Many Scam Victims Want To Desperately Cling To The Fake Relationship, Rather Than Just Let Go
For many traumatized scam victims, this is an avoidance mechanism. It helps deflect the pain by not fully accepting the situation as it is.
You hear this in what they say as well as how they describe their romance scam experience
Right after the scam, everything is very immediate and personal, and how you talk about reflects this. But in order to progress through this trauma and pain, every victim will need to distance themself from this by changing their terminology.
We have talked about the terms used when talking about the scam before. How victims often use derogatory words to describe themselves – “I was so stupid,” etc. It is important to stop using the wrong words and remove the self-blame that comes from it. (Read more here)
In addition, there are two major areas of change that each victim must look at.
HE/SHE – No Such Thing!
Just watch the new season of National Geographic’s Trafficked series (on HULU) episode on Romance Scams and you will see what we have been saying for a decade – scammers do not typically work alone, they form teams with specializations for each stage of the relationship scam.
However, scam victims consistently refer to the scammers as “he” or “she” as they were indoctrinated during the scam. The reality is that there is no he or she, there is ONLY they or them! You could have been speaking with a woman or a man, and several different men.
This issue with the pronoun is actually very important because it helps to distance you from the immediacy of the scam and to make it less personal. By substituting “they” instead of he or she, it helps the change the way you think about the scam – to take off the sharp edges. It also represents a move towards more complete acceptance that this was a crime perpetrated by criminals – this was not personal, and that there was no real relationship.
Look at how you currently talk about your scam, we suspect that you are still using the he/she pronouns. If so, try hard to change to “they” and make this a permanent habit. Be watchful of how you speak and think about this.
One side benefit from this is that it will make it easier for you to tell your story, as this will help you become more detached from the fake stories you were told by the criminals and their lies.
A Scammer By Any Other Name …
We know that you developed a relationship with your scammers. For most victims, this was months of developing a relationship with a face and a name. This is less so for Pig Butchering scams, in that these tend to be shorter in duration, typically a few weeks to a couple of months.
Of course, that face was stolen, and the name was never real. You know that right?
Ironically, most recent-victims have a hard time accepting this. So much so that they often cyberstalk the real person whose photos were stolen, in the mistaken belief that they need help. But it is more than that. It is really about the fleeting hope that something might happen if you can just speak with them – just connect with the real person.
In addition, very often victims continue to refer to the criminal by the name they were given during the scam, even though this was a complete fabrication.
Why is that?
It is because this is an attempt to hold onto the fake relationship. The victim is refusing to let it go. This may not be conscious, but it is what is happening.
It is understandable why this happens. In the period after the discovery of the scam and the evaporation of the fake relationship, the trauma sets in solidly, but the victim tries to avoid confrontation with reality. In other words, this is a form of denial and avoidance.
The problem is that continuing to focus on the name, the face, and even the pronouns helps victims cling to the illusion of that relationship. It helps to avoid acceptance that nothing was real, it was all just lies – not even the name was real.
However, every time you use that name you are keeping it fresh in your mind and reinforcing the “realness” of it. This is a representation of denial.
Remember how we said above to use only “they” or “them”? Why do you think this is so important? Can you all see how the retention, and even focus on that name defeats that? Accepting that the name is fake and just another lie is critical in moving forward, and to both your rejection of everything associated with the scam and to let it go?
Continuing to focus on the drama, including the lies told is not productive in anyone’s recovery. Using the name of the fake person is just another way that you anchor yourselves to those lies.
So, remember, there was no Bob, or Gifty, or Barbara, or Frank, or any of the over one billion fake names in use!
This is also why we say that attempting to look for scammers by name is fruitless, each scammer group has thousands of fake names, not to mention tens of thousands of fake stolen photos.
THERE WAS NO “FILL IN THE BLANK!” It was just another lie. A fabrication, a fantasy. IT WAS A MANIPULATIVE TECHNIQUE USED TO CONTROL YOU.
Can you accept that and reject the lies?
On To Recovery
To recover from your scam requires letting go of EVERY lie and fantasy that was part of the scam. This is a watershed moment that defines the past from the present. As long as anyone continues to retain, or cling to any of the fakery you cannot fully move forward.
This is also one of the false feelings of recovery that many victims experience in their first 6 months. As long as any of the lies still sits in your immediate thoughts you have not yet truly become a survivor, you are not yet on the path to recovery – because it is not yet truly over.
It is hard, and as this example shows, there are subtle traps new victims continue to fall into, such as staying focused on the face, the name, and the stories & drama. But being aware of your language and retention or attachment to the fake tales & lies are the clues to your progress.
Every day, take a few moments to think about how many times you referred to your scam or scammer by name – even in thought. Create a “swear jar” and put a dollar/euro/pound in it every time you do it. Or put a paper on your fridge where you can put a checkmark each time you do it. But you have to be very conscious of how much you are doing it, and you may not be.
Forget the name. Forget the face. Forget the drama and the dialog. Forget the fake plans for the future. None of it was real.
