When The Pieces Don’t Fit: The Corrupted Puzzle

Note from Kristi:
I am happy to welcome Michelle Mallon as an ongoing contributor to the blog! Look for more of her posts in the future.

If you had asked me what happened, I would not have been able to explain it to you. I couldn’t tell you who was at fault either. “Was it my fault? Was it his fault? Was it intentional? How did this happen? And why wasn’t he trying to help fix what happened?” I said “Why?” in my head more times than I could count. I was completely and utterly broken and I had no idea how or why it happened. I was so lost. Everything about my life was so different now. It was as if I had gone from being a woman who had her head screwed on nice and straight to a person who couldn’t tell you for sure what color the sky was. I felt completely and utterly broken.

The best way I have come up with to describe this is that it felt as if I was trying to put pieces of a broken puzzle together. This “puzzle” in its entirety symbolized the way in which I understood my entire life—each piece representing various milestones, different important relationships throughout my life, all of my accomplishments and failings. Everything that made up my life as I knew it could be represented as a piece of this puzzle. Together those pieces represented who I believed myself to be and what I believed I could become. For most of my life, those pieces made a picture that made sense. I could take the pieces out of the box and put them together in ways that fit. I may not have always been proud of the picture they created, but I at least understood the picture and how it came to be. I knew why each piece was where it was. I knew what pieces represented parts of my life that I wanted to change and which pieces represented things that I held very dear to me.  At any point in my life prior to this, I had the power to change the new pieces I was creating to make the overall picture look more consistent with how I wanted my life to be. Suddenly I was beginning to realize that my “puzzle” no longer made any sense at all. Not only did the pieces no longer fit together or make sense, I had no idea how to adjust the new pieces I was making with my life choices to alter the final picture my puzzle was creating. Something terrible had happened and I could not identify what it was or how it happened. All I knew was that nothing made any sense anymore and I felt powerless to do anything at all about it.

And this feeling alone prevented me from feeling any sort of control over being able to feel safe moving forward with my life. As a result, I began to learn that finding my way back meant figuring out how I got to where I was. I couldn’t move on and I sure as hell couldn’t protect myself from this ever happening again if I didn’t know what just happened. Putting that puzzle together meant everything to me.

Now at first I tried to do the things that had worked for me in the past. I spent a great deal of time trying to rearrange the pieces of my puzzle to try and make them fit.  I knew from experience that sometimes the pieces got bent or I was looking at them with the colorful side down making it hard to see where they fit. But if I put enough effort into looking at the puzzle from different perspectives, I could put it together. Not this time. No matter what I did I couldn’t make those pieces fit.

Then I tried to convince myself that maybe I didn’t need to put that puzzle together. As time went on I was being told by people around me that I just need to move on not knowing “Why?” or “How?”. To others it sounded as if I just needed to accept that reality and move on. They had no idea that this was impossible. You can’t move on after being nearly destroyed without knowing the “Why?” or the “How?”. Without these answers, you know it is likely to happen again. You know full well you were lucky to have survived this ordeal. Another one would surely do you in.

As much as I wanted to be able to believe I could move on not putting that puzzle together, the reality was I couldn’t. I had no way to protect myself from this ever happening again if I didn’t understand what happened in the first place. Nothing I had ever encountered before in my life gave me the framework I needed to put this puzzle together. My entire world had been rocked and destroyed to rubble. I was standing in a lonely, desolate place where trying to find the missing pieces seemed overwhelming. There was no one to ask for help. I mean, there were people there, but at times it seemed I was speaking a different language. Or perhaps, they had assumed I had lost my mind based on the questions I was asking and the things I was saying. Somehow, I had gone from being a person who “had it all together” to a person who had absolutely nothing. I had lost my sense of who I was, though it wasn’t amnesia. I could remember back to being a person who had a strong sense of who she was and where she needed to go in life. In fact, it hurt so much to know that I had come from that place to where I was standing now and I had no idea how to get back. And everyone around me seemed to be reacting to me as if I wasn’t the person I used to be. I was utterly and completely lost, alone and afraid. If I could have at least known how I ended up in that God forsaken place, maybe I could find my way back. But the truth was, I really didn’t know how I got there. All I had was a small box with a broken puzzle—clues that I believed might help me find my way back.

And that is when I realized that my entire life depended on me putting that damned puzzle together. I was stuck in a prison that I couldn’t figure out how to get out of. I couldn’t move on without understanding what happened. That wouldn’t really be moving on. That would just be “existing.” And simply existing was still a life prison sentence for me. It was unacceptable.

