Archives for 2009

Circling the Promised Land

Reflections on the year lived…isn’t that what December 31st was all about before it was about party horns and too much champagne?

For me, sometimes it’s good and hearty reflections…satisfaction at goals reached and lives touched. Other times it’s sadness, frustration or confusion.

These past two years have been all of that for me…hearty and hell…so many of your lives touched and yet so many in my personal life gone–taken–dead. When you lose someone so close (my mother, my pet therapy dog, and Cody my foster son) it makes this life so much more real.

I don’t know if YOU see your life as real as I sometimes see it. Do you see what I see when I read your letters, hear your stories, and imagine your relationships and pain?

Many women want ‘The Promised Land.’ To them that could be healing or maybe that’s being with him…but so many are always looking for happiness and thinking ‘The Promised Land’ is just around the corner.

~ “The Promised Land always lies on the other side of the wilderness.” ~

(Havelock Ellis)

Oh…the wilderness…the path of pain–that road that requires that you leave him–that you face your own fear or loneliness. The street that makes you wonder if you’ll ever find another one to love, have sex again, or feel real joy in your heart with.

The wilderness that meanders through all the places you have been this year…the valley of truth, the river of denial, the desert of lies…

Don’t spend time regretting whatever 2009 was for you—if you couldn’t leave him yet, if you picked yet another pathological, or if you’re still not over him yet. Regret is so wasteful of human energy.

A wise man said “Humans grow thru the metabolism of their own experience.” What you lived through was not wasted. It’s part of how you will grow and how 2010 will be a healthier and healing year for you.

Women ask me all the time, “What can I do to help other women in the area of pathological love relationships?” Your own self growth and healing is the greatest service you can give the world and other women. What you invest in yourself is never wasted or lost. God is the God of Economy–He recycles everything–even your pain. Your pain heals the next woman.

I believe that which is why we created the Coaching program so you can recycle your own pain and help the next woman.

(Our last and final coaching training is Jan 26-31 in Clearwater, FL. )

Many therapists are also survivors too and have made entire practices into outreaches from their own pain. They stopped circling ‘The Promised Land’ and moved through it to a place of helping other heal. (Our Therapist Training is Jan 29-31 in Clearwater, FL).

To stop the circling of the promised land and to help you actually get there is why we developed our retreats and phone coaching–so that your pain recycled becomes hope to the next woman. Nothing is lost. Pain that is not actualized–that isn’t converted into wisdom is just pain. It was useless suffering that did not manifest itself into something larger than itself.

In 2010, I believe many of you will stop circling ‘The Promised Land’ and will come out of the wilderness you’ve been in. And when you do…we’re right here celebrating with you–your rite of passage into a new life. May 2010 be the healing year you have been waiting for. Let us know how we can help you begin that!

“I believe that what it is I have been called to do will make itself known when I have made myself ready.” (J. Phillips)

About Face: Changing the Direction From Which You Seek Happiness

This time of year has it’s own ‘internal reflecting’ which guides us to dig in, evaluate and give thanks. We ponder ideas, gather insights that might have eluded us during the busyness of the past 11 months, and slow down to look inward and receive the Light we may not receive at other times during the year. I hope this week’s newsletter is a little piece of Light that you are open to receive.

Last Christmas, I got a book written by one of my favorite spiritual writers–Thomas Keating. It’s called ‘The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation.’ Profoundly, he reminds us that we spend much of our lives looking for happiness through avenues that can never produce it. Our misery is produced by looking for love in all the wrong places, as the song goes. Nothing can be truer when it comes to pathology. Pathology is wired to produce misery, not happiness. Everyone has the same response to pathology: they are harmed, miserable, and eventually try to flee. It’s a true indicator of seeking happiness from a source unable to deliver it.

Your idea of happiness was probably initially developed around the relationship or the fantasy that was painted for you about him, the relationship, or your future. Instead of understanding that happiness had been sought from someone (whom by the nature of their disorder could never deliver happiness) you were held captive in the compulsion of repeating the same scenario with him and still trying to find happiness in the very person who is hard-wired to NOT produce happiness!

Not all of this seeking happiness in the wrong place is the result of his pathology. Some of it is the result of our own unknowing about where happiness is found. It is not found in someone else. Instead, it is found inside of ourselves rooted in our own spirituality through God. It isn’t about them. It’s about us.

Keating says, “What we experience is our desperate search for happiness where it cannot possibly be found. The key to our happiness is not lost outside somewhere in the grass–it is not lost outside of ourselves. It was lost inside ourselves when we began looking for it in someone else. We need to look for it where it can actually BE found.

The chief characteristic of the human condition is that everyone is looking for this key and nobody knows where to find it. The human condition is thus poignant in the extreme. If you want help as you look for the key in the wrong place, you can get plenty of help because everybody is looking for it in the wrong place too! They are looking for it where there is more pleasure, security, power, and acceptance by others. We have a sense of solidarity in the search yet without any possibility of finding what we are looking for.

The religions of the world have discovered the insight that (non-pathological) human beings are designed for unlimited happiness, the enjoyment of truth, and love without end. This spiritual hunger is part of our nature as beings with a spiritual dimension. Here we are, with an unbounded desire for happiness and not the slightest idea of where to look for it.

While we may certainly recognize that looking for happiness in alcohol or drugs is looking in the wrong place, do we recognize that looking for happiness even in relationships can be the wrong place? Certainly looking for love in pathology would never produce the key you were seeking because it cannot be found where you were seeking it. But sometimes people even look for happiness in what appears to be the RIGHT places–marriage, children, higher education, careers, service to others only again to find that they are still seeking happiness from the wrong direction.

In religious language the word ‘repent’ means to ‘turn away from.’ And I like that concept even from a psychological growth stand point–that as you find your own path of recovery from the aftermath of the pathological love relationship, your recovery calls you to ‘turn away from’ the very thing that has produced so much pain for you–the relationship, the choices, the person. In essence, in order for you to find happiness in yourself, God, and in your own (and often single) life, you must ‘change the direction from which you are seeking happiness.’

This is especially true in this season in which everything in you wants to ‘turn back’ to him, to the routine, the perceived comfort–just to get through the tough times of the holidays. Changing the direction from which you seek happiness is embracing the truth that happiness cannot be found in pathology. God did not create you for pathology. He created you for Himself–for peace, love, and joy. It’s not there and will never be there, even if it IS the holidays.

Over the years I have become pretty good at picking up on those who will ‘get it’ and move on and never repeat the pathological love relationship dynamic again and those who WILL, unfortunately, not change directions from which they are seeking happiness. They might change the FACE from whom they seek happiness, but they are still facing the same direction seeking it. The Institute has been involved in helping hundreds and hundreds of people ‘change the direction from which they are seeking happiness’ and how to find recovery, healing, growth, and better choices in themselves. To that end, we are always consciously trying to expand the way we meet the needs of our growing population of wounded readers and bring a wider comprehensive approach to your own health, well being, and healing from the aftermath of pathological love relationships. We hope that we have touched your recovery in a positive way in 2009. We hope that we have helped you ‘change direction’ on your path. If we haven’t, we’re still here and 2010 is a great year for you to recover in!

As we wind down the holidays, the new year always births in me a new hope. Although there is much turmoil in the world right now, be reminded again, that we can always change the direction from which we have been seeking happiness and focus on a brighter future for ourselves and with ourselves. We look forward to being a bright part of your future in 2010. Thank you for entrusting your care and recovery to us this past year. We do not take that privilege lightly.

Stress and the Holidays

The holidays are stressful under the best of situations. Add to it a dangerous and pathological relationships and you can have a prescription for **guaranteed** unhappiness.

The pathological relationship never lies dormant during the holidays. It’s an opportunity to re-contact you–of course “just to wish you a Merry Christmas.” If you haven’t already, do read The Institute’s materials regarding our ‘Starve the Vampire’ teaching on no contact! He has a million hooks he will use to get you back in…here’s one!


A text message of Happy Holidays is not good cheer. It’s a hook. A Christmas Card is not a mass card to everyone–it is a targeted approach for you. A gift left on your door step isn’t a thoughtful gift–it’s a manipulation because being the good mannered girl you are, you’ll call and thank him and then he’ll have you on the phone…and it all goes downhill from there.

Then there’s the mistletoe, and the date for New Years Eve, and the gift he left for your child or your parents…The holidays are one BIG OP-POR-TU-NITY for Mr. Opportunistic.

The No Contact rule still applies and he’ll be testing your boundaries to see if it applies during the holidays. If it DOESN’T apply and you responded to him or sent him a text/card/call, you have just taught him where your loop hole is. You also said something very LOUD to him. You just screamed in his ear ” I’m Lonely! Come snuggle with me.” And you know what he’s thinking, “You don’t have to ask TWICE!”

Ladies, Christmas is ONE day of the year that is laced with a lot of triggering memories. Maybe from childhood where you believe “miracles happen on Christmas” or “everyone should be together then” or the sights, smells, and memories of past Christmases with him are rehashing in your mind. Don’t stay stuck in that ‘air brushed Christmas memory’–how about you pull out your memory list from the other 363 days of the year and how he behaved then? Not one night with the twinkle of Christmas tree lights and a ribbon on a gift. That doesn’t make a pathological man stable!

