Personal Empowerment And The Power of the Moment

People who’ve been in relationships with manipulators and other disturbed characters will readily tell you how hard it is at times not only to fully divest themselves of the emotional scars they’ve sustained but also to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.  I’ve written about this before (see, for example: Moving On After An Abusive Relationship, Toxic Relationship Aftermath: Doubt, Mistrust, and Paranoia?, Aftermath Of A Toxic Relationship  – Part Two, and Toxic Relationship Aftermath: A Wrap-Up).  And while the key to personal empowerment is a relatively simple and straightforward proposition,  it can be an inordinately difficult one to faithfully carry out at times.  Still, once you know and understand the secret to making the simple but difficult task of recovery easier, the journey of personal empowerment becomes a much smoother trek.  The secret lies in respecting the power of the moment.

As I’ve mentioned before, change always occurs in the here and now.  So many times we deceive ourselves with talk about what we’ll do tomorrow or accomplish someday, while we remain stuck in our same old ruts today.  And disturbed characters are notorious for promising changes they never sincerely committed themselves to make good on.  Change, when it occurs, always happens in the moment of choice.  That’s always where our ultimate power lies:  the power to choose, and especially, to choose to do differently – at least at any given moment in time.  This is crucial for a therapist to recognize when confronting the manifestations of character disturbance in treatment.  But it’s also important for toxic relationship survivors to remember in their quest for a better life.

A long time ago, a recovering alcoholic friend of mine made a big impression on me when sharing his insights about his own empowerment.  He had recently re-read the famous Hazelden publication Twenty-Four Hours A Day, and I had been talking to him about his feelings about the 5 year sobriety coin he was about to receive at his next group meeting.  He looked at me and said:  “I can’t say I’ll never take another drink.  I can’t even say I won’t drink next month, next week, or even tomorrow.  But I can affirm the fact that I’m not drinking at this moment.  I face that choice every minute – every second.  What I can say is that right here, right now, I choose not to drink. This is where I have to stay, minute by minute, hour by hour, one day at a time.”  It was a light bulb moment for me – not only a poetically beautiful description of the psychological principle we call mindfulness but also of the power of choice in the moment.

I’ve done hundreds of consultations with folks over the years and most of the time these consultations have centered around empowerment issues. What I’ve learned is that toxic relationship survivors inevitably tend to discount at first the importance of their small momentary choices. Early on, it’s hard for them to appreciate that that’s where all the power is.  What they have to get into the habit of doing is not only seizing and focusing on the moment but also recognizing the value of their choice in that moment.  Affording the healthy exercise of their will the attention and respect it deserves does more to foster mindfulness than anything else they can do. And when they then reliably and sincerely endorse their efforts (giving themselves an “internal” pat-on-the-back, akin to what a loving parent naturally does on an external level to encourage one of their children making the effort to achieve a goal), they confer upon themselves the reinforcement necessary to make it more likely they’ll meet the next moment’s challenge successfully and conquered their demons (For more on this see my article:  Becoming A Better Person:  Covert Self-Monitoring And Self-Reinforcement).

When I developed my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance, I needed to give a lot of attention to the various disturbed character types, their attributes, and the tactics they use to evade responsibility and manipulate and control others.  It was important that folks looking for help and browsing through the books could readily identify with the scenarios I depicted and in the process have their feelings and perceptions validated, possibly for the first time.  But I sometimes regret not giving more attention to the mechanisms by which survivors of bad relationships can realize the power of the moment to make the changes that will empower their lives (i.e. how to put the “tools of empowerment” I outline into practice).  So in the next few articles, I’ll be doing just that.  And I hope that in addition to the usual helpful comments from readers, we’ll hear from folks who’ve used the tools I advocate moment to moment, day by day, to change their lives for the better and for the long haul.

Some big surprises coming up on Character Matters (Sunday evenings at 7 pm Eastern, 4 pm Pacific on UCY.TV) the next few weeks, and a very special guest on the July 13 program.  Stay tuned.  And my apologies for the technical difficulties the past couple of weeks taking calls.  Last week, the program had more callers-in then ever, but due to technical glitches, the callers could not be patched through and heard properly. Hopefully, that will not be a problem this week.

61 thoughts on “Personal Empowerment And The Power of the Moment

  1. This article has really hit home with me due to the circumstances that I am in right now. I divorced my xnh (married 45 years) 7 years ago.

    During this past year, my daughter and her two sons have moved in with me. Her ex-husband was pulling the last straw when he pulled a loaded gun on my grandson. My ex-husband and I paid for the divorce mainly for safety reasons for my daughter and grandsons. One son (21) moved out with some friends at the beginning of this year.

    My daughter has shown no signs of moving forward. She has a job that she does at home on the computer, but it in no way would support her and her son. Soon they will have to get their belongings out of their house and she shows no sign of wanting much of any thing.

    I feel like she is wanting me to get angry and throw her out. She is behind on the amount that she agreed to pay me and needs to get a good job desperately.

    It may come to the moment that I have to take charge and ask her to leave. My home and yard is a lot for me to take care of and I am ready to move into a condo.