What I didn’t realize was that in that lonely, desolate place in which I found myself after the abuse, there were people there who spoke the same language I did and could have understood my questions if I would have been able to find them. The problem was, I didn’t know these people were there. I couldn’t explain what I had seen and experienced without the missing pieces of my puzzle. All I had was sheer determination that I was not going down without a fight. Even though I couldn’t find my way back to where I had been before, I knew that place existed. I could remember it. Really, that was about all I had—the memory of knowing that at one point in time, I knew who I was. And I knew one thing: Who I had been was a person with life, vitality, passion, intelligence, optimism, strength, honesty—a whole host of things that I did not have now. And that was where I started.

Those parts of me had been stolen and I wanted those things back. They were mine.

Slowly, I began to learn that there were things about this puzzle that were not making sense; there were pieces in that box that shouldn’t have been there. I couldn’t really tell you how those phony pieces made their way into my box. I wanted to believe that maybe I had put them there, but that didn’t seem like something I would do. I had spent my life carefully selecting what went into that box and what didn’t. As much as I wanted to believe I put those pieces in the box, I knew I hadn’t. But the problem was, they were still there. Somehow, they had gotten into the box. I must not have been guarding that box as carefully as I thought. How did I get so careless? Careless was not something that described me…. At least not before the abuse.

It took a lot of time for me to figure out which pieces in that box were fake. The fake pieces symbolized twisted and distorted information I had been fed over time that had slowly become a part of my belief of who I was. In fact, this process of slow brainwashing was so subtle that I couldn’t even distinguish the fake pieces until I found more of the pieces that had never been in the box in the first place. The pieces that weren’t there in the first place represented important things I still had to learn—new words like malignant Narcissist, grooming, gaslighting, soul murder and trauma bonding. There were things about life I thought I knew simply because I hadn’t encountered anything to challenge my beliefs yet. That new information—the missing puzzle pieces—was crucial to my journey. And slowly, I was beginning to see that.

But I wasn’t just putting my puzzle together. I had kept all of the phony pieces that had somehow found their way into my box. I began to put those pieces together as well. Slowly, ever so slowly, I was starting to put together a puzzle that would shock me. What I found was that the picture the pieces of my puzzle created was a very different picture from the one that the counterfeit pieces created. In fact, nothing could have prepared me for the image I would see when I put all of the phony pieces together.

The counterfeit pieces, when put together created an image of a hideous, evil, dark side to human nature of which I was completely and totally unaware. In fact, what I was finding was something I didn’t want to believe. Those fake pieces created the hideous image of an emotional vampire—a person so hollow and shallow with no sense of remorse or shame for the destruction they cause. Prior to the abuse I endured, I had no idea what a malignant Narcissist was. I knew what abuse was and I knew what a Narcissist was. If someone had asked me if I knew what it meant prior to the abuse, I would have assumed it mean abuse perpetrated by a Narcissist (a shallow, vain person). And at some level, I would have been right. But in so many ways, I would have been wrong. I would have thought I understood. I could see why all of the people in that lonely, desolate place were avoiding me. What I was describing to them was frightening. Having no real understanding of this type of abuse, those whom I tried to ask for help couldn’t comprehend what I was saying. Or maybe it was too scary to try and comprehend. The truth was, prior to what I went through, I wouldn’t have wanted to believe me either.

But what I found to be even more astonishing was the discovery that there were people I knew who had seen monsters like this before but had no idea these were monsters. In fact, what I was beginning to see was that people who had endured this kind of abuse often times were left believing they were deficient in some way when the relationships crumbled. For some of these people it had been years since the abuse occurred and they had begun to move on with their lives. However, the haunting, nagging memories of having failed to prevent the destruction of a relationship they cherished was a sign to them of what a failure they were. What I discovered was even more people with puzzles that had been corrupted over time. When they looked back in their puzzle boxes, they too found things that were missing and things that shouldn’t have been there. Here I thought I was the only person in the world to have experienced this horrific abuse. It turned out that there were a lot of people who had experienced this and internalized it. They believed their abuser’s insistence that there was something wrong with them.

I began to see that unless they became aware of the extent of what they went through, those counterfeit pieces would remain in their puzzle boxes. The result was the very real potential for them to experience even more abuse from future Narcissists who were on the lookout for wounded, vulnerable people… just like them.

