Psychopathic abuse can be horrendous to experience and can permanently change a person’s life in a number of different ways. The more prolonged the abuse the greater the damage tends to be.
For a start it can leave long lasting psychological problems that closely match the symptoms of PTSD that are now well known. These can include depression, emptiness, numbness, inability to get enjoyment out of things, isolation, insomnia, loss of appetite, anger flashbacks, and so on.
These have been well documented and covered in books like Jackson Mackenzie’s Psychopath Free, available on Amazon. We will not go over these so much in this article, but more the ways psychopaths can fundamentally alter your values and the way you see the world and others, in a way that may seem bad at first but ultimately makes you a stronger and better defended person in the long run.
There is a growing body of literature now on recovering from psychopathic abuse. See our article on the subject and also our Resources page for some excellent books with great tips and advice to help you do this.
We want to look at the issue from a slightly different angle and look at how deeply toxic, traumatic relationships can ultimately be a springboard for very deep changes in a person’s values and outlook in life, that can ultimately be a source for great growth and change if the person perseveres with the process long enough.
Let’s look at some different ways we can interpret this deeper level change psychopathic abuse can provoke.
Your Safe World Theory Collapses
Psychopathic abuse will fundamentally challenge the beliefs you hold about the world and others. More specifically, before dealing with one of these characters, many people believe that all people are basically good, have got some goodness, some “human-ness” in them somewhere, no matter how dysfunctional they may seem on the surface.
An experience with a psychopath will bring this assumption crashing down. You will realize that some people on this planet are incurably evil and have no humanity in them whatsoever. All appeals to decency, morality and conscience are useless in a psychopath and the experience of learning these people exist is often very painful.
Put differently, a psychopath can bring your safe world theory, that is a pillar or cornerstone of how you view people and the world, crashing down. One of the fundamental assumptions you held about people is proven to be false. You have to start all over again in how you see the world.
You realize that some people are not wired like normal human beings, lacking the emotional fail-safes like empathy, compassion and remorse that normal people have. Until your realize this, dealing with a psychopath is exasperating, as you struggle to try and find some humanity and decency in them.
“They can’t keep behaving like this, surely? At some point they’ve got to stop” you may ask yourself. “If I try harder, they’ll be a good person”, is another common mental trap victims will fall into. You are carrying the assumption that everyone has some kind of humanity and decency in them somewhere, and the experience with a psychopath teaches you that unfortunately this isn’t the case.
This can be a rude awakening but ultimately a beneficial one. We learn that these malevolent types of people do exist in the world, whether we like it or not, and we are therefore better protected and prepared when we bump into more people like this in the future. We know to get away as soon as possible.
Psychopaths Will Make You More Guarded and Cautious
An experience with a psychopath will often make you more guarded with people in future, as it should. You will be far more cautious as to who you let into your life and who you give your trust and confidence to.
The psychopath took advantage of your naturally kind and trusting nature and likely got you to open up and reveal weaknesses and secrets about yourself that they later used against you. It is important not to let this happen again.
A common lesson people take out of these toxic relationships is to only observe someone’s character and behavior over time and not be taken in again by the glib, superficial initial charm so many psychopaths are well known for. Predators realize the shallowness of most people and that for every person that doesn’t fall for it, there are at least a hundred more that will.
The survivors of psychopathic abuse moves past this and looks past the surface more in the way they judge people, and only give trust and respect when it is earned and not automatically reciprocate because of being bombarded with surface charm and charisma, like the psychopath did.
The surface act of the psychopath – of someone who seems to have it all and can hold himself well socially – is a cover for internal emptiness and the person who has experienced the psychopath can now see this and is more selective in the people they open up to.
By contrast, someone who comes across as more unsure of themselves may not “walk the walk” and carry themselves with the same glib confidence the psychopath does, but they can have an underlying integrity and decency that the psychopath will never have.
You learn to look below the surface more and value these people and not the superficial “posers” who lack depth and substance in their characters. Someone is judged on the virtues and integrity they display over time and not on superficial charm and a convincing “front game”.
Psychopathic abuse will make you more cautious about who you trust, only valuing people who display strong virtues over a prolonged period of time
Psychopaths Can Lead You to Build a New Life
Psychopathic abuse can also prompt a person to change direction completely in their life, reinventing themselves and setting off on new career paths or making some other fundamental change in their life.
This kind of drastic change come out of necessity sometimes, since psychopaths are inherently poisonous and destructive people. By this we mean they will have no problem destroying a career and reputation someone has spent years building just to advance their own ends. They feel no remorse about doing this. It’s nothing to them.
The unfortunate person on the receiving end of this treatment may find themselves having to reinvent themselves to some extent, since the psychopath with their scheming effectively destroyed a reputation, career or relationships they have built without a second thought. They find themselves having to start all over again.
In one sense this isn’t at all fair in that good people shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to build a completely new life for themselves because someone else undermined their old life to the extent they had to start all over again. There is something that seems wrong about this on a moral level.
However, many people often find that although making these kind of transitions is uncomfortable at first, it leads them to a new kind of contentment they could perhaps never have had before. See some of the books on our Resources page, especially Jackson Mackenzie’s two books, for some good accounts of this.
Without the psychopath ruining their lives in the first place, they would never have made the changes required to get them to a newer, much happier place. Some good (eventually) came out of the psychopath’s evil, though there is usually a lot of pain and suffering along the way that some people would argue is not worth it.
The excellent book The Empathy Trap, available on Amazon, also goes into this issue of transformation and change well, emphasizing some of the key hurdles and difficulties people recovering from psychopathic abuse often experience, which ultimately turn out to be beneficial.
Taking bold steps can lead to big changes in this stage. This quote from the book is very good on this:
“Nevertheless, it is not uncommon during this period (of recovery) for people to purge themselves of all the parasitic and unwholesome individuals that have accumulated in their lives over the years. The process, albeit anxious and turbulent, is also healthy and restorative.
It is part of the transformation process and signifies the end stages of recovery. It stems from a desire to see wholesale changes and the adoption of a new, stronger persona.
The process may involve making even more changes than you anticipated: a house move, a new job, seeking new horizons. On one hand this new state may lead to further alienation; a sense of having to “go it alone”…..On the other hand, the new situation feels good because it is indicative of your increased independence. Many people feel a newfound sense of freedom and confidence, and a greater awareness of ‘self’.
The Empathy Trap, p.103