    I had to make the move to get the divorce from my husband because he refused to get a lawyer. He is covert aggressive and would not take responsibility. I set my feelings aside and did what I have to do and I have never regretted it.

    I don’t want to get nasty with my daughter, but I feel she is not going to make the move.

    1. Hi Noel, this must be so hard for you. I’ve experienced what it’s like to walk the fine line between enabling and helping my children too. Then you have a grandchild that you only want the best for too. Ahh, then there’s you to consider and how much you deserve to enjoy your life after all the hard work in the past that got you to that point, to be the strong one helping everyone still. I can only say a cliche that I’ve heard before and truly believe is true..The best thing we can do for our children to be happy and gain the ability to look after themselves is demonstrate it, by doing it to ourselves. So hard to do sometimes when it involves them but so true all the same.

  2. Thanks for your continuing posts on manipulative people. The DC in my life is a very old friend (we live in the same town) to whom I owe still some work time due to a previous agreement, so I can’t avoid her totally. When she emails or texts me I always wait 24 hours before replying, & emotionally I put her in the same category as an ex-boyfriend who cheated. It helped talking to a mutual friend, who said about the DC ‘she will beat a bug with a Buick to make her point.” Another mutual friend called her a ‘monster’ to her face (the DC told me that)!

  3. Dr. Simon, regarding the “power of the moment” following one of these encounters, and the power of choice in the here and now, From my own experience and from reading of other peoples state of mind, emotion, health, wealth, etc…….a person is not always in the position to make the best choices in the aftermath of one of these encounters. AND, it really is like YOU have been envied and possessed by THEM. Like they have occupied the territory and now the you that used to be you is not entirely you anymore. they have attached themselves to you like a leach attaches it’s self to it’s host and SLOWLY drains it’s host leaving it a mere shadow of it’s former self. That is what I’ve seen was a huge part of this process…..remembering and reclaiming who I was before it invaded me but at first I was SO depleted I didn’t know which end was up and didn’t have the strength to figure it out let alone turn it back right again.
    My analogy is its like someone put a cast on your leg while you were asleep and left it on there for a period of time then removed it. While it was on you muscles atrophied and they “forgot” how to walk. This actually happens in real life.

    1. edit:
      .a person is not always in the position to make the best choices in the aftermath of one of these encounters. AND, it really is like YOU have been envied [ invaded ]and possessed by THEM.

    2. Puddle, a person’s preparedness at any given point to make the best choice at any given moment is really irrelevant to the power of the moment. Every moment is still at “teachable” or “learnable” moment, and one’s self-recognition and self-reinforcement should always be for the effort to take that crucial step in the direction of empowerment, even if the choice of the moment is not optimal. Remembering and “reclaiming” your former, undamaged self is always facilitated by taking action in your own behalf, even if temporarily still misguided. How one honestly appraises the moment and one’s decision and the consequences is another matter, and fodder for future discussion in this series. But it’s important to remember that the “self” is not only re-built but largely defined by choices, and no one is “prepared” to make the perfect choice every time. But with honest self-appraisal and unwavering self-love, moment by moment, each momentary step paves the way to a new life. It’s not just my experience with survivors that’s taught me this. I’ve been there myself, and I know of what I speak.

      1. Dr. Simon, while I agree with what you are saying I think it also ignores the damage that has been done to the vary things that enable you to make the best choice. “one’s self-recognition and self-reinforcement should always be for the effort to take that crucial step in the direction of empowerment……” Maybe I am not directing my comment to the same time frame that you are directing the post to but when you have been undercut and undermined and just getting through another day is all you can manage to do because you are so depleted,,,,,,the decisions get muddled and mired in the aftermath and confusion. My brain was just fried, my physical body was spent. I literally felt like the walking dead, like a zombie, like anything that used to be me, my self, was gone or so covered in filth I couldn’t recognize it.
        Like I said, I agree and maybe I’m just misguiding the point to something you are not really meaning it to make.

        1. OK,,,,,,I think I’m seeing something here because even in the throes of this I still chose, to the best of my ability at the time to TRY to move forward in a healthy direction. I went to counseling, I maintained my sobriety, sought out support of just about anyone who seemed to care and i tried, with varying degrees of success at first, to not contact him. I honestly feel like something else was propping me up though, maybe just luck……in other words, I don’t know how much credit i can take for some of my decisions and choices then. the whole thing feels so surreal to me now…..just so hard to connect with, so it’s VERY difficult to grasp my decision making process back then.

          1. Well said, Puddle. And while there’s no intent here to “ignore” or dismiss the damage done, to the best of one’s ability at the time, directing one’s focus and energy elsewhere – ANYWHERE elsewhere – is where all the power lies!

      2. I think your point has been wonderfully made Dr. As difficult as it may appear when in either camp, remaining in the moment of the pain or moving beyond with a view to rebuilding ones life or well being in whatever the way, is still a choice. I have to keep reminding myself of that, particularly on those occasions when the mind will drift to certain past happenings and instances in which I understand more clearly what was the motivations or the agenda that was being played out (whereas I didn’t realise at the time). Dwelling on negatives can only increase the personal pain and will invariably produce little good. Better to move the clutter to the side and focus on more positive stuff.

