WELCOME BACK

April 2016: After three years away from this blog I'm back. It was originally started so I could make sense of the madness that ensued after my marriage to a sociopath. Much has changed, grown and been created since then - including reclaiming my full birth name Melanie Pledger.
My voice has become stronger, and so has my mission. I'm here on this earth to share the life-changing magic that developed as a result of my personal journey overcoming abuse, abandonment, manipulation and betrayal. I've learned that many of the rules we've been taught about life are fundamentally wrong. They've been misunderstood by most, misused by some, and deliberately misdirected by the manipulators who live and breathe among us. I've also learned that it's easier and more enjoyable than people think to shift things around...
Now I know there was a reason for it all. So now I'm back to fill in the gaps. To share what I've discovered, and dispel the myths that don't serve us... I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, and discovering new ones.
Thank you for being here.
Mel xxx

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Lovefraud: Our Silence Is Their Greatest Weapon


This week I’d like to tell you a true story – although details have been changed to protect privacy. It concerns a recent dinner conversation I had with a well-balanced, well-educated, professional gentleman who has worked at the same company for over a decade. Why? Because he believes in what they do, he loves his job, and he loves the people who work there. This man is articulate, intelligent, great company, happily married and by any measure has made a success of his life – I’ll call him James. So, you can imagine my surprise when, in a quiet moment, this strong man took me aside to confide in me about the horrors he had suffered at the hands of a female boss who had recently left the business.
The antics of this particular individual took its toll on every member of her team – and indeed on the many others who witnessed the carnage but didn’t know what to do about it. From what James said, it appears she would take delight in ridiculing, menacing and threatening her dedicated team of people. She would have one face for public appearances, and a totally different face behind closed doors. She would make a statement about her team to colleagues, and then berate individuals for (allegedly) going behind her back or for non-performance. Rules were changed at the last minute, promises made and broken, rumors spread and threats made – all cloaked with the repeated warning “you’d better keep this to yourself – don’t say a word to anyone else, you know what I can do”
The Only One
I asked how long it had been going on and whether the other bosses knew what was happening? “It had been going on for years”he replied, looking down at the floor “but they could never get any concrete evidence on her. We were all too scared and didn’t realize the extent of what she was doing. I honestly thought I was the only one”
My heart bled for him, as he went on to explain that he’d been on medication to combat stress and depression. It was only after his boss had finally been asked to leave that James realised just how many others had suffered similar symptoms. I was intrigued to know how the other leaders in the business had allowed such bullying behaviour to go on for so long.
“Well, it’s just the way it is. We all love the business and the people in it – we just have a few really strong characters who still think it’s ok to shout and belittle people. We just get on with it and learn to take the blows…”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I personally think that this is a terrible way to go on – and I am constantly horrified that people in positions of authority do not stand up against this sort of behaviour? For me, as I’ve said before, it’s not about witch-hunts or persecution of these individuals. It is not about identifying who may or may not be the sociopath, the narcissist, or the disordered person. No, it’s not about pointing the finger out and hunting them down. It’s simply about recognizing when something ‘bad’ happens (from whatever source, no matter what, where or from whom) and then finding a way to something about it. Because if we keep silent, or continue to take no action, then we provide ‘them’ with their greatest weapon… and they become more lethal the more they gain confidence that they can continue getting away with it.
