Archives for April 2013

My Cup is Empty…Can You Help Me Out?

Pathological relationships might begin with the Attraction Cocktail of excitement-seeking, extraversion and competiveness but soon it evolves to something more…it requires something more to feed it.  What a pathological relationship must have is Cooperation, Helpfulness and Compassion.  I am sure you are thinking that these are not really the things that you might think of when you think of pathology but that makes it all the more needed.  Keep in mind that a pathological’s “cup” is empty…they lack a sense of cooperation, helpfulness and compassion.  So, in order to fill their needs they MUST find someone who possesses these traits.

It is important to understand the mask that a pathological wears.  They exist in two distinct ways…the outside perception that they present and the dark, empty underside of who they are.  As they move through life they learn to compensate for their deficiencies.  One way to compensate is through using what others have and presenting it as their own.  One of the traits that they often cling to is cooperation.  They need you to be cooperative.  They need you to play along.  They are running a scam….and without your cooperation it just won’t work.  Herein lies the risk:  You are optimistic, and supportive; you are willing to go the extra mile to make things work and if there is a “problem” you are part of the “fix-it” team.  Make no doubt about it – you go along with the program.  It’s true…the program that is presented is pretty darn convincing…but still, it’s your high degree of cooperation that allows you to be the perfect partner for pathology.  In our brain, a cooperative mind means that we will stay stuck in the deceit.  We will continue to participate in the “he’s good/he’s bad” scenario.  As long as we stay there…we cannot get out.  The good news is that once you listen to the facts and make a decision about what you are experiencing…it is hard to keep playing. This is the beginning of the end of the relationship.   Herein lies the benefit:  Just as quickly and as committed as you are to cooperate you will be out…just as fast.  You are no sucker.  Because of who you are there will be no looking back once you see his two sides…once you know that you are dealing with someone who is pathological.  Acknowledging this…deeply and honestly acknowledging this… makes all the difference for you.  Making the decision to leave and get out is one thing…getting the intrusive thoughts to stop is another.  As a result of his mask-his presentation of two sides- you will continue to struggle with questioning yourself and what you experienced.  Your cooperative mind will want to go along with the program when your “fact finding” mind will tell you something completely different.    The benefit here is that you have the choice to cooperate-to cooperate with the facts.  If you can lean on those around you (who are probably telling you he is no good, he’s dangerous, he’s all wrong for you) and the facts as they are presented (he lied to you, stole from you, manipulated you); you will have a much better chance at emotional healing…healing that will last long after you have had no contact.

The next trait that a pathological relationship requires is helpfulness.  This goes hand in hand with cooperation.  You are one helpful person.  A pathological needs that too.   He needs to know that you will do what you need to do to get the job done.  He also needs to know that you will stand next to him when times get tough.  See, the program he’s running is one big con…so sometimes others challenge him.  These challenges can be direct or indirect…the can come from family (yours or his), from co-workers, from friends or acquaintances.  No matter the direction, he needs to know that you will be there beside him…to stand up for him.  You, after all, are just trying to help.  He plays the victim and you the rescuer.  It is one of the dynamics that keeps you locked in.  Herein lies the risk: you are eager and willing to get the job done…be the person to provide assistance and guidance.  You want to make things right…set things strait.  He needs a person who will make his mask seem true…someone to vouch for him.  Sometimes, you are the person who helps seal the deal…make his con appear real.  How could he be lying about who he is with you on his arm?  Herein lies the benefit: You are not going to help someone con others.  The gig will be up when you really see him for who he is.  You can then use your helpfulness to make sure no one else gets hurt.  In turn, you are helping yourself.  You are the kind of person who will be just as strong in aligning against him as you were aligning with him.  You will help yourself too…you are the kind of woman who will seek out what you need.  You will search the internet until you find answers and when you do…you apply the skills needed to disengage and begin healing.

There are a couple of ways to address these traits so that they do not become a risk but are more of a benefit.  Your cooperation was tested early on in the relationship.  You may have been asked to do things or led to do things just to see if you would follow through.  Take a moment and think about the early stage of your relationship.  Did you complete tasks that were outside of your personal boundaries…late night meetings, compromising sexual requests, unannounced visits, requests for money?  Take a moment and list these requests or experience-title them “Red Flags-Boundary Breakers.”  These represent ways in which your cooperation and helpfulness was “over-flowing” from your own cup.  Your desire to cooperate and be helpful was greater than your desire to stay true to who you are.  As you begin to heal you can use this list as a reminder of where your boundaries are…give yourself a chance to firmly instill them so that no other person will be allowed to cross them.