Get out of the fantasy. Christmas has a way of hypnotizing women into the fantasy of his positive behavior and his lack of pathology. Nothing changed because we hit Christmas season. It’s just a BIGGER opportunity for him to hook you. If you’re still with the pathological person, they can be very sabotaging at this time of year wanting to strip every little piece of joy you could get from the season away. They get drunk, pick fights, say mean things to your family, yell at the kids, and don’t participate. Don’t react. Have a great Christmas while he wallows around in that puddle of pathology.

You know one of the things we found out in our research? You ladies tested unbelievably high in ‘sentimentality’. What are the holidays all about? SENTIMENT! If your sentiment is on caffeine, what do you think it will do? Be restrained or have a knee jerk reaction because all that sentiment is coursing through your veins?

One slip up now could cost you a year of trying to get rid of him again. Call a support person and tell them you VOW to them not to have contact this season. Then make plans to fill up your time so it’s not even a possibility.

I have ‘lectured’ our readers about loneliness because this 4-inch stack of research sitting on my desk that you ladies filled out, tells me that you lapse and lapse and lapse again when you feel lonely. Holidays induce loneliness. Plan ahead and safeguard. “I was lonely” is not an excuse for starting something that will once again destroy your life!”

Instead, do something wonderful with your kids. Get outside, take a walk, go to a movie with friends, do some scrapbooking, get some of our books to read, go to a nursing home and visit someone! Sit in a chapel alone and count blessings, walk your dog more, go to the gym! Do anything except have a knee jerk reaction to your excessive sentimentality gene!!

Dangerous Liaisons: How To NOT Go Back/Hook Up During The Holidays

Here’s a secret: “Even if you go back, you’re still alone. You’ve been alone the entire time because by nature of their disorder, they can’t be there for you. So you’re alone–now, in the holidays, or with them. With them, you have more drama, damage and danger. Your choice….”

People relapse and go back into relationships more from Thanksgiving through Valentines Day than any other time of the year. Why? So many great holidays to fake it in! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, V-Day….then PHOOEY! You’re out. Why not be out now and stay out and save face. You’re not fooling anyone…not yourself, them, or your family and friends.

Holidays are extremely stressful times. It’s a time when it is more likely

  • For domestic violence to occur
  • For dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional
  • People drink more
  • People binge eat because of the stress
  • Some feel pressured to ‘be in a relationship’ during the holidays and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons to ‘just get through the holidays’
  • To overspend
  • To not get enough rest
  • It’s an idealistic time when people have more depression and anxiety than any other time of the year. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, to cope they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not.

People put extraordinary pressure on themselves thinking their lives ‘should be’ the picture postcards and old movies we watch this time of year. You can’t make a ‘picture postcard memory with a psychopath or a narcissist!’ Here’s a mantra to say out loud for yourself “I’m pretending that staying/going back with a psychopath/narcissist will make my holidays better.” Pretty ridiculous thought, isn’t it? Something happens when you say the REAL thing out loud. It takes all the romanticization and fantasy out of the thought and smacks a little reality in your face.

“I want to be with a psychopath/narcissist for the holiday.” Say that three times to yourself out loud….

NO!! That’s not what you want. That’s what you GOT. You want to be with a nice man/woman/person for the holidays. As you VERY well know, they’re not it.

“I want to share my special holidays with my special psychopath.” ??? Nope. That’s not it either. But that’s what’s going to happen unless you buck up and start telling yourself the truth. It’s OK to be by yourself for the holidays. It sure beats pathology as a gift.

Here’s a real gift for you–some tips!


  • Stop idealizing–you are who you are, it is what it is. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. In fact, everyone acts WORSE during the holidays. It is the peak of dysfunction. Accept yourself and others for who they are.
  • Don’t feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself you have choices and that the word ‘No’ is a complete sentence.
  • Take quiet time during the season or you’ll get run over by the sheer speed of the holidays. Pencil it in like you would any other appointment. Buy your own present now–some bubble bath and spend quality time with some bubbles by yourself. Light a candle, find 5 things to be grateful for. Repeat often.
  • Take same-sex friends to parties and don’t feel OBLIGATED to go with someone you don’t want to go with. People end up in the worse binds of going to parties with others and get stuck in relationships they don’t want to be in because of it. Find a few other friends who are willing to be ‘party partners’ during the holidays.
  • Give to others in need. The best way to get out of your own problems is to give to others whose problems exceed yours. Give to a charity, feed the homeless, buy toys for kids.
  • Find time for spiritual reflection. It’s the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a service, pray, meditate, reflect.
  • Pick ONE growth oriented issue you’d like to focus on for 2009 and begin cultivating it in your mind–look for resources you can use to kick start your own growth on January 1.
  • Plant joy–in your self, in your life and in others.

I am so passionate about this subject and concerned for your wellbeing this holiday that I have made an mp3 message for you. To listen to my 15 min broadcast about protecting yourself this holiday season from relapse and hook-ups, click here:

Book Excerpt – WWLP2

Favorably Fortunate
Women are often ‘success-struck’ by the psychopath’s true or surface success. This blinds them to his psychopathy. There are millions of pathological personalities who destroy people’s lives—with or without breaking the law. These people unfortunately never go to prison, so their true criminal nature is never unmasked. They are outwardly successful, and can be seen in high-ranking CEO positions, politics, and prestigious positions in law, medicine, and the military. When trusting women expect psychopaths to be criminals, they don’t look for them in the pulpit, the penthouse corner office or on Capitol Hill.

Cleckley noted psychopaths seek out positions with power over others:
  • medical doctors
  • psychiatrists or other positions within other fields of psychology
  • religious leaders
  • political leaders
  • lawyers, etc.
Pathological power-mongrels seek any place they can have a client, a constituent, a patient, a congregation, or a following. Some career titles such as medicine, psychology, and theology imply empathy. This assumption allows conscience-less psychopaths to hide among truly empathetic professionals. Other popular careers psychopaths use to ‘cloak’ their lack of empathy include politics, law, and criminal justice. The psychopaths blend into human service fields so well they are often ‘missed’—even by their own colleagues.
However, all psychopaths are not successful. Ironically, the women in our survey met up with a slightly different career-type psychopath. I want the reading public to know, however, many psychopaths are very successful. The more successful they are, the better they blend in, and the harder it is for anyone to recognize or believe they are as pathological as the day is long.
Slick But Not Always Violent
Women don’t recognize the psychopath for what he is because they assume people with dangerous disorders are always violent. As many of our clients can attest, there are many ways to harm a loved one without actually beating or killing them. Though he never laid a hand on them, the psychological, spiritual, sexual, financial, or emotional harm he did to them generated long-term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other disorders. Very often the victims describe this harm as bad as death.
Without physical violence in the relationship, many women miss other signs of pathology that could have clued them in. Women blame either the relationship dynamics or themselves, completely missing his psychopathy. She never saw him for what he really was until she was extremely damaged.
Swaggering Swindlers
A woman didn’t suspect his psychopathy because she never expected a man to wipe her out financially. She believes men are there to be mutually supportive including financially, so she didn’t look for a financial rip-off artist. Many psychopaths are con-men or swindlers that confiscate financial resources, help themselves to life savings, steal stock pensions and yet never get caught. One of the signs of pathology is the ‘parasitic’ lifestyle in which they live off others, even if they don’t need the money. This past year, the news has been filled with examples of psychopathic con-men, white collar snakes and swindlers. Almost 90% of the women coming out of relationships with psychopaths have gone from six figure incomes to financial destitution. Many can’t understand why he took their money and ran when he had the ability to earn his own or had his own money. Before you judge them, remember Bernie Madoff and his astounding financial salesmanship.

Professionals in the Helping Industries and Their Personal Pathological Relationships

Are you a doctor, nurse, therapist, social worker,female clergy, medical personnel, paramedic, teacher, psychiatrist, Certified Nursing Assistant, day care worker, guidance counselor, speech therapist, missionary, physical therapist, psychology grad student, art therapist, writer, artist, musician, work in parole or probation, or work with at-risk kids? Welcome aboard to the group of people MOST LIKELY to end up in a relationship with a pathological narcissist, sociopath or psychopath. Can your career be a risk factor for finding/staying with a narcissist or psychopath? Unfortunately, YES!

Look at that list again…all the ‘hearts of gold’ kind of people–the salt of the earth women–the ‘Mother Teresas’ of the world–AT RISK for attracting and staying with dangerous, dark, and pathological men. Seems unfair doesn’t it? Normally, narcissists and psychopaths don’t migrate to their own kind and in the rare occasions when they do, you end up with a sensationalized case of a new Bonnie & Clyde. Yet in most cases, they migrate to you!

During a recent media interview I said, “I think understanding this represents one of the largest breakthroughs in our understanding of dangerous intimate relationship dynamics. For so long we understood him but we didn’t really understand her. She was wrongly labeled codependent but codependency treatment didn’t help her. She was wrongly labeled a relationship or even sex addict and addiction treatment didn’t help her. She was wrongly labeled as mutually pathological and yet she was never diagnosed with her own personality disorder. Nothing fit and nothing explained her until we found the missing key…her ‘off-the-richtor-scale traits’ that put it all in perspective. Once we can understand her, we can help her.

