After a relationship with a narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath, everything is chaotic. But once the dust settles, you’re likely to find a bunch of lingering psychological / emotional issues that need your attention. A lot of these things feel really uncomfortable and trick you into focusing externally for relief. But they are internal problems now, and even though you didn’t ask for them, you’re the only person who can do the hard work to heal them.
After being compared, triangulated, and replaced with other people, it’s completely normal to feel jealous. The default external focus is to criticize the people you were compared with, maybe their looks or abilities. But this doesn’t resolve the inner problem, which is a deep sense of rejection and inadequacy. When we allow ourselves to break and soften, we can nurture the part of ourselves that actually needs help.
Mostly any spiritual or psychological path will outline the reasons why resentment is unhealthy for the body, mind, and heart. Psychopaths behave in ways that are beyond infuriating. I think it would be bizarre not to carry resentment after an encounter with them. The problem is, resentment (like envy) blocks us from love and attachment. It protects our actual internal hurt and pain with a false externally-focused energy. Mindfulness and spirituality are effective ways to approach resentment. Try regarding your resentment with unconditional love, soothing yourself with a kind, non-judgmental voice that says: “This is allowed”. The more you do this, the easier it will become to release your resentment to that loving voice.
3. Shame / Humiliation:
A lot of survivors publicly implode during and after their relationships. Ranting and raving about their evil ex, cyberstalking, starting websites, becoming somewhat delusional/grandiose in the quest for “exposure”. Honestly, when things calm down, you’ll probably look back and think: “Yikes”. Self-forgiveness is so important for letting go of the past and allowing yourself to move forward. All of that external obsession is a textbook behavior of someone whose inner world has been deeply damaged. When you start to understand this, you can put down the battle ax and turn your attention inward, where it is needed.
Psychopaths and narcissists use techniques like gas-lighting to make you doubt your version of reality. Many of them will have you essentially blaming yourself for their cheating and abuse. Even long after they’re gone, their accusations of “you’re crazy” will eat away at you. What if they’re right? No, they’re crazy! But maybe you are too? No, it’s definitely them! This new “protector” kicks in, always analyzing and questioning everything you do. Once again, this is all external focused, when the real wound lives inside. When we are separated from love in a traumatic or extremely abrupt way (cheating, abandonment, replacement), we often internalize a message that we did something to cause that. Self-doubt keeps us in an endless self-analyzing loop, ensuring that we never “cause” it again, rather than allowing us to be our true selves.
Psychopaths flatter you endlessly during the idealization period, making it easy to put your self-worth in another person. Once you’re hooked, they begin to inflate your deepest insecurities and belittle your greatest strengths. By the end of the relationship, you’ll be thinking they’re the only person who could ever love you the way they did. And that’s the point. When you feel worthless, you become more reliant the person feeding you scraps. Many survivors become obsessed with trying to prove their worth, taking on perfectionist qualities, taking care of everyone else, accomplishing a ton, spending a long time in front of the mirror… All of these things are just external band-aids for an internal problem. Self-worth has to come from the self.
This is a really challenging one, and can often underlie all of the other issues. I think this quote describes it well: “It’s not that the person is refusing to let go of the past, but the past is refusing to let go of the person”. More specifically, the body is refusing to let go of the past. Often this manifests as numbness, emptiness, tightness, aching, or knots. The thing is, those strange sensations are your key home. They are blocking you from experiencing intolerable feelings of rejection, inadequacy, and shame. This has recently been called Complex PTSD, but the spiritual world has written about it for ages as “core wounding”. Basically, it’s an inner belief or feeling stuck in the body that makes you feel separate from unconditional love.
The fact is, you are loved completely as you are, right at this moment. But all of these things block us from experiencing or accepting that love. Without this love, we are lost. There is no meaning or softness or joy or humor. I can tell you-you’re loved, your therapist can say it, a lover can say it, but the part of you who actually needs to hear all of this has been locked away.
And that’s really the core issue with Cluster-B relationships: they bring out all of these love-blocking feelings at once, and we have no idea what the heck just happened. All we know is that everything feels bad, so we keep focusing on the person who gave them to us, rather than understanding that those feelings live inside of us now, regardless of how they got there. So we keep frantically searching externally, lost in this protective world that keeps us from experiencing the wounds that make us whole.