How to Stop Thinking About Someone When You Can’t Focus on Anything Else
Possible reasons why you may fail to move your thoughts from someone
1. Your brain chemically reacts to you thinking about someone
Overcoming obsession isn’t a matter of willpower so much as a matter of brain chemistry. According to expert psychotherapists, the neurotransmitter dopamine is to blame when you’re at the mercy of repetitive thoughts—because it allows you to feel pleasure and causes want and desire. This can include after a romance scam – in other words, it feels better to think about the scam’s positive moments that to face the reality. Each time you conjure a thought of the person, you get a small dopamine hit, setting the loop in motion as you want more of that feeling.
This also happens with people in your life, loved ones past and present, and those that were never real! Loving people and losing people has the same effect on the brain as drugs, When you’re fixated on a person, for positive or negative reasons, your brain is responding as though it’s being rewarded or deprived.
2. You feel regret when you think of how things ended
Sometimes, the reason you can’t stop thinking about someone is that you don’t like the way that the relationship dissolved,in other words, discovering it was all a lie! Perhaps you regret that you could not get closure (whatever that is). Either way, you can benefit from the past relationship by internalizing that you cannot change the past and need to accept it as it is. If you have regret, you’re constantly replaying the past, trying to figure out where things went wrong, and if you get stuck in that thought cycle, it’s hard to move forward.
3. Humans are social by nature
We, humans, are social creatures, so social relationships are of the utmost importance to us. It is important for us to understand because our relationships have an imprint on our minds as well.
To put it in layman’s terms, you’ll always have memories with the person even if they’re no longer in your life, even if they were a complete fantasy and fake. If you want to stop thinking about someone, the key is to be clear on how you want to move forward. Clearly, it is not ideal to be preoccupied with anyone for too long, at least not if you want to be a functioning adult. Also, this endless cycle of thoughts can deepen your trauma by preventing the necessary healing.
How to stop thinking about someone in 8 easy steps
1. BLOCK THEM
It begins by blocking the scammer and not going back – ever! Copy all of the dialogs into a file, along with the photos – since you might need them for future evidence and never go back!
2. REPORT THEM
Taking the first step to reasserting your control is very important. When you report the scammers, it is less about justice than it is about you accepting that you are the victim of criminals. When you truly accept that you can move forward. But continuing to think about the scammers by the fake name or stolen photos is an indication that you have not accepted this yet, and it also probably means you have not reported the crime either.
3. DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
If you want to break the dopamine loop, it helps to find other ways to spark that biochemical high. The key is to choose a healthy distraction. We recommend reading a book you love, watching silly comedies (low stress), or a favorite movie. Staying mentally active offers another benefit: it keeps you rooted in the present, your brain is too busy to acknowledge the passive, ruminating thoughts, and slowly their grip begins to diminish.
4. EMPLOY MINDFULNESS
It’s way too easy to fall for an unproductive train of thought and let yourself get swept away by it—especially when it involves your scam. The key is to pay attention when your mind is wandering and stop it before it veers too far off course. Every time you think of your scammer’s fake name or face acknowledge that you’re thinking of them and bring your attention to the present moment. Use your five senses to focus on things you can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste – such as food. Once you bring your thoughts to the present moment, you can also follow it up with a new, positive thought or behavior. Such as calling a friend or family member to chat or to make plans.
Putting your feelings in writing – journaling can help move the thoughts on your head onto paper, which can help alleviate rumination and can lead to a growing understanding of self. While it will keep you focused on the scammer and the scam while you are writing, afterward it will make it much easier to put it behind you.
6. TALK TO YOUR COUNSELOR OR THERAPIST
If you’ve tried all of the above and you still can’t figure out how to stop thinking about your scammer, it’s time to get help from your counselor or therapist. Talking to a professional, who is trained to respond with unbiased thoughts about your trauma and situation and are there to help you help yourself can also be very helpful.
If you do not yet have a trauma counselor or therapist here are two directories that you can use to find someone around the world:
7. RADICAL ACCEPTANCE
A big part of shifting your perspective is practicing radical acceptance, which is the equivalent of accepting that things have ended and that they ended the way they ended—regardless of how undesirable you found that outcome,
When you can radically accept what happened, you can take it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Your goal shifts from trying to figure out what went wrong—which is a goal that can never be met, to figuring out how to never let it happen again. Radical acceptance takes you out of the “what went wrong” loop and can lead to significant self-growth because gives you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
8. BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF
If thoughts of that person-who-shall-not-be-named still creep into your head, despite your best efforts, try not to beat yourself up over it. There is a catch-22 here—if you fixate on trying not to fixate, then you are fixating on fixating. Do not catastrophize your fixation, instead, focus on self-compassion by doing things that make you feel good. Whatever it may be, help yourself by loving yourself.
The present is real.
Live in the present.
How do you think you are doing – what are you still clinging to? How are you still clinging to your scam? Leave us a comment below?
Portions from WELL+GOOD, we thank them for their work!