Archives for 2014

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).

© www.saferelationshipsmagazine.com

The Pathological, Part 1: A Child Prodigy-Savant of Human Behavior

People often want to know why people with personality disorders (pathology) often have the worst and most inappropriate behavior, indicating they are clueless about others’ feelings, AND YET they are often enabled with the uncanny ability to so know human behavior they con even the most knowledgeable of people.

This ‘savant-like’ experience with human behavior reminds me of the Scripture that says, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Cluster B Personality Disorders no doubt rack up their miles in huge emotional and behavioral deficits. (The Lord taketh away.) I’ve discussed this in length in the newsletter and books—that what causes a personality disorder has to do with what DOESN’T happen when the personality is forming from birth through 8 years of age.

Deficits = Disorders

Not getting what a child needs WHEN they need it can be the beginning of a personality disorder. Normal childhood development does not include severe neglect, being raised by a pathological and learning to see the world through the eyes of a narcissist or sociopath, or being abused.

Whatever the cause of the personality disorder (exposed to pathological parents or being born with neurological abnormalities), let’s consider the ‘budding pathological child’ for a moment. Let’s put out of our mind just for now the disordered adult he grows into. Here we have, let’s say, a 9- or 10-year-old child who, through no fault of his own, has a personality disorder.  That means that the child does not have the full spectrum of human emotion, has blunted feelings of love/compassion/guilt/remorse, has impulse control problems, has difficulty knowing right from wrong, is not motivated by punishment when he does wrong, and is tantalized by risk and reward.

His friend across the street is the same age and not personality disordered. His friend has a full spectrum of emotions, feels bonded, love, compassion, is motivated by punishment (and so feels guilt and remorse), has impulse control over many of his actions, and understands the basic concepts of right and wrong. Although he likes risk and reward, he has enough impulse control not to be led consistently by pleasure.

One day Pathology Pete is over at Normal Ned’s. While playing in the house the boys knock over a vase and break it. Ned knows the story behind the vase: It’s the only
thing his mother has left from her mother. His mother got it as a gift on the deathbed of her mother. She always prized it and felt her mother’s presence when she looked at it.  Ned’s mother begins to cry and Ned has empathetic feelings that his mother is sad and experiencing loss because of the broken vase. Ned goes to her and tries to comfort her while Pete looks on.

Pete has NO idea (a) why Ned feels bad that the vase was broken (so what, go get another one), (b) why Ned would go to his mother and hug her and pat her (why does she need that?), (c) why Ned offers to replace the vase, and (d) why it was even wrong to be playing with a ball by the vase in the first place.

Pete stands off to the side watching this ‘unusual’ reaction and interaction between Ned and his mother.  In comes Ned’s brother, Normal Nathan. He sees his mother crying and also goes to her to comfort her. Pete wonders, “Why? He didn’t even break the vase.”

Pete stands awkwardly off to the side watching what is like a sci-fi movie to him—all these feelings, actions, behaviors, and motivations he doesn’t understand. Over and over throughout his childhood and into his adolescence this incident is repeated again and again.

Pete witnesses people having feelings he doesn’t experience. They have emotional reactions that he doesn’t understand. They have reactions, behaviors, and motivations that are foreign to him. Pete’s bright—he is a smart child and can’t figure out why he doesn’t ‘know’ what other kids know—how to act, how not to act, how to feel certain emotions and when and why. A pathological child figures out early that they are ‘different’—they just don’t know why.

Having a need to appear normal and fitting in like everyone else does—he watches. When someone cries, this is what other people do in response to the crying ___________ (behavior). The person who made the other one cry has a facial expression like this ___________ (“I’m sorry” look). People appear to cry for these reasons: _____________________ (motivations/consequences).

Children who grow to be pathological are little psychologists by the time they are teens. They have so watched other people that they understand (on a manipulative level) what makes people hurt and how to get out of consequences for having hurt others. These little child prodigies who have studied human behavior since they were 5 or 6 years old, are emotional savants.

On one hand, they do NOT have the full spectrum of emotions and so are sort of emotionally retarded towards the experience of others. On the other hand, they are so bright and have honed in on studying others so well that they have learned how to develop a mask for any occasion. This is the Lord giveth part—they have such a knack for paying attention to others’ reactions that they learn to mimic other people’s facial gestures and behaviors and parrot the language and lingo of what others say.

This is why they are a mirror image of you in a relationship. They watch and listen and mimic and parrot back all you say and do. This is why they feel like a soul mate—because you are essentially looking at a mask of yourself.

These skills are then polished over years of use¬—using them on his mother, sister, Sunday school teacher, girls at school, bosses… anywhere he can tweak the manipulation and look normal enough to fit in.

What began as a simple adaptation in childhood—learning to understand how normal people relate and behave—turns into manipulation later. At some point, the child/teen must come to the conclusion that he DOESN’T have these feelings, limits, boundaries, and experiences. “What the hell… just gotta go with it” is his normal reaction.

The adaptation is no longer simply to understand normal people and compare and contrast them to his own experiences. It is now a survival behavior that helps him to get what he wants since his deficits will now give him the skills that others have to get the same thing legitimately.

Pathology Pete simply produces more masks—one for every emotion he doesn’t sincerely have.

(**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

Adult Children of Abusive Parents—When Parents are Pathological

Why women end up in pathological love relationships is a widely debated topic. After more than 25 years in the field, my view is that the reasons are often a mixture of several issues. We find most of the simplistic ideas about ‘why’ are not based on the dynamics of the women’s lives or relationships.

This is a complex issue and we have been looking at various reasons why. Any one explanation is probably not the total explanation. I think for many women, their patterns of selection have to do with a number of complex interweavings, not to mention, the ‘mask’ of pathology itself and how it hides, lures, and cons.