        1. Danny, I’m so glad you are here saying these things as a male. Otherwise I would be saying, I’m sure there are good men out there but I just haven’t met any lately. :-))

          1. Ha ha. There are Juliette, very definitely so. I might have mentioned that I am a few months short of reaching my half century and will confess openly that it is only in the last 10-15 years that I have learned to be more open in trying to articulate exactly how I feel. My experience has been that men are socialised into think this is a sign of weakness. Strength is perceived as to quietly and stoically ‘man up’. I personally feel we gain understanding through talk, discussion, discourse, chit-chat……call it what you may and we blokes have a duty to do our bit.
            I personally made a decision approx 2-3 years ago that I was never again going to be put through hoops by my wife and it was my duty to (a) set in place boundaries, and (b) be responsible for my own contentedness and happiness, rather than looking to my wife to provide something she was clearly unwilling to do. It is still a struggle but I’m determined to get there.
            Personal empowerment – the power of the moment. Absolutely!! I’m no longer solely a people pleaser. My needs count too. Which is why Dr.Simon’s comments strike so deeply with me.
            Wish you well Juliette 🙂

          2. Don’t forget J!!!! He’s clearly on out team, just sitting on a different bench!

  4. Dr Simon I look forward to these upcoming articles, they are so important. At first when I left my ex I really came to hate the term “one step at a time” I wanted to run, to get away from the pain and reach the light. But have realised it is as you say a moment by moment choice and I’ve also come to realise there is no right or wrong decision when recovering there is just making a decision. If it doesn’t work you try something else.
    The real difficulty is letting your head rule your emotions and that is a constant battle. I do have many backslide moments but then just try to put one foot in front of the other and memories and flashbacks of trauma that make you feel like you’re getting bombarded all over again. Then regaining your self confidence another huge battle which doesn’t help with the self love aspect. I don’t know if others feel this but sometimes it feels like you’re tattooed with this stuff and it won’t ever be removed and everyone can see it. So many times I thought I’d got to the top of all the turmoil only to realise I am not there yet, not by a long shot. So I’ve learned that it is just one step at a time and moment by moment and that you can’t rush it or run through it you have to acknowledge the pain and work through it.

    1. Thank you, Tori for your kind words and for stating so well these important points. I’m sure your sharing will be much appreciated by the readers.

    2. Tori, so much of what you are saying here, I can really relate to both in the past and now. The heart and the head battle, one foot in front of the other, bombarded, confidence, self love and feeling ‘tattooed’. All words that describe the challenges of coming out of a toxic relationship battle. I see recovery as happening in small increments that happen just as gradually as the decline into despair. I used to say that going down was like a graph that went up and down but gradually hit rock bottom. I think that recovery is the same in reverse, up and down but reaching higher over time. What you say about acknowledging the pain is so true too and perhaps we need to do the same for the gains, acknowledge them as they happen. As far as being tattooed goes, I think at first when you are recovering from an abuser the experience has come to define your life for so long that you are indeed outwardly scarred visibly. I think that continuing in therapy beyond the crisis is really important. I didn’t do that and am now paying the price years later.

  5. Thankyou Dr Simon, I am doing this very thing in my life at present. Resisting the urge to create drama and run away and changing my responses in every moment. This has caused my partner to up the ante a bit but I’m seizing the new insights I have gained and trying to put them into practice. I have slipped up a few times too and then realized after that I could have done things better. All this is causing me to feel fear too, because much of the behaviour I was engaging in was enabling him to have that power over me and now I’m taking control back by responding differently, I’m out of the comfort zone of suppressing myself (which was making me sick)because it’s easier not to feel that fear. Ultimately I feel so much better though because I feel a light at the end of the tunnel coming instead of this dread, fear and powerlessness. I can feel my spirit lifting and the black cloud of despair is lifting too. For example, when my partner puts me on the spot for an answer I don’t want to give, instead of withdrawing I say ‘I don’t feel safe enough to tell you my thoughts about that at this stage’, phew what a big difference it has made. He has finally gone to seek counselling which he needs badly. Five years of despair and me suggesting counselling didn’t make him do that, it took for me to take the brave steps of empowering myself for him to respond that way. This doesn’t mean our relationship is going to work but it might be a good thing to make me less stressed and safer when we separate because he has some support there and might not turn into a psycho obsessed cling-on like he has all the other times I suggested separating. When he shifts blame or changes the subject I say ‘I’m hearing you but that was not my question’ and sometimes I even have to say this several times, then he finally answers my question. In the past I just felt railroaded by his responses and took a path of disempowerment and I didn’t get to pat myself of the back. All this is preparing me for being more assertive in life, it’s baby steps but its working. It’s like I’m repairing slowly the boundaries that were never set in place from my childhood. I do feel more empowered. I even texted my PPD ex last week and basically set him free from guilt and resentment between us with compassion and love! He texted me back and said ‘WOW, thanks…I think?…are you OK?’ I texted back, ‘Yes’ no explanation needed, end of story. At the same time I am reaching out elsewhere for support whilst I do this, both by informing myself via here and doing therapy.

