Archives for August 2010

What Everyone Needs to Know About How You Were Wounded and Why It’s Different – Transcript

This document is a transcript of The Institute’s teleseminar on “What Everyone Needs to Know.”

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The Pathological: The Child Prodigy-Savant–All Grown Up, Part II

Last week I started talking about this natural ability that pathologicals have when it comes to reading human behavior. Last newsletter we talked about how the child’s emotional developmental deficits actually spur them towards compensation in these areas by trying to hide their lack of a full emotional spectrum, lack of insight, and lack of ability to sustain emotional and behavioral changes.  They learn to compensate by studying human behavior and ‘mimicking and parroting’ when they want to fit in. But what about when they DON’T want to fit in, or when they become adults?

Erik Erikson studied human development and his theory says that there are ’emotional tasks’ that must occur before the next leap of growth can occur. These are building blocks of emotional structure of development.

The first task as a baby is to bond. After that come the tasks in this order that must occur to be a healthy and normal person:

Trust builds on bonding

Autonomy (or independence) builds on trust

Initiative (or leadership) builds on autonomy

Industry (or pride in ones accomplishments) builds on initiative

Identity builds on industry, etc.

There are more developmental aspects all the way through old age. But these give us something to look at–all the aspects of emotional development that must occur (and did not occur somewhere in the list) for the pathological– Bonding, Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Industry, Identity.  When these building blocks of character were being laid (and mislaid), holes in the soul develop around those building blocks that were not laid.

Instead of learning trust, they learn to con other people’s trust and yet mistrust everyone. Instead of learning independence they are either horribly dependent and parasitic or aloof and not the least bit interdependent within relationships. Instead of initiative (or leadership) they either feel inadequate or superior or con others and the only place they lead others is ‘astray.’ Instead of industry and finding meaning and pride in their accomplishments, they see their accomplishments highly connected to the ability to superbly manipulate and con others. Their pride about their abilities is more related to the ability to manipulate than it is any other abilities they may have. Instead of a healthy self identity, their identity is highly connected now to their choices. Since many of them are delinquent and deviant, their identity is connected not with something positive but with their darkest character flaws.

All of these developmental tasks that should be completed: bonding, trust, independence, initiative, industry, and identity are the building blocks established by teen years. We can easily see how and why their adult years are filled with problems and anguishing relationships. If you don’t bond, trust, have interdependent relationships, your idea of accomplishment is conning, and your identity is linked to your bad character–THERE ISN’T MUCH TO WORK WITH!

Pathologicals have difficult adulthoods AND they make everyone else’s adulthoods difficult too. The child prodigy studying what works with humans is largely squeezed down to “WIIFM” (What’s In It for Me). Studying others to ‘fit in’ gets replaced by the adult skills of conning, manipulation, lying, embezzlement, and other honed arts. By the time the emotional development of the teen years have hit, the bonding, trust, interdependence, accomplishments and lastly identity—are long tweaked into pathological dynamics. Oddly, the personality ‘age’ stops growing and you rarely see pathologicals emotionally older than 14 but the behaviors get tweaked up a notch to adult skills of adept conning.

What was once a science project of ‘Why am I different?’ as a child becomes ‘Cool, I’ll use it against them” as an adult.  The child prodigy who studied human behavior so well is the relationship idiot savant. It just takes women a while to figure out that what he espouses in the beginning isn’t really what he’s all about. What didn’t happen in his emotional development will ruin their relationship and her, personally.

Children and Stress: The New Science on Chronically Harsh and Conflict-ridden Households

You work and work to provide for your kids, and that puts you under a lot of stress. Job insecurity, maybe some mortgage problems, and other common afflictions of the times only increase the pressure. You find yourself taking it out on your family—the kids, your spouse, the cat, any unfortunate who gets in your way. When you’re home and not obsessively checking your e-mail, you lose your temper, you snap and yell and brood, you run alternately too hot (angry and aggressive, spoiling for a fight) and too cold (withdrawn and distant, a forbidding stone-face). You’ll admit that you’re hard to be around, but look, life is tough and you’re knocking yourself out without much in the way of thanks or respite to make enough money to feed and house the kids, and that’s what matters most, right?

Well, yes and no. Providing for children’s basic material needs is essential—it would be silly to argue otherwise. But a chronically harsh, conflict-ridden, chaotic household environment can do psychological damage and related physical damage that undercuts the good effects of whatever you’re doing to provide for children’s basic needs.

Read more at Slate Magazine…

Tips for a Healthier, Happier Holiday

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

Lying in Family Court

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

When I became a family law attorney/mediator after a dozen years as a therapist, one of the biggest surprises was the extent of lying in Family Court: lies about income, assets and even complete fabrications of child abuse and domestic violence. Why would people lie so much, I wondered? How did they get away with it? The following is my psychosocial analysis of what I believe has become an epidemic:

Men Lie
It was a sad phone call from a relatively new client. He informed me his father had just died. He had quit his job and was moving back east to wrap up his father’s affairs. He asked me to tell his wife’s attorney that he would not be able to pay child support for their three young children for a long time. (There was no support order yet.)