And it is because I know what it feels like to be so lost with so little hope of ever finding my way back home that I will continue to talk about and write about what I experienced. It was because of survivors before me who were strong enough to keep talking and writing that I found my way back to who I am. For that, I am eternally grateful.

So it was in putting this puzzle together and realizing what the final picture looked like that I realized I had to write about this. I have found that there are countless others with broken puzzles, trying to find missing pieces so that they too can survive. That haunts me every single day. I think back to my own journey, how difficult it was and how I almost didn’t find the missing pieces. Knowing how hard I searched, I realized it should not have been so difficult or taken me as long as it did to put this thing together. The reality was that my story is painfully common. And the truth is, it shouldn’t be.

And that part has to change.

* * *

Michelle Mallon has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Ohio State University and currently teaches in the Computer Science & Engineering Department at OSU. Her understanding of therapist abuse came after she was emotionally abused by a psychologist to whom she had taken her two young children for counseling. Now an advocate for victims of Narcissistic Abuse, Michelle is currently working with the Ohio chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to create a CEU program to prepare social workers to effectively help these victims. For more information about this endeavor, click this link http://www.naswoh.org/?page=mallon.

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34 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this. Very compelling. Sometimes I wonder if it might be better to just try to forget about the emotional rape altogether, but understanding the puzzle pieces might be a necessary first step.

    Some helpful insights into the framework of the abuse may be found here: http://trytherapyfree.wordpress.com/
    And some additional survivor stories and community may be found here: http://disequilibrium1.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/a-disgruntled-ex-psychotherapy-client-speaks-her-piece/

    Thanks again.

  2. Hi there D. Thank you very much for your comments. I guess in answer to your rhetorical question about whether or not it is better to just forget the emotional rape rather than try to make the pieces fit, I would say this- I don’t know that is truly possible to forget what happened. I mean, I believe in some ways probably most of us try at some point to forget what happened but we find that the guilt and shame of allowing ourselves to be harmed by someone who was supposed to protect us permeates all that we do. I believe there is, for many of us, a strong component of PTSD in the aftermath of this type of abuse. The playing and replaying of events over and over again trying to make sense out of them so we can understand and learn from what happened moving forward becomes almost an issue of survival. When something like this becomes so central to a person’s ability to survive, I worry that any attempts to “forget” the emotional rape would be even more harmful to us.

    What I can tell you is that I have found that it isn’t as if there are only two options- try seeing another therapist to get help (and in the process put yourself in a position to be harmed by another therapist) or try to forget what happened. There are other options and the one that I have found to be everything to me is learning as much as I can about Narcissistic abuse. The reality of this type of abuse is that the vast majority of mental health professionals don’t truly understand how to help victims of it anyhow. It’s one of the main points of the article I wrote for the National Association of Social Workers, Ohio Chapter (http://www.naswoh.org/?page=mallon ). There is an unforgivable ignorance about this type of abuse and the result is many times further harm to victims who are searching for help and healing. That is one crusade I have taken on very passionately- getting mental health professionals in a position to recognize, properly diagnose and effectively treat victims of Narcissistic abuse. One of the most amazing websites I have come across for advocating for change within the mental health profession (worldwide) comes from an amazing woman in Ireland named Christine Louis de Canonville (one of my favorite links on her site is here http://narcissisticbehavior.net/category/narcissistic-victim-syndrome-what-the-heck-is-that/ ) Her website is full of some of the most helpful information I have come across in terms of advocating for victims.

    For me in my own journey to healing, I had to find many of my own answers. This time last year, I did not think I could or would ever recover. I truly believed there were parts of my being that were totally destroyed because of the abuse. I believe my family lost hope that the person I was would ever return. But somehow in the painful and long process of understanding what I went through and what it meant about the kind of person I was and am, I was able to break free from the terrifying hold this abuse had on me. Victims of this type of abuse tend to be very compassionate, honest, caring people. The abuse leaves us believing that we are something very different because our abusers are so good and projecting all of their evil onto us. It actually wasn’t until I read the book “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity” that I even began to understand how purposeful everything that I endured had been. There is a chapter in that book entitled “The Victim” that was a turning point for me in healing. In reading that chapter, I began to realize that I had been targeted, not because there is something wrong with me (like I had been led to believe), but because there is so much “right” with me. That was huge for me! From there I was able to begin to make my way through the most painful journey I have ever made to the amazing place where I am standing today. The level of clarity and insight that I have achieved by continuing to put one foot in front of the other until I made my way out is incredible. I found that all of those things I thought had been destroyed were still there. And in searching for them, I found so many things I never even knew I had in me.