    1. That was meant to say resisting the urge to create drama BY running away. I am a very low drama/confrontation type person but I do tend to run away instead of stay and face problems which creates drama for myself to deal with.

    2. ” I even texted my PPD ex last week and basically set him free from guilt and resentment between us with compassion and love! He texted me back and said ‘WOW, thanks…I think?…are you OK?’ I texted back, ‘Yes’ no explanation needed, end of story.”

      I will never EVER contact Spathtard and give him ANYthing that would set him free from guilt. A) because I’m sure he doesn’t feel it and b) I wouldn’t give him anything that could be considered a free pass, get out of jail for free card. He has had enough propping up from the people who have enabled him and given him the wink his whole life. They take ANYthing you say to them, like something like this, as a green light. What is the point? I don’t need to say one more word to that AH. Even if I wanted to forgive him…..he doesn’t need to hear that from me because it wouldn’t BE for him, it would be for me……………and I don’t need it.

      1. Good for you Puddle! I’m sure he doesn’t deserve it too. The PPD is in a whole other category of character disturbance plus he lives 3000km away and is dying of cancer and liver failure, which is hurting my son. I did it to release his soul and to some extent mine. It was my pretty honest and kindly-blunt analysis of him, said nicely and I then expressed my compassion for his situation. He only feels guilt in one of his personalities anyway. There’s a saying in the Bible ‘love your enemy and heap burning coals upon their head’ maybe I was being subconsciously sadistic but it felt right. I’m a bit spiritual and he’s already put too many dents in my soul, so I wanted to make sure that I said that before he died. It felt really good actually.

        1. Juliette, we each have to follow our own heart and path and it sounds like you did. Yours is a different situation. Just for me, I will never cast my pearls before swine again and actually to call him a swine is probably an insult to a lot of well meaning pigs!

          1. Another great Bible analogy Puddle and yeah pigs have feelings, that’s why I don’t eat them. I used to say in the first couple of years with BB that I felt like a diamond… lost at the bottom of an ashtray.

    1. Tera, you are right about that and HOW you act with one of these people is completely different than how you would act with someone you normally engage with. That is part of the problem…….the victim keeps responding to the abuser’s shenanigans like they would respond to someone who is not covertly abusing and manipulating them.

      1. Quite right, Puddle – I think the importance of responding to what they are doing, not to what they are saying, is mentioned in “Character Disturbance”. If they are fighting you, they are fighting, even if it is by saying stuff like “you are so important to me, I’m doing this for you, I am so sad to see you treat yourself this way” (just quoting the kind of stuff that was said to me) the ACTUAL message is “get in line with me or I will make your life hell”. That’s something that wasn’t clear to me before I read the book – I also didn’t really know anything about chronic liars and how fundamentally different they are from empathetic people.

      2. Thanks Puddle. Definitely had to change my tactics. I find it works better to just be straight to the point with people like this. I am still getting used to it, but it’s definitely something I have had to practice.

  6. The topic of empowerment is a very important one to me. I think the thing that hurts the worst (still) about my encounter with a psychopath is that I didn’t answer back to her earlier. I am not the kind of person who readily believes nonsense, but when it is said to me I am scared to say right out “that’s ridiculous, you are wrong to say that”. Instead I murmur something and let them get away with it. This is what I want to work on but I don’t quite know how, since (unlike you, Juliette – you sound very brave for persevering!) I don’t have a current psychopath in my life to “practice” on.

    As examples of what I stood for: when she said scornfully “never wear that dress again” in front of a class of people, I didn’t have the guts to say that the remark was inappropriate and out of line. When she shut me up when I corrected her about something (again in front of a class) I failed to voice my concern about her “teaching” methods. When she cancelled my rehearsal at no notice and then blamed me, I again failed to draw the line and say “I can’t work with you in this way, this is disrespectful and needs to be changed”. Eventually her insults turned to the very personal and she tried to “order” me to “quit the singing profession”, and even then I just murmured “I don’t really agree” instead of saying “You are out of order and have no right to speak to me like that”.

    With me, I think the understanding is there very quickly – all the concepts I’ve read about in the books make perfect sense to me too – the problem is that in a situation of being verbally attacked, my heart races, my throat constricts and my eyes well up. I finally shouted at the ghastly woman but also really lost my temper, and afterwards I was crying my eyes out on a friend’s shoulder and was shaking for about a day. I don’t regret finally calling the bitch out, but I do feel bad about seeming to have no alternative other than taking everything that is hurled at me with stoic patience or losing my rag (and health – these emotional outbreaks come hand in hand with upper respiratory infections in my case).