“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – ThichNhatHanh

Your breath is your life.  It is the power that moves you. It is the energy that drives you.  It is the fire that keeps you alive.  Your breath keeps you focused on the task at hand.  Your breath helps you slow down and relax.  Your breath moves through your body like a river, creating life along it’s banks.

In pathological relationship recovery, all of these things are needed.  The things that your breath provides are the things that will help you get better.  You need power, energy, fire, focus, relaxation and to create life again.  So, it makes sense that a big part of recovery is that you learn to breathe again.

It seems odd that you might need to learn to breathe again, but you do.  You lost control of your breath the moment you were first traumatized in the pathological relationship.  That first red flag that rose took your breath away.  The first time he called you a nasty name, or showed up unannounced when you had said you were going to be busy, or anytime his masked slipped enough for you to see his pathology.  These are moments when your breath became off balance for the first time.  Your breath took over in a sense.  You may have not felt it; but you sensed it.

When you experience a trauma your body leaps into survival mode.  In order for you to survive, certain primary functions must lead the way.  Your breath first stops and slows which signals a release of adrenaline.  This process then tells your body to be on alert.  Other physiological symptoms occur like sweating, confusion, a fast heart beat.  Through the event your breath is moving in a pressured way…often making your chest feel heavy.  As the perception of the trauma resolves you come back to yourself.  But what happens in a pathological relationship is that you never really leave the exposure to the trauma.  So, you never really come back to yourself.  Your body and breath is always on alert, off balance, unsure of when the next moment of fear will occur.

After an extended exposure to psychological trauma, your breath is not even on your radar.  When you live “in trauma” you stop being able to sense your breath and often miss the other physiological symptoms too.  You are so busy “thinking” in circles that your body’s warning signs and symptoms are “normalized”.  This is the epitome of losing yourself.  Without this awareness and mindfulness you are not present.  Your mind is taking you on a journey outside of the present moment, “What do I do next?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “What can I do to make this stop?”  With these thoughts come the behavioral options – fight, flight or freeze.

There is another way through trauma and trauma recovery…breathe.  Being able to regain the mindfulness of breathing can change everything.  Whether you are still in the midst of trauma or working hard to recover from it; the focus on breathing is crucial.  It is really the foundation for recovery.

You can begin by learning how to take good, deep breaths.  In through your nose…count to three slowly as you inhale…and out through your mouth…count to three as you exhale.  As you breathe listen to the sound of the breath moving in through your nose, and hear the breath leaving your mouth.  Feel the coolness and the relaxing sensation of each breath.  Stay present and focused with each breath.

After you learn to breathe again, add daily scheduled time to practice.  It is recommended that you spend 15-20 minutes each night before bed practicing relaxation and mindful breathing.  You can start with a shorter time frame and build up to the full 20 minutes.  After you believe you have mastered the breathing, you can begin to add in mindfulness skills like turning your mind to thoughts on your immediate sensations.  Turn your mind to take in the sights around you, the sounds you hear, the sensations you feel or the scents you smell.  When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present and immediate moment. Focus on just what is within your own space.

So, now you can begin to catch your breath.  You can begin the process of calming your body, your mind and your spirit.  When you are breathing in a calm and measured way, you are at your best.  With a steady breath, you will be able to think clearly, respond smartly and behave in a way that is safe.

It all begins with one slow, deep breath.

Verbal Bulimia and the Art of Over-Disclosure

I wrote about Verbal Bulimia in my Dangerous Man book, discussed in Women Who Love Psychopaths, and frequently remind everyone in the newsletters and yet I still see this embarrassing behavior among women that not only sounds inappropriate to anyone else listening but also puts her at tremendous risk amongst pathologicals.

Years ago when I had a few psychopaths in group I asked them how they picked out their ‘targets’ and from the mouth of babes they said,”I just listen. If you get them talking, they rapidly over-disclose. Women tell WAY too much! You pick up everything they just said–what they like, their values. Feed it back to them. Become what they are looking for. And ~ VOILA~ you’re in!”

