Archives for November 2012

How To NOT Go Back/Hook Up During The Holidays

Last week I wrote about the “Power of Relapsing’ and got many emails saying “THANK YOU for writing about it as I was thinking about going back to the relationship just so I wasn’t alone during the holidays! You saved me from a disaster!”

Here’s a secret: “Even if you go back, you’re still alone. You’ve been alone the entire time because by nature of their disorder, they can’t be there for you. So you’re alone–now, in the holidays, or with them. With them, you have more drama, damage and danger. Your choice….”

People relapse and go back into relationships more from Thanksgiving thru Valentines Day than any other time of the year. Why? So many great holidays to fake it in! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, V-Day….then PHOOEY! You’re out. Why not be out now and stay out and save face. You’re not fooling anyone…not yourself, them, or your family and friends.

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

* For domestic violence to occur

* For dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional

* 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. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, to cope they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not.

People put extraordinary pressure on themselves thinking their lives ‘should be’ the picture postcards and old movies we watch this time of year. You can’t make a ‘picture postcard memory with a psychopath or a narcissist!’

Here’s a mantra to say outloud for yourself “I’m pretending that staying/going back with a psychopath/narcissist will make my holidays better.”  Pretty ridiculous thought, isn’t it? Something happens when you say the REAL thing outloud. It takes all the romaticization and fantasy out of the thought and smacks a little reality in your face.

“I want to be with a psychopath/narcissist for the holiday.”  Say that three times to yourself out loud….

NO!! That’s not what you want. That’s what you GOT. You want to be with a nice man/woman/person for the holidays. As you VERY well know, they’re not it.

“I want to share my special holidays with my special psychopath.”  ???  Nope. That’s not it either. But that’s what’s going to happen unless you buck up and start telling yourself the truth. It’s OK to be by yourself for the holidays. It sure beats pathology as a gift.

Here’s a real gift for you–some tips!

TIPS FOR A HAPPIER/HEALTHIER HOLIDAY

~ Stop idealizing–you are who you are, it is what it is. If your family isn’t perfect, they certainly WON’T be during the season. In fact, everyone acts WORSE during the holidays. It is the peak of dysfunction. Accept yourself and others for who they are.

~ 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.

~ 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 service, pray, meditate, reflect.

~ Pick ONE growth oriented issue you’d like to focus on for 2011 and begin cultivating it in your mind–look for resources you can use to kick start your own growth on January 1.

~ Plant joy–in your self, in your life and in others.

I am so passionate about this subject and concerned for your well being this holiday that I have made an mp3 message for you. To listen to my 15 min broadcast about protecting yourself this holiday season from relapse and hook ups, click here: http://www.howtospotadangerousman.com/Audio/Christmas2008Message.mp3
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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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Telling Yourself the Truth–You Don’t Have to Tell Me–But At Least Tell it to Yourself…

“People, like all forms of life, only change when something so disturbs them that they are forced to let go of their present beliefs. Nothing changes until we interpret things differently.Change occurs only when we let go of our certainty. “ Dee Hock

Rigorous honesty is the first rule of recovery. Nothing happens until the truth is laid on the table. Well,that ends alot of recoveries right there–the inability or even refusal to be honest, especially with yourself.

Telling yourself the truth means several difficult things:

1. It means you stop covering for him –making excuses for his behavior, quietyly and secretly LOOKING for loopholes he just might fit into (he doesn’t met ALL the criteria for pathology, only 10 out of 12.Psychology COULD be wrong in his case). Instead of looking with the eyes of safety and seeing how many areas he DOES fit in, you scoure every square inch of your memory and his behavior looking for ONE redeeming trait that is suppose to wipe out the 25 absolutely pathological things he does. You aren’t telling yourself the truth about ‘him’ and his pathology OR your own loophole hunt and what your real motives are–to find a reason to stay.

