May 222012

A friend asked me this: What are the steps toward healing from an encounter with a psychopath?

Validate that the abuse really happened.

First, and most important is to be validated. An abuser understands that the abuse has more power when the victim is alone. Isolation doesn’t have to be physical, just as violence doesn’t have to be physical. When a victim has nobody who believes them, nobody who shares a common experience and nobody who validates their truth, they begin to doubt their reality. The expert abuser uses doubt to his advantage.

Support groups, especially in anonymous weblogs, are the first step to diffusing the power of abusers. Others who have experienced covert abuse, know the truth. We share experiences and validate each others’ stories. Abusers expect their victims to keep the secret of the abuse, colluding with them to hide the truth. They know that hiding the victimization gives more power to a shameful experience.

By hiding the abuse, the victim takes the shame of being abused, owns it, and becomes ashamed. Conversely, unveiling shame gives it right back to the perpetrator, where it belongs. Of course, abusers will try to scapegoat the victim and portray themselves as the injured party, sometimes successfully. That’s why it’s so important to understand the scapegoat mechanism,to recognize it in all its disguises.

Unveil the scapegoat mechanism.

Understanding scapegoating is the second step in healing from emotional abuse. Scapegoating is projection. Specifically, it projects shame from the perpetrator onto the victim. At first it might seem like scapegoating is about shifting guilt from the perpetrator on to the victim, but that’s only the first step. By disguising himself as a victim and slandering the real victim, the abuser rewrites history, takes control of public perceptions, leaves the victim exposed as the guilty party, powerless to make the truth known and feeling the shame that should belong to the abuser. The scapegoat may look guilty but she feels vulnerable and humiliated –ashamed.

In this stage, we learn that the abuser’s own shame is what drives him to abuse. Rene Girard’s scapegoat theory describes this mechanism best. What begins as a mimetic desire to be like the model, becomes a rivalry for identity. Shame, envy and hatred are the result, as that desire to be his rival is frustrated and the subject becomes aware of his lack of “being” in comparison to the model.

Evil originates from shame and envy. When people say money is the root of all evil, they are missing the first point. What is the purpose of money? To compare value and worth. It is the act of comparing and judging yourself as being less than your rival, which creates shame and envy. Money makes it easy to compare the value of material things, but the seed of shame and envy was planted when we accepted comparison as the basis for establishing our own value.   The abuser, compares his being to others and finds himself lacking.  He envies what he perceives as another’s superior being.  Envy makes him keenly aware of his emptiness and he determined to make others feel envy.

It helps to ruminate over the experience and turn those WTF? moments into AHA! moments. Once you understand the basics of shame and envy, you remember each memory from a different perspective. The lies are revealed and the life you thought you had lived is reinterpreted. Memories become a new experience, filled with new meaning. Reality gives you back those years you had lost to lies. The blog community, again, is a great source for triggering memories and helping to separate the truth from the lies you once believed.

Take a look at your life.

The third step, is to decide what you want to gain from this experience.  Evaluate your life, your core identity and your values. Identity and values are the least of what the abuser wanted to take. Some psychopaths want to take your life as well.

In Matthew 5:40, Jesus said, “if a man demands your tunic, give him your cloak also.”   Material values are the only values that psychopaths understand. Psychopaths are mimetic, they can only value things they observe others competing for. They don’t have spiritual values.

Perhaps what psychopaths envy most, is our connection to God and community. Competition and rivalry is what they understand, but how do you appropriate someone’s ability to trust? Psychopaths have a solution for that: If they can’t have it, nobody can. They plot to disconnect us from our ability to trust: in God and in humanity. They understand that if they can take away our faith, we become as alienated and soulless as they are. That’s their goal.

Jesus’ message is to be in this world, but not of it. Faith does not depend on the evidence presented, it just is.

Hooray for Gratitude!

The last step, perhaps, is to feel gratitude for everything. The psychopath poisoned me for two decades with small amounts of strychnine. Yet, I can feel gratitude because ironically, my struggle with that pain improved my overall health.