On my flight back from our Dangerous Man Workshop Cruise to Cozumel several years ago, I had one of those over-disclosing women sitting in front of me. Ladies, this is the kind of person that makes you want to switch genders so not to be associated with the behavior! She was purposefully loud so that others would hear her. In fact, she was so loud, the rows around her couldn’t even have their own private conversations because she was holding ‘court’ in the middle of the plane where it was mostly men.

LOUDLY she announces to a girlfriend (who must have been deaf either before the conversation started which is why she YELLED or afterward from yelling in her ear) that she was going to THE CLIFFS where she OWNED a CONDO so she COULD GOLF on TIGER WOODS’ golf course (am enunciating the way she did with her volume on the important parts of her braggadocios story). And that she FLEW back and forth to her OTHER HOME to THE CLIFFS to enjoy THE COUNTRY CLUB and GOLFING. (Just imagine if you were a psychopath sitting within ear range of this conversation….)

Oh, and THANKSGIVING, she was going to have 35 people over AND HER LARGE DINING ROOM could easily accommodate them. She was going to HAVE A COOK COME IN and help her prepare the meal. And ANYONE WHO NEEDED A PLACE TO BE on Thanksgiving was welcome to come (as she offered with a gesture of her hand to those sitting around her). (The psychopath is totaling up how much her silver and Plasma TVs are worth about now….)

Then it was on to her OTHER VACATION travels she has recently done….while everyone else around her were rolling their eyes and sticking their fingers in their ears (except for the psychopaths on board who were checking to make sure they had packed their sun tan lotion–planning on a trip WITH her).

Glory to God, the plane landed and it seemed like I could get away from her. She stood up, adjusted her breasts, fluffed her hair, and sucked her stomach in as she noticed the guy in my row had a 3 piece suit on (gag!) a gold chain and to her I guess ‘potential’ This highly accomplished multi-home owner who had been loudly touting her own virtues, all of a sudden couldn’t manage to get her bag out of the overhead, turning into Scarlett O’Hara. “Could some big strong man help little ol’ me here?”
She was staring straight at the gold-chain guy, so he felt obliged. Then she inserted something that had nothing to do with her bag being stuck. She stuck her hip out and leaned into his face “You know what I HATE?” “What?” he asks. “There are 3 lanes on a highway–one for 70 miles per hour, one for 80, and the last one for me–which is getting out of my way! The thing that drives me the CRAZIEST in the whole world ….” (I’m wondering Poverty? Abuse?World Hunger?Obviously not psychopaths—what?)…are people who drive too slowly so that I can’t roar my BMW Z4 at 95-100 miles per hour.”

She glances around to see who MIGHT have heard her. I have my therapy gaze on her now–like “Girl, GET a therapist!!” The guy winces at that statement and stares at his shoes. However, several other guys in line shift their position to move closer to her. Instead of heading out of the front of the plane they are turning around and heading DOWN the plane not out! What psychopath doesn’t want to con her out of a BMW Z4?? Or her Country Club membership? Or the dining room table that seats 35? Or those boobs she just pushed up?

Ok, ok….not ALL women who over-disclose do it so garishly and obnoxiously as this woman. But they DO, DO IT! There isn’t a pathological that isn’t wired to ‘hear’ the hints and hone in on it. They don’t have to remember to ‘listen’ — it’s a natural as breathing to them.

Maybe your disclosure is more subtle like at church: “Pray for me, I’m going through a divorce.”
Or in personal ads: “Recently divorced attractive woman looking for her soul mate.”

Or on a chat forum “Yeah, I was really hurt when he ran around on me. I’m just looking for a nice guy to settle down with–someone who likes children and animals, a churchgoer—someone who shares my love of art and hiking.”

TMI! TMI! Too Much Information!!

It’s hard to remember that all the ears and eyes that are exposed to you are not ‘normal’ ones. That pathologicals are listening for the ‘signs’ which are a green light to them to move on you. That includes, any hint of what you’re looking for (Fine, I can be that! he says) or loneliness (I’ll solve that!) or pain (Oh, baby, you’ve gotta let me redeem the male species! We aren’t ALL like that!).

Some are listening for your financial info (many are parasitic so are looking for ways of living with others so they can conveniently lose their jobs while with you) or to just bilk you out of your money quickly and be gone.

Others are listening for your need of a partner, companion, ‘just friends’ status, a step father for your children, a spiritual mentor, a shoulder to cry on…..

