By now if you have been trying to heal from a pathological love relationship and can’t find effective and knowledgeable counseling you have probably figured out what we have…that the pathological love relationship is NOT widely understood.
Frustrated women hear unhelpful advice from family, friends and even therapists who label their attachment to pathological men as “codependent” or “mutually addictive” or merely “emotional abuse.” Women jump from counselor to counselor and from group counseling experience-to-group counseling experience looking for someone, ANYONE, who understands this intense attachment to a dangerous and pathological man.
She looks for some understanding at ‘what’ is wrong with him. Labeling him an ‘abuser’ doesn’t quite cover the extensive array of brilliant psychopathic tendencies he has. Why was SHE targeted by him? Why does she feel both intense attachment and loathing for him at the same time? Why do her symptoms more resemble ‘mind control’ than mere ‘abused woman syndrome?’ Why is the bonding with this man more intense and unshakeable than any other man? Is it abuse if he never physically harms you but has the mental infiltration of a CIA operative?
What we are finding out from our research about women who have been in pathological love relationships is that all the normal dynamics of regular relationships DON’T apply to these types. All the normal dynamics of addictive relationships, codependent relationships and dysfunctional relationships DON’T apply to these types either. No wonder women can’t find the help they need…it hasn’t been taught YET! Our research is pointing towards women who DON’T fit into the stereotypes of women we normally see in shelters, counseling centers and in other abuse situations. These are not women who have the kinds of histories we normally associate with abuse nor do they have the kinds of current lives that fit the demographics of most counseling programs and shelters. Their personality traits and behaviors fit no other ‘typologies.’ And their current symptoms don’t match the simply ‘dysfunctional’ love relationship.
Could it be that the dynamics in a pathological love relationships really ARE different than other types of relationships? Could this be why women in these types of relationships aren’t helped by the more prevalent types of intervention offered to other types of abusive relationships? Why does the Power & Control Wheel model seem ineffective with these types of women? Why are these women LESS likely to seek traditional counseling? And if they do, why are they less likely to be helped by it? Why are these women’s personality traits so vastly different then shelter women? Or abused women?
Too many women have been through the ringer of counselors-not-understanding-psychopathology/family-lumping-all-relationship-types-together/ friends-saying-‘just-get-over-it’/ and counseling-programs-telling-she’s-just-codependent. Too many women have stopped seeking help because they are tired of too many people ‘not getting it.’ Psychology has to allow itself to grow beyond a one-size-fits-all approach when dealing with women emerging from pathological love relationships because all relationships are not created equal. Especially when one of them is pathological. Not understanding the effects of pathology on relationships, self concept, and recovery deters a woman’s ability to heal. Understanding the DIFFERENCES in these types of relationships is critical.
The Institute developed programs and materials exactly for this reason. We developed our telephone coaching program for women in immediate need of validation of their experiences, our retreat programs specifically geared to ‘Healing the Aftermath of the Pathological Love Relationship,’ our Therapist Affiliate Program training which provides other therapists nationwide the clinical training to help women heal from these types of relationships, and our 40+ products all developed to teach pathology to others.
Why? Why all the effort in treatment related issues? Because the absence of trained counselors is screamingly evident. Our mailing list writes us week after week asking “Can you recommend someone in Florida, Michigan, the United Kingdom, Canada, California, Oregon…? Why don’t other counselors understand this? Why can’t anyone explain to me what is going on! If one more counselor or family member suggests I am codependent or a relationship addict, I’m going to scream! Why is this so hard to understand?”
Much like the beginning phases of the addiction field, the pathological love relationship field is feeling the same ‘misunderstanding phase’ that other theories of counseling have gone through. When the field is new or the knowledge is groundbreaking, there is an overt lack of trained responders. Unfortunately, those that suffer the new phases are the victims/survivors that wish there were more trained service providers.