2. You tell yourself the truth about how you need to take responsibility for your choices and your recovery.Telling yourself the truth about your own choices means you are willing to really dig in and look at where your choices in relationships have their origins. You can’t change what you don’t see. While you are not responsible for abuse you incurred, you are responsible for your own recovery and the safety of yourself and children. This can only occur when you begin telling yourself the truth about the level of danger you are in and the level of damage you and your children have already sustained. Taking responsibility for your recovery means that you both acknowledge the victimization AND seek to thrive beyond the mere title of ‘victim.’ I see so many women do part one: acknowledge the victimhood and don’t do part two.They camp out in the victimhood and 10 years later, they are still in the same spot as they were before.

Recovery means movement and progress. We have to even tell ourselves the truth about our own recovery—we kick our own butts if we are stagnate or have stopped growing. Some women find their identities in their victimization because of the severe abuse and loss of self esteem. Years later some of the women have never done anything for their own recovery. They read one book and saw them-selves in it, recognized their victimhood, closed the book, squatted—and stayed there. You already lived THAT—real life is out there on the other side of recovery (even IN recovery). Tell yourself the truth about how invested you are in your recovery or what you need to really do in order to recover. If you’re afraid of success—acknowledge that.

3. Telling yourself the truth also means taking responsibility for relapses. Sometimes women secretly want to relapse. Have you had that feeling? They just want to go back to what feels ‘normal’ — which is often dysfunction. It’s human nature to want what is comfortable even when it’s painful. That makes recovery all the more difficult because when you are tired, lonely, and sick of the pain you are in, it would be great to believe the fantasy again –wouldn’t it? Just ONE night where he pretends it’s gonna be good again (and even though you know it’s not true and for that night you don’t even really care if he’s lying) and both of you know how to fake it to ward off the pain and lonelieness. So there’s that night of passion that has been fueled by fear and abandonment but the next day when everyone is past the fantasy, it all starts again. Then you think since you gave in, and you really don’t have what it takes to end this and leave anyway–so you sigh and resign yourself to just living in the hell. Telling yourself the truth is pointing to the ways you sabotage yourself. When you are tired, lonely and sick of pain and you feel the old feelings of relapse sneaking in and your head is wanting the fantasy back—you don’t pick up the phone and call someone who can remind you what reality is. You don’t plan something for that evening that will help you get thru that night without sabotaging yourself. The video tape is replaying all the fragments that only show ‘the good part’ of the relationship. It’s warm and cozy. You pick up the phone and call him or you answer when he calls. Telling yourself the truth is about how long you had planned to self sabotage.

Those are 3 REALLY HARD THINGS to hear. But they are at the crux of recovery. Trauma, fear,abandonment actually INCREASES people’s feeling of attachment. The more you have been hurt by him,often the more attached intensely you will be. Those trauma bonds are hard to break and even harder to live with. Women say they want MOST to be out of pain, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts about the relationship (good and bad) but they sabotage themselves by not protecting themselves by no contact, by not managing their anxiety, by not developing a support system, by not planning ahead for sabotaging thoughts, etc.

Recovery is a life change. It’s not a quick fix to get out of pain like Ativan or Xanax. Women who take a whopping 6 weeks off of dating or a few months and jump back in are shocked to find themselves right back in it–but usually with someone even WORSE than the last one. The most common factor is each man is more dangerous than the one before. That’s because they think time heals wounds and if it’s been a few months, SURELY it’s time to date again. Recovery heals wounds. Sitting out for 5 years and doing nothing about gathering insight about your weaknesses, relationship patterns, and problems will not magically make you ready for a relationship because you waited 5 years. Time is time.
It just passes. You have to change your life in order to change your choices. Recovery, or changing your life is a new way of seeing yourself, your previous relationships, your past, your choices, your coping skills–and most importantly a future filled with different choices and healthier relationships.

I KNOW that you ladies are up to the challenge. In the 20 years that I have been doing this and kicking butts,(referred to as Sandra’s Bootcamp!) I am always AMAZED at the quiet strength that grows in women as they take the chance to detach, be alone, and heal. It’s your strength that has kept me doing this for this many years in the face of alot of great odds and often danger myself. But ALL of you are worth it!

