Archives for 2009

Are Batterer Intervention Programs Killing Women?

Our Batterer Intervention Programs might not be providing the hope women want. Our court systems are not psychologists so consequently are under-educated in the issue of pathology. Most judges have very little knowledge about the permanence of pathology, the effects of pathological parenting on children, which batterer has a personality disorder, which one doesn’t, and why that even matters. Without this knowledge, they continue to court-order batterers to intervention without even knowing which ones can change from the treatment and which ones will never change, and can’t.

This under-education matters so much that it’s killing women. The Central Three Tenets of Pathology — the inability to grow to any emotional or spiritual depth, the inability to sustain positive change, and the inability to develop insight about how one’s behavior negatively effects others is hugely relevant when it comes to batterers and personality disorders.

But judges aren’t the only ones under-educated in pathology. The attorneys who are suggesting Batterer Intervention are likely to not understand pathology and the lack of many batterers ability to sustain positive change OR develop insight about their behavior. Child evaluators are likely to not understand why sending a batterer to treatment has no guarantee that he won’t batter again in front of a child, or to a child, if he has one of the Cluster B personality disorders.

And sadly, Batterer Intervention Programs are just as likely to be conned in their groups by narcissists, ASPDs, socios/psychopaths as are the judges, child evaluators, mediators, and attorneys. In fact, most Batterer Intervention Specialists are not pathologists at all. Many are Marriage & Family Therapists (which isn’t a bad thing, of course) or Mental Health Counselors but have little specialty training in personality disorders and psychopathy. Since they are not specialists in the field, they are less likely to flag the batterer as having one of these disorders. Most therapists feel they would be ‘able to spot’ a personality disordered person even though many of them can’t tell you the full spectrum of symptoms associated with personality disorders. One of the least taught aspects of psychology in graduate school is personality disorders and psychopathy.

Since Cluster B Personality Disorders and psychopathy are the ones MOST likely to stalk, disregard restraining orders, abduct children during custody battles, and violently assault–the therapists who run the groups and have a ‘duty to report’ to victims if they are at-risk of harm by their patient, yet don’t even know they have those most likely to harm the victim in their group.

Equally as disturbing is that psychological testing of batterers as a pre-requisite to entering Batterer Intervention is not required and hardly ever done. That means batterers who have personality disorders are being court-ordered and accepted by the agency (or individual therapist provider) into their programs WITHOUT KNOWING what, if any, diagnosis they have. Wouldn’t an agency WANT TO KNOW if someone has Anti Social Personality Disorder? Or is a Psychopath? Wouldn’t they want to know if they were admitting someone into a program that couldn’t be helped BY the program but would only learn how to be a ‘better covert batterer’ to the courts–slinging recovery jargon at the judge to prove they were treated? Even Dr. Robert Hare, the leading researcher and specialists in Psychopathy advises psychopaths NOT be put into group–any group because of this. And yet, day in and day out, Batterer Intervention Groups have NO idea whether or not they are admitting Cluster B’s and psychopaths to their groups to become better-jargoned batterers.

The irony is that the same therapist in their out patient practice with a non-battering client, would have to give a diagnosis for a client in order for them to be in therapy and bill their insurance. Yet, in an area of lethal behavior like domestic violence (especially with the personality disordered), the same therapist does not have to diagnosis the batterer and (in some programs) are able to bill the State for the batterers treatment NOT knowing what the diagnosis of the batterer is. In the cases in which the batterer privately pays for the Batterer Intervention, they are able to receive up to 52 weeks of treatment and never be ‘diagnosed.’ Yet, again–if a non-batterer went to a weekly treatment program for group therapy for an entire year, they would certainly have to be diagnosed. Is this CRAZY or what?

So, how does this effect the woman? The un-diagnosed personality-disordered batterer has just been put through up to an entire year’s worth of weekly treatment that is not likely to do anything given that pathology is based on the inability to sustain positive change and the inability to have insight about how his negative behavior has effected others. Since Batterer Intervention is largely about (a) recognizing how his battering/negative behavior has hurt others and (b) changing and sustaining different behaviors—his therapeutic outcomes are going to be nearly zip.

But he has ‘learned’ some things–how to discuss the power and control wheel taught in class, how to verbalize unequal power in the relationship—how to use buzz words like ‘abuse’ ‘dominance’ and ‘control.’ And better yet, he brings home his either paper or verbal ‘Certificate of Completion’ to the woman who has barred her door to him until ‘he got help.’ He got plenty of it–according to him–a whole years worth and a paper or verbal certificate to hang on his proverbial wall. And she assumes that if he was court-ordered, certainly he was going to a program that COULD help him, and did help him.