    In the last few years I have become much more reserved with other people and as a result have not attracted so many people intent on lowering my self-esteem. I just hate the difficulty I have with calling people on things, though, and saying something like “that remark is out of order, I would like you to take it back if we are to continue this conversation.” I’ve felt helpless so many times. And as I’m sure someone has pointed out before, nothing excuses rudeness and bullying and nobody deserves it just because they are younger, smaller, gentler or less experienced.

    1. Hi Angela, good to hear from you again. I really l related to what you said about ‘I’m so sad to see you treating yourself this way’, I’m getting this type of thing too at the moment. I don’t believe a word of it and see it for the tactic it is. The truth is that the more destroyed I seem to him, the better he feels. I’ve noticed this with my own eyes in his mood, body language and other things. Incongruence between what he says and what he is actually feeling/thinking. Bambam is a reasonably skilled manipulator but now that I’m aware of it, I can see that he’s not that good. I can read when he is trying to manipulate me now, I watch him for the point where he scrutinizes my reaction straight after he has thrown a line out there for me to be affected by. His eyes dart back and forward to my face or stay focused on it too long, often at the same time as he uses silence, trying to force me to fill it. He puts me on the spot for a black and white answer sometimes too…yes/no. My heart beats harder and I feel anxious when he does this. I’m actually only persevering to stay safe and well myself, whilst I get a plan together to leave. I think this woman who caused you so much suffering was doing something that many paths do in groups. Singling out one person is a way of abusing everyone in the class. When abusers do their abuse in front of witnesses, they are effectively saying to all the others..’Do not dare upset me or you will get the same treatment’ too, this is a way of controlling everyone. This keeps everyone in line with their agenda and touches their neurosis. In an ideal world, everyone in that class would have said…’Excuse me, who the hell do you think you are treating her like that, you keep acting like that and you won’t have any students at all…and we will make sure of it!’ Puddle posted a link to an article a few days ago on the page for Charm Offensive/Offensive Charm which highlights something like this and has coined the term the Apath. Which is, all the other people around the psychopath that they use against the target. These people aren’t really disturbed characters but they are apathetic. Because I’m a singer too, I can imagine what this experience has done to you internally as far as uninhibited release of your gift is concerned. I haven’t been able to sing in front of people at all, let alone him, since very soon after getting into this relationship, which has caused my singing muscles to go flaccid and the resulting decline in quality of my singing. Are you still singing? Just lately since I have been getting things together finally I’ve started singing to myself again when no one is around and in the car. It’s been really hard. All I hear is this damaged little bird chirping, when I look back at my former spirit and how that sounded coming out of me, it makes the damage so visible (audible really). For me it’s a kind of barometer of my soul and it’s recovery. I can feel the spark coming back though lately and it feels good, just a little bit at a time but I know I will get it back.

      1. Hi Juliette, thanks for your supportive and interesting post! I do hope you can manage to leave your situation soon. I hadn’t thought before of what you said about groups and singling out one person as a way of abusing the whole group. I see that it clearly applies to the woman in my case. She had a very murky past and a rather maverick teaching style which relied on quick fixes that eventually led to hard and inflexible singing. But she was obsessed with power and so cultivated a mystique (complete with Cruella de Ville wig and fake European accent – it is so ridiculous and obvious now I look back on it). The people in the backwater where she was queen bee didn’t know any better and she had to make sure things stayed that way so they would continue to sponsor her. The participants were “programmed” into treading carefully and doing anything rather than cause a stir. They didn’t know it, I’m sure – I wasn’t even quite aware of it until you made that point!

        I am happy to say that I am still singing, and I am taking some brave steps vocally with a new teacher at the moment. I know people have given up singing as a result of interactions with the woman I met, and I was even more determined not to when she tried to bully me into losing faith in myself. I protected myself as best I could – and then my body stepped in and protected me by getting ill. So I hope that in the longer term, it will have made me stronger and more self-aware. I hope you start to sing again. It is important to find a safe place to do it – if you are living with a path I am not surprised it is hard. I now sing in practice rooms rather than at home, where it would disturb the neighbours too much. Singing does boost my mood and provides an anchor for the day, even regardless of the results. Good luck!

        1. Angela, sounds like she came with the Puppy Skin coat too! Horrible. That’s terrific that you didn’t let her clip your bird wings. Metaphorically speaking. Thankyou for your encouragement too. Some days I’m strong and others I just feel like I want my non existent, Mummy, like today. It will make you stronger in the long term, what I have learned is…

          ..don’t stop learning about yourself… ever. Just when you think you’ve got it worked out along comes someone else to teach you something else. It never ends. Always be aware of the differences between what people say and do. Watch peoples eyes. Listen for what they repeat or talk alot about, this is the matter (or perhaps impression if it’s a CA) they most want to convey to you. See what their face is doing when they are talking about something sad or humiliating that happened to someone else. What makes them angry? Is it something that is unjust or has their pride been wounded. How grateful and therefore humble are they, when they receive something? People spend their time and their money on what’s important to them..what do they spend their time and money on?…Are they a doer or are they lazy and delegate as much as possible or blame other things on their life being in disarray instead of themselves? Pay attention to how they treat everyone…not just yourself. When they’ve been caught out or exposed for being a CA at first do they say ‘I didn’t mean it” like a toddler is taught to say and expect that is sufficient remorse? That’s all with the benefit of hindsight and Dr Simon.