If we can help you dig down into the truth for you and help you start your recovery, just let us know! We make it easy–phone sessions in the privacy of your own home and in the comfort of your fuzzy slippers! Or gather over coffee in one of our tele-support groups and meet other ladies going through it too. Or jump on a plane or in your car and go to a retreat. Whatever you do….tell yourself the truth so your recovery can start!

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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Dissociation Isn’t a Life Skill

“Dissociation Isn’t a Life Skill” (Quote by Sandra L. Brown, M.A. )

Dissociation is described as:
1. The splitting off of a group of mental processes from the main body of
consciousness, as in amnesia.
2. The act of separating or state of being separated.
3. The separation into two or more fragments.

Let’s talk about Dissociation a minute…it’s technically a defense mechanism–we separate out of our memory things that we don’t want/can’t deal with. In trauma (like abuse or rape), that’s helpful at the time. If dissociation becomes your major defense mechanism, it can become a full blown dissociative disorder which are very intense types of disorders. But outside of full blown dissociative disorders, there is still the ability to heavily rely on dissociation even if you don’t have the disorder.

We can get trained to dissociate and use it against ourselves! Dissociation is when we separate from our awareness ‘details’ of an event. I think this happens with dangerous men as early as the first date when we ‘choose’ to not pay attention to our screaming red flags. We are dissociating their messages away from our awareness because if we truly became ‘aware’ we might ditch him early on and we don’t want to.

Dissociation can become a primary defense mechanism if you grew up in a dysfunctional, abusive, addictive, or violent home. That’s because children can easily go on ‘over whelm’ and check out–or dissociate because they can’t handle whats going on. If you never learned adult coping skills then it’s likely you use the ones you do know: which are from childhood. And if your primary ones were dissociation, then you’re probably using that now, and it probably has gotten you into alot of trouble in your patterns of relationship selection.

After a while, you don’t even know you’re dissociating. It’s just automatic. So you can dissociate away alot of IMPORTANT stuff early on: like discrepancies in his stories, his not-so-nice words he says to you, his tonality in his voice, or other behaviors that SHOULD cause you concern, but don’t.

Any time we separate a memory from all it’s components, you are dissociating from the complete or whole memory which is why remembering ALL the relationship issues are important–not just the good times. The bad times are a part of the memory or the memory is merely a fragment of what REALLY was going on. You can also seperate out other parts of the memory like: sensations, words or phrases, physical or sexual pain inherent in the memory, things you tasted/smelled/saw, and various emotions that were prevalent in the relationship. That’s why women get these very skewed ‘snap shots’ of just the good times and long after those times. The whole snap shot would look very different indeed if she incorporated all the senses in the memory.

Sometimes women can dissociate or fragment off the ‘meaning,’ ‘motive,’ or ‘intent’ as well. So he uses all your money and your response is “He meant well, he just doesn’t know how to handle money.” That’s not likely the situation so the motive or meaning of what he was REALLY doing is fragmented away from you so you don’t have to take action. Dissociation can become an unconscious reason to stay “I didn’t notice….” because underneath dissociation was naturally at work and it also ‘worked’ for the ability to stay in the relationship and ‘not notice.’  How long can you live on the reasoning behind dissociation which is “I didn’t know, I didn’t notice….” which is why I say that dissociation is not a life skill. It doesn’t help you move forward, it keeps you frozen in time.

Women describe dissociation as a numbing or a spacy feeling. They either don’t feel something OR they are too spaced out to do much about it. In the middle of a traumatic event, spacing out and numbing is a good thing. Even as adults, I still advocate that there are times for ‘therapeutic dissociation.’ Like in a root canal–who wants to be ‘present’ and ‘aware’ for that? But the problem is that dissociation becomes largely un-managed. Then it becomes downright dangerous to us–robbing us of our ability to be aware, intune, and vigilant.