The next day, his wife’s attorney called me back and described how upset his wife was to learn of her father-in-law’s death. So upset, that she had called his father — and had a nice chat!

Women Lie
A mother involved in a custody battle told the court in dramatic detail about physical abuse at the hands of her husband. She even submitted reports of visits to doctors and emergency rooms for her bruises.

However, a court-ordered psychological evaluation determined the allegations were false. The court agreed and awarded custody to the father. A few weeks later the mother picked up the children from school and disappeared for a year. She was caught, sent to jail for parental kidnaping, and the children returned to the father.

Societal Increase in Lying

Surveys show that lying has increased over the past decade. In 1999 alone: the President was tried in Congress for perjury; a popular journalist in Boston was publicly fired for fabricating heart-rending stories; and a scientist was exposed for falsifying research on a high-profile safety issue.

We have become a society of individuals. Personal gain is more important than community values. In this mobile “information age,” we rely on strangers and are easily fooled. In business, politics, and the movies, winning is everything. Successful manipulation and deceit are admired. In court, lying is often rewarded and rarely punished.

No Penalty for Perjury
Divorce Courts rely heavily on “he said, she said” declarations, signed “under penalty of perjury.” However, a computer search of family law cases published by the appellate courts shows only one appellate case in California involving a penalty for perjury: People v. Berry (1991) 230 Cal. App. 3d 1449. The penalty? Probation.

Perjury is a criminal offense, punishable by fine or jail time, but it must be prosecuted by the District Attorney–who does not have the time. Family Court judges have the ability to sanction (fine) parties, but no time to truly determine that one party is lying. Instead, they may assume both parties are lying or just weigh their credibility.With no specific consequence, the risks of lying are low.

Personality Disorders and Patterns of Lying
Family Courts see everything: from small deceptions about income to the complete fabrication of abuse. The increase in lying seems to correspond with the rising number of people with personality disorders, as I described in my Spring 1998 newsletter. They often have internal distress, less empathy for others, a highly adversarial world view, an intense and manipulative nature, and a sense of victimization which they use to justify harming others. Studies show they have identifiable and predictable patterns of lying:

A party with a Borderline Personality Disorder may lie out of anger or even self-deception in an effort to maintain a bond with their child or spouse–or to retaliate for abandonment. Battles over custody and visitation are common.

One with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder may lie to boost themselves or to put other people down. They enjoy manipulating the truth and other people’s lives. They may experience excitement and a sense of power by successfully fooling the court and dominating the other party. An Antisocial Personality Disorder is characterized by deception, manipulation, and disrespect for authority. Commonly known as “con artists,” they are skilled at breaking the rules. They fabricate detailed events and use the courts to get revenge or money. Their lack of empathy makes them constant liars — and often violent.

A Histrionic Personality Disorder is often highly dramatic and demanding, with superficial charm and seductiveness. They are skilled at lying and self-deception. Fabrication is also common.

William A. (”Bill”) Eddy is co-founder and president of High Conflict Institute, LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

He is the author of several books, including “High Conflict People in Legal Disputes” (Janis Publications, 2006), and “Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist (Eggshells Press, 2004). Bill has become an international speaker on the subject of high-conflict personalities, providing seminars to attorneys, mediators, collaborative law professionals, judges, ombudspersons and others.

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 3

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

How Family Court Fits Personality Disorders

Family Court is perfectly suited to the fantasies of someone with a personality disorder: There is an all-powerful person (the judge) who will punish or control the other spouse. The focus of the court process is perceived as fixing blame — and many with personality disorders are experts at blame. There is a professional ally who will champion their cause (their attorney — or if no attorney, the judge). A case is properly prepared by gathering statements from allies — family, friends, and professionals. (Seeking to gain the allegiance of the children is automatic — they too are seen as either allies or enemies. A simple admonition will not stop this.) Generally, those with personality disorders are highly skilled at — and invested in — the adversarial process.

Those with personality disorders often have an intensity that convinces inexperienced professionals — counselors and attorneys — that what they say is true. Their charm, desperation, and drive can reach a high level in this very emotional, bonding process with the professional. Yet this intensity is a characteristic of a personality disorder, and is completely independent from the accuracy of their claims.

What Can Be Done

Judges, attorneys, and family court counselors need to be trained in identifying personality disorders and how to treat them. Mostly, a corrective on-going relationship is needed — preferably with a counselor. However, they usually must be ordered into this because their belief systems include a life-time of denial and avoidance of self-reflection.

Family Code Section 3190 allows the court to order up to one year of counseling for parents, if:

“(1) The dispute between the parents or between a parent and the child poses a substantial danger to the best interest of the child.

[or] (2)The counseling is in the best interest of the child.”

