Archives for 2014

Living the Gentle Life—Part 2: The Physical Effects

In the previous newsletter, I began talking about the normal aftermath of pathological love relationships—Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is often reactivated by ‘triggers’. These can include people, places, things, or sensory feelings that reconnect you with the trauma of the relationship. In the last newsletter, I talked briefly about the gentle life and how an overtaxed and anxious body/mind needs a soothing life. I cannot stress this enough: people MUST remember that their PTSD symptoms CAN BE reactivated if they aren’t taking care of themselves and living a gentle life.

What IS a gentle life? A gentle life is a life lived remembering the sensitivities of your PTSD. It isn’t ignored or wished away—it is considered and compensated for. Since PTSD affects one physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually—all of those elements need to be considered in a gentle life. Just as if you had diabetes you would consider what to eat or what medication you need to take, so it is with PTSD.

Interestingly, although PTSD is listed in the psychiatric manual as an emotional disorder, PTSD has some very real physical effects as well. In fact, there has been some discussion among professionals about having PTSD listed in physicians manuals as well, because the untreated, ongoing effects of acute stress are well-known in the medical community. Since PTSD has both components of emotional and physical symptoms, someone recovering from PTSD must take those aspects into account.

Physically, PTSD often becomes a chronic condition by the time you get help. That means you have been living with it for a while and it has been wreaking havoc on your physical body during that time. Unbridled anxiety/stress/fear pumps enormous amounts of adrenaline and cortisol into your body. This over-stimulates your body and mind, and causes insomnia, paranoia, hyperactivity, a racing mind/intrusive thoughts and the inability to ‘let down’ and ‘rest’.

A body that has been living on adrenaline needs the adrenal glands to ‘chill!’ People often complain of chronic insomnia, which also leads to depression. Depression can lead to lethargy, overeating, weight gain and hopelessness. It is possible to have both anxiety and depression occurring at the same time. Unmanaged stress, anxiety, and adrenaline can lead to long-term medical problems often associated with stress—lower GI problems, migraines, teeth grinding, aggravated periods, chest pain, panic attacks, and most auto-immune disorders like fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and MS.

So, CLEARLY, PTSD is something that SHOULD be treated. Physically, that means going to someone who can diagnose you—a therapist or psychiatrist. In the early part of treatment, it is normal to take anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants or sleep aids in order to rectify your depleted brain chemistry and to allow the adrenal glands to rest and stop pumping out adrenaline. Your doctor is the best person to tell you what will help to relieve your physical symptoms. Some use alternative medicine to deal with those symptoms. What is effective for each person varies.

Additionally, you need to help your body and brain produce the ‘good stuff’ in your brain chemistry. This means exercising, eating well, and learning relaxation techniques. Too much adrenaline has been pumping through your body with no way to get utilized.  Excessive adrenaline makes you feel jumpy and restless. Exercise (even moderate walking) helps to produce endorphins in your brain, which produce those feelings of well-being and help to burn off the adrenaline and any extra weight you might have gained.

Although during depression you often don’t FEEL like exercising, you will always feel bad if you don’t get your body moving. Stress is even stored at the cellular level of our bodies. You must, must, must get moving in order to feel better.

Eating well means not trying to medicate your depression and low energy with carbs. When you are depressed your body craves carbs as a source of quick energy, but the spikes in blood sugar add to the sense of mood highs and lows. You’ve already had enough ‘junk’ in the relationship—think of it as nurturing your body with good food to replace all the ‘junk’ that it has been through. You can greatly help mood swings by eating well.

It’s also necessary to deal with the negative habits you have acquired as coping mechanisms. Many people with PTSD try to medicate their anxiety and depression. This could be through smoking, relationship hopping, sex, eating/bingeing/purging, drugs (legal and illegal), and the increased use of alcohol. In fact, one of the devastating side effects of PTSD is how many people develop alcoholism as a result. Any habits you are prone to right now tend to increase when you have PTSD, because the particular habit becomes more and more a way to manage your PTSD symptoms. Finding positive coping skills instead of negative habits is a great step toward your recovery.

Physical recovery also means paying attention to not reactivating your symptoms. Your physical environment in which you live, play and work must be conducive to low stimulation. That means low light, low noise, low aggravation. Sometimes that means making big changes in the people you hang out with—getting rid of the loud, noisy, overactive, aggressive and pathological. And sometimes it means making big changes in a job where the environment does nothing but trigger you.

Lastly, learning relaxation techniques is not optional for people with PTSD. PTSD is a chronic state of hyper-vigilance, agitation, and restlessness. Your body has been over-ridden with adrenaline for a long time and has ‘forgotten’ its equilibrium in relaxation. It must be re-taught. Re-teaching means doing it daily. Take 5 to 10 minutes a day to use relaxation breathing and allow your mind to unwind. Give positive messages to your body to relax to help you tap into this natural relaxation, even during times you are not actively trying to relax. The more you use these techniques, the quicker your body can relax—even at work or when you are doing something else because it has ‘remembered’ how to.

There are many tapes, CDs and videos you can buy on relaxation that walk you through the process of relaxation. We have products created especially for managing PTSD on the magazine site—www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com/category/audio-products.

Taking yoga will also teach you how to use correct breathing techniques that help correct the shallow/panting breathing that is associated with PTSD and anxiety. Shallow breathing or panting can actually trigger panic attacks. Learning to breathe well again is a metaphor for ‘exhaling’ all the junk you’ve been through and releasing it. If you don’t have a relaxation tape, you can download our mp3 audio on relaxation techniques. Most important is to just become acutely aware that PTSD is as physical (and often medical) as it is emotional.

Next week we will talk about PTSD and the emotional effects.

Living the Gentle Life—Part 1: Be Gentle with Yourself

“Be gentle with yourself. The rest of your life deserves it.” (Sandra L. Brown, MA)

As discussed in previous newsletters, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma-related anxiety disorder, and is often seen as an aftermath constellation of symptoms from pathological love relationships. Exposure to other people’s pathology (and the corresponding emotional, physical/sexual abuse) can, and often does, give other people stress disorders, including PTSD. Our psychological and emotional systems are simply not wired for long-term exposure to someone else’s abnormal psychology. Often the result is a conglomeration of aftermath symptoms that include PTSD, which is described as ‘a normal reaction to an abnormal life event.’

The profound and long-term effects of PTSD create what I refer to as a ‘cracked vessel.’ The fragmentation caused by the trauma creates a crack in the emotional defense system of the person. While treatment can ‘glue the crack back together,’ and the vessel can once again function as a vessel, if pressure is applied to the crack, the vase will split apart again. This means that the crack is a stress fracture in the vessel—it’s the part of the vessel that is damaged and weakened in that area.

There are numerous types of therapies that can help PTSD. If you have it, or someone you care about has it, you/they should seek treatment. PTSD does not go away by itself, and if left untreated, can worsen. People often have missed the opportunity of treating PTSD when it was still relatively treatable and responsive to therapy. The sooner it’s treated, the better the outcome. But any treatment, at any time, can still help PTSD.