It doesn’t have to be anything major or personally endangering. Even the smallest and seemingly insignificant of actions can have a dramatic result. Making an internal “no” decision, viewing the bully as a coward, maintaining a blank expression when dealing with them, or just simply walking away.  All those are within our own control. And all of those diffuse and deflate their perceived power over us. Each and every one of us has the power to do this, and it’s multiplied when we join with others and do the same. Yep, that all makes sense – so what stops us then?
I Thought I Must Be Wrong
I asked James the same question. His reply was quite simple. “Having taken the emotional beatings for so long, I just got used to it and found ways to make the pain more bearable. I thought I must be wrong, that I was misinterpreting the situation and that I should just get on with it. In hindsight, I can see that the problems started and escalated when I did nothing about the very first attack – because I just brushed it off. As we all did. It gave us a sense of unspoken bonding, surviving the bad stuff together”
 But now he knows. And now he is keen to share his experiences so that others can also know.
I come back again to the saying “we see things not as they are, but as we are” – and it’s the nice-guys who make excuses for bad behaviors in others. We’re perhaps too willing to forgive or defend other people, on the compassionate understanding that they might just be having a bad day. I’m not saying that’s wrong. On the contrary, I believe it’s a healthy quality to maintain and nurture. Along with that quality, though, I also believe that it’s time that as human beings, we all learn to re-set our internal barometer to super-sensitive, and commit to speaking out any and every time we recognize something is even the slightest bit off-course. It doesn’t need to be an accusation… but it certainly needs to become a question.
The on-going libel issues surrounding my book, for example, have become a farce – and I have been questioning the wisdom of their progress. Because, not content with the mountains of black and white evidence and witness statements that I have already provided, together with substantial name, relationship and location changes, the legal team are currently of the mind that the next step is to make direct contact with the ‘baddies’ in my story and ask them for sign-off on the entire manuscript, just in case there is any way they have any comeback later on. I am flabbergasted. So far as I am concerned, the suggestion demonstrates naivety in the extreme – why on earth would I place myself once again at the mercy of people who I know for a fact to be disordered? The madness of their suggestion just goes to further confirm my own opinion that the law has lost its way.
Action Is The Key
Who, now, is the law protecting? Where, now, is the support for freedom of speech? How, now, is the law standing up for those less able to make their case? It seems that the easier road to take is that where they, like James, have learned to roll with the punches and protect themselves against the bad people. Because from my experience, they are usually the ones who will cite their civil rights when caught doing something wrong, and who will be familiar with every legal loophole. They are the ones who cost most time and money, because they’ve learned to twist the legal system just the way that they learn to twist the true and generous hearted among us. So the automatic route now is to second-guess against what ‘they’ might or might not do – rather than to stand up to them and say ‘enough is enough’. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I am certain that many in these professions are themselves sickened by the on-going change of focus – feeling powerless to make a difference when common sense and judgment has given over to tick-boxes and back-covering.
And yet – the more we stay silent or take no action, then the more it will just carry on. Because what we allow, will continue.
I believe that there are far too many professionals who, even though they feel frustrated, continue to keep their own silence, refusing to hold their hand up and ask questions when something is wrong. I read a quote this week by Martin Luther King and I believe it sums up the message I intend to keep sharing – particularly with those in positions of influence who insist on hiding behind bureaucracy, fear, and any number of ‘company rules’ and defunct mantras of ‘that’s just the way it is’ that keep them trapped in the belief that doing what appears easier automatically translates as doing what is right. Here is the quote that spoke so loudly to me: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
Well, folks, my life is just getting going – and, like many of us here, my voice is getting stronger day by day. Because we’re the ones who know what’s out there…

Link to Lovefraud post here

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Lovefraud: Real Love After The Sociopath