Women are killed every day in this country by batterers who have completed intervention, who are un-diagnosed raging narcissists, anti-socials, and socio/psychopaths–who were graduated from programs who didn’t bother to find out ‘who’ was in their class. The buck is passed from the attorney who doesn’t know personality disorders and suggests batterer intervention, to the judge who doesn’t know personality disorders and court orders a program, to the child evaluator who doesn’t know personality disorders and allows continued vists with the child, to the Batterer Intervention Group that accepts, without testing, batterers into their program, and lastly the biggest buck passed is to the woman who is hurt or killed by the ‘graduate’ of Batterer Intervention.

Batterers represent an unusually high percentage of the personality disordered, which shouldn’t be a surprise. The personality disordered (especially Cluster B) have an unusually high percentage of lethality, recidivism in battering behavior, and treatment resistance. And yet, we have an irresponsible system of not testing batterers prior to admission into a program that will some day label them ‘graduates.’

Our positive psychology oriented world that believes everyone can change or grow wants to know ‘Then what are we suppose to do with them?’ There is a reason Dr. Hare says not to put psychopaths in group. It’s so they don’t learn how to con others with their newly learned lingo and to protect the public from false presentations of ‘cure.’ We need a category, even within Batterer Intervention, of ‘non-admissable’–someone who is rejected from treatment to protect the public from the false presentation of ‘cure’ –to protect her from the illusion of graduation from a theory he’ll never incorporate, understand, or conform to.

The under-education of attorney, judges, child evaluators and therapists about personality pathology has to be addressed so that those who are being killed by our court-ordered batterer intervention programs are given the truth–NOT ADMITTED TO BATTERER INTERVENTION.

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:

Behavior Counts: Helping Children Cope With a Pathological Parent

by Rebecca Potter, M.S., LMHC

To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order. To put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order…
– Confucius

Part II


The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) reports PTSD in children and adolescents at alarming rates:

  • PTSD in 90% of sexually abused children
  • PTSD in 77% of children exposed to a school shootings
  • PTSD in 35% of urban youth exposed to community violence
  • PTSD in 35% of youth exposed to domestic violence

Children with PTSD present with various problems:

  • Impulsivity
  • Distractibility
  • Sleep problems
  • Anger
  • Attention problems
  • Dysphoria
  • Emotional numbing
  • Social avoidance
  • Dissociation
  • Aggressive play
  • School failure
  • And regressed and/ or delayed development

Professionals may be unaware of ongoing traumatic stressors (such as domestic or community violence or the presence of a pathological parent in the child’s life) and may frequently misdiagnose PTSD.  Consequently, children with PTSD are often diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, conduct disorder, separation anxiety or specific phobias. (** Editor note: To know the difference between PTSD in children and Reactive Attachment Disorder in children also read Parental Challenges Column in the Parenting Section. Each disorder is slightly different.)

Due to the biological adrenal stress response, PTSD is a chronic disorder.  Left untreated PTSD contributes to a host of neuro-psychiatric problems throughout life:

  • Attachment problems (as an adult can become personality disorders)
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Violent behavior
  • And Mood disorders

Various studies also indicate that adults who were victimized by sexual abuse in childhood are more likely to experience:

  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Gynecological disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic lung disease
  • And various risk behaviors

As an adult, the treatment approach to PTSD is medication, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy.  Until recently, the PTSD diagnosis was relegated to war veterans however research now indicates that many survivors of trauma also experience PTSD. Unfortunately, many adults are diagnosed years after the trauma, consequently the condition has been untreated for many years and the psychiatric and physical effects have taken their toll on the body and mind. Studies indicate that Cognitive Behavior Therapy is effective in treating early onset of PTSD in adults. What about treatment for children?


Unfortunately, most children are not being treated they are merely being medicated.  Many agencies do not have trained staff to address PTSD so medication is used to decrease the physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms instead of therapy.

My work with traumatized children (and children exposed to pathological parenting) has consisted of behavior therapy, play therapy, family therapy, EMDR and if necessary, medication.

Why Behavior Therapy?

Adults have the cognitive ability to understand and develop insight about why bad things have happened while young children do not.  Behavior therapy/behavior plan adds a motivational factor to achieve behavior change while decreasing anxiety and promoting safety, security, cooperation, self-esteem and attachment to the parent.  If acting out behavior is not changed, these behaviors become coping skills used by the child to address stress throughout adolescent and into adulthood. In adulthood, these chronic coping attempts can lead to significant mental health issues.

