, but my son and I are at peace. I am proud of my life now. I have a story I feel obligated to share. I held on in order to let go.

FREEDOM IS KEY.

by Nicole Polizois

Have you hugged a sociopath today?

Sociopathy – Psychopathy – Pathological Awareness – What does it mean to you?

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If the sociopath knew he were a sociopath, do you think he’d make any of us aware?

There is a growing number of people who think society should be more accepting of sociopaths and that we should classify and consider them the way we do individuals born with autism or Down’s. After all, they were born that way. They can’t help themselves.

Personally, I think this is an insult to individuals with autism and Down’s and an insult to the people who spend their entire lives dedicated to caring for those with autism and Down’s.

I also believe that in order to accept a sociopath, we need to know exactly what we are getting ourselves into. How many sociopaths are willing to admit they are pathological? It’s their nature to manipulate and con. If they were to disclose their tools for conning people, they would have no purpose.

And even if there were a genetic marker and test to identify these people, do you think they would be willing to disclose it? HIPAA would protect them from responsible disclosure:

By the way, I was born with an inability to empathize, communicate effectively, and take ownership of any of my misdeeds, mostly because I don’t think I commit misdeeds. Knowing this, are you willing to accept me and allow me to control everything you do, say and think?

The first step to receiving understanding from others is in admitting you have a problem. A sociopath would NEVER do that.

Problem? What Problem? YOU have the problem.

I think the better route is continuing to educate people on how to spot these fools so we can make more informed decisions about pursuing relationships with them. Or not!

We, the non-pathologicals, remain in control for a change.

What do you think? Should we pity and understand the pathologicals among us? Or should we reserve our understanding and acceptance for those who won’t exploit our understanding and acceptance?

~Paula

Perspective – The upside to having lived in hell with a Sociopath

20130426-110343.jpgBefore the sociopath, I always feared criticism. I tried so desperately to be perfect and not to offend people intentionally or otherwise.

(Of course, there were people who got under my skin that I didn’t like. I rarely held back letting those people know I disliked them.)

But I always worried about what my close family and friends and co-workers thought of me. I wanted to be seen as a good person in their eyes. I didn’t want to offend my loved ones. I wanted them to be proud of me.

When any of them criticised me, I would get easily hurt. When I got easily hurt, I would do one of two things: 1) become ashamed and run away or 2) get mad and runaway. Sometimes I became ashamed and mad.

I was not good at accepting healthy criticism from people who loved me. I hated the fact I would get upset with them for pointing out one of my personal failings.

I was never really angry with them, though. I was more angry with myself for having done something against them that would make them ashamed of me.

In walks the sociopath. Within a few months of the relationship starting, everything I did was shameful to him.

From past relationships and old friends I still valued to how I disciplined my son or neglected to discipline my son — these were all areas in which I was shamed by the sociopath.

Needless to say, I felt ashamed of myself the majority of my relationship with him. I felt like I was worthless and that I honestly needed to change everything about myself in order to be worthy of anyone’s love and attention, especially the sociopath’s.

Once I was finally out of the relationship and able to focus on my behavior outside of the sociopath, I recognized more clearly that, yes, I had some work to do, but not nearly as much work as the sociopath had me brainwashed into thinking.

The work I had to do involved letting go of being and trying to be so damn perfect for everyone else. Once I let go of that (which took me over 18 months from the time I left the sociopath), I could relax and not worry so much about what others thought of me.

And you know what? I have discovered that when I am not worried about screwing up, I don’t screw up as much!

When we go from one extreme to the next, we are able to add perspective to our lives and live more gently and carefully.

The sociopath was an EXTREME shamer and blamer. Absolutely nothing I did was or could ever be good enough. There was always shame and blame connected to my actions. EVERY action.

It didn’t matter if I drank too much or quit drinking all together, I would be shamed.

  • If I drank, I was a poor excuse for a mother and not a good girlfriend.
  • If I didn’t drink, I better think about why I was such a bad mother and poor girlfriend now that I was sober.
  • If I exercised, I was doing it for someone else other than the sociopath.
  • If I didn’t exercise, I was taking time away from my relationship with the sociopath.
  • If I called my mother, I was a whining baby who couldn’t handle my own problems without mommy’s help.
  • If I didn’t call my mother, I was avoiding my responsibilities.

(Where the fuck does a person go when stuck in this mess!?!)

The only place to go is outside of it. Otherwise, you remain stuck, miserable and always wondering why you are such a failure.

You are not a failure! You might not be perfect, but who is?