What we do understand is that by the nature of your own tender and helpful personality traits you migrated to a career in which you could use your abundant traits of empathy, helpfulness, compassion, resourcefulness, cooperation, and tolerance. Where best do these great humanitarian traits get used? In helping professions like social work, ministry, nursing, other medical professions, psychology, teaching, child workers…all people with big hearts trying to give out of their own abundance of empathy and helpfulness. By virtue that you even ENDED up in one of these professions means you are probably more at-risk for these types of relationships than others. In almost ALL circumstances, the women from these relationships are either IN these types of professions or are trying to get in to them (they are in school or trying to move out of their job into a more giving field like these fields).

Many of the women who are in these types of professions ended up with the narcissist or psychopath during the course of their actual jobs. Nurses hooked up with patients, doctors married someone they met in the field, psychologists dated mentally ill men, missionaries dated someone from one of the street missions, prison workers hooked up with inmates, psych nurses dated psych patients. Every once in a while we got stories from very left-brained women like CPA’s but even then, she’s not usually a typical left-brainer. She’s still got a lot of the abundant humanitarian traits or she hates what she’s doing for a job and wants to leave and go into a care giving field.

This has HUGE implications for intervention…don’t you think? If by nature we know that women with SKY HIGH temperament traits of too much empathy, too much tolerance, too much cooperation end up in jobs in which empathy/tolerance/cooperation is the #1 skill, then we also know THESE are the women most likely to go on to empathize, tolerate and cooperate with severe pathology. Knowing that women in these professions are more likely to have the high risk personality traits means education can begin within these professions. Women need to know that sometimes even their career selection is indicative of what their relationship selection might be as well. I doubt any colleges are going to put in their Academic Handbooks “**Caution, This Profession May Be Hazardous to Your Relationship Health” !! Yet, it’s the beginning of how to think about ‘WHO’ needs this education BEFORE they end up in pathological love relationships.

Once we know ‘who’ this is, the next question is how best to reach these identified groups of women. Who BEST to reach out to their own field than the nurses, teachers, therapists, social workers, etc. who ARE the women who have been touched by these destructive relationships? Why? In the research, almost all the women indicated career and financial harm by the pathological. NO ONE gets out unscathed!

This is a career risk for women. Many women are demoted or lose their jobs because of their inability to concentrate or he sabotages her work situation. Others have lost their entire life savings putting them in financial ruin. Some have lost their licenses–an incredible amount of college work down the tubes. Doctors that are so fraught with PTSD have stepped down to nursing. Attorneys have stepped down to paralegals. Teachers down to teaching assistants. Professors work in book stores. This is why teaching YOUR industry about what these men can do to their productivity, their futures, and their careers is important.

My hope is that someone from every field we have identified as a potential source will become an educational voice in their industry. Are you an Alumni from somewhere? There’s your market…educate your own. Protect YOUR FIELD by peer education–by writing or speaking about these issues because you are NOT the only one in your field that this has happened to OR will happen to. Your field is an identified ‘at risk field’ that needs what you know!

Sandra on the Radio and on Video

Listen to Sandra’s radio and video interviews:

Other Mentions of Sandra on the radio:

Why SHE Hits: Domestic Violence by the Woman – An Evening with Sandra L. Brown

Love Lessons: the Moving Tale of a Mother Who Tried to Love a RAD Child from Russia – Part III

Excerpt from the Foreward from “Love Lessons,” a Soon-to-be-Published Book

Part III – October 2009

The “wounded healer” is a prevailing archetype of our time. If and when we can honor our path to wholeness with integrity and fierce honesty and love and compassion, faith and humor, we can then help others to do the same on their journey. There is symmetry in balance in coming to the conclusion, that those, who can most help the hurt and the traumatized children among us, are those who have taken on their own journey, healed their own trauma, and left no stone unturned.

As Jody writes about Victoria:

She is fighting a battle, daily, to free her heart. She didn’t even know she had a heart at war. It’s the only heart she has ever known. That sounds eerily familiar to me. This journey is the exact one that I was on. She was trying to free her heart of the very same things I was, so that her capacity to feel love and express empathy would increase. I don’t know who could understand and know the pain I have felt except for Victoria her. And I was raised in a home with loving parents and a family. She was a lone orphan living in an institution. Five thousand miles away in an institution. Our paths cross and we helped each other fix what we could not do for ourselves.

“From his mom.” she replied, like I should have already known. “That’s where everyone learns love lessons.”

What are the conditions that precipitate or necessitate a thorough self examination are not of the greatest importance. Only that we do it, and continue to do it, until we are done, and as it comes up again and again. More encouragement, landmarks and guideposts along this journey, are often necessary and always welcome. Moms and dads often report feeling lost.

I thank Jody and Jason for sharing all of the paths and passageways along their journey with Victoria us all. I hope it is of help to parents and professionals alike.

Daniel Siegel, MD, and his colleagues have made great contributions to our understanding of Developmental Neuropsychology. Through advances in technology, this research area has been able to demonstrate that theories of attachment are hard wired in brain development. His findings support his conclusion that the “coherent narrative” of the mother, (of the primary bonding figure) is the single greatest factor that determines whether the child will be able to successfully bond and attach to the mother, to the bonding figure.

Fonagy from Great Britain have shown that the attachment pattern of an adopted child will mirror that of the adoptive parent after 3 months of placement.

When children from hard places are taken into the home, what appeared even at deep levels as the “coherent narrative” of the mother and father, can be terribly shaken up by these children. The children’s trauma history is so powerful and pervasive; It is routinely filled with rejection, trauma, in utero drug and alcohol exposure; exposure to violence, and/or overcrowded orphanages. Therefore, their core belief system has concluded I will not bond. I will not be loved. It is safer to reject, before I am rejected…. AGAIN!

Helping birth children make a safe passage from childhood to increasing levels of healthy independence, while remaining attached to family, can give a parent an understandable sense of accomplishment, pride and a certain security in one’s ability as a mother and father. Parenting traumatized, and attachment challenged children will provide the opposite experience of oneself as a parent.

Mothers like Miss Bean, who have raised her sons so well, are qualified to bear witness to the fire, that burns when a “good home” takes in a child from a “hard place.”. The courage required of such a journey is unparalleled. She and her husband, Jason, survived, and can now tell the story so that mothers, fathers, and professionals anywhere can learn as witness to this journey. And since mothers, fathers, and even professionals are routinely if not always heard to say that they need information about this challenge, it is my hope that this can be a resource for adoptive mothers, and those, who try to support these families.

Understanding and treating Attachment disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Attachment challenges, or problems resulting from pervasive sanctuary trauma, of the very young, have had a short and controversial history in psychiatry and psychology. Research literature has focused on attachment as a relationship between two people. Some in the treatment field have placed the onus of change on the traumatized child. Thus, treatment and research have often diverged. Universities study the attachment relationship to great gains in understanding. Treatment focuses on attachment disorder as a problem that the “traumatized” child brings to the relationship.

In a way, this different focus for treatment providers is understandable. A loving family, with great morals and values takes a child in. The child rejects the families love. Is that the families’ fault? No it is not. And yet, what experience and perspective are teaching us, is that taking in children from hard places, will often times, test a marriage, a relationship, a parent, to its very core. It is said that adoption of traumatized and attachment challenged children results in an 85% divorce rate. This seems believable. If there is a chink in the armor within a parent or within a family, it will be identified, exploited, amplified and exacerbated by taking these children into one’s home. Families, who take these children in need to be understood, supported and applauded for the challenges they take on for the future of society.

I knew it was difficult to understand from the outside looking in but the suspicion was hurtful. Other people thought they could provide what I am not giving. So did I, once upon a time. Just more love. I have loved this girl more than anyone despite what I could not do for her. This love brought her to our home. This love allowed her to stay. This love will mend her. This love will allow her to love others. And despite what they thought, they had not seen her love. – p.150

Should these families be vilified, ridiculed and unappreciated? Or should these families be seen as the last man on the dike, trying to hold the water back, before it blows for good! Should we be GRATEFUL? Why are these ladies judged so harshly..

James Heckman, Nobel Prize winner for Economics, 2000, demonstrated that in North America at the year 2000 about 10% of our families are high risk families and use up the vast majority of community mental health resources in this country. If current trends in birth rates continue, then by the turn of the century, we may have 25% of the population at high risk. We can not support a democracy if ¼ of the population is at risk. As Dr. Bruce Perry demonstrates, most of our monies spent on “changing” people are spent when children are adolescents and young adults, i.e. once they enter the criminal justice system, and to a lesser extent psychiatric hospitals. If we want to make a difference, then we need to put our resources to work at the beginning of life. Ninety percent of brain development occurs in first 3 to 4 years of life. Personality and core beliefs are formed by that age. The attachment patterns observed at 12 to 18 months of age, will prevail across the lifespan, barring the untimely death of a parent, or major change in life circumstances, illness, poverty, violence, addictions while the child is still very young.

Families, who take on damaged, neglected and rejected children, are working for all of us, and for our children’s future. As an industry, we simply have to do a better job of preparing families for the challenges routinely inherent in adoption and foster care. As a people and a society, we need to encourage and accommodate any and all willing families, who are able to do this work or act of love.