Therapists, in addition to being supportive, need to help clients challenge
their own thinking: about their own role in the dispute; about the accuracy of their view of the other party; and about their high expectations of the court. Further, therapists should never form clinical opinions or write declarations about parties they haven’t interviewed.

Likewise, attorneys need to also challenge their clients’ thinking and not accept their declarations at face value. More time should be spent educating them to focus on negotiating solutions, rather than escalating blame. The court should make greater use of sanctions under Family Code Section 271 for parties and attorneys who refuse to negotiate and unnecessarily escalate the conflict and costs of litigation.

The court must realize that the parties are often not equally at fault. One or both parties may have a personality disorder, but that does not necessarily mean both are offenders (violent, manipulative, or lying). A non-offending,  dependent spouse may truly need the court’s assistance in dealing with the offender. The court should not be neutralized by mutual allegations without looking deeper. Otherwise, because of their personality style, the most offending party is often able to continue their offender behavior — either by matching the other’s true allegations for a neutral outcome, or by being the most skilled at briefly looking good and thereby receiving the court’s endorsement.

The court is in a unique position to motivate needed change in personal behavior. In highly contested cases, counseling or consequences should be ordered. Professionals and parties must work together to fully diagnose and treat each person’s underlying problems, rather than allowing the parties (and their advocates) to become absorbed in an endless adversarial process. Because their largest issues are internal, they will never be resolved in court.

William A. (”Bill”) Eddy is co-founder and president of High Conflict Institute, LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

He is the author of several books, including “High Conflict People in Legal Disputes” (Janis Publications, 2006), and “Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist (Eggshells Press, 2004). Bill has become an international speaker on the subject of high-conflict personalities, providing seminars to attorneys, mediators, collaborative law professionals, judges, ombudspersons and others.

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 2

Personality Disorders Appearing in Family Court

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

Probably the most prevalent personality disorder in family court is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
more commonly seen in women. BPD may be characterized by wide mood swings, intense anger even at benign events, idealization (such as of their spouse — or attorney) followed by devaluation (such as of their spouse — or attorney).

Also common is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) — more often seen in men. There is a great preoccupation with the self to the exclusion of others. This may be the vulnerable type, which can appear similar to BPD, causing distorted perceptions of victimization followed by intense anger (such as in domestic violence or murder, for example the San Diego case of Betty Broderick). Or this can be the invulnerable type, who is detached, believes he is very superior and feels automatically entitled to special treatment.

Histrionic Personality Disorder also appears in family court, and may have similarities to BPD but with less anger and more chaos. Anti-social Personality Disorder includes an extreme disregard for the rules of society and very little empathy. (A large part of the prison population may have Anti-social Personality Disorder. ** The Institute will be writing more about the Anti Social/socio-psychopath in next months article about Anti-Socials in the legal system.)

Dependent Personality Disorder is common, but usually is preoccupied with helplessness and passivity, and is rarely the aggressor in court — but often marries a more aggressive spouse, sometimes with a personality disorder.

Cognitive Distortions and False Statement

Because of their history of distress, those with personality disorders perceive the world as a much more threatening place than most people do. Therefore, their perceptions of other people’s behavior is often distorted — and in some cases delusional. Their world view is generally adversarial, so they often see all people as either allies or enemies in it. Their thinking is often dominated by cognitive distortions, such as: all-or-nothing thinking, emotional reasoning, personalization of benign events, minimization of the positive and maximization of the negative. They may form very inaccurate beliefs about the other person, but cling rigidly to those beliefs when they are challenged — because being challenged is usually perceived as a threat.

People with personality disorders also appear more likely to make false statements. Because of the thought process of a personality disorder, the person experiences interpersonal rejection or confrontation much more deeply than most people. Therefore the person has great difficulty healing and may remain stuck in the denial stage, the depression stage, or the anger stage of grief — avoiding acceptance by trying to change or control the other person.

Lying may be justified in their eyes — possibly to bring a reconciliation. (This can be quite convoluted, like the former wife who alleged child sexual abuse so that her ex-husband’s new wife would divorce him and he would return to her — or so she seemed to believe.) Or lying may be justified as a punishment in their eyes. Just as we have seen that angry spouse may kill the other spouse, it is not surprising that many angry spouses lie under oath. There is rarely any consequence for this, as family court judges often believe the truth cannot be known — or that both are lying.


Just as an active alcoholic or addict blames others for their substance abuse, those with personality disorders are often preoccupied with other people’s behavior while avoiding any examination of their own behavior. Just as a movie projector throws a large image on a screen from a hidden booth, those with personality disorders project their internal conflicts onto their daily interactions — usually without knowing it. All the world is a stage — including court.

It is not uncommon in family court declarations for one with a personality disorder to claim the other party has characteristics which are really their own (“he’s manipulative and falsely charming” or “she’s hiding information and delaying the process”), and do not fit the other party. Spousal abusers claim the other is being abusive. Liars claim the other is lying. (One man who knew he was diagnosed with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder claimed his wife also had an NPD simply because she liked to shop.)

