I’ll Take Myself and My Sexual Power Back, Thank You.
I’ve had a lot of survivors of psychological abuse come to me for advice especially after listening to my radio show and reading the article I wrote with Andrea Schneider titled Is Narcissism Psychological Viagra? Our sexual feelings when it comes to psychological abusers are not widely discussed. Nor are the ways in which we need to heal that part of us that was awakened by false love.
I know that for me, the person I thought I was wholly in love with was a mirage. Looking back on him later – after much time in recovery and speaking with experts all over the globe about narcissistic abuse – I see how powerful the mind can be. Your imagination is what predators count on and bathe in, literally, in order to feel alive. It is intrinsic to you as a feeling, empathic human being to love, give love, share your soul, and fantasize. This is not intrinsic to a narcissistic abuser. They do not have the ability to go to the depths that we can. Our ability to dive into the deepest parts of the ocean is what they crave because they can’t go there alone. They can’t go there at all. Their emotional impotence won’t allow for it.
Kim Saeed, a profound healer of narcissistic abuse, asked me if I’d write a book with her about narcissism and sex. I can’t think of anyone better to dive into the deep end with about this potent subject matter. It’s part of the uncomfortable conversations that must be engaged in when it comes to narcissistic abuse.
I had up until that point, the most powerful orgasms of my life when fantasizing about William. We never had sex. It was an emotional affair that I took seriously. He took it as seriously as he does every man and woman with whom he has engaged in these games his entire life. How devastating it was for me to truly learn what jealousy, envy, and hate feel like. William was the best teacher I have ever had – even more than my biological father who molested me.
How can this be true? What my biological father, whom I’ll refer to now as Kirby, did to me was horrifying. Children come into this world and we are supposed to trust our parents. We do trust our parents. They are the wayshowers for every relationship we’ll have and many of us spend our lifetime working on those relationships with other people. I didn’t have a frame of reference that Kirby wasn’t supposed to kiss me the way that he did, or that I shouldn’t have been sleeping in the same bed with him into my pre-teens, or that he shouldn’t have been showing me pictures of his own penis. I only saw him every other weekend but every other weekend I was alone with a psychopath.
When I was twelve I “told” on Kirby to my mother. He was getting bolder in the seduction of his daughter, and me being the empath I was, I could feel it. I was starting to feel sick like him. Even though I didn’t know it was wrong, I knew it was wrong. The Sunday night I told my Mom was the last time I would ever see Kirby.
There was life before “telling” on Kirby and there was life after. What happened next was the shocking reality that I had no family support other than my mother, there was blame of me for “seducing” Kirby, the society of the early 80’s did not talk openly about incest, and yet there was me, Kristin, with a fire in my belly and a voice to be heard.
I am proud to say I was part of the movement that made speaking out acceptable. I began as a teenager to speak at every school, conference, and soapbox I could about sexual abuse. It was my way to take his shame and get it out of me. I had no idea how powerful it was that I was doing this and I was in every kind of therapy imaginable. However, while I was waging a war against abuse in my life, I was a ghost in high school. There was no way I could concentrate on studying while this epic upheaval was going on in my personal life. My mother was dealing with her own abuse issues that came to light while she was in therapy to help me. It’s already difficult to be a normal teenager, living a normal teenage life: I was thrust into a hurricane the moment I told my mother what was really going on with Kirby.
The slow seduction of your own child can only be perpetrated by a psychopath. His needs before his daughter’s. But he was my parent. I was birthed into trusting him. I learned not to trust him.
Thirty years later including seeking out therapy as needed, I met William. I was freshly divorced and living on my own for the first time, and had spent several months taking care of my own needs – after figuring out exactly what my needs were. I had already had a long career with Fortune 100 to Fortune 1000 companies and was feeling good about myself in a way I had never before experienced. It was at this healthy point in my life that I was introduced to William. I wasn’t attracted to him in any way. He had a failing company in a small town and needed an adviser and a lifeboat. He gave me an office to work in for my own company in exchange for my advice. He spent months slowly seducing me. I did not know him or trust him. I actually thought he was a “thin read”, as my mother pronounced him, a bit of a bumbling idiot. But this is just how good psychopaths are – whatever we need them to be in order to get us hooked is what they’ll use. The juicier the bait you are, the more fun it is to take you down.
Imagine a small-town guy that isn’t very bright (this was the line he used on everyone he was trying to seduce) going after a woman with my corporate success history, my vocal stance on sexual abuse, and my bleeding heart advocacy for mental wellness. I now understand it was a backwards-compliment that I was a big target for William. I was his polar opposite. He dips his toe in the shallow end of the pool and I swan dive into the deep end. It was a match made in hell.
