Emergency: Self-Blame

emergency 9


is the subject of this ’emergency’ blog post. I heard from a reader a couple of days ago who put the issue of self-blame front and center in my thoughts. Self-blame lurks in many of the comments written here, and although I’ve talked about it in the subtext of multiple blog posts, it’s more than important enough to take center stage. A lot of people who come here are, to some extent, blaming themselves for having been victimized by a psychopath. This is an urgent matter, as you are about to find out.

This is the comment that inspired me to write about self-blame:

“I am two years out, but I still think of him… I still ruminate over how I was duped, and I still mourn how I gave so much and surrendered most of my boundaries to him, clinging to the hope that he would be the man I wanted him to be. When we broke up he said,  ‘You knew what I was, so it’s on you for trying to change me….’

(Many thanks to the author of this comment for inspiring this discussion).

Self-blame is, basically, assuming personal responsibility for the occurrence of a traumatic event. And we hear A LOT about the importance of ‘taking personal responsibility’ for everything, not just the things we are actually responsible for. It’s a meme that’s embedded deeply into our collective psyche. We have become used to hearing and accepting things in mainstream media, books, and websites, and in day-to-day conversations with friends and acquaintances, that sound like this:

“Self-responsible means taking responsibility for everything in your life, even those events or people that do not in any way seem to be your problem or responsibility. Often the people that most antagonize us are the ones we need most to teach us what we want to learn. My mother used to say, ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’ Call it that, or call it simple attraction; anger attracts anger, hostility attracts hostility, love attracts love, and so forth…”

And this:

“The fundamental responsibility that each of us has is that we are completely, 100% responsible for how our lives turn out. This is tough! When things aren’t so good, we’re so quick to point fingers at other people and place the blame on them. Have you ever known someone who will accept no responsibility? Some people are perpetual victims of what other people do! But remember this — when you point your finger outside, you have just now accepted the victim status.”

Even on websites where those of us victimized by psychopaths go for help and understanding, we find things like this:

“I take responsibility in that I saw the red flags and ignored them, and chose this guy out of some of my own fears. Its hard to admit to but its true. Had I been healthier emotionally I doubt I would have even continued to date the creep.”

“You chose to stay. When we accept responsibility for our choices, we empower ourselves to make different choices.”

“Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself, by yourself, and you try to make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than your heart’s desire.”

“I have to take responsibility for having my eyes closed and not seeing who he was from the start.”

“Start to focus on why you allowed it to happen.”

The most interesting thing about these statements is that they simultaneously absolve the abuser of responsibility, and dump it on the person who was victimized.

Now let’s see this detrimental and insidious belief for what it really is.

“Victim blamers love to scream about how you’ll never recover, grow, or heal if you don’t ‘accept the blame’ for your role in the dynamic (because it takes two to tango and blah blah blah). But here’s a neat concept: It’s perfectly possible to recover, grow, and heal without accepting the blame for someone else’s horrendous behavior. That’s how we build self-respect and boundaries. That’s how we learn to stop absorbing someone else’s projection, excuses, and minimization of abuse.”

Peace, Psychopath Free

Amen! He could not have said it better.

Didn’t we get more than enough blame from the psychopath we were involved with? One of their main goals was to get us to take the blame and the responsibility for their horrendous behavior. Why should we continue taking the blame for it now? Why would we? We realize we shouldn’t have taken it then, so it makes no sense to take it now.

It doesn’t make sense at all to talk about how we were victimized by these predators called psychopaths, about how skilled they are at manipulating, about how severely we were traumatized by it — and then claim that we were somehow responsible for it. Both of those things can’t be true at the same time. To the people who ask, “How could I have been so stupid?” I ask, which is it — were you victimized by a predator or were you  just stupid? The answer should clear up a lot of confusion. And no, you were not stupid.

To those who think we need to ‘take responsibility’ in order to heal, I say the OPPOSITE is actually true. As long as someone blames themselves, it means they still don’t really understand what happened or how it happened. How can we heal from something that we don’t understand? Self-blame leads to shame. Taking on responsibility that is not our own can not only paralyze us, but drag us down into the inertia of self-devaluation. Do we really need any more devaluation?

Not one of us was ever responsible in any way for what an abuser did. We were lied to, manipulated, and conned. Not one of us entered an abusive relationship with knowledge of what we were getting involved in. We stayed because we were trapped in a web of mind games spun with the intent to trap us.  It wasn’t our fault. It really is that simple.

Having said that, it’s not the same as blaming yourself if you decide to figure out what your vulnerabilities were, or to work on your boundaries, or to learn about cognitive biases (the mental blind spots we all have).  Because we have vulnerabilities or biases or weak boundaries isn’t the problem — the problem is that there are people who take advantage of those things. They are the ones who deserve the blame.

By the way, most of our ‘vulnerabilities’ were things like being a loving and forgiving person. In other words, human. That is all a psychopath needs to make their abuse possible.

“You believed in people. You trusted people to be as decent inside as you are. You trusted people to be as capable of love as you are.  It is actually a story of your best qualities. Shame is not your burden to carry. Neither is blame, from others or from yourself. What is there to feel shame for? Being a decent, loving and trusting human being? What is there to be blamed for? Being victimized by a predator, one who presented himself as being the same way you are? The psychopath is the only one who deserves shame and blame.”

~ The Real Reason You Were Victimized By a Psychopath

It’s normal to blame yourself for a while, but a really big step in healing comes when you stop doing that because you realize your behavior was created and nurtured by a predator who was a skilled manipulator.

Here are the words of Dr. George Simon, an expert on covert-aggressive predators:

“Many folks have told me about how hard it was for them to stop blaming themselves and engaging in a lot of self-doubt and reproach. ‘How could I have been so blind…. or so stupid?’ they ask themselves…But the truth of the matter is that while they might indeed have had some personality characteristics of their own that made them particularly naive and vulnerable (most of us do), the fact is that covert-aggressors are generally quite skilled at what they do, and the more seriously character disturbed social predators among us (i.e. the psychopaths/sociopaths) are extremely astute and talented when it comes to the ‘art of the con.’