William A. (”Bill”) Eddy is co-founder and president of High Conflict Institute, LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

He is the author of several books, including “High Conflict People in Legal Disputes” (Janis Publications, 2006), and “Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist (Eggshells Press, 2004). Bill has become an international speaker on the subject of high-conflict personalities, providing seminars to attorneys, mediators, collaborative law professionals, judges, ombudspersons and others.

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation – Part 1

by Bill Eddy, Esquire, L.C.S.W.

I was first exposed to the concept of personality disorders in 1980 when I was in training as a therapist at the San Diego Child Guidance Clinic at Childrens Hospital. The DSM-III had just come out and Axis II of the five diagnostic categories required the therapist to diagnose the presence or absence of a personality disorder. (The current DSM-IV uses the same approach.) I quickly learned (often the hard way) that the presenting problems on Axis I (e.g. depression, substance abuse) were simply replaced by new ones, if an underlying personality disorder was not addressed in therapy.

Now that I have completed five years as a family law attorney, I have frequently witnessed the same underlying issues in hotly contested family court litigation — yet these remain undiagnosed and, therefore, misunderstood. As those with personality disorders generally view
relationships from a rigid and adversarial perspective, it is inevitable that a large number end up in the adversarial process of court. Since more flexible and cost-conscious people nowadays are resolving their divorces in mediation, attorney-assisted negotiation, or just by themselves, those cases remaining in litigation may be increasingly driven by personality disorders.

The Nature of a Personality Disorder

Someone with a personality disorder is usually a person experiencing chronic inner distress (for example fear of abandonment), which causes self-sabotaging behavior (such as seeking others who fear abandonment), which causes significant problems (such as rage at any
perceived hint of abandonment) — in their work lives and/or their personal lives. They may function quite well in one setting, but experience chaos and repeated problems in others. They look no different from anyone else, and often present as very attractive and intelligent people. However, it is usually after you spend some time together — or observe them in a crisis — that the underlying distress reaches the surface.

As interpersonal distress, fear of abandonment, and an excessive need for control are predominant symptoms of personality disorders, they place a tremendous burden on a marriage. Therefore, intense conflicts will eventually arise in their marriages and the divorce process
will also be a very conflictual process. In contrast to people who are simply distressed from going through a divorce (over 80% are recovering significantly after 2 years), people with personality disorders grew up very distressed. It is the long duration of their dysfunction (since adolescence or early adulthood) which meets the criteria of a personality disorder.

Usually they developed their personality style as a way of coping with childhood abuse, neglect or abandonment, an emotionally lacking household, or simply their biological predisposition. While this personality style may have been an effective adaptation in their “family of
origin,” in adulthood it is counter-productive. The person remains stuck repeating a narrow range of interpersonal behaviors to attempt to avoid this distress.

In the next segment we will discuss the different types of personality disorders and what it’s like to be in court with them.

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

William A. (”Bill”) Eddy is co-founder and president of High Conflict Institute, LLC, in Scottsdale, Arizona and Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is a Certified Family Law Specialist in California with fifteen years’ experience representing clients in family court. Prior to becoming an attorney in 1992, he was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with twelve years’ experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

He is the author of several books, including “High Conflict People in Legal Disputes” (Janis Publications, 2006), and “Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist (Eggshells Press, 2004). Bill has become an international speaker on the subject of high-conflict personalities, providing seminars to attorneys, mediators, collaborative law professionals, judges, ombudspersons and others.

Purchase Bill Eddy’s books:

High Conflict People in Legal Disputes

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

The Pathological: a Child Prodigy-Savant of Human Behavior

People often want to know why people with personality disorders (pathology) often have the worst and most inappropriate behavior indicating they are clueless about others feelings AND YET they are often enabled with the uncanny ability to so know human behavior they con even the most knowledgeable of people.

This ‘savant-like’ experience with human behavior reminds me of the Scripture that says, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Cluster B Personality Disorders no doubt, rack up their miles in huge emotional and behavioral deficits. (The Lord Taketh Away). I’ve discussed this in length in the newsletter and books–that what causes a personality disorder has to do with what DOESN’T happen when the personality is forming from 0-8 years of age.

Deficits = Disorders.

Not getting what a child needs WHEN they need it can be the beginning of a personality disorder. Normal childhood development does not include severe neglect, being raised by a pathological and learning to see the world through the eyes of a narcissist or sociopath, or being abused.

Whatever the ’cause’ of the personality disorder, (exposed to pathological parents or being born with neuro-abnormalities) let’s consider the budding-pathological child for a moment. Let’s put out of our mind just for now the disordered adult he grows into. Here, we have let’s say, a 9 or 10 year old child who through no fault of his own, has a personality disorder.  That means that the child does not have the full spectrum of human emotion, has blunted feelings of love/compassion/guilt/remorse, has impulse control problems, has difficulty being able to know right from wrong, is not motivated by punishment when he does wrong, and is tantalized by risk and reward.

