Archives for December 2011

Holidays and Pathological Stress

Holidays are extremely stressful times. It’s a time when it is more likely:

* For domestic violence to occur or reoccur

* For dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional

* For pathology to be overt and blatant

* For pathology to target your joy and ruin your holidays

* For former pathological relationships to magically reappear and try to hook you back in

* People drink more

* People binge eat because of the stress

* Some feel pressured to ‘be in a relationship’ during the holidays and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons to ‘just get thru the holidays’

* To overspend

* To not get enough rest

It’s an idealistic time when people have more depression and anxiety than any other time of the year. They think their lives ‘should be’ the picture postcards and old movies we watch this time of year. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, and to cope they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not.

Those with the super trait of ‘sentimentality’ focus on years past when you had that ‘one’ perfect Christmas with the pathological. The last drunken, absent, or abusive 14 Christmases are forgotten, forgiven or overlooked. But what IS focused on is that one year when it was nice and your pit-bull stronghold on the hope it will be this way again.

But you and I both know that pathology is permanent. The last 14 years are a much better and more realistic presentation of what pathology does during the holidays than the one fluke of a year he held it together. Pathology is and of itself stressful to experience under any circumstances. Add to it the expectations for a pathological to be different (ie, act appropriately) this time of year, and the pathologicals and everyone else’s stress is then through the roof. Sometimes even our hope can be pathological when it is focused on something that can not and does not change.

The glittering of your fantasy that resembles your Christmas tree lights places not only you in the path of Christmas misery, but all those you plan to spend Christmas with. Your family, kids, pets, etc. It is much kinder to unplug your glittering fantasy and tell yourself the truth what the likely outcome of attempting to find a serene and joyful moment with a pathological than it is to drag others through your melting fantasy.

Peace, gratitude, and all the spiritual reflections that are suppose to happen during this time of the year cannot be found in pathology. They were not created there but they do end there. If your goal for the holidays is to find some peace, joy, hope, and love then don’t spend it where and with whom it cannot be found. On December 26 and January 2 you will be a lot happier for not having attempted for the millionth time, to find happiness where it does not reside.


~ Stop idealizing–you are who you are, it is what it is, pathology is pathology. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. Accept yourself and others for who they are. This includes accepting that pathology cannot and will not be different during the Holidays simply because you want the Christmas fantasy. Emotional suffering is created in the moment when we don’t accept what ‘is.’ (Eckart Tolle)

~ 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. Don’t get held hostage to exhausting holiday schedules.

~ 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 church service, pray, reflect.

~ Pick ONE growth oriented issue you’d like to focus on for 2012 for your own growth on January 1. It produces hope to know you have a plan to move forward and out of your current emotional condition. Contact us and let us help you work on that for the new year. Invest in your opportunity to grow past the aftermath of this pathological love relationship.

~ Plant joy–in your self, in your life and in others. What you invest in your own recovery is also reaped in the lives of those closest to you.

Happy Holidays from the The Institute

About Face: Changing the Direction from Which You Seek Happiness

This time of year has its own ‘internal reflecting’ which guides us to dig in, evaluate, and give thanks.  We ponder ideas, gather insights that might have eluded us during the busyness of the past 11 months, and slow down to look inward and receive the Light we may not receive at other times during the year.  I hope this week’s newsletter is a little piece of Light that you are open to receive.

Last Christmas, I got a book written by one of my favorite spiritual writers, Thomas Keating.  It’s called ‘The Human Condition:  Contemplation and Transformation.’  Profoundly, he reminds us that we spend much of our lives looking for happiness through avenues that can never produce it. We create our misery by “looking for love in all the wrong places,” as the song goes.  Nothing can be truer when it comes to pathology.  Pathology is wired to produce misery, not happiness.  Everyone has the same response to pathology–they are harmed, miserable, and eventually try to flee.  It’s a true indicator of seeking happiness from a source unable to deliver it.