…Besides, it’s relatively pointless to play the self-blame game. Lovingly reckoning with your vulnerabilities and vowing to become a stronger person in the aftermath is one thing, but doing an emotional hatchet-job on yourself just because you happened to fall prey to a good con artist is quite another… as hard as it might be, one of the most important tasks any recovering person has before them is to end the destructive cycle of self-doubt and blame.”
~ Life After a Manipulator

It’s worth repeating:

“One of the most important tasks any recovering person has before them is to end the destructive cycle of self-doubt and blame.”

I think it’s common to forget the basics of what we experienced, so here is a quick review:

Psychological Manipulation: A type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at another’s expense, such methods can be considered exploitative, abusive, devious and deceptive.

The very nature of ‘deception’ means you don’t know what’s really happening because you’re being deceived.

Psychologist George Simon writes that in order for psychological manipulation to be successful, the manipulator:

  • Conceals aggressive intentions and behaviors
  • Knows the psychological vulnerabilities of the victim and uses them to determine what tactics are likely to be the most effective
  • Has a sufficient level of ruthlessness to have no qualms about causing harm to the victim if necessary

OK, so the predator studied you, figured out your vulnerabilities and then exploited them, and they did it covertly, so you didn’t know it was happening.  Does this sound like something you should take personal responsibility for? Is it something you should be blaming yourself for? And if you say you ‘should’ have known, remember that the whole point is that you didn’t know because it was designed so you wouldn’t know.

To suggest that survivors are to blame for what happened is to re-victimize them. It sounds almost reasonable in the context of our ‘take personal responsibility, or else’ culture, and almost rational in the context of believing you’ll never heal unless you do or that you’ll fall victim again if you don’t. But it couldn’t be further from reasonable or rational. Self-blame and others admonishing us to blame ourselves continues the abuse where the psychopath left off. He or she conditioned you to blame yourself, and now you’re on automatic pilot. Wouldn’t it make them happy to know that?

“Self-blame is linked with more distress, anxiety, depression, harsh self-criticism, low self-worth and poorer recovery from trauma (Harvey & Pauwels, 2000). Self-blame is in fact an additional and internal trauma that individuals, who survived the unimaginable, inflict upon themselves. The survivor keeps thinking about the event and what he or she could have said and done differently.”

Here’s something we can do differently right now: Let’s put the responsibility right back where it belongs — let’s put the responsibility for the abuse on the abuser. Let’s take the obstacle of self-blame off of our road to recovery.

I just got this comment from Aurora, and I think it will help others:

“I too blamed myself for being duped, and there was so much shame about why I had allowed this to all happen to me. Truth is, forgiving myself was the hardest part.

We don’t consciously choose to be victimised, and being able to ‘take back myself’ from all the wreckage left behind was a huge achievement. Its so easy to get stuck in the warped and twisted reality of what happened to us, and it takes ages to work it all out – like unraveling a massive ball of wool – to get to the bottom of things. It doesn’t help that well-meaning friends tell you to get over it, or you’re lucky you’re done with them, or whatever.

The self-blame aspect, and as you say that turning point where you finally release yourself from it, is so powerful in healing.

I hope all readers get to that point in the process. No one wants to be duped by a psychopath; most people have an intrinsic sense of the good in humankind and want to see the best in people. Unfortunately psychopaths seem to be able to sense that in those of us who are caring and compassionate, and then turn it to use against us. I was ashamed to be human, loving, forgiving, etc etc after I left the psychopath. Now, 18 months down the track, I say I am proud I am human, with human failings and all. What happened to me with the psychopath was not my fault.”

♥ Thank you for reading.


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59 thoughts on “Emergency: Self-Blame”

  1. Aurora

    Hi Admin, this is an important topic and you have covered it so well. I too blamed myself for being duped, and there was so much shame about why I had allowed this to all happen to me. Truth is, forgiving myself was the hardest part.
    We don’t consciously choose to be victimised and being able to ‘take back myself’ from all the wreckage left behind was a huge achievement. Its so easy to get stuck in the warped and twisted reality of what happened to us, and it takes ages to work it all out – like unravelling a massive ball of wool – to get to the bottom of things. It doesn’t help that well-meaning friends tell you to get over it, or you’re lucky youre done with them, or whatever.
    The self-blame aspect, and as you say that turning point where you finally release yourself from it, is so powerful in healing.
    I hope all readers get to that point in the process. Noone wants to be duded by a psychopath, most people have an intrinsic sense of the good in humankind and want to see the best in people. Unfortunately psychopaths seem to be able to sense that in those of us who are caring and compassionate, and then turn it to use against us. I was ashamed to be human, loving, forgiving, etc etc after I left the psychopath. Now, 18 months down the track, I say I am proud I am human, with human failings and all. What happened to me with the psychopath was not my fault.

    1. Admin

      Great comment, Aurora. I have added it to the post. xx

  2. Salvation

    Great article. The hardest part for me is the self-confidence annihilation (3 months, 4 days NC). Telling myself I mustn’t have been ‘hot enough’ since I didn’t have him desperately seeking to make amends or provide closure for the damage he did. I sometimes still catch myself thinking that if I was hotter than I would have had his undivided attention, as if he would have been less psychopathic. It’s so strange, because by social standards I’m attractive, yet there is still such a devastating effect when you know you may have been the most frequent source of supply, but there are ALWAYS others on rotation. And the punishment for speaking my mind was always a soul destroying silence lasting how ever long he saw fit to remind me that he had other options. Especially during those silences (and even know I guess) the mind plays tricks and I wonder who were the others? They must be EXTRA fun because I knew was pretty fun….. They must be EXTRA pretty because I know I’m attractive. Heck their body must be like a stripper because I was pretty confident in my body too. Such a consuming feeling that I was not enough to hold his attention. And pathetic must that make me? wanting the attention or at least the validation of a psychopath.