Unawares to me, I had gluten sensitivity since childhood. My digestive system was damaged from the resulting inflammation and I wasn’t getting nutrition from my food. I was very thin and suffered from other miserable allergies because of this, but I’d learned to live with it.   The strychnine poisoning caused severe muscle pain, which I couldn’t ignore.  I evaluated my health and my diet, then eliminated gluten, sugar and other allergens and my allergy symptoms all disappeared.  So in a way, the psychopath may have saved me from intestinal cancer due to gluten damage.  The diet definitely cured my allergies.  He observed this and wasn’t happy at all.

Meanwhile, he refused to eat at home, except for canned peaches and his personal box of Cheerios which he kept high above the cupboards (wonder why?). He was eating cheap, fast food, daily. He was sabotaging his health worse than mine! After two decades, his weight gain and rotting teeth reflected his lifestyle.

If sometimes I feel that life isn’t fair, I just remember those events and many others, in which I triumphed over him unaware that I was even under attack.  All his efforts at covert sabotage failed miserably in the long run. Life seems to balance things out without my help.

As survivors of abuse understand what they’ve experience, they gain power that will last a lifetime: the power to recognize the signs of abuse, to discern good from evil. They will pass those lessons to their children and their children’s children will benefit too. Instead of violence, the ripples of love, trust and hope continue into the future. Healing from abuse is the most worthwhile thing we can invest in.

Copyright © 2012-2013 Skylar


Refuse to Fall Down
by: Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Refuse to fall down
If you cannot refuse to fall down,refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven-
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.

  119 Responses to “Steps to Healing from Domestic Abuse”

  1. Yes ladies, I hear you clearly. I may find my way to the right sites that are more positive and healing as I work through this process. Always for the underdog I guess I can say. I am excited and scared, pushing forward and then having to stop from overload. This is the first time in four years I have given myself a voice. I wonder at times if I am just enough to have a say anywhere, then I remember that it was 12 solid years of isolation, abuse, cruelty, plots, and so much more that took my belief of self away. But, I always had a stash, always felt the need to be prepared for something, that relates to my childhood and the survival mechanisms I learned. I am comfortable with all the feedback, I appreciate it. I will try to be more aware of the drama sites, keep looking for the positive information, and continue my own therapy.

    BTW, I went into my therapist today with an attitude, I wanted to know if he was a specialist in PSTD and I read a few things I had copied and pasted from my searches, and I was so happy with his answers I almost cried. He told me that there is rarely a person diagnosed with PTSD for marital abuse, (maybe in my state) it has to be very bad for it to be officially diagnosed and he is treating me for that. I wasn’t told before that, I assumed it was just a label they were using to placate me along with domestic violence therapy. (As the health care here is a joke) He told me the Judge I had should not have questioned my Disability in any way during court, and I made a comment the Judge should be told that, and my Therapist said he would, and he would state my diagnosis and how serious it is. He also validated some of the issues I had with what happened and what I deserved from the divorce. This was the first professional I have had that stepped over the invisible boundaries and told me their opinion that I was right. Now all I have to do is to get my attorney to understand how deep this thing was, and to move forward with these points. The thing is it ##### being financially dependent on the spath, wage garnishment for alimony and medical co-pays, keeps us attached, until he bolts, or gets so frustrated he tries to harm me again. The standing threats are always there. He text me Sat night. I kept it short and sweet as he was looking for a response to play cat and mouse. I stay boring! He is hiding behind smoke and mirrors, keeping his circle convinced he has to be lied for and hid. I don’t care where he is, as long as he keeps working for now. I can only do this one day at a time, I cannot even plan for next month, not financially or even to decide to go vist family across state. The fear is still there, I want to work on finding that woman who used to be the queen, the leader, the strong woman that did so much until he came along. Now I am working on forcing myself out the front door, and I do force myself out that door by saying the word “I promise” to my friends. This is just part of my story, not as bad as some I have read, and some were shorter times, younger people, yet the emotions of the experiences are the same. Facing evil, living in fear, and escape. My needs for validation and support will lessen as I continue on this journey, and I am grateful for your support.