However, what is often not recognized is the ‘continual’ life that must be lived when living with the aftermath of PTSD. Because the cracked vessel can crack again, a gentle and balanced life will relieve a lot of the PTSD symptoms that can linger. I have often seen people who have put a lot of effort into their recovery and NOT put a lot of effort into the quality of a gentle life following treatment. This is a mistake, because going back into a busy and crazy life, or picking another pathological, could reactivate PTSD. As much as people want to ‘get back out there,’ and think they can return to the life they used to live, often that’s not true. Wanting to live like you did in the past or do what you did before does not mean that you will be able to. I know, I know… it ticks you off that the damage is interfering with the person you used to be… before pathology exposure (BPE). But wanting it to be different doesn’t make it different. If you have PTSD, you need to know what to realistically expect in your prognosis.

Consequently, many people’s anxiety symptoms return if their life is not gentle enough. Much like a 12-step program, ‘living one day at a time’ is necessary, and understanding your proclivity must be foremost in your mind.

Living the gentle life means reducing your exposure to triggers that can reactivate your PTSD. Only you know what these are. If you don’t know, then that’s the first goal of therapy—to find your triggers. You can’t avoid (or even treat) what you don’t know exists.

Triggers are exposures to emotional, physical, sexual, visual, auditory, or kinesthetic reminders that set off anxiety symptoms. These triggers could be people, places, objects, sounds, phrases (songs!), tastes, or smells which reconnect you to your trauma. Once you are reconnected to your trauma, your physical body reacts by pumping out the adrenaline and you become hyper-aroused, which is known as hyper-vigilance. This increases paranoia, insomnia, startle reflex and a lot of other overstimulated and anxiety-oriented behaviors.

Other triggers that are not trauma-specific, but you should be on the alert for, are violent movies, TV, or music, and high-level noises. Also, be alert to lifestyle/jobs/people that are too fast-paced, busy environments, risky or scary jobs, bosses or co-workers who have personality disorders and are abrasive, or any other situations that kick-start your anxiety. Women are often surprised that other people’s pathology now sets them off. Once they have been exposed to pathology and have acquired PTSD from this exposure, other pathology can trigger PTSD symptoms. Living ‘pathology free’ is nearly mandatory—to the degree that you can ‘un-expose’ yourself to other known pathologies.

The opposite of chronic exposure to craziness and pathology would be the gentle life. Think ‘zen retreat center’—a subdued environment where your senses can rest… where a body that has been pumped up with adrenaline can let down… and a mind that races can relax. Where the video flashbacks can go on pause, and fast-paced chest panting can turn into slow, diaphragmatic breathing. Where darting eyes can close, soft scents soothe, and gentle music lulls. Where high heels come off and flip-flops go on. Where long quiet walks give way to tension release … quieting of the mind chases off the demons of hyperactive thinking… so when you whisper, you can hear yourself.

Only, this isn’t a retreat center for a yearly visit… this is your life, where your recovery and your need for all things gentle are center in your life. It doesn’t mean you need to quit your job or move to a mountain, but it does mean that you attend to your over-stimulated physical body. Those things in your life that you can control, such as the tranquility of your environment, need to be adjusted. Lifestyle adjustments ARE required for those who want to avoid reactivating anxiety. This includes psychological/emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual self-care techniques.

The one thing you can count on about PTSD, is when you aren’t taking care of yourself, your body will SCREAM IT! Your life cannot be the crazy-filled life you may watch others live. Your need for exercise, quiet, healthy food, spirituality, tension release, and joy are as necessary as oxygen for someone with PTSD. Walking the gentle path is your best guard against more anxiety, and your best advocate for peace.

Because of this overwhelming need, The Institute offers retreats several times a year that focus on understanding your PTSD. Watch for announcements in future newsletters.

The Other Woman—Now He’s HAPPY With HER!

Nothing cranks a woman up more than going through the drama-filled ending of a dysfunctional, pathological, abusive, addicted and/or sick relationship, ONLY to find that he has rapidly moved on and now seems ‘so happy.’ A women will tend to conclude it must have been her, and if he can be happy with someone else and not her, well then… it was some shortcoming in her and she needs to study up to figure out just what ‘went wrong.’

Ladies, ladies ladies…by now you have been reading enough of these newsletters to be able to chant the ABCs of Pathology I have been teaching you—

Pathology is the inability to:

  • consistently sustain positive change
  • grow to any emotional/spiritual depth
  • develop meaningful insight about how his behavior negatively affects others

When it comes to a pathological, THE BEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE BEHAVIOR IS PAST BEHAVIOR.

So, what you have to ask yourself is: How were his previous relationships? I don’t mean what he TOLD you they were (all her fault, she was a psycho, sleaze, or whacked), but what really happened in them.

If you developed a relationship timeline and wrote out all his relationships from his teen years forward AND the quality of them and why they ended, what would you conclude? How successful IS this man in maintaining healthy relationships? Yep… that’s what I thought.

How was his relationship with you? No, I’m not talking about the honeymoon cycle when you were living off of endorphins. I’m talking about the guts of the thing… the meat and bones of it.

So, he has a history of his own ‘Trail of Tears’—a path littered with wounded women and children? Your relationship has left you as one more statistic of his pathological heartbreaks.

Now, there’s HER—appearing all happy, snuggly and ‘in love’! You see her as getting all the good parts of him you always loved and none of the bad parts! After all, the reason you left him was all that bad stuff!

Doesn’t it make you want to call her up, text her, email her, message her on social media, and tell her what’s just around the corner in the relationship?

Doesn’t it make you want to curl up in a fetal position and cry that he has “found happiness in the arms of another?”

Doesn’t it make you sick in the pit of your stomach or consume you with intrusive and obsessive thoughts about how wonderfully ‘in love’ he is? STOP THE DRAMA!

Repeat after me… “Pathology is the inability to sustain positive change” … “the best predictor of HIS future behavior is his past behavior”—so just what does that mean?

There are honeymoon phases of every relationship. Lovers live on the high of the ‘falling in love stage.’ We already know that pathologicals don’t ‘technically’ fall in love, but they do hang around and experience some level of attachment. But YOU experienced the whole endorphin falling in love sensation. Well, now SHE is.

How long did yours last? A few weeks, months or maybe a year or two of okayness? What happened next? Oh yeah, you found out his lies or noticed his inconsistencies, or asked him to work, or caught him cheating… once you confronted him, you got the narcissistic rage, then maybe the aloofness, or maybe he even packed up and left.

Guess what’s gonna happen AGAIN? There will be the honeymoon for her, then she will notice his lies, inconsistencies, ask him to work or catch him cheating, then she’ll eventually confront him (or live forever with the miserableness of knowing what he’s doing and not have the nerve to confront him) and then he’ll rage, punish her, reject her, ignore her or leave.

Et VOILÀ— she is now on his “Stepford Wives List of Rejects.” She’s one more tear on his ‘Trail of Tears.’  You haven’t seen behind their closed doors to know what SHE’s dealing with… he hasn’t changed—he’s hardwired, so she’s going to be dealing with the same things you did. It’s just a matter of WHEN.