    It is possible to make your way through this. And having finally done so, I can tell you that I am so grateful that I did. I believe that you can do this too. And it does not require the assistance of a therapist to learn as much as you can about something. The key to overcoming this is understanding it.

    Take this key and let yourself out of the prison you are trapped in.

    My thoughts are with you,
    Michelle Mallon

  3. The most helpful book I came across was The Emotional Rape Syndrome by Michael Fox.

    Most women in a therapy situation will find it incomprehensible that their therapist has a hidden/dishonest agenda and intends to exploit the transference for his own ego gratification.

    Unfortunately they have no tangible evidence to prove their higher emotions of trust and faith have been intentionally exploited and used.

    Emotional rape-its a violation of the human soul.

  4. Thank you so much for your comments Fiona. I have not read that book, but I will be sure to put that on my list of books to read soon. It is startling to find out how many people have been manipulated and harmed by therapists with a selfish and destructive agenda. I was truly devastated when despite all of the evidence I gave to the licensing board to support the claims that my children’s therapist nearly killed me, they dismissed the case. They flat out told me that without any physical violation, it was too “murky and confusing”. I am not even sure they reviewed all of the evidence I gave them. What frightened me the most about the boards failure to do anything about this was that it gave the overall impression that as long as what the abusive therapist had done was non-physical, it could somehow be construed as therapeutic. I find that as effective as saying that the only way to hold a therapist responsible for harming a person is if they do something completely outside the scope of what they are supposed to be doing in the first place (like saying you can only hold a heart surgeon accountable for harm if he “accidentally” operates on your spleen). The field of psychology isn’t that inexact of a science that anything that falls within the realm of “talking” can be explained away as helpful. Or is it?

    • Michelle I was wondering… did you have therapy to get over the (abusive) therapy?

      I had an NHS referral (Im in the UK) to a therapist in the same healthcare Trust as the male psychologist who exploited me-Unfortunately I found she automatically assumed that whatever I was trying to express was either a behavioral problem or a symptom of a psychological disorder.

      She had ‘client is crazy’ as her default…she believed me in the end but it wasn’t really a good experience for me…it wasn’t healing.

      • Fiona, yes I did have to go through therapy to overcome what happened with the abusive therapist. I was continuing to self destruct under the sheer weight of the guilt and belief that I could have prevented the deterioration of that relationship. I was in therapy with a different person for about 10 months before I finally stumbled across TELL (therapy exploitation link line) and found articles about Narcssistic abuse. It was only then that I finally began to put the pieces of what happened together so I could quit reliving everything constantly. I have since become a relentless advocate of getting the crucial awareness about this horrible type so abuse out to mental health professionals. Here is an article that explains this more in depth if you are interested in reading about it http://www.naswoh.org/?page=mallon

        So overall my experience with the subsequent therapist did not help me the way it should have. I had to search for a lot of answers on my own. I have concerns that this is the same type of response far too many victims of Narcissisitic abuse are encountering when they seek out mental health professionals for healing.

        It is deeply upsetting. I hope some day to be a part of the change in how these victims are recognized, diagnosed and treated so they can reclaim their lives.

        I hope this answers your question :o)

        • “I hope some day to be a part of the change in how these victims are recognized, diagnosed and treated so they can reclaim their lives.”

          Just want to point out that you already are . By sharing your experience and creating/participating in a supportive online community such as this, you are offering far more support and hope to people than any therapy ever could.

          • D thank you very much for your kind words. I guess it is sometimes easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and scope of a problem such as this and not recognize the contributions we are making since they seem so small in comparison to the problem. I am incredibly grateful to you for helping me to stop for a moment to recognize this.

            Thank you so much!

  5. This is so beautifully written and rings so very true. I am trying to divorce a narcissist abuser and struggle terribly with the depth of the abuse and evil while others see a charismatic charmer. I’m not sure I will ever be able to put the pieces back together, but am hopeful.