    2. Angela, your post made me realize something about my own difficulty saying something in the moment and it the exact thing you describe. I either get angry or start crying or usually a combination of both which tells me that there is something lurking behind the tears and the anger,,,,,,,something old. and for sure, i have a long standing history of being treated in ways that made me angry and tearfully sad. so, as per a conversation i had with a counselor yesterday, somehow I’m supposed to get to and purge that OLD stuff in order for the wounds to be cleaned out so they can heal. Easier said then done because in so many ways I feel like I have exposed and accepted my childhood issues. But she say no…..still there, and it’s not the same to intellectually accept and understand all of that, it has to be purged emotionally, the feelings have to be felt and expressed. Arthur Janov says the same thing.

      1. Puddle I had one of those moments when I felt angry and tearful the other day. I could hear the manipulator, (in my family…childhood issues too) and it was really a carefully planned ploy to get to others in the family. I was getting more and more upset and nearly lost it and the tears started it reminded me of an upsetting moment years ago where this person did exactly the same thing only it was blatantly cruel. They like to start it somewhere public in front of people so they have an audience and feel they can slam you down and take delight in slamming you down. Thankfully I just thought I can choose to react or not react. So I excused myself went to the ladies and composed myself. I’m not sure if that was exactly the right thing to do as I could have said something calmly but really I knew I wouldn’t have been able to without emotion coming into it. Manipulators and abusers come in all shapes and sizes, feigning care but all the time waiting, just biding their time to get you in a vulnerable moment which this particular manipulator was doing. They know I am in a vulnerable situation all this time pretending to care about me and now time is up and they’re going to try and get what they want. I had hoped things had changed but unfortunately not and when it is your family it makes things so much harder. The tactics they use differ so much but amount to the same thing…abuse!

        1. Hi Tori 🙂
          I can’t see myself ever getting past that in myself, the anger/ sad/ tears combo. That’s why I hold my tongue…..when I don’t it just turns into a mess and It is so frustrating for me, I just feel so defeated and emotionally retarded. And I’m not a person who can hold my tongue easily at all so I am repeatedly in this situation.
          I think you did the right thing by going to the ladies because even if you had said something at the time it more than likely would not have come out in a way that served you well.
          I had a “friend” all through my teens and twenties and into my thirties who would constantly make fun of me but cloaked in humor. for what ever reason I could never figure it out exactly. I even laughed at the jokes and they were slams against me. I was so confused by her whole little campaign. It really hurt but because it was cloaked in humor and she was laughing and others were laughing I always just felt very confused and to really confront her and untangle the accountability for her hurtful actions was just too much for me and i’m sure would have resulted in further humiliation. I’m not quick on my feet either and she was SO on target and ready for anything with a smart ass but funny reply. I knew she had no reason to be that way towards me so it didn’t make sense………now I know, she was just a bully and told her a couple years ago that she had treated me like crap when we were younger and how badly it hurt my feelings,,,,,she took that in and did apologize but I don’t think she REALLy got it! I’m sure she didn’t.

      2. Hi Puddle,
        Yes, I completely agree that there must be something longer-standing behind the tears/rage that take over in moments like that. That’s a big topic! I think we are all pretty outspoken as small children (I know I was) and at some point in the socialization process, maybe some of us got over-trained to be polite and internalized the message that any kind of conflict would lead to something terrifying. I think being highly sensitive to start with plays a large role as well, though. Psychopaths have no shame – whereas we have too much!

        1. I think what is behind it for me is just not having any choice and feeling powerless over the madness. Something in me KNOWS what is happening is wrong…..then and now…..but not being able to put it into words to the person who I’m defending myself against……is SUCH a powerless and futile feeling and when you are trying to speak up for yourself to people who don’t care about YOU to begin with……well……tears and rage.

          1. Angela and Puddle, I think it goes right back to the beginning when we learned or not, whether our needs, rights and wants were important…whether we felt safe enough to ask/speak for them…then how people responded to us when we did. Did they listen, attend, care, show it, mirror us, display empathy etc? Or did they do something else that left us frozen, numb, scared, devalued, alone, hurt or objectified? So what frame of reference, whether conscious or not, did we come to view ourselves with as we grew up? Twas not too good to begin with and THAT is what makes us an easier target for the CA. We were already primed for being dominated, abused and were already, partly disarmed from our developmental years.

          2. Juliette, I am such a confusing combination, even to myself, because I can be extremely assertive, I can tell someone to bugger off……..I KNOW that the manipulation I experienced undermined some of my self protective traits. This is the kind of thing I find so hard to chat about in this format and it doesn’t really help that I don’t entirely understand my own complexities and how exactly Spathtard did what he did or what exactly he did. It is aggravating and typing that makes me feel a lump in my throat and tears coming to my eyes.