If I were a gambling girl, I’d put my money every stinking time on the consistency of pathology and his inability to ever change in ANY relationship—the previous one, yours, or future ones. She’s not getting the best of ANYTHING. She’s you. And in a short time, she’ll be another statistic. Pathology doesn’t change and this relationship is also wired for destruction.

There are NO happy endings in relationships with pathologicals. There are no pumpkin-drawn carriages, no sweet little house with three children… scratch that record! Stop attributing normal characteristics to a profoundly abnormal person.

Women spend all their precious emotional energy on obsessing about the quality of his relationship with the next victim instead of working on themselves—using that energy for their own healing. They live in a fantasy world where they are deprived of this wonderful relationship and he is off living the life of a normal person. This fantasy does not end with, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Your positive fantasy thoughts of him being happy with someone else are the memories that are pulling all of your focus while you totally forget how this horror flick is going to end. If you need a reminder, read all of our archived newsletters.

Take a deep breath and come back to center. She hasn’t got anything you haven’t already gotten from him—MISERY. If she doesn’t have it right now, she will have it shortly. Once you really ‘get it’ about the permanence of pathology you’ll understand that his ability to be different in any other relationship doesn’t exist. If he was capable, he would have done the changing with you, but he didn’t—and he won’t. Whatever exists right now is that short honeymoon cycle, until she realizes what he is and ISN’T—and what he can NEVER be. Don’t bother picking up the phone, messaging her, texting her, to tell her what he is and isn’t. Just worry about your own recovery… from this moment on, it’s all about you!

The Gift of Fear, Part 2: Is It Fear or Is It Anxiety?

Last week we began talking about the difference between fear and anxiety. Real fear draws on your animalistic instincts and causes a sincere fight-or-flight reaction. Anxiety causes you to worry about the situation, but you aren’t likely to bolt.

Anxiety can develop as a counterfeit trait to the true fear you never reacted to.

Gavin de Becker is a Danger Analyst and, in his classic book The Gift of Fear, has much to say about the preventability of most bad outcomes. He says there is, “Always, always, always a pre-incident indicator (a PIN) that women ignore.”

In my books, I call them red flags—the wisdom of your body that recognizes primitive fear and sends a signal to your body to react.  In that split second, you can run or you can rename it. Renaming it causes your body to react less and less to the messages it does send. Not one woman in the 25+ years I’ve been doing this has said there wasn’t an initial red flag that she CONSCIOUSLY ignored. Almost 100% of the time, the early red flags end up being exactly why the relationship ended. You could have saved yourself 3, 5, 15, 20 or more years of a dangerous relationship by listening to your body instead of your head!

Let’s go back to more stories by Gavin…

Dorothy says her ex-boyfriend, Kevan, was a fun guy with a master’s degree and a CPA. “He was charming, and it never let up,” Dorothy says. “He was willing to do whatever I wanted to do.”

Eventually, Dorothy began to feel that something wasn’t right. “He would buy me a present or buy me a beautiful bouquet of roses and have it sitting on the table and that was very nice, but that night or the next day he wanted me to be with him all the time.”

As Dorothy shares her story, Gavin points out some of the warning signs, starting with Kevan’s charm. “A great thing is to think of charm as a verb. It’s something you do. ‘I will charm [Dorothy] now.’ It’s not a feature of [one’s] personality,” Gavin says.

What happened next stunned Dorothy. “I was out visiting my sister in California, and he was calling me, calling me, and he asked me to marry him over the cell phone,” she says.  “I thought, you’re kidding. I’ve always said I would never get married again. And I said, ‘That’s the last time I’m going to talk about it.’”

After rejecting Kevan and coming home, Dorothy says he remained persistent. He showed Dorothy the picture of a diamond ring he wanted to buy, and told her he wanted to buy a house. “And he had it all mapped out, how it was going to work for us,” she says.

When Kevan refused to listen when Dorothy repeatedly told him no, Gavin says it should have raised serious red flags. “Anytime someone doesn’t hear no, it means they’re trying to control you,” Gavin says. “When a man says no in this culture, it’s the end of the discussion. When a woman says no, it’s the beginning of a negotiation.”

After four and a half years and many red flags, Dorothy finally broke off her relationship with Kevan. But that wasn’t the end. “He kept calling me, calling me with repeated questions. ‘What are you doing now?’ ‘What are you going to do tonight?’” Dorothy says. “And that’s when I realized I am in trouble here.”

On the urging of her son, Dorothy got a restraining order against Kevan, which she says gave her peace of mind. “And that was a huge mistake,” she says.

One night, Dorothy was asleep in her bed when she awoke to the sound of her name being shouted. “I turned to my left shoulder, and I saw a knife [about 10 inches long]. I could see the reflection of my TV in the blade. Then I saw that he had cutoff surgical gloves, and that was scary,” Dorothy says. “I put the covers right over my head and curled into a fetal position and started praying. He said to me, ‘Are you scared?’”

Rather than panic, Dorothy says she got out of bed, stood up and told Kevan he was leaving. As she walked calmly out the door, he followed her to the parking lot. “So I said, ‘You’re leaving now,’” she says. “He turned, went down the street, and I didn’t see him again.” Dorothy immediately called 9-1-1, and police later arrested Kevan. He was convicted and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

Gavin says when Dorothy stood up, spoke firmly to Kevan and walked out, she was accepting a gift of power by acting on her instincts. “The fetal position is not a position of power, but you came out of it with a great position of power. And the pure power to say to him, ‘You’re leaving now,’ is fantastic,” he says. “Of all the details in that story, the one that stayed with me the most is that you saw the reflection on your little television set on the bedside table in the knife. And what that told me was you are on, you are in the on position. You were seeing every single detail and acting on it.”

Just like ignoring your intuition, Gavin says the way women are conditioned to be nice all the time can lead them into dangerous situations. “The fact is that men, at core, are afraid that women will laugh at them. And women, at core, are afraid that men will kill them.”

This conditioning and fear, Gavin says, leads many women to try to be nice to people whose very presence makes them fearful and uncomfortable. They often believe that being mean increases risk, he says, when, in fact, the opposite is true.

“It’s when you’re nice that you open up and give information, that you engage with
someone you don’t want to talk to,” he says. “I have not heard of one case in my entire career where someone was raped or murdered because they weren’t nice. In other words, that’s not the thing that motivates rape and murder. But I’ve heard of many, many cases where someone was victimized because they were open to the continued conversation with someone they didn’t feel good about talking to.”

In my own book, How to Spot a Dangerous Man, I talk about cultural conditioning and how women feel they should be polite and at least go out with a man once. If you’re saying yes to a psychopath, once is all he needs.

Women also have HORRID and NONEXISTENT breakup skills. What in the world is more important than having good breakup skills? You are likely to date a dozen men in your lifetime and not likely to marry but one of them. What are you gonna do with the rest of them?

In this culture, with all the books on how to attract men, very little is written about how to break up. Women spend more time on a Glamour Shots picture of themselves for a dating site than learning how strong boundaries can protect them. A woman who is attracted to the bad boys doesn’t need the book, “How to Attract a Man”—she’s already doing it. But how can she get rid of the predator she DID attract? (See my book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Women who buy our books, do phone counseling, come to 1:1’s and retreats, all have a primary motive: “Help me to never do this again.” While you definitely need insight about your own Super Traits that have positioned you in the line of fire with a psychopath, you also need most the ability to reconnect with your internal safety signal. Everything in the world we can teach you will not keep you safe if you ignore your body. Our cognitive information cannot save you the way your body can. That’s the bottom line. This is something you have to do for yourself.

