Archives for February 2009

Valentine’s Day – Real Love, Not Just Real Attraction

So many people confuse the feeling of ‘attraction’ with the emotion of love. For some who are in chronic dangerous and pathological relationships, it’s obvious that you have gotten these two elements ‘mixed up.’ Not being able to untangle these understandings can keep people on the same path of unsafe relationship selection because they keep choosing the same way and getting the same people!

Attraction is largely not only unconscious but also physical. There is actually something called an ‘erotic imprint’ which is the unconscious part that guides our attraction. (I talked about this in the Dangerous Man book). Our erotic imprint is literally ‘imprinted’ in our psyches when we are young–at that age when you begin to notice and be attracted to the opposite sex. As I mentioned, this is largely an unconscious drive. For instance, I like stocky dark haired men. When ever I see that type of image, I immediately

find that man ‘attractive.’ I can ‘vary’ slightly on my attraction but I’m not gonna find Brad Pitt attractive. I might forego the full ‘stocky’ appearance but I’m not gonna let go of some of the other traits that make men appealing to me. We like what we like. For instance, I am attracted to Johnny Depp or George Clooney. I don’t like any of the blondes or overly tall and lanky body types.

If you think back to what your ‘attraction’ basis is, you may find some patterns there as well.

Attraction, however, can also be behavioral or based on emotional characteristics. For instance, some women are attracted to guys with a great sense of humor. The attraction is based on that characteristic. Other women may be attracted to athletic guys–not because of what sports does to their bodies, but because of the behavioral qualities of athletes. Attraction can be subtle–like the unconscious erotic imprinting that makes us select men based on physical attributes OR attraction may lead us to choose relationships based on behaviors or emotional characteristics like displays of empathy, helpfulness or friendliness. (I discussed your own high traits of empathy, helpfulness and friendliness in Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Although these traits might guide our relationships selection, this is not the foundation of love. It’s the foundation of selection.

Often, our relationship selection comes more from attraction than it does anything else. So knowing ‘who’ and ‘what types’ you are attracted to will help you understand your patterns of selection. Some people choose characteristics–helpfulness, humor, gentleness or another quality that they seem to be drawn to. Other people are more physical in their attraction and find the physicality of someone either a ‘go’ or a ‘no.’ Maybe you like blondes or blue eyes. This may also drive your pattern of selection.

Also in the area of attraction–sometimes it’s Traumatic Attraction that seems to drive our patterns of selection. People who have been abused, especially as children, can have unusual and destructive patterns of selection. While this may seem the opposite of what you would expect, these patterns are largely driven by unresolved trauma. People who were raised in alcoholic, dysfunctional, or abusive homes are likely to repeat those exact patterns in their selection of a partner. They often select individuals who have similar ‘characteristics’ to the abusive/neglectful/addicted adult they grew up with or were exposed to. The characteristics could be physical (how they look) or behavioral (how they act) or emotional (how they abuse/neglect). In any event, the unresolved abuse issues drives them to keep selecting abusers for relationships. Today, they are mystified as to why they keep picking abusive/neglectful/addicted people for relationship partners. That which remains unresolved, revolves–around and around through our lives until it is resolved.

So, when you have no idea that attraction (good, bad, or dysfunctional) is guiding your selections, you just keep picking the same way and getting the same thing. But because the world keeps using the word ‘love’ you use it too. And you label your attraction-based-choices (that are largely dysfunctional) as ‘love’ and then become confused about the nature of this thing called ‘love.’ Your attraction is NOT love. It is merely attraction. What DOES or DOES NOT happen IN the relationship may be more reflective of ‘love’ than anything else.

Remember the Bible verse, “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not seek it’s own…”? it helps to reflect how love is ‘other centered’ not in a codependent and frantic needy way but in a way that helps others be

interdependent in relationships. Love is often attributed to positive ‘attributes’ such as:

Joy – love smiling

Peace – love resting

Patience – love waiting

Kindness – love showing itself sensitive to others’ feelings

Goodness – love making allowances

Faithfulness – love proving constant

Gentleness – love yielding

Self-control – love triumphing over selfish inclinations

–Source Unknown

(Now, think about if ANY of those traits described the Pathological Love Relationship? I didn’t think so….)

As long as we believe that someone else has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims” From: Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls

This Valentine’s Day be very clear with yourself about love and attraction. This is a time when you might be likely to want to recontact him. Let me remind you, NOTHING has changed. His pathology is still the same. And on February 15th you could be hating yourself for recontacting him for one weak illusioned moment on Feb 14th–in which the world is focused on love but he is focused on manipulation, control or anything OTHER than love. If you open that door, then you will have weeks or months of trying to get him out and disconnect again.

