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 RSN™ Psychology Of Scams: 10 Steps To Breaking Free & Recovering

Extracted and adapted from an article by Sharie Stines, PsyD, GoodTherapy.org – Copyright acknowledged – we thank the author for their scholarship

10 Steps To Breaking Free And Staying Free

Bonds occur in toxic relationships (such as with a romance scammer) and tend to be strengthened by inconsistent positive reinforcement — your hope of something better to come (a happy ending).

These Trauma Bonds occur in situations such as romance scams, abusive relationships, hostage situations, and incestuous relationships, but also in any ongoing attached relationship in which there is a great deal of pain (which can also be self-inflicted) interspersed with times of calm (or maybe just less pain). It is generally recognized as an addiction — the relationship promises much, gives fleeting feelings of utopia, and then it sucks away your very soul.

If you or someone you know has been in a romance scam relationship, you have witnessed the strength of this type of connection. Maybe you or someone you know is trying to get out, but seems incapable of leaving.

Breaking Bonds & Becoming Free

Here is advice on how to break free from this type of stranglehold:

  1. Make A Commitment To Live In Reality: If you find yourself wanting to fantasize about what could be or what you hope will be, stop. Remind yourself that you have made a commitment to live in truth. Even if you don’t choose to leave the relationship immediately, in the meantime you can at least remind yourself that you will stop fantasizing about what is not happening.
  2. Live In Real Time: That means stop holding on to what “could” or “will” happen tomorrow. Notice what is happening in the moment. Notice how trapped you feel. Notice how unloved you feel and how you have compromised your self-respect and self-worth for this relationship. Pay attention to your emotions. Stop hoping and waiting, and start noticing in real time what is happening and how it is affecting you.
  3. Live One Decision At A Time And One Day At A Time: Sometimes people scare themselves with all-or-nothing thinking. Don’t tell yourself things like, “I have to never talk to the toxic person again or else”; this is akin to trying to lose weight by telling yourself you can never eat chocolate again. While it is true that your relationship is an unhealthy one, you don’t need to make every encounter a do-or-die situation. Don’t scare yourself.
  4. Make Decisions That Only Support Your Self-Care: That is, do not make any decision that hurts you. This goes for emotional “relapses” as well. If you find yourself feeling weak, don’t mentally berate yourself, but rather talk to yourself in compassionate, understanding, and reflective ways. Remind yourself that you are a work in process and life is a journey. Do not make the uncaring decision to mentally beat yourself up. In every encounter you have with the object of your obsession, stop and think about each choice you make. Make choices that are only in your best interest.
  5. Start Feeling Your Emotions: Whenever you are away from the toxic person in your life and feel tempted to reach out to them for reassurance, stop. Consider writing your feelings down instead. Write whatever comes to you. This may help you to build inner strength. Learn to simply be with your emotions. You don’t need to run from them, hide from them, avoid them, or make them go away. Once you fully feel them, they may begin to subside. Remember: the only way out is through. For example:
    1. I feel ____.
    2. I miss ____.
    3. I wish I could be with ____ right now, but I am going to sit and write my feelings down instead.
    4. I am going to teach myself how to feel my way through the obsession, rather than turning to ____.”
  6. Learn To Grieve: Letting go of a toxic relationship and breaking a traumatic bond may be one of the hardest things you ever have to do. You cannot do it without honoring the reality you are losing something very valuable to you.
  7. Understand The “Hook”: Identify what, exactly, you are losing. It may be a fantasy, a dream, an illusion. Perhaps your partner had convinced you into believing they were going to fulfill some deep, unmet need. Once you can identify what this need (or hook) is, you can get down to the business of grieving. Grieving means (figuratively) holding your hands open and letting it go. You say goodbye to the notion the need you have may never be met. At a minimum, it will not be met by this relationship.
  8. Write A List Of Bottom-Line Behaviors For Yourself: Possible examples:
    1. I will not talk to scammers or strangers online.
    2. I will not argue with someone who has been drinking.
    3. I will take care of my own finances.
    4. I will not have conversations with anyone when I feel desperate (or defensive, or obsessive, etc.).Whatever your areas of concern, determine what you need to do to change and make those your bottom-line behaviors.
  9. Build Your Life: Little by little, start dreaming about your future for yourself (and your children, if you have them); in other words, make dreams that don’t involve your traumatic partner. Maybe you want to go to school, start a hobby, go to church, or join a club. Start making life-affirming choices for yourself that take you away from the toxic interactions that have been destroying your peace of mind.
  10. Build Healthy Connections: The only way to really free yourself from unhealthy connections is to start investing in healthy ones. Develop new close, connected, and bonded relationships that are not centered on fantasy or drama. Make these your “go-to” people and make sure they are real. It is extremely difficult to heal without support – join an RSN Support Group.Notice the people in your life who show you loving concern, and care and hang around with them as often as you can. Reach out for professional help as needed.

If you find yourself feeling weak, don’t mentally beat yourself up, but rather talk to your support group and assure yourself in a serious, compassionate, understanding, and reflective ways that you are going to be ok and make it through this. Remind yourself that you are a work in process and life is a journey. You can get through this!

Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams

RSN Team

a division of SCARS
Miami Florida U.S.A.



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FAQ: How Do You Properly Report Scammers?

It is essential that law enforcement knows about scams & scammers, even though there is nothing (in most cases) that they can do.

Always report scams involving money lost or where you received money to:

  1. Local Police – ask them to take an “informational” police report – say you need it for your insurance
  2. Your National Police or FBI (www.IC3.gov)
  3. The Scars Worldwide Reporting Network HERE or on www.Anyscam.com

This helps your government understand the problem, and allows law enforcement to add scammers on watch lists worldwide.

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Visit our NEW Main RSN Facebook page for much more information about scams and online crime: www.facebook.com/RSN.Main.News.And.Inromation.Home.Page


To learn more about SCARS visit www.AgainstRomanceScams.org

Please be sure to report all scammers HERE or on www.Anyscam.com

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SCARS|RSN™ RomanceScamsNow.com™ is the official knowledge and victims' support publication of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams™ Incorporated [SCARS]™ It is edited and published by the SCARS|RSN Team, a division of SCARS. SCARS is the world's leading anti-scam charitable nonprofit nongovernmental organization, based in Miami Florida U.S.A. Its founder has been involved in combating online fraud since 1991. SCARS™ - the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. is a charitable nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) dedicated to advocating victim's causes and changing government and law enforcement attitudes toward online fraud for good! Please join us in becoming a member of SCARS - it's free! Add your voice so that the world will listen at last - just go to www.AgainstScams.org. The SCARS|RSN website and all of our publications (including social media) are maintained by our own staff employees and volunteers to provide you the most up to date information about scams & scammers from around the world. We show you how to avoid them or recover from them. SCARS is the only registered online crime victims' assistance & support organization in the world. Be sure to report scammers here. Also, visit our main Facebook page for more information about romance scams.