I recently joined a Facebook group called Empaths & Survivors of Sociopathy. When I first came across it I was fascinated. Many of you who know me know that my father was a sociopath, so technically, I’m a “survivor” though, honestly, I tend not to think of myself as such. We’re all, in one way or another, survivors of loads of crazy stuff. So, I didn’t think anything of it and never really read further on this group. And then it popped up again. Again, my fascination was peaked, and I wasn’t sure why. Eventually it came to me: the empath-sociopath relationship was identical to the love addict-narcissist relationship, except for one major difference. Empaths describe themselves in a positive light as unwitting victims against a perpetrator ; love addicts describe themselves as people who are obsessed, in love, addicted; not a victim, per se, but a someone who suffers from the pain of a partner who continues to hurt them.
Let’s look at definitions of both:
Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. You either are an empath or you aren’t. It’s not a trait that is learned. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all. Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.–Taken from The Mind Unleashed
Love addicts live in a chaotic world of desperate need and emotional despair. Fearful of being alone or rejected, love addicts endlessly search for that special someone – the person that will make the addict feel whole. Ironically, love addicts oftentimes have had numerous opportunities for the truly intimate experience they think they want. But they are much more strongly attracted to the intense experience of “falling in love” than they are to the peaceful intimacy of healthy relationships. As such, they spend much of their time hunting for “the one.” They base nearly all of their life choices on the desire and search for this perfect relationship – everything from wardrobe choices to endless hours at the gym, to engaging in hobbies and other activities that may or may not interest them, to the ways in which they involve others in conversations and social interactions. Taken from The Ranch
As you can see Empaths define themselves in a spiritual, almost supernatural way, whereas Love Addicts tend to be defined as people who “live in a chaotic world desperate” for love and attention.
But, here’s the deal: Both Empaths and Love Addicts, when in a relationship with a narcissist, are making one heck of a bad choice.
I’m not sure which camp is better. If I am an empath, it’s not my fault. Because of my sensitivity, I have been victimized by the big bad sociopath. If I am a love addict, it’s all my fault. I can’t do anything right and so, the longer I stay, the better chance I have of making it right. This of course is a gross simplification of the two different ways people perceive themselves. But the bottom line is this: if you remain in a relationship with someone who treats you poorly, repeatedly, it’s no longer their fault. It’s yours. And whether you choose to recover from love addiction or “escape” a sociopathic relationship in the end doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take positive action to take care of yourself.
Maybe I need to stop having fantasy-like expectations of a relationship. I don’t even want to go “there” today—more complaining, more expecting…
How about this:
- I will not try to “win” anyone’s love today.
- I will not seek out C as a resource of comfort, or anything for that matter
- I will not have any expectations of P. I will do exactly as I have been doing, giving my same level of input, and being ME, without any expectations or fantasies. I cannot continue to say and do things and expect certain responses (and then be upset when I do not get the response I want, or that I imagine is best). I just need to be me and allow him to be him.
My man is struggling. He is trying to pay down his debts. It has nothing to do with me. He is not running away from me. Distance is not rejection here. When he’s emotionally distant or unavailable it’s not because of me. It’s something inside him. He’s tired, he’s angry at his financial situation. Whatever it is, he said it’s not me, and I must believe him.
You see, the trouble is… Read More
Last night was pitiful and divine. I read my journal from September 2000 when Liam was born up until we moved into this house. It was triggered by Marie and I talking about New Orleans, so I went back to research my 24-hours there and my rather brief affair with Randy the male nurse when I was separated from R. I had met Randy online playing one of those ridiculous roleplay games that R wanted me to get involved in, but then, basically moved out and dumped me. I was left playing alone until I met Randy.
Reading through those days sickens me. I was a loser. I was married to a loser, and I was dating a loser. The only flowers rising up out of that ugly evil bad world of darkness were my two beautiful sons.
After hours of reading through those pages, I realized I’m sick of men. Of trying to please them, of not being treated with dignity and respect. I’m not sure I will ever get over the trauma that R caused. No one should have to put up with that shit, ever. There is no where to turn for consolation from that sad life, and yet, here am. I am still standing.
But am I? The more I thought about it the more I realized …Read More
August 4: I so need a life, a career. Something to distract me from my obsessive thoughts. I’m getting my period and I can’t sleep. I’m jittery, and I’m making unhealthy choices like seeing C yesterday morning and calling him back at night after seeing that he called me. Not wanting to see P today either (what’s the point if it’s only for a few hours). I want to push him away. Go! Get out! You are hurting me. So, I’ll go back to someone else who has hurt me a little less.