This issue, of real fear vs. mere anxiety, is of utmost importance. It has really struck me that we may have missed something in our discussion about PTSD and its relationship to fight or flight reactions. Gavin helps us to see that fear happens in the moment—it’s an entire body sensation—the flash of fear followed by the intense adrenaline and fight or flight. The intensity of the body’s reactions usually COMPELS people into fight or flight.

With PTSD, I see how we have lumped more minor reactive reactions, like PTSD-induced fight or flight, with the real in-the-moment reactions of fear. I see them as different now. If the woman is THAT afraid of him and compelled by real fear as opposed to worry, (“He might harm me in the future, but he isn’t mad right now and not going to hurt me this second.”), she wouldn’t be with him because her animalistic reaction would be to flee.

Real fear IN THE MOMENT demands action. Our own ability to tolerate what he is doing suggests it’s not TRUE survival fear. This is the difference between animalistic/survival fear and our common-day PTSD reactionary fear.

Sometimes our body has reactions to evil or pathology. Normal psychology should ALWAYS have a negative reaction to abnormal psychology. So your first meeting with him should have produced SOMETHING in you. It may not have been the true fear reaction that COMPELLED you to run away, but you may have gotten other kinds of thoughts or bodily reactions to be in the presence of significant abnormality and sometimes, pure evil.

Listen to your body. It is smarter than your brain.

The Gift of Fear/The Curse of Anxiety, Part 1: Is It Fear or Is It Anxiety?

Women who have been in pathological relationships come away from them with problems associated with fear, worry, and anxiety. This is often related to Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or what we call ‘High Harm Avoidance’—being on high alert, looking for ways they might get harmed now or in the future.

PTSD, by its own nature as a disorder, is an anxiety disorder that is preoccupied by both the past (flashbacks and intrusive thoughts of him or events) and by the future (worry about future events, trying to anticipate his behaviors, etc.). With long-term exposure to PTSD, this anxiety and worry begins to mask itself, at least in the mind, as fear. In fact, most women lump together the sensations of anxiety, worry, and fear into one feeling, and don’t differentiate between them.

Fear is helpful and safety-oriented whereas worry and anxiety are not helpful, and are related to phantom ‘possible’ events that often don’t happen. To that degree, worry and anxiety are distracting from real fear signals that could help you.

In his book, The Gift of Fear, which is now a classic on predicting harmful behavior in others, author Gavin deBecker delineates the difference between what we need fear FOR and what we DON’T need anxiety and worry for. In some ways, the ability to use fear correctly while stopping the use of anxiety and worry may do much to curtail PTSD symptoms.

deBecker, who is not a therapist but a Danger Analyst, has done what other therapists haven’t even done—nix PTSD symptoms of anxiety and worry by focusing on true fear and its necessity versus anxiety and its false meaning to us.

Freud used the term ‘fear’ (in contrast to anxiety), to refer to the reaction to real danger. Freud emphasized the difference between fear and anxiety in terms of their relation to danger:

~ Anxiety is a state characterized by the expectation of and preparation for a danger—even if it is unknown.

~ Fear implies a specific object to be feared in the here and now.

(Anxiety is: “He MIGHT harm me;” whereas, fear is: “He IS harming me—with his fist, words, actions, etc.”)

If you heard that there was a weapon proven to prevent most crimes (including picking a dangerous partner) before they happened, would you run out and buy it? World-renowned security expert, Gavin deBecker says this weapon exists but you already have it. He calls it “the gift of fear.”

The story of a woman named Kelly begins with a simple warning sign. A man offers to help carry her groceries into her apartment—and instantly, Kelly doesn’t like the sound of his voice. Kelly goes against her gut and lets him help her—and in doing so, she lets a rapist into her home.

“We get a signal prior to violence,” Gavin says. “There are pre-incident indicators— things that happen—before violence occurs.”

Gavin says that, unlike any other living creature, humans will sense danger, yet still walk right into it. He goes on to say, “You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night.  The elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say [to themselves], ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice.’ And so human beings will get into a steel soundproof chamber with someone they’re afraid of. There’s not another animal in nature that would even consider it.”

Gavin says that “eerie feelings” are exactly what he wants women to pay attention to. “We’re trying to analyze the warning signs,” he says, “and what I really want to teach, today and forever, is the feeling of the warning sign. All the other stuff is our explanation for the feeling—why it was this, why it was that. The feeling itself IS the warning sign.”

What happens over and over again is that women dismantle their OWN internal safety system by ignoring it. The longer they ignore it, the more ‘overrides’ it receives and this retrains the brain to ignore the fear signal. Once rewired, women are at tremendous risks of all kinds… risks of picking the wrong men, of squelching fear signals, of impending violence, shutting off alarms about potential sexual assaults, shutting down red flags about financial ripoffs, squeaking out hints about poor character in other people… and the list goes on. What is left after your whole entire safety system is dismantled? Not much.

Women, subconsciously sensing they need to have ‘something’ to fall back on, swap out true and profoundly accurate fear signals with the miserly counterfeit and highly unproductive feelings of worry and anxiety.

LADIES—WRONG FEELINGS!

Then they end up in counseling for their fourth dangerous relationship and wonder if they have a target sign on their forehead. No they don’t. They have learned to dismantle, rename, minimize, justify, or deny the fear signals they get or got in the relationship—as if their ability to ‘take it’ or ‘not be afraid’ of very dangerous behavior is some sort of win for them, as if their ability to look danger in the face and STAY means they are as tough or competitive as he is.

No—it means they have a fear signal that no longer saves them. Their barely stuttering signal means it’s been over-ridden by her. She felt it, labeled it, and released it, all the while staring eye-to-eye with what she should fear most.

Then later, another day or week passes, and she has mounting anxiety, “over what?” she wonders. She has a chronic low-grade worry, wisps of anxiety that waft through her life. She can’t put two and two together to figure out that ignoring true fear will demand to be recognized by her subconscious in some way—an illegitimate way through worry and anxiety that does nothing to save her from real danger. Her real ally (her true fear) has been squelched and banished.

When coming to us for counseling she wants us to help her ‘feel safe’ again when actually, we can’t do any of that. It’s all in her internal system as it’s always been. Her safety is inside her as is her future healing.

She will sit in the counselor’s office denying true fear and begging for relief from the mounting anxiety she is experiencing. She doesn’t trust herself, her intuition, her judgments—all she can feel is anxiety. And with good reason! True fear is her true intuition…not anxiety. But she’s already canned what can save her, and now, on some level, she must know she has nothing left that can help her feel and react.

Animals instinctively react to the danger signal—the adrenaline, flash of fear, and flood of cortisol. They don’t have internal dialogue with themselves, like, “What did that mean? Why did he say that? I don’t like that behavior—I wonder if he was abused as a child.”

An animal is trained to have a natural reaction to the fear signal—they run. You don’t see animals ‘stuck’ in abusive mating environments! In nature, as in us, we are wired with the King of Comments, which is the danger signal. When we respond to the flash of true fear, we aren’t left having a commentary with ourselves.

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” ~John Schaar

Are Feelings Facts?

Women don’t know whether to trust what they feel or not. Are you confused over whether feelings are factual or if they are fictional? You’re not alone. Women struggle where to draw the line between believing what they think and questioning it.

On one hand, feelings can be red flags in the beginning or in the midst of the relationship. Red flags can be emotional, physical, or spiritual warnings of what is happening or what is yet to be.

Emotional red flags are feelings you get while in the relationship—constant worry, dread, wondering, suspicion, anxiety, depression, or obsession. Often other people in your life quickly notice the emotional red flags and they point out that you have changed since the relationship began—and not for the good. Lots of times women don’t want to hear about their emotional changes since being in the relationship. Other times, women already KNOW they are having emotional red flags about him or aspects of the relationship. In either case, it’s important to know that emotional red flags can be GOOD PREDICTORS OF THE POTENTIAL LONGEVITY OF THE RELATIONSHIP. Many women notice that the red flags they had at the beginning of the relationship ARE the reasons the relationship eventually ended. So, emotional red flags can be great tools and are often accurate.

Waiting for feelings to “become facts” before you act on them can be very dangerous. In the case of emotional red flags (and your intuition), responding NOW instead of later can help you exit the relationship quickly. By the time a feeling IS A FACT, many things could have happened. (For more information on red flags, see the first few chapters of How to Spot a Dangerous Man.)

ON THE OTHER HAND (there’s always an “other hand” isn’t there?)—women wonder if the intense feelings they are having are an indicator of “true love”. Why else would they be having them? A woman often experiences confusing emotions when trouble starts in the relationship. She either becomes confused when the relationship turns bad or she becomes confused when she has ended the relationship. This confusion takes the form of “if he was so mean to me, why do I still have feelings for him? I must still love him if I can’t stop thinking about him, even if he did bad things. Do my feelings mean I should get back together with him?”

In these cases, feelings are not facts. It is human nature to seek attachment and bonding. When that is ripped away there is an emptiness that happens. Women often think that means that they were in love if they experience the aftermath of loss when it just really means you are feeling the loss.

Women often think that since they “miss the good times of the relationship,” they must miss him. Most often, what women are actually missing are the feelings that were generated in the relationship when it was good. Women miss that feeling of being “in love” or “attached” or “wanted and desired” or “safe and secure.” When women can sort out what they really miss, they often can see that HE represented those feelings she was having. She misses the feelings of the illusion of being in a good relationship.  Missing “him” might not really be “missing him.” Who is “him”—the dangerous man/cheater/liar/pathological?  You miss that “him”? No. You miss the feelings of being in love.

Tell yourself: “What I am missing are the feelings of being in a good relationship.” Remind yourself of that when you misinterpret those feelings as meaning you “want him back.” Often that isn’t the case. Recognize that this very “feeling” thing is what propels women right back out there seeking to feel loved again, and attach to those feelings you are missing. It places women at high risk of repeating the same mistake.

Here—try this. Draw a line down the middle of a paper. On one side, list the feelings you miss having. On the other side, list the dangerous man traits/behaviors/incidents. Now take a look. Which do you really miss?

Feelings can be accurate when we are getting red flags in the relationship. Feelings can be inaccurate when we are gauging whether to return to the relationship because we think we “miss” him when in fact, what we miss are the feelings that were generated in the relationship. Feelings can be inaccurate when we are gauging the intensity and equate that with love or something healthy in the relationship. Understanding the importance of “feelings” in all stages of a relationship can help you recognize just what your feelings are telling you and when to heed them and when to be a little suspicious of their messages to you!

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).

 © www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

Why You Only Remember the Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship – Part 2

Last time I began to discuss the reasons why women have a difficult time remembering the bad aspects of the relationship. Women describe the sensation of only remembering the good times, the good feelings, and being ‘fuzzy’ or sort of forgetting all the bad things he has done when they think of him. This process seems to be triggered by an emotional feeling (such as longing or loneliness) AND/OR by a memory of hearing his voice, seeing an email, etc.

 

Last time we also discussed how good and bad memories are stored in the brain differently. Good memories are stored up front and are easily accessed. Bad memories are fragmented and compartmentalized in the mind, and are, therefore, harder to access as one complete memory. Think of, for instance, child abuse memories and how people so often repress or forget these memories.

 

In this article we are going to talk about ANOTHER reason why you only remember the good stuff of a bad relationship. (This is covered in detail in the book, Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

 

The second reason is based on our own biological hardwiring. We are wired with a pleasure base that is called our Reward System. We associate pleasure with being rewarded or something good. We are naturally attracted to pleasure. The pathological (at least in the beginning) stimulates the pleasure base and we associate that with a ‘reward’—that is, we enjoy his presence. Pathologicals are also often excessively dominant and strong in their presence, something we have gone on to call ‘Command Presence’.

 

What we enjoyed in him is all the good feelings + his strong dominant command presence. Being rewarded by his presence AND experiencing the strength of that presence registers as pleasure/reward.

 

Although he later goes on to inflict pain, pleasure or good memories, as we saw last time, are stored differently in the brain. Our brains tend to focus on one or the other and we have a natural internal ‘default’ to lean towards remembering and responding to our Reward System and pleasure.

 

On the other hand, memories associated with punishment or pain are short-lived and stored differently in the brain. They can be harder to access and ‘remember’. When you experience pleasure with him (whether it’s attention, sex, or a good feeling) it stimulates the reward pathway in the brain. This helps to facilitate ‘extinction’ of fear. Fear is extinguished when fear is hooked up with pleasant thoughts, feelings, and experiences (such as the early ‘honeymoon phase’ of the relationship). When fear + pleasant feelings are paired together, the negative emotion of the fear gives way to the pleasant feelings and the fear goes away.

 

Your Reward System then squelches your anxiety associated with repeating the same negative thing with the pathological. The memories associated with the fear/anxiety/punishment are quickly extinguished.

 

For most people, the unconscious pursuit of reward/pleasure is more important than the avoidance of punishment/pain. This is especially true if you were raised by pathological parents and you became hyper-focused on reward/pleasure because you were chronically in so much (emotional and/or physical) pain.

 

Given that our natural hardwired state of being is tilted towards pleasure and our Reward System, it makes sense why women have an easier time accessing the positive memories. Once these positive memories become ‘intrusive’ and the only thing you can think about now is the good feelings associated with the pathological, the positive memories have stepped up the game to obsession, and, oftentimes, a compulsion to be with him despite the punishment/pain associated with him.

 

These two reasons why bad memories are hard to access have helped us understand and develop intervention based on the memory storage of bad memories and the reward/punishment system of the brain.

 

If you struggle with the continued issue of intrusive thoughts and feel ‘compelled’ to be with him or pursue a destructive relationship, you are not alone. This is why understanding his pathology, your response to it, and how to combat these overwhelming sensations and thoughts are part of our retreat/psycho-educational program. Remembering only the good can be treated!