    1. Admin

      It doesn’t make you pathetic, it just sounds as if it’s part of the cognitive dissonance we all go through related to the confusion of who the person really is. No one is ever enough for a psychopath, by the way. But we are enough for the people who really love us.

      1. Salvation

        I know what you are saying is true, but how and when will I move past the cognitive dissonance stage? I hate having any positive feelings about the person who destroyed me life. I know it was all an illusion, but the illusion haunts my every waking moment.

        1. Admin

          Three months is still very early. I know how maddening it is to have those intrusive, ping-ponging thoughts. The illusion they create is strong, and very confusing. We go back and forth between that illusion and reality, not entirely sure sometimes which is which. It takes time for that confusion to clear up. Everyone is different, but it takes a while, I’m sorry to say. It took me over a year. Maybe you will move past it sooner. I hope you do. xx

          1. Salvation

            Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I needed it. I wish everyone going through this torture a quick recovery xx

            1. Admin

              You’re welcome.

              1. Nicola

                I’m still having the uncontrolled intrusive thoughts 18 months out. The re victimisation by myself AND others keeps the trauma going, sadly. Friends, family and some therapists are all quick to rest the blame with the victim. You should have lost weight. You shouldn’t have stayed beyond the first lie. You shouldn’t have got angry when you found he had been cheating on you. It’s bollocks, and it hurst like Hell. Chickens peck a wounded chicken to death. So will people. Be kind to yourself as the people you want kindness from might not be able to manage it.

              2. Admin

                I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. I got lot of it, too, and it does hurt. We want people to listen, to understand (or at least try to), but the fact is they don’t have a clue as to what we’re talking about. They believe they do, though. I tried to explain until I was blue in the face. I got tired of it, so I stopped. What irked me was that everyone who blamed me, or who wanted me to blame myself, thought it could never happen to them. Oh, yes it could. I can’t fathom that someone told you you shouldn’t have gotten mad when he cheated on you, or that you should have lost weight! This whole experience teaches you a lot about your friends. My address book became noticeably thinner. One thing you can do is to stop re-victimizing yourself. Don’t be one of those chickens doing the pecking. Please stay away from any therapists who contribute to the blaming. I think something very worthwhile for you to do at this point would be to work on your boundaries. Here’s the last half of that great quote in the post:

                “Here’s a neat concept: It’s perfectly possible to recover, grow, and heal without accepting the blame for someone else’s horrendous behavior. That’s how we build self-respect and boundaries. That’s how we learn to stop absorbing someone else’s projection, excuses, and minimization of abuse.”

                He’s correct in saying it has to do with boundaries. You did not control or cause your ex’s behavior, so you do not have any reason to take the blame for it. He was his own person, and you are yours.

                I remember those intrusive thoughts, and how I wanted them to stop. It was as if he were somehow in my head, and I wanted him out. When I understood how the whole thing worked (his creation of the relationship, his manufacture of my emotions, his manipulation), I stopped blaming myself — because there was nothing to blame myself for, and the intrusive thoughts subsided and then finally stopped. There was no more back-and-forth in my head about what I could have done differently (nothing that I did or didn’t do would have changed anything), no more back-and-forth about whether I was right or wrong about him — he was a manipulative abuser and a creep who made me very unhappy, to say the least. I was finally free of him. The bond was broken. I had peace inside my own head again. I hope you will have that again sometime soon. xx

              3. Salvation

                When the cognitive dissonance subsides, what becomes of all those illusionary happy memories? Do they become bitter and reframed or will I still feel I miss this monster? Nicola my heart goes out to you for so many months of pain, made all the more difficult by the toxic people putting their two cents in… What they say isn’t worth shit really, because very few can truly appreciate the trauma involved in what we have been through.

              4. Admin

                Try not to replace intrusive thoughts with bitterness. Moments of bitterness aren’t unfounded, of course, but you don’t want to walk around feeling bitter in general.

                I felt a sense of sad resignation about the whole thing, including the illusory happy memories. I came to a place of acceptance of the truth of what happened. As the attachment dissolved, the strong emotions went along with it. There was no more vacillating between anger and despair, which had gone along with whatever I was thinking when experiencing cognitive dissonance. There are still moments of incredulity, or an occasional feeling of disgust when I think about what he did. And there are times when I think that it’s too bad it wasn’t real, or when something will remind me of one of those illusory good times, and I’ll feel a little pang of emotion. But they’re just passing thoughts now.

  3. The Plummer

    Human nature seems to me to be similar to water. Water always takes the path of least resistance.

    Within the context of above, I see our culture doing the same thing. With the age of cultural Marxism, brought about by the think tank of idiots from the school of Frankfurt, our culture is quick to lay blame and accountability on the ones most likely to accept it. Since personality disordered are accountability averse, and we live in an age of “if it feels good, do it”, there will be no one to “judge you”, and our natural proclivity to find fault, it’s natural to victim blame.

    However, one must always complete introspection and determine why they were in the position to begin with. I use your blog “The known, unknown, and unknowable” as a prime example.

    In my particular case, I knew my wife had problems, long before I married her(that’s the known). I completely mis identified what her problems were, I thought she was just young and immature, instead of being disturbed and therefore therepy averse (the unknown). I was not capable of knowing just exactly how devious a human being could be, and was in it way too deep, once she removed her mask (the unknowable).

    I can and should hold myself accountable for recognizing that her words did not align with her actions, long before I continued to allow her to insist on escalating the relationship to the binding, one sided contract of marriage.

    What I should not accept blame for is the unknown, because I simply didn’t know. Now that I do, if I allow myself to be duped again, I would be accountable for that also, moving forward.

    So the takaway from this experience to me is, never listen to a person’s words, unless they consistently act within those words. If their actions fail to align with their words, they are deceiving you in some fashion and it’s your responsibility to protect yourself from the deception.

    You are doing great work, and I’m not disagreeing with you, just offering my take on elaborating your thoughts.