In “Love Lessons,” we do take the intimate journey with Jody Bean, her husband Jason, her daughter, Victoria, her family and her therapist, through the challenges and traps inherent in bringing a traumatized child “home,” and keeping her home. It is challenging, but both mother and child can be transformed in the process of going through the fire. Miss Bean shows us the way in, and the way through. I thank her and
everyone around her for making this journey successfully, and furthermore for making it available to the rest of us.

Deciding to Not Stay Where You Are At

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (To us, this includes Pathological Love Relationship Awareness)

‘The First Step Towards Getting Somewhere is to DECIDE That You Are Not Going To Stay Where You Are’

(Anny Jacoby)

I just loved when I read this quote…it reminds me of what we have been talking about now for months—since I began the Living the Gentle Life series which has been about the recovery from PTSD and Pathological Love Relationships.

I get emails that say “I can’t leave because ________.” There are lots of reasons that people (men and women) feel trapped in pathological love relationships–finances, children, health, lack of job/education, religious beliefs, family attitude, fear of harm, and their own damage from PTSD. But the first step towards any kind of internal shift where something else might be a possibility is beginning with knowing you are not going to stay where you are.

The external reasons of ‘why’ you are still there are just that…external. The paradigm shift starts with the internal, the decision you make that you are not going to stay where you are: emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, or sexually. What happens outside of us in recovery first starts with the shift internally before it is ever manifested in our lives. We won’t follow a path that isn’t developed internally first. We’ll end up only seeing the road blocks of the external which doesn’t help us.

Over the 20 years of working in pathology and victimology I have heard every kind of story about these relationships: from the most deviant kind of mind control to attempted murder, to actual murder. Financial hostage taking, rape, assaults, stalked, women put into comas, people alienated from their children, people medically harmed, reputations and careers ruined, people locked in their homes or psyches for decades. I’ve heard all of it. The emails

start with “But, I can’t and then (the reason).” But yet, they have read our magazine, are on our newsletter, or are emailing us so obviously something inside is shifting–somewhere they are deciding they are not going to stay where they are—even mentally they are moving and changing. Their ‘Yes, but’ might be a reason to them but I see beyond it. I think they are already deciding to eventually not be where they are.

Yes, there are safety and housing barriers–he won’t leave. But every community has DV services or DV housing most likely exists even a town away.

Yes, there are emotional barriers–you have PTSD. But every community has DV counseling services that are free, churches have support groups, community mental health counseling for you or your children is free or very low cost.

Yes, there are starting over barriers—when you leave with only what’s in your suitcase. But DV services and other non-profits offer furniture, clothing and house hold items to those starting over.

Yes, there are legal barriers–you don’t have an attorney. Self help, women’s organizations, non-profits, DV agencies have information on Legal Aid and OTHER types of pro-bono services if you don’t qualify for Legal Aid.

Yes, there are other case-specific barriers–there are so many issues to manage at once. But women’s org, DV agencies and other non-profits have case workers assigned to you so you don’t have to do it all yourself.

You only have to first decide “That you are not going to stay where you are at.” That’s the first step of the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean you leave tomorrow–that means you shift internally–that you open the emotional door of possibility that you will not always be where you are today.

The Institute is not a crisis program so we can’t help you ‘leave’ per se. You need to call agencies where you are at because it’s unethical for Cyber-Programs to be involved in that level of care when we cannot be face-to-face. However, there are lots of things we can do to help prepare you to make that move OR after you have left and are ready to heal.

October is DV Awareness Month and I stop to give tribute and memory to those patients of mine who have died because they believed they couldn’t do anything about their situation or they under-estimated his pathology (or her pathology). In honor of all those who have been harmed, alive or not, we remember you this month and send ‘possibility’ to you that your life can and will be different. I don’t say that flippantly–I too have experienced a lot of pain when I see patients further harmed so I say it from my own experience.

The Institute has helped thousands of people make that paradigm shift internally so they could evidently make it externally. We hope you’ll be next. Instead of sending us an email that says ‘why’ your external reason is for not being able to leave right now, use that energy instead to open yourself to the possibility of what it would be like to leave, begin again, feel something, grow, get your life back, love again. Take a journal and write about that possibility. Use your energy not to talk about the staying, but the growing. We believe you will get there!

Psychology Today Column

Sandra writes a column on Pathological Relationships for Psychology Today. Read the latest entry at:


Retreat Descriptions

Retreat 2009 Descriptions

Retreats are 5 days/ 4 nights and include brand new beautiful accommodations, your workshop training with two coaches, any handouts, Asheville airport pick up and drop off.  test

Reducing the Emotional Affects of a Pathological Parent on Children’

Rebecca P. a children’s Behavioral Analyst is helping YOU learn how to reduce the negative effects of the pathologicals parenting on your child! She will help you develop a personalized behavior plan just for your children. Learn how to protect your child from the long term devastation of pathological parenting and how to quickly bring your child back to equilibrium after visits. STOP allowing your child to be a PAWN! Learn:

  • The 4 functions of Behavior
  • The 7 Parental Mistakes
  • Skills to Increase Cooperation
  • Developing Your Child’s Unique Behavior Plan
  • And much more!

(Sorry, limited to 6 participants only!)

Moving on: Advanced Approaches to Healthier Relationships’

To get more, you have to be more. This retreat will help you promote your own advancement for living and developing a higher functioning life without the pathological/ abusive man.

  • Increasing your joy of this present moment–learning to manage intrusive thoughts
  • Practical methods of achieving your personal and relationship goals
  • Increasing hope for your future
  • Developing healthier life skills through self examination and establishing your own future lifestyle choices on ‘How to Spot a Healthy Relationship’

Taught by the Cheryl, our resident ‘Positive Motivational Trainer’ — she will rewire your view of your life and potential to have you excited to move forward in your own recovery!

Sandra will lead groups on managing ‘hang over’ symptoms such as intrusive thoughts and more.

Healing the Aftermath of Pathological Love Relationships’

This is our hallmark retreat focused on helping you understand the dynamics of your relationship, pinpoint your super traits as to why you were attracted to and tolerant of pathological people, and what you need to do in order to heal.

  • Identifying personality disorders
  • Hard-wiring of pathology
  • Understanding intense attachment to pathologicals
  • Bad Relationship Choices
  • How to break up and stay gone!

We ran this retreat all year long in 2008! Always a great seller and a great healer! Come join, Carol, one of The Institute’s first support care coaches who have been with The Institute for quite a while. She leads her own Dangerous Man workshops, groups, and coaching! (This retreat will also be taught through out the year by other Institute Faculty) Sandra will lead a few of the groups as well.

(Sorry, limited to 6 participants only!)

‘Boundaries for Pathological Relationship Prevention’

At the heart of what contributed to ending up in a pathological love relationship is the absence of healthy and consistent boundaries. From our research, every person in pathological relationships ended up there because of a lapse in boundaries or the absence of them to begin with. The first foundation of recovering is establishing boundaries.

  • What are they?
  • Are you selfish for having them?
  • How to you have healthy boundaries without becoming a bully.
  • How are boundary violators LOOKING FOR you because of your weak boundaries?
  • Develop healthy boundaries with your family, friends, work and partners
  • What kind of boundary violations do pathological use? Then how do they ‘up’ their violations from there?

Never be targeted again based on your lack of boundaries! A MUST WORKSHOP for every woman healing from
pathological relationships. If you don’t have this, you won’t have healthy relationships. Enjoy the group process, journaling, role playing, and DVD training series as
well! Taught by various Institute Faculty members.

How to Spot a Dangerous Partner’

Dangerousness is not just violence — it’s getting involved with someone who has a permanent personality disorder with the inability to sustain change or develop insight.

  • What are the EIGHT types of pathologicals?
  • How can you learn to spot them?
  • Why is pathology so destructive to normal people?
  • What are the signs of a bad dating choice?
  • What in your HISTORY has made you prone to selecting and be targeted by dangerous people?

Taught by our own Rachele M., a Life Coach & Trainer, you will come away with a clear understanding of pathology, dangerous partners, how to spot and how to leave! Sandra will lead the groups on Formation of Pathology in others.

‘Moving Beyond the Pain of Intrusive Thoughts from Pathological Relationships’

Taught by Sallie H, she will explain how painful intrusive thoughts, obsessions about him, the relationship, and cognitive dissonance all entrap women within cycles of conflictive thinking about her pathological mate. The number one complaint by women is the inability to control her intrusive and obsessive thoughts. She can often hold both thoughts of awe and dread simultaneously creating enormous anxiety for her. Other forms of treatment may be been ineffective in helping her stop thinking about him in loving and longing ways. She is trapped between reality and fantasy unable to free her self. This retreat willaddress methods that help to:

  • Move beyond the pain of conflictive thinking
  • Discover ways and methods to overcome intrusive, plaguing, and debilitative thoughts
  • Develop Maintenance Program for mental soundness
  • Learn Spiritual Insights for peace

$550 per person. Payment plans available.

Retreats are 5 days/ 4 nights and include brand new beautiful accommodations, your workshop training with two coaches, any handouts, Asheville airport pick up and drop off.

View Our Retreat Center

Download a Retreat Application here

Email completed application to:

Love Lessons: the Moving Tale of a Mother Who Tried to Love a RAD Child from Russia – Part II

Excerpt from the Foreward from “Love Lessons,” a Soon-to-be-Published Book

Part II – September 2009

What Miss Bean and the best research universities are telling us now, is that there is a path to redemption, even at these lowest moments. What Dr. Foster Cline discovered and taught after decades of working with these families, is that there are two things that make a difference for families that survive and succeed with the attachment challenged / traumatized child: A sense of faith, and a sense of humor. Miss Bean is shaken to the very foundations of her faith as she takes the necessary, fiercely and brutally honest look at her own history. Thank God that her faith was rooted in a secure foundation for she was shaken to her core. Because of this she was able to heal, and to accept herself as people with a strong faith in a loving Creator and Savior are able to do. As Dr. Purvis has taught, each of us can earn a “healthy, secure attachment pattern.” Sometimes a healthy marriage or attachment in adolescence and adulthood can help to achieve that. Even with that, many of us need to go back and resolve and grieve the unresolved hurt and trauma from our past. As experience has proven, it takes about 6 months to 2 years of a fiercely honest review of our childhood and past. The goal is not to stop at anger, projection and blame. The goal of this review and self examination is to keep our eye on developing a sense of forgiveness, and even blessedly a sense of humor about our own history, our family, our first teachers and theirs. It can be done. It has to be done.

Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. Steven Cross of TCU’s center for Child Development have developed TBRI, or the Trust Based Relational Intervention. Their research has shown us that most families, who typically bring children from hard places home, have wounds of their own. Many of these parents are children of alcoholics. Their early programming entailed taking care of those, who could not take care of themselves. Not by conscious choice, but by unconscious core beliefs, perceptions and programming, they are drawn to take care of those, who need help and protection, who are so challenged to take care of themselves; and who also find it so challenging to accept those, who can take care of them.

Or, as Jodi Bean points out the “tear” in the fabric of an otherwise healthy secure attachment can be caused by death or divorce. Research on attachment patterns, since the end of WW II, has consistently and repeatedly demonstrated that the infants’ attachment patterns at 12 to 18 months of age, will naturally endure, persist and prevail over the life span. Miss Bean’s personal experience bears out the research data. Death or divorce of a parent, while the child is still young can compromise a healthy secure attachment pattern. Such an experience will be experienced, interpreted and internalized as a threat to the developing psyche and developing child.

Miss Bean repeats often, what we nearly universally hear from mother’s, who take in these children: If only I could have known. If only I would have had the information earlier, a year, five years, a generation earlier… Please just prepare me. Another email from a mom today…

Two of our Ethiopian children are not living at home now, one of them wants to come back and hang out all the time, the other hates us. The others are all doing quite well. My only regret with adoption is that no one explained RAD (Reactive Attachment Dirsorder) to me until I was several years into it, I was totally clueless. I think I could have been much more successful if I had been prepared and understood what was happening.

Of course to sit in judgment of these mothers and fathers, who have taken in children from very hard places, is smug, irresponsible, damaging and dim witted, even if it is natural, almost unavoidable. We all believe we could do better. I think it must be biologically wired into our perception and response systems as people, as adults. We believe that our love, our firmness, our strength, our discipline, our playfulness could create a different outcome. Mothers like Jody, constantly hear advice from everyone, including their own mothers; e.g. love her more; be more strict; get him into athletics, activities, etc… We see mother’s trying to take the children out in public, in stores, parks, churches and airports. The children tantrum, and give doe eyes to the unsuspecting. Well intentioned adults fawn and feel sorry for the children. The damage this does at seemingly innocuous or safe settings, such as school and church and family gatherings is often irreparable.

I was getting suspecting looks from the teacher’s aide that felt like she needed to provide Victoria with everything it appeared she wasn’t getting at home. This was a familiar response to me, even from my own family members. I knew it was difficult to understand from the outside looking in but the suspicion was hurtful.

“So as hard as it was, for me, it was the right thing to pull her out of the last few months of school. What it simply came down to was this: I couldn’t compete with anyone else. I would always lose to the shallowness of attention. Victoria always chose the schoolteacher, the Sunday School teacher, the smiling stranger primarily because they were unsuspecting. She could draw attention out of them and not have to give anything in return. My love was scary to her. My love wanted to give and take”. Reciprocity was required.

As Dr. Purvis and Dr Bruce Perry, and the entire literature on Bonding and Attachment, since John Bowlby established the field, have demonstrated, the spectrum of parenting that can be successful with bonded and attached birth children can be very broad. Whereas the successful strategies demanded to re-parent traumatized, damaged and rejected children, is incredibly narrow. As one parent, who is himself a doctor, continued to experience in his struggles with his adopted children often stated, “this is “Professional Parenting” that is required.” And it is. Some would say pragmatic or practical, rather than professional. What these parents seem to mean is that, like a well trained mental health professional, parents can not take what these children do personally. If a parent gets their feelings hurt by the child, they will likely not be able to survive, much less succeed as a family with these children. If a parent wants or needs to feel loved by their child, they are in a very dangerous place.

Love Lessons: the Moving Tale of a Mother Who Tried to Love a RAD Child from Russia – Part I

Excerpt from the Foreward from “Love Lessons,” a Soon-to-be-Published Book

Part I – August 2009

  • A mother’s journey.
  • A child’s pain.
  • A mother’s heart being shredded.
  • A child who thinks she is protecting herself.

Great family, great parents, great loving marriage… The family believes it can help others less fortunate. Then… the traumatized child is brought home, and mother’s love is tested, challenged, doubted and put through the fire, like non-traumatized birth children can never do.

I explained to Victoria that I thought I was prepared to bring her into our family. I wanted her here but when she came, she was mean and angry. “ I tried so hard to love you until I became mean and angry. I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know what to do for you and I am sorry.”

Jodi Bean has given a gift to the general public and to the field of psychology and human development. A recent 20/20 gave America a glimpse into the homes of families, who have adopted children, especially from Russia. Many thought it was startling to see the rage and explosiveness of these young children. Most of the families, who have adopted traumatized children made statements about the documentary like, “That was mild. I wish my children were that good…”

From the outside, none of us can appreciate how difficult the families’ journey truly is. Teachers, neighbors, even relatives see how “cute” the child is. We, who work with these children and families, have come to know cute as the “C” word. The families we work with can not stand to hear the “C” word anymore. The “cute” appearance hides the tragedy and trauma within. The “cute” persona conceals the torment and torture this child is putting the family and herself through.

“We were at relative’s home. Victoria came up to me on the couch and was being very affectionate. This was unusual at this point. Later, when we got into the car, I asked what that was all about. She replied, “I wanted them to think I was nice to you.” – p. 71

It is hard for most of us to imagine that children can be so destructive and so tormented. But we need to “GET IT!” as a culture, as a people, and certainly as an industry that endeavors to help families and educate children. Children are innocent until … they are not. Once they have been neglected, hurt and abused, once there have been assaults to developmental progressions, there is really no limit to the amount of damage that can be wrought.

“Love Lessons” takes us inside the home, the hearth and the heart of a family determined to love a child, who has been programmed and conditioned to not accept love and family. The strategies a hurt child can employ for rejecting this love are endless and countless. The pattern is painfully predictable and shared by all. The children create “tests” for the parents to fail. Then the child can remain secure with the belief system, “I knew I would not be loved. I knew it would not work out. I knew I belong alone. I am different. I do not deserve this family, this love, or any family, any love.…”

Conscience development can only happen when a child internalizes their mother, father or primary caregiver. When an infant child suffers “sanctuary trauma” i.e. trauma at the hands of the one, who is supposed to keep the child safe, and in the home, where the child should find protection and sanctuary, then that child can be expected to be programmed not to trust. The values and belief systems thus internalized, even for a pre-verbal child, are that adults and the world can not be trusted.

Many of these “children from hard places” are brought home by families, who believe they can love the unlovable. They firmly believe their love and their faith can heal the most wounded. Mom and Dad seem to believe, “I can love anyone back to faith in love, and trust in people and God.” As the children have the exact opposite programming and core belief, what can follow is sometimes a clash of Olympian proportions. Miss Bean, brings us inside of this struggle. She has the courage and integrity to openly disclose the terror and gut wrenching pain that a mother faces, when she starts to “hate” her child. A mother who never knew she could hate a child, much less her own. The self doubt and self deprecation that follow are ever so poignant, powerful and painful.

There was something else I knew I had to deal with and that was my good friend, guilt. I felt sorrow–– deep sorrow for her beginning in life and her beginning in her second life. I don’t usually live with regrets. I had avoided them for most of my life or let them go, but there was one hanging on for dear life–– my initial responses to Victoria were the opposite of everything I thought I was. That is why for so long I didn’t even really know who I was. I was angry, mean, yelling, vindictive, depressed, anxious, and clinging onto control that was slipping away. I felt weak. I felt like I was everything I had vowed not to be. It was completely breaking my heart and my spirit. These responses to her and my quest for justification brought me to the depths of sorrow.