Look back over your childhood for patterns of dissociation. Look back over your adult relationships and see how influenced your choices were by dissociation. Look at your TODAY LIFE for signs of when you check out, become aware, drift off, or stuff feelings at the speed of light so you don’t have to make a
decision about something. These are all aspects of dissociation. While it might have helped you in a time of trauma, as an adult your recovery is about growing into healthier and stronger coping skills than mere dissociation. All of real life is happening now—are you missing it?

(There is more information about Dissociation in my book ‘Counseling Victims of Violence.’)

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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Is it Fear or Is it Anxiety? Part II

Last week we began talking about the difference between fear and anxiety. Real fear draws on your animalistic instincts and cause a sincere fight/flight reaction. Anxiety causes you to worry about the situation but you aren’t likely to bolt.

Anxiety can develop as a counterfeit trait to the true fear you never reacted to.

Gavin deBecker in the classic book ‘The Gift of Fear’ is a Danger Anaylst and has much to say about the preventableness of most bad outcomes. He says there is Always Always Always a Pre-incident Indicator (a PIN)  that women ignore. In my book, I call them Red Flags–the wisdom of your body that recognizes primitive fear and sends a signal to your body to react.  In that split second, you can run or you can rename it. Renaming it causes your body to react less and less to the messages it does send. Not one woman in the 20+ years I’ve been doing this said there wasn’t an initial red flag that she CONSCIOUSLY ignored. Almost 100% of the time, the early red flags end up being exactly why the relationship ended. You could have saved yourself 3, 5, 15, 20 years of a dangerous relationship by listening to your body instead of your head!

Let’s go back to more stories by Gavin….

Dorothy says her ex-boyfriend Kevan was a fun guy with a master’s degree and a CPA. “He was charming, and it never let up,” Dorothy says. “He was willing to do  whatever I wanted to do.”

Eventually, Dorothy began to feel that something wasn’t right. “He would buy me a present or buy me a beautiful bouquet of roses and have it sitting on the table—and that was very nice, but that night or the next day he wanted me to be with him all the time.”

As Dorothy shares her story, Gavin points out some of the warning signs—starting with Kevan’s charm. “A great thing is to think of charm as a verb. It’s something you do. ‘I will charm [Dorothy] now.’ It’s not a feature of [one’s] personality,” Gavin says.

What happened next stunned Dorothy. “I was out visiting my sister in California, and he was calling me, calling me, and he asked me to marry him over the cell phone,” she says. “I thought, you’re kidding. I’ve always said I would never get married again. And I said,’That’s the last time I’m going to talk about it.'”

After rejecting Kevan and coming home, Dorothy says he remained persistent. He showed Dorothy the picture of a diamond ring he wanted to buy and told her he wanted to buy a house. “And he had it all mapped out, how it was going to work for us,” she says.

When Kevan refused to listen when Dorothy repeatedly told him no, Gavin says it should have raised serious red flags. “Anytime someone doesn’t hear no, it means they’re trying to control you,” Gavin says. “When a man says no in this culture, it’s the end of the discussion. When a woman says no,it’s the beginning of a negotiation.”

After four and a half years and many red flags, Dorothy finally broke off her relationship with Kevan. But that wasn’t the end. “He kept calling me, calling me with repeated questions. What am I doing now? ‘What are you going to do tonight?'” Dorothy says. “And that’s when I realized I am in trouble here.”

On the urging of her son, Dorothy got a restraining order on Kevan, which she says gave her peace of mind. “And that was a huge mistake,” she says.

One night, Dorothy was asleep in her bed when she woke up to the sound of her name being shouted. “I turned to my left shoulder, and I saw a knife about [10 inches long]. I could see the reflection of my TV in the blade. Then I saw that he had cut off surgical gloves, and that was scary,” Dorothy says. “I put the covers right over my head and curled into a fetal position and started praying. He said to me, ‘Are you scared?'”