  2. Truths peak,

    Thank you for;
    snort, chuckle) Evil IS easily startled and quick to strike when it’s discovered.
    Made me think of Sandra Bullock’s FBI character in her movie, Miss Congeniallity, nice comeback! We always need a chuckle and a snort. And she reminds that a very strong woman stands with her clumbseyness.

  3. ***Also posted on***

    “National Domestic Violence Awareness Month” has been designated to be October of every year.

    DV&A (domestic violence and abuse) is growing at an EXPONENTIAL rate and is acknowledged by sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, pediatricians, and physicians to be a bona fide epidemic. It continues to spread at an alarming rate, and there are many, many misconceptions of what DV&A is, and whom the victims really are.

    The facts related to DV&A are staggering:
    * 1 out of 4 women will report domestic violence and/or abuse
    * 40% of teenagers know a peer who has been (or, is still being) abused
    * 70% of all teen dating abuse is sexual assault
    * 90% of all DV&A is witnessed by children
    * 3.3 million children witness DV&A, each year, in the U.S., alone
    * 40% of all men will experience DV&A
    * 1 out of every 3 women murdered in the U.S. are killed by a current or former partner

    The statistics go on, and on, and on, and they are very bleak.

    DV&A is a cycle of typically LEARNED behavior. Even an individual who is predisposed to violence can learn how to govern their actions, reactions, and behaviors under the right circumstances. Sadly, most children who are genetically predisposed to violence were produced by a violent parent(s), or DV&A can be found, somewhere, in the extended family dynamics.

    Because DV&A is typically LEARNED behavior, it is a CHOICE by the abuser to control their victim(s). It’s not something that they cannot control – it’s something that they WILL NOT even acknowledge, much less take steps to correct. They LIKE the control that they wield, and they have no intention of changing. Regardless of promises or assurances that they will “get help,” it only happens in very, very rare instances – do NOT allow yourself to believe that YOUR abuser is going to be a success story, because it just isn’t so.

    Abuse does not ever, ever, EVER “get better.” It only ends when the victim makes the decision to survive and leave, or one of the parties (or, both) die.

    I have personally experienced every type of recognized abuse and I am not stupid. I was raised in a middle-class environment, attended the “right” church, was introduced to the “right” circles of society, and expected to “marry well.” I am educated, intelligent, resilient, and resourceful, and I was still made a victim by a brutal abuser. IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.

    Visit the link, below, to learn more about what DV&A really is, who it affects, and what steps to take to end it.

    When I type, “end it,” I mean get the H*E*L*L OUT – there is no pill, no therapy, no prayer, no ritual, no herb, no supplement, and no lightning bolt from God that is going to cure an abuser. There isn’t. There isn’t!

    No matter what is at stake by leaving, no real estate, no cars, no bank accounts, no personal property is worth the risk of remaining in an abusive relationship. “Staying for the sakes of the children” is a FALLACY and excuse for NOT taking action. Children who witness DV&A will, without fail, either develop into the “perfect victim,” or a more creative abuser, as adults. This is a FACT, not an opinion.

    Break the cycle, and do it, safely. For more information, please visit:

    If you recognize ANY of these dynamics in your relationship, take action to save yourself and your children, if there are any involved. Contact your local DV&A hotline, speak to the phone counselor, and develop a safe and secure EXIT STRATEGY with people who are experienced in this.

  4. Thanks for the link Truthy. I have to say though, that I probably would not have recognized any of those warning signs. The ex-spath was extremely covert and there always seemed to be a reasonable explanation or justification.

    But there is one thing that would have rung a bell, although it’s not listed anywhere: withholding sex. Spath did that from very early on and it was something I didn’t understand that all psychopaths do this to some degree. It’s a method of attempting to shame the victim by rejecting her.