Others are listening to your unrealized dreams that they can ‘support’ you in your journey to being….a writer, a painter, a therapist, going back to college, starting your own business….

Still others are listening for your needs: Sexually hungry? Emotionally needy? Bored? Not listened to? Abused? Abandoned? Lonely? Tired? Angry?

Remember the church song when you were little “Be careful little eyes what you see….Be careful little ears what you hear…Be careful little mouth what you say…” Remember that? It reminded us that our eyes, ears, and MOUTH needed to be careful. The song went on, “For the Father up above is looking down with love so be careful little mouth what you speak.” If we ONLY had the Father to worry about, this wouldn’t be an issue.

1 in 25 people have no conscience thus are pathological. There are ears and eyes watching and listening to you to make you their target.

So, you’re probably wondering what I did about the obnoxious, verbally bulimic woman on the plane? I flipped my business card at her with my finger and as ‘coincidence’ would have it, it landed in her cleavage and I kept on walking…..Imagine her thoughts as she read my card “The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education Psychotherapist & Author of How to Spot a Dangerous Man and Women Who Love Psychopaths.”

Too bad the plane was too crowded to turn around and watch!!

Little Red Riding Hood Revisited

This is part of a series of articles with a focus on issues related to dating after a pathological relationship; this is one of the specific areas that The Institute is asked about all the time. It is a complicated issue, as are most of the recovery issues related to pathological relationships. I will explore and focus on strategies to that will help ensure that your most recent pathological relationship is your LAST pathological relationship.

Little Red Riding Hood walks through the forest on her way to grandma’s house. A wolf stalks and follows her, hungry to eat her. He moves more quickly than her and finds his place in grandmas home, devours grandma, dons grandma’s clothes and waits patiently for Little Red to arrive. I think we know what happens next. Or do we?

Little Red Riding Hood has been down this road before. She’s a little older now and wiser. What the wolf does not know is that she remembers who he is and he is pretty freaking predictable. He is a carnivore with a one track mind. She knows he hunts and stalks, she knows that he is sly and cunning and she knows that he hides in places to make her think that he is safe to be around. She did not always know this but because she is smart, she remembers. And, because she remembers, she is not so afraid.

I know that you can relate to Little Red Riding Hood. You were stalked and followed. He moved quicker than you, he was more powerful from the start (you really did not stand a chance) and he was a master of making you feel safe. In fact, much like the wolf hid in grandmas clothes, your cluster b hid in society – pretending to be what you thought was safe. But once you are out of your pathological relationship you cannot hide at home, never venturing into the forest again. And, you cannot go back into the forest, pretending that wolves are out there.

When you are ready, you have to get back out there. But you have to do it differently. The key to dating again is spotting it and/or getting out quickly if danger presents itself. If we revisit Little Red Riding Hood the second time around she still takes the forest route because it is the most beautiful and provides the most excitement. But as she moves through the forest, she looks up and sees what is in front of her. She notices the trees, the small sweet animals and the dangerous wolves. And when she is quiet and peaceful, safely moving in the world she can really sense danger. This peacefulness allows her to do something different when danger is afoot and she does it.

You may have never been taught that there were wolves in the world. You may have grown up surrounded by wolves so that when a wolf arrived, you thought it normal. But, once you know the story of the wolves you have a new power. You can learn how people like this work, how they come with an intensity that is overwhelming, how they seek to control and violate boundaries, how they hide in society with titles and stories that have no facts behind them, and how they talk like us and pretend to love like us but are NOTHING like us.

You can learn to spot it – the wolf in granny’s clothing. Once you see it, you have to choose to do something different. This is other part of the story that Little Red Riding Hood does different. See, all of her life and throughout time, she might have been told how to spot a wolf but she was never really told that it was ok to dump the wolf. You might have learned a similar lesson. Women are often told to “make it work” or “just give him another chance”. Women have been taught to believe that if they change, their situation will change. That’s just not always true. Whenit comes to wolves, he’s a wolf and there is no amount of love that is going to make him not be a wolf. If he’s a wolf then your only option is to run.