And how is P hurting me? It’s so subtle but it’s happening. He’ll come all the way out to my mom’s house for dinner but he won’t come back to my place, which is right around the corner. He has to “run.” Or, he’ll offer to come tomorrow while he has a half day at his day job and work at night. That’ll only leave us about two hours. How convenient. And he won’t come today on his day off because he has “doctors” to see??? Nope don’t want it. Tracy say no. I think I need some Tracy time. Definitely. Because right now I am hating a lot of stuff about P. Here’s the list of what bothers me most…Read More
I recently read another love addict’s blog online and felt compelled to comment on her post about worthiness. This is basically what I said to her that I would like to share with you:
You only need one reason to be worthy of love. To exist. Nothing more. But here’s something I would very much like to suggest, as a fellow love addict. At first it may sound hopeless, but trust me, it’s not: what if you lived your life and appreciated everything you had in it but ONLY what you had in it now? That doesn’t mean you don’t already appreciate your life. It means, what if you removed the idea that you are complete if only you had a relationship? What if you simply resolved that you are perfect as you are now, and you removed the prospect, the hope, the wish for romance? What if you pretended that romantic love were not a possibility?
And, what if you were not so much worthy of love, as in, you should be given something that is owed you because you are worthy of it, but rather, what if you were simply perfect as you are now, not owed anything, just alive and grateful within yourself for that life?
Losing the hope of romance or finding someone may sound completely depressing, but for love addicts it’s a fear we all need to face in order to truly find ourselves and heal. For some of us, it’s our greatest fear. I know it was mine. The thought of dying “an old maid” horrified me. It made me scared to be alive. It made me chase after anyone I could get my hands on. And yet, when I finally faced it, it had the opposite effect that I assumed it would have. I didn’t die. I didn’t collapse into oblivion. Instead, a deep sense of relief washed over me. The searching was over. The against-all-odds effort that went into longing and hoping and wishing and dreaming was finally over. It had all been so draining. It had all been so life-zapping.
Accepting my life and only what I had in it at that moment in time–and being grateful for just that, and removing the wants and the needs for all the things I didn’t have– was enlightening.
Seem impossible? Well, swap out the longing and perseverance for love with, say, money or fame? Could you imagine if your biggest and most important dream was to be a millionaire? Or to be famous? That, as the law of attraction states, if you think it, it will be yours? And if you don’t achieve that goal you don’t feel alive? Fulfilled? Accomplished? What kind of a fulfilled life would you have if you couldn’t achieve this goal no matter how hard you worked at it? Sure, you’re worthy of being a millionaire, sure you’re worthy of being famous, but will it happen?
What if it doesn’t? And if it doesn’t, can you be happy anyway?
The lesson is this: happiness is in the now. Not in hoped for outcomes. Be the best YOU you can be, and whatever the universe gifts you, be grateful for it. Work hard. Live. Challenge yourself. But remove longing. And use hope in its intended purpose–as the potential for possibility, not the guarantee of it, and not as a crutch to support your loneliness or dissatisfaction with life. And worthiness doesn’t mean we receive something in return for our worth (love). It means we recognize that we have value and we live our lives according to that value. And, if someone doesn’t recognize that along with us, it means we value ourselves enough to move on.
If you’re frustrated that your “partner” seems unavailable, it might be YOU who’s unavailable. Think about it. When we are truly available and ready for love, we choose partners who are also available and ready for love. When we are available, we seek out people who are not afraid of commitment, intimacy, and responsibility. So look closely. Not at him, but at YOU.
So, you met him in your hiking club and he flirted with you incessantly until you finally caved and gave him your number. You thought nothing of it until he called you a mere 8-hours later. With a little timid flirting, you agreed to a first date. You were giddy. Already the wheels were turning. He could be the one.
Your date was a dream and you had three more magical ones, each better than the next. You learned that he’s a physician, he drives an Audi TT, takes annual trips to the south of Spain and is a fabulous lover. During sex (yes, you’re having sex already, of course), you stare deeply into each other eyes with an unmatched intensity.
And then…suddenly, you don’t hear from him. Not even an email.
WTF? You were on the high of your life only to have it all taken away in an instant. It’s killing you to wait to see if he calls you back (maybe there’s a logical explanation), but, on the third day you panic, and reach out. A quick text to say, hey, remember me? He casually responds that he’s working overtime. But, something in the back of your mind says, Nah. You recall a conversation in which he said he didn’t have to work this week. Something inside you twists. Like your heart is an aluminum can being crushed under foot into a flat, discarded piece of metal. You switch from rational to rationalizing. OK, maybe he got called to work at the last minute and failed to tell me.
