Archives for 2013

HEALTHY LOVE – WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT?

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.

The Gift of Time-Managing the Pace of a New Relationship

This year I will begin 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.

“Time ripens all things; with time all things are revealed; time is the father of truth.” ~Francois Rabelais

There is one task in dating after a pathological relationship: to discern pathology from non-pathology before you are hurt. In order to achieve this task, you must be prepared to buy yourself some time. Pathology is not decided by one event– not one lie, not one affair, or not one nasty fight. Pathology is discerned over time by watching for a pattern of behaviors. Your experience with one pathological will help you know the behaviors and pattern however, if you do not give yourself time you will NOT see it.

The very first thing that happens in a pathological relationship is that you are overwhelmed. A pathological often moves fast and hard. They love-bomb, they challenge your “no’s,” they show up unannounced, they come along just because, or after you tell them that you have plans with friends they send text after text. When you tell them that you’d like to see them Sunday, instead of Saturday they send flowers on Saturday letting your know you are missed. While you are at work they send emails, call, or even show up. They are beginning the process of control. Each one of these events is part of a pattern that serves to overwhelm and manipulate you. You perceive the attention as loving, sensitive and compassionate or it maybe even something you have not felt before. You hear the talk in your head that says “he must really care about me because he wants to share every moment with me.”

The problem with pathology is this intensity in the early phase takes away your ability to “feel” the danger. The intensity blinds you making it nearly impossible to see the boundary violations, see the tests that you are being put through, see that the acts of “love” are really fantasy development. What I hear most about this early phase is feeling fear and excitement at the same time. But what inevitably happens is that the fear is squashed by excitement. He pulls you in with flowers and scares you with a boundary violation. As you begin to question the violation, he sends a sweet text message so the fear fades quickly.

The solution is giving yourself the gift of time. Slowing down in a relationship allows both the fear and excitement to be sensed.If the relationship is built on fear, you need to know that. If the relationship is built on excitement, you need to know that too. Our feelings are a tool…a warning sign. They let us know when something good is happening and when we are in danger. You need to feel the fear so that you can decide how to act. But, if you are moving so fast that you cannot feel these emotions, you will miss the warning signs.

Time will reveal the truth. Not only will going slow help you to feel the danger if it is there,time will allow the patterns of behavior to reveal themselves. For pathologicals with good masks this may take a while for them to slip. Your task is to put the pieces together and when you see who he is, believe it and do something about it. It might not be one lie, but two or three is a pattern. It might not be one boundary violation, but two or three is a pattern.

In this day and age, slowing down is not really part of our lives. We move fast today. Technology makes things so easy and allows for quick, direct (sometimes even intense) communication. We are often under pressure to move fast in relationships,having put off “love” for career. So the task of slowing down requires that you look at how we date today.

  • Technology: Focus on limiting the amount of texts and emails that you send while in early stage dating. Limit texts or emails to once a day or less and limit content to setting up dates or quick check in. Leave real conversation for the face to face meetings. Take a look at your facebook friends and consider not adding a new friend until they are an actual friend. Adding a person that you have not even met in person or who you have had one dinner date with might not be the best choice. When using online dating sites keep emails simple, straight forward and of a non-intimate nature.
  • Contact: Consider dating once a week. Leave Friday and Saturdays for a traditional date night and hold firm to your boundary. Even if you are not mutually free on those days for two or three weeks,you just bought yourself some time. Hold firm to boundaries regarding when you are available. If you have plans with friends or family, do not cave when the pressure comes for him to participate.
  • Time: Be vigilant about how long you spend with one person in early stage dating. Allow yourself two or maybe three hours for first, second and third dates. This would include a dinner date, an outdoor activity date, or a group date. Keep phone calls short and pleasant. Again, leave real conversation for face to face meetings.
  • Relationships: You can slow things down by keeping your early stage date just that, a date. He does not need to meet the kids, the parents or any other close family. The process of bringing a new person into your intimate circle only intensifies the relationship in your eyes and puts you at risk. The person you should introduce him to is the non-tolerant best friend. The friend that warned you about the last one!