The Institute operates as a public psychopathy education project which means we try to train anyone and everyone in the issues of pathology–that includes the women in the relationships AND those who are likely to be emotional supports to women recovering from these relationships. Please bear with an entirely new emerging field of psychology that is trying to race to catch up to the knowledge of what is needed for this population of people. After all, until us no one had even bothered to STUDY the female partners of psychopaths and partners of other pathological types. No one created research projects to study the personality traits, histories and chronic vulnerabilities of women who have been in these relationships. So to that degree, we are virginal in our exploration of these issues.
As an Institute, we try to be immediately responsive to needs. In the last year we have exploded in growth in our outreach–our weekly newsletter continues to reach more and more people, our blogs we write for other websites such as Psychology Today and Times Up! helps us to reach an even larger audience with the educational value of our expertise, our list of books, CDs and DVDs that are in every country of the world, our expanded retreat format, private 1:1’s with Sandra, our telephone assessments and coaching which doubled in size this year, our weekly teleconferencing support groups, and our Therapist Training Program–all are born out of our desire to reach YOU! As needs are repeatedly identified by our mailing list, we try to quickly ascertain how to develop a program to meet the need. That’s because we recognize that the services available out there are slim. We provide what we can knowing that we are a drop in the bucket to the need that exists. So unless we duplicate ourselves through products and services many women will go untreated.
I know for many women who are struggling to recover from the diabolical aftermath of a pathological relationship that it seems that too few services exist. Please remain hopeful that not only this Institute but other therapists and agencies hear your cry and are reaching out for training so they can help you. We too are always looking at how we can expand our scope and reach.
Over the past year or two there has been a proliferation of survivor-based websites, blogs, newsletters, blog radio shows, and chat forums that have jumped in to fill the need between what you need and what ‘is’ out there for support or assistance. (We appreciate that every new blog is pathology information reaching new victims!) Lately we have been asked what constitutes effective help for the aftermath symptoms. Those suffering with stress related disorders, intrusive thoughts/obsessional thinking as well as PTSD and other anxiety-based disorders are often surprised to find that chat forums INCREASE their symptoms. It seems counter-intuitive that the thing you want most to do (process it, talk about it, and roll it around in your head) may be the very thing that increases intrusive thoughts and autonomic adrenaline response in your body. “But it’s the first time someone has understood” or “I feel so at home with others like me” is a common feeling associated with the huge relief after finding a forum that you resonate with. And I am sure lots of people will disagree with me about the use of chat forums. Unfortunately, we have spent a great deal of time ‘cleaning up’ symptoms that have increased in survivors while surfing the net, chatting in forums or finding survivor-support blogs that don’t clinically understand PTSD or what helps/hinders it.
While survivor blogs and websites may have the ‘right heart’ when it comes to offering a ‘place for survivors’ please be aware that these sites are not professional clinicians. They may have lived through a pathological relationship, but it is questionable if they are competent to offer guidance on your array of mental health problems. In fact, if what they do offer triggers you, they are not likely to know what to do or be able to provide it.
While we exist to help all survivors, it is increasing difficult for us to clean up the emotional meltdowns caused from too much exposure to things that trigger your autonomic response of adrenaline, depression or anxiety generated from non-clinical websites. It’s also a reason we only used master degreed professionals for our phone support.
Here are our recommendations:
We suggest that you find a trauma therapist skilled in PTSD. We are happy to provide a training DVD to her that helps her get up to speed on Pathological Love Relationships so she can understand why your aftermath is so severe.
Finding an EMDR or Hypnosis Therapist are considered ‘gentle therapies’ and easiest on your own biological system as you can work through your symptoms.
When your symptoms have minimized, consider finding a support program (phone group or in person group).
STOP group whenever/if ever your are re-triggered (recovery is about pacing your level of exposure to things that are triggering).
Limit your exposure to triggering events such as chat forums or too much ‘other victim-oriented’ story sharing.
Practice a stress relieving lifestyle (you have a stress disorder!)
Find beauty in things that instill hope for a future.
Most of all, don’t give up hope. We are an emerging new psychology field! We are where Domestic Violence was in the 1970’s and 80’s–we are blazing a new frontier!
Hopefully these tips will help you select competent services for your own recovery. Let us know how if we can be of help.