Archives for June 2014

The Attraction Cocktail, Part 2 – Dominance and Competitiveness

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

Last time we talked about the first two ingredients of the Attraction Cocktail – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion. The final main component of the Attraction Cocktail is Dominance and then, just a splash of Competitiveness.

Now, Dominance! This is another one that, at first thought, you might say, “What, who me? I am surely not dominant!” But with a closer look, you will see that your dominance looks like leadership. It looks like a woman in charge. It’s not the kind of dominance that over powers. It is the kind that takes charge. Your dominance does put you in control without being controlling. It tells others that you know what you want and will do what you need to do to get it, even if it means you want a relationship with a certain exciting man.

So, there he is – the guy with the magnetic personality who appears as if he “owns” the room! You decide to go for it. He says, “Bring it on!”

His dominance means that you are a challenge. Two “powerful” people means there is energy. This energy is ultimately moving in different directions, but, nonetheless, it’s energy. His dominance means he wants to have power over you. His power is the kind that is controlling but when you first get together it may look like “a man who knows what he wants” and knows how to get it. He will use his dominance to appear as if he is your equal. He will move in your circles and appear to be everything you need. And he will do it with swagger.

But soon his dominance and need to control will become “power over”. And herein lies the risk. Your dominance is not the same as his and when that difference becomes undeniably different, you may already be hooked. You may spend the middle to later part of the relationship fighting for your own.

You may have seen his dominance as “sameness” and felt comforted (thinking that you are always in control and it is finally nice to have someone match you) but that feeling soon fades. By the time it does, you can’t break free. And herein lies the benefit. Your dominance will be the power that, in the end, does free you. You will learn how he controls you, you will learn his patterns and with that information you will gain control and dominance – the kind of control and dominance that will set you free.

So, if this cocktail isn’t strong enough to convince you of the power of his pathology, your risk to it, and the benefit it offers you, let’s add a splash of Competiveness. It is one of the final traits that you both have in common and that you both have in high amounts so it makes sense that it adds to the power of the initial attraction.

Let’s get real! You probably like a good fight. Not one with someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about or with someone who is not equally matched to your intelligence, but a fight that helps you gain an edge – a smarter outlook, a challenge to build your depth of knowledge. You would not back down if someone came at you with inaccurate information.

You have a need to make things right, to get the facts and share the facts. Additionally, you will not tolerate being accused of untruths or called inappropriate names. If you think you are not competitive, ask yourself how you would react if someone called you a name or lied about you. I bet you would not back down to that. Well, guess what! He does not like to back down either.

He likes a challenge so he is looking for someone who will tangle with him. This type of emotional tangle is just what he loves. He loves to engage in emotional wrangling. It feeds his need for power. When he can control you emotionally he knows that you are invested in the relationship. And herein lies the risk. This relationship is going to feel like a challenge to both of you in the beginning.

To you, a less passive man probably seems boring. Furthermore, you are not afraid to battle it out and you surely do not want him to “get one over” on you. So this is a great reason to stay and fight. You also might find it a challenge to stay in the relationship and “bust” him doing something, staying until you find the evidence or staying until you find out he’s NOT doing what you think he is.

Your competitiveness means that you are willing and able to battle it out in court. You will go head to head with him and that is just what he wants. And herein lies the benefit. Once you know who he is, you will fight like hell to get out. You will realize that you have won because he no longer has the power that comes from your lack of awareness. More importantly, being competitive helped you build a great life.

You fought for things that were important to you – an education, a great career. It helped you to challenge others and yourself to always be the best and find the best in others. It helped you make good decisions and take a pro-active approach to almost everything.

The best thing about being competitive is that you are often successful. The reason you are successful is because part of competition is knowing when you have been beaten – knowing when to cut your losses and move on to a challenge you can win. It is not about being so headstrong that you stay and fight just to be able to say “I win”. Your competitiveness, combined with all the other traits you possess, leads to more than a need to win. Your traits lead to success.