And a word about sex and slowing down: think about it. That’s it. Just think it through. Whatever you choose, make sure you have taken the TIME to think it through. Sex means that your neurochemistry will shift and you will sense a deeper attraction, a deeper sense of relationship investment, and even craving. Those are all neurochemistry shifts you cannot control. Sex means that your mind and your beliefs about the relationship will change. Sex means that you could be triggered or struggle with the intimacy involved…are you ready?

The task of pacing and slowing down gives you control. When it comes to discerning if your potential date is pathological you will only be able to do that if you remain in control and you control the pace.Give yourself a chance. You knew the first time around too but he was better at being a pathological. You knew the first time around but he moved faster and moved with an intensity that was meant to overwhelm you. This time you will know, you will see and you will be able to choose differently if you give yourself the gift of time.

 

Touched by Tragedy

On Friday, December 14, 2012 America was touched by tragedy again.  In Newtown, Connecticut 27 adults and children lost their lives and all of their family and friends felt the ripple of fear, anger, loss, and grief.  This type of tragedy unfortunately is not unusual in our society.  Across the country there have been countless mass shootings in the last several decades from Seattle, to Aurora, to Jonesboro and Fort Hood.  These shootings don’t even begin to complete the list of national tragedies.  Each day in America we are touched by other tragedies- a catastrophic weather event like Sandy, forest fires like those in Colorado, California earthquakes, or the loss of military service personnel.

So what do all of these events have in common with a pathological love relationship?  They all elicit a potential trauma reaction in you.  Being touched by tragedy is more than just a little sadness or empathy if you are suffering from the symptoms of PTSD.  When you are exposed to national tragedies your brain registers the event as real, vivid, and live.  Your unconscious brain has a hard time distinguishing what is happening now and what has happened in the past.  When this happens, any event can seem like it is happening to you now.  You begin to sweat, your heart beats fast and your breathing pattern changes.  Your mind flies into survival mode and you may even feel the need to isolate as a measure of protection from harm.

Beyond the physical symptoms are the thoughts that begin to swirl around.  When you are traumatized or triggered, your brain is flooded by emotions and so often these emotions cause confusion and cover up clear thinking.  Your brain links the trigger you are exposed to with the trauma you have actually experienced. So when you feel fear today, you are reminded of your fear from the past.  When you feel sadness today, you are reminded of sadness from the past.  When you feel confusion today, you are reminded of confusion from the past.  These links then drive the thoughts.  Your thinking turns from “that must have been so scary for them” to “I am so scared he will come back”.  Your brain is tricking you.  It might be one of the things about our brain that is “faulty”.  Our brain is an amazing organ and every day it does amazing things.  But when triggered as a result of trauma, it fails us.

Cluster b’s love to keep you out of the present moment.  In your relationship with the cluster b your mind spent many moments outside of the present.  When you were not present, he was in control.  It might have been after a gaslight when he touched you on the arm and your mind when back to the first time he touched you.  It could have been after discovering a text from another woman and he yelled at you for being jealous and not trusting him.  Your mind when back to the first time he ever yelled.  It may have been after he was late for the kids school performance and he brought flowers and a lie.  Your mind went back to the time before when he brought you flowers and a lie.  Each time he took you back, he re-hooked you.  That’s because your mind went back and before you could respond, your emotions had resolved back to peace or calm.  The event was over.  The fear, anger or confusion was over.  You stayed.

Your task is to stay present in recovery.  When you are touched by tragedy after a trauma your task is to stay present.  At any given point in time, you must remind yourself that you are safe and not at risk.  This is mindfulness.  Mindfulness is staying actively focused on the present moment.  It is a skill that is crucial to recovery from a pathological love relationship and it is especially important in getting through triggers related to national tragedies.  You cannot control the outside world but you can control your world.  Take some time for yourself.  Take some time to focus on your environment, whether it be turning off the TV, spending quiet time at home or getting outside to spend time in nature.  Recovery is a process and your healing depends on how well you move through it.  Each day, each week, each year is an opportunity for you to heal-to do better and be better.

