Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Lovefraud: It's Not About The Sociopath - It Never Has Been
Okay… I started by talking about my ‘responsibility’ and so this week I have chosen to write about my take on the meaning of the word.
Before going in to that in any detail, I’d like to start off by saying that I believe all of us (yes ALL of us) already have the power to heal. I get the feeling though (certainly from my own experience) that many of us have forgotten that we have a huge inner resource of strength and power. I acknowledge that through our relationships with abusive people, our inner strength can be pushed down, boxed, manipulated and damaged to the point where we believe we really are useless and powerless. That we’ve become the small weak person the sociopaths would have us believe. That we end up thinking “well, he/she was right all along. I’m worthless. They’ve won”
And I’m here to say that I believe this is simply not the case. I’m aware this may appear somewhat controversial, but I invite you to consider the notion that perhaps it is BECAUSE of our inner strength that the sociopath was attracted in the first place? That, perhaps, it’s BECAUSE we have love in our hearts and a strong soul they wanted to possess and control us? After all, assuming that’s the case, then we already have – we’ve ALWAYS had – the very things that they can never EVER attain for themselves. So now it’s up to us to reclaim ourselves – to find a way where we can stand up tall and proud, and become the person we truly are. That, at least, has been my take during my journey, and I’d like to start sharing some of the techniques that have helped me along the way.
So let’s continue with the word ‘responsibility’. For many, the word invokes heavy or burdensome connotations. In my leadership training groups for example, delegates often tell me that they feel a weight on their shoulders, or a need to behave in a certain way so that they can fulfill the serious expectations that responsibility carries with it. They perceive it as a load, something they have to carry – so the word itself, therefore, can often have negative associations. And I think that’s a shame… I also think it’s untrue.
I’m sure you can imagine the scene when I bring this up with leadership groups. I will often be met with a room full of suddenly the folded arms and a series of harrumphs as delegates hunker down for a battle. “What?”they’ll grumble “We are leaders! We have to bear the burden of responsibility! It’s not easy you know!” And this is where the training starts.
The same as I do with these groups, I would like to invite you to explore another perspective. One that, in my opinion, can be a much more empowering way to look at what responsibility really means.
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that we can break the word in to two – “response” and “ability”…. Meaning ourability to respond. Or, if you prefer, our choice as to how we are going to respond to a situation. It’s our opportunity to re-consider our actions, rather than coming back with a habitual or emotion-driven response.
It’s like this, you see. I often witness people telling me that “it’s his/her fault” or “my boss is to blame for my unhappiness in my job” or “my family makes me feel bad” or “that psychopath ex still makes me boil with fury”. You get the picture?
I believe with all my heart and soul, that the more we place the ‘blame’ on another person or situation, all we are doing is giving away our own power. We can shout and roar as much as we like – or mumble and whisper, it doesn’t really matter. My point is that while we continue to focus outside of ourselves we are blocking our own ability to develop. The result is that instead of moving forward, we remain stuck in the very place we say we don’t like!
Imagine, for a moment, that you are pointing your finger at someone – or something. You’ll most likely have your index finger pointing out, with the rest of your hand curled in to a loose fist shape. All your frustrations are directed outside of you along that one finger. Don’t get me wrong, it may well feel good to do that… but at the same time, I’d like you to consider where your other fingers are pointing. Who are they pointing to? Who, therefore, might we be forgetting during a (justifiable) outpouring of frustration? Yup, we’re forgetting ourselvesin the matter.
Again, at this point, my leadership groups will often become even more agitated “What, you’re telling me that it’s MY fault? That I’M to blame?” Of course, this is not the message I am giving them. But they have become so wrapped up in their frustration at whatever situation it is we’re discussing, that they find it difficult to move beyond that point. As I said earlier, they remain stuck.
No, the point I am making is to recognize that for the one finger that’s pointing away from us, we have three more pointing back at us. This hand gesture invites us to consider what else we can do in any given situation. It’s a reminder that we have more control than we often think. Three times the power. Three times more choices available to us. Because we have the opportunity to decide exactly how we are going to respond at any time – it’s just up to us to make the most of it.
OK, you may be thinking, that’s all well and good, but what does that mean to me? How can that help me in my situation? Or, as some delegates insist on telling me at the beginning of a training course “Well, it’s different for me you know!” Of course it’s different for them – it’s different for us all. And that, paradoxically, is where it’s also exactly the same. Because each and every one of us is unique.
