Archives for May 2011

Talent-vs-Personality Disorders

Talent -vs- Personality Disorders

The world was rocked by the death of Michael Jackson. He is likely to be remembered, not only for his creativity as one of the world’s most talented people in music, but also for his bizarre behaviors, appearance and abuse allegations. It seems at odds that someone so talented might also have been fairly disordered in his personality.

Michael appears to meet the criteria for Schizotypal Personality Disorder. There have been many other articles written about the possibility of Michael exhibiting traits of this disorder (just Google sites on this topic).

The Institute’s mission is to provide public pathology education. Schizotypal Personality Disorder is a permanent personality disorder which is being highlighted this week to help educate the public.

Traits of the disorder include:

* Acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships
* Odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behavior and is inconsistent with cultural norms
* Unusual perceptual experiences
* Odd thinking and speech
* Suspiciousness or paranoid ideas
* Inappropriate or constricted emotions
* Behavior or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar
* Lack of close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives
* Excessive social anxiety that does not diminish with familiarity and tends to be associated with paranoid fears rather than negative judgements about self

Through the years we watched as a mega-talented, child prodigy slowly turned into a reclusive and eccentric man-child. Exemplifying the oddities of the schizotypal personality, he continued to alter his appearance past the point of normal cosmetic surgery – often implying the stranger it got, the better. He used other behaviors as ways of accentuating his eccentricity and uniqueness. He was often seen wearing a germ mask, claimed that Bubbles his chimpanzee was his closest companion, and created his property into Neverland – based on Peter Pan’s “never wanting to grow up.” There, he remained highly reclusive drawing mostly children to Neverland. The stories about sleeping in an anti-aging chamber along with his growing odd appearance, dress and behavior, sadly attracted the moniker “Wacko Jacko” for Michael.

His two sexual child abuse cases, while dismissed, did expose some of his bizarre thinking. As he stated in an interview, “It’s the most loving thing to share your bed with a child.” The inability to see the inappropriateness of some of his comments, especially while under investigation, established much of his thinking as disordered. In the public’s eye, his comments demonstrated that he was out of touch with reality to our cultural norms and laws.

Celebrities often give their children bizarre names. And certainly non-celebrities name their children after themselves or give them a family name. However, Michael’s children’s names reflect a glaring narcissism. His first child was given the name Prince Michael I, his second child, a daughter, named Paris Michael, and his third child, Prince Michael II.

Another example of Michael’s bizarre behavior was the dangling of an infant Prince Michael II over a hotel balcony. Today, this child is referred to as, “Blanket.” While celebrities try to shield their children from the negative effects of the media and possible kidnapping, Michael’s was most extreme. Given his schizotypal approach to life, his children, who were rarely seen in public, wore elaborate masks or had towels hanging from their heads. While other huge celebrities have faced the same threat (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elvis, John F. Kennedy), none responded by dressing their children in bizarre ways with masks and towels, or prohibited any known information about them.

Michael stands as probably THEE most talented person to change the racial divide in music — changing MTV and pressing excellence in music far beyond what anyone had done. But talent does not mean that it is not co-mingled and intertwined around a rather severe disorder. That is not abnormal in pathology. People’s pathology is often dismissed when it is compared to their achievements. As The Institute has discussed before, various disorders with pathology SEEK careers in which they receive a lot of status, attention, money, or exposure. Many forms of pathology are laced with excitement seeking, risk taking, and high achieving traits that help the pathological over the bar and up the career ladder. We shouldn’t assume the pathological person to be working only at the grocery store or the car wash. While there are blue-collar patholgicals, many (and those most undetected) are successful — some attaining extreme success. Certain disorders migrate to various fields such as medicine, the legal and criminal justice system, banking, psychology, theology, and even the entertainment field.

While it is tempting to take our eyes off of who the pathological is underneath the talent, it is just as important for us to remember that talent and disorder aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s as if the Creator gives greatly on one side, and takes greatly from the other side. There are talented excesses and devastating deficits. Michael’s talent exemplifies what it means to be a prodigy. His personal life and deteriorating behavior also shines a light on how pathology is not a respecter of persons — any talented person can be harboring the life-altering effects of pathology.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw him moon walk, or the goose bumps I had when he sang “Thriller.” I’ll also never forget the first time I saw his face so altered from surgery and thinking that this was the result of a bigger problem. I won’t forget the mortification I felt when he was fighting sexual abuse allegations. In any case, we will all remember something “BIGGER” than life about Michael.

(**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 information).

Your Profession and Your Lovers

Last week I started this conversation: could your profession indicate ‘who’ you would pick as a partner? Our research in ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ showed that many of you worked in professional care giving jobs (or wanted to be). Most of the people who ended up in relationships with narcissists, socios, or psychos were women in these types of careers.