As soon as I began to learn the motivations behind her behaviors, the first thing I had to do was walk that ever personal road of repentance and forgiveness. I, with miracles working in my heart, was able to completely forgive her for the things she was not even accountable for. I was able to let go of all the animosity and resentment. I did not hang onto any anger or justification. I had no idea how it was going to happen but it did. And that was the easy part. If there really was one.

Even with that knowledge, I could not let guilt go. The guilt that followed me would not let me go. I began to put conditions on when I would release the regret and accept the forgiveness. I would let it go when Victoria was better.

This served no purpose. In fact, she couldn’t get better until my heart was free to help hers. It was personal. It was long in coming. It was sweet in releasing. Do I wish it had been different? Of course. – p. 163

Living the Gentle Life

“Be gentle with yourself. The rest of your life deserves it.” (Sandra L. Brown, MA)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma-related anxiety disorder. PTSD is often seen as an aftermath symptom of Pathological Love Relationships. Exposure to other people’s pathology can and often does, give other people stress disorders, including PTSD. Our systems are simply not wired for long term exposure to someone else’s abnormal psychology. Often the result is a series of aftermath symptoms that include PTSD which is described as ‘a normal reaction to an abnormal life event.’ Being with a narcissist, socio or psychopath is definitely an ‘abnormal life event.’

PTSD’s profound and long term effects create what I refer to as a ‘cracked vessel.’ The fragmentation caused by the trauma creates a crack in the emotional defense system of the person. While treatment can ‘glue the crack back together’ and the vessel can once again function as a vessel, if pressure is applied to the crack, the vase will split apart again. This means, that the crack is a stress fracture in the vessel—it’s the part of the vessel that is damaged and weakened in that area.

There are numerous types of therapies that can help PTSD. If you have it, or someone you care about has it, you/they should seek treatment because it does not go away by itself and many people don’t realize that if left untreated, it can worsen. People often have missed the opportunity of treating PTSD when it was still relatively ‘treatable’ and responsive to therapy. The sooner PTSD is treated, the better the outcome. But any treatment can still help PTSD.

However, what is often not recognized is the ‘continual’ life that must be lived when living with the after effects of PTSD. Because the cracked vessel can re-crack again, a gentle and balanced life will relieve a lot of the PTSD symptoms that can linger. I have often seen people who have put a lot of effort into their recovery NOT put a lot of effort into the quality of a gentle life following treatment. This is a mistake because going back into a busy and crazy life can re-fragment the PTSD. As much as people want to ‘get back out there’ and think they can return to the life they use to live, often that’s not true. ‘Wanting’ to be able to live or do what you did before does not mean that you will be able to.

Consequently, many people’s anxiety symptoms returned. Much like a 12 Step program, ‘one day at a time’ is necessary and understanding your proclivity for re-activated PTSD must stay foremost in your mind.

Living the gentle life means reducing your exposure to triggers that can re-activate your PTSD. Only you know what these are…if you don’t know, then that’s the first order of therapy–to find your triggers. You can’t avoid (or even treat) what you don’t know exists.

Triggers are exposure to emotional, physical, sexual, visual, auditory, or kinesthetic reminders that set off anxiety symptoms. This could be people, places, objects, sounds, tastes, or smells that reconnect you to your trauma. Once you are reconnected to your trauma, your physical body reacts by pumping out the adrenaline and you become hyper-aroused known as hyper vigilant. This increases paranoia, insomnia, startle reflex and lots of other over-stimulated and anxiety oriented behaviors.

Other triggers that are not trauma-specific but you should be on the alert for are violent movies, TV, or music, high noise levels, life style/jobs/people who are too fast-paced, ‘busy’ environments, risky or scary jobs, bosses or co-workers who have personality disorders and are abrasive, or any other situation that kick-starts your anxiety.

Women are often surprised that other people’s pathology now sets them off. Once they have been exposed to pathology and gotten PTSD from this exposure, other pathology can trigger PTSD symptoms. Living ‘pathology free’ is nearly mandatory–to the degree that you can ‘un-expose’ yourself to other known pathologies.

The opposite of chronic exposure to craziness and pathology would be the gentle life. Think ‘Zen Retreat Center’ — a subdued environment where your senses can rest…where a body that has been too pumped up with adrenaline can let down…a mind that races can relax, the video flash-backs can go on pause, fast-paced chest panting can turn

into long/slow/deep diaphragmatic breathing, where darting eyes can close, where soft scents soothe, and gentle music lulls, where high heels come off and flip flops go on…where long quiet walks give way to tension release…where quieting of the mind chases off the demons of hyperactive thinking….where when you whisper you can hear yourself.

Only, this isn’t a retreat center for once a year…this is your life where your recovery and your need for all things-gentle, are center in your life. It doesn’t mean you need to quit your job or move to a mountain, but it does mean that you attend to your over-stimulated physical body. Those things in your life you can control such as the tranquility of your own environment need to be. Lifestyle adjustments ARE required for those who want to avoid reactivated anxiety. This includes psychological/emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual self care techniques.

The one thing you can count on about PTSD is when you AREN’T taking care of your self your body will SCREAM IT! Your life can not be the crazy-filled life you may watch others live. Your need for exercise, quiet, healthy food, spirituality, tension release, and joy are as necessary as oxygen for someone with PTSD. Walking the gentle path is your best guard against more anxiety and your best advocate for peace.

The Physical Effects

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is often re-activated by daily ‘triggers.’ These can include people, places, things, or sensory feelings that reconnect you with the trauma of the relationship. In the last newsletter I talked about the gentle life and how an over-taxed and anxious body/mind needs a soothing life. I cannot stress this enough that people MUST remember that their PTSD symptoms CAN BE re-activated if you aren’t taking care of yourself and living a gentle life.

What IS a gentle life? A gentle life is a life lived remembering the sensitivities of your PTSD. It isn’t ignored, or wished away–it is considered and compensated for. Since PTSD affects one physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually–all of those elements need to be considered in a gentle life. Just as if you had diabetes you would consider what you eat or what medication you need to take, so is it with PTSD.

Interestingly, although PTSD has its description listed in the psychiatric manuals, PTSD has some very real physical effects as well. In fact, they have even discussed listing it in physician’s manuals as well because the untreated on-going effects of acute stress are well known in the medical community. Since PTSD has both components of emotional and physical symptoms, someone recovering from PTSD must take those aspects into account.

Physically, PTSD is often a chronic condition by the time you take yourself for emotional help. That means you have been living with it for a while and it has been wreaking havoc on your physical body during that time. Unbridled anxiety/stress/fear pumps enormous amounts of adrenaline and cortisol into your body. This over stimulates your body and mind and causes insomnia, paranoia, hyperactivity, a racing mind/intrusive thoughts and the inability to ‘let down’ and ‘rest.’

A body that has been living on adrenaline needs the adrenal glands to ‘chill!’ People often complain of chronic insomnia which also leads to depression. Depression can lead to lethargy, over eating, weight gain and hopelessness. It is possible to have both anxiety and depression occurring at the same time. Un-managed stress, anxiety, and adrenaline can lead to longer term medical problems often associated with stress–lower GI problems, migraines, teeth grinding, aggravated periods, chest pain, panic attacks, chronic fatigue and most auto-immune disorders like fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and MS.

So, CLEARLY PTSD is something that SHOULD be treated. Physically that means to go to someone who can diagnose you–a therapist or psychiatrist. In the early parts of treatment, it is normal to take anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants or sleep aides in order to rectify your depleted brain chemistry and to allow the adrenal glands to

‘rest’ and stop pumping out the adrenaline. Your doctor is in the best position to tell you what will help you relieve your physical symptoms.

Additionally, you need to help your body and brain produce the ‘good stuff’ in your brain chemistry which means exercising, eating well, and learning relaxation techniques. Too much adrenaline has been pumping through your body with no way to get utilized. Excessive adrenaline makes your feel jumpy and restless. Exercise (even moderate walking) helps to produce endorphins in your brain that produce those feelings of ‘well-being’ and helps to burn off the adrenaline and any extra weight you might have gathered.

Although during depression you often don’t FEEL like exercising, you will always feel bad if you don’t get your body moving. Stress is even stored at the cellular level of our bodies. You must, must, must get moving in order to feel better.

Eating well means not trying to medicate your depression and low energy with carbs. When you are depressed your body craves carbs as a source of quick energy but the spikes in blood sugar add to the sense of mood highs and lows. You’ve already had enough ‘junk’ in the relationship–think of it as nurturing to give your body good food to replace all the ‘junk’ that it has been through. You can greatly help mood swings by eating well.

Dealing with the negative habits you have picked up as a ‘coping mechanism’ is also necessary. Lots of people with PTSD try to medicate their anxiety and depression. This could be through smoking, relationship hopping, sex, eating/binging/purging, drugs (legal and illegal) and the increased use of alcohol. In fact, one of the devastating side effects of PTSD is how many alcoholics it produces. Anything you are prone to right now tends to increase when you have PTSD because you begin to do that habit more and more to manage your PTSD symptoms. Finding positive coping skills instead of negative habits is a great step in your recovery.