We have looked at the possible influence of pathological parenting. This may not apply to all who have ended up in pathological love relationships, but for those who have had pathological parents, this, too, may have been a factor. Just like in the 12 Steps, “take what works, and leave the rest.” If this is not applicable to your past, it’s probably not applicable to your pathological relationships. For those to whom it is applicable, here is another consideration.

Sometimes our dangerous male choices, bad boy selections, and addictive relationships are really just manifestations of the parenting we endured when young. If we were unfortunate enough to live in homes in which one or both of our parents were abusive, addicted, or pathological, our choices could be reflecting what did or did not happen in our own emotional development because of our pathological parenting. Pathological parenting, often referred to as self-absorbed parenting, can have significant and deep-seated effects on children, and these effects often persist into adulthood.

Sometimes our choosing of dangerous men comes from replicating our own childhoods. Some women pick men that subconsciously ‘feel’ like those early childhood dynamics. This is not a conscious decision, but is driven by primitive and familial feelings and unmet needs. The dynamic is further re-enacted by women being victimized again in similar ways as they were in the home where a parent was abusive or pathological. Pathological parenting involves:

  • Being unresponsive to others’ needs
  • Being self-absorbed, self-focused, and self-referencing
  • Being indifferent about other people
  • Being grandiose and arrogant
  • Lacking empathy for others
  • Lacking a core self (they are as deep as Formica)
  • Having shallow and quickly fleeting emotions
  • Wanting constant admiration and attention
  • Feeling special and unique
  • Not relating well to others

This results in pathological parents typically displaying the following kinds of parenting types and behaviors:

  • Blaming the child
  • Criticizing the child
  • Demeaning, devaluing, and demoralizing the child

Since the child has only known this kind of parenting, it is often difficult for the child to know there is something wrong with their parents. The child grows into adulthood still not knowing their parent is pathological. The result is the child/adult now has learned how to ‘normalize’ abnormal behavior because healthy behavior was never modeled.

Typical of abusive and pathological parents is when the parents make the child ‘take care of them emotionally’. This is often referred to as ‘emotional incest’ or ‘parent-ifying the child’. In a healthy home, the parent emotionally meets the needs of a child and supports the child through the developmental process of becoming a separate individual and teen and ‘individuating’ or ‘separating enough to be your own self’. In addictive, abusive, and pathological families, children are not supported through these developmental periods. Instead, the parent expects the child to meet THEIR needs.

Were you a parent-ified child?

  • Were you made to feel responsible for your parent’s feelings, well-being and/or general welfare?
  • Did your parent(s) seem to be indifferent or ignore your feelings much of the time?
  • Were you frequently blamed, criticized, devalued or demeaned?
  • When your parent(s) was/were upset or displeased, were you the target of his/her/their negative feelings?
  • Did you feel that you were constantly trying to please your parent(s) only to fall short?

Do you ever remember hearing your parent(s) say:

  • Don’t you want me to feel good?
  • You make me feel like a failure when you (do) ________.
  • You ought to care about me.
  • I feel like a good parent when someone praises you.
  • If you cared about me, you would do what I want you to do.

Children who were parent-ified or were victims of emotional incest or were raised by abusive/ addictive/pathological parents often have one of two reactions to their parenting. One is compliance, the other is rebellion.

Do you have any of the following symptoms of compliance?

  • Spend a great deal of time taking care of others.
  • Are constantly alert about acting in a way to please others or are very conforming.
  • Feel responsible for the feelings, needs, and welfare of others.
  • Tend to be self-deprecating.
  • Rush to maintain harmony and to soothe the feelings of others.
  • Don’t get your needs met.

With rebellion, the adult child is often defiant, withdrawn and insensitive to the needs of others. They build a wall around themselves to avoid being manipulated by others. They avoid responsibility resembling the kind of responsibility they had as children.

Adult children of abusive/addictive/pathological parents normally have lives where:

  • They are dissatisfied with themselves and the course of their lives.
  • They are trying to be in emotional sync with others but find they are not successful at it.
  • They are constantly looking a their own flaws, incompetence, and other faults they perceive in themselves.
  • They do not have meaningful relationships in their lives.
  • They do not allow people to become emotionally close to them—they keep people at arm’s length.
  • They feel like they lack meaning and purpose in their lives.
  • They have continuing relationship problems with family, friends, and co-workers.
  • They feel isolated and disconnected from others.
  • They are often overwhelmed by others’ expectations of them.

People who were raised in these types of families often go on to develop relationships with people who resemble the dynamics with which they grew up. Unconsciously, women often pick men who demonstrate, on some level, the kinds of behaviors their abusive parent did.

Women who do not recognize that they have grown up to ‘normalize abnormal behavior’ perpetuate the pattern of choosing dangerous and pathological men over and over again. They are stuck in a terrible cycle of self-sabotage. (Read more about this in How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved or Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

(Thanks to the article, “Parental Destructive Narcissism,” by Nina W. Brown, for information on pathological parenting.)

(**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

It’s All About Him! Are You Dating a Narcissist?

Many women are now familiar with the word ‘narcissism,’ but not always totally aware of the specifics of the disorder. The word ‘narcissism’ is tossed around a lot as a catch-all phrase for people who are conceited or aloof. But narcissism is more than a case of conceit. It is a pathological and incurable disorder. Narcissism is a brutal way for women to learn about dangerous and destructive men. By the time a woman realizes a man is narcissistic, she has been pounded into the emotional dirt.

Many women find fascination with men who seem self-assured, but this is merely the mask of narcissism, which hides an emotionally undeveloped little boy seeking the attention NOW that he didn’t get as a child.

But all the attention he has sucked out of women never fills the broken vessel of his soul. All the attention never stays in him. It spills out only for him to seek MORE and MORE from anyone that he can get it from. Dr. Sam Vaknin refers to this as the ‘narcissistic supply’—the need for a constant stream of affirmations, attention, and admiration from a constant supply of givers. Narcissists are rarely happy with only one stream of attention. They seek it from friends, strangers, co-workers, family, and anyone else they can tap into, which is also why narcissists are rarely faithful—all this attention-seeking leads to more focused admiration via sexual contact.