Very young children exposed to trauma may present with behaviors that indicate stress:

  • Generalized fear of strangers
  • Separation anxiety
  • Avoidance of situations or people
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Preoccupation with words, symbols or toys
  • Loss of an acquired developmental skill such as toilet training
  • Easily startled perhaps when they perceive that a parent is angry with them
  • Need for increased attention


Working with young children is complex as verbal skills are not yet well developed.  Additionally, if the caregiver is involved with leaving or litigating with a pathological, the caregiver is also under a great deal of stress and perhaps is numbing and denying the child’s behaviors.  This is a stressful period for the entire family.  Because of the stress the child is experiencing, structure is important for the child but unfortunately a pathological parent cannot and does not provide the structured or safe environment the child needs.

Pathological parents may allow the child to

  • Stay up very late
  • Eat enormous amounts of sweets
  • Watch inappropriate movies
  • Alienate the child from a protective parent
  • Be inconsistent in parenting swinging from indulging to ignoring
  • Use drugs/alcohol around the child
  • Expose the child to the pathological’s risky behavior
  • Expose them to their rapidly changing partners
  • And the list goes on…

Additionally, if the child expresses a need, pain or concern they are no longer the object of the narcissistic supply and the pathological will typically rage at the child.  To a pathological, it is all about them and everyone (including children) is required to meet their needs.  The child is merely an object for their personal use. Although a pathological is good at “talking the talk” they are unable to demonstrate this talk consistently in their behavior, especially in parenting. They may talk the talk of concern and sensitivity, but they do not demonstrate this behavior unless they are being observed or are attempting to manipulate.  This can be confusing for children. Behavior counts—even the pathologicals!

If a child has visitation with the pathological they may display an array of various disruptive behaviors when they return from visitation (or perhaps before the visit).  With limited vocal skills, a young child must communicate by behaviors.  Often when a healthy parent tries to inform the court system of the child’s effects from the pathological parenting they end up being accused of alienating the child from the pathological parent. Healthy parents often feel helpless, powerless, and guilty that they are not able to protect child from the system or the pathological.

Children exposed to pathological parents need extensive help to counter the pathological conditioning.  Many healthy parents feel sorry for the child and inadvertently reinforce the dysfunctional behaviors the child is picking up while with the pathological parent.  All behaviors of a child have a function.  When the function of the inappropriate behavior is discovered, a reward system can be implemented to encourage the use of healthy coping skills and behaviors. Using positive parenting methods along with appropriate consequences increases the child’s healthy sense of themselves.

At The Institute I am offering behavior services for children and support for parents.

The Behavior Report includes:

  • 12 hours of consultation with parents to determine the function of their child’s behavior
  • The development of methods to decrease destructive behaviors
  • Background information of the current situation and resulting behaviors
  • Written documentation for authorities which include reports, charts, and graphs
  • Charts and graphs of the behaviors and time that the behavior occurs

This documentation can be used for any court proceeding and is a powerful tool in litigation utilizing documented facts and not merely one parent’s testimony over another parents.


The work with the healthy parent will:

  • Document the behaviors and the function of the behavior
  • Assist in the development of appropriate coping behaviors
  • Implement a reward systemto encourage the use of healthy coping skills
  • Teach positive parenting methods
  • Establish appropriate consequences to increase the child’s self esteem and sense of power
  • Emotional support for the parent

Since there are so many injuries to the family unit and a behavior plan cannot address all of the intense psychological issues of pathology, families are encouraged to continue their work with area therapists.

Some parents may not need the detailed report for court but would benefit by the use of these methods to help their children. Because a child who is being co-parented by a pathological needs specialized approaches to decrease the pathological conditioning, provide security and structure, and build a strong attachments with the healthy parent, these methods are highly effective and can provide the emotional protection children need. Individual sessions are available to discuss the reduction of behavior issues.

My hope is to bring awareness to professionals and parents involved in parenting and custody issues with a pathological parent. If you feel your child is experiencing PTSD it is extremely important to seek services of a professional because untreated PTSD can lead to further psychiatric and physical disorders.

At The Institute, we are dedicated to providing support to families exposed to pathology.

(** Editors note: To know the difference between PTSD in a child and Reactive Attachment Disorder in a child, also read the column in the Parenting Center section called Parental Challenges.)