Your idea of happiness was probably initially developed around the relationship, or the fantasy that was painted for you about him, the relationship, or your future.  Instead of understanding that happiness had been sought from someone, whom by the nature of their disorder could never deliver happiness, you were held captive in the compulsion of repeating the same scenario with him.  You tried to find happiness in the very person who is hard-wired to NOT produce happiness!

Not all of this seeking happiness in the wrong place is the result of his pathology. Some of it is the result of our own unknowing about where happiness is found. It is not found in someone else.  Instead, happiness is found inside of our self, rooted in our own spirituality through God.  It isn’t about them. It is about us.

Keating says, “What we experience is our desperate search for happiness where it cannot possibly be found.”  The key to our happiness is not lost outside of our self. It was lost inside our self when we began looking for it in someone else.  We need to look for it were it can actually BE found.

The chief characteristic of the human condition is that everyone is looking for this key, and nobody knows where to find it.  The human condition is thus poignant in the extreme.  If you want help as you look for the key in the wrong place, you can get plenty of help because everybody is looking for it in the wrong place too!  They are looking for it where there is more pleasure, security, power, and acceptance by others.  We have a sense of solidarity in the search, yet without any possibility of finding what we are looking for.

The religions of the world have discovered the insight that (non-pathological) human beings are designed for unlimited happiness, the enjoyment of truth, and love without end.  This spiritual hunger is part of our nature as beings with a spiritual dimension.  Here we are, with an unbounded desire for happiness and not the slightest idea of where to look for it.

While we may certainly recognize that looking for happiness in alcohol or drugs is looking in the wrong place, do we recognize that looking for happiness even in relationships can be the wrong place?  Certainly looking for love in pathology would never produce the key you were seeking, because it cannot be found where you were seeking it.  But sometimes people even look for happiness in what appears to be the RIGHT places—marriage, children, higher education, careers, and service to others, only again to find that they are still seeking happiness in the wrong direction.

In religious language, the word ‘repent’ means to ‘turn away from.’  And I like that concept even from a psychological growth standpoint.  As you find your own path of recovery from the aftermath of the pathological love relationship, your recovery calls you to ‘turn away from’ the very thing that has produced so much pain for you—the relationship, the choices, the person.  In essence, in order for you to find happiness in yourself, God and in you own (often single) life, you much ‘change the direction from which you are seeking happiness.’  This is especially true of this season in which everything in you wants to ‘turn back’ to him, to the routine, the perceived comfort—just to get through the tough times of the holidays.  Changing the direction from which you seek happiness is embracing the truth that happiness cannot be found in pathology.  God did not create you for pathology.  He created you for Himself—for peace, love, and joy.  It’s not there and will never be there in pathology, even if it IS the holidays.

Over the years, I have become pretty good at picking up on those who will ‘get it’ and move on and never repeat the pathological love relationship dynamic again, and those who WILL, unfortunately, not change direction from which they are seeking happiness.  They might change the FACE from whom they seek happiness, but they are still facing the same direction seeking it.

The Institute has been involved in helping hundreds and hundreds of people ‘change the direction from which they are seeking happiness’, and how to find recovery, healing, growth, and better choices for themselves.  To that end, we are always consciously trying to expand the way to meet the needs of our growing population of wounded readers and bring a wider comprehensive approach to your own health, wellbeing, and healing from the aftermath of pathological love relationships.  We hope that we have touched your recovery in a positive way in 2011.  We hope that we have helped you ‘change direction’ on your path.  If we haven’t, we’re still here and 2012 is a great year for you to recover!

As we wind down the holidays, the New Year always births in me a new hope. Although there is much turmoil in the world right now, be reminded again, that we can always change the direction from which we have been seeking happiness and focus on a brighter future for our self and with our self.  We look forward to being a bright part of your future in 2012. Thank you for entrusting your care and recovery to us this past year.  We do not take that privilege lightly.

(**Information on pathology and your recovery is in the award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, also taught during retreats, in 1:1s and in phone sessions.  See the website for more information.)