A day after that, you decide to push. You call him and gently tug at him to come out with you and your friends to a party. You think, If I’m casual about it and just pretend like I do this all the time he’ll bite. And he does. After a bit of coaxing, he comes out, looking as hot as ever, but something’s off. It’s not the same. He seems distant and this is the fifth time he’s checked his phone. He apologizes and says, “Work.”
You decide to confront him. What you’re really doing though is looking for reassurance. Do you still like me, you ask. He smiles. For a second everything feels weirdly awkward. “I really think you’re amazing, but I live with someone. We’re kinda broken up. But, she wanted to get back together, and, well, I told her no. It’s all good,” he says. “I just want to be up front with you.”
Instead of seeing this for what it is: a huge red flag of unavailability and narcissism, your mind is racing. All logic has been thrown out the window and your emotional brain has hopped in the driver’s seat. What does this mean? He said they broke up. He said, “It’s all good.” Does that mean he’s free to date me? You play back his every word. He thinks I’m amazing. He smiled. He did, after all, come out. You also play back all those hot scenes on dates one through three, the deep kissing, the passion, the intensity, the laughter. He’s so hot. I want him. We’re perfect for each other, you think.
But, here’s where you need to get your head out of the clouds. He’s not perfect for you. He’s not even partly acceptable. He’s completely, unequivocally Unavailable. And instead of hanging on to only the positive information you’re receiving from this guy, you need to be a big girl and see the whole picture, which means looking at the real, not-so-pretty, fantasy-busting facts he’s feeding you. You need to acknowledge the following signs and start to understand that these signs typically mean UNAVAILABLE.
- His impulsiveness to date you
- The intensity and rapidity with which your relationship started
- The sudden disappearance and or lack of interest in you
- His excuses for not calling
- Catching him in a lie, or not being able to back up what he says one day, versus the next
- His ambiguity and lack of attention paid to you
- Constantly checking his phone
- His ambiguous, confusing story that seems to leave too many open-ended questions
- The fact that he probably lives with his girlfriend who most likely doesn’t know he’s out with you.
In a sea of romantically passionate and fantasy-fulfilling moments, these several negatives don’t seem to weigh too heavily. And yet, they weigh heavier than you are willing to give them credit.
An unavailable man or woman may come on strong and show great intensity, but they are not emotionally invested in the relationship, nor do they plan to be. And while they may see you every day, or call you, or be slightly more available than the guy described above, there will always be something keeping the unavailable individual from committing fully.
Unavailability also looks like a lot like avoidance. An avoidant may verbally commit to a relationship, but then avoid intimacy, conflict, romance, communication, whatever triggers him to “avoid” and seek safety by turning inward. You then feel “neglected.” An unavailable person, on the other hand, typically does not verbally commit, but instead, may be more prone to engage in sex, communication, and romance, but only partly, thus leaving you feel confused, with mixed messages, as though he is only marginally invested in the relationship.
Unavailable people have myriad ways in which they remain unavailable. They could live far away. Work, family or other responsibilities might keep them from ever being able to move closer. They could have a job that keeps them from going out on dates, or they could live with someone, be married, or be in a previously committed relationship. Subtler but no less significant signs of unavailability might be that they blame you for having a trait or a lifestyle or a habit that makes it impossible for them to commit to you. I once dated a guy who told me after a year of us dating that we could never be more than just lovers because I made too much money and it made him feel “emasculated.” Whatever it is that keeps him from getting closer, it’s usually an insurmountable obstacle that he will not be able to overcome in order to be with you.
In The Break-Up Journal this week P’s unavailability is getting more noticeable, and yet, I only seem to mention it as if it doesn’t relate to me. I don’t yet see how staying with an unavailable person makes me unavailable also.
You heard right. The important thing to understand about unavailable individuals is that if you continue to pursue one or stay with one, YOU become unavailable as well. Why is that? Because you cannot be willing to fully to commit to someone who only half commits to you. If you are serious about love, intimacy and relationships, it means that you are willing to find a partner who is equally interested in love, intimacy and relationship.
Having little trust is not such a bad thing. We think we have to immediately begin trusting people as soon as we meet them. Phooey! Being suspicious (especially after what we’ve all experienced) is a way to protect ourselves.
You don’t want to trust people right off the bat. Trust must be BUILT slowly and let me tell you, it’s a very delicate construction. You can start to build trust in someone and you’re going along and everything seems to be building OK, and then, one day, you catch him or her in one little lie and the whole foundation of trust crumbles. Is that you being over-reactive? NO! Should you learn to be more accepting of “little lies”? I think not. You’re in recovery. You need time to heal and grow. If a flower pops out of the ground in early spring, it will die instantly under the effect of one night’s frost. You too may lose something you have worked hard to build if you remain with someone who cannot respect the basic tenets of trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, sincerity. Let’s be honest, in order to be stronger, happier and healthier, we all need honesty from others to thrive.