    1. Admin

      Hi, Plummer. We know that no one is ‘perfect,’ so when we get involved with someone we accept the flaws we see because we love the person. But in the case of a psychopath, we didn’t know those flaws were related to something so sinister. I don’t believe your excusing her behavior as being young and immature is related to being accountable for what eventually happened. I understand that you feel there were certain things you shouldn’t have ignored, but you did, and there was a reason for that. She manipulated you into believing she loved you, and into loving her, probably to some over-the-top degree, which would lead you to let things slide even if you wouldn’t have usually done so. Does that make sense?

      The point about her words not aligning with her actions is an important one. I’d heard it a million times — “Actions speak louder than words,” (probably one of the most important things my mother taught me) but I never really got it until the psychopath. In the future, I will definitely make damn sure actions and words align. No one will explain it away ever again.

  4. Joyce M. Short- Author

    What a needed, great post!

    Most of the rumination that goes on in people’s minds, when they break from the sociopath, is about self blame. They play over and over again the behaviors they wish they could have changed in themselves and the abuser….. what they could’ve said or done to have created a different outcome. In reality, the only thing they could have done was to have been in a different place…. one where the sociopath couldn’t get their vicious hooks into them.

    They were victimized because they were trusting, caring people. Those are hardly blameworthy characteristics.

    Even though the offending party has skipped down the road to a new conquest and doesn’t give a damn about how they feel, the victim is left to work through the self blame and shame that sticks to them like toxic glue. That, and digging out of the ravages of the twisted complications to their lives makes recovery slow and painful.

    Parting with a sociopath is like having lived through a tornado that swept into your life. Could you have prevented it? Obviously not. But because our own internal brain chemistry was manipulated in their cyclone of behavior, we have a tough time escaping the harm.

    When a tornado hits your home, you lament your losses, pick up the wreckage, thank the good lord for sparing your health and that of your loved ones, and construct a new house. Is it easy, no. Do we miss our old home? Of course! Do we need to move on? Absolutely!

    We need to do the same thing when we split with a sociopath.

    1. Admin

      Hi, Joyce. The tornado analogy is a good one! Although there are still those who would tell us we “attracted it from the universe.” I think the ‘law of attraction’ is one of the most pervasive and damaging ideas that seems to have become entrenched in so many minds, whether or not they’ve read the book. It really blames victims. It actually plays on the ‘just-world fallacy” most people believe, unknowingly:

      The just-world hypothesis or just-world fallacy is the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person’s actions are inherently inclined to bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, to the end of all noble actions being eventually rewarded and all evil actions eventually punished. In other words, the just-world hypothesis is the tendency to attribute consequences to—or expect consequences as the result of—a universal force that restores moral balance. This belief generally implies that in the existence of cosmic justice, destiny, divine providence, desert, stability, or order, and has high potential to result in fallacy, especially when used to rationalize people’s misfortune on the grounds that they “deserve” it.”

      “They were victimized because they were trusting, caring people. Those are hardly blameworthy characteristics.” This is so true.

  5. Lsheba

    This post was divine intervention! Definitely a rescue from what could’ve become an emergency situation to my healing and sanity. I’ve been NC with my xP for four months but before I blocked him, he would hoover every two weeks, alternating between “I love you and miss you,” to “you knew what you were getting yourself into. You knew how I was.” I never believed the former statement that he either loves or misses me but the latter always rang true and the self blame has certainly slowed my healing, left a little dent in my soul and has taken a sledgehammer to my self worth. Of course I knew! Of course I saw the red flags! He told me as much about himself from the beginning. At the time, I found his “honesty” refreshing (eww) and thought his oversharing somehow insulated me from his duplicity (again, ew). Worst part is we were both married. I had never cheated but the idealization stage came at a time where I was bored and at a lull in a long marriage. I know now that he’s cheated on his wife nonstop over the years, even though he said I was the only one. I know now I was just one of many women (supply) in his harem that he kept in rotation. I’ve blamed myself for letting myself be used when I knew it was wrong. I felt guilt over lying to my husband, who is unaware that this went on for more than a year. That said, this post just gave me a little injection of hope that I can release my guilt and self blame and get back to the way I was before this b-shit storm blew through my life. I never wanted to be with him or leave my family but I did not expect to be emotionally manipulated and abused by a psychopath. I stop taking responsibility for that TODAY. Thank you.

    1. Admin

      Divine intervention — I love it when that happens for someone! Glad it helped!

  6. brandy

    I am just recovering from a period of love bombing then degradation then discarding. It is especially hard because I work with him and he also lives near me. Your site had been about my only refuge. God bless you

    1. Admin

      Hi, Brandy. I’m glad the site is a refuge for you, and I hope you find more of those as time goes on. Understanding and support is vital, but it can be hard to come by. Having to work with the abuser is especially hard — if anyone here has advice for Brandy, please share it. Best wishes to you.

  7. Donna

    I have been struggling with this on and off and am going over and over the 9 years we were together and saying “why didn’t I walk away then?” because he became his charming wonderful illusion and pulled me back in. My sister keeps reminding me that he had everyone fooled even his kids and family that he had finally changed. But all this doesn’t stop me from circling back to “How could I have been so stupid. He TOLD ME how he cheated in the past! HE TOLD ME! and yet down the road, I believed he was working late or hanging with the guys. I believed that people can change! and no I’m not going to believe they can’t, I know people personally who have and he will not steal that from me. Now I do know HE CAN’T CHANGE AND NEVER WILL. I don’t know if I read it here but when I get to the self blame space I repeat the poem by a NP survivor it is my mantra. “He is the lie from hello to goodbye. I love you to I hate you, you’re beautiful to you’re ugly. It was all a lie. And I have no room in my life today for lies. When friends or family ask, What about this or What about that, I tell them it was all a lie, there was no truth in him. If I spend my time trying to figure out fact from fiction, all I am doing is trying to prove- I wasn’t so stupid. See, this was true, That’s why I fell in love with him. TRUTH is I fell in with with him because I believed his lie. When I discovered the truth, I was so enmeshed in his lie I couldn’t find the truth in me. And so I sank. He did a lo of horrible, terrorizing things to ensure I stayed hooked into his lies. In accepting the truth, that what he did was based on lies, I am able to accept that the hooks are also lies – and in that truth comes the power to let them go. Every so often he’ll sneak up into the back pockets of my mind and settle in for a little visit. That’s when I have to turn up for me and say, go away. There is nothing in you I believe in. Everything in me I do. And when the tears and fears and sorrow become too great. I simply breathe, look up into the sky and see once again the limitless possibilities of my life today.” ~M.L. Gallagher – Author of The Dandelion Spirit. I am happy to say that it has been 9 months since he left and 7 months NC and I have finally made it to the last line …..I am fine ….in fact I am so much better than fine! And when I start calling myself stupid, I repeat this to myself and know IT WAS ALL A LIE. HE IS A LIE. Thank you for this post, for all your posts, they keep me moving forward on my amazing journey!