This has HUGE implications for intervention…don’t you think? If by nature we know that women with SKY HIGH temperament traits of too much empathy, too much tolerance, too much cooperation end up in jobs in which empathy/tolerance/cooperation is the #1 skill set, then we also know THESE are the women most likely to go on to empathize, tolerate and cooperate with severe pathology. I doubt any colleges are going to put in their Academic Handbooks “**Caution, This Profession May Be Hazardous to Your Relationship Health**” ! But it’s the beginning of how to think about ‘WHO’ needs this education BEFORE they end up in pathological love relationships.

Once we know ‘who’ this is, the next question is how best to reach these identified groups of women. Who BEST to reach out to their own field than the nurses, teachers, therapists, social workers, etc. who ARE the women who have been touched by these destructive relationships? Why? In our research, almost all the women indicated career and financial harm by the pathological. NO ONE gets out unscathed! This is a career risk for women. Many women are demoted or lose their jobs because of their inability to concentrate or because he sabotages her work situation. Others have lost their entire life savings, putting them in financial ruin. Some have lost their professional licenses—an incredible amount of college work down the tubes. This is why teaching YOUR industry about what these men can do to their productivity, their futures, and their careers is so important.

My hope is that someone from every field we have identified as a potential source will become an educational voice in their industry.

Are you an Alumnus? There’s your market…educate your own. Protect YOUR FIELD by peer education–by writing or speaking about these issues because you are NOT the only one in your field that this has happened to OR will happen to. Your field is an identified ‘at risk field’ that needs what you know.

To illustrate my point, here are some of the many emails I received from women this week:

“I’m not a psychologist or in a helping profession – BUT – I had always wanted to be a psychologist. I did *very* well in psychology courses in school and had plans to continue with that type of career. Psychology always fascinated me.”

“You hit the nail on the head. You left attorneys off the list, but many of us became attorneys because we wanted to ‘help.’ “

“Retired teacher running a private practice for a family doctor. The Pathological and Narcissistic doctor was  my partner, friend, lover and live-in for way too long.”

“I had been a certified nurse’s assistant when I was 17-20. Since then I am a medical assistant in a hospital and am going to school for nursing.”

” A Doctor. I’ve just dumped a pathological narcissist after a 4 month relationship.

“I have worked as a case manager for adults with developmental disabilities for the past 7 years and as a direct care staff during the prior 8 years.  This article seems to hit right at home with me.”

“I am a massage therapist! I am the classic “helper.”

“I have been a Registered Psychiatric Nurse for ten years and in 2006 got swept off my feet by what I eventually learned was a full blown sociopath.”

OK, so here we have it–a pretty well defined area of personality traits that migrate to certain career types so that these personality traits find ‘a home’ in servicing and helping others. They also find a home in the arms of pathological men.

So brainstorm with us! Email us and let us know how to reach the industry you are in. What is the best way to teach your profession about their proclivity to end up in dangerous relationships? What is the best way to teach them about their excessive personality traits that places them at risk? Email us at saferelationships@yahoo.com. THANKS!

I’m Screaming- Are You Listening?

 

“No matter how confused, self-doubting, or ambivalent we are about what’s happening in our interactions with other people, we can never entirely silence the inner voice that always tells us the truth.  We may not like the sound of the truth, and we often let it murmur just outside our consciousness, not stopping long enough to listen.  But when we pay attention to it, it leads us toward wisdom, health, and clarity.  That voice is the guardian of our integrity.” ~Susan Forward

We are taught as young girls to be loyal and trust others.  It is expected that we would trust those who show us love, compassion, understanding.  It is expected that we would be loyal to those who need us, those who provide us nurturing and those to declare us as the one they love.  We are “supposed” to value those actions as meaningful and all inclusive of what is deserving of our trust and loyalty.  It is only in recent years that our society is beginning to teach us to question those actions.  And now, even as we rightfully begin to question those actions many in our society look at that questioning as a radical notion that means we are “neurotic” or “obsessed”.  I mean, when someone tells you they love you, and shows you they love you…why even question them.  It’s there in black and white…the words, the cards, the flowers, the affection.  Isn’t that enough?  Some would even say that a woman as independent as you would be lucky to have someone take you on.  So what if he stays out…alone…way too late?  So what if he views a little pornography?  So what if he chides you in public about your accomplishments?  So what if he cheated on you once?  So what if he makes promise after promise and never keeps them?  He says he’s sorry.  That’s enough.  And through it all you stay.  As expected…you stay, you trust and you show loyalty.  Because if you question…it is you who will appear questionable…it is you who will appear unloyal…it is you who will be untrustworthy…in his eyes and in society’s.