Rebecca Potter, M.S., LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Education, and a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She completed internships at a community mental health center, domestic violence treatment center, juvenile detention center, and an agency treating abused children. Rebecca is trained in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and has worked with over 100 different companies lecturing on health topics and assisting employees who have been traumatized. Currently she is a trained Behavior Analyst who works with abused children reducing acting out behaviors and in private practice treating adults, children, and families. She is a trained EMDR provider and treats all mental health issues as well as survivors of pathological relationships. She has personally struggled with all the complex legal and emotional issues that are involved in divorcing a successful and charming pathological pilot.

Rebecca is a provider for United Health Care and Cigna Behavioral Health insurances.

Part I

I first began my counseling work in a treatment setting that few counselors dare to touch: abused children. Today, I now also work with children who have a pathological parent. If you are reading this, maybe your child is forced to endure visits with a pathological.

Children of a pathological parent often have acting out behaviors that need remediation in order to be successful at school, in the family, and most importantly, in order to heal. Although the children seem fine to others, the families who love them and live with them, see a chaotic nightmare of intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, trouble sleeping, sexual acting out and intense anger. Is this your child’s behavior?

I am a Behavioral Analyst that develops personalized behavior plans for abused, special needs and children exposed to pathological persons. Behavioral approaches with children have lengthy documented success in reducing problematic and traumatic behavior. When traditional approaches take too long or are ineffective, behavioral approaches can quickly reduce severe behaviors and stabilize families.

David is a good example of a child I worked with. David was a small two year old. He had been abandoned by his mother and father. Both parents were abusive to each other in his presence and the parents had developed drug dependencies that David had witnessed.

The father became incarcerated and the mother was in and out of his life. The core family was in chaos and crisis. Luckily, he was eventually adopted by his loving grandparents but David was angry and defiant. He would punch holes in his bedroom wall, try to run away and the worst issue was that he picked at his nose repeatedly.

He had been given various psychiatric medications by his physician to reduce his acting out and self injuring behaviors. Despite the medication, this adorable child had trouble with eye contact, connecting with others, and sharing. When you saw his face the first thing you noticed were two raw red wounds on each side of his nose.

While David could not tell you about the violence and fights that he witnessed or the many crack houses he inhabited what was noticeable was his severe reactions and behaviors that indicated he had been exposed to significant trauma.

Maybe your child has not been exposed to domestic violence, been abandoned due to an addiction–but children in white collar yet pathological family dynamics can show the exact same types of behavior disruption. That’s because normal people are always affected by the behavior and worldview influences of someone who is pathological. Children are especially sensitive to pathological inconsistencies, behaviors, and emotional belittling. How does Behavioral Programs help children exposed to pathology or addictions?

How Behavioral Interventions Help

I helped his grandparents develop a simple behavior plan to reward his good behaviors and his cooperation. Although he was resistant to the changes and initially challenged his grandparents, his anger began to reduce as did his physical violence. Best of all, his wounds on his nose began to heal! The family turned a corner and began to have pleasurable times with this previously traumatized child.

Why children act out is because they have heard the word ‘no’ so often that they begin to internalize that they are bad not just their behaviors. Sometimes being told they are loved still does not help them feel accomplished and empowered. It’s through behavioral systems that children become empowered and traumatized children heal.

Behavior techniques are essential to reduce the acting out behaviors which is why The Institute offers this assistance to parents needing help with children exposed to pathologicals. Learning to reward the acceptable behaviors through effective techniques provides both appropriate consequences and appropriate rewards. Abused children begin to feel positive feelings and increased self-esteem.

Monthly, I will be discussing tips and techniques for the child exposed to pathological parenting. Also, if you need help developing a behavioral program for your child, here’s how to start your child on their own Path to Recovery….

Yes, I Want a Behavioral Plan for My Child or Teen

Rebecca Potter, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

The Institute’s Child Behavioral Analyst

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

Trait Examination OR Character Assassination?

Part of the problem we face in trying to get to the nitty-gritty of pathological love relationships is that

‘how we do it’ or ‘what we call it’ is judged so severely that it impairs sharing the valuable outcomes that are learned.

There are groups of professionals, women’s orgs, and service agencies that tip toe around what we ‘call’ patterns of selection in relationships. There are unspoken rules and heavily weighted opinions about ‘what’ we can discuss and ‘how’ we discuss the outcomes.

What am I talking about? Since the 1970’s and the women’s movement, discussing the specifics about women’s choices in relationships, patterns of selection, personality traits, mental health, sexual addiction/deviancy has been largely discouraged and ‘semanti-sized’ as ‘labeling the victim’ or ‘victim blaming.’ It has put the victim off limits for any in depth understanding other than a victimology theory that was developed in the 1970’s.