His friend across the street is the same age and not personality disordered. His friend has a full spectrum of emotions, feels bonded, love, compassion, is motivated by punishment so he feels guilt and remorse, he has impulse control over many of his actions, and understands the basic concepts of right and wrong. Although he likes risk and reward, he has enough impulse control not to be led consistently by pleasure.

One day Pathology Pete is over at Normal Ned’s. While playing in the house the boys knock over a vase and break it. Ned knows the story behind the vase: it’s the only thing his mother has left from her mother. His mother got it as a gift on the death bed of her mother. She always prized it and felt her mother’s presence when she looked at it.

Ned’s mother begins to cry and Ned has empathetic feelings that his mother is sad and experiencing loss because of the broken vase. Ned goes to her and tries to comfort her while Pete looks on.

Pete has NO idea why Ned (a) feels bad that the vase was broken (so what, go get another one), (b) why Ned would go to his mother and hug her and pat her (why does she need that?), (c) why Ned offers to replace the vase, (d) and why it was even wrong to be playing with a ball by the vase.

Pete stands off to the side watching this ‘unusual’ reaction and interaction between Ned and his mother.  In comes Ned’s brother, Normal Nathan. He sees his mother crying and goes to her too to comfort her. Pete wonders “Why? He didn’t even break the vase?”

Pete stands awkwardly off to the side watching what is like a Sci-Fi movie to him — all these feelings, actions, behaviors, and motivations he doesn’t understand. Over and over through out his childhood and into his adolescence this incident is repeated over and over again.

Pete witnesses people having feelings he doesn’t experience. They have emotional reactions that he doesn’t understand. They have reactions, behaviors, and motivations that are foreign to him. Pete’s bright–he is a smart child and can’t figure out why he doesn’t ‘know’ what other kids know—how to act, how not to act, how to feel certain emotions and when and why. Pathological child figure out early they are ‘different’–they just don’t know why.

Having a need to appear normal and fitting in like everyone else does–he watches. When someone cries, this is what other people do in response to the crying ___________ (behavior). The person who made the other one cry has a facial expression like this ___________ (I’m sorry look). People appear to cry for these reasons: ____________________ (motivations/consequences).

Children who grow to be pathological are little psychologists by the time they are teens. They have so watched other people that they understand (on a manipulative level) what makes people hurt and how to get out of consequences for having hurt others. These little child-prodigies who have studied human behavior since they were 5 or 6 years old, are emotional savants. On one hand, they do NOT have the full spectrum of emotions and so are sort of emotionally retarded towards the experience of others.

On the other hand, they are so bright and have so honed in on studying others, they have learned how to develop a mask for any occasion. This is the Lord Giveth part—they have such a knack for paying attention to others reactions so they too can learn that they learn to mimic other people’s facial gestures and behaviors and parrot the language and lingo of what others say.

This is why they are a mirror-image of you in a relationship. They watch and listen and mimic and parrot back all you do and say. This is why they feel like a soul mate–because you are essentially looking at a mask of yourself.

These skills are then polished over years of use—using them on his mother, sister, Sunday school teacher, girls at school, bosses…any where he can tweak the manipulation and look normal enough to fit in.

What began as a simple adaptation in a child–learning to understand how normal people relate and behave–turns into manipulation later. At some point, the child/teen must come to the conclusion that they DON’T have these feelings, limits, boundaries, and experiences. What the hell…just gotta go with it is the normal reaction from them.

The adaptation is no longer simply to understand normal people and compare/contrast them to his own experiences. It is now a survival behavior that helps him to get what he wants since his deficits will now give him the skills that others have to get the same thing legitimately.

Pathology Pete simply produces more masks–one for every emotion he doesn’t sincerely have.

Characterlogical Disorders: He is What He Does

Personality disorders are those permanent disorders that mar a soul. They impair a person’s ability for emotional growth, to sustain enduring positive change, and to develop insight about how their behavior affects others. This is the path of pathology–when disorders so affect a personality that it leaves them impaired that it disengages their character switch.

Personality disorders are often referred to as Character Disorders. No wonder! The problems associated with personality disorders largely manifest as inappropriate behavior associated as negative character reflection. We now know some of this inappropriate behavior is associated with poor impulse control. When low impulse control is not managed, the results begin to look like someone ‘characterlogically challenged’ such as lying, conning, manipulation, overt or covert stealing, sex addictions, infidelity, violence, drugs/alcohol abuse, etc. . . These all are reflections on someone’s behavior which can reflect character.

Why would someone want to be with anyone whose character is ‘suspect?’ Finding out about consistent lying or chronic cheating are all character red flags that when heeded could reduce the relational harm you experience. But ignored, it becomes a path of pain. Character red flags are usually related to CHARACTER DISORDERS which are associated with personality disorders which are permanent.

People responding to a two-strike rule about character infractions could help reduce the number of people in therapy today because of pathological love relationships. Behavior is often a reflection of character. What are you accepting as character and why are you shocked when they do more of the behavior?