The major description that women give of the relationship with a narcissist is he is ‘confusing and exhausting.’ Women come out of the relationship dragging the shell of their former selves. That’s all that’s left when he is done with her. A narcissist’s path is always littered with the emotional skeletons of a multitude of women and children.

So, ARE YOU with a narcissist? You might as well know now. Take the quiz below based on your knowledge of him. (Thanks to Nina Brown and “Is Your Partner a Narcissist?” from Loving The Self- Absorbed.)

Point scale for each statement
5-Always or almost always does this
4-Frequently does this
3-Sometimes does this
2-Seldom does this
1-Never or almost never does this

__ He constantly looks to you to meet his needs
__ He expects you to know what HE expects, desires and needs without having to ask
__ He gets upset when you are perceived to be critical or blaming
__ He expects you to put his needs before your own
__ He seeks attention in indirect ways
__ He expects you to openly admire him
__ He acts childish, sulks or pouts
__ He accuses you of being insensitive or uncaring without cause
__ He finds fault with your friends
__ He becomes angry when challenged or confronted
__ He does not seem to recognize your feelings
__ He uses your disclosures to criticize, blame, or discount you
__ He is controlling
__ He lies, distorts, and misleads
__ He is competitive and uses any means to get what is wanted
__ He has a superior attitude
__ He is contemptuous of you and others
__ He is arrogant
__ He is envious of others
__ He demeans and devalues you
__ He is self-centered and self-absorbed
__ He has to be the center of attention
__ He is impulsive and reckless
__ He boasts and brags
__ He is insensitive to your needs
__ He makes fun of others’ mistakes or faults
__ He engages in seductive behavior
__ He is vengeful
__ He expects favors but does not return them

If your answers are mostly 4s and 5s, you are involved with a narcissist.

People who have been raised with pathological parents go on to select pathological men for partners. Dating/marrying a narcissist falls into that category. Since narcissists do not change, because narcissism is a permanent embedded personality disorder, the question to you becomes, “How much longer will you stay with someone who can’t ever be healthy?”

Have you told yourself any of the following?
•    I am in a relationship and feel he is more important than I am.
•    I often feel like a failure in this relationship and blame myself for the condition of the relationship and how he treats me.
•    I tell myself, “If I just try harder things will be fine.”
•    I wonder what happened to the charming person I was involved with and why he is so different now.
•    I feel numb and exhausted by his constant demands and the strain in the relationship.
•    I keep hoping ‘someday’ things will get better.
•    I have an overwhelming sense of guilt much of the time.
•    I always tell myself I am responsible for things going wrong (and he agrees).
•    I have given up time, ambition, interests, family/friends and my life for him.

(Thanks to Mary Jo Fay from, When Your “Perfect Partner” Goes Perfectly Wrong: A Survivor’s Guide to Loving or Leaving the Narcissist in Your Life.)

These are examples of the effects of being with a narcissist. Over time, these effects increase until your self-esteem is so low you no longer even attempt an exit. Life with a narcissist costs you everything. It already has, and it will in your future as well.

In order for you to heal, both from abusive, addicted, and/or pathological parenting AND from your relationship with dangerous men, you must exit so you can work on yourself and your own recovery. No one heals or grows in a relationship with a narcissist. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave, because you have stopped growing and hoping for emotional well-being for yourself.

(**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

Addictive Relationships

Let’s face it. If we were really good at choosing healthy relationships, we wouldn’t be here reading information about dangerous men. We would be happily somewhere else with a healthy guy! So let’s at least begin with the universal assumption that we haven’t done our best job at selecting potential relationships with men who actually HAVE potential!

There are a lot of ways to define relationships that don’t work well. Often they are called ‘dysfunctional’ or ‘abusive’ or ‘bankrupt.’ But, what I’d like to focus on are those relationships, that, despite all the horrible things going on in them, the women are encased in a web they cannot climb out of because their relationships are ‘addictive’.

Some people do not realize that relationships/love/sex can qualify as an addiction or an out-of-control behavior. Addictive relationships are characterized by attachments to someone who, for the most part, is not available emotionally. In addictive relationships there is a single overwhelming involvement with another person that cuts the women off from other parts of their lives. The results of trying to be in an addictive relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable are:
• Confusion
• Fear
• Franticness
• Obsession
• Loneliness
• Despair
• Anger
• Feeling stuck

Addictive relationships have similar qualities to other patterns of addiction, which ‘rob’ people of the quality of their lives. They impact the ability to:
• Have healthy communication
• Have authentic enjoyment of one another
• Love each other outside of dependency
• Be your healthiest self
• Be able to leave the relationship if it becomes unhealthy or destructive

Addictive relationships are described by women as “a feeling that I just cannot leave him no matter how bad he has been or how awful I feel”. There is a battle going on inside of them and, despite a normally rational approach to life, they still cannot unhinge themselves from this pattern of destruction that they know is bad for them. They often feel helpless to make the choice to leave. They are ‘hooked in’ in ways they do not even understand.

As is true in other addictions, you lose the ability to constructively manage your own life. Like drug or alcohol addiction, addictive relationships show the same signs of:
• Magical thinking
• Helplessness to stop the addiction/relationship
• Feeling bad about one’s inability to stop
• Passivity
• Low initiative to stop the behavior and/or relationship

The inability to manage one’s life is often connected to belief systems that you hold about yourself, your future and relationships. Often these beliefs are what they call “stinking thinking” — that is, at the core of these, are erroneous beliefs often developed from childhood on.

Unmet childhood needs warp into adult ‘neediness’, which places a person at higher risk for developing dependent and addictive relationships as an adult.
If your childhood was affected by your parents’ relationship or someone your parent dated, please be aware that the same thing can happen to YOUR children. A good reason to work on yourself and to stop dating dangerous men is your children and to stop the damaging effects on them. Addictive relationships are always the destructive exploitation of one’s self and the other person which masquerades as love.