  6. Nancy,
    Thank you so much for commenting. I am really sorry that you are going through this. It is truly amazing once we are able to recognize the monster behind the mask to see that so many other people cannot see behind that mask at all. It is even further compounded when you have to have contact with the monster because of the divorce proceedings. You don’t really even have the option to chose No Contact at all. Perhaps someday, as we speak out and refuse to stay quiet about these types of people, we will eventually be able to live in a world where we are not treated like we just said we saw a UFO when we tell people what is going on. The legal system in particular has a long way to go before it will ever be able to properly handled proceedings where Narcissists are involved. I do want you to know that I too felt like I would never put all those pieces together. It was an overwhelming process. There were days I would feel a little bit better only to be humbled by some trigger that really brought me to my knees. But even in those very painful, difficult times, you are making progress. It may not feel like it. Please continue to learn as much as you can about Narcissistic abuse. Over time, those pieces will begin to fit together. You just have to make sure you aren’t sill missing pieces that were never there to begin with (those pieces that represent things you were not aware of because you didn’t know they existed). Those are important to your puzzle.

    I will pray for your continued strength through this very painful time,
    Michelle

  7. I just want to say that Michelle, I think that you are a most incredible woman. You have overcome such adversity, and now you act as a beacon to warn others of similar dangers. But more, you offer guidance to others. Like the lighthouse, you symbolize the way forward, but more, you help to navigate the way through the rough waters for others……you keep the lamp lit, as it were. The problem for the lightkeeper is that they often stand in solitude, isolated as they warn others of danger. I hale you Michelle, you are a brave warrior indeed.

  8. Christine,
    I am not really even sure I can find the right words to express how much your message has touched me. I can tell you that it immediately made me cry- tears of joy! I don’t know that there is anything that I have been through in my entire life that has moved me as much as my desire to prevent others from wandering in confusion and isolation like I did after the emotional abuse I endured. In some ways, I think that finding some way to make something good come from something so senseless and destructive seems to be healing for so many who have traveled this same road. It was because of other brave warriors whose torch shone bright that I was able to find my way though this hell. I owe so much to those survivors and I think the unwritten “promise” upon making my way to the “other” side was that I would do the same for the countless others still searching for the path to healing.

    One thing I want to point out that I found to be most remarkable about the message you wrote was that you seem to understand some of the loneliness that comes with holding the torch. And that is something that not many other people realize. It has been my experience that those who sense this tend to be warriors or warriors in the making as well. I know that as I was making my way through trying to heal from what happened, I never thought for a minute I’d be as strong as I am now to do what I am doing. Somehow, it just happened. I wonder if this may be your destiny as well. Perhaps as this type of abuse becomes better understood and less “secret”, the role of the “warrior” will be less lonely…

    Thank you so very much for your beautiful words, Christine!
    Michelle

  9. The greatest honour you can bestow on anybody is to share your “golden tears” with them….they are one of our greatest commodities, they open our hearts where we can meet in both intimacy and vulnerability………….. that is when we really get to know the other.

    Carrying the “torch” for others is the epitome of unselfish love. To be the keeper of the flame is reserved for those who are not afraid, who are prepared to go unnoticed, to be patient, and be open to being ostracized…….they are warriors. You are now the “keeper of the flame” Michelle, and I know you will let it burn bright as you carry it to the top of the mountain. But you are not carrying it on your own, anyone who fights against pathological narcissism supports your struggle, let us stand shoulder to shoulder……… because nobody can really do such sacred work all on their own.
    Here is a little song for you, it is by one of my countrymen, Val Morrison – “Carrying A Torch”

  10. Christine,
    It wasn’t until you mentioned that Van Morrison was a countryman of yours that I made the connection to who exactly you are! I have to say that I am totally and completely overwhelmed by what you have written. Knowing how much respect I have for you and the truly inspirational work you have done in terms of reaching out to victims of Narcissistic abuse, I feel incredibly small in comparison to the amazing work you have done. To be called a “keeper of the flame” by you is perhaps the greatest compliments I have ever received.
    I also want to say that I couldn’t agree with you more about the many, many fellow torch bearers standing shoulder to shoulder to help others find the currently hidden path to healing from Narcissistic abuse. I truly believe that every person who reaches a hand out to another- whether it be by telling their story to help another survivor know they are not alone or by actively promoting the spread of accurate information regarding Narcissistic abuse and Narcissistic Victim Syndrome- is a vital part of this struggle. It is my belief that this “secret” of Narcissistic abuse will only be broken by the weight of the many survivors who refuse to let their struggles be forgotten.

    Hence my motto: The are many, many more survivors of Narcissistic abuse than their are Narcissists. This terrifying form of abuse can only remain a secret if we, as survivors, allow it to.

    Although I have posted this link in a previous message, I would like to include it here again. The website, The Roadshow For Therapists, created by Christine is one of the most outstanding sites I have ever seen in terms of educating and advocating for victims of Narcissistic abuse. http://narcissisticbehavior.net/narcissistic-victim-syndrome-what-the-heck-is-that/

    Thank you Christine for lighting the way for the rest of us!

