Archives for February 2013

Feeling Sentimental?

By Jennifer Young, MS
Director of Survivor Services for The Institute

Valentines Day, Easter, Memorial Day, The Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas; Your birthday, your anniversary, the birth of a baby, a promotion, a graduation. Feeling sentimental? I bet you are! You might be feeling a bit of tenderness, compassion, joy, sadness or anger. It doesn’t take much. Just the idea of these holidays or events can elicit a wave of emotion.

Sentimentality is a feeling. That’s it. It is you, responding to a memory. Feeling sentimental is not the memory but the feeling that it elicits. That is important to understand. Pathologicals want you to feel. When you feel, they are in control.

Herein lies the risk:He used your sentimentality against you. Think about how many times you were in a disagreement and he brought you roses. In that moment your emotion instantly shifted away from his offense and on to the first time he brought you roses. He might have manipulated your sentimentality when he talked about your children-their birth, their accomplishments, their struggles. In those moments your attention turned away from his betrayal or lack of parenting and towards the idea of “family” and the bond that was crafted. He would send loving cards to you as he’s wooing someone else. He used your sentimentality as a distraction. When you were overwhelmed with the feeling of sentimentality, you certainly struggle with staying angry or confused or disgusted.

Additionally, when the cognitive dissonance of “he’s good/he’s bad” is in full swing, this strategy of sentimentality manipulation is one of the things that pulls you back to his side. It’s the part of the relationship that you buy into with so much intensity. You have 5, 10, even 20 years of memories that he can draw on to pull you back to him. Each one of those memories is a point of manipulation on their own…but then he uses them over and over again to reinforce his mask. And you thought it was just another Christmas!!!

Herein lies the benefit: Let’s face it-it is healthy to feel sentimental. Your sentimentality is a reminder that you can bond, in a healthy, emotional and equally connected way. That’s good news. You also have the ability to rationally reflect on the reality of those dates. If you can step back and be an observer of those days you can see the pathology. Being an observer means that you look past how you felt to see what you saw. When you look back at the facts, the pieces come together. You see the flowers he brought with the shifty smile as if he gotten one over on you. You see the pretty birthday jewelry followed by the night he didn’t come home. You see the holiday dinner that included insults, projection and persecution. By the time the relationship ended, your sentimentality had been drained. He kept you spinning with the emotions of sentimentality so much that now…when it’s over you probably want to run and hide as these dates approach. It’s this disdain and disgust that contributed to you leaving. Again, it’s a good thing-that is the benefit. It was part of your awareness process that leads to a full awaking. As hard as it is to look back at those dates, it is powerful to know that SEEING the pathology is what freed you from it. And as usual, once you saw it you left.

Ultimately, if sentimentality is just a feeling then the dates are just the dates. He doesn’t own them. You do. They are just days in the past, events in time in which you were manipulated into believing the picture he painted. Once you begin to separate out those days from the new dates head, healing can be enhanced. Easter of 2009 will look nothing like Easter 2013. Your birthday in 2002 will look nothing like your birthday in 2013. This year, this date, this event you will be in control. You will be in the place you want to be, with the people you want to be around, accepting and giving gifts of your choosing in a fully present and genuine way. No manipulation, no gaslighting, no devaluing, no cognitive dissonance.

Don’t ever run away from your emotions. They are powerful tools-you need them and must treasure them. They do help us give meaning to every moment, every event, every day. They are a part of a very valuable human experience. Together with rational thoughts, reflection and perspective, emotions can create strength in you like you have never known. This year, be strong. Take on each event with a new sense of vigor and excitement. Take your days back-make new memories-feel new feelings. The further you get from pathology, the more your mind will become filled with the genuine feeling of sentimentality. Each year that passes you can look back at the events of 2013 with tenderness and joy-it was the year you ROCKED IT!

7 Ways to Reduce Relationship Stress

Do you feel like there is a huge brick wall between you and your significant other? You’re screaming at each other trying to make yourself understood but this wall keeps making your message come through garbled on the other side?

You’re not alone. This is one of the biggest problems with relationships. So many so called experts say there is a lack of communication. I disagree, I believe most couples communicate quite a bit (at least until the frustration becomes too much). The problem I’ve seen and felt from couples is a lack of effective communication.

Here are some specific ways you can reduce the relationship stress at home (and reduce stress breathing):

1. Get clear on your wants and needs. Everyone has specific wants and needs that they have to have fulfilled to feel loved, significant, and worthy. Countless problems occur because couples expect their significant other to intuit or “just know” what makes them happy.

2. Communicate in the same “language.” People experience the world differently. Many couples experience struggles simply because they don’t understand how the other person experiences the world. Most people experience the world mainly through vision or mainly through feelings. A wife may struggle to explain how she feels about a situation while a husband will tell her what it looks like to him.