The following checklist is a guide to help you identify any tendency towards relationship addiction or unhealthy relationships in general. If you answer ‘Yes’ to most of the following statements, you probably have a problem with relationship addictions.

o To be happy, you need a relationship. When you are not in a relationship, you feel depressed, and the cure for healing that depression usually involves meeting a new person.
o You often feel magnetically drawn to another person. You act on this feeling even when you suspect the person may not be good for you.
o You often try to change another person to meet your ideal.
o Even when you know a relationship isn’t good for you, you find it difficult to break it off.
o When you consider breaking a relationship, you worry about what will happen to the other person without you.
o After a break-up, you immediately start looking for a new relationship in order to avoid being alone.
o You are often involved with someone unavailable who lives far away, is married, is involved with someone else, or is emotionally distant.
o A kind, available person probably seems boring to you, and even if he/she likes you, you will probably reject him/her.
o Even though you may demonstrate independence in other areas, you are fearful of independence within a love relationship.
o You find it hard to say no to the person with whom you are involved.
o You do not really believe you deserve a good relationship.
o Your self-doubt causes you to be jealous and possessive in an effort to maintain control.
o Sexually, you are more concerned with pleasing your partner than pleasing yourself.
o You feel as if you are unable to stop seeing a certain person even though you know that continuing the relationship is destructive to you.
o Memories of a relationship continue to control your thoughts for months or even years after it has ended.
o Even though you know the relationship is bad for you (and perhaps others have told you this), you take no effective steps to end it.
o You give yourself reasons for staying in the relationship that are not really accurate or that are not strong enough to counteract the harmful aspects of the relationship.
o When you think about ending the relationship, you feel terrible anxiety and fear, which make you cling to it even more.
o When you take steps to end the relationship, you suffer painful withdrawal symptoms, including physical discomfort that is only relieved by reestablishing contact.

SO—Are you addicted? Finding the true answer, while it may be concerning, is at least a step towards taking more control of your pattern of selection to stop the cycle with dangerous men. The first step is awareness. Here are some tips for overcoming your relationship addiction:

Robin Norwood, in her excellent book, Women Who Love Too Much, outlines a 10-step plan for overcoming your relationship addiction. While this book is directed toward women, its principles are equally valid for men. Stated here (reordered and sometimes paraphrased), Norwood suggests the following:
1. Make your recovery the first priority in your life.
2. Become “self-ish,” by focusing on getting your own needs met more effectively.
3. Courageously face your own problems and shortcomings.
4. Cultivate whatever needs to be developed in yourself. Fill in gaps that have made you feel undeserving or bad about yourself.
5. Learn to stop managing and controlling others. By being more focused on your own needs, you will no longer need to seek security by trying to make others change.
6. Develop your spiritual side. Find out what brings YOU peace and serenity and commit some time—at least half an hour daily—to that endeavor.
7. Learn not to get hooked into games in relationships. Avoid dangerous roles you tend to fall into, such as rescuer/helper, persecutor/blamer, victim/helpless one.
8. Find a support group of friends who understand.
9. Share with others what you have experienced and learned.
10. Consider getting professional help/counseling.

Some women get stuck trying to get out. Others get stuck trying to choose differently the next time by trying to not end up with a dangerous man AGAIN. Here are some signs you might need professional assistance for a short time to help you get unstuck:
1. When you are very unhappy in a relationship, but are unsure whether you should accept it as it is, make further efforts to improve it, or get out of it.
2. When you have concluded that you should end a relationship and have tried to make yourself end it, but remain stuck.
3. When you suspect that you are staying in a relationship for the wrong reasons, such as feelings of guilt or fear of being alone, and you have been unable to overcome the paralyzing effects of such feelings.
4. When you recognize that you have a pattern of staying in bad relationships and that you have not been able to change that pattern by yourself.
Know that, as your relationship addiction increases, it becomes more difficult to cope with anyone or anything else. This becomes all-encompassing. There is the rush of the addictive relationship that is absent from healthy relationships. Often women misread that sign to think it means there is a strong connection—it just might not be a healthy connection! Addiction is where two people use each other to fill their own loneliness. They are distractions from the inner pain of what someone is feeling.

The only way through pain is going through the middle of it. The only way to find healthier relationships is to work on yourself so that YOU are healthy and you are choosing relationships out of the healthiest part of yourself. (Thanks to the Counseling Center at the University of Illinois for information on addictive relationships.)

In closing, the only defense is self-defense. And the only self-defense is knowledge. We can help you realize your potential need for future insight into the area of dangerousness. Perhaps this article illuminates areas in which you need more knowledge, more insight or more information. If, after reading this, you recognize your own patterns, please avail yourself to more information through our products and services or through your local women’s organizations and counseling programs.

(**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).

How People Regard You—I’m Not What You Say I Am

Jennifer Young, LMHC

~ “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.” ~ (François Duc de La Rochefoucauld)

Life isn’t all about appearances. Life is about movement, awareness, insight, change, compassion. Life is about interactions with others. As we move through the world, we move through it together. Whether we accept it or not, we impact each other.

Conversely, we are impacted by others. Our impact on others is often a concern. It is a part of our conscious awareness. We wonder (and sometimes obsess) about how others regard us. Alfred Adler describes this trait of how people regard us in terms of “social interest,” our ability or potential for living “cooperatively and contributing to the good of others.”

We learn to adopt this trait early on, on the playground. As children we are taught to be aware of others’ feelings and to be nice to others. We learn that words do hurt (in spite of the childhood lesson regarding sticks and stones!). We learn lessons like “make a good first impression” and “do unto others …” All of these childhood (and adult) lessons teach us that what others think is important. Now, this isn’t all bad.