          3. I constantly juggle all the options and alternatives,,,,,there are always seemingly endless factors to consider and if it’s an interpersonal relationship situation,,,,I seemingly can’t put the breaks on when I should or I put the breaks on when I shouldn’t…….It’s such a huge source of emotional and mental frustration for me…Almost indescribable. I tried SO hard, just SO hard with Spathtard….to say the right thing the right way, to do the right thing and at the same time stick up for myself and figure out why I was feeling so insecure around someone who said they loved me in every other breath and was with me all the time. I think that is what makes me so angry now…..knowing how hard I tried and all the while it was entertainment to that POS. If I would have known then what I know now…..about him….who and what he really is, which is a big HUGE ZERO LOOSER, I wouldn’t have wasted one second of my life on him. The only reason I would ever want to hear from him again would be to laugh in his pathetic face. Serriously Spathtard?? That’s all you’ve got?? Pathetic…..back to mommy.

          4. I get it Puddle, I truly get it. It’s the same with myself right now. They do find us easier targets for a reason. We do try extremely hard and so do they at ‘over coming resistance, and all those other tactics’, especially when they are up for a challenge. Add to that your, albiet mild fas challenge, you had the wool pulled over your eyes in many respects. It’s not until we’re in past the emotional connection that they up the ante on certain other tactics. Which makes it harder to put the brakes on, especially when someone has THEIR foot on your accellerator or cuts the brake lines when you weren’t looking. If they threw all of their tactics at us all at once, we would also run a mile. It’s the art of war to a degree with a manipulator. Before I met Bambam, I would meet a guy and go on a few dates, not even sleep with him and the MINUTE he displayed even one unhealthy way of relating, I was not interested and told him so…”deal with it buddy, don’t need your apology or explanation, all the best for your future, no hard feelings, see you round”. Totally assertive and with a healthy balance of self worth and confidence. So how on earth did BB get under my radar???…. By appearing to have no unhealthy ways of relating even though he is full of them, by pumping the buying temperature, demonstrating value, isolating the target, extracting to a seduction location, hunting for weak spots, patient stalking, wearing me out late at night talking, weakening my defenses, playing to my ego needs, using the ‘Neg’ like a PUA does and it worked. That’s what they do…use the power of the moment….all the time..siezing the opportunities that come their way. Opportunistic predators. That’s what we have to learn to do to avoid them. Seize every moment from the beginning and yeah I’m sure that from here on I’m going to push people away too soon and that makes me so sad too, that’s even if I can manage to heal enough to let one even approach me. Then I’m scared that I’ll look scared!! and maybe attract another one because I’m not putting out assertiveness. Deep breath…

          5. Juliette……you are So on it. I love reading your summations. I have to take a deep breath after that one… stomach is all tight. Half the time I don’t know if I’ve even taken a full breath since this all happened.
            Thanks for understanding. I actually remember the conversation with Spathtard,,,,telling him that I was “invested” now. Like trying to explain or understand why he felt so distant to me…”it’s like it doesn’t really matter to you Spathtard”. “Oh, it matters to me.”……wonder what the end of THAT sentence was in his brain.

  7. Update on couples counselling with a CA. I went to BB’s psychotherapist by myself. He has a bachelor of social work with lots of psychotherapy tickets after his name. BB has done one hour of impression management with him and now I’ve done one introduction hour, so early days. It was difficult to get everything important across in an hour but I did my best. I managed to get him to understand that he needs to have his professional antennae on because he is dealing with a narcissist who lies. He said to me that BB is a boy, with the most compassionate look on his face. He said that he is a habitual liar. I explained that he is an instrumental liar as well as habitual and I explained that BB has already lied to him, despite my strenuous advice not to and why not to. I get the impression that he is out of his depth and I could sense at the end of the hour after I related some significant anecdotes that he was scared, which is understandable because BB is a grisly bear size of a man who almost paid a hit man to bump off the mother of his son. I think that was what scared him when I explained. I think a lot of therapists have their own little view of things according to their education, philosophies and experience, then people come to see them and they fit them into that profile. They think that at the core of every dysfunctional man is a hurt little boy that can be fixed with a good theraputic relationship. Well how come the one he is now with me didn’t work? This guy is all about men not growing up I think, so he perhaps thinks that he is going to help BB grow up. Good luck with that…That’s the last thing I said to him as I departed. I think he got it though as far as my need to feel safe. I’m pretty sure he is going to suggest that we separate whilst we go through counselling and work on our own issues, which is exactly the outcome I was hoping for and if that happens, I’ll be one more step towards separating without a mega-crisis. When BB got home I told him I told the guy about the hit man incident. He wasn’t too happy about that and said, ‘now he’s going to think I’m an a@#$ole’….I guess it’s very important what the therapists thinks of him to BB. Not quite the word the therapist was looking for I imagine.

  8. Just wanted to say today was quite a nice day for me empowerment wise. For the first time since this mess I felt a really big smile for I guess the controller has realised he’s lost all his power. He went into a bit of a tailspin and well sorry to say I felt good! He doesn’t know where I live so I feel safe and I handled his attempts at abuse with a calmness I never thought I had. It was just one moment, one day and it may not all come out in my favour but I am going to cherish this moment in time. 🙂

    1. Very nice Tori!! Just build on your success and don’t let your guard down. Don’t become complacent about your safety. OK??

