After my involvement with the psychopath,
I felt afraid. I wasn’t just afraid of him — I also felt fearful in a general way, experiencing a sense of fear that wasn’t attached to anything specific.
A ‘free-floating’ sense of fear is a good way to describe it, to borrow from the description of generalized anxiety disorder. I was afraid when I took my dog for a walk in broad daylight in a safe neighborhood. I hesitated, my hand frozen on my bedroom doorknob, before I’d open it in the morning. I wasn’t sure who or what I was so afraid of. I’d been preyed upon by a predator I didn’t even know existed, and to make matters worse, that predator was someone I loved and trusted. I didn’t feel safe anymore. It seemed that everything I was certain of was an illusion. I felt……vulnerable. Very vulnerable.
I came to learn that many who are victimized experience the same thing. Fear is part of the aftermath of trauma. The fear expands beyond the traumatic event that caused it, and we wonder, “what else might happen?” We are between places of safety, out in the open, seemingly without protection or defense.
“…It really is a strange and barren landscape and it takes time and self care to get back to a space of feeling safe – safe emotionally deep within the self, within ones own home, thoughts, identity, within one’s community and within ones sense of reality and trust…” A blog reader named Aurora, quoted in ‘Liminality, the Unsettling Space of In-Between’
Once you move beyond fear, you get your life back. You stand on solid ground and feel safe again, even while you have a more realistic sense of the dangers in life. You find that you’re braver and stronger than you were before. You see life differently and live life differently. It doesn’t change what happened to you, but what happened to you no longer controls you.
How do you get there? How do you move from fear to safety and confidence?
A lot goes into it. I think it’s a personal journey, one that is influenced by your unique past, experiences, needs and personality. But there are some generalities that can apply to all of us:
- Understanding what happened, and this includes understanding the psychopathic bond, understanding how the psychopathic mind works, and understanding how your own mind works. This includes learning how manipulation works and why it works. In doing so, you are also much less likely to be re-victimized. Another bonus is that self-blame and shame are eradicated. If you still experience those, it’s a sign that more learning is needed.
- Learning what your vulnerabilities are. This does not mean blaming yourself for what happened. Everyone has vulnerabilities, or weak spots, and they aren’t to blame — the predator who would take advantage of those vulnerabilities is to blame. But since predators exist, it’s in our best interest to know our vulnerabilities. Ironically, knowing what our weak points are makes us more confident about being able to protect ourselves. These vulnerabilities can stem from our past relationships and/or our life circumstances. When delving into the past, such as learning about the dynamics of your family of origin and your place in it and way of coping, a good therapist can be a great advantage.
- Resisting the urge to put the rose-colored glasses back on, and seeing reality for what it is. This enables us to make better decisions about people and relationships. It doesn’t mean being cynical; it just means being realistic. There’s plenty of bad in the world, and it’s best to avoid it. Being realistic allows us to do that and to experience the good things instead.
- Boundaries. I can’t say enough about the value of good boundaries, and the willingness to defend them. Without boundaries — or with a vague sense of boundaries — we remain vulnerable. Taking the time to learn about boundaries and defining our own is vital, and it increases confidence a thousand fold.
- Learning about trust. Some of us need to go back to square one, and I was one of them. We need to learn how to trust and who to trust, and of equal importance (or maybe even more), we need to learn to trust ourselves. If you’ve accomplished the other things on this list, there is no reason not to trust yourself.
Finding what helps you move from fear to confidence is a worthwhile and vitally important pursuit. There are many resources to help you accomplish it. Explore the links to books and articles in the sidebar of this website. Also, explore this website itself by clicking on the blog page in the menu above and reading the posts that catch your eye. Work with a good psychotherapist. Get back in touch with your spirituality, if that works for you. Adopt a dog from the pound — one that’s right for you — and gain a best friend who’s non-judgmental, and who will protect you to boot. Do whatever you need to do to move to the place you deserve to be, which is one of self-worth, wisdom, personal fulfillment and confidence.
The next post will be about personal protection (self-defense) training. It can do more than expected to build confidence.
♥ Thank you for reading.
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