Considering we are social creatures, and knowing that we impact each other, it is pretty important to be concerned with how other people regard us. Possessing this trait means that we have compassion and empathy. It means that we want to play well with others. But this trait, like all the others in excess, can be dangerous. It can be especially dangerous for someone who finds their way to a playground with a psychopath.

Herein lies the risk: Psychopaths lack concern for others … real, empathetic concern. They can fake it well, but deep down they move through the world not concerned about their impact on others but about having control and power. So, being concerned about how other people regard them is twisted. It isn’t so much about positive regard as it is negative regard. They want people to believe they are in control, powerful, smart, and likeable, etc. They want to cover up who they really are … manipulative, dangerous, callous, superficial, glib, and controlling. (Writing those words reminds me why they HAVE to develop a mask … it would be hard to spend two minutes with someone if we saw those traits.) So, they move through the world, mask firmly in place, covering who they are with what they want you to believe.

For the woman in a relationship with a psychopath, it’s the trait of how people regard you that keeps you stuck. You are concerned with the feelings of others, you are concerned about your impact on other people (and a psychopath will remind you all day about your impact on him!) As long as you believe you are having a negative impact you will stay until your impact becomes positive. Sad part is, it never does.

He knows you need to be seen as kind, compassionate, loyal and honest—and he also knows that you don’t give up. So as long as he can make you believe your impact is negative, then give you a glimmer of hope that he can change, he’s got you. You stay because you must be seen by him and others as having a positive impact, a high concern for how others regard you. This concept works well in all other areas of your life, but with a psychopath it’s the thing that puts you most at risk and the thing that keeps you there.

Herein lies the benefit: When you realize that he cannot change, you’re out. When you fully and completely come to believe that he is only motivated by power and control, you know that it is no longer about what he thinks or how he sees you … in fact, this flips.

You begin to realize that he sees you as a sucker. He has used everything good about you to fill his empty cup. He has taken what is good and right and manipulated it (and you) for his own agenda. You also realize that he is not only hurting you, but he is having a negative impact on others … most likely people you care about. Knowing this becomes your strength. It becomes the fuel to the fire that burns the relationship to ruin. You will not play with others who have no regard. Think about it. Would you allow an employee, client, friend, or your child to manipulate your good nature this way? Not a chance! You’re out! No more playing with a psychopath; time to take your toys and go home.

So, when all is said and done, you have way too much concern for how other people regard you, and in the context of a pathological relationship that is really, really dangerous. So, how do you put a lid on that trait?

First, be concerned about this trait only when it comes to your pathological. Chances are this trait has served you well in other areas of your life, so don’t be overwhelmed with having to “change” everything about you. This trait is appealing to psychopaths, so just put a lid on it in the context of your relationship.

Next, be aware of your thoughts and actions when he persecutes you, when he calls you stupid or crazy, calls you irresponsible and uncaring, attacks your skills as a mother or tells you that you are being “mean”. When he does this, he is seeking to control you through this trait. HE IS CONTROLLING YOU THROUGH YOUR TRAIT.

Allow this thought to come into your awareness and then challenge it. Who is doing this??? A psychopath. Allow the truth to come into your awareness and you will be compelled to accept it. Additionally, with that knowledge, you can counter any thought with a true thought. You might begin to remind yourself that what he says about you is part of his mask, part of the fantasy that he is creating to keep you in the relationship.

Fantasy is not reality. You know who you are – and you are not who he says you are!

(**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).

He Seems Happy Now, Will I EVER Be Happy Too?

There are a lot of distortions that go on about the pathological man’s ability to ‘be happy.’ One of the issues of permanent personality disorders and pathology is that, at the core of them, is unhappiness. That is why they have so many angry outbursts, attitude problems, and failed relationships.

Some of them fake the external appearance of ‘happy-go-lucky’ or act as if their lives are fine. Partners need to look below the ‘presentation’ and question what he’s showing at face value. Survivors fall for it the first time by getting in the relationship with him and then fall for it a second time when believing his external presentation of his ‘life without you in it’.

I chanted it like a mantra so I’ll continue to say it, “Nothing changes in pathology because it’s hard-wired to not change.”

If he was horrible with you, he’ll be horrible with her (eventually). If he was at the core of himself, miserable/unhappy/unsuccessful, NOTHING will change. Go deeper than looking at this flash-in-the-pan faux presentation that he WANTS you to see and then feel bad about because you are not with him. Psychopathology does not change and neuroscience continues to teach us why his hardwired brain doesn’t allow for change. If you don’t believe me, at least believe science.  His change is not going to happen now and not simply because he is with someone else. Pathology is not a light switch you turn off and on at will.

The real question is will YOU ever be happy again? Survivors misread their own ability to be happy in the future because they are all wrapped up in STILL watching him, rating him, and gauging his happiness against their own.

A recovery question is: Why are you STILL watching him? What in the world does he have to do with YOUR future happiness?

Do you know why watching him affects your own ability to recover and find happiness?
Because the longer you watch him, the more intrusive the thoughts become, and the more ping-pong brain of cognitive dissonance you keep, the more miserable you stay, and the longer you postpone your own recovery and joy.

When survivors are being honest about what they fear most, it is that he will go on and have this fabulous life and ‘be good to another woman’ and you will never meet anyone. Since you do want to eventually meet someone healthy to love… what healthy guy wants to be with a woman who is obsessed with a pathological man, whose eyes are not on THEIR new emerging relationship, but on what the ex is doing next? Instead of your eyes being focused forward on the future, you have your head turned backwards looking at your past and what he’s doing. What does new Mr. Healthy see? You, filled with regret and revenge—not really good material for a new relationship, eh?

It IS understandable why you are angry that he appears to be happy with someone else and you are not. It is also understandable, after what you have lived through, that you wonder… if you’ll always pick pathologicals… if you’re too damaged to ever have a healthy relationship… if you are even capable of feeling anything other than intrusive thoughts, much less joy. These are totally normal questions considering what you’ve been through. But those answers are not found in glancing over your shoulder at him. There’s no going back.

