Processing the painful emotions, part 2 of 4

Questions and answers

One of the most effective techniques used by counselors is to answer a question with a question or to respond to someone’s description of a dilemma by asking an important question. Our counselor Matt does this very effectively. This questioning causes us to really think, and to learn how to ask and answer the very difficult, core questions ourselves.

Unpredictable and unforeseen
My husband Brandon and I had a conversation recently that really helped me. I told him at the breakfast table that I should have seen something coming from one of our relatives. He asked me why I should’ve known that a crazy person would do something that only a crazy person would think of. He said “No. You couldn’t have imagined it because you aren’t crazy.” That was sweet. I felt better. I’ve thought about that conversation many times.

It’s easy to beat yourself up about the whirlwind of bizarre behavior you’ve encountered in your circumstances. Why me? Why is this happening? Why am I here? Why have I stayed? Why can’t I seem to change things?

There are behavioral patterns, yes. There are also shocking new developments, aren’t there? New players, new venues, new tactics. And just when you thought your sociopathic relative couldn’t stoop any lower, here comes a new low. A new accomplice. Or worse.

Do you feel sometimes like you’re stuck in an endless version of The Hunger Games? Sometimes I feel like I’m being hunted.

You’ve probably found yourself frequently asking questions that begin with the word why. This is totally normal in these very abnormal circumstances. When you can’t find an answer to these why questions, the confusion contributes to feelings of hopelessness and depression.

In this post, we’ll answer some of those questions. Having some essential answers will help you as you process the painful emotions you’re experiencing.

Among all the casual observers in the room or all the children in the family, you were chosen to be a sociopath’s victim. Why?

Drink in these essential truths from my favorite article about sociopaths, written by Lisa Wolcott:

Sociopaths are expert in identifying an easy mark—they can pick out the most trusting, decent person in the room. They use their victim’s goodness and capacity to trust against them.

You wouldn’t knowingly wave your hand up high when meeting a sociopath, saying “Pick me! Pick me!” If you’ve been a sociopath’s victim—even if you were born into the role—you were chosen because you’re an extremely good, decent, trusting person. Think on that. In these wonderful characteristics—goodness, decency and trust—you stand out from the crowd.

Lisa Wolcott also teaches us that “Sociopathy is surprisingly difficult to see.”

I’m sharing these truths—why you were chosen and why you didn’t know that you were dealing with a sociopath—in hopes that (1) you won’t continue to beat yourself up, emotionally-speaking, and (2) you won’t change your good qualities, which include your goodness, decency and trust.

Not your fault
Time spent dealing with a sociopath makes you question yourself. Why is he/she treating me this way? What’s wrong with me? Why am I here? What can I do to make things better? Why did I choose this person? (You didn’t. The sociopath chose you.) Why didn’t I say no? Why have I stayed so long? Why am I putting up with this? How can I get away?

I’ll say it again. Your questions are normal in these very abnormal circumstances. You’re not responsible for the sociopath’s behavior. It’s not your fault that you were chosen (i.e., hunted).

It’s not your fault.

Wrong conclusions
When we find ourselves dealing with someone who’s very disturbing and destructive, it’s common to come to some wrong conclusions about ourselves. It’s kind of like deciding that 1 apple + 1 pine cone = 1 pineapple. Not true. Obviously, when you mix an apple with a pine cone, you don’t get a pineapple.

The mess in the mix
Likewise, when you mix a normal, decent person with a sociopath, you get a big mess. It isn’t the victim who made the situation a mess; it’s always the sociopath—the one who gets his or her entertainment/power trip from messing with the chosen victims.

Destructive thoughts
It’s very tempting to think these kinds of thoughts. “Being nice doesn’t get me anywhere. I’ll just start being a jerk, like so-and-so (the sociopath).” “If I can’t even trust my own parents, I can’t trust anybody.” “People are mean.” “People only use you, so I’m done with people.” “I’ll just do my own thing. That’s the only safe way to live.” “There’s something seriously wrong with me. I just can’t be in relationships.” And so on.

The baby and the bathwater
This kind of doomed thinking—appropriately called stinkin’ thinkin’ by some—is normal when you’ve been dealing with a sociopath, and leads me to this common advice: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” People hear that saying and shake their heads, thinking What the heck is that supposed to mean?

Back in the pioneer and Wild West days, an entire family would use the same tub full of water for their infrequent bathing. When dad got in, the water started out clean. Then it was Mom’s turn, then Junior’s, then Delbert’s, then Sissy’s, then Ruby’s, and then the baby’s turn. By the time it was the baby’s turn, the water was super-dark, and you couldn’t even see the baby in there. Mothers were warned not to throw out the baby with the bathwater because they couldn’t see anything but the baby’s head anymore. Yuck! Sorry for the detour to a filthy, smelly Wild West bathtub. But you see what I mean.

Tools for the rescue
The muddy water needs to go bye-bye. The baby needs to be rescued from it. Your situation—if you’ve been a sociopath’s victim—is the same. The situation is a mess, and you need to be rescued from it. Truth, boundaries and courage will be the tools you need to rescue yourself. And you’re worth it. We’ll talk more about these tools in part 3 of this post.

A time to keep and a time to throw away
Let’s wrap up our old saying: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” It isn’t relationships or people in general who are the problem. The sociopath is the problem. So don’t throw away people in general (the baby in our old saying). Throw away the filthy bathwater (the sociopath). Keep or reclaim the beliefs that are healthy and true—your belief in the goodness of most people.

Yes, your sociopath has wreaked havoc in your life in ways you could never have predicted. Don’t allow a sociopath to turn you into a bitter, fearful, disconnected person. Stay good. Stay trusting. Stay decent.

Coming next: How is working with a great counselor like wearing braces on your teeth? You’ll find out in the next post….

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Song for Healing: The song from the last post may have surprised you a little. I’m especially fond of this beautiful piece because it was played at our wedding. Listen for the initial beauty, then the turmoil in the middle, followed by more beauty and peace. I hope the peaceful theme and ending will help you hear and envision your goal—your journey as you’re choosing peace.

“Meditation from Thais” by Massenet, performed by Sarah Chang

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