Over and over again I hear women of all ages say, “There isn’t anyone decent out there.” It seems to be especially said of this current 20-something generation in which “It’s all about me” has become a significant icon of the decade. Women give up and give in to the common dating practices that are prevalent right now only to cycle thru relationship after relationship not only not getting her needs met, but being damaged by the relationship as well. There HAS to be something better out there for women–but is that what you REALLY want?

Why do I ask that? This week I have had painful contrasts…I got a letter from a previous client who discussed the latest relationship she was in. While she was hoping she had overcome her previous relationship choice patterns, she was shocked to find herself in yet another relationship because ‘she didn’t want to be alone.’  It wasn’t a crushing kind of loneliness–but a general ‘wanting to find the right guy.’ She thought it started out well–and when problems arose counseling was sought from several sources. Feeling like she had gotten a handle on what the issues were and he had ‘voiced’ his desire to work on the problems, she stayed trying to find ‘that love’ that she was seeking. But after emotional and verbal abuse, a threat with a deadly weapon, a display of alcohol abuse, and some physical assaults–she decided the relationship was probably ‘dangerous or deadly.’ Another couple of years down the tubes–another guy simply ‘a dangerous man’ and her emotions dashed against the trigger of a deadly weapon.

In contrast, this week was Cody’s birthday. I am reminded of my foster son Cody’s character that died at the ripe old age of 25. He was a young guy who ironically in this day and age, never succumbed to the sex and drug culture.

He was gentle–with nature, with feelings, with people. His integrity was thorough, weaving a rich and deep seam thru his character. In a blazing black and white contrast to what women have been selecting, I wondered why it’s so hard to ‘see’ character. Yeah, yeah, I know they ‘hide’ and ‘mask’ and do all the other subversive types of behaviors that don’t allow you to see. It’s often said that “Character is who you are when no one is looking.” Well, a pathological could careless about that! They only want to fake character when someone IS looking.

But just knowing that character and its glaring deficits are often related to pathology should be enough to make people sit up and take notice. We live in a world that is numbing itself against any moral and behavioral absolutes. This numbing causes people to accept pathological behavior as the norm. “There aren’t any good ones left” is an excuse to accept the pathological culture that is developing before us.

It takes someone like Cody to make us realize that good people are worth waiting for. When you accept bad character, you get bad behavior. When you accept bad behavior, you accept being hurt because it’s inevitable. Thank you Cody for being a teacher to me about what good mental health looks like in a young man. I miss you but always remember what you taught me. Character counts ladies. Don’t sacrifice.

PTSD Study: Kids also Vulnerable to Stress, Depression

Popular wisdom has long held that young children survive traumatic events better than adults do, in part because they suffer less. Being too young to understand fully the nature of what’s happening around them – during war or natural disaster, for instance – they should bounce back with much more resilience.

But new research on child survivors of Hurricane Katrina and witnesses of the 9/11 terrorist attacks suggests otherwise. “There is increasing evidence that kids know what is going on if they are directly exposed and see something like planes crashing into the [World Trade Center] towers,” says child psychologist Claude Chemtob of New York University, lead author of one of several new papers on children and disaster, published in a special section of the July and August issue of Child Development.

Read more…

EMDR and the Lessons from Neuroscience Research

Excerpt from a research paper written by Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D.:

Research in laboratories devoted to elucidating human memory processes have consistently shown that memory is an active and constructive process: the mind constantly re-assembles old impressions and attaches them to new information. Memories, instead of precise recollections, are transformed into stories that we tell ourselves and others, in order to convey a coherent narrative of our experience of the world. Rarely do our minds generate precise images, smells, sensations, or muscular actions that accurately replicate earlier experiences.

However, learning from individuals who have been diagnosed with PTSD confronted us with the fact that, after having been traumatized, particular emotions, images, sensations, and muscular reactions related to the trauma may become deeply imprinted on people’s minds and that these traumatic imprints seem to be re-experienced without appreciable transformation, months, years or even decades after the actual event occurred (Janet, 1889, 1894; van der Kolk & van der Hart, 1991; van der Kolk & Fisler, 1995; van der Kolk, Osterman, & Hopper, 2000).

Read more…

What Happens In An EMDR Session?

Do you ever have present day experiences that trigger  old, extremely distressing memories as if they were stuck in your brain?  Do sights, sounds and smells that remind you of the original event leave you in an extreme state of anxiety, hypervigilance or panic?  When this happens, do you hear the abuser’s ideas in your head, putting you down, criticizing or ridiculing you in some way?  Do you sometimes think you are crazy?  This is a normal response to traumatic material that has not been fully processed.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is used to disconnect emotionally disruptive memories from current life experiences.  Its focus is the resolution of emotional distress arising from traumatic events.  No one knows for sure how EMDR works but through brain imaging techniques, we are seeing its effects. Dr. Daniel Amen M.D., in his book, ”Healing the Hardware of the Soul”, states that, “people who have been traumatized and develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms (such as flashbacks, nightmares, worries, quick startle response, anxiety, depression and avoidance) are frequently overly concerned and worried (anterior cingulate section of the brain-get stuck), anxious and hyper alert (basal ganglia section of the brain), and filter everything through negativity (limbic-thalmus section).”  EMDR calms all of these areas of the brain according to the SPECT brain scans Dr. Amen has been doing for the last 20 years. These scans allow us to see the internal operations of different parts of the brain, allowing us to learn more about which parts do what.