Rather than panicking, Dorothy says she got out of bed, stood up and told Kevan he was leaving. As she walked calmly out the door, he followed her to the parking lot. “So I said, ‘You’re leaving now,'” she says. “He turned, went down the street, and I didn’t see him again.” Dorothy immediately called 911, and police later arrested Kevan. He was convicted and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

Gavin says when Dorothy stood up, spoke firmly to Kevan and walked out, she was accepting a gift of power by acting on her instincts. “Fetal position is not a position of power, but you came out of it with a great position of power. And the pure power to say to him, ‘You’re leaving now,’ is fantastic,” he says. “Of all the details in that story, the one that stayed with me the most is that you saw the reflection of your little television set on the bedside table in the knife. And what that told me was you are on—you are in the on position. … You were seeing every single detail and acting on it.”

Just like ignoring your intuition, Gavin says the way women are conditioned to be nice all the time can lead them into dangerous situations. “The fact is that men, at core, are afraid that women will laugh at them. And women, at core, are afraid that men will kill them.”

This conditioning and fear, Gavin says, lead many women to try to be nice to people whose very presence makes them fearful and uncomfortable. They often believe that being mean increases risk, he says, when in fact the opposite is true.

“It’s when you’re nice that you open up and give information, that you engage with someone you don’t want to talk to,” he says. “I have not heard of one case in my entire career where someone was raped or murdered because they weren’t nice. In other words, that’s not the thing that motivates rape and murder. But I’ve heard of many, many cases where someone was victimized because they were open to the continued conversation with someone they didn’t feel good about talking to.”

In my own book ‘How to Spot a Dangerous Man’ I talked about cultural conditioningand how women feel they should be polite and at least go out with them once. If you’re saying yes to a psychopath, once is all he needs. Women also have HORRID and NON-EXISTING break up skills. What in the world is more important than having good break up skills? You are likely to date a dozen men in your life time and not likely to marry but one of them. What are you gonna do with the rest of them?

In this culture with all the books on ‘How to Attract Men’ very little is written about how to break up. Women spend more time on a Glamor Shots picture of themselves for a dating site then learning how strong boundaries can protect them.  Women who are attracted to the bad boys don’t need the book ‘How to Attract’ — she’s already doing it. But how can she get rid of the predator she DID attract? (See our new book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths).

Women buy our books, do phone counseling, come to retreats all with a primary motive “Help me to never do this again.” While you definitely need insight about your own super-traits that have positioned you in the line of fire with a psychopath, you also need most the ability to reconnect with your internal safety signal. Everything in the world we can teach you will not keep you safe if you ignore your body. Our cognitive information can not save you the way your body can. That’s the bottom line. This is something you have to do for yourself.

This issue of real fear -vs- mere anxiety is of utmost importance. It has really struck me this week that we may have missed something in our discussion about PTSD and it’s relationship to fight/flight reactions. Gavin helps us to see that fear happens in the moment–it’s an entire body sensation–the flash of fear followed by the  intense adrenaline and fight or flight. The intensity of the body reactions usualy COMPELLS people into fight//flight.

With PTSD, I see how we have lumped more minor reactive reactions like ‘PTSD induced fight/flight’ with the real in-the-moment reactions of fear. I see them as different now. If women are THAT afraid of him and compelled by real fear (as opposed to worry ‘He might harm me in the future but he isn’t mad right now and not gong to hurt me this second) she wouldn’t be with him because her animalistic reaction would be to flee.

Real fear IN THE MOMENT demands action. Our own ability to tolerate what he is doing suggests it’s not TRUE survival fear. This is the difference between animialistic/survival fear and our common day PTSD-reactionary fear.

Sometimes our body has reactions to evil, or pathology. Normal psychology should ALWAYS have a negative reaction to abnormal psychology. So your first meeting with him should have produced SOMETHING in you. It may not have been the true fear reaction that COMPELLED you to run away but you may have gotten other kinds of thoughts or bodily reactions to be in the presence of significant abnormality and sometimes, pure evil.

Listen. Your body is smarter than your brain.

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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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