My hope for you is peace this year.  And I hope that when peace is disrupted you face it mindfully.

Why a Focused Recovery is Necessary-Beginning with a Completely Different Mind Set

Beginning 2013 in a Completely Different Mindset

 

Last week I began the New Year by talking about the issue of healing, recovery, and moving forward. In fact, all of January we are going to look at why starting 2013 ‘differently’ can help you move forward in recovering from the aftermath of a pathological love relationship.

 

The past few years at The Institute has been a tremendous time of development. (Don’t mind me as I wander down memory lane of all that has happened this year at The Institute….)

 

A mere two years ago the newsletter started. We now have nearly 35,000 subscribers each week. That created a snowball effect and the phone coaching began. More e-books were written. Then the CDs, mp3s, DVDs, and tele-seminars were created.

 

Research commenced and the Women Who Love Psychopaths book was written. The book is now in its 2nd edition. The retreat program started, we trained therapists and coaches, and started the Inpatient Treatment Center. Sandra began to do more keynote speaking at other organizations conferences including law schools and victim organizations.

 

All this development because of realizing how uniquely damaged you became at the hands of a pathological. All this research because of realizing there was really something to ‘the temperament’ of women who end up in pathological relationships. All this phone coaching, therapist training and retreat/treatment center creation because so few people ‘get it’ about you, him, and the mind-blowing relationship dynamics. For the FIRST time there really is a concrete program designed about you and in some ways, by you, and definitely for you.

 

The one thing that does stand out in the research and what I have been eye-balling closely about healing and recovery is that this level of damage by him is profound. If there were lots of ‘hims’ then it’s even more profound. What this does to you over the long haul is take some strong, fabulous women out of the game of life by destroying you.

 

Untreated symptoms, get worse. Symptoms that get worse effect your life functioning and your children. Worsened effects then contaminate your partner selection. And if you do get a healthy one, you don’t like him or you’re too messed up from the pathological relationship to be in a healthy relationship so he leaves.

 

Untreated symptoms make intrusive thoughts worse so obsessions increase. Friends abandon you because they are tired of hearing about the obsessions so you isolate.

 

Isolation makes you at risk of recontacting him and recontacting him lowers your coping skills.

 

As your coping skills drop your bad habits increase (drinking, medication over use, eating, hibernating).

 

As your coping skills lower your fantasizing increases ‘Maybe he ISN’T pathological’ “Maybe he WILL stop cheating, etc.’ and your minimizing begins ‘At least he …..’

 

More contact with him increases your Post Traumatic Stress symptoms of flashbacks, fear of the future, unbridled worry, depression,and insomnia.

 

Is any of this sounding familiar? There is a typical decompensation pattern that most of the women go through. Recovery can stop that decompensation and begin rebuilding your life.

 

By December 31 of this year (2013) how many of you will be in the same situation, with the same man, having the same symptoms?

 

On the other hand, how many of you will be ‘pathology free?’ — symptoms reduced,a new vigor for life, insight about how this happened and how to avoid it in the future?

 

How many of you will be less depressed and anxious, more active, lost weight, have more friends,have a better job, have happier children, got more self esteem so a better job or gone back to school, and have potential to have a healthy relationship…?

 

I’m not a resolution type person so I don’t make them but I AM an advocate for complete life changes. Not tiny habits, big overhauls. Let’s face it, if you have dated a narcissist or a psychopath, you NEED a big life overhaul. Something malfunctioned in your life that created this huge blind spot under which really sick people flew into your life, camped there, and overtly destroyed you. That’s not a little issue—take a look at the condition of your life and see if you think it was ‘little.’ Ask others if they think it was little.

 

2013 is going to be a great year here at The Institute–I can just feel it. We spent the last three years laying a solid ground work for super programming next year.