When a person experiences an event that is extremely distressing and overwhelming, it is stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations that accompanied the event when it happened.  Think of your brain as a recorder that doesn’t miss a thing, storing all aspects of an experience, whether we consciously remember it or not.

When a scary or extremely painful event happens, the brain is sometimes not able to process the experience as it normally does.  The thoughts, feelings and sensations of the traumatic event can become frozen in the nervous system as if in a time warp.

EMDR helps to activate the brain’s natural processing abilities with efficiency, thereby helping to move the disturbing material through the nervous system, allowing the person to heal more completely.

In a typical EMDR session, a client focuses on a troubling memory.  With a trained psychotherapist, the client identifies the negative belief she has about herself connected to this memory.  The client then chooses a positive, more adaptive belief that she would like to believe about herself.  The emotions and body sensations associated with the memory are identified. The client then attends to the memory as a whole in brief, sequential doses while focusing on an external stimulus that creates bilateral (side to side) movement:  eye movements by watching the therapist’s moving finger or a light or tactile tapping or tones.  After each set of bilateral movements, the client is asked how she feels.  This segment is complete when the memory is no longer disturbing.  The chosen positive belief is then installed, via bilateral movement, to replace the negative one. The result of EMDR is the rapid processing of information about the negative experience and movement toward an adaptive resolution.  This means a reduction in the client’s anxiety, a change from a negative belief about self to a positive belief and more functional behavior in relationships and at work.

EMDR deals with past events that led to present symptoms, current circumstances that trigger distress and future events that can be targeted to help you in acquiring the skills you need for adaptive functioning in the present and in the future.

A typical EMDR session lasts 60 minutes.  The length of treatment depends on the nature and length of time of the problem, the degree of trauma, its complexity and the client’s age when it happened. However, with EMDR, in contrast to traditional talk therapies, treatment time is usually markedly reduced.

The first couple of sessions consist of taking a thorough client history. A Safe Place (a place to go in your imagination to get serenity and peace) is installed with bilateral movement.  A Resource or Skill, picked from a list by the client, is also installed to facilitate the EMDR work that can begin by the third or fourth session.

EMDR can evoke strong emotions and sensations.  This is normal since the method is used to process those uncomfortable feelings and sensations when they come into the clients’ awareness. Usually these unpleasant feelings are experienced briefly and soon fade as the treatment proceeds.

Two suggestions:

  1. Go to to get more information about EMDR and the research studies.
  2. Go to, click on Find A Clinician, put in your city and state, or a major city near you to find a trained clinician, make an appointment and go get some relief!


More on EMDR:  EMDR and the lessons from neuroscience research by Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 6

Part 6

Right at the end of our court hearing, the Psychopath did one of his infamous maneuvers. He slipped one by an entire group of us. He asked the Judge to order his child visitation be held at a center where free monitors are provided for low income families. (Part of his tactical plan to avoid paying child support is to pretend he is poor—so much for a ‘doctor’s lifestyle!’)

“I just want to see my daughter. I miss her…,” said the talking head. As it continued, I watched people in the court room begin to float around in a puddle of sympathy as it accumulated deep on the floor. It was so pathetic because I knew if the people saw this devil in action, the pool of sympathy would turn hot molten lava and converge into his empty soul.

The paper he waved in front of the judge to secure the order had several addresses that listed all the centers in our county. We live in a large metropolitan area, so the addresses really meant nothing. Filled with confident conviction, he pointed to and named a particular center of interest that was listed on the sheet.

When the judge asked why he wanted that particular center, he confidently asserted himself, as if this selection was for the good of mankind and fairness to all: “It is convenient for everyone because it is the closest distance. It is only 12 miles away.”

It sounded reasonable, so no one objected. But no one thought to ask 12 miles in which direction? Distracted by the relief I felt about the visits being monitored, I wasn’t alert enough to question his motive. It all happened very fast.

One would think that after four years of the same deceitful and manipulative behavior I would be critical about every request. Every time. Hyper-vigilance (high harm avoidance) has an upside when dealing with a psychopath. But then again, you get diagnosed of being paranoid or delusional.

When I got home I saw that I got hood winked again. I felt shock when I looked on-line and discovered where the Psychopath just got the court (and us) to agree to have his visits.

I saw there was a quarter mile difference in distance to the next center on that list. It was in a much safer area that is famously known for its elegance and beauty. Instead, he picked one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city; probably one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.