Why You Only Remember the Good Stuff of a Bad Relationship – Part 1

Over and over again, women are puzzled by their own process of trying to recover from a pathological relationship. What is puzzling is that despite the treatment she received from him, despite the absolute mind-screwing he did to her emotions, not only is the attraction still VERY INTENSE, but the POSITIVE memories still remain strong.

Women say the same thing—that when it comes to remaining strong in not contacting him (what we call ‘Starving the Vampire’) they struggle to pull up (and maintain the pulled up) negative memories of him and his behavior that could help them stay strong and detached.

But why? Why are the positive memories floating around in her head freely and strongly, and yet the bad memories are stuffed in a ‘mind closet’ full of fuzzy cobwebs that prevent her from actively reacting to those memories?

There are a couple of reasons and we’ll discuss the first one today.  Let’s think of your mind like a computer. Memories are stored much like they are stored on a computer. Pain and traumatic memories are stored differently than positive memories. Pulling up the negative memories from your hard drive is different than pulling up a positive memory that is like an icon on your desktop.

Traumatic memories get fragmented on their way to being stored on the hard drive. They get divided up into more than one file. In one file are the emotional feelings, in another file are the sights, in another file the sounds, and in another file the physical sensations.

But a WHOLE and complete memory is made up of ALL those files TOGETHER AT THE SAME TIME such as what you emotionally felt, saw, heard, and physically

experienced.  Just one piece of it doesn’t make it a complete memory such as just a positive memory.

A complete memory = good + bad

 When things are traumatic or stressful, the mind separates the whole experience into smaller bits and pieces and then stores them separately in the mind because it’s less painful that way.

When women try to ‘remind themselves’ why they shouldn’t be with him, they might get flashes of the bad memory, but, strangely, the emotional feelings are NOT attached to it. They wonder ‘where did the feelings go?’ They can see the bad event but they don’t feel much about what they remember.

If you are playing a movie without the sound, how do you know what the actors are passionately feeling? It’s the same thing with this traumatic recall of memories. You might see the video but not hear the pain in the voices. The negative or traumatic memory is fragmented into several files and you are only accessing one of the files—a place where you have stored the positive aspects of the relationship.

To complicate things further, positive memories are not stored like negative memories. They are not divided up into other files. They don’t need to be—they aren’t traumatic.

So when you remember a time when the relationship was good or cuddly, or the early parts of the relationships which are notoriously ‘honeymoon-ish’, the whole memory comes up—the emotional feelings, the visual, the auditory, the sensations. You have a WHOLE and STRONG memory with that. Of course that is WAY MORE appealing to have—a memory that is not only GOOD, but one in which you feel all the powerful aspects of it as well.

Now, close your eyes and pull up a negative memory. Can you feel the difference? You might see it but not feel it. Or hear it and not see much of it. Or feel a physical sensation of it but not the emotional piece that SHOULD go with the physical sensation. No matter what your experience is of the negative emotion, it is probably fragmented in some way.

Negative and traumatic memories are often incomplete memories—they are memory fragments floating all over your computer/mind. They are small files holding tiny bits of info that have fragmented your sense of the whole complete memory. These distorted and broken memory fragments are easily lost in your mind.

If you have grown up in an abusive or alcoholic home, you were already subconsciously trained how to separate memories like this. If your abuse was severe enough early on,  your mind just automatically does this anyway—if you get scared, or someone raises their voice, or you feel fear in anyway—your brain starts breaking down the painful experience so it’s easier for you to cope with.

Next time we will talk about one other way your mind handles positive and negative memories, and why you are flooded with positive recall and blocked from remembering and feeling those negative things he’s done to you.

The Anniversary of My Plunge Into Pathology

The month of May marks my fairly “official” date (at least in my mind) in which I was thrust into the field of pathology—totally without consent, without warning, and without return to the normal life I knew before May 13, 1983.  That was the day my father bled out in a grungy gutter in Cincinnati just outside his jazz club after a psychopath plunged a knife into his aorta.  I was initiated into a victim-hood that would turn my life and career in a direction I hadn’t much interest in before that particular day.

Much like pathology in anyone else’s life, you don’t get to choose how it plays out in your life.  The best you can do is to learn how to ride the rollercoaster that goes along with the serious group of disorders in pathology—as I have done.  Thirty-plus years later, I still feel like I am just skimming the surface of what can, and should, be done in education, awareness, survivor services, and advocacy in dealing with pathology. Thousands of pages of writing books, newsletters, websites, workbooks, e-books, quizzes, hours and hours of lectures ad nauseum, over a thousand hours in broadcasts, both radio and television, stacks of CDs and DVDs created—and still we are in the infancy of a new understanding about pathology.  It is the virtual edge of just beginning what someday will be a momentous marker that shows when the world turned a corner for a better and very public understanding of pathology.

We’re not there yet but the day IS coming. Every new blog that goes up, every newsletter, every website, every talk, every social networking post, every private moment of knowledge shared with another victim, every coaching session, every class taught, every therapy hour, every group gathering, every prayer muttered, every radio show aired, every celebrity living it and bringing it to notice, every TV show featuring it, every newspaper or women’s magazine article taunting it is another message to another ear that has heard the message. You learned it because someone cared enough to make sure you learned it.

Every May 13th, for the past 30+ years, I have halted my existence to remember that life-altering second when my life went from being a normal everyday life to a life of being a family member of a homicide victim. This is when my reality was ripped through by pathology—a disorder so conscienceless that altering history is just another day in the lives of the pathological.  While my pathology story includes a brutal ending, yours, no less, includes something similar—all the things lost in a moment of deep betrayal—the kind of betrayal that only pathology can bring.

If I don’t brighten up this newsletter, I’ll get complaints about “too much reality” or “too much negativity” so, I will say this—while none of us choose to become survivors at the hands of very disordered pathological individuals, what we do with what we were dealt is up to us.  Every so often I like to send a message to you that encourages you to “pass it forward”.  Whatever you have learned from the magazine’s website, newsletters, radio shows, blogs, or the books, is probably more than the woman who is sitting next to you knows.  You don’t need to wait until you understand it more by taking a class, getting a degree, reading another one of our books, attending a retreat, or taking our coach training—that doesn’t help the women you sit next to at work. The knowledge in your head is life-saving to her. Next year, when you are better trained, isn’t the time to share what you know—today is!

If we want to move from living on the virtual edge of changing pathology education in the world, we have to open our mouths and tell what we know.  Every pathological hopes you DON’T do this! They hope you keep what you know to yourself. So many women that have shed so many tears have said, “If I had only known … I would have left earlier, I wouldn’t have left my children with him, I wouldn’t have _______.”

Every May is a time I renew my commitment to what changed me. Every May I bother people with my message and prod them and push them to make victims’ rights and survivor education important in the world.  If I don’t, the image of my dad laying in that gutter haunts me. His death should never have been for nothing—and as long as people have been helped, it hasn’t. Frankie Brown, by his death, has touched so many lives through the message of psychopathy. You’re one of them!  Help me celebrate my father’s death anniversary in a way that brings meaning and hope to many. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month—share what you know with just ONE person—someone that you have felt in your gut needs to know about the permanence and the pain of pathological relationships. Then email me and say “I passed it forward” so I can count up how many people have celebrated Frankie!

If this message has offended you, I’m sorry. Pathology has offended my entire life. Thank you for growing in the knowledge of pathology so you are prepared for the day when you can give someone the life-changing information that you’ve come to know!

When Friends Don’t ‘Get It’ About Him

Remember the line ‘You’re known by the company you keep’? Well, I don’t think that ONLY includes the pathological and dangerous man… it also includes your ‘friends’ and ‘family’ members who may be emotional accomplices of his.

Someone wrote me awhile back and said, “Please write about this — when your own friends don’t get how sick he is and think you should go back, or they think you’re over exaggerating his faults.”

There are a couple of things to consider here. First of all, your pattern of selection of dangerous, pathological, or not quite healthy people probably exceeds just your intimate relationship selections. It might also include your friends, cohorts, buddies, family members and even bosses. Women who enter recovery from pathological relationships and attend the retreats quickly figure out that their lives are LOADED with other pathological people! Not just him!

That’s because those temperament traits in you that I’ve talked about are just as active in ALL your relationships as they are in your intimate ones. Don’t be surprised to find these types of people hidden in all corners of your life. Many women realize they have some house cleaning to do in terms of clearing out all the unhealthy people from their lives once they recognize what pathology is and WHO it’s in.

Secondly, the dangerous and pathological people often attract people to them. If your friends and family members have your emotional characteristics, they are likely to STILL see him how you USED to see him. They haven’t been hurt up close and personal by him to ‘get it’ the way you do. Since these are Jekyll-and-Hyde guys, they have one face for you and another adorable and charming one for everyone else. Women get confused when they gauge whether they should be with him based on what OTHERS say about him.

Intimate relationships are just that – personal and PRIVATE! Others don’t see him behind closed doors the way you do/did. Their take on this charming charismatic guy doesn’t include everything your gut has told you about him or that you have come to recognize by experiencing his bad/dangerous behavior.

When you are ending the relationship, he’s likely to pour it on to all your family and friends — the tears, the confusion and shoulder shrugging (“What did I do?”) and pleading (“Help me get her back!”) Those family and friends who have the same HIGH traits of empathy, tolerance, and compassion as you do are likely to fall for it. Top it off with the fact that almost all pathologicals also proclaim to be ‘sick or dying’ when the relationship is ending. This makes for a cheering squad lined up to backup his sad and pleading stories.

Then there’s the ‘finding religion’ guy who blows the dust off his Bible and is sitting in the front row of church week after week telling your pastor/rabbi how ‘unforgiving’ you are of him.

Yup. Your friends are likely to point to all that pew-sitting and think there’s something to it. But YOU know better… you’ve seen it all before. Remember – the core of pathology is that they aren’t wired to sustain change so this too shall pass.

Getting confused about what other people think of him goes back to the central issue of you having ignored your red flags when you met him. Don’t ignore those red flags again when people who don’t have a clue about what true pathology is tell you that you should ‘give it one more shot’. You know what you know. Tell yourself the truth and let the cheerleading squad fall on deaf ears.

(**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).

 

Soul Slayer– Psychological ‘Evil’, Spiritual ‘Evil’, or Both?

The one adjective I hear repeatedly connected to pathology is the word ‘evil.’ Spiritual, unspiritual, heathens, pagans, Christians, Jews, Buddists – it doesn’t matter. The word ‘evil’ is the chosen adjective-of-choice to describe pathology. But what IS evil? Is it more psychological than it is spiritual? Or is it a spiritual issue that has been picked up and defined psychologically? Are they the same thing?

I am not going to translate the lists below for you. They are self explanatory. I have taken the list from Old Testament (of the Jewish faith) and New Testament (of the Christian faith) as examples of the definition of ‘evil.’ You could most likely find similar definitions of evil in other religious texts.

Draw your own conclusions

Description from the DSM About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
Grandiose, self important and pre occupied with self Wants people to worship him
Fantasizes about power, brilliance, success, and money Says to God “I WILL ascend, I Will Rise…” Showing power fantasies
Requires excessive admiration Says “You WILL bow down to me”
Is entitled Wants the same power as God, feels he’s as powerful as God
Exploits all relationships Tries to lure others to do his dirty work in the world
Lacks empathy Envious of others
Arrogant Fails to follow laws or rules/uses unethical, unlawful and immoral behavior
Deceitful, lies, cons for fun or profit Impulsive, wants it/takes it, sees it/does it
Aggression Disregard for the safety of others, puts others at risk
Irresponsible–bad with supporting others Lack of remorse, rationalizes stealing, lying, etc

Other Characteristics (also mentioned in the Women Who Love Psychopaths book)

Description from the DSM About Socio/Psychopathy & Narcissism Descriptions of Evil (Lucifer, Satan, etc.)
 Pretends to be wonderful, helpful, supportive Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
 Powerful Often beautiful or handsome; Lucifer called ‘the most beautiful’, name means ‘the shining one’
 Superior attitude toward others  Is superior to other angels in power and authority
 Contempt for others, especially authority figures  Fights against God and wants His power
 Uses power and authority over others  Called the Prince of Power
 Prideful  Heart is filled with pride and contempt
 Splits people against each other Turned 1/3 of the angels against God and took them
Often rejected, expelled, dismissed, broken up with because of behavior God expelled him from Heaven
Places are created to contain them: jail, prison, mental institutions, probation God created a place to contain him in the future–Lake of Fire
Fights against any rules and others who try to make him conform Fights against God to ruin and hinder His plans
Destroy and deceive others (and enjoy doing it) Called ‘The Destroyer’ and “Deceiver”
Masquerades as anything you want him to be Masquerades as the ‘Angel of Light’
Likes to scare others and show power so others fear him Prowls like a roaring lion
Looks for someone to overpower and control Prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour
Bold, cunning, self ambitious Boldness, subtlety in his cunning
Self willed and strong Prideful self will
Narcissistic – wanting to be better than everyone else Said “I will be like the Most High”
Fakes being wonderful, helpful, virtuous Many false prophets have gone in the world (like him), performs lying ‘signs and wonders’
Accuses others Called ‘The Accuser’
Adversary, enemy to any who turn against him Called the Serpent or ‘Adversary’
Liar, tempter, thief Referred to as a liar, thief and tempter
Motives are destructive to others Motives are to deceive and afflict

It is clear in some spiritual texts that spiritual evil has almost no separation from psychological evil, or vice versa. There are some things we don’t totally understand such as how the spirit realm can affect the psychological realm, or how one’s pathology may taint their spirit. But it has been clear to me, and hundreds of survivors, that ‘evil’ straddles the vocabularies of both psychological definitions and spiritual ones as well.

The spiritual union of souls when united to a psychopath, is like none other. Those who have united in the spiritual realm can attest to the evil witnessed in that sharing.

There is still much to learn about how psychology and theology meld. A large portion of one of the chapters in Women Who Love Psychopaths as been devoted to this issue. Please check the chart in the book for a better grasp of this concept.