I don’t remember the number of times that my friends warned me not to shut down after it all happened. How many times they’d ask me not to lose myself. To avoid becoming bitter and lonely. To stay open, despite my pain.
“With what you’ve been through you have every right to never trust anyone again” they’d say “but please don’t let this experience change you from being the loving bubbly person that you are – time will heal. Stay open”
Yes, I am very lucky indeed to have such wise and loving friends. I count my blessings and am grateful for such levels of support – particularly during the early days after discovering the truth.  At the time I thought they were referring to my ability to trust another romantic relationship. That was ok, because I was always ready with an answer. My well-rehearsed response would be along the lines of “It’s ok, because I know that my feelings were real, even if his were not – and I know for a fact that I experienced true love. So if I felt that with an empty soul, then when one day I find a real person, surely the experience will be ten times better?”
The thing is, though, I have discovered that real love has very little to do with me finding another person. That ‘closing off’ does not just mean closing to the world and people that surround me. That yes, staying open is entirely to do with trusting and loving…. But loving who, exactly? And how…?
Rock And A Hard Place
As for all of us here, I’ve survived some pretty grueling experiences. My personal healing journey after the sociopath involved re-examining some of the old traumas that I thought I’d already dealt with. Re-opening the sealed emotions that were still hidden away, despite my honest belief that there was nothing left to discover. But there was. And to this day, there continues to be more.
There was a time when, to be frank, I was way too scared of going to some of the darker places that lay within me. Because I knew that re-discovery meant opening old scars and digging around in the old hurts. It was going to be painful, and I didn’t know whether I had the courage to go there – toreally go there and find out what was within. To deal with ‘whatever it was’ once and for all, so that I could be free and done with it. It was an almighty ask of myself – and there were many times that I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the task I knew lay ahead. I became frightened that if I went to the places that were beckoning me, I might never find my way back out. That I’d die from the pain, or perhaps be held prisoner for the rest of eternity.
On the other hand, I knew that if I didn’t go there, then I was doomed to stay stuck in the living nightmare that had become my life. And that, by comparison, was far too great a hurt to live with. So, caught between a rock and a hard place, I felt pushed to the limit. I had to make a choice. And I made the choice to dive right in, hoping and praying that by facing my fears I would come out the other end.
Having made the commitment I discovered that in actual fact the pain was never ‘too much to bear’ and neither was I held prisoner. Quite the contrary. Looking back now, I imagine the journey as a daily trek in to a dark mine. Each day hollowing out more rock, my body and determination becoming stronger as I continued to work. The job, by default, therefore becoming easier as I continued scraping away, emerging at the end of each day with a filthy face and a dirty great smile.
Reflections And Sunshine
And you know what? I never did reach any impasse. I never did find any really ‘bad’ thing hidden there. But I did find something. Something that I had never  in a million years imagined would be hidden there! Because underneath all the dark rocks and dirt, I found a diamond. I found myself.
I said earlier, I had honestly believed that I’d already uncovered and dealt with the emotional damage of my past. Because of that I believed that there was nothing left to discover. On top of that, I now realize that I had believed for many years that even if there was any discovering left to be done, it could only possibly be more of the ‘bad stuff’ that I’d hidden away so many years earlier. It didn’t even occur to me that there might be good stuff to discover – DOH! And now I am thoroughly reveling in finding new stuff within – because I’ve finally tapped in to the real love that lies within me. And ever since the first tentative connection was made, it has continued to build. On a daily basis I am finding more ways to love and appreciate myself for who I am – yep, I’ve lived with ‘me’ for close to five decades, but it feels like I’ve only recently started to know myself.
I am constantly chuckling at the reflections of this process of unfolding that are now occurring on nearly a daily basis. Just at the weekend, for example, I noticed a stone building by the river on a route that I’ve taken countless times over the nine years I have lived in my village. But I had never before taken any notice of the building. On Sunday I not only saw it, I went to explore. There I discovered the most beautiful ‘lavoir’ (a covered area where the locals used to do their washing in years gone by) that had clearly been standing there for many lifetimes. There it was, an exquisite example of beauty and history right on my doorstep. Yet for so long it had simply been invisible to me.
As for my fear of becoming captive to the strength of the pain within? I now realize that I have been living my life as a prisoner for longer than I care to remember. The journey to cleanse my memories, my emotions, and my soul has ultimately proven to be my salvation.
So, for the journey, and for the real love that I am now feeling, I am once again inclined to thank my ex-husband, and all those who have done me harm over the years. I can’t begin to understand their intentions when they were being so cruel, but it doesn’t matter any more. What they did doesn’t matter any more either. Because whether it was intended or not, and whether because or in spite of their actions towards me, I have managed to find myself and re-connect to real love. The real love that was and always has been deep within me.
It turns out that it was not the ‘bad stuff’ I was afraid of – it was the love. Not the darkness, but the light. Through diving in and facing my deepest fears, I have discovered the truth that it was no-one and no-thing that had been holding the real love back from me. In actual fact I had become my own jail-keeper. I had been holding myself prisoner over so many years. Even through years of forgiveness and self-development work, I had still been hiding my light under a bushel.  It was me who’d denied myself the love and the light. I was the one who had closed myself off.
So, since I was the one who had locked the door I was also the one who could open it and let in the sunshine. And as I continue to let the sunshine in, the sunshine continues to grow within me. And as the light grows within me, so my life fills with more and more love.
It was here all along. It always has been. I just didn’t know it. But now I do know it – and I also know that others share the same light. Like me, though, many are yet to discover their own brilliance. It’s there. And I’m here as living testimony that, no matter how impossible it may seem at times, there is indeed real love after the pain.
With deepest love to all. Thank you.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Lovefraud: Me-Muscles... It's All About The Questions