It is hard to get around the billboard image of ‘victim’ to talk about any kind of relationship dynamics or other psychological aspects (including biology or temperament engrained traits) that is happening in the pathological love relationship. We may study him but we already have a ‘theory’ for her which is not to be disturbed.

Compare this to any other field of mental health and it’s absurd that we would say ‘We already understand depression, no more theories, no more studying! Don’t call it depression or you are blaming the patient for their own depression.’

To study her is to blame her. To measure her traits to see if there are vulnerabilities or pattern typing is to suggest she is flawed.

  • The victim assuredly has been through trauma.
  • Studying the victim in no way says they have not been through trauma.
  • The victim is not to blame for what happened to them.
  • Studying the victim in no way says they are responsible for what happened to them.
  • The victim did not ‘choose’ the victimization, but in relational dysfunction, she did pick the victimizer.

Could we learn something about that?

How will Cancer be won or a cure for AIDS be found if we don’t study the problem from all angles? If we conclude that studying the victim blames them, then we have cut off one entire segment of research that can help us in prevention, intervention and treatment–whether it’s a medical disorder or a pathological relationship.

Studying victimology, including aspects of the victim, is not victim character assassination. It might be trait examination or pattern of selection analysis. It might be a lot of things that have nothing to do with blame and shame and everything to do with understanding or creating new paradigms in which to see these relationships. It might piggyback off of theories developed in the 1970’s…surely we have learned SOMETHING new about relationship dynamics, pathology in relationships, personality disorders as intimate partners, violence and addiction and their part in these relationships…surely we can UPDATE a theory without our own assassination or that of the victim?

In some ways, I envy the Scientific and Research communities that look at the data and pass all the darn political correctness and emotional politics of ‘labeling’ it something that certain groups find offensive. They test and crunch numbers and put it in a journal without all the rig-a-ma-roy. But in our case, where we are a notch below the researchers, what we study, how we describe what we found, is subject to so much scrutiny that many clinicians and writers hesitate to publish what they found.

So it has been with many of the things that The Institute has studied, found, reported, and written. In many organizations the first book ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man’ was rejected for looking at family role modeling, patterns of selection, and other aspects that women themselves said contributed to their pathological relationship. (On the other hand, it has been hailed by many domestic violence agencies and used widely in shelters, treatment centers and womens prisons.)

We stepped it up a huge notch in the ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ in which we used testing instruments to test women’s traits to see if there were temerament patterns in women who ended up in the most dangerous and disordered of relationships. This caught huge attention from some groups as the ground-breaking trait identification that it was and yet still; the victim groups saw it as labeling. How can we help women if we don’t understand their own biology?

Ironically, what we found was significant–super-traits so perfectly and symmetrically seen in 80 cases. Did we hurt a victim by studying that? Or have we helped now thousands of women who have read the books, been counseled by our trained therapists, come to our treatment programs? How would we have gotten here today without daring to look deeper…to even risk looking at her! Not to blame her, but to understand her.

Some of the biggest breakthroughs that have been happening are in understanding the biology of our own brains and the consequences of our biology on our behavior, choices, and futures. We know that MRI’s are being done on psychopath’s brains–revealing areas of brains that work differently. Some day, I think that may cross over and other personality disorders and chronic mental illnesses will be MRI’d as well so we understand how those disorder effect biology and brain function.

But what about victims?

  • If we put the word ‘damaged’ away and instead looked at how ‘different’ brain regions in victims function, over function, under function, are influenced by stress, PTSD, adrenaline, cortisol, and early childhood abuse–could we come to understand how their brain might function in their patterns of selection in dangerous relationships?
  • Could we come to understand that even temperament traits might give proclivity to how the brain ‘chooses’ or how the brain categorizes (or ignores) red flags, danger, or is highlyreactive to traumatized attraction?
  • Could we understand brains that have higher tolerance levels because of certain brain areas that operate differently than other people?
  • Could we understand traumatic memory storage and why good memories of him (even as awful as he might be) are so much stronger than the abuse memories?
  • If we know what part of the brain distorts memory storage, can we work with that?
  • Could we come to understand trait temperaments as risk factors or certain brain functions as possible victim vulnerabilities?
  • Then would we know who is at risk?
  • Would we understand better, how to TREAT the victim in counseling?
  • How to develop prevention and intervention?
  • Or how intensity of attachment could be either a temperament trait or a brain function instead of merely ‘victim labeling.’