Physical recovery also means paying attention to not reactivating your symptoms. Your physical environment in which you live, play and work must be conducive to low stimulation. That means low lights, low noise, and low aggravation. Sometimes that means making big changes in how your house is run so that it is not loud, noisy and over active. Sometimes that means making big changes in the PEOPLE you hang out with — getting rid of the loud, noisy, over active, aggressive and pathological. And sometimes it means making big changes in a job where the environment does nothing but trigger you.

Lastly, learning relaxation techniques is not ‘optional’ for people with PTSD. PTSD is a chronic state of hyper-vigilance, agitation, and restlessness. Your body has been over-ridden with adrenaline for a long time and has ‘forgotten’ how to find it’s equilibrium in relaxation. It must be retaught. Re-teaching means doing it daily. Taking 5 – 10 minutes a day to use relaxation breathing and allowing your mind to unwind and giving positive messages to your body to relax will help your tap into this natural relaxation even during times you are not actively trying to relax. The more you use the technique, the quicker your body can relax–even at work or when you are doing something else because it has ‘remembered’ how to.

There are lots of tapes, CDs or videos you can buy on relaxation that walk you through how to do it.

Or take Yoga where they teach you these deep breathing techniques that help correct the ‘shallow/panting’ breathing that is associated with PTSD and anxiety. This type of breathing can actually trigger panic attacks. Learning to breathe well again is a metaphor for ‘exhaling’ all the junk you’ve been through and releasing it. If you don’t have a relaxation tape, you are welcome to get our mp3 audio on relaxation techniques on our website. Most importantly is to just become acutely aware that PTSD is physical (and often medical) as it is emotional.

The Emotional Effects

The toll it takes on people often leaves them with chronic stress symptoms and for extremely bad relationships, often Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)–a diagnosable anxiety disorder. The long term stress from the pathological love relationship (with narcissists, abusive partners, socio/psychopaths) effect people emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually.

I have been talking about what the body ‘does’ when it is under chronic stress and the results of this unrelenting stress. (The previous newsletters about this are on the magazine under Sandra’s Current Article) The last newsletter discussed how to deal with the physical ramifications of stress and I even created a unique relaxation audio for people with chronic stress  (which is available on the magazine under Products..Purchase Products..Browse by Product Type). I also talked about changing your physical environment to embrace the needs of a stress disorder.

Today, we are going to discuss the emotional effects and how to create the Gentle Life for your emotional needs as well.

PTSD is as an emotional disorder that falls in the category of an anxiety disorder therefore, someone with chronic stress of any kind needs to learn the types of techniques that help reduce emotional anxiety. The problem is, by the time people ‘ask for help’ with chronic stress or PTSD, they have often lived with it for a long time and the symptoms are now extreme.

The emotional effects of untreated PTSD can include tension, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flash backs or hyper-startle reflex. All of these are distressing and over time a combination of these symptoms are normal to have all at the same time.

The relaxation technique is a way of managing the physical symptoms of PTSD. Relaxation techniques are not ‘optional’ in the recovery of chronic stress/PTSD. That’s because these techniques have a dual purpose. These same relaxation techniques also help manage the emotional symptoms as well as the physical. Learning correct breathing to ward off anxiety and panic attacks can be done thru the relaxation techniques.

Likewise, these same techniques can help with sleep disruptions, and tension. Chronic stress and PTSD are disorders that should be treated by a professional therapist. Especially with PTSD, the symptoms tend to increase over time if not treated. People make the mistake of waiting until it is totally unbearable and then it takes time to back down the symptoms. People are often ‘hopeful’ it will just go away when the pathological relationship has ended or contact is ended. These aren’t the worst relationships in the world for nothing! They are labeled that because they produce horrible side effects!

Unfortunately, PTSD is a chronic disorder which means you are likely to have symptoms off and on for years, maybe a lifetime. This is all the more reason to learn how to manage the symptoms when you may need to. Intrusive thoughts are one of the most complained about symptoms.

This is when unwanted thoughts of the pathological person/relationship keep popping in your head. No matter how many times you try to ‘not’ think about it, it keeps coming back. The problem with the imagery in your mind is that each time it pops in there it has the ability to trigger you. Your body responses to that trigger with adrenaline which just starts your whole stress cycle over again. So managing the intrusive thoughts and flashbacks is imperative to emotionally regulating yourself and living the gentle life

Living the gentle life means removing yourself from personalities that are similar to the pathological relationship. We often tend to migrate BACK to the same kinds of people and relationships we just left. These kinds of abusive people can cause an emotional avalanche. It is important that you understand the kinds of traits in people you should avoid if you have PTSD or stress. This could be people who remind you of the pathological person, loud or aggressive people, people who violate your boundaries or bother you in other ways. Stress and PTSD do mandate that you develop self protective skills such as boundaries—learning to say no or leave environments that increase your symptoms. Learn to migrate instead to people who are serene or leave you feeling relaxed and happy.

Creating your gentle physical environment will also help you emotionally. An environment that is soothing, calm, quiet, soft, and comfortable has the best chance of allowing an over-stimulated body to relax. Changing your physical environment for your emotional benefits and adding the relaxation technique can greatly impact the amount of emotional symptoms you experience. Learning ’emotional regulation skills’ for stress/PTSD is a must.

‘Ah….just get a life!’

People ever tell you that? Sometimes from the chronic stress and upheaval the pathological relationship causes, people can get very one-dimensional and hyper-focused on him/the relationship/or the problems. They stop doing the kinds of things in their life that could help them be LESS obsessed, depressed, or anxious. That’s because women really tend to ‘lose themselves’ in the pathological relationship. It’s a testimony to the strength of pathology.

The crazier it gets, the more they feel like they need to ‘try to understand it’ or ‘try to make him understand what he’s doing’ or ‘do something that will help the relationship feel less pathological.’ This idea can be a 24/7 thing…it can take up your whole life trying to balance the relationship, which, as you have figured out, is un-balanceable.

Getting lost in a very dark tunnel can draw people away from the actions, behaviors, thoughts, people, and resources that previously allowed them to live a happier and more balanced life. The dangerous and pathological relationship is ALL consuming and soon any level of your own self care is abandoned for the insane focus on how to fix him/the relationship.

It isn’t long before others around you notice the myopic/single focused person you have become that can’t think about or talk about anything except the dangerous relationship. This myopic view of your relationship has now blacked out any other part of your life…people are bailing out of your life, emotional resources are dwindling, your life has become the size and shape of him.

Women in the most dire of all situations (especially in domestic violence for instance) are those who have lost physical and emotional resources and can find no way to get out. The less support a woman feels from others the more likely she is to stay because it takes SUPPORT to get out/to break up/or to not go back. So, by the act of myopia, her life and resources just dwindle away.

One day someone says to her ‘man, you need to get a life bigger than THIS!’ and something really hits her about that statement. Like coming out of a big deep freeze…the light bulb goes on—she notices her lack of life and says “What happened to me? Where is my LIFE?????”

The last few weeks in the newsletter I have been talking about ‘Living the Gentle Life’–especially if you are someone who has lived in a pathological relationship or has a chronic stress disorder or PTSD from the relationship.

A gentle life is a FULL life–one that includes the finds of things that nurture you, that bring peace to you, are simultaneously IN and PART of our lives.

The gentle life is healing because to feel JOY is to send the right kinds of brain chemistry to your brain that fights depression and anxiety and gives the sensation of ‘well-being.’ We need to be Joy Hunters!

Women go back (or pick poorly again) because they fail to build a life for themselves. They know how to ‘invest, invest, invest’ in him and THEIR relationship with him but have NO idea how to ‘invest’ and build their own life WITHOUT HIM like the one listed above. Women who have out side healthy lives ARE the women most likely to get out and stay out.

Loneliness is one of the KEY risk factors in why women go back. There are so many ways to get your needs met for friendship, fun, support, beauty, or whatever you love in life. Building a ‘life’ is the best prevention for relapse a woman can do.

But sadly, many will NOT do it. After 20 years, I can pretty much pick out who will and won’t invest in themselves and build a life. Those that don’t are in the same boat 10 years down the road…either with this pathological person or another one just like him. Those that do build a life are less likely to feel pressured to date or get so lonely they pick up the phone and call him.

The Gentle Life isn’t even possible unless you have a life that is ready for transformation. Living with a pathological man or picking another one is about as OPPOSITE of a gentle life as there is. Will you be one that rebuilds a fabulous life? Or be stuck in your dependency on dangerous and pathological relationships?

So many women say “But I don’t know where to start in the rebuilding…my life has been like this SO long I don’t know where to begin.” This is such an important issue so to solidify this discussion, I have created a companion mp3 called “Stop Focusing on Him: Get a Great Life.” We ran it recently, but I’m gonna put the link in again because it’s such a great reminder!

Soul Tearing—The Spiritual and World View Effects

The last few weeks I have been talking about the necessity of living a gentle life if you are recovering from a dangerous and/or pathological relationship. The damage it does to a person is profound and many are often diagnosed with a chronic stress disorder OR Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because of it. These disorders respond best to a ‘gentle life’ that allows the body, mind, and spirit to rest from the overload of adrenaline and stress it has experienced in the dangerous relationship. (Read our previous newsletters about this topic listed on the magazine)

I have talked about physically how to ‘adjust’ your environment if you have a stress disorder and we also talked about the emotional effects—anxiety, depression, and other after-effects associated with PTSD. Today, we are going to talk about the spiritual effects.