I printed a crime map for a half mile radius around the center for a one week period and saw there were 38 major crimes that occurred and were plotted out. This included homicide. Felony assault, armed robbery, grand theft auto, etc, etc., etc.

Making matters worse, I had to drag our little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl on two buses and a train to get into that neighborhood and then two hours later make the trip in reverse to get home.

Once I dropped her off at the center, routinely I walked three blocks to sit in a restaurant to wait out the visit. It is always an interesting trip through the bar-protected, graffiti-decorated buildings that lined the streets.

Often in the background, I could hear and feel a loud throbbing base noise. It would pulsate my lungs right into the wall of my rib cage as I walked. As the cars got closer, the metal grating sounds of vibrating trunk lids become part of the migrainish rhythm.

People on the streets looked me up and down and smiled as if they knew a secret that I didn’t. Tension still blanketed the streets from the devastating race riots of years past. It was obvious—I stood out.

When it was time to go get my little girl, I would trek back to the center. One day, as I headed over a cross walk to get to the center, I noticed a car coming toward me. I kept walking figuring it would stop as cars do, yet I locked it into my peripheral vision.

I walked. It came closer. Next it zipped right into the cross walk in front of me, missing me by about a foot. The teen driver looked into my eyes with an expressionless, stone cold face. When she punched down the accelerator, I felt a rush of adrenaline turn my legs into jelly just as the car swerved out of my path.

As much as I wanted to scream in anger, the tears welled up in my eyes AGAIN.

I flashed back to the talking head in the court room and how he man managed to pull this one off. The man who tells the world he is worried about the “well being” of his child, just locked us into a weekly court order that places her and I smack in the middle of a war zone.

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

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.

Reality Bytes: A Survivor’s Journey – Part 5

Part 5

Why in God’s name would you want to date so soon after being with a dangerous man???

That was the thought crossing my mind as I listened to the women in our recovery-based conference call. They were interested in learning how to date again.

I wouldn’t do that, I thought. Not again. Not so soon.

I described to the women how my weight has been a safety blanket, protecting me from wanting to be with a man. Being with a man, for me, is like seeing a big plate of food, but having my mouth wired shut. I just don’t get to eat the food. My weight is the wire. It prevents me from indulging.

Until an ordinary trip to the grocery store tilted my illusion of control upside down.

This afternoon a friend drove me to the grocery store (I lost my car in the aftermath of the breakup). Tucked in my purse were my government-issued checks for milk, eggs, cheese and other items.

It has gotten so bad, from a material standpoint, that the last time I heard someone mention identity theft, I started hoping someone would actually steal mine! I thought I could tape my social security number on the outside of the trash can—it would save the thieves the hassle of picking through the stinky garbage looking for one.

I was cruising through the aisle, happy as a lark filing up my cart, knowing I did not have to walk home with the groceries. I looked up and there HE was. The guy from the Laundromat was standing in front of me.

I met him at the laudromat a couple weeks ago. He was very handsome. Oh so handsome! Embarrassed at my jammy pants and a sweat shirt and pushing my granny cart full of laundy, I made a dash for the door. I smiled and waved “Nice to meet you” as I fled by.

Flash forward to the grocery store. I smiled at him and said “Hello, how are you?”

He recognized me and we started talking. I told him my name.

He said “Oh, I will remember that, that’s my sister’s name.”

Then he told me his name.

I said, “Oh, that’s my brother’s name.”

We both started laughing.

As I felt that spark of connection, in the back of my mind, I heard, “DANGER Will Robinson, DANGER!” In my mind’s eye, I could see a robot standing behind him wilding swinging his arms!

We stood grocery cart to grocery cart talking about cream of broccoli soup and clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl. Suddenly things felt very awkward and silly. The brief spark of connection had been driven away by fear.

He said, “I go to the laundromat on Saturdays, when do you go?”

I replied “When I run out of clothes.” I cast my eyes downward as the line fell flat.

Half comment and half question he blurted out: “You live close by?”

I shot back “Oh yeah,” then randomly threw in “I even use a granny cart to bring my clothes.”

(For a minute I realized I learned a trick from the psychopath, by playing with the meaning of words, because I use the granny cart for the exact opposite reason.) Without a car, the laundromat is too far for me to carry my clothes!!!

Saying goodbye was a funny, uncomfortable moment. I felt like we were in high school. I really thought he was going to ask me for my phone number. Instead, he described his vehicle, and said if you see it in the parking lot, you’ll know I’m there.

When I got to the line with my WIC checks for the milk and eggs, I thought oh crap. I went in a tail spin, praying my girlfriend would come up behind me in the line and not him. “God, do not let him come!” I thought. My face flushed like a hot red desert sun.

My friend did walk up behind me to join me in line. I sighed with relief.

While waiting for the cashier, I scanned the tabloids for quick fix dieting solutions. How fast could I take off 60 pounds?

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

* All content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Institute.