I am not only interested in the psycho-biology of the victim but how the psycho-biology affects patterns of selection and reactions in the most pathological of relationships. When we start really dealing with an open dialogue about these survivors, looking past ridiculous theories that asking questions is victim blaming, then maybe we can really offer some new theories into victimology that by passes band aid approaches to complex psycho-bio-social understandings. This is what The Institute intends to do. To that end, this month’s expert is Dr. Kent Kiehl from The Mind Research Lab who is trying to answer some of the tough questions about mental illness and the brain as biology. This is such an extraordinarly important issue that we have focused much of our additional writing on it this month. This month we offer both the audio version of the interview Harrison Koehli and I did with Dr. Kiehl and also an article I wrote about this issue. Under Research is a great in depth article and interview with Dr. Kiehl by the New Yorker. And check out the expert section to read more about what we all want to know–how biology effects personality disorders, pathology, and psychopathy.

New Beginnings

A brand new year, a brand new look, a brand new magazine launch, a brand new start, and could be, a brand new you! The miracle of life is the ability to begin again. To start over, to look ahead, to sweep the slate clean, to turn the corner, to hope and plan again, to strengthen, to birth a new beginning for oneself.

I am not one for resolutions, instead I just allow the blossom of hope to fully bloom in me during each new year. I can’t help but be hopeful and future-oriented as a virginal calendar slate bears itself for a new imprinting of my life upon it. And yours too. As 2008 gets peeled off as a page in the journal of my life, I look ahead with promise. The promise of growth and hope–for The Institute, for you, for me.

I am so excited for what lies ahead in the horizon of The Institute. The coming together of some great minds, great motivations, and great people wanting to reach others with the training of pathology which gives the future a glowing hope. The magazine, this issue and launch, is the first step towards many of us coming together for the greater good of public pathology and psychopathy education. Education that is not only information and facts but life transformations—the kind of education that brings healing to the soul. Not only coaching but transformations of the spirit as well. Not only training of others but the cultivation of each persons talents that forms a cultural foundation of help and hope.

The goal of public pathology education for the SAFETY of all is a lofty goal that could not ever be reached by one person, one website, one researcher, one book writer, one program, or one voice. But together, each person teaching someone else, is the new hope for our generation that others will learn about pathology before they are victims.

Because we so passionately believe that it takes everyone teaching others about pathology BEFORE someone is victimized, we have extended ourselves astronomically (at least it feels like that!) to provide every kind of educational service in every kind of avenue we can think of so there are no more excuses for a lack of education in the public today.

This comprehensive planning of not only this magazine but ‘how’ we reach people includes every kind of medium we could develop: print books, e-books, CDs, DVDs, phone coaching, 1:1s, teleconferencing support groups, online workshops, online therapist training, retreats, community workshops, parenting information, survivors tips and recovery, expert insights, the latest research…and the list goes on.

If there is NOT information in your life or your community it isn’t because of US, it’s because people are not grabbing hold of what has been created for them to take out into the world.

We hope that you will give yourself some time to snuggle up with a cup of tea and spend time in the magazine. It is broad and deep and resourceful. It is not the quick read that the newsletter use to be so cruise around it the way you would your favorite part of the library.

But most of all, in time, I hope it brings hope not only to your personal situation but to you as a HEALED VOICE reaching out to others. If that doesn’t happen, and you are merely a wounded victim on a website, we have failed to bring enough healing to you to recreate ourselves in you with the hope and healing that must happen in the world to prevent others from falling prey to pathologicals. Our goal is not to create a magazine (I have PLENTY to do other than merely write a magazine!). It is to create change in the world through you.

Our site is not to be entertainment, but the training and educating of all that each one teaches one. When your healing has created a vision that can help others, we have been successful. Our goal is public education through each person–and it all begins with you.

Whether you need personal help right now through coaching, groups, or personal relational education in your home or community, it is available. If you need community support through our online groups, online workshops or in-person retreats so that you can meet others who are going through the same thing, it is available. If you need legal information and ideas, legal reports for court, or help with the devastation done to your children through this relationship, it is available. If you want to know as much as you can about the disorders related to pathology and psychopathy, it is available. If you want to learn to see pathology alive and functioning in the world around you—in business, in politics, in others–it is available. If you want to read books by other experts in the field of pathology, it’s available. If you want tips on recovery and relevant information to a survivor’s journey–it’s available. If you want to be trained to reach out to others or as therapists to become certified and receive referrals–it’s available. If you would like to participate in some of the latest research projects related to pathology–it’s available.

