Archives for December 2010

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

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The Power of Relapsing

Never before in my 20 year career have I seen more ‘relapsing back into pathological relationships’ than I have lately.

“What’s wrong with me? Why do I do this?” they ask.

My answer is—I don’t know….why DO you do it?

“I didn’t know what I was doing…”

Yes you did. Contact is a choice.

“I just thought he changed this time.”

No you didn’t—you know pathology is permanent.

“I was lonely.”

Ok, loneliness is not fatal–but these relationships often are. Your loneliness and need does not change his permanent disorder.

Nothing has changed except your thoughts about him and the relationship. That’s the only change. Since pathology is marked by an inability to change and sustain positive change, your thoughts are the only change in the relationship that there is. And maybe your desire or need.

Relapsing begins FIRST in the mind long before it becomes a behavior-seeking missile that is fired off to destroy yourself and your recovery. This is why being in a Pathological Love Relationship Support Group is so important—whether that’s in a chat forum, an in-person support group you attend, or an online tele-conferencing group. You need support that keeps your THINKING  outside of the fantasy zone. Without support, you are likely to sink right back into the old fantasy hopefulness that keeps you glued to a go-nowhere and dangerous relationship.

Relapse Thinking sounds like this in your head:

You take all the material you’ve learned from books or online back to the pathological and try to convince them they are pathological and needs help.

You tell them what your counselor has said about them, you, or the relationship–hoping the impact from a professional will change their mind about their condition.

You say, “Now that I ‘think’ I know what ‘might’ be wrong with them, I’ll wait and watch for them to do these behaviors.

Then I’ll have evidence for why I’m leaving.”

When they, in fact DO one of the behaviors, you either point it out to them as proof you were right, or, you find reasons why the behavior isn’t ‘exactly’ what you read and therefore, they may not be pathological after all.

You read the materials and literature looking to find all the traits they don’t have. You reread the literature on good days so you can cross off behaviors they aren’t doing today.

You find reasons to disbelieve the literature about the disorder.

You avoid your counselor, this website, or others who know about the disorder.

You become ‘spiritually hopeful’ so you can stay in the relationship because God is going to heal them.

You begin reading Positive Psychology materials so you can hope he can change even though pathology is about no-change.

You call his girlfriends or exes to get them to confirm or deny he’s pathological.

You hire a private investigator to follow them, break into their phone or computer, for ‘just a little more info. on why you should leave them (but then, you don’t leave).

You feel sorry for him more than you feel anger for your own pain.

You focus on the few good times and stuff your own feelings about the deceitful behavior.

You encourage them to carrot-dangle some future hope or potential to you so you can say “We’re try it ONE MORE time.”

You think you are confronting them because you stand up to them and so you are not being victimized by them if you are voicing your thoughts.

You minimize their previous deceitful, manipulative, dangerous, exploitative or lethal behavior by saying “I was probably over-exaggerating it.”

You label yourself “just as sick as they are” so you might as well stay with them. No one healthy would want you.

You envy their lack of conscience and remorse and see it as a ‘good life’ feature and wish you were like that and cared less about what happened to you. Everything seems to go their way when they lack conscience.

You hyper focus on their behavior and avoid taking care of yourself. The relationship /they become the reason for: your unhappiness, health, financial, other problems.

You study to death all the traits of every kind of disorder you think they might have and don’t leave because you ‘want to totally understand it before you leave’ and need just a little bit more understanding or validation from others–their family, their therapist, your therapist, your friends, etc.

You start softening, missing them, minimizing their behavior, focusing on your own loneliness, and panic about whom or what they are doing, make excuses to have contact with them. And ~ VOILA~ you’re back in.

The ’emergency session’ calls that everyone wants to have is AFTER they have done one of these behaviors and feels awful about their relapse. The emergency session needs to be WHILE you are having these thoughts and BEFORE you acted on them. Every time you go through one of these cycles of relapses, it just numbs you more to why you should be out.  It makes it easier and easier to relapse.  And it is easier for the thinking to start back up in your head and be totally unrecognized by you.

Damage is done to YOU each time you are in and out of the pathological love relationship, damaging your sense of reality even further–training YOURSELF how to hypnotize your belief system with one of the thinking phrases listed above. You are also teaching the pathological how to get you back in the relationship. They aren’t stupid! They are master behavior analysts that study what works with you. Stop teaching them!

There is so much that the pathological relationship has legitimately done and damaged in you. But there is so much you DO TO YOURSELF in your relapsing. Relapse prevention requires work. It doesn’t just ‘happen’ that you declare you are ‘done’ and you stay gone. If it takes a whole village to raise a child, it takes a whole community to help you get out and stay out until MUCH TIME down the road; you are strong enough on your own. I said, MUCH TIME.

Day one of healing does not happen until you are out and have been out and have been emotionally disconnected for several months. People who say they are recovering but are in and out and having constant relapse contact, I don’t consider having even day-one under their belt. For those of you who are truly ready to start a new life, we are here to help you. We offer teleconferencing support groups. Here’s one way to get the support and help you need to get out and stay out. And don’t forget we offer help in almost every format imaginable: books, e-books, workbooks, guided relaxation CDs, mindfulness skills training, retreats, 1:1s with Sandra, phone coaching….there just isn’t a reason to stay stuck.

Unwedge yourself!

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.