Because he is sicker than you are smart, you will never “win” with him. So all of your book smarts and street smarts and relationship smarts will not out smart his ability to psychologically damage you. Prolonged exposure leads to inevitable harm. Once you know this the battle is over.

By the end of the relationship, you may not even feel competitive anymore. He has taken it from you. The energy, fire and gusto that you once had may seem gone. But spend some time away. Talk with your girlfriends or family about it. Your fire will return. Your brain will tell you to put down the sword and walk away from the emotional vampire; walk away from the battle that you cannot win. Ultimately, and in the end, this is where the similarity stops and the pathology begins.

Someone who is pathological does not want someone like themselves. Ultimately they know that they lack certain things other people have and they are on a never ending search to get those things. And, because they will never get or be those things, they will use your emotions to control you…so they can fill their empty cup.

So when you ask yourself, “Why me?” the answer is clear. Because you have what he wants. And when you ask yourself, “Why did I stay?” the answer is because you posses traits that meet his needs and he used them to control you. And when you ask yourself, “How do I begin to heal?” the answer is by using all of your traits as powerful healing tools, tools that have helped you create a big, full life in every other area of your life.

When it comes to the traits contained in the Attraction Cocktail you may be asking, “How do I make sure I never get caught up by another psychopath again?”

My suggestion is to use these traits and take the Joyce Brown approach to life. Accept that you are an extraverted, excitement-seeking, dominant, competitive woman. Once you own that, and claim (or re-claim) the benefits, you will find new ways to feed that part of you.

Remember, these are NOT deficits! They are overflowing traits you possess so you must use them. You must do it carefully and cautiously, but you must use them.

Think outside the box. These are just a few suggestions that will feed your need to be extraverted, do exciting things, be a leader and engage with others:

  • Find a hobby. Learn to do something you’ve always wanted to learn.
  • Take up a political cause or join a social action group.
  • Work with a non-profit agency on an issue close to your heart.
  • Start a club or group focused on a topic, issue, or hobby you enjoy.
  • Learn to ride a motorcycle or take up waterskiing (go big or go home, right?)

Most importantly, you will be using your traits in a way that YOU can control. If you are carefully and thoughtfully aware of who you are and what you need, no one can come along and take that away from you. As Joyce said, “When you aren’t living a big enough life, any psychopath will do.”

The Attraction Cocktail, Part 1 – Excitement Seeking and Extraversion

“People can be induced to swallow anything, provided it is sufficiently seasoned with praise” – Molière

 You might be asking yourself “Why me?” Why did you get to be the one to end up in this crazy relationship? What did you do wrong to land THIS guy? The answer begins with what could be called the “Attraction Cocktail”.

There is this powerful potion that has brought the two of you together. This potion consists of the first three Super Traits identified in Sandra’s research:

Excitement Seeking   Extraversion   Dominance

These are a few of the rare traits that you both posses in high amounts. In your cup and in his cup these traits are spilling over. Remember you both posses these at the high end of the trait cut off at 85-95%. Most average people would not test that high in these traits. So, what we have are two high excitement seekers who are both extraverts, looking for a win. Sounds like a recipe for inevitable harm to me – but not immediate harm!

First, and almost within minutes, there is fire and passion, understanding and power, lust and energy. There is electricity – maybe in a way that you have never felt before. While some people might see him as “fake” and “overkill”, you see him as passionate and understanding. In the very early stages of a relationship these traits lead you from one “fun” experience to another. For him, though, it’s about building your trust and testing your boundaries.

Let’s look at each trait on its own because each ingredient offers its own unique characteristics that contribute to the potion.

I am guessing that some of you may be saying, “I’m not an Excitement-Seeker. I do not like to jump out of planes!” But being an excitement seeker is a little more (or less) than that. It can mean that you like to take risks – personal risks, financial risks, professional risks.

It can be that thing that creates in you the desire to go out on a limb, maybe go to the nightclub on your own or sign up on a dating site or go on a blind date. These are not the things that someone who desires boredom would do. It is the excitement you seek in your hobbies…maybe cycling, hiking or traveling. It is the excitement that you get from going to a great job every day – a career that drives you to go for it!

You’re the person who says “Yes!” to new experiences and “Sure!” to risky (yet really cool and innovative) opportunities. It’s that little something inside of you. Think about it. That thing that says “I’ll give it a try, why not?”

So, let’s mix the cocktail. Here you are, with all this desire to “seek excitement” and here he comes, looking for some excitement too! Pow! It’s on! He loves to go, get out there, take risks with no regard for others. His risks are more about feeding his energy. This energy is part of his pathology. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone who just overwhelms you…they chat you up…with frenetic energy that just doesn’t stop! That’s the energy of a psychopath that must be fed with exciting things.

He’s game for anything! In fact, you may have noticed that if you mention a hobby, it probably is his hobby too! (Later, you find out that he never really liked to do that – it was just part of his hook). He probably loves to travel – if you do; he loves to bike – if you do; he loves to go out with friends – if you do; he loves art – if you do; he loves to go camping – if you do; he loves to go boating – if you do.

Whatever he can do that you do, he’ll do it. Isn’t that exciting? And herein lies the risk: When two excitement-seekers meet, it is a chance to join.

For you it is a chance to build trust; for him a chance to take trust. For you it is a chance to create a bond; for him a chance to build an attachment. For you a chance to feel a connection – someone finally understands you; for him a chance to make you think that he is just like you and that he understands.

Your need for excitement means that you take risky chances. Sometimes those risks do not pay off. You (and everyone else in the world) is also more likely to go along with others when you are in a heightened state of excitement. And herein lies the benefit: Because you are an excitement seeker you will be able to see quickly that he is not “all that and a bag of chips”.

Inevitably, once the relationship progresses, it will become clear that his excitement-seeking fades and the façade he built to trap you will fall to pieces. He bores easily – not because you are boring, but because he cannot sustain the emotional energy that it takes to remain in the relationship. He bores because he cannot do the emotional work to remain committed and he does not have the depth to go where you can go.

You can turn your wonderful, exciting experiences into real emotional, energy-building bonds, and forging strength and character for yourself. He has used the opportunity to manipulate you into being under his control. When he is done with that task, he must find someone else to fuel his need for excitement.

What about the ingredient of Extraversion? You might see in yourself a person who openly engages in conversation, someone who is curious about others, and often is impulsive in social situations. You might be the person who leads in a group or offers to help out more often than others. You are willing to tell your story, share your thoughts, and contribute. Your extraversion wrapped up with excitement-seeking makes for a pretty great package – life of the party even.

So, mixing it up in the room is another extravert. He has no problem going up to complete strangers (how exciting!) and introducing himself and then telling you his life story (or whatever story he thinks you want to hear). He is “owning” the room with so much confidence and bravado it’s almost sexy. He displays expertise to the point he is grandiose – a LOT grandiose!

His extraversion is the mask…the mask that makes you think it’s safe. It’s the mask that convinces you he is what you want him to be. (They are really good at this part – creating that mask of normalcy.)

Extraversion is a great trait to have but herein lies the risk. Your extraversion lets him know that you might play his game. Your extraversion means you will do the exciting things he likes to do. It also means that you are curious and probably would not turn down an offer for fun or the offer to try something new…and he might be just that, in the beginning.

You are someone who likes to get out and meet people and the guy who is “owning” the room is just the guy for you. But there is one thing about extraversion that makes you different from him! That is your ability to truly bond with others. And herein lies the benefit. You must become truly bonded with someone to maintain a relationship.

Extraversion may bring you two together but you need mutual understanding, respect, and unconditional love. This is not what he provides in the long run. It will become clear at some point that his extraversion was a rue to hook you. His mask will fall and you will see that he is really a lonely, empty person who transforms to meet the needs of those around him. You will begin to use your extraversion as a way to break free of him.