‘Drag an axe and clear a path’ into your future. Work on yourself (let us help you!) so you understand why you chose someone like that, how you ignored so many red flags, and understand your own personality traits that leave you vulnerable for relationships like that. There is plenty to heal from! Then, when you’ve done all the work, LIVE. Don’t search internet dating sites where PREDATORS live. Just live a joyful life and allow health, vibrance, and joy to direct you. It’s when you aren’t seeking that you find that which you have been waiting for. Joyce Brown, my mother and mentor for this work, said, “A man is not the ‘cake’—a relationship is only the icing on the cake of a good life.”

Heal you! Get a great life… and the rest will fall into place. My mother, when she was dying, said, “I’m not afraid to die because I’ve lived a great life. I’ve had so much fun and I’ve been so loved. Who could ask for more?”

(**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

Challenge the Thought

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

You own one thing: your mind.  That’s it.  There are things that you possess, like your books, your shoes, or your jewelry.  But the only thing that you own is what goes on between your ears.  No one can take it from you, no one can buy it from you, and no one can rent space in it. Now, I know what you are saying: “I’ve been in a relationship with a psychopath—he rented, bought and sold my mind for a nickel.”  I get it, and I do agree that if anyone can make you feel that your mind has been rented, bought or sold, it is a psychopath.  I might even concede that he rented your mind.  But what neuroscience has taught us is that the brain is resilient and that allows us to constantly get our mind back—even when it feels bought or sold.

When a psychopath takes control, he gets your thoughts.  That’s the prize for him.  If he can control your thoughts, it’s done.  Your thoughts drive your emotions and your behaviors.  Your thoughts are his key to getting you to feel crazy, sad, confused, frustrated, angry, elated, or excited.  When you feel these feelings, you act in a corresponding way.  All of these feelings and behaviors document his control.  They are his proof that your thoughts are turning or have turned.
Think about the thoughts that he created in you.

He enjoys my pain—I am worthless—Where is he?—I am not good enough—I deserve to be desired—I’m not stupid  

And I am using the word “created” on purpose.  The thoughts that were created were a result of his behavior, like water moving through the rocks creating a valley—slow, intentional and inevitable. His behavior of leaving mysteriously created the thought, “Where is he?”  His behavior of smirking created the thought, “He enjoys my pain.”  His behavior of insulting you created the thought, “I am worthless.

It doesn’t matter if the emotions these thoughts elicit are positive or negative.  It doesn’t matter if the behaviors that these thoughts elicit are positive or negative.  With each of these thoughts you felt something and a behavior followed. He had control of you.  You and I know that he did things to you to generate these thoughts.  So, he acted and you reacted.  What better sense of power than to get a reaction out of someone?  And what better sense of power than to get a reaction out of someone who is powerful themselves (that’s YOU)?

Since when do you question if you are stupid?  Since when do you believe that you do not deserve to be desired?  Since when do you need to spend time wondering where he is? You do this only in the context of a pathological relationship.  Because you have always known that you are not stupid, you are not worthless, don’t need to worry about where your man is, know that you are good enough and that NO ONE should enjoy seeing you in pain.  Holding these contradictory beliefs is your cognitive dissonance.  On one hand, you know you are smart, and yet you think you are stupid.  You know you are valuable, but when he is around you feel worthless. STOP THE MADNESS!

One important strategy in ending cognitive dissonance and getting your mind back is to follow these three steps:
1. Challenge the thought.
The key here is to get the first thought.  Get the thought the moment it comes.  Do not let one thought become another, then another.  Before you know it, you are in it.  That is when it becomes a problem.  So, grab that first one and work on it.  Once you have the thought—challenge it.  If it is a question, answer it. “I miss him so much” becomes “I don’t miss the psychopath.”  “How did this happen to me?” becomes “It happened because he is sicker than I am smart.”  Any challenge or answer will work as long as it is based on facts—verifiable facts.  And sometimes the words of another—a trusted friend or a therapist—can work.

2. Breathe in the correct thought.
Now breathe in that new, correct, and rational thought.  Breathe in your belief.  Breathe in the thought and allow it to ease your emotional pain just a bit.  You control how you feel with your correct thoughts.  Take a few long, slow, deep breaths, repeating quietly the new thought.  (You can even do this in a crowd with a more normal breath—sometimes even stepping away from the group or off to the bathroom to correct your thoughts).

3. Move to a healthy distraction.
Finally, take that new thought with you.  Get up, move, and carry the correct thought with you.  If you were watching TV, then go wash some dishes.  If you were reading, then go watch TV.  If you are lying in bed, get up and get a drink of water.  As you move, allow the new thought to take hold and move with you.  Begin to focus your thought on the next task.

As with any new skill it is important to do it and be successful.  It’s not about how many times you can challenge the thoughts, but can you do it successfully.  So, start with one thought.  Do this on that one thought for several days until you feel a sense of relief.  Then try another thought.

Sandra says, “Recovery happens one moment at a time.” And I believe that nothing could be more true.  What are you thinking in this moment?

(**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

Real Love, Not Just Real Attraction

So many people confuse the feeling of attraction with the emotion of love.  For some who are in chronically dangerous and pathological relationships, it’s obvious they have these two elements mixed up.  Understandably, not being able to untangle these can keep people on the same path of unsafe relationship selection because they keep choosing the same way and getting the same people!

Attraction is not only unconscious but also largely physical.  There is actually something called “erotic imprint” which is the unconscious part that guides our attraction (I talk about this in How to Spot a Dangerous Man.)  Our erotic imprint is literally “imprinted” in our psyches when we are young—at the age when we begin to notice and be attracted to the opposite sex.  As I mentioned, this is largely an unconscious drive.  For instance, I like stocky, fair-haired men.  Whenever I see that type of image, I immediately find that man “attractive.”  I can vary slightly on my attraction but I’m not going to find Brad Pitt attractive.  I might forego the full “stocky” appearance, but I’m not going to let go of some of the other traits that make men appealing to me.  We like what we like.  For instance, I am attracted to Johnny Depp and George Clooney.  I don’t like any of the blondes or overly tall and lanky body types.