      1. Hi Puddle and Juliette, hugs to both of you. 🙂 I just wanted to share that moment with you. It’s funny what becomes the most important thing when trying to break away from these characters and just having that feeling for even one day was better than anything else. I was getting very tired and worn down after having slipped down on the roller coaster but when I realised his desperation in the texts… he was trying everything to get at me. He’s played the usual game these characters play to try and destroy me in every way he can but he hasn’t destroyed the core of ME which was his desire no doubt. Knowing that gives me so much strength and peace. I might not come out of this the same as I went in, I might not have all the THINGs I had before but if I can hold on to my inner strength then he hasn’t taken away me and who I am.
        I must admit that I did worry about my safety and I won’t be complacent I assure you. I do know if he’s backed into a corner and feels he has nothing to lose he’s at his most dangerous. I just hope he’ll realise that it’s now GAME OVER and leave us alone. Please too Juliette and Puddle you stay safe too. I guess we can never be complacent about that no matter how long we’ve been free of them. Hugs to you both! 🙂

        1. Make sure you don’t have an android phone and a google account that you have registered it with, he can track your location if you access gmail on your phone. Gmail is wonderful but is a stalkers paradise. If he texts you from any phone that is on a plan, the bill comes with your location for that text. Prepaid phones are best, it costs 500.00 in Australia to get a private investigator to locate you, no questions asked. Be so careful Tori, if he has contact with you via phone and I do understand the devil you know and having nothing to lose, I really do, I went through it and unless you have an ex like that no one can understand the implications. A good test of his motivations is to not reply to texts for a couple of days and see if/whether his level of aggression escalates. Of course everything he puts in writing will be very careful because it’s documented and you have a copy. Better to only communicate by text and if it has to be by phone have it on speakerphone with a witness or have another cheap prepaid with a voice recorder at home that you can turn on and record the speaker phone conversation when you are alone. Have a code word to your friends that if you speak or text it means to call the police. Mine was Felix the Cat, I would ask them ‘How is Felix?’ All they had to say is ‘much better’ and hang up and ring the police for me.

          1. Oh dear Juliette I never thought about the texts actually stating where u sent them from… as I am not so tech savvy. I was actually going to wait and see what his next move might be. It is a little worrying but I’ll see if he gets angrier so far so good. Thanks Juliette for making me aware.

        2. Sorry Tori, there were no social niceties about that text, it just scared me. I’m really glad you are feeling so empowered and just want to be another voice of reason saying be safe, they are capable of anything, when the poo hits the fan for them. The entire spectrum of behaviour from Amazing to Zombie. Hugs to you too :-))

  9. Hi Dr Simon,

    Thank you for your wonderful blog & insight.
    I recently was the victim of a Covert Narcissist/Sociopath that I met whilst still traumatized by my ex-husband who was a gambler, alcoholic etc…most likely a Narcissist. I was married for 19 years & discarded & then spent another 10 years with a controlling Sociopath/Narc. I realized after doing a lot of therapy & introspection that having been abused as a child by my uncle that I was never protected. My father was an alcoholic & I grew up accepting dysfunction as function etc…I am the generational female of domestic abuse as my mother & grandmother both married controlling alcoholics.
    Our self worth was eroded & I am now repairing the awful damage that has been perpetuated through time.
    I am slowly coming to terms with all the confusion & trauma & it’s been cathartic & grueling.At least I now recognize all the damage & am emerging from a very long journey. Being left unprotected from a young age makes my heart ache for the unprotected children that inhabit this earth. I hope one day that the awareness of abuse & the damage it does is fully recognized & appreciated. Behind many a mental illness lurks many a character disturbed experience that can have a profound & lasting effect. Guiding myself out of the abyss is challenging but, I am determined to overcome & survive.

    1. Thanks for the kind words about my work and the blog and thanks for sharing your story. I hope you’ll find the resources here and in my books and other writings helpful in your quest to heal and empower yourself.

    2. Awareb4, I can relate to so much of what you write and I’m sorry to hear your story but also glad you have found the strength, self worth and courage to begin to heal.

      I too had a childhood full of dysfunction then went on to form relationships with disturbed characters. Only now at 45 have I come to fully appreciate and understand the long journey that got me to this point. I was left feeling like there’s obviously something wrong with me for creating these relationships, without understanding exactly what. I have recently read Dr Simon’s books, In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance and have gained so many insights that the hundreds of self help books and therapy I have done in my life, never gave me. I highly recommend them both to you. 🙂

  10. Dr. Simon,
    Yes, please give more tools. I BEG you for more tools. The ones I am able to figure out and use have been successful, but I just can’t help feeling I am missing something. The tactics are vilifying, shaming and guilt-tripping. There is also lying, but it’s subtle and not complete lies. In the end, I always just feel defeated. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

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