Instead, plan ahead for your potential relapse by setting up an accountability partner AND something to do!

Go to a movie with a friend, go out to dinner, so SOMETHING that takes responsibility and action for your

own loneliness at this time of year. Whatever you do, don’t have a knee jerk reaction and contact him. One

day on the calendar about love is just an ILLUSION!

Male Survivors

by: Michaela St. James

The Institute is frequently asked ‘What about the men? What about male survivors? Are females pathological too?’ Pathology is not gender-specific. It’s a mental health issue which means it effects men and women. There are some personality disorders that are more frequent in women and some that are more frequent in men. However, all personality disorders effect both men and women.

The disorders that occur more in women are Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD), Borderline Personality
Disorder (BPD), Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD). In men, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) and Socio/psychopathy are more frequent. Yet, in both sexes any personality disorder (or mental illness for that fact), is possible.

In personality disorders, 60% of people who have one personality disorder have more than one which is why they refer to these disorders as ‘clusters.’ Clusters have overlapping symptoms in which the person is likely to have traits from other disorders within that cluster. For instance in women, many women who have Borderline Personality Disorder also have Narcissistic Personality Disorder or at least, traits of that disorder. Likewise, Histrionics can have BPD or BPD traits. The rule of thumb is the more personality disorders or disorder traits, the more difficult the relational problems and tension can be.

Women can have Anti-Social Personality Disorder or be socio/psychopaths. Ironically, studies show that women who truly are ASPD or socio/psychopaths are often under-diagnosed or mis-diagnosed as BPD only. I don’t know if it is a gender bias that doesn’t want to think about women in those levels of disorders or if the female presentation of those disorders are different and consequently not as recognized. The Institute has noticed that there are deviations in presentation of symptoms in women that are often unrecognized by their male partner.

Some of the most frequent problems with women who have personality disorders are:
* Constant Drama/Chaos

* Addiction

* Sexual Addiction/Acting Out

* Self Injury

* Eating Disorders

* Spending Problems

* Alleging violence when it has not occurred

* Parental Alienation against the male parent

* Mood instability

* Self Absorption

(It needs to be said that all women who have these symptoms are not necessarily personality disordered. For instance, not all women who have eating disorders have a personality disorder. However, many of these symptoms are seen more readily in women who do have personality disorders.)

How these symptoms are interactive in an intimate relationship is where the relational harm happens. While
personality disorders are challenging, if not out right damaging to others inter-personally, men can have specific problems in dealing with women who have personality disorders. Abuse by her, whether physical, emotional, verbal or sexual, is hard for men to come forward and admit or reach out for therapy about. It is likely that men will tolerate and experience it for long periods of time before recognizing it as abuse or doing anything about it. They are even more unlikely to discuss it with male friends or family and are often less believed by others.

Confusion over what is a personality disorder in a woman and what is hormonal changes is also an issue that men confess. They can’t tell the difference between mood fluctuations in a personality disorder and hormonal cycles. They often can’t tell the difference between ‘female emotions’ and excessive emotionality often seen in BPD and HPD. These inabilities to differentiate also contribute to their delay in getting the support they need.

These are by far, not the only symptoms or issues men face in relationships with personality disordered women. The emotional ups and downs, ‘walking on egg shells,’ and extremes in behavior are the tip of the iceberg when looking comprehensively at the big picture.

‘Why did I pick her?’ is often asked. Men, much like the women we researched in ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ tend to be highly compassionate, empathetic, tolerant, loyal, and helpers. Seeing the chaos in her life is often a hook to men they can’t refuse and she’s willing to allow him to rescue, bail her out, or finance her lifestyle. His ability to understand his patterns of selection and the concrete facts about pathology are just as crucial for him as they are for women.

The Institute offers specialized Pathological Love Relationship coaching for men. Most of our coaches all have had male clients in these same relationships. In the near future, we hope to add male coaches who men as well. We welcome the opportunity to offer support, and coaching to those who need extra insight about their current situations.

Sandra L. Brown, M.A. who is the author of ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man,’ ‘Counseling Victims of Violence,’ and ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ has written a book specifically for men called ‘How to Avoid Dating Damaged and Destructive Women‘ which is about personality disorders, addictions, and other mental health issues in women that are likely to produce relational harm.

You can purchase this e-book on our site at:

Or sign up for phone coaching at: