Archives for January 2015

Default Settings in Patterns of Partner Selection

If you use a computer you are probably aware of the ‘default settings’ that come on your computer or in various software programs on your machine. A default setting is “The controls of a computer hardware, software, device, equipment or machine which was preset by its manufacturer.”

Items on your computer that are preset are often the country you are in, the time zone, etc. There are also types of ‘presets’ you can choose yourself such as what company ISP is your home page, which printer you assign to your computer, and so on. These selections become ‘default’ settings once you have selected them. Your machine is now set to automatically defer to those choices every time the machine needs to.

But our computers are not the only things that are set on default. Just like computer ‘hardware’ or ‘software’ can come ‘preset’ by its manufacturer, so can our own internal computer—our body and psyche. Our hardware is our genetics that come hardwired into the development of our brain (and body, for that matter). This can include propensities and proclivities to certain traits such as high or low serotonin in our brains, high or low empathy, and other genetic DNA that ‘presets’ our internalized computer.

Just as we have seen the impact of the pathologicals own hardwired symptoms, we too come hardwired with our defaults that want to ‘lean’ us to these preset settings. Our default settings could be set to attraction to stocky dark haired men, or blonde and blue eyed, or black men or maybe your physical default is not all that particular about the physicality of your partners. Maybe your default is set to other parameters such as humor, charisma, or spirituality.

While we don’t ask why we have blue eyes or why we are attracted to tall dark and handsome, we often ask ‘why’ we have too much empathy or too much relationship investment, not understanding that these settings come hardwired within us when we are born. A fact not often understood is that some emotional traits are as hardwired as other genetic DNA.

Our software is the programs that have been added into and onto our machine that tell the machine what to do. These software programs also impact our default settings but in a different way. Software are the messages you learned growing up as a child. These messages about relationships, men and women’s roles in relationships, what power you do or do not have, the impact of choices, violence in the home, addictions in parents are all data and information that is stored on your computer in the software ‘programs’ that run your computer. From your software, the machine (your body, your external life) is run from the programs of that software. So messages about how ‘all relationships are’ or about what you ‘can and cannot succeed in’, tell your machine what choices to make from the software you have.

Software programs other than childhood messages can also come from religious impact, education, and your own experience within relationships—each compounding the existing software message or conflicting with existing software messages. These messages are also loaded onto your software as programs that affect choices which impact your life.

Hardware (hardwiring) preset defaults such as hyper empathy combined with software loaded defaults such as super trust or high tolerance messages (‘don’t get divorced no matter what’) combine in unique yet entrapping ways that cause some people to be more ‘at risk’ of Pathological Love Relationships than others.

We have had heard the arguments of ‘nature versus nurture’ especially regarding pathology. We know some of the Cluster Bs are born that way, some are made that way from their social environments and some are both—born that way and then bent that way further. The same is true for you, the Super-Traited partner of Cluster Bs.

You come into the world with a proclivity towards certain hardwired traits within your temperament that are so strong as to make your ‘bent’ towards attraction to, and tolerance of, pathology extremely high. Into your world with your ‘bent’ you are exposed to lifelong messages that either encourage your bent or try to bend you away from your existing proclivities.

Families with healthy boundaries and healthy relationships model the exact programming that sets a child’s default on a different setting for partner selection. But families who themselves have selected pathological partners, who have the same hardwiring propensity for tolerating pathology, flip the child’s software default switch to tolerance, minimizing, renaming, and accepting pathological behavior. This is largely done through role modeling these behaviors or what we call learned conditioning.

A genetic hard-wired proclivity with a software default program that supports pathological partner selection starts the process of the continued pattern of having pathological partners well into adulthood.

In computers, default settings serve the purpose of ‘minimal user interaction required’ which puts the setting defaults to the most commonly selected options. This is exactly what it does for you as well. “Why do I keep picking these kinds of guys over and over again?” Your default was set early in life and has not been changed. When left to your own programming, your default will automatically select the most pathological partner. Your hard-wiring is already ‘bent’ in that direction and is supported by your software programs to do so. It is so automatic, so autonomic, that just like a computer, ‘minimal user interaction is required.’