3. Spend time together. Yes this is a simple idea but it is essential. Spending time with your spouse is important in so many ways. For instance, sleeping in the same bed results in a couples hearts beating in sync.

4. Have fun together. You don’t have to like all the same activities, just make sure you go to the same places together. Perhaps you may like to read on the beach while your significant other plays in waves. You’ve now both experienced joy at the beach, this is a shared experience which helps reduce tension together.

5. Stop being so judgmental. Life doesn’t ever go 100% right. Cut your spouse some slack. It’s a team effort. If they need help, jump in and help rather than nagging and demeaning them.

*Children and parents alike need to know that, when they make mistakes, they have a loving family that will back them up.

6. Have clear rules. Women especially like to have a clear set of rules or behaviors that as a couple you have decided is acceptable. Remember to be fair. If you’re allowed to look at other women realize that she can do the same. Having clear rules from the outset helps avoid stress later in a relationship.

7. Introvert or extrovert. This one is important! How do you “recharge” your batteries? Do you like to be alone with your thoughts, read a book, go for a walk or do you like to talk the problems out, go to a party, or have a barbecue. Is your spouse the opposite? This can lead to a endless problems if you don’t respect the other persons needs.

A happy and stress free relationship is one built on understanding and communication.


  1. Negative Memories
  2. Diet and Stress Levels
  3. How to Sleep Well

Signs of Relationship Stress

We are all searching for the perfect relationship. We have ideals of what the perfect relationship should be like. In a perfect world we would all have that. It is unrealistic to expect that all of your relationships will be perfect. Many relationships will contain signs of relationship stress that we may choose to ignore simply because we want the perfect relationship. Some relationships will naturally be better than others. Some we have to work harder at. Knowing how to identify the signs of relationship stress will help you handle your relationship problems.

Most of us would like to be in a relationship that consists of friendship, trust, understanding, caring and clear communication. It doesn’t always work that way. Often times our relationships are full of problems in all of these areas. We may not address the problems right away or we choose to ignore them hoping they will go away and instead they just get worse. Sooner or later those signs of relationship stress that we chose to ignore are so overwhelming that we feel there is now way out.

If you are in a relationship that is less than perfect then you may be experiencing some of the following: feeling sick, inability to concentrate, depressed, anxious, fighting about the same things repeatedly, ignoring problem situations, distance from your partner, not talking to each other, sleeplessness, mistrust, decreased sense of loyalty, decreased sense of caring, unwillingness to try, irritability, anger and resentment.

These are all signs of relationship stress. You might experience one, some or all of them. If you are at the point where you are experiencing the majority of these symptoms then your relationship is likely in a lot of trouble. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship will end. You do need to address these issues quickly in order to restore your relationship to the way it was before the problems began. You have to change things and you can make a difference.



So many people confuse the feeling of ‘attraction’ with the emotion of love. For some who are in chronic dangerous and pathological relationships, it’s obvious that you have gotten these two elements ‘mixed up.’ Not being able to untangle these understandings can keep people on the same path of unsafe relationship selection because they keep choosing the same way and getting the same people!

Attraction is largely not only unconscious but also physical.  There is actually something called an ‘erotic imprint’ which is the unconscious part that guides our attraction. (I talked about this in the Dangerous Man book). Our erotic imprint is literally ‘imprinted’ in our psyches when we are young–at that age when you begin to notice and be attracted to the opposite sex. As I mentioned, this is largely an unconscious drive. For instance, I like stocky dark-haired men. When ever I see that type of image, I immediately find that man ‘attractive.’ I can ‘vary’ slightly on my attraction but I’m not going to find Brad Pitt attractive. I might forego the full ‘stocky’ appearance but I’m not going to let go of some of the other traits that make men appealing to me. We like what we like. For instance, I am attracted to Johnny Depp or George Clooney. I don’t like any of the blondes or overly tall and lanky body types.

If you think back to what your ‘attraction’ basis is, you may find some patterns there as well. Attraction, however, can also be behavioral or based on emotional characteristics. For instance, some women are attracted to guys with a great sense of humor. The attraction is based on that characteristic. Other women may be attracted to athletic guys–not because of what sports do to their bodies, but because of the behavioral qualities of athletes.  Attraction can be subtle–like the unconscious erotic imprinting that makes us select men based on physical attributes OR attraction may lead us to choose relationships based on behaviors or emotional characteristics like displays of empathy, helpfulness or friendliness. (I discussed your own high traits of empathy, helpfulness and friendliness in Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Although these traits might guide our relationships selection, this is not the foundation of love. It’s the foundation of selection.

Often, our relationship selection comes more from attraction than it does anything else. So knowing ‘who’ and ‘what types’ you are attracted to will help you understand your patterns of selection. Some people choose characteristics–helpfulness, humor, gentleness or another quality that they seem to be drawn to. Other people are more physical in their attraction and find the physicality of someone either a ‘go’ or a ‘no.’ Maybe you like blondes or blue eyes. This may also drive your pattern of selection.