    1. Admin

      Thank you for sharing this, Donna! I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling good, and very happy to hear my posts keep you moving forward ‘on your amazing journey’ (love the way you put that!). That’s why I keep writing. There are times when I think I’ve said all I have to say, and then inspiration strikes. Many times that inspiration comes from a reader’s comment. Thank you for writing yours.

  8. Venus2b

    I really liked your post about self blame…….I also struggle with it…..wanting to believe the Narcissist I dated could change……the last girlfriend I found out about was nr 7 in the 4 years we were together…..the other 6 was “just friends” or a girl going through “a hard time with her abusive husband” etc etc….

    What gets to me the most about trying to get rid of the self-blame feeling….is HIS family…..the father (who also cheated and left the mother for 2 years when my Narc was 15 years old) now can see NO wrong and supports his son and his new conquest, as does the mother and the sister, they all cheer happily that he has FINALLY found a girl who is “nice and caring” and frankly the most naïve girl I have come across on the planet (hence his INSTANT attraction to her). She now also thinks the world of him because the FAMILY has been soooo against me…I makes it so much harder, because I am not only fighting the Narc, I am fighting his co-dependant family and VERY co-dependant girlfriend….The father has once told me that when HE gets hurt, he will hurt you back 10 x worse, so in other words, they are afraid of him and the hurt (Narcisstic rage) that can follow….so they rather support him than go against him…….this adds to my injury….the fact that they are all so dysfunctional and making ME feel like the bad one for standing up to their son, pointing out his wrong doings and thought they would at least SEE his wrong doing…but although they do, they will NEVER go against him…..I am so afraid of what and how they will poison my daughter one day…Who will she believe if the mom, the father, the sister, AND the gf all tell her what a HORRIBLE person I am…….and that I AM the problem, and NOT the Narc??? It petrifies me and makes me sick to my stomach of what is yet to come…….!!!

    1. Admin

      Hi, Venus. I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through. Parents will usually defend their children, no matter what they’ve done or what kind of problems they have. It’s certainly a difficult and maddening situation to be involved in! I understand your fears, and I hope they never come to pass, but I think that preparing yourself and taking steps now might give you some control over things and alleviate some of your anxiety. Take a look at these websites; there are tips to deal with the things you’re concerned about, and they might lead you to other resources:

      Divorcing the Narcissist
      One Mom’s Battle — Divorcing a Narcissist
      All About Parental Alienation Syndrome
      Gray Rock

      I wish you and your daughter all the best. A big hug for both of you.

  9. roro

    I always wondered why, whenever I had an argument with my P that, somehow, no matter what- the conversation inevitably turned to it being ALL MY FAULT… that I didn’t care about him…that I was so mean…that I just wanted to fight…I remember yelling at him once…”oh yea You are an angel I can see your Halo shining from here”…. I always KNEW in my heart of hearts something seemed so wrong about that but in hindsight now I see it was all part of a sick sick game I was playing..so it wasn’t much of a stretch to then realize he brutalized me and felt THAT was my fault too! My self esteem took a hard hard hit after I realized all this. But I always believed there are treasures in every trial..Mine came to me one day when I finally decided to take piano lessons..LOL. .it’s been something I have wanted to do forever and I can say my good old self confidence is slowly back on the rise …I felt I needed to do SOMETHING….ANYTHING to get that self-love back again to feel good about myself my life and about men…it’s working ;)

    1. Admin

      I’m glad you’re taking piano lessons! I took up gardening, and there are all kinds of flowers everywhere around here now. I didn’t think I had a green thumb, but I surprised myself.

  10. Nikita

    Responsibility for our reactions to narc abuse isn’t the same as blame. We must empower ourselves over our emotions. This is the path of healing and enlightenment.

    1. Admin

      I think emotions are kind of wonderful. OK, not all of them, but they tend to come in pairs, so if you have happiness you’re also going to have sadness. I would not want to be flat emotionally, like a psychopath. If you would elaborate a little, it would be helpful in understanding what you mean. I suspect you’re talking more about empowering yourself over your thought process, in the sense of not getting caught up in certain thoughts and then going wherever they lead. That is very helpful for me, and it’s a good skill for anyone to have.

  11. roro

    In response to Brandys comment I can say I also work with mine..and I don’t mean in the next office or department..I mean 3 rows away from me! I cannot begin to say how long I have been trying to break up with this man..but then we will pass in the hall and mutter a hello which turns into a funny email he thought I wld like which turns into a phone call to see what I’m doing later…over and over this happened until I thought I can’t fight this anymore..I’m just gonna be nice until he retires and then I will finally be totally rid if him..but u know what? That’s not the answer either..my life shouldn’t be put on hold for ANYONE! I’m getting through it slowly now after we had a big fight around Christmas time and he asked me at the end of the argument once more if I would have sex with him.. NO was my answer and later that day he texts me..”that’s ok because I just came back from a tantric sex class I took with my new friend Mary! AND SENDS ME A PIC OF THE TWO OF THEM!!!! As IF that wasn’t bad enough he later texts me..THAT’S WHAT U GET U SHOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO ME…oh my God I thought this is 1 sick individual. And I must stop this..i became determined..i have a strict NO CONTACT rule now at work and my personal time…I will not even say Hello. He tries to text me and I delete them. I can tell u Brandy that the NO CONTACT rule is one u MUST follow even tho its very hard at work..but after awhile when he sees u have.become more confident and are laughing and engaging with ur Co workers and that u look absolutely fab…he will slink away like the snake he is. STAY STRONG. BE SMART and may God Bless

  12. WhiteLightNinja

    What is with blaming the victim? I can only imagine that the root of the answer lies in the fact that most people do not understand the nature of the crime.