We each make bad choices and don’t always say the right thing in every situation. Sometimes we hurt people’s feelings without realizing it.

All we can do when these things happen is apologize and recognize that a mistake was made, fix it but move on.

If we allow ourselves to marinate in shame and blame, we never grow from the act or circumstance that caused the shame and blame.

And the only thing worse than self-blame and self-shame, is being subjected to the shame and blame of a pathological person like the sociopath.

You are human. Embrace your humanity. Be gentle with yourself even when you screw up, and good people will be gentle with you, too.

Namaste!

Related articles – Letting Go of Perfect. ~Paula Carrasquillo for Elephant Journal

Acceptance and Feeding the Wolves

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I receive letters and private emails from many readers. You share many of your feelings, stories, and fears with me. For that, I am grateful and feel blessed to have your trust.

A recurring question from many readers is:

“How do I get my abuser out of my head in order to forget and move on?”

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. There is no definitive solution. We lived through something with someone. We can’t erase it. But I do believe there is a first step we all must take in order to recover from it:

We must accept what happened to us and realize we cannot change it or change the person who hurt us.

As a person who was able to wake up and escape my abuser before it was too late, the hurt I felt was not of having my heart-broken. Not even close. The hurt I felt in the beginning of my healing was in having trusted someone I expected would treat me with love, kindness, patience, and forgiveness. Those are basic and simple building blocks of all healthy relationships and the exact traits narcissistic sociopaths like the boy in my story lack.

My husband has those traits. My son has those traits. My mother, father, and stepfather have those traits. My sisters and brothers have those traits. My life-long friends have those traits. Therefore, my expectations that the boy would have those traits was not unrealistic. I had been conditioned to expect them from everyone, including the boy. And when they failed to flow from him, I wanted to help him grow those traits. How futile and naive! I know that and accept it now.

Acting on my co-dependent tendencies is a thing of the past. It serves no one, especially me. Why would any of us choose to try to fix another when we need to fix ourselves first? Once you accept your abuser for what he/she is, you can finally accept yourself, warts and all!

The beauty of accepting ourselves is the realization that we have complete control and power over changing those things we don’t like about ourselves and our behavior. Most importantly, we are allowed to expect better from ourselves and also expect results from our efforts to change.

I started by writing down all of the things I liked about myself. Then I jotted down all of my failings. I wanted to maintain the good in me but transform my bad habits and behaviors. I couldn’t erase my past failings and personal disappointments and setbacks related to my actions. However, I knew I could begin again. But beginning again required a thorough inventory of EVERYTHING!!

I spent many hours and weeks going back in my past and dissecting the years. I discovered too much I had tried sweeping under the rug. I had many “ah-ha” moments, and my confidence in my ability to relearn how to be myself again slowly started returning. With this confidence, I was energized to do something with my skills and talents I had suppressed for so long. (I, just me myself and I, suppressed them. It was no one’s fault but my own.)

In less than six (6) months from the time I decided to take control of my life, my writing took off. My book was published. I landed my column in The Washington Times Communities. My Facebook pages grew. I was approached by the founder and creator of My Emotional Vampire to help with their ever-increasing following. I read more and more blogs by other survivors. I lent my support to them as best I could. One Mom’s Battle asked me to contribute to the back cover of her book. I participated in fund raisers and walks.

My body and soul were being energized more and more every day thanks to my own efforts (and lots of support from my son and husband). I got myself into the mess I was in, and I was able to get myself out of it. That’s all we can do for ourselves in the end, really. Don’t you think?

Today I celebrated another birthday. My husband and son bought me a beautiful cake and two yoga calendars: one for my office and one for wherever else I need reminded of the passing of time. They also got me a dimmer switch for the light above the dining room table. (Mood lighting is VERY important!) Before leaving for work this morning, I wrote in my new journal (Thank you, Janine!) and wished for a peaceful day.

I want to end this post with a Cherokee tale I read many months ago and again last night in the last pages of the memoire Look Me in the Eye: Caryl’s Story by Caryl Wyatt and Anita le Roix:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Namaste!

Trick question: Can we accept and live with a narcissistic sociopath?

Cupcake invitationIs it really possible? Can we accept a sociopath for what he is and live with him? In some cases, like work and family relations, we may have no choice. The sociopath could be our boss, or the sociopath could be our brother or even our son. We are left with little choice but to accept him until we can find a new job or gather enough resources to move far, far away.

However, accepting a sociopath as your intimate partner or spouse is absolutely out of the question unless you are willing to lose your immediate family…

Within a very short period of time after beginning a relationship with a sociopath, you will discover that your sister isn’t calling you as often as she once did. Your mom comes up with excuses not to visit you, and your dad simply can’t be bothered to pick up the phone when you call. It’s not because they stopped loving you. They simply hate the sociopath and what he has done to you. The more family you have that loves you, the less family you’ll have once the sociopath gets his way.

Family can see through the facade and mask of a sociopath much easier than we can as his intimate partner. Why? Because the sociopath isn’t interested in pleasing your family. He’s interested in pissing them off so they WILL desert you. He wants all of your attention for his narcissistic supply.

For example: The boy in my story spent Thanksgiving with my family one year, and it was a disaster! In addition to bringing his lap dog (the Marquis de Púbol), he brought a very needy attitude. In a house filled with aunts, cousins, siblings, and everyone else’s dogs, the boy expected me to sit next to him and entertain him personally the entire day. Anyone who knows big families knows giving one person your undivided attention at gatherings is impossible. My nieces and nephews were there and loved to play and run around and enjoyed when I joined them. So I did, not thinking I was doing anything wrong. After all, my family is very friendly and very welcoming. It’s not as if he had no one to talk to.

At one point, I ran after my niece through the kitchen where the boy was talking with my mother and step sister. As I passed the boy, he grabbed my waist to stop me. I thought it was normal and gave him a hug and tried to continue passing through only to discover his grip had tightened to the point that his fingers were jabbing into my sides. It hurt and I said it hurt. He let go and looked at me as if I were being cruel and insensitive to even suggest he was hurting me by wanting me close to him.

I walked off in the direction of one of the bedrooms and the boy followed. We entered one of the rooms and closed the door. We were alone. I explained to him that this was my family and that he shouldn’t expect me to ignore my family. He said I didn’t love him enough and that he needed me to be next to him. I explained how impossible and childish that sounded. Immediately, my refusal to give him my undivided attention was met with hateful accusations that I was uncaring, insensitive, and disloyal. I kept shaking my head and told him he could leave if he couldn’t handle how I spent my time with my family. We left the room.

I tried relaxing after this conversation but kept feeling guilty for making the boy feel so unwanted. I had never experienced anyone getting so hurt by me being me with my family. Yes! I felt guilty for making a grown man in the company of MANY great people feel uncomfortable and unloved. A few days later, my mother called and voiced her concerns. She said that the boy is far too needy and possessive and that she did not appreciate how he tried to control me on Thanksgiving. In my naiveté, I assured my mother that it was the boy’s lack of experience with large families that made him so insecure and that he should do better at our next holiday get together. My mom felt otherwise.

The following November, my mom called a week before Thanksgiving and asked us not to bring the Marquis de Púbol (his lap dog) because the dog she just adopted from the shelter was in heat and she knew Púbol was not neutered. She didn’t want a pregnant dog. I couldn’t blame her. Upon giving the news to the boy, he seemed relieved and asked me what our new plans for Thanksgiving would be. I chuckled and said, “I’m taking my son to my mother’s for Thanksgiving. You can put your dog in the really nice doggie daycare in Alexandria and come too.”

Wow! You would have thought I suggested leaving the dog with a bunch of untrained professionals who would feed him people food and make the dog sleep on his own feces or something. The boy went nuts! He couldn’t believe I was still going. He couldn’t believe I would ever suggest a doggie daycare. He couldn’t believe I was choosing my family over him.* Thanks to this explosive reaction, I gladly went to my mother’s without him and even turned off my ringer, so I didn’t get interrupted by his  phone calls and incessant texts that were questions like: “Do you love me?” and “Do you miss me?” For pity sake! Really? He had a choice but he chose to be a narcissistic sociopath. No. I don’t love you. And no. I don’t miss you. And either does my family.

*The more I write and think back on my experience, the more I realize how defiant I was with the boy’s demands.  I was often given ultimatums like “Choose me or X. You can’t have me if you choose X.” I always chose X.  I flat-out refused him many, many times. But refusing him and choosing me (because X was always something about me) didn’t mean I understood why he was making such demands. I often questioned if X was really that important or if X was really hurting the boy. I could never understand why the boy always perceived X as such a powerful enemy that needed eliminated. Trying to understand the “why” is what caused me so much grief and confusion. After much reflection, I realize now that there is no answer to the “why” behind the boy’s actions and refusals to accept X. The boy is just shitty. There is no explanation. He is what he is. And X was just a part of me he couldn’t possess, and it pissed him off. Coming to terms with this has allowed me to finally stop feeling so damn guilty. 

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