Before D, I had NEVER met or dated a man who didn’t lie. I thought it went with the territory. I thought every man lied (this is toxic thinking that comes when your trust has been violated most of your life, by the way). So, when I met D, I proudly exclaimed that one of my best talents was that I could sniff out a lie in a matter of seconds. I had become such a pro at this that I was proud of my talent. His response? He looked at me with a rather blank stare. “Um, I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t lie,” he said plainly. And I laughed. “Every man lies” I said.
“Well, think what you want…” he responded.
And I did. I didn’t trust him at all. I remained alert. On the look out. I called him on things that I didn’t understand. I asked him to explain events that in my mind, seemed like perfect opportunities to lie. I kept my eyes wide open. And I was on high alert. Thing is, he never lied. All his stories backed up. His actions matched his words every day, every week, every month, every year. ANd it wasn’t until maybe a year into the relationship when I FINALLY started to believe that maybe he was right. He doesn’t lie. This, in fact, caused me to mourn my marvelous talent for sniffing out lies. It was a talent that had been rendered obsolete. In its place, I finally felt SAFE and able to trust again. Of course, now that we live together, I am still triggered by him staying up late at night (my ex would stay up late at night and chat with other women). But every time I wake up and seek him out, he’s watching TV, or reading, or exercising. It might take a while to begin trusting in this department, and toss out my old triggers. But I am being patient with myself and with D.
Love addicts need to find someone with high morals and ethics. SOmeone who believes in honesty and respect of men and woman. It’s not that we need PERFECT. It’s that we need conscientious. Because our process of recovery is a delicate one. And remember that trust equals intimacy. Without trust there is no intimacy–only intensity.
So don’t rush in and expect yourself to start trusting others right away. Bad idea! Take your time and mistrust everyone. Let them prove their worth and honesty to you by their actions first. Not just a day or a week…but many, many months. And be willing to walk if they don’t meet your high expectations in this department. Here’s a great article in learning to build trust in others AND, equally important, being a trustful person yourself.
Lastly, remember that trust will not come from just you. It is build between two people. It will come at a point in a long relationship (romantic or otherwise) where you finally feel comfortable again based on one fact: that your spidey sense for deceit and your superhero radar to sniff out lies or betrayal has not been used in a very long while. And while nothing is ever certain, you will at least be moderately content knowing with good probability that you are in a safe relationship. 🙂
Ever find yourself hanging on to certain people and just desperately needing their attention? In most cases, we become clingy and needy with people who tend to keep us at a distance or avoid us. How can you test this theory? Well, I’m betting that you are NOT needy and clingy with other needy/clingy people. Think about it. Think about someone from your past (a friend, an ex, a family member) who showed you lots of love and never let you out their site. How was your behavior then? Probably not clingy. Maybe even a little avoidant?
The world works in yin and yang. It works to balance out loss or gain.
Even if you have no example of that type of situation in your past, where the tables were turned, we still exhibit clingy, needy behavior when we feel avoided. But how do you change that kind of behavior? Most of the time people think this type of behavior comes from loneliness. They say, just learn to do stuff on your own! But that is not exactly the answer. A better approach is to surround yourself with people who give you a good amount of attention, love and kindness. When we improve our self worth, and believe we are worthy of time and attention, we automatically attract better quality individuals.
If that, however, is still not enough, you are very possibly trying to “fill the void” with other people. In that case there are two approaches:
1. Start to fill your (imaginary) void with things that are important to you. Hobbies might not cut it. You might need to search for what makes you passionate (hint: leave people out of the equation and search for ideas, beliefs, career paths etc.). My all time favorite advice was “work with your hands.” When you do that your brain becomes focused on something other than meandering thoughts. It becomes focused on the task (at hand).
Or, better yet….
2. Stop believing there is a void. Allow people’s attention and friendship to be “ENOUGH.” Whatever it is they are willing to offer, it has to be “enough.” Practice “enough.” The next time you are with someone and they go to leave, let them. Practice being OK with that and saying, “Thanks for hanging out,” or “OK, bye.” NO matter how much it pains you. Don’t try to push or force the situation. When they leave and you are once again alone, allow yourself to feel that emptiness and aloneness, but don’t equate it with a VOID. It’s not a void. It is simply you growing and learning what “enough” means. Like hunger pangs to someone on diet…you are merely attempting to shrink your stomach and readapt to a smaller portion of whatever it is you think you NEED.
Here’s more on “filling the void“