Archives for March 2011


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Should I React This Way?

Partners of pathologicals face chronic confusion about their reactions to his pathology. She feels the incongruency in the Jekyll and Hyde personalities, reacts to it, and then gets labeled by him as being hysterical.

The fact is, pathologicals project their traits and behaviors on everyone else and say it’s ‘them’ instead of ‘him.’ That IS part of pathology. In fact, several different personality disorders DO that in relationships because it is a feature and a trait of pathology. So just maybe those are HIS traits and not yours! Maybe what you are seeing is a glimmer of his pathological self view and world view and how he thrusts that upon others and labels them with his own disorder.

Many of you wonder if what you DO feel in the relationship is the ‘correct’ or ‘normal’ way to react. SHOULD you have certain reactions to certain disorders or behaviors? The answer is a resounding ‘YES.’

Normal people have very strong reactions when exposed short OR long term to pathological persons. In fact, it is normal to have these kinds of reactions and non-pathological persons SHOULD have strong reactions to abnormal behavior. I have the same types of reactions to pathologicals–I have just had to learn over the years to contain my reactions for professional reasons.

These types of reactions in you can be: confusion, frustration, anxiety, wanting to hurt them (slap them, verbally assault them and fantasies of REALLY hurting them). Some women have reactions of ‘trying to help him understand himself better so she can alter his behaviors.’ Others believe what he says about her and start to judge her own behavior, character, and history. She truly begins to think SHE is the one who is sick and not him. She begins to doubt her own perceptions (well I guess black IS white and bad IS good). Her whole world view becomes distorted like looking into a carnival mirror where the world becomes wavy and crazy looking.

Others shut down completely and stop communicating because every word is turned back on her by the pathological. Some become paranoid knowing he is doing something and not able to prove it.

Long term effects are a complete emotional shut down, physical exhaustion with resulting medical issues, chronic depression and/or anxiety, and an altered sense of self worth. Much like the elephant who only needs to be chained for a short time before it thinks it can never escape and it never tries to—women do the same thing. The emotional operant conditioning by pathologicals renders normally strong and independent women into lobotimized rag dolls that don’t move or respond as they have been trained ‘not to.’

Outsiders who are around the pathological also have their own normal reactions to his abnormal behavior. If he has children, they too have adversive reactions as does his boss, any normal family members he might have, the neighbors or anyone he has to deal with. It is normal to have BIG reactions to pathologicals. Even animals often don’t like them! Come on now—if a dog avoids him—we should too!

Then there are those of you who not only have had your training at the hands of intimate pathological relationships, but you have been trained in your youth by pathological parents. By now abnormal behavior must look and feel totally normal to you. The effects of pathological parenting are huge and set up reactions, behaviors and world views that need intense treatment in order to set straight.

Reactions to pathology are expected and to a large degree, normal.

We will be offering an Adult Children of Pathological Parenting Support Group exactly for this issue. Contact us for more information.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Reality and Suffering

Oh boy, have I learned a lot lately. What is becoming evident is that much of your intrusive thoughts, your obsession with him/relationship, your cognitive conflict known as dissonance, and many other symptoms as well are stemming from one major issue:

The inability to accept what he is, how he is, and what this means about your relationship.

This level of resistance isn’t always conscious. Some of it may seep out and drift up into your awareness where you notice yourself fluctuating between “He is pathological, I don’t want him to be pathological, He isn’t pathological.”

This cognitive conflict between your three different beliefs about whether he is pathological takes the form of:

  • How you think you SHOULD feel about him/this situation and
  • How you react/behave with this situation.

Each one of these beliefs:

  • He is Pathological
  • I don’t want him to be Pathological
  • He isn’t Pathological

have their own individual lives in your brain. We sometimes call this ‘Monkey Mind’ — each belief jumping around and back and forth and swinging from the branches of your brain until you can no longer concentrate. You are not entertaining just one thought/conflict–you are entertaining at least three and each of these have subpoints below each one producing MANY thoughts.

These 3 conflicting beliefs, thoughts, and wishes fill up probably 95% of your thinking patterns which leaves almost no time to:

  • Resolve it
  • Work on it
  • Rest
  • Work
  • or Find Peace

In the past, I had the great privilege of working with a woman who came here from the Netherlands. Her intrusive thoughts had so disabled her ability to work and enjoy her child. Within the four days she was here, we were able to harness her mind and free her from much of the distress of this invasive life-stealing mechanism.

At the heart of almost all major religions is the teaching (in different terms and lingo) about suffering. Intrusive thoughts and cognitive dissonance is the # 1 and # 2 distressing symptoms you complain about most. This level of ‘suffering’ as is many other types and reasons for suffering, stem from the inability to let our defense systems down (this is why they are called defense) and accept life as life is and stop defending against it.

Our defense mechanisms are designed to shield us from pain. But at some point, defense mechanisms can be over used and end up harming us by keeping too much of the pain (which could teach us) away from us. Pain 101 is often a good, and sometimes the only, motivator for change.

When our defense systems have become so elaborate, the pain that could help us face reality–can’t even get to us to teach us and show us the way. Suffering then continues because we have not found a way to help ourselves embrace reality so that the reality can bring acceptance and the acceptance can stop the intrusive thoughts.

Our elaborate defense mechanism is very invested in proving he is not pathological and keeping the relationship going. That way, you are not alone, you get what you want, your prove others wrong, and you can fulfill the fantasy in your head about how the relationship ‘should’ or ‘could’ be.

To end suffering, we must accept what we are keeping away from our heart–which is the Truth, Reality, or whatever you want to call it. All major religions have a cure for suffering–but it’s all the same–accepting who, what, where, when, why. Some religions call it Light, Truth, Enlightenment…the words that are all related to accepting reality.

That would mean our first belief system listed above:

* He is Pathological—might have to be accepted and the other two belief systems after that, would have to be dropped. Everything in your being would have to embrace the pain and the reality that he is in fact, now and forever, pathological.

Acceptance is so critical to accepting reality, truth, and what is…And the opposite ‘non-acceptance’ is so dangerous that every 12 Step group ends their meeting with a prayer about acceptance–knowing it’s importance in the ability to recover and heal. The 12 Steps remind us that in order to heal we must ‘Take life on life’s terms.’ That means, we must accept what is really happening in our lives, to our lives, and through our lives. In your case, that means accepting what his pathology is doing to you.

Maybe we need our own 12 Step Prayer to remind us about accepting who and what he is, and stopping the intrusive thought that is nothing but trying to bury the truth under some new image you come up with.

Serenity Prayer for Pathological Relationships

Lord, help me to accept the pathology and the things in him and this relationship that I cannot change
To change the things I can in my own life that will help me leave, heal, and recover since he cannot change
And the wisdom to know the difference between who can change and who can never change and what I can do now for myself.


Remember, our retreats are focused on helping you reduce and eliminate cognitive dissonance. If we can help you, let us know. Also our product Maintaining Mindfulness in the Midst of Obsession is an e-book plus two CD’s that help neutralize the internal cognitive dissonance produced by Pathological Love Relationships. You can find it on the website.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Grieving The Pathological Loss–The Personal Side Part II

Last week we began talking about the grief process as it pertains to ending the relationship with your dangerous (and often, pathological) person. Even though the relationship was damaging and maybe you even initiated the break up, it doesn’t stop the necessary grieving. Women are then shocked to find themselves grieving at all given how abusive, damaging, or horrible the relationship was. She tells her self she should be grateful to be out and negates her own feelings of loss. The end of a relationship always constitutes a loss whether he died or whether the relationship merely ended–the heart recognizes it as the same–which is “loss.”

I also mentioned last week that grief is natural. It’s an organic way the body and mind tries to rid itself of pain. That’s why it’s so necessary because if you did not grieve you would have no way to eventually be out of pain. Grief is the way a person moves through the loss and to the other side of health and healing. Without grief there wouldn’t even be a POTENTIAL for healing because grief must occur for healing to later occur. To stuff your grief or try to avoid it is to sabotage your own ability to heal. So for every person trying to work through the ending of a relationship, grief is the healthiest response.

Some of the losses associated with the end of the relationship were discussed last week (and you can read any of our previous Sandra Says articles). Many of you wrote me to talk about the ‘personal side’ of grief–the other aspects that were lost because of the dangerous relationship and must be grieved.

These include the loss of:

  • your own self respect
  • the respect of others
  • your ability to trust your own instincts
  • loss of self identity
  • loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • the loss of the trust of others
  • the loss of your own dignity
  • the loss of hope
  • the loss of joy
  • the loss of the belief that you can ever be different

These significant personal losses may not always be recognized as ‘grief’ but more as all the deficits that have been left behind because of the pathological relationship. Although he is gone, this is his mark upon your life and your soul. These losses reflect the loss of your self and your own internal personal resources. Stripped away is your ability to recognize your former self, the ability to tap into what was once the strength that helped you in life, and to respect your self and your life choices.

Of all the things that need grieving, women indicated these personal losses are the most devastating. Because in the end, she is all that she has –when he is gone, she must fall back on her self for her healing. But what is left, is an empty shell of a former life. A garden that is over grown with weeds and in disrepair. A once stately estate that has been vandalized and abandoned. To begin the arduous task of healing and repair requires that she turn inward and draw on her resources. But what was there is now gone. She may want to begin the healing from the pathological relationship but is stopped short in her tracks by the necessary grieving of all things internal that are now gone or damaged. Clearly, the first step is to grieve. Let us know if we can help you begin the first step.

(**Information about pathological love relationships is in our award winning book Women Who Love Psychopaths and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more info.)

Grieving the Pathological Loss, Part I

Over and over again women are shocked to find out how bad it is and how horrible they feel leaving a pathological partner. As horrendous as the relationships has been, as hurt as they have become at his hands, and the emotional/physical/financial/sexual/spiritual cost it takes to heal and asks, “Why in the world am I so sad and in so much grief?”

‘Loving’ a pathological (not just a psychopath but any person with a pathological disorder) seems to produce a very intense attachment to the relationship. Most women report that loving them is nothing like anything else she ever experienced. They indicate that it’s more intense than other relationships, more mind-games that keep her very confused and unable to detach, and a kind of hypnotic mesmerizing that keeps her in the relationship LONG after she knows she should have left.

Because of this intense bonding, mental confusion, pathological attachment and a hypnotic connection her grief is likely to be huge. This is often confusing to her because there has been so much damage to her by the time she leaves she thinks she should be ‘relieved’ to simply be out of the relationship. But when the paralyzing grief mounts, she is aggravated with herself for being in so much pain and grief over the ending of something so ‘sick.’Lots of women are confused as to ‘whom’ or ‘what’ it is they are actually grieving. Grief can seem so ‘illusive’ and a haunting feeling that is like a gray ghost but can’t be nailed down to actually ‘what’ the loss is. But the ending of any relationship (even a pathological one) is a loss. Within the ending of the relationship is a loss of lots of elements:

  • Loss of the ‘dream’ of partnership or togetherness
  • Loss of a shared future together, as well as the loss that maybe he would someday ‘get it together’ or actually ‘love you’ of the dream of being loved (even if he was technically not capable of truly loving anyone)
  • Loss of your plans for the future-maybe that was buying a home, having children, or taking a big trip
  • Loss of shared parenting (if that occurred)
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of being touched or held
  • Loss of sex

Although a lot of women may actually see a lot of these hopes and dreams as ‘illusions’ it still constitutes a loss and women are often surprised at the kinds of things they find themselves grieving over.

Still more losses:

  • Some women lose their pets in the break up, or their house or career.
  • Some lose their children, their friends, her relatives or his.
  • Some have to relocate to get away from him because of his dangerousness so they lose their community, roots, and home.

No matter what it is you perceived you no longer have-it’s a loss and when you have loss you have grief.

People spend a lot of time trying to stay on the perimeter of grief-trying to avoid it and stay away from the pain. But grief is the natural way to resolve conflict and loss. It’s the body’s way of riding the mind and soul of ongoing pain. It’s an attempt at re-balancing one’s mind and life. Grief is a natural process that is GIVEN to you as a pain management tool. Without grief there would not be a way of moving through pain. You would always just remain stuck in the feelings and would always feel the same.

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Don’t avoid grief. While no one LIKES grief it’s important to allow yourself to feel the feelings and the pain because to suppress it, deny it, or avoid it will mean you will never work through it. I don’t know anyone who WANTS to live in this kind of pain.
  2. There is only one way through the pain of grief and that’s through the middle of it. There are no short cuts, quick routes or other ways ‘around’ the pain and grief. There is only through it—like a wilderness. But on the other side of it is the promise of healing, hope and a future.
  3. Don’t judge your grief. What hurts, hurts. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you (he was horrible, why am I grieving HIM?)-it’s your body’s way of moving through it so let it.
  4. Get help if you need it-counseling, group, medication, a grief group-whatever it is you need.
  5. Don’t set a predetermined ‘time’ that you think you should be ‘over it.’ It probably takes longer than you think it will or you want it to. But that’s how it is-grief takes its time.
  6. Grief can look like depression, anxiety, PTSD or a lot of other types of symptoms and sometimes it’s hard to know where one starts and the other one ends. That’s because often you aren’t having one or the other, you are having some of both. Have a professional assess that for you.
  7. Journal your losses, talk about them, tell others, get help when you need it. (We’re here too!!). Most of all, know that grief is a God-sent natural way of working through so you can move on.