    As if being victimized wasn’t bad enough to be blamed for it? How can we take the blame for things we were not consciously complicit with? It took me a year before I even figured out I was being massively deceived by a highly skilled and intuitive conman. Do people understand what covert psychological or emotional abuse is? They win by coercing us manipulatively and pulling our strings by using emotional and psychological blackmail. Do people not understand the deliberate underhanded and pathological deception?

    There are stages to grief and admitting that you were in fact victimized and used is a very healing part of the process. You don’t have to identify or permanently label yourself as a ” victim” just because you admit you were victimized. This is the thing that happened to me it’s not what identifies me. One of the ways I got out was by understanding deeply how “the con” ” “the game” worked and by looking at the constructs physical, mental, and emotionsl that held “the con” in place ? I found that many of the legs were deeply held beliefs I had about myself. I took a very hard look and slowly began making my weaknesses my strengths. I grew new muscles I used his game to my advantage and used all the silent treatments as time to ” deprogram and flex new muscles” I started building emotional support and tools for myself in secret undermining all his efforts. I led him to believe I was still deeply in love and deeply entrenched. I played the game and I got out. I did not seek revenge I just became so predictable he couldn’t stand it. I am writing out my stor as well as my strategy. Thank you so so so so so much for this site it’s saved my life when I was the only one that could save it

    1. Admin

      Such a good point! Being victimized does not mean we will forever be a “victim.”
      I agree, many people don’t understand the nature of the crime. We spend a lot of time learning about ‘covert’ emotional manipulation, yet the reality of it doesn’t sink in for some, and somehow they still feel they should have known. When we understand it, we can drop the self-blame.
      So glad the site helped you, White Light Ninja. Great name, by the way. Maybe one day I will choose something other than admin…hmmmm…

      1. WhiteLightNinja

        Lol yes What about Powerful Red Riding Hood ? Lol I don’t I love the concept of the site too -brilliant. I wish we grew up learning that some childhood stories are real life advice! Yes I agree there is a huge population that just has no idea what real evil looks like? I hope one day everyone knows about psychopaths like we know about credit card fraud, child abduction, and Ponzi Scemes.

        1. Admin

          Somehow, psychopaths are the best-kept secret!

          A few months after I started designing this site, I remembered something that happened with the psychopath (I forgot many things until a few months after it ended). We were out on a very sunny day. He was wearing a pair of very dark sunglasses — the kind that are so dark you can’t see the eyes at all. He smiled one of his million-megawatt smiles, and since I couldn’t look at his eyes my gaze naturally went to his smile, and I thought “My, what big teeth he has! How come I never noticed how big his teeth are?! They’re huge!” That must have been my subconscious motivation for going with Red and the wolf. I never even considered anything else.

          1. Joyce M. Short- Author

            How ’bout Super Savior!! I think all the folks here would support that!

            1. Admin

              Oh my, thank you very much, Joyce… but I think something just a bit more humble would suit me much better. LOL. Something to do with Red Riding Hood, only much more empowered. Maybe something inspired by this image:

              Maybe I’ll have a naming contest, and give the winner a prize!

              1. Joyce M. Short- Author

                I’ll throw in a copy of my book to the winner as well! :-)!

              2. Admin

                Excellent! I may really do this.

              3. Joyce M. Short- Author

                Sounds like a plan to me!

  13. Nearlybel

    After 20 years of torture and torment, we left. Now nearly 3 years later, still in the courts but children and me safe away from him. I have it, you have it and Donna has it, and many others too.
    How can life changing decisions we made based on what we knew at the time, be our fault, when the information we had was lies?
    Of course it isn’t our fault!
    I was just reaching this conclusion and here is your post to confirm, thank you Admin x
    You have many wise posts on why we stay, I think our ego ‘protects’ our soul, those layers of us, keep us functioning in a zombie like fashion, and we can’t see the wood from the trees, for whatever reasons, maybe it’s something we have to learn.
    I know I have learned so much about me, and about these truly evil beings. I can see ‘them’ in the society I live in and also the global society.
    Are you watching ‘the unbreakable kimmy Schmidt’ it’s on netflicks and it’s brilliant.
    I’m Kimmy :)
    He met ( entrapped) me when I was 33, my theory is at whatever age they catch us, we stay at that age because they arrest our development.
    33 is my intellectual age, or my soul age, I’m not too sure about this theory, but I like it and will run with it.
    And much work to do, love and light to all infected by these malign beings xxx

    1. Admin

      I’m so glad you’ve reached that conclusion.

      I just looked up “the unbreakable kimmy schmidt,” and you are her. These ‘relationships’ are very much akin to being in a cult; the only real difference is that it’s one-on-one.

      “The series follows Kimmy Schmidt as she adjusts to life in New York City after her rescue from a doomsday cult. The pilot opens with her rescue from the cult’s underground bunker, where Kimmy and three other women were held by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne for fifteen years. Determined to be seen as something other than a victim and armed only with a positive attitude, Kimmy decides to restart her life by moving to New York City… Kimmy struggles to adapt to an unfamiliar world and to jump start the adult life that had been taken from her.”

      I like your theory about age, even though it only makes me one year younger ;-)
      Love and light to you, too, Nearlybel xxx

  14. Dee

    WOW!!! Got it! You brilliantly illustrated why I have been stuck. Yep, it feels so much better to say, “F#@K YOU! You are so right about it not making sense to carry around two contradictory beliefs. I was manipulated, duped, lied to, cheated on, betrayed, humiliated, degraded, conned and he knew it because he willfully did all of those things while promising me trust, friendship, loyalty,commitment, monogamy and love. You can not do the latter, if you are engaging in the first things I mentioned.

