After our experience in a psychopathic bond, we are shaken to our core. The firm foundation we believed we stood on crumbled beneath us and we hang on, barely, in any way we can.
We find ourselves in a liminal place — a place of ‘in-between.’
It is a strange place to be, and we feel fearful. But as we journey through this strange place, it changes as we change. Ultimately, it becomes the place where healing happens.
As we go through life, we have a driving unconscious desire to create a fixed and certain sense of reality. This enables us to feel a sense of safety. But all we ever really create is the illusion of it. And after the psychopath, our illusions of certainty, of security, of safety, are shattered. We are afraid, and this fear is existential and primordial and reaches down into the core of all that we are.
It is alarming to consider that our nicely ordered life, with its predictability and safety and certainty, actually exists on the edge of an unknown wilderness.
This wilderness “is a place of initiation, for it is there the demonic presences and the forces of nature reveal themselves. The wilderness is the antithesis of house and heart … It holds the dark forbidden things – secrets, terrors, which threaten the protected life of the ordered world of common day.” We find ourselves in irreconcilable opposition between this wilderness and the civilized and familiar place we once inhabited.
Our homes and our selves are our basic places of safety. When violated, we have nowhere to go to feel safe. The fact that this violation was perpetrated by someone we thought we knew and trusted leaves us shaken and fearful.
That someone could have manipulated their way into our hearts, and then continued on freely to our souls, leaves us in this liminal space.
“Liminality embodies the abject, ‘the in-between, the ambiguous, the composite’ that disturbs ‘identity, system, order,’” according toTeresa A. Goddu, in Gothic America: Narrative, History and Nation. It is a very uncomfortable place to be, to say the least, and one that scares us deeply.
In a state of liminality, “participants stand at the threshold between their previous way of structuring their identity…and a new way. Continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt.”
We find ourselves in a place that exists between the everyday world we thought we knew — and the one we only recently discovered. We look around us, and on its surface everything appears the same as it did before. The sun rises, the clock ticks, the phone rings, and snow falls or flowers bloom. But there is a sense of that resemblance being an uncanny one. While everything around us may appear to be the same, it has taken on the quality of having been fundamentally changed beneath the surface. Even though we look the same when we see ourselves in the mirror, we know we have been fundamentally altered in some profound way, deep beneath our skin.
This uncanny aspect extends into the very way we see things. We may give way to superstitious beliefs. According to Sartre, magic is dominant when control over our experience is weak:
“Magical beliefs and the fearful reactions based on such beliefs are the result of the state of uncertainty we are in, created by this challenge and by the negation of our expectations. Our feelings come from the conviction of loss of control and the sense of helplessness we feel when our cognitive system can neither assimilate our experience into its own structure nor adapt itself to the structure of the experience.”
What we believed was real and solid now seems like nothing but a house of cards that was ready to be blown over by a strong enough wind. The psychopath was that wind.
As Thomas L. Dumm pointed out, “Fear once meant the experience of being between places of protection, in transit, in a situation analogous to the condition that is commonly referred as liminality.” This idea of being in between places of safety applies equally well to paradigms of thought as it does to physical places, and it helps to explain the sense of uncanniness and fear we feel. We journeyed outside our usual paradigm and into an alternate one that we never even knew existed.
A key feature of liminality is the stage of reintegration. When this reintegration does not happen, liminality becomes permanent, which can be very dangerous. Only when we can take that new paradigm, and accept it and integrate it with our old one, does our fear and our sense of the uncanny resolve.
Liminality is brought about by trauma and tragedy. It is the space of transition. It is also the space of transformation.
Aurora explained it beautifully in the comments below:
“This… explains exactly how I was feeling a year ago. Its a terribly frightening place, and I remember distinctly feeling like the ground was unsteady under my feet. The things that were previously precious and meaningful to me suddenly made no sense at all. It was a spiritual crisis, as well as an emotional and physical one.
I haven’t read a better description of this ‘space’ one finds oneself in after having had an experience with a psychopath. 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, reality, within one’s community and within ones sense of reality and trust.
I still have a long way to go with this, but I feel now I know more fully what I am dealing with. I no longer let wishful thinking, nostalgia or cognitive dissonance dull the painful but necessary task of facing the reality of what happened to me. It can be truly transforming, but is it a journey, and one where it is so important to get the help you need, and those that truly understand just how many levels the pain infiltrates.”
♥ Are you in the liminal space?
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