I’ve had an extraordinarily busy and amazing week working with a fantastic group – which is why I simply didn’t have the time to post anything last week. My apologies. The workshop sessions were intensive, running through from early morning to late evening, and yes, it’s tiring work – both for me as well as for the delegates and, of course, my training team. But goodness me it’s worth it. How do I know? The room filled with smiling faces tells me so, and it makes me feel glad.

So this week I’ve decided to share some of the techniques we were exploring over the course of the workshops – because there are many that, in my experience, also apply to dealing with the sociopaths among us.

The first subject is one I’ve written about before. It’s the question of blame and responsibility. You'll know and recognize the times when the hand raises, the finger starts pointing and out come words like “He said…” or “It’s her fault…” or “My boss is to blame…” as people focus on what’s wrong about something or someone else? Now then, so far as I’m concerned there’s nothing wrong in noticing when something is not right – in actual fact it’s extremely positive and necessary to take regular ‘health checks’ on surrounding circumstances. How else can we know whether or not we’re happy with where we are or what we’re doing? The problem, though, lies when people simply state the ‘blaming’ fact and leave it at that – without doing anything about it, and likely feeling more frustrated in the process.

What Can I Do?

So, instead of automatically leaving things as they are, though, what might happen if we adopted the habit of asking ourselves honestly and gently what we can do about it – even when it seems that things are out of our control? In a group scenario, it’s quite simple to give a visual explanation for this – so I’ll share it here with you now. Imagine pointing your finger out towards whatever is upsetting, annoying or frustrating you – and look at how you hold your hand. Notice that for the one finger that points away, there are three pointing back at you. It's a metaphor that demonstrates if we focus all our attention on what is ‘out there’ we are giving away our power – forgetting that if we focus back in on ourselves, we can both acknowledge our power, and also start to grow self-confidence by flexing what I like to call our Me-Muscles.

What are “Me-Muscles”…? They are the tools that sit within us – within all of us – that are within out power to recognize, acknowledge, and build. I often refer to the work I do as the “inner game” because I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that we have more personal resources within us than most of us realize. I have been learning and experimenting with this fact over many years, and after my experiences with my ex I know for sure that it’s the truth. Because I was able to fall back on the countless skills I’d learned and taught over the years, gradually strengthening my me-muscles and finding myself in the process. Those skills helped me to come through, and as a result, they have become even stronger as a result of my experiences.

That's all well and good, you may be thinking, but how do we do that? How can we find strength and faith in ourselves when all around us seems so hopeless…? It’s a good question – and let me assure you, it’s one I’ve asked myself on numerous occasions, while holding tightly on to the bathroom sink and staring at my tear-streaked reflection!