    Had he been upfront and said: “I will never honor you. I will never be faithful and love you. I will con you over and over again to get my selfish needs met. I will manipulate your goodness, so that I can cheat behind your back and get an adrenaline rush because I know you will be confused by my absence. I will enjoy sadistic sex with so many strangers that your health and life will be in jeopardy. I will abuse your ability to forgive and get an ego rush when you believe my lies and take me back, again. I will stomp all over your kind heart simply because I can. I will make your children bond with me when I have no inclination to love them, or even care about them.” Had he said theses things, then I could blame myself for being stupid and not seeing the red flags. But he didn’t. Instead, he took advantage of my vulnerability and my desire to always see the best in people.

    I can see clearly now. Thank you!!! xox

    1. Admin

      WOO-HOO! I’m doing a happy dance, Dee! As I wrote the post, I thought “If just ONE person gets this, and gives up the unwarranted self-blame, all the work I’ve ever done on this website will be TOTALLY worth it.” I am so happy you got it, and that you told me about it. Thank you! :-) xoxo

    2. Donna

      OMG Dee, Just before I read your comment I was thinking the exact same thing! Practically word for word. I mean really I will cheat on you from day one, and snicker thinking how gullible you are! I will use you to live with cos it’s saving me money etc, etc. Click yep….my only downfall was believing his lies!

      1. Admin

        Wonderful! I hope this will be a turning point for you, Donna, and for Dee, and a for lot of others. xoxo

  15. Dee

    Admin – I think your priceless insight and this article could be the link to really digesting and unwinding cognitive dissonance, so that I can finally heal. Removing myself from blame shifts everything, so that I can focus completely on the severity of his diabolical intentions. It makes me really understand that my thought process was based on projecting my belief system onto him. I believed he thought as I did. When you stop taking responsibility and the blame for the abuse, you are left with what really happened and only what really happened. The mind then stops ping-ponging because you direct the blame to where it belongs. I never invited a monster to come into my home and abuse me. I never would and because he willing and willfully did the things he did makes him evil. When this reality soaks in, it’s easy to see the psychopath without the mask. There is NO charm, handsome looks, fun silly sexy guy. Now, I can only see a monster. The fun time memories evaporate and I feel yucky about the time spent with him because he had no desire to love or care, but rather to destroy. I think I can now permanently hold a vision of a horrid creature when I think of him. Since I do not like horrid creatures, I don’t want to revisit a memory of him. I think you have really hit on how to break the hold of cognitive dissonance. You are fantastic! : ) xoxox

    1. Admin

      Dee, that’s it right there — holding one image of him, the one based on the truth, instead of going back and forth between that and the false image of him, which was based on lies. They obviously can’t be both of those people, and the very reason we are so confused about who they really are is precisely because of who they really are. Before the psychopath, were you ever driven witless trying to figure out WHO SOMEONE REALLY IS? Probably not. The answer is contained within that. And when you really, truly understand who and what you were dealing with — a manipulator skilled enough to make you blame yourself — you can stop blaming yourself.

      Cognitive dissonance is maddening, and if I’ve hit on a way to resolve it, my work here is done. No, wait, I’ve got another blog post in the works right now, and it’s a continuation of the subject of self-blame. Stay tuned. Thank you very much, Dee, for your kind words, and I’m happy what I’ve written has made a difference for you. xoxo

  16. Dee

    PS I also lost friends because they too blamed me for my involvement with the psychopath. “Just get over it,” “I would never have taken him back. It’s your own fault,” “You get what you deserve,” “You must really like to suffer.” “You are really pathetic and you have no self esteem.” “You need to take responsibility first.” etc. This is a sampling of what has been said to me by “well-intentioned” friends and family. Many of those “well intenders” are no longer in my life because they grew tired of my inability to heal fast enough. I now understand how people who wanted me to take the blame for the horror of what happened to me, at the hands of the psychopath, delayed my recovery. Every morsel of advice was another kick, victimizing me even more. Now that I see clearly, I can stand strong and say I am not a victim and I will not be blamed for something I was not even aware was happening. I am a survivor. I am wiser. I am compassionate, forgiving, kind and I still try to see the best in people. Not the psychopath, nor the “well-intentioned,” took these qualities from me. : )

    1. Admin

      I went through the same thing, and I decided I had more than enough of people who lacked empathy. It’s hard for me to see how such callous behavior could ever be well-intentioned or thought to be helpful in any way — it was just more devaluation, and I didn’t deserve it, not from the psychopath and not from anyone. It’s an important sign of healing — it means your self-esteem is growing, and it means you have boundaries because you’re not going to accept disrespectful, hurtful and downright mean behavior from others. After I explained it for the hundredth time but it did no good, I defined what the word “friend” meant to me. Friends are people who are kind and supportive, not people who hit you when you’re down. They’re not people who would think you’re pathetic or that you got what you deserve, let alone say it. Going through this is incredibly painful, and it adds to our trauma and our loss. I wasn’t sure what was worse at the time — the experience with the psychopath, or what followed with my friends. Both were awful. When the going gets tough, you find out who your true friends are. And that’s always the worse time to find out, isn’t it?

      Not only didn’t they take our best qualities from us, but they made us realize that we had them, or at least made us more fully aware of what those qualities are and more appreciative of them and of ourselves. Funny how that works.

  17. Dee

    I keep going back and re-reading this wonderfully insightful article. Now, I find I am really angry. I am mad because so many people forced me to accept blame that was not mine and also because I have finally absorbed the truth that the relationship, with the psychopath, was designed specifically to hurt me. Did you feel the same way and if yes, what did you do with your anger? I suppose my anger is amplified because he continues to get away with murder. He has a cozy new relationship etc. Yuck! That poor girl, she has no idea he is an all consuming PACMAN, devouring everything in his path without any emotion.
    I am also re-reading many of your previous posts. In light of the new info I have absorbed, I am getting much more out of them. Thanks!

