“He thought of how he had been pursued and scorned, and now he heard them all say that he was the most beautiful of all beautiful birds. The lilacs bent their boughs right down into the water before him, and the bright sun was warm and cheering. He rustled his feathers and raised his slender neck aloft, saying with exultation in his heart, ‘I never dreamt of so much happiness when I was the Ugly Duckling!’” From The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Andersen
It is amazing how profoundly an encounter with a psychopath can change one’s view of the world, including those things that have always been so familiar, such as the above fairy tale. Although I always liked The Ugly Duckling because it has a “happy ending,” it was not my favorite story because it made me inexplicably sad. I never explored why it made me sad; I think it was too painful for me to do that then. But after going through such a dark time, I know I was sad because I saw myself for so long as the ugly duckling. I never imagined I could transform myself into a beautiful swan. And yet, this horrible trauma gave me the opportunity to do that. It has taken time and many stumbles, but I see the significant beauty within me now. I see myself as the swan, and I feel a wonderful sense of belonging. I am able to rejoice in my own uniqueness!
That beauty is inside every survivor, a beauty we have possessed all along and never knew we had. So as you make your way through your own recovery journey, you have the power to discover the beauty within by seeing and accepting the following truths:
You were not stupid, you were innocent
When you first realized the extent of the psychopath’s betrayal, you probably were overwhelmed by shame. How is it that you did not see the extent of the lies and the manipulation? It is normal to feel so very stupid when reality sinks in. And it is easy to become angry with yourself for not realizing that the “love” the psychopath offered you was an illusion. This is exactly how the psychopath—master of deception—wants you to feel, yet it is not the truth! You are a loving, empathetic person. You were never taught that emotionally defective human predators are out there; you only heard about them in fairy tales or in stories of serial killers. You did not know that they walk among us, many of them seemingly normal, law-abiding citizens. You cannot protect yourself from something that you never knew existed. The ugly duckling simply did not know that he was always a swan and never a duck. He should not be blamed for his innocence, and neither should you.
It is OKAY to have insecurities and vulnerabilities
You have probably been warned that it is “bad” to be insecure or vulnerable. You may even be taught this by those who are attempting to help you heal from psychopathic abuse. Yet, struggling with insecurities and being vulnerable with others are part of what makes you a normal human being. Even the most confident people doubt themselves at times; even the most emotionally healthy people need to open up their hearts to others, and become vulnerable, if they want to build intimate, meaningful relationships. It is absolutely possible for you to gain new confidence and still retain the ability to allow others—the right others—into your inner circle. The ugly duckling decided to trust a man who found him half-frozen in the snow, and he was nurtured back to health. He allowed himself to be vulnerable, even after all of the taunting and abuse he endured before that. You can do the same thing, and you should do it carefully and based on what you have learned from your experiences.
Your weaknesses and strengths were exploited
You may feel that the ways in which you were used by the psychopath only showcase your shortcomings. You may believe that you have unique problems that make you a psychopath magnet. You were too trusting, you lacked boundaries, you did not love yourself enough, and so on. It is certainly true that your weaknesses were exploited. But your strengths were also exploited. The ability to love is a strength. The ability to trust is a strength. The ability to cooperate is a strength. The ability to be kind and honest and empathetic are strengths.
A psychopath has no conscience and because of that, he or she is capable of horrific cruelty. He or she uses pity plays to capitalize on your natural desire to offer kindness and understanding. The psychopath mirrors your values and all aspects of your personality—including your positive qualities—in order to make you believe that he or she is just like you, when in fact he or she is the opposite. The psychopath sets you up in such a way so that you project your own goodness on to him or her. The ugly duckling hoped that the woman, cat, and hen he turned to for help would be as kind as he was, and he unfortunately was wrong. But that did not take away from his wonderful qualities. And in your case, being targeted by a psychopath does not mean there is anything wrong with you.
Facing the pain sets you free
In the aftermath, after you free yourself from the psychopathic bond, you are left traumatized. You are like the ugly duckling, frozen in the winter landscape. You are numb, confused, left in a fog, and you are battling very intense pain. You desperately want the pain to end, and you often do whatever you can to run away from it.
Avoidance and denial are normal, natural human responses to pain. All normal human beings do both, to varying degrees and for varying lengths of time. However, when you find the courage inside you to really face the pain and work through it, that is when you find freedom from the pain. It is when you experience new and life-changing joy. You cannot circle around the pain and discover the happiness you deserve. You must travel through the pain and embrace all of the challenging feelings and difficult ups and downs that are the essence of the grieving process. For a long time, it may seem as if you will always be hurting…until one day you will find that you turned a corner and found a lovely new world you never could have imagined.
When you embrace the above truths, you find who you are at a deeper level. And you realize that you have the ability to transform yourself in ways that psychopaths never can. You realize the beauty within you has always been there. You can grow and change and evolve into the special and wonderful human being you always were and always were meant to be. You have the opportunity to develop new wisdom, to embrace a new vision, and use both to find the inner light that was hidden within you and allow that light to shine. And when you do, you will learn how to trust yourself, and you will find other people who appreciate you and love you.
“He felt quite glad of all the misery and tribulation he had gone through, for he was the better able to appreciate his good fortune now and all the beauty which greeted him. The big swans swam round and round him and stroked him with their bills.”
The ugly duckling found his way home, and you will too.
For more recovery support, read The Survivor's Quest, available through Amazon:
Discovering the Beauty We've Always Had
We cannot circle around the pain and discover the happiness we deserve. We must travel through the pain and embrace all of the challenging feelings.
Article Author: HealingJourney