Dangerous and pathological relationships violate at a deep soul level. That’s because it touches on the core building blocks of our concepts about relationships–Trust, Love, and Hope. Deception is evil and sick and when you realize ‘who/what’ you have been with, there is a violation that cuts to the deepest part of a person: their spirit.

Often these kinds of pathological relationships have already ‘played into’ your soul connection…leading you down the path of believing that your ‘connection’ was spiritual in nature. There were probably lots of promises of the ‘life together’ and all the ‘reasons God brought you two together.’ In the end, they were lies but before you knew they were lies, they were HOPES.

~ “Hope is the thing with wings, that perches in the soul.” ~ (Emily Dickinson)

So many pathological relationships have “an intense attachment” that feels like ‘connection’ or ‘soul mate status’ when in reality it is just the intense game of the ‘pathological’ sucking you in and hoping you will confuse intensity with something healthy.

But Hope, Love, and Trust are all core spiritual values and when you have invested those core values and beliefs in someone and then the heinous deception is revealed that the ‘goal’ of the relationship was to manipulate you all along, something ‘rips’ inside of you. This ‘soul tearing’ brings a spiritual skepticism, a distrust that permeates everything you EVER believed…sometimes even about God.

It’s a disastrous wound to your ‘world view’ and how you see yourself, others, God, and the world at large.

These mortal wounds to your world view can last a long time because, in effect, they are the ways you have come to ‘believe’ about yourself (I can’t trust my intuition), others (everyone is evil), the world (it’s a sick place) and God (He didn’t protect me). This profound shift in your world view can increase the symptoms of PTSD–depression, anxiety, alienation, loneliness, isolation, and a fear or dread of the future.

So often the spiritual effects of the pathological relationship are overlooked both by the victim and by the therapist. This ‘world view’ earthquake has shaken the foundation of your belief system. Without repair to the foundation from which you build your self concept, healing is limited to only symptom management. Spiritual healing of your world view is paramount to your overall recovery.

I have created a 15 minute audio (mp3) “Spiritual Effects’ that goes into more detail about healing your world view and the spiritual effects of dangerous relationships. I think the audio will greatly help your understanding of WHY this part of yourself MUST be healed as well and how the unhealed aspects can impact depression, anxiety, reaching out to others, and your future relationships. You can pick it up on the magazine under Shopping/CDs, Audios.

Also, if you are in counseling, please allow your counselor to listen to the mp3 too. This will help them address these issues with you in counseling. This is an area so often ‘under treated’ by other counselors. I teach on this aspect a lot at professional conferences and therapists are eager to understand this aspect of spiritual side effects and its impact on chronic stress disorders.

Healing Your Own World View

“Be gentle with yourself. The rest of your life deserves it.” (Sandra L. Brown, MA)

Over the past month or more I have been talking about healing from a dangerous and/or pathological relationship. The chronic stress disorder and often Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs from the damage done in the relationship requires a serious change in lifestyle in order to heal.

We have been talking about those changes–what needs to change physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In the last segment, we discussed the negative ‘world view’ effects resulting from pathological exposure. The negative world view impacts how you now see your post-pathological relationship world. This includes how you NOW see yourself, others, the world, your future, and God. (You can read past issues about this subject on our blog–the link is listed below).

One of the seriously ‘under treated’ effects of pathological relationship exposure is the healing of the personal world view. The untreated aspects ‘mimic’ PTSD symptoms with increases in depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, dread of the future and other similarly related PTSD side-effects. Healing your world view is critical to a healthy future.

Another often ‘untreated’ effect of pathological relationship exposure is the ‘unconscious adopting of the pathological’s world view.’ Not only was your world view altered from the damage done to you IN the relationship, but your world view was also altered from the damage done to you THROUGH the pathological. One of the unrelenting side effects is the ‘learned experience’ of seeing the world through ‘his’ eyes.

One of the things that makes pathologicals, pathological is the effect of their pathology on how they see themselves in relation to the world and others. Pathologicals are noted for their over/under sense of themselves, over/under opinion of others, and their unusual view of what the world ‘should’ do for them.

While you may not have adopted these exact views like the pathological, chances are that your views have been tainted with the pathological’s viewpoint. This can include normalizing abnormal behaviors or dissociating pieces of reality AWAY from yourself. Normalizing can make womanizing, over/under employment, drug dealing, alcohol/drug abuse, domestic violence, lying, cheating, stealing, or other overtly wrong behavior ‘marginal’ when you have taken on his view of life and right/wrong. Pathologicals don’t operate by the rules. They create them for their unique situations and break them for fun.

When your grip on societal boundaries begins to slip, you have been affected by his view of the world. When his behaviors become ‘just a little different’ than other people’s or ‘all people are like this’ — your world view has been infiltrated. When you begin to think of other people like he does, or define others by his warped definitions, when you believe his ‘take’ on things or tell yourself only partials truths so you don’t have to really see his ‘real’ self–your world view has been penetrated. When you become numb and lethargic to the things he has done, your world view has been violated.

This is just one more aspect of your wounded world view that needs healing if you are going to recover. A wounded world view does not allow for living the gentle life. And the gentle life is probably not even possible until the way you see yourself, others, and the world becomes ‘gentle.’

Pathologicals are harsh. They leave people feelings irritated, rubbed raw, and chapped. Your interior does not feel ‘gentle’ –it feels the opposite of it. Pathologicals are notoriously ‘negative’ so you may have found your mood, thinking, and reactions to have taken on his negativity. It’s hard to heal when everything looks like he told you it looked–bad (and it’s all your fault!) It’s hard to live the gentle life for yourself when your emotions are anything BUT gentle.

This is the point about the necessity of healing the world view–it’s a critical part of your recovery. Because having been warped by a pathological, ‘HOW you see determines WHAT you see.’

Healing Sexually

Over the past couple of months I have been talking about healing from pathological relationships and what is involved. It requires that you face the damage that has been done and recognize any stress disorders or PTSD that you might have now from the relationship. Then it requires that you change your life in order to heal–change your environment physically and learn how to develop a life style that helps you heal emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and sexually. Today, I am going to talk about the sexual effects of pathological and dangerous relationships.

The last few weeks I have talked about the spiritual effects of a pathological relationship. Ironically, the sexual effects are also often spiritual effects. That’s because a lot of the spiritual effects have to do with attaching and bonding on many levels–including spiritually. In a spiritual sense, we have been designed to bond during sexual experiences. Especially women. (WARNING–THIS IS GONNA GET GRAPHIC!!)….recent hormonal and sexual studies have indicated that orgasms achieved during sex, release the same brain chemicals that are released during BONDING with your baby! This phenomenal aspect gives great insight into WHY it’s so hard to leave a relationship even if it IS dangerous and pathological.

Many of the pathological man types are hyper-sexual–so there is ALOT of sex. A lot of sex = a lot of opportunities for sexual bonding through orgasm/hormone stimulation. Women are by nature, NOT abandoners. Those they ‘attach’ to or ‘bond’ to–they stay with. So the more bonded you feel to him, the less likely you are to leave. The more sexually attached (when often feels like spiritually attached) you are, the more confusing it is to detach.

Additionally, many pathologicals who are hyper-sexual bring to the relationship a lot of deviancy. For the first time in you life, you may have been exposed to sexual behaviors or aspects that you have never experienced. Since pathologicals are great at manipulation, guilt, and rewarding your loyalty, you may have been coerced into sexual behaviors that violated your own morality or normal sexual boundaries. Perhaps pornography, sexual acts you were uncomfortable with, group sexual experiences, relationship rape, or other sexual violations. Additionally, most pathologicals in their hyper-sexuality are NOT monogamous so maybe you have acquired an STD from him.

These deep soul wounds harm more than just your emotions–it harms you spiritually and infiltrates your sexual identity. Women often feel so ‘perverted’ in what they have experienced they feel like they have to stay with him because no ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ man would want her after what she has ‘done’ in the sexual relationship with him. In some relationships, true sexual addiction may have occurred. You may feel like you are addicted to him, the sex with him, or sex with anyone. What you have experienced IS sexual abuse within the relationship. However, pathologicals have the wonderful way of making you feel like a willing participant or that it’s YOUR deviancy he is responding to sexually. Remember–they twist and pervert every aspect of truth.

The sexual side effects of the relationship can contribute to your overall stress disorder or PTSD. It is an aspect that should be treated in order to re-claim your sexual identity. Untreated, your skewed sexual identity can cause you to continue to sexually act out; continue to cooperate in his sexual deviancy; use drugs/alcohol to numb out your painful feelings; cause increased PTSD/anxiety/depression symptoms or leave you despondent to stay in pathological relationships out of a sense of feeling ‘dirty’ or ‘unworthy’ of healthier relationships. It can also impact your spirituality–driving you away from the solace and help you find in your own connection to God.

From this standpoint, the ONLY way to live a gentle life is to heal your sexual side and to see the damage done to sexuality as part of the overall picture of the after-effects of a dangerous and pathological relationship. Please talk to your counselor about the sexual effects of your relationship.