    I often wonder if there was anything that anyone could have said to me to make me open my eyes earlier. As it was, the only reason I got out was because the spath got in a hurry and turned up the heat too fast. He needed me to put the business accounts in his name so he could get kill me and continue to operate the business.

    I had thought he was going to kill me in August, when he got back from his job, but it has since occurred to me that he was going to set it up WHILE he was gone, in June or July, so that he would not fall under suspicion. That’s how he killed one of my cats, he sneaked back home when he was supposed to be gone and he made it look like the coyotes had eaten the cat. All I found was the tracking device and a piece of her collar.

    • Sky, there are so many methods of devaluation that I imagine a number of behaviors aren’t mentioned.

      Personally, I “knew” that Victor was abusive and that I was being abused, but I didn’t believe that I had any options. We were bound by a legal contract of marriage and had 2 children. I was a stay-at-home-mother which, in retrospect, was his design – it kept me isolated and dependent upon him, completely. I was afraid to leave – I had ZERO confidence that I had the ability to live on my own or that I would stay alive if ever I got out. Victor had told me on several occasions that he would “hunt (me) down” and kill me if I ever tried to leave him. What I didn’t know was that there was help out there for people like me. There are always options, even if none of them are painless or simple, and I simply didn’t know this fact.

      Sexual abuse is one of the most insidious types simply because it’s such an intimate and personal subject. A tremendous amount of shame is involved in sexual abuse. Whether sex is withheld, or forced, the level of shame is indescribable. “There’s NO SUCH THING as spousal rape!” I remember Victor spitting into my face. He often used Biblical quotes (twisted, of course) to refer to his “husband’s rights.”

      If just one person recognizes and accepts that their partner is an abuser and makes the decision to save themselves (and, children, if any) by leaving and recovering, it’s worth the time it takes to discuss what Domestic Violence and Abuse is, and how to get out.

      • Even if I HAD recognized that he was an abuser, I would never have believed he was a murderer. It took a series of events to make me see the truth about everything else I had witnessed for 25 years. And finally, it took a loud bell ringing from my right brain, to tell me that I was in mortal danger. I had to finally listen to my body and realize that I was terrified and it was for a reason. That’s when I saw.

        I’m not much into meditation so I don’t know why my right brain even talks to me at all. I think that if there is one thing we can teach people is to develop a good connection with their intuition, and respect the gift of fear. Where there is love, there is no fear. So why did I think I had love in my home?

        • Sky, spooky that you mention, “Where there is love, there is no fear.” That is almost a verbatim thing that the exspath used to say to me, all of the time. I told him that I was fearful of another relationship, and he kept telling me that “there is no fear in love.”

          I did fear the first exspath – I honestly, to this day, do not “know” whether or not he was above murder. I know that he threatened me, often, and also threatened suicide. I totally believe that he was capable of murder, but he was too afraid of imprisonment to risk it.

          With the second exspath, he presented such a mild-mannered illusion that I was horrified (quite literally) that he entertained imagery and idealization of rape, torture, murder, and veiled necrophilia. THAT was the experience that jerked the floor out from underneath my feet – what I had believed to be true for over 14 years turned out to be 100% false. From the time of my discovery, I lived in utter terror that he was going to murder me in my sleep. And, I still believe that he was poisoning me, though that has never been proven. Even today, I am still fearful (yes, fearful) that he’s going to send someone to kill me.

          Nowadays, I am so hesitant and leery of other people (men AND women) that I am the polar opposite of what I once was. I do not trust. I do not give anything away. I don’t allow anyone into ME – who I am. And, I am also hoping that the pendulum is going to eventually swing more towards the center.

          I know on an academic level that all people are NOT nefarious or spaths. Everyone out there doesn’t have their crosshairs trained on me. I don’t know how to get to the point where I “feel” it and “believe” it, though. I’m struggling with this step in recovery and I very much want to experience that balance since I’ve never really known what “normal” felt like.