It’s Not About The Labels

And you know what I’ve learned? I’m aware that my next statement may well seem contentious at first – so please stay with me. Because the fact is I’ve learned that it does little or no good to point out the person who has done me wrong. Whether intentional or not, and whether from a sociopath, a narcissist, a bully, an abuser, a psychopath, an enemy, a back-stabber or just a misguided friend…. It doesn’t matter the label I give the person. It doesn’t matter the name or category that the person (or people) sit. No. At the end of the day, that’s not what counts. What counts is the recognition of the behaviour that they are demonstrating – whether that behaviour is conscious or automatic. Whether it’s deliberate or accidental, manipulation or just mis-guided care. At the end of the day, it’s not important. The label, once again, doesn’t matter. Because what matters is that whatever is happening, whatever we notice (and point our finger at) it’s an opportunity for us to flex our Me-Muscles and say “yes” to what we like and “no” to what we don’t like.

It’s our invitation to go within and find our own resources. Why? Because we’re worth it. How do we do it? By learning techniques. When do we start? As soon as we realize (or, as I was taught many years ago “see with real-eyes”) that we can – or even if we may not believe that we can, perhaps we get an inkling that perhaps it might be possible that we may be able to do a little more than we had previously thought… You get my drift?

Can you begin to imagine the possibilities as more of us not only become more adept at recognizing bad behaviours (within individuals, groups and cultures) but also do something about pointing them out and changing them? I can imagine it… and it gives me goosebumps. Those goosebumps happen every time that I work with a group and hear these words “Nothing’s really changed outside – but I’VE changed, and now I know for sure that I can change my life for the better!”

It all starts with a set of questions. Gentle and honest questions to ourselves. Invitations, if you like, so that we can find ways to tap in to the unknown power that lies within us and learn to reclaim who we are. Those honest questions can be triggered every time that we point the finger out to someone or something else. And instead of just focusing on what’s happening, ask ourselves “How can I influence this? What can I do differently? What else is within my power that I hadn’t already recognized?” And you know what? The responses will start to come.
And if (as at times you will) you hit the brick wall of “I don’t know” – then gently continue your self-dialogue with an acknowledgement and another question “Yes, of course, I realize that I don’t know… but just for a moment or two, supposing I DID know…. Then what…?” And you can smile as the answers slowly start to form.

I hope this is useful, and would welcome your comments and questions :-)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lovefraud: Opening Old Wounds