Creating a community of change through education about pathology is the mission of not only this magazine but of my professional life. I hope it becomes yours. I hope that what as been created by many people through this enormous effort benefits you, so that it will benefit others through you.

This year, 2009, can be a landmark year for all of us as we heal, grow, and reach the public with new knowledge and hope about relational harm and pathology. Thank you for being on the path with us in 2009 and for supporting our efforts with your encouragement, but mostly, with your own personal healing and recovery.

We welcome your encouraging thoughts about how the magazine has developed thus far. You can write us at saferelationships (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Looking forward to a year of growth with you,

Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

CEO, The Institute

Parental Challenges

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

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

by: James Dumesnil, M.S., LPCMHC, CCFC

Part IV – November 2009

Continued from last month….

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.

Part III – October 2009

Continued from last month….

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.

Part II – September 2009

Continued from last month….

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.

Continued next month…

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

Co-Parenting with a Pathological

The perils and pitfalls of co-parenting with a pathological. Coming soon will be a private section of the magazine for discrete conversations about co-parenting. This will include articles, tips from other professionals. ** COMING SOON!

Red Flag Warnings

by Grace Belafonte, Life Coach

RED FLAG WARNINGS are clues that emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, and/or sexual danger may be on the horizon. Consider that not every red flag listed below means you are dealing with a pathological. It means you better look deeper. The more red flags an individual displays, the stronger the indication is of a potential pathology.

Emotional Feelings
  • You get overcome by an anxious feeling when you are around that person
  • You get a feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you cannot figure it out.
  • You feel uneasy allowing him or her to be alone in your house, but you’re uncertain why
  • You get a creepy feeling when he or she stares into your eyes
  • You feel drained after spending time with this person
  • You feel anger or hostile when he or she speaks
  • You feel very self-conscious or inadequate around him or her
Physical Feelings
  • Your teeth clench and jaws get sore
  • You get nauseated when dealing with that person
  • You get headaches around that person
  • Your heart rate elevates in his or her presence (mistaken for attraction, rather than fear)
  • You get twitches or sweaty palms when in close proximity
From Others
  • A friend makes a negative comment about that person’s character or behavior
  • Your family members say they are not sure if they like him, or admit actual dislike
  • Someone asks you what happened to his wife when you did not know he was married
  • Your friends begin to disappear from your life when he/she is around
  • People do not seem to warm up to him/her easily
  • S/He is living with parents or renting a room from someone
  • S/He does not have a car
  • S/He does not have a job
  • S/He has been in several short-lived relationships
  • S/He has just come out of a relationship
  • S/He has no furniture
  • S/He is incredibly tight with money and wants you to pay often or all of the time
  • S/He does not have many friends
  • S/He is abrasive, controlling, and inflexible
  • S/He seems to be insincere in compliments given to others
  • S/He seems to have no concern for others
  • S/He is secretive or mysterious and has unusual beliefs or habits
  • S/He asks you early in the relationship to loan money
  • S/He is drinking or drugging excessively or new to a 12-step program
  • S/He has come from an abusive home
  • S/He enjoys others shortcomings and acts superior to others
  • S/He is very charming at times, but can be very harsh with a short fuse
  • S/He seems unable to empathize with others
  • S/He is a victim of something with an awful hard luck story
  • S/He never takes blame for anything; it is always someone else’s fault
  • S/He twists and turns events into something favorable to him or her
  • S/He can change moods on a dime or is combative towards others
  • S/He has lied about the past, hiding children or ex-spouses

This list is not exhaustive. You may come up with your own red flags. The key is to pay attention to them. They are your best protection as they help you to get out early or at least to know what you’re dealing with. ( (All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

Survival Tips

by Grace Belafonte, Life Coach

Living in the aftermath phase of a pathological relationship can be a grueling experience. These tips are a vital way to cope.


You will not find any peace until you accept what is happening in your life. Try the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to Accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

(Hear the meaning of the words as you say this.)

Disengage with the Pathological

Create distance between you and the pathological. Do not communicate directly with the pathological unless you are forced to by the court. Then, set up a voicemail system that can transcribe and forward messages to you via e-mail.

Establish a Reliable Support System

Sounds like an overused recommendation, but as a survivor, a strong support system is a life-saving grace. It is important that those you lean on are completely trustworthy and “get” what is happening.

Spiritual Nourishment

If you believe in God, use God to get through this. If you don’t believe in God, rely on something else; 12-steppers believe in a higher power. If you have to, trust someone else’s belief that things are going to be ok.