Herein lies the risk: You stay because you have been taught and told that it is the right thing to do.  It is what you “should” do.  You should forgive, stick it out, make it work.  And a pathological needs that loyalty.  He needs you to stay no matter what.  He needs you to help make the pathological mask real.  If you stay (you-who is loving, caring, compassionate, understanding etc, etc…) then he will be associated with all of those things and his façade is made stronger.  You were taught to trust him from the very beginning…from the first tiny betrayal (his lateness to a date, his odd midnight requests, his sexual fantasies that pushed your boundaries) he wanted to see how far you would go and from there he would know that he could trust you.  He balanced all of these betrayals with his confessions of love, dreams for the future…a false sense of safety.

Herein lies the benefit: You can never really silence that inner voice. No matter what we are taught we still have an inner voice…that inner voice that tells us what is right and wrong, what is good and what is bad.  Some might call it a moral compass…leading to integrity.  It’s there all along, sometimes screaming the truth.  In one moment, the voice is clear and loud and unavoidable.  Your ability to hear your inner voice is usually preceded by a particularly disturbing event or maybe a period of no contact.  But when it comes and once it is there you have a hard time silencing it.  Your quest for the truth begins and your search to find and document facts is insatiable.  At the end of your relationship it is this voice that leads you out.  Now, your trust and loyalty turns inward.  You begin to trust yourself and be loyal to your needs.  And with the veracity that drove you to say…you now work that hard to leave.  You now know that the right thing is not always the most socially accepted path or the easy path…but it is the path that is RIGHT FOR YOU.  Leaving may go against everything you were taught and everything you are being told but it leads to safety, security, clarity and peace.

You can evaluate your trustworthiness and loyalty by evaluating the balance in your trust.  Does your need to be trustworthy take priority over your own needs?  Do you trust at the risk of your own self worth, your own value, your own belief in what is right and wrong?  Are you loyal in spite of the inability of the other person to be loyal?  These are boundary issues.  Often times your boundaries were established a long time ago.  They could have been established when you were a girl and you were taught lessons of who you could or should trust.  They could have been established when your trust was broken over and over again by a loved one…leaving you with unclear rules as to who is safe and who is not.  You can rebuild boundaries as an adult.  Breaking down the “little girl” beliefs of safety and reminding yourself that as an adult woman you have power.  Take some time to write down what you stand for, what you believe in, what you will not sacrifice.  You can consider these your new rules…your integrity laid out for you in black and white.  As adults we know that boundaries can be pushed, pulled, removed and reinforced.  So you can move ahead knowing that strength will come as you test these re-established boundaries and make decisions, consciously and mindfully, about what you stand for and of course, always listening to your inner voice.

Professionals in the Helping Industries and Their Personal Pathological Relationships

Are you a doctor, nurse, therapist, social worker, female clergy, medical personnel, paramedic, teacher, psychiatrist, certified nursing assistant, day care worker, guidance counselor, speech therapist, missionary, physical therapist, psychology grad student, art therapist, writer, artist, musician, or work with at-risk kids? Welcome aboard to the group of people MOST LIKELY to end up in a pathological relationship.

Can your career be a risk factor for finding/staying with a narcissist or psychopath? Unfortunately, YES!

Look at that list again…all the ‘hearts of gold’ kind of people–the salt of the earth women–the ‘Mother Teresa’s’ of the world–AT RISK for attracting and staying with dangerous, dark, and pathological men. Seems unfair doesn’t it? Normally, narcissists and  psychopaths don’t migrate to their own kind. In rare occasions they do and you end up with a sensationalized case of a new Bonnie and Clyde. But in most cases, they migrate to you!

During a recent media interview I said, “I think understanding this represents one of the largest breakthroughs in our understanding of dangerous intimate relationship dynamics. For so long we understood him but we didn’t really understand her. She was wrongly labeled codependent but codependency treatment didn’t help her. She was wrongly labeled a relationship or even sex addict and addiction treatment didn’t help her. She was wrongly labeled as mutually pathological and yet she was never diagnosed with her own personality disorder. Nothing fit and nothing explained her until we found the missing key…her ‘off-the-Richter-scale traits’ that put it all in perspective. Once we can understand her, we can help her.”

What we do understand is that by nature of your own tender and helpful personality traits, you migrated to a career in which you could use your abundant traits of empathy, helpfulness, compassion, resourcefulness, cooperation, and tolerance. Where best do these great humanitarian traits get used? In helping professions like social work, ministry, nursing, other medical professions, psychology, teaching, child workers… all people with big hearts trying to give out of their own abundance. By virtue that you even ENDED up in one of these professions means you are probably more at-risk for these types of relationships than others.