    Respectfully,
    Michelle Mallon, MSW, LSW

  11. Thank you. Reading your words make me realize there are people who understand . Most don’t. I think one of the worst parts was the licensing board case, which was initiated by my subsequent therapist, found that I was “an isolated incident, unlikely to happen again”. Anyway, thank you for your words. They help.

  12. Most therapists are good trustworthy, compassionate people, however to say that Therapist abuse is “unlikely to happen again” is just not good enough. Thre have been far too many incidents, and unless the Accreditation Boards take complaints seriously, these unethical therapists will be allowed to get away with the narcissistic abuse of their clients. Last February, one of the Accrediation Boards investigated a complain against one of their members here in Ireland……here is what they posted to all their members.

    “Following the conclusion of the Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP) complaints procedure, investigating a complaint against Jeanette Rigney, the membership of Jeanette Rigney in IAHIP has been withdrawn by IAHIP. Jeanette Rigney is no longer a member of IAHIP from Sunday 9th February 2014.”

    They took the complaints against this therapist so seriously, that they actually “struck- her off”. It was done as a warning to other therapist that they are being policed, and that they have a Duty of Care to their clients, there own selves, and the Profession to behave ethically. Failing to conduct themselves in an ethical way will be taken very seriously, and where necessary, they will not be allowed to practice. This was a huge step for the IAHIP Board to take, and it has acted as a wake up call to all therapists………… which is only right. Unfortunately, this profession is very attractive to those people who need control and power, the label of therapist gives malignant narcissists a mask of respectability and normalicy to hide behind, and provides them with endless narcissistic supply.

    Please, please………. if you suspect that something is not quite right in the therapeutic process, talk to the Accreditation Board your therapist is a member of. At present very few people do speak up, and I understand why……….. everybody seems to want to shoot the messenger. But I applaud you ladies for having found your voice, and am so sorry that you have had to pay the price for doing so, but your efforts have not been wasted.

  13. Hi there Robin. Thank you so much for your message. And thank you Christine for your reply to Robin as well. I couldn’t agree more with what Christine is saying about speaking up regardless of the outcome of doing so. And I say this knowing that my own speaking up has at times felt like a complete waste of my efforts and a further deepening of wounds that I thought might never heal. It is deeply troubling that a licensing board would respond as it did in your case to a complaint initiated by another therapist. Typically, therapists are very hesitant to report colleague misconduct as they understand the serious repercussions it can have on the career of a peer if the accusations are untrue. Therefore, they tend to act only when there is overwhelming evidence of unethical behavior. The fact that your subsequent therapist filed the complaint likely speaks volumes about the concerns he/she had about the therapist who harmed you. The response the licensing board gave for why it did not pursue any action is deeply upsetting. As Christine indicated, it is difficult for many survivors to file complaints with licensing boards. It can be a scary and intimidating process. In addition, with Narcissistic abuse, the victims are frequently left in a daze for a long time after the abuse trying to figure out if they themselves caused it. The fact that a complaint was filed at all should be a huge red flag regarding concerning behavior with this therapist. If I were a client of this therapist, I would want to know that I am potentially at risk (however “unlikely” the board believes it to be) in seeing him. But we both know that information will not be made available to others who are potentially in harm’s way.

    I can tell you Robin that I still have difficulty thinking about the way in which the licensing board investigated (or rather, failed to investigate) my abusive therapist. It is very troubling that such behavior by mental health professionals is not handled more seriously by licensing boards. I do appreciate Christine pointing out that there are licensing boards (even if they are in Ireland) who do take therapist misconduct very seriously. For me, that means there is hope for what we might be able to achieve here in the US at some point in time.

    I can also tell you, Robin, that in speaking out and telling my story, I have found that there are others who have read my story and the stories of others like me and they have found the strength to tell their stories. I have received messages from other victims and survivors of therapist abuse and they have told me this personally. I believe we will probably never really know the full scope of the hope and inspiration we give to others as we stand up for ourselves and reach out to others. I know for me personally, it was survivors before me whose words of strength helped me stand up and tell my story. I don’t I have personally thanked each one since at some points in my own journey I felt too powerless to do much at all. But I can tell you that those courageous people made a huge difference in my life. Without them, I would still be sitting alone in the dark afraid to go anywhere.