Reality and Suffering

Much of your intrusive thoughts, your obsession with him/relationship, your cognitive conflict known as dissonance, and many other symptoms as well are stemming from one major issue:

The inability to accept what he is, how he is, and what this means about your relationship.

This level of resistance isn’t always conscious. Some of it may seep out and drift up into your awareness where you notice yourself fluctuating between “He is pathological, I don’t want him to be pathological, he isn’t pathological.”

This cognitive conflict between your three different beliefs about whether he is pathological takes the form of:
•    How you think you SHOULD feel about him/this situation, and
•    How you react/behave with this situation.

Each one of these beliefs:
•    He is Pathological
•    I don’t want him to be Pathological
•    He isn’t Pathological
have their own individual lives in your brain. We sometimes call this ‘Monkey Mind’- each belief jumping around and back and forth and swinging from the branches of your brain until you can no longer concentrate.

You are not entertaining just one thought/conflict – you are entertaining at least three! And each of these have subpoints below each one producing MANY thoughts.

These three conflicting beliefs, thoughts, and wishes fill up probably 95% of your thinking patterns which leaves almost no time to:
•    Resolve it
•    Work on it
•    Rest
•    Work, or
•    Find peace

In the past, I had the great privilege of working with a woman who came here from the Netherlands. Her intrusive thoughts had disabled her ability to work and enjoy her child. Within the four days she was here, we were able to harness her mind and free her from much of the distress of this invasive life-stealing mechanism.

At the heart of almost all major religions is the teaching (in different terms and lingo) about suffering. Intrusive thoughts and cognitive dissonance are the # 1 and # 2 distressing symptoms you complain about most. This level of ‘suffering’, as are many other types and reasons for suffering, stems from the inability to let our defense systems down (this is why they are called defense) and accept life as life is and stop defending against it.

Our defense mechanisms are designed to shield us from pain. But at some point, defense mechanisms can be over used and end up harming us by keeping too much of the pain (which could teach us) away from us. Pain 101 is often a good, and sometimes the only, motivator for change.

When our defense systems have become so elaborate, the pain that could help us face reality can’t even get to us to teach us and show us the way. Suffering then continues because we have not found a way to help ourselves embrace reality so that the reality can bring acceptance and the acceptance can stop the intrusive thoughts.

Our elaborate defense mechanism is very invested in proving he is not pathological and keeping the relationship going. That way, you are not alone, you get what you want, you prove others wrong, and you can fulfill the fantasy in your head about how the relationship ‘should’ or ‘could’ be.

To end suffering, we must accept what we are keeping away from our heart –the Truth and Reality – or whatever you want to call it. All major religions have a cure for suffering – but it’s all the same – accepting the who, what, where, when, and why. Some religions call it Light, Truth, Enlightenment…the words that are all related to accepting reality.

That would mean our first belief system listed above:
He is Pathological
might have to be accepted and the other two belief systems after that, would have to be dropped. Everything in your being would have to embrace the pain and the reality that he is, in fact, now and forever, pathological.

Acceptance is so critical to accepting reality, truth, and what is… And the opposite ‘non-acceptance’ is so dangerous that every 12 Step group ends their meeting with a prayer about acceptance knowing its importance in the ability to recover and heal. The 12 Steps remind us that in order to heal we must ‘Take life on life’s terms.’ That means, we must accept what is really happening in our lives, to our lives, and through our lives. In your case, that means accepting what his pathology is doing to you.

I have penned our own 12 Step Prayer to remind us about accepting who and what he is, and stopping the intrusive thought that is nothing but trying to bury the truth under some new image we come up with.

Serenity Prayer for Pathological Relationships
•    Lord, help me to accept the pathology and the things in him and this relationship that I cannot change;
•    To change the things I can in my own life that will help me leave, heal, and recover since he cannot change;
•    And the wisdom to know the difference between who can change and who can never change, and what I can do now for myself.
AMEN

The Pathological, Part 2: The Child-Prodigy Savant—All Grown Up

Last week I wrote about this natural ability that pathologicals have when it comes to reading human behavior and about how the child’s emotional developmental deficits actually spur him toward compensation in these areas by trying to hide his lack of a full emotional spectrum, lack of insight, and lack of ability to sustain emotional and behavioral changes. He learns to compensate by studying human behavior and ‘mimicking and parroting’ when he wants to fit in. But what about when he DOESN’T want to fit in, or when he becomes an adult?

Erik Erikson studied human development and his theory is that there are ‘emotional tasks’ that must occur before the next leap of growth can occur. These are building blocks of the emotional structure of development.

The first task as a baby is to bond. After that come the tasks, in this order, that must occur to be a healthy and normal person:

  • Trust builds on bonding
  • Autonomy (or independence) builds on trust
  • Initiative (or leadership) builds on autonomy
    Industry (or pride in one’s accomplishments) builds on initiative
  • Identity builds on industry, etc.

There are more developmental aspects all the way through old age. But these give us something to look at—all the aspects of emotional development that must occur (and did not occur somewhere along the way) for the pathological—Bonding, Trust, Autonomy, Initiative, Industry, Identity. When these building blocks of character were being laid (and mislaid), holes in the soul developed around those building blocks that were not laid.

Instead of learning trust, they learn to con other people’s trust and yet mistrust everyone. Instead of learning independence they are either horribly dependent and parasitic, or aloof and not the least bit interdependent within relationships. Instead of initiative (or leadership), they feel either inadequate or superior and con others, and the only place they lead others is astray. Instead of industry and finding meaning and pride in their accomplishments, they see their accomplishments as being highly connected to the ability to superbly manipulate and con others. Their pride about their abilities is more related to the ability to manipulate than it is to any other abilities they may have.

Instead of a healthy self-identity, their identity is highly connected now to their choices. Since many of them are delinquent and deviant, their identity is not connected with something positive but, rather, with their darkest character flaws.

All of these developmental tasks that should be completed—bonding, trust, independence, initiative, industry, and identity—are the building blocks established by the teen years. We can easily see how and why their adult years are filled with problems and anguishing relationships. If you don’t bond, trust, have interdependent relationships, your idea of accomplishment is conning, and your identity is linked to your bad character—THERE ISN’T MUCH TO WORK WITH!

Pathologicals have difficult adulthoods AND they make everyone else’s adulthoods difficult too. The child prodigy studying what works with humans is largely squeezed down to ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me). Studying others to fit in gets replaced by the adult skills of conning, manipulation, lying, embezzlement, and other ‘honed arts’. By the time the emotional development of the teen years have hit, the bonding, trust, interdependence, accomplishments and identity are long tweaked into pathological dynamics. Oddly, the personality ‘age’ stops growing. Rarely do pathologicals emotionally grow to be older than 14 but the behaviors get tweaked up a notch to adult skills of adept conning.

What was once a science project of “Why am I different” as a child becomes “Cool, I’ll use it against them” as an adult. The child prodigy who studied human behavior so well is the relationship idiot-savant. It just takes women a while to figure out that what he espouses in the beginning isn’t really what he’s all about. What didn’t happen in his emotional development will ruin their relationship and her, personally.

(**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).

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