If you think back to what your “attraction basis” is, you may find some patterns there as well.  Attraction, however, can also be behavioral or based on emotional characteristics.  For instance, some women are attracted to guys with a great sense of humor.  The attraction is based on that particular characteristic.  Other women may be attracted to athletic guys, not because of what physical exercise does to their bodies, but because of the behavioral qualities of athletes.  Attraction can be subtle—like the unconscious erotic imprinting that makes us select men based on physical attributes—or attraction may lead us to choose relationships based on behaviors or emotional characteristics like displays of empathy, helpfulness, or friendliness.  (I have discussed your own high traits of empathy, helpfulness, and friendliness in Women Who Love Psychopaths.)

Although these traits might guide our relationship selection, this is not the foundation of love.  It’s the foundation of selection.  Often, our relationship selection comes more from attraction than it does anything else.  So knowing who and what types you are attracted to will help you understand your patterns of selection.  Some people choose characteristics—helpfulness, humor, gentleness, or another quality that they seem to be drawn to.  Other people are more physical in their attraction and find the physicality of someone either a “go” or a “no.” Maybe you like blondes or blue eyes.  This may also drive your pattern of selection.

Also, in the area of attraction—sometimes it’s “traumatic attraction” that seems to drive our patterns of selection. Those who have been abused, especially as children, can have unusual and destructive patterns of selection.

This Valentine’s Day, be very clear about love and attraction.  This is a time when you might be likely to want to reconnect with him.  Let me remind you, NOTHING has changed.  His pathology is still the same. On February 15th you could hate yourself for reconnecting with him for one weak moment on February 14th, a day in which the world is focused on love, but he is focused on manipulation, control, or anything OTHER than love.  If you open that door, you will have weeks or months of trying to get him out and disconnect again.

Instead, plan ahead for your potential relapse by setting up an accountability partner AND something to do! Go to a movie with a friend, go out to dinner—do SOMETHING that takes responsibility and action for your own loneliness at this time of year.  Whatever you do, don’t have a knee-jerk reaction and contact him.  One day on the calendar about love is just an ILLUSION!

(**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

Ongoing Battles with Pathologicals – Part 2, Why Won’t This Ever End?

Last week we began talking about the ongoing battles with pathologicals—whether it is a break up, move out, divorce, property settlement, mediation, child custody, or the ever-revolving door of litigious events with law enforcement or the legal system. By nature of the pathology, they are MORE likely to allege falsified abuse, stalk the other parent, sue, continue to sue, not settle, to refuse mediation services, to go to court over things like “his shoes are dirty, therefore this is parental neglect,” to reject every child evaluator, reject every child therapist, reject every child pediatrician, reject every child’s school choice and on and on.

They gaslight situations suggesting things have happened that didn’t, nor can they be proven that they DID or DID NOT happen. (Classic gaslighting is associated with NPDs, ASPDs, socio/psychopaths.) After exchange antics, they are MORE likely to need court monitored visits which means ‘a babysitter’ is required to watch their behavior, yet they will reject every monitor chosen, every center selected, or will find centers that are the farthest away in the most dangerous areas to ask the other parent to bring the child to.

They also do not follow through on child support payments, medical needs the children may have, do not pay their share of attorney and court fees, etc. They use up enormous amount of legal resources which have given them their own title within the legal system – ‘High Conflict Person’. Eventually this becomes a ‘High Conflict Case’ for you and for them.

A ‘typical’ legal scenario (provided by Bill Eddy www.billeddy.com) is:

A Petition is filed, and then there are countless emergency court hearings, restraining orders, restricted visitation, and/or residence exclusion, many filing for temporary hearings on custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. Then there is the unending filing for many declarations for hearing, getting an evaluator appointed, preparing documentation for evaluators/court (often done multiple times), serving numerous subpoenas, taking lists and lists of depositions, going thru the demand for documentations, attending multiple temporary hearings.

Now they have received the trial only to have delays that can go on for years, disputes over evaluators’ reports and other unending other objections. Then begins the continuous disputes over trial court orders, motions for reconsideration, etc. Sprinkled throughout are the constant allegations to child services of abuse and neglect, the rallying of others to support the allegations, and the utter exhaustion of the child services departments with the constant threats of suing them, etc. Once/if after all these enormous amounts of time, money, energy is expended and the divorce is granted, there is still the ongoing post divorce hearings with the constant modification requests, custody battles, alleging new relationships which are bad for the children, and failed relationships with others bringing in new conflicts, drama and trauma.

It’s easy to see that this kind of behavior is what is shutting down our court systems and why it’s hard to get simple things done. Ninety percent of the problems are being produced by a small percentage of the people who have the largest percentage of mental health and pathology disorders. In fact, it is cases like THESE that indicate to professionals working on these cases that there is, in fact, pathology present. They have already been named ‘High Conflict Persons’ to help identify the partner who is likely to keep producing litigious insanity. It has taken a while for all the professional systems involved in cases like these to come to understand what behavior like this IS attached to – chronic and unrelenting pathology.

For many years euphemisms have been used for these people – “difficult cases”, “pain in the butt cases”, “problematic”, etc. Instead of understanding these ARE the behaviors associated with pathological conditions and pathology is simply being what it is—in the relationship, in the parenting, and in the courts. It holds its mask in place for a while but the mask always slips allowing other professionals to identify the behaviors and recognize the pathology. This is the unification of how Public Pathology Awareness is beginning to allow systems involved with pathologicals to more easily identify them by their universal and consistent behaviors, in and out of court.