When the dynamics of the relationship become clear you will seek out help. You will find people around you who can support you. Your curiosity will lead you to answers and help. You will not fear talking to others even if they don’t really understand. You will keep trying until you find what you need.

Next time we’ll talk about the remaining elements of the Attraction Cocktail – Dominance and Competitiveness – and finding new ways to feed your Attraction Cocktail ingredients.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


Hate and Your Potential for Relapse, Part 2 – Moving Toward Detachment

Last week we discussed ‘hate’ as an impassioned feeling that has a high connection to relapse. We are likely to act on anything we feel that embroiled about. Relapse prevention has to be more detailed than using mere feelings such as ‘hatred’ as a tool for distancing yourself from the pathological. This usually doesn’t work because hate is passionate and increases your sense of attachment to him.

Instead, let’s consider emotional detachment and its powerful ability to change the course of your thinking and actions. Almost all religious traditions use some form of emotional detachment. Christianity, Zen, Hinduism, and other religions all have techniques for detachment. These religious ‘interventions’ are referred to as ‘detachment,’ ‘holy indifference,’ ‘non-attachment’ and ‘asceticism,’ of which detachment is one practice. I particularly like the phrase, ‘holy indifference,’ because it reminds me that the practice can be holy if approached with the right motive and heart.

The strength of detachment is that it gives you back the power over your emotions and the actions that come from your emotions. Women complain that they feel ‘powerless’ over knee-jerk reactions in their emotions (hatred), their thinking (intrusive thoughts, obsessions) and their behaviors (impulsively contacting him). Detachment is a way of ‘creating a spacer’ between a feeling, thought, or desire, and the action that follows. A spacer is the point of control and choice.

In emotional detachment, you step outside of the situation as if you were the third person watching what is occurring. I tell people to pretend they are ME! So, you are now Sandra, standing over here watching how YOU are going to handle this highly emotionally charged moment.  Taking a moment to say, “What would Sandra tell me to do?” or “What would my spiritual beliefs tell me to do?” gives you back the opportunity to act in your best interest. Your best interest is always non-reactivity—the ability to not have a huge reaction to what he has said or done (except in the case of physical violence, in which you should immediately escape). This emotional detachment is also what I teach in my ‘Starve the Vampire’ technique—the stepping OUT of an emotional reaction and starving him with your non-reactions.

That’s because pathologicals live for this kind of drama. Every highly charged interaction reminds him of how much control he DOES have over you and your emotions. If he can get you emotionally cranked up, then he has your complete attention. Then he can crank you up further, and he can control you through what he does with your emotions. This makes him feel powerful and will increase his contact with you.

Emotional detachment reminds you that you don’t have to respond to the same old cycles of baiting from him. For your own sanity and dignity you can choose the path of peace, which is ‘holy indifference,’ or in the 12-Step traditions, “turning him, the situation, and his behaviors over to God.” The old cycles of baiting you with taunts of, “you’re crazy,” “you don’t love me,” “you’re a witch and I’m with someone else,” can be the ending of torment instead of being the fuel for the fire of torment. When you practice non-attachment to these kinds of acts or words, there is nothing to fuel the fire to keep this taunting alive.

Additionally, when you practice the ability to hold your emotions in check, you are stopping the flow of adrenaline into your body. In the past I have talked quite a bit about anxiety, fear and aggravation and how these emotions release adrenaline in your body, which sets off even MORE emotional agitation, sleeplessness, hyper-vigilant reactions, and anxiety. Learning to not respond by stepping back from his words and thinking like I would think about that—(“Oh, Sandra would say he’s just being a pathological—look how he uses those feelings to try to make me react. The disorder is just being what it is. Wow, he really IS sick.”)—helps your body to not react and not create an avalanche of adrenaline crashing throughout your body.