In almost ALL circumstances, the women from these relationships are either IN these types of professions or are trying to get in to them…(they are in school or trying to move out of their job into a more giving field). Many of the women who are in these types of professions ended up with the narcissist or psychopath during the course of their actual jobs. Nurses hooked up with patients, doctors married someone they met in the field, psychologists dated mentally ill men, missionaries dated someone from one of the street missions where she worked. Every once in a while we got stories from very left-brained women like CPA’s, but even then, she’s not a typical left-brainer. She’s still has many humanitarian traits.

This has a lot of implications for possible prevention work. Knowing that women in these professions are more likely to have the high risk personality traits means education can begin within these professions. Women need to know that sometimes even their career selection is indicative of what their relationship selection might be as well. So while women may be ‘out’ of the pathological relationship, it doesn’t reduce their overall risk because temperament traits are innate. While you are out, is a great time to learn more about your abundant traits and how to safe guard yourself next time around. Let us know if we can help you become more alert and sensitized to the parts of you that need guarding.

Genetic and Neuro-Physiological Basis for Hyper-Empathy

I heard a universal SIGH go out around the world when women read the title to this article. Don’t you feel better knowing there really IS some science to the whole issue of too-darn-much-empathy?

When we began writing about ‘women who love psychopaths, anti socials, sociopaths and narcissists’ we already ‘assumed’ that maybe you did have too much empathy (as well as other elevated temperament traits). We just didn’t know how much or why. When we began the actual testing for the research on the book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths‘ we learned just ‘how much’ empathy you had.

Do I need to tell you? WAY TOO MUCH!

But by now you have probably already suspected that your super-high empathy is what got you in trouble in this pathological relationship. But did you know there is hard science behind what we suspected about what is going on in your relationships with your super-trait of high empathy? It really IS all in your head (and your genes).

In fact, these genes influence the production of various brain chemicals which can influence just ‘how much’ empathy you have. These brain chemicals include those that influence orgasm and its effect on how bonded you feel while also influencing some aspects of mental health (No, no! That’s NOT a good mix!).

Other brain chemicals influence how much innate and learned fear you have. However, females don’t seem to assess threats well; the chemicals then increase her social interactions, while at the same time she is not assessing fear and threats well (This is not a good thing!!).

One of the final chemical effects, delays your reflexes (like getting out of the relationship) and also impacts your short and long term memory (how you easily store good memories that are very strong and how you store bad memories which are easily forgotten).   And since it is genetic, it can run in entire families that produce ‘gullible’ and ‘trusting’ individuals who seem to just keep getting hurt.

Of course, the reverse is also true. Genes can influence the absence of various brain chemicals which influence ‘how little’ empathy a person has. We already know in great detail how this affects those with personality disorders. Personality disordered people (especially Cluster B disorders) struggle with not enough (or not any!) empathy.

Over the past few years, we have posted articles on The Institute’s Magazine on various aspects of personality disorders and the brain.  These articles included the issue of brain imaging and what we are finding out about how the brain structure and also how its chemicals can affect personality, empathy, behavior and consequently, the behavior in relationships. As advances are made in the field of neurobiology we are learning more and more what The Institute has always believed which is there is a lot of biology behind the issues of a lack of personality development such as in personality disorders. Genetics and neurobiology are proving that the behavior associated with narcissism, borderline, anti-social personality disorders and psychopathy has as much to do with brain wiring and brain chemistry as it does with behavioral intent.

The Institute has long told survivors that personality disorders are not merely willful behavior, but brain deficits that control how much empathy, compassion, conscience, guilt, insight and change a person is capable of. Autism and personality disorders share a common thread as ’empathy spectrum disorders,’ now being studied extensively within the field of Neuroscience.  But in some opposite ways, the women also share a common thread of an empathy disorder—Hyper-Empathy. We are coming to understand that hyper empathy has much to do with her:

  • innate temperament (you come into the world wired with the personality you have)
  • genetic predispositions to high/low empathy
  • brain chemistry configurations that contribute to high/low empathy

The old assumptions that the women with high empathy were merely ‘doormats’ is not scientifically correct.

Neuroscience with all it’s awesome information has the dynamic power to blow us all out of the murky waters of assuming that our behavior is merely a reflection of our will. As Neuroscience graces our minds with new understanding of how our brains work, it brings with it incredible freedom to understand our own traits and the pathological traits of others.

For a mind blowing book on the genetic and neurobiology of not only personality disorders, but ‘evil’ as well, read Barbara Oakley’s book ‘Evil Genes.’ You’ll find a whole new approach to understanding the biology of the pathological!

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