Archives for June 2013

The Successful Pathological

The Successful Pathological

Pathology Education teaches that pathological partners come
in all levels of social and economic success.

Survivors say, “He’s a doctor” to which I respond “SO?” So what.
Doctors, attorneys, clergy, law enforcement—it’s not
the job that’s pathological— it’s the character
and personality disorders underneath.

Pathologicals flock to all types of careers. Those with high
levels of narcissism and psychopathy flock to areas
where they are experts, heros, or are able to climb high up the career
ladder. These disorders ‘want’ adoration. You don’t get alot of that on
the back end of garbage truck as a worker.

Paul Babiak and Robert Hare wrote about this in their book
‘Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work.’ The book
examines the rise of white collar psychopathy in our country and in
the work place.  Some forms of pathology hide very well within
their careers and success. A subconscious belief system
is “If they are successful, they must be ok.”

A degree from Yale means he’s smart. It doesn’t mean he’s safe.
A doctor that saves ‘others lives’ doesn’t mean he won’t take yours.
Clergy who will pray for others souls doesn’t mean he isn’t soul-deadening in
a personal relationship.

We only have to look at the nightly news to see examples in our culture of
those within the ‘helping profession’ who were really predators. Pediatricians
who sexually abused children, religious leaders who led the sheep
astray, psychologists who had sex with their clients, trusted financial advisors who
stole people blind, loving partners who murdered their wives and children.
People who appeared ‘normal’ or ‘successful’ to others were disguised dangerous
and disordered persons.

Pathologicals with a lot of success and money are often the hardest ones to leave
according to their partners. They have more connections, can pay off more bribes,
get better outcomes in court, skip on retraining orders, talk their way out
of all sorts of legal issues because of who they are, what they have, or who they know.
Partners are at a disadvantage when leaving the wealthy pathological.

‘They are sicker than we are smart’ is a logo we have long taught in Pathology Education.
Leaving a successful pathological is often difficult because non-pathological partners can
never be as deceitful, conning, or manipulative to fight on their turf. Non-
pathologicals don’t think in those terms so their sickness ends up as gain for them–
up the career ladder, out of the marriage, or anywhere else they want to go.

In the end, success, career, or wealth has NOTHING to do with mental health or
your safety. Career is just that. It’s what they do for a living or the vehicle in which
they hunt their prey.

What Do You Tell Them?

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

“Staring at the blank page before you, open up the dirty window,
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find.” ~ Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

“I was in a relationship with a psychopath.” What an opener, right? Starting with the harsh truth isn’t always the best way to begin a conversation. One of the most difficult parts of moving on with your life is figuring out how you are going to tell your story. The truth doesn’t always come easy. And let’s face it, the vast majority of people in your life will never understand. But their lack of understanding does not prevent them from asking what happened to you. So, you might as well figure out what you are going to tell them.

There are a couple things to consider when deciding what you are going to tell others. You might be tempted to tell everyone the severity of the manipulation, or the details of every gaslighting incident, or the shame he made you feel for HIS affair. But this temptation is often driven by your need for validation. You can temper this desire by validating yourself. You have to come to accept that he is what he is. When you fully understand Cluster B, you will know that it is a complicated disorder. You will know that, really, it is a disorder of social hiding. Cluster Bs, by nature, do not make themselves known. The disorder is marked by a perfectly placed mask. This is what they want others to see. They have worked their whole lives creating that mask. It was created through a process of learning what works, what can be believed and what is socially acceptable for their environment. It is pure survival for them—life or death. It is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will see who they are. And it certainly is not intended that someone outside of their intimate partnership will understand the two sides. If they don’t show it, how are others expected to understand it? Because of this mask, only you might know. You will know the good and the bad, the sweet and the sour, the lies and the truth. You saw the behaviors, you heard the contradictions, you felt the fear. Essentially, you don’t need anyone to tell you that. And if you believe yourself, the need for validation ends.

Once you have established a pattern of self-validation, you can begin to determine who needs to know what. First, consider your audience. Everyone does not need to know everything. You might want to evaluate who needs to know what. Your co-worker might not need to know as many details as your sister. Your boss may not need to know as much as your co-worker. Your acquaintances may not need to know what your neighbor needs to know. Again, each of these groups may have very different experiences of your Cluster B; therefore, proving to them who he is may put you in a defensive position. That’s the last place you need to be in the recovery process. So, be honest with yourself about what your Cluster B gave to the people in his life and the people in your life.