And there began the slow seduction of Kristin. It is not lost on me that William showed up in my life in order for me to finally confront Kirby. I had done the work. I had been in therapy. I had spoken about predators on a public stage. I was in no way unaware that predators exist. What I wasn’t aware of, however, is how they use our own power to abuse us. I wasn’t aware of the term narcissistic abuse. Predators have no power of their own. William did not automatically have my trust as Kirby did. William had to work for it. William was married with kids. William knew exactly what to say and how to play with my emotions. It is ironic that he often took me aside to ask which one of his staff I felt was “playing him”. The player is always worried about being played even if the player is just a small-town guy who isn’t very bright.
As the host of Mental Health News Radio, I interviewed Dr. James Fallon, a renowned neuroscientist who found out he has the genetic correlates of a psychopath. Dr. Fallon confirmed that not all psychopaths have a high IQ. As I had learned from many of the mental health specialists on my show psychopathic abusers create toxic triangles with the people in their lives by pitting them against each other in order to make sure the pyschopath is always the center of attention. All people are merely objects to be manipulated. The feelings of their prey are only a consideration if those feelings can be manipulated or manufactured in service of the abuser.
Psychopathic abusers use our own imagination and, especially our wounds, against us. Their main excitement in life is seeing themselves the way we saw them when they first had us hooked. As an example, in the beginning William behaved like a little kid falling over himself to talk to me, be near me, touch me, and have my attention. He once did chin-ups using the door frame of my office, exposing his abdomen, and blocking me from leaving. As his games progressed, they became darker and more sinister because I wasn’t willing to be a participant. Frankly, I was shocked that an adult man would behave this way. I had been working with men and women for twenty years who behaved in all sorts of ways but this was a whole new level. It was subtle and seemingly innocent. The author of The Empowered Whistleblower, Dawn M. Westmoreland, confirmed this was sexual harassment.
Every psychopathic abuser is different in how they play their games but inside they are all the same – empty and dark. In one afternoon, William went from being an idiot that repulsed me to being the most handsome man I had ever known. This “transformation” occurred when he claimed he was upset over a death in his family. I reacted the way any caring person would and William‘s short-term bereavement was the bait he used to hook me. He had found his way in and from then on he didn’t try to stop himself from rubbing my shoulders or rubbing up against me as we passed in a hallway. Though I never touched him, I did talk to him privately saying this behavior made me uncomfortable. Once when I was leaving the building for an appointment, William shouted out in the voice of a five-year-old like Mommy leaving daycare for the first time, “Bbbbut, where are you going? When are you coming back?” I hadn’t nursed a child in twenty years and yet I immediately felt my milk come in. I was entranced by this neediness as much as I was repulsed by it. Thus is life for William. Women and men are equally enchanted and repulsed by him. That’s his “shtick” as a psychopath.
No overt braggart was going to enchant me. One would have to be much more subtle and play the fool. William made playing the fool a form of art. I was certainly fooled into loving him by the innocent boy routine because grown men were still terrifying to me in many ways. I had big Daddy issues to match William’s bigger Mommy issues. My early childhood sexual wounds fed this relationship like an eternal spring. This awareness is why when survivors come to me asking for advice, I can sense those that have been sexually abused as children. The psychopath(s) that come into our lives are there to suss out those wounds for healing. What happened with William was that slow drip of seduction, just like Kirby, but William had to work harder for it. He wasn’t my parent.
I recently ran into William after a few years of no contact. Seeing him with the knowledge that all of my study about narcissistic abuse has given me allowed me to pop any final balloons of delusion I might have had about him. A friend and powerful healer, Evelyn Ryan, has sarcastically pointed out, “A turd is still a turd even if you roll it in glitter.” I am amazed at my ability to ascribe God-like status to someone so weak, insecure, and small. I almost felt sorry for him until I remembered – feeling sorry for William was part of his psychopathic voodoo. He’ll cleave to your breast to rescue him and then punish you for it.
Watching this cleaving with one employee of his after another was where I learned what it meant to feel jealousy. Everyone is at one time so special until he’s had enough of them or they’ve had enough of him. You can never do enough to please William and his entire company is operated in a way where everyone trips over each other vying for his attention. Others expressed similar experiences, “William and I were once so close and then he completely changed into a different person. I don’t understand what happened between us.” In my case, I started speaking to him the way his wife did – with disdain and disgust.
