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 © 2012-2018 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
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.