Archives for December 2010

How to Manage Cognitive Dissonance and Intrusive Thoughts – Teleseminar – MP3

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Relaxation – MP3

Learning to relax is essential to your recovery from a stress disorder such as Acute Stress Disorder.

In this audio, Sandra teaches you how to create a personal relaxation ritual.

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Joy vs. Happiness

You were out looking for a little happiness when you stumbled upon Dr. Jekyll as he was appearing wonderful and considerate. Strangely, before you knew it, evil Mr. Hyde was instead dismantling anything that resembled happiness and leaving in its wake, destruction and despair.
Despair is a long way from the happiness you were initially seeking. How did you get from mere happiness-seeking to a totally despairing life? How can you embrace the happiness that you set out to find?

It might not even be ‘happiness’ per se that you were initially seeking. You might have been looking for someone much introspective, spiritual and existential.  But you tell me…

Happiness is external. It’s based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone. Happiness is linked to that ‘some day when I meet the right guy’ or ‘when he starts changing and acting right’ or ‘when he goes to counseling.’

Happiness is future oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone else’s basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness. These expectations can be seen especially during the holidays when whether or not you have a ‘Merry Christmas’ or a ‘happy holiday’ depends on whether or not he is with you, shows up, isn’t drunk, isn’t cheating, or a list of other behaviors you expect for a ‘happy holiday’ experience. Unfortunately, pathology rarely obliges in that way. So when the relationship falls through, or he isn’t wonderful at Christmas, or you kick him out, or he cheats again, or he runs off with your money, or he was a con artist…then your holidays were not ‘happy’ and your happiness was crushed.

Unhappiness is the result. It’s a typical and inevitable result in pathological love relationships. After all, it’s the only way it CAN turn out. There are no happy endings to pathological relationships. After Christmas and New Years, he will still be pathological and you will still have the same problems you had in November. You notice that The Institute has not written a book called ‘How to Have a Happy Relationship with a Pathological.’

Chronic unhappiness leads to despair and depression. Remember the emotional roller coaster you rode with him?  You were happy when he was good and miserable when he was bad? You were hypnotically lulled into happy-land when you were with him and in intrusive thought-hell when you weren’t? Your happiness was hitched to his rear end.

When he was around (and behaving) you were happy. When he wasn’t, your happiness followed his rear end right out the door and you were obsessing, wondering, and pacing.

Happiness is what you feel when he says the ‘right romantic’ stuff, buys you a ring or moves in. But happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can’t be bought and it is not conditional on someone else’s behavior.

In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. You don’t have to have ‘him’ for the holidays to have joy. Likewise, you don’t have to get revenge, snoop out his short comings, and tell the new girlfriend the truth or anything else in order to have joy. You can lose in court with him; already have lost your life savings to him, watch him out with a new woman, or live out of the back of your car and still have joy.

You’re probably thinking, ‘sure you can have joy in those circumstances if you are Mother Teresa!’ Joy is almost a mystery, isn’t it? It’s a spiritual quality that is internal. My mother had a lot of joy and I learned from watching her joy. Her pathological man ran off with her life savings forcing her to work well past retirement.

It forced her to live simply so moved to a one room beach shack and drove a motorcycle. For cheap entertainment, she walked the beach and painted nudes. She drank cheap grocery store wine that came in a box, bought her clothes from thrift shops, and made beach totes from crocheting plastic grocery bags together. She recycled long before it was hip to do it. But what she recycled most and best was pain….into joy.

Instead of looking externally for yet another relationship to remove the sting of the last one or to conquer the boredom she might feel at being alone…she cultivated internal and deep abiding joy. It was both an enigma and a privilege to watch this magnificent life emerge from the ashes of great betrayal.

I use her a lot as an example of someone who went ahead and got a great life and turned this rotten deal into an exquisite piece of art called her life. Anyone who spoke of my mother spoke MOST of her radiant joy. She had the ‘IT’ factor long before it was even called ‘IT.’ Women flocked to her to ask ‘How did you do it? How did you shed the despair and bitterness of what he did and grow into this? THIS bright shining joyful person? What is your secret?’

Somewhere along that rocky path of broken relationships with pathological men, she learned that happiness is fleeting if it’s tied to a man’s shirt tails. She watched too many of the shirt tails walk out the door with her happiness tied to his butt. In order to find the peacefulness that resides inside, she had to learn what happiness was and what joy was.

The transitory things of life are happiness-based. She had a big house and lost a big house when she divorced my father. She had a big career and lost a big career when she got ‘too old’ according to our culture to have the kind of job she had. She had diamonds and lost diamonds.

So she entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away ‘stuff’ left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away there is stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside of us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. During this holiday season, this is a great concept to contemplate.

Her joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It’s not rocked by anything.

It wasn’t rocked as she lay dying three years ago in the most peaceful arms of grace–a blissful state of quiet surrender and anticipation. Those who were witness to her death still tell me that her death brought new understanding to them about the issue of real joy. Joy in all things….death of a dream, death of relationship, and death of a body. Joy from within, stripped down, naked and beautiful.

Untie your happiness from the ends of his shirt tales…

Merry Christmas and Peace to You in this Season of Peaceful Opportunities!