Dating after a pathological love relationship requires that you have the skills to spot a pathological. You have experienced it first hand and often times the only gift that comes from that relationship is that you know what it looks like. So use it. As you begin to date, watch for patterns of pathological behavior. Lies, boundary violations, intensity, stories that don’t match, history of destroyed relationships or intense blaming of past partners, lack of genuine social connections, history of legal violations or violation of social norms are just some of things you might see. And remember, that not all cluster b’s look the same but the underlying patterns are the same. So one may not do exactly what the last one did but a lie is a lie and a boundary violation is a boundary violation.

Be prepared to move on. You must be prepared to not have a second date, break up after a month or leave even after 6 months in, if that is when you see it. Any relationship requires that you hold on to you and at any moment, you must be Ok with leaving and not be an emotional puddle on the floor. You holding on to you means that you saw who he is, you know it’s not you and you leave.
Little Red Riding Hood spends a lot of time with grandma now. The wolves move in the forest the same way they always did and often a wolf stalks Red. But she doesn’t spend time in fear or worry about the wolf. She moves smartly, peacefully and quickly on her path to grandma’s house. Head up, eyes open. She saves the fear for when she needs it, to sense danger and run. The rest of her days she works hard, cares for her kids, visits with friends and travels the world. The End.

Controlled Contact

“The most dangerous thing is illusion”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

It really is.  Illusion is dangerous.  As much as you want to be rid of the horror of a pathological relationship; as much as you want the chaos to end; as much as you try to make the quiet moments a sign of peace, it is all really an illusion.  Just because it’s over does not mean that it’s done.  In fact, the relationship being over can often mean the beginning of a new phase; wash, rinse, repeat.

In many cases you may be facing parallel parenting or endless court battles.  The problem is, you are different.  You know what you are up against.  The truth is, he is not different.  You can’t forget that.  So how do you manage what is in front of you?

When “no contact” is not possible because of kids or court, you can institute a policy for yourself called “Controlled Contact”. Controlled contact as in you are in control.  You set the rules; you create and hold on to the boundaries.  There is no denying that this will be like walking on a tightrope…with gators in the pond below…this is going to be hard.  But when you have control your path will be less challenging, easier to manage.  Most importantly, without illusion you will decrease the psychological impact that he has on you.

Controlled contact begins with evaluating how you communicate.  You must look at email, text, phone and in person.  The first step is to completely eliminate contact in the most ways possible.  So, ask yourself “Do I need to see him?”, “Do I need to call or talk on the phone with him?”, “Can I limit my contact to email only?”  Make a choice to eliminate at least two methods of contact.  This means that you will no longer have ANY communication with him via those methods.  You will not respond nor will you reach out via those methods.

The second step in controlled contact is to follow some simple communication rules.  Begin with limiting the words you use.  This means that instead of a lengthy email or text you limit your words to 3 or 4.  You can respond with “OK.” or “Yes.” or “No.” Those are complete sentences by the way.  Next, if you must use more than a couple of words eliminate all emotional language.  You can do this by not using phrases like “That’s not fair.”, “You keep hurting me.”, “You just don’t get it.” etc.  All of these phrases and phrases like them convey emotion.   This emotional language is just the thing that he needs to hook you…just the thing that he will know has you still hooked.

The third step is to be an observer during contact.  Stay alert by using linking and labeling.  Linking and labeling is a technique to link the behavior of the cluster b with the label of the behavior – identifying it as projection, gaslighting, crazy-making triangle, etc.  For example, pay attention and identify when you see the crazy making triangle.  Listen to his words and the position he speaks from, is it victim, persecutor or rescuer?  When you know which role he is speaking from it will help you to remember that you do not want to be in any of those positions with him…so be the wall.  Give him nothing back.  You have to stay outside of the crazy-making triangle because he never will.

The fourth step is to track your success.  Write down what works and what doesn’t-when you make a mistake, write it down and don’t do it again.  When you do this you are paying attention to patternsof his reaction to things.  This allows you to get your feet back underneath you and actually be able to predict his responses.

Finally, write down rules for yourself.  For example, when I talk I am only going to talk on the phone to him for more than 15 minutes.  Another rule might be when you talk stay on a certain topic-like the kid’s school issues.  When you set rules for yourself you are taking back your power.  Throughout the relationship he controlled the conversations, content and all.  Now, you decide.

For you to preserve your mental health you must stay in control when you can.  The aftermath of a pathological relationship is not perfect and it can often leave you feeling like you will never get control back again.  But, the truth is, once you rid yourself of the illusion that he will ever be any different, you gain some power back.