One of the Institute’s goals is to bring training about these consistent and universal behaviors to therapists, coaches, the legal system, child evaluators, monitors, child therapists, Minor’s Counsel, and social service workers. ‘Why’ high conflict persons act this way has everything to do with the disorder itself.

When we understand pathology and its neuro-implications, we can not only know what behaviors go with which disorders but why. We can learn to predict the kinds of known behaviors and antics that go with pathological disorders– in child rearing, in court proceedings, and in relationship endings. Those behaviors include imperative impulsivity, loophole lying, game playing, gaslighting, reliable revenge, the prevalent projecting, and legendary legal litany of cases. Normal people don’t do this in court, in relationships, or in life. It is the glaring opposites that almost always give us the best indicator that what is happening is not what other people do, behave, or believe. So, ours shouldn’t be to ask ‘why’ pathologicals do this. It’s to say ‘why not?’ After all, that’s how they are wired.

(**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).

Ongoing Battles with Pathologicals – Part 1, When Will This Ever End?

Many of the Institute’s clients want to know ‘when will this ever end?’ — ‘this’ being the aggravation from a pathological in the form of:
•    Constantly harassing you
•    Stalking
•    Stirring the pot
•    Making up allegations against you
•    Not paying what they are suppose to
•    Going back to court for the 1,000th time
•    Turning others against you
•    Turning you in to Social Services for child abuse
•    Lying to the judge
•    Paying others off to lie for him in court
•    Gaslighting you or others
•    Making others dread him, you, or your situation

The truth is, this IS what pathology does. If court evaluators, child monitors, judges, attorneys, batterer intervention counselors, anger management therapists—all those working in the field— knew that this IS what pathology does, it would heighten everyone’s awareness about pathology. Instead, euphemisms are used for this kind of behavior:
•    Drama cases
•    Trauma cases
•    Dead beat dads
•    High conflict divorces
•    Jerks
•    Snakes in Suits
•    Con artists
•    Custody Battles
•    No resolution cases

Behaviors related to making allegations, lying in court, hiring others to lie, hiring others to stalk or spy on you, putting spyware in your house/car/computer, and harassing social services/child services workers eat up an enormous amount of court hours and are all behaviors ASSOCIATED with pathology—not drama, not trauma, not dead beats, not conflict, not jerks, not snakes and not cons, but Cluster B personality disorders such as Borderline, Narcissistic, Anti-Social and the other Low/No Conscience disorders such as Socio/Psychopaths.

We are continually flooded with inquiries about ‘how to’ survive until ‘this all stops’. Women aren’t finding help with ‘how to’ survive, ‘how to’ appropriately communicate with him to have the least ‘aftermath,’ what to do when he alleges things to child services, judges, and courts, how to document well for court now and in the future, what dissuades them, how to angle the situation so he exposes his true self/disorder/motives, how to take care of herself until some of this slows down, stops, or a miracle occurs.

Pathology is exhausting. This isn’t something ‘unique’ to your case. It’s standard in cases with pathologicals. You didn’t cause it — it’s the disorder just being what it is. Too, some of the things that are done in ‘normal’ cases aren’t in the best interest of your case simply because using what ‘works’ with normal people, NEVER works in pathology.

(**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).

Stay in the Right Position: What I did over Christmas break

By Jennifer Young, LMHC

This Christmas break I went skiing…sort of. It was a trip that required lots of planning. I live in Florida and snow skiing is not exactly something we do often. Prior to attempting this feat I decided to take a lesson at the local outdoor shop. Here in Florida, ski lessons happen on a carpeted conveyor belt that rises like a little hill. In fact, it is rated a blue slope…which is a middle of the road slope. It’s not a green, which is the bunny slope. So, I attempted to learn to ski on a pretty steep slope.

As I donned all the gear, which is a feat in itself, the instructor started with the basics. But something he said struck me. It was a warning, a prevention strategy. I am all about prevention of pain and this is what he said, “Stay in the right position to avoid pain.”

Wow. What a novel idea. Stay still, is the “right” position. Avoid pain. To ski and not be in pain, it’s all about your position; knees pointed this way – and bent, skis point that way – like a pizza slice, body upright, arms out front. Now, hold it. Oh yeah, and engage that core. This way, this position, is how you prevent the aftermath. Because if I was warned once, I was warned a thousand times about the pain I would feel the next day. I was almost more scared of that than I was the actual skiing. So, I held tight to that position. In fact, the lesson was really an instruction on how to hold the right position and self-correct when you fell out. I did pretty good in the lesson. I held on and self-corrected. I went down that carpet conveyor like a champ.
Then came real life. Ummm…real life. Not carpet. I made my way up in the gondola and stepped out onto the mountain. SNOW!!! Pretty amazing and slightly overwhelming. I stepped into my skis and assumed the position. Skis in the shape of a pizza, knees bent, body upright and hands out front. GO! Down I went — and down I fell. I had a few moments of skiing – twice. I did it. I held my position and I skied.

The day after I felt pretty good. I did not have any pain. There was some minor ache in my thighs but that always feels good – it lets you know you worked something! So there it was. Skiing for a Florida girl. I took one thing away from that day. I held myself in the right position and I was able to avoid the pain. I was taught the right position and I used it.

This lesson resonated with me because every day when I speak with women in recovery about pathology I know there is one position that needs to be held. I know that if you hold that position, you will avoid pain. The recovery position looks like this:

-Know who he is
-Disengage at every turn
-Manage your super traits
-Live a gentle life

It’s not an easy position and it sure as hell is not always comfortable. It’s a foreign experience for most – like skiing for a Florida girl. But bravery is crucial, desire (to be done) is required and focus is the foundation.

But, what helps the most is taking the lessons that you have been taught and using them. You have to work at each moment to hold your position. If you do, then your pain will decrease. Your thighs will ache, but that’s your sign that you’ve done your work.