    So my point in all of this is that our efforts have not been wasted. We will probably never know the true scope of what our actions have been and will be to others who are where we were before. But I can promise you that we are making a difference. And it is each individual standing up and saying, “this is not right” that will eventually force these concerns about the mishandling of therapist abuse to be taken more seriously.

    Thank you for being brave enough to speak out too!

  14. Well said Michelle. One thing I may add regarding the case here in Ireland. Apparently several people had contacted the Board about their concerns of this therapist……. it seemed that they were doing nothing about it. Clearly they were making their own investigations along the way, it took about 3 years before Jeanette Rigney was struck-off………. it was as if it came out of the blue in the end. However, I suspect that there were enough complaints to merit a call to action. So don’t worry if you think nothing is being done, the fact of the matter is that you are sharing your concerns about a therapist and Red Flagging the Boards…. if others do the same, even if it takes a little time, justice may be done. Just don’t expect it to happen immediately…….. do your bit, then leave it to God and the Boards. Otherwise you will become sick with the worry of it all.

  15. Thank you so much for writing this…I thought I was the only one. I was held hostage while he exploited my family dynamic, meaning that by the time I escaped my relationships with my parents had been irreversibly damaged. No one should have to go through what I went through alone. It took two years for me to remember what an emotion was and convince myself that, yes, emotions did in fact exist and were allowed to exist according to his extremely limited reality with its crazy rules. These monsters are an important social problem as they do not simply destroy an individual’s capacity to have any kind of a meaningful future, they destroy entire families as well. A patient in a therapist’s office is someone willing to put in the effort to work on themselves and grow and be valuable members of society. What right do monsters have to take that away from us all?

  16. Dear A,
    Thank you so much for your message. I couldn’t agree with you more! If you think about how vulnerable people are when they seek the help of a mental health professional, it is truly terrifying to imagine that anyone would to use this as an edge to meet their own selfish needs. That level of purposeful manipulation truly borders on psychopathic behavior (complete lack of empathy, no remorse, no conscience to limit terribly harmful behavior towards others, etc). I have heard some people argue that perhaps people who behave this way just aren’t aware of the level of destruction they cause to the people they hurt. However, the predatory grooming that typically precedes this type of abuse is a tell-tale sign (for me) of something much more sinister. And because so many people in the world would never believe that such destructive people exist, those of us who experience it are left looking as if we are telling people we just saw a UFO when we try to tell those around us the extent of the horror we saw. Frankly, it ends up further alienating us from the people around us. To me that is one of the worst parts. I sometimes get angry still when I think about the time I have lost doing things with my children when I was too afraid to leave my house in the year after the abuse ended.

    Even worse is the collateral damage this type of abuse causes to those closest to the victim. It sounds like in your case it isn’t even a matter of collateral damage but more so an active destruction of your relationship with your parents. I have to wonder if this was done in part to isolate you from the people who might otherwise would have been able to tell you that what was happening was very dangerous to you. Have your parents learned about the extent of these harmful interactions with this therapist?

    I want to also say that it sounds like you have been able to find some degree of healing after what happened with this therapist- by this I mean that you indicate that feeling emotions is now something you can finally do again. I have a feeling that this is just one of many challenges you have had to overcome in reclaiming your life. Please let me know if there is something I can do to help you with any other obstacles that might still remain in your way. In my own journey to healing I found that there were stages of healing that I had to go through each with its own unique set of challenges. I have found a number of important sites, articles and people along the way who were instrumental to my healing. I am happy to share them if that might be helpful to you.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and your experience with me. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  17. John,
    If you feel that way then you probably shouldn’t come to this site. It is one thing for you to not find it helpful. However, it is an entirely different matter for you to find it necessary to post such an angry message in response to what his site has to offer. Please take your baggage elsewhere.

    Regards,
    Michelle Mallon

    • Maybe it is coincidence, maybe it is my paranoia, either way, my gut tells me that John is an Internet troll. I find it interesting that John Nash was a famous mathematician who had schizophrenia. I happen to be a mathematician and a feminist and was exploited by my former therapist. And my former therapist has trolled a cycling discussion board that I am on.

  18. Robin,
    Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like paranoia or coincidence. I had wondered what the significance of the name “John Nash” was since I was fairly certain that the person who left that ridiculously childish comment was probably not bold enough to use his real name (because he too knew his comment was inane and didn’t want it traced back to him). Despite the fact that we will probably never get 100% confirmation that “John Nash” is your former therapist, the truth is that because this is an open discussion area, it is very easy for retaliatory remarks and continued harassment to occur. The sad reality is that for those of us who have come to this site to find the resources and strength to heal after therapist abuse, we know all too well just how far these awful people will go to try and keep us quiet about what happened. I applaud you Robin for having the strength to not be silenced by your abuse therapist. Hopefully “John Nash” will find himself a competent mental health professional to help him resolve his underlying anger and resentment towards women.