‘Love Hormone’ Boosts Memories of Mom — Good or Bad, Study Finds

MONDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) — A study involving men and their mothers suggests a new function for the “love hormone” oxytocin in human behavior.

Grown men who inhaled a synthetic form of oxytocin, a naturally occurring chemical, recalled intensified fond memories of their mothers if, indeed, Mom was all that caring.

But if men initially reported less close relationships with Mom, oxytocin seemed to encourage them to dwell on the negative.

Read more at Health at MSN…

Inside the Bullied Brain: The Alarming Neuroscience of Taunting

In the wake of several tragedies that have made bullying a high-profile issue, it’s becoming clear that harassment by one’s peers is something more than just a rite of passage. Bullied kids are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal. They struggle in school — when they decide to show up at all. They are more likely to carry weapons, get in fights, and use drugs.

Read more at The Boston Globe…

Mutual Pathology: Gasoline & Fire

Pathology is a mental health issue not a gender issue. Women have just as much pathology (in some areas of personality disorders) as men due in other areas of personality disorders. Some of the 10 personality disorders are seen more in men while some of the other disorders are seen more in women.

As you have heard me say over the years, pathology is pathology–meaning that each personality disorder has its own problems and challenges in relationships but pretty much holds to the Central Three that I talk about related to pathology:

1. The inability to grow to any true emotional or spiritual depth.

2. The inability to consistently sustain positive change.

3. The inability to have insight about how one’s behavior negatively affects others.

Given those 3 aspects of personality disorders, we can easily see how the 10 different types of personality disorders can be linked together by these three ‘inabilities.’

While men may be more bent towards Anti-Social Personality Disorder or psychopathy, women may be bent more to Histrionic, Dependent or Borderline Personality Disorders. And when you have a personality disordered man + a personality disordered woman = Jerry Springer Dynamics!

There is no guarantee that there is only one pathological in the relationship. Women have just as much mental illness, addictions, and personality disorders as men. And it’s quite common for personality disordered people to hook up. When this happens you have two people who can’t grow to any true emotional or spiritual depth. You have two people who can’t sustain positive change. And you have two people who don’t have insight about how their behavior affects others.  The relationships are dramatic fire-beds of emotionality, addiction, and violence.

Women’s pathology is just as damaging to others as men’s pathology is to women. Women’s pathology may ‘present’ a little differently than men’s overt aggression related to their pathology but it is not any less problematic. Women’s pathology can sometimes (and I use the word sometimes lightly!) be more subtle when it is masked behind emotional dependency, sexual addiction, sexual manipulation, financial dependency or high emotionality. Those types of symptoms can be associated with more than just a personality disorder. But women’s pathology is just as damaging to a partner, a boss, their family and friends, and God forbid, the effects of their pathology on their children.

While women are more likely to be diagnosed as Borderline, Borderlines are often misdiagnosed and under diagnosed female psychopaths and anti-socials. There seems to be some what of a gender-bias when it comes to diagnosing women with psychopathy. Unless they have participated in a Bonnie & Clyde episode or made the Americas Most Wanted TV program, they are likely to be down graded in their pathology. Dramatic, highly emotional or self injuring women may be down graded to Histrionic, Narcissistic or Borderline.  Those with a little more flare for hiding their real lives may warrant the same diagnosis as male psychopaths but are able to hide it better or have less violence associated with their behavior. But not all female psychopaths are NOT violent.

Many are horribly violent–to their children and their partners yet always present themselves as a victim. These are the women most likely to press un-warranted domestic violence assaults, cry rape that didn’t happen, and abandon their children. The point is, any gender can have personality disorders and each personality disorder may, or may not, present slightly different in the other gender.

Beyond mutual pathology, a woman’s own mental health can influence the dynamics within a relationship. A woman who has unmediated bi-polar disorder who is in a relationship with a borderline male can have unusually dramatic relationship dynamics. Her mood fluctuations and his can ignite a feeding frenzy of boiling anger in both of them which is likely to lead to violence. Both partners having a substance abuse or alcohol problem can certainly negatively fuel the dynamics.

And let’s not over look the ‘pathologizing’ that women often get from being raised in a home with a pathological parent. She brings to the relationship the pathological-like behaviors that are learned within pathological families. I have seen that in sessions with women (and hear it a lot in the emails I receive) where the pathological effects of her previous childhood, adult life or relationships is negatively effecting her world view, current functioning level and even ‘entitlement’ attitudes she brings to the table. Couple any of these mental health situations with her along with HIS pathology and you have some of the most volatile and difficult relationships and break ups in history.

There have been many times in working with women that I recognize he is not the only problem in the scenario. Not all women in pathological relationships are mentally ill. However, not all women in pathological relationships are NOT mentally ill. And some of her own mental illness can be the gasoline on the fire of the pathological love relationship which fans the flames of dangerousness for her. Red flags for me that there is possible mental health issues with her include entitlement, chronic victim mentality, unregulated mood issues that are not amenable to treatment/medication, chronic returning to the pathological relationship/replacing relationships with more pathological relationships, history of unsuccessful counseling/treatment, and doesn’t take responsibility for her own behavior/choices.

Those represent only a few of possible many different types of symptoms that there may be mental health issues in her as well. Clearly, pathology is not gender specific and pathology and other mental health issues in both parties can accelerate the dangerousness and problems seen in pathological love relationships.