    1. Admin

      Of course you’re angry. You have a damned good reason to be angry, as you well know. You should be happy you’re angry, because it’s a significant development on the road to recovery. You know what really happened, and you know you don’t deserve the blame for it. Congratulations.

      Oh yes, I felt the same way. I had to stop and think when you asked me what I did with my anger…I was like, hmmmm…what did I do with it? And then I laughed because I realized what I did was start this website. Anger carries a LOT of energy with it, and it’s got to go somewhere. Find a way to channel that energy into something positive, if you can. At the least, make sure you don’t channel it into anything negative.

      I’m glad to hear you’re re-reading old posts and getting more from them. It’s another sign you’re seeing things differently.

      I love the pacman analogy, BTW.

    2. Joyce M. Short- Author


      My book received a couple of scathing reviews that fault me for my “failure to take responsibility,” for what occurred in my life. I would love to go back to those reviewers and explain “blame” to them through Admin’s word! But unfortunately, when authors respond to the negative things people hurl at us, it’s seen as being unable to accept “valid” criticism or being “defensive.”

      In truth, for the knowing eye, it tells quite a lot about the mind-set of the people who write those reviews, including their personal inability to feel emotional empathy.


      1. Admin

        Joyce, I’m sorry that happened to you. Those reviews stand out as especially egregious examples of victim blaming. You’re right, if we try to ‘explain’ (and why anyone would need an explanation after reading your book is beyond me) they just move onto Blame Tactic #2, which is blaming us for not being able to blame ourselves, due to some fault we have. These people are just as controlling and manipulative as any psychopath (or maybe that’s exactly what they are). If they aren’t psychopathic, at the very least they have a startling lack of empathy.

        1. Joyce M. Short- Author

          While I hesitate to voice this concept, because of the huge number of people it would offend, I’m convinced that if you want to know whether a person has emotional empathy or not, you should put a book in their hands that relates harm, and see how they react to it.

          I agree with your’s and Dee’s take on the lack of empathy demonstrated in victim blaming, and, to me, it’s a pretty clear indication of a person’s character!

          I see the large number of people who lack emotional empathy in the world as a huge impediment to passing sexual assault by fraud laws. And a goodly number of them end up in politics where they actually become the law makers.

          The key is getting enough morally intact people to understand why it matters and motivating them to speak out to make a difference.

          1. Admin

            Lack of empathy is a ever-growing problem. It’s become acceptable to think — and say out loud — that people “deserve” whatever their plight is, be it an illness they can’t afford to treat, poverty, whatever it may be. One reason for it is that people are terrified of the lack of control they actually have over many things in life, and they want to believe such things can’t happen to them. That’s also one reason people blame themselves for their involvement with a psychopath. If it was their fault, that means they have control over it. Unfortunately, false beliefs don’t protect people.

  18. Dee

    Joyce – I am also discovering that a person who wants a victim to accept responsibility is that persons inability to feel empathy. I feel it is an attempt to control and shame the victim, so they can have some superiority and control over the victim (exactly like the psychopath). Thanks to Admin’s recent post, I can now clearly see how our falling prey was not because we have low self-esteem, are weak, stupid, blind or pathetic (I have been called all of those things). Psychopaths can victimize anyone who has a vulnerability. Victimization does not happen because we are weak. It happens because we are vulnerable and any non narcissist/sociopath/psychopath has a vulnerability. Therefore, anyone with a heart is a potential target. This is absolutely crucial to understanding how we got swept up and why we can never assume responsibility. We were not codependent! We were conned! This is an empowering realization!

    Admin – I do see a shift within me. Previously, I was researching Psychopaths, trying to get some definitive word on how. why this happened to me. I’d been doing this for two years, spinning and ping-ponging due to the cognitive dissonance. One minute I’d see evidence of the monster and the next minute I’d have a tender memory that would refute the research and propel me into jealousy because of his new seemingly perfect relationship. I would wonder if I was crazy, that perhaps he isn’t a psychopath because he’s in love and she seems thrilled with him! Today, I am rereading your material, not to get more insights into the psychopathic mind, but instead finding information to apply to my healing. The emphasis is now on me and not on him. : ) xo

    1. Admin

      Dee, that’s right — simply having a heart is what made us vulnerable. Our strengths and normal human emotions become weakness to exploit for the psychopath.

      When the emphasis shifts to yourself, it’s a very good sign that your psychopath is about to become irrelevant. Except to use as a tool for growth; they’re good for that.

  19. Laura

    Again, thank you so much. Reading through these posts is the most helpful thing.

    The relationship ended just 2 weeks ago. It was kind-of mutual, in that he was prone to kicking me out of his apartment (that I had lived in with him for 4 years) when I talked back to him too much. When I pointed out his behavior, he would kick me out of the apartment, and I would come crying back and apologize for things that I didn’t do wrong, I did right. This last time, he told me to leave expecting me to protest, and I left. I am doing my best to never speak to him again, but he IS a manipulator.

    There were so many signs, and it is so hard not to blame yourself, especially when you’re coming out of a situation where you are used to being blamed for everything. He never, not once in the 4 years we were together, apologized to me when I cried. Whatever was making me cry was my own fault, or I was just insane. That’s what he would say to me. He manipulated me into doing things that I would have never done in my entire life, and I find myself constantly blaming myself for that too. I feel very guilty, and sometimes we receive messages from well-meaning people that this is how we are supposed to be feeling, and it can be so confusing. Thank you for everything, and keep posting!

    1. Admin

      You’re welcome, Laura. I’m happy to hear it helps. You’re in the worse of it now, but it will get better as time goes on. Don’t listen to the “well-meaning” people, because they don’t understand what you’ve experienced. It is confusing, but it’s time to hear your own voice again. You know the truth now, I can see that. Don’t doubt yourself!

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