 

For the first time ever, everything is in place to heal for the women who have loved pathologicals. I believe we have covered all the bases with phone support (coaching and weekly support groups), in person coaching (retreats, 1:1s, and inpatient treatment), portable products (ebooks, books, DVDs, CDS) and community outreach through workshops in your area. We have removed the barriers to assistance by creating our program in as many formats as possible. I recently found out that the Dangerous Man book is now in almost every country of the world!

 

I hope in 2013 instead of being a mere name on our email list, you’ll be a very active part of The Institute beginning by working on your own healing. Then we hope you will run support groups in your community, give powerpoint presentations for other women in your area, or start an advocacy group. Instead of emailing me and telling me what ELSE I should be doing (I’m tired enough!), how about you step out and be the powerhouse in your own community?

 

How about you take it to the streets and pass it forward? How about you turn your life around so you can be a role model to other women?

 

All of this begins when you start healing yourself…and moving forward.

 

The truth is, there is only us to educate others. You don’t see a multi-million dollar ad campaign with billboards on the highways that announce how to spot pathological relationships do you? That’s because it doesn’t exist. Sadly, no one has funded a national campaign to warn and educate others. However, what exists is The Institute + You = Education For Others.

 

It’s you and me, babe!

 

As Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’

 

Join us in 2013 for Healing Your Heart! We’re here.

 

Finding Effective Help in 2013!

By now, if you have been trying to heal from a pathological love relationship and can’t find effective and knowledgeable counseling, you have probably figured out what we have…that the pathological love relationship is NOT widely understood.

Frustrated women hear unhelpful advice from family, friends, and even therapists who label their attachment to pathological men as ‘codependent’ or ‘mutually addictive’ or merely ’emotional abuse.’ Women jump from counselor to counselor, and from one group counseling experience to another group counseling experience looking for someone, ANYONE, who understands this intense attachment to a dangerous and pathological man.

She looks for some understanding at ‘what’ is wrong with him.  Giving him the label of ‘abuser’ doesn’t quite cover the extensive array of the brilliant psychopathic tendencies he possesses.  Why did he target HER?  Why does she feel both intense attachment and loathing for him at the same time?  Why do her symptoms resemble ‘mind control’ more than mere abused woman syndrome? Why is the bonding with this man more intense and unshakable than any other man?  Is it abuse if he never physically harms her but has the mental infiltration of a CIA operative?

What we are finding out from our research with those who have been in pathological love relationships is that all of the usual dynamics in regular relationships, both functional and the occasional dysfunctional DON’T apply to pathological relationships.  All of the usual dynamics of addictive relationships, codependent relationships and dysfunctional relationships DON’T apply to the pathological relationship, either.  No wonder women can’t find the help they need…it hasn’t been taught YET! Our research is pointing towards women who DON’T fit into the stereotypes of women we normally see in shelters, counseling centers, and in other abusive situations. These are not women who have the kinds of histories we normally associate with abuse, nor do they have the kinds of current lives that fit the demographics of most counseling programs and shelters.  Their personality traits and behaviors fit no other ‘typologies.’  And, their current symptoms don’t match the simply ‘dysfunctional-type’ love relationship.

Could it be that the dynamics in pathological love relationships really ARE different than other types of relationships?  Could this be why women in these types of relationships aren’t helped by more prevalent types of intervention offered to other types of abusive relationships?  Why does the Power & Control Wheel model seem ineffective with these types of women? Why are these women LESS likely to seek traditional counseling?  And if they do, why are they less likely to be helped by it?  Why are these women’s personality traits so vastly different than shelter women, or abused women?

Too many women have been through the ringer of counselors ‘not-understanding-psychopathology,’ family ‘lumping-all-relationship-types-together,’ friends saying-‘just-get-over-it’ and counseling-programs ‘telling-her-she’s-just-codependent’.  Too many women have stopped seeking help because they are tired of too many people ‘not getting it.’  Psychology has to allow itself to grow beyond a one-size-fits-all approach when dealing with women emerging from pathological love relationships, because all relationships are not created equal – especially when one of them is pathological. Not understanding the effects of pathology on relationships, self-concept, and recovery deters a woman’s ability to heal.  Understanding the DIFFERENCES in these types of relationships is critical.