This, for me, has been a week of extreme highs and lows. And, as usual, has once again provided me with the perfect material for today’s post. Among the highs was finding and securing the perfect living solution for my son when he starts university – that’s a massive weight off both of our shoulders, and a cause for great celebration!
The lows? Well, they’ve been triggered by a piece of particularly unexpected news – and an announcement that I would therefore like to make to all of you here on Lovefraud. I discovered just at the end of last week that the publication date for my book has been moved. Not by the couple of weeks I might have expected, since I was already aware that the libel issues have taken much longer than anticipated to resolve. Nope, the date change is a full seven months down the line, with a new publication date of 7th February 2013. The original date was this week, 5th July, so it came as a bit of a blow. I am desperately sorry to all of you who may have placed an advanced order with Amazon, because now you will not be able to read the book until the beginning of next year. Please accept my apologies – this entire process is out of my hands.
What is the reason for seven months’ delay? Well, it turns out that there are optimal times for releasing books and, since we were going to miss our designated slot, I’m told that the next best time for promotion is February. I can understand what I’m being told. It makes sense. It really does. But that’s not the point.
Old Demons Try To Return
Because the point is that I didn’t know – although the publishers thought they’d told me. So while there is no blame on their part, it didn’t stop me from going through a maelstrom of emotional responses, because the way it happened triggered old feelings and opened up old wounds. I recognize that now, but at the time I simply felt hurt, deflated and defeated. I felt as though I’d been beaten at the last hurdle. That despite going through the anguish of writing out my story in detail, and despite agreeing editorial tweaks and providing all manner of black and white proof that what I am saying is true, I simply failed to cross the finish-line. Despite my best efforts, I had let people down – those who were expecting their book, those who have given me their endorsements, those who have lined up promotional support… all of that wonderful help and encouragement now wasted. Game over. Chance missed. Back to the changing rooms and back to the training field.
For the first few hours, I could hardly even focus as I reeled under the weight of guilt and shame. My hard-learned skills escaped me as any sense of balance or reason eluded me. Tears flowed, fists clenched, teeth ground, and frown-lines deepened. The old demons I knew so well once again slithered out from my subconscious and beckoned me in to their cold scaly grip, taunting me with hissed questions that stabbed at my vulnerability “So you really thought you could do it did you? Don’t you know that you’ll never come to anything? What made you think you’d succeed this time? Will you never learn?”
For a while, fury once again took over and I railed against the injustice of it all. “Why wasn’t I consulted? Why weren’t all these details covered off months ago? Where’s my voice in all this?” And yes, looking back now, I can fully imagine the stamping of feet, folding of arms, and a huge “It’s just not fair!” before the pout takes over and stomps off in to a corner. Yes, I can laugh now! But only now… Because I’ve moved through it all and been able to make sense of what has happened.
I already knew that the scars run deep after experiences of trauma and abuse. And like so many of us here, I’ve had my fair share of both – and worked my way through the healing process to reclaim my self, my sanity and my freedom. Which is why this most recent episode has turned out to be a blessing in disguise…
There Is Always A Gift
This latest experience, you see, has allowed me to get an even fuller sense of the range and pattern of emotional responses to manipulation and abuse. It’s allowed me to realize that the feelings I was experiencing were muchless to do with the situation in hand, and much more to do with old memories. I was able to put in to context my over-sized responses, and empathise with why I was doing it.
Through my own healing process I have been learning to own, accept and express my feelings – even the ones I had previously labeled as “spoiled brat” or “judgemental” or just plain “bad”. And so my discovery that the book wasn’t going to happen in the way I had believed provided me the perfect opportunity to re-experience the roller-coaster emotional ride that started when I discovered that life with my soulmate was a sham. Back then it took me many many months to make sense of what was happening. This time it took a matter of hours to experience the same set of emotions and deal with them honestly and with kindness. I’m sure that these responses will be all too familiar with many people here on this site:
Betrayal because I hadn’t been told the truth. Abandonment because I had been let down at the last minute. Isolation because I felt that nobody was ‘with me’ or willing to stand up for me. Guilt because perhaps I hadn’t given enough. Shame because I would have to explain what had happened. Confusion because I thought we were on track. Shame once again because I didn’t see it coming. You know the ones…?
Well, this time, as soon as I realised what was happening, I was able to give myself some distance from the situation. I felt able to give space to each of those feelings, and accept them as they passed through – because they were real, and they are part of who I am. I took many deep breaths, went out in to nature, and consciously did more of the things that I had learned helped me get through the last few years.  Within 24 hours I felt clearer and lighter – and the ideas started to flow.
I’m Ready
Once again, I realize that there has been a gift in the situation. Once again I feel I have learned and grown as a result. Once again I am confident that I am in exactly the right place, and that everything is unfolding in the most perfect way. Gratitude is once again flowing, and I am forging ahead with ideas that would never had appeared had everything run to the original plan.
Now I realize that I have a seven-month window to reach out to more people and to share the skills I have learned in a more structured way. I also have the opportunity to expand my reach and connect with the language of the place I live – here in France we just don’t have the number of resources available that we have in UK, USA and other English-speaking countries. And yet here, it could be argued that oppression is even more common – and even less understood.
This was always in the background plan. But I had reasoned that I would need my book to come out first. Not so. Because now I am fired-up to do everything within my power to reach out to others. The book is already written and edited. It’s ready. And so am I. And I’ve realised that it really doesn’t matter which comes first – a bit like the proverbial chicken and the egg. So, watch this space… there are plans afoot :-)