  19. thank you for writing this. I spent a lot of time feeling so confused that why it is so hard to recover from that relationship. You perfectly described the frustration of always knowing that something is off, but just couldn’t figure it out.
    It always seems more than just losing a relationship. It shatters some fundamental beliefs, I couldn’t participate any social event for very long. Then I start to look for answers and slowly recognize all the abuses I endured and overlooked. And to my surprise, there were plenty… violence, sexual abuse, when I refuse to do something too kinky he’d coerce and criticize me.

    I don’t hate him, not anymore, because you wouldn’t hate a blind people for not being able to see you. but the worst part is, I know no one would believe me. NO ONE. He is super friendly, easy-going, talented, smart, courteous person, who cares about the injustice and environmental issues in the world, on the outside. I knew that I have to learn to recover without validation. but it is not easy.

  20. SC,
    Thank you so much for your message. I can tell you that I believe you and I know that there are others out there who believe you as well. There are so many others who have seen these destructive people who parade around as very charismatic, caring people. In fact, I believe that for many people who endure this kind of abuse, it is one of the most distressing parts of the whole ordeal- others don’t realize the real person behind the mask. In fact, there are a number of online forums that have popped up to help victims of these types of monsters realize they are not alone. One of my favorites is https://www.facebook.com/pages/After-Narcissistic-Abuse-There-is-Light-Life-Love/114835348601442 I have also found that Pinterest is a wonderful place to find support. I have a number of pins to help support survivors of Narcissistic abuse (some of which I made myself as I made my way through this hell) http://www.pinterest.com/mallon3/narcissistic-abuse-recovery-this-is-a-real-and-fri/ .

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    Michelle

  21. Michelle is a courageous and passionate woman. What she does could be deemed dangerous by the very community that she comes from and, yet, she continuously advocates on behalf of all survivors. She is an incredibly strong human being and an inspiration.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Kristin. You yourself are incredibly courageous and compassionate!

      My hope is that in terms of my own professional community, that those who truly have the best interests of the people we serve at heart will not see this an attack. Rather, they will hopefully see this as a wake up call to all of us in the mental health profession that we must constantly strive to hold our profession accountable. My journey to find healing from being emotionally abused by a therapist I took my two young children to see revealed for me a deeply disturbing lack of oversight with the methods and manner of practice for mental health professionals of many disciplines AND a complete lack of understanding about what appears to be one of the most common and destructive forms of abuse found anywhere in the world. And by this I am referring to Narcissistic abuse. There have been times where I wish I could just walk away from all of the advocacy work I feel driven to do. It would free up a whole heck of a lot of my free time. However, I will never forget the terrifying fear I felt with being lost in the depths of hell after this type of abuse thinking I would never find my way back to the person I was before. When I finally began to learn what Narcissistic abuse was, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. How had I not heard of this before? And as I found survivor groups on Facebook and other forms of social media, I couldn’t believe all of the people who were also stuck in the very same hell I was in. I couldn’t leave them there! I tried getting in touch with several of the professional organizations here in the US for mental health professionals to tell them what I was seeing. Nearly every time, I was dismissed. I can’t be quiet about this. The only reason why I made it through this was because of the courageous survivors who held out a torch for me to find the currently hidden path to healing from this nightmare. I can’t leave all of those innocent people to wither and die believing there is no help or that they are alone. I made it through this. I know I can help others make it through too But I am but just one person. I know I have colleagues how will feel passionately about helping these survivors too. They just need to know what this is and how to help these survivors. I won’t stop doing what I am doing until this type of abuse become recognized and understood in such a way that survivors will be effectively diagnosed and treated when they seek out mental health professionals during and after these abusive relationships. Right now, a quick look at most social media forums set up for survivors will reveal that far too many of these survivors DID seek out professional help during and after these relationships and they were told the just needed to try harder to make things work with their abusers. These survivors NEVER heard the words Narcissistic abuse, grooming, gaslighting, trauma bond or Complex PTSD. However, many of them did get diagnoses like Borderline Personality Disorder, Dependency Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, etc. We cannot continue to fail them this way.

      Thank you for all you are doing to fight the good fight, Kristin!

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