Physical Nourishment

Eat healthily. Cut out simple carbohydrates (refined sugar in candy, cakes, cookies, etc.) And add daily exercise (walking is good) between 20 to 40 minutes a day. Take Vitamin B12 which reduces the effects of stress on the body and helps calm the nerves naturally.

Intellectual Nourishment

Validation offered in books by credible sources can be amazing; but, if you find that the books are making you feel more powerless because of the seriousness of your situation, then put them down and read positive books.


In the aftermath, you may feel overwhelmed with issues. Try to visualize little compartments in which each issue can be stored. Work on one issue at a time. While working on one issue, detach emotionally from the others so you can focus.

Next Indicated Step

Think in terms of your next indicated step when you are overwhelmed. If you are open to solutions in your life, they will show up. When you wake up in the morning, ask “what can I do next in such and such area.” And just do it. Stay out of the future.

Quiet the Ache

First, acknowledge that how you feel is normal. Even though this person is bad for you, the pathological is usually quite conning and extremely charismatic. Have someone available who “understands” the situation and who can talk you down from the “compulsion” of wanting to talk to or be with the pathological. You do not, however, need someone in your life who will tell you shouldn’t feel that way. You just do. What you need is someone to help you act appropriately despite your feelings.

Create a Positive Outlook

Know that one day this will be over. At some point, you will feel certain doubt that you will not get through this. Every day that passes is one day closer to the whole situation being a thing of the past. Look for any good things that could arise in your life because of this.


Sit down daily, close your eyes, and find one thing to be grateful for. It could be as simple as being able to breathe, or walk, or that you have a great friend who loves you and believes in you. It could be the joy you get from a child, a pet, etc.

Forget about Revenge

Revenge does not serve anyone. It may be a nice thought to have a predator get his karma… you cannot be the one to do it. Thinking and planning revenge only feeds the resentment you have inside. Let it go. Live emotionally free.

Right size the Predator

It helps to look at the person who has harmed you in ways that reduce his/her power over you. For instance, nick names that are funny or lessen his or her power are great.

Don’t Hammer Yourself

If you are dealing with a pathological, please don’t take it personal. There is probably a long list of others hurt too by this person. This happened because you were vulnerable, not bad. Evil people target loving, caring people. This does not mean you should stop being loving and caring. Please continue to be the beautiful person you are. You are armed, now, with information. Use that information so that you are no longer vulnerable and easy prey. Yes, it IS possible.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)

Relapse Prevention Tips

by Grace Belafonte, Life Coach

The only thing worse than being in the aftermath of a pathological relationship is getting involved in a new pathological relationship!


Before you get involved in another relationship, give yourself time to heal and reveal why you were in a pathological relationship in the first place. Before you are a psychopath’s PICK, learn what makes you TICK! Do not get into another relationship for at least one year. If that sounds impossible, you might already have a hint to the WHY behind your unfortunate journey. Keep in mind, it takes most people four to five pathological relationships before they STOP!


Do a complete relationship inventory. In the workbook for ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man before You Get Involved’, you will get an opportunity to survey your relationships. If you are willing to look, you will see life-changing information in your history. If you are honest with yourself, you will probably see your part in the ordeal. You cannot move out of being a victim unless you see why you were vulnerable.


You must heed red flag warnings, but, before you can do that, you need to see them! Most victims will tell you that they did NOT experience the same creepy feeling about the psychopath that their friends and family did. And, they will tell you that they DID ignore what they later learned were flaming hot red flags waving wildly right before their very eyes. Additionally, they would not even listen to the warnings of others when they were told of the red flags they should be heeding.


Read, study, and go to therapy. Understand pathology and how it impacts your life. Learn what healthy love is and what it is not. If you have been in multiple pathological relationships you will need to unlearn your beliefs about relationships and take on new healthy beliefs. Learn how to set FIRM boundaries. Boundaries will save your life. With weak boundaries and a caring heart you are putty in the hands of a pathological.


Live a rich, full life. Create the life you desire or at least set goals and get on the path. Find your passion again. What makes you feel good? If you are a LONELY VICTIM, you send out radar signals to pathologicals. Loneliness smells like a filet mignon to a hungry psychopath.


Go where the love is, you deserve to be loved and to love freely. Connect or reconnect with people who are solid for you. Put yourself in the center of loving, accepting people who add to your life. Ask someone to help you stick with reality when Prince Charming knocks at your door. People who love you unconditionally will most likely serve as a mirror for you. Be open to their input.

(All articles are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced, however feel free to put a link to this page.)