The Institute has developed programs and materials exactly for this reason. We developed our telephone coaching program for women in immediate need of validation of their experiences, our retreat programs are specifically geared to ‘Healing the Aftermath of the Pathological Love Relationship,’ our Therapist Affiliate Program training which provides other therapists nationwide the clinical training to help women heal from these types of relationships, and our 40 plus products all developed to teach pathology and its related issues to others.

Why?  Why all the effort in treatment related issues? Because the absence of trained counselors is screamingly evident.  Our mailing list asks the question week after week, ‘Can you recommend someone in Florida, Michigan, the United Kingdom, Canada, California, Oregon…who can help…? Why don’t counselors understand this? Why can’t anyone explain to me what is going on? If one more counselor or family member suggests I am codependent or a relationship addict, I’m going to scream!’ Why is this so hard to understand?

Much like the beginning phases of the addiction field, the pathological love relationship field is feeling the same phase of misunderstanding that other theories of counseling have encountered.  When the field is new or the knowledge is groundbreaking, there is an overt lack of trained responders.  Unfortunately, those who suffer the new phases are the victims/survivors that wish there were more trained service providers.

The Institute operates as a public education project on psychopathological issues, which means we try to train anyone and everyone in the issues of pathology.  This includes the women in the relationships AND those who are likely to be emotional supports to women recovering from these relationships.  Please bear with what entails, as an entirely new and emerging field of psychology is trying to race to catch up to the knowledge of what is needed for this particular population of people.  After all, until we began our research and writings, no one had even bothered to study the female partners of psychopaths and partners of other pathological types.  No one created research projects to study the personality traits, histories, and chronic vulnerabilities of women who have been in these relationships.  So, to that degree, we are virginal in our exploration of these issues.

At The Institute, we try to be immediately responsive to the needs of individuals.  In the last year we have exploded in growth in our outreach:
•    Our weekly newsletter continues to reach more and more people
•    The blogs we write for websites such as Psychology Today and Times Up! help to reach an even larger audience with the educational value of our expertise
•    Our books, CDs, DVDs are international
•    Expanded retreat format, and private1:1’s with Sandra and Jennifer
•    Telephone coaching has doubled in size
•    Weekly teleconferencing support groups
•    Therapist Training Programs

All are born out of our desire to reach YOU!  As needs are repeatedly identified by our mailing list, we try to quickly ascertain how to develop a program to meet the needs presented.  That’s because we recognize that the services available out there are slim.  We provide what we can, knowing that we are a drop in the bucket to the needs that exist–but an ever needed drop to a thirsty population.  So unless we duplicate ourselves through products and services, many women will go untreated.

I know for many women who are struggling to recover from the diabolical aftermath of a pathological relationship that it seems that too few services exist.  Please remain hopeful that along with The Institute there are other therapists and agencies that hear your cry and are reaching out for training so they can help you recover.  We too, are always looking at how we can expand our scope and reach.  If you have ideas about how we can help you further, please let us know your thoughts.

In the meantime, if our coaching programs can be of assistance please use them.  Or if you are a therapist, please come to our trainings. If you are a survivor, we would love for you to bring healing to yourself through our phone coaching, support groups, or retreats.  The fact is, the more we learn, the more we can teach.  But we can only do so much.  One agency like ours can’t heal the world.  But we can teach what we know and assist in healing those who come for help, which is why we are always encouraging therapists to get trained.  Don’t lose heart that there are few services that understand your unique situation with a pathological.  Remain hopeful that in a new field of psychology, we are growing as fast as we can!

Watch with us vigilantly, as we see this new field of psychology emerge and expand!  Please let 2013 be the year of healing for you. We’ve worked hard so that you have many of our resources that can help you move forward.

Much healing to you in 2013!

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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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