Some therapies successfully used in treating victims of psychopathsThe emotional wounds and scars that psychopaths cause are generally deep and traumatic. Sometimes we believe that the person inflicting pain on us really loves us and so we make excuses for their bad treatment. Often we are in denial until a wake-up call opens our eyes and we find ourselves paying a visit to the doctor. We may experience sleep disturbances, anxiety, chest pains, heart palpitations, heart spasms or any number of health-related problems. How can we recover after a psychopath strikes? There is no direct route to recovery, but several therapies, together or in tandem, can produce a positive outcome.
As a victim of two psychopaths, my mother and my sister, I endured deep pain, anguish and intense episodes of panic and anxiety. I knew I needed guidance and direction. My counselor immediately saw I had a dependency and recommended a book: 12 Steps to Self-Parenting. It was very helpful in allowing me to overcome the codependency behavior that kept me returning to an abusive situation. The steps empowered my inner child, helped me learn to forgive, and truly acknowledged and embraced a higher spirit.
Kent Robertshaw, a New York City-based psychiatrist with an expertise in addictions, suggests that “poor self-respect is involved with allowing oneself to be manipulated and deceived.” Overcoming codependency is at the heart of recovery from a psychopath’s emotional damage. He recommends victims consider participating in the support group “Co-Dependents Anonymous”(“CoDA”) so as to set healthy boundaries. This is another 12-step program which parallels the one I used, with the added element that there is group process easily available online. Only when we realize the situation at hand can we begin to fix it, yet more may be needed to return to homeostasis.
Various approaches to calm the wounded nervous system
Catherine Anesi, a licensed social worker who has helped many individuals through traumatic situations, including psychopathic injury, suggests that the suffering person “find a professional mental health practitioner that you like and trust and begin Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This will help to recognize one’s distortions in thinking that are creating problems, and then to reevaluate them in light of reality.” She has employed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (“EMDR”), a therapy that enables one to identify difficult life experiences and the emotion associated with them such as fear, anger and sadness. Used as a technique to alleviate PTSD, this approach is well-suited to the suffering a psychopath has caused. Anesi recommends “energy work” using Reiki or Cranial Sacral Therapy in conjunction with EMDR to release emotions. As a result, the nervous system calms, allowing the body to gradually heal.
Reconditioning the vagus nerve to heal psychopathic damage
Niseema Dyan Diemer, a somatic experience practitioner, specializes in Polarity Therapy and trauma resolution. Her therapeutic approach when dealing with victims of psychopathic trauma is based on her belief that the vagus nerve plays a major role in relaxation. It can “down-regulate the activation of the fight or flight response when fighting or fleeing is no longer necessary.”5 “The vagus nerve, the longest of the cranial nerves, emerging from the medulla oblongata (part of the brain stem), passes through the neck and chest to the abdomen, branching to most of the major organs in the body, including the larynx, pharynx (throat), trachea (windpipe), lungs, heart and much of the digestive system.” Diemer explains that the vagus nerve controls the “rest and digest part.” When we are in a constant state of stress, the vagus nerve loses its tone, which makes it difficult to slow down.Some of the exercises she recommends to alleviate the impact of psychopathic or traumatic stress include:
- Splashing cold water on your face. This is an input to the muscles of the face that will make the blood flow more vigorously into the face. The facial muscles, especially the upper part of the face, are controlled by the vagus nerve.
- Long slow exhales and humming. Taking slow deep breaths, especially when feeling a flash of anger or panic, helps the vagus nerve to respond, while humming has direct effects on blood pressure and heart rate. It only takes five minutes to do this exercise.
- Singing a favorite song. This encourages slow, controlled breathing and singing with others gives us a sense of unity while making us feel connected.
- Taking part in engaged play, not video games. This includes partnering with others to play games like tennis, any and all ball games, ping pong, etc.
I have personally found the power of prayer or meditation to lessen the emotional pain psychopaths cause since these techniques can topple negative energy. Lie still and pray or meditate for as long as you need. Adding essential oils like lavender to a diffuser can be helpful in reducing anxiety since it slows breathing.
These are just a few of many protocols that can assist with healing from the damage caused by psychopaths. You may need to try a combination of therapies until you find what works best for you. Remember: Time is the best healer. Distance yourself from toxic people and surround yourself with those who are upbeat and loving. Be patient and keep moving forward.