It’s true, we can’t necessarily change the behavior of another. But we can always change our own behavior. And by changing our own behavior, well, then we’ve broken the communication dance of which we find ourselves a part. I’ll explain what I mean. Imagine you are going to shake somebody’s hand. They will give you their hand and you will shake it – because that’s what’s expected. That’s the automatic response, the well-rehearsed ‘steps’ that we’re used to dancing. Now this time, imagine instead that when you go to shake that same person’s hand, you pull away at the last moment. What happens to that other person? They will have to do something different, because you have broken the dance. Do you see what I am getting at?
For me, quite early on in my healing, I decided that I would have a different response to matters every time I felt hurt, confused or downright furious at the situation I found myself in. I chose to ‘break the dance’. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t come easy. But with practice, I discovered I felt freer and lighter as a result.
I acknowledge that my next statement is likely to prove controversial, but I decided that I would consciously choose to thank my ex for his actions, rather than dwell on the pain and suffering. I decided that each time I was hit with yet another debt, or more evidence of his betrayals, instead of automatically pointing the finger I would instead stop, get myself still, take a deep breath and ask myself “what can I do to feel better? How can I use my own power to make a positive difference to this situation?”
That’s when the learning happens. That’s when my brain searches for other alternatives. That’s when I look around my surroundings and realize that I’m still alive. I have my son. I have food on my table. I no longer have to pander to his demands – I am no longer the squashed manipulated woman I had been for far too long. And all of a sudden I can start to feel grateful. Grateful that he’s gone. Grateful that I have the opportunity to rebuild my life – for me. And, as I said before, it usually ends up with my thanking my ex. It doesn’t mean I forgive his actions. Neither does it mean that I feel any compassion for him. It DOES mean that I’m free from the pain – and that is a gift to myself.
It’s not easy – I’ve said that before. To quote the phrase ‘better the devil you know’ it often seems easier to stay with the old habits. Those same old habits that keep us stuck. Change and healing takes determination – and when things don’t go quite as planned we can get discouraged. But how do we resist the temptation to dwell on the difficulties? To fall back in to the gaping hole of misery? I believe the solution is to identify a ‘space’ where we can feel good – if not good, then at the very least a bit better! For me, I often use music to help me change the way I feel – two of my regular song choices have been Labbi Syffre’s “Something Inside So Strong”and Nina Simone’s “I Got Life” (with the accompanying video to a yoghurt advert). I also write to change my mood. One of my best friends goes out to tend her garden, another turns to cooking, and another takes himself out for a walk. What we do doesn’t matter in the slightest – it’s just about finding something, anything that can help us stay on track to achieving our end goal. To heal and to reclaim our life.
As I have said many times on my blog, this is NOT about him, it never has been. This is about ME. Since discovering the truth I have refused to allow him to impact on my journey – no matter how hard he may have tried to hurt me, I simply will not let it happen anymore. I can always choose my own responses, no matter what is going on around me – and most of the time that is exactly what I do. Yes, there are times when I forget, and there are many more times when it’s been hard work to find an alternative. But with persistence, focus, and a determination to create a better life for my son and myself, most of the times I get there.
For all of us who have been hurt by someone else, the most important thing is to remember that we DO have the power to do something about it. We CAN change the way we feel, and by doing so we change our immediate experience and increase our ability to heal. Perhaps our biggest challenge is simply to acknowledge that fact. As I said earlier, I am convinced that we must already have demonstrated our inner strength to attract a sociopath in the first place. Does that mean we should now hide our light under a bushel? Does that mean we should now stay in the fear and pain? Or does that mean we should reclaim who we are, fan the flames of passion and become even stronger than we were before? Surely that’s the best revenge against those who tried to put us down in the first place, isn’t it?
So next time a proverbial ‘hand’ is offered to you, are you going to shake it automatically? Are you going to continue with a habitual response? Or are you going to move your hand away, step back and take control of the dance? It’s up to all of us, of course, to choose the route we take – not just sometimes, but all of the time.
Incidentally, once my leadership groups grasp the sense of what I mean, I am always met with a room full of calm and smiling faces. They feel safe in the knowledge that responsibility is something they’ve always had – it’s just that now they know how to use it more wisely.
I hope this has been helpful – I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Until next week, love and blessings to all my new friends here on Lovefraud!