By Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Survivor Services
“Rest and be thankful.” ~William Wordsworth
During this month of Thanksgiving it is certainly appropriate to evaluate what you are thankful for. Now that might be a little challenging considering the wreckage of a Pathological Love Relationship, so be thankful that this article has arrived in your inbox. We would like to offer some reminders of the blessings of pathology.
Be thankful for your new filter.
What the psychopath has given you is the ability to spot. That is a gift. Many people don’t know what pathology looks like and, as a result, they move forward despite the patterns of behavior that are present. Once you move toward a psychopath, it’s like you’re a fly into a web… you get stuck. The ability to spot the spider and the web keeps you far, far away from danger. If you made it out, then knowing the power of pathology is a gift. You have a new filter to lay over your own perceptions and understanding of the world and this filter will ultimately keep you much safer.
Be thankful for the peek deep inside who you are.
We know that pathology is soul-stealing. It grinds you down to the bare bones of who you are and what you believe. It is a terrifying, maniacal, devastating process. There is no doubt that going through it is likely one of the worst experiences of your life. What is left when you leave is your foundation. There might even be a few cracks there. No doubt you are seeing things about yourself that you didn’t know existed or that you had forgotten about. As you look back on the moments of manipulation, you undoubtedly see what was done to your values, your worth, and your beliefs. Through this careful evaluation you can reaffirm where you stand and what you stand on.
Be thankful for understanding love in a whole new way.
Love is not fantasy. Love is not a task. Love is not excitement (it’s pretty boring). Love is not adrenaline or fear covered by excitement. Love is steady, unconditional, joyous and gentle. Sometimes we learn lessons by not getting what we need, and pathology has done that for you. You now know what love is NOT. Your love is real and your capacity for love is real. In a sense, that was never the problem. Feeling love is never your problem… but being able to put a lid on your intense bonding so that you can trust what you felt about his lack of love is the problem.
Be thankful for your own humanness and your ability to bond and love other healthy people.
Your ability to connect and bond to him makes you human. You may be questioning, “How could I have let this happen?” Or blaming yourself for “falling in love with a psychopath.” Well, thank goodness that you love, thank goodness that you bond and thank goodness that you have empathy about it. You know what it means if you can’t do those things, so the alternative is much better. You CAN love and you CAN bond so that means you CAN do it again. Maybe not right now… but you CAN do it. Be thankful that, with some tweaks to your filter, there is hope for love again. You are NOT irreversibly damaged.
Be thankful for your Super Traits.
So, those things that psychopaths manipulate in you are your biggest assets. Do not get it twisted—your Super Traits saved you. Your excitement-seeking, compassion, trust, loyalty, resourcefulness, helpfulness, and sentimentality (among others) played a role in getting you out. Take a minute to think about how each one of these traits helped you. In the end, did your compassion for the kids take over? Did your resourcefulness help you find the facts or did your sentimentality remind you of who you were before? They will be the things that drive your recovery if you let them. You can strengthen them by combining the feelings of the Super Traits with what you know about pathology.
Be thankful you are safe and alive.
Pathology is dangerous. Your pain—emotional and physical—is real. But here you are. There is nothing better than the awareness of our aliveness. Feel the power of being present here, now. In any given moment pathology can bring a sense of danger and fear. Certainly hypervigilance can set in, if you allow it. But the alternative is much more powerful. Embrace the moments of safety and security. Create an environment that strengthens your sense of safety. In that space, your aliveness will grow.
Being thankful for pathology is a stretch—a stretch toward healing. It is a necessary step in recovery. You may not be there yet and that is OK. Don’t rush yourself. However, take this opportunity to open the door to the idea. If you are there and can feel the thankfulness, then take it in.
“I fall, I rise, I make mistakes, I live, I learn, I’ve been hurt but I’m alive.
I’m human, I’m not perfect, but I’m thankful.” ~Unknown
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)