The cycle of baiting, in the past, would have instead created thoughts in you like, “I HATE him—I could just kill him—He’s an ass! He’s doing this on purpose to hurt me, so I’m going to hurt him!” Then you would say something or go home and do something that would continue this cycle. Sometimes, you would re-contact him just so you wouldn’t feel your own hate for him—contact him to make you stop feeling so intensely.

Now, practicing emotional detachment or holy indifference, you can view it like you are watching a Lifetime for Women movie. You see this woman who looks remarkably like you being taunted by this extremely sick man. You notice her body language (relaxed and not tense), her facial features (flat and indifferent), and what she says (tonality of her voice is mono-toned and not angry). She simply walks away or hangs up the phone or does not respond to her cell that is ringing with him on the other end of the line. You see the shocked face of the sick man as ‘nothing happens’ in the interaction. The screen fades to black. The scene is over.

If her mind is trying to allow adrenaline to be released, she steps back and reminds herself, “I am not responsible for this man’s disorder. He is being who he is—pathological. I don’t need to respond to a disorder.”

Emotional detachment and holy indifference remind us that we are not responsible for a disorder that is incurable and untreatable. This man’s needs and fate are in hands much larger than ours, which is exactly where his needs should be. Removing your hands and your interventions in his life allows God to do whatever He feels is necessary in this person’s life. You can’t influence the outcome. You can only influence how you react.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships.  Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information).


Hate and Your Potential for Relapse, Part 1 – Hate is a Passionate Feeling

When a woman tells me, “That’s IT! I will never, ever, ever talk to him again. I HATE HIM!” I begin looking at my watch to see how long it takes for her to talk to him again. Why do I think her relapse, thus contact, is imminent? Because ‘HATE’ is passion. Anything that feels that impassioned or has that much energy is usually acted on. If anger is the energy for change, then hate is the energy for hookups.

I am never hopeful when a woman spends all her counseling time talking about this deep- seated ‘hatred’ for him. As you have heard, love and hate share a fine line of emotional attachment.

When a woman counts on ‘hate’ to keep her away from him, she is setting herself up for a re-contact and a relapse. Feelings aren’t always facts. And your heart already knows you don’t ‘HATE’ him—you may be disgusted, hurt, betrayed, bewildered or a lot of other emotions—but in the moment of the breakup you are probably not sitting in deep-seated ‘hatred.’ Your passionate feelings of ‘love’ for him, and your belief that he felt the same way toward you, may not have been any more ‘factual’ than the feelings of hatred. Therefore, it’s not wise to use your emotions as the gauge for your ability to set limits, boundaries, and standards with a pathological. Your feelings are being pulled back and forth, and if your boundaries are being determined by your FEELINGS, they will quickly change with the next email, text, or phone call from him.

Feeling hatred for him and counting on that hatred to keep you from picking up the phone the next time he calls is a poor plan for preventing relapse. Hatred is fickle, and it will turn its back on you in a moment, throwing you from disgust into loneliness and fantasy. Before you know it, it’s make-up sex with all that impassioned hatred turned into hot steaming hormones. Afterward, there’s only confusion and disgust for yourself. Even the ‘hatred’ you counted on to keep you strong has betrayed you. So, from this standpoint, your Relapse Prevention Plan needs to be stronger and more elaborate than mere feelings.

Hatred also keeps you embroiled in the storytelling to justify your hatred. The more you tell others the story, the more traumatically bonded you are to him and the pathology dynamics. That simmering hatred is causing anxiety and ongoing stress to your body through the releasing of adrenaline. He’s already cost you enough in your emotional health—the hatred just ensures he will also cost you in physical health.

Hatred increases intrusive thoughts, obsessive thinking and the inability to concentrate—not really what you need about now.

Hatred also causes you to neglect your own self-care when you are so consumed with negative feelings that you forget what YOU need right now.

And, finally and most importantly, hating him only disconnects you from your own spiritual connections. Any true recovery is a spiritual experience and you need spiritual connections right now.

The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. Indifference holds the key to your healing and to the issue of emotional detachment which we will discuss more next week.