Also in the area of attraction–sometimes it’s Traumatic Attraction that seems to drive our patterns of selection. People, who have been abused, especially as children, can have unusual and destructive patterns of selection. While this may seem the opposite of what you would expect, these patterns are largely driven by unresolved trauma. People who were raised in alcoholic, dysfunctional, or abusive homes are likely to repeat those exact patterns in their selection of a partner. They often select individuals who have similar ‘characteristics’ to the abusive/neglectful/addicted adult they grew up with or were exposed to. The characteristics could be physical (how they look) or behavioral (how they act) or emotional (how they abuse/neglect).  In any event, the unresolved abuse issues drive them to keep selecting abusers for relationships. Today, they are mystified as to why they keep picking abusive/neglectful/addicted people for relationship partners. That which remains unresolved, revolves–around and around thru our lives until it is resolved.

So, when you have no idea that attraction (good, bad, or dysfunctional) is guiding your selections, you just keep picking the same way and getting the same thing. But because the world keeps using the word ‘love’ you use it, too. And you label your attraction-based-choices (that are largely dysfunctional) as ‘love’ and then become confused about the nature of this thing called ‘love.’ Your attraction is NOT love. It is merely attraction. What DOES or DOES NOT happen IN the relationship may be more reflective of ‘love’ than anything else.

Remember the Bible verse, “Love is patient, love is kind, love does not seek it’s own…”? it helps to reflect how love is ‘other centered’ not in a codependent and frantic needy way but in a way that helps others be interdependent in relationships. Love is often attributed to positive ‘attributes’ such as:

Joy – love smiling

Peace – love resting

Patience – love waiting

Kindness – love showing itself sensitive to others’ feelings

Goodness – love making allowances

Faithfulness – love proving constant

Gentleness – love yielding

Self-control – love triumphing over selfish inclinations

–Source Unknown

(Now, think about if ANY of those traits described the Pathological Love Relationship? I didn’t think so….)

“As long as we believe that someone else has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims” (From: Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls).

This Valentine’s Day be very clear with yourself about love and attraction. This is a time when you might be likely to want to recontact him. Let me remind you, NOTHING has changed. His pathology is still the same. And on February 15th you could hate yourself for recontacting him for one weak illusionary moment on Feb 14th–in which the world is focused on love but he is focused on manipulation, control or anything OTHER than love. If you open that door, then you will have weeks or months of trying to get him out and disconnect again.

Instead, plan ahead for your potential relapse by setting up an accountability partner AND something to do! Go to a movie with a friend; go out to dinner, so SOMETHING that takes responsibility and action for your own loneliness at this time of year. Whatever you do, don’t have a knee jerk reaction and contact him. One day on the calendar about love is just an ILLUSION!

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by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.

Since Valentine’s Day was upon us, I thought it would be a great discussion about what happens in Pathological Love Relationships— that attraction is on over-drive while love (from a pathological) is lingo-bling.

But what about real love, healthy love? People write all the time and say ‘When are you going to write How to Spot a Healthy Partner because with as many bad relationships that I’ve been in, I can hardly tell the difference between what should be obviously toxic and what should be obviously healthy.’

The opposite of healthy love is what we often call ‘toxic’ love. Sometimes understanding what toxic ‘looks like’ helps us to see what real ‘love’ should look like too.

Here is a short list of the characteristics of Love vs. Toxic Love (compiled with the help of the work of Melody Beattie & Terence Gorski).

Love Toxic Love
Development of self is first priority Obsession with relationship
Room to grow, expand, desire for other to grow Security and comfort in sameness;
insensitivity of need seen as proof of love
(may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)
Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests
Encouragement of each other’s expanding; secure in own worth Preoccupation with other’s behavior; fear of other changing
Appropriate Trust (i.e. trusting partner to behave according to fundamental nature) Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition; protects “supply”
Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation
Embracing of each other’s individuality Trying to change other to own image
Relationship deals with all aspects of reality Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant
Self-care by both partners; emotional state not dependent on other’s mood Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other
Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go) Fusion (being obsessed with each other’s problems and feelings)
Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship Pressure around sex due to insecurity, fear & need for immediate gratification
Ability to enjoy being alone Unable to endure separation; clinging
Cycle of comfort and contentment Cycle of pain and despair


Love is not supposed to be painful. There is pain involved in any relationship but if it is painful most of the time then you are probably in a Pathological Love Relationship because the end result of these relationships is ‘Inevitable Harm.’  Let’s be clear that there is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship – it is natural and healthy. If we can start seeing relationships not as the goal but as opportunities for growth then we can start having more functional relationships. A relationship that ends is not a failure or a punishment – it is a lesson. And these lessons are mostly about pathology, its permanence, and the lives it affects without discrimination.