Many survivors of narcissistic abuse feel embarrassed about how infected they feel over a person with whom they may never have had sex. I tell them they are lucky it didn’t get that far. Imagine how much worse your journey might be if you had? Whether you’ve had intercourse with them or not, you must work hard to take your sexual power back. It’s daunting work especially for childhood sexual trauma survivors. So much shame was poured into us as vulnerable children, shame that belongs to the predators. We have carried it around like an anvil on our backs. Then a psychopath or two comes along. They open us up, knowing we are wounded profoundly, obtain our trust and we love them like we’ve never loved anyone. Eventually they will dump all of their shame into us and use our trauma to beat us into submission.
Shortly after I realized I was speaking to him with disdain and he was never going to halt his mind games, I moved out of his building. I was maligned and shamed by him, and by his staff and our mutual friends, for “preying” on him. Psychopathic abusers are masters at playing the victim by blaming those they are victimizing. It’s what they do. William was in heaven. He got a nice vacation from the shame he carries around every day by pouring it into me and it almost put my lights out. Having his staff continue to act in service of him by trying to pull me back into that drama was almost overwhelming.
William picked the worst possible person by targeting me. The big mouth activist who started a radio show where she talks all about narcissistic abuse. Do you think that has stopped William from preying on women and men? Absolutely not. Like a five year old in a grown man’s body – he can’t stop himself from opening presents before Christmas day. Of course he’s still playing games, triangulating his staff and “friends” with his spouse, and creating bonfires of drama all around him while pointing fingers at everyone else when he is the one holding the match and the gas. It’s what they do because they have no depth or strength to deal with themselves. Emotional impotence.
I did give William one last chance to apologize before I ceased all contact. Naturally, he didn’t show up for our appointment. He may almost be convinced he did nothing wrong. His own sexual wounds make him surround himself with controversy around a person with whom he may be having an affair. The stark reality is probably that if he has sex at all, it’s only with himself and occasionally his wife. I know that he knows what he did with me. I know that he can’t sleep and has panic attacks in the night. He told me about them. I am finally proud to note I’ve been added to the list of things that go bump in the night for William. I am one of many people on a very long list.
Thanks to what I learned through my experience with William I finally confronted Kirby. Kirby didn’t want to “show up” either. Confronting Kirby was the point of the William journey. And confront Kirby I did. I blind carbon copied his second wife when I emailed Kirby about what he did to me and how it has affected my entire life. I didn’t have the opportunity to confront him earlier because he disappeared in order to avoid criminal charges. I knew involving his spouse was the only way I would receive a response. I did not know where he lived nor did I have a phone number but his wife had mistyped a few letters in his email address and it had ended up in my inbox.
Kirby did finally acknowledge what he did to me. I read the words that I had needed to hear for 44 years, “What I did to you was not your fault. I am profoundly sorry for everything I did. It was wrong. I was wrong. None of it was your fault. I hope and pray you can forgive me.”
It has been more than two years since that email exchange with Kirby and I haven’t felt the need to engage with him further. I heard through a family member that his wife left him not long after that exchange. If that happened, I certainly don’t feel bad about it.
Here is how I personalized what I learned to help heal the sexual trauma from all of my dealings with William:
Your abuser(s) used your sexual trauma to seduce you. The mixture of shame, danger, passion, and excitement is more powerful than any drug you could ever take. You have to treat it like an addiction because that is exactly what it has become.
You must, for a time, allow yourself to continue the sexual fantasies of your psychopath. The modern day – happening right now – abuser that is in your life. But you will do this fantasizing with a purpose and it will only go on for a time. You, your therapist and/or life-coach will make a contract that this only goes on for a time. Go ahead and fantasize. When you orgasm say the abuser’s name and picture all of the energy of that orgasm pouring out of you. Picture it for what it is – toxic, dark waste wrapped in shame and evil. Let it flow out of your body and picture it floating away from you – across town, down the hall, over the ocean to wherever your abuser lives. Picture this shame seeping in through every pour of your abuser’s body. That shame is simply returning home.
The fantasy was just that – a fantasy. The shame, however, was real. You must put that shame back where it belongs – not inside of you.
Whether you see this as crazy or not, this was one thing I did that helped me get William and his endless neediness and shame out of my head, my body, and my heart. I gave him back what he was using me as a vacation from. I did this exercise until I just didn’t need to do it anymore. Until the very thought of anything sexual with him became exactly what it would have felt like: disgusting.
And when I saw him with all of that gone, I forgave myself. I was never in love with him. I was in love with my intoxicating version of him which was pretty damn powerful. And I realized that narcissistic, sociopathic, and psychopathic abusers have no power. They only visit power through us and when we do whatever it takes to reclaim our power, we begin to finally heal all the way back to the first one that abused us, even if that was a parent.
*The term Take Your Power Back was inspired by author Evelyn M. Ryan from her book, “Take Your Power Back: Healing Lessons, Tips and Tools for Abuse Survivors.”