Think about telling some people nothing. What a novel idea—not talking about your trauma. This strategy can be helpful in keeping your mind in a place of validation and away from defensiveness. You can maintain recovery thinking by not looking outside of yourself for answers once a traumatic memory has been resolved. You have done the work; you know what you know, so now use it to validate yourself. To say nothing can also protect your recovery. The co-worker who questions,

“Why didn’t you leave sooner?” might not need to know all the horrible things that he did that prevented you from leaving. But worse than that, the co-worker may not need to know that you did not leave because he continued to build a fantasy for you. That every time you finally decided to leave, he pulled you back in with roses, a romantic getaway or a sentimental recounting of your first Christmas together. If you decide to launch into positive memories with your co-workers … you are re-traumatizing yourself. You have now taken the leap back into cognitive dissonance just to explain to someone else what you already understand. What if you just said to your co-worker, “I left when I was ready to leave and I’m glad he’s gone. How was your weekend?”

Once you’ve determined who to tell what, you can then begin to craft the language that you will use. Some people can understand the clinical words and explanation. These are the people who can understand what it means to be with a psychopath—someone who might read some of the books you’ve read or read an article about pathological relationships. Other people may need more common phrases like, “I was in a dangerous relationship,” or “I was psychologically manipulated.” Still others may respond to the use of a metaphor. Sometimes it helps just to say, “He’s like a little child,” or “He’s like a bad case of the flu … I just can’t shake him.”

There is never really a script that can convey what you should say or even could say to help those around you understand. Truth be told … most won’t ever understand. They can’t validate you. Sometimes it’s best to just find one person who might get it or at the very least is willing to listen when you need to talk. The rest of the time, the focus doesn’t have to be on telling your story, but rather, living your life.

As singer Natasha Bedingfield says—your story is “unwritten.” In every moment you decide what to say and what NOT to say. There are so many layers and intricacies to a pathological relationship. And each moment, each experience that you had, was traumatic. It is crucial that you manage the story that you tell. With a blank page before you at each new opportunity to speak about what happened, remind yourself that speaking the words represents your power. That should not be considered lightly, and with each word that leaves your mouth, you are risking your power.

I’m Screaming- Are You Listening?

By Jennifer Young, LMHC, Director of Client Services

“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 disloyal…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.

But herein lies YOUR 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.

Just Because You Believe It, DOESN’T Make It True

I am reminded frequently that this statement is so true when it comes to denial in pathological love relationships. There’s something about a narcissist and psychopath that can make you forget all about their pathology and return to your previous ‘fog’ of beliefs.  F.O.G.–Fear, Obligation and Guilt.

Entrenched in the partner is the dire desire to have a normal partner. Couple that with the NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and PP’s (Psychopath’s) ability to convince you of their, at least, fleeting normalcy and you have a woman who has dug her finger nails into the nano-second of his normal behavior and she’s not gonna let it go! Otherwise highly educated, bright, and successful women can be reduced to blank-stared-hypnotized-believers when it comes to believing he is normal, can be normal, or that it’s her that is really the messed up one.

Many therapists miss this process in working with the partners–they feel they have made substantial headway in helping her (or him) understand the nature of the unchangeable-ness of the disorder and then what appears to be out of nowhere, she’s blank-staring and hypnotized yet again.

The only thing that has changed is her belief system. Obviously an NPD and/or PP is not capable of true sustainable change. He didn’t change. But her desire to believe his normalcy and to deny his pathology is the only thing that has changed.  It’s not so much a ‘change’ per se, as it is a return to straddling the fence about the belief system.

Most partners live a life of cognitive dissonance–this conflict between ‘He’s good/He’s bad’ that is so distracting they never resolve the internal conflict of whether he is MORE good than bad, or MORE bad than good. They live in a fog of circulating remembrances that support both view points–remembering the good, but still feeling the bad. This circulating remembrance keep them straddling the fence with the inability to resolve a consistent belief system about him.

This inability to hold a consistent belief system is what causes cognitive dissonance, it’s also what increases it and causes intrusive thoughts. Dissonance is caused by thought inconsistency which leads eventually to her behavioral inconsistency–she breaks up and makes up constantly.  Thought and behavioral inconsistency increase Dissonance which increases Intrusive Thoughts. No wonder she can’t get symptom relief!

Her desire to ‘believe it’ doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t make him normal. It doesn’t cure his NPD or Psychopathy. It only keeps her stuck straddling a belief system that has caused her emotional paralysis.  In a crude way of understanding this–the only thing that happens when you’re straddling a fence is you get a fence post up your butt! Try moving when your paralyzed by a fence post!

Just because you believe it, doesn’t mean he’s ok, he’s going to stop doing the thing he said he’d stop, that counseling is going to work, that there never was anything wrong with him, that it’s probably you….or any of  the other items you tell yourself in order to stay in a relationship of pathological disaster.

Even Benjamin Franklin said “We hold these truths to be self evident…”  For us in the field of psychopathology, these self evident truths are that pathology is permanent whether you believe it or not.