By the time women contact The Institute, they are so exhausted by the lifetime of the pathological energy-sucking relationships that they are ready to do what it takes to stop this. Simply stating “I am NEVER going to do this again. I am going to pick differently in the future” doesn’t register with your software program. It’s still set on the default pattern of selection it has been set on for years. If you could look at the software settings internally it would look like this:

  • Narcissistic
  • Cheater
  • Pathological Lying
  • Charming and deceitful
  • Helps me ignore my red flags
  • Induces fantasy thinking of how my future MIGHT be
  • Honeymoon cycle followed by D&D (Devalue & Discard)
  • Intense, intensely pursued
  • Hypnotic, I can’t think or choose differently while with them

These might be some of the traits you are repeatedly selecting through your software default program.

In software programs, it’s noted that ‘Using defaults will tend to increase errors, as users may leave incorrect default settings selected.’ Hmmmmm… yeah. Can we agree that’s true?

The difficulty in Pathological Love Relationship recovery is that women read a book or go to a counselor and talk about the pain of the relationship but never get down to the reprogramming of the software. Hardware comes as it is and will always be there and you will always be ‘bent’ in a direction or proclivity for these relationships. BUT you can put in different software programming that will let you pick from a NEW SET of default choices and not automatically ‘defaulting back’ to what you have always chosen. You have to choose differently in order to get a different outcome.

Controls of a computer hardware or software (or of a device, equipment, or machine) are preset by its manufacturer. Some types of default settings may be altered or customized by the user. A few times per year, we offer ‘software reprogramming’ events – we call them retreats. Please avail yourself to this opportunity if at all possible.  Information about retreats is on the website and in our weekly newsletter.


(**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, on-on-ones, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).




The Fast Track in Dating

We live in an instant society: instant messaging, twitter, drive through food, microwaves, text messaging, ipods/ipads and smart phones–just about anything we want NOW we can have in an instant. No wonder we have confused the speed of technology with relational speed. After all, isn’t this the decade of speed dating and fast relationships?

The problem is that there is no way to rush REAL intimacy. Speed dating does not = relationship security and knowledge about the other person. There is only one way to know someone and that is through adequate time. There are no short cuts.

Many people think that if you substitute the time you would spend with someone over a year in a relationship of knowing them and squeeze that time into a 24/7 relationship, then you will get the same results. Very often there is an inappropriate pacing in relationships in which people early on begin to spend 24/7 with a new person. They give up their outside hobbies, friends, families, other relationships, and lifestyles. They think that if someone WANTS to spend 24/7 with them, they must be ‘really into them.’

Over the years as a mental health counselor, I have found there are a number of reasons why people want to rush relationships. Sometimes it’s because they want to usher you into the center of their lives before you find out their history. They want you really tied-in to the relationship before you find out why no one else has wanted a relationship with them. Other times it is because the person has a hard time being alone. That is never a good sign.

The inability to be alone is often related to other mental health issues. Fast paced relationships can be a distraction away from their own feelings and issues.

I always suggest that the woman be in charge of the pacing of the relationship. If she has been 24/7 with someone, stop! Not only because it’s unhealthy but also to see what he will do with the change of pace in the relationship. Make other plans, see friends, don’t be so available. Healthy persons will accept the pacing change. They may not like it, but they will honor it. Unhealthy and even dangerous persons will blame, shame, and guilt you. This should be a red flag as to whether this person is someone safe to date.

Rushing a relationship–whether it’s dating 24/7, moving in early together, or marrying within the first year is a mistake that renders not enough time to truly know a person. This includes the persons ‘true’ (as opposed to ‘stated’) background, their character, and maybe their own dangerousness. It takes time to build a healthy relationship. It takes no time at all to imitate one.

(**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, on-on-ones, or phone sessions. See the website for more information).


Are You Really as Far Along as You Think You Are?

Recovery and finding your path to emotional wellness from pathological love relationships isn’t a quick and easy ‘done deal’. When women get mild relief from the unrelenting symptoms of the aftermath with a pathological, it can be very palatable to them.  The relief from the intrusive thoughts, obsessions, PTSD, poor sleep, hyper-vigilance, or any other problematic symptom can feel “healing” to them.  But it doesn’t always mean they ARE healed.

Over and over again, I have learned how damaging, how unrelenting, the aftermath is from pathological relationships.  For some women, it reaches all the way back to childhood with pathological parents.  For others, it has only been in their intimate relationships during adulthood, yet it has left its distinguished mark.

Mild relief can often be mistaken for recovery.  Recovery is a lifelong journey of self-care.  Recovery can begin at the moment you recognize the damage done to you by pathological individuals, but it doesn’t end with a counselor or a group.  For many women, the symptoms have crept into their worldview—how they see others, their environment, and themselves.  I learn again and again, as I meet with women, that the damage is widespread.  This isn’t a quick fix or often, a quick treatment.  While your mild relief of symptoms instills relief or hope, it isn’t the end of your recovery journey.  It’s the beginning.

Like peeling an onion, each layer shows a level of damage that needs care.  All the way down to the core are layers of unperceived and unrecognized aftermath symptoms.  At the core are boundary issues—those necessary limits that show that someone understands what is your’s, someone else’s, or God’s.  From the center of boundaries are gates that must be developed to serve as limits saying what one will and will not tolerate.

Boundaries are the bedrock of all recovery.  Anything that is built will be built from the issue of healthy or unhealthy boundaries.  Many women don’t realize that pathological people target women with poor boundaries.  The pathological tests this out early in the relationship, and when small boundary violations are not managed, they proceed with bigger violations. Every violation is a green light to the pathological. Learning how to establish healathy boundaries is the first step in recovery.

In another layer of the onion lays hyper-vigilance issues. High harm avoidance from PTSD weaves a level of distrust in new environments, people, and situations.  It affects fear of the future and even fear of the present.

Yet another layer of the onion is communication—the ability to listen in the midst of upset. Since pathological individuals have skewed communication, this area is often seriously affected. Long-term exposure to pathological people produces the same type of skewed communication patterns and linguistics in women who have normalized the abnormal behavior of pathologicals.

A layer of emotional regulation is most assuredly part of the aftermath— many women experience anxiety, depression, irritability, the overflow of pent-up emotions, and the inability to control their emotions.

In layer after layer are aftermath symptoms that must be peeled away and treated in recovery.  Everyone knows there are many layers in an onion.  While it may be disconcerting to see all those layers, the layers are translucent and show the wounding in each level that recovery must touch.

Women who have begun recovery may be surprised at what feels like the unending layers of an onion, and wonder when they will reach the core.  Mild relief from anxiety or sleeplessness is welcomed, but should not be viewed as more than it is.  Reaching to the core is deep work and should be respected for the lengthy process it is likely to be.  What other choice is there?

Whether you begin at the core with boundaries, or start at the outer edge with symptom management and work into the core, allow the process because there is no healing without it.  We must never underestimate the damage done by pathological individuals at a deep emotional, and, even spiritual, level.

(**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).



Feathers for my Future – Simply Focusing on Gratitude

On New Year’s Eve, I had a silent burning bowl ceremony. I burned everything that hurt me–just burnt that crap into ashes. Every cyberstalker, every hateful word, every hurtful feathersperson, everything that kept me looking over my shoulder, every lack.

I thought, “What would Joyce say?” She’d say, ‘Screw fear.’

So I got a beautiful crystal bowl to say good bye to every horrible yet familiar thing from my life. And I sat on my porch laying to rest everything broken in me and in my life. I set the crap on fire. I said a prayer and wrote all the pain on a piece of paper and watched it burn into crinkled ribbons of memory that only God should have.

It wasn’t a resolution. It was as Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” It was feathers for my future. And with feathers and hope I wrote a list, which was a prayer with tears, to God for 2014. Asking for things that are so simple, especially for a God so big….simply heal my body, simply heal my heart, simply heal my life, simply heal my mind, simply heal my needs–all the ones I don’t even know I need. Open your feathers and let me snuggle under your wing–hide me in the Shadow like the scripture says—the favorite one that I run to when I am scared, which is all the time.

On January 1st I took a tiny table to the corner of my room and turned a chair towards it. Facing a corner that, in school, would have been punishment, but for me, now, was really the edge of the Wing I asked for. I put a candle in a glass that was Joyce’s so that I was not alone when I prayed “Where two are more gathered….” and I set an alarm on my phone, the sound of a harp, to remind me every day that the angels call me to the feathers and the wing to pray.

I sit there every day under the Shadow and I simply breathe in gratitude and breathe out whatever that crap was that burned up in the bowl that night. I suck in, deep into my lungs, every provision for friendships, for community. I thank in advance for every restorative touch to what cyberstalkers took from me. For every love that will pour into my life that has been gone. For every book that will be sold, for every cell in my body to be blessed with holiness that can cure anything….

The Shadow, the feathers, the edge of the wing changed my life that January. Each day I laugh out loud as grace and mercy drops fall like rain into a parched dry life. Feathers everywhere…feathers in my email, feathers in my mail, feathers in my phone, feathers in my heart. When the harp calls, I run to the corner with Joyce and fall under the wing in gratitude and drink….That’s all I have to do — breathe and drink.


(**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).