  5. Hi. Just found your site because I was looking for help. I’m 7 years after getting free of an abusive husband. I was married to him for 25 years, and so you may guess he was very covert in his ways because I didn’t understand what was going on. Now I am safe and my kids are grown and safe. Suddenly I am having to reprocess my whole adult life — to understand it — because I feel so stuck. Your site is just the “medicine” of understanding I have been needing! Thank you! I recently shared with my daughter and also with a counselor what I am trying to process, and then felt worse. They didn’t understand. I have read several of your blog entries tonight and everything was excellent, insightful, helpful and positive.

    • Hi LDMAH, welcome to 180 rule. I’m glad the articles were helpful toward your healing from an encounter with evil.

      One of the things a survivor really wants and needs is to tell the story from our perspective and to be understood. Unfortunately, that’s not easy to do. First of all, we, ourselves, don’t really understand what has happened. So how can we begin to explain it? Even when we do begin to “get a clue” as to what has happened, words are inadequate. How does one convey the experience of evil, with words?

      Someone who has not met evil face to face will never understand. Most likely, everyone has met evil at some point in their lives, but they didn’t realize it– just like it took you and I 25 YEARS to recognize the evil we were living with. We were in denial, as is most of the world. Denial allows them to continue functioning, so they have no incentive to give it up. It makes them feel safe.

      When you tried to explain your experience to others, you were asking them to give up their security blanket.

      I believe that Rene Girard understands this and that’s why he writes in the way that he does. By explaining mimetic desire through a scholarly approach, people can listen and try to understand, without giving up their security blankets or belief in their own power. I imagine that if his books were entitled: “Shame and Envy and Psychopaths! Oh My!” he would have had fewer readers. His insights have been very comforting to me, I hope you find some comfort there too.

    • LDMAH, welcome to 180rule and the “processing” of our experiences is a challenge, at the very least, but those experiences cannot “hurt” us, anymore. Absolutely, those experiences were traumatic and, because of their intensity, remain as constant traumas, even after we get out. But, in my own therapy sessions, I’m going way back into my childhood to peel away my personal layers of trauma, re-experiencing them, and then putting them aside and I truly and honestly believed that this technique of trauma recovery would literally kill me because the pain ran so deep.

      Each layer of trauma that I peel away opens up my Self (Self = soul or whatever) to acceptance, peace, and Life, in general. I don’t “like” that this is necessary, but I am experiencing what every pupae must when they hibernate in their chrysalis and transform from a fuzzy caterpillar into a breathtaking Luna Moth. Breaking out of that shell of trauma is a challenge, and it can be skeery. But, it’s not going to kill us, I promise.

      Again, welcome to 180rule and congratulations on taking back your life, your essence, and your Self.

  6. Dear Ldmah,

    Welcome to 180, I know it is difficult to tell others your experience, and then have them not understand or validate it.

    First I think we must learn about the abusers, then once we have figured them out to some extent, and to process that they WILL NOT CHANGE, then we start to process why we put up with the abuse for so long,, all the time hoping that we could appease them.

    Each of us has different abusers, mine is a son who is a psychopath in prison for murder, and I do my best to KEEP HIM THERE. Sky’s was a long term relationship, and so on, sometimes we have more than one abuser, Truthspeak’s had two ex husbands, and now a son who are psychopaths and abusers…sometimes it is difficult for people to look behind the MASK that they wear in front of some people, but we have seen them with the mask OFF and we know what is behind that mask, others don’t see that. So in the end, we have to learn to process and validate it for ourselves, we eventually come to see that the truth doesn’t change just because we are the only ones who see it. Just like most the world thinking the earth was flat, it didn’t change the shape of the earth, and if Columbus was the only one who thought it was round, it was still round (actually he wasn’t the ONLY one, but you get the idea, ) truth does not